March 19, 2017

A Close Look at Luke 22:31-34

I did some serious delving into this passage in Luke. A few things brought this study about. I recently had someone say that this passage says that Jesus prayed for Peter to be saved. When I read it after this person said that, I immediately thought, this passage doesn't mean what you think it does. I don't know what it is about me unless it is discernment from the Holy Spirit but when someone is using a verse to back up what they are saying or proving a point in a sermon, something often doesn't sit right with me when it is being used incorrectly or out of context. It will immediately nag at me somewhere in the recesses of my mind that makes me go and study further. (That's a good thing by the way!) We should every one of us do this if someone is teaching or preaching something that doesn't sit quite right with us in our minds. Never just assume the preacher, teacher or lay person is right because they should know more than you. I'm not saying you should challenge them on the spot but go and study for yourself and if you find them incorrect then go to them in private and show them what you have found. Many will not hear you because of arrogance and feelings of offence but SOME will! 

Anyhoo, I wasn't sure why it was nagging at me about this passage but I intended to find out and it wasn't an immediate understanding. I had to think it through in different scenarios and compare scripture with scripture and/or other thoughts alluded to in the Bible. (Also, should be how you study!) 

First of all, saying that this is proof that Jesus prayed for Peter to be saved goes against what most preach about the apostles. Most preach that the apostles at this time in Christ's ministry were saved. This is a whole other topic for a different day. But, if you hold to that thought then this clearly isn't what is happening when Jesus says "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." If he was already saved at this point because he was an apostle of Christ, then why would Jesus need to pray for his salvation? 

Now let's look at this reasonably and rationally. What does it say?  ... Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:   But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not:...There was a time in my life when I believed(because I heard it preached this way) that this was a prayer that was in reference to Peter denying Jesus later that night. This thought actually doesn't fit either! If Jesus were praying anything wouldn't you think His prayer, of all people, would have power to be answered? (No, you don't get to go to the Garden when He prayed let this cup pass from me because He also prayed not my will but yours LORD.) In this passage in Luke, He doesn't say Your will LORD. Yet, we know that Peter DOES deny Jesus three times later! So, did Jesus' prayer have no power? 

What does sifting wheat do? At harvest time, the wheat is thrashed and sifted to remove the unusable parts of the wheat. Now, there is nothing noble about Satan's intentions when it comes to a follower of Christ but I believe this is very similar to the story of Job. Satan kept going to God and trying to get permission to do things to Job to prove that Job wouldn't keep trusting in God if bad things happened. Sifting is sorting out the good and the bad. Notice it says Satan has desired but Jesus prays that Peter's faith doesn't fail. He could have just told Satan no, you don't get to sift Peter. Also,He doesn't pray that he be converted. It says WHEN you are converted! 

I believe this passage is talking about Peter's faith not failing in the end, beyond the night of the Crucifixion and unbelief of Jesus' resurrection. (Poor Thomas gets a bad rap because in reality, NONE of the apostles believed until they saw Jesus in bodily form or have an angel tell them he was resurrected) We know, because we have the rest of the Bible after Luke and the gospels that Peter went on to be a strong leader and witness for Christ to the Jews and gentiles. (Paul may be considered the apostle to the gentiles but it was Peter who started that ministry!) Peter is the one whom Jesus said He would give the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He is the one who gets to preach at Pentecost. Peter needed taken down a notch or two from his arrogance. When he denied Christ, Jesus looked right at him and Peter was well aware what he had done and that Jesus had told him so and he went out and wept bitterly (and I believe humbled to serve like never before). 

No other explanation makes sense logically looking at scripture. I fully understand that sometimes we can't look at scripture and try to make sense or be logical because of our finite minds not comprehending but when we CAN figure it out, we should! 

I'm sure some will disagree with my take on this passage. If so, feel free to post a comment to try and prove your point. I certainly don't mind debate. Maybe I have missed something to look at but right now, I believe what I have posted is correct. And, if I have done nothing else but make you study then I have succeeded at my intention! Have a blessed time in the Word! :)

March 12, 2017

Some Things You Can't Borrow - Lesson 2 Noah's Ark Series

Matt. 25:1-13
When a crisis comes in your life you must have your own resources of faith and spiritual strength because they can't be borrowed at the last minute.

I. Can't borrow someone else's commitment to the Bible
A. Need your OWN Bible that YOU have read, studied & memorized 
--others can hand you a Bible and/or quote scripture to you but if you haven't got it inside you yourself, it won't be as comforting, it won't have as much meaning for you

B. If you don't know the Bible - YOUR Bible, when you need verses to help yourself or someone else you won't be able to find the verses you need
--I often know that a particular verse is somewhere in a certain area of the page on the right or left in my own Bible

II. Can't borrow someone else's commitment to prayer
A. Need your own personal time with God
--this is to have your sins confessed up so that your relationship is right with God - If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear.

B. Don't just rely on others for prayer
--many people want others to pray for them but never pray for themselves
--others can pray and it can be helpful and powerful but others do not know you or your needs, thoughts, & desires as well as you do!

III. Can't borrow someone else's commitment to Christ
A. We must have our own relationship with Jesus
--you can't go to heaven because your mom, dad, spouse, or anyone else is saved - must have it for yourself

B. We must have our own peace & trust in Christ when the storm is raging
--the disciples had no peace on the ship when the storm came even though Jesus was there with them, and He was calm and sleeping
--they had seen His miracles & still had not drawn close enough to Him to have peace & trust that He would care for them

We can have peace & joy in the storms of life but only when we abide in Him.

We need to be building an ark of spiritual strength because there are some things that just can't be borrowed - especially at the last minute. Build it by having a commitment to the Bible, to prayer, and to Christ.

March 10, 2017

Mixed Up About the Gospel

There seems to be some confusion about what the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually is in this world thought process today. Let me just is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus! Gospel means good news or good message. 

So many seem to be mixed up about this. Many think that the gospel is "love your neighbor", or doing charity work, or giving to the poor, or don't judge others. However, that's not it. Those things come as a result of becoming a Christian...really those things should be a result of just being a decent human being! But that is not the gospel. 

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 This is referred to as the "Great Commission". The gospel is the good news that Jesus is the Son of God (and He is God in the flesh!) and that He came being born of a virgin, was crucified and died for the sins of mankind and rose the third day to conquer death for us. That's it! Telling people about this and having them believe in it to have their sin debt paid in full is what the command above is about. This will change the population of heaven. This and nothing else is the gospel! 

Now, should the other things mentioned above be taught to new believers? Absolutely! Should we all live it? Absolutely! But, telling people to do the things that Jesus did while He ministered for 3 1/2 years is NOT the gospel. Conducting yourself in a Christlike manner is something we should strive for every minute of every day but those things come as a result of the gospel. No one is saved to heaven from hell because they do any of those things mentioned. It is ONLY by believing and trusting in what Jesus did to pay our sin debt. He came, He died, He rose again to remove what separates us from a Holy God that demands perfection. We can only stand perfect before God by having the righteousness of Jesus covering us. It's called imputed righteousness...which simply means when someone gets saved or trusts in what Jesus did, and when they stand before God, He doesn't see them and their filthy sins, He sees His Son. That's the ONLY way to enter heaven! 

Just felt the need to do some clarifying. 

March 3, 2017

Warning! Straight From the Horse's Mouth!

The other night Bob and I were watching the local news and there was a woman being interviewed who was a former Madame/Sex Traffic Recruiter who now helps police. She was very forth coming and blunt in the hows and whats of the industry. --- How she researched and recruited and on whom she preyed. Bob and I were like "that's exactly why we teach and preach the things about dress that we do"! 

She talked about how she used social media sites to zero in on teens (especially girls but not all). Obviously her first warning was about having your Facebook page be public instead of having it only read by fb friends. She checked out all of the friends of someone she was able to get access to. She focused solely on those posting about fighting with parents AND on those who post selfies of themselves in provocative poses or who are scantily dressed or posing with kissing and touching their boyfriend. She said...and I quote.."I don't bother with the girls who stay dressed modestly or conservatively because I don't have time to break through their moral beliefs. There's too many troubled teens who are vulnerable to bother wasting my time on the other ones. The more I recruit into making me money the more money I make." 

There! You heard it straight from the predator's mouth! It says it all! They prey on young people who are upset with their parents and life and who are already pushing lines of rebellion. They offer them a way to make quick easy money. The lady said she actually got to a point that once she recruited a girl into the industry she would take her to the "house" and put her in a room and tell her she had until noon to make $1000! That makes my stomach sick and my heart actually hurt! It is down right scary!!!! These recruiters don't really have to try that hard to get them to comply. 

This woman is now trying to redeem herself by helping the police get as many young people out of the industry as she can. She is also teaching the police who to watch out for and what predators look like on the spot. She is teaching them how to target would be recruiter/predators.

Technology can be a wonderful thing but it is also an evil that has far reaching ramifications. The destruction and domino effect that can come from the dumbest or smallest mistake of online use is completely devastating. 

Soooo, this is why Bob preaches modest dress from the pulpit and why I teach it to ladies and girls. Persona, testimony is everything! It can mean the difference in being preyed upon by evil people, for a young person. Parents, stop worrying about popularity when it comes to your daughters....teach them to love God and their future husband and their self more than pleasing the friends of the world and being popular today. You can be stylish without being immodest!  Be an example to them moms! And it's ok to set rules and boundaries! 

March 2, 2017

Reaching Young Adults

I've been burdened in my heart for some time now about the lack of participation of young adults in churches---our church. For a couple of weeks now, people have been sharing articles on Facebook about how to reach Millennials. Yesterday, I spent all morning (hours frankly) researching articles online about this subject. It was quite interesting. This subject can get very touchy and controversial but I'm going to try to write about it as objectively as I can because I do think that there MUST be a way to reach these people and still stand firm on the Word of God. 

First of all let me admit right up that at first my dander got up pretty quickly because it seems like we are being told you MUST do church OUR WAY or we refuse to come. Frankly, that's like a 2 year old tantrum and adults should be beyond that. But, the Holy Spirit worked on my heart to try to get something from these articles I can use for the furthering of the family of God. I'm going to try to take the most common points being made in the articles and address them individually. 

It was somewhat confusing because on one hand we are being told that church must be REAL, and without a watered down gospel, with authentic godly example displayed before them without fakeness, more showing and being of Jesus than of preaching, less Bible, less tradition (except the Lord's Supper), less focus on finances and more social justice ministry, more asking of young to be involved and for their opinion, more teaching of how to live and deal with a chaotic world, someone to mentor them in small groups or one on one, and clear visual messages. WOW! Aren't some of those contradictory to one another?! Oh, and more nature brought into the building or possibly holding study groups outdoors. 

Ok, let's start with being REAL. I get that there are churches out there that seem haughty and pretentious but it's been my experience that when you ask someone why they get out of church; often the answer is that they see someone in a leadership position being human and making mistakes and think that person is now a hypocrite and so they no longer have a need for church. I'm sorry for those who have experienced someone with a holier than thou attitude being caught in a mistake and not being humble or owning up but that's not a reason to leave church. Maybe leave THAT church but God's Word says church is important and not to forsake the assembling together. People crack me up, they will still go to places of business even after being treated poorly yet will not return to a church because someone makes a mistake. Guess what?! Humans make mistakes---even the best of them. That's what forgiveness is for! Funny to me how everyone spouts about being forgiving when someone outside church messes up yet do not want to be forgiving towards anyone within the church. Ok so Real, not pretentious. Surely, there's a church out there somewhere that fits the profile there. One bad experience in one church does not make all churches bad. Find one and Go!

No watered down gospel. Hmm, how do you pull that off with less Bible? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  Romans 10:17     The gospel----the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Maybe by less Bible it is meant only focus on the gospel and leave the rest of God's Word alone. Hmm, 2 Timothy 4:2 - Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. I'm not at all sure how you teach someone to live in a chaotic world without the Word of God. He gave us an instruction manual. If you are in a good Bible preaching and teaching church, sermons should be taking care of "how to live in this chaotic world". Pay attention and apply what is preached! If that's not happening at your church---find one where it is happening. By the way, teaching how to live in a chaotic world CANNOT come through only preaching Jesus loves you and died for you! There is much more to the Christian walk than salvation! 

Less tradition. I'm pretty sure that means less old fashioned. To each his own. There are plenty of churches out there with contemporary style services. However, I'd like to point out that all tradition is not bad----how many do Christmas trees, stockings, presents, Easter egg hunts, gather with family for certain holidays, shoot fireworks on July 4th, etc.? Holding to traditions that go against God's Word is bad. 

Less focus on finances and more social justice ministry. I'm pretty sure one cannot exist without the other! It takes money to help others. It takes money to keep a church going. ---to pay utilities, to pay a pastor, to have activities, to make the building nice and presentable, to purchase teaching materials for classes, etc. One article actually said there isn't enough accountability on spending and that "why should we be expected to give our hard earned money to causes we have no interest in"? Well, first of all there should be accountability. That's what business meetings are for! I'd say the writer of that particular article had a bad experience where there may have been some mishandling of funds and shame on those who did it. Here's the thing, you should be attending a church where you trust those in leadership to make right choices for the church, the furtherance of God's Work on earth, and not to abuse or misuse funds. If you do not trust, then you are not in the right church. The fact of the matter is, until you know there has been a problem, God says give. He doesn't say give only if you can control what happens afterward. Just like a woman is to submit to her husband whether he deserves it or not and like a husband is to love his wife whether she deserves it or not. If you question what the money is being spent on, show up for a monthly, or quarterly business meeting and find out! Most churches allow you the right to ask questions or see a break down of where the money is going. 

More asking of young's opinions and involvement. Well, volunteer! Open your mouth during a discussion. I do not know of any pastor or associate pastor who would EVER turn down someone asking to help!!!! We in ministry leadership crave it!!! We want ideas. We want your input. On the other hand, you can't expect church to be only about your wants and desires. You are not the only person or group within the church. Guess what! You also have to be present to give your opinion or get involved. We can't ask your vacant seat!!! We don't have a lot of young in our church but I'm pretty sure that if you asked those who are here to honestly answer if they are valued and their opinion matters, they'd have to answer yes. If you are going to be timid and never open your mouth, no one will ever know your opinions or what contributions you can offer. 

Mentoring. I'm all for this one. However, it's hard to mentor or disciple someone who isn't willing to be. There were good ideas mentioned about this one and I plan on trying to invest better. One on one is harder to pull off with people because lives are so busy these days. Small groups are what men's meetings and women's bible studies are all about. They are (in our church) lessons and discussions around the Bible. They are a great resource for fellowship and getting to know people better. At our church we also have a mentoring program called Rubies in the Rough which is designed to teach girls and ladies of all ages practical skills to use now or in the future for running a home. We have covered cooking, sewing, crafts, cake decorating, and coming soon, first aid. Most churches need help in the area of mentoring. I hope young people will help those doing the mentoring to know they WANT to be mentored and in what way they'd like it to happen. It isn't going to happen if you are not in church at all.

Clear visual messages. This one had clear and valid points. I hope to consider it more in depth. It truly is a fact that the current generation of young adults is motivated by the visual. (almost to the point of being over stimulated) -- but, science has proven that visuals aid in learning. Most people are visual learners and I agree that many churches do not utilize this enough. We do with children but never realize that adults like visual, too. Now, one of the things mentioned was that there needs to be better signage of what to do and where to go because church should be stress free and when you have to ask, it causes stress. When I read this explained I almost laughed but then realized that is what this generation is. They lack people skills face to face. They prefer to text or email or message someone on Facebook and when they have to deal face to face or talk with people they become nervous or stressed. Teens often text their parents from their rooms rather than go in and talk to them. It seems very strange to me but hey, if better signage would help get more of them in the door and returning back for second visits then, I'm all for that! 

Ok, I think I've pretty much addressed the things that they say they want. Now, I'd like to address blame. Over and over, I read that the church is to blame for why young adults leave churches once they are no longer in the teen department or youth department. I have seen it for many years and it is true there is a phenomenon. Mostly, it is because the average church is not large enough or funded enough to have college age classes and activities. Many do not have the resources for young couples classes either.  I suppose that some of the blame is the church when they are too focused on fun and not enough on grounding teens in the Word and instilling that the Christian life is a heart issue. I think we should as a church do better, however, I'd like to point out that at best the church gets the teen 4 hours a week (and that's if the parent is present for Sunday school, morning service, evening service and Wednesday evening) and maybe more if there is an activity. School, parents and the world get them the rest of the time! It is pretty hard to compete with that ratio. I think the Millennial's parents are more to blame than the church. Yes, you can find examples of those who were severely hurt within a church and that played out in the life of the young adult and made them walk away. But, in my research and observation over the years, it mostly falls to parents not living at home the persona they give at church. It is inconsistency in the home and in church attendance. When a child or teen sees that the parent does not make church a priority, or bible reading or prayer time, the child sees no reason to commit. When they see the parent living opposite of what is preached or when the parent tears down the authority of the church in front of the child, they lose respect for the leadership and the church. And, as soon as they are calling the shots, they are gone from the church. It is heartbreaking. 

It is a dilemma and needs to be figured out. Surely, we can figure out how to reach out and get this group back into serving in a church without compromising God's Word. It can't be all one way though. You don't get to make all the demands and say "or else". The fact of the matter is that being pleasing to God means involvement in a local organized church. Find one and be the part you want to see in others! A healthy church has all ages and we should not focus just on any one particular group.   

Oh, one more thing, it's pretty safe to say that you won't find every aspect you want in a church. And, quite frankly, you will not likely find some of those aspects without compromising Bible. Which is more important? A place where you "feel" something and want no hypocrisy and all things your way or a place standing firmly on preaching and teaching the truth of God's Word where you can grow in your daily Christian walk?

If you are a Millennial and out of church as you read this post, I hope it made you think and you will consider actively looking for a church to serve in. If you are a leader in a church, I hope this post will help you with ideas of what Millennials say is missing and that they are looking for. Our churches are going to die without reaching everyone we can. There's nothing wrong with trying something new as long as it's not contrary to God's Word.

February 16, 2017

The Love Bank

Not sure how this post will go. Mostly because I'm not sure how to explain the things heavy on my heart and mind but I'm going to try. 

In all relationships there is give and take. There is a constant deposit and with drawl from each person's internal love bank. This is true for every type of relationship...husband & wife, parent & child, friend to friend, and even in a sense employer & employee (tho this is not usually love or romantic in nature). Within all of these relationships there are investments made. - deposits made into an internal love bank. This can be done through words of encouragement such as "I love you", "I'm proud of you", "Great job" or "I'm here for you". It can also be done through deeds such as kisses, hugs, holding hands, doing a chore or other kindness, or rewards & awards. The point is that when we do one of the above or something similar, we make deposits into the other person's love bank. 

On the other hand, with drawls are made when an argument takes place, unkind & insensitive words are said, when ungrateful attitudes arise or when the deposits are withheld. Just as a checking or savings account can get overdrawn when there are too many with drawls and not enough deposits, it can also happen within relationships. Hurt comes. Forgiveness is easy when there have been more deposits than with drawls. 

If you leave the account depleted for too long the bank eventually closes the account. In relationships this is when trouble starts. It begins a vicious cycle that causes one or both people involved to quit trying. They stop trying or wanting to make deposits into the other person's love bank. I've seen this happen in every single one of the aforementioned relationships. In the business relationship it will cause friction in the work place and eventually lead to someone quitting or being fired. In friendships it causes anger, distrust, backbiting and a parting of ways. In parent/child relationships it can be very detrimental and have far reaching consequences even to several generations. Severe rebellion on part of the child can take place. There is often a parting of ways here, too. A child may refuse to be a part of the parent's life or allow their children to see the grandparent. In the marriage relationship it is also detrimental. Care of the other person stops. For the woman, she may stop taking care of the home or do anything for the husband such as cooking, cleaning, laundry or romantic areas. For the man, he may start spending more time at work, on the computer, in front of the tv or hanging with the guys and show little concern for the wife and her needs or desires. This leads to feelings being shut off. Affairs can take place because at the slightest attention from someone of the opposite sex suddenly feelings are then awakened. God made us social beings that long for companionship, for touch, and the need to feel wanted, desired and appreciated. 

All this can be avoided if there is consistent depositing into the love bank in all relationships. It is just a matter of being thoughtful and caring towards the other person. Yes! Even our children, parents, bosses, and employees. The marriage relationship is the most important of these however. 

I hope this will make anyone reading this to consider the truths I tried to bring forth. Keep love banks full with as many deposits as possible so that when an occasional with drawl must be made, it doesn't deplete the account and forgiveness can take place and amends made. 

February 6, 2017

Testimony is Everything

So many people have the attitude that they don't care what others think of them. They don't really care about their reputation in a church, town, family or whatever ---even Christians. I say that if you are a Christian you SHOULD care. Your testimony is everything! If others see you as one with a lack of honest or reliable character, or as someone who has weak faith in a God you claim to believe in, or you act in an unchristian type manner such as easily angered, using bad language, or being intoxicated, etc. then why would they listen when you try to talk to them about Jesus? When you do nothing but complain about your preacher, or about church members, why would someone you invite to church ever come? 

In the book of Daniel in chapter 6, people were trying to think of a way to file complaint against Daniel but were unable to do so because of his outstanding character. In verse 5 they even go so far as to say they know he is such an upstanding guy that they know the only thing they will ever be able to accuse him of would be about the law of his God. They knew he would be so faithful to the things of God that they would only be able to catch him on something by making up new laws that said it was wrong to worship his God. That's what they did knowing that Daniel would never go against what God says. Do other people know this about you? Do they know better than to try to tempt you to do wrong with them? Do they know better than to think you will miss church to do an activity with them? Is your testimony like Daniel's? What an awesome thing that Daniel was so completely faithful to the Lord and His commands that other people KNEW it about him. 

Your testimony or reputation in other words, is everything! What does your reputation tell others about you? 

Just something to ponder.