Monday, December 28, 2009

Dawning of the Old New Year

“That which hath been is now, and that which is to be hath already been; and God requires that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15, KJV).

Now that you have a hot cup of fresh brewed coffee, ponder with me a few thoughts from this wonderful Preacher's notes. It seems appropriate as this year comes to a close and we prepare to see the ball drop in Times Square. I am reminded that the world is well designed and runs better than any expensive watch. This redundancy, this unchangeableness, should produce in each of us a deep reverence of the Divine. This is certainly the reason God has revealed himself to us in the Advent that we just celebrated. By understanding the infinite power and design of God’s dependable plan should confirm God’s plan for our life. The conviction that God’s plan is righteous and immutable should lead us to "sanctify him in our hearts, and make him our Fear and our Dread" (Isaiah 8:13). It should also give us hope and confidence in the midst of the unexpected changes of life that God does not change. In the earlier part of Ecclesiastes (1:9,10), the Preacher had dwelt upon the uniformity of sequence in nature, as if he were impressed with a sense of monotony, as he watched the course of events happening and recurring in the same order. And now, as he looks upon human history, he sees the same regularity in the order of things.

"That which hath been is now, and that which is to be hath already been." The past feeling of exhaustion and redundancy is made to order by the thought of God's perfection, and by the "fear" which it excites. The Preacher recognizes the fact of a Divine will governing the events of history. It is no accidental process of evolution, no mechanical process of revolution that causes the cycles of life and events. It is God who recalls or "seeks again that which is passed away" (ver. 15 b). It is not that the past vanishing. The year might seem to be passing into the abyss of oblivion; but God recalls it, brings back the same order, or an analogous order of events, and so history repeats itself. Out of this belief in God's wise providence a healthy spirit should gather strength to bear patiently and cheerfully the difficulties and trials of life. Because of the Creator and Preserver of all things, our faith can sustain us in the greatest trials, when God's ways seem most inscrutable; and truly believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are Churches Robbing God?

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10-11, NIV).

The concept of the storehouse is at least as old as the time of Joseph. He established a food reserve that saved Egypt from famine. During seven years of plenty, Joseph had the Egyptian farmers store one-fifth of their produce. Then, when seven years of famine struck, the grain in the storehouses kept starvation from the land. It is believed that a special treasury chamber existed within the Temple precinct that was administered by the Levites that served a similar purpose. Many pastors use this belief of a Temple “storehouse” and teach that each member is to bring his or her tithes into the Church, but is this really what God’s Word is teaching?

Churches do not always obey God and they do not always work to further the Kingdom of God. Some pastors and churches are building their own kingdoms. You have probably seen churches waste money on selfishness, using the Lord’s tithes and offerings to stuff their own bellies, supplement their own children’s education, et cetera. In fact, some pastors believe this is necessary to keep the numbers up. You can walk in some churches and see how the Lord’s tithes and offerings are spent on splendor and self-edification. Is this what the Lord had in mind? If local churches and national denominations had been practicing what Joseph was doing with the Egyptian storehouse, funds would be available now to feed and house the homeless from the recent economic earthquake, but churches like individuals have overspent and many now find themselves struggling. Is this God’s judgment for them “robbing” Him?

Henry Blackaby teaches that Christians should look around, see where God is working, and get involved with God in the ministry where God is working. Christian ministries are doing what many churches are not doing in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of humanity. As President of New Life Theological Seminary, I see on a daily basis the work of God within this institution. This Seminary is training those called of God in a variety of fields. Few churches support this Seminary because it is non-denominational, yet our students and Faculty blanket the City of Charlotte in leading Bible Studies, planting churches, and a host of caring ministries. I know God is at work at the Seminary, and I also know that God is prospering every church that is financial support its Mission and Purpose.

Denominations are mostly self-serving and often at the detriment of Christian ministries and institutions that our on the front lines building the Kingdom of God. Yes, I believe churches are as guilty of robbing God as individual Christians. I believe that giving all your tithes and offerings to any one Church or denomination is being small minded. I remember a man getting in my face some years back to tell me that I was wrong for spending time involved in ministries other than the church where I was pastor. I told him, “Ben, the Kingdom of God is much larger than this church. Your problem is that you are small minded. You can’t see what God is doing outside of these walls.”

The “storehouse” of God is like our financial institutions. There are Banks, State and Federal Credit unions, Savings and Loans, and the list continues. Does it really matter if you keep your money in a bank or a credit union? The essential is not the brand or the locale; it is whether the entity is a place where God is at work. The “storehouse” of God should include your local church, but it should also include your Seminary or Bible College, and Christian homeless and emergency shelters, food banks and crisis centers, et cetera. Don’t rob God; bring your tithes into God’s “storehouse” – the place where God’s work is being done!

Prayer: “Lord, show me where You are working and help me to bless Your work with Your tithes and my offerings. Amen”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eyeing the Cross

“And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39, KJV)

I was talking with a believer recently who is losing her eyesight. She is completely blind in her right eye and nearly blind in her left eye. This saint of God volunteers her time, effort, and energy to help other people in need. As we talked, she shared with me that in worship services at her church, she can no longer read the words on the large screens and can only make out the image of the pastor as he preachers the Word of God. She said that since she can no longer focus on the pastor’s face while he is preaching, she focuses on the large cross behind him. This dear saint of God is staying focused on the Cross as age and the deterioration of the body strips away her sight.

I am reminded that as we face the struggles of life’s losses, whatever they might be, we must take our eyes off of man and keep them firmly focused on the One who is no longer on the Cross. Life presents many struggles as every adult over forty and many under forty can tell you. We have many losses designed and orchestrated by God to help us realize that life is temporary. God wants us to understand that Heaven and earth will pass away, but those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord and maintain a personal relationship with Him will life forevermore.

Therefore, face life’s losses with the assurance that Jesus is the Son of God. Stay focused on the Cross and the One who died for you and me, and seek growth in your personal relationship with Him.

Prayer: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you and not be sidetracked by worldliness. Help me to grow in my personal relationship with you.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A New Slave Master - Government

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverb 22:7).

Solomon reminds us that the rich rule over the poor. The irony of Satan’s trickery is that he tempts you and me to borrow money to buy what we do not have, in order to appear rich. This trick immediately makes us slaves to the one we owe and guarantees a longer term of poverty. When you or I borrow money, we are selling a portion of ourselves through financing or even refinancing, as slaves to the lender. We then work to buy ourselves back from the slave master in a life of depression. The American Dream turns into an American Nightmare as couples end up with a greater debt than they started with years earlier. In a country like America, poverty most often (though not always) represents a spontaneous and undisciplined lifestyle.

Now, we have a group of government leaders, representing at least three political parties, which are creating debt at an unprecedented rate, while giving only lip service to fiscal responsibility. Instead of selling ourselves into slavery, we now have politicians with an irresponsible and unbiblical agenda selling every citizen into slavery. I am reminded of First Samuel 8:6-20. The Israelites wanted a King to rule over them. They were no longer content to be ruled over by the Prophets of God and Judges. God warned the people, but gave them the type of leader they asked for to rule over them. Concerning the people’s desire, God said, “They have rejected me as their king.” Listen to his words. “

He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve … he will assign … to make weapons of war and equipment … He will take your daughters … He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take … and give it to his … he will take for his own use. He will take … and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

America is now in “that day.” We now have political leaders, that are practicing on a massive scale what its citizenry practice on an individual level, and we are all being enslaved to a new master – government. When citizens seek its own King, does what is right in its own eyes, and rejects the leadership of the Lord God, slavery of a nation is the result. When a nation is enslaved, the righteous and the unrighteous both suffer the consequences of that slavery. To all the righteous I encourage you, stay true to God! We have difficult days ahead. Our once free nation is increasingly enslaved to other nations around the world, as other nations buy more and more of our government’s debt. The Lord has given American the desire of its heart.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for wanting men to rule over me, and for seeking a mere man to give me the desires of my heart. Help the desires of my heart to be the desires of Your heart Lord. Help me to know that You Lord, and you alone, are the One who can provide the desires of my heart. Amen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rebuking Others - God's Way

“Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him (Daniel 6:4, KJV).

Daniel’s godly life was a constant rebuke to others. His loyalty, integrity, and honesty condemned his peers. Daniel was difference. His only weak point was His relationship with God. Enemies of a believer often seek to create a conflict based on the believer’s relationship with God. I remember one such accusation leveled against me some years ago. As pastor, I insisted on my mornings for uninterrupted time of prayer and Bible study, a leader of the church who did not spend time in deepening his relationship with God tried to create a conflict saying, “The pastor is not available to our members.”

As spiritual leaders, we do not always have to be available, but we do have to be loyal and faithful to God. We are to live such a moral life that charges brought by the enemy will be seen as a lie or a trap of the enemy. Philippians teaches us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputing: That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shines lights in the world; holding forth the word of life…” (14-16a). I never heard anyone pick up my enemies battle, God fault that battle.

There is nothing more important for you as a believer, than spending time with God and deepening your personal relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer: “Lord, help me to be strong and determined to deepen my relationship with you. Help me to look only upon that which honors you, speak only that word that builds up, and labor only to strengthen your Kingdom. Lord, help me to be different from the world, a pleasing representative of you. Amen”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Does The Elevation of Christ Mean For Us?

"Who is even at the right hand of God" (Romans 8:34).

As you sip your coffee this morning, think about these words. Jesus is at the right hand of God.
Jesus Christ, once despised and rejected of men, now occupies the honorable position of a beloved and honored Son. The right hand of God is the place of majesty and favor. Our Lord Jesus is the representative of His people. When Jesus died for us, we received rest. When He rose up from the grave and defeated death, we received liberty. When He sat down at His Father's right hand, we received favor, honor, and dignity. The raising and elevation of Christ to the right hand of God represents the elevation, acceptance, and glorifying of all His people, for He is the head and representative of the Church. While the world may still seek class division, God and His church is the great unifier.

This elevation of Christ is the acceptance of the Representative of God, and therefore, the acceptance of our souls. As His people, we have received freedom from condemnation. Who shall condemn the men who are in Jesus at the right hand of God?

The right hand is the place of power. God’s placement of Jesus on His right hand shows that God has given Jesus all power in heaven and in earth. Who dare fight against the people of the Lord? Do you realize that the Omnipotence is your helper? If the protection and guidance of the Almighty envelopes you, what evil force can harm you? Therefore, child of God, rest secured. If Jesus is your Savior and Lord, and you enjoy a personal relationship with Him, rest secured. If Jesus is your King, He has crushed your enemies under His feet, and He has vanquished sin, death, and hell. You are represented in and by Him and cannot be destroyed. Be bold and confident as you walk through this day. Remember, you are a child of the King!

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your all-compassing care. Help me to live this day with the assurance that I am fully encompassed in your embrace. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Help Comes From God

“My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:2, KJV

In the evening of life when the body grows increasingly frail and daily routines become more challenging, David reminds us that our help comes from God. In the darkest of times, when those we count on let us down, and life seems harder than it ought to be, David reminds us that our help comes from God. When the economy is bad and sleep and jobs are both lost and rare; and when we are not quiet sure how we are going to find money for the next tank of gas, David reminds us that our help comes from God.

So as life throws you strike balls and your swings count you out, remember that God wants you to learn a most valuable lesson, without God we can’t hit the ball. When we step up to life’s plate, grip the bat, and eye the coming pitch, we are most certain to strike out; unless, we realize that our help comes from the Creator who has granted us abilities, talents, and time. Only God knows the number of days you will hold these precious gifts or how long they will last. For some, they finish like an ice-cream cone on a hot summer day.

God has granted you this moment, the capacity to read, to think, to praise. Pause and give Him praise for allowing you to be. Recognize that without Him, you are powerless to reach your goals and dreams. Acknowledge that if God chooses to help you in what you are doing, and He always helps those who are doing His will, you can do great and mighty works. Count your many blessings and give thanks to Christ today, your help comes from him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Valley of Vision

“The burden of the valley of vision,” (Isaiah 22:1a).

In Isaiah 22, we find the siege and the taking of Jerusalem because of the wicked conduct of its inhabitants. Countries rise and fall on the conduct of its citizens. I find this a timely devotion for today. Could it be that America’s best days are now behind us?

The wealth and fame of this world does not provide man his worth or excellence. All worldly attire that hangs on man will soon drop off and fade aware. In verse 23, Isaiah compares Eliakim, a type of Christ, to a nail in a sure place. In biblical times, rows of large nails or spikes were placed into the wall for movables and utensils to be hung. We do the same today to hang pictures and kitchen utensils.

Jesus is the Nail in a sure place. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground which is by faith hung upon Jesus Christ. Jesus will set before the believer an open door, which no person can shut, and bring both the body and should to eternal glory. But those who neglect so great a salvation will find, that when Jesus shuts the door, no matter what that door is, no person can open it, whether it be shutting out of heaven or shutting up in hell forevermore.

For one to contain this truth, to see this truth, and visualize this truth is a burden that drives the committed to work for our Lord. As Christians, we work for the Kingdom out of our deep abiding love for Christ and for what He has already done for us. The burden of the valley of vision drives the committed believer – this is an awesome burden. The believer understands the eternal consequences of wrong decisions and choices made, and the believer understands that countries rise and fall on its citizens, a consequence of obedience of those that possess the vision.

Prayer: I thank you Jesus for providing me salvation and for allowing me the burden of the valley of vision. Help me to be true to advancing the Kingdom as I pass through life. Amen.