Friday, February 26, 2016

New gods                                       02-26-16

Judges 5:8 (ESV) 8  When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?

I decided to start the Book of Judges this week past. It had been a long time since I read Judges so here I am. As I read yesterday, this verse kinda jumped out at me.I did a little research into the history and events surrounding the times of this passage and thought I would pass it along to you today. A short commentary proclaimed many times in the past, but relevant today as well.Reads much the same as what we read today from the citadels of leadership in this nation.

It seems that the history of the period of Judges in Israel looks much like today's world. A long ,gradual descent, although highlighted by some up ticks, into apostasy and idolatry. The title verse is taken from a passage called Deborah's Song. This passage is during one of the up ticks in Israel's decline, when a judge named Deborah led Barak and the Israelites to victory over the Canadians and their general Sisera. After the victory,Deborah's praise in song of the power and providence of God Almighty is recorded for eternity.While recounting the glory of the Israelites victory, made possible by the Hand of God, Deborah inserts a negative. A warning to future generations explaining the why's surrounding the wars and chaos in Israel then and even now. And certainly an insight into the whys or why nots that we in this nation are having our very life strangled by the wars and chaos inflicted upon our generation. 

"...when new gods were chosen......"

Israel's decline into slavery and captivity rings eerily similar to our own state of affairs doesn't it seem? If you read the two or three preceding verses, you will discover that the conditions in Israel leading up to this victory were unstable and chaotic.With no centralized and Godly leadership, the nation was unstable. Highways were abandoned because they could not be protected and secured from criminal activity. It was dangerous going from one place to another.Villages(see neighborhoods and communities in our day) had ceased due to the same conditions. Crime and violence ruled the day; and, government was either unable or unwilling to take action. Deborah gives reason for the low estate of the nation. "New gods were chosen,THEN(caps mine) war was in the gates." Sounds like the front and editorial pages of any newspaper in this land. What say you? And herein lie th the message, not only for our nation, but for us as individuals. My point being this:

Israel's spiritual decline, as well as it's people, preceded and mirrored their political,social and economic decline.You feeling me here? A nation, such as America, is identical to the church in it's structure and makeup. How so? A nation is not something in and of itself. It is not created separate from it's people. Just like the church is not the building, but the people that gather together in the building; a nation is made of it's people. It IS the people.As the people go, so goes the nation.

You can see the obvious can't you? If the people turn away from the God Of Israel. if the people choose other gods, the nation has no other alternative. It mirrors the people.You see brothers and sisters, it is not a poverty problem. It is not an inequality problem. Is not an educational problem. It's not a racial or violence problem, no. Those are indeed problems, oh yes, BUT, and here it is, they are symptomatic of the real problem. The REAL problem being, as in Deborah's Israel,a spiritual decline.   

Time and again in the pages of God's Word, we are confronted with and taught an immutable truth. When a nation or an individual consistently ignores or turns away from God's commands, that disobedience is the beginning of the proverbial slide down the "slippery slope" to trouble. It is not that God slaps us down.He isn't up there waiting to zap us every time we miss it. More often than not, it is a natural consequence of ignoring God's commands. 

If we are ever to right our course in this country, it won't be found in a political philosophy,conservative or liberal. It won't be found in an economic philosophy, socialistic or capitalistic. It won't even be found in the good works of a social gospel. Nope. It will only be established if we the people determine in our hearts to return to the God of our Fathers. To rend not only our garments but our hearts to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Psalm 22:27 (ESB) 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

God Bless


Friday, February 19, 2016

Better Left To The Experts                                 02-19-16

Romans 14:4 (ESV) 4  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Ever began a project( I'm talking to all you handymen or women out there) and about halfway in, as you sit under the sink with a river leaking out on your floor, you sheepishly admit to yourself that maybe, just maybe, you should have called a plumber on this one. If you are shouting amen about now,then you understand the title to this message. 

Let's put that in a spiritual context here today. Let me ask you a question. I don't really have a solution,but I know the answer?? How do you or I know if someone is a Christian? Better yet, how exactly can you or I determine the condition of another's heart.What is it that allows us the insight into the quality of another's relationship or walk with God?  I don't have a solution to that question, but I do know the answer.Here it is. I DON'T KNOW AND I CAN'T DETERMINE. Let me be so bold as to assert that the only way I can know if YOU are a Christian.....the only way that you can know the condition of MY heart and relationship with God,is if I tell you. If you tell me that you are a Christian, I have no other option except to take you on face value. I must believe that you are indeed a Christian. Despite any misgivings that I might have. 

One of the first truths that I was taught as a new Christian was the truth that I was not a "fruit inspector." Huh Ronnie? Just this. It was not my place or even my option to inspect the lives of others.God was very plain to me in this.  The conduct,behavior,or talk of another was NONE OF MY BUSINESS!! 

Oh yes, I sometimes TRIED to make it my business. I have at times THOUGHT I knew what was in the heart of another. Oh yeah,..........

"But God look at what they...........SILENCE RONNIE! Their lives are MY BUSINESS,not yours. They name the name of my one and only Son, The Lord Jesus Christ, and that is ALL you need to know.Based on that one fact and that one fact alone, you are to treat them as a brother or sister in Christ."

What's that you say?

Wait a minute Ronnie. You just look at what Jesus said. It's right here in the Bible. Whaddya say about this?

Matthew 7:16 (ESV) 16  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

I say just this. This is one of those misapplied and abused verses that we folk use in the gossip circles at church, or on the phone, or at lunch to attempt to prove something. Folks, not to get off point but think CONTEXT. That word has become so important to me over the years. Is Jesus talking about the sheep, your brothers and sisters here? Nope. Not at all. As a matter of fact this is a warning TO the sheep about leadership. It is a warning to be careful where and to whom we pledge our loyalty, our finances, and other contributions. It is a call to discern whom to follow. It is a warning about false leadership entering the local fellowship to fleece and devour the sheep. It is NOT a divinely appointed license to give approval or the lack thereof to a brother or sister's lifestyle or behavior.

So Ronnie, does that mean that we are to follow blindly anyone that calls themselves a Christian or a leader? NO! Not at all. As a matter of fact it is a warning to do exactly the opposite. We must ask God where He would have us go and who He would have us follow. He has given us His Word to help us discern and make those important decisions.  BUT, even if we don't agree with someone who is calling themselves a leader or what not, WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO MAKE A JUDGMENT CALL ON HE CONDITION OF ONE'S HEART BASED ON WHAT WE SEE OR WHAT WE HEAR!!That is God's business and God's business alone. And if we persist in judging another's fruit, we do so at our own peril.

 Romans 2:1 (ESV) 1  Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Listen brothers and sisters, we are to judge nothing before it's time. Heck, the Apostle Paul said that he didn't even judge himself. Look at this. Read this carefully.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (ESV) 3  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
4  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
5  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul doesn't even trust his appraisal or judgment of himself. He yields the passing of judgment to the only one qualified to do so. The Expert if you will.

".........It is the Lord who judges me......."

When we place ourselves in the bema, the Judgment Seat, we make ourselves like God.When we call others to account, whether pew sitter or world leader, based on our perception real or imagined; we invite others and more importantly, God Almighty Himself to take a look at us. We imagine ourselves to be qualified. We become the "experts." 

We will be far better served if we stick to the things we know don't you think? You know, loving one another, helping one another, praying for one another. Let's leave the hard stuff, you know, looking into another's soul with our unique,flawless insight and deciding their fate before God. You know, that kind of stuff. That's the stuff better left to The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, you know, the Experts,don't you think?

 Psalm 141:3 (ESV) 3  Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

God Bless 


Friday, February 12, 2016

No Sting                                                           02-12-16

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (ESV) 54  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

I am reminded today, the first anniversary of my mother's(memaw) going home of the above verse. I rode my route last night thinking about my mother and that verse came alive to me. I knew without doubt where my mother was and that I too would join her someday. It is in these times, the times that are so intensely personal, that knowing the Lord Jesus way down deep in your soul.....the pain, the sting isn't there. It is that deep sense of comfort, joy the Bible calls it, that I want to talk about today. The joy of the Lord. The peace that passes all understanding. Notice I didn't say happiness, nope, I don't believe the Bible emphasizes that, it is based on circumstances which are fickle. But, God DOES promise us that deep down, in your gut feeling, that all is well. PEACE IN YOUR SOUL. AMEN? That said..

I read this recently.

"As helpful as spiritual disciplines can be, they never can replace your love for God. Love is the discipline. God looks beyond your godly habits, beyond your moral lifestyle, and beyond your church involvement and focuses His penetrating gaze upon your heart."

As hard as we try not to, sometimes we miss the mark don't we? I know..I missed that mark this week, more than once! Can I get an Amen? As I wallowed about,God reminded me of a message that I wrote some time ago concerning the condition of our hearts. Not surprisingly it involved memaw and the gist of it was this. God told me that He had far better preachers, bloggers, etc., than me to proclaim His word. He also told me that He had people, WILLING people ,that were infinitely more able than me to give materially to the furtherance of His kingdom in this life.. BUT, and here it is, He didn't have anyone else, excepting my sister and myself, to help my aged, invalid mother get out of the bed and go to the bathroom. You see it was a matter of my heart. It was a matter of the love that I had in my heart for God. It was whether I would allow Him entrance into my heart and be obedient to His desire. You see, helping and caring for my mother WAS my ministry. During that time, I had to look no further than the adjoining bedroom(try as I might) to discern and fulfill God's present call in my life. Once I got that, there was a peace, a joy,even in difficult circumstances, that lodged in my soul. Way down deep I was assured that all was indeed well. "O death, where is your victory?..."

Yes, God does task us with responsibilities. He does ask us to do stuff. He does "call" us to ministry, both lay and clerical. And it is important that we heed His requests and do our best.But, and we must be careful here, sometimes we allow those tasks to become the end all. They become our focus instead of God. We become involved, as a dear friend once described, in"dog and pony shows." 

God is showing me more and more as I get longer in the tooth,the truth about joy and peace. You know those lofty words that seem so elusive in this world we live in today.As the  apostle Paul said, He doesn't want our stuff, He wants us. He wants our hearts. When you are laying in bed in the midnight hour. No one is around. All the make up, both physical and spiritual has been washed away, and the real you is laying there; THAT is when God wants to talk to you. When your insides are churning and you are trying to figure it all out...IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, that is where you will find the joy of God, the PEACE that passes all understanding, will simply ask HIM to give it to you. Not your Pastor, not your friend, not your commentary, but God Almighty.

"O death, where is your sting?"

 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV) 57  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25:1 (ESV) 1
 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

God Bless

Friday, February 5, 2016

Woulda Coulda Shoulda

Woulda Coulda Shoulda                                          02-05-16

2 Kings 13:18-19 (ESV) 18  And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped.
19  Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

If you have a favorite sports team then the above title will make perfect sense to you. As most of you I am sure are aware, my blood runs orange. I love my Vols.That being said, I unfortunately, have been forced to employ the title to my message on far too many occasions in my conversation during the recent past. Huh??? Here's what I mean. In explaining around the water cooler the reasons my beloved Vols lost the big game my excuses went something like this: "If they woulda done this, if they coulda done that, and my favorite armchair observation, they SHOULDA done that!!" If only they woulda,coulda,shoulda......they woulda won the game. All you armchair QB's can I get an Amen here?! That being said......

I was reminded of the above Scripture because of something I heard this week about an answer to prayer. Here is the gist of it. A friend was praying this week about a certain financial issue and he decided to ask God for more. More you say? Yes, more. If I have it right, he prayed something like this, "God this amount would be enough and I don't want to be greedy, but this amount would REALLY be nice. It would be MORE than enough." Well, lo and behold, in this instance God granted the request and my friend was amply blessed and supplied.PTL

The above Scripture has much in common with what happened to my friend except it revolves around the negative aspect.Read the whole story to get a good handle on it. Joash was concerned about the Syrian army(hmmm interesting) and inquired of the man of God about what to do.Elisha told him to strike the ground which Joash did. Only problem is he STOPPED after three times. Angered, Elisha replied that Joash SHOULD'VE  struck the ground five or six times. Had Joash done that Elisha went on to say, Joash WOULD'VE put an end to Syria. Joash COULD'VE solved all of his Syrian problems if only he WOULD'VE asked for more by striking the ground five or six times. You seein it?

Isn't that the way it is with us many times? We have a need. Or maybe it's not really a need, but a want or a desire. But we, maybe like Joash, are half hearted. Maybe we have listened to the voice of the enemy and are discouraged or intimidated about spreading our requests before the Lord. But, God has already invited us into His presence through the Lord Jesus Christ hasn't He?

Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Not only that He WANTS us to TRUST Him with our needs and wants in every aspect of our lives,spiritual,material and physical.

Philippians 4:6 (ESV) 6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Look at and remember word six in the above passage.

 It's not a matter of whether God WANTS to bless and heal us is it? It's not a matter of whether God WANTS to give to us "pressed down, shaken together, and running over is it? No, no.Well then,what is it a matter of Ronnie? Here's my take.

It's not the WHAT that we ask for, it's the WHO and WHY that we ask for it.

It's a matter of the intent and motivation of the heart. We,above all, must believe and know that He is God. We have many available options don't we? We can believe in the world and try to obtain it the world's way. We can become self assured and boast in our hearts that we will obtain it in our own strength. Or, we can believe God.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) 6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 

Add to that, this.

James 4:3 (ESV) 3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

You might want to read the preceding two verses to get a fuller revelation of what God is saying here.

Brothers and sisters, God is a BIG God. He can do "exceedingly, above all that we ask or think...." We need only believe in Him and believe according to His will. I will leave you with this amusing(to me) and true anecdote dealing with yours truly.

Some years ago I was with a few of my male church friends at a men's breakfast. You know how it goes. We were all chewing the fat both literally and figuratively and the conversation rolled around to what we would do if we won the lottery. (smile)
And to be sure as we allowed ourselves of indulging in the fantasy, the very same "humanitarian" reasons all surfaced. I believe they are common to all mankind.(big smile) Here it is.

"If I won the lottery I would.........

1) Pay off all my bills and do fill in your own blank.Keep enough so that I would never have to work again if I didn't want to.

2) Take care of all my family so they would never have to work again

3) Give my tithe to the Church. Heck, I would give 20%!!!

4) Give to any number of my favorite charities etc., etc.,

And the "creme de la creme" I believe my French is correct.

5) But, I wouldn't let it change me one bit!! Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

As I was driving back home that day STILL enamored of the fantasy of being a lottery winner, a still, small voice entered my head and this is what it said to your's truly. I have not forgotten it to this day.

"I will let you win the lottery if you can say to me from your heart that you will give it ALL away."

Taken aback, I thought about that for a while, while still driving. After what seemed an eternity, but what was in reality a few minutes I quietly lipped the words "what's the point then?" The one word answer. "Exactly."

That forever has squelched my fantasies of the 136 million in this week's Powerball!! LOL.

If we just woulda,He coulda. 

 Psalm 37:4 (ESV) 4  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:25 (ESV) 25  I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.

God Bless