Friday, September 26, 2014

These Dreams                                                                                    09-26-14

I am not a dreamer. I rarely wake up in the morning with vivid images of night visions. Now, to be sure, I have in the past had some crazy, scary, funny, etc., dreams, but, they are the rare exception rather than the rule. I also, am not a visionary. God has never placed a grand vision of accomplishment or whatnot in my heart. I never had this inner drive to achieve or overachieve as probably would be the case with me. As a matter of fact, I was reflecting this week past about the fact that God has put only one overriding command in my heart these past 40 or so years. Just one. Now,there have been many, many divergences crossing my path that He has counseled and guided me through. A lot of minor details, small tasks that I have been charged with. But, I know of only one "ministry" that I am completely sure that God has assigned me in my entire life. And, to this day, I try to execute and stay faithful to that duty that I believe God has entrusted me with. I don't even write this weekly message because I believe God has "called" me to do it. I write it simple because I enjoy it. In the Kingdom of God, I am a grunt. An enlisted soldier with marching orders, or as is the case with me,order in the singular. My apologies for all the personal history, but, I wanted to convey to you my mindset. Maybe you can relate. All that being said,I was walking the parking lot last night at work, waiting for my truck to be loaded while talking to the Lord about my message for today. As I walked and waited, this song floated across my mind.  You remember don't you?"These Dreams" by Heart. Pretty good band back in the day. When that song came to mind, I revisited a dream I had and still have. More of a strong desire, a bucket list if you will, than a dream. But, take a look at this story.

Joshua 14:6-12 (NASB) 6  Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea.
Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.
8  "Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.
9  "So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.'
10  "Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.
11  "I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.
12  "Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken."

Now, here's Joshua's buddy Caleb. He's been faithfully following the Lord for FORTY FIVE years! We don't hear too much about Caleb in the Scriptures do we? A few passing references here and there. Not nearly as much as his friend and contemporary Joshua. He strikes me as a grunt. A soldier,much like me and possibly you. What do you think? He'd been quietly serving the Lord for all those years, holding that dream close to his vest. I suspect that many times in the pitch of battle while conquering the  Promised Land, Caleb wondered whether he would even live to see his dream fulfilled. I expect that there were many nights spent under the stars that his dream seemed nothing more to him than a foolish PIPE DREAM. I wonder if Caleb ever shared his dream with others, only to be told that it was stupid, or it was never going to come to pass. "Caleb you're no Joshua and you're certainly no Moses. I doubt if God is bothered with your DAYDREAMS." I wonder if Caleb ever heard that. Maybe he even spoke those words to himself. But then, his time came. God looked down from Heaven and decided it was time to give Caleb what he had been promised. Caleb's bucket list. Ya feelin' me here?

You ever feel like that? You know. You've been marching and following orders the best you can for some time now. Just a rank and file striper trying to do what you have been told to do,waiting for your time. Or possibly circumstances and the difficulties of this life have buried those dreams that once were yours, under responsibility, tragedy or the like. These dreams are fading now to a very dim light on an even dimmer shore. But, hold on. Wait a minute. Get this.

Psalm 126:1-3 (NASB) 1
 When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream.
2  Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
3  The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad.

You see we, at times feel like that we have been taken captive don't we?  Circumstances have tried to chain us down and the enemy has tried to steal our joy and hope. But, God is mindful of our plight and desires to give us our mountain. Not only that He is more than able to change our circumstances. But, in His timing not ours.

Jeremiah 32:27 (NASB) 27  "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"

Listen, Brothers and Sisters the Lord God Almighty is mindful of you and yours. Whether you are a General or a Private in His army, He wants to do good for you. He wants to give you a field commission. It's His good pleasure to give you of His Kingdom. So, dust off those dreams. Dig up that bucket list. Like Caleb, keep holding on, keep following Him,and one day, you too will be like those who dream.

Psalm 71:18 (NASB) 18  And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.

God Bless

Friday, September 19, 2014

I Was THAT Close                                                                    09-19-14

Galatians 5:15 (NASB) 15  But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:26 (NASB) 26  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

The title to my message is taken from Little Stevie Van Zandt's retelling of  Al Pacino's lament in the Godfather.(I watch way too many gangster movies) Michael Corleone, reflecting on his life as a gangster said that he was "that close" to getting out of the life of crime but at the last minute they "reeled him back in." Let me share an anecdote from this week past that spawned this message. I watched a short video this week, a hip hop(?) video I suppose. I don't know if it was Christian or not
but I enjoyed it. It was entitled "The world is coming to an end" The artist was grieving over the state of our world and one of the lyrics went like this.

 "Race is an issue and so is religion. Your God doesn't exist, my God does and He is all loving.And if you disagree with me....I'll kill you. Or even worse.....ARGUE YOU TO DEATH."(Caps mine)

 With that background allow me to move on. I was tempted this week. I was THAT close to joining in a discussion this week on Facebook. You know don't you? You hit the comment link and put in your two cents worth. You with me? I've never done it before, but this time after viewing some comments, I was chomping at the bit. I was going to jump in to what had now devolved into a vicious and even ravenous argument about certain people and doctrines. Why I didn't, I don't know. But, I delayed my invasion, got called away by something that Memaw needed and never got into the pitch of battle. A couple hours later, I sat down again in front of my now black computer screen, and for some reason I opened my Bible and began reading in Galatians. As I came across the 5th chapter, the Holy Spirit highlighted the above two verses; especially that phrase ..."challenging one another..."  Hmmm.. challenging one another. That described my motive to a tee. I wanted to challenge someone on Facebook and prove I was right and they were wrong. Ya feelin' me here?

We, many times under a banner of love, publicly shred some ministry or worse, some human being because of something they said or did that we don't agree with. I witnessed this, this past week, and was very nearly a party to it on Facebook. Maybe that person did say something not quite right. Or maybe they espoused a doctrine or belief that isn't quite according to Hoyle or more to the point, according to us. Maybe so. But, if we aren't very careful, we can be caught up in it and argue each other to death. I was that close this week, but got reeled back in.  

Let me throw something in here. The Apostle Paul's public confrontations were usually with Judaizers,not believers. (see Acts 15:1 for an example) It normally was with those who were negating the sufficiency of God's grace through Jesus' shed blood by adding to the message of the Gospel, most often by requiring some form of work, namely circumcision or the observance of ritual feasts and days. That being said, my point is simply this. Rarely, if ever, did Paul correct or criticize believers in public. He kept it "in house" rather than splattering their supposed misdeed all over the social and print media. Paul's rebuke was face to face, as with Peter, or in the form of letters, as with the New Testament churches that he planted. Look at this:

Galatians 6:1 (NASB) 1  Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

That 'anyone' in the original Greek means.......anyone. New convert, pew sitter, tithe payer, deacon, preacher, ministry leader, ANYONE. "Restore........ in a spirit of gentleness....."  

 As I mused over this, this week, I thought of all the times that I have let my rear end override my mouth. Of all the times that I was right and they were wrong. At least in my own mind! Oh yeah, I got my two cents worth ...and it didn't change a thing. It only resulted in feelings of regret on my part and created a wall between me and the unwitting victim of my verbal assault. It happens to all of us at one time or another. But, we will save ourselves a lot of grief, not to mention a possible chastising from the Lord, if we just keep our mouths shut,pray about it, and let God deal with it. Amen?

Psalm 133:1 (NASB) 1
 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!

God Bless  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Suddenly!                                                                                   09-12-14

Zechariah 3:1-4 (NASB) 1  Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
2  The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"
3  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.
4  He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, "Remove the filthy garments from him." Again he said to him, "See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes."

I am going to share with you today a moment in time from yesterday as I sat out on the back deck. I say a moment because it felt like that. It happened suddenly, thus the title of the message. Maybe you can relate because it has happened to you. If it hasn't, don't worry, it will. I often go out on the deck here at Memaw's, and lately it has developed into somewhat of a routine. The deck affords me some solitude and alone time. I often take that time to pray and be alone with God; also to soak up some rays for my pitifully pale body! smile.  So yesterday, shortly after I woke up, caffeine in hand, I shuffled outside, sat down, and began to pray. I will try to not be too personal here.I was praying for healing for some loved ones. Not a physical but a spiritual healing.I believed they had been wounded by past hurts and were still bleeding. No great revelation here, just something I felt in my heart for them. Here's where, for me, it gets interesting. All of a sudden I had all sorts of conflicting thoughts enter my head. It didn't seem like a distraction, but periods of my past were literally being rolled before my eyes. Now that isn't too odd except some of it was stuff that I hadn't thought or even considered in years. It had to do with the people I was praying for....and it was all BAD,.... and it was all TRUE. A movie newsreel if you will( remember those at the movies when you were a kid?) of all the mistakes and missteps I had made with these folks. Sitting there watching, I was forced to admit in my heart that indeed this was all true. It upset me to the point that I began to cry.You see I was praying for God to heal a wound that I HAD INFLICTED. I was the cause. I bore the lion's share if not ALL the guilt for their demise. It wasn't what I had done, it was what I had caused. You feelin' me here? I mean this stuff went way, way back. Small detailed type stuff that I had forgotten about decades ago. I am serious, literally decades had passed since some of this stuff had taken place. I was being accused. I was being STRONGLY accused. If not before God, certainly in my own heart and mind. The wounds that these people were enduring were, in large part, of my doing.

 It was precisely at this moment that the above verse came into my heart. I pictured Joshua standing before the Lord in filthy rags. I rose up and went in the house to find the passage of Scripture. When I found it I pulled out a commentary to see what it had to say. Nothing really jumped out at me except that word "suddenly." It seems that in the original after the word 'and' the word suddenly is implied. Joshua was standing before God and suddenly Satan began to accuse him before the Lord. It felt like that was exactly what had happened to me. I read on and found out that filthy is not an accurate description of Joshua's garments. In the Hebrew he was clothed with human waste."Filthy" doesn't do it justice. In spite of all that, when God rebuked Satan for the accusation(God did the rebuking, not Joshua. that's for another time however) He called him "a brand plucked from the fire," meaning "one
who is still useful and not to be consumed or destroyed." He said all that before He cleaned Joshua up.

As I thought on these things the content of my message took form. Hear me out and I will try and put into words what was in my heart. People(that includes this writer I suppose) are the frailest of all the creation don't you think? We try and add to God's grace and mercy by requiring others to "do" acts of righteousness to appease God. We take away from God's grace and mercy by failing to truly receive His forgiveness into our hearts. But, from what I can glean from Joshua is the fact that he did NOTHING. He didn't "do" something and he didn't "not do" something. All he did was stand before the Lord; and God Almighty did all the cleaning up. He didn't try and defend himself before Satan's accusations. Why? Because though the text doesn't say, they were probably true! He just stood there in his filth and let God do all the rebuking. Not only did God clean Joshua up, but He promised him that if he followed Him and walked in His ways, He would make him a priest in the future house of Israel. Brothers and sisters we have all made mistakes. We have all inflicted wounds on others that we regret and wish that we could undo. And it is the enemy's job to remind us of all our failings and sins; and to use those memories to accuse us to ourselves. That's what he does. If you, like me sometimes struggle with the fact that you have hurt and wounded someone in the past, remember this. God has forgiven and forgotten. He will heal those we have hurt and He will heal us.That's what He does.God is sovereign. His plan for our lives and our loved one's lives will not be spite of all we do and say!smile God's still got plans for you and yours. He has a future for us. And whether the enemy's accusations are spot on or not, the Lord Jesus dealt with them at the cross. He didn't die in vain. He rose again and He's got us in the palm of His hand. Us AND those we love. Amen? AMEN!!

Psalm 130:1-4 (NASB) 1
 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.
2  Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.
3  If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4  But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

God Bless

Friday, September 5, 2014

Never Give Up                                                                             09-05-14

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NASB) 26  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
27  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
28  and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,
29  so that no man may boast before God.

This scripture is actually an admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church. He was scolding the church for being arrogant towards each other. Everybody thought that they were "all that." I've got a little different but still valid perspective on it today. Something that I personally hold on to if you will.  

You know the story don't you? Well, I will today recount it for you. In an address to the Harrow School in Britain on October 29, 1941, Winston Churchill, in what is now a famous speech said the following. The relevant part of the speech has become a part of famous quotation books everywhere. "...Never give in. Never,never, never,never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."  This quote came to mind this week as I read the above scripture. You know, God doesn't do or look at things the way we down here do, does He? Whenever I read that passage above, I am always reminded of a few people that are very close to me.

This is a passage of scripture that speaks personally to me. A few years ago the Lord used this scripture to encourage me to never give up on people(myself included), even when the circumstances were screaming the opposite. Sometimes it is difficult to keep on believing the best about people. It is HARD to keep a positive outlook when they are "out there" and walking that thin line on the edge of that cliff. You hearin' me here? You know how it goes. People start raising an eyebrow at that kid of yours and their shenanigans. It doesn't have to be a kid, but, it is, more often than not.They start talking,.. you try to turn a deaf ear, but, all you can do is silently agree. Or they don't say a thing and that silence is even more deafening. And after a while you start believing all the negative about them. It becomes all the more difficult to "see" them as saved, know don't you.

Or to make things down home and personal the person that is on that thin line, the person that is peering over the edge of the cliff, the one who is "out there" may be YOU! Oh yeah it can happen to any of us. We don't have to be "sinning" to fall victim to the enemy's  snares. No, no. It can be a job failure or even a job loss. It might take the form of failing to live up to other's and sometimes your expectations of your potential. It might be a sickness. There are as many circumstances as there are stars to give you a sense of hopelessness. Capisce? However,......HOWEVER that is NOT the way GOD looks at it. BUT GOD.

The world may have given up on that kid. The world may have given up on you. YOU may have given up on you.  Other people may have turned their back and given up on them. They have thrown you out with yesterday's newspaper.BUT,that's where God shines isn't it? Look at this. God has chosen what?
The foolish things, the weak things, the base things, the despised things... to do what?? To shame the wise, to shame the strong, to nullify all of those who had thrown you on the trash heap. To SHUT UP all the boo birds in the cheap seats. Yes, it is hard to hang in there. As a matter of fact, we can't hang in there, UNLESS we grab hold of God and suck His grace and strength into our veins. Allow His perspective to become our own. As it was told me many years ago. God gets a big kick out of pulling someone out of the ditch, cleaning them up, and making something out of them. That is what He does best. Amen??Amen!! Never give up.

Psalm 56:8-9 (NASB) 8  You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?
9  Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me.

God Bless