OUR FUTURE of HOPE…

Spiritual Blog - Plans

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  NKJV

 

First, I know this was written specifically for the Nation of Israel regarding the seventy years of Babylonian captivity and that God had not forgotten them and they had a future beyond captivity.  However, as with many if not all passages of the Bible it has an application for you and me in our current existence, lives, purposes, plans and condition.

God is not a disinterested, absentee landlord as some seem to believe but is very interested in our lives, situations, conditions and future.  When we came to Jesus to receive His forgiveness and drink of the cup of salvation the Bible describes that event as the NEW BIRTH and in that birth, we are new creations in which the old has died or has passed away and now we embark on a New Life or Future.  God has plans for each of us and while some spend their entire earthly walk trying to find God’s Will for their lives He never intended it to be complicated, obscure or mysterious.

Let me illustrate it this way.  If I have a child and want that child to do some specific things how would either of us be served for me to say, “I have something I want you to do but you’ll have to figure out what it is without any explanation or direction from me.”  Failure is almost guaranteed and the child and I will both be disappointed.  Likewise, if I have a business and tell my employees, “I have a business plan and plan of productivity for each of you but you will have to figure that out without my help and if you fail, you are fired” how can anything but failure occur?  NO, God has a plan and purpose and has given us His written word to guide us and nudges our hearts toward that which so draws us that finding His purpose is not mysterious but simple if we stop complicating it.  He has not called everyone to be the leader of the Free World, lead the largest congregations, build dynamic and prosperous businesses or be generals in the Army of God.  But, He has given each of us a gift(s), talent(s) and abilities through which we can fulfill that niche He has designed and purposed for our lives.  It is in learning to be “content” that we find His purposes not in striving to be something we are not and He has not ordained.

Through Ezekiel God utters an incredible statement, “…I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  [Ezekiel 36:26].  The result of that can be seen in the words of Malachi, “But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”  [Malachi 4:2].  One of the most powerful declarations of any believer in the Bible or out is found in Philippians 3:14, where the apostle Paul declares, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward (high) call of God in Christ Jesus.”  

Our Future and Hope is to do that which we hear in our hearts and say that which we hear in our spirits.  God will guide us one step at a time and if we would surrender to following the purpose inspired by that which draws our hearts the most we would be light years ahead in our pursuit of The Will of God for our Lives.

God bless you as you pursue His purposes and enjoy this wonderful day of transition from one month to the next.   Abundant Blessing is my prayer and desire for each of you!

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YOU WANT TO LIVE A LONG TIME – Why?

Spiritual Blog - Longivity

Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”  NKJV

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”  NKJV

 

That is a question I have been asked more than once in my years of Christian service.  I had one person ask that question and followed it up with, “Brother Roy, don’t you want to go to heaven?”  YES, I want to go to heaven but like Paul, I sometimes feel in a difficult place between choosing to go home or stay here and continue the labors set before me.  I believe I have a purpose for which God created and called me yet fulfilled.  Therefore, I want to LIVE LONG or, at least, LONG ENOUGH to accomplish that purpose.  I am not saying, as the George Burns and Ray Price song, “I Wish I Was Eighteen Again” but I do want to live long, be strong and impact my world for the cause of the Kingdom of God.

The Psalmist in Psalm 34:11-14, declared, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.  12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?  13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.  14 Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” NKJV.  That is an essential part of my desire to have a long life on earth.  Frequently, in Scripture, the Word of the Lord was, “do this and I will give long life or prolong your days.” 

I like to think like Caleb when Israel began to possess the Promised Land, “As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and coming in.”  [Joshua 14:11].  The writer of Proverbs instructed, “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.”  [Proverbs 4:10].  He also said concerning God’s Commandments, “…length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”  [Proverbs 3:2]

In Acts we read concerning David, “…when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…”  [Acts 13:36].  Our desire and purpose should be to fulfill the purposes, mission, commission or assignment to which we have been called.  You are never too young or too old to fulfill God’s purposes.  He speaks through children and we have numerous references to people in advanced age doing exploits for God.  It is declared that in these Last Days, when God pours out His Spirit upon all flesh, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions…”  [Joel 2:28].

If we throw in the towel and declare we are too old, too young, too weak, too tired, too rich or too poor we impede the purposes of God in our lives and affect others around us.  Who can say that your timely word or deed will not reach a heart who becomes a Daniel, David, Jeremiah, Billy Graham, and David Brainerd, Charles Finney or someone who will become a mighty warrior in these Last Days?

My grandfather declared for as long as I can remember that he would live to be 100 years of age.  He did and almost made it to 101 passing into glory just 9 days short of that milestone.  He did not just exist but impacted others around him with his character, words of wisdom and being a role model for his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and countless others.  He impacted my life in many ways and one was his committed resolve to demonstrate integrity.  He was a man among men and what made him the most powerful was his love for God and family.  I want to live long to fulfill my purpose.  Heaven will be for eternity but our sojourn through this thing we call life is incredibly temporary.

God bless you and I pray you have a wonderful day and a long life to enjoy God, life and fulfill His purposes in your generation.

SOME SCOFF AT RIGHTEOUSNESS NOW BUT ONE DAY…

Spiritual Blog - Righteousness

Isaiah 13:11 – “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”  NKJV

 

Throughout human history, men have scoffed at God’s Word and His call to righteousness and holiness.  They have designed their own paths and smugly laughed in the shadows thinking they were getting away with their devices.  Most of those did not and do not believe God is GOD and some even have an attitude that they are gods.  That may last for a time but there will come a time when God says, ENOUGH and then this passage will come into full view for all the world to see.

There will be a judgment of the entire world for evil.  Today, we have evil rampant and fills the news and internet that many are literally becoming afraid to venture beyond the four walls of their homes.  Some will no longer travel on commercial conveyances for fear of lurking danger and the diabolical acts of terrorist and depraved humanity.  We have large groups of people aligning themselves with a religious belief that they are doing the bidding of God in eradicating all who will not convert to their belief system.  We have entire nations turning the backs on the moral principles taught in the Bible and establishing man and the flesh as the supreme director of their lives.  We have those who call good evil and evil good, subverting the truth of God and advancing the lie of the devil as that which is to be believed and accepted.  We have legislative and governmental edicts that wage war on morality and strip people of their dignity, property and lives.

They may appear to succeed for a time but there will come a day, and I believe that day is soon when God says ENOUGH.  In that day, He will punish the world for its evil and punish individual wickedness for their lives and actions.  There will come a time when the arrogance of the proud will be reduced to shambles and the haughty will stand in fear and trembling as they witness what God is doing.  Yes, there will be a day when “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.”  No, Jesus will not destroy the Bible and call for everyone to convert to Islam or any other religion, as some Islamic jihadist have declared, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the Door and the only access to the Father and Eternal Life.  God is Holy and will not accept that which defiles winking at sin and excusing ignorance.

There is a shaking coming to the world and America will not be exempt.  God’s wrath is going to overflow toward evil, wickedness, iniquity, pride, arrogance and haughtiness.  If we humble ourselves He will receive us, comfort us and draw us into His bosom to comfort us.  If we repent of our transgressions He will pardon.  If we forsake the old path of sin and follow the new path of righteousness and life He will guard and guide our lives.

Never despair over the seeming prosperity of the wicked and the fact they seem to go unscathed when they blatantly defy God, the Bible and all sense of moral principles.  They may scoff at righteousness now but ONE DAY!  One day God will demand account and I would not want to be in their shoes at that time.

God bless you as you go through this day.  Call upon Him and He will answer you!

GOD’S WATCHMEN…

Spiritual Blog - Watchmen

Isaiah 56:10-12 – “His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  11 Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory.  12 “Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant.”  NKJV

Isaiah is describing a very sad condition when

Isaiah is describing a very sad condition when ‘watchmen’ do not do what they are called to do.  Ezekiel identified God’s call for His people to be ‘watchmen on the walls’ and to warn of danger.  Israel has always had many enemies and many cities including Jerusalem had high thick walls to keep the enemies out but walls could be breached therefore the need for early warning of impending danger or attack.  Israel’s guards stood upon the walls and in the towers and sounded the alarm if danger neared.  The Hebrew word for ‘watchman’ is [tsapah] which means, “To lean forward, to peer into the distance; by implication means to observe, behold, spy out, wait for, and keep watch.”

Isaiah described the negligence of God’s appointed watchmen calling them “blind, ignorant and dumb dogs”.  They were giving no warning but rather they were sleeping and exercising greed.  He was speaking of shepherds or leaders, those charged with the oversight and care of the flock or people.  They were self-centered, caring for their own desires, positions, pocketbooks, etc. rather than the people.  They were becoming intoxicated with pleasure ignoring danger and thereby failing God and the people.

Some tell me, “Roy, a Christian should never be involved in politics.”  Let me ask, “Does politics affect your life or livelihood?”  God has given us LIFE both spiritual and natural and if we are going to be good stewards of that life we must, as leaders, be on the alert for danger and sound the alarm when it is impending.  Failure to do so places us in the category Isaiah described and you can rest assured God was not pleased with those ‘watchmen’.

When I have presented this argument some have countered saying, “Well that was Old Testament and we are under the New so it does not apply today.”  We are to walk in love and obey those that have the rule over us.  Yes we are and yes we do but we are also commissioned to watch over the flock of God.  Acts 20:28 declares, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  Therefore, pastor you are a watchman whether you want to be or not and have a responsibility to yourself, your congregation and God to SOUND THE ALARM on all fronts when there is impending danger and that includes the political.  In a measure, every believer is to be a “watchman” and warn of impending danger.

We need to recognize we are in a WAR and that root of that war being played out in the natural is a SPIRITUAL WAR.  We are not warning with flesh and blood but flesh and blood are being used in this warfare.  Flesh and blood are imposing danger upon lives and unless there is a warning cry many will be overcome and destroyed by that evil imposed.  1 Peter 5:6-9, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7. Casting all your anxiety (care) on Him, because He cares for you.  8. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  9. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren around the world.”  BE ON GUARD and if you SEE SOMETHING then SAY SOMETHING!

We can rest in the assurance given by the Psalmist in 121:4-5, “…He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you – – the LORD is your shade at your right hand…”  Beloved, if we are going to be good stewards of this life God has granted us both natural and spiritual we must be vigilant, alert, on guard and sound the alarm when we see impending and imposing danger coming.  If it is simply a bad political policy or a life or death danger we must SOUND THE ALARM.  We must both WATCH and PRAY!

            God bless you as you go through this day!

DELIVER ME AND GIVE ME WILL POWER, OH LORD…

spiritual blog - Abstain

1 Peter 2:11-12 – “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”  NKJV

 

I know of a situation where a man who was often caught succumbing to fleshly temptation blamed God for his problem.  He said, “God made me this way and if He wants me to abstain then He needs to deliver me.”  My response is, SERIOUSLY?  You actually want to blame God for your failures! 

I believe, have learned, and demonstrated in my life that there is a need for God’s deliverance but there is also a need for discipline and willpower.  In truth, God delivered us when he saved us but if we are going to walk out that gift in this earthly life we will have to exercise discipline, restraint, and willpower.  God will not force you to be chaste or practice fidelity but will help you if you truly want His help.

The urgency of Peter in this cannot be overlooked.  He says, “…I beg you…”  I am not just suggesting but pleading with you that YOU ABSTAIN.  Notice, he did not say, “I plead with you that you be delivered from fleshly lusts but that YOU ABSTAIN… The part we play in this is inescapable.  Peter reminds us of the ETERNAL and the fact that we are only here on this planet temporarily.  The clear message is that we are passing through headed to our heavenly home where that type of behavior would be completely foreign, therefore it should be foreign to us here.

He also reminds us that by so doing we will present conduct that is recognized by those outside the faith and then when we decry evil they have something to base our words on.  Our honoring of the directives of the LORD and keeping ourselves free from fleshly lust gives authority to our words and may well be the catalyst that opens the eyes of someone outside the faith.  However, if we are not chaste, and do not abstain from fleshly lusts but live just as the world in the pursuit of passion and infidelity our words have no impact and are like rain falling on a tin barn.

I have long prayed for the LORD to give me the courage, determination, strength and willpower to “resist the devil” in all things and at all times.  Someone said, “You’d better not pray that way because when you do it is like asking for patience.  You will be tested.”  Although there is truth to that I have found that when my heart overflows with a desire to live pleasingly to the LORD and the want to with regard to resistance to fleshly temptations regardless of their nature, GOD HELPS ME!  Through the years, I have learned that those who fall prey to fleshly lusts are seldom caught off guard in the heat of the moment.  If they honestly backtrack they find that they opened little doors here and there and invited the temptation to either come or continue.  Maybe it was flattery.  Maybe it was the thought of momentary pleasure.  Maybe it was deception but regardless of the root, the door was left open at least a little.

That is another reason we are told to “resist the devil and he will flee from us.”  Do not allow thoughts or visuals to have a welcome place in your mind.  When on a tour in Israel our guide told us to hide our belongings before leaving the bus saying, “What the eye cannot see the heart will not lust after.”  That applies in virtually all areas of life.  If we do not allow our minds eyes or natural eyes to entertain a temptation the heart will not long for it.  Therefore, we need not only the deliverance of the LORD but the strength, determination, and dedication to exercise willpower.

May the LORD be with you as you go through this day in His strength!

SECTARIANISM – The Problem…

Spiritual Blog - Principles

1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?”  NKJV

 

I purposefully used the word Sectarianism rather than Denominationalism because most find it more distasteful.  There is an extremely large percentage in Christendom who identify with one denomination or another and some are far more exclusive and separatist than others.  My question is, “If we are IN CHRIST, believers and partakers of His divine grace are we not members of THE BODY OF CHRIST?”  If we are members of Christ’s Body does not make us brothers and sisters in the faith?

Sectarianism or Denominationalism is a reference to a group, often incredibly large, who unite under a common faith or doctrine.  Most organize and have a legal hierarchy of rules and regulations for participation and membership.  The tendency for most denominations is to separate themselves from others and emphasize their differences and exclusiveness.  I wonder how this squares with the prayer of Jesus in John 17, “that we all be one”.

Knowing that I am on thin ice with many let me proceed to the passage listed in our text.  Paul addressed the Church at Corinth with a very strong rebuke.  He said, “I could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.”  Wow!  How would you like to have a recognized and respected leader of the Church come into your congregation and make that assertion?  He went on to say, “I fed you with milk and not solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are not able…”  Paul, you are about to be run out of town on a rail.  He then said, “…for you are carnal.”  What?  I thought they came behind in no spiritual gift?  How is this church with the gifts being identified as CARNAL? 

His explanation was, “…where there is envy, strife, divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  For when one says, ‘I am of Paul’, and another “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?”  Paul recognized that the separation and exclusivism the Corinthians were practicing, much like today’s Christian world, was an evidence of carnality, not spirituality.  It was an evidence of man’s preference, not God’s grace and presence.  It was a source of envy, strife, quarrels and divisions rather than a unifying in Him.

I do not mind you being a member of a denomination nor do I believe God does.  However, I do have a problem and believe God does, with exclusivism to the point of relegating all other believers to second-class citizens of the faith if they do not ascribe to your particular doctrinal tenets.  The apostle reminded the Corinthians that he and Apollos were simply the messengers through whom they had been introduced to Christ.  In Christianity, there is planting, watering, and harvesting and we each have a work to do and should be diligent in the pursuit of that assignment.  I am reminded of the disciples coming to Jesus in Mark 9 saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your Name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”  They felt good about and maybe even a bit smug in their reporting to Jesus, after all, he was not of their particular brand.  Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.  For he who is not against us is on our side…”  Jesus’ clear message was not that there would not be false teachers, prophets, and preachers but that simply because someone was not of your particular brand does not exclude them from the Family of God and the Body of Christ.

If we, as believers spent less time being concerned with our brand, label or tag than we are the Gospel of Christ and rejoiced when others of faith were laboring in the field of life seeking to reach others with the message of the Cross we would see far more in the way of spiritual renewal than we now see.

           God bless you as you go through this day in Him!

THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THE CHURCH…

Spiritual Blog - Cross

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  NKJV

 

I am fully aware of the directive and declaration of Hebrews 6 that we are to move beyond discussing the “elementary principles of Christ” and move on to spiritual maturity.  It is clear that believers are to “grow in grace” and move from spiritual infancy through adolescence into maturity.  I fully agree.  However, if we omit one of if not the central message of the church, “The Cross” we err.

We cannot grow in grace until we are in grace.  The apostle Paul nor the other apostles and disciples ever forgot the central message of the gospel.  They continually returned to the preaching of the Cross.  In fact, Paul declared in Romans 10, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent…” (10:14-15). Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are saved it is the power of God.

I love seeing things I have not seen in Scripture.  I love when I am meditating on the Word of God or in prayer to have the Holy Spirit pull back the veil and allow me to see that which is beyond what I have seen.  I love it when I move beyond the “milk” into the “meat” of God’s word.  I love it when I am in a time of praise and worship and the heavens come down and glory fills the place.  I love it when I sense the divine presence of God so powerfully that I feel I could hold it in my hands.  Yet, if the angels in heaven are overwhelmed with joy when one sinner repents how can I have less a response and desire to see people come to the foot of the Cross and receive the Lord Jesus as their personal savior?

When I talk about the Cross being the central message of the Church some will say, “All you evangelists are the same.  Salvation, salvation, salvation.  That’s all you think or know.”  That is an assumption that evangelist is my gift and if it is I can accept that so thank you but the message God has burned in my heart is not a singular message of salvation but salvation is a part of what I preach, therefore I’m not sure the distinction fully applies.  If Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the significant charge He gave to the disciples was to “go into all the world and preach” should it not be our message too?  If Jesus is the Door to salvation should we not be attempting to bring people to the door?  Of course, we should seek to equip and train believers for the work of ministry but it is like fishing I don’t clean fish before I catch them. 

I have been in some churches multiple times and have yet to hear them present the message of the Cross.  I have been in others and they never present anything else.  I once was lost in sin, but Jesus took me in and as Paul on the Road to Damascus, a light shined in my heart.  I knew that I knew that I knew my sins were forgiven.  I met Jesus at the foot of Calvary and thank God he drew me to Him and when I called out to Him, He came to me in Grace, forgiving my sins and washing me whiter than snow.

Never be afraid or ashamed to share your faith.  Never be ashamed of the Cross.  You may never have a great revelation that awes people but if you have been to the Cross and met Jesus there, you have experienced the most important part of your Christian walk.  I am less concerned with impressing people on earth than I am about introducing people to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

            God bless you as you go through this wonderful day in Jesus!