In The Midst Of It All!

In The Midst Of It All!

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46 NIV

With all the hurricanes, tornadoes, and storms of life, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed with all turmoil, chaos, and upheaval, fear and frustration. But take heart, God is in the midst of all we experience–good and bad, right and wrong. We simply need to exercise wisdom in all things in order to survive the forces of nature or man-manipulated events.

Yesterday, we acknowledged the events of 9/11 in 2001.  A disastrous day for many and a horrific event most of us will not forget any time soon. While many reverenced the memorial moments of silence–trump barreled through his (Miller written) speech without any consideration for the significance of the event.

For those who are yet dealing with the challenges and struggles left behind by Harvey and now Irma, looking at enormity of the situation–lives lost and property loss and damage, we know it’s difficult, but know that God has not forsaken and He will always be in the midst of our struggles.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the extended hands of those who wish to help–God has always worked through people and He always shall.

So, for those who think prayer alone is the answer–think again. Prayer works when people allow the help God sends to manifest the answer to the prayer. Simple analogy: Two people are praying to get jobs. One goes out and applies for jobs until they get one and the other, sits and mopes all day long, complaining about why God hasn’t answered their prayers. “Faith without works is dead” and if we’re praying for anything, we must also do something–make our requests known to others (apply for the job) or accept the leads from others when offered.

We can believe for healing and never do anything–see a doctor, a specialist, take medicine, whatever–and never get healed. Or we can pray and do all that we are instructed to do and get healed.

Living life and seeing God in the midst of all we do–isn’t hard. We just have to know what our relationship is with Him and trust Him in all things. God is love and He is going to love us regardless of what we do and since He loves us–He will not “send” tragedies to get our attention or teach us a lesson. We learn lessons from living–daily and in the midst of it all–God speaks to those who are willing to hear Him, but it is a message of love and encouragement, not a hateful word of condemnation. When we proceed in life with our own sense of “righteousness” we often miss God in the midst of situations that require us to show others who He is, by our interactions with them–loving others, no matter what.

Since I know my relationship with Him is strong and always getting stronger, I’m trusting Him to lead me on this path I’ve chosen (I, not Him) in pursuing a bid for the 2020 presidency. Whether He wants me to win or not remains to be seen, but no matter what happens, I know He will be right there in the midst of it all!

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How Many Can Say, “The Lord Is Great?”

How Many Can Say, “The Lord Is Great?”

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!” Psalm 40:16 NIV

How can anyone say anything about someone they don’t know? A surface knowledge of anyone is not enough knowledge to judge anyone or make any determinations about them. Getting to know people on more than a passing greeting, level is how we determine our level of knowledge of others.

Although some may read a bible, go to church on a regular basis, sing in the choir, usher on the usher board, serve on the trustee or deacon board or pulpit committee or even preach in the pulpit–unless there is a thoroughly, intimate knowledge of God and how He wants us to live, we can’t say much about Him and tell the truth.

When I listen to some people talk about Jesus and then every other word falling from their lips is profanity, I have to wonder–do they really know Him? I’ve even witnessed people do all manner of evil and then say, “Thank You, Jesus!” I’m confused. Why would anyone thank Jesus for them not getting caught in doing evil? People can do this because they don’t know Him. If they really knew Him, they would be ashamed of the evil they do.

And then there are those who think they know Him because of their parents’ relationship or affiliation with a church. Really? They think affiliation with a church or well-known pastor makes them know Him. They think their association puts them in a position to say, “I know the Lord!”

What I’ve learned through the years is that no matter which church I attend, what role I played in the church, or how many messages I preach–none of that puts me into a right relationship with God. It is having an experience with God–one in which He makes Himself known, leaving no doubt as to who He is and what I mean to Him–that brought me into a personal, intimate relationship with God. So when I say, “The Lord is great,” it’s because I have seen Him working on my behalf. I have known Him to move mountains out of my way and I have heard Him speak to me–on a consistent basis–guiding me along the path He established for me. Oh yes, I know Him!

Because of His love for me, I discovered who I am in Him and do all I can to live for Him, since He loved me enough to die for me. He loved me before I was born and the discovery of Him praying for me in the Garden of Gethsemane changed my life and my attitude about living a life to please Him. How great is our God! He didn’t wait for me to put in an appearance to love me, or me to shout and dance in church; He loved me before my mother and father, before their parents and before their parents–from the beginning of time–He loved me, and no demon on earth or principality in the air, will ever make me doubt Him.

Now, how many people can truly say, based upon their personal knowledge and experience, “The Lord is great?” Where are they who can truly proclaim His goodness and promote others to live for Him? Now is the time for every born-again Believer to make themselves know and make His greatness known so others can say, “The Lord is Great!”

Why Jesus Said, “Keeping His Commands Shows Our Love For Him!”

“If you keep my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (John 15:10 NIV)

This entire segment in the 15th chapter of John is Jesus talking, most of the 16th chapter and all of the 17th chapter which is His prayer (I’ll expound on that later). The point I’m making here is that Jesus had a great deal to say and the only way ANYONE can know that is by reading “all of His Word” and not just selected phrases that appear to justify a person’s behavior. If I was to take the time to expound on every verse noted of Jesus speaking, I’d have more to write than time to write since I probably won’t live that long.  I have chosen the selections used to make a point–to refute what groups of people are saying that Jesus just said, “love” and “don’t judge.” I know when they say such things, they have no clue as to who He is or His purpose in our lives. 

But getting back to His teaching–using the analogy of the vine and branches, something the disciples walking with Him, understood and so would most gardeners. It’s about relationships that grow, with correction and instruction.

John 15:1-9

v.1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

v.2 He CUTS OFF every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he PRUNES so that it will be even more fruitful,

v.3 You are already clean because of the WORD I have spoken to you.

v.4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit UNLESS you remain in me.

v.5 I am the vine; you are the branches, If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; APART from me you can do nothing.

v.6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and BURNED.

v.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

v.8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, SHOWING yourselves to be my disciples.

v.9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

Walking with Jesus–in the spirit–since He is no longer physically here walking with us–means that we demonstrate our love for Him, by keeping His commands (obeying His Word) to love God and love one another. Of course, in order for anyone to understand this, they must be in relationship with Him–accepting His love and knowing who He is and how He wants us to live.

It’s not enough to accept God’s unconditional love–if we truly love–we know that love is reciprocal–we must love Him. If we love Him, we must be willing to accept the occasional pruning, His correction, so we’ll become more like Him. If we reject His correction and instruction, we reject His love and risk missing spending eternity with Him.

I’m not a gardener, but I have rose bush in my back yard that for some reason, has a mind of its own. The branches dry out and break off and when I have the time, I cut them back to a spot where I can tell there is still life (green on the outside and pulpy on the inside). No matter how much of the branch I end up cutting off, they grow back and roses blossom. As long as I prune off the “dead” part, this rose bush will live.

When God uses His messengers–then and now–to correct people about their behavior, He’s trying to cut off the DEAD part (the rebellious part) so we can have life and blossom under His guidance. Teaching His Word in truth, not selectively distorting it, is about a love relationship–not judgment as some believe. Actually, I don’t believe they think we’re judging them, they just need something to say in an attempt to justify their opposition to living according to God’s Word. Deep down, they know–that sin is killing them on a daily basis and if they will not heed righteous instruction, they will die off and nothing will be left of them in the earth.

When people know they are wrong–they are quick to justify their actions–as we can see with lawsuits, false claims of discrimination against those who will not support a celebration of sin. And now, the great oxymoron of them all is the production of the “Queen James Bible” which removes any reference to homosexuality as a sin. If they didn’t know they were in sin, they would have had no need to “re-write” the bible. The very production of the book demonstrates they KNOW they live in sin, but they want to “feel” better about it.

People have been “adjusting” The Word for generations–so much so that not many even know which translation is right. I can tell which translation is right–THE ONE IN WHICH GOD HAS REVEALED THE TRUTH OF HIS WORD TO EVERYONE IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. An experience with God, reveals who He is and how we are to live. We don’t need a book to validate us–we need to know truth to grow and bear much fruit. For the Believer, the experience with Him, leads us to insight and revelation and He’ll show us which Bible speaks Him.

If we truly love Him, we make no excuses and choose to live right because our desire is to please Him, not people or our flesh.

More about what Jesus said and why, next time.

Brought Into Relationship By His Blood Shed On The Cross!

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13 NIV)

Relationships–of all kind–have historically been cemented by the shedding of blood. The significance of the blood is apparent throughout the Bible.

Sacrifices–to pagan gods and in the law given to Moses–were by made by the shedding of blood. Even before The Law was given, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son to demonstrate his obedience, but God provided the ram for the sacrificial offering.

Circumcision–requires the shedding of blood.

For hundreds of years, people have cut themselves and shared blood to indicate a new-found relationship with each other as “blood brothers.”

The bloodshed when the hymen in a woman was broken on her wedding night was significant in the new relationship between a man and wife. Unfortunately, most females are never taught the significance of being a virgin when they marry in order to solidify the new relationship with her husband.

When God made the decision to come down to earth to fulfill The Law–making the ultimate sacrifice for us–by the shedding of His blood on the cross–solidified our relationship with Him, when we choose to accept the finished work of making blood sacrifices.

Notice–the finished work of blood sacrifices is no longer necessary for anyone to make in order to prove a relationship with God. What has to happen now is for anyone proclaiming a belief in Christ Jesus, must accept His sacrifice as the means to having a relationship with God. If we are not willing to understand the significance of the work on the Cross, we lie when we say we have a relationship with God. It is not possible to have a relationship with God without acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross.

Paul reiterated the importance of recognizing that we who were not born culturally or biologically into the first family (Israel), now have access into that relationship through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are joint-heirs with Christ–when we acknowledge Him as our Savior because of the work on the cross. There is no other way to get to the Father, except by the Son, no matter what others may teach or preach. There are no more sacrifices that can bring us into right relationship with God. There are no more acts of piety or any other act–no symbols, no beads, no crystals, no statues, no emblems, no repetitious rituals, nothing but the blood of Jesus brings us into relationship with God.

If we deny the importance of the work on the cross, we deny knowing the Truth about God and can have no relationship with Him. It is not baptism that solidifies our relationship–it is the shed blood of Jesus Christ and our acceptance of that sacrifice that solidifies our relationship with God.

It is the blood–flowing naturally through our bodies—carrying needed oxygen that makes living possible. It is the blood–shed on the cross–that makes living worthwhile, in Him.

I know it was the blood, shed for me on that cross, that saved me and brought me into a right relationship with God that will sustain me for all eternity. Hallelujah!

What Type Union?

“And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16 NIV)

The case presented by Paul as to why we should be careful about the connections we make or the unions we establish is pretty clear. He makes a strong case as to why Believers and Unbelievers won’t make a solid union. This one verse–could not possibly say it all, so I encourage everyone to read the entire chapter for clarity.

Paul cautions us to not establish unions between good and evil, light and darkness, idolaters and Believers. While some have in the past attempted to make a case for segregation of races because of skin color or ethnicity, this is not what he’s saying. He’s warning us about intimate involvement when those who don’t know God or establish policies that are in opposition to God’s Word. By intimate involvement, I mean close ties or relationships with those of dissimilar beliefs. This is not a reference to sexual relationships of any kind.

Why do we need to be wary about those with whom we associate and have close ties? The old adage, “birds of a feather flock together,” comes to mind. We develop bad habits faster than we develop good habits and when we’re around people who have “bad habits” we tend to emulate them rather than them emulating us. Why? Some people will do whatever they have to do to “get along” with others, not having the backbone to stand firm on what they know is right.

This is how gangs operate in neighborhoods and schools. It is our politicians function–they say anything to get a vote, but then do whatever is popular with their cohorts, not willing to cause waves, even when decisions are made that are contrary to their beliefs. This is how the insecure function in our society–they simply go along to get along in order not to be alone. This is how abusers keep their victims under control, but if the victims understood their own worth, they would not have been involved with the one who abused.

Anyone who uses intimidation to control or manipulate others is a tool of evil. There is no light in them, so why would anyone walking in the light and love of God have a relationship with them? They shouldn’t. When we, who are walking in the light and love of God, walk into a situation, evil should run and hide like roaches when a light switch is turned on to dispel the darkness.

Remember, manipulation is what Satan does, not God. Deception is what Satan uses to convince, not God. Destruction–tearing down is what Satan does, while construction–building up is what God does. And there is no union possible with the works of Satan and the works of God.

So, why we would even attempt to be in any type of union with the unbelieving? We shouldn’t, for God has said every man’s work will be tried by fire and only those works that are firmly established in Him and by Him, shall withstand the heat. We want to avoid the stain of evil that spreads like wildfire when we unite with it.  

Not every one we meet is good for us, nor do they have our best interest at heart, so move cautiously in determining who will be close enough to persuade or influence who you are and not who they are.

How We Know!

“But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.” (I John 2:5 NLT)

Someone recently asked me a question–“How can I be one of the many (who make it to heaven)?”

The question was in response to a post I had made regarding the “numbers” John saw as he related them in Revelation–144,000 and the number none could count. The reference to the 144,000 is for the remnant of the Chosen nation who obey God and the rest of us.

How do we know–we are included in that number? We know we are included in the number by our obedience to Him.

In the first part of this letter, John reminds us that Jesus became the atonement for our sins and if we say we love Him, we must obey His Word. We cannot claim to love God if we do not know Him. We get to know Him by reading His Word and understanding the work on the cross. If we do not know The Word or understand or reject the work on the cross–we deny and reject Him!

Knowing The Word, understanding and accepting the work on the cross and obeying Him is how we know we are living in Him and if we are living in Him and for Him to His glory, we know–we make we are one of the number of many.

If we claim to love our spouses or our children or even family–and yet haven’t gotten to know them–how can that statement be true? Some might say we love our children and family simply because–they are. But let’s go back to the “dating” event that led to marriage. Most people take their time to get the know the person they are dating and contemplating marriage. When people get married and have not truly gotten to know who it is they are marrying, the marriage eventually falls apart, unless some serious work is done to save the marriage.

How do we know? It’s not enough to just say, “I love you” and then move to the next level without knowing what it is you love about the person. In counseling couples before they marry, I caution people to look at the situation from a futuristic perspective–at least twenty years ahead. I encourage their commitment to the relationship rather than just the person because we won’t always “like” the person or what they do, but if we are committed to the relationship--we’ll work to save the relationship. If a person is willing “to work” to save a relationship, then they know–they love.

Are we willing to work on our relationship with God through obedience to Him? If we are, then we know we’ll be in that number!

To Whom Do You Belong?

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19 NIV).

On life’s journey, we are assailed with many things, turned in many directions, influenced by various spirits in people to the degree that some–never determine who they are or to whom they belong. We are familiar with such adages as–“birds of a feather flock together,” and “a man is known by the company he keeps,” and “if it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck,” but we do we really understand the implications?

When we look at Paul’s instructions to Timothy, we understand that Timothy was up against some people who attempted to undermine who he was. Apparently, there was much discussion and disagreement over “words” (more likely the interpretation of such) and Paul told him, don’t argue over words, study to make sure he knew what he was talking about and to not let those who had “turned from the truth” influence him in any way. And then, Paul reminds Timothy that God knows those who are His and whoever confesses belonging to Him, must turn away from wickedness (doing those things influenced by evil).

We who confess to having a relationship with God–must understand the implication–not only to those who have a common confession, but for those who do not. There is probably nothing more discouraging to someone who “doesn’t really know Him, yet” to hear those who proclaim they do–arguing over words or rituals or traditions that mean absolutely nothing if God is not in it. Jesus warned us that, “we have made the Word of God of no effect because of our traditions.”

The disparity comes to the forefront when people really do not know to whom they belong. They can tell in the blink of an eye which church they attend (or are members); they can tell someone the pastor’s name; they can even tell what the church believes; they can tell tell when they were baptized, but when asked about having a personal, intimate relationship with God–they stutter. When asked how often they read, meditate or study The Word–they hesitate. They can quickly parrot what others have said about something, but have no knowledge of their own.

When people read the bible for themselves, they would know–“The Lord’s Prayer”–the model given to the disciples, was not meant to be prayer for all things at all times. If that was true, then Jesus would have prayed it when He was in the garden, just before He was arrested. And the same people who repeat this prayer as a mantra, wonder why God is not hearing or responding to them. They do not know that God’s response to us in prayer is based upon a sincere conversation with Him and our faith in Him, not a repetitious monologue. If people had read John–they would have discovered what meaningful prayer entails.

The real problem is–not knowing to whom they belong. If we belong to Jesus, then our behavior and our associations must be indicative of that relationship, rather than a relationship with worldly people who do not know Him!