Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Schisms and Heresies


God has given us such a wealth of wisdom for our lives in the storehouse of His Word. I have always been amazed at the pre-emptive strategy of God in that He prepares us for problems before we encounter them. The fact is, God knows the end from the beginning and He chooses just the right time to teach or remind us about the principles we need to have ready to employ in our daily walk.

The Christmas season is a season of family and a season of giving. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The three major truths of this verse reveal the hope God has in and through us.

The 3 Truths of The Gospel contained in John 3:16
1.   God’s love.
2.   His intent to include everyone.
3.   God’s love and intent to include everyone is shown by Him giving.
·        Love
·        Inclusion
·        Giving

Of course we know that both the god of this world and our old carnal nature runs in opposition to the will, the Word and the way of God. Several times in the Bible the scriptures show us the marked difference between God’s ways and the ways of this world.

Jesus and the Apostles often addressed the temptations faced by Christians to be less than loving, less than inclusive and less than giving. This evening we are going to take a brief look at Schisms and Heresies so that we might be better armed and strengthen to reflect the heart of God during this special Christmas season.

The word schism means take something that is otherwise whole and to tear it apart, weaken it or create division therein.

1 Corinthians 1:10  Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions (schisms) among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The Apostle Paul continued to encourage the Church at Corinth to guard against schisms within the Body of Christ. Rather he admonishes us to be perfectly weaved together into one single piece of fabric.

1 Corinthians 11 (NLT)
17 ¶  But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together.
18  First, I hear that there are divisions (schisms) among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it.
19  But, of course, there must be divisions (heresies) among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!
20  When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper.
21  For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk.
22  What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this!

There may be factions at your own home, but not within your own home …

1 Corinthians 12 (NKJV)
12 ¶  For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
14  For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
16  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
17  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
18  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
19  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20  But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
23  And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
24  but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,
25  that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
26  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Divisions and Heresies are not the work of the Lord. Taking something God has designed and desires to be whole and creating or participating in dividing it or tearing it apart is not of God. (Families for example …)

Heresy means the act of capturing others and forming them into a subgroup of dissenters in opposition the opinion of the duly appointed leader of the larger group. To form and champion an alternate which opposes God’s ordained leadership. To lead a small group to dissent is to commit heresy against the larger whole group.

Galatians 5 (NKJV)
19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (smaller opinionated subgroups),
21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This year let’s decide to not promote or participate in schisms or heresies.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Right Thing


Philemon 1:8  I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. (NLT)

Absolutes exist: (Isaiah 5:20 from last Sunday’s message …)
·        There is a right and there is a wrong.
·        There is light and there is darkness.
·        There is a sweet and there is bitter.
·        There is good and there is evil.
·        There is life and there is death.

It would be a terrible realization to find you couldn’t tell or didn’t know the difference between light and darkness; good and evil; life and death; or right and wrong.

To be unable to discern the next best step … or … to imagine you were reaching for something that was good only to find you had laid hold on something bad, dark and deadly.

Many have chosen to step into something only to realize that it was far less valuable than what they stepped out of. When I think of all of the bad decisions made by people in the Bible, I can easily see why God recorded them. God wants us to know that there is a remedy and restoration for those who fall from grace; those who find themselves in darkness; and even for those who knowingly step out of the light on their own accord.

The New Testament epistle written to Philemon from Paul focuses on Paul’s encouragement to Philemon to do the right thing.
·        Philemon lived at Colossae, about 120 miles due east of Ephesus.
·        Philemon had a servant/slave named Onesimus who ran away.
·        Onesimus ended up in Rome and at some point, for some reason, sought out the Apostle Paul who was imprisoned there.
·        Paul led Onesimus to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
·        The Bible does not give us all the details but at some point, after his conversion to Christ, Onesimus desired to return home.
·        Paul wrote the epistle to Philemon, acknowledging that he had been done wrong but nonetheless asking Philemon to do “the right thing”.

It seems the Bible is filled with accounts of people like Onesimus who did some things they thought were good for them in the moment but later realized they were the wrong thing. Thankfully:

God never abandons us because we are wrong.

We don’t have to get stuck in our last worst decision. There is a scripture in the Bible that sums it up. It’s the account of the prodigal son in:

Luke 15 NKJV
17  “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18  ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19  “and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20  “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

The Prodigal Son:
1.   He came to himself.
Ø (Luke 15:17a NLT)  “When he finally came to his senses …”
2.   He said to himself.
3.   He followed his own counsel.

Notice as well that not only did the son who was wrong turn to do the right thing, but the father had a choice as well. The father had been done wrong but instead of protecting himself and nursing his wounds, he did the right thing. We all have a choice … (the older brother however is another story).

Onesimus must have:
1.   Come to himself and realized that he had lost more than he gained.
2.   Said to himself, something is wrong, and I want to make it right.
3.   Followed his own counsel, sought out Paul whom he previously knew or knew of from Colossae, asked for help, got saved and went home. (We can’t know for sure, but some early Church writers say Onesimus was emancipated by Philemon and later became a Bishop over a region of churches in Asia Minor. Certainly sounds like God.)

You see, there is a right and there is a wrong for everyone involved in each situation of life. We cannot expect anyone else to do what is right when we won’t. Without regard as to who, what, where, when or why …

Philemon 1:8  I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.

If you find you’ve made a bad decision, a wrong decision, or a costly mistake … or perhaps someone has done you wrong. Either way, don’t forget the remedy.

Believe me, no matter how bad it is, you can make it worse.

So, what can you do to make it better?

1.   Come to your senses …
Ø It’s not going to get better on its own.
Ø Nothing changes until something changes.
Ø You can gain victory in the situation before you see victory over the situation.
Ø Maybe you did wrong or someone else did you wrong, either way:
Ø You can’t turn back the clock, but you can do the right thing.
2.   Speak to yourself …
Ø Make the decision.
Ø Go to the Word.
Ø Get godly counsel.
Ø But Coach yourself … Encourage yourself.
3.   Do the right thing.
Ø Make a commitment.
Ø Don’t be afraid to face the facts.
Ø Take the first step.
Ø Follow through.

God will never abandon His children because they were wrong. He will be with you and help you every step of the way. God knows … where you are, what you’ve done or what was done to you --- and He knows the right thing for you to do right now.

Have you been Born Again? Are you a child of God? Give your life and your problems to Jesus. It’s the right thing to for you to do.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The First Day


Genesis 1
4  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
5  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

One of the first lessons in the Bible points to the priorities of life. Neither the earth under God’s supervision nor your own world under your supervision can begin to enjoy life as intended without first taking some steps to separate light from darkness.

Darkness inherently makes life much more challenging. One of the greatest and most common fears known to mankind it to be left in darkness. This natural fear has corresponding spiritual significance.

About 1500 years before Christ, Moses was sent by God to the Pharaoh of Egypt. Moses demanded the release of the of the Children of Israel from slavery. The account can be found in the book of Exodus.

Pharaoh was not happy to see his slaves forcibly set free and he decided to pursue them in hopes to recapture or kill them all. God led the Children of Israel into what seemed like a trap for them. It appeared they had only two visible options: Swim across the Red Sea; or Turn back to Pharaoh and be enslaved or slaughtered.

God however, had a better plan. God’s plan included freedom from Egyptian bondage for the Israelites and death to the enemies of their past as well. The one thing the Children of Israel needed to do was to trust God enough to give Him some time. But how can you give God time when your enemies are breathing down you neck?

God’s plan will always include the time you need to wait on Him.

You may have noticed that God is never late … but seldom does He show up early either. We just need to trust Him until He shows up.

When the Children of Israel found themselves between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea … God took charge.

Exodus 14
19  And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.
20  So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
21  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.
22  So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

The account continues to tell us that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea safely. And when the Egyptian armies attempted to pursue the Israelites, God confused their efforts and the waters returned to cover them and they were drowned in the depths of the sea.

Let’s look at one of the verses we read again:

Exodus 14:20  So it, (the presence of God), came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.

Interesting … the Presence of God, which we understand to be the Holy Spirit, was:
·        A cloud = confusion; misunderstanding; chaos; foolishness; bewilderment; foggy; unclear.
·        And darkness = obscured; no vision; blind to sight; empty; void; lifeless; threatening; fear of the unknown.
·        Light by night = bright; shinning; illuminated life; glorious and full of hope in the nighttime.

To one group of people the Presence of God was glorious while to the other group God’s Presence was only confusing, foolish, threatening and unclear. One group was confused while the other was comforted.

Wait … it was the same event at the same time in the same place, but it ended up being a totally different experience … What was the difference?

1 Corinthians 2:14  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

It is so sad when people can’t distinguish light from darkness. To some people it all looks the same … they just can’t see what others see.

Isaiah 5:20  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

What is darkness? Darkness by some accounts is but the shadow of death.

Isaiah 9:2  The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

When God, His Word, His will or the simple understanding of His way seems like darkness instead of light in our night, we need help separating His plan from the empty, threating, fearful unknown. Thankfully that’s the first lesson God teaches. How does a person begin to separate light from darkness, life from death, sweet from bitter or good from evil when they don’t know what life is or can’t see the difference? I’m glad you asked.

Acts 26:18  ‘to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ TURN TO HIM

John 12:46  “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  BELIEVE IN JESUS

John 8:12  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  KEEP FOLLOWING HIM

1 John 1:5  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Don’t Sit in the Darkness


Like many of you I am occasionally faced with serious situations in life which demand I make a decision. At times I find myself with a lack of direction and even after much prayer, counsel and consideration, not sure what to do. In these times, like you, I continue to seek the Lord, praying continually and keeping my ears open to the Lord as I consider every angle.

I have also developed a habit throughout the years of purposefully opening myself to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while I sleep. As is my custom, when I lay my head down upon my pillow, I consciously ask God to speak to me in my nighttime and give me the direction I need. Many times through the years I have awakened in the night or early morning to catch my first thoughts and find that the Lord has truly spoken. And, One word from God changes everything!

I remember one instance about 8 years ago when, just after my mother passed away, I began experiencing a lack of direction in some seemingly small areas of my life. Nothing significant and nothing that really mattered to anyone else. Nonetheless, I wanted to know what I could do to please God and feel a sense of happiness in my life. Having joy for the little things in life make such a difference. Anyway …

It was a Tuesday night, November 30th, 2010. How do I remember the date?  I keep notes on the things God says to me. That night, before I went to bed, I prayed and asked God to speak to me according to a passage of scripture in the book of Job.

Job 33
14 ¶  For God may speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it.
15  In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds,
16  Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction.

I awoke early the next morning, it was Wednesday, December 1st, and with my first conscious thoughts I heard the Lord say:

“You shall go out with joy.” My mind went immediately to Isaiah 55 which we’ll read in a moment. While I was considering this passage, I heard God speak in my spirit and I began to write down what I heard. God said:

“Don’t sit in darkness while light shines all around. Get up and get involved in the joys of My work. Don’t sell yourself to labor but rather to harvest. Consider your first love and let Me lead you with joy.”

To me this meant, if you can’t go with joy, don’t go. Don’t go until you find your joy! As always, I test everything I hear in my spirit against the Word of God. My confirmation was Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying all alone until He found joy for His journey. He went to the cross with joy.

Hebrews 12:2  Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Joy is not often found in the tasks or in the labor at hand, but rather in the harvest which that labor yields. When there is no joy in the harvest, there will be no joy in the labor. We cannot afford to lose our focus … if we do, we are apt to lose our joy for the work to which God has called us.

King David’s greatest low in life is written about in Psalms 51:12 when he said, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation …”, King David realized that he had gotten his eyes off what pleased God and onto what pleased him. The salvation which comes with Christ is designed to fill us with the joy of the Lord. It can be a dangerous thing to seek temporal pleasures, wealth or happiness. Temporary pleasure can leave us feeling so empty.  

Isaiah 55
1 ¶  "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.
2  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3  Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you — The sure mercies of David.

That morning when I heard the Spirit of the Lord say, “You shall go out with joy”, I thought about Isaiah 55 verse 12. So, I got up, wrote down what I had heard, washed my face and went to the Word to read the whole chapter and meditate on what God was saying to me. After all, He had answered my prayer and spoke to me, at least I could follow up.

Isaiah 55 is the most beautiful and open invitation for all sinners from all walks of life to come to Messiah and receive the everlasting provisions of God’s mercy.  Come one, come all, rich, poor, needy, the unrighteous and the wicked – come freely and receive your pardon. 

God does not think like we think or do what we would do were He in our situation. God has provided for everyone; His mercies are sure and His pardon secure; seek Him while He may be found. Let’s read:

Isaiah 55
6 ¶  Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
7  Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
8  "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10  "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11  So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12  "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Just as David cried out to God to restore the joy of his salvation, and like Jesus prayed in His greatest hour of need and found joy for His journey, a journey which led by the way of the cross, God desires that we too be filled with joy for our journey.

If we focus on the labor alone, we will not find the joy we need for our journey. We must look to the harvest to find strength for our labor. It’s hard to find true joy when we make life all about us and what we want or what we think we need. Even Job recovered when he got his eyes off of his troubles and prayed for his friends. 

Life is not always all about you. And, if you wake up one day without joy for your journey, you may find that you are so focused on the wrong thing; focused on the moment; so focused on yourself that you have lost sight of the harvest. Only the joy of your Lord can provide the strength you need.

Don’t sit in darkness while light shines all around. Get up and get involved in the joys of God’s work. Don’t sell yourself to labor but rather to harvest. Consider your first love and let God lead you with joy.

Let’s pray and return our hearts to the Lord of the harvest. He will restore the joy of our salvation and give us renewed strength to do His will.