“Why Go to Church?” (Part I)

WHY I LOVE THE CHURCH
WHY I LOVE THE CHURCH

*A NOTE: I would like to thank my pastor, Kyle Hopkins for his MESSAGE this past Sunday in the Psalms, for which my detective work was launched from.

PSALM 84:1-4, 10 Amplified Bible:

[1] “HOW LOVELY are Your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!  [2] My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God.  [3] Yes, the sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young–even Your altars, O lord of hosts, my King and my God.                        [4] BLESSED are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long.  Selah [pause, and calm;y think of that]!  [10] For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I would rather be a doorkeeper and stand at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell [at ease] in the tents of wickedness.” 

“I’m grateful for the DESIRE I HAVE to go” —

I’ve learn over the years of my Christian life, no matter how I feel at the time; disenchanted, hurt feelings, rejection, disappointment–GOD has placed a DEEP DESIRE inside of me; to be a part of the Assembly on Sunday mornings.  Oh, just in case you might be thinking I’ve conjured up all this over time, you’re wrong!  I have always looked for and sought the things that I needed for my journey through life.

I wasn’t raised as child in a CHURCH.  In fact, I didn’t accept JESUS as my Lord and Savior until the age of thirty; my wife also accepted the Lord the same night at the age of twenty-eight.  So HABIT didn’t come into play as a REASON for going to church.  Although, going to church weekly, isn’t a bad HABIT at all!

“So what are the REASONS for going?”

To name a few…

I find HOPE,

I can find HELP,

I find FELLOWSHIP,

I find UNDERSTANDING,

I find WORSHIP.

That is my list, I’ve written down over the years.  Your list may be somewhat different; more items, less… but it helps keep the FOCUS on why go to church at all?

Have I always found the items listed above weekly, or have I just been going through the motions?  REMEMBER, your attitude in “going” can certainly determine your “altitude” after you get there!

THIS IS A PSALM OF THE “TABERNACLE” (Psalm 84):

It is thought by many that this Psalm was written by King David in exile from Jerusalem during the rebellion of his son Absalom.  If that is the case, it plainly reveals the heart, the DESIRE of David.

DAVID was a man who loved the House of the Lord!

There was no place on this earth so special as that ONE PLACE; a place the Lord had chosen to place His Name, to demonstrate His presence.  For David, the TABERNACLE was the place he desired to be.

In Isaiah, we can see the godly desire displayed from the heart:

“…we wait [expectantly] for You; our heartfelt desire is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.  My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly…”  (Isaiah 26:8-9 AMP).

I know that the TRUE HOUSE is in heaven and His TRUE TABERNACLE is now in the heart of the believer (John 1:14).  However, the visible symbol of both these things is the CHURCH.

David’s entire being longed to go to “Church”–

David DESIRED to be present at the House of God; his soul, his body and his heart longed to be at the place of WORSHIP!

Maybe David remembered what many believers in God have forgotten, that the House of the Lord can be an OASIS in the desert, in the wilderness of the world, in the storms of life.

WHATEVER thoughts occupied his mind, when he thought of the House of God, his pulse quickened–his eyes brightened–he longed to be there!  All through David’s life he DESIRED to be in the TABERNACLE; the place where God DWELLS:

Psalm 27:4:

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord  [in His presence]  all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty  [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness]  of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.”

1 Chronicles 29:3:

“Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, in addition to all I have prepared for the holy house, I have a private treasure of gold and silver, which I give for the house of my God:”

Even in EXILE, even when David couldn’t physically be there, the king DESIRED to ‘go to church’!  Far too many of us (I’ve been in this spot at times of discomfort) see CHURCH as something either to take or leave.  BUT God’s Spirit will bring us (eventually) to understand “The desires of the heart  reveal the condition of the soul.”

What we long for in life REVEALS what we love and what you love REVEALS WHO’S you are!

THERE IS A VERY GOOD REASON FOR YEARNING, LONGING TO GO:

I’ve come to realize in my life…

It’s a PLACE to meet God (Psalm 84:2 (b)):  “…my heart and my flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God.”

I REALIZE that the Lord is ALWAYS with His children,

“…for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  [I will] not,  [I will] not,  [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let  [you] down (relax My hold on you)!”  (Hebrews 13:5 AMP).

I REALIZE  that God dwells in His children,  “I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age”  (Matthew 28:20).

“To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the ] glory”  (Colossians 1:27 AMP).

“Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received  [as a Gift] from God?  You are not your own”  (1 Corinthians 6:19 AMP).  

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come [back] to you”  (John 14:18).

I’VE ALSO come to REALIZE…

GOD has promised to MEET with His people when they gather together to WORSHIP Him.

“For wherever two or three are gathered  (drawn together as My followers)  in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them [Exodus 3:14]”  (Matthew 18:20 AMP).

I don’t want to be like Thomas who was absent when the Lord showed up and missed the blessing (John 20:19-24).

*NOTE:  The Bible points out that Thomas was missing!

Just between us, I think He notices it when we’re missing too!

A PLACE WHERE WE CAN TRULY LIVE:

“Really, a place to reside in?”

As David thought of the Lord’s House, how far away from it he was, he began to REFLECT on the little birds making their homes in the small places in the Tabernacle.

Have you ever noticed upon entering a large Box Store to shop, the birds in the rafters high above chirping and fluttering about?  As David must have noticed, he thinks about these birds and mentions two: the SPARROW and the SWALLOW.

If these birds could be labeled, the sparrow would be the “worthless bird” and the swallow, the “wandering bird”.  However, David tells us that both the worthless sparrow and the wandering swallow found exactly what they needed in the confines of the House of God.

It is the place for the UNWANTED (Matthew 10:29)–hospfeeding

The sparrow was worthless and unwanted as they would arrive in great numbers as unwanted guests.  They came needy, looking for a place of shelter and food.  They found what they came after too!

What a picture these little birds are to the sinner!  There are contrasts as well.

The SINNER is invited to come to the Lord–

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you rest”  (Matthew 11:28).

Though there are many, there is room for all:  “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”  (Romans 10:13).  

ALL are in need for shelter and food and are promised to find plenty of provision in the Lord for all.

The Spirit of Whatever

A RESPONSE TO THE WORLD:

270355045_ffe4d7f712That word, “whatever” has become a verbal shorthand to a particular response to life these days.  It’s a sigh of resignation, a denial of meaning and purpose when a person offers you a response of “whatever”.  The response essentially is saying, the topic doesn’t matter–their response doesn’t matter, or perhaps you don’t matter.  Some of us might even proudly wear the badge on our chest.

We’re living in a “WHATEVER WORLD”–

We are living in a culture in which TRUTH has been stripped away and its meaning replaced with personal preference.

My son-in-law says when he asks our grand-kids when they were in their middle teens, “Go and do…” and they would grumble under the breath “WHATEVER-R”, in his mind it was like them using the F-bomb for their reply.

What does a “whatever world” look like?

Even as believers in JESUS, we are living in an age, a culture where ALL IDEAS, ALL LIFESTYLES, ALL BEHAVIORS are considered of equal value.

~ You cheat, I don’t.  WHATEVER–what’s valid for me isn’t necessarily valid for you.

Investigating THE DNA of a Believer–

After our pastor Kyle’s message a few weeks ago:  DNA of a Believer, I decided I would investigate how Scripture often uses “WHATEVER” and as believers, how are we to understand more clearly the responses to the Christian’s Life?

SOME EXAMPLES:

Colossians 3:17:

And WHATEVER you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:23:

WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

1 Peter 4:10:

Each of you should use WHATEVER gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Corinthians 10:31:

So whether you eat or drink or WHATEVER you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be–

WORLDVIEW adopted in the western world:  “You can believe WHATEVER you want because… ALL IDEAS are pretty much equal.”

There is no authoritative TRUTH to which we all hold; each person becomes his or her own authority, determining our own values, our own beliefs, our own truth.  The Barna Research Group, through its surveys, show the results of the thinking worldview:

“WHATEVER-R”

~ Three-fourths of all adults believe [think] “there is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct.”   WHATEVER-R-R! 

~ Less than half of all born-again adults (44%) and less than 10% of born-again teenagers (9%) believe in the existence of absolute moral truth.  WHATEVER-R-R!

~ Nearly half of adult Americans (47%) believe that “to get by in life these days, sometimes you have to bend the rules for your benefit”:  If that’s the attitude of their parents, is it any wonder, some 70% of American teenagers today admit cheating on exams and don’t see anything wrong with it?  WHATEVER-R-R!

[The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings from Barna Research Studies @ from Barna Research Online]

Our Spiritual DNA Makeup Begins In Our “Thinking”:

REMEMBER:  You’re not what you think you are, but what you think…you are! 

As Proverbs 23:7 reads,  “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.”  What you THINK today, you become tomorrow.  Your spiritual DNA is developed from the body, soul and spirit.  Or as someone has said:  “Your ‘know-er, your think-er, and your feel-er’.”   

If you think you can’t, you probably won’t.

If you think angry thoughts, angry words are sure to follow.

If you fill your mind with sexual fantasies, your body will find a way to fulfill those desires.

If you dwell on your problems, they will soon overwhelm you.

If you feel like a victim, soon you will become one.

“GIGO” Almost a generation ago!

The computer revolution had just begun, the pioneers in the field coined a brand-new word when not many people knew how to operate a computer and those who did made many mistakes.

Sometimes the “experts” entered the wrong data to discover a universal TRUTH:  If the raw data is bad, the computer can’t do anything good with it.  Whatever you put into a computer determines what comes out.  If you put the right data in, the right answers come out.  The reverse is also true.

To express that TRUTH, a new word was coined describing in four letters, both the cause and the consequences.  Most computer “geeks” know what word I’m talking about: GIGO; Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Those four letters summarize a huge TRUTH about computers:  What you put in determines what you get out.  If you input garbage, guess what your output will be?  GARBAGE!

Your “Thinker”–

What is true of computers is also true of the human mind–the “thinker”.  The human mind has often been compared to the computer.  In fact, the human mind is far more complex than the most advanced computer ever designed.

GIGO
GIGO

BUT, the BASIC PRINCIPLE of GIGO is still TRUE:  Garbage In, Garbage Out.  What you put into your mind; what you believe, determines what you get out.

Is our thought process, our THINKING, really so unimportant; Our Spirit of Whatever?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Beware of what you set your mind on because that you surely will become.”

Norman Vincent Peale :  “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”

Henry Ford gave that TRUTH a spin when he said,  “Thinking is the hardest work in the world, which is why so few people engage in it.”

I ran across this perceptive comment by Betty Sachelli during my Word Detective investigation this past week:

“Two thoughts cannot occupy the mind at the same time.”

So the choice is ours; how we respond to society, whether or not our thoughts will be constructive or destructive to the hearer.  It is a world in which life has no meaning beyond personal fulfillment with no values higher than my own choices.

Can Christians, Should True Believers, Be The  ULTIMATE AUTHORITY in Determining Right and Wrong?

It is easy to reach the stage in today’s lifestyles where there is no wrong–at least not for me.  But if we recognize there is a GOD who stands over us, that through JESUS, He wants to enter into RELATIONSHIP with us…then it changes the way WE THINK; it changes the way we determine OUR VALUES, OUR PRIORITIES, OUR COMMITMENTS, OUR “WHATEVERS”.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matthew 22:37)

The Old Testament passage (Deuteronomy 6:5) behind JESUS’ statement in Matthew is a little different; it says to love GOD with heart, soul and strength.  So why did JESUS instead use the word “mind”?  Perhaps to remind us that it is essential to bring our minds under the authority and Lordship of our Father in Heaven.  Otherwise our FAITH would make little impact on us or anyone else we come in contact with.

The way we THINK determines the way we live and the results of The Spirit of Whatever in our doing.

THE “WHATEVER” MEANING IN THE BIBLE–THE WORD:

Colossians 3:12, 17:

[12] Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones, purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tender-hearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

[17]  And WHATEVER you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, DO EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.

“WHATEVER” means “that absolutely everything…” in RELATIONSHIP:  

How’s Your Thought-Life As a Christian Believer?

 According to some psychologists, the average person has over 10,000 separate thoughts each day; 3.5 million thoughts a year and if you live to be 75, you’ll have over 26 million different thoughts.  Everyone of those 10,000 thoughts represents a choice you make and a decision to think about this, and not about that.

The words that dwell in your hearts and minds (Colossians 3:16); as you TEACH and TRAIN others.

As wives relate to their husbands (verse 18);

As husbands treat their wives (verse 19);

As children respond to their parents (verse 20);

As fathers bring up their children (verse 21);

As employees react and respond to their employers (verse 22);

“WHATEVER may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the LORD and not for men”  (Colossians 3:23 AMP).

 How’s Your Thought-Life As a Christian Believer?

THE TRUTH IS POSITIVE:

The 14th Chapter of John’s gospel, JESUS made a most astonishing statement when He said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

And if it is the TRUTH, then it makes the difference in the kind of world in which we live.  If JESUS is Himself TRUTH, it changes everything!

It means...HE IS TRUTH FOR YOUR MIND.

THE WAY WE THINK determines the way we live.  If we THINK of ourselves as the ultimate authority in determining right from wrong, then it is easy to reach the stage where there is no wrong–at least not for me.

HE IS THE TRUTH FOR YOUR LIFE–not only does Christ provide the TRUTH but helps us understand [the “know-er” in our DNA] REALITY.  He also provides the TRUTH and allows us to live lives of meaning, purpose and fulfillment.

In our “WHATEVER-R” CULTURE–

Each person is an authority unto himself and God’s Word is overlooked or ignored by untold millions.

News reports tell the tale of what happens when we IGNORE God’s TRUTH for our own:

A NATION where Gideon bibles are turned away at the schoolhouse door but…condoms are freely handed out.

A NATION where millions of children grow up in homes WITHOUT two parents.

A NATION where we can’t physically build prisons fast enough to accommodate the growing population of inmates.

How does all this happen in a NATION where, at least on the surface, it would appear that a large percentage of the population claim to be Christian believers?

A MAJOR part of the problem is too many of us take the religious dimension of our lives and put it into a neat little compartmentalized box–to be pulled out only on Sundays.  The rest of the week we tend to get along and go along with the world without letting our FAITH inform us in our day-to-day lives; at the office, the shop, the school, the neighborhood.

Your FAITH isn’t one more item to put on the To Do List.  You and I are called to let our commitment to Christ shape and guide everything we do in every facet of our lives.  It is the TRUTH from which everything else flows.

THE PRESCRIPTION FOR TRANSFORMING YOUR LIFE:

Listen to the apostle Paul’s practical advice in Philippians 4:8:

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This verse gives us eight questions to ask about our thoughts before you think; before you speak.

#1.  Is it TRUE?  “Whatever is true”.  TRUTH is the first test.

“All that rings true” — by Knox.  

Before you open your mouth, are you speaking the TRUTH?  Do your words have a “ring of truth” about them?  If the answer is Yes, then it rules out all that is dishonest, untrue, and unreliable.

#2.  Is it NOBLE?  “Whatever is noble”. 

The word means “honorable”, “worthy of reverence”.  One person translated it as “noble seriousness”.

#3.  Is it RIGHT?  “Whatever is right”.

This means “In conformity to God’s standards.”  Not, “Is it right in my eyes?” or “Is it right in the eyes of others?” but, “Is it right in God’s eyes?”  If others knew what you were thinking, what would they think of you?

#4.  Is it PURE?  “Whatever is pure”.

The word means “undefiled, chaste, clean, holy.”  It touches the whole area of moral purity.  Is your thought-life clean?  We used to say, “Get your mind out of the gutter.”  If you LIKE the gutter, don’t be surprised that your mind is covered in slime!

#5.  Is it LOVELY?  “Whatever is lovely”.

This word is used only here in the New Testament.  It literally means “love towards” and has the idea of attracting loveliness, as a magnet attracts iron filings.  One person translates “those things that GRACE attracts.”

Do your thoughts automatically attach themselves to that which is beautiful and lovely?

Here is a simple rule I try to follow in my life with the Holy spirit’s help; I can’t do it with my own will-power and neither will you:

IF it is not lovely,  IF it doesn’t make me lovely…don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t do it, don’t dwell on it, and don’t repeat it!

#6.  Is it ADMIRABLE?  “Whatever is admirable”.

That is, if the television program, magazine cover in the grocery check-out counter I’m watching or glancing at…WORTHY of study and meditation?  Or is it cheap and vulgar?

This question asks us to focus on the things that are positive not negative, constructive not destructive, things that build up not the things that tear down.  This means editing your words, your choices so that you simply DELETE non-admirable things from your vocabulary; “Your Words Determine Your Thinking”  (Step #2 in 8 Steps to Your Destination by Dr. Creflo A. Dollar).

If that’s not enough questions, the Apostle Paul gives us two catch-all categories:

“If anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY”

EXCELLENT refers to virtue and PRAISEWORTHY means “those things that God Himself would approve.”

 So here you have TWO FINAL QUESTIONS:

#7.  Is it morally EXCELLENT?

#8.  Is it something that God would approve?

Taken together, these EIGHT QUESTIONS point the way toward positive thinking.  Paul says, “Think on these things.”  

A.  It is a command.

B.  It is in the present tense.  

C.  Keep on focusing your thoughts on these eight areas.

D.  Find the virtuous, the moral, the holy things and think about it.

“Just Do It” with a Promise–

Verse 9 of Philippians 4 tells us that if we “Practice what you have learned and received…and model your way of living on it”–here comes the PROMISE,  “the God of peace will be with you.”  

The Online Dictionary defines PRACTICE:  To do or perform something habitually or repeatedly.  Synonyms–exercise, rehearse.

The Spirit of Whatever when practiced, will experience God’s peace in their lives.  “PRACTICE makes perfect”!

 

“Going Down A Slippery Slope” – Is it a fallacy?

SLIPPERY SLOPE ARGUMENTS:

A “slippery slope” argument goes like this:  “If you take position A, you run the risk of taking position B; position B is wrong, therefore A is also wrong.”

Politics, national organizations, the media all use the technique to often promote FEAR to the listeners, our thinking.  BUT the reason for this POST is…Slippery-Slopenot to debate the idea or to promote FEAR in the readers, but to bring a FOCUS; to CAUTION–maybe even make you feel uncomfortable in what I see as complacency in society and even in the Church today.

THE SLOPE OF DISOBEDIENCE (Matthew 8:28-34)–

Once we take that FIRST STEP towards DISOBEDIENCE, the next step we take becomes much easier.

It was 1956, I was a 14 year old,  a non-rebellious  9th Grader in Junior High School.  Being a REBEL and disappointing my folks was so far away from who I was… the idea of going against the ‘grain of discipline’,  definitely wasn’t who I was–or who I thought I was.

One day, while walking to school as I always did, I knock on a buddy’s door to join me– and to my surprise,  Steve decided he wasn’t going to school that day.  No, he wasn’t sick.  Steve decided, since his parents were at work (no one would know), he was going to “ditch” school.

“Do you want to “ditch” too” Steve asked me.  I thought, how are we going to get away this rebellious act?  I even showed my concern:

“How are we going to keep from being caught? “ I asked.

“Don’t worry, Mel.  I’m good at forging my mom’s signature on an excuse slip.  We can do the same thing for you if you want.”

So the lies began.  Not just once but this went on and off for several months– thrilled because we hadn’t been caught in our lies, our deceit.  We were certainly contented in our disobedience.

And then the day of reckoning came!   We actually got caught by Truant Officers while ditching school…at my house and not Steve’s hideaway.  The math had discovered to many consequences; both 9th graders absent at the same time too many times.

The school contacted our parents at their workplace [my folks waited for me to tell them that night rather than confronting me with the discovery and repercussions].

And then the school pulled us out of first period class the next morning to inform us of  the consequences of our actions.  I remember the VP asking the three of us, what did you do all day?

“We sat at the kitchen table and played poker” we sheepishly answered.

His response at the time seemed quite surprising to the three of us (we had coerced one other student to join in the rebellion), seeing how much trouble we were all in:

“If it had been me ‘ditching’ school, I would have gone fishing, not wasted the whole day hiding in someone’s house”.

That was the “DUH” moment which added stupidity to the embarrassment.

DISOBEDIENCE is always a choice, no matter what age.  And of course, this was no exception.  My parents were of course disappointed and to my pleasant surprise, the only form of punishment needed for me personally was the following statement and it certainly brought home the point:

“You’ve never done anything like this before and I hope you’ve learned a lesson”.

We weren’t TOTALLY off the hook–

One hour of detention in the Vice Principal’s Office, every day for two weeks certainly became a everyday embarrassment when we were excused early from our 1st Period Class to walk down the empty school halls to pay the price of rebellion.

The “slippery slope” began with the idea that just “one time” would be okay–with the addition of our peers cheering silently that we had challenged the system; our own narrow society.  And when discovered, the thrill was over and it all went down hill after that.

THE SLOPE IS STARTED (Verse 28):

“And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road.”

The SLOPE starts at the place where JESUS met these men, in Gadera.  It’s located on the east side of the Jordan River, given to the tribe of Gad (Numbers 32:1-2, 6).

The people of Gad didn’t want to cross the Jordan and were contented to stay right were they were.

Then in reading Numbers 32:13-15, we see the Lord became angry with the people.  There was work to be done, battles to be fought and the promise of the Lord to be fulfilled.  Yet, the people would have been content to stay right where they were.  Well fed, well clothed, one big happy group of people.  There was no need to get involved–they would allow others to fight their battles.

Sin Starts With Contentment–

CONTENTMENT that enough has already been done.  The Lord declared if they wouldn’t be willing and come across the river and fight, they wouldn’t receive their possession in the east.  They would have to come across and fight with the rest of the tribes to receive the land they wanted.

There is no place in the Army of God for contentment.  There isn’t such a thing as “We’ve finally arrived!”  And yet, the forefathers of these two demon possessed men had to be coerced into following the Lord’s commands.

Sin enters the camp a little bit at a time.  Not all at once.  The logic of the Gadites was simple:  we are cattlemen, there is grass and water here.  We need to stay here and get started with our lives.

But the logic fell short of the Lord’s desire for the nation as a whole.  There was a PROMISE LAND, a place of belonging, not only for those who chose to stay but also for all God’s people.  They were in the conquest together, and together they would have to fight.

THE SLOPE GETS STEEPER (verses 29-31):

“[29]  And behold, they shrieked and screamed,  What have You to do with us, Jesus, Son of God?  Have You come to torment us before the appointed time?   [30]  Now at some distance from there a drove of many hogs was grazing.  [31]  And the demons begged Him, If You drive us out, send us into the drove of hogs.” 

NOTICE that the people of Gadera were “pig farmers”.  They abandoned the cattle and sheep business and were now into the pig business.

Pigs were unclean.  Good Jewish families didn’t have pigs.  I believe that the attitudes of the forefathers were still present during the days of Jesus.

SIN crept into the attitudes and began to ‘chip away’ at the morality of the people.  It’s no wonder that there were demon-possessed men living in tombs, chasing away everyone who came near.  The people had allowed sin to become so entrenched in their society that such possession had become possible.

The devil isn’t satisfied with influencing the occasional outburst of sin.  He wants to control the lives of as many people as he can.

These men were the physical embodiment of evil.

They didn’t start out that way.  They didn’t wake up one morning and decided to become possessed.  But it began to take more and more disobedience; more of ignoring of what was around them to get the same thrill they once received.  Soon, they had immersed themselves in Godless behavior and Godless they became.

THE SLOPE SWEPT THEM AWAY (verses 32-34):

” [32]  And He said to them,  Begone!  So they came out and went into the hogs, and behold, the whole drove rushed down the steep bank into the sea and died in the water.   [33]  The herdsmen fled and went into the town and reported everything, including what had happened to the men under the power of demons.  [34]  And behold, the whole town went out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their locality”  (AMP Version).

The pigs had more sense than the people of Gadera did.  The hogs had rather die than be possessed and ran down the slope into the sea and drowned.

SIN DESTROYS!

That is always the goal of Satan and his demonic hordes.  The demons thought they would be safe in pigs, but the pigs knew better.

As the pigs were swept away to their destruction, the people swept out of the city and asked JESUS to leave.  There, before their own eyes, a great and powerful miracle by the Son of God had taken place before their eyes, where two men no longer were possessed but were in their right minds.

Did the people of Gadera stop and worship the Lord at His presence?  Did they pause to consider what had just happened in their midst?  No, they were more concerned with their ‘pig ministry’ and that their livelihood was gone as well!

Complacency, Contentment, a Godless Society–

In the verses that follow, we see that JESUS did indeed leave.

JESUS will never go where He isn’t wanted!

He will never stay where He isn’t welcomed!

4723392022_da31abeec0JESUS will never stay where a people are in a “sanctuary of contentment” with their spiritual state.

There are PROMISES to fulfill, not just for some, but for all!  JESUS came to offer eternal life to all who would receive Him.  He came to offer a deeper meaning of our spiritual existence.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you CONTENT where you are?  Are you SATISFIED to let someone else take your place, some other church lead in the fight?

Contented and Satisfied
Contented and Satisfied

We have the opportunity to invite JESUS to stay and to see the miracles of changed lives in our churches.  To see Him do “exceedingly more than we have ever thought or imagined.”

“Sin takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and makes us pay a price we can’t afford to pay.”

“I DO DECLARE!” – More than an Expression

FIRST, LET ME START WITH A DEFINITION:

“To DECLARE is defined as to state or announce something publicly; to say positively or emphatically”  (Your Dictionary).

So, with that definition in mind, for us to DECLARE something–we are going to have to open our mouth and SPEAK–to “say so”.

“Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that JESUS is LORD and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”  (Romans 10:9 AMP).

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation [for deliverance from eternal death] to everyone who believes…”  (Romans 1:16).

“And He (JESUS) said to them,  Come after Me [as disciples–letting Me be your Guide], follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men!”  (Matthew 4:19 AMP).

SECONDLY, TO CONSIDER OUR REDEMPTION BEFORE DECLARING:

Psalm 107:2

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has delivered from the hand of the adversary.”

It is evident that the Psalmist considered the mercy of God and the delivery of Israel from the hand of the enemy, of such extent, that those who had been redeemed were to DECLARE their redemption by God’s hand so that they all might know God’s POWER, LOVE and MERCY.  Their redemption was something about which one could REJOICE, PRAISE GOD, and DECLARE–tell others.

When you consider that their redemption was a physical redemption from the hand of another nation, by contrast the magnitude of our spiritual redemption in Christ Jesus becomes paramount.

The apostle Paul stated that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law and the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Galatians 13:13-14).  He further taught that those who lived under the Law were redeemed by JESUS; where they might receive the adoption of sons and daughters and become heirs of God (Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 9:15, 11:39-40; Romans 8:16-17).

So then, if the physical deliverance of Israel was considered sufficient cause for them to DECLARE their redemption, how much more should the greatness of our redemption cause us to SHOUT about our redemption from the roof tops (Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3).

Declaring of the Redeemed
Declaring of the Redeemed

Can you imagine some of your neighbors conversing in the middle of the street about the ‘religious crank’, shouting on top of their roof,  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It’s More Than Just Knowing the Spiritual Facts–

If the people of God today were made to realize the greatness of God’s love, mercy, and goodness toward them in Christ Jesus, their mouths couldn’t be muzzled; kept from declaring to others what God has done for them and keeps doing for them.

God so designed His kingdom to be dependent upon the REDEEMED of the Lord–the born again believers–the SAVED in Christ Jesus; not to just know it; think about it; demonstrate it by good deeds and that’s all good!  But it comes down simply to… the “saying so”.

GOD HAS GIVEN THE REDEEMED A RESPONSIBILITY:

A “responsibility” of PREACHING and TEACHING the Gospel of His Son.

To DECLARE and "Say So"
To DECLARE and “Say So”

To the REDEEMED, Jesus said to His disciples “Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit.  Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you…”  (Matthew 28:19-20).

Paul said that “For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy,  God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him)”  (1 Corinthians 1:21 AMP).

REDEMPTION PRODUCES DISCIPLES AND TO DECLARE:

In preparing for this POST, I ran across article by the Author Tim Stevens, entitled Three Points On Discipleship:

#1.  A DISCIPLE has his feet pointed toward JESUS and is moving.

#2.  A DISCIPLE-MAKER is intentionally taking someone else along for the journey.

#3.  A MATURE DISCIPLE doesn’t require anyone else to continue taking steps with and toward JESUS.

The Responsibility of “Preaching” or “Teaching” God’s Truth is that Man May Be Saved–

Sorry to tell this to the Church, but this responsibility isn’t placed in the hands of predetermined clergy of the community you live in.  The New Testament knows of no clergy distinction.  Every Christian is to grow in GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ          (2 Peter 3:18); to sanctify–set apart–the Lord God their hearts and to be ready always to give an answer to every man or woman who asks them a reason of hope that’s inside of them (1 Peter 3:15).

Paul scolded Christians who by reason of time…should have been teachers–“mature disciples” but who had not grown in knowledge.  Rather than being “disciple makers”, they still needed someone to teach the elementary principles of the Gospel (Hebrews 5:12).

When Christians were dispersed from Jerusalem because of persecution “they…went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

Paul instructed Timothy, saying “And the [instruction] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also”  (2 Timothy 2:2).  The REDEEMED of the Lord are to “say so.”

THERE ARE MANY REASONS THE “REDEEMED” DON’T SAY SO:

Some are lacking LOVE for the Lord.  JESUS said,

The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me…(John 14:21). 

And verse 24 continues with:

Anyone who does not [really] love Me does not observe and obey My teaching.  And the teaching which you hear and heed is not Mine, but [comes] from the Father Who sent Me.

Since the Lord JESUS has placed the responsibility of DECLARING the MESSAGE of REDEMPTION upon the REDEEMED, a failure to “say so” indicates a lack of love of the Lord and others; our neighbors.

Still others are ashamed of the Gospel.  They will talk to others about everything but their redemption (Romans 1:16).  After an unscientific observation, men in particular are guilty of this remission.  I’ve particularly noticed how men will stand congregated before and after a Sunday worship service discussing the weather, tractors (I live in a rural community),  politics and the world while the their wives discuss Book Clubs, ministering to the needy, upcoming Bible studies, etc.  Why is that?

Many put other things first and make no arrangements of time or opportunity to teach God’s plan of redemption to others [making disciples–“fishers of men”].

Many others are worldly (1 John 2:15); not interested in spiritual things, consequently are not really personally concerned with those who are not saved; redeemed.  Since the Body of Christ is called the CHURCH–a body must have feet, so we better start walking; quit leaving the results to the “visitation pastor”.  “Say so” yourself!

Truthfully, the redeemed of the Lord should lay aside every hindrance, to be busy DECLARING GOD’S MESSAGE (Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:7).

Have We Mislaid the Importance of “Declaring the Word” and “Disciple Making” in our Churches?

Churches today are so focused on getting “new-comers” placed in a ministry first, “Disciple Making” from “Disciple-Makers” have disappeared.  Oh, I know, I’ve read the official church statement on the bulletin–“what we BELIEVE”–often quotes Matthew 28:19-20, but who are the DISCIPLE-MAKERS in the Body of Christ?  Where did they go?

WHO ARE THE “DISCIPLE-MAKERS”?

A disciple-maker is someone who God brings into your life, who you intentionally enter into an up-close personal, life-long relationship with.  I’ve heard Christian physiologist say, “you will probably on have two or three ‘up-close personal, life-long relationships’ in a lifetime.”  Let me say, “It only takes ONE!

The purpose of this Holy Spirit inspired relationship is “teaching them to observe all things that Jesus commanded you”. 

OBEDIENCE here is not to the disciple-maker, but to the Word of God.  It’s learning to agree with someone else’s directions, yielding your contrary opinions, in favor of the written Word (Romans 12:2).

It is not blind, unquestioning obedience with everything a disciple-maker says, even in decisions related to making purchases, where to go on vacations, or changing jobs.

The New Testament teaches the necessity of discernment (1 John 4:1), mutual submission (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21), and accountability to God (Rom. 14:21; Gal. 6:5).  BOTH disciple and disciple-maker are transformed in the process.  BOTH are a various points along the journey, but the marks of the seasoned disciple-maker’s life can be evidenced by greater depths of fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).

“Declaring” and “Discipling”–A Lot “Under the Hood”–

There is SIMPLICITY here in the announcement:  If you are waiting on, relying on the church to feed you spiritually, you are probably NOT a mature disciple.

Accounting For Different Relationships–

The church can only be a PART of the equation.  DISCIPLES, in declaring God’s Word, must have a personal relationship with JESUS (up), as well as relationships with other people in church (in), AND… relationships with people far from God (out).  Each set of relationships has a purpose in the life of a DISCIPLE–a follower of JESUS.

Philips, Craig and Dean bring to the forefront the thought of DECLARE IT–TO SAY SO in a popular song “Let the Redeemed”–

Let the redeemed declare it

Look what God has done

Tell of his endless mercy

And His everlasting love.

Let the redeemed declare it

Name above all names

Lift high this King most holy

Lavish Him with praise

Let the redeemed.

Now is the TIME FOR THE REDEEMED TO “SAY SO”–TO DECLARE WHAT HE HAS DONE and become MATURE DISCIPLES under Holy Spirit’s guidance!

Just A “One-Trick Prophet” In A Non-Believing World

“A ONE-TRICK PONY” —

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I was watching an advertisement on television this past week, regarding people who had gathered at a church wedding where the atmosphere gets out of control.  Someone shouts at a person in the second row holding a popular smart phone, “You’re just a ‘One-trick pony!’ and the chaos continues from there.

Being the Word detective that I am, I decided to investigate the background behind the EXPRESSION: “one-trick pony”– which so happens to fit in nicely with Scripture found in the Book of Nahum 1:1-3:

[1] “THE BURDEN of Nineveh.  The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

[2]God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

[3]  The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet”

Where did the expression “One-Trick Pony” come from and what is the implication?”

Merriam-Webster explains:  “One that is skilled in only one area; one that has success only once.”

Paul Simon wrote the lyrics to a 1980 song entitled, One-Trick Pony:

He’s a one-trick pony

One trick is all that horse can do

He does one trick only

It’s the principal source of his revenue

And when he steps into the spotlight  You can feel the heat of his heart  Come rising through.

So, whether it be written on the front of a cereal box or the title of a tune, I think by now you get the idea of what it means of JUST A “One-Trick Pony”.  

 NOW, the “One-Trick Prophet”  Comparison:

THE BOOK OF NAHUM–THE PROPHET:

Announcing God’s impending destruction on the city of “Nineveh”–

The Book of Nahum has one theme, and one theme only–God’s impending destruction on the city of “Nineveh”:

“THE BURDEN or oracle (the thing to be lifted up) concerning Nineveh [the capital of Assyria]” ~ Nahum 1:1 AMP.

#1.   Described in detail in Chapter 3, verse 1“A bloody city”.

#2.  At the same time, God is going to destroy the “wicked” (Nahum 1:15) in the Assyrian Empire.

THE LARGER LESSON TO BE LEARNED IN THIS BOOK–

GOD is going to take vengeance (Nahum 1:2), whether immoral nations, pagan cities or corrupted individuals.  Sound vaguely familiar in the area where you are residing?  You’re NOT alone!

As verse three says “the Lord IS slow to anger”–and at the same time, He “will by no means clear the guilty”  (Nahum 1:3).

Verse 8 goes on to say, “He will make a full end [of Nineveh]”.  There’s an image that flooded my spirit here; both the severity and certainty of God’s coming wrath on ALL those who do not “take refuge and trust Him” (Nahum 1:7).

During The Time Nahum Received His “VISION”–

Nineveh’s approaching destruction must have seemed like wishful thinking.  The Assyrian Empire was still “at full strength” (verse 12); “safe” (as the NKJV puts it).

While verse 8 states “with an overrunning flood He will make a full end of [Nineveh”s very] site…”  (which history tells us literally came true!).

KNOWING THAT ONE OF GOD’S ATTRIBUTES IS HIS WRATH  (JOHN 3:36):

“And he who believes in the son has eternal life.  BUT whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides to him.”

Scripture says the Lord will pour out His WRATH on those who do not REPENT their sins, and profess (DECLARE) THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15).  And then (by His enabling Grace), start imitating their Savior’s example (1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 Timothy 4:12).

Most Christians Know That Scripture Tells US–

We, as believers. are “not to take our own revenge”–but, ‘leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written,  ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord”  (Romans 12:19).

What we’d rather hear in church or Bible Studies is about God’s LOVE for sinners (Romans 5:8).  To tell us about His mercy and compassion (James 5:11) regarding sinful people–tell us please about His saving peace (Ephesians 2:8).  And lets don’t dwell on His vengeance, His wrath, and His anger (Nahum 1:2-3), because a little goes a long way, right?

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Not Hearing, Seeing or Speaking the Truth

The message I found in the Book of Nahum, enables us to better understand what we’ve been saved from (Romans 5:9); also helps us to more deeply appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-8).

ABOUT THE MAN AND HIS MESSAGE:

NAHUM’S NAME means “comforter”, “counselor”.  Sounds odd, given the severe tone of his book and his surrounding WORLD.  And to expand this further, it was obvious that the Assyrians found little comfort in Nahum’s prophecy–JUST A “ONE-TRICK PROPHET” as far as they were concerned.

A Day of Troubled Times–

Beyond the reference in verse seven, of God being “…a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble;  He knows those who take refuge and trust in Him (Nahum 1:7), can we in our modern society, learn the lesson the Assyrians didn’t?

While it is certainly possible individual Assyrians may have found COMFORT in Nahum’s words–there was no hope for the city (or nation) as a whole.  The impending disaster prophesied by Nahum wasn’t going to be averted, like the one in Jonah’s day had been (Jonah 3:9-10).

God was going to “…make a full end of [Nineveh’s very] site” (Nahum 1:8); Nineveh as a city, Assyria as a nation–even if some of the people living there believed God and repent (Jonah 3:5-8; Daniel 1:1-7).

Nahum’s Name Implies a Measure of “Comfort” or “Consolation”…primarily for God’s covenant people–in this instance, the people of Judah.

In the midst of all the BAD NEWS in the land, on how God was going to pour out His wrath upon the people of Nineveh– also find some words of “comfort” directed to the people of Judah (and by extension, all God’s covenant people living in every nation and every generation)–like chapter one, verse 13, where God said  “…I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds asunder–verse fifteen “…Celebrate your fests, O Judah; perform your vows”–and chapter two, verse two, where the prophet said “…For the Lord restores the excellency of Jacob.”

Scripture as a whole, repeatedly offers God’s elect covenant people “comfort” and “consolation”, even in the midst of moral and social, political and spiritual decay–

One example can be found in PSALM 94:2-3, 14, 22-23:

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render to the proud a fit compensation!    Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall wicked triumph and exult?”  (verses 2 and 3).

“For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage. (verse 14).

“But the Lord has become my High Tower and defense, and my God the Rock of my refuge.    And He will turn back upon them their own iniquity and will wipe them out by means of their own wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.”  (verses 22-23).  

Another example is found in The Book of Revelation  (Revelation 6:9-11):

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.    They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”    Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed”  (NIV).

I DON’T WANT TO “BEAT A DEAD HORSE”:

I know, another cliché to ponder.  BUT, I want you to see the THEME–God’s retribution is not unique in the Book of Nahum–nor confined to the Old Testament.

Scripture does NOT present GOD as a God of wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament and a GOD of love and grace in the New Testament–He’s EXACTLY THE SAME IN BOTH (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

It is the Old testament that describes Him in several places as “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and One who relents concerning calamity”  (Jonah 4:2; SEE Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17).

On the other hand…

It’s the New Testament that says:

“it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, DEALING OUT RETRIBUTION to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus”  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).

Here’s the point–

There is NO “comfort” or “consolation” in the Book of Nahum (or anywhere else in Scripture) for those who “trample under foot the Son of God, regard the blood of the covenant unclean, and insult the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29-31).  For then, the Lord IS “an avenging and wrathful God, who will not let the guilty go unpunished” (Nahum 1:2-3).

LOVE, GRACE and FORGIVENESS PREACHED…BUT, HAS SOMETHING BEEN MISSED, SOMETHING SET-ASIDE?

Those three words, “LOVE, GRACE and FORGIVENESS” are paramount in preaching the Gospel in a “non-believing world”–but we must not put aside Declaring the Whole Counsel of God at the same time.  I know, that message isn’t popular in today’s churches.  But if we set aside the WHOLE TRUTH of Scripture because of our fears to offend someone, then only a few will walk down that aisle on Sunday mornings, if any.  And if you are satisfied with that approach, that’s okay too.  But if you are going to emphasize only ‘half-truths”, then you are NOT declaring the whole truth.

The New King James Version says it this way:

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God”  (Acts 20:27 NKJV).

Here is but another translation of the same verse:

“I have not FEARED to tell you ALL that God wants you to know”  (Acts 20:27 WE).

GOD’S WRATH REMAINS WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT!

The same wrath envisioned by Nahum remains over every nation today…where God and His laws are rejected or ignored.  And that would include are own (Nahum 1:1-3).

These nations may or may not fall as dramatically as Nineveh did, but fall they will!  UNLESS, we take heed to the words of John the Baptist  “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he [John the Baptist] said to them,  You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee and escape from the WRATH and INDIGNATION [of God against disobedience] that is coming?  (Matthew 3:7 AMP).

–by fleeing to JESUS who bore the full brunt of the WRATH on the cross for our sake, GOD’S ELECT.  And because he did, you and I can take “COMFORT” in passages of Scripture like these:

[9] “For God has NOT APPOINTED US to [incur His] WRATH [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)  [10] Who died for us so that whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life”  (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 AMP). 

and again,

“…JESUS, Who personally RESCUES and DELIVERS us out of and from the WRATH  [bringing punishment] which is coming…”  (1 Thessalonians 1:10 AMP).

and one more,

“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  [9] Therefore, since we are now JUSTIFIED (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be SAVED by Him from indignation and wrath of God”  (Romans 5:8-9).

And, aren’t you glad that we who are Believers are…?

Not because we are so worthy, or better than the Assyrians living in Nahum’s day–but because our God and Savior has chosen us to be gracious to?

My next POST will spring off these thoughts concerning our DECLARING in a non-believing world. Keep watching!