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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Whose horse? What saddle?

Here's the point that some people will go their whole lives and never get, you can put a thousand dollar saddle on a hundred dollar horse, and at the end of the day you still have a hundred dollar horse.  Yeah, yeah, I know that some of you reading this figure that I've finally gone all the way 'round the bend.  But, believe it or not, there is a method to my madness, so just hang in there! 

Let's call it whatever you want to, thousand dollar saddles and hundred dollar horses, smoke and mirrors, mirrors and smoke, sleight of hand.  You figure out what you want to call it, whatever you're comfortable with.  Because that seems to be the most important issue in our country today.  The most important issue is not  the issue at hand, but how we reconcile the issue at hand.  Example (I'll use a favorite peeve of mine): A majority of churches no longer have an altar call at the end of services.  When I have personally have asked a number of other ministers why this is, I get the answer that the issue of altar calls makes too many of their congregants uncomfortable, so it's something that isn't discussed.  Notice that it isn't the altar calls themselves, but the issue of not having them, that makes the people uncomfortable.  This particular issue is a kind of 'double-end-around' issue.  What I mean by that is that the reason why the altar calls were stopped is safely tucked away out of sight, and therefore out of mind (unless that pesky Holy Spirit gets involved, and I pray He will!).  So by refusing to discuss the fact that there are no altar calls, people are spared the uncomfortableness of having to discuss the original reason, which would by necessity have to be part of the discussion on the issue of no altar calls.  There, have you got it?  What really concerns me here is that not too many years ago, just about the only place you saw or read about this type of illusions, or disillusions, was in politics.  But now, unfortunately, this is the case no longer. 

Before we go any farther, let me try to answer a question that may be popping up in some minds.  Some of you may be wondering if I'm a liberal Democrat, or a conservative Republican, or maybe a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat.  I suppose that these are fair questions, but for me the problems began when church members start identifying themselves as a liberal this or a conservative that.  Maybe some of you are wondering which of those I am in church, a liberal or a conservative.  Okay, I'll give it a shot to describe myself in both the church setting and the political venue.   I'm a Christian.  I'm not a liberal Christian, or a conservative Christian.  I'm not a Republican Christian, or a Democratic Christian.  I'm a Christian, and just like those early disciples at Antioch were identified as Christians, so am I called a Christian.  That's it, the whole sheebang, the whole kit-and-cabootle, the big cheese.

'And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.'  (Acts 11:26    NKJV)

As you may have figured out already, I'm not denominational, and that's because I've yet to read anywhere in the Scriptures that Believers are to be identified by any name, title, or label other than what the disciples were called there in Antioch.  Do I think that denominations are evil or against what the Scriptures teach? I'll answer this question with a 'conditional' no.  So long as the doctrines taught and preached are in no way contrary to Scripture, then no, I don't see denominations as evil or against the teachings of Scriptures.  My primary concern with different denominations is that most of them have the tendency to add doctrinal elements to their worship rituals that are not based on Scripture.  (We used to call this practice 'legalism' back in the day, but I understand that the word 'legalism' isn't politically correct these days, so we just ignore these things, we mustn't make anyone uncomfortable you know.) 

Let's get back to our issue today, and yes, I do have the tendency to wander a bit, I sure hope that doesn't make anybody uncomfortable. 

It seems to be the question at the top of every bodies list(s) these days as to whether or not Obama is a Christian or a muslim.  This question itself is actually what prompted my ramblings today.  A wide variety of people have a wide variety of answers, and explanations, and accusations, and..... It just goes on and on, continually feeding on itself.  The most troubling aspect of this whole issue is the thousand dollar saddle and hundred dollar horse thing.  Most of those who weigh in on this debate don't really care about whether he is a Christian or a muslimboth foreign and abroad. 

Now I'm going to do something different, that I've only done once or twice before.  I'm going to stop right here and leave it up to you to spend some time (hopefully a considerable amount of time) in prayer over these questions.  My prayer is that you will come before the Lord, and claim His promises that He will guide you in any decisions you may need to make.  These changes aren't only to do with who you may or may not vote for any time the election polls are open.  These changes are much more important than that.  These changes, should there be need for changes, are directly related to your status before our God in heaven.  Liberals, conservatives, moderates, Democrats, Republicans.  Before you decide anything, read your Bible!  See what the Scriptures says about how we, as New Testament Believers, should not only be identified by others, but more importantly, how we have to see ourselves before God.

Be Blessed my Brothers and Sisters before the Lord!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Choose Your Environment!

Not too many times will we find that certain ideas, or 'notions' as my Great-grandmother would have said, put forth from professionals in the secular world agree with truths claimed by Christians.  Maybe I should rephrase that last bit to read something like, 'with truths that should be claimed by Christians.'  There, that's much better, don't you thing? 

If you've ever spent much time studying, or just reading maybe, about the 'professionals' thoughts and opinions in regards to the development of our childrens minds and personalities, then without a doubt you've come across terms and phrases like 'conditioning' and 'formative years' and 'positive environment' and 'negative environment' along with many others.  I believe that along with these terms, and the many, many more that we don't have nearly enough room to list, it's a well-established fact that the development of children's personalities and characters is affected in large by the environment(s) they are subjected to.  We're not going to get into a bunch of the gory details like 'socio-economic influences' and others. For the purpose of my rambling today, we'll be satisfied with the premise that humans are influenced by and in many ways, become one with, their environment.  Now let's take this to the next level, and by that I mean let's look at this secular statement as a Scriptural truth. 

'And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.'  (Hebrews 10:24-25    NKJV)

The author of Hebrews may not have been addressing the issues of conditioning or becoming one with your environment, but we have to note that the writer had some very specific reasons to '...not forsak[ing] the assembling of ourselves together...'   From the beginning of this piece of Scripture, we, as Christians, are told that for the purpose of 'stir[ring]'  up what is accepted as the most important instruction given to New Testament Believers, we need to not hinder this instruction in any way by not coming together with other Believers.  In other words, in order to fulfill this instruction, along with doing good works, we need to create an environment that we will become one with and are greatly influenced by.  That environment can not be created, sustained, or built upon except by and through God, Christ Jesus, and Fellow Believers.  I'm sure that like most of us, you may have been told by people that they didn't need to be in church to worship God, and that is very true.  But we have to understand exactly what the Biblical meaning of 'church' is.  If we go back just a bit into the Greek, which we know was the original language that most, if not all, of the New Testament was written in, we end up with the word that has been translated a vast majority of the time by most scholars into the english word 'church' that actually has a slightly different meaning.  While the difference may not be noticable in most cases, for our purpose here today we need to identify what I think I'll refer to as the 'suble differences' in an applied, or practical, meaning of the words 'church' and 'assembly.' 

Most of the time when someone uses or hears the word 'church' the mental image that pops to mind is a white building with a tall steeple set on top of a bell tower.  This image will have as it's backdrop a setting of large shade trees, and there might even be a slowly running creek at the edge of the property.  Now, just how close was I?  Come on, let's be honest, I pretty much nailed it, didn't I?  But let's use the word that more closely reveals not just the etymology of the [Greek] word loosely translated into the english word 'church' and see where that takes us.  According to [James] Strong, the [Greek] word 'ekklesia' does not have as an absolute meaning anything that comes anywhere near this mental image we were looking at just a minute ago.  In fact, Strong finishes his definition of this word translated into the English as 'church' with the statement that, "In the N.T. a church is never a building or meeting place."  He does note earlier that 'ekklesia' describes a 'church, congregation, assembly; a group of people gathered together.'  Let's follow this track and see what an examination of the more accurate meaning of our Greek word 'ekklesia' can tell us.  Ekklesia takes us to 'koinonia', which gives us the meaning, "Fellowship, the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them; by extension: participation, sharing, contribution, gift, the outcome of such close relationships: fellowship, communion, communicate, communication, contribution, distribution."  Do you see the meaning of the Greek 'koinonia', which has a literal meaning of 'fellowship' being displayed in the words of our Scripture from the book of Hebrews that we looked at earlier?  Tie that in with what the illustrious Mr. Strongs noted was the product, or end results, of this kind of church (ekklesia) or fellowship (koinonia), that being 'fellowship, communion, communicate, communication, contribution, distribution.'  To my way of thinking, which I do my best to keep consistent with God's Will with a lot of praying and communion, the end results of mans fellowship with man, as well as man's relationship with God, has to have as it's [Spiritual] focus these products listed by Strong. 

Okay, now lets tie up all of our loose ends.  We began by acknowledging that both secular man and Scripture agrees that the environment that man finds himself in, whether by design or coincidence, in large part determines who and what man is and will become.  Just as each of us has to make the conscious decision to come to the Throne of Grace and accept the blood of Christ as atonement for sin, so does each of us have to make the conscious decision to decide the who's, the what's, and the where's of our own individual environment(s).  No one can make any of these choices for us, and by that same token, no one except me is responsible for my decisions and no one except you is responsible for yours.  I know that it sounds pretty simple, just make a couple of choices and all will be good.  But I also know that making these choices, and then living these choices is anything but easy.  I take comfort that no matter how hard or inconvenient my choices to make may be, they are not nearly as difficult as a Fellow I've read about who lived His whole life based on a choice He had made, and knew that the final act of His choice would be to demonstrate the greatest [kind of] love any person can have for another.  If I look at it from His perspective, my choices don't really seem all that bad. 

How about your choices?  Have they been made?  Have you decided the who's and what's and where's of your environment? 

Be Blessed!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whose Timezone are you in?

One of the most common mistakes man makes is made because ninety-nine percent of us can't tell time.  I know that this sounds kind of ridiculous, but it's true, and is easily proven by the things said and done by that ninety-nine percent.  Look at the great many number of times that people have came out with a certain date and time for something, usually the Second Coming of Christ, to happen.  It's way beyond funny and right up to the point of pathetic the lengths some of these idiots will go to in trying to convince everyone how they are the only one able to figure out just when things are going to happen.  Let's take a look at the prediction made by Harold Camping last year.  He stated that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the final destruction of the world would happen five months later on October 21, 2011.  This fellow, Camp, used the Bible as his source of information, and said that things would happen just as he predicted.  Let's keep in mind two things here.  First, Camp had made pretty much the same prediction for September of 1994.  Second, any person who claims to know the time and date of the Second Coming, the Rapture, and the end of the world is flat out calling the Bible a lie, and so then by association is calling God a liar.

'But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.   But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,  and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.'  (Matthew 24:36-44    NKJV)

So what do we do with this piece of Scripture when some nut like Camp, who has been proceeded by many, many others, comes along a with no hesitation calls God a liar?  Look at the last three verses here, and you'll see that God has a purpose for not broadcasting the time of the Second Coming. 

'Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.'   (Matthew 24:42-44    NKJV)


'But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.' (II Peter 3:10 NKJV) 

He doesn't tell us when these things will happen so that mankind cannot plan for them.  Let's get real here, I'll bet that you know at least one person who if they knew exactly when Christ was coming again would wait right up until the last minute to come to the Throne of Grace.  Does anyone come to mind?  Wait a minute, does this describe you?Think about this for a minute, do you know anyone who lives the life all week long, then spends a couple of minutes at the altar on Sunday, but can't spend very long in the kneeling position because their favorite pub or liquor store opens right about that time.  The mindset of those who mock God in this fashion are the same as those who predict the Second Coming.  But, let's not forget what the Father has to say about people playing around with Him.

'Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.'  (Galatians 6:7-8    NKJV) 

I've always felt that this bit of Scripture was pretty straightforward and easy to understand, no PhD's or half a century of Seminary training necessary to understand it.  God is plainly saying to not try to play any games with Him, because there will be some hefty consequences for those that do. 

There is one other things I feel we should take a look at, and this is in regards to those who have a bad case of the stupids and decide to prove it by telling others when Christ is scheduled to return.  Even if there were some specific historical happenings to work from, in terms of some kind of timeline, and even if they got around the whole call God a liar thing, there is still one last hurdle to get over.

'But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day  is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.'  (II Peter 3:8     NKJV) 


'For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.'  (Psalms 90:4    NKJV)

Just exactly how do those who claim to know enough about things to call God a liar get around this bit of news?  It's really both sad and disgusting at the same time that when these self-proclaimed prophets pop up, it takes no time at all until they have quite a following.  I really can't imagine what kind of a person would ever consider getting involved with these kinds of shenanigans, but it happens over and over again.  Then, when the purported day and time comes and passes, the false prophet does like Camp did recently, and blow it off with the explanation that they'd made a 'small miscalculation' in their figures but would get it right next time.  I'll agree that they made a miscalculation, but there is nothing small about calling God a liar.  I think that a lot of folks may take up with these con-artists for the same reason that the Children of Israel wanted a king back in the day.  For those not familiar with this bit of Old Testament history, (see I Samuel Chapter Eight), the people demanded a king.  They wanted a real flesh and blood king, just like the peoples of the other nations had.  They wanted to be able to see and touch their king, which they couldn't do with God.  Maybe this is the motivation for a lot of people in our times to fall in with these self-proclaimed  false prophets.  At least for a time they have someone to worship and claim allegiance to that they could see.  Then again, I may be wrong about the reasoning and the people just may be stupid.

So, let's wrap this thing up.  We cannot second-guess God.  We cannot force Him to bow to our will, or to adjust His schedule to fit our timeline.  Hey this isn't me saying this, what I am saying is READ YOUR BIBLES!  My story stays the same, it's always consistent, and anybody can read it for themselves.  My story and my time-zone are both just as available to anybody else as it is to me, it's called the Bible. And the writer of my story and the keeper of my time-zone are just as accessible to anyone else as He is to me, just bow your head, close your eyes, and begin with something like, "Dear Heavenly Father, keeper of Eternal Time and Author of Eternal Life....."

So there you have it, please, accept it and be blessed by it! Amen!