Friday, April 22, 2011

Cliché #2: God Knows My Heart

Father God, I come before you once again, and in the only way I know how; with head bowed and heart humbled to say thank you.  I thank you Father for another day that you’ve made.  I thank you for the blessing and covering that you have bestowed upon my family.  I thank you for the time you give me to study your word despite the many distractions the world can throw at me.  I just thank you for being the loving God, which is stipulated in your word.  I thank you for letting your face shine on your children.  I pray now a blessing on all who read this message as well as the readers and doers of your word.  I pray that you be with them guiding and protecting them.  I pray that you open their eyes and sharpen their discernment so that they can identify with truth and reject error.  Lord I just thank you this morning.  I pray for peace today, and through the weekend, and I pray the same for all of your children.  And Father, I pray that you forgive our trespasses that have been committed.  We give you all honor and glory and these we pray in Jesus name, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say this, I probably would not be rich, but I would have plenty of dollars (smile).  These clichés, if I am not careful, can bring out the worst in me.  Have you ever heard someone say that before?  It is usually said when you speak to them regarding something they should be doing but fail to do so.  So in response, you get this phrase.  We make arrangements to do work on the church every now and then, but they never show up.  You bring it to their attention, but they give you one excuse after the other.  When they see the skeptic look on your face, they say “God knows my heart.”  When someone tries to justify an unjustifiable action, they say “God knows my heart.”  If you are never on time to meetings or gatherings, and when approached “God knows my heart.”  It is as though that phrase frees them from any liability or accountability of their actions.  Amen!  God indeed knows your heart, and in essence people can to.  The bible states “what a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Pr 23:7)  They put their heart on display with their actions.
It is not a good thing to say, for God indeed knows our heart and he knows it better than we do.  The bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?  I the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  (Jer 17:9-10)  Amen.  God never looks at someone’s actions without weighing them with their heart. He searches the heart, and then gives to each individual according to their ways.   So in essence before He calculates the reward for your actions, He looks at the motives of your heart.  So it behooves us to make sure that our heart is in the right place at all times.
Another reason why you have those who say “God knows my heart” is when they want to do something they know that God doesn’t approve of, so this can be a way to justify their actions.   They want to hit that club one more time, “God knows my heart.”  They have a $20 bill in their pocket and on their way to church, but stop at the store to buy candy so they have change to give the church $5, only to spend the remaining dollars on foolishness.  Yet they say “God knows my heart.”  They are at that barbeque, and some of the guests are drinking and smoking pot.  They know full well, it is time for them to go, but they want to stay for the fun, and hide behind “God knows my heart.”  It is a shame how frequently and conveniently people attempt to put God in a box or cage.  We let Him out only when we need Him to provide something for us, and as soon as He has provided, we go right back to our regular lives, living it up, running the night red.   
So what is this “God knows my heart” thing?  Is it something where forgiveness is a blank check?  It is like people saying to themselves “God, I know this thing that I am about to do is contrary to your instructions, but since you know my heart, and know that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (another one), I am going to go on ahead and do it.”  Many fall because of their misconception of forgiveness of sin.   Just because Jesus died for our past sins, our current sins, and our future sins, doesn’t give us the right to phone ahead to Heaven and say, “God, I’m about to sin so forgive me ahead of time.”  Suppose you do that and God answers back and says “that’s fine because this is how I’m going to chasten you for it when you’re done.”  Only then would you reconsider.  If you know in advance what awaits you, then will you obey.  That is not faith. 
Let’s begin by knowing what position we have in life.  God is God and we are people. He is not in subjection to us.  We are in subjection to Him. So the fact that God knows our heart is nothing to really be proud about if we are going to use that as an excuse to continue to enjoy our sins and belittle that power that He has over sin.  Amen?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cliché #1: Don’t Touch the Lord Anointed

Heavenly Father, I come before your throne of grace in awe of your magnificent power.  I express my gratitude for all blessings you have bestowed upon me and my family.  Lord, I thank you for just loving me.  I thank you for exercising patience, while I was being disobedient.  Lord, I thank you for humbling me to where I saw it was your way of showing me that I needed to change, and Father I thank you for Jesus who took on what I deserve.  I pray Father, that all who read your word are blessed with a divine blessing from you.  I pray that you cover them in their coming and going, and bless them abundantly so that people can see the rewards given to those who honor and adhere to your word.  I pray peace on them, and I pray that right now, you are setting the atmosphere for them to receive this message.  I pray that all imagination that is not on you be cast down and bind up forever.  I just pray that we continue to honor you with our thoughts, speech, and deeds, and if we have done anything that was not worthy of child of yours, I pray that you forgive us for it.  We give you all the honor, glory, and praise.  This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!

For the next few days or more I will be speaking on the many clichés that have come tiresome to hear.  These clichés are of course based on scripture, but have been gratuitously used to the point where in some cases it does not even apply.  Although I numbered them, there is no reason behind the sequence.  I just share what comes to mind.  A cliché is a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.  Believe me; some of these clichés are fitting.
When I was a Deacon at a church, I was responsible for the yearly audits.  In one year there were discrepancies that could not be overlooked.  How I had it set up, the audit was done at the beginning of the year, and I will present my findings in 4-6 weeks.  I would layout corrective measures and do a second audit in September.  When I did the second audit it was worse than the first.  Further investigation showed that there were a few people involved skimming off of the general offering, including the pastor and his wife.  So, assume that I am telling you the truth, looking at this situation from a secular point of view, was that ethical on their part?  I pray you answered no.  Now look at it from a Christian perspective, did his actions line up with how a Christian supposed to behave, even worse a spiritual leader?  I pray you answered no again.
I brought it to his attention and naturally he was furious.  What is it about when people get caught in negative behavior they exhibit anger towards the person who caught them?  That put me and him at odds, which in essence divided the church.  I stood for what is right, and in his mind, I was slandering him.  When I got with the leaders of the church and told them of his actions, he considered that slander him.  Even when presented with irrefutable proof, I was still slandering him.  Amazing!  Fast forward now, we decided that he was no longer fit to be the spiritual leader of the congregation and began proceedings to biblically have him replaced.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  One of the mothers of the church, a couple of Deacons, and a good few of the members at one point or another, claimed God will punish me for touching the Lord’s anointed.  What these poor people did not get even when it left their lips is that the key word here is “touch.”
This overly used fear tactic can be seen in 1 Samuel.  Saul was jealous of David and sought to kill him.  Saul heard that David was hiding in a cave and brought an army to find him.  While Saul took rest in a cave, David stealthily cut a portion of Saul’s robe off as an indication that he had right to defend his life and there was an opportunity to put this to an end, but he believed and fear God and chose not to.  The bible says "Look, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, 'I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD'S anointed.”  (1Sam 24:10)  It is also stated in 1 Chronicles when David was giving God praise for defeating his enemies, he sang a Psalm in where he says God says “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm.” (1 Ch 16:22)  It is implied that you do not physically harm or physically cause harm to the Lord’s anointed.  But you have people who love the pastor more than they love the word and will hide behind these verses to stop anyone from holding the pastors accountable to what they preach.  Amen!
Family, a true and sincere pastor will strive to build up his flock and not force people into submission, since that is done by some if you bring an error in their part to their attention.  True spiritual leadership with foundations rooted in biblical truth, is not afraid of honest criticism, and some even welcomes and expects it.  A leader's response to valid criticism or errors performed is a test of their character.  Unfortunately, some leaders today claim for themselves a special “anointing”' which they somehow see as placing them beyond approach from “ordinary” saints seeking to test things biblically. The bible says “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1Th 5:21)  Which means if any leader is not preaching or behaving according to scripture, we have a right to make it known and need not worry about “touching the Lord’s anointed” since we are reminding them that they are the Lord’s anointed and should behave properly?  If anyone is in a church where the pastor feels he can do anything contrary to scripture and should not be held responsible, it is time for you to leave and pray to God for guidance to send you to a shepherd who will teach in love and sincerity.  Amen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don’t Get Sifted

Gracious Father, I come boldly and humbly before your throne of grace Father, first to tell you thank you.  I thank you Father for life, health and strength.  I thank you Father for another day to worship you.  I thank you Father for all that you have done and all that you will do in my life.  I thank you for my family and friends.  I thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed on such a wretch like me.  I pray Father, that the blessings you gave me, you give also to all of your children who love and adhere to your word.  I pray a blessing of peace wherever they are.  I pray that you set the atmosphere for them to read and meditate on this word this morning.  I pray that all imagination that is not of you is cast down and put under subjection by the power of your Holy Spirit that dwells in them.  I pray that your word is highly considered and practice daily Father.  I pray Father, that it not only resonate with them Father, but that they feel the urge to share it.  Father we honor and love you.  We lift your name up in praise.  And Father, we acknowledge that we are nothing without you, and pray that you cover us and deliver us from the evil one.  We pray that you also forgive us of any trespasses committed, whether by thought, speech, or deed.  This we pray in the matchless name of your son Jesus, Amen.

Growing up in the city made me ignorant to many things.  Take for instance farming.  It is the work of a farmer why a city boy like me was able to just go to the supermarket and fill my refrigerator with produce and dairy products.  We are more advance now, and I am sure that the labor of a farmer is far less than that of biblical times.  Have you ever wondered how they gathered wheat to make bread?  In order to get wheat to a point where it can be used it had to first be sifted.

The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete or tamped earth and to beat it with a flail. The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old fashioned way of doing this was to throw the grain in the air, where the lighter chaff would be blown off by a decent breeze. The heavier grains would fall back to the ground below where they were thrown.  Wow!  Sifting back then was hard work.  Can you imagine the violent manner in how the wheat was beaten?  In essence, sifting wheat back then was a rigorous process.

In the 22nd chapter of Luke, Jesus was meeting with his disciples and had shared that the time has come when he was going to be betrayed by one of them.  When the disciples heard this, the bible states “Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.  Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”  (Lu 22:23-24)  Here you have Jesus spending his last hours with his beloved disciples and some of them are more concerned with title.  They were not focused.  They were attempting to satisfy flesh.  The chief one had to be addressed by Jesus, because he knew not what awaited him if he continues.  The bible states “And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Lu 22:31)  Theologian Adam Clark said “When a name is thus repeated in the sacred writings, it appears to be always intended as an expression of love, manifested by a warning voice.”

Peter was arrogant (Mark 8:31-33).  Peter was self confident (Mark 14:26-29).  Peter was impulsive (Jn 18:10).  Peter was at times all talk but no action (Jn 18:17, 25, 27).  We at times can express similar traits and other times even worst.  We have a good job, and feel no one can tell us anything.  We have a big house, expensive cars, booming business, deep pockets, and feel we are on top of the world.  We feel we do not need God.  We put God on the back burner.  We express a gratuitous display of self confidence, and it is these exact same behaviors that has the devil salivating for our lives.  Jesus warned Peter because unknowing to him, the devil wanted to pick him apart.  He wanted to toss him to and fro.  He wanted to see if Peter can live up to all that he claimed to be.  He wanted to sift him until there was nothing left.  Why did Jesus use the example “sift you as wheat?”  Do you remember the example of how farmers sifted?  Can you picture the violent nature of the process?  That is how the devil would handle those who behaved like Peter did.  All that you have will be removed one by one.  Part of your sift can be your wife/husband leaving.  Part of your sift can be termination from your job.  Part of your sift will be family and friends disowning you.  Part of your sift can be a foreclosed home.  Part of your sift can be bank accounts seized.  And when there is nothing left, the devil will persuade you to not pray.  To not seek God’s face.  To stay as far away from God until you die, or commit suicide so that there is no salvation for you.  This is what awaited Peter, and this is what awaits you if are not mindful.

The bible states “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1Co 10:12)  That is true talk.  Don’t be distracted by false accomplishments.  Do not allow your achievements to make you overly confident.  Do not allow your present success determine your future.   It can be gone tomorrow.  Both God and the devil is watching, and the devil is patiently waiting for his chance to sift you like wheat.  I pray that you do not let him.  Amen!                                                                   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are You Moved With Compassion?

Heavenly Father, most gracious God, Lord I come before your throne of grace, first to tell you thank you.  Father, I thank you for all that you have done, and are still doing in my life.  I thank you for your mercy and grace.  Father, I thank you for being a God that allow us to come to you as we are, and not who we pretend to be.  I thank you for your loving kindness that you show to an undeserving people.  Father, I thank you for the spirit, and measure of faith that was given to each and every one of us so we can know who you are.  I thank you for loving us so much that you gave us another opportunity to be reconciled to you, and dwell in your bosom for eternity.  Lord, I pray this morning that all of these blessings, just continue.  Lord, you are a God who is able to keep us from falling, and I pray in the name of Jesus, that you cover us with divine protection, and that you deliver us from all evil.  Now Father, I pray a blessing on all of your children who read this message today.  I pray Father that they will be moved with compassion, and motivated to reach a lost people.  I pray Father that you give them the courage if they are lacking, and the words to speak, if they know none.  I pray a blessing on their families, and I pray that you bless them in their coming and going.  I pray Father, that you be with them, as you are with me.  And Father if we can send one more request, I pray that you forgive us of any sins committed.  We give you the honor and the praise.  This we pray in the matchless name of your Son Jesus, Amen.

I want to share something with you.  I want to share with you what I saw when I went witnessing one time.  We went to an area that is considered the ghetto.  They were numerous buildings and all look the same.   They were run down, close to each other, and the area had the stench of urine.  We took a detailed tour of the area.  What this mean is we surveyed the area properly in case if we were not welcome, and if people wish to do us harm, that we would be able to make it out quickly in one piece and not run around in circles.  As we were walking, the sight was almost unbearable.  There were young men, women, and children with dead eyes.  Dead, because it showed a tired people.  Dead because it is the same for them day by day, month by month, year by year.  Dead because they feel there is no hope in sight.    We came across some men playing dominoes and drinking.  Although their laughter can be seen as men just having fun, when you stare into their eyes, and they stare back at you, their expression tells you the real story.  This is their way of forgetting their circumstances.  This is their way of forgetting that they have to return to a roach infested apartment when night falls.  This is their way of forgetting that the clothes they have on, they may have to wear it two more times before the weekend.    Then you saw young ladies.  They have children back to back, and another in the stomach.  You can see the shame on their face.  It speaks volumes to their circumstance.  The more babies they have, the more food they can receive.  “Hey it beats prostitution.  Rather have babies, then have bruises by a pimp who could care less if I live or die.”  That is what their eyes say.  Then we reach the outskirts of the community and see church, after church, after church.  We look at each other, then look at the community, then look at each other, then at the churches, then shake our heads in disbelief.  So many churches, yet the community do not reflect what the church should bestow on the community.  Hope!!!!  We were moved with compassion.
Then I visited the prisons.  There were many men of different ages, shades, and cliques.  They all have one thing in common.  They are confined to the prison walls for years at a time.  While life continues outside, it is slow in there.  The only glimpse of reality comes in a form of a visit from a loved one.  Those who are unable to receive visits may read a letter here and there.  They allow their imagination to take them outside the walls.  Or if some are unable to get letters, phone calls, or visits, they have a glimpse of reality when they watch the TV.  Some share their fears.  They are afraid they may never make it out alive.  Some fear they will be violated sexually.  Some fear that they would not be able to cope returning to society.  When it is all said and done, there is more fear than hope.  Then I visited the adolescence ward.  Young teenagers who should be in school are in there.  You can see the hostility in their eyes.  The chip on their shoulders.  These have no fear.  To them this is normal.  My goodness.  They should be playing video games, or hanging out at a mall, or planning prom.  They are in there.  Then for a second I reflected on my own teenager, and then a tear ran down my eye as I am exciting the facility.  I was moved with compassion.
You do not have to be a Christian to have compassion, but as a Christian, you must have compassion.  The Bible says “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.   Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."  (Mt 9:35-38)  Who will give these people hope?  Who will share a word with them letting them know it does not have to be this way?  Which one of you will tell them how God has been good to you, and He can be good to them as well?  These people feel God has abandoned them.  Who will tell them that God’s thoughts toward them are of peace and not of evil, and to give them a future and hope?  I have shared the word with family and friends over and over and over again.  The seed has been planted.  It is time to move on to a people who are begging for someone to bring them a word.  Family, get out of your comfort zone and stop keeping this word to yourself.  Surely you have compassion for the people that I have just mentioned.  Right?  Amen!

Monday, April 18, 2011

They Could Be The One

Father God, I thank you this morning for allowing me to see another day.  I thank you for health and strength.  I thank you this morning for family and friends.  I thank you most of all for Jesus.  I pray this morning that you continue to show blessings on all of your children who love you.  I pray a blessing on the reader and doer of your word.  I pray that all who reads this message are in the right mind and spirit to receive it.  I pray that they do not keep it to themselves, but to share it with others.  I pray that they are in peace and that they are comforted.  I pray Father, if they are troubled that they seek you for guidance and not lean to their own methods.  And Father, I pray that any sins we have committed, whether by thought, speech, or deed, that you forgive us for it.  We give you all the honor, the glory, and the praise.  This we pray in Jesus name, Amen.

I have written about how apparel can be misleading, regarding how people can judge a person incorrectly by the way they dress.  I have written about why we should not judge a book by its cover, regarding how people can judge a person incorrectly based on their appearance.  Not so much about how they are dressed, but also about their physical features.  What is it about people that give them the final say about who a person is on the way they look?  What amazes me is that there are countless stories of the same thing.  People mistreated because of the way they look only to find out later that the person who was mistreated was somebody big.  What about the poor old lady who lived alone in that rundown apartment building in New York, who no one really cared about except for two of her neighboring tenants.  When she died, she left them millions of dollars.  Even when we were young, I remember the story of the “Ugly Duckling”, who ended up turning into a beautiful swan.  Even then, we are taught not to judge by the outer.  As redundant as it is, this is one of those messages that does not get old.
Now as I said above, we all at one time or another, judged someone regarding their apparel, or by their physical appearance.  Have we ever judged someone by where they are from?  For those who say no, are you sure?  Have any one of you judged someone harshly because you heard they were from Iraq or Afghanistan?  What about if they were from Mexico or Africa?  Let’s bring it home then, suppose they were from that trailer park community or the projects?  Family, I honestly believe that there is a spirit hovering and lingering over people who are willing to entertain that thought.  Those types of thoughts never bring unity, instead it divides.  That is not of God, but the enemy.  Each time we judge a person solely on the outer or location, we can be missing out on the one, that one person who can make a difference in our lives.  I am reminded about a scripture I was just introduced to on Wednesday night at our Bible Study at our church.  I have read this book of the bible many times, and even wrote a ten page paper regarding some of the theology in that book to where my former pastor responded with a 22 page paper in concurrence.  I say introduced, because it was as if I have read it for the very first time.  It comes from the book of John when the earlier disciples met Jesus for the first time.  It reads: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."  (Joh 1:45-46)  It happened back then too.
As a black male, this hits home.  The prejudices that can reside on people’s heart, the foolish biases that has caused so many people of color to abandon their dreams because they were treated as though their skin color was a curse.  Those provocateurs who have done that over the years do not even realize that any one of the people who were mistreated or ignored, could have been the one.  The one who could have helped them in their time of need.  The one who could have prevented a tragedy that claimed the life of their loved one.  The one who could have gotten them a better deal on their home.  The one who could have been the better assistant, who only wanted to serve, but because they did not trust them based on appearance, they hired someone else who ended up taking their job.  The one who is exactly what you asked the Lord for in your prayers.
Nathaniel was not a prejudice man.  Nor was he a wicked man at heart.  He just fell into the pattern that everyone else fell into.  Looking at things with a natural eye and forgetting that God is sovereign.  When he heard that the Messiah was coming, he would have believed it without proof, until he heard from where the Messiah came from.  He did not expect anything good to come out of that place.  Oh how wrong he was.  That person who came out of that wicked place of no reputation is why we have the opportunity for eternal life.  Family, if we can learn anything about our God, He will choose the one who people would reject.  He would choose the one who is unfavorable.  He is the advocate of the underdog.  If we ever see ourselves entertaining the thought of judging someone based on the outer, the first thing to ask yourself, is this thought of God?  The second thing to ask yourself, is this person the one?  Amen.