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Tuesday
Aug232011

I Hate Tests

Deuteronomy 8:2

 2And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

My wife and I had this conversation today about people we knew where life was a series of tests. I mean serious mishaps in either personal health, or the loss of loved ones. There are some we know who never seem to catch a break, there is always drama, crisis, or misfortune in their lives.  Now, many of us Pharisees would simply say, "well, it is the result of their decisions, they were out of God's will, and this is the ramification."

This was not so in the lives of some we know. Those we know who continually have bad things happen to them are often godly, Christ honoring, full time ministry type people. So my wife and I were saying, 'what's up with that?'

There isn't some pat answer for this, sometimes the mystery of this answer will not be known until we are with Jesus, but sometimes God does test our hearts to help us see what really is inside of us. God did that with Israel, He tested them repeatedly to show them how far away from Him they had drifted.  Even when the Israelites had good leaders in the form of Moses and Joshua, their hearts were far from honoring God by keeping His commandments.

So where does that fit into our theology today?  Do we really think God tests us? Do we really think He would put us to a test to see how much of what we say we believe, we really believe?  Let's be honest. In my life, and the lives of others like me who have faith in God, we often say things we don't do, and we don't believe in. Prayer is one of those things we all say we believe in, but have a harder time practicing. How about forgiveness?  Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the gospel, yet Christians are some of the most unforgiving people I know. How about being gentle, kind-hearted and compassionate?  Again, Christians are some of the meanest, complaint oriented people I know.  You might say really?  Yes really!  After forthy years in ministry, that is my conclusion, mean, unforgiving, selfish/self serving, unrepentive, non-committed complainers, who think the rest of the body of Christ exists to serve them and their vision.  Wow, that was a mouth full. You might read this and conclude, 'he is sure bitter.'  Quite the contrary, I am honest and call it like I have experienced it.  The test for me is, do I allow all of this Christian immaturity to ruin my relationship with Christ, and the answer is no.  I refuse to allow those who wish to spend their earthly life complaining about everything to bring me down to that level. I think it's time however to be honest with the reality of this, and to say to people who demonstrate this kind of behavior to grow up, and remind them they are failing the test.

God shows us what is in our hearts by the test of time, circumstance and attitude. How will we react when all is lost, when we are rejected, when we are accused for a righteous stand and misunderstood.  How about when we have to endure fellow Christian laborers who are always following some pipe dream, and the invention of visions that are not solidly founded upon God's Word?  Or prophets who are reinventing the God of the Bible. (this one drives me nuts) How do we react?  Is it a test? Well, we do know that life will invoke a response, and it is in our response that will define who we are serving.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

Dr John MacArthur has a short video clip on how the heart is changed once Christ is confessed as Lord. This might answer why so many Christians don't demonstrate the fruit of a Christ changed life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZX_fA885ow

 

Monday
Aug222011

The Ten Who?

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the ten virgins, five where foolish and five were wise.  They were all apart of a wedding party waiting for the bride groom to come. Their definition of foolish or wise was determined upon the amount of oil they had prepared in their lamps that were used to light the way at night. The idea behind this story was about prepareness, are you prepared, are you alert and aware of the hour in which you live? Jesus told his disciples that no man knows the hour or the day that He (Jesus) would return, only the Father knew.  In ancient Israel, the tradition was that a groom would go and prepare a place for his bride by building on to his father's house.  It was when this building was complete, that the father would then instruct the son to go get his bride.  This was what the ten virgins were waiting for, this arrival of the groom.  This story mirrors the reality of His return, the Church like the 10 virgins are a waiting his coming.  Not knowing the hour or the day, we are told to watch and pray, be alert, and prepared for that day.  We are not to give ourselves to the culture or prevailing ideas of our day, but to stand firm in keeping ourselves faithful to Him, waiting for that blessed day. So, how prepared are we?  Are we alert, and ready for this event?  I always to try to superimpose the stories in the Bible to everyday scenerios today. So who would be the foolish virgins in our understanding today? Well, let me take a stab at it.   Would it be fair to say that foolish virgins today are moral people, without a connection to the righteous one? This could be any branch of religion, Muslim, Jews, Christians etc etc. moral, but not saved.  Several times in scripture Jesus said to those who thought they were followers of His, these words, "I never knew you." The other reference for these words is Matthew 7:22 where Jesus was responding to people who gave a long list of spiritual activity as a foundation of knowing Him. His response by the way, was the same as to the 5 foolish virgins, "I never knew you."  So being moral, or being spiritually active in social justice, or being prophetically insightful, or being a prolific teacher will not be enough for you to get into His kingdom. The saddest group of people that Jesus would say that to would be Jews, because they had all the covenants from the beginning. However, in God's kingdom there is a requirement of knowing Him, and living for Him, and not just living for the things that represent Him or having a historical heritage about Him. It's easy to associate with Him by going to church every week, or being culturally a Jew, but does that qualify you as a follower of Jesus! There are many people who are committed to their denomination and have been ever since they were children, but they do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord. The lamps of oil can be interpreted as our heart commitment to loving Him through our obedience to His Word, and to Him. It's simply making a heart contract with Jesus that we belong to Him, without reservation and without hesitation.  Is He first in every decision, in every action, and in every desire? Does God occupy the best of our time, the best of our thoughts, and the best of our activity?  You see, without Christ being the center of our living, I don't know how we can say He is Lord and Savior.  Watch a newly engaged girl who is in love with her fiance.  Everything she does, says and thinks about is directly centered on him and the upcoming wedding.  She is obsessed with him, and the idea of being married to him. This is a great picture of wise virgins whose lamps are filled with love for the Savior, and the anticipation of being with Jesus. Being wise in our day spiritually is being alert as to the quality of my relationship with Jesus, and that is known by how important He is by placing him first in every aspect of our lives.  We don't want to run off at the last minute of His return and try to get a right relationship with him, because as we have seen, that is exacty what the five foolish virgins had to do. 

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

Here is another aspect of this parable where the Jew and Gentile are defined by the 10 virgins. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=OC2gxgf_Vv0

Friday
Aug192011

Can't Find My Stuff

In my younger days I had a saying that drove my wife nuts.  I called it "the ministry of place." What was the ministry of place? It was a normal place you put things everyday.  The car keys had a special hook, your reading material had a special place on the night stand etc.  However, as life got busier, I would put things down almost anywhere, disregarding the "ministry of place."  Now that presents a problem when you want to find  that stuff again and you can't remember where you place them. Keys, books, laptop computers, all missing when you need them the most. Suddenly you realized how distracted and unorganized you have become.

Since 2000 the world has become distracted and unorganized. It has experienced a change that has created a turmoil in how we find our stuff.  All media services have been affected by the internet, the investment markets has been in turmoil, which has resulted in all the foreclosures in the housing industry and millions lost their homes. The polarization of our politicial parties has widened due to the worldviews of the today's politicians. The church has not escaped this upheaval, and in recent years we have seen bizarre behavior from spiritual leaders who have yet invented another gospel. There is no longer a normal for anything. Change can be expected, uncertainty looms around every corner, and direction in life escapes us almost everyday. The significance we once found in servicing the Lord becomes  more difficult to experience because people and vision have changed so much. There is a spirit in the world whose job it is to create confusion, blurr the objectives, discourage the faithful, and make everything abnormal from what we know to be true. This is the environment we find ourselves in at work, at church, and at home. No wonder we can't find our stuff, it has all been moved, and repositioned.

In sports when one team has a dominate advantage because of their skill, your play strategy must change. You don't play into that skill level because you'll get beat. However, if you keep them off balance, and force them to play a game that keeps them away from their dominate pattern of play, you have a chance to win. The same is true of our enemy, he is constantly trying to keep us off balance so we play in our weakness and not our strenghts.

The strength of any believer is the Lord, and if our enemy can keep us away from our time with God, and keep us off balance in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers, then he has got us working through our weakest mode, ourselves. God knows that the last days will be days of discouragement, disruption, and deception, and it's all meant to test the substance of our faith in God.  The world is broadening it's defintion on how it defines life, and the narrow gate of truth in light of this broadening is shrinking to the point it is not being considered as an option for most people. We live in such a broad world, it's no wonder people can't take faith seriously today. 

That's our world.

No wonder I can't find my stuff anymore.  The following scripture is about the coming of the Lord, notice how unaware the people are when it starts to rain.  This decribes our day, we are so broad, we have become blinded to the hour in which we live. 

37As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man  -Matthew 24:37-39

Keeping it honest and truthful.....K

 

Thursday
Aug182011

Leadership is a Lesson in Honesty

I have found if you have an honest opinion, people don't like you. Honesty sets you a apart, and leaders who are honest are often shunned by their peers, and consistered old school by younger people.  Let me give you an example. I am repeatedly in meetings with Christian leaders who tell the group some story that stretches the truth from reality.  Now it all may sound good, it may even have some evangelistic qualities about it, but it's not the truth, it's half truth, and half story telling that is based upon fiction. Sorry, but that is not telling the truth. Truth requires that we confront issues, and not be afraid to address a person or a congregation, or a culture with what God requires of them. Only God can set the boundaries of truth, because He is truth. Where this gets confusing is when we associate truth with legalism, and pass legalism off as truth. Legalism is a private option of truth, or a personal preference rather than God's instruction. People will often associate honesty with judgement or negativism, but neither is correct. If I knew that someone was a thief or dishonest, would you like to know my opinion about that person before you had dealings with them?  Or would you prefer a positive spin on his character by telling you a politically correct statement that didn't warn you of the present danger you might be in if you proceed with this person?  Do you see what I mean?  It's either honesty and truth, or it's deception and lies, and when it comes to turth and honest there is no gray. Once you begin to compromise on truth, you will do so whenever it is convenient for you to serve yourself.  Leadership is carving a path where there is no path, and people need leaders who will not compromise with the truth.

Leadership equipped with truth and honesty have the makings of what it means to have integrity. Integrity doesn't shift from it's foundation because of circumstance,  it will always present an unwavering viewpoint regardless of the consequences. In religious circles, you don't  co-mingle half truths to sell a point of view, or get supporters.  You don't shy away from the tough and honest questions because you don't want to risk your reputation on the wrong answer.

You see, I find dishonesty everywhere I go, and it's for that reason I write this blog. I know my point of view may not be popular or mainstream correct, but I try to be as clear and honest. Everyone struggles with this from time to time, and honesty in the hands of people who are loving, forgiving, and full of mercy can be a breathe of fresh air, because they won't use honesty as a weapon to correct.

I hope my honesty will never club you. I hope honesty will always lead you to the one whose truth makes us more honest, and truthful. It is His Word where we will always keep ourselves refreshed in the things that will keep us away from compromise and dishonesty.

Always trying to keep it honest and truthful...K

For those of you who want honesty at it's best, honesty that is probing to the soul, then take a few minutes and watch this clip from the late David Wilkerson. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGMG_PVaJoI

Wednesday
Aug172011

Mud Cookies?

I couldn't believe my eyes.  We are in the middle of a video editing project for a non profit in Haiti, and there they were, a plate of mud cookies. Now, I thought the presenter was kidding when he told me that those cookies were actually made from oil and mud, left to bake in the sun.  Of course I had to know what they were used for, and then the big shock came when he said, "they eat them to take the edge off the hunger pains." You have got to be kidding?  No, he said some people in Haiti are so poor this is what they eat between days of not eating anything. 

Mud cookies, made out of the dust of the earth, looking like regular flour cookies, but having no nutritional value. These mud cookies illustrate for me what people are being feed in many spiritual circles are every week. They are passed out as sermons of significance, but really the content has as much spiritual significance  as the mud cookies do.

I was in a worship setting the other night, where the worship leader was leading a crowd of people singing songs about running to the arms of Jesus, and laying our head between his shoulders.  The tune was really catchy, but resembled mud cookies as far as the content. I dislike most worship songs, because they really don't go anywhere in drawing me closer to God,  Some songs do honor God and say so in their lyrics, but don't go far enough in bringing the truth home to the heart. Some songs are even emotional in nature, but again say little about God other than He loves us.

I think music should challenge us, and take us to another level of expectancy with God. I think songs should have a prophetic nature to them, reminding us of what God's word tells us about His plan for His return. I hear no songs on the theme of His return, His reign from Jerusalem, and the signs of His return.  You have to go back to the 70's to pick up those kinds of themes in songs.  Why?  Good question, I wish someone would tell me. In fact, did you know that 1/3 of the scriptures are about prophetic themes, yet we hear no sermons and we sing no songs about it. Perhaps those feeding the flock with sermon ideas and singing the melody's have little to offer from God, so they offer mud cookies as a substitute. 

I sense you don't agree, well, all I ask you to do is be honest when you sing the next worship song, or listen to the next sermon.  Ask yourself, in light of eternity, does this really bring me closer to Christ, or closer to my emotions?  I think you might be surprised.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

Mud Cookies from Haiti. 

 

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