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    Is America in it’s final days?

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

    Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville

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    The Love of Authentic Disciples

    Every year, around Memorial Day you will see this Scripture posted many times: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). In Scripture, this passage is not in the context of military service, but Jesus’ teaching his disciples about the high cost of discipleship and the type of love they should demonstrate as a result.

    What if Christians applied this to their own lives? How much more influential would the Church be if we demonstrated this type of sacrificial love to one another? Continue reading

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    Setting Judgements: Sticks, Stones….and Words That Wound and Imprison Others

    Some weeks ago, I noticed a link that was posted online, pointing to an article criticizing Joyce Meyer. The author had even included a link to an audio of her teaching on the subject of redemption. The teaching did come across as questionable doctrine, but nothing I have ever heard her teach in recent years. It also sounded as if it were very old – possibly 20 years or more, and very early in her ministry career. Therefore, I sent a copy of the article to Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) and asked for an explanation. They responded that indeed it was very old and Joyce had did not teach that anymore. Obviously, the author of the critical author was in “gotcha mode” and was looking for anything to discredit JMM. Never stated in the article was the source or age of the audio either.

     Joyce Meyer impacts people around the world. I work with people who never attend church but talk about how much they like her. She has never said she is perfect or near arrival. Matter of fact, she is often quite candid about her faults and weaknesses in the present and certainly regarding her past marriage and family life. She has overcome an upbringing of abuse and used it for the glory of God.

    In our own daily lives, we have heard people say things like this: “Well, Johnny is too immature. He is always too harsh. He could never be used by God because you know what he used to do when we were growing up?” I could give many more examples. I hear this kind of talk too often among fellow disciples. Parents (self included) are probably the most likely to do this, especially when we are frustrated and angry regarding our child’s negative behavior. Especially be careful with statements that include phrases like “You will never…” or “You always…”

    Too often we speak forth and place such judgments around other people, in essence, placing them in a prison of condemnation. And even more disturbing is that we often refuse to let them grow out of their moments of failure and weakness. We take first impressions, negative experiences, and even bad days and misunderstandings (we all have them, don’t we?) and speak them over people. It’s much like placing walls around them and refusing to let them escape. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21). But Jesus focused more on what his disciples could become more than where they had been. More specifically, sometimes I think he chose some of the most suspect, unqualified, rag-tag guys to be his first disciples and build His Church just to prove this very point.

    Sometimes we seem to find some strange comfort in labeling and placing people in a box. It’s a subtle form of control. But it is not in line with the redemptive heart of our Father. Try to see people’s gifts, talents, and personality with redemptive eyes. Reverse the judgments and curses you have spoken over them, and instead speak life and blessing over them. Use your words and encouragement to create fertile ground around them – a place they can grow and develop according to God’s destiny for them. Everyone was created BY God, so everyone has a DESTINY FROM God. It’s your job to help them find it.

    I would like to close by adding one more important point for believers who are the victims of unfair judgments. Others may have placed judgment walls around you, including people with delegated authority over you, such as parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, and yes, even pastors. Some of those people may no longer be living or maybe living far away and out of relationship with you now. You may not even know where to find them if you had to. As a believer, you can ask God to remove the curses and judgments placed on you. There is no magic prayer formula for this action, you only need to be intentional. The more specific you can be, the better. However, it may not be just one prayer as God may reveal the specific issues and memories a little at a time, over time. I have even heard of people going to the grave site of a parent to do this, and at the same time forgiving them for the sin. Again, there is no specific formula. God will show you the steps.

    If others have attempted to imprison you with their words, forgive them, rebuke the words spoken over you, and move into freedom. If you attempted the same to others, even if unintentional, go the them and ask for forgiveness. Speak words of blessing over them!

    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”                                                                                                                                    John 8:6-11

     

    All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com  The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
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    Religion or Relationship?

    A homeless man drifted into an upscale denominational church one Sunday morning. He was quite dirty, disheveled, and not necessarily smelling so pleasant. Unaware of the attention he would attract for just entering the building, he took a seat on the third row, making himself much more the center of attention in the congregation. During the worship service, several members passed notes to the pastor alerting him of the situation and requesting some type of solution. When the service was finally concluded, the pastor pulled the homeless man aside. Quite agitated this visitor had so little concern for his own appearance, the pastor asked the homeless man, “Sir, next time you want to come to our church, will you please first ask the Lord what you should wear?” The homeless man nodded in approval and walked away. A week later, the homeless man entered the church again at the Sunday morning service time, with the same dirty clothing and appearance. This time the pastor confronted him before the service began and asked, “I thought I told you to first ask the Lord what you should wear before coming here again?” The man replied, “I did.” “What did he say?” replied the pastor. The homeless man said, “He said He did not have an answer for me since He had never been to your church.”    (Rev. Adrian Rogers)

     

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    Choosing Life over Legalism

    2017In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Choose the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The former would preserve their innocence, guarantee them eternal and abundant life, and the latter would bring death, shame, blame, guilt, and judgment.

    As we all know, they accepted Satan’s temptation to seek forbidden knowledge, and to attempt to become like God. This is not just a historical account. Genesis is a book of foundations for the Christian faith. This story and its accompanying lessons still apply today. Daily we are faced with the choice of which tree we will live under.

    The two trees offer familiar contrasts. For example, the tree of life causes us to look at life’s events as a “life vs. death” issue, whereas the tree of knowledge of good and evil causes us to make the same concerns a “right vs. wrong” issue.  And once we fall into the judgmental mindset of the forbidden tree, the door for death is opened, just as it was for Adam and Eve. Shame, blame, and guilt are just around the corner.  When my brother or sister makes a mistake, do I correct them in a right/wrong, judgmental attitude or simply pray for them, speaking life and blessing over them, leaving the judgment up to the Lord?

    Am I crusading against correct biblical knowledge and education? No, of course not.  However, I think in the book of Genesis, the Creator is warning us that there is such a thing as forbidden knowledge, or as I Corinthians 8:1 says,  “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”  This leaves us with the worst of sins – pride. Pride is very deceitful and blinding. As someone has said, “Pride is sort of like bad breath. You’re the last one to know you have it.” There is nothing wrong with learning and knowledge as long as you receive it with a tree of life attitude.

    In Jesus’ day, many times the Son of God, at first glance, appeared to be wrong and the Pharisees right in regards to the legalistic application of the Law. After all, his disciples did not always adhere to every part of the Law, especially on a couple of Sabbaths. As the saying goes, some would say the Pharisees were “dead right.”  I agree, they seemed right but they were DYING!  You might say they were “Dead right!”

    Have you ever been in a situation where you walked away feeling “right” but knowing deep down inside you had robbed the situation and persons involved of life and hope?  Or in contrast, have you ever been in a situation where you could have been the person with the “right answer” but instead chose to just pray, bless, and encourage the people involved? Legalistic Christians will always make the issue right versus wrong, and guess who they think is the right side of the issue? Yes of course…them!  You better exhibit the right behavior, have the right theology, and  display the right kind of worship, follow the right bible teachers, etc, etc.

    Jesus said he came “that we might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In his interaction with the Pharisees the issue was typically choosing a life-giving relationship with Him in contrast to adhering with their many rules and requirements. In John 5:39 and 40, Jesus confronts the religious leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

    Even 2000 years later, there are people who elevate scripture over relationship.  They love the Word of the Lord more than the Lord of the Word. As John 5:39 states, you can know Scripture inside and out, but if it does not cause you to fall in love with Jesus and soon begin to allow him to live through you, exhibiting his love and character, then you may be trapped in a stronghold of legalism. (As to why, it can be a complex issue –  to be addressed at another time).

    If you are a Christian, you should be assisting in helping to build God’s kingdom. Jesus has already won the war, but we still have a battles to fight each and every day as we confront darkness with light, lies with truth, and broken people with forgiveness and love. What type of wins are you obtaining in this battle? Winning the arguments or imparting life? It should be the latter.

    Great conflicts and splits have begun over “right vs. wrong” issues in the Church. And guess what – nobody wins. Pride, death, and division is usually the final result. However, we have a weapon no other religion has – the ability to impart the resurrected life of Christ to others. His is the only one that conquered death and has given us new life!

    Impart life to others whenever you get a chance. Your flesh will attempt to rise up in pride with the desire to “be right.” Do not allow it to manifest. The Bible allows us to inspect the fruit of others lives but only God is allowed to judge the heart and motives (I Sam 16:7, Matthew 7)

    After the original sin in the Garden, Adam and Eve hid from God. God’s response to them was “Where are you?” and not “Why did you do that?” Notice that he is not angry or condemning. His first response was to find them and reestablish relationship. The Holy Spirit is more than able to convict, correct, and realign followers later on in the process of sanctification (and he doesn’t need your help, legalists!) Our job is to help others reestablish relationship with the second Adam, Jesus! We are crying out, “Where are you?” Then and only then can they return to life in the Garden, enjoying absolute innocence and relationship with a loving Father.

    Be warned. Those two trees will still be there. Each and every day, you will look at them in each situation and have to decide which road you will take – right vs. wrong or life versus death. Choose life! Choose Jesus!

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    Conception of Rebellion

    A child is born out of wedlock. As a result, he suffers from rejection, bitterness, and rebellion throughout his life. Being conceived in a moment of lust, not love, he also struggles with lust, impurity, and the staying committed in marriage. The moment of conception is very important. However, not only in human reproduction. The moment of conception for many of our decisions is what determines how our future will manifest.

    Rebellion against authority is too common in our land. And unfortunately it is a growing problem in the Church. Whether passive indifference or open defiance, it is still rebellion. The following displays steps and the progression of rebellion.

    Rooted in Pride – When Satan challenged God’s authority before the foundation of the world, he made several bold ‘I will” statements. It was all about him. He saw himself as the center of all things. The issue was pride. Someone said, “Pride is like bad breath. You’re the last one to know you have it.” Pride is a blinder.

    For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Isaiah 14:13-14

    Sense of Hurt, Injustice – Later when Eve was tempted in the Garden, Satan tempted her to doubt God’s goodness and entertain the thought of injustice from God. He wanted Eve to think God was withholding something from her. When we have a wounded spirit we are vulnerable to make bad decisions that sooth our pain more than fulfill our destiny. And as you know, wounded people wound other people without even realizing it. Often times, rebellion begins in such groups. Pastors, be aware of this. If you have wounded people in your church, they WILL find one another. You must have a plan to help them find healing and freedom, before the group grows, assumes a larger position of power and influence, and begins to manifest dysfunctional behavior that could include a lack of submission. I have seen churches split and church plants fail over this very issue.

    Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”     Genesis 3:4

    Greener Grass, Better Fruit – Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and it looked good! Her rebellion was justified by the contemplation of a new and improved product. We do the same. We have already made up our minds about something, so we try to find some justification for our rebellion. “It’s not rebellion”, we tell ourselves, “how could it be so wrong as the circumstances look so positive?” Sometimes we even call our rebellion a “blessing”, but inside the shiny bait is a hook.

    I want to interject here a warning about the deceiving momentum of “the crowd.” Just because many others are jumping on board does not mean it is the right thing to do. Let’s remember that it was not the pagans of Jesus day that cried out “Crucify Him.” It was a crowd organized by religious leaders. Sobering!

    “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”     Genesis 3:5

    Reap What You Sow – Misery loves company and rebels also seem to have an innate ability to discover one another and group together. However, tighten your seat belts! Eventually the reaping will come. A vision that is sown in rebellion will eventually reap rebellion in the first generation. This usually manifests in disunity (they rebel against each other), and other types of covenant-breaking.

    This reminds me of a church that was planted in a spirit of rebellion in a neighboring state where a friend of mine lives. The group did not have the blessing of the parent church or the community spiritual leadership. So the launch team accepted the blessing of an outside sending group, a group that was scheming in rebellion as well (how ironic) as they were actually competing with the local sending group to get more church plant notches in their belt. Long story shortened – several years later the church folded and the pastor and his wife divorced. Many people were hurt. Some never returned to fellowship in church life.

    In summary, we need to be very sensitive about how and in what conceptual environment our decisions are made, especially major ones. As spiritual leaders, we need to be extra careful, as our decisions affect so many other people, and Bible says we will face a stricter judgment and accountability as well. One time I heard someone say, “It is not what we do that is as important as to WHY we do something.” So true. The moment of conception speaks more to the ‘why”.

    I heard a older, wise gentleman tell me one time, “Never make a major decision in the heat of the battle.” What he was saying is this: never make a major decision when you are wounded, hurting, confused, your mind is not clear, your marriage and family is in conflict, or your spiritual foundations are shaky.

    Time is on your side. The Bible speaks a great deal about “waiting on the Lord.” No need to rush into anything. Pray, pray, and pray about it. Be careful about using the “God card” (“God has called me to…God told me…”) unless you are 110% sure He said so. If you are deeply wounded from something in the past, most likely your soul is crying out. Be careful about clamoring for a solution too quick. Be careful about seeing things as solutions to your pain that are not, and could even set you up for more disappointment. Seek counsel from independent people outside the situation, not your closest friends. Your close friends are most likely to be just like you and will jump on your bandwagon, whatever it is, say what you want to hear, but are the least likely to give you good advice. Remember, real, genuine friends will not always tell you what you want to hear, but will tell you what is best for you, even when it hurts!

    There is one rebel you should follow – Jesus! He rebelled against man-made religion, superficial love, and the god of this world. His ways are quite opposite of this worlds. For example, He said if you want to find your life, you must first lose it. Die to your selfish desires and let him resurrect you to new life in Him. Your wounds will be healed and the things of this world will no longer look so attractive anymore.

    When God conceived you, this is what he said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart… Jeremiah 1:5. Walk in it!