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Archive for January, 2010

38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

It’s amazing how religion and relationship with God just don’t seem to mix.  You have religion everywhere.  The old enemy never stops does he?  He is at work in the church with a group of people who call themselves Christians and lie to the Holy Spirit and within three hours of coming to church that day both Ananias and Sopphira are dead.  The “let’s play church” game cost them their lives…they appeared to be more spiritual than they were.  Peter confronted both of them and before church was over the men of the church buried both of them.  They lied to God and the people of God and paid for it with their lives.  That was their story.  This is not a group in the church picking them out and dealing with them like stoning them to death…this is direct Divine Judgment.  God did this!  And clean up the church it did…There was unity and power in the church when sin was cleansed!

The Enemy starts his work of thwarting the Gospel within – inside the church…  If he cannot get that done!  He starts getting outside opposition kicking!  And that he did with another religious group.  Religious people are dangerous people.  They look good on the outside but on the inside they stink bad!

Gamaliel is the one that blew me away.  He is possibly the son of Simeon who held the Christ-child in the temple.  In light of that, do you think he had any instructions as to Who his dad was holding that day?  Do you think that he heard that story over and over from his own father.  On top of that his grand dad was a highly respected rabbi.  He like Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night and one who had the Scriptures in his head, on his head, and talked this stuff all the time…missed it!   He is one who should know better.  He was filled with wisdom but had no idea.  Here is a man who could see but was spiritually blind.   Here is a man who is not a Sadducee (because they were so Sad You See – religious people are like that) in that they are the ones trying to kill Peter.  He is a Pharisee.  He is also the one who is known to be the great teacher of Paul the Apostle.  He gives them some great advice.  He tells them to leave them alone and watch.  If it is of God you can’t stop it anyway!  Get out of the way!  Killing them will not do the trick.  It is sad that Gamaliel stayed neutral regarding Jesus the Messiah.  He saw the evidence.  He heard the testimony!  At least his student, Paul had enough sense to follow Christ the Messiah.

Religious people can see a lot and miss the most important!  He was trying to stop a fight and he missed the real battle!

God help me not to miss what you are trying to do in my life!

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13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Notice what it didn’t say…

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been to church.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been at the conference.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been at the committee meeting.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been balancing the budget.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been wearing the right clothes.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been careful and clean and religious.

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had kept the rules.

It’s that “…been with Jesus…” that keeps ringing in my ear.  The religious crowd realized quick that these guys shouldn’t have the chance to speak about anything.  They didn’t have letters of recommendation from anywhere – no formal school diploma on the wall.  They were plain old garden variety “cow pea and cornbread” kind of guys.  And it is so interesting to note that God has a wonderful way of taking the natural stuff of life and making it supernatural.

Nicodemus had that letters and was well respected.  Anyone who was “in the know” regarding religious leaders knew who Nicodemus was.  He had it down pat outwardly.  Jesus told him that he needed to be born again.  The issue was not on the outside.  It was a heart deal.  George Stibbens wrote a hymn that is sung regarding that story about needing to be born again.  I read them to myself this morning…

A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light
The Master made answer in words true and plain
"Ye must be born again"

"Ye must be born again
Ye must be born again
I verily, verily say unto thee
Ye must be born again."

Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord
And let not this message to you be in vain
"Ye must be born again"
O ye who would enter that glorious rest
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest
The life everlasting if ye would obtain
"Ye must be born again"
A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain
"Ye must be born again"

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1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this.

I noticed that God gave Moses all the information he needed.  He was detailed at whee he was to tell the people to encamp…he was mighty exact.  He then gave Moses a general over view of what they could expect.  It was enough to help him see the next step.  He didn’t have to lay it all out from start to finish and get Moses’ approval before He revealed the whole plan to Moses.  I am not sure Moses could stand it.

I am 54 years old and facing a strange new beginning in my life. I have two friends and the Holy Spirit to thank.  Some years ago W. L. Collins, former pastor of Calvary Baptist in Florence decided to retire.  I watched him struggle with the end of one assignment and then acclimate himself to the new assignment of being with his wife, grands, and helping in various interim pastorates.  He has done well.  Ken Sandifer is facing changes himself.  Ken and I have discussed what we intend to do with our lives over the next ten years.  Our conversations and journeying with these guys for 18-19 years has given me a chance to watch God move in our lives and to develop a real confidence in watching the HeavenlyFather do new things in our lives.

I didn’t hear God speak audibly, however, this Christmas during the much needed break I was able to discern that it was time to see some changes.  This year of 2010 will be a year of changes for my own life and for the loving church I pastor.  He has given me some real general instructions as to what we are to do next and how we are to adjust as we get ready to leave one place and head to another.  I am thankful that He is more than able to help us change…and change we will.  I am glad that I have a great group of friends who will be more than folk who with journey with us but who will partner in what God is doing in our lives here.

He speaks.  When He does I want to listen.  When he gives us instructions I want us to obey and move in a direction that will bring God glory.  Today I am glad that we are not camped in the desert somewhere waiting for another five years to pass.  I am glad that we are through making bricks and being under the slavery of Pharaoh’s oppression.  I am glad that it is time to move forward!  And move I will.  I am confident that it is now time to begin to move to the next phase of our relationship with God as a church.  It is still general enough that we must watch God every day for instructions and guidance as we move forward.

I am trusting Him today!

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1 O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!

The Lord alone is our confidence.  The Lord alone is our strength.  How we are given to doing things our own way and depending on our own strength to see things done.  How we rejoice when we come up with a plan that makes things work.  The joy in life is depending on His strength alone.  How great are the victories that HE gives.  But they are HIS victories.

Here is a king that is in relationship with the God of the universe.  He knows him.  He walks with God and God walks with him.   Experientially he has a grasp on God’s ability to come along side him, encourage him, lead him, fight his battles for him and journey through life with him.  That kind of confidence doesn’t come with reading the first chapter of a bible book but it comes from life being hammered out on a daily basis and watching God come through on his behalf.

I admit that I live in a world where the economy is pressing down on every side.  I admit that we face daily struggles that cause us to depend on Him for our very existence.  Today I am hearing God say to me that He is able to care for us and He is at work in my life.  All I need I find as He provides and cares for me.  I rejoice in His strength.  My joy comes in watching God battle for us.

My confidence is in Christ today!

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12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay.  “And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart…”  Here is a guy who has it all.  What more could he want!  How much is enough?  He was mistreating the Jewish people .  God was watching both the Jews and Pharaoh.   He was afraid of the Jews to start with and it was his old mean heart that caused them to be turned into slaves. I thought God was kind to issue some mercy toward Pharaoh in that he at least gave him the option to let the people go.  God did not have to do that.  He could have simply wiped out every Egyptian in the world with a small puff of wind.  He could have spoken and they would simply die or even disappear – now there would have been an Avitar Special effect.  It is as if God taps old Pharaoh on the shoulder and says, “Hey, punk, What you don’t get is that these are my peeps!  You need to let them go!”  The self appointed “god” is messing with the GOD of the Universe.  It’s like that “boy” that got on a “man” bull and tried to ride it and had no idea even being in the rodeo much less strapping his hand to the back of this Animal.  God was ready to give him the ride of his life and it wasn’t going to be 8 seconds long either.  “Get ready boy!  It’s gonna be the ride of your life!”

You would think some of this would have softened the old Pharaoh’s heart.  You would think!  You would think that after watching the kind of things he was fixin’ to see that he would “reconsider his ways and repent” toward God.  I mean God declares war on his religious system and beats the slop out of it.  I can’t imagine a man that has been given more warnings and insights into the power of God than this old fool.  Look what he saw.

1.     Water to blood, 7:14–25 (warning given, 7:16)
2.     Frogs, 8:1–15 (warning given, 8:1)
3.     Lice, 8:16–19 (no warning, and magicians could not duplicate, 8:18–19)
4.     Flies, 8:20–24 (warning given, 8:20)
5.     Murrain on cattle, 9:1–7 (warning given, 9:1)
6.     Boils on the people, 9:8–12 (no warning given, magicians afflicted, 9:11)
7.     Hail, fire, 9:13–35 (warning given, 9:13)
8.     Locusts, 10:1–20 (warning given, 10:3)
9.     Thick darkness, 10:21–23 (no warning, Pharaoh refused to see Moses again, 10:27–29)
10.  Death of the firstborn, 11–12 (the final judgment).
I guess when you think you are god, when you only want to do what you are going to do and not listen to anyone else including God and his messengers, then your clay heart gets hard.
But today is about Jim not the rest of the world.  Maybe walking around with Pharaoh for a while.  God had softened the heart of the shepherd that was now the messenger in this picture.  Moses had walked the very halls in which he was confronting Pharaoh.  Moses grew up under the Egyptian System and no one, I mean, NO ONE would ever step up to the plate and suggest to the self appointed God of Egypt that he was to listen to the instructions of what he would consider to be an inferior god.  He had no idea WHO he was messin’ with.  He was fixin’ to learn.  Today God lets me walk around with the Pharaoh to be reminded that if I am not careful my own heart can become hardened.  I guess it happens the same way.  When I get to the place where I don’t listen to God my old heart is affected some.  What used to cause it to instantly respond to His soft quiet voice of loving correction now causes it to becomes a bit less responsive.  Keep it up over a period of time and then we start having to negotiate who is in charge at this point.
OK, Crooks!  Here’s the compromise!  Just be friends with the world.  When you are in Rome you can live like the Romans.  Just don’t take this Christian thing too far.  You can be like us and be with and and still be a believer.  We are all religious anyway – And all religions lead to the same place – right?  Kind of like Bush’s thousand rays of light all going to the same place.  You can stay close to the world and close to God at the same time.  Come on Crooks, ease up.  Don’t worry about your family.  This is just for the men folk.  Leave them alone.  And by the way – just leave your stuff in the world, let me keep your possessions and you can go anywhere and worship.  I guess it is true that where your stuff is, there you heart will be also…Oh, come on Crooks, God  doesn’t need  your money.  Just leave it with me.  He has enough.
Maybe pacifying the world hardens the heart.  Just a thought. One preacher put it this way –  The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay!  I want to stay moldable today!

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2 Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.

What a question?  I was thinking of a few things that had been in that hand.  It held the index finger of his mother just following his birth.  It must have grasped her hair as it hung in his face as an infant as she fed him.  It gripped the cloth that caressed him as he floated down the Nile River in Egypt.  It held to the shoulders of Pharaoh’s daughter as she held him.  It held books and only God knows what his hands touched being raised in the bounty of an Egyptian Pharaoh’s home.  At nearly 40 years old it held the throat of an Egyptian who had attacked an Israelite who was making bricks under the Egyptian’s bondage.  Those hands tried to break up a fight between two Jews.  His guilty hands grasped the only belongings he had as he made his way for the next 40 years into the desert.  Those hands protected some girls who had gone to the well to draw water and had been attacked by several shepherds.  Those hands received his wife and held their child.  Those hands grasped the staff in his hands as he made his way into the desert to lead sheep.  Now he stands as an older man in front of a burning bush – a place designated in heaven for he and God to meet…and meet they did.  He heard his voice bowed his heart before the Great I AM.

It was time for God to take Moses to the next level of his life.  It would involve his hands – one having to do with what was in his hands and the other dealing with his hands themselves.  I guess I am learning that if I take the common everyday things that are in my hands and give them to God he can do the supernatural with them.  I am not asked to lead a nation.  I am asked to be the head of my home, the husband of my wife, the father of my children and the pastor of a church family.  I feel as helpless as Moses sometimes.  I don’t like the daunting task that is mine in all these situations.  I feel the complete inadequacy that floods over my soul sometimes as I face the possibilities of what I could do in each of those areas and the impact both negative and positive as I begin that process each day.  I have to give it to Jesus.  I cannot do it myself.  He threw his staff down and it became a snake.  He grabbed it by the tail and it became a staff again.  Only God can do something like that.

I am also reminded that the power is not in the hand but the ONE who made the hand.  He stuck his hand in his robe and pulled it out and it was leprous.  He put it back in and took it out and it was whole.  A miracle wrought by the power of God alone.

God always asks me questions and He already knows the answer.  Maybe it is not about what’s in his hand…but Who has “a hold of ” his hand.  The implication that God already knows and now has given him responsibility to be the leader of a nation brings with it the confidence that He who calls you will empower you to carry out the task ahead.  If he can make a bush burn and not be consumed…if he can speak from within the bush and communicate truth from within…if he can turn a staff into a snake and back into a staff…if he can make  a hand leprous and then heal it again… If He is who He says He is…and HE IS… then IN Christ I am more than adequate for the task I face as I journey with Christ today.

I am glad I have hands.  I am glad that I have something to do with those hands.  I am thrilled that He holds my hands today!  May He be praised…

Alright get ready to humor an old Southern Gospel Baptiscostal preacher…

And I couldn’t stand it…I was listening and almost shouted my shoes off!

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23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

He hears!  He remembers! He sees!  and in his time He acts!  He is God!

Why doesn’t God check junk out with us before he sets the calendar of our lives.  He knows every thing and is fully aware of all things.  Nothing escapes Him.  He is in control.  He is the all knowing all powerful all present God.

He is always waiting for a king to die or some particular event to take place that is in line with what He is up to in the lives of people.  Years!  Not days, hours or minutes.  Years!  He woke me up this morning and reminded me that the divine plan of God is right on time.  It is not early and it is not late.  I will admit that living the “big heavenly plan” out a day at a time is difficult.  It is so for me because I somehow think that the divine center of my universe is “moi”!  And as the unsolicited undesignated leader of the center of my world, I get the reminder that I am not the center of my world and I get to not only watch God work out His plan but I am part of that plan and what I am going through at the time is part of a much bigger picture.

What kind of God doesn’t hear the groans of his people AND respond immediately?  Some of my “name it…claim it” friends would be frustrated as they declared out loud their desire for God to move on cue.  There is only one God and He is in charge.  We trust him for THIS DAY.  We trust him for strength to deal with this day…a day that may have something to do with making bricks and working under circumstances that are less than what we would have designed had HE asked us before it all started.

I am glad that there is only one God.  Can you imagine the mess we would be in if everyone was in control without his presence guiding it.  (Washington?  I will leave it at that!)  He is in charge.

The text reminds me this morning that God is not deaf.  He does hear my cry and asks me to trust Him that He is moving in the right direction at the speed that He desires.  I am a part of what HE is orchestrating.  I cannot get ahead of the director.  Sometimes I cry out to God and ask him, “How long God am I going to be under the slavery of this sinful world I live in?  How long are we going to have to put up with it?”  He reassures me again that HE is in total control and I can trust him for what I am going through today!  I look around and remember that there are people in this dear world that are in much tougher conditions than me…and I am not in a strain this morning…

I cry out today to the God who is not deaf.  I am trusting you God to help me see you working as I journey with you at your invitation every inch of this day.  You know the slavery issues in my own life, in the lives of my friends who long to be free from their stuff, in the world of my own family.  I am learning to walk with you and trust that You are in charge and that you have it all planned out.  Maybe today I will keep my mouth shut and simply follow where you lead.

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