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Heaven or Hell?
April 23, 2017, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Church Stuff, God | Tags: , , ,

Jud 1:3-16 ESV Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (4) For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (5) Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (6) And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day– (7) just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (8) Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. (9) But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (10) But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. (11) Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (12) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; water-less clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (14) It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, (15) to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (16) These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

We talk a lot today about false teaching and how the Church has strayed so far from the truth of the gospel. Yet as the letter of Jude shows us this began very early in the Church, we find that there was such a problem that instead of talking about that which was the way, Jude felt the Spirit leading in a different direction. The direction that the Spirit wants him to take is to show the necessity to contend for the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”
What is the truth he is speaking of? It is that which we find enshrined in our Old and New Testament books. We have all the doctrine that God has for us to know, and to follow, if someone says he or she has received a new revelation from God, they are lying, there is no new revelation from God. Jude will go on to explain what he means, in that the truth was delivered to us through Jesus Christ, and the Apostles who established the church throughout the world of that day. There are many who take what the scriptures say and twist it to fit the way of the world, instead of the Kingdom of God.
The Bible tells us that the Devil is the Liar in Chief, he is the leading deceit deliverer to the world. The devil knows the scriptures and knows how to twist them to his own benefit. Where we see that the gospel delivers us to freedom from sin, false teachers will use it to say that we are free indeed to practice any thing we want. We are free from sin so we can sin all the more. That teaching was prevalent then and it is so today, God’s people need to stand against this deceit.
Jude 1:4 tells us that those who tell these lies will have to pay the price for their lies and sinfulness in lying to people. The gospel makes it clear, Jesus chastised the Scribes and Pharisees for being false teachers, and the scripture tells us that those who are leaders in the church that are also deceivers will pay the price as well. There is only one Lord and God, Jesus the Christ is the one who saves and sets free, free to live as God intended us to live. It is our duty to stand for the truth, no matter who we must stand against. If what a teacher, preacher or other leader in the church tells you something that disagrees with the scriptures, stand against that teaching.
I went to a conference of the United Methodist Church one year, the discipline of the United Methodist Church states clearly that they are to abstain from alcohol because of its negative impact on morality.
As we were enjoying our lunch in a restaurant in Corpus Christi, I noted that at a table near Yvonne and I were a couple of the leaders of the Church, also eating lunch, they had a bottle of wine on the table and were enjoying their lunch and their drinks. Hypocrisy of course since they knew what the teaching was, and it was also taught in the scriptures. As the apostle Paul wrote in Eph 5:18 “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,”. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not with alcohol.
The point being we are to be like our Lord as much as we can, yes, Jesus drank wine, however, he did so in moderation. He expects us to act accordingly, staying sober, but filled with the Holy Spirit and working to keep ourselves in holiness as much as we can as sinful human beings.

In verse 5 Jude talks about those who rebelled against Moses and God in the wilderness after their escape from Egypt. In the book of Numbers 13 and 14 God acts against those who are rebelling and they are destroyed from the face of the earth. Those who pervert the word of God who rebel against God are slated to spend eternity in hell, those who strive to live in the way of God will instead reach the holy land, Heaven where they will live in the presence of God for eternity. Those who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, are destined to live in Heaven, those who reject Jesus Christ, will also live forever, in hell. Jude goes on to show what happened to all who flouted the way of life that God had set down from the beginning. Sodom and Gomorrah, and many others all who have or will pay the price for their rebellion against God. Beginning in verse 6 and going through verse 16 we see the litany of those who will suffer eternal damnation. It hurts me to see this nation of ours going the way of all of Europe, chasing after the lie that there are alternative ways of life when God has clearly said there is only one right way to live. Again the Apostle Paul wrote that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” He also says that “the wages of sin is death.” All sin earns the same wage, whether it is telling a lie, or, cursing God, adultery or another sexual sin. Disrespecting your parents, or, perjuring yourself. Hell awaits those who blaspheme God, those who refuse to accept their need for a savior, God will not be mocked, he is in control.

Jud 1:17-23 ESV But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. (18) They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” (19) It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (20) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, (21) keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (22) And have mercy on those who doubt; (23) save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Jude now goes on telling us we must remember that there will be those who scoff at the gospel, working to serve the flesh instead of the maker of the flesh we live in. There are people who work hard to divide us, one against another, closing down any faithful group of people by finding and exploiting any weakness in our church. Remember that Satan is the great deceiver, and will work to exploit any weakness in our faith walk. Do not just listen to the Sunday message, read the verses for yourself, is the message true to the gospel or is it false? Study the word of God every day, even if just a short passage, just keep up diligent study to be sure you are able to answer the scoffer with the truth.
The question you must ask yourself is, “Who am I?” Am I truly the child of the King or am I a child of the devil. Do I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, that He died and was raised from the dead to bring me salvation for sin? Or do I believe the scoffers who say there is no God and this is the only life there is. Which one do you believe? If it is the scoffer, then you are destined to an eternity in Hell with Satan and all his minions. If you have believed that you are a child of the King, have confessed with your tongue that Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior and Lord, then Heaven awaits.
Jud 1:24-25 ESV Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, (25) to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude closes with a Doxology, a short piece that tells us exactly who Jesus Christ is and what happens to those who believe.
We find that Jesus is the only one who can keep us from stumbling, the only one who can present us blameless in heaven by the power of his blood spilled on the cross at Calvary by which we are saved for all eternity from sin and death. Then Jude goes on to show us that it is Jesus Christ, who is the only God and our Savior. God himself came and lived as a Jewish lad, lived a sinless life, and then gave his life an atonement for my sin and your sin. We are set free when we recognize that we are sinners and that Jesus died on that cross, to allow us to be reconciled to our Holy God. Also by his resurrection, we too are guaranteed resurrection one day to be with him in heaven.
Lift your voices in praise for the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who saves, and we are the ones in need of salvation.

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How should we pray? Jesus taught them.
February 2, 2016, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Church Stuff, Culture, God | Tags: ,

In many churches across our land people will pray the “Lord’s Prayer” and most of us will pray it by memory. We have recited this prayer for years in our churches, and it has become empty rote rather than a heartfelt prayer to our God. This prayer was Jesus’ answer to the disciples request to teach them to pray.
Mat 6:9-13 NRSV “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (10) Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (13) And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
6:9 Our Father in heaven. Prayer should be addressed to God the Father in acknowledgment of His sovereignty over the universe. It is also to recognize that we are family, that God is our spiritual Father and therefore, notice that it is our rather than my Father. It is to be understood that God is first and foremost our sovereign, ruler of the Universe, but also a Father who is partial to the needs of His children. Next we recognize that God is in heaven, but also that he is Omnipresent, God is present everywhere and everywhen. He is always present for each of us and will hear our prayers and supplications, we acknowledge that He is in heaven and yet also with us for the Holy Spirit inhabits each of us. So God is always with us in everything we say and do. As it tells us in Psa 33:13-15 ESV The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; (14) from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, (15) he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.
God knows us better than we know ourselves, he is with us through all the trials and joys of life, knowing what we need before we do. He is also ready to act as our Father to fill the needs of His children.
Next – Hallowed be Your name. We should begin our prayers with worship, ascribing praise and honor to Him who is so worthy of it. In other words, one who is above and separate from the earth, yet rules over it. One who is to be exalted and recognized as Holy. His name is to be revered, understanding His divinity and giving voice to His holiness. Not only in our speech but also in our thoughts and actions, doing all things to God’s honor and glory.
6:10 Your kingdom come. After worship, we should pray for the advancement of God’s cause, putting His interests first. Specifically, we should pray for the day when our Savior-God, the Lord Jesus Christ, will set up His kingdom on earth and reign in righteousness. Looking forward to the day when the Kingdom of Heaven shall be made manifest on the earth, the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Your will be done. In this petition we acknowledge that God knows what is best and that we surrender our will to His. It also expresses a longing to see His will acknowledged throughout the world. Why would we not want the will of God to be made manifest in the world, since we profess that God’s will is just and that it is His will that brings infinite wisdom, holiness and goodness into our lives.
On earth as it is in heaven. This phrase modifies all three preceding petitions. The worship of God, the sovereign rule by God, and the performance of His will are all a reality of heaven. The prayer is that these conditions might exist on earth as they do in heaven. As we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, it means that we want the Kingdom to become a reality on earth, and that his will, which is our sanctification will happen so that our lives will reflect that which already happens in the heavenly realm. Truth be told our soul can never be truly pure until we are truly at one with God acting in concert with His will in our lives to evidence the kingdom.

6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. After putting God’s interests first, we are permitted to present our own needs. This petition acknowledges our dependence on God for daily food, both spiritual and physical. This hearkens back to the Manna in the desert, when the Israelites were dependent upon God for their daily sustenance. Our God knows our needs and more than once I have known that God was taking care of our needs. We had a dinner once at a church that I served, and our folks were surprised at how many showed up for worship and the meal afterward. They were concerned that we did not have enough food, yet when the meal was over, there was still food left for folks to take home for the evening meal.
6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This does not refer to judicial forgiveness from the penalty of sin (that forgiveness is obtained by faith in the Son of God). Rather this refers to the parental forgiveness that is necessary if fellowship with our Father is to be maintained. If believers are unwilling to forgive those who wrong them, how can they expect to be in fellowship with their Father who has freely forgiven them for their wrongdoings? We speak of the truth that we are under grace not under the law, but, the law is still there to remind us of what sin is and what God has never changed. When we look at sin we must acknowledge that our God has set the line across which we dare not go.
Even as forgiven and reconciled persons, we are still subject to sin and must repeatedly go before the throne of grace, asking for forgiveness because of having hurt God by our sin, and therefore having a broken heart ourselves. We have sinned against he who gave his human life for our sins, and that sin hurts our father in heaven and needs to be repented of. The other side of that coin is that we are to forgive one another because if I hurt you, and then realize that I have done so, I must repent and ask for your forgiveness. Peter asked how many times must he forgive a brother, thinking 7 times was enough, Jesus said 70 times 7.
6:13 And do not lead us into temptation. God does allow His people to be tested and tried. This petition expresses a healthy distrust of one’s own ability to resist temptations or to stand up under trial. It acknowledges complete dependence on the Lord for preservation. We will from time to time be tempted, yet God always makes a way for escape. One of the most important things is that we spend time in His word, it gives us wisdom to work for God and to tell the devil to; as Jesus said to Peter, get thee behind me Satan. We must always remember that if what we think is right but it does not agree with what scripture teaches us about right and wrong, then we know not to allow ourselves to be trapped by that temptation.
But deliver us from the evil one. This is the prayer of all who desperately desire to be kept from sin by the power of God. It is the heart’s cry for daily salvation from the power of sin and Satan in one’s life.
This world will continually tempt us into sin, just look at the commercials on TV, always trying to get you buy this or that item so you will be seen to be the best guy on the block. I saw over and over again during the gift buying season, we call it Christmas, one person bought a set of reindeer to set in his yard. Of course it included Rudolph and his nose lit up. He also says he saved a couple of hundred dollars on the purchase. The neighbor says, yeah I bought something that lights up too, turns and hits the smart button and starts up his truck which of course lit the lights, and says I saved thousands.
We see other things too, that approach filth of another kind as well, all so that you will want to buy whatever they are selling. Then there is the lure of the lottery ticket, you can win millions, just buy a ticket. They neglect to tell you that your odds of winning are a few million to one. Remember folks, if you go to a casino to gamble, the odds always favor the house.

God has promised us life and that abundant, he did not promise that it would be without problems, just that he would never abandon nor forsake you. God goes with you in good and bad times, that is something that is guaranteed by his word. This prayer that we have just gone through is really not to be something you do by rote, it is an example of how to pray.
We in the church have made this prayer something that everyone learns by repeating every week, and it becomes rote, we know it by heart and we no longer know the meaning behind the words, we just repeat them each week. This however, is a teaching of Jesus, it shows us how to pray, and that is something we need to do on a regular basis. Prayer is a conversation with our Father in Heaven, we praise him and thank him for what he does and who he is and then present our needs to him, and admit that we understand that if we do not get along with our brothers and sisters in the family, we will of course seek reconciliation with them so that our sins against God can also be forgiven when we come to him for that forgiveness. Jesus taught that if we come to present our offering and yet have something wrong with a brother or sister in the faith, we are to go and make that right and then come to give our offering it means we are to be right with our brethren, before we can be right with our father.
We shall always recognize what sin is as we study the word of God. It is in the word that we learn what it is that is wrong (sinful) in His sight, lying, cheating, stealing, and murder, but also jealousy, hatred, perversions, shirking our duty to one another, to our job, and even lewd thought. So let us remember that this prayer shows us how to pray, how to speak with our God, learn from it as you go through your daily life, and spend time with God each and every day.
A good starting point for learning about prayer is to pray the psalms, these were used in worship, and sung or recited in worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Much of these are actually prayers of David and the sons of Korah and others.
There is also a wonderful book called all the prayers of the Bible.Take a look at how they prayed and what they prayed about. Here is a prayer of intercession that I think is indicative of the prayers that we ourselves should be involved in. This prayer is found in Gen 18:23-33.
Gen 18:23-33 ESV Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (24) Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? (25) Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (26) And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” (27) Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. (28) Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” (29) Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” (30) Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” (31) He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” (32) Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (33) And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
This is intercession, coming before God to intercede for others, Jesus taught that we are to intercede for those who are in need. Prayer for the sick, for the destitute, prayers for those who do not yet know the Lord.
Prayer for those we consider enemies to have their hearts and minds changed and renewed, prayers for revival or awakening. All are intercessory in nature. Spend time with God in prayer every day. You may want to watch a movie that is out right now called War Room. It is a powerful picture of what happens when you pray, first to get your own life in order, then for the stuff around you that also needs to be made right.

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All that I have Commanded You – 9
January 15, 2016, 5:14 pm
Filed under: Church Stuff, God | Tags: , , ,

John 15:18-23 NKJV “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (20) Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (21) But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (22) If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. (23) He who hates Me hates My Father also.

This series would not be complete without a truth that Jesus taught his disciples. That truth is that just because you have become a Christian person does not mean that all things will come to you and you will live a good life, with all that you need to be fulfilled in your person. I know that the scriptures say that all things work to good for those who love the Lord and that is true, but, this teaching in the gospel of John is also truth. You only have to look to the middle east to see that Christians are being persecuted for their faith by the radical Muslim group ISIS. However they are not the only ones who persecute Christians.

Looking at the United States, we find that there is much trouble for Christians here at home, we are told that we must support homosexual marriage, that we must agree with abortion on demand, and allow for other sexual sins as being just another type of life style. This includes man with boys as well as adultery, and the change in morality that says that a person in power can have sex with an employee and it is acceptable. Teachers with students or a President with an intern.
Of course none of this can hold a candle to the darkness that is engulfing the rest of the world. In Europe, we see Christians and Jews being told that they cannot say anything wrong about Muslims, we see the Muslim attacks in Paris, and London, Brussels and Germany on New Years Eve, as hundreds of women were assaulted by Muslim men. Some were raped, some were groped, and the governments in the towns where these things happened hid the truth from the public.

Then there is the middle east where the city of Mosul, which had a Christian presence from the very beginning, around 100 CE, and there are now no more Christians in that city. They either escaped, or were murdered by the adherents of Islam under ISIS. They were told to convert to Islam, leave or die, there is no other choice.

On December 14, 2015 Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote an article in National Review titled “See and Name the Genocide” In the article she quotes from Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus who testified before congress in regard to Iraqi and Syrian Christian refugees from ISIS. He said: “Fear of being slaughtered or enslaved for their faith prevents them from returning home.” “Like the Jews in Nazi Germany, these Christians are escaping genocide. They are being specifically targeted because they put their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Returning to our own nation, I have to make note of the fact that the Obama administration has accepted Muslim refugees, but has sent Christian refugees back to their home countries, to face the terror of extermination. In that context you can say that Christians are no longer welcome in the United States either.

In the past year we have witnessed horrific killings in Islamic held territories. Christian men have been burned to death, had their heads cut off, been drowned and of course shot to death. In Egypt, during the time when the Muslim Brotherhood was in charge, we witnessed actual crucifixions of Christians in the middle of Cairo. All of this violence has been practiced against a people of who try to live by loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are told that the suicide bombers of Islamic radical groups, are martyrs of their faith, true martyrdom however comes when you are confronted with the threat of death unless you convert to Islam. If you refuse to give up your faith in Christ, your throat is cut. Yet thousands have refused to give up Jesus Christ for Allah or Muhammad.

So, Jesus said that persecution would come to those who followed his way and it is for sure coming to pass in this day and time. Here in America, we are told we may not pray in the name of Jesus if we are going to be chaplains. The prayers in the Chaplains book for the American Legion do not use the name of Jesus, on military bases there are now sacred groves for the use of pagans and witches. There is even a movement afoot now to have atheist chaplains, a bit of an oxymoron in my book, but there it is. There have been children expelled from school, not for using curse words, for acting badly, but for wearing a Christian tee shirt, or refusing to remove a cross.

Prayer of course is strictly banned in many schools across the country, and there are schools where they make the children wear Muslim garb and recite the pillars of Islam, and pray to Allah. If they were forced to pray to Jesus it would bring cries of outrage, but to Allah not so much. We will have to go a bit further to see true persecution, that will come though it is only a matter of time.

Jesus also taught the disciples this:
Mat 5:10-12 NKJV Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Persecution is coming to our nation, whether we realize it or not, we who follow Jesus Christ, are out of step with our society. We believe that there is a moral code to be followed, that sin leads to hell for all eternity, and that following Jesus leads to eternal life in heaven. There are real penalties associated with sinful living, hell being the end result. Will we Christians live abundant lives? Depends on what you know about abundance, for me, it is a resounding YES! Not because I will be rich or famous, but I will come face to face with my savior and Lord one day. I know that my Lord walks with me through all the stuff that life throws at me. I have a wife who loves me, brothers and sisters (in the Lord) who I love and who love me as well, because Jesus loved us all enough to die for us, to pay our price for our sins. He also sealed the deal when he rose from the dead to show us that we too would one day rise with him into eternity.

I have an abundance of love in my life and that gives me all the riches I could possibly want in this life. I know that my redeemer lives, and that my future is secure in Jesus Christ, fully Man and fully God.

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Flee the Wrath to Come
February 16, 2015, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Church Stuff, God | Tags: , ,

John Wesley spoke about those who wanted to “Flee the wrath” to come. Those were the folks he wanted to bring into the Methodist Societies. These were people who knew the words of the Bible, they had heard preaching, they just did not believe it was for them. Of course there was a time when Wesley didn’t believe it either, not until his Aldersgate experience, when he became convinced that Christ had died for his sins did Wesley actually understand what faith was. It was then that he began to put together the idea that all needed to understand that the wrath of God was a terrible thing.

In the reading this morning in Numbers, we hear how the faith of the people of Israel had diminished to such a point that they were complaining about even the fact that God was providing their daily nourishment. Numbers 21:5 tells us: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (NKJV)

The people of God forgot who they were, they forgot that without God they would indeed have died in the wilderness, but, more importantly, they would still be slaves in Egypt. When the plague of snakes comes upon them and they begin to die in their sin, they cry out, they do not want to suffer the wrath of God, we hear them then: “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. (NKJV) There is an important lesson for us here. It was the people of God, not some strangers outside the camp, it was the people of God who were rebellious, and who sinned against God and Moses. Please note too that although they asked for the snakes to be taken away, God instead gave them a way out, He did not take away the snakes.

God does not remove the obstacles from the path, instead He gives a way for His people to go through those obstacles, He asks that the people look to His method of salvation instead of their own merits, their own methods. Rabbi Harold Kushner tells of a time when he was speaking in a hospital, and an Episcopal priest who was dying of AIDS asked to see him. This priest told the Rabbi how much his books had helped, then observed that he wished he could preach just one more sermon. He would tell people, “I have to tell them that what I believed is true, really is.

God is there no matter what. God is present in the doctors, nurses and caregivers, and in the friends who come to be with me. When the hospital is quiet and the room is dark, God is here then too. It is really true.” (E. Carver McGriff, Lectionary Preaching Workbook, Series VI, Cycle B, 1999-2000).

In today’s gospel reading we find that God did not send Christ to condemn the world but rather to save it. Then it goes on to state the obvious, that Jesus did not need to condemn, we have already condemned ourselves. “John 3:18-20 (NKJV) “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. “

“The State of the Church 2011” one of the Barna Research statistical measures of Christianity in the US has this to say about church folk. Adult Sunday school attendance has diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class.
The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. Church volunteerism has dropped by eight percentage points since 1991. Presently, slightly less than one out of every five adults (19%) donates some of their time in a typical week to serving at a church. The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today.

The Barna summary included eight beliefs that have been tracked since 1991. Among those just three experienced statistically significant change.
The percentage of adults who can be classified as born again Christians, based on their belief that they will experience eternal salvation based on their commitment to Jesus Christ, personal confession of sins, and acceptance of Christ as their savior, has risen by five percentage points. In 1991, the national estimate was 35% of adults met those criteria. Currently, 40% of adults can be classified as born again.
When asked to choose one of several descriptions of God, the proportion who believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today” currently stands at two-thirds of the public (67%). That represents a seven point drop from the 1991 level.

The biggest shift has been in people’s perceptions of the Bible. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” That has slumped to just 38% who offer the same affirmation today.
The World Changers: Baby Boomers
No generation has been as widely chronicled as the Boomers, the post-war group born from 1946 through 1964. At every stage of their existence, this generation has redefined America’s ways of life – including its faith and spirituality. Four of their six religious behaviors and two of their eight religious beliefs tracked in this study have undergone statistically significant change since 1991.

The four religious behaviors that shifted included the following.
Church attendance plummeted by 12 percentage points, dipping to 38% in 2011.
Sunday school attendance by Boomers fell by nine points, from 23% in 1991 to just 14% in 2011.
Volunteering at churches was less likely among Boomers in 2011 than was the case twenty years ago, declining from 28% in 1991 to 18% in 2011.
While the Boomers have never been the generation most likely to attend church, during the past 20 years the percentage of unchurched Boomers has risen dramatically, jumping up 18 points! At 41%, they are now the generation most likely to be unchurched, surpassing the 39% level among Busters.

The pair of religious beliefs that have yielded substantial change in the last two decades are declines in those who hold an orthodox view of God (down six points, to 67%); and a reduction in those who are strongly convinced that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches (down seven points, to just 38%).
We have a problem with cheap grace, with the idea that we can just say we are saved and we are, then we don’t need to go to church nor do we need to read the Bible, or study with our brothers and sisters in the faith. In this nation of ours we don’t really want to flee the wrath to come, we want instead to be told that we are OK, so we can continue in our lifestyles.

We Christians just love to hear John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe on Him, would not perish, but would have eternal life.” What we don’t want to hear, is that after God meets us where we are, He loves us too much to leave us there. That is the part of salvation that we don’t really like, we enjoy our sins, I have even been heard to say that “sin is fun.” It is, we like the positive reinforcement from our peers as we chug-a-lug another beer, or as we make that comment about the young woman walking by, or, the young man walking by. I’m sorry ladies but y’all are guilty too of looking at the opposite sex as something to be used, rather than as something or, better yet, someone who has worth in the eyes of God. We, beloved are all guilty, the Apostle Paul says it best, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” None of us is innocent, we have all been born into a sinful world, and we are all born in the image of Adam, not the image of God. There is a piece of us that is missing, it is a God piece that needs the Holy Spirit filling to bring us back to the image of God.

God abhors sin, in all its forms, the sooner we recognize ourselves in the people of Israel, the better off we will be. Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV) 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Let us then hear these words and understand that we are called to a higher calling than we want to admit. I have to say also, that I would rather have 10 solid prayerful Christian persons, than 100 who never open the word, never bend the knee, and come to church only when they feel like it. The third reading today is found in Ephesians, and it speaks well to those of us who claim to be saved, just as those folks in Ephesus claimed to be saved in their day. It is by grace that you were saved, that is God’s wonderful grace, that we do not deserve. We are enemies of God, we are not God’s friends, not until we come on bended knee before the throne of grace and acknowledge our sinful state with a broken and contrite heart.

Because we are all sinners, we have the stain of sin on our lives. This stain cannot be removed by doing good in an attempt to make up for the bad we have done. All of the good works in the world won’t erase the stain of our sin. So stubborn is this stain, that there is only one substance in all the universe capable of removing it; The blood of Christ. Human effort cannot add anything to what God has already provided for the removal of our stain. When Christ said: It is Finished, He meant it! God had finished paying the price for the removal of our sin. How audacious we would be to think we could somehow improve upon what God has already finished in Christ.”

Verse 10 says the rest: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Not only does God recreate you and I, but He has for us work to do. If we are truly His, we will hear His call upon us, we are truly created for good works that we might walk in His ways and be His people.
God loves us too much, to leave us in our sins and our trespasses. I read about this incident a few years ago: In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.

The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver’s wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard. The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued — and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.

The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away. Many people around us are “dead in transgressions and sins.” What should catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses. They don’t need a citation; they need a Savior.

So let us all realize the wrath to come, and it will come, is for those who will not hear and obey the word of God. Whether you are a member of a church, or you don’t believe in church or God, really makes no difference, if the gospel has not changed your life, and the way you interact with your families and your neighbors, then the snakes are coming. The fiery serpents are out there, and unless we are willing to turn our eyes on Jesus Christ as savior, Lord, Brother, Redeemer, we will not escape the wrath. So, I urge you today, if your heart is not right with God, decide to “flee the wrath” decide to turn your eyes and your thoughts on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith. Flee the wrath, accept the eternal life that is yours, by the death that was His. Let us together, walk into our future home in eternity, in the glory of God and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Atheists want to shut down prayer group
December 4, 2012, 11:44 am
Filed under: Church Stuff, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

In Congress there are a group of men and women who have formed themselves into what is known as the Congressional Prayer Group. A group calling itself the “American Humanist Association”, has sent a letter to incoming freshman congresspersons to not join with the prayer group.

I find myself quite annoyed because this group wants to censor Christians, but wants to be able to use their own first amendment rights to say what they please. I think it is high time that the Courts stop playing footsie with these haters, and begin to actually read the Constitution rather than using some letter that Jefferson sent to a State Baptist Association. The 1st Amendment is very clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to a group of Baptists who were afraid that the Federal Gov’t would pass a law outlawing their church. There were two reasons that Jefferson said what he did. One: the First Amendment says that Congress may not pass any law of the sort. Two This was a States Rights issue since we also have another amendment – the 10th which says that if the Constitution does not give the Federal Gov’t the power to regulate, that power belongs to the States or to the people.

Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People. Ratified 12/15/1791.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Actually many of the States kept their “State” churches well into the 1800’s and that was their right to do so. They did not however stop people from worshipping as they wished, in most cases. So here we are with a States Rights issue that the courts have perverted and made into a Federal issue with a ruling based on a letter written by a man who had nothing to do with writing the Constitution in the first place. The states have the right to nullify Federal actions which are unconstitutional, including this idiocy about religion and whether or not it can be practiced in public or not.

What do you think? Should the states begin using the power of nullification to right the ship of state?

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In the Breaking of the Bread
April 22, 2012, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Church Stuff, God | Tags: , , ,

In the gospel of Luke the 24th Chapter beginning in verse 13, two of the disciples had left Jerusalem and were traveling to a small town about 7 miles from there called Emmaus. As they walked they spoke with each other about what had happened to Jesus. I imagine they were in a bit of shock, and mourning the loss of their dear friend and mentor. Also they had thought that the Messiah would be a warrior and would defeat the Romans and set Israel up as the center of the world.

A man joins them on the way, and acts like he has no clue about what had happened, they proceed to tell him as they walk along. Then he tells them what the scriptures say about the Messiah and that what happened was foretold. When they get to Emmaus, they invite the man to eat with them, and, as they are eating the stranger takes the bread and breaks it. Immediately, they recognize Jesus.

In 1989 I went on a Walk to Emmaus weekend, I was pastoring a small church at the time, and went on this weekend because some friends wanted me to, I didn’t really expect much to come of it but I went anyway. It was a life changing experience, I learned what this Jesus thing was really all about. More importantly, I began to understand better the working of the Holy Spirit in my life. Gifts and graces are a part of all believers, they are a gift of God. Of course we also had the scriptures opened to us on that weekend and as a Pastor, I learned a lot on that weekend that had not been taught at seminary.

I also came to understand the walk in the context of Cleopas and his fellow disciple as they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. We worshipped and broke bread (holy communion) many times on that weekend. As we did so the reality of that service of remembrance called Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, and we came to understand that although it is bread and wine (grape juice), the Lord is present with us. I know that Christ is with me as I walk on this journey, through life and on into eternity. It is my prayer that like me, you too experience the presence of Christ with you.

I hope you will read this story again in Luke 24:13-35, learn of the journey, the short one in this story and the life journey in the scriptures. If you don’t know Christ, take the time to meet him, you might just have a life changing experience also. If you do know him have you recognized him in the Breaking of the Bread?

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