Is This The American Church?

american-voter

So this morning as I lie in bed, scrolling through Christian videos on social media regarding the election, there was this urgency in my heart about the coming week and next Tuesday’s election. Oh my stars… the day that will no doubt change the dynamics of our Nation and all I can think of is where’s the church? More cockeyed emails, seriously? And I don’t want to get into the middle of it because I’m one of those center children who hate confrontation. The oldest children are the take charge folks, the babies are my way or the highway folks, and I’m the one that just says can’t we all get along?

And God said “No. Not since the snake in the garden.” And then that image came to me of the head in the sand, which is what I feel best represents the American church of Jesus Christ today. Now, if that’s an actual denomination, it’s not meant as a reference, I speak collectively of those who say they are born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. How on earth have we gotten to this place as a nation where you would actually think voting for an immoral, baby killer approving, American killer,  outright liar without apology woman who is worse than Jezebel should have the right to even run as President.

Wow, I guess I just crossed the line with a few people, but my heart needed me to say it so that I could at least not consider myself in line with the cowards who have refused to take a stand on the issues of this election. Let’s face reality. Neither candidate is someone that we would want to be a representative of the church; but God has not been shy on what He thinks about the sins of this nation and the likes of Hillary. And while sin is sin and Donald Trump isn’t perfect by any means, at least he stands for something that I can get behind. Somewhat important things like the defense of our nation, not the distraction and destruction of it through liberal mindsets that would allow Muslim belief to overshadow the Christian foundation and convictions that we desire to live by, partnerships with people who view women as unworthy to live without their permission and yet calling conservatives biased because we don’t want Hillary as President and touting that it’s because she’s a woman. Seriously. Does the church have its head in the sand?

This is not a democrat, republican, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc. issue. This is the Word of God issue that you can’t change.

Isaiah 45

Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;  I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.  For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.

I believe in my heart that God will use who He chooses whether or not they are a child of God. But He will not use anyone who is anti-Christ. I did not say Hillary was the antichrist, please note that… But she is doing everything within her power to destroy the Christianity of our Nation. God can make the crooked straight, He can bring darkness to light. But God’s people have got to be the vocal vessels willing to step out for the cause of Christ and get our country back on the right path.

I have places to go, people to see and things to get done else I’d write more… I may be back tomorrow on this subject.

 

 

The Truth About Cats and Dragons

cats-and-dragons

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. ~ Acts 10:34

As a disclaimer I feel that I must confess that I grew up in a 99% white community. Why I feel that I must confess that I really don’t know, other than to provide the reader of this blog an understanding of the culture for which I grew up in. For most of my life (other than a two year stint in the big city of Parkersburg, WV) I’ve lived in rural West Virginia. Very rural!  We have no Walmart, we have no red light… we do have a caution light, but I’m pretty sure that’s only to alert visitors that there is an actual town there. In my high school there was one black family. Was there any prejudice? Of course there was! Being rural doesn’t exclude you from stupidity, it just takes longer to get here.

I can only speak for me when I say that I had no prejudice because I wasn’t brought up with it. My parents taught us to love people; they never once suggested that a different color of skin, economic status or belief was a reason to disassociate yourself from the person. I had plenty of other issues, prejudice just wasn’t one. And while I agree that black lives matter, so does white and every other life regardless of color. So this morning as I read in Acts 10 of Peter’s message from God (the very first PowerPoint presentation) I thought to myself, “O God, I wish Your messengers of today could get through to people.” Then again… there’s a few of God’s messengers that haven’t got the message themselves!

The Difference between Cats and Dragons

Halloween brings with it a varied opinion in the Christian community as to whether it’s right or wrong, demonic, worldly, etc.; but for me it’s just a fun day for kids to get to be something they’re not… kind of like many adults in church… Oh… did I got there?

I personally don’t feel a kitty cat and a dragon or even a zombie is going to send some child on a pathway to Hell. Let me say, however, if you’re exposing kids to demonic zombies of the Hollywood (hellywood) variety you’re messing them up. Because you’re putting evil thought into impressionable young minds that shouldn’t be there. But that’s all I’ll say. This isn’t about that. The difference between Cats and Dragons isn’t the costume, it’s the kid on the inside and the inside of the kid.

The costume is man created. The kid is God created! The costume may or may not reflect who the kid is on the inside. A zombie kid may be a timid little guy that is tired of being scared and wants to be the scare-er for a change. Or maybe it has nothing to do with that. The little kitty cat may be a tiger personality but that’s the only costume she has and the same holds true in real life. Our outward appearance does not necessarily reflect our inward design. Sometimes it’s just the only thing we had to wear.

I have to wonder about all the haters out there. Is that their real face… or the face of someone else? Why are you a hater? I’m sure there’s some psychological reason but it boils down to you’re not listening to God. Because loves every one of every color.

Do I think this blog will make this difference in a hater changing to a lover? Umm… not likely. But Peter wasn’t a hater, he was Jew and just doing what Jews were supposed to do. But that PowerPoint presentation by God on the roof changed how he believed about gentiles and gentile’s ways. We’re not talking sin, we’re talking culture. God doesn’t excuse sin, and He doesn’t exclude culture. But some Christian’s do.

You’re not my church, therefore you’re not my people. Cats and Dragons. We should look to understand the inside of the person not the costume or the denomination they wear. Amen? Just a thought…

Is the Gate in View?

the-gate

I wonder if the man at the gate of Beautiful ever stopped being lovely for the Lord?  I hope the excitement that he felt that day never dulled. His lame lifestyle had vanished, and he was living victoriously! But if life did to him what it does to most of us, I’m sure he had days when his step was not high and the gate was far in the distance.

Acts 3:8-10

And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God:  And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

Is the gate still in view for you? Do you remember the feeling of fresh salvation? I sometimes have to work to remember and you no doubt do as well if it’s been very long. For me it’s been 20 years, but if I get my mind in that “Beautiful” place my praise is once more restored. Life has a way of causing us to suppress that beautiful memory into the recesses of our mind while the problems, guilt and frustrations of life over shadow how wonderful salvation is. Four things can happen when we the gate is too far in the distance.

  1. We lose our joy

David said in Psalm 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation… Life had gotten on him. Sin and the guilt it creates has a way of sucking the joy out of your life quicker than anything else. But it’s not exclusive. Debt, health issues, heartache… oh the list is long that can cause us to lose our joy.

  1. We rely on others to provide our joy

The man at the gate had once relied on people for his life’s provision. But no more! The Lord had now provided a way for him to take care of himself. I was once in a conversation with someone who ask how I kept my soul nourished. They were frustrated because spiritually, life wasn’t going the way they desired and they were depending on one person (the preacher) to nourish their soul. Well, it’s true that that is the preacher’s job; but again not exclusively. If we rely on the preacher to keep our heart happy Monday through Saturday with what he stirs up within us on Sunday, we’re going to be let down. Life is too harsh for that. The same is true when we expect friends and family to keep us encouraged and never let us down… it just won’t happen that way.

  1. People can’t see our joy

When the people saw that the lame man was lame no more, and that he leaped for joy and praised God, they were amazed! Why are our friends not amazed at what Jesus has done… could it be because our praise was left at the gate?

God doesn’t get to joy in us

Psalm 21:1 says The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice.

This broke my heart above all when I realized that God loses joy because I lose mine. Yes He understands… but that still doesn’t justify it. And it especially doesn’t justify it when we get so far from the gate of Beautiful that we might as well be lame again because our joy has been gone for a long time. I know Christians that (if I didn’t really know them) I’d never guess that they had ever been at the gate of salvation. Likely you do too!

So what are we to do?

  1. Revisit the gate
  2. Recall the day of salvation
  3. Rejoice, and again I say Rejoice!

You, your people and your Savior need it.

Consider Your Ways

consider

Consider Your Ways

Frankly, I’d rather consider everyone else’s, that way I don’t feel so bad. But the reality of it is that won’t fix anything. So I have to start with examining myself from the foundation up, and that foundation was the day of my salvation. Am I better now than then, and to what degree? I can look at myself and say I am wiser… true story. I am spiritually more mature… true story. I am committed to the cause of Christ… true story. I am where God desires me to me… ummmm, no.

This idea of examination began when I grumbled to God about the church. I know it’s not just my own church, its churches collectively; because I’ve heard the grumbling of others who grow frustrated with the lack of commitment in God’s people. But as I grumbled, God began to shine the light of His word into the recesses of my heart and lo and behold… there was a message for me. I was really hopin’ it was for somebody else.

The book of Haggai the prophet begins by God calling out His own saying “This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord‘s house should be built.”

My theory as a leader is that I need to get God’s people motivated. But what I heard God say was, “You need to get motivated.” So much of my effort is spent trying to prod people into doing something and so much time is lost in the prodding. As leaders we need to get busy building.

So Haggai goes on to show the Lord’s frustration with the people when He replied to their response…

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

God was frustrated too! The people were more concerned with their homes than His. I guess Wednesday night was grass cutting night in Haggai’s neighborhood too. I guess Sunday evening services were for the people without a life. Yep… I’m in the flesh. But doggone it, why is that still so? Did we learn nothing from scripture? Every time the children of God forgot whose they were, there was a price to pay. And today we’re paying that price in the 2016 election for starters. Why is it a shocker that the moral decay of America would allow a lying, adulterous, murdering family in the White House? Could it be that our church houses have been abandoned and God’s priorities are so far down on our “to do lists” that He doesn’t even rank one day of the week with Him as focus.

Well, God did get their attention. At the conclusion of chapter one it is said that the “Lord stirred up the Spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.” It sounds like they got their priorities back in check!

Is there hope for us?

Twice in chapter one God said “Consider your ways.” And so I am. What is my direction? What is my personal mission statement? Every church should have one, and every person should have one. The children of God in Haggai’s day had the foundation of the temple to build on. In Chapter 2, verse 18, God again said consider, but this time it was not their ways, but rather the founding ways. The foundation of which the temple had been built in the days of Solomon was solid. They didn’t need to build a new foundation, only to build upon it.

So here’s the beginning of my mission statement… I think it’s a work in progress.

It’s my job to build, it’s God’s job to stir. Work. Let God take care of the drifters.

 

Our Heart set Apart

set-apart

My friend Gloria and I have traveled many, many miles together, some in a vehicle and some in the Spirit, growing in the grace of our Lord who we share as Father. Yesterday was one of those days. We spent several hours celebrating Jesus in the form of chatter, laughter, tears and food. Pretty much in that order and of equal importance to our spiritual health.

As we shared what scriptures we’d read and the significance to our day, Gloria shared the Nazarite vow and this morning it’s still fresh on my mind. The Nazarite vow comes from the Hebrew word “nazir” meaning consecrated or separated. It was a vow to abstain from specific things, for example wine, grapes, cutting of hair or to come into contact with a dead body, and much more. It was a set time and at the end of that time a sacrifice was made in great detail. None of the event was taken lightly. It was serious business. Oh, to have a Nazarite heart…

One set apart for the service of God. David said in Psalm 4:3

But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.

I want to be used by God and I want Him to hear my pleas. But I know I’m not nearly serious enough. I’m not referring to abstaining from wine (which I don’t drink anyway) or grapes or not cutting my hair. For me it’s a heart matter. I need a time of prayer, a time set aside and exclusively His each day.

Life goes on… I realize that. We have dishes to wash and work to do. But there needs to be a consecrated effort when we love on God, spending time one to One, in His presence; if we have any expectation of God doing a mighty work in our lives. And just like it was an outward appearance of the Nazarite that he was set apart, our friends and family should know that we’re setting ourselves apart from the world for a time. It’s not for a show, it’s for them to know that God is so important in my life that I’ve set this time apart for Him away from the things of the world.

For me its mornings, for you perhaps its another time of day. But more than the timeslot, it’s the consecrated effort that God sees we’re desiring Him to know that He is key in our lives.

Yes, the world needs to see Jesus, but Jesus needs to see us. Spend some time in His presence today, He alone is worthy

Fig Tree Faith

fig-treeI am so very human so very often, and the times that I am most aware of it is when I get in the flesh over spiritual matters. It seems like an oxymoron but its truth none the less. So this morning as I read the scripture in Mark of Jesus’ frustration with the money changers my mind drifted to empty seats and lackadaisical attitudes toward church attendance and Christian service. I had to wonder why this story was in the middle of the story of the fig tree?  I get Jesus’ frustrations with fruitless lives, and I can more than understand His frustrations with thievery in the church house, but what does one have to do with the other? Pew sitters seems a far cry from what the money changers were doing that caused Jesus to throw tables over and drive people out for using God’s house for their own gain rather than the soul saving station and to edify the church. But then I began to think of the cost of an apathetic attitude toward the work of God, and the number of them who attend church, I understood why God could pair those two stories together.

Unfruitful servants of God are like that tree and the money changers in the fact that they rob God of the fruit He so desires. I’d also have to include myself in that category, because I could certainly do more fruit baring. Jesus’ closing words Peter, when asked why the tree died, was “Have faith in God.”

It was a kick in the pants to me, as if to say, “Let God handle everyone else Shari, you worry about your fruit.”

Mark 11:12-22

And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

 

For They Considered Not the Miracle

miracle

It’s true in my life too. A few days of struggle, a few rough waves to get over and I’ve long since forgotten the countless things that God has done in my life. I pondered the upcoming election this morning as I read the story of the forgotten miracle:

Mark 6:48-52

And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.  But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

Jesus had fed 5000+ people with 2 loaves of bread and a few fishes, followed by calming the raging sea and scaring the pants off His buddies and they were sore amazed and wondered. They’d already forgotten about that amazing lunch He provided from basically nothing! It was as if the bread and fish were a little miracle by comparison to the angry storm. How much different is it today?

We are so impressed when God does what we deem amazing, when the amazing is being done right before us every day in our lives by the provision and sustainment of life. So why are worrying about the waves of this election?

I’ve seen some really positive, good posts on social media recently about what Jesus can do through this election, but I feel they’re being over looked by those wanting to sensationalize, and refocus us on the stormy waters surrounding the candidates. I will confess that the candidates of choice are not my choice, but I have to look at what I have available. The folks on the ground that day with Jesus had but one choice for dinner, “bread and fish.” The miracle was not in the choice, it was what God did with the choice. I feel the same way about this election. I don’t think either one of these people are living at the foot of the cross, but I know the One Who died on the cross for the salvation of man, and He can work a miracle with the matter. It’s not much… I wouldn’t call those two a happy meal, but… let me preface this by saying I’m voting for Trump. Not because he’s all that and bag of chips, but I feel he is the provision for America and Hillary is the destruction. I won’t get into anything other than that. That alone is enough for me to ponder today when the world would rather I worry. If Christians will pray and vote… in that order, rely on God to take care of us as well as work for Him until He comes, this might be the most amazing four years of American history!

Do you remember the day you knew?

knowingI wrote yesterday on being under attack and it was a well-read blog. I guess there are many people feeling that way! Because of that, it’s very easy to get into a Debbie Downer attitude which puts you on easier ground for Satan to attack and it’s why you need to know that you know. As I read of the woman with the issue of blood this morning who reached out to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, it brought to mind the early days of my salvation when that touch was so fresh…

The scripture read in Mark 5:33 “But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told all the truth.”

The words that drew my mind into a place I loved being was “knowing what was done in her.” It’s knowing that I know that gives me a leg up on Satan. It’s having that place that I can return to in time when I knew something had happened with in me.

When I first attended Victory Baptist Church, February 18th, 1996 I went with a chip on my shoulder and ready to shrug off another church attendance, but something happened. I wasn’t saved that day, but I knew something had been stirred in my soul that caused my mind to shift to a new place and I would never be the same. Several weeks of going to the altar and begging God to do something, I finally realized He already had. He had changed me and introduced me to the Holy Spirit. I feared God, but not in a way that I feared judgement, I respected Him and longed to be the friend that I knew He’d been to me with His ultimate mercy. I told Him the truth; that I was a blood stained sinner just like the woman, and He healed that issue of blood by covering my wound with His own blood.

Do you know that you know? Then you should celebrate that truth today! The reason being, that in an attack that knowledge is a shield Satan cannot penetrate. Jesus told the woman upon her confession “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” That place of peace that I long for was restored in those words when I recalled the day I found the power of faith. Jesus saved me, I couldn’t do anything but reach out to Him. But my faith is what puts into action an army of abilities to make life better.

So what about you? Can you recall that day when you reached out to touch the Lord, and He acknowledge your touch with one of His own? Glory!!!!! That’s a good word for me today.

Do You Feel Under Attack?

confidence

A few days ago a friend asked, “Do you feel under attack?” My first thought was “do I? O my stars, I feel like an army has been unleashed on my home, in my mind, on and in my body. Everything is a struggle. Physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually I am under siege. So I now ask you, “Do you feel under attack?” If the answer is yes, come along with me on this journey of reclaiming the ground that’s been taken.

That’s how it feels to me when Satan robs me of the peace in my life and I feel like I have to fight for every inch of ground in the day. Peace is not only an emotion it’s a physical place for me. It’s where I feel happy and secure.  And it’s a very easy ground for Satan to claim from me, but not so easy to reclaim. Getting into a cycle of depression, frustration and aggravation is a slippery slope and I go down fast. And coming out of it is like trying to walk up a muddy, slippery bank… every step is a struggle and gravity is not my friend.

The gravity of the matter. . .

Why we have to get back on solid ground?

A couple of reasons really, People are watching and People need us.

The writer of Hebrews 10 says this:

32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;

33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

In a conversation with myself this morning I told myself, “Child of God, your people need to see you victorious.” Yes, I’m a gazingstock,” and no I don’t like it. It’s hard enough going through the trials without feeling like you’re in a fish bowl. But it’s a truth I needed to hear. And the second part of that conversation was, I’m not alone.

My friend was under attack and so were many other friends. And praise God I didn’t have to buy the lie of the Devil that I was on my own. God knows we’re in this battle, He did not leave us nor forsake us, nor is it without purpose. And so the writer reminded me to think back about other times that I went through a harsh time; what was the end result? I was victorious. This time will be no different. And regardless of the struggles that I face down here, there will be a day that I’ll have the perfect life I long for; and if I want my friends and family to join me (who are lost) they need to see the difference being a child of God makes in the struggles of day to day living.

How we get back on solid ground?

Read on:

35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Confidence is not my strong suit… unless it’s when I’m confident I’ll fail. So Satan has me on shaky ground and it’s a part of my battle. So how do I reclaim my home, my mind and my emotional and spiritual state? How do I climb back up that slippery slope?

I have to get some traction and I have to quit pulling back. Confidence is that stick-to-itiveness that I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength. It’s planting your feet in the word of God and standing there (patience) until God starts pulling on the rope, and then rather than falling backwards, (don’t draw back) Believe that God is going to bring us through and be glorified in what we’re struggling with.

I know… that’s not easy when you’ve just been slammed with another reminder that life is harsh. But this morning as I read these words I was encouraged that this is not forever. And regardless of how much or how long we endure hard times, Satan cannot remove us from the family of God. It may feel like the world is against, But God owns the world. Think about that!!!