Reading a little A. W. Tozer now, which is a good thing to do as he has many excellent points excellently stated. Here is a quote from his book God Tells the Man Who Cares:

“The ideal Christian is who knows he is free to do as he will and wills to be a servant. This is the path Christ took; blessed is the man who follows Him”

That quote finished up his article on freedom. In order to guarantee the freedoms of others we all must limit our own. The true believer is willing to give up his will for the benefit of another. Christ is the prime example and we are now in His body; it’s what we are called to. The problem is that it’s not nearly as much fun as doing whatever you want. But the rewards for having done so are eternal and a great joy.

You thought your life was bad! Mike Tyson, who is $38 million in debt, made his return to the ring Friday night in order to win some money, but lost! He was knocked out in the fourth round and won a measly $8 million for his efforts, $3 million which he can keep after his creditors remove a cool $5 million.

The real problem is that now that he lost his asking price will be much less for follow-up fights. It’ll be awful hard for him to make up that debt.

One gets the feeling that some guys never learn. The sad thing is that Mike Tyson has a soul too and it seems as if someone might be trying to get his attention. Not sure it’s working.

Kabbalah, a mystic Jewish religion, has gained quite a bit of attention recently thanks to such religious minded people as Madonna and Britney Spears. Now Target stores are selling red Kabbalah string which protects you from such things as the evil eye and so forth. Hmm, the string is selling for over $20!

It truly is ridiculous what people will believe in. It’s, of course, a crutch and a sign of great stupidity to believe in Jesus Christ but oh, believing in a red string is the pinnacle of intellectual foresight and “coolness.” Whatever.

The book I’m reading, Not to the Strong, is dealing with Jephthah another judge of Israel. Besides having too many h’s in his name, you should also know that Jephthah was born to a prostitute. His father took responsibility for him and raised him in his house. However, Jephthah had brothers and as brothers often do, they pick out what makes a guy different and rip him constantly.

When Japhthah grew up he went as far from his family as he could. His whole upbringing was clouded by the fact he was born to a prostitute. But in his isolation and bitterness, Jephthah became very skilled at warfare and was used by God to deliver Israel.

It is amazing how God can use the negative events of our life for His glory. No one is too disgraced for His service. Today, of course, the prostitute would probably have an abortion. The Bible makes it clear that isolation and disgrace are almost necessary qualities of people who serve Him. When we are weak, He is made strong. Amen to that.

Amy Sullivan is a pundit at this week’s Democrat Convention in Boston. She is a reporter for Washington Monthly and is doing a blog from the convention. What makes her take on her party’s convention interesting is that she has been trying to convince her party of the importance of dealing with faith and religion. Among her comments is her tracking of how and where religion and faith is brought up. You may find her interesting and informative and you may not, guess you’ll just have to check it out!

I am currently reading Not to the Strong my Elwood McQuaid who is an author and speaker for the Friends of Israel Ministry. The book deals with the judges who judged Israel, people like Samson and Gideon. His point is that all these guys are messed up and yet they were still used by God to carry out His purposes. Conclusion–even the weak, and especially the weak, are the ones who usually do the most for the Lord.

In talking about Israel he mentions all the nations which consistently bug them. You hear about the Babylonians and the Romans and other major world powers, but you rarely hear documentaries or books about the Canaanites, the Hittities and the Jebusites etc. Yet these little powers were a constant source of trouble for Israel.

It’s easy to handle major problems sometimes, you see them clearly and take care of them as quickly as possible. Often it’s the little problems, the little gnat countries, that give us the most trouble in our Christian walk. It’s the flat tire or the drawer that won’t close right that gets us to sin before many other more serious issues. The Christian walk is one of always being on guard for what gnat-like problem is going to attack next. Israel had problems with the gnats and Christians have too. It’s the fiery darts not the bazookas that Satan uses best.

I know you’ve all been waiting and tonight has finally arrived, the all new show Amish in the City airs on everyone’s favorite network, UPN. The premise of this new reality show is to see how many times we can get Amish kids to sin and renounce their beliefs. Sounds like a fine premise. Too bad no one knows where the UPN network is. Too bad most other people have lives of their own.

It’s weird how in our world of “tolerance” and “acceptance” they can get away with something like this. Can you imagine them trying this with Muslims? I don’t think so. I’m sure it will prove once and for all that religion is stupid and a waste of fine young people. Oh well, there’s still football.

I tell ya, those guys at Lark News have been around the Church! As kids go off to and come back from summer camps, brace yourselves for things like this.

When we think about emotions and our faith it’s often difficult knowing where to draw the line and when emotions are running the faith and when they are a result of the faith. Getting emotionally whipped up for a time may cause a change or two. But when the emotion wears off that change will wear off with it.

Spiritual change usually happens through agonizing discomfort not emotional happiness, usually, there are always exceptions. If you want to know how to make a kid or yourself grow spiritually, try some agonizing discomfort!

Christianity Today has an article on the Orthodox Churches in America and how they are agreeing to keep the various versions of Orthodox churches separate. There is a brief history lesson explaining why there are various Orthodox churches and how they run. If you find that sort of thing interesting you may find it interesting.

While Jesus was on earth He had one job to do–to die, which was a fulfillment of His Father’s will. We talked yesterday about knowing who you are, what defines you? Based on how you answer that question your whole life will follow suit.

If Jesus lived His life to be accepted, appreciated and believed He would have been greatly discouraged and also would have done things very different. It’s not like people didn’t have proof of who He was. They saw his miracles and concluded that only God could do these things. They heard His teaching and concluded He had authority. They knew who He was, they just didn’t like it. If Christ’s identity was based on being liked or accepted, He would have been a wreck!

Instead, Christ does other things, things that only make sense when you see who Christ truly defined Himself as. In Mark 2:37 Jesus is told that crowds of people are seeking Him. What do you think verse 38 says Jesus did? Went and talked with them? Waited for them? Put up posters to announce He’d be appearing at 6 pm daily after a light dinner?

Verse 38 tells us that Jesus says “Let us go.” Amazing! I thought He was sent to make people believe? Isn’t a seeking audience what every man wants? Jesus leaves them because He knew His identity and He stuck with the priorities which came from it. Knowing who you are adds clarity to your choices and keeps you from getting discouraged when people don’t act the way you need them to in order to be accepted. Knowing who you are in Christ is the only thing which will add sanity to this life.

I missed making a point in this morning’s message that I thought of about 3 minutes after it was over. I meant to point out how Moses never got in the Promised Land because he tried to do things himself. The only way he’ll get there is by the work of God.

Did Moses ever set foot in the Promised Land? Careful, it’s a trick question!

He did! At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah set foot in the Promised Land. Moses couldn’t get there himself but he still trusted the Lord, he still kept doing his job, and the Lord miraculously got him there anyway. It’s that confidence that as long as we’re with the Lord everything will work out fine which should keep us going day by day.

I just finished reading The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge. He’s the guy who wrote Wild at Heart, a book I think every Christian man should read. Eldredge is calling Christians to wake up and realize who they are in Christ and let it rip! I think his message is a great one, taken in context and with the necessary limitations of knowing that no one message has all the answers.

However, anytime a guy points out the need for something in a strong way, he gets criticism, Eldredge is no different. Christianity Today has an interesting article on him. I would encourage you to find his books and enjoy them.

Yesterday, while printing the envelopes for the church newsletter, my printer thought it had a paper jam; it didn’t. But it thought it did so it kept spinning the rollers and wouldn’t stop. Nothing I did made it stop so I tried turning it off but it wouldn’t because it wanted to get the invisible paper out.

So I unplugged it.

Except I pulled the wrong cord. The computer shut down and when I turned it back on, the monitor remained off. Bummer. I fried it. So I called my pal Dennis Squires of SIRIUS Computing and took it over to him. After much deliberation it was deemed “toast.”

So, as you’re reading your church newsletter this month remember that a life was given so you could enjoy it. A life which will cost me about $150. Also remember the kindness of Dennis Squires who loaned me a monitor so you could have a sermon tomorrow.

After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples head out into the garden. Jesus goes off to pray and tells Peter and John to “watch and pray.” While He’s off praying, the disciples fall asleep. Jesus comes back and wakes them up and tells them to “watch and pray” again. They fall asleep again.

It’s easy to get hard on these guys but really they had no concept of what was going on. Not only that, Jesus Christ is off once again and has also told us to spend our time here on the watch and praying. Hmm, looks like lots of believers are sleeping instead. Get ready, when He comes back He’s gonna wake you up! I suggest we wake up right now and watch and pray and wait for Him to come. It’s high time to awake out of slumber, cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Protestant numbers are dwindling in America, so much so that soon if you are a protestant you will be a minority. Protestants are the churches which got their beginning during the Protestant Reformation–Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian. The number of people who claim no religion is growing, doubling since the last survey. They also cite an increase in immigration from Catholic countries.

The reality of it is that most protestant churches are boring and irrelevant! They sort of acknowledge this by admitting they are missing the new generation. Why would people go to many of these churches? It can’t be for the potlucks and most have little more than that to offer. Christianity is in trouble.

It’s easy for people to think highly of themselves. When reading through the Bible you come across really dumb people and you think, “Boy, are they dumb. I sure am glad I’m not.” For instance the whining people of Israel in the wilderness. “Boy, sure am glad I don’t whine like that.” Riiiight. This arrogant attitude is a good sign of being a hypocritical Pharisee. Observe:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,  And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” (Matthew 23:29,30)

As soon as you think you are free form the temptation of any sin, look out! Pride goeth before the fall and verses 29 and 30 go before verse 34 and 35, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”

Yet another example of people having too much time on their hands, two guys got into a fight in a Burger King because one of them was taking too much time in the bathroom. The two began fighting after words were exchanged over the amount of time necessary to relieve one’s self while the other had to go bad. A razor blade was drawn and then a straw dispenser was brought into the action.

Ah yes. No word as to whether beating up the guy who was in the bathroom allowed the other guy to go sooner. Something tells me if he was that desperate he wouldn’t have bothered to have a fight about it. Unreal.

Matthew 20:15-22 is a familiar passage. It has the mean, nasty Pharisees trying to trick Jesus into saying something dumb. They ask him if it is lawful to give tribute unto Caesar. It’s funny the tricky questions they come up with. You can see them gathering in smoke filled rooms coming up with these questions and getting giddy looks on their faces as they come up with good ones.

 

But it doesn’t work real well. Here’s what Christ tells them.

 

And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?   They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

 

Whenever I have heard this passage discussed it always has to do with money. Good Christians should pay taxes and also a portion to God. However, I don’t think Christ has a message about money here outside of paying taxes. His point about God is much greater.

 

The reason they pay money in tribute to Caesar is because money has Caesar’s image. So clearly we should pay to God in tribute with what has His image on it. Hmm, now what would that be? Man was created in the image of God–we give our lives as tribute.

We’ve been discussing the theology of predestination and God’s Divine Decree in the weekly Anti-Itch. One thing we usually never think about is how God is treated by His choosing of us. Generally we think of the doctrine from the human perspective, but what about God’s perspective?

 

Matthew 20:1-16 makes it pretty plain how God views the situation. In the parable of the vineyard, it’s the vineyard owner who gets the raw deal. While the laborers are complaining about who gets paid what, the vineyard owner was the one who paid a full days wages for one hour of work!

Too often we view grace selfishly and wonder how God can forgive people who are worse than we are never considering that no matter how good one of us may be, God still got a raw deal! Christ died for sinners who didn’t love Him and even after salvation, generally do very little with what He’s done for us. Instead of looking at salvation, grace and predestination from our perspective, it helps to get a glimpse of how God views it.

 

Never forget the importance of verse 15, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” It’s God’s world, I suggest we back off finding fault with Him!

“Worship” means many things in Christian circles, few of the meanings are right. Matthew speaks of worship several times in a few chapters and I think what it says is quite illustrative of what worship really is.

 

The first snippet comes from Matthew 15:8,9, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.     9They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Worship here has to do with vain words, empty repetition followed with human wisdom being taught as religion. Although it may make you feel good and make you feel worshipful, it has nothing to do with worship.

 

The second quote is from Matthew 15:25, “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.'” That’s the kind of worship you don’t hear much! This woman comes to Christ with total helplessness, no other alternative solutions to her problems. She recognizes her need and recognizes that Christ is the only one who can help. That is worship.

 

The proper attitude of worship is expressed in Matthew 18:3,4, “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  One of the things kids know is that they need help. They need help to put their shoes on, button their pants, carry boxes, etc. They readily admit their hopelessness and need for help. That’s the attitude God desires in us. When we are weak He is made strong.

 

Going back to the 4-14 window, it’s funny that at about the age of 15 most kids begin to believe they know everything and thus are unresponsive to help and rarely ever ask for it. Once the mindframe of a teenager is set, it usually lasts for a lifetime. The reason most adults don’t come to Christ is because adults find it hard to admit helplessness and if you can’t do that, you’ll have no need of a Savior.

At least we know America doesn’t have a monopoly on idiots. A Filipino man came home drunk the other night and beat his wife ending in her death. One of the ways he punished her, besides beating her with an iron and pouring boiling water on her, was by nailing her mouth shut. Due to the fact that this ended tragically, I’ll refrain from making the joke that you already know anyway.

Oh, and one more point:

 

The earlier the pruning starts, the better the tree will produce.

I think we’re too easy on our kids. A little bit of pruning and knocking them back a bit, taking them down a notch, just might help them develop spiritually.  We can help them get pruned by disciplining them and showing them consequences for actions. We can allow them to do things which just might lead to them getting hurt a bit (within limits, of course). Over-protecting kids will only lead to fruitless lives.

 

Perhaps we’re too easy on young believers. Often we cover up the harsh reality of the Christian fight, maybe we step in too soon to take care of their problems. Pruning hurts, it’s taking part of you away. It’s hard to watch someone lose part of themselves, yet it’s all part of God’s plan to help them grow and be fruitful.

Boy, I sure wanted to ay an awful lot more about fruit this morning. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time went, although we did start a bit late didn’t we? Here are a few more points about fruit and fruit trees.

 

In my brief research on growing fruit trees there is one basic technique that is mentioned often: pruning. Pruning is necessary for two main reasons: 1. For developing a strong tree that will support fruit growth and 2. To grow healthy fruit.

The first objective, to grow a strong tree, works like this. If you have a tree that is growing fruit, it’s branches tend to grow at relatively straight up angles. When long, straight branches suddenly get a heavy cluster of fruit on it, snap goes that branch. In order to control this the tree caregiver will cut back the branches to keep the branches short and strong allowing the tree to support the fruit without getting damaged. Also the productive lifespan of that tree will greatly increase as a properly pruned tree will produce fruit earlier and will last longer.

The second objective, to produce healthy fruit, works in several ways. First, if a tree is growing like crazy most of its energy goes into the tree itself, leaving little for proper fruit development. Second, if a tree is not trimmed, the leaves will block air flow and this leads to disease and that aint good. Also, if a tree is heavily leafed sunlight will be blocked from helping bud and fruit develop.

 

Pruning is the job of the man in charge of the trees. God is that to us, the one who disciplines us. He cuts us back and keeps us in shape so we survive and are productive and also so we produce good fruit. Without His care and pruning in our lives, we’re good for nothing! Thank God for the pain of life that keeps us healthy and productive.

Jesus likes to talk in parables. In Matthew 13 His disciples ask him why he does that. He answers in Matthew 13:13 that he speaks in parables basically because the people are too stupid to get plain teaching. Now, that’s funny in itself, but what is even more funny is that  verses 44-52 Jesus is telling parables to His disciples!

 

After being told that the people are too stupid to get His point, they no doubt felt good about themselves, “Ha, those dumb people. Boy, we sure are lucky.” Little did they know, they were just as clueless about what Jesus was talking about. We’re all in the same boat trying to figure out God’s word. It takes work and dedication and lots of thinking to make sense of it all. But it can be done with the help available through Christ. Use it!

The new lingo in ministry is the “4-14 window.” This new fancy lingo is talking about the ages when most people get saved, between the ages of 4 and 14. After 14, the odds of a person getting saved goes way down.

 

So, various Christian organizations, such as Awana, are trying to figure out how to best meet the needs of these kids and compete with all the other junk kids get thrown at them. Christianity Today was also instrumental in this terminology and has an article on it today.

 

 I always wonder if we should try to compete with everything else. Kids are used to fast moving tv images and video games, the church looks slow and old in comparison. However, I’m not sure that’s so bad. To make Christianity into a fast moving tv show or a video game seems to miss the whole point! We can’t compete with that and I really don’t think we should. We’re not competing for advertising dollars, we’re battling for souls. I think we play by different rule, we’re not even in the same game as entertainment so to get all bent out of shape about it seems to miss the point.

I know in this age of toleration and so forth it’s not right to divide people into groups, we all need to come together, etc. but Matthew tells us a very important idea: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

There are two groups of people in the world–those with Christ and those without. Those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution. When we are with Christ, looks like our job is to gather more to His side. If we aren’t gathering more we’re only helping the scatter. Makes it all plain and simple for us.

Hope you are ready for the rapture.

Over in Japan they have decided to put computer chips on kids to track their movements. As the kids enter school and move about the building, various sensors will pick up where they are. Hmm. Airlines are also using the same technology to track luggage.

Of course, now the kids will lose the chips so then we’ll have to embed them in the skin, etc. Hope you’re ready! As soon as Christians are raptured out of here, needing to track people will seem even more important because they won’t be able to find people. It’ll all make perfect sense. Makes you want to invest in computer chip companies!

In Matthew 11 Jesus is condemning various cities for not repenting when He did miracles in them. Verse 23 He says, if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”

Makes you wonder: why didn’t God do some mighty works in Sodom then?

Perhaps God’s ultimate purpose in His plan is not the salvation of souls. Perhaps it’s something much greater. If all God wanted to do was save souls, seems like there’s an awful lot more He could have done to make that happen.

God’s ultimate purpose is to get glory and show grace. Without the consistent judgment of sin, He could do neither.

Over the past few weeks working through Exodus and Numbers, we have seen that God has wanted to wipe out the Israelites over and over again. What is curious about God wanting to do this is that He always tells Moses first! Why doesn’t He just go ahead and wipe them out?

It reminds me of the cheesy spy movies where the good guy gets caught and the bad guy goes on for 15 minutes about what he’s going to do next and then devises some intricate plan to kill the good guy while he goes off to take over the world.

As the good guy is slowly sinking into the vat of acid, or sliding down the conveyor belt towards the giant saw blade, the good guy escapes! Why didn’t the bad guy just kill him and get on with it?

Because then there wouldn’t be a story! Without an intercessor, the Bible wouldn’t have a story!

A few weeks back I put a post up about the Southern Baptist’s having a resolution to pull all their kids from public schools. Not only was this resolution defeated, Franklin Graham closed their convention by stating that he would like to see at least one Christian in every classroom in America.

Wow, what a weirdo he is eh?

It’s about time someone said what he is saying. How else is the world going to hear the message if we aren’t in it at some point? I applaud Graham’s message. Almost makes me want to be a Southern Baptist.

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