Saturday, September 30, 2023

Look Away From Yourself.         06-23-23

My thoughts of late have focused on a note to myself that I wrote in my Bible.lThe note was written in the 6 th chapter of Matthew and stated simply that I should  “look away from myself.” I do not remember the time or the occasion that sparked that note. That said,that note has much relevance to the Christian walk.

In my early Christian upbringing, I heard many sermons that spoke to this concept, especially from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:31-33

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

However, over time these words about seeking the Kingdom of God took on a different perspective,that with the luxury of hindsight, we’re not the intent of the original. The message devolved into seek the kingdom of Ronnie. Not that the descent was that obvious or blunt. It never is. Sin has a pervasiveness that is supremely subtle. You hardly notice until one day you are in it’s clutches. Feelin’ me here?

Was this slide a blatant appeal to unbridled materialism? I don’t think so.I followed the precepts of God. But, the message became less and less about God. The message became about establishing the Kingdom of God and enjoying the blessings of that Kingdom. Serve God not because He IS God. No, serve Him for the blessings He bestows. This subtlety  

planted the seed for the message of a great majority of the church today, especially the mega church movement.

The command of Jesus was not to establish the Kingdom was it? Rather, it was about preaching the Gospel. I remember the early days of my Christian walk.Preaching the Gospel,telling someone about Jesus was the ONLY message. To preach the Gospel, to evangelize the lost world, “ to preach the Gospel to every creature,” was the focus. Jesus said that when He returned, then He would establish His kingdom.  Somehow, the church now believes that it has been tasked with establishing that kingdom.”Kingdom Now” as it is teaches. I was taught a form of that message coming up. It was a message that in my opinion focused more,though not exclusively, on the blessings rather than the righteousness of God.

Over time the focus on blessing led to a self centeredness,resulting in materialism and a pursuit of a “ victorious life.” If I serve God, my life will be victorious. I will have a wholeness with God meeting all my needs. That is the message of Kingdom Now.

Almost always that leads to a self centered, man centered view of what it means to serve God. The concepts of sacrifice and service to others get lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong. No one twisted my arm. I willingly followed that line.

It no longer in my life was “ Give us this day our daily bread.” It was about meeting the mortgage and the car payments.Without even recognizing the change, well to be honest I was not concerned about the change. Smile. When the focus is always on self, whether in blessing or problems, the slide is almost imperceptible. Hence, the call to “ look away from me” becomes offensive, even noxious. It is the first step to debauchery. Pride in one’s self and life is the mother of all sin. It leads to self centeredness,and if not checked, to self exaltation. At which time, God will put a stop to it. In His own time and way. The clarion call to me and indeed all people is to look away from ourselves and seek God and His righteousness. That plays out differently in all of our lives doesn’t it? Well anyway that’s my take today.

All we must do is believe.

God Bless.

Lost Your Faith? 09-29-23

I was reading in John the other day and I came across this. verse.

John 2:24-25

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Now,I have read a couple of accounts about this passage. Some people think that this is the initial conversion of Thomas. This is when Thomas initially got saved. Others believe that Thomas actually lost his faith here. The second explanation seems right to me. The Scriptures only call out one who never believed,and that was Judas. He was never in the camp from the beginning. At any rate,what caught my eye was the fact that Thomas said,”I will never believe.” I personally think that he lost his faith. He was not a doubting Thomas,no,he was an apostate Thomas. Because Jesus had been crucified,Thomas was blown out of the water. He was devastated.He had followed Jesus for three or so years,had witnessed miracle after miracle. Had heard the words of life coming directly from Jesus Himself. I don’t know how many miracles Thomas actually saw,but one would have been enough!If I had seen a man feed multiple thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish,that would have been enough for me. Ya feelin me here? Much less the man at the pool,or walking on the water,or what about Lazarus? I’m just sayin’ 

So this man Thomas,who has seen Jesus do all these miracles,has heard the words of life issuing forth from His lips,all of a sudden is no longer a believer.Look again at Thomas’ last words. “I will never believe.” Everything was going along fine in Thomas’s world and all of a sudden,in a flash….He was gone. Who was gone Ronnie? Jesus was gone. Not only was He gone,but the circumstances of His going were horrible.He,Thomas,(you and me)had finally found what he had been looking for,the Messiah.And now,in a flash,his Messiah had been crucified,was dead and buried.The shock and awe were devastating. Thomas had had enough,he was NEVER going to believe. 

I imagine that during those three years,Thomas had told many people about Jesus. I imagine that he had spoken many times to family and friends. I would suppose that he had told them that Jesus was the Messiah,he had more than likely told them that Jesus would heal them of their sickness,or that He would protect them from the storms of life. Isn’t that what we do brothers and sisters? Thomas was no different from us. Thomas wasn’t having to walk by faith,he was an eyewitness to what was happening.Yet,when it all came crashing down,he had lapsed into unbelief. Why? Well,I can’t say,but I imagine one reason was pain. Whaddya mean Ronnie?Well,everything that he had told people now appeared to be a lie.Messiah? Protector? Healer? I can hear the people asking those questions of Thomas right now. Maybe even Thomas was questioning himself at this point. “I will never believe.”

The pain of loss was more than he wanted to or even could endure.His faith had been destroyed.

You ever feel like that? You have told someone that Jesus will do this or that and it didn’t work out the way you said it would.You have believed God for something and it didn’t come to pass. You have been hurt. You have thought it is all a lie. You just don’t want to expose yourself like that again,not even to God.You have made yourself vulnerable and have gotten the proverbial 2x4 upside your head.You have told yourself “never again.” Perhaps you gave someone hope and they got the 2x4. Whatever,the circumstance,you have been crushed and have lost your faith. Oh maybe you still believe in God. You know enough about Him to know he is real; but you just don’t want to trust Him like you once did.And you don’t. Well,let me tell you something.I have been right where you are. And as Ringo Starr once said,”you know it ain’t easy.” 

In times like those you just have to keep on holding on.Brother Mushegan used to say,” you have to tie a knot in the rope and hold on!” Sometimes it can take a while. I imagine those eight days that Thomas endured were the longest of his life. What eight days Ronnie?Take note that Thomas was not with the disciples when they saw the resurrected Jesus for the first time.I don’t know why he wasn’t there. I can imagine why. But,the fact is he wasn’t there.He didn’t believe when they told him they had seen the Lord.Eight very long days.But…….

John 20:26-29

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

Eight days later,Jesus appeared to Thomas and restored his lost faith.But,here is what we,you and I need to notice. Thomas was back with the group. He had been devastated when Jesus was dead and buried. He may have even left the group. He certainly lost his faith. But,eight days later he was there with the disciples when Jesus showed up. What made Thomas go back and rejoin the disciples. I don’know the circumstances. All I know is that through the disappointment and destruction of Cavalry,Thomas somehow found the strength and courage to press on,even when he had lost his faith. Those were eight very long days,I assure you.

Have you been disappointed in God? Even devastated? Maybe to the point of a loss of trust or even unbelief. Well,brother or sister,you are not alone. Why don’t you go to God one more time. You got nothing to lose do you? He’s there waiting for you.

John 10:17-30

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”

All we must do is believe.

God Bless.

Amos 8:4-6.              8-4-23

Came across this verse today in Amos.

Amos 8:4-6

“Hear this, you who trample on the needy

and bring the poor of the land to an end,

saying, “When will the new moon be over,

that we may sell grain?

And the Sabbath,

that we may offer wheat for sale,

that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great

and deal deceitfully with false balances,

that we may buy the poor for silver

and the needy for a pair of sandals

and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

Walking around the grocery store(Kroger of course)in shock and awe about the falling food prices that are not falling,I noticed,once again,a ploy by the food powers that be. What is that Ronnie? Have you noticed the trend over the past few years of manufacturers reducing the size of the product you buy? What was once a box of 32 oz.cereal is now 28 oz. What was a pound of something or other is now 14 oz. Price is same or maybe a few cents higher,but you don’t get as much.Then,over time the price begins a slow,almost imperceptible rise. Soon, with barely a whisper,the price is now considerably higher,AND for LESS product!The blame,according to the powers that be is always assigned to this or that reason.Lately,in our day,it is called supply chain disruption or inflation,you know….whatever! Lol. Well,if you have noticed that happening you are perceptive.But,if you think this is a new scam being perpetrated on the people,think again. The same thing went on in Biblical times.

Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah in 8th century Israel. Amos was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom,Israel,along with Hosea. Isaiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom,Judah.A common motif that led to the downfall of both Israel and Judah was oppression. Usually economic. This was not the root cause of the downfall,just one of many results of the sin of the people. You will be astonished if you study these prophets,of the parallelism of Israel with our own country,America.It truly is fascinating if not scary at times.I’m getting off point.

Look at the verse again.

…” that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great..”

Substitute bushel for ephah. Making the ephah, or bushel “small” was a way of reducing by dishonest scales the amount of product.Hmmmm…

Back in that day money was measured by weight not quantity. The shekel if I remember was about 2/5 of an ounce. By requiring more weight for less product,you were making the bushel smaller while making the shekel greater. See any similarities? Why you ask? Read further.

By dealing deceitfully with false balances,they could “ buy the poor for silver…” Oppression pure and simple.

I wrote this with a purpose. Remember the study on rewards that I promised. Well,I am almost ready and this is a common motif in the doctrine of rewards. First,and most important,this doctrine is going to harmonize the message of the Gospel.The benefit to us is to keep us from inadvertently preaching a wrong or false Gospel,due to poor teaching that we may have received. The second is a motivation for holy living. Kingdom Now theology is the primary message being preached today in the church. It focuses on having it now. Be whole.Seek God to meet your needs.All about us in the present. The Bible I believe puts off a great many of these rewards into the future. The coming kingdom if you will. Some call it “ pie in the sky religion.” Well,I have been persuaded that that may be an apt description. We will leave that discussion for rewards. Anyway,saw this verse today and thought I would write about it.

All and I mean ALL we must do is believe.

God Bless.