Monday, March 28 2016
The story of Cain and Abel is one of the great crime stories of all time. It is the story of two brothers that came to worship God Almighty. Cain, the oldest, brought the "fruit of the ground" and Abel brought "the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof". The term "firstlings" means he brought the best to worship God.
The Bible says that God had respect for Abel's offering and had no respect for Cain's offering. Cain became "very wroth" which is defined from the Hebrew word "blaze up". Cain had an episode of rage. Genesis 4:8 describes the crime:
Genesis 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
There are four lessons that we can learn from Cain.
1. God is a God of Hope
Genesis 4:6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
Prior to Cain killing his brother, God gave him a chance to make it right. God has given us an opportunity to do the right to thing. He saw that Cain was heading down the wrong path and warned him of the consequences.
Psalms 39:7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
2. Sin is waiting to destroy
Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
God warns Cain that "sin lieth at the door". The Hebrew word for "lieth" means "to crouch". Sin is at the door like an animal of prey ready to devour those that step away from the presence of God.
Jesus says "I am the door" (John 10:9). He stands between the eternal life and damnation. Our hope for life and life more abundantly is to stay in the house of God and away from the destroyer (1 Corinthians 10:10).
1Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
3. Sin is a Curse
Genesis 4:11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
If we measured our blessings and curses by the the size of our bank account or job status, there would be many Christians considered cursed. God's yardstick is spiritual. Jesus said:
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Paul writing to the Roman church says, "For the wages of sin is death". We cannot escape the consequences of sin. Sin produces nothing but heartache and disappointment. God told Cain that when he would farm that nothing would be produced. It would be sin that robbed him of what made him successful in the presence of God.
Ephesian 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4. Sin takes us to places that we do not want to go
Genesis 4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
Sin cannot separate you from the love of God, but it can sperate us from His presence. It will place us on a path that will lead us to destruction.
The prodigal son left his father. The love of the father travelled everywhere that the son journeyed. The prodigal son never envisioned himself in a pig pen eating the slop with the swine, but that is the path that sin took him.
Sin is destructive Just as in the story of the prodigal son, we have an opportunity for redemption. The father in the parable welcomed back the son, and Jesus waits for us ready to forgive and restore.
Monday, March 21 2016
My parents first went to a Pentecostal church when I was one year old. Church fills my memories and drugs and alcohol have never been a problem for me. No, I have never been drunk or high. This does not make me a better person or "holier than thou". It simply gives me a different story.
The scripture that I have heard most often taught concerning drugs and alcohol is:
1Corinthians 3:16 - 17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
The word defile comes from the Greek word meaning "corrupt or destroy". There should be little argument that drugs and alcohol destroys the mind and body.
According to drugabuse.gov. "People who suffer from addiction often have one or more accompanying medical issues, which may include lung or cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and mental disorders." (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/addiction-health)
Those that push marijuana as healthy should understand the long term effects. Once again, drugabuse.gov states, "Imaging studies of marijuana’s impact on brain structure in humans have shown conflicting results. Some studies suggest regular marijuana use in adolescence is associated with altered connectivity and reduced volume of specific brain regions involved in a broad range of executive functions like memory, learning, and impulse control compared to non-users. Other studies have not found significant structural differences between the brains of users and non-users." (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-use-affect-your-brain-body)
The same article says, "A large longitudinal study in New Zealand found that persistent marijuana use disorder with frequent use starting in adolescence was associated with a loss of an average of 8 IQ points measured in mid-adulthood." The image of the "stoner" has some factual basis.
King Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. His advice is found in Proverbs.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. (KJV)
Another version states:
Proverbs 20:1 Wine makes men foolish, and strong drink makes men come to blows; and whoever comes into error through these is not wise.
"Liquid courage" is never positive. Foolishness and the lack of self control while under the influence of alcohol and drugs mirrors the behavior of the demon possessed man named "Legion".
Luke 8:29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
He lacked self control and would wander aimlessly and without purpose.. He was out of his mind. Narconon.org describes symptoms of drug abusers (http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-of-drug-abuse.html):
"Each drug has its own unique manifestations, but there are some general indications that a person is using drugs:
The devil uses the accepted things within society to destroy mankind. Peter wrote:
1Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
When we let down our guard or inhibitions, we will become prey to the devil. Sobernation.com explains, "Dopamine is the chemical your brain creates to make you feel good. The point of this chemical is to make the body want to do things that is healthy for it. This includes but is not limited to; eat healthy, exercising and doing nice things for others. The problem is heavy drinking will release so much dopamine that your brain can’t tell the difference between a good decision and a bad decision. Fact and point – Not many of us would go streaking across a football field completely sober." (https://www.sobernation.com/why-does-alcohol-lower-your-inhibitions)
After meeting with Jesus, the man formerly known as Legion had focus and the Bible says that he was in his "right mind". He was now clothed and sitting at the the feet of Jesus. A spot where communication with God Almighty is possible.
Paul writing to Timothy penned:
2Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
"Sound" comes from the Greek word meaning "discipline or self - control". God has called us to have self-control and not to be "blitzed", drunk or "high".
The Bible explains other problems associated with drugs and alcohol:
Proverb 23:20-21 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Proverbs 26:9 Like a thorn which goes up into the hand of a man overcome by drink, so is a wise saying in the mouth of a foolish man. (The sharp object in the drunks hand will cut those close because of the lack of control)
Isa 5:11 - 12 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.
Isaiah 5:20 - 22 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, (loss of moral compass)
The Word of God teaches us to place boundaries in our life. We all know people that were destroyed because of drugs and alcohol. The question that we should ask ourselves should be, "Is it worth it?" Is it worth potentially destroying our own lives and the lives of others because drugs and alcohol allow us to temporarily feel good? Paul writing to the church states:
Ephesians 5:15 - 21 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
When we commit ourselves to God, we should have a desire to please Him above all else. Drugs and alcohol are a tool of the enemy to destroy mankind. I may never have a drinker or a drug user, but after spending over 20 years as a paramedic, I can tell you the destruction that they cause. As a family member, I can tell you of the destructive path that can be cut through a family by drugs and alcohol. As a Christian and a pastor, I can tell you what the Bible says concerning the use of alcohol and drugs. Ask yourself - Is it worth it?
Monday, March 14 2016
In reading through Judges 6, I became aware of several lessons that we can learn from Gideon. They are as follows:
1. Sin has consequences
Judges 6:1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
Mankind cannot escape the consequences of sin. This principle extends from Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
The Apostle Paul reiterates the principle of sin and destruction in the New Testament:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If you don't want the consequences of sin, don't sin!
2. God has given you a preacher
Judges 6:7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
The Children of Israel had sinned and because of their sinned they were "impoverished". God has the power to destroy the enemy as He states in Isaiah:
Isaiah 50:2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.
The first thing God did when the people cried out to him was send a prophet, a preacher. If this story sounds familiar, it follows a pattern that God had already used.
Exodus 3:9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
Often times, when you are looking for a miracle, God gives you a preacher! The miracle is coming, but obedience is required.
3. God sees you as you will be and not as you are
Judges 6:12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
When the angel appeared unto Gideon, he was not a warrior. He was not famous or accomplished. In fact, Gideon saw himself as a nobody.
Judges 6:15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
It was God that saw something in Gideon that Gideon did not see in himself. God looks past our insecurities and weaknesses and exposes our strengths through Him. The Apostle Paul penned:
2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
4. God is sovereign
Judges 6:13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
Have you ever questioned God? Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Gideon did. He questioned God directly why His people were suffering. In reading this, I found it interesting that God did not answer Gideon's question. He looked at Gideon and told him that he was chosen to deliver his people. The answer was Gideon.
God is sovereign and does not have to answer our questions directly. We can wonder "why?", but God has already put his plan into place. We may not receive the answer that we want, but the answer can be found in the result of God's plan. Perhaps, you are the piece that God has chosen to direct His plan. Don't get caught up in the questions, just follow the plan.
Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
5. You need to have a personal altar
Judges 6:24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
After Gideon’s interaction with the angel of the Lord, he built an altar.
He named the altar Jehovah-Shalom or the Lord is peace. When we have an interaction with Jesus Christ it brings peace. He is the prince of peace.
This was a personal and private altar built by Gideon. We need an altar in our life. An altar is a place of sacrifice and death. There are not lay me down to sleep prayers at the altar. The private altar is a place of personal sacrifice and humility.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Our personal and private altar is where we interact intimately with the King of Kings. It is where we can hear His voice.
Matthew 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Pastor Terry Shock says, “If you can’t tell me where you pray then you probably don’t”.
If we want to connect to God and make it to heaven then you need a life of prayer away from Sunday morning.
6. We have to get rid of false altars
Judges 6: 25 And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old (representing the years of oppression), and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
God was telling Gideon that he needed to get rid of a something before He could deliver Israel. There are times that we put up obstacles that are keeping us from being delivered.
There are times that we hinder our blessings because we are kneeling at the wrong altar.
Every religion in the world has an altar, but that does not allow them access to the Holy One of Israel.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
We cannot approach God in our way. We must approach Him His way and in doing so, we must tear out some altars in our life.
7. Build an altar in the church
Judges 6:26 And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
It was an altar of revival built upon a rock.
It was a public declaration that God was getting ready to do the miraculous.
Jesus speaking of the church that would “turn the world upside down” spoke:
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The church must have personal altars. We must tear down false altars in our lives but we must be a unified body praying kneeling on the foundation of the rock.
When the church prays:
Monday, March 07 2016
The church's responsibility to the world is to preach the gospel! Jesus Christ is the hope for all mankind. That being said, I have always been interested in politics. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a politician. My dad (my pastor) looked at me one day and said, "You can not be a politician and a preacher". Historically, they have not mixed well. My ambitions to be a politician ended because I wanted to respond to a higher calling. My interest in the process has not waned.
As a citizen of the United States, we should take every opportunity to exercise our rights. The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen and used that to his advantage.
The Bill of Rights within the United States Constitution guarantees certain freedoms. Included in this historic document is the ability to practice a religion of your choice and the freedom of speech. As a Christian, we do not have to agree with other religions or views of individuals, but we must support their ability to practice their religion and to allow them to speak freely. If we do not, it may be our Christian beliefs and views that are not tolerated in the future. This "give and take" is what makes America great.
We should vote. We must vote. It is not my responsibly as a pastor to tell you to vote for a certain candidate. I have my own views, but we must vote in accordance to the Bible. It would be difficult to find someone that mirrors your exact views, but our vote should be cast for righteousness. We should ask ourselves these questions based on their past practices and voting record:
Many people, including Christians, fail to educate themselves on the individual candidates. They either do not know them at all or they spew whatever headline they read. The uneducated are the weak link in the democracy.
We should be active within the democratic process. Our voices should be heard. We should not lash out or become violent, but we have every right to share our views via email, letters, social media or phone calls to our representatives in government remembering that we are first Christians. We do not need to agree with our political leaders, but we must respect the position. Exercise your freedoms or we will lose them.
Our greatest responsibility as Christians is to pray for our leaders. It is our prayers that will bring peace.
1 Timothy 2
Christians have the responsibility to preach the gospel, but we have every right to live within the words of the Constitution. We should be aware of the issues and educate ourselves on candidates so that we vote righteousness. Write a letter or send an email. Let your voice be heard, but support the right of the opposing view to be speak. Most importantly, pray for our leaders.
Have a great day! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are welcomed.
Wednesday, March 02 2016
The subject of Christianity and abortion has been written about many times. This is my two cents.
In the United States, the law of the land allows abortion. I am not sure that it will ever change. Since the beginning of the church, God's people have lived under adversarial governments. We should vote and are free to express our opinions, but the greatest method of change is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Abortion as a birth-control method is wrong. It is an extraordinary thought that a life could be taken just because of inconvenience. Could there be reasons to abort? Perhaps. But, lets talk about a "woman's right to choose". If a woman and man choose to have sex they should be willing to handle the consequence of their actions. Since seventh grade "health class", they have been known what happens when a man and a woman have intercourse. It should not be a surprise. If they are not married or not married to each other, they have already committed a sin. The Bible says, "Flee fornication". It is disheartening that an innocent life must end because their sin.
God is the origin of all life.
Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The Apostle Paul preaching on Mars Hill said...
The Bible speaks of a fetus as a child multiple times (this list is not comprehensive), but it reveals the attitude of God toward the unborn:
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
2 Samuel 11:5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
Furthermore, God would punish someone that would hurt an unborn child under the law.
Exodus 21:22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
Perhaps, the most well known scripture used to show a Biblical stance against abortion is God's word to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
The Bible reveals that a child is a life from God. God loves it because He is the origin of life. We do not have the right to stand in judgement of whether an innocent person lives or dies. The Ten Commandments reveal to us, "Thou shalt not kill (or murder)". As a Christian that means every life is precious to the Lord and should be to us.
If a woman chooses to have an abortion, that does not mean we punish or shun. Grace covers all sin. This is an opportunity to love those that need love.
Is abortion wrong? Yes! God reveals to us through His word that a fetus is not just a mass of tissue, but it is a child that He knows. The gospel brings hope to this world and it is the light of the gospel that will push away the darkness. We are not to punish but reveal the love of Jesus to those that have had an abortion.