Saturday, March 15, 2014

Boast in God, not Yourself

Anytime you hear me or anyone else talking about what "I've" done for this club, and how much "I" contributed, and how "I" are responsible for this or that, you should stop thy conversation and rebuke pride. None of us have anything to boast about, God built this club. If we have anything to boast about let us boast in Christ (1st Corinthians 1:28-31)

Anyone who is comfortable with themselves and their achievements has no need to advertise them. I think of Jim Big Beard Cramer who when he talks about the remarkable achievements in California, talks about how God has done this, God has done that. Give credit where credit is due, don't steal it for yourself. God is building this club, if we build it we are building it in vain. Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

Don't allow anyone in this club to make their religion worthless by losing control of their tongue and bragging about something they've done, James 1:26. If anyone starts praising themselves for what they've done for this club, tell them to read Proverbs 27:2.

The world isn't supposed to see you when they see what Christ has done for you or through you. It's not the man, it's the mission. We don't glorify the man, we glorify God. We are trying to eclipse God when we try to get people more interested in what we have done than what God is doing. Galations 6:14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died.

We are to operate in Love as Christians. 1 Corinthians 13 says Love is patient and kind, love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Without love, all our accomplishments are nothing. And boasting makes them nothing. Boast in God!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Psalm 60:12 is a key Scripture for a man of God to internalize. Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.

Men of God don't react out of flesh and temper. They realize that God has their back, and they focus on living right, and doing the right thing, righteousness.

Men of God don't take revenge. They learn to say nothing, and do nothing, when confronted with situations where they are being persecuted and you have done nothing wrong. Rom 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

When you get in the flesh and react to something that set you off, you have short circuited the Will of God. Instead of Him taking revenge, you receive the natural consequences of being angry. If you control yourself, and don't react out of anger, God has obligated Himself by His Word to take revenge.

I recently described a situation where God had dealt with some people who insulted our Christian Motorcycle Club the club. I received a phone call from a man who asked me in a very belligerent tone "what makes you think God would do that for you?" The simple answer is the Bible! And He just doesn't do it for me, He will do it for anyone who sets their steps according to the Word of God.

Now none of this is to say that you don't have the right to self-defense, or that you should let people walk all over you. Protecting yourself from harm is always reasonable, and can be justified from the scripture. Going back later and exacting revenge is different. If you turn it over to God, with patience you will always see Him act. Unfortunately, we typically let our flesh get the best of us, and we do something stupid and pay the consequences for it.

And if we're not doing something stupid, we are THINKING something stupid! Writhing around in anger in our minds, not turning it over to God, not allowing Him to act, not operating in forgiveness, not releasing the situation. Hating, hurting, mentally killing them in our minds.

Release it to God! They will get theirs! Call it karma, call it reaping what you sow, God is not ignoring your hurt if you are walking in righteousness! When things start going wrong in their lives, God is able to remind them of what they did to you. He is able to remind them to come back and apologize to you. It's happened many times to me that something I released, brought that person back humbly asking for forgiveness.

As Paul writes, leave room for the wrath of God! He is always better at getting revenge than we are.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Anointing

Lessons for Preachers 3: Operate in the Anointing

Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.

Not all preachers produce equally. The Bible is clear that there are different levels of fruit from each Christian. Matt 13:8 spells it out, some seed fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. So how do we get from a 30-fold Christian to a hundredfold Christian?

Answer: Anointing. If you are full of the Holy Ghost, those who you're preaching to will receive the stirring of the Spirit as well.

To understand the anointing I encourage you to read the following three scriptures. Acts 7:55 describes a state of being called being full of the Holy Spirit, some refer to this as the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 61 describes the purpose of the anointing.  Acts 10:38 describes how Jesus, who is our example, operated under the same anointing.

The key to flowing in the power of the Holy Spirit is to live in a manner that pleases God. Strive to please God in all of your actions, as commanded in 1st Thessalonians 4 . Works don't get you saved, but they do make a difference in the lives of others. It is impossible to live like hell, and expect the power of heaven to fall on those you are serving. Clean hands and a pure heart are a requirement. As you become more conformed to the image of Christ in your deeds and thoughts, you impact the world and people around you more.

There is no substitute for the anointing. No amount of studying or throwing big words like hermeneutics or exegesis will do. No amount of interesting facts like how many horns are on the altar, or what a Serephim may look like, none of that will work. These thing may make people thing 'well golly look how much he knows' and have all sorts of admiration for you, but it won't make them better people.

If you are not full of the Holy Ghost and power, your preaching will fall on deaf ears, and change no one's life. There is a value to teaching, and exposition of the gospel. Even in that, the moving of the Holy Ghost is necessary to stir people's hearts. Words have power, but their power is at a different order of magnitude when the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of the hearers. You can speak well and share interesting facts all you want, but if it falls on hard hearts, it's just pride.

So stir up the Spirit, ask for the anointing, ask to be full of the Holy Spirit! If this were just something that happens to everybody all the time, the Bible would not have pointed out that it happened to Stephen. Stay away from that dangerous behavior that causes the Quenching the Spirit described in Acts 7:51 or 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Clean hands and a pure heart. Truth and kindness, Proverbs 3:3. It takes some striving, it takes some work, Phil 3:14. Its not for everyone.

The anointing does not come from living a casual life. Men who carry the anointing on a regular basis are far from average. There are lives bear the distinctive imprint of the power of God, anyone who spends any amount of time with them will quickly discern that there is something far from average about them.

The hallmark of the anointing in my experience is a discernible and tangible presence of God. Some people call it chicken skin, because they get the cold chills and their hair stands on end. I think that's a terrible description, that sounds creepy, but it illustrates that believers across the globe feel like tangible sense of the presence of God in the same way. Others describe it as the feeling of fire running through their veins. Perhaps this is the effect Moses may have felt when he felt the voice of God speaking to and from a burning bush. Or the feeling the men surrounding Daniel had in Daniel 10. Or the men surrounding Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, or how how they reacted in John 18:6. These people all felt something powerful when the presence of God fell around them.

Now I have heard scoffers and mockers make fun of the anointing, and call it just a lot of emotional nonsense. But if you think about it, God wants to interact with us on a very personal and emotional level. All the fruits of the spirit are emotions, love joy peace patience kindness. God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. It's more than just head knowledge, it's more than just something you read in a book, its something you experience, it's deeply intimate.

The anointing is a touch from God. Its confirmation from Him that He knows you and cares about you. It's His Spirit bearing witness with your spirit. Its tangible, real and powerful. It also doesn't come easy. I remember when I was being mentored in ministry, I would cry out to God asking to receive the anointing. Nothing happened day after day, week after week. I would occasionally receive the anointing during praise and worship at church. I was hearing my companions talking about the powerful anointing, and wonder why I wasn't receiving it.

1st Corinthians 14 1 says that we should earnestly desire spiritual gifts. That means there's going to be a period of time between when we learn about something, pray for it, and receive it. And during that time we're supposed to be earnest, steadfast, patient, standing in faith, not giving up.

The anointing will come when we magnify Christ, that is the chief office of the Holy Spirit, John 16:14. That's why we often feel it during praise and worship time, music is often about Christ. The anointing will come when we hear truth, after all he's called the Spirit of Truth, John 16:13. There are times when I receive the anointing and I have to back up to remember what  was just said in my presence, what I missed, what the Spirit is bearing witness to in my spirit, Rom 8:16. Often it happens when I am in a conversation with someone and they're telling me something that is true about what God is doing in their life. Sometimes a powerful anointing comes when I'm about to consciously choose to sin, and the Holy Spirit is pricking my conscience.

The Holy Spirit is constantly trying to get our attention, and we are constantly quenching him through our actions. Learning to live in a place where we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading is critical to powerful preaching. Learn to accept His guiding hand in your day-to-day life, in the preparation, learning and then the delivery itself.

Jesus makes a fascinating statement in John 14:10. "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." Notice he switches from words, to works. When you stop speaking on your own initiative, to make yourself look learned, then God can do some works.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mocking and Scoffing

How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance? How long will you mockers enjoy mocking and you fools hate knowledge? Prov 1:22

Matthew 7 says you will know them by their fruits. Know them how? What fruit?

One reason the Proverbs challenge is so important, reading proverbs everyday by the date, is that it repeatedly explains how to recognise different types of people and their fruit. One type of person is the wise men, another is the fool. Because anybody can talk a good game, it's important to study the fruit, and differentiate between wise people and fools in your life. Fools need to change their game, or get kicked to the curb. Or they will bring you down. Wise people need to be cultivated in your life, spend time with them, learn their ways.

According to the verse above, one way to recognize person acting in foolishness, is to hear them engaging in scoffing, or mocking. To mock is to deride, make fun of, insult by copying a pattern of speech or action. It can also refer to something fake. When we mock or deride people or knowledge, we are mocking their Creator who set knowledge in motion.

Wise men of God never have a problem portraying their thoughts or opinions, and do not resort to mocking God's creation, other people.

The verse above shows that mocking comes from ignorance. When you're short on facts, you can always insult your adversary. If you don't understand something it's easier to make fun of it then to search it out. Asking someone who is wise in that area might reveal your ignorance, and so rather than ask and look foolish, mockers act foolish. They try to hide their ignorance and make themselves feel better by derision.

This is found all throughout the Proverbs. Psalm 1:1 says that we should not sit in the seat of scoffers. That's hard because our culture is made up on satire, derision, mocking, and scoffing. It takes true and careful conscious thought to change this habit.

You can't fix stupid! The good thing about ignorance is it can be fixed. We can stop ignoring the Word of God! As we read the Word of God it can wash over us and change us. As we read the definition of a foolish man, we can recognize behaviors that God does not approve of and change them. We can put scoffing and mocking far from us.

Combat mocking with information. Confront mockers and share the Word with them. We all fall into it occasionally, catch yourself and stop yourself. But most importantly, recognize that when you are led to mock something, it means that you do not have knowledge on the situation, and it's time to study it very closely, there may be a revelation awaiting you!

God is Love

Lesson 1 for preachers, God is Love. Be loving. Pastors who seek the image of Christ need to be understanding, compassionate, gentle, kind, meek. Not proud, brusque, angry and judgemental. Jesus talked about not casting the first stone. He is loving, kind, patient, merciful, longsuffering, gracious and forgiving toward us. That's how we are supposed to be.

Season your speech with salt. Edify, build up, encourage. Proverbs 3:3 says to seek truth and kindness. Both together. The one is useless without the other. Truth without kindness is harsh and hurtful, people will turn and leave. Kindness without truth is useless. But people will receive the message of truth when we focus on the tone of the delivery in kindness.

Southern hellfire brimstone preaching is amusing, but not always effective. Denouncing, criticising, and bashing aren't Jesus kinds of things, they are Satan kinds of things. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren in Rev 12:10.

The Holy Spirit will convict men of sin and righteousness, you don't have to. You have to just love people. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you have to clarify sin, and gently move peoples perception of it. But mostly as the Spirit is moving when you preach, they will be convicted of it all on their own.

Look at what Isaiah says the Spirit has anointed us for: I don't see standing in judgement of every little thing, thundering against sin, railing against doctrine you don't agree with...

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;
2To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
3To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
4Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
5Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
6But you will be called the priests of the Lord; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, And in their riches you will boast.
7Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.

The Bible says in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit will convict men of sin and righteousness. (And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment). I don't need to do the Holy Spirits job for Him, He is quite capable! People living in sin know it (whether they are ready to admit it or not). Most often they are hurt, broken, traumatized by life. Many gay people who I have counseled were the victims of abuse or rape. Me beating them up rather than binding them up is not the answer. Many hurting people are afraid to even go to church and don't feel worthy of the love of God. Judgemental hateful 'Christians' have turned them off ever wanting to hear about Christians. Let us be sensitive, share the love of God, and let the Holy Ghost do his job.

Jesus followed this pattern as well. When the religious leaders brought the adultress to Jesus in John 8:7 he asked who was without sin to cast the first stone. Jesus saved his most scathing comments for the judgemental religious leaders, not hurting sinners. Somehow we have gotten away from the teachings of Jesus, and we are all to ready to cast that first stone, point the finger of shame, and kill with our words out of ignorance. Ignorance of what its like to sit across the desk as they sob out their story in Christian counseling, and receive healing from their wounds where the devil has cut them. We are too ready to condemn the sinner, drive them out and away, and not ready enough to heal them.

Did God come down with brimstone and fire when Adam ate the fruit I Genesis 3:9? No, it was with simple questions, where are you, who told you that you were naked? Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, condemnation is the work of Satan, called the 'accuser of the brethren' in Rev 12:10. Don't do either job for them. Do your job, binding up the broken hearted, healing the sick, proclaiming freedom to captives, sharing the love of Jesus.

None of this is to say that you can never point out sin or speak conviction. Far from it! However be sure that you are sensitive of your own shortcomings and the grace you have been given, and minister that same grace to the hearer. Grace means unmerited favor, treating other better than they deserve. Look at what Paul says in Gal 6:1, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.

Think of the roughly 30% of women who have been victims of sexual abuse or violence in your congregation. Think of the untold pain. Think of the struggles with pornography the men endure. Think of the shame. Think of the secret hurts, the stresses, the loss of jobs and homes, the sickness disease and cancer people struggle with. Your congregation is hurting, no matter how bright a face they may try to put on things. Man of God, be sensitive, be caring, be loving.

1 John 4:19 says we love God because He first loved us. You will bring more people to the cross with love than with condemnation. God is love, you be love too.

A great question can be raised, how do you handle when you know people are out of line.

The first answer is always to pray for that person out of love. God may reveal to that person how they need to change. I remember a young lady who is working on my youth ministry team who had an issue with how she dressed, showing an awful lot of cleavage every Sunday. I prayed about it, the very next Monday she showed up wearing a pantsuit that was completely modest.

The second answer is always to pray and ask God to change you first. If you go into confrontation as your freshly self, your flesh might get involved. Before we correct someone, we need to make sure that its not just our issues getting in the way. Cultural differences, gender differences, all these things can cause an offense. An example might be in black church showing up on time does not necessarily value as much as it is and white church. Collecting someone on a cultural issue like this may just be in sensitivity on your part.

The third answer is to pray, how does God want you to handle the situation? Do you need to do some research on how to deal with this issue? Is there a word of knowledge God has for you on what's going on with this person? Are they struggling with an issue, and the bad behavior you're seeing is just a symptom? Can you be there to heal them and help them, and behavior will correct itself because the root cause was dealt with?

The fourth answer is to pray about if this is spiritual warfare? Is this a person carrying out an assignment of the enemy to get under your skin or distract you from your purpose? Is there a spiritual force it was that you need to discern and take authority over? Is this something that is assaulting you in your faith or temper? Praying that God will help you to discern the spiritual root of the issue will always make you more effective at binding it, kickin it out, or dealing with it.

The fifth answer is to be very sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the issue. It may be while preaching that He releases you too comment broadly on the issue and teach the resolution without specifically calling that person out, rather than going directly to the person. Recently while preaching as a guest speaker in another church the Holy Spirit had me to stop and treat the issue of spousal abuse very thoroughly, even though it wasn't in my notes. The spirit was telling me there was someone in the audience who needed to hear it. The pastor took me aside later and was laughing because he had not been released to deal with a man in the church who he knew was abusing his wife, but I as a stranger not knowing the situation I was able to preach on it without condemnation. I'm sure that man was particularly uncomfortable well I was dealing with the subject for about 5 minutes!

The last step is to follow the biblical order for confrontation in Matt 18. Be gentle, be loving, be understanding, but be firm. Don't allow the issue to wander into other issues, stay on focus. Don't do it out of your flash, if you're losing your temper, the issue is with you not with them. Remember your own faults and shortcomings, and the grace that God has given you. Give them that same grace.

Prov 27:5 better is an open rebuke the love that is concealed. Prov 17:10 a rebuke impresses a discerning person more than 100 lashes for a fool. Prov 9:8 do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you, rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

Some people are fools, and you will not get through to them. They will laugh, or rage, and there will be no peace. Just realize you're dealing with a fool, I didn't say that, the Bible did! But if things go badly, you have to check yourself, learn what you could have done better, and realize that you may not have been the right. Let God work in your heart so the next time you do better.

Just like 1st Corinthians 13 says, everything has to be done out of love. Check yourself closely, that there's not some contentious spirit in you, a desire to just be right, or show how much you know. Truth and kindness. God is love.