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Tuesday
Sep272016

So How Does God Measure Success

I recently prepared for a sermon on what God thinks about success, and I found that it boils down to one word, “faithfulness. God uses faithfulness as a standard for what He rewards. We see this as Jesus gave the seven churches in the Book of Revelation their citations based upon their "lack of faithfulness." (Only the church at Philadelphia #6 was exempt, and He did praise the church for their faithfulness)

  1. You left your first love
  2. You will suffer don’t avoid it
  3. You are putting stumbling blocks preventing people to worship God
  4. You tolerate compromise
  5. You appear to be alive but in reality you are dead
  6. You have little power but have kept my word
  7. You say I have no need of anything

So if we were to sum-up in a sentence what these citations were saying it might be a sentence like this:

“You are giving more attention and time to the ideas and work of the ministry and compromising the ministry of knowing and obeying God.”

The one common denominator throughout these two chapters is the “lack of faithfulness” to Him. When you read through each citation you begin to see the pattern of compromising their faithfulness to Jesus. They were losing perspective in what it meant to be faithful and began to serve the success of their work. I then began to wonder what Jesus would say to us in the church today and concluded it wouldn’t change too much from what He told those seven churches.

Leonard Ravenhill once was asked:  "Do you pray for the dead?" I said, "No, I preach to them!" I think every pew in every church is death row. Think about that! They're dead! They sing about God; they talk about God, but they're dead! They have no living relationship (with God).

I know this might sound insulting to many of us who have been in the church for some time, but is he right? Is the church dead in mind and spirit? 

If we were honest as Christians we would admit that we often struggle with knowing the God of the Bible. We have Westernized the scriptures so much that we forget Jesus was Jewish, and the Bible is a Jewish document. Too many Christian leaders have invented a cultural God with the attributes found in our trendy culture, but it’s not the God of the Bible. I had a conversation the other day in talking with a Christian who supports Hillary Clinton: I said,  “God does not support abortion nor does He condone homosexuality.” I explained that God doesn’t withhold His love from those who practice such things He just doesn’t support those practices.  The point I am making is that if you know the God of the Bible you don’t exchange the truth for what is popular. I also realize that with the passing of time culture continues to indoctrinate us in believing that religion is fine to practice in the privacy of church membership, but don’t mingle it with real life.

This is the direction religion is going in America, Christians are being forced to keep to themselves and that includes their opinions too. I am not a fatalist as I look to the future, but in the short run we will not be popular amidst the progressive thinking of today.

That is why Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted for our faithfulness.

Matthew 24:9 “"Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.

Jesus didn’t hide the truth, nor did He avoid telling it. This is one of our biggest defects today we don’t want to be upsetting to anyone so we will avoid the fight or the awkwardness of telling the truth.  

So how does God measure success?  One word: “faithfulness.”

As we stand before God someday our goal should be to hear those words: “well done thou good and faithful servant.”  Faithfulness will be the grid upon which our lives will be rewarded.  So as you think about success today, think of it in terms of being faithful to God.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Monday
Sep262016

There Is More To The Story

We have all been there, we like to tell our story with all the glitz and glitter of a Hollywood narrative, because we want our audience's approval. The problem with most stories is that we only tell the parts that make the story a tale of good fortunate. Rarely do we hear the backside of the story.

For example, President Obama is an African American, but that is only half of the story. He also is Caucasian since his mother was white. He does identify as an African American, but that is only half of his story.

Donald Trump is a billionaire and he is proud of it, but that is only half of the story. The backside of the story has to do with the way he obtained his billions, and was he honest in his transactions?

The story of Hillary Clinton is that she has had a lot of experience in government, but the backside of her story is about how badly she performed that experience.

This backside of the story was where the debate landed last night. The story each candidate told made them sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but the backside of their stories was told by their opponent and revealed the real person who is running for the presidency. 

It doesn’t matter who seemed to win the debate because at the end of the day most peoples minds have been made up who they favor.  Perhaps some undecided voters may have been persuaded last night, but I doubt it. This race is too wacky to call and there is much more to come. The one thing we know, "we have two really flawed candidates running for office." However this has always been the case, all presidential candidates have had a dark side to them, which came out following their presidency. These two seem to be doing that in reverse and revealing all before they are elected. 

What about the story of Conservative Christians formulating the story that if Hillary wins, it will be the end of America?  Well, the backside of that story may be that America needs to be neutralized so there is no superpower threat to a world government. If elected, Hillary would continue the destructive years of President Obama assuring the implosion of this country while supporting globalism.

What about the story of Donald Trump being a good businessman, the quintessential ideal of an American success story?  The backside of his story is that Donald answers to no one in his business, so what problems will it create for him once he has to answer to Congress or the Supreme Court?   

We all have a good story to tell and most of us tell our stories focusing on how wonderful we think we are. However, the real person is never revealed in the person we think we are, it is always revealed in the backside of our stories.  This is the side of our story where we need God’s help to sort out the facts. This is the side of our story where we need to make confession, do restitution, and ask for forgiveness. This is the side our stories where our real motives are discovered. Too often our real motives are so far buried in the narrative of our back stories that they become mysteries. The only one who really knows the backside of our story is God. 

That is why the psalmist asked God to search him.

Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

The psalmist also wanted God to find out what is in my back story that is offensive to God and His ways.

Psalm 139:24 “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

My point today is really about how sinful we are and how we deceive ourselves with telling only the part of our stories we love about ourselves. We love to spin the first part of our story, but the backside of our story will always catch up with us. This is why the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Gods story on the other hand, is first about how good and just He is, and how His laws bring us into judgment. His back story is about His grace and His mercy in Jesus Christ, and how His laws of judgment are overturned.

Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

This is how our lives are forgiven and set free from the ugliness of sin.

Jesus Christ is your good news today as you face a world where most of the stories are being spun to avoid the truth. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K 

Thursday
Sep222016

Race Is A Christ Thing

It’s happening again, with several more shootings around the country this past week killing more Black males. With all the tension happening between law enforcement and the Black community there is some indication that the sitting down during the national anthem is spreading from the NFL to High Schools.

When you talk to some people they will tell you that there is a war on the police, while at the same time, there are those who think the police are targeting Black males. I would suspect that in many of these shootings the media runs with the preliminary facts that do not tell the whole story. In the case of Michael Brown it was reported in the media that he had his hands in the air when he was shot, and as the investigation unfolded it revealed that was not true. Yet a whole movement was started because of a false narrative presented by the media.

So again, what is missing from these stories that needs to be told? How about the whole story before rushing to judgment?  Riots break out long before the facts are validated and before all aspects of the shooting are examined. We even have Christian leaders weighting in with pithy statements that seem to fall short of ministry content.

On Facebook following the Tulsa shooting of a Black man many Christian leaders went to social media to speak out. Here is a small sampling:

Evangelical Christians, we need to demand the same sanctity of life for Black men in America as we do for unborn babies in America. Life must be preserved, honored, and when it is lost, deeply mourned.

As a Black man my heart is broken over what happened in Tulsa. As a Christian I wonder if the heart of the whole Church is broken?

I think we all feel remorse when anyone is killed: Black men, cops, Muslims or the innocent bystanders in the line of fire of gang wars. We can argue until the Lord returns on the issues that need to change in our society but none of the comments I have read on Facebook seem to bring the problem into focus. I have watched the Facebook posts from Christian leaders over this past year on the racial issue in America, and most of the comments were just as secular as what was posted by the left or the right. Let me just say that both sides of the political aisle are race baiters. The left exploit the races for their own political gain, and the right exploits the races for sensational journalism in the name of “being fair and balanced.”  Just having a conservative point of view doesn’t make you right in the eyes of the Lord, in fact many conservatives have no relationship with God, so their viewpoint is totally human related. 

Personally, I wouldn’t give you a nickel for either side of the political aisle and Christian leaders shouldn’t either. Christian leaders are supposed to be cut from a different cloth, one that finds a thread of hope and truth to speak into our world of tense relationships.

A kind note to our Christian Leaders:

It doesn’t take long for one to know what political camp you support based upon your social media posts. If you are a follower of Christ, a leader who influences others, my question to you is this: does your opinion really matter? You have a right to express your opinion, but is it necessary?  The job of a Christian leader is to minister Christ and present His forgiveness as an answer to life’s dilemmas. As I read some your posts I don’t see anything that brings the gospel into focus. Isn’t it more important to speak into the race issues with the words of Christ rather than your opinion? If a person comes to Christ, regardless of race, isn’t that the objective of your leadership?  As a leader you are called to first minister Christ, to bring His perspective to the situation, and not your opinion. At the end of the day, race issues are a Christ thing. If that is true, then talk about it, and don’t pontificate a human response in your anger to bring the racial issue to justice. You can’t and won’t be able to solve the issues of race in your own understanding.  Race is a Christ thing, and He is the only one who can break down the wall that separates us on this issue. I understand that our racial divide needs to change but it is not going to change without God’s help. I think its time Christian leaders re-evaluate how we talk about race, because some of the things I read on Facebook are not helpful nor do they minister the reconciling Christ of the scriptures.

Matthew 5:13 J.B. Phillips

13 “You are the earth’s salt. But if the salt should become tasteless, what can make it salt again? It is completely useless and can only be thrown out of doors and stamped under foot.” 

In summary:

Yes we have lost two more Black men this past week, and it is tragic.  However these kinds of incidents will not stop until there are some changes in our attitude toward each other. Black men need to understand authority and respond with respect to what police officers have requested of them. On the other hand police officers have to be better trained in defusing situations without shooting to kill. None of this will be easy, but it all comes down to respect.  Respect for the job of the officer and respect for human life, but without this mutual respect nothing will change on the streets of America.

Ecclesiastes 5:7 "Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead."
 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Tuesday
Sep202016

Tolerance Is Quickly Becoming A Swear Word

 

An act of terrorism in a small Minnesota community has the governor asking for tolerance. Governor Mark Dayton is asking the citizens of Minnesota to embrace tolerance.

“I ask everyone in the St. Cloud area and throughout Minnesota to rise above this atrocity and act to make religious and racial tolerance one of the ways in which Minnesotans again lead our country,” Dayton said.

So we are to continue to tolerate Islamic terrorism to what end?  More toleration? Americans don’t seem to get it especially governor Dayton who thinks more tolerance will somehow solve this problem. No governor Dayton you don’t understand, religious ideology is the strongest form of human motivation. There are few martyrs outside of religious circles who give their lives literately for their cause. Religious conviction goes into the soul of a person, and that is why you can’t just tolerate their convictions, because they will end up killing you or your loved one. Terrorists have already determined that their lives have more meaning if they are martyred for their Islamic beliefs. We have more terrorists living now in the United States than ever before and they live in no fear of anyone because our leaders keep calling for tolerance. We are tolerating ourselves to death and all we get from both the Muslim community and our top elected official is we have to live in tolerance.

Why doesn’t Governor Dayton talk about the safety of our citizenry and why do we have to tolerate this kind of violence in our neighborhoods? Has the Muslim community been as vigilant as they could be in alerting authorities about the Mosques and Imams that preach this violence?  It is not good enough to simply come out following a terrorist attack and condemn it; they need to help prevent it. They need to infiltrate their own religion to find where the jihadists are and eradicate them from our society.  If Muslims want to live in America they need to help keep Americans safe from their violent sects in Islam. This is as far as I can go in my tolerance toward Muslims. Muslims need to start exposing other Muslims who are determined to destroy Americans in their quest to have a global caliphate. As we use the gift of discernment that the Holy Spirit has given to us, we quickly realize that Islam is the problem and as long as Islam is around it will create the kind of problems and violence we are currently experiencing around the country.  So when our leaders call for tolerance it will not solve the problem.  When the thief comes to steal or the murderer comes to murder, do we cry tolerance? Shouldn’t our governor be condemning and assuring our citizens that he is doing all he can to protect all Minnesotans against such violence?

I don’t call for expelling all Muslims, but I do call for the monitoring of them from within their own communities. That is what intelligence does it infiltrates the communities with watchmen who can tell when a mosque or a person is becoming radicalized and becoming dangerous. This is the type of surveillance that Phil Haney did for Homeland Security until our administration pulled the plug. According to Haney, most radical Jihadists do not act alone.

“If you know anything about the Islamic worldview, family and community is ultimately central to everything they do. The concept of operating alone is anathema to the Islamic worldview. They just don’t do it.”

So what should that tell all of us?  If there is one person caught for a hate crime like what happened in St Cloud there might be many others who supported or helped carry it out.

Haney was told as a Homeland analyst that he could not use certain words describing these radicals.

Haney noted that analysts are not supposed to discuss concepts like sharia or jihad because such discussion is deemed “insensitive” to non-radicalized Muslims. The mindset of studied indifference stretches all the way to the top, as demonstrated by the root-canal difficulty of getting President Obama and Hillary Clinton to use the phrase “radical Islam.”

Haney did say that the violent few may be small in number, but when surrounded by the community of fellow believers it gives them a covering to operate.

Terrorists and violent jihadis are few in number among Muslims living in the West, but they are surrounded by a much larger pool of radicals, whose activities are not usually blatantly illegal. Those radicals, in turn, project a sphere of influence considerably beyond their own numbers.

You can read more about the lack of leadership from our government officials in Philip Haney’s book, See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad, is available from Amazon.com.

My point today is the misuse of the word tolerance. We are not told in scripture to tolerate evil, we are told to resist it.

James 4:7 “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

We resist evil we don’t tolerate it. Governor Dayton you need to understand that Islam is not your friend and it will never be your friend because it has an agenda to establish a worldwide caliphate.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K 

 

Tuesday
Sep202016

Will Faith Be found on Earth?

 

Luke 18:8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

This is a good question will Jesus find faith on earth? With so much of our world looking for fact, science and technology to bring us the answers that our hearts have become numb to the principles of faith.  We are inundated with the ideas of this world, pressured by marketers and the ideologies that push an agenda that is only of this world.  As a result of the relentless godlessness around us we often forget that this world is not run by the mighty or the politically correct, it always remains under the control of God. His administrators are the faithful people who believe and trust in Him. Now all of us know that it doesn’t appear that way from day to day, but the reality check is found in the story of the judge and widow found in Luke 18. 

The entire chapter of Luke 18 has four stories that I find helpful in developing and maintaining our faith in God.

The story of the widow and the judge show us the importance of persisting in prayer and not to waiver as the pressure increases to conform to this world. Our need is to develop a discipline not to quit in pursuing God on issues that matter.

The second story found in Luke 18 is about humility. The publican and sinner both approaching God with their personal stories of worthiness but in the end one was more righteous than the other.  The publican was self-righteous and overwhelming filled with his self-importance while the other knew of his sinfulness and acknowledged it. Humility is not a character trait that has a strong value in today’s world.

The third story was about sacrifice and how the Rich Young Ruler had everything but had nothing that satisfied the longing for meaning in his heart. Jesus gave him the answer to his dilemma, but he was not willing to sacrifice what he had accumulated.  Sacrifice is hard for people because it comes with a price.

The fourth story is about how faith can bring healing when all seems impossible. A blind man was sitting by the road crying out to the only hope that he had as Jesus passed by.  Did he know Jesus would heal him?  All he knew was there was something different taking place around him and he cried out with the hope that Jesus would hear him.

Each one of these little stories required faith and Jesus was asking would He find faith on earth when He returns. Our country is losing our value of religious freedom and it’s because we are losing our faith in God. I know that is a broad- brush statement and I also know there are a lot of faithful people fighting everyday to be heard. However is our world hearing what godly people are saying?  Are people trusting in God more or less today? How do the majority of Americans see God and live according to His commands?

The Barna Research group found that there has been a change even within the ranks of Christianity.

  • Attendance at a church service in any given week has declined among self-identified Christians by nine percentage points since 1991. Now only a minority of this group – 47% – can be found in church events during a typical week.Adults from this segment are currently eight percentage points less likely to attend Sunday school in a typical week than was true twenty years ago. Less than one out of five (18%) now attend during a typical week.
  • Whereas 30% of the self-identified Christians volunteered at a church during a typical week back in 1991, that figure has declined to 22% today.
  • Bible reading dropped slightly over the last 20 years within this segment, going from 51% to 46%. This is another marker in which a majority of this group no longer participates.
  • Those who embrace the label “Christian” for themselves are now ten percentage points more likely to be un-churched than was true in 1991. The 31% who fit this profile have not attended any church  service during the past six months, excluding special services such as weddings or funerals.

So the basic practices of what made a good disciple of Jesus Christ is slowly shrinking and this study was conducted in 2011, and it has declined since then.

As we go back to the question Jesus posed in Luke 18:8, will He find faith on earth when He returns?  Well that will depend on you and me. I can’t do much about someone else’s faith but I can take steps to help myself believe. 

  1. How much emphasis do I place on spiritual things? How important is a spiritual perspective in how I live out my life?
  2. How do I see death?  Is it final or is it a beginning?
  3. How much of God’s truth do I digest everyday?
  4. How fearful am I about the future and do I trust God for His assurance to stand beside me?
  5. How do I practice trusting God for the impossible?  Am I willing to risk everything in my life to trust God for my answers?

It’s easy to ask the questions, and much harder to answer them.

Just be aware that there is a spirit of subtraction that is at work today. That spirit will rob, steal, and destroy your faith in God, continuing to subtract from you the ability to trust and believe in God. It is subtle and slow working, but it is at work to make you conform to this world. It is important that you fight for what you believe in and don’t allow the subtle lies of this world to permeate your thinking and erode your faith.

James 4:4 “Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

 

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