Saturday, January 28, 2017

Conduits of Conviction

Acts 1:8
“...and you will receive power when the Holy Ghost has come upon you to be my witnesses…”

Contrary to the lies of secular humanism, God is not a distant God. He has made His presence known to mankind and has been involved in their lives since the creation of the world. Before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God walked and talked with Adam face to face daily. In Exodus, he appeared and spoke to Moses in a burning bush. The Lord manifested himself as a pillar of fire and a cloud in the wilderness, and He was in the flames with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In fact, God created man to be a vessel of His presence and then breathed that presence into man and brought Adam to life. It was sin that drove God’s presence and power from us.

When Adam sinned the privilege of God’s presence was taken from us. The very breath of God, the power of God, the gift of eternal life forfeited by Adam’s sin. But God promised man that one day that privilege would be restored. Ezekiel prophesied that one day the winds would blow and give life back to dry bones. Then God robed himself in flesh and dwelt among us, His name is Jesus. He came and he died willingly, but He rose from the dead and destroyed the power of sin and death. For all that repent, and are baptized in Jesus’ name, He gave the gift of His presence and His power. For all those who believe on His name, he gave the right to be called the sons of God. To everyone who would receive and obey, He baptizes in the Holy Ghost and lives in them, giving them the power over sin and death.

There are only two spiritual powers in the earth: The Power of God, and the power of the devil.  There is nothing in between.  We are in a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, love and hate.  The Word of God makes it very clear that a person cannot serve two masters.  You are either in God’s Kingdom or you are in the devil’s kingdom, there is no middle ground.  You cannot claim you live in Gods kingdom and derive your pleasure and your enjoyment from the devil’s. (I Corinthians 10:21; I John 1:6; Ephesians 5:11)

As a child of God, you have a divine call on your life: First, you are called to be the “salt of the earth.” Salt has healing properties, it preserves, it seasons, and it creates a thirst.  The manifestation of The Holy Spirit in you, causes your life to be a conduit of healing and comfort, a seasoning and preserving influence, and it makes your life exciting and joyous.

Second, you are called to be the “Light of the world.” The Holy Spirit causes your life to be a beacon in the night. Through the power of the Holy Ghost your life, your words, your attitude, become a light to those who are in darkness. Now is not the time for indifference! Now is not the time to stand by and watch as the enemy of God destroys the lives of people all around you!

The enemy’s best friend is the lukewarm Christian, they’re a false representation of Jesus, and they drive people away from Christ rather than draw them to him. Why? Because God’s presence cannot dwell with sin. Just as with Adam in the garden, unrepentant sinfulness drives His presence from our lives. Without His presence, we cannot be salt and light. Without the Holy Ghost, we do not have the power to be His witnesses. There is nothing Satan desires more than to see the power of God stripped from His children. Nothing excites the devil more than seeing God’s people perverted in the pursuit of the flesh, and clothed in an attitude of indifference.

On the contrary, however; there is nothing that the devil fears more than to see God’s people filled with the Holy Ghost and on fire for Jesus. God wants to set your life on fire! He wants to fill you with power to be His witnesses! He wants to send you into fields that are ripe for harvest, as a conduit of His power, and to demonstrate through your testimony that He can set the captive free and destroy the chains of resentment, addiction, perversion, and hate. God wants you to become a conduit of conviction to those whose lives have been destroyed by the corruption of this world, as you live a holy life and, through the power of the Holy Ghost, become an example of His redeeming power that drives the heart of men into His presence. The Holy Ghost gives us the power to be a testimony of God’s transforming power and a living example of how His love sets men free.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In the Eye of the Storm

Luke 8:22-25
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
 In this passage is the promise of God’s presence, “Let us go,” Jesus said.  In another passage of scripture Jesus had told them He would never leave them or forsake them.  In fact He promised them that he would go with them to the very ends of the earth.  And so they hopped in the boat with eagerly, and willingly.  They pushed out from the shore with Jesus in the boat, their fellowship was sweet.  It was all good, the weather was calm, the skies were blue, and the fellowship would have been incredible (After all they were with Jesus).  Everything seemed to be perfect for a day of smooth sailing.  Then Jesus decided to take a nap.
This is just like it is with us when everything is going good in our lives.  The Holy Spirit never sleeps, but it is possible for His presence to become so unimportant to us, we all face the danger of treating the privilege of being sprit filled lightly, and if we are not careful the power of His presence can become dormant in our lives.  I know because it has happened to me.
Notice that it is when we forget the importance of having His presence with us and the storms come, fear replaces power and becomes the overwhelming influence on us.  One of the first lessons we need to learn is that storms are a part of life and we are not going to get through this life, without having to ride out some storms.  For those who do not have the privilege of His presence fear is the natural response, its human nature.  But to those who are filled with the Holy Ghost, should respond to storms with a supernatural manifestation of God's presence, and faith should replace fear.  This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith: But there is no faith without the Holy Ghost.
How do we keep His presence fresh in our lives?  We have got to be in the Word daily.  It is one thing to admire the Word of God, to appreciate the Word of God, and even mentally assent to its validity, but it is another thing entirely when the Word of God is the only thing that stands between you and destruction.
Isaiah 53:1 - Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
In every situation there are two reports, man’s report and God’s report.
For far too many so called "believers" the Word doesn’t become important until it’s a matter of life or death. When you’re faced with losing your home, or your marriage is on the rocks.  Storms come to everyone, no one is exempt from the storm.  The Word says that it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  The only question is how will you face them?  Everything depends on your attitude toward the Word of God.  Jesus said, “My mother and my brethren are they who hear the Word and do it.”
The lesson Jesus would have us all learn is, the Word works, but you have to work it.  The disciples had seen Jesus, the living Word, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils.  But this day Jesus wanted them to learn how to work the Word for themselves.  To do the work the Word is to live beyond the dictates of circumstances, to work the Word is to act like you believe God’s report instead of man’s report.  To act like you believe that God told the truth even when it looks like He didn’t(God always tells the truth, but sometimes our circumstances cause us to doubt Him).  

Working the word does not mean that we ignore the circumstances, it just means that we looks beyond them and see His promises.  Even if it looks like everything in the world is against us we simply claim the promises of His Word and live as though we have already received them (The substance of things hoped for).
Let us go over to the other side.  If they had been working the Word, when the storm came they would have just lifted their hands and their voices to praise God and claimed His promise that they were going to the other side.  Jesus said we’re going over and it’s settled, so the storm can either get out of the way, or we’ll just go through it, but one things settled: We’re going to the other side because He said so. 
Today we need to practice His presence, to stir up His Word in our hearts, we need to read the Word, to confess the Word, and to praise God in our storms according to His Word.
Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and raging water and they ceased and there was a great calm.  And then He asked them, “Where is your faith?”  What Jesus was saying was: I told you we were going over to the other side, you had everything you needed to deal with anything that got in your way.  You had the privilege of my presence and you had my Word. If you had really believed me you would have rebuked that storm yourself.
How about you, where is your faith?  Is it in the fair weather?  Is it in a man-made boat?  Is it in your own abilities to navigate the storm?  Is it in other people?  Or is it in God?
Those who believe the Word are peculiar to the world, while the world is crying about going under we are praising about going over. Our destination is determined, but we must be determined to reach our destination.  Let us go over to the other side.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Learning to Lean

One of my favorite songs that we sung in my home church when I was a kid was Learning to lean. “Learning to lean, I’m learning to lean, learning to lean on Jesus. Finding more power than I ever dreamed, I’m learning to lean on Jesus.

Hebrews 11:21 – “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”

I loved that verse because it puts Jacobs life into perspective. Early in his life Jacob had been a liar, a cheater, and a usurper. Jacob would do anything to get what he wanted. He was a self-made man. He cheated Esau, his brother, out of Esau’s birthright, and then he deceived his father and got the blessing of the firstborn son.

But one night Jacob had an encounter with and angel of the Lord, and he wrestled with him all night long till the break of day. At one point during the match the angel said let me go, but Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Somewhere during that wrestling match Jacob came face to face with the wicked and corrupt man he had become and he realized that he couldn’t fix himself. When Jacob refused to let go without a blessing, the angel of the lord put forth his hand and touched the hollow of Jacobs thigh and threw it out of joint, and the sinew or muscle of his thigh shrank. From that day on, Jacob leaned to the side the Lord had touched. That day he received a new name, He was no longer called Jacob the liar, heel grabber, and deceiver - his name was called Israel: Prince who hath power with God.

Israel’s power was not in his standing, it was not in his wrestling, his blessing, his power, his strength, and his transformation – came through his leaning. When he learned to lean, he found the power of God.

I know it doesn’t make sense because it goes against every human principle of warfare, but the strength and the power of the child of God is found in weakness.

II Corinthians 12:9 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It is my opinion, taken from my own experiences, that the greatest battle we will ever fight, is not with the devil, and it’s not even with sin – it’s with self. Our fight is with the spirit of pride that makes us feel strong and independent. Pride is a killer!

Pride will whisper in your ear, “You can do it! You don’t need to wait on God. You don’t need to pray. You don’t need anyone’s help, they’ll just hold you back. You don’t need to read the Bible. Anointing, anointing, who needs anointing, you’ve got talent!”

Pride will tell you that you can stand on your own, your smart enough to make the right choices, you don’t need a preacher telling you how to live.

I Corinthians 10:12 – “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
The strongest believer, the most anointed and effective believer, is the one who has learned the secret and the necessity and the joy of leaning on Jesus.

As believers, we are all leaning, the only question is: which way are we leaning? When you believe that you are strong enough to stay saved even though you don’t pray or read the word of God, when you believe that you can make it without the fellowship of your brothers and sisters in Christ, or when you start letting little things slip in that are offensive to the Holy Ghost – you are leaning in the wrong direction.

People start leaning in the wrong direction, when they begin to allow self to be in charge: my way, my plans, my feelings, and my understanding. You know what I’m talking about: “I don’t see anything wrong with it, it looks all right to me, it’s just country music it’s not that evil rock and roll stuff. I just don’t want to go to church today. I’m all right, I’m not backslid or anything like that I just want to hang out at the house and chill. Give me a break preacher: I’m not going to the bar, I’m not going to the crack-house, I’m not looking for a prostitute, I just want to hang out at the house watch the tube and relax.”

It was exactly that same attitude that got David in such a mess: David was at the wrong place at the wrong time, it was the time of year for Kings to go forth and fight their battles, but David stayed home, he leaned the wrong direction.

The Bible says that, “Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom.”

Sodom was known to be a wicked and sinful city, but Lot leaned toward Sodom. He wasn’t in Sodom, he wasn’t a partaker of Sodom’s sins, but he was close enough to hear the sounds of Sodom, close enough to see the business of Sodom, close enough that eventually the dirty off color jokes didn’t offend him anymore, close enough that their immorality and vulgarity didn’t offend him anymore. Eventually, Lot has moved his family into town.

They are now living in an environment that is given to perversion. They are no longer on the outskirts of town, they are not just passerby’s or occasional visitors, they are no longer on the outside looking in, they are permanent residents of sin city.

Romans 12:2 – “And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

This means don’t allow the outside pressure to shape your life, don’t make adjustments to accommodate the mindsets attitudes and appetites of this world: standards of holiness do not change because the patterns of this world have changed!

The bible says: Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them.

James 4:4 The friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

There is continual pressure on the child of God to relax, tone down, become tolerant and flexible toward the spirit of worldliness, ungodliness, and perversion in our nation and this world. The standard of morality in this nation has fallen so low that there is no moral compass to point us to true north. The line between right and wrong has been erased and from a world view it is nearly impossible to discern the difference between good and evil.

Let’s not be spiritual ostriches that bury our heads in the sand and pretend that because we ignore it, the problem does not exist. Our nation is leaning away from God, society is leaning away from God, but what concerns me most is that the church is leaning toward Sodom, toward tolerance of sin and compromise to avoid conflict.

To avoid conflict, to gain acceptance, to fit in, many of our pulpits have sold out, even many of our churches that once held the Word of God as the only standard for a life acceptable to God, have been infected by the spirit of compromise, and no longer sound a clear warning against sin. Their message has become diluted, and polluted, their pulpits are for sell to the highest bidder.

Genesis 19:16 – “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.”

In other words, Lot was leaning in the wrong direction, but the Lord being merciful unto Lot, the angels took hold of their hands and pulled) them out of the city.

I know should get on with my message, but I just can’t go on without taking a minute to thank God for pulling me out. I was leaning in the wrong direction, stuck in sin and Jesus pulled me out! He pulled me out of drug addiction, out of alcoholism, and out of selfishness. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus, for pulling me out! I was sinking in Quicksand, the harder I fought to get out, the deeper I went and the worse it got, then God in love and mercy reached down his hand and pulled me out.

Lot lost everything: He lost every temporal blessing that he had in Sodom, he lost his two sons in law, he lost his wife, and finally he lost his two daughters to the spirit of lust and corruption and perversion of Sodom. And it all started with a lean in the wrong direction.

I know this is a long one, and I’m almost done but I must make this point, it is perhaps the saddest part of the whole story. Through Abraham’s bold intercession the mercy of God had determined that judgment of Sodom could be avoided if he only Ten righteous were found there. Supposing that Lot had the power of a Godly life that had influenced his family toward God, they only needed four more people to overturn the verdict of destruction.

But the sad truth is: Not only were there not four others to be found, Lot’s life was so unstable, and so empty of conviction that his son-in-law’s thought he was making a joke about the coming judgment. Lot’s wife loved Sodom so much that her heart never left, and when her eyes turned to where she had invested her heart, she became a pillar of salt and died. And it all started with a lean in the wrong direction.

As I end this week’s entry, I only have one question for you child of God: which way are you leaning?

I know by the Spirit of God, someone who is reading this, your life has begun to lean in the wrong direction. It may not be any big thing right now, you might even say, I haven’t sinned. But your leaning the wrong way:

Song of Solomon 2:15 – “It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.”

Don’t follow Lots example, don’t let the little things add up until it’s beyond repair. Repent, and start right now, leaning on Jesus.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fourth and Goal

 Matthew 6:31-33
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

I don’t talk about it as much as I used to, but when I was a young man I played the game of football. And although my enthusiasm for the game has dwindled in recent years, I am still a fan. Over the years, I learned to appreciate the many strategies and the hard work that goes into winning games. One of the most exciting moments in any game is when your favorite team needs a touchdown to win and they have the ball within inches of the goal line. It’s fourth and goal, the game is on the line, and time is running out.

There is no time to fool around, nothing fancy, no trick plays; just snap the ball and drive the ball across the goal line - especially if you have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. I have watched the Seahawks win many games in that final “no nonsense” drive down the field and after the game I always wonder to myself, “Why don’t they play the whole game the way they played that last minute?”

It makes me think of Parkinson’s Law: - “Activity expands to fill the allotted time.”
Funny isn’t it, when you consider that time is the only truly nonrenewable resource on the planet?
Now fast forward to the return of Jesus or to the end of your life. Now it is fourth and goal and eternity hangs in the balance. Will you able to look back satisfied that you sought the Kingdom of God as hard as you could? Are you pleased with the intensity with which you have driven for His righteousness at this point in your life?

At that moment, what do you think you will wish you had spent more time doing?

Do you think you will wished that you had spent more time seeking His Kingdom first?

How much time have you really invested in the seeking the Kingdom of God? We don’t seem to have trouble finding time to watch football, go to the mall, hunt, or the many other recreational activities that we enjoy, but when was the last time you set aside an afternoon to pray and study God’s Word? Don’t tune me out yet, much of this today is coming out of conviction not judgement.

Per a recent report from a survey of American Christians only forty-two percent knew who delivered the “Sermon on the Mount.” Only forty-eight percent could name the first 4 books of the New Testament. Of the more than 1300 surveyed, less than 1%, said that their lives were truly and directly changed by what the Bible said. In other words, lots of people are reading it, but very few are allowing it to create change.

Are you seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness to the point of real change? Are you being transformed, as the Apostle Paul wrote, by the renewing of your mind? Have you been set free from the cares and concerns of this life, because your mind is focused on eternal life?

I have recently discovered that Matthew 6:33 was given to us so that everything in our lives would be good. I believe that Jesus gave us the key to real happiness in this life. I am convinced that if we are truly seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness with the intensity that Jesus commanded, above all other things – first, then everything else in our life will be bearable.

I have prayer’s that I pray every single day along with the personal prayers that I lift to God for others. I pray them every day. One of them is the “Serenity Prayer.”

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”

I am not saying that if we truly seek His Kingdom and righteousness that our lives will be perfect. That would be a lie and no one would believe me anyway. What I am saying is that if we focus more on what He desires for us, and less on what we want for ourselves we can be happy, reasonably happy in this life and eternally happy in the next life with Him.

When we remove everything that hinders us and fix our eyes on Jesus we can be like Joseph who could have a palace praise from a pit and a prison cell. We can be like Job who even though he lost everything he had, was able to proclaim, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

We can dance in the fire, rest amongst lions, face down a giant, and rejoice in persecution feeling worthy to have suffered for His name. If we are making the most of our time here by seeking Jesus first, when it is fourth and goal in our lives, there will be no doubt – we will reach the goal for which God has called us heavenward.