Month: May 2013

Bad Choices

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hell
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

C. S. Lewis


Revelation 20:11-15

The Message (MSG)
Judgment

11-15 I saw a Great White Throne and the One Enthroned. Nothing could stand before or against the Presence, nothing in Heaven, nothing on earth. And then I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there—before the Throne! And books were opened. Then another book was opened: the Book of Life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, by the way they had lived. Sea released its dead, Death and Hell turned in their dead. Each man and woman was judged by the way he or she had lived. Then Death and Hell were hurled into Lake Fire. This is the second death—Lake Fire. Anyone whose name was not found inscribed in the Book of Life was hurled into Lake Fire.

Today I am feeling the brimstone of hell. I really desire to be closer to my God and its not just a feeling, but its a thirst due to my condition mentally after reading and studying the word that became flesh. Conviction is welling up inside of me at this moment. I need Jesus!

The Worst Trouble the World Has Ever Seen

12 1-2 “‘That’s when Michael, the great angel-prince, champion of your people, will step in. It will be a time of trouble, the worst trouble the world has ever seen. But your people will be saved from the trouble, every last one found written in the Book. Many who have been long dead and buried will wake up, some to eternal life, others to eternal shame.

An elderly TV star was asked by talk-show host Larry King about heaven. King prefaced his question by referring to Billy Graham, who had told King he “Knew what would be ahead. It would be paradise. He was going to heaven.” King then asked his guest, “What do you believe?” The man replied, “I’d like a lot of activity. Heaven sounds too placid for me. There’s a lot to do in hell.”

Sadly, this man is not alone in thinking that an existence in Satan’s realm is a preferred destination. I’ve heard people say that they’d rather be in hell because all their friends will be there. One person wrote, “If hell was real, I don’t think it would be bad. There would be a lot of interesting people.”

How can we convince folks who are deceived in this way that hell and its horrors are to be avoided? Perhaps by telling them of the realities of hell that are presented in the scriptures. In Daniel 12:2 hell is described as a place of “shame and everlasting contempt.” Luke 16:23 talks about “torments.” Matthew 8:12 describes “weeping and gashing of teeth.” And Revelation 14:11 says there will be “no rest.”

Biblical truth doesn’t allow anyone to think that hell might be a good place to be. Clearly, rejecting Jesus and facing an eternity in Satan’s kingdom is a bad choice.

Don’t choose to spend eternity
Where pain will never dim;
Instead decide to trust in Christ
And choose to follow Him.

The same Christ who talks about the glories of heaven also describes the horrors of hell.

Life’s Major Pursuit

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Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical. Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul.

Mahatma Gandhi

Trivial Pursuit board game
– Created 1979 is a game in which progress is determined by a player’s ability to answer general knowledge and popular culture questions
– The object of the game was to answer a correct question in each of 6 categories such as Geography, Sports and Leisure, History, and Science and Nature
– Peaking in 1984 selling 20 million games
– As of 2004 nearly 88 million games sold
– Sold in 26 countries
In 17 languages
– 55 different editions
– Questions are pretty obscure. For example,
– What does a heliologist study?
– (The sun)

– What U.S. city was once know as Federal City?
– (Washington, D.C.)

– What is the crystal anniversary?
– (A couple celebrating their 15th anniversary)

– Exactly what it is Trivial knowledge

My Major Pursuit
Philippians 3:10 — Paul in prison
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,

Romans 3:11KJV – There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:18KJV – There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Romans 1:20-21KJV – For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

2 Chronicles 31:20-21KJV
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. 21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

Ps 63:8 Amp – My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You: Your right hand upholds me.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24KJV
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that goliath glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Pursuing God
❶. Gives us a Desire to Be Like Him
Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
– Being around people we take on their traits
– Kids & their sport hero’s
– When I was in sales I wanted to be like the one who trained me

1 Peter 1:16 – Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
– v.24 God shows himself

❷. Reveals the Truth About Ourselves
– Note Is. 6:1-5
– Seraphim’s crying “Holy”
– Means “fiery ones” (their burning love)
– Same Hebrew word used of the fiery serpents in Num.21:6
– Judgment on sin
– Isaiah saw himself as being unclean
– He is perfect we are imperfect
– He is strong we are weak
-He is in control we loose control (fear, worry)
– Giving opportunity to turn to Him.

❸. Enables Us to Interpret Our World
– Arrogance brings out the pride of life
– Ex 14-15 Israel & Egypt meet God at the Red Sea
– Knowing He is in charge removes fear & panic

❹. Makes Us Stronger & More Secure
– 1 Cor. 1 – God has chosen the foolish, weak things – v.27
– 2 Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20KJV
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
– He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent
– In other words He is in control
– He knows me, loves me has purpose for me

Romans 8:35KJV
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Romans 8:37-39KJV
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him
“The Pleasures of God”

Be Careful You Too Could Become A Felon!!!!

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This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.

Abraham Lincoln

http://www.cbn.com/tv/1536861051001
Well, our bold and spunky congressional pals finally crossed the line. They spent our tax dollars so carelessly, and at such an alarming rate, that we were forced to stage what amounted to a national public fiscal intervention. Suddenly, the boring federal budget became big news, as Americans demanded that Washington restore our nation’s economic health and cut all wasteful and inappropriate spending, including the government funding of NPR and Planned Parenthood. This signal from the citizens was valuable despite an eventual Republican surrender in the most recent budget battle. And while I’m pleased that the overspending was exposed, I wonder when the mainstream media will uncover the government money pit of over criminalization.

“Over criminalization” refers to the recent trend in Congress to use the criminal law to “fix” every publicized issue — a horrendous waste of government spending. Essentially, our representatives are criminalizing conduct that should be regulated by civil or administrative means. Over criminalization has left U.S. Attorneys with a wide selection of crimes with which to charge people: There are over 4,500 federal crimes and over 300,000 regulations with criminal penalties. Not surprisingly, many of these obscure laws have led to unreasonable arrests and unjust prosecutions. These costly over criminalization policies amount to both federal waste and government overreach.

Any one of us can be targeted and imprisoned. A homeowner can be arrested for failure to prune her shrubs, in violation of the city’s municipal code. A small-business owner can do time for lack of proper paperwork when importing orchids. Don’t own a business or a garden? You are still not safe. When the new health-care law goes into effect, everyone, with the exception of unions and other exempt parties, will face severe penalties for failure to purchase government-approved insurance. In fact, refusal to comply with the new health-care regulations is a federal violation punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. The grander issue of wasteful government spending is still salient, but over criminalization, while a part of that issue, also has large negative implications for the immediate livelihood of the American people.

While it is difficult to know exactly how much money the government spends to prosecute a single case, it’s instructive to look at a recent example: the infamous Barry Bonds trial. San Francisco U.S. Attorneys spent eight years and countless tax dollars investigating and prosecuting Bonds for allegedly lying under oath regarding his steroid usage. After they had dedicated so many hours and so much of the criminal-justice system’s limited resources, the jury refused to convict Bonds on any of the serious charges, finding him guilty of one charge of obstruction of justice. We need to be selective about the cases that rise to the federal criminal level, because spending our tax dollars on cases that drag on too long means that our money is being wasted.

Let me be clear: We should be tough on actual criminal acts. Let the punishment fit the crime. However, when prosecutors pursue frivolous cases that disrupt our quality of life, it’s not just that the government is wasting our tax dollars and is threatening our liberty, but it is spending less time going after real criminals: the arsonists, the murderers, and the sexual and financial predators. In actuality, our government is passing policies that are weakening our criminal-justice system and decreasing our safety.

In another example, highlighted by the Heritage Foundation, auto-racing legend Bobby Unser got lost in a blizzard, almost died, and was later convicted for operating a snow mobile in the natural wilderness. The conviction itself is quite unbelievable. If Mr. Unser did enter the wilderness, and there is no such proof, it was only due to the fact that he was disoriented in the blizzard. Nevertheless, he faced a $5,000 fine and a six-month prison sentence. It is estimated that the federal government spent approximately one million dollars to prosecute Mr. Unser.

In addition to the cost of prosecution, there are also costs associated with imprisonment. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the federal inmate population was 211,176 as of March. The average cost of incarceration for one federal inmate in fiscal year 2009 was $25,251. So putting justice, liberty, and the wishes of the founding fathers aside, it’s not exactly cheap to lock up people either. We should ensure that only real criminals are behind bars. Instead of locking up gardeners for violating regulations, we should fine them and generate income.

The secondary hidden cost of over criminalization is more difficult to quantify, but is still a drain on our economy. Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, in an essay for the Heritage Foundation, argues that criminal penalties have caused paranoia among all members of the business community. Businessmen are not innovating for fear of getting prosecuted, and as a result they are unable to compete in the global market. This is especially detrimental to the recovery of our ailing economy.

Because the cost of federal prosecution and imprisonment is so high, we need to ensure that this severe sanction is reserved only for actual criminals. We need to bring over criminalization to the forefront of the American media and political table. Over criminalization affects our daily lives and hurts all Americans. The stifling effect of criminalizing acts that should be of a regulatory nature is having a suffocating effect on American business and entrepreneurship.

A government capable of making seemingly innocuous conduct criminal is one that should be feared. The unlucky victims of the feds would certainly agree with me.
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Ten members of the House Judiciary Committee have agreed to form an Over-Criminalization Task Force to review the expansion of the federal criminal code and make recommendations for paring it down. There are roughly 4,500 federal crimes on the law books, with new ones being added at a rate of about 50 a year.

This proposed review of federal criminal laws is the first since the 1980s, when the number of federal crimes on the books was about half what it is now. The task force will conduct hearings and investigate issues around over-criminalization and will have the opportunity to issue reports to the Justice Committee on its findings and policy recommendations.

Among possible topics for the task force are federal drug laws and sentences in general and federal marijuana prohibition in particular. The group could also explore the issue of mens rea, or criminal intent, particularly in relation to the expansion of the use of conspiracy laws since the late 1980s. The use of those laws has led to low-level offenders, including some who were not even part of a drug trafficking enterprise, being sentenced to years or decades in federal prison — sentences that were supposed to be reserved for high-level offenders.

“As former chairman and long-serving member of the Judiciary Committee, I’ve seen first-hand just how muddled the criminal code is,” said Sensenbrenner. “It’s time to scrub it clean. The Over-Criminalization Task Force will review federal laws in Title 18, and laws outside of Title 18 that have not gone through the Judiciary Committee, to modernize our criminal code. In addition, I reintroduced the Criminal Code Modernization and Simplification Act [not posted as of Tuesday] today, which would reform Title 18 of the US Code, reduce the existing criminal code by more than one-third, and update the code to make it more comprehensible.”

“Unduly expansive criminal provisions in our law unnecessarily drive up incarceration rates,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the committee’s ranking Democrat. “Almost one-quarter of the world’s inmates are locked up in the United States, yet Americans constitute only five percent of the world population. In addition, the incarceration rate for African Americans is six times that of the national incarceration average. I welcome the work of the over-criminalization task force in analyzing this serious issue.”

“Although crime is primarily a matter for states and localities to handle, over the last 40 or so years Congress has increasingly sought to address societal problems by adding criminal provisions to the federal code,” said Scott. “There are now over 4,000 federal criminal provisions, plus hundreds of thousands of federal regulations which impose criminal penalties, often without requiring that criminal intent be shown to establish guilt. As a result, we are hearing many complaints of overuse and abusive uses of federal criminal laws from a broad-based coalition of organizations ranging from the Heritage Foundation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Today, we are establishing a bipartisan task force on over-criminalization to assess issues and make recommendations for improvements to the federal criminal system, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this worthy endeavor.”

“This Task Force is a step in the right direction and could propose recommendations to significantly alleviate mass incarceration and racial disparities in the federal system,” said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The establishment of this Task Force is long overdue for the drug policy reform movement. It is past time for Congress to re-examine marijuana laws, conspiracy laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and the appropriate role and use of the federal government’s resources.”

Face Your Fears

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The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.

Amelia Earhart

Sewer pipe miracle baby leaves China hospital; No charges for mother

Local media reports on Wednesday said the mother had become pregnant after a one-night stand. Unable to afford an abortion and with her partner unwilling to acknowledge it was his child, the mother took to hiding the pregnancy by wearing baggy clothes and tying strips of cloth around her stomach.

The woman who alerted authorities to the sounds of a baby stuck in a sewer pipe has admitted that she is the mother. Police are treating the case as an attempted homicide.

She then secretly gave birth to the boy in a fourth-floor public bathroom of the building where she lived, only to reportedly have the baby slip from her hands after delivery. The boy dropped into the open, squat-style toilet and slid down into the narrow 4-inch in diameter sewer pipe.

Not wanting her child, but unwilling to leave him to die in the drain, she reportedly notified a neighbor of sounds coming from the pipes, who then called police to investigate.

Firefighters were then called to gently cut the child free from the pipe using pliers and handsaws.

The mother has been subjected to near universal condemnation on Chinese social media.

The Associated Press reported that the mother had told police that she had initially refused to step forward because she had been frightened about the incident, but eventually had a change of heart and told officials she was in fact the mother.

No matter where we live or where we are from, sin is prevalent and will try to destroy us any way we allow it too. Praise God for His presence in that situation and not Buddha, but The Living God.

Ezekiel 18:1-4, “The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Israel loved to make excuses for their idolatry. They lived according to their own desires and forgot the God of Heaven, Jehovah, for days without number. Every time they would fall away, God would have to bring judgment upon them to return them to His laws.

Like we of today, the Children of Israel looked for someone else to blame for their own sin. In their search for self-justification they came up with a really cute and logical proverb that went like this: “The fathers may eat the sour grapes but the children’s teeth will be set on edge.” This meant that whatever the fathers of each successive generation did may not affect them but it would surely affect their children and grandchildren. This was Israel’s way of blaming their forefathers and even God, for the sin that they committed and the judgments they had to face. In using this proverb they absolved themselves from the penalty for their own sin and place it upon the head of their ancestors.

Just listen to any psychologist or psychiatrist and they will attempt to persuade you that criminals commit crimes largely as a result of their past environment. The blame for sin is never placed squarely on the shoulders of those who commit acts of violence or other crimes. It is always the fault of someone or something else. Perhaps it was your father, mother, aunt, uncle or some other adult who wronged you as a child and destroyed your self esteem. Perhaps it’s the peer pressure from school friends or co-workers that caused you to fall. After all, the man who loses his job as a postal worker because he was lazy and had a bad attitude, is somewhat justified in walking in and killing his former co-workers because it wasn’t his fault that he was fired, it’s their fault for being better employees than he was. I know that sounds warped but that’s the prevalent thinking of our day. The criminal has rights while the victim is looked upon as just a coincidence in the act of the crime and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

In the 1950s a psychologist, Stanton Samenow, and a psychiatrist, Samuel Yochelson, sharing the conventional wisdom that crime is caused by environment, set out to prove their point. They began a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates here in the District of Columbia. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, wrong moral choices. In their 1977 work The Criminal Personality, they concluded that the answer to crime is a “conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle.” In 1987, Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and Richard J.Herrnstein came to similar conclusions in their book Crime andHuman Nature. They determined that the cause of crime is a lack of proper moral training among young people during the morally formative years, particularly ages one to six.

Christians don’t act much different than those who are worldly when it comes to facing up to their sin. We love to play the blame game too. I hear people say things like, “My former Pastor didn’t teach me right”; “The church that used to attend didn’t have a good training program or Bible study class”; I was never taught that doing or saying things like that were wrong”; and I have heard other things come from the lips of Christians as well because we don’t want to admit that we have sinned and that it is us who are at fault and in need of repentance.

It’s not my fault the church isn’t growing; it’s the preacher’s fault. It’s not my fault that the rumor was spread so quickly; they shouldn’t have assumed that I would keep a secret that important in the first place. It’s not my fault that we lost a family in our church; if they had been closer to Jesus they wouldn’t have left because I said or did what I did. It isn’t my fault that they had so many skeletons in their closet that they were ashamed of.

John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun–until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between is hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted. ’You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!

Folks we can lay the blame wherever we want, but God spoke plainly to Ezekiel that “the soul that sins will be one who dies and not those who lived in the past. They will answer for their own sin and so will you. We cannot lay the blame for what we do at the feet of another person. James 1:14-15 says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” It isn’t the fault of anyone else when we sin. It’s our own fault. Until we realize that fact, there can be no forgiveness of sin and when we face the Great White Throne Judgment we will have no excuse.

We can’t blame the church, the preacher or the Sunday School teacher or Sabbath School Administrator for not being good enough because we are commanded by God to study and make ourselves knowledgeable in the Word of God. We can’t blame the priest, mom and dad, or anyone else for not teaching us right, for the Word of God says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear of our Holy God and remembering that our eternal soul’s destiny hangs in the balance.

Especially now, in these New Testament times, we have no excuse for sin and we cannot lay the blame for our “sour grapes” on anyone else. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God, and the Blood of Jesus Christ to wash us, cleanse us and teach us to walk uprightly before God.

Listen to the words of God to the Prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:29-34, “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God has taken away our excuses for sin. He has taken away our excuses for not living a holy, sanctified life. God has removed the skin of our reason for not obeying his voice and revealed the lie that is stuffed inside. We stand on our own now and we cannot blame another for the sin we commit.

God has given us everything we need to be saved. He has provided a way out of our death penalty if we will only confess that we are wrong in the first place and face up to our own guilt.

We will all live or die based upon what we do with the gospel and death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking What about each of you? Has life dealt you a handful of sour grapes? Do you feel that life has been unfair? Don’t think that you are alone. All of us have felt that way from time to time.

It would be great if we could only release ourselves from the guilt of sin by placing the blame on someone or something else, but we can’t. Each of us must face up the fact that its “My Fault”. I am the one who chose to sin. No one made me do it. The Devil didn’t make me do it either. He may have brought the temptation to me, but it was my own desire and my own decision to yield to that temptation.

Only when we face up to our own “sour grapes” and confess that we are the ones at fault and no one else, can we find true repentance and forgiveness for sin.

Let Honor Meet Honor

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You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.

Aristotle

Matthew 6:1-6

The Message (MSG)

The World Is Not a Stage

6 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Pray with Simplicity

5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

I’ve always been impressed by the solemn, magnificent simplicity of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The carefully choreographed event is a moving tribute to soldiers whose names and sacrifice are “Know but to God.”

Equally moving are the private moments of steady pacing when the crowds are gone: back and forth, hour after hour, day by day, in even the worst weather. In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel was bearing down on Washington, DC, my home town, and the guards were told they could seek shelter during the worst of the storm. Surprising almost no one, the guards refused! They unselfishly stood their post to honor their fallen comrades even in the face of a hurricane.

Underlying Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-6, I believe, is His desire for us to live with an unrelenting, selfless devotion to Him. The Bible calls us to good deeds and holy living, but these are to be acts of worship and obedience, not orchestrated acts for self-glorification. The Apostle Paul endorses this whole-life faithfulness when he pleads with us to live unto God.

May our private and public moments speak of our devotion and wholehearted commitment to you, Lord. The more we serve Christ, the less we will swerve self.

Grant us the strength this day, O Lord, to persevere, to return honor to your name where we are serving. Our desire is to give our self in selfless devotion because of your love for us.

Disenfranchisement Of Black America: The New It- Felon Not Negro(G80964)

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About 371,000 German soldiers were held in American prisons until 1946. That they, above all in the southern states, were treated better than black workers, gave the growing civil rights movement a powerful weapon.
http://youtu.be/8vZzFwR4rVE

In contrast, American soldiers and civilians often described the German POWs as “magnificent physical specimens,” “physically supreme, muscular types” or “fine specimens of physical manhood.” The prisoners from Africa especially attracted attention and admiration. For a man from Texas, the Germans were “just the best bunch of boys you ever saw,” while a reporter who visited Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, confessed that he found them “uniformly neat, excessively polite, splendidly disciplined, these young men are – frankly – hard to dislike.”

Americans who employed POWs often shared this feeling. Most Germans worked in agriculture, canning, logging and lumber where the war had created a shortage of reliable unskilled labor. Many of these jobs had been traditionally performed by black Americans who were no longer available in sufficient numbers, despite substantial efforts to restrict their mobility or defer their induction. The German POWs filled this gap and grateful employers often showed their appreciation in various forms. Some even invited them to restaurants or into their own homes. The Inspector General’s Department was not pleased and wrote in a March 1945 report: “The average employer and his foremen, learning that the German prisoner of war, except for ideological concepts, is in general little different from the rank and file of our own soldiers, are apt to become overly friendly and solicitous of the prisoner of war’s welfare.”

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The vast majority of POWs were interned in the South or border States where they often worked next to black Americans in the fields and factories. The availability of POW labor kept the wages for blacks at a low level and also had “rather a good effect on some of our sorry Negro labor by tending to keep them on the job better,” as one employer from Alabama put it.

Nevertheless, the German POWs reported almost uniformly that the African Americans treated them friendly and regarded them as “prisoners like us.”

“We were their fellow-sufferers,” one former POW recalled. “Bad time, prisoner time.” For the moment, the joint “underdog” status was more important than the racial divide. POWs and black Americans shared stories, songs, food and drink, and many Germans came to regard the blacks as the anti-thesis of white, soulless, capitalist America – the “land without a heart.”

While black Americans frequently clashed with Italian prisoners of war who enjoyed greater freedom than their former German allies, there is little evidence of direct tension between Germans and black Americans. However, black American soldiers frequently contrasted the treatment of German POWs with their own treatment and reported in countless letters that “there are German prisoners here and they live better than we do.”

Although not all of these reports were accurate, German POWs often did enjoy better treatment and more rights, such as access to “whites only” facilities. The fact that “Nazi prisoners” were given access to restaurants or railway compartments off-limits to black American soldiers provided the growing civil rights movement in the United States with a powerful weapon.

Racial discrimination also limited the effectiveness of the reeducation program for the German POWs. The program, which started in 1944, tried to turn the prisoners into democrats “by presenting to them in so far as is possible under the circumstances the best aspects of American life and institutions.” Some POWs responded by contrasting American values with the treatment of black Americans. However, the majority of them were more concerned with when they would be allowed to return home.

The Americans created the impression that participation in the reeducation program would lead to quicker repatriation but this was not true. The first to return to Germany were “useless” prisoners and “troublemakers,” i.e. unrepentant Nazis. The last regular shipment of German POWs left the United States on July 22, 1946 of which around 178,000 of the POWs were handed over to Great Britain and France as workers. For the prisoners, this was a “modern slave trade on the grandest scale.” Some of them had to endure over two more years of captivity and forced labor.

To “disenfranchise,” typically defined in any basic dictionary, is to deprive of civil privileges, rights of citizenship or constitutional rights, especially the right to vote. Within a colonial administrative or nation-state context, disenfranchisement is an active process by which the colonizing power, state or state-sanctioned institutions deny colonial subjects or citizens basic rights.

To borrow the title from John Gaventa’s book (1982),disenfranchisement includes dynamics of “Power and Powerlessness.” American ethnic minorities can tell a variety of stories about disenfranchisement and struggles against disenfranchisement for civil rights. This is especially true for Native Americans and Black Americans.

To what degree do the more recent experiences of black American felon’s resemble the historical experiences of actual slavery and Black Americans? In order for disenfranchisement to occur and then be maintained or sustained, the colonizer, enslaver, invader, or the usurping power has to create and disseminate a story or ideological justification. Renowned scholars like Pierre Bourdieu, Antonio Gramsci, and Edward Said have contributed to and inspired a vast literature on ideological hegemonic dynamics (Bourdieu and Johnson 1993, Gramsci 1971, Said 1994). This presentation borrows briefly from the work of Bourdieu but focuses more upon the claims of John Gaventa. Political Sociologist, John Gaventa, reveals how ideological justification is forged through a “mobilization of bias” during which the usurping power asserts, imposes, and legitimizes cultural hegemony (Gaventa 1982). Another way of looking at this may be through the concept of symbolic violence. Symbolic violence, as defined by Bourdieu , refers to the ability of a dominant group to impose it symbols upon
others not through physical violence but through cultural domination, the control of ideas, images,standards, icons, and so on (Bourdieu 1977, Wacquant 1993). This ideological control becomes so pervasive and taken-for-granted that both dominant and disenfranchised group members internalize or accept these symbols as legitimate. Organizations, corporations, colonial administrations,governments, government-based institutions (including school systems), are just a short list of the entities that often engage in symbolic violence. Over time, the control of ideas, images, and symbols may become so taken-for-granted that, as argued by Gaventa, inequities become non-issues. Allow me to repeat, grave inequities such as land dispossession, dehumanization, enslavement, and apartheid eventually become non-issues. Inequities become non-issues!

So, according to Gaventa (as well as Bourdieu), what are the procedural dimensions of power and powerlessness by which a dominant ideology is imposed and, then, grave inequities become nonissues? Well, disenfranchisement and other forms of disempowerment may involve the following three levels or dimensions of power (Gaventa 1982):

1. The ability of a powerful entity (e.g., organization, corporation, government, colonial administration, executive or congressional or parliamentary power) to force someone or some group to act against their will. This level of power often involves physical force and observable conflict.
2. The ability of a powerful entity to set the agenda or “rules of the game” and thereby mobilize bias in its favor in some political arena. At this level of power, a powerful entity constructs barriers that prevent a disempowered group from participating in a political process.
3. The ability of a powerful entity to shape individual and group consciousness through the control of ideals, information, ideologies, myths, and so on. It is at this level of symbolic power (also known as symbolic violence) that a powerful entity has legitimized its ideals, symbols, and ideologies and de-legitimized or destroyed those of disempowered groups.The concepts of “mobilization of bias” and “symbolic violence” illuminate the stages through which inequities become non-issues. Also, during processes of disenfranchisement, the powerful are able to successfully characterize and treat the disempowered as a “thing” or as an “it”, in other words, as a less than human object instead of a complex human subject.

♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫
“Doe,” deer, a female deer…
“Ray,” a drop of golden sun…
“Me,” a name I call myself…
“ME,” A NAME I CALL MYSELF!
♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫

“Me” to “It” Disenfranchisement has many consequences. In addition to issues becoming non-issues, another consequence is that an individual or group is de-evolved from a subject to an object, from a “’Me’ a name I call myself” to an “’It’ a thing I am called by others.” As mentioned above, disenfranchised groups become known not by what they call themselves but by what they are called by the colonizer, conqueror, or some other powerful entity.

Back to the ideological justification or the story created by powerful entities to justify disenfranchisement. For Native Americans, the story has changed over time as British colonizers, then U.S. state and federal governments have justified disenfranchisement. During pre- and early colonial times and prior to disenfranchisement, Native Americans appeared in romanticized Enlightenment stories as noble savages. This was also an image held by Thomas Jefferson in the late 1700s.

Also, prior to European contact, many Native Americans did not describe themselves as “Indians” who belonged to mere “tribes” but as “The People” who belonged to Nations, Bands & Clans, Pueblo City States, Confederacies, and so on.

This story would give way to stories about “Indians” as non-Christian “heathens” to stories about them as “wild animals,” “savage redmen” or “blood thirsty savages” to modern day stories of American Indians as “wards of the State” and “drunken Injuns/Indians”. For Black Americans the story has also changed overtime. Prior to enslavement, those West
Africans who would become victims of the slave trade included Arabic scholars, merchants, craftsmen, peasant farmers and cattle-tenders.

The reality that enslaved Africans were diverse and complex, would change to colonial American stories of Blacks as “uncivilized heathens” to early American stories about them as “childlike” beings that were more like chattel or property than human beings to stories about them as “pack animals,” “niggers,” and rapists of white women to more modern day stories of Blacks as “criminals,” “thugs,” and “welfare queens”.

In other words, the enslaver or colonizer creates dehumanizing stories to justify the inhumane treatment of disenfranchised peoples. Gaventa argues that ultimate power exists when the powerless are made to appear quiescent or apathetic despite their history of resistance and/or when the usurping power can manipulate policies, symbols, and ideologies to the extent that inequities experienced by the disenfranchised appear to be non-issues.

Grave Inequities Become Non-Issues It is important to understand that Native and Black Americans are not dehumanized into “objectified it-things” overnight but through processes of disenfranchisement and domination carried out from the first to the third levels of disempowerment listed above. At the first level of disempowerment Native and Black Americans were forced to act against their will through such events as colonization and/or enslavement, war, land dispossession,
forced migration, apartheid, and ghettoization.

Then, at the second level of disempowerment, colonial powers and then the U.S. government were able to mobilize bias against Native and Black Americans. It is during this second level that the powerful entities excluded Natives and Blacks from the political process and set the rules of the game through various types of discrimination institutionalized in Congressional Legislation, Supreme Court decisions, presidential practices, codes, and military actions.

Then, by the third level of disempowerment the control of ideals and information is so pervasive that Native and Black Americans are known more by the labels given them by dehumanizing entities than by the names they once called themselves. Even worse, some Native and Black Americans internalize dehumanizing labels. This is the level where symbolic violence is most pervasive and insidious. I here see the plight of credit checks, background checks, and all other planned criterions’ as sifting tools to disqualify a race of people. None of which is a new thing in and of itself, but it is unique in itself because of the mask and techniques implemented to set order for the new slaughter of underpowered people.

The New War On Black America: Felonies

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redtails
The parallels associated with the quagmire’s of racial indifference in America really have not changed. I was watching the movie Redtails this morning and when I saw certain scenes related to how black American soldiers were treated by their fellow soldiers verses the German enemies I was not shocked at the parallels that felons receive now.
german POW's
Today a sprightly 90-year-old, the veteran remembers vividly that though he was treated ‘as an officer and a gentleman’ by his German captors, he was subjected to racism when he returned to America.

‘As we disembarked from the troop ship, a white soldier at the bottom of the gangplank shouted: “Whites to the right, n*****s to the left.” I replied: “Goddammit, nothing has changed!”

‘I felt it was straight back to racism and segregation. I was furious, but you couldn’t do a damned thing but suck it up and survive.’

It was just another insult for a remarkable group of men whose controversial story has just been made into a feature film by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

And, undoubtedly, Jefferson and his comrades in 332nd Fighter Group — nicknamed the Red Tails after the colour of their plane markings — have an extraordinary story to tell.

God Helped You Out Of Your Hole: Who Will You Help?

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While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

Maya Angelou
I fell in a hole for the first time in 1993, and severed 6.5 years on an 8yrs sentence. If not for the grace of God and His submitted will people who knows where I would’ve wound up. Being in a hole in life requires devoted servants chained to Christ and His Gospel to help. Please desire to be His mouth, His eyes, His hands and feet to a perishing nation and world.
Luke 10:25-27

The Message (MSG)
Defining “Neighbor”

25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

The story of the Good Samaritan. I just want to point out some historical elements. This parable is only included in the book of Luke. Luke was a Gentile in the Jewish religion. See, Christians were not viewed as separate from the Jews until the 2nd century. And all through the 1st century, a group of people known as the Judaizers was active. They believed that all these “Christians” that were being converted had to follow Jewish law and follow Jewish customs. They were not separated until the 2nd century when their influence on Christians began to fade. Now, that’s not quite the point. Why was he the only one who wrote this parable? Why is it that followers of Jesus such as Matthew and Mark, and John, one of Jesus’ closest companions did not include this parable? It is because none of them felt the same way about the Samaritans as Luke did. Luke was Greek. He had no beef with the Samaritans as did the other three authors of the gospels. He was a Gentile without a bias, and more importantly, he was a Christian without a bias. He was not influenced by the Judaizers to hate Samaritans, and in return, he was not a Jew to be hated by the Samaritans. He was writing this gospel intentionally to a wealthy gentile like himself named Theophilus, and I think that by including this parable in his gospel, he was attempting to show how a Christian is truly supposed to act: Helping everyone equally without a bias. Now, when I use that word “bias”, I’m not particularly focusing on the type that we usually think of which is racial, ethnic, or gender bias; but I’m focusing more the type that we don’t often recognize even within ourselves. I’m talking about the bias of not liking someone because of their attitude, or their political view, or maybe you disagree on the smallest thing and this is expanded in your own mind.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. I just finished my first semester at Houghton College and my first week there, I met a guy in my Pre-calculus class; I’ll call him Jeff. Jeff did not understand Pre-calc at all, he tried harder and studied more of it than anyone I knew, and his term project partner was worse off than he was. On the other hand, I picked it up rather easily and had the smartest person in class as my term project partner. Why is this relevant? Jeff is a Communications major, he has an incredibly lame sense of humor that no one seems to get, he hangs out in the radio station all day, and is seemingly always focused on politics. Jeff has a personality almost exactly like mine. For some reason, he turned to me for assistance in math whenever he needed help. I would show him a few things, but I wouldn’t really help him solve the problem. Little did I know that I was reflecting this type of bias I am speaking about to you this morning. I did not realize the cruelty of my actions until a couple weeks before finals, and when I realized my error, I immediately called Jeff and asked if he wanted to review the next afternoon. What I had done earlier in the semester was absolutely wrong, and I’m going to tell you a story now that I think will explain why and will also help us to better apply Luke’s lesson to our own lives.

One day a man was walking down the street and he fell into a hole. He cried out for help to everyone that passed his way. First to stop was a rich man. He threw some money down the hole, called down to the man, “Buy yourself a ladder!”, and moved on. Well, that didn’t get the man out and he continued to cry for help. Soon after the rich man passed by, a priest came along and stopped. He prayed a prayer for the man in the hole, called down, “See you in church!”, and went along his way. Well, that didn’t get the man out either, and so he continued to cry out. Well, eventually, his friend came along, heard his cry, saw him in the hole, and jumped down with him. Stunned, the man turned to his friend and said, “What did you do that for? Now we’re both stuck down here!” His friend replied, “Because I have been here before, and I know the way out.” Now, that’s a nice story, but it applies directly to our daily lives. Think to yourself how many times you’ve encountered someone having a problem. You know the solution, but all you do is give them money and let them figure it out for themselves.

Or maybe you tell them, “I’ll be praying for you.” That is the easy way out if we know how to solve the problem. The true friend (the Christian) shows them how to solve a problem that their friend is in, that their brother is in; that their neighbor is in. Now, let’s combine that parable with the one in Luke. Does it matter who it is down in the hole? Do we intentionally help some people and not others? Are we afraid of the extra effort it might take to help someone that is handicapped or in need of a little extra assistance? Let’s take this application deeper. When we willingly help a non-Christian, do we then in return expect them to start following our lifestyles, like Judaizers? Do we tell ourselves in our hearts that if we don’t see them at church after a while that we won’t help them anymore? Do we put conditions on our help?

Do we say to ourselves, “I’ve helped this person out of this situation fifteen times now, and if they get into it again, I’m not helping them?” Jesus certainly didn’t set that example in his life, and Luke wasn’t sending that message to Theophilus when he included that parable with the Samaritan. The message sent from Luke to Theophilus, the message conveyed by the parable of Jesus, our dearest friend, to us is this: Help everyone you can to the fullest extent. Do everything you can to solve their problem even if they can never return the favor, especially if they can never return the favor. God bless.

I Want To Be A Good Man!!!

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No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.

Plato


Psalm 37 contains a reference to three particular men. In v.16 we find “a righteous man,” in v.23 we find “a good man,” and in v.37 we find “the perfect man.” If we were to apply this from a NT viewpoint, we might say that the “righteous man” (v.16) is a man that has been saved and has the righteousness of Christ. The “good man” (v.23) is not only a man who is saved, but a man who allows the Lord to lead and direct him through life. The “perfect man” (v.37), is a man who not only has the righteousness of God, not only does he allow the Lord to lead him and guide him, but he has reached a level of maturity in the Christian life so that things that might offend the righteous man and the good man will not even phase his fellowship with the Lord. The perfect man is unmovable. Our main focus today will be that of the “good man,” but remember that this man is still growing and has not reached spiritual maturity.

I. THE STEPS OF A GOOD MAN (Psa. 37:23a)
A. Ordered by the Lord – From His Word (Psa. 119:133)
B. Ordered by the Lord – In God’s Direction (Prov. 16:9)
C. Protected From Slipping (Psa. 37:30-31)
D. Cannot Be Designed by Man (Jer. 10:23)
E. In Danger When His Eyes Go Astray (Psa. 73:2-3)
F. Under Attack from His Enemies (Psa. 25:19)

II. THE DELIGHT OF A GOOD MAN (Psa. 37:23b)
A. He Delights in God’s Way (v.23b)
B. He Delights in God’s Will (Psa. 40:8)
B. He Delights in the Law of the Lord (Psa. 1:2)

III. THE FALL OF A GOOD MAN (Psa. 37:24)
A. A Possibility – “Though he fall…” (v.24a)
• Adam fell when he partook of the fruit.
• Noah fell when he got drunk after the flood.
• Abraham fell when listened to Sarah on the matter of Hagar.
• Lot fell when he went to Sodom.
• Moses fell when he smote the rock instead of speaking to it.
• Aaron fell when he made a golden calf for Israel to worship.
• David fell when he sinned with Bathsheba (murdered Uriah).
• Solomon fell because he gave his heart to foreign women.
• Elijah fell when he ran from Jezebel because of fear.
• Peter fell when he denied the Lord three times.
• The disciples fell when they feared and hid after Christ’s died.
B. Not Permanent – “…he shall not be utterly cast down” (v.24b; Prov. 24:16)
C. The Lord Delivers – “For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand…” (v.24c)

Conclusion: Are your steps being ordered by the Lord? Do you delight in the will and way of the Lord for your life? Have you fallen? Have you risen back up to get back in the fight? Where does that place you?

keeping Faith In Times Of Uncertainty

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uncertainty

Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.

Henri Frederic Amiel

http://www.sermoncentral.com/MediavaultMedia/4579/FlashPreview.mp4

One thing is certain…nothing ever stays the same. I was on Facebook this past week and I was noticing the updates posted by a friend with whom I went to college. She now lives in Maine and she posted the comment…the sun is out. A few minutes later she posted another comment that said…the sun is not out. This went on for a few posts, and I got bored of following the conversation.

It is true that living in New England you will have your fair share of weather inconsistencies. Like the 90 degree weather we were having last week compared to the mild 60’s of today.

But it is not just in the weather were we are experiencing uncertainty. There is uncertainty in the job market…uncertainty in the housing market…uncertainty in the stock market. In fact our world is full of uncertainty. And in uncertain times people seem to slip into a mode of fear.

Why are people so afraid of uncertainty? Well, there is the fear of the unknown. And I must confess that the unknown can be a bit frightening, but it can also be delightful. There is also the fear of change in time of uncertainty. The fear of failure… and the list could go on.

But I want to make a bold statement, which will serve as kind of the premise of our study today. Faith can thrive in times of uncertainty. Consider for a second the biblical definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Things hoped for…things not seen, certainly sound a little uncertain.

It is in these times of uncertainty that faith become obvious or should I say that faith become provable. Faith says in spite of not seeing things…in spite of only having hope, there is substance in our faith that keeps us moving and keeps us standing strong.

Let’s go back to our story today in Daniel 2. Let’s do a little review of our main characters. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken captive to serve in the Babylonian King’s court. These three men received three years of training in the Babylonian culture which was an attempt to re-indoctrinate them to the Babylonian lifestyle. But in spite of the Babylonian effort to cause the men to forsake their God they men stood strong. They chose to believe the sovereignty of God.

They chose to stand strong on what they believed. They chose to follow God and walk in faith. But it did not take long for their faith to be tested.

Their first test came while in training, or should I say three year long re-programming effort. These men were challenged to fit in with the behavior and specifically the eating rituals of all Babylonians. But the dietary plan was against the dietary laws of the Jews. So they stepped out on faith and ask for a different food plan. It worked and God blessed these three brave men who stood up for what He had designed for them. In fact it worked so well that at the end of the three years listen to what was said about Daniel and his friends…

Dan 1:20 – And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Yet in spite of their impressive knowledge and stamina, it did not take long for there to be another trial. Chapter 2 of Daniel starts out by saying that King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream. The dream was so upsetting, that the King immediately called for his wise men to give him the reason for the dream.

The Catch was that by the time the king assembled the wise men, he had forgotten the dream, or so he said. He asked the wise men to tell him the dream and to tell him the interpretation of the dream. This was an impossible task, and the wise men make an appeal on those grounds. Listen to their appeal:

Dan 2:10 – The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

You can almost hear the desperation in their voice. Things they are a chanin’…from the certainty of the kings wise men, to the brink of extermination.

Listen to the King’s response:

Dan 2:12-13 – For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

I want to digress form the story a bit here for a very important point. Did you know that we are in a war? And in this war our enemy will use whatever he can to try to defeat us. You name it…worldliness with all of it lusts…uncertainty with all it fear. He is ruthless. One person said, “The Evil one is willing to sacrifice all his false prophets in the city of Babylon if he can destroy four of God’s faithful servants.” Those who would follow the devil are a dime a dozen…but those who would follow Christ are few.

It is hard to believe that so many terrible things can happen to one person. Yet Daniel was ready to handle every occasion. He was bold in his faith and trials seem to make his faith shine brighter. Here in the face of uncertainty, Daniel’s faith shines bright. Daniel had to remember three truths in order to follow his faith.

Dan 2:14-16 – Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

Remember the immovable power of Faith

The First thing Daniel asked was if he could speak to the King. Now I want you to understand that Daniel did not take an arrogant stand on faith. The Hebrew word here actually means he desired or requested to see the king. There was a proper way to ask for an audience with the King. In fact it may be that Daniel never actually talked to the King, but actually spoke with a high ranking official who reported Daniel’s request to the King.

Daniel was bold in his faith. Daniel did not question whether or not he could do what the king asked. In fact, he said he would be able to show the interpretation. And why not, do you remember what God said about Daniel in chapter 1…

Dan 1:17 – As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Later on, we find out that Daniel was so bold because he had faith that God could reveal and interpret the King’s dream. Daniel stepped out on faith knowing that in the uncertainty, God was still there and he was still faithful.

This is an important fact. In time of uncertainty, God is still certain. We can still lean on his truth, and follow his leadership. The immovable power of faith is anchored in the immovable character of God.

One of my favorite things to do at the beach is to just sit or stand on the beach right where the waves wash up under my feet. The waves are refreshing, but I like most what happens as the waves retreat. As the waves retreat, the water takes the sand around my feet and under my feet away. This has a tingling sensation as my feet resettle just in time of the next wave to hit. Then the entire routine is started all over.

This is like the certainty that the world offers. It is shifting sand. Just about the time you settle in and feel comfortable, another wave hit and the shifting begins again. There is not firm foundation in the world, only uncertainty as the waves of life role in.

I am glad that we have a solid foundation on which to stand when the waves of live come crushing in

Remember the song…
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Remember the immeasurable value of prayer

The next thing Daniel does is go straight to the Lord. I wonder, what is your first response to uncertainty? Is it prayer?

Notice what kind of prayer Daniel prayed:

Corporate prayer – He asked other to pray with him. Daniel did not want to engage in this battle without the help of his friends.

Fervent prayer – The word “desire” here is actually the same word used earlier when Daniel went to the king. Daniel and his friends went to the Lord

Expectant prayer – Daniel fully expected to get an answer.

Urgent prayer – Time was limited.

God answered his prayer.

Remember the incredible name of God

When God provided the dream and the revelation of the dream, Daniel praised the name of the Lord. Listen to Daniel’s praise…

Dan 2:20-23 – Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

Daniel knew that only God could provide such an answer to prayer and such an answer to the king’s dilemma.

But it even goes further, Daniel made sure that the king knew only his God, the God of Heaven, could do such things.

Dan 2:27-28 – Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.

Dan 2:47 – The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

Why does God need people to stand strong in times of uncertainty? It’s so the world will know the name of our great God. In facts it all about the name of our great God. Daniel understood this, that’s why he says that no one could understand the dream, but god could. In fact you could say that God created or at least allowed the time of uncertainty, so that His name would be known

Many years ago, King George VI of England addressed the British commonwealth on New Year’s Eve at a moment in history when the whole world stood on the brink of uncertainty. Despondency and uncertainty filled the air. The king’s own body was racked by cancer. Before that year was over, his life ended. Unaware of his own physical maladies, he uttered these memorable words: “I said to the man at the gate of the year, ’Give me a light that I might walk safely into the unknown.’ And he said to me, ’Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you safer than the light and better than the known.’ ”

I am not sure what kind of uncertainty you are facing in your life. It may be an uncertainty of…work…finances…family…a relationship…or it could be the uncertainty of an eternal home in heaven. I want to assure you that God is here, waiting for you to remember the truths the Daniel learned. Why not today, trust in God in your tome of uncertainty?

I Refuse To Be Defeated By Anything And Anyone

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I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Genesis 32:24-26

The Message (MSG)

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

Who is your favorite wrestler?

Today’s television wrestlers are professional entertainers — athletes who have captured the imagination of Americans of all generations. Though their names change from generation to generation television wrestlers, complete with costumes, gimmicks, rippling muscles and a lot of hype has an unparalleled following around the world.

Perhaps the most famous is Hulk Hogan, who has had cartoon shows, records, comic books and television shows based on his wrestling persona. Others familiar names of our time include: ’The Rock’, ’Kurt Angle’, ’Triple H’, The Undertaker’ and others. Each combine entertainment and wrestling skills to thrill audiences everywhere.

The stronger and the cleverer of the two wrestlers usually win.

But suppose you had to wrestle God, who do you think would win?

Unlikely as it may seem there are many people who wrestle with God everyday. Some win and some lose. Those who win arise from their experience with a stronger, fuller, faith. Those who choose to refuse God’s will in their lives, walk away as losers.

As Christians we can reflect on Ephesians 6:12 which reminds us that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

As we wrestle with this we should resolve that we will not leave the ring until we are victorious and receive our blessing from God.

I. Our text first considers Jacob as returns home after being away for 21 years. He managed the herds of his uncle Laban during this time and had become wealthy.

Jacob is noted for his frequent tendency to cheat, deceive or take advantage of others. He is often remembered for his boyhood act of cheating his brother out of his divine inheritance in exchange for a bowl of soup. That caused a great division in his family and prompted him too leave 21 years earlier. This text finds Jacob returning home a wealthier man, but one who still possessed the same old habits and traits that caused him to leave. After 21 years of tricking and being tricked, Jacob decided it was time to go home.

As he drew close to home Jacob sent messengers to his brother, Esau, to inform him that he was coming home and that he wanted to make up for the wrongs he had done. The messenger returned to announce that Esau was coming to meet him but he was bringing 400 men with him.

Jacob was disturbed and afraid for his life because he thought his brother was coming to avenge his bad deeds. The night before his return home, Jacob pondered his fate and considered his options and it was to the point he had his third encounter with the Lord. His first encounter came when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to go home (Gen.31: 13). As he returned home he met angels of the Lord along the way (Gen. 32:1-2) and had his second encounter with Lord. Now in his moment of indecision the Lord seized him bodily and spiritually as Jacob wrestled to decide whether to go home or flee.

Without a doubt this was a fixed fight. The outcome of this match was a part of God’s divine plan. Jacob would win this match despite his mortality facing the invincible, indestructible, immortal power of God by simply deciding to go back home. To remind Jacob of the power God could have unleashed against him, the Lord simply touched his thigh and it was weak as a limb for the rest of his life.

Jacob’s decision to go home, but there was something else he needed from God, a changed heart. His plea for spiritual blessings was I can’t go home like this! I have cattle, riches, and fame, but I can’t go home like this! Jacob wanted a blessing from God and he received it. The Lord changed his name from Jacob to Israel, which means: You wrestled with God and won!

Jacob had wrestled with men and won! But now he had wrestled with God and won!

There are many today that have prevailed in their struggle with life’s forces. They have wrestled with men and won. Many have defeated struggles of racism, poverty and sexism to rise high in their professions and to acquire a reasonable level of comfortable living. Though their lives at times appeared to be down for the final count they have risen victorious!

Are you among those who wrestled with men and won? Are you able to keep food on your table, wear decent clothing, and get a few of the creature comforts of this life? If so, you have wrestled with men and won!

Jacob acquired his material by abandoning most stayed away from home for 21 years seeking his fortune and won! Today, there are millions who placed their active service in the kingdom of God on the back burner as they wrestle with men. Many are so completely consumed with making a dollar that they have little time left for prayer, bible study, worship or service to their fellow man in the Kingdom of God.

Sooner or later, no matter who you are, the Lord is going to speak to you. Perhaps he comes in the silence of the night. Perhaps his words leap from the pages of a manuscript and embrace you or they simply ring in your ears. The call is for every child of God to “come home!”

When Jacob asked the Lord for a blessing before he went home, he wasn’t asking for a material blessing because he already had that, what he wanted was the confidence of knowing that God’s spirit was with him. In essence he said I’m going home, “but I can’t go home like this,” without your presence in my life!

There’s somebody reading this who has wrestled with life and won and is now wrestling with a decision about coming home to the Lord!

Their prayer is “Lord, I want to come home’ because you’ve been good to me! But I’m afraid of what’s out there! I’m afraid of making that first step!
I’m not leaving this place until you bless me with your Holy Ghost!

I can’t go home like this!
When the Holy Ghost leads you:
 Mountains seem to be a little lower!
 Dark clouds seem to be a little brighter!
 Burdens seem to be a little brighter!
 Fears are a little less frightening!
 Troubles seem more bearable!

No wonder the songwriter would write: ’Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, make me, mold me, fill me, break me, spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me!’

II. When Jacob set out the next day on his way home, he had a limp in his walk but there was no fear in his heart because he had the Lord with him! He was going home, but he wasn’t the same man!

When he left home he was self-centered but as he returned he was willing to share with others!

When he left home he was filled with pride, but as he returned his pride turned to humility.

When he left home he was accustomed to using people, but as he returned he was willing to be used by the Lord!

His brother Esau met him surrounded by 400 men, but what Jacob expected to be an upraised fist turned out to be outstretched hand!

The two embraced each other and wept!

There are good things in store for those who come home! Jacob realized that there is unspeakable joy when you come home!

Every child of God knows how Jacob felt because every child of God is on his way home!

We’re going home, but not to a physical address in the mosquito ridden, humid bayous of the Louisiana Delta. We’re going to place where we have a house not built by hands!

I heard a songwriter said: “I’m going home to live with Jesus, since I laid my burdens down!”

I HEARD Jesus say “In my father’s house there are many mansions!’

Over yonder, in my fathers house:
 Every day will be Sunday, always howdy and never good bye!
 Every mountain shall be made low!
 Every valley shall be exalted!
 The wicked shall cease from troubling!
 The weary shall be at rest!
Come and go with me to my Fathers house there is joy, joy, and unspeakable joy!

“Give people a second chance” — George Zimmer, founder, Men’s Wearhouse

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ACLU
“Liberty is always unfinished business.” ~ American Civil Liberties Union

Adam Smith
“Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men.” ~ Adam Smith

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow citizens.” ~ Adam Smith

“Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.” ~ Adam Smith

“There is no art which government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.” ~ Adam Smith

Since starting the first Men’s Wearhouse (MW) clothing outlet in Houston in 1973, George Zimmer has followed a low-cost contrarian formula. He shuns glitzy retail areas and malls, preferring to open stores in outdoor plazas. He even stars in his own TV commercials. “I have more belief in my company than anyone else,” Zimmer says. “So why hire an actor?” Why indeed. Since going public 15 years ago, Men’s Wearhouse has grown its annual profit from $5.9 million to $149 million.

One more contrarian thing: It is Zimmer’s policy that no employee or interviewee will ever undergo a criminal background check. Conventional retail wisdom says this guarantees petty larceny on a grand scale. In fact, the company loses a mere 0.4 percent of revenue to theft, way less than the typical 1.5 percent loss suffered by big retailers

“I don’t trust the U.S. justice system to get it right,” says Zimmer, who is himself a recovering alcoholic. “I’d rather make my own decisions, and I believe in giving people a second chance.”

•An employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

•The Guidance builds on longstanding court decisions and existing guidance documents that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission or EEOC) issued over twenty years ago.

•The Guidance focuses on employment discrimination based on race and national origin. The Introduction provides information about criminal records, employer practices, and Title VII.

•The Guidance discusses the differences between arrest and conviction records.
The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred, and an exclusion based on an arrest, in itself, is not job related and consistent with business necessity. However, an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying an arrest if the conduct makes the individual unfit for the position in question.

◦In contrast, a conviction record will usually serve as sufficient evidence that a person engaged in particular conduct. In certain circumstances, however, there may be reasons for an employer not to rely on the conviction record alone when making an employment decision.

•The Guidance discusses disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII.
◦A violation may occur when an employer treats criminal history information differently for different applicants or employees, based on their race or national origin (disparate treatment liability).

◦An employer’s neutral policy (e.g., excluding applicants from employment based on certain criminal conduct) may disproportionately impact some individuals protected under Title VII, and may violate the law if not job related and consistent with business necessity (disparate impact liability).
◾National data supports a finding that criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin. The national data provides a basis for the Commission to investigate Title VII disparate impact charges challenging criminal record exclusions.

◾Two circumstances in which the Commission believes employers will consistently meet the “job related and consistent with business necessity” defense are as follows:
◾The employer validates the criminal conduct exclusion for the position in question in light of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (if there is data or analysis about criminal conduct as related to subsequent work performance or behaviors); or

◾The employer develops a targeted screen considering at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job (the three factors identified by the court in Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad, 549 F.2d 1158 (8th Cir. 1977)). The employer’s policy then provides an opportunity for an individualized assessment for those people identified by the screen, to determine if the policy as applied is job related and consistent with business necessity. (Although Title VII does not require individualized assessment in all circumstances, the use of a screen that does not include individualized assessment is more likely to violate Title VII.).

•Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that conflict with Title VII is a defense to a charge of discrimination under Title VII.

“A God of Second Chances.” In “Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie,” there is a scene where Jonah is sitting in the belly of a whale, and some angels appear out of nowhere and begin explaining to Jonah how God wanted to give him a second chance to be obedient; and thus, they broke out into song about the God of second chances. What’s really neat is how the artists animated some sailing ships that were swallowed by the whale. While the angels were singing about the God of second chances, the masts of the ships formed the backdrop, and they were in the shape of crosses; thus, communicating how each of us has a second chance through Jesus Christ.

This morning we are going to go all the way through the book of Jonah, but don’t be alarmed for it is only four chapters long. We are not going to read each and every verse either, but we are going to touch upon some key verses and points in order to gain an overview of the central message that God wants to reveal. We will come to see that the story of Jonah provides us with a picture of the love, forgiveness, and compassion that God desires to bestow on each of us. The book of Jonah is a glimpse into the second chance that God is longing to extend to all people through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

Jonah Was Disobedient to the Lord (1:1-3)

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Right here we see that God told Jonah to preach in the city of Ninevah, but Jonah was disobedient and ran away. We read here that he fled to the city of Tarshish from the seaport of Joppa. The distance from Joppa to Ninevah was nearly 700 miles; however, the distance from Joppa to Tarshish was about 2200 miles! Tarshish was on the Spanish peninsula and Ninevah was in Assyria; therefore, these two cities were on the complete opposite sides of the known world at that time.

Jonah did a complete U-turn and went in a totally opposite direction of God’s will. Because the Lord asked him to do something that he didn’t want to do and that he didn’t understand, he deliberately disobeyed. When Jonah fled to Tarshish he went three times the distance that God had asked him to journey when he was commanded to preach in the city of Ninevah.

You see, when we are in deliberate defiance to God, our guilt can sometimes result in running as far away from the Lord as we can possibly get. We will try to run from God, because we are hoping we can hide from His face. For example, in the story of the Prodigal Son, we read that the prodigal fled to “a far country” (Luke 15:13). We can certainly run from the Lord, but we absolutely cannot hide from His presence; no way, no how.

Psalm 139:7-10 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in [the grave], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” We might choose to run from the Lord; but even if we do, we will still have to come face to face with God at some point or another and reckon with Him.

I want to briefly point out what happens when we run from the Lord. In verse 3, we read that “He went down to Joppa . . . and [he] went down into the [ship].” We are going to notice later in the story that he also went “down into the sea,” and “down into the belly of a great fish.” Whenever we run from the Lord we wind up going down, and still farther down, until we hit rock bottom.

When we do our own thing this will only lead to death and destruction, for we read in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Acting apart from the will of God is what the Bible calls sin, and Romans 6:23 tells us, “The wages of sin is death,” meaning spiritual death. As we will see, because Jonah ran from the Lord and entered a downward spiral, he was going to have a brush with death.

Jonah Was Given a Second Chance (1:4; 1:17; 2:1-2; 2:10)

1:4 – 4 But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.

1:17 – 17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

2:1-2 – 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.”

2:10 – 10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Here we see Jonah’s brush with death that resulted from his disobedience to God. As Jonah sailed for Tarshish, a terrible storm arose that threatened the lives of everyone on board the ship. If we take a look at verse 7, we read that the men cast lots (or gambled), in order to find out who brought the disaster upon them, and the lot fell on Jonah; and then in verse 15, we see that they threw Jonah overboard in order to save their own lives, and they abandoned him to die at sea.

You would think that things couldn’t get any worse for Jonah, with the storm and being tossed overboard, but next we see that Moby Dick came along and gobbled him up. We read here that a great fish swallowed Jonah. We don’t know exactly what this fish was; however, most children’s stories call the fish a whale. This great fish swallowing Jonah was not God’s punishment; it was actually His provision to save Jonah from drowning. After Jonah’s deliberate running and outright disobedience, God had compassion on him and spared his miserable life. The Lord revealed here that He is indeed “a God of second chances.”

We read in verse 17, that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. He had just run away from the Lord three times the distance that God had told him to go, and now he was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. This similarity with numbers is not a coincidence, for a point is being emphasized here.

We read in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is a reference to Jesus lying in the tomb for three days and nights after His crucifixion and burial. God’s mercy toward us is so great that He gave His one and only Son to die for us and enter the place of death on our behalf, so that we might have eternal life. We can flee from the Lord three times the distance He has called us, but His mercy is three times greater than our disobedience.

Bad credit, the belly of the whale, disenfranchised due to felonies, the belly of the whale, disconnected from faith, the belly of the whale, actually in prison, stuck in unrighteous thoughts, all are not beyond you receiving a second chance. Michael Vick, Martha Steward and countless others had their marketing skills and brand packaging of talents, but we have the seal of approval from Christ Jesus our Lord, we will prevail.

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The Pilot’s Rutter

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Thought is the wind, knowledge the sail, and mankind the vessel.

Augustus Hare

Psalm 119:129-136

New International Version (NIV)

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.


All glory and honor to The only wise God today for He has ushered me into another Birthday today. He has gifted me with the thirst of righteousness and I arose to this blessed day with Him being the first thought. I Immediately went into this study. During the era of great sea exploration in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, sailing ships traversed vast, hazardous oceans and navigated dangerous coastlines. Pilots used various navigation techniques, including a book called a “rutter”(not the “rutter,” the ship’s steering device). This was a log of events kept by earlier voyagers who chronicled their encounters with previously unknown and difficult waters. By reading the sailing details in a rutter, captains could avoid hazards and make it through difficult waters.

In many ways, the Christian life is like a voyage, and the believer needs help in navigating life’s perilous seas. We have that help because God has given us His word as a “spiritual rutter.” Often when we reflect on a meaningful passage, we can recall God’s faithfulness through trying circumstances. As the psalmist suggests, perils are found not only in life situations but also in our inner tendency towards sin. Because of these dual concerns, he wrote, “Direct my steps by your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me”(119:133).

As you reflect on the teaching in the bible, you’ll be reminded of God’s past care, assured of the Lord’s guidance in trying circumstances, and warned against sinfulness. That’s the advantage of having a “spiritual rutter.”

My Bible is a guidebook true
That points for me the way,
That gives me courage, hope, and cheer
And guidance for each day.

With God’s Word as your map and His Spirit as your compass, you’re sure to stay on course. He’s tried and true to do what He said. We have tried Him and He is good.

“At Wits’ End Corner”

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wits' endThe only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.

Theodore Roosevelt

Psalm 107:27-28

New International Version (NIV)
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?

Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember–at “Wits End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Blinded with wearing pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,

Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember–at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for stretching out trembling hands?
Remember–at “Wits’ End Corner’
The burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who fails you not:
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.

Do not get discouraged–it may be the last key on the ring that opens the door..

My wife has just received the blessing of seeing her labor pay off from attending school even though we are pressed on every side by living arrangements and freedom of movement. Stretched beyond measure with daily necessities, but she stayed the course that Jesus has laid for her life and today she was notified of being placed on the Dean’s list at Argosy University for her major in Psychology with a minor in substance abuse counseling. We are believing for greater power and harvest than this. We are believing God for greater favor in a world that is not forgiving, I declare and agree, and decree it to come to past in Jesus name. I expect a deliverance from our plight of life as to be used vessels for God’s will and purpose in this area of oppression, I expect greater faith and strength to live a holy life. Are you expecting greater to get you through your “Wits’ End Corner? This is my birthday week end and be design I will be sober for 11 years for cocaine abuse, but on house arrest, Praise God!!! I am blessed to have hope that my joy is not established based off my perspective to participate in worldly activities, but to live and give thanks to My God for being within my heart and strolling with me as He did Adam and eve in the garden of Eden. Be blessed my readers and know that He is in control and able to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we can think, ask or imagine. Be encouraged and wait with faith.

Being A Godly Mom in an Ungodly Culture

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Godly mom

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.
Winston Churchill

Titus 2:3-5
* We live in an ungodly culture. This week I began re-reading Jeremiah & like I always am, I was struck by the parallels between the actions of Israel & the present day USA. The prophet voices the question from God when he says, “What fault did your Fathers find in me that they abandoned me – searching for worthlessness so they became worthless!” It goes on to ask this question, “Has a nation changed its God?”

* Any honest observation and or assessment of this nation will reveal the decay, disintegration and devolvement of this culture. We see wild immorality. A 10 year old girl told her mom that her one driving question in life was, “When can I have sex?” The problem for us today is that God’s answer to this question seems to be markedly different from the answers which are given today. Today we hear of parents saying, “When you love someone baby” or ‘You’ll just KNOW when it’s right.’ Our young people (& not so young people) are imploding because they give of themselves sexually to the extent that when they do decide to marry, they have little left to offer. The results are devastating as we live in rampant immorality.

* For any culture there exist the three levels of morality. These are defined as moral, immoral, and amoral. In the moral culture there exists an agreed upon set of moral standards which governs behavior and people actually abide by. The immoral culture is the same type of culture (where everyone KNOWS the standard) but while everyone knows the moral standard – those standards are basically ignored. The amoral culture is the one found in the last verse of Judges where, ‘everyone does what is right in their own minds.’

* In other words, it is “Katie-bar-the-door-no restraint-nothing right-nothing wrong.” It is ‘live and let live.’ It is you want to cohabitate, that’s okay because it’s no one else’s business; same sex marriage is nobody’s business. Brothers and Sisters, this is the culture we find ourselves in – in the USA of the 21st Century. Sin in all forms and perversions of God’s morals, precepts, laws, and words, have been cast aside in favor of the “If it feels good or feels right, do it.” Thus abortion is the law of the land. Sexual Immorality of all brands (homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and more) is seen as acceptable instead of sin. God’s standard, His word, and His people have been cast under the bus.

* It is into this culture that God calls men and women to be godly parents, to be salt and light, & to represent Jehovah to this world, their family, and friends. Pastorally, I will say to you that you will be challenged because you may well be called on to stand against the very people you love. Today’s question may well expose who we love most, people or God.

* So to our ladies, “How can I be a godly mom in such an ungodly culture?” To our men, don’t’ get too comfortable because these words are for us also. How can we be godly people in this ungodly culture? Please don’t miss this: being godly is not a live and let live passive attitude toward sin. In these matters, passivity was not & is not Jehovah’s approach.

* Today, from Paul’s words to Timothy, let me offer & let’s discern how to accomplish this. From the text I lift out three ways.
1) By Your Modeling – (v2) – Now in this culture, we know what ‘female models’ are, or at least we ‘think’ we know. Models are those skinny women who appear on the magazine covers & supposedly are examples of how ‘all women should look.’ Even as I speak these words, you know better. Those models are a façade. They are photographed & brushed to perfection.

* What I am saying is that this culture casts its gaze on that which is unreal & calls it a model.

* The Bible speaks of us, both individually & collectively, as being patterns or examples for others to imitate. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that he and his team worked like they did to be an example, a pattern, & a model for them to imitate. Look how this relates to the ladies, or better said, moms.

* Verse 2 is packed full of these truths for today. It begins by addressing the “Older Women.” In the original language this word is the root word – feminine gender – of ‘presbuterous’ which is generally interpreted Elder. This speaks of someone with life-experience & Godly wisdom. This would be those who have been & are wives and mothers – those who have been far enough down the road to have stepped in a few potholes.

* The scripture says they are to be ‘reverent in behavior.’ The behavior (or action) part tells us HOW the mom is modeling for her family, friends, and neighbor. How she acts, lives, & reacts daily should be ‘reverent.’ Reverent is not what we think it is. Somehow we have decided that reverent is quiet, hands-folded-in-lap, & becoming totally passive. KJV uses the thought “as becometh holiness.’ Paul tells Titus that the mothers, older women, should show other people how to be holy, pure, chaste, & godly. Here’s a couple of practical ways to accomplish this, don’t be slanderers (in other words – don’t talk about other people) and don’t drink a great deal of alcohol (don’t let your kids drive you to drink? – I’m teasing).

* History & culture teaches us that, back in this time, the older ladies – who had time on their hands, were given to drink. Paul is saying that this is a bad habit which gives the wrong example & perception. Also, more than one time scriptures speak about this thing of slandering. It goes by many names: coarse, crude, or foolish talking as well as gossip.

* Paul says, “You need to be modeling for the young people the godly life and leave all godliness alone.” Mom, Grandma, Great-grandma (dad’s – etc) you want to leave a godly legacy in this ungodly age – become a model for God and good. This begins with a life surrendered to Jesus. It starts by recognizing what you are before the Lord – a sinner. God will reveal this to you. The Bible tells us that the payment for this sin is death (physical & eternal). The Bible tells you that Jesus died for your sin, to forgive you, & to give you abundant life here & eternal life beyond the grave. If you trust Jesus, He’ll clean you up.

* Then you can be a model with your life & (look at that last phrase) teach good things to your children, grandkids, and those who God’s places in your life. This is the starting part.
2) By Your Mentoring -(v3) – This verse is the reason we are using ESV instead of the HCSB today. For some reason instead of saying ‘train’ the HCSB says you are to ‘encourage’ the younger women. Encouragement is much different than training. To encourage is simply to offer support, cheerlead, and/or give some verbal comments that helps someone take the right action. While I’m not minimizing the need for encouragement, in fact I will say that we need more encourager in the church. But ‘teaching’ is different than ‘encouraging.’ A teacher doesn’t simply encourage their students to learn – they insist on it. Mom’s, you shouldn’t simply encourage your young daughters (& sons) as well as other young women in life, you should demonstrate it & do your best to get them to catch it.

* If you see how the scripture is written – this becomes crystal clear. (Read the last sentence of verse 2-verse 5b). What a task!

* Know what I remember? I remember a church (& community) where the women walked with God closely. The men – could be wild, but there were a few women who were godly.

* They became the conscious of the church – not because they were rude, arrogant, over-bearing, & opinionated – but because their lives spoke ‘tons’ about God’s love, God’s word, and God’s standard. You see, our influence really depends on our godliness. Our godliness depends on our intimate personal relationship with God through Christ. Our relationship with Him depends on our commitment & obedience to Him. We’re tempted to compromise.

* We are tempted because the world doesn’t understand. Most of us remember the name Bing Crosby. Most of us know that he had a daughter named Mary. I shall never forget his stand on morality which shocked the liberal media person, Barbara Walters. She interviewed him in the early 70’s – when the sexual revolution was making its way across the land. Her question to Bing was, “If Mary were to move in with a guy without getting married, what would you do?” Without missing a beat & in a matter of fact way he said, “She would not be welcomed in my house.” Barbara was aghast! “Come on Bing, you wouldn’t do that.” He didn’t get upset but simply responded, “She knows my standards, and she would be welcomed back when she honored them.” Where has this commitment gone?

* To be a godly mom or dad in this ungodly world doesn’t mean being mean, it means having convictions, modeling those convictions, and teaching those to our children. One last thing;
3) By Your Ministry – (v4) – To be a godly mom, man, or person in this culture, you must have a personal persona that speaks to the culture as a ministry. Simply defined, a ministry is what you do ‘for others expecting nothing in return.’ So take all three verses, wrap them together and discover the ministry you & I should have. How does this work? (TEXT)

* We are to be ‘reverent (holy)’, not slanderers (gossipers), nor controlled by wine (not given to lose our witness by alcohol), teach what is good (verbally & visually), train young women to love their husbands & children (a principle), be self-controlled (a message in itself), pure, working at home (priority), kind, and submissive (big stuff).
* We do this for this reason – ‘so the word of God won’t be reviled.’ Other translations use the word, slandered, maligned, & blasphemed. Have you ever considered that when people who claim the name of Jesus do not live according to His words, that in the eyes of this world, the word of God is minimized. We may not like this, but it is the truth.

* If we are going to be godly moms, dads, & kids in this ungodly world – our lives, our words, & our actions must point to Him.

* If not, then the culture will decay & disintegrate to point that everyone will do what is right in their own eyes & minds, and God & good will be dismissed.

* Consider these final thoughts: Every day we model a life of some kind. Our friends & family see it. What does your life say to those watching you? For those who look up to you, like it or not, you are influencing them like a mentor. If they become just like you, what will they ultimately be like here on earth? Finally, how is your ministry? You do have a ministry. Again, like it or not. People see what you do. Do they see Jesus in your life or do they see the ugliness of selfishness running through you?

* I believe that people here desire to be a godly person in this ungodly culture. Moms, dad, boys, & girls, all do. But perhaps we believe we can do it on our own. The Bible says we can’t. We are flawed people & mere sinners, who are hopeless on our own. The starting point & the ending point is Jesus. He will make you – if you’ll let Him.

Sign Language

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In making a speech one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third the proper arrangement of the various parts of the speech.

Aristotle

John 1:14-18

The Message (MSG)

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
No one has ever seen God,
not so much as a glimpse.
This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
who exists at the very heart of the Father,
has made him plain as day.

1 Thessalonians 3:12

The Message (MSG)

11-13 May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.

A friend of mine pastors a church in a small mountain community not far from Boise, Idaho> The community is nestled in a wooded valley through which a pleasant little stream meanders. Behind the church and alongside the stream is a grove of willows, a length of grass, and a sandy beach. It’s an idyllic spot that has long been a place where members of the community gather to picnic.

One day, a man in the congregation expressed concern over the legal implications of “outsiders” using the property. “If someone is injured,” he said, “the church might be sued.” Though the elders were reluctant to take any action, the man convinced them that they should post a sign on the site informing visitors that this was private property. So the pastor posted a sign. It read: “Warning! Anyone using this beach may, at any moment, be surrounded by people who love you.” I read his sign the week after he posted it and was charmed. “Exactly,” I thought. “Once again grace has triumphed over law!”

This love for one’s neighbor springs from God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience with us. It’s not the law, but the goodness of God that draws men and women to repentance(Romans2:4) and to saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

As you have loved me, let me love
Lost souls in darkness dwelling;
To draw the needy ones to you,
Lord, give a zeal compelling!

Love is the magnet and medicine that draws believers together and attracts unbelievers to Christ. An atheist or out bounds believers need to see The Love and reflection of Christ in our actions of rendering correction even when our government is working with double standards. Have patience as our Father in heaven is and live a good example. Our job is not to brow beat people to believe as we do, but to love them as the great commission unto man is stated in our road map of life.

The People Have No King

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What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists, is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.

Robert Kennedy
An atheist state lawmaker in Arizona invoked astronomer Carl Sagan on Tuesday when he was tasked with giving the opening prayer for the state House of Representatives.

Democratic state Representative Juan Mendez began by asking members not to bow their heads, explaining that he had a “secular humanist tradition,” according to an account published by the Phoenix New Times.

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” the lawmaker said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

“This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration,” he continued. “But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.”

boys scouts

The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to end its controversial policy banning gay kids and teens from joining one of the nation’s most popular youth organizations, ditching membership guidelines that had roiled the group in recent years.

Over 61 percent of Scouting’s National Council of 1,400 delegates from across the country voted to lift the ban, BSA officials said. The final tally was 757 yes votes, to 475 no. The ban on gay leaders was not voted on and will remain in place.

“This resolution today dealt with youth. We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table,” said Tico Perez, BSA national commissioner.

Pope-Francis-GETTY
Pope Francis has said that atheists should be seen as good people as long as they do good, in a move to urge people of all religions – or no religion at all – to get along.

The Catholic leader, who heads the 1.2 billion-strong Church, made his comments in the homily of his morning Mass in his residence, a daily event where he speaks without prepared comments.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists could be redeemed by Jesus.

“Even them, everyone,” the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. “We all have the duty to do good,” he said.

“Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point,” the pope said in a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: “But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.”

Pope Francis’s comments are in marked contrast to his predecessor Benedict, who is reported to have left some non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.

Judges 21:25

The Message (MSG)
25 At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.

This book records the history of the nation of Israel for 305 years after the death of Joshua. Israel declined, backslid, and got away from God. And in this new study we will see many frightening parallels between Israel and America.

Israel was established by God Himself, and God gave Himself to them. He also gave them the law–the 10 commandments and the covenant. And He gave them Canaan, the best land of the earth at that time. And so God gave them the Lord, the law, and the land.

God only asked them for one thing in return–that they would love Him, obey Him, and serve Him. What did Israel do? They denied the Lord, they defied the law, and they defiled the land. So, God had to judge them.

The parallel with America is obvious and alarming. No nation has ever had a Christian beginning like the USA. We too have been given the Lord, the law, and a land, and we’ve denied Him, defied Him, and our land is being defiled.

1. America has denied the Lord.

The Lord is slowly but steadily being expelled from every public venue. It started in the public schools, and has spread to public places, court houses, our coins, our pledge of allegiance, and on and on to the point where today we are fighting battles about what we can even say in the church! It is no longer just about the separation of church and state but rather the separation of America from the God Who founded her and has so blessed her!

ill.–This last week a high school football team and its cheerleaders came under fire. The players and cheerleaders were all in agreement. They all wanted the team to enter the field, bursting thru a large paper banner with an inspirational Bible verse on it. It wasn’t school sanctioned, and no one involved had any problem with it … but guess who did have a problem? The ACLU! “The American Communist…ummm…Civil Liberties Union”. You could call them the Anti Christian Liberals Union. Actually, I don’t know why they aren’t called the UUUU, for they are Unamerican, uncivil, and unlibertarian!

The ACLU has been used by Satan as a tool for many years, tearing apart the God woven fabric of our society.

America has denied the Lord…

2. America has defied the law.
The Supreme Court says that it is against the law to display the 10 Commandments in a public place, [though their building displays them!] reasoning that if you display them people might ponder them and if so, they might obey them, and that would be a violation of the separation of church and state. We are doing just what Israel did. It is now the official position of our government that the 10 commandments are dangerous! Wouldn’t want kids in school to see ’thou shalt not kill’ because what if they obeyed it!

ladies, what if you broke down in the worst part of town and had to walk, after dark, to find help. While you walk a group of 4 men leave a house you are passing and begin walking just behind you. How do you feel? As you listen to what they are saying you notice they are talking about God, and have just left a Bible study session. You turn around and see they are all carrying Bibles. How do you feel now?

The new direction our once Christian nation is now going in is just foolish, and contrary to basic common sense. We don’t force our beliefs on anyone, but we have allowed the world to chip away at our core of morality.

Like Israel, we have denied the Lord, defied the law…

3. America has defiled the land.
We’ve done this in many ways, but perhaps the #1 way is found in the spilled blood of aborted babies.

God took away His glory from His people Israel when they did such things. And I believe He is in the process of removing Himself from the good old US of A. We need a national revival. We need a moral and spiritual awakening. I don’t know what it’s gonna take. If 9/11 wasn’t enough, what will be enough?

The book of Judges is the record of God raising up 13 men to deliver Israel from backsliding in order to bring about national revival.

Our outline is best understood by an illustration of ’the family fortune.’ When a family becomes rich there are 3 stages which seem to always occur:
• The first generation generates the fortune.
• The second generation speculates their fortune, thru a series of compromises and foolish decisions.
• The third generation dissipates the fortune and it is gone.

That is exactly how it works with a nation. There is a generation that generates the freedom, then a generation that speculates it away, and finally, a generation that dissipates it until completely gone, and freedom is no more. If you don’t believe this, you need to study those nations that have forgotten God in history.

Generation – speculation – dissipation

A. Generation
What do we know about the generation of Israel that entered into the Promised Land? Under General Joshua Israel was given by God victory after victory. Walls came tumbling down, and kings were subdued. They won victories they never could have apart from the power of God.

And that’s just how it is with America. Go back to our first war, the Revolutionary War. Britain had more men, more money, better machinery…it was a truly a David and Goliath scenario but God was on our side and we won!

Patrick Henry gave the speech which sparked the revolution in 1775. He said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”

It was ’game on.’ And we won that war, and George Washington became our first president. When he took office he placed his hand on the Holy Bible. He finished taking the oath and kissed the Bible. His first official act was to lead the entire congress in a 2 hour worship session. I wonder what the ACLU would have said about that.

In one of his inaugural addresses he said, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” In plain English he said, it is God Who got us this far, and we had better not forget it!

Our founding fathers made it abundantly clear that this land was founded on God and the Bible. The Bible was the first and only book to be used in public schools for years.

Generation…

B. Speculation
Succeeding generations in Israel began to squander it all away.
2:1-2 God says, look at all I have done for you. I delivered you from slavery, fed you with manna, guided you and guarded you into the Promised Land. Now look at you…why have you done this?!

v. 7 The Joshua generation saw first hand the great works of God.
v. 10 What a sad verse! This means that the Joshua generation failed to pass their values on to their children. This has happened in America since 1960, and look where we are at today. Americans today are brainwashed by humanism, situational ethics, and relativism. We do not understand our moral foundations and the spiritual principles upon which this nation was founded. We are trying to rewrite history and remove God from our land.

The saddest verse in this book is the last one…
Judges 21:25
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
They became a people with no absolutes…no standard to live by. Is that not the nation you and I live in today? Aren’t these parallels frightening?

Barna Research shows that 67% of Americans say there is no such thing as absolute truth. They say that right and wrong are not clear…what is wrong for you is not necessarily wrong for me. If that doesn’t scare you, consider that they did the same survey in evangelical churches like this one and among Sunday morning attendees 52% said the same thing! Imagine, Christians saying there’s no black and white, right and wrong!

Look how Israel got to this point. It was thru a series of compromises.

2:2a God had told them to drive the enemy out of the land, and further, not to have anything to do with them. They were to separate themselves from the world, just as we are supposed to do today.

1. The Canaanites that they feared.
1:19 They were afraid. They could have trusted in God and won, but they were afraid to try with those who were strong. They said, these people are impenetrable. We cannot conquer them. Therefore we might as well learn to accommodate them, surrender to them, and learn to live with them.

And there are some Canaanites that we are fearing in America today:
• Many of our leaders want to surrender in the war on terror. They say we are losing and we might as well quit trying to win. We need to sit down and negotiate with the terrorists, and stop trying to police the world. And in so doing we invite them to come to us.
• Many politicians today are calling for an end to the war on drugs. They say that we have lost, so we should surrender and legalize it. Because if we legalize it we can control it, they say. Yeah, just like we have full control over alcohol, right? Former Clinton Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders is a major proponent of this thinking. But trying to control drugs by legalizing them is like trying to control a fire with gasoline.
• Many parents are surrendering in the area of sexual promiscuity. They throw up their hands and say, well, you’re not gonna be good, so just be careful. Here, wear protection. Now what message does that send to a young person?
ill.–We are putting ambulances at the bottom of the cliff when we are supposed to be putting fences at the edge of the cliff!

It’s time we get back to confronting our culture with the truth of God and His Word. Young people, God wants you to be pure and chaste. He wants you to be a virgin when you get married, not passed around like a bottle of Gatorade in a football huddle!

We’ve become afraid of the confrontation, and way too sensitive about how we might offend someone who has gone too far. Well, whom shall I offend? Man, or God? The truth is offensive, but it is our only hope.
John 8:32
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

• We’ve become so politically correct about homosexuality that it has become wrong to say anything about it. We say we personally are against it, but leave it as a personal decision and ok in our society in spite of what God says and in spite of what always happens to a society when they go that route. And we give them more than just equal status, but exalted status! [special status-and that makes the rest of us be discriminated status!]
• And now, something new, and never before considered in America. Socialism. Ignoring the plight of other countries who have tried it, we are beginning to slide down a dead end, one way, no U-turn street that leads from Capitalism upon which we were founded to socialism, communism, and becoming a nation with no wealth, no freedom, and no real reason to work for anything!

We are at the tail end of the speculation generation, and it’s getting scary!

The Canaanites that they feared…

2. The Canaanites that they favored.
1:28 They said, look, we can use these people. They made slaves of them, in spite of the fact that God said not to have anything to do with them. Sure they are wicked, but there’s some good can that come out of them.

What about America today? Legalized gambling, the lottery, and such things. Look at the gain we can find from something that many consider only to be bad. Why, we’ll build roads and schools, and generate lots of tax dollars! Isn’t it sad that our government has turned itself into a pimp? Think about it. A pimp puts women on street corners to lure in men, in order that he, the pimp, might profit from their vice. And our government now encourages its citizens to participate in a vice so they can profit. They say, look at the revenue we can generate!

It’s time we stop saying look at what we can gain and start asking, what might we lose by doing this?!

Now we’re turning to borrowing, and borrowing not just from banks, but from the world, especially China, who now owns us. What’s more, we’re borrowing from our children and future generations who will never be able to pay it back…but hey, that’s their problem!

If you disagree with me on this, that’s fine, but when you do, you are further illustrating just how far we have come from our founding generation!

Just like Israel, we are favoring the world. For the first time ever we have a president of the world, who apologizes for us, and is one of them. He’s a world citizen much more than an American. But once he works his miracles on us maybe he’ll finally be able to be proud to be one of us!

Canaanites that they feared, favored…

3. The Canaanites that they fellowshipped with.
1:32 Hey, these people aren’t that bad. They may worship different gods but they are good neighbors. We read on and find that Israel learned their wicked ways and entered into their idolatry, including the abortion like sacrificing of their children to Molech.

ill.–The cry of our day is, There’s nothing wrong with being gay. What they do is their business. I don’t see why they couldn’t be married or adopting children. And they should have rights of their own, after all, they most often make good neighbors…why can’t we all just get along?! I’ll tell you why we can’t get along, God says they are an abomination and will be our downfall as a society. If we tolerate it we are begging for His judgment. He’s done it before, and He’ll do it again! [Sodom]

God loves homosexuals and so should we. So we love them, not by accepting their sin, but by confronting it with the truth, the antidote which is their only hope and ours as well!

Israel ended up in the last verse of the book where every man did what was right in his own eyes…and God had to judge. The parallels today are paralyzing when I consider them.

Generation – speculation…

C. Dissipation
2:3 Thorns and snares. Can anyone say, “Illegal immigration?”
2:4 They wept because God was saying, I now lift my hand of protection off of you.

ill.– on 9/11 terrorists turned planes into missiles. The next day the late Dr. Jerry Falwell said, “We’d better realize that God is removing His protective hand from this nation.” And then he specifically cited our national sins of abortion and homosexuality. The liberal press absolutely crucified him. I’ve rarely seen such a vicious attack as he endured. But I believe he was right. And God is now using our current administration to give us what we have been asking for. It’s change, and we are finding out it is not change we can believe in.

Thorns and snares.

Do you realize that Revelation describes the downfall of a world power like America? It’s an economic disaster. Might that be us?

Some say arrogantly, “Would a loving God allow that?” If we ask for it! “Where was God when those students gunned down their classmates at Columbine?” I’ll tell you where He was, you expelled him in 1962! You threw out the Bible and prayer and said, God, you’re not welcome!

And now we’re in a new generation. Could this be the final generation in America? Our forefathers generated so much, our parents speculated it away. Are we the generation that will dissipate it until it is completely gone? We are one generation away from losing our country. This new series will continue thru Judges looking at the judgment we have been asking for.

Is there any hope? Where there’s God, there’s still hope!
2:16 God would always rather forgive than to judge…but if we insist, well, we should be afraid.

ill.–a benevolent gentleman during the civil war saw a young lady being auctioned off as a slave. He began to bid just above every bid he heard until he finally won the auction, paying a very high price. They say that after winning he began to walk away, and she followed him. He said, “Young lady, I bought you not to own you, but to set you free.” “Free?” she asked. “Yes, free to go wherever you want and do what you wish.” She replied, “Then I choose to go with you.”

After all God has done for America, how can we spit in His face as we are? We need to pray for national revival!

Watch “The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today”

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dont_buy_pepsi_in_new_can
If this is true then we do not want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate office. If we do not buy any Pepsi product then they will not receive any of our monies. Our money after all does have the words “Under God” on it.

Her neighbors called her “that awful woman” after she sued her 10-year-old son’s school in the historic case that established the separation of church and state in public schools. The year was 1945 and Vashti McCollum, a young Illinois mother, gave permission for her son to attend religion class at his school. But when she saw the course materials she was shocked: “It was indoctrination into the old Christian faith,” she remembered. “So I said never again.”

Jim sat out the class for the rest of the term — he was the only student to do so — at a desk in the hallway usually reserved for punishment. Jim endured brutal bullying for his mother’s decision. One day he came home in tears and Mrs. McCollum decided to do something about it.

Jay Rosenstein’s documentary, The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today, recounts what McCollum later described as “three years of headlines, headaches and hatred,” and the dramatic legal maneuverings that led to a decision that shocked the nation and made the McCollums a household name.

As I walk into a Church one of the first things I do, is look for the Altar. I like to see the different styles of Altars, I notice if they are straight altars, or curved altars, some churches I have been in have no standing altar at all.

In our day and time, the Altar is for prayer, a place for our bodies to be presented as a living sacrifice The Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

In the Old Testament altars where built by Gods people to be used mostly for sacrifice. An altar in the Old Testament an Altar also could identify with a notable encounter with God. Altars in the Old Testament were built with rough stones.

Do you realize in our day and time we have these nice smooth top altars and they are used less often than the old rough stone altars of the Old Testament.

In Genesis 12:8 we find a man named Abram built an altar to God.

Abram didn’t build one alter but he built many altars during his life, There are three reasons why Abram built these Altars:

1. For a place of Prayer
2. A place of Worship
3. So he could remember God’s promise to bless him.

Thinking of the reasons Abram built an altar, I ask you this morning as I preach, to think about the Question “Have I built An Alter to the Lord.”

1. Place Of Prayer

I want you to notice the first thing that Abram did after building the Altar verse 8 “called upon the name of the Lord”

Do you know why there is so much trouble in the street, do you know why children are rebelling against there parents do you know why husband and wives are divorcing these days? Because we have taken God and the altar out of the home.

One of the worst things that ever happened to this nation was when prayer was taken out of school. I can honestly say though ,that I get a little sick and tired when I hear people saying our children would not turn out like they are if prayer would still be in school. This is partially true, but I tell you this morning worse than prayer being taken out of school, we parents have taken it out of the home. In stead of blaming the supreme court, we parents need to take the responabilty of what is happening, because we never spend time with our kids in devotion we never talk to kids about God, we never talk to our kids about eternity, but worst all we are guilty of not bathing our children in prayer. We send kids out the door, with lunch money, make sure they have there books, but never do the most important Christian obligation and that is to pray for there protection.

Most Husbands and wives never pray with or for each other, knowing Good and well that devil is trying to destroy the home, and temptation is the strongest that it has ever been.

There are some of you who say Why am I so spiritual week, why do I have such a hard time living for God, Why do I never feel a move of the Holy Spirit in my life. The reason is you don’t have a prayer closet. Jesus said in Matt 6:6 “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

There are sick people who never get well because people do not pray for them, James 5:14 “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: James 5:16 “……The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

There are lost people who never receive salvation because no one will pray for there soul, Matt 9:38 “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

There are churches that will never see revival because the church members want pray for it. 2 Chor 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I ask you as a church family have you built your altar of prayer to God.

2. A Place Of Worship

Ill. A visiting minister was filling the pulpit of the famous preacher Henry Beecher. A large audience had gathered to hear the popular preacher. When time for the preaching came around, the visiting minister entered into the pulpit. Leaning that Rev Beecher was not going to be there, several began to move towards the door. The Visiting minister stood up and said “All who have came to worship Henry Beecher may now leave the Church! All who have came to worship God keep your seats!”

When we come to church we are to come to worship God. God wants hands to go up in praise, God wants people to testify, God wants people to lift his Holy name. Acts 2:47 tells us the new testament church was meeting daily “Praising God”

If we have a Altar in our life to God it will not be a problem to come worship God at Church. If you have an altar it will not be a problem to worship God outside the Church. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; If you have an altar to than everyday of your life will proclaim “this is the day the lord hath made let us rejoice and be glad it in.”

I have heard people ask why do younger people not worship the lord, I ask why did the older generation ever stop. Didn’t the Bible say Jesus was the same yesterday, today, and forever. Didn’t the Bible say we serve the same God as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Since he is the same God it seems to me he expects the same from us, that we build and altar of worship in our lives.

3. Remembered God’s promise to Bless Him.

God had told Abram in Genesis 12:2 “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Everyone of us need to build an altar remembering God has promised to bless us.

Jesus said in Matt 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

David said in Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want”

God has promised to bless his Children, this does not mean with great wealth, but with all of our needs meet, He has promised to bless us with food, clothes, he has promised when we facing sickness or death, when facing trails and heavy burdens he has promised the blessing of carry our load for us.

Ill. A preacher was in his study. He asked his young son if he would go up stairs and grab a book for him. His son was gone a while. After a few minutes the father thought he heard crying on the steps. The father went to see what was wrong. The son cried “Oh Daddy; it’s so heavy I can’t carry it. The father reached down and grabbed his son and the book and carried them back to his study. The preacher said this reminded him of God. How God deals with his children, he carries both them and their burdens.

God has promised us blessings on this earth today, but he also has promised us the blessing of eternal life and a eternal home. 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

2 Corinthians 6:16 “God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

I ask you in closing to think Have you built an Altar of Prayer, and Worship. Have you built and Altar to remember the blessings of God.

What’s Going On?

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A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay.

Amos Bronson Alcott

Are payday loans a good source of emergency cash? Thanks to misleading marketing, many of its consumers unfortunately think so. Corruption painted as help only in low income communities. Can you see what is taking place under the guise od humanity and helping others?

“Payday lending stores are opening their doors in low-income neighborhoods at a rate equal to Starbucks [opening its doors] in affluent ones,” states NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond to illustrate how payday lenders are rapidly sinking their roots into our communities.

Many payday loans trap consumers by encouraging them to repeatedly pay high fees for borrowing small amounts of money. The average loan size is $375; but borrowers end up paying about $520 in interest. And repeat borrowers, many who secure an additional loan to pay back their previous loan, account for 91 percent of all payday loans per year.

Single mothers, African-Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly targets for payday loans, according to studies by FDIC and CFSI.

Mass predatory lending products and deceitful financial practices contributed to the 2007 financial crisis. However, with foreclosures being the focal point of the crisis, payday lending has not been discussed as prominently– until now.

Payday lending’s economic impact cannot be understated as it drains the economy significantly. A recent study by the Insight Center shows that in 2011, payday loans cost the U.S. economy nearly one billion dollars and thousands of jobs. Payday loans reduce household spending by taking away money that consumers could spend on businesses, which in turn fuels business growth and job creation.

Consumer advocates, along with state and local governments, are initiating efforts to protect consumers from these types of “debt traps” in disguise. The Obama Administration established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help protect consumers from the disastrous financial products on Wall Street that financed and contributed to the greatest losses of wealth for the average American in modern history.

Recently, the CFPB released their initial findings on payday loans. Their report found that these loans are not used regularly for emergency cash – which could be easily paid back in a short period of time – but rather by those who do not have enough income to meet their regular expenses. The study concludes, “These loans raise substantial consumer protection concerns.”

This study proves that small dollar high-cost lending is predatory and unfairly targets the economically weakest members of our community. They exploit consumers’ inability to meet their regular financial obligations while stripping wealth from segments of our society that can ill afford it.

Financial institutions, including Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), have joined the CFPB in cracking down on the banks it oversees by issuing guidelines on their payday products called deposit advance loans. These guidelines require banks to better assess the customer’s financial capability to pay back a loan so the consumer can better avoid being caught in a debt trap. They also require that each deposit advance loan be repaid in full before issuing another deposit advance loan; and that banks cannot offer more than one loan per monthly statement cycle.

At the NAACP, we engage the community around predatory payday lending by connecting NAACP state and local units with CFPB national field hearings and representatives and hosting fair lending workshops nationwide to inform consumers of how to beware of these debt traps.

Whether payday loans are dispersed through storefronts or well-respected financial institutions, accountability is key. We are encouraged that government agencies, along with other consumer advocacy groups, are moving on all fronts to protect our communities from economic exploitation. Economic empowerment and justice are at the root of advancing racial equity. And we must eliminate barriers to economic justice like predatory payday lending, which weakens the economies of so many Americans.

Living At God’s Speed

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You can’t move so fast that you try to change the mores faster than people can accept it. That doesn’t mean you do nothing, but it means that you do the things that need to be done according to priority.

Eleanor Roosevelt
I find worse than anything this afternoon weaknees to live my life at God’s speed. The universal remotes of life; i.e-anxiety, denial, greed, impatience, lack of coping skills,selfishness, qiuck temperance,unacceptance, unforgiveness, uncertainty, fear all of these I associate as remoted that try to speed up my life or run from God’s training. Every moment in life is precious to our development for Kingdom building. After watching this movie my lens for life and the holy spirit began to check my remote thoughts of stewardship in this life I have been given.

I ran my life as if it had no signifigance for years, I didn’t start to take control until I was 31 years old. I begin to use drugs, drink excessively and live unto the world. I was slave to money and fleshly living out of control. The snap shot of reality today is a gift from my Dad who sits high and looks low. I thank you ABBA for this reality check.

If you want to experience this glorious God, find out what He is doing then join Him! In our passage today, we will also note that because God’s plan is perfect, God’s plan will always happen at the right time! A question: How fast is life moving today?

If there was no speed limit on the highway, how fast would you drive??
What do we have in our homes to make life faster??
How fast can we communicate with people or get information?
In a split second, we can get a million facts…

Our lives are on “electron” speed today and we all crave for it!
There is a popular saying, “Stop and smell the roses!” No one really knows the origin of this saying but it is good advice because it is similar to God’s command for us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know God”!

How fast are we living our lives today? Is it too fast that we forget about God? Remember what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” How often do we think about the yoke of Jesus Christ in comparison to the time we spend on the Internet or on our cellphones? We need to live our lives based on God’s perfect time rather than trying to speed Him up!

God’s plan will always happen at the right time! Find out what God is doing and what He will be doing and join Him at His schedule! Let us learn from what God did about 2000 years ago and how perfect God’s timing was!
Open your Bibles now to the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2. Before reading, let us pray with sincere hearts our commitment to God’s word before reading…..
Read along with me Luke 2:1-14……

Why do you think God put verses 1-3 in Luke Chapter 2? Why not just say that Jesus the Savior was born to Mary and Joseph? What’s significant about the first 3 verses of Luke 2??

God tells us specifically what time it was for the birth of the Messiah!

Is there anything in the history books outside of the Bible about Caesar Augustus, the Roman Empire Census, or Quirinius? Now I could go to the Encyclopedia Brittanica books or even sit down with history professors and learn about Augustus, the Roman Empire and Quirinius; but guess what I did to learn more about these subjects??

Yup, I “googled” them!
Is it wrong for me to go to the Internet? Of course not! Although technology can speed up our lives so fast that we can forget about God, God has allowed an increase in technology for us. Here is the point, we can use whatever God has allowed for His glory. Master things like technology for God’s glory, not allow it whatever it maybe, to master you! Everything happens in God’s timing, use whatever is happening for God’s glory!

We do find in history records that Caesar Augustus indeed ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BC to AD 14, about 2000 years ago! (show picture) The Roman Empire controlled the entire Mideast, most of Europe and parts of Africa! The census was done by the Roman Empire so that they could tax the people. The people in the Empire were not only under Roman rules but they also had to give money to the Empire! Now, if you lived in your home country with a lifestyle you grew up with and all of a sudden another country and another lifestyle takes over and you have to pay taxes to them, how would you feel??

We do find in history records that Caesar Augustus indeed ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BC to AD 14, about 2000 years ago! (show picture) The Roman Empire controlled the entire Mideast, most of Europe and parts of Africa! The census was done by the Roman Empire so that they could tax the people. The people in the Empire were not only under Roman rules but they also had to give money to the Empire! Now, if you lived in your home country with a lifestyle you grew up with and all of a sudden another country and another lifestyle takes over and you have to pay taxes to them, how would you feel??
We do find in history records that Caesar Augustus indeed ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BC to AD 14, about 2000 years ago! (show picture) The Roman Empire controlled the entire Mideast, most of Europe and parts of Africa! The census was done by the Roman Empire so that they could tax the people. The people in the Empire were not only under Roman rules but they also had to give money to the Empire! Now, if you lived in your home country with a lifestyle you grew up with and all of a sudden another country and another lifestyle takes over and you have to pay taxes to them, how would you feel??

This of course was the situation for Israel and the Jews when Rome took over their country and society! 2000 years ago, Israel was ready for the promised Messiah, the Savior! Sadly, the Jews were looking for a savior from Roman rule instead of a Savior from the rule from their sins!

And with regards to Quirinius? Through the mentioning of Quirinius, God gives us an even more specific timeframe. The Savior, Messiah Jesus Christ was born 2000 years ago! Early Christian historians stated that if you want to know about Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus Christ, go to the records of the Roman Empire!

God’s plan will always happen at the right time! And you know what else, as a side note to Luke 2:1-3? The Bible is historical correct because it is God’s truth!

And what can we note from v4-5? God tells us the family lineage of David and Mary, the parents to be of Jesus Christ. 3 things significant about this:

a. God’s plan happens at the right time and at the right place! Through God’s prophets, the birth of the Savior Messiah through the lineage of King David and where were foretold thousands of years ago! We can read this in Gen. 49:10, 2 Samuel 7:1-17, Isaiah 7:14, and Micah 5:2.

b. God shares His plans! God does not keep us in the dark. God tells us what we need to know. God provides for us what we need. And again, God will accomplish His plans at the right time! And all is accomplished through Jesus Christ! We read in 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Do you want to God’s plans? – Know Jesus Christ!
Do you want to live in God’s time? – Walk with Jesus Christ!

c. God will use secular circumstances for His divine and glorious plan! What do you think was in the mind of that Roman Leader who required the census??

You don’t think that Roman Leader who thought of the census was thinking of fulfilling the prophecies about the Savior of mankind?

God allowed the Roman Empire to become powerful and force a census. As I stated earlier, like with technology, we can use what God has allowed in our lives and in the world for His glory.

God’s plan happens at the right time and at the right place! God shares His plans! God will use circumstances for His divine and glorious plan! Are you trusting and following this God of the Bible?

Now, look again at v5………. Someone can come around, and the people of Nazareth actually asked the question, “Couldn’t Joseph biologically fathered the child Jesus?” How do we know that Joseph didn’t father the child?

Luke 1:35 tells us how God did it! And nothing is impossible with God! And of course, God’s Word the Bible tells us; here are some examples, Matthew 1:20-21 and v47-49 of Luke 2. What’s the point here? God will do the miraculous but will involve people! God not only used a teenager named Mary to birth the Savior to the world, God called a simple carpenter named Joseph to be Dad to the Savior and Lord!

And from v6-7 we can note that Bethlehem was crowded with people (significance? The birth of Jesus was not a secret!) And again God foretold the circumstances of the birth of the Messiah; and we put v6-7 in connection with v12.. God will also use circumstances for His glorious purpose! The manger was key to locating the Savior for the shepherds!

And shepherds are what type of people?? Shepherds were common ordinary people doing their common ordinary jobs! But what did God do through these ordinary people? Aahh, this will be our topic for next Sunday! Stay tuned!

Before we close, let us note v13-14…….. There is great praising and celebration when God’s plan is realized at the right time!

God’s plan happens at the right time and at the right place! God shares His plans! God will use circumstances for His divine and glorious plan!

I actually noted earlier what we need to do in applying these truths to our lives. The bottom line is this: God has a plan which will happen at the right time. And since we are living a life at this time, the question for all of us is, “How is my life involved in God’s plan right now?” Let us do three things:

1. Fully trust and follow the God of the Bible!
Before we take our Offering, we will all take a quiet time to think about this; each one of us has a few things that we need to yield to the Lord. Each one of us has to go to our Creator God for His instructions.

Before we take our quiet time with the Lord, we need to also note that since everything happens in God’s timing, we are to,
2. Use whatever is happening in our lives for God’s glory!

There is of course our personal lives;
a. what is going on in our personal lives which we can use for God’s glory? Again during our quiet time with the Lord, ask God how your personal circumstances can be used for God’s glory.

b.there are circumstances going on in the world which can be used for God’s glory. What are they?

3. We are to live lives based on God’s perfect time rather than trying to speed Him up! Our Scripture of the Week really should be Matthew 11:28-30…….

Daily walk with Jesus at His pace not our own!

Mapping Fault Lines in America/Pt2

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Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.

Ray Davies

Micah speaks by the Spirit of God and points a bony finger at three distinct groups of people and says, “It’s Your Fault!”:

1. Corrupt Politicians
2. Compromising Preachers
3. Complacent People

Micah desperately wants the people to understand that the God who loves sinners still hates sin. And sin must always be judged. His holiness demands that. Praise God that if you’re saved you will never be judged for your sin; they were judged 2,000 years ago on Calvary’s cross! But that does not mean we can live a careless, haphazard Christian life. The same Bible which teaches that we will not be judged for our sins also tells us that we will indeed be judged for how faithful we have been. All individuals will one day be judged, and there is such a thing as the judgment of a nation.

Micah 3:12 talks about a nation being “plowed as a field,” a metaphor for judgment.

No nation was as pure in its inception as the nation Israel— by God Himself in Genesis 12. And yet even Israel went corrupt, and the vast majority of the people were ignorant or indifferent concerning that corruption. For this reason the prophets of judgment came along, like Micah, calling the people to repentance, and making the people aware that the God who would rather bless will blast if his hand is forced.

I’m optimistic about our nation’s possibilities for the future, but I think we should be realistic. And part of loving America is wanting to save it from a corruption that most people are seemingly ignorant of…or at least indifferent to.

Fault Line #1 – Corrupt Politicians
Micah 3:1-3: And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

Reading these verses is like watching the nightly news. NBC’s Tom Brokaw used to do a weekly segment called “The Fleecing of America.” It highlighted the price Americans pay at the hands of leadership gone awry. I think you could have put these three verses into his teleprompter and no one would have known the difference!

Here are six requirements God recommends for government leaders:
[From Proverbs]

1. Righteousness
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. (Proverbs 29:2)

It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness. (Proverbs 16:12)

Why is it that today we just look for skills and credentials, and not look to morality?

2. Wisdom
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions…by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. (Proverbs 8:12-16)

3. Absolute Honesty

Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince. (Proverbs 17:7)

Leaders and liars are not the same thing!

4. Separation from bad influences

Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness. (Proverbs 25:4-5)

A leader must focus on what is right, not just public opinion or lobbying pressures.

5. Personal Purity

Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. (Proverbs 31:3)

If a man will not honor his marriage vows, what’s he going to do with those “piddly little vows” of public trust?

6. Protection of the weak and the defenseless

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

A leader is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and defend those who cannot defend themselves.

A Biblical leader should stand tall on behalf of the unborn. Some would say, “Abortion is legal. And a leader is supposed to uphold the law!” Certainly being legally right doesn’t make something morally right.

Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? ( Psalm 94:20)

And I should add those who stand for the unborn but turn a blind eye to the poor offend God as well.

When Micah warns the people that God is about to judge, he points first at the corrupt politicians, and says, “It’s your fault.” And until we own our faults there is no hope for a change.

Fault Line #2 – Compromising Preachers

Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. (Micah 3:5)

Should they be preaching peace when judgment is coming? Should they preach to the offering plates, altering their message so as not to offend? And do we today really need to drag Jesus down to a lower level in an attempt to make Him more palatable? Did not Jesus Himself say, “Come unto Me”? When a preacher invites someone to Jesus, he must present Jesus and all he is without compromise.

We must preach the truth at all times and no matter the cost. And it is vital that we practice what we preach. As people of God, we must, at times, look inside ourselves with humility. I must confess I have spent several hours in reflection since I wrote the last sentence, and though I am young and inexperienced, I feel led of God to share something from my heart:

Concerning ministers such as myself, I believe the Lord is not as concerned about where we are as where we are headed. Which way are we facing? Are we going forward for him or regressing? In short, our present is more pertinent than our past. This principle applies not only to those of us in the ministry but our church members as well. It applies even further to our nation. But, in keeping with our point, what does this mean for me?

To use a crude but potent illustration, this means that there have been times that God has been more pleased with a drug addict than with me. I know he has seen something in a wife beater that he wished he could see in me. He has hoped I would learn something from someone who has had many extramarital affairs. “How could this be true?” you may ask. It IS true, because all of those mentioned got saved in our church and began allowing God to conform them to His image. They were improving, and meanwhile I was only going backward down Satan’s subtle slope of sin. Oh sure, if I were counting our crimes or stacking our respective sins on a scale then I may (or may not!) come out ahead. But that’s not what God is looking at. He’s not comparing me to them; he’s comparing my today with my yesterday.

When Micah warns the people that God is about to judge, he points at not only the corrupt politicians, but also the compromising preachers and says, “It’s your fault.” And we must own our faults before God.

Fault Line #3 – Complacent People

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? No evil can come upon us. (Micah 3:11)

The word “they” is where the complacent people appear.

The people of Israel said, “We know the politicians are corrupt, we know the preachers are compromisers, but it will be ok, because we’re ok. The economy is strong, we’re happy, and it’s alright. Is not the Lord among us? No evil can touch us.” And many ignorant Americans make a similar claim: “Our nation has a Christian heritage. We have Godly roots.” So did Israel! And so did many other nations which God has judged, or wiped out completely. We must pursue hard after God or destruction will certainly overtake us as well.

Where do we go from here?
We should do our part to elect leaders that seek to fulfill God’s righteous requirements. And what do we do if and when corrupt politicians come to power? We may not be able to absolutely control such a situation, but we certainly can focus on ourselves and make sure we aren’t compromising preachers, and we can do our job in proclaiming the truth to complacent people in our pews, remembering the promise of II Chronicles 7:14: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

It is true: I think our nation is in trouble. But I also know that Jesus Christ is the hope of our nation and the world. He stands as a light for us to follow. His arms of mercy are open to those who will turn from selfishness and evil to him. Certainly he extends his own righteousness to us as a free gift. But our acceptance of that righteousness will certainly be evidenced by a life marked by that righteousness. My prayer is that my preaching—and yours—be marked by the righteousness, justice, and mercy embodied by Christ himself.

Ultimately, the hope of America is not found in the White House or the State House, nor in the Courthouse. The hope of America is found in God’s House, and your house, and my house!

Mapping Fault Lines in America/Pt 1

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Gossip

I love America, and make no apology for doing so. I enjoy her freedoms, especially in being free to worship the true and living God. I would like to continue living here if at all possible. I still believe the United States is the greatest country on the face of the earth in terms of God’s blessing upon it. But I reserve the right to change my mind about the matter, just as our God does. I love America, but I don’t have to like the direction she is heading in. Might our country actually be facing God’s judgment for its offenses against him? If so, who is at fault?

I believe terrorism is a great threat to the USA. But it is not our greatest threat. I know we have powerful enemies around the world, but the most powerful are much closer by. Yes, evil exists and is growing rampantly. But it may not be concentrated in the part of the world we think it is. I believe America’s greatest threat is not from without but from within. We are our enemy and I am convinced that God is generally displeased with us as a nation. He is assigning blame for sin and we must answer.

In Micah 3, the prophet is concerned about something. He wants his nation to know that the God they serve is not only a God of love, mercy, and grace, but also a God of judgment…and though God would rather bless and demonstrate love, and continue to extend His grace and mercy, that there does indeed come a time when, because of sin and rebellion, God’s patience is exhausted.

Eventually God will give a nation [or an individual] what they are demanding. It happened in the pre-diluvian world of Noah’s time, and again at Sodom and Gomorrah. It even happened to God’s people, Israel. Will He make an exception for our nation?

How much influence do private networks of the rich and powerful have on government policies and international relations? One group, the Bilderberg, has often attracted speculation that it forms a shadowy global government. Every year since 1954 [they have brought] together about 120 leading business people and politicians. At this year’s meeting in Germany, the audience included the heads of the World Bank and European Central Bank, Chairmen or Chief Executives from Nokia, BP, Unilever, DaimlerChrysler and Pepsi … editors from five major newspapers, members of parliament, ministers, European commissioners … and the queen of the Netherlands. The chairman … is 73-year-old Viscount Etienne Davignon. In an extremely rare interview, he played down the importance of Bilderberg. “I don’t think (we are) a global ruling class because I don’t think a global ruling class exists.” Will Hutton … who attended a Bilderberg meeting in 1997, says people take part in these networks in order to influence the way the world works, to create what he calls “the international common sense”. And that “common sense” is one which supports the interests of Bilderberg’s main participants. For Bilderberg’s critics the fact that there is almost no publicity about the annual meetings is proof that they are up to no good. Bilderberg meetings often feature future political leaders shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there two years later while still an opposition MP. All the recent presidents of the European Commission attended Bilderberg meetings before they were appointed. Informal and private networks like Bilderberg have helped to oil the wheels of global politics and globalisation for the past half a century.

How can it be that you pay more to the IRS than General Electric?
Some of the world’s biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do–that is, if they pay taxes at all. The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion. How did this happen? It’s complicated. GE in effect consists of two divisions: General Electric Capital and everything else. The everything else–maker of engines, power plants, TV shows and the like–would have paid a 22% tax rate if it was a standalone company. It’s GE Capital that keeps the overall tax bill so low. Over the last two years, GE Capital has displayed an uncanny ability to lose lots of money in the U.S. (posting a $6.5 billion loss in 2009), and make lots of money overseas (a $4.3 billion gain). Not only do the U.S. losses balance out the overseas gains, but GE can defer taxes on that overseas income indefinitely. It’s the tax benefit of overseas operations that is the biggest reason why multinationals end up with lower tax rates than the rest of us.

Political ties to a secretive religious group
For more than 50 years, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a Washington institution. Every president has attended the breakfast since Eisenhower. Besides the presidents … the one constant presence at the National Prayer Breakfast has been Douglas Coe. Although he’s not an ordained minister, the 79-year-old Coe is the most important religious leader you’ve never seen or heard. Scores of senators in both parties … go to small weekly Senate prayer groups that Coe attends, [including] senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Observers who have investigated Coe’s group, called The Fellowship Foundation, [describe] a secretive organization. Coe repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It’s a commitment Coe compares to the blind devotion that Adolph Hitler demanded. “Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler. Think of the immense power these three men had.” Coe also quoted Jesus and said: “One of the things [Jesus] said is ‘If any man comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can’t be a disciple.’” Writer Jeff Sharlet … lived among Coe’s followers six years ago, and came out troubled by their secrecy and rhetoric. “We were being taught the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao. Hitler’s genocide wasn’t really an issue for them. It was the strength that he emulated,” said Sharlet, who … has now written about The Fellowship, also known to insiders as The Family, in [a] book called The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Please take a look at this link for more details:http://www.personalgrowthcourses.net/video/secret_societies/coe_douglas_msnbc_hitler
‘Bonesmen’ for president
Pres. Bush and John Kerry were both members of the secret organization. ‘Skull and Bones’ dates to 1832. It was in fact a reaction to a secret society, the Masons. Founder William Huntington Russell thought of his little enclave as sort of anti-Masons and as a home for the wealthy and the powerful … who would do anything for another Bonesman. Each year, 15 young undergraduate seniors are tapped for membership. Members of ‘Skull and Bones’ gather on High Street in the Yale campus at the tomb. New members, the neophytes, are expected to do things like lie in coffins, wrestle in mud, kiss a skull, and confess their sexual histories in front of the group to bond themselves together. Once you‘re in, you‘re in: ‘Skull and Bones’ is for life. There are a lot of [famous] Bonesmen … Henry Luce, who created “TIME” magazine; Harold Stanley, founder of Morgan Stanley; William F. Buckley; Averell Harriman, long-time governor of New York. And then there are the presidents: William Howard Taft, whose father, Alphonso, had helped found the group; George Herbert Walker Bush, whose father, Prescott, was a Bonesman and a senator; the current President Bush. [And there’s] John Kerry, Bonesman class of ‘66. His wife Teresa Kerry‘s first husband, John Heinz … was ‘Skull and Bones.’ Both Bush and Kerry refused to answer ‘Meet the Press’ host Tim Russert when asked about the organization. Alexandra Robbins, author of “Secrets of the Tombs” [said] “The sole purpose of Skull and Bones is to get members into positions of power and then to have those members hire other members to prominent positions, which is something that President Bush has done.”

Svali
Interview With Svali: Escaped Member of “The Family”

Note on Svali: This information can be highly disturbing. And though the Svali story fits what many serious researchers have found, it is difficult to verify. Thankfully, a few media have reported on “the family,” like the MSNBC articles available here and here. And for solid information on mind control programs used by this group which can be verified with government documents, click here. You are encouraged to open to your spiritual guidance as you explore here and take only what serves you.

Svali is the pseudonym used by a woman who claims she was born into a secret ruling bloodline. According to Svali, bloodline children are heavily conditioned to be obedient, self-controlled, and totally loyal to “the family.” In special activities carried out under extreme secrecy, they are subjected from a young age to sessions using drugs, hypnosis, and shock-reward conditioning which turn them into Manchurian Candidates with alter personalities. In their normal lives, they remember nothing of what is done to them in these sessions or of their being part of “the family.”

Some of these programmed children are groomed for the military or politics, while others are prepared to take on key business positions. Throughout their lives, most family members in these bloodlines have no conscious awareness of their dual lifestyle. To themselves, their neighbors, and others, they appear to be normal, upstanding citizens. Yet unknown to their own normal identity, their alter personalities are regularly accessed using code words and ordered to attend secret activities at designated times where they are programmed to forward the group’s hidden agenda.

Svali alleges that higher level political positions in all Western countries are heavily occupied or controlled by bloodline members of “the family,” also known as the Illuminati. She also says it is quite rare that members ever leave the fold. The pressures against this are great, including the need to abandon spouse, children, house, money, and more. Svali was only able to escape after it dawned on her that, because in her role as a trainer she was telling lies to young Illuminati children, she must have been lied to herself from the time she was quite young.

Svali has an abundance of intriguing information on the Illuminati and ritual abuse available here. Her rare audio interview with researcher Greg Szymanski in January 2006 is available at this link. For the written transcript of that interview, click here. The below contains 10-pages worth of excerpts collected largely by Dr. Henry Makow from an 50-page interview with her in 2000. To read the full, fascinating 50-page interview, click here. Svali stopped speaking on this topic in 2006. For information on how you can make a difference, see the “What you can do” box after this article.

How disenfranchisement leads to second class citizenship

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We know no document is perfect, but when we amend the Constitution, it would be to expand rights, not to take away rights from decent, loyal Americans. This great Constitution of ours should never be used to make a group of Americans permanent second-class citizens.

Barbara Boxer

This past Saturday, at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Harry Belafonte delivered an inspiring call to action to save our children from an education system that does more to prepare them for prison than for success.

Twenty-hours before, with far less celebrity fanfare but no less impact, civic leaders marking the end of a week-long fast in Homestead, Fla. spoke of the urgent need to end the ongoing detention and deportation raids carried out against immigrants.

On first glance, few might make any connection between the mass incarceration of black communities inflicted through the War on Drugs and the draconian law enforcement measures that are being carried out while Washington negotiates a new immigration system. Yet the response to both issues has created a path to disenfranchisement and marginalization that threatens to undermine opportunity and mobility for all impacted communities.

A decades-long demonization

From the Reagan to George W., the government has increasingly looked to criminalize non-violent offenses as a matter of social and economic policy. As Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer recently pointed out, the trend in harsher immigration has been building since 2005, when the Bush administration decided to change its tactics on border enforcement. Instead of just releasing those who had attempted illegal entry back on the other side of the border, the federal government classified the non-violent act as a federal offense with potential jail time for repeat offenders.

A similar shift happened in the eighties in the re-classification of minor drug offenses. But the mass incarceration of mostly African-Americans for non-violent offenses has done more to tear apart the fabric of our neighborhoods than it has to provide security and lower overall incidences of violence. It has also provided a new institutional path to disenfranchisement.

In my state, Florida, more than 1.5 million people cannot participate in local, state and national elections because of their criminal records. Millions more face a life of limited economic and social opportunities even though they have served their time, a new form of double jeopardy that many acknowledge but few want to do anything about. Behind the scenes, it has created its own monster industry, the prison industry, which has developed it own veracious appetite for keeping jail cells filled, and keeping the construction of prisons as the public main expenditure.

History repeats itself…in the worst way

Why are we choosing to repeat the mistakes of a generation ago with a new set of aspiring Americans? It can’t be because the strategy is working. At the time of the Bush administration, it was touted that the stiffened penalties would serve a powerful deterrent to impressible crossings. However, the result has been anything but a slowdown in attempted illegal entries. Wilder says that in 2011, there were 71,000 people prosecuted for illegal entry, an increase of over 700 percent since 2001.

Certainly the money doesn’t hurt. While most first-time offenders are given probation, their processing and the attempted return of thousands now requires more funds to be devoted to detention and incarceration. Not surprisingly, this has meant a boom for the private prison industry that the Sentencing Project says grew 259 percent from 2002 to 2010.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, “the nation’s two largest private prison operators have more than doubled their revenues from the immigrant detention business since 2005, contributing to overall combined revenues that eclipsed $3 billion in 2011.” The prison industry has gotten so comfortable with its earnings that corporate builder GEO group had enough money to offer 6 million dollars to Florida Atlantic University for the corporate naming rights to their stadium this past February.

Corrupting the public trust

The Obama administration may think that they need to maintain the high rate of detentions to convince enough legislators on the right that the government can be efficient in securing our borders. But we cannot criminalize our way to a stronger community. Doing so ultimately corrupts public trust, fosters divisive fear and helps individual corporate interests more than it does the overall economy.

Immigrant or not, it’s hard to maintain a strong democracy if mobility and opportunity are being systematically crippled. At the end of the day, it’s hard to depend on your neighbor when you don’t know if you are going to see him or her from one day to the next.

BONDAGE VERSES FREEDOM

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What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.

Bruce Barton
Galatians 4:21-31

The Message (MSG)

21-31 Tell me now, you who have become so enamored with the law: Have you paid close attention to that law? Abraham, remember, had two sons: one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The son of the slave woman was born by human connivance; the son of the free woman was born by God’s promise. This illustrates the very thing we are dealing with now. The two births represent two ways of being in relationship with God. One is from Mount Sinai in Arabia. It corresponds with what is now going on in Jerusalem—a slave life, producing slaves as offspring. This is the way of Hagar. In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother—this is the way of Sarah. Remember what Isaiah wrote:

Rejoice, barren woman who bears no children,
shout and cry out, woman who has no birth pangs,
Because the children of the barren woman
now surpass the children of the chosen woman.

Isn’t it clear, friends, that you, like Isaac, are children of promise? In the days of Hagar and Sarah, the child who came from faithless connivance (Ishmael) harassed the child who came—empowered by the Spirit—from the faithful promise (Isaac). Isn’t it clear that the harassment you are now experiencing from the Jerusalem heretics follows that old pattern? There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

How you interpret the facts is important. A worldly young Southern Baptist went to the racetrack for the very first time. He saw a priest in the paddock give a horse a blessing. The boy took the horse’s number, placed a small bet and sure enough the horse won.

For the next several races, the boy went to the paddock, saw the priest bless a horse, placed a bet and won. On the last race of the day he repeated the routine and bet all his winnings on the anointed horse.

Rounding the final turn the horse had a sizable lead, but then he suddenly dropped dead. The young man sought out the priest to complain.

“That’s the trouble with you Baptists,” said the priest. “You don’t know the difference between a simple blessing and the last rites.”

Events aren’t always what they seem on the surface. Some events in life can only be understood if the Holy Spirit explains them to us. Such is the case with Paul’s disclosure here.

The proposition that only those who by a true and living faith accept God’s promise are children of God is given its last defense with an appeal to Scripture interpretation. It is an appeal to Scripture to again prove that Christians are not under the law. He takes the familiar story of Ishmael and Isaac (Gen. 16-21) and draws from it basic truths about the Christian’s relationship to the law.

Paul uses the slave woman Hagar and her son to show that adherence to the law is slavery. The free woman Sarah and her son of promise stands for faith and freedom. The law is bondage and spiritual slavery but faith in the promise is freedom and spiritual fulfillment (CIT).

I. THE TWO SONS OF ABRAHAM, 21-23.
II. THE INTERPRETATION, 24-29.
III. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION, 30-31.

People are saved and sanctified because of their faith in Christ, not because of what they do. Verse 21 begins a contrast between those who are enslaved by law and those who are free from law. Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?

The legalistic Jews continuously promoted the indispensable necessity of keeping the law. If they had truly listened to the law they would know that it contradicted their beliefs. The word law here is without the definite article referring to a legalistic following of the Torah or Pentateuch. The lively word listen or hear carries the idea of understanding what is heard. The challenge is that if they really hear the law, meaning correctly understand and respond to it, they would not want to be under it.

Verse 22 summaries part of the story of Abraham. For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.

The Jews were always boasting about being descendants of Abraham as if that relationship granted salvation. Yet those who prided themselves on their descent from Abraham forgot that he had two sons. Ishmael by Hagar and Isaac by Sarah. If physical decent from Abraham is so all–important then Jews are no better than the Ishmaelites or Arabs. Yet there is a difference, not just of mothers, but of a contrast in relationships. One was a wife and a free woman, the other a slave and a bondwoman.

A further contrast of the manner of each son’s birth is in verse 23. But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son of the free woman through the promise.

Ishmael was the product of his parents’ physical power of procreation therefore he was flesh-born. He was born by the fleshly nature of Abraham and Hagar (Rom. 9:7-9). Ishmael’s birth was the result not only of a physical act but of a sinful act caused by doubting the promises of God (Gen. 16: 1-4). Ishmael thus represents all who place their hope of salvation in what they are able to accomplish, or their own works.

Isaac was the child of faith. He was the child of promise born because of a miraculous intervention on the part of God which enabled the dead seed of 99 years old Abraham and his barren wife Sarah to conceive (Rom. 4:19; Heb.11:11f). Isaac was born as a result of the promise, born by the Spirit’s enabling. The conclusion is that Isaac is a symbol of all the Spirit-born.

II. THE INTERPRETATION (24-29).

The allegory here of Ishmael and Isaac (Gen. 16:15; 21:3, 9) expresses truth embedded in the simple facts of the case in order to inform the legalists that they were related to Hagar, Sinai, and the law and did not have the authority or blessing of God.

A new understanding from the old story begins in verse 24. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.

This story that actually took place was designed by God to convey a meaning additional to the strictly literal. An allegory ( – from allo, “another” and agorevo, “to speak” – to speak another meaning) is a narrative which has a deeper meaning behind it. In an allegory like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress persons and actions represent hidden meanings giving the passage a symbolic as well as literal meaning.

These two women represent two covenants, one of law and one of grace. Paul begins with the covenant given at Mount Sinai which was one of law. This covenant places all who try and obtain their salvation through it in bondage and under heavy burdens. “The law, even when kept to the best of a person’s ability, is nothing but a prison, a death row cell where one waits for eternal execution”— John MacArthur.

Why isn’t law keeping enough? We were not made to know and love laws. We were made to know and love God. A mother and a father do not gain a sense of parental fulfillment because their infant doesn’t climb over the side of his play pen. What they long for is a smile, a giggle of recognition, and a hug of affection. As that baby grows, obedience to household rules is not a fitting replacement for a warm relationship with his mom or dad. Taking out the garbage or cleaning up a room is no substitute for the words “I love you.” So too, what God wants from us is not mechanical adherence to certain regulations, no matter how noble. He wants us, He longs for our love and our loyalty.

Hagar, who represents fleshly birth and the covenant of law, also represents the earthly Jerusalem in verse 25. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
Both Hagar and Mount Sinai can produce nothing but slaves. In line with Hagar and Mount Sinai is the present day earthly Jerusalem and her children, the third element of the comparison. Jerusalem, the center of legalistic religion and the place of fulfilling Sinai’s law, is a place of enslavement for her children, for they imagine that by stringent obedience to this legal code – with emphasis on its ceremonial regulations and man made additions– they can achieve entrance into heaven.

They failed to see that the cross of Christ signaled the end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new. They failed to believe that God accepted them solely on the basis of faith, not because they kept rules and regulations. They were bound to earth and the earthly and had rejected the heavenly and spiritual.

The place of realized redemption for the God’s born again children is connected to the new Jerusalem in verse 26. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

The heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of all the children of grace. This new Jerusalem which one day will descend to be the eternal city of glorified believers (Rev. 21:2) is now the “city of the Living God” (Heb. 12:22). The Jerusalem above symbolically is the mother of God’s children. Heaven is the church’s mother for it was heaven that gave birth to her children.

This Jerusalem is free (Jn. 8:36). She has been delivered from every form of bondage and enjoys perfect peace in the presence of her Lord. She is the mother, both of the Jews and the Gentiles who have placed faith in God’s promise. Legalistic Jews are really brothers with the Ishmaelites. Those born from above are true Israelites (Rom. 9:6-7; 1 Pet. 2:1-10).

Verse 27 teaches that the children of the barren woman will be fruitful. For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.”

To support his point Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1. It originally prophesied the changing fortunes of Israel and pictured spiritual restoration and growth after the Babylonia captivity. Paul seems to be applying this passage to Sarah who though previously barren was later blessed with a child who ultimately would have numerous children.

Spiritual barrenness for those under the old covenant was the norm. For they married themselves to the law instead of to God. Under the new covenant spiritual fruitfulness is the norm for the children of promise.

Verse 28 begins the teaching on the outcome of believing in God’s promise and living out God’s promis. And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.

Here again Paul affectionately addresses them as brothers. They like Isaac, by virtue of the promise realized in him, are children of promise. They are Abraham’s legitimate sons, the true heirs. As children of the promise, they should live in light of the promise and not the law.

Verse 29 points out another similarity between us and Abraham’s two sons. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.

On the occasion of Isaac’s weaning at three years of age, Ishmael mocked or mistreated Isaac (Gen. 21:10). Because of the in-fighting Hagar and Ishmael promoted, Sarah demanded that Abraham cast out Hagar and her son.

The persecution that existed in Abraham’s household is like the persecution of those in bondage to sin bring upon those free from sin even now. Paul and other Spirit-filled believers had experienced its bit and venom.

The persecution of the descendants of Ishmaelites and the Jews is still fierce. Just as the persecution of legalists against the Spirit-filled still is fierce today.

III. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION, 30-31.

God rejects legalism as verse 30 indicates. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
Sarah gave the order and God approved of it (Gen.21:10, 12). Ishmael had stayed in the home for at least 17 years and it might appear his stay was permanent, but he eventually had to be cast out. The two pairs could not remain together and no reconciliation was possible.

Law and grace cannot be mixed. The bondwoman and her son have no inheritance with the son of the free woman. A religion based on works is incompatible with one based on faith.

Verse 31 confirms the true heirs of heaven. So then, brother, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
In closing, Paul affirmed that he and the Galatian believers were not children of the slave woman who was driven away and denied a share in the inheritance. Rather they are believers and children of the free woman, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

In Alex Haley’s epic book ROOTS Kizzy Kinte didn’t have a chance. She [was the daughter of Kunta Kinte &] wanted to slip the bonds of slavery and live free, as her ancestors had done in Africa. But she couldn’t. She was born of a slave-woman, Bell Kinte, and in those terrible days of bondage, she was destined to live as a slave. Kizzy’s parentage, over which she had no control, dictated her destiny.

Paul used an analogy of an Old Testament story to help us understand bondage and freedom. Alluding to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, Paul explained the difference between the child of a bondwoman and the child of a freewoman. Only the child of the freewoman could enjoy an inheritance; the other was destined to bondage.
Here’s the point: each of us-male or female, Jew or Gentile, black or white, rich or poor-can share in God’s inheritance.

All who trust in Jesus as Savior become children of the free woman. We are released from the bondage of the law of God and offered God’s grace instead. And our inheritance is freedom in Christ (Jn. 8:31-44).
Has God’s grace made you free?
Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee. -Sleeper

The law has its place in God’s plan. It is not the goal to put a road sign that tells us we have failed and need Jesus. We should not be chained to this warning sign, nor should we try to chain others to it. We should attach our life to the life of Christ instead.

It was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise that made him right with God. By works of law no one can be right with God and the law lacks power to transform anyone.

The man who makes law the principle of his life makes himself a slave attempting to satisfy this task master. The one who surrenders his self reliance to the grace of God is born from above. Only those born of the Spirit are sons of God and only sons receive an inheritance in God. This present inheritance is demonstrated in a love for God that has a constraining and freeing power that those who adhere to the law cannot know.

Run!!!!!!!!! WISE to do Evil

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The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Jeremiah 4:22″ For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.”

The Lord cried passionately, ‘my people are wise to do evil!’ The level of manipulations we see now in methods of trickery is astounding!

• Consultants offer numerous manipulative methods to students and to aspiring candidates who desire to study abroad. The huge deposit amount that has to be made by the candidate is furnished by the consultants on a commission basis; to put it in plain words, the candidate cheats the foreign university by showing false availability of money in the bank, once the admission is acquired the money is withdrawn by the consultants. All this COOL shady deal is not down in a dark corner, it is done openly and Bible-reading, church-going Christians send their children through such ‘bogus ways’ and then weep when curses come on the lives of their children. Are you listening?

• There are plethora of agents to get you bogus certificates of academic / technical qualifications, experience certificates, caste certificates and what not! It would be crazy on my part to even try to spell out all of them because they are just ENORMOUS! Spreading like mushroom. Whatever has happened to integrity?

• Dad and moms are ever ready to give ‘huge money’ as donations – please call it BRIBE – in order to get admission in ‘good and reputed’ schools. What does ‘good and reputed’ actually mean can you tell me??? Did you know friends, Christian schools run by reputed denominational Christian organizations take bribe and refuse to give receipts to parents? Let the Lord judge them.

Which reputed and good college did the Hebrew slave Daniel study in order to get a plum position in the Government of king Nebuchadnezzar ? Where did Daniel get such phenomenal wisdom? Can anyone answer me? This handsome Hebrew slave got the attention of not the principal of a college, but of the king and became his pet because of the grace of God on him. His name is Daniel. Read the book of Daniel in the Bible to know more. I wish more Christians do a lot of spade work, hunting and searching for a ‘good church’ and put their kids in the Sunday School / Youth fellowship and make them grow in the knowledge of God than knowledge of computers. I am screaming out to someone out there! Your kids need J-E-S-U-S ! There would be less of divorces, and more of responsible children if we have given them the Bibles at an early age.

Many Christians are into: adulterous relationships, pornography, pre-marital sex, software piracy, embezzlement of funds, misuse of office property, smoking and drinking, obscene words spill off their mouth when triggered and much more. I am not being unkind, I am just bluntly opening the cupboard!

We need J-E-S-U-S!

Empower A Felon

An Unchanging Message for an Ever Changing World

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An Unchanging Message For An Ever Changing World

Galatians 1:6-10

“One of the most frequently used phrases in Christian circles is “the gospel.” Amazingly few adults know what this term means. It could either refer to its literal translation, “good news;” or to the perspective that salvation is available only through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ and a person’s acceptance of Christ as their savior. Less than four out of ten adults (37%) knew this; 34% had other, inaccurate perceptions of the meaning of the term; three out of ten adults did not offer a guess. Even among born again Christians, only 60% correctly identified at least one meaning of this expression.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (7) which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (10) For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
In the past thirty years there has been a proliferation of “new gospels” in the United States. Some such as the “new age” belief system are rooted in eastern mysticism, such as Hinduism. Others are based more on pop-psychology than they are on the gospel. But whatever their origin they are misdirecting men and women away from the only truth that can save you from you sin.
The core of this letter is that the people at Galatia have been turned from the life changing truth of God’s word. Paul says in verse six, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
The Greek word used here (thaumazou) is “to be astounded or bewildered.” Paul’s astonish-ment is not that false teachers exist, but that the church was following them. He had expected false teachers and in fact had warned the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:28-30) that false teachers would come. What he is so surprised about is that the church is so easily mislead.
In the four verses that we are going to consider today the apostle gives us four abiding principles concerning the word of God, the gospel.

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First, The Gospel Needs No Additions
Note that these false teachers are not opening denying the gospel message. They only wanted to improve the gospel by adding to it; requirements, new ceremonies and new standards. It is as if they are saying, “We believe in Jesus Christ – but we have something wonderful to add to what you already believe!” What is at least implied is that the faith that these believers have is not sufficient, some -thing more is needed.
What they viewed as a different gospel was actually a distorted gospel. The word translated “distort” means to transform into something of an opposite character.
He goes on in verse seven to clarify that by saying, “which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The New Living Translation renders these verses this way, “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way (7) that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ” Paul says that this new gospel or “good news,” is in reality not the gospel or “good news” at all. It is a counterfeit. In verses six and seven, Paul uses two different Greek words, to describes their spiritual defection to another [heterous – another of a different kind] gospel, which is not another [allos – another of the same kind]. Not Only Does The Gospel Not Need Any Additions but….

Secondly, Distorting the Gospel Is Serious Business
In verse eight Paul invokes a curse on anyone, himself included, who distorts the gospel, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
Paul is saying that real problem of another gospel is not only that it is a bad idea, and not only that it lacks power because it is a fake, but that it is dangerous. In our sensitive English translation we lose some of the heat of this verse in the original language. He says in verse eight, “If anyone comes with another gospel let him be damned.” And in verse nine he continues the thought by saying, “And if you believe it you will be damned too!” Well if nothing else I probably just got your attention! This is not a curse word, it is using the word in its proper sense – that is these individuals will be damned, separated from God and eternally punished. Those who distort the gospel message are rejecting the authority of Christ and are therefore cursed (anathema). Paul is not talking about church discipline, his language is far too strong for that. He is invoking God’s final damnation and wrath on people who distort the gospel.

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I fear that those who followed David Koresh in a compound in Waco, Texas to their fiery deaths in 1993; and the followers of Marshall Applewhite’s (Heaven’s Gate Cult) who in 1997 took their own lives in twisted attempt to connect with extra-terrestrial visitors who were hidden in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet, will not find themselves excused because of their sincerity. And those who led them into that error will bear a greater judgment.

One modern distortion of the gospel is preached in order to fit Christianity in a materialistic society. The message of this gospel is which we can call “the gospel of success” or “the prosperity Gospel,” is based on the premise that God wants to bless you therefore you can only expect good things from him if you follow him. The problem with this gospel is that it ignores the fact that in Christian life there is sorrow, there is suffering, there is death. The key of the gospel of Jesus is not the avoidance of life events, but the possibility to overcome them.

Distorting the Gospel Is Serious Business because….

Third, Only the Gospel Saves
Back in verse four, Paul reminds the believer that was Christ “who gave Himself for our sins.” As Christian’s in America we believe in the freedom of religion. But Christian’s need to realize that does not make all religions equally true. While we defend the right of each individual in this country to worship as they choose, in so doing we not defending that all religions are also “the” truth. The words of Jesus grant this elusive claim only to faith in Him when he said in John 14:6,”I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The writer of Acts reiterated that thought when he said in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.”
Only the Gospel Saves and …


Finally, Only The Gospel Produce Real Life Change
“The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it. Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed infidel, once challenged the Rev. H. P. Hughes to a debate. The preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the scheduled debate were converted.”

When we lose the gospel of Grace we lose the only message that has the power to heal. We witness the power of the gospel in the story of the demon possessed man in Luke 8 (26-39). The demon possessed man experienced many horrors at the hands of neighbors, family and even friends in their attempts to deliver him from the demons who possessed him. Luke 8:29 states that they had “had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles.” In spite of all their attempts to cure him, he was no better off. Multiple attempts had obviously been made at deliverance but had failed, but one encounter with Jesus brought deliverance and sanity. When the townspeople investigated what had had happened we are told in verse thirty-five that they, “found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” There were no chains. He was no longer screaming and attempting to hurt himself. He was not sedated, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”

That is what we lose if we lose the gospel, the power to change lives.

In verse ten Paul tells the reader why he is saying these things. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Paul says that he is not trying to be sensational. He is not saying these things, as some preachers do, because he knows it is a good safe topic and he can count on some hearty Amen’s. He is saying them because there is only one truth and the gospel message that Jesus Christ came and died for men’s sins is the only real truth.

The Unchanging Message for an Ever Changing World is the Gospel!
• The Gospel Needs No Additions.
• Distorting The Gospel Is Serious Business.
• Only the Gospel Can Save Men From Their Sins.
• Only The Gospel Produces Changed Lives.

New Assignments From God

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changing peopleI realized that my truest passion was for helping people change through faith in a higher power. That meant, for me, belonging to the church. Using my abilities to bring Christian doctrine to a postmodern world.

James McGreevey

Acts 7:30-34

The Message (MSG)

30-32 “Forty years later, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to him in the guise of flames of a burning bush. Moses, not believing his eyes, went up to take a closer look. He heard God’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Frightened nearly out of his skin, Moses shut his eyes and turned away.

33-34 “God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground. I’ve seen the agony of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their groans. I’ve come to help them. So get yourself ready; I’m sending you back to Egypt.’

Often the Lord calls us aside from our work for a season and ask us to be still and learn before we go out again to minister. And the hours spent waiting are not lost time. An ancient Knight once realized, as he was fleeing from his enemies, that his horse needed a shoe replaced. The prudent course of action seemed to be to hurry on without delay. Yet higher wisdom told him to stop for a few minutes at the blacksmith’s along the road. Although he heard the galloping hooves of the enemies’ horses close behind, he waited until his steed was reshod before continuing his escape. Just as the enemy appeared, only a hundred yards away, he jumped into the saddle and dashed away with the swiftness of the wind.

Then he knew his stopping had actually hastened his escape. Quite of God will aask us to wait before we go, so we may fully recover from our last mission before entering the next stage of our journey and work.

Reassignments and life changing events are so uncertain to our feebleness, but if we trust His leading we will be in the best positioning for His perfect will to be perfected.

Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting!
Til next steps made plain will be;
To hear, with the inner hearing,
The voice that will call for me.

Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting!
With hope that need not grow dim;
The Master is pledged to guide me,
And my eyes are unto Him.

Waiting! Expectantly waiting!
Perhaps it may be today
The Master will quickly open
The gate to my future way.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
I know, though I,ve waited long,
That, while He withholds His purpose,
His waiting cannot be wrong.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
The Master will not be late:
Since He knows that I am waiting
For Him to unlatch the gate.

The Trial of our Faith

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Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.

Grenville Kleiser

Psalms 46
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

In this time of trial we need to be encouraged and comforted by one another. The temptations of Satan are greater now than ever before, for he knows that his time is short and that very soon every case will be decided, either for life or for death. It is no time now to sink down beneath discouragement and trial; we must bear up under all our afflictions and trust wholly in the Almighty God of Jacob. The Lord has shown me that His grace is sufficient for all our trials; and although they are greater than ever before, yet if we trust wholly in God, we can overcome every temptation and through His grace come off victorious.

If we overcome our trials and get victory over the temptations of Satan, then we endure the trial of our faith, which is more precious than gold, and are stronger and better prepared to meet the next. But if we sink down and give way to the temptations of Satan, we shall grow weaker and get no reward for the trial and shall not be so well prepared for the next. In this way we shall grow weaker and weaker, until we are led captive by Satan at his will. We must have on the whole armor of God and be ready at any moment for a conflict with the powers of darkness. When temptations and trials rush in upon us, let us go to God and agonize with Him in prayer. He will not turn us away empty, but will give us grace and strength to overcome, and to break the power of the enemy. Oh, that all could see these things in their true light and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus! Then would Israel move forward, strong in God, and in the power of His might.

God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them. It is a bitter draught, and they can make it still more bitter by murmuring, complaining, and repining. But those who receive it thus must have another draught, for the first does not have its designed effect upon the heart. And if the second does not effect the work, then they must have another, and another, until it does have its designed effect, or they will be left filthy, impure in heart. I saw that this bitter cup can be sweetened by patience, endurance, and prayer, and that it will have its designed effect upon the hearts of those who thus receive it, and God will be honored and glorified. It is no small thing to be a Christian and to be owned and approved of God. The Lord has shown me some who profess the present truth, whose lives do not correspond with their profession. They have the standard of piety altogether too low, and they come far short of Bible holiness. Some engage in vain and unbecoming conversation, and others give way to the risings of self. We must not expect to please ourselves, live and act like the world, have its pleasures, and enjoy the company of those who are of the world, and reign with Christ in glory.

We must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings here if we would share in His glory hereafter. If we seek our own interest, how we can best please ourselves, instead of seeking to please God and advance His precious, suffering cause, we shall dishonor God and the holy cause we profess to love. We have but a little space of time left in which to work for God. Nothing should be too dear to sacrifice for the salvation of the scattered and torn flock of Jesus. Those who make a covenant with God by sacrifice now will soon be gathered home to share a rich reward and possess the new kingdom forever and ever.

Oh, let us live wholly for the Lord and show by a well-ordered life and godly conversation that we have been with Jesus and are His meek and lowly followers. We must work while the day lasts, for when the dark night of trouble and anguish comes, it will be too late to work for God. Jesus is in His holy temple and will now accept our sacrifices, our prayers, and our confessions of faults and sins and will pardon all the transgressions of Israel, that they may be blotted out before He leaves the sanctuary. When Jesus leaves the sanctuary, then they who are holy and righteous will be holy and righteous still; for all their sins will then be blotted out, and they will be sealed with the seal of the living God. But those that are unjust and filthy will be unjust and filthy still; for then there will be no Priest in the sanctuary to offer their sacrifices, their confessions, and their prayers before the Father’s throne. Therefore what is done to rescue souls from the coming storm of wrath must be done before Jesus leaves the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.

Points of View From Many

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We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.

Zhuangzi

WHEN TO SAVE A DROWNING MAN

Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river.

On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man.

Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.

After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.

Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us when we yield to Him. When you see the struggle that is a sign that you’re sensitive to sin and that is where God can help you.

AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN

In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the “4 States of Man”:

* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is “living according to the flesh — with reason making no resistance.” This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life — without power — was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.

* The second state of man is “recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly.” It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to “separate church and state.” So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?

* The third state of man is “faith in the help of God — but he perseveres in seeking to please God.” Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the “third state”, man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.

* The fourth state of man is “the full and perfect peace in God.” This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.

Augustine adds, “The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil.” But Adam and Eve were not gods, “and their ‘free will’ would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God’s help since our fall?”

Augustine continues, “Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God’s mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God — not in men and not in ourselves.” (“The History of Doctrines”, Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)

Dorothy Sayers wrote, “If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace.”

It is October 14th, and the sun is reflecting mirages of water on an Air Force base runway in southern Florida. The silence of the scene is interrupted as a long-winged plane touches down on the runway and taxies to the hanger. A thousand planes a day go through this same routine, but this one plane’s payload is different from all the others. Its payload is just a few rolls of film, but the information on that film will shape the events of the world. It will shift the balance of power in the world. The film is transported to a top-secret laboratory and developed. It is sent to the Pentagon and then to the Oval Office in the White House.

The date is 1962, and a young president, John F. Kennedy, just 44 years old, sits at the desk. The decision he makes moves the armies of the most powerful nation in the world. The crisis he faces is one of immense proportions.

The photos taken were from a U2 reconnaissance aircraft. One picture in particular revealed that the Soviets had placed medium-range missile silos in Cuba. These missiles were capable of reaching strategic targets throughout the United States.
The risk of world conflict hadn’t reached this level since WW2, and it involved the two greatest superpowers in the world.

The president moved decisively, ordering Premier Khrushchev to halt all further deliveries of weapons and to immediately dismantle the missile sites.
A broadcast to the American people let us know the gravity of the situation. The president said, “This secret, swift, extraordinary buildup of communist weapons is a deliberate and unjustifiable challenge to our national security, and it will not be accepted.

America braced for what was to come. President Kennedy ordered an immediate naval and air blockade of Cuba.
Premier Khrushchev decided he would test this young president’s fabric. He would challenge this nation’s resolve. He would confront the standard of our convictions. The Soviet ships sailed on toward Cuba.
The world held its breath in nervous anticipation as hours crept by and ships grew closer and closer to one another.
As kids we played a little game. We called it ’chicken’. You want to see who is going to flinch when challenged. In national politics, you call it ’brinkmanship.’ Brinkmanship is the willingness to expose oneself to risk, to press the limits of safety for a cause. It is the walking of the tightrope of disaster.
The Soviets were going to press the boundary, walk the line, and see just how much they could get away with.
The Soviet ships were 100 yards away from our American ships. Our Navy was on full battle alert with orders to stop the Russians at all costs.

Some of you recall those moments as people were glued to the radios and TV’s to see who would flinch, who would fire, or what the world would look like in this latest age of nuclear war.
With just feet to spare, at the brink of disaster and destruction, the Soviets turned.

This incident in world history has a living parallel in our daily lives. Many are involved in a dangerous game of spiritual brinkmanship. We walk the very boundary of sin in our lifestyle. Balancing precariously, we move toward the cliff’s edge. Dangling our toes over the abyss, we tempt the fall. We struggle with bad habits that become self-destructive patterns. At the same time, we are saying, “Oh, don’t worry about me’ it’s okay, I’m a Christian.”

The other day I was driving in the morning commute and I saw this phrase on the bumper of a car in front of me. And I started thinking about what the phrase means (I think about all kinds of stuff during my morning commute because I don’t want to think about work.) So I’m going down the freeway with my hands at ten and two (because this was the tricky part of I-52 West where all the people wanting to take I-5 North wait until the last twenty feet before the off-ramp and then try and jump the line of cars waiting to take the ramp) and I’m thinking I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t mean to “let go” of the steering wheel because that wouldn’t do anyone any good at all. So I was thinking what does it mean “Let go, Let God” and our lesson this evening is going to address that question. Let’s examine the meaning of “Let go, Let God.”

I.Let Go of Our Agendas
A.…and let God direct our paths.
1.Whether or not we are intentional or not, we all have agendas for our lives and for our futures.
a.Some are more immediate than others, some more sophisticated, some are better planned out than others but they do exist.
b.Most of us are not simply drifting through life.
2.The priorities we set, the standards by which we make our goals and gauge our success, the plans and dreams by which we live our lives are all part of our personal agenda.
3.These determine the consistent pattern of decisions and actions which illustrate the agenda by which we live.
B.God has a better design for our lives than any we can devise for ourselves.
1.As we examined last Lord’s Day; God is our good shepherd. He is our provider, our guide, our protector and our host in this life and the life to come.
2.His agenda for His children is for a blessed life, a righteous life, a life lived for a greater purpose than we could ever establish for ourselves using the priorities and standards of this world.
3.Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
4.We must be willing to let go of our own agendas in order to accept the agenda of God.
5.Accepting God’s agenda requires that we accept God’s truth.
a.Before we can accept God’s agenda we must choose what will be the foundation for our lives: the social, ethical, and moral codes of God or those of the world.
b.What we believe to be true affects every aspect of our lives.
6.To let go of our agendas and take steps down the pathway of God’s plan for our lives requires that we decide, once and for all that we believe that the Word of God is true for every condition, circumstance, and situation.
7.We need to accept the Word of God as our standard for right and wrong, for true and false, and for good and evil and in having accepted it we need to do every thing in our power to make it the foundation of our lives, the basis of every principle, attitude, motive, and action. Letting go of our agendas and letting God direct our paths.
[Having chosen to let God direct our paths we need to give Him the proper place in our hearts and…]
II.Let Go of Our Idols
A.…and let God have the center of our hearts.
1.There is a statement made by Jonah towards the end of his prayer to God when he was in the belly of the fish that speaks directly to this thought.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who regard worthless idols, Forsake their own Mercy.” NKJ (Forsake their hope of steadfast love. ESV Forsake their faithfulness NASB)
2.Anything that we hold in higher regard than God becomes an idol to us, worthless as Jonah says, but an idol none the less. And by putting our focus, our energies, our devotions into these worthless idols we forsake the mercy of God and lose the hope that is available to all through His steadfast love.
3.1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
a.Note that this command is absolute, not relative. It does not say: “Don’t love the world too much,” but “not at all”.
b.The “world” here does not mean the earth or its people (God Himself so loved the world that He gave His Son to save its people), but rather the world as a “system” or “worldview” made up of ideas and beliefs that exclude God.
c.We are not to love the things which are sought merely to pamper the appetite, to please the eye, or to promote pride in living. These are the objects sought and made into idols by the people of the world; these are not the objects to be sought by the Christian.
d.The secular worldview places little or no importance on God, instead focusing on “All that is in the world” and in opposition to God.
B.All that is in the world…
1.All that is in the world is not from God and when we put them at the center of our heart they become worthless idols and cost us the love of the Father. All that is in the world falls into one or more of these categories:
2.The lust of the flesh.
a.The lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation first on Christ:
Luke 4:3 “Command this stone that it be made bread.”
b.Jesus spoke of how adultery begins not with the act, but with the desire – with looking at another person with lust in one’s heart (Matthew 5:28).
c.While we often limit this category to refer mostly to sexual lust, any sort of selfish or greedy cravings simply to satisfy one’s physical desires in rebellion against God could also be considered “lust of the flesh.” This would include anything purely physical, exploitive, and self-centered.
3.The lust of the eyes.
a.Sins of craving and accumulating possessions (bowing to the idol of materialism) fall in this category. While sex may also be included here, people’s “eyes” can lust after many things – Eve wanted the fruit that was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6), Achan saw the beautiful robe from Babylon and the silver and gold (Joshua 7:21), and David saw a beautiful woman bathing and wanted her (2 Samuel 11:2-3). People would have to be blind not to see anything, but believers must not become obsessed with what they see.
b.The avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us. Satan tried this temptation on Christ when he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment.
4.The pride of life.
a.Some versions translate this as “pride in possessions.” It refers to both the inward attitude and the outward boasting because of an obsession with one’s status or possessions. The word “pride” suggests this person brags in order to impress people, but the bragging may stretch the truth.
b.Literally, “arrogant assumption”: vainglorious display. Satan tried this temptation on Christ in setting Him on the temple pinnacle that, in spiritual pride and presumption, on the basis of His Father’s care, He should cast Himself down.
5.The love of God and the love of worldly things are incompatible. If you give place to the love of the world, the love of God cannot dwell in you; and if you have not His love, you can have no peace, no holiness, and no heaven.
6.A Christian cannot live with a divided heart, responding one moment out of love for God and at the next turning to the world for pleasure. If we want to demonstrate (to ourselves, as well as to God) that we know Him, we must let go of our idols and let God have the center of our heart.
[James 4:4-5 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?” Which means we need to…]
III.Let Go of Our Old Selves
A.…and let God have our new selves.
1.If we are honest we can relate with the church in Corinth when Paul wrote to them in his first letter:
I Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
2.When we become Christians we must let go of our old selves, the lives that were led by the agenda and idols of the world and let God take over. Paul wrote of this often:
a.Ephesians 4:21-24 “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
b.2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
c.Romans 6: 4-11
3.Knowing we have put our old selves away we must have the same attitude as Paul: Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Letting go of our old selves and letting God have our new selves.
Conclusion:
To let go and Let God means to give back to God that which is already His, our lives. When we Let go and Let God we adopt His agenda for our own, we make Him the center of our heart and we devote ourselves to doing His will and in doing so we will reap the benefit of His love and His blessings and His promise of eternal life through our belief in His Son.
Over and over the scriptures make it clear that the ultimate offering God desires from us is to give our lives over in complete dependence on His ways. So for us it remains to Let go, Let Go!!!!

Unity And Diversity In The Church

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It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.

Maya Angelou
I am somewhat at odds about denominations dictating what is true verses the Holy Bible truth. The diversity illustrated in the bible has nothing to do with denominations. I pray we all would without bias look at true diversity through the lens of truth and get this gospel to the farthest parts of our communities and world together as the family of God.

Paul has spent the first three chapters of this letter explaining the mystery of God’s eternal purpose for the world as it’s being worked out in history. He’s given us all the theory, he’s even given us the prayer he prays for his converts, and now he goes on to speak about the practicalities of living out this spiritual reality.

But before we look at that, let’s think back to what we’ve already discovered in Ephesians. You see Paul begins this chapter by reminding them of the calling that they’ve received. I wonder can you tell me what Paul says is the calling of the Church. What is the major task confronting the church? What is the goal towards which we should be working? Part of it, from ch 1, is that we’re to be blameless and holy in his sight, Partly it’s that we might live to His glory. Likewise, in ch 2, we’ve been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. But that, I would suggest, is only an adjunct to the real calling that Paul is talking about here. Look at 3:10. Our calling is that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rest of creation. Go back further to 1:10. God’s plan for the world, and in particular, for the Church, is that all things should be brought together under one head, even Christ.

So the calling which we’ve received is a calling to be the new people of God bound together in unity under Christ; and so Paul goes on to outline how being the new people of God is to be worked out in the down-to-earth, concrete realities of life. As we’ll see over the next couple of weeks, the new society that God is calling into being has two major characteristics. First it’s one people, composed of both Jew and Gentile, without distinction, and secondly it’s a holy people, set apart to belong to God, and therefore showing by its life, a purity and righteousness that befits the people of God.

So today we’re thinking about the unity of the Church. How does that unity arise and how is it to be maintained.

A. It depends on our Christian character.

Paul begins his exhortation by listing 5 characteristics of the Christian that unity depends on: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Let’s think about these for a moment.

Not surprisingly he begins his list with humility. That is, the sort of attitude that Jesus displayed when he became a human being. In fact the word he uses is actually humility of mind. That is it’s an attitude that recognises the worth and value of other people. He begins his list here because humility is essential to unity. Pride almost always results in discord. Think about it for a moment. The people we tend to like are the people who show us the respect we deserve, or at least that we think we deserve. The ones we don’t like are the ones we sense don’t like us, or who won’t put up with our particular quirks. If however, rather than manoeuvring for the respect or regard of others (which is the nature of pride) we give them our respect, because we recognise in them their intrinsic God-given worth, (which is the nature of this humility of mind that Paul’s talking about) then we’ll be promoting harmony in the Church; and of course the unlooked for result will most probably be that they’ll respond to us with the same respect they’ve received.

Gentleness is a tricky word. It’s too easily understood as weakness It’s the word that used to be translated meekness. It’s the quality of moderation, the golden mean. Aristotle described it as “the mean between being too angry and never being angry at all.” It was a word that was used of work animals: of oxen or workhorses; even of battle stallions. It had the idea of strength under control. So it’s the characteristic of a strong personality who doesn’t let their strength control them, nor use it to control others. Rather it’s a strength that’s there to serve others. Paul uses the term in his instructions in 2 Tim 2:24,25 about how pastors are to deal with those who oppose the gospel, where he says: (NRSV) “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth,”

Notice that humility and gentleness form a natural pairing. They’re the words used by Jesus to describe himself “I am gentle and lowly of heart.” (Matt 11:29). The next two characteristics also form a natural pairing. Patience is a longsuffering attitude towards aggravating people: the sort of attitude that God has to us I guess, while mutual forbearance is the sort of mutual tolerance without which no group of human beings could ever live together in peace for any length of time.

The final characteristic in his list is love, which is more of an overarching quality that takes in all the other four and I guess actually enables them to be expressed. Paul will speak more of that at the end of this chapter when he speaks of personal holiness, but for now it’s enough to say that it’s the controlling force for everything else we do.

So here are five characteristics which make or break our efforts to live in unity: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Let me ask you, which of those do you lack? Look at them again: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Don’t think about anyone else. They’ll all lack one or more of those characteristics, I’m sure. Just think about yourself. If you fail to show one or more of those characteristics in your relationships with people then repent of it. Ask God to change you, to make you more like Jesus, so you can do your bit to make the Church more of the new creation that God wants it to be.

Well that’s what unity depends on: the nature of our Christian character. But Paul wants to drive home just how important this is, so he reminds us where our unity comes from.

B. It Arises from the Unity of our God

He says this is the reality into which we’ve all been incorporated: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

First of all, notice that this long list of ones centres around the 3 persons of the Trinity, either by referring to them directly or to things they bring about. So, for example, there’s one body because there is only one Spirit who brings the Church about and only one Lord Jesus who is its head. There’s one hope, one faith, one baptism, because there’s only one Lord Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Finally, although he doesn’t say it explicitly, there’s only one family of God because there’s only one Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

So our unity derives from the fact that the one Father creates the one family, the one Lord Jesus is the focus of the one faith, hope, and baptism, and the one Spirit creates the one body. When you think of it like that you suddenly realise what someone is doing whose actions damage the unity of the church. What they’re actually doing is attacking the very unity of the Godhead. Of course as you look around the churches today you realise that we’ve been very successful at breaking down this unity, haven’t we? Well, the unity of the Godhead isn’t damaged but its outworking in the churches often is and with it the church’s witness to the world. That’s why Paul makes this paradoxical plea in v3 to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You’d think the unity of the Spirit would be indestructible, yet we’re told to maintain it. So why does he say it? Because we live in a fallen world where spiritual realities aren’t always seen in the visible church. So we have to work hard if we’re to make the unity of the Church a reality in this fallen world. It’s a bit like this: Imagine we have an average family, Mr & Mrs Jones and their three children, Shane, Jarryd, and Ashley. Now imagine that like so many average families things aren’t going well. In fact they’re going very badly. Father and Mother have been at odds for years until they finally separate, then divorce. Shane, Jarryd and Ashley also argue, first with their parents then with each other, and the family begins to disintegrate. The three children move interstate, Shane to Sydney, Jarryd to Adelaide and Ashley to Perth. In fact they’re so at odds that they even change their names by deed poll so they won’t have to have anything to do with the rest of their family. Now suppose we were cousins of this family. How would we react? Would we just shrug our shoulders and say “Oh well, never mind, they’re still one family, you know”? Well, in a sense they are aren’t they? The facts of birth and heritage can’t be removed. But would we just ignore the situation, deny that this is a tragedy. No, if these were people were close to our hearts we’d do our best to encourage them to be reconciled with each other. We’d urge them to maintain the unity of the family by repenting and re-establishing peace within the family.

Well, that’s what Paul is saying here. Do your best to maintain that which is the spiritual reality of the case. If you call yourself by the name of the one God and Father, by the one Son; if you rely for your spiritual life on the one Spirit, then make sure you live in the church that way.

C. It’s enriched by the diversity of gifts

Thirdly, our unity is enriched and built up by the diversity of gifts in the Church. If you look at the great diversity of people and gifts and personality types in any given church you might well despair of ever reaching unity. You see, although there’s only one Church and one God, one Spirit, one Lord, etc, the church itself is made up of a whole lot of individuals, everyone of us different from all the rest. So how are we to come to unity from that sort of base.

Well, Paul says, it’s not as bad as it looks at first glance. You see each of us is different, true, we’re all individuals, but we’re different for a reason.. “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” That is, the differences you see are often the result of the different ways Christ wants us to work. Someone once likened the Church to a jigsaw puzzle. You know, one of those puzzles where no two pieces are the same. And not only are the pieces different, but they each have sections that stick out or in, that other pieces link into.

Now if you ever want to really annoy someone who’s a jigsaw freak, give them a large jigsaw puzzle with two or three pieces missing. It’ll drive them crazy! Well, that’s what the church is like. We’re like a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has a place, and where if one piece is missing, the picture is incomplete.

Now I don’t want to go into the bit about Christ descending and ascending, except to say that the picture is of the triumphant Christ pouring out his gifts on his people, Psalm 68 from which he quotes was traditionally used at Pentecost, so clearly Paul has in mind the gifts that accompany the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Notice though, that the gifts that he mentions are of a particular type. These is a different list to 1 Corinthians 12 for example. So what’s the difference? Well, the gifts he lists here are that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but a significant one. Why? Because these are all gifts with the same purpose: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. They’re all gifts that in one way or another bring God’s word to people, whether it’s for the first time as in apostles and prophets, or in the form of the gospel in the case of evangelists, or in a systematic and applied way in the case of pastors and teachers. And why is this important? Look back at 2:20: The Church is built upon this foundation: of God’s word left to us by the apostles and prophets. So these gifts are particularly important in the Church for building the church up. That isn’t to say that other gifts aren’t important, but when it comes to the church achieving the unity, and the maturity as we’ll see in a moment, that God desires, these gifts are to be prized by the Church.

D. It demands our growth to maturity.

But notice why these gifts are given They’re no just given so we can be built up. We’re not being built up for fun. No, the body of Christ is being built up until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. If we’re to achieve unity, then this is what we should be striving for: maturity! To be grown up. It’s what all children long for isn’t it?. But in the case of the Church maturity equates with attaining the full measure of the stature of Christ. That is, the same sort of unity that Christ experiences with the Father. Remember what he prayed for at the last supper? (John 17:20-21 NRSV) “”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” This is what it means to reach the measure of the full stature of Christ. To be one with each other and with God the Father. To be able to stand against all the winds of misfortune, all the blasts of the evil one. “No longer children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” he says, “15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” There’s a solidity about those we consider mature, isn’t there? One sign of immaturity is that you’re easily swayed from what’s true. But those who are mature aren’t like that. Rather they stick with the truth, speaking it in love. And how do you stick with the truth? Well, first you have to know it don’t you? That means you have to know your bibles. It’s not enough to know a few key verses. You need to have read the whole thing, over and over and over, until it finally starts to sink in. You need to study it with other Christians so you get your ideas straight. That’s why belonging to a small group is so important. Those who are mature as Christians are generally those who have read and studied God’s word for years and years, who are constantly applying it to their lives, as a corrective, as a guide. They’re the ones who can speak the truth in love and people will listen, because their study of God’s word has led to the sorts of characteristics we started with today: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love.

And the end result of all this is that as a church we grow up into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, (notice this) as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” Again, every part is needed. Every part needs to be working properly for the body to be built up.

So how can a diverse body like the church achieve the sort of unity that God desires? By growing up. By becoming more like Christ as we grow into him.

So speak the truth in love, and grow into Christ who is our head, Do your part in bringing the church to maturity, to unity, to the full stature of Christ.

Honor The Blood For It’s Redemption Power

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While the eagle was a powerful symbol for ancient Rome, it started, quite literally, as straw. Original standards were nothing more than a handful of straw gathered up and tied to a pole. Overtime legions opted for animal symbols that represented their spirit. In 102 B.C., Gaius Marius decreed that the Eagle alone become the defining emblem of Roman power. In his tome Natural History, the Roman writer Pliny The Elder explains, “Caius Marius, in his second consulship, assigned the eagle exclusively to the Roman legions. Before that period it had only held the first rank, there being four others as well, the wolf, the minotaur, the horse, and the wild boar, each of which preceded a single division.” For both the Greeks and Romans, eagles were held in high esteem, often being aligned with Zeus and his power. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder goes one describe how the Eagle was equal to a dragon in power and force, so that a battle between the two would be a duel to the death: “The dragon seeks the eggs of the eagle with a mischievous avidity; while the eagle, in return, carries it off whenever it happens to see it; upon these occasions, the dragon coils itself about the wings of the bird in multiplied folds, until at last they fall to the earth together.”

For Romans, the metal eagle attached to a pole was more than just a piece of military hardware that lead an army into war. The Eagle star Channing Tatum sums up concretely the emblem’s meaning: “There’s a saying in the book [The Eagle of the Ninth], “Eagle lost, honor lost; honor lost, all lost.” I think that is really how Rome felt. If you lost the Eagle then you sort of lost Rome.” For Tatum, his character Marcus Aquila is defined by the accusation that his father lost the eagle: “He has devoted his entire life to being the best soldier that he possibly can so he can rewrite his family’s name.”

Originally the eagle was probably made of silver with a golden thunderbolt in its claw. Above the eagle on the standard a gold bar bore the message SPQR (Senatus Populus Romanus), a title that honored the Senate and the people of Rome. While the primary function of the eagle was symbolic (representing not only the legion, but the Roman empire as well), it also proved a strategic tool. In the chaos of battle, troops would often look for the standard to orient their actions, often following commands to not move further than a few steps from it. When legions sets up camp, the eagle would be the first thing planted, often being given a tent of its own. One soldier, the aquilifer, would be given the honor of carrying the eagle into battle and guarding its existence.

In the movie “The Eagle” I saw so much honor reflected about this eagle that I wanted to pay tribute to the honor I feel about my Savior. Jesus took it all and left us with the “Blood” that purchased us back to Him and “ABBA”. The blood is worth dieing to myself daily just as these soldier showed honor to an eagle for thier belief I want to show my honor to my Savior.

I want to be an honored vessel in God’s House. It’s a privilege and an honor to be used by God in any fashion. I thank him for allowing me that chance. But before I can become a vessel at all there has to be a change in me.

Before I can become a vessel, God had to find me in the pit where I was nothing more than an impure lump of clay.

The Bible says in Psalms 40:2, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

That’s what the potter does when he begins to bring to pass the new creation that he has in mind for me to be. I’m not anything special, but I am a chosen lump of clay. I didn’t look any different from all of the other clay that was in the pit with me. All around me there were other people, other lumps of clay, we all looked the same. All of us were just dirt, lost in sin, stuck in the mire where there was no escape for we were are dead lumps of clay with no hope and no future to speak of. Some of those other lumps of clay, at least to my own point of view, would have been a lot better pick for the Master’s House. They had a lot more to offer than I did. But in God’s sight, he is no respecter of persons. The only thing God looks for in the clay he chooses is whether that clay will yield itself to his design.

Praise God! He chose me. God’s hand reached down into that pit, scooped up this old piece of clay, examined it and said, “Now here’s a lump of clay with promise.” He saw something in me that I couldn’t see.

There’s a song that I once sang and that Aunt Virgie and others have sang that says it this way, “Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own Son. I’m so unworthy of the stripes that he bore. Yet he chose the road to Calvary to die in my stead. Why he loved me, I can’t understand. Roll back those curtains now and then and remind me dear Lord, remind that I’m just a lump of clay and that without your hand leading me, guiding me, molding me and making me, I would be nothing more than a useless piece of dirt, unfit for the Master’s House.

I am reminded of the word of the Lord to the Prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 18:1-4, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”

The clay didn’t make the choice to jump into the potter’s hand. It was the potter that chose the clay.

John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

God chose me, and God chose you! The Great Potter, maker of all vessels and the one who will give honor to whom honor is due, chose us for his House!

Who are we to now question what God wants to do with our lives? Why do we strive against the Potter’s hands? Why do we think that we know more about ourselves than the Potter who forms us, creates us, molds us and has a design for us?

Yet every day I see the clay as it argues with the Potter! God, I can’t do what you have called me to do. Mr. Potter, I can’t bend that much; I won’t stretch that much; I can’t stand the pressure; I want to be a vessel; I want to be used; but why does it have to be so hard all the time? Can’t you mold me a little easier? Can’t you be a little more gentle; after all, I’m just a lump of clay.

Well, if you are just a lump of clay, then you need to shut up and let the potter have his way. The clay can’t mold itself. A pot doesn’t just form all by itself one day. It must come under the hands of the Creator before it can be anything other than just clay. But somehow we have convinced ourselves that we know more than God and we start trying to tell the Potter that we know more than he does.

Isaiah 29:16, “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?”

Pick up a handful of dirt and what do you see – Nothing but dirt! If that handful of dirt started arguing with me, I’d be very tempted to do either one of three things. I’d either throw it down out of surprise at it’s voice; or I’d slap it few times to make it be quiet; or most likely, I’d go check myself into an asylum somewhere. Who ever heard of dirt arguing with someone?

But that’s what we do. We are nothing more than a lump of dirt that argues with the Creator that spoke us into existence. That’s what I call the height of audacity!

Just being lifted out of the miry pit with all the other clay is a miracle of the highest order, but that’s only the beginning.

How many people get saved and yet never become useful vessels in the House of God? I can tell you that there are a lot of them. In fact, I wonder if the majority of the clay pots in the House of God aren’t just there for the looks, because many don’t seem to have a real job to do, or at least they aren’t doing it.

If we are going to be an honored vessel in God’s House there has to be a change from our natural condition where God found us.

God has to get all the hard lumps out of us and make us completely pliable.
Even in our natural state, if we find a lump somewhere in this body that we live in, we get concerned because that lump probably shouldn’t be there. Sometimes we call it a tumor, or a cancer, but it’s almost always something that has to be taken care of by the surgeon’s knife.

Yet we come to God and when he starts trying to take out the hard-hearted attitudes, and the hard-headed way of thinking, and the lumps of sin and shame, we often resist his hand in our lives. He is trying to get us into shape to be used and we are fighting him every step of the way.

Sometimes we are too dry, so God has to water us a lot with his Word so that we can be more pliable. That water of the Word softens the lumps.

But I’ve also seen some folks who have “too much water”. What I mean by that is that they become so spiritually minded that they are of no earthly good. They are too slick to work with because they think that they have arrived, when all the while God can’t get hold of them. They are sticky and oozing and you can’t get a certain shape out of them.

People like that stick to everything and everything sticks to them. Have you ever had your foot stuck in the wet clay? It will hold on to your shoe and you can hardly pull yourself free. And when you do get free, if your shoe comes out, the clay is stuck to it making it hard to walk.

That’s the same effect some old wet Christians have on you. You can’t get them to turn loose of their own way of thinking, and if you aren’t careful, their way of thinking will get hold of you. God can’t change them; you can’t change them, and they refuse to change themselves. God can’t make a useful vessel out of a lump of clay that won’t yield to his will.

The only way that you will ever be an honored vessel in God’s house is to become pliable in his hands. It has to be God’s work in you, and nothing that you can do on your own. The Holy Spirit has to lead and teach you. The Word of God has to keep you watered and pliable. And then you can be formed into the image that God has in mind for you.

Finally I want to say that being a vessel in God’s house is a glorious thing. But I don’t want to just stand around looking nice. I want to be used.

2 Timothy 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.”

I know that there are ornate vases, fine china dishes, and very finely decorated pieces of pottery in a lot of homes. And then there are the every day dishes, like plastic plates or even ceramic cups that are used all the time. Some are there only to be seen while others are fulfilling the purpose of their existence.

All of them bear the marks of their designer, but not all are being used as they were intended.

In man’s way of thinking, it is the ornate, fine china and very delicate pieces that are the most valuable, but I believe that in God’s house, it’s the common vessels that are honored most.

I want to be used by God. God formed us into vessels to be used for a purpose, not just to stand in the corner looking good.

It’s those vessels that bear the marks of daily service that are the most honored. It’s those vessels that have a few chips on the edges, or a cracked handle, or a few scars of battle that give God glory.

In his letter to the Galatians Paul writes these words: Galatians 6:17, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Paul was an honored vessel in God’s House. His life gave glory to the Potter. He was used like few vessels have ever been used. And yet he was scarred, battered and beaten because he fulfilled his purpose.

If you are going to be used by God, get ready for a few battle scars. But if you really want to be an honored vessel, then let God use you as he wills. Only those vessels that are willing vessels will be honored in Heaven one day. Those who refuse to be what God wants them to be will be cast into the pits forever.

I want to be an honored vessel!

Don’t Let Satan Hinder Your Prayer Life

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What we think, we become.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.
– The Buddha

Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you understand what will eventually happen to your people. The vision has to do with what’s ahead.’

This passage is a wonderful teaching on prayer and shows us the direct hinderance Satan can be in our lives. Daniel had fasted and prayered for twenty-one difficult days. As far as we can tell from the biblical account, the difficulty came not because Daniel was not a good person nor because his prayer was not right but because of a special attack fron Satan.

The Lord had sent His angelic messenger to tell Daniel that his prayer was answered the moment he began to play, but the good angel was hindered by an evil angel who met him along the way and wrestled with him. This conflict occured in the heavens, yet Daniel experienced the same kind of conflict here on earth as he agonized in prayer.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,… and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”(Eph.6:12). Satan’s attack and the ensuing struggle delayed the answer three full weeks. Daniel was nearly defeated, and Satan would have been glad to kill him, but God would not allow anything to come upon Daniel beyond what he could bear.

Many prayers of believers are hindered by Satan. Yet you do not need to fear when your unanswered prayers are piling up, for soon they will break through like a flood. When that happens, not only will your answer flow through but they will also be accompanied by new blessings. Hell works the hardest on God’s saints. The most worthy souls will be tested with the most pressure and the highest heat, but heaven will not desert them.

My week has been coupled with attacks on my character and peace and my prayers have seem as if they are not getting through, but this word is for times like this. I have not surrendered 80% to His care, but 100% to Him who is able to present me faultless and keep me from stumbling and falling. Be encouraged my family of believers!!!!

Jesus is Lord Because Of How He Rules

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Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.

Blaise Pascal

ruler

He brushed his teeth twice a day and the doctor examined him twice a year.
He wore galoshes when it rained, slept with the windows open, stuck to a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and got at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
He never smoked, drank, or lost his temper. He exercised every day.
He was all set to live to be 100.

(pause…) The funeral will be Wednesday. He was only 53. He is survived by 18 specialists, 4 health institutions, 6 gymnasiums, and numerous manufacturers of health foods and drugs.

APPLY: He followed all the rules. He imposed upon himself a strict regimen.
He did everything he was told to do to have a long life… and yet he still died.
All the specialists,
all the health institutions
all the gymnasiums
all the manufacturers of health food and drugs…
and all the rules and regulations that he abided by…
still couldn’t help him attain his goal
He still died.

Now, if you were to listen to the health gurus of our day, you might be fooled into believing that if you did everything right, you could live almost forever. And yet, many of us realize that EVEN if you follow all the rules and take strict care of our bodies… we can still die at any time.
Such behavior MIGHT make our lives more healthy or more wholesome… but there is no guarantee of that either.

I. The Colossian Church was being visited by spiritual gurus offering similar assurances. These were false teachers – GUARENTEEING that their teachings would make anyone who followed their instructions acceptable to God… and if they dutifully followed those instructions, they could live for eternity.

Paul referred to the teachings of these individuals as being…
· hollow and deceptive philosophy (vs. 8)
· based upon “human tradition”
· and following “the principles of this world” vs. being based on Christ

What was this false theology?
What was being taught by this false teachers that was so threatening to the faith of the Christians in Colossae?
What was this false theology that Paul regarded as so evil and devious?

It was this: the false teachers were guaranteeing that those who observed their strict set of rules and regulations could be assured of being holy and pure AND acceptable to God.

Now, on the face of it… that does seem to make sense.

Everybody has rules
– Schools have rules
– Work places have rules
– Homes have rules
– Even churches have rules
It’s part of what makes for an orderly society. When everybody knows what the rules are, its then easier to live and work together.

And in religion, it helps to know what the boundaries are.
If I know what to avoid
if I know what sin IS
then I won’t sin nearly as often.

Although that doesn’t always work out that way.

A minister once told his congregation that there were 700 different sins. That afternoon he received 46 requests for the list.
Everybody wanted to know what they were missing out on!

Knowing the rules was even important in the Old Testament. Part of the purpose of the Old Testament Laws was to help God’s people know the difference between right and wrong.

II. Playing upon this “truth” the false teachers (who had come to Colossae) had put together a rulebook of what Christians had to do – and not do – to be acceptable to God.

Look with me to Colossians 2:20-23:
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:  “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

You see, these folks had come up with a whole list of things that said “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”
That is the nature of rules and regulations – don’t do this, don’t do that.
That’s what you and I would expect from a rulebook.

But… as I was studying this text, there was one phrase that LITERALLY SHOCKED ME.

Look again at vs. 23: “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they LACK ANY VALUE IN RESTRAINING SENSUAL INDULGENCE.”

WHOA! Wait a minute…
You mean – if I know all the rules.
If I understand all the “dos and don’ts…
even that won’t help me restrain my sinful impulses?

Yeah… that’s what it says.

Well, how could that be?
That doesn’t make any sense – does it???

III. But, then I got to thinking – yeah, that does make sense
Think about it:
When you’re driving down the highway you might see a sign that says: “55 mph.” What does that mean? (Get them to answer)
Now, how often do you see people driving at that rate of speed – or less? (there was laughter)

AND if you do see someone driving at that rate of speed – what ends up happening?
Everybody’s passing them.
It’s like they were following some little old lady who can just barely see over the steering wheel driving at 5 mph.
At the earliest possible opportunity the other drivers pull around and shoot on down the road.

WHY? – Don’t they know what the speed limit is?
Of course they do.
It’s just that they regard the posted speed as being too slow for their needs.

Even police have difficulty keeping the speed limits
ILLUS: I once read the true story of a group of motorists who were on an Interstate in Pennsylvania. They were all clipping along at a pretty high rate of speed…. until they spotted a state policeman coming onto the access ramp behind them. Then everybody slooooowed down!
Now, because there had been road work on the highway that summer, their side of the Interstate was restricted to one lane traffic and no one could pass anyone else.
After a couple of miles on this Pennsylvania highway, the state policeman activated his bullhorn and his voice was heard thru the open windows of the drivers in front of him: “I’m not an Pennsylvania State policeman… I’m from Connecticut! You can speed up now!”

EVEN POLICEMEN have problems obeying the speed limit. It’s too limiting even for them.

The rule that we should drive 55mph (or whatever speed) has NO power to keep us from breaking the law.

If the rules become inconvenient, or challenge our sense of what we consider to be fair and just… we ignore the law, or we’ll find a way to bend the rules… or simply break them. And we’ll always have an excuse or a rationalization as to why we can bend that rule.

What rationalization do people give for going 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit? (Give them a chance to answer).
That’s right! They tell you that there is a 5 to 10 mile per hour “grace” given by the police. While that may be true… it is still a rationalization.

IV. You see, the problem with depending upon rules to make us moral is this:
If I want to keep a rule… I will
If I don’t… I won’t

Sooo… the rules and regulations will make me only as moral as I want to be – No more and no less!

Therefore if I’m going to be more moral than I have been in the past then I have to WANT to be more moral than I have been. Something has to change within me to make me want to be different.

Jesus said: “…out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean” Mark 7:21-23

I once heard the story about a small village in Africa where the water was supplied by a well in the middle of the town.
One day, the water from the well grew stale and diseased, and many people got sick. But they weren’t sure why.
They tried boiling the water (to no avail).
They cleaned out their hot water boilers and they boiled the water again, but nothing worked.
Then specialists from the UN came in and inspected the well. They found that the pump was cracked and that surface water was seeping in and contaminating the supply. When they installed a new pump, the water was again pure and diseases stopped.

In order for the water to be pure, something had to change in the heart of the well.
The pump needed to be changed. Then the water became clean.

So also – in us – something has to change in our hearts, or our deeds will always be tainted.

We may be able to set down a set of rules (and everybody does have a set of rules by which they live) but those rules will always be warped by OUR desires .

That which we WANT TO DO will always color our obedience to the rules.

Something has to change inside of us.

Well, now… apparently something has changed. Look again at Colossians 2:9-15 (READ)
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Something HAS changed inside of us.
When you and I were baptized into Christ:
· Our sinful past was removed, like dead flesh being cut from your body (vs. 11)
· Our hearts were filled with Christ (vs. 10)
· You and I have been forgiven of ALL our sins (vs. 13)
· AND we’ve been made alive in Jesus (vs. 13)

In other words, your old sinful heart has been taken out – it’s been cut away – and replaced with a new Christ-powered/Christ-centered heart

Because of that… NOW, you don’t do good things because of rules and regulations. Now, you do good things because Christ dwells within you.

You’re not moral because you HAVE to be
You’re moral because you WANT to be – because your heart now belongs to Jesus Christ

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story:
A woman was married to a tyrant of a husband.
He didn’t like the way she kept house.
He didn’t like the way she did laundry
He didn’t like the way she ironed his clothes.
He didn’t like the way she dressed.
He didn’t like the way she conducted herself in public
He constantly criticized her for everything.

Early on their marriage he handed her a list of 25 rules for her to follow.
She hated it… and she hated him.
You can imagine how frustrating it was to her to have to constantly check her list to see if she was pleasing him – and to stay out of trouble.
But, she usually failed miserably – and each time, she got a tongue lashing from him – he made her feel miserable and small.

Then, one day much to her great joy, the abusive husband died.
Soon, she fell in love with AND married a wonderful loving man. They loved each other very deeply. She practically broke her neck to please him – and even brought him breakfast in bed.
One day, she ran across that old list, and the feelings of anger and inferiority returned. But, suddenly she began to laugh! As she checked the list, she realized that she was now doing all of these for her new husband and many more. And she did these tasks now with great joy because she loved this man.

Rules and regulations won’t make us moral
They can’t make us acceptable to God
But with a new heart within us and an overpowering love for Jesus in our lives
We CAN joyfully serve God knowing that we’ve been changed on the inside so that we can be changed on the outside.

Jesus the ruler who completely rebuilt the structure of faith by actually becoming the word in the flesh has laid a great foundation for us as called and elected, victorious children to abide by and within without any added mis quoted interpatations of His holy word.

The Road to Greatness

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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

 William Shakespear

 

How does the world judge a man to be great?

Often men are declared to be great if they have the ability to influence heads of state or leaders in society as Statesmen.  These are often found as Leaders of Nations, peacekeepers and builders of society.

James Madison, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, John Quincey Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, James Munroe and John Adams are a few names that come to mind.

Some men are declared to be great because they have a literary genius with the gift of writing a story in such a manner that it will entertain or enlighten the masses.

James Russell Lowell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bayard Taylor,  J. C. Whittier, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Washington Irving are but a few that I have read some of their great stories.

Other great men come from the ranks of those who have the ability to paint a picture in your mind by using words and phrases, creating poems, short stories and plays that will stir the heart and soul.

Frederick Schiller, Robert Browning, Edgar A Poe “quote the Raven “Nevermore”, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Shakespearem “To be or not to be; that is the question” and “Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo”, John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness”, Robert Burns, Johann Wolfgang Goethe and John Milton and his “Paradise Lost” are just a few.

A few men throughout history have had greatness placed upon them because of their ability to discover the secrets of science and mathematics; bringing the whole of mankind into a new realm of knowledge and creating a better way of life.

Who among us have not heard of Sir. Isaac Newton and his study of gravity.  He discovered gravity supposedly when an apple fell out of the tree and hit him on the head and he couldn’t understand why.  Aristotle the philosopher and scientist, Galileo and his studies of the stars and inventor of the telescope, Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity; Marie Curie and the study of Radium and X-Rays, Thomas Edison with his light bulb and telephone, Louis Pasteur and his studies that made so many of foods we eat safer to consume; and good old Guglielmo Marconi who invented wireless telegraph and radio waves – the precursor to the cell phone

Most of us here have also been influenced by some of the great musicians and composers of the world, people who were declared great becasue of their gift of making sounds into a force to move both body and soul, or directing great orchestras to thrill the listeners.

Johann Sebastian Bach, George Handel and his “Messiah”, Peter Tchaikovsky and his work called “Sugar Plum Fairy”; better known to most of us at Christmas time as “The Nutcracker”, Frederic Chopin whose piano concertos are played at many a piano recital; and let’s not forget old Ludwig Von Beethoven and his 5th Symphony that begins with “ta-ta-ta-TA”.

In this world there is only one way to truly be considered a great man or woman, and that is to have the ability to use your talent and charisma to move the hearts and men and to influence the very culture and existence of the society in which you live.

It has been said that inside each of us are the seeds of greatness.  The problem is that for most of us, those seeds never produce what it takes to make us great in the eyes of the world.  Most people are born into this world to live in mediocrity; after all, if we were all great, then who would be truly great?  Greatness in the world can only be attained by doing more, accomplishing more or being more than anyone around you.  A man or woman who want to be great in the eyes of his neighbor must rise above the ordinary; reach for the impossible and achieve the improbably.  He or she must be willing to go where “no man has gone before”.  Most people will never pay that price or reach that high.  They do not believe that the achievement of such dreams is meant for them; and so they relegate themselves to being common, ordinary men and women who never truly experience the great thrill of victory or the tremendous agony of defeat.

Since I don’t see the seed of greatness according to the world growing too rapidly in most of us tonight, I thought it might be good to know that the standards of greatness used by the world are vastly different than those used by our Creator to establish who is truly great among men.

To be great in the eyes of the world is a wonderful achievement as long as that greatness came through moral and just means.  Too many people achieve greatness through subversion and deceit.  Even though the world may call them great, in the eyes of God they are poor, naked, wretched and blind.  They might walk with their heads held high in pride before the world, but one day they will bow their knee and their head before Almighty God in shame and disgrace.  I don’t want that kind of greatness.  I want that greatness that obtains the approval of my God.

There were 12 men who followed Jesus through most of his 3 ½ years of earthly ministry.  Today, as Christians, we look back upon these men as great men; at least most of them.  With the exception of Judas Iscariot, all of the disciples are great men of the faith.  We should note there that just being among great men; and following a great man; does not guarantee greatness to any of us.  It takes more than be a part of the crowd or following someone else.  It takes personal commitment and a willingness to stick your neck out, above the crowd, and take some risks that others would not take.

As we begin reading in Matthew chapter 18 and verse 1 we will find that this question of greatness also rests upon the minds of the disciples.

Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The disciples all wanted to be great in the eyes of God.  They wanted to be noted for their accomplishments; praised for their life’s work; and rewarded by the Lord himself for their faithfulness to his kingdom.  Isn’t that what we all really want?  Don’t you want to be called great by Jesus on that great day when you stand before Him?  Don’t you want to hear those words, “Welcome home my child and Well done”?

How would Jesus answer their question?  What would it take to be called a great man in the eyes of the Lord?  Jesus used an object lesson on this day to teach all of us what God considers to be the description of a truly great man or woman.

Matthew 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

(picture a child or baby)  Here’s one of own little kids in the church.  I want you to look at that beautiful face and that wonderful smile.  Look at this baby good because Jesus is going to have some strong teaching for you right from the face of this little baby.

Matthew 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Could you get mad at this baby?  Really – could you?  Ask Sis. Becky if it’s possible to get mad at this baby.  I’ll bet there are times when you could get man, like when she feels bad and won’t let you rest; or when you have her all dressed up nicely like this and then she decides its time to get rid of both dinner and breakfast out of each end; and now you’ll have to start all over again.  No one ever said it would be easy to have little kids around, but Jesus knew how to use just such a little child to teach us a lesson on true greatness.

First of all let me tell you that greatness in the eyes of God doesn’t mean that everything you do or say is perfect.  This child can’t speak plainly; and the day will probably come when her mom will wish that she had stayed this way, but she won’t.  She will grow up, learning more every day, until one day she will not be a baby anymore, but will be growing into the lady that she will become in time.

Childhood is all too short sometimes.  The parents wish that the baby would grow out of diapers and get potty trained, and I don’t blame them.  But when that day comes, there’s a whole new set of things to deal with.  Now it’s keeping them out of the cabinets and watching every move they make.  Then, when they finally get old enough that you don’t have to watch that they hurt themselves, is when you have to worry about another set of circumstances.

I have discovered, as many of you have, that no matter how old your kids get, or how much they may grow and change, with every stage of life there comes a whole new set of circumstances for you to worry about, and the older they get, the more their mistakes can cost.
Some of us allow the circumstances of life to get us down to the point that we develop a face only a mother could love – like these poor folks  (slide

The most obvious point of Jesus’ lesson is that he picked a small child in the first place.  He didn’t pick out John and stand him up as the object lesson; and he certainly didn’t choose Peter.  Even though they were to become great men of God, their greatness was yet to be developed.

Why a child? Jesus picked a child because there was no man or woman on earth who would still have the childlike spirit to use as an example.  Children, especially little children, before they begin to learn that they can fight and argue to have their way, are humble, not filled with ego or pride and are not envious of anyone else.  They haven’t learned the art of fighting for my rights, and they have no ulterior motives and seek no pre-eminence.  They have no thoughts of who is greater or lesser.  They are just content to be little kids.

So the pathway to greatness in the eyes of God is that first we must develop the same spirit as that little child.

Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Greatness in the eyes of God is not based on accomplishments that all men can see.  Greatness is based on the condition of the heart and the submission of the will to God’s will.  Greatness is not based on titles, offices or position; nor is it based upon how much we effect the lives of other people.  All of these things are accomplished because of greatness; they don’t make us great.  Greatness is something comes from the heart first of all and then shows up in what we do for God.

Matthew 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

Greatness in the eyes of God can only be obtained by being more like God.  If we humble ourselves as that little child to become trusting, loving and forgiving; and become a perfect servant like Jesus; then greatness can begin to grow.  By receiving Christ into our hearts, we can begin that journey toward greatness, for that first step must always be to humble ourselves in the sight of God and let Him be the Lord of our lives.

Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

In this verse lies a tremendous key to obtaining greatness.  The key is that we must learn to first treat others as though they were already great – all of the time.  It also carries a powerful warning to anyone who refuses to recognize the greatness that is in all of us that God has already placed there.

This is a lesson that we all need to learn in the church.  Every argument; every disagreement; every sharp tongued remark; every hurt feeling; every church split every grudge that we might hold; and all thoughts of revenge for wrongs we have suffered would be forever abolished if we could just learn that all of us are but babes in Christ.  None of us have arrived.  None are perfect.  But we’re all striving for that perfection.

The problem is that we step out of the humble stage onto the “Me Stage” where suddenly it’s what I want; what I think; what I feel or what I know; that matters.

Pride enters the door of the heart and humility goes out the window of the soul.  Pride and humility cannot dwell in the same heart, at the same time.

I talked about that baby a while ago.  What is it that makes anger arise in us if that baby does something to make us mad?  Do we feel some sort of threat from the child?  Of course not.  That baby is just doing what comes naturally.  We just happen to be in the line of fire.  What causes anger to arise is that suddenly “I am inconvenienced” or “My plans are changed or delayed” or “My rest is interrupted”.  It’s all about the “Big I”; not about the baby.

And that’s the way it is in the church as well.  We don’t get upset at someone because they want to do something a certain way.  No, it’s because they don’t want to do it “my way”.  It’s not that they know something, it’s that they think they know “More than I do”.

Prayer Request

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I do believe we’re all connected. I do believe in positive energy. I do believe in the power of prayer. I do believe in putting good out into the world. And I believe in taking care of each other.

 Harvey Fierstein

To my faithful community,

I am confidently sending this request out to those of you I have plussed with in the name of Jesus to agree with me for the healing of these individuals mentioned in the text below. I want to thank you in advance for your time and faith related to this important issue.

 

PRAYER REQUEST!!! This prayer request is for my nephew Quintell and his wife Destaney who are expecting twins. She is having complications with carrying them and the doctors are wanting to save the mother and take the babies. Now as the prayer warriors that we all are I am asking everyone who reads this message to say a mighty prayer for the saving of both mother and the babies. I also ask for prayer for their strength as a couple and as expectant parents. We know that God is the greatest physician, the greatest healer, the greatest comforter, and the Most Sovereign and Most High God and only his will be done in their lives and ours. May the God that we serve continue to Bless and Keep all those of you who will be praying on the behalf of Quintell and Destaney and their gifts from God…May Pratt