Women, Beware of all the Buttons and Bows

Macbeth_1916_still
Women, Beware of all the Buttons and Bows

The Lord also says: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, walking with heads held high and seductive eyes, going along with prancing steps, jingling their ankle bracelets, the Lord will put scabs on the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will shave their foreheads bare. On that day the Lord will strip their finery: ankle bracelets, headbands, crescents, pendants, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle jewelry, sashes, perfume bottles, amulets, signet rings, nose rings, festive robes, capes, cloaks, purses, garments, linen clothes, turbans, and veils. Instead of perfume there will be a stench; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of beautifully styled hair, baldness; instead of fine clothes, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. Then her gates will lament and mourn; deserted, she will sit on the ground. On that day seven women will seize one man, saying, “We will eat our own bread and provide our own clothing. Just let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace.” Isaiah 3:16-4:1 (HCSB)

The Bible is so male-focused sometimes women can feel neglected or feel like innocent bystanders in a wicked world. However, the Lord takes ample opportunity to direct his words of encouragement and warning to women too. This is one of those passages.

Whether female or male, the question is this: Did the Creator make a mistake when he created you? In this passage the focus is on the female, but guys, you are not excluded from the message either.

Did we arrive ion this world with all the buttons and bows we fuss over and adorn ourselves with to appear more appealing, more attractive? Was it God’s intention for us to adorn ourselves to improve  the way God created us? Though this can apply to men too, the focus is on the women. Why do  women spend so much time and energy to re-create their image ?

Is the beauty of the woman determined by finding the right application of rogue, eyeliner, and blush? Why spend more time fixing the condition and color of our hair than the condition and color of our heart and soul? For what greater purpose does all the “fuss and muss” serve? Is all the  effort and expense to please God or the opposite sex? Which provides the most security in life?

Since the earliest days, it is recorded that women of ancient Egyptian and the Sumerian cultures adorned themselves and painted their faces. With the magnitude of the fashion and makeup industry in the world today are we to conclude that God intended for women to go through all the fuss of the buttons and bows to attract the man of their desires?

However, what does God say? If our vanity is based upon outer beauty have we abandoned our relationship to God, our Creator? Why not put the same effort to seeking to living a lifestyle appealing to God’s will, ways, and wisdom ? 

Is it wrong to care about how we look? Of course not. God challenges us to consider why we do what we do? At the end of the day, can we stand comfortable before our spouse and God as we were created and feel good about ourselves? Will the beauty and condition of our hearts and souls outshine all the “fuss and muss” of the buttons and bows? God blesses a union between a man and a woman when the attraction is on hearts and souls, not external buttons and bows.

Coach

Leaders: What Goes Around Comes Around

God in control over authority in the land
What goes around, comes around. (Cartoon by Joe McKeever)

Leaders: What Goes Around Comes Around

Tell the righteous that it will go well [for them], for they will eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked [it will go] badly [for them], for what they have done will be done to them. Youths oppress My people, and women rule over them. My people, your leaders mislead you; they confuse the direction of your paths. The Lord rises to argue the case and stands to judge the people. The Lord brings [this] charge against the elders and leaders of His people: “You have devastated the vineyard. The plunder from the poor is in your houses. Why do you crush My people and grind the faces of the poor?” says the Lord God of Hosts. Isaiah 3:10-15 (HCSB)

The Lord our God extended a covenant with his people from the beginning, promising he will provide, protect, and preserve his people, if his people will obey his will, walk in his ways and seek his wisdom. The reward (or, blessing) for faithfully claiming the name of the Lord is not only beneficial in this life, but God promises also beyond this life. However, why do so many people reject God’s covenant? Is it because they allow their selfish nature to direct their lives? “I want to be in control. I know what is best for me!” How foolish can we be to assume that the created knows better than the Creator?

In this passage, Isaiah warned the people: “What goes around comes around!” If you acted wickedly and oppressed the people under your care, the same will happen to you. Whenever leaders scheme, confuse and mislead the people God placed them over, he promises to rise up as their Judge and hold them accountable. Their self-serving actions will be revealed for what they are: Wicked and Wrong! When the leaders of the land begin to place at risk the security, safety, and stability of the land, the Lord will bring about changes. Even their secret meetings will not go unnoticed. The Lord knows the intent of their hearts of those who believe they are in control.

The relevance is clear. If we claim to be a Nation under God, then we must act like it. We must trust that God allows us to experience changes in leadership. Just as we individually must seek after God’s will, ways, and wisdom, so too must the government, because God established it. What the Lord establishes, the Lord guides and directs. If you think God is not engaged in this world, open your eyes and heart, you will discover that history reveals “what comes around goes around.”

Coach

When the Enemy Comes

Will you flee or fight?
Will you flee or fight?

When the Enemy Comes

Observe this: The Lord God of Hosts is about to remove from Jerusalem and from Judah every kind of security: the entire supply of bread and water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the fortune-teller and elder, the commander of 50 and the dignitary, the counselor, cunning magician, and necromancer. “I will make youths their leaders, and the unstable will govern them.” The people will oppress one another, man against man, neighbor against neighbor; the youth will act arrogantly toward the elder, and the worthless toward the honorable. A man will even seize his brother in his father’s house, [saying:] “You have a cloak – you be our leader! This heap of rubble will be under your control.” On that day he will cry out, saying: “I’m not a healer. I don’t even have food or clothing in my house. Don’t make me the leader of the people!”For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom, they flaunt their sin. They do not conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Isaiah 3:1-9 (HCSB)

If we claim to be among God’s chosen people, how would we respond if “that day” was upon us today? Would we trust in God or panic because of our lack of readiness?

As an American, we may declare that we live in God’s country and are kept safe and secure, and we are free from any threat of the enemy invading our sacred land. However, what if our land fell into the enemies’ hands and all our leaders were exiled. Who would lead? Who would stand and face of the enemy? Would we still trust God, and believe he would bring stability again to our nation?

If we truly are “One Nation Under God,” would there ever be a shortage of leaders who God could draw upon to lead His people? Are we somehow more secure than the Israelites and the people in Jerusalem? Let us consider what Isaiah witnessed and prophesied, the northern tribes of Israel were driven into exile and ultimately extinction from the Promised Land, and the southern tribe of Judah, along with Jerusalem, were dismantled and likewise exiled. When we claim to be God’s people but the claim rests upon who we were, not who we are, we stand on shaky ground. Just as Jesus warned those in Jerusalem who once again fell victim to a false belief, there will be many who will cry out “Lord, Lord!” But, the Lord will say: “Go away, I never knew you!” Are we as a nation headed towards the same rejection?

Acquaintances and friends are strange bedfellows.The difference between an acquaintance and a friend lies in the depth of the relationship. An acquaintance knows of you and might even hangout with you from time to time when it suits their purpose, but a friend stands with you because they know you and genuinely care for you. God sorts us out the same way, plenty of people claim to know of God, but far less truly live as a friend of God, much less child of God.

When the enemy arrives at the door, acquaintances scatter to preserve their own lives, but true friends stand their ground to defend and protect one another. The Lord wants his people to be friends with each other and with him.

When the enemy knocks what will your response reveal? Will you reveal your superficial acquaintance with God and flee, or stand your ground trusting in your friendship with God and face the enemy? God’s Nation under his care nurtures genuine friendships that care for one another and for their common friendship with God.

Will we stand as a Nation Under God or fall into exile screaming, “Lord. Lord!”

Coach

Old Pride Brings Punishment

Jacob wrestling prideOld Pride Brings Punishment

House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the Lord’s light. For You [LORD] have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of [divination] from the East and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They are in league with foreigners. Their land is full of silver and gold, and there is no limit to their treasures; their land is full of horses, and there is no limit to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So humanity is brought low, and man is humbled. Do not forgive them! Go into the rocks and hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord and from His majestic splendor. Human pride will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted on that day. Isaiah 2:5-11 (HCSB)

The reference to House of Jacob is significant as it relates to all of us. Jacob was the son of Isaac who swindled his way through life to gain what he felt was his by right and ended up in a wrestling match with God before his life was changed, and his new name became Israel. When the Bible refers to Jacob it most often is speaking of the worldly Jacob versus Israel, through whom God would use to father the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

At some point in our life there comes a point where God becomes very real to us and we wrestle with our standing before Him. If we during that match we let go of the pride that is within us and surrender to God as our Lord and Savior, then a change in our identity occurs, old selfish ways loose their grip on us. This is an important stage in the life of every child of God. It reveals the truth of God’s covenant care and we are safe and secure, freed from the punishment that comes upon those whose old pride prevents them from totally surrendering to God’s will, ways, and wisdom.

No doubt, there will be times in your life when your old pride steers you away from God’s protection and you surround yourself with a growing circle of friends who do not share God’s values. Jealousy will turn your focus upon their worldly values. Rather than being a positive influence upon them, they influence you and draw you away from what you know to be right and true. In other words, you drift back into your old selfish value system, your Jacob days – the days before you really knew and accepted God’s care over your life. However, God will respond. Constructive punishment will remind you of the selfish pride that swells within you. Once you have become a child of God, God takes your adoption into His kingdom seriously and will poke and prod you when you wander too far.

When the Lord checks your soul, your heart and mind will tremble. You will remember the cost you paid to wrestle with God and recognize you are risking a more valuable relationship. Unlike your worldly acquaintances, you know right from wrong because you are a child of God and know punishment waits whenever you drift too far from God’s will, ways, and wisdom. As a result, cling to your memory of the old Jacob days, but never forget the blessings you received when God adopted you as a child of Israel – one who wrestled and surrendered to God.

Who are you associated with this day? Are you Jacob or Israel?

Coach

What Happens to the Swords When God Wins!

The Hope that One Day Man can Beat Swords into Plowshares
The Hope that One Day Man can Beat Swords into Plowshares

What Happens to the Swords When God Wins!

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established at the top of the mountains and will be raised above the hills. All nations  will stream to it, and many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about His ways so that we may walk in His paths. For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will not take up the sword against [other] nations, and they will never again train for war. Isaiah 2:2-4 (HCSB)

Isn’t it amazing how stubborn we all are? For millennia mankind has struggled in their attempt to demonstrate how the “created” does not need the “creator” to succeed in life! Mankind has attempted every possible means and pursued every perceived avenue to achieve independence from God, but what has history reveled? Death still reigns and frustrates mankind in their pursuit of ultimate victory. The world remains burdened by wars. There are always plenty of fighting, and feuding – mankind hardly needs an excuse. Mankind cannot get along with each other because it is in the very nature of mankind that everyone wants what everyone else has or worse yet, everyone is trying to tell others what they are doing is wrong, and their way is the only right way.

In a world free from the Creator’s will, ways, and wisdom, chaos exists!

Sadly the great philosophers have understood this truth for centuries, but mankind still forges ahead seeking its own will, ways, and wisdom to rule over their lives. In a world without absolutes (no standards or models of truth), there is only one accepted absolute: there are no absolutes. All truth is relative! Therefore, if this is true then it is virtually impossible to settle disputes between opposing people except through violence. No wonder our jails are overflowing, wars never cease, and conflict continues without end, and genuine peace is but an illusion in this world. There is not even peace within the halls and backrooms of our sacred churches. So what hope do we have to cling onto?

Our hope lies in the vision of this passage from Isaiah: Everyone will stop doing what they are doing and realize the futility of trying to live independent of the absolutes that God, our Creator, has established for us from the beginning. Only then could we enjoy the vision and reality of what is meant by true love, peace, harmony, and truth! Disputes would no longer be resolved by contrived relative truths of defined by the self-interests of men, but by God. When everyone submits to God’s will, ways, and wisdom, all rebellion, conflict and need for violence, which leads only to death, would no longer exist. Consider how wonderful life would be without the need for armies and their destructive weapons of war! Consider how wonderful life would be without a need for jails, prisons, and courts run by men. Halls of Justice would only be a place for illuminating God’s truth and lawyers would not be needed. Those caught in a disagreement would leave as friends and neighbors accepting God’s decision about their dispute on the matter.

Call such a vision “utopian,” but I prefer to call it “paradise or heaven on earth, as God intended it and we pray for daily.”

The good news is this: Whether on this side of death or the other, God will prevail ultimately. Until then we can only hope and wonder what it would be like to truly live as God intended us to live from the beginning. In the meantime, we can try to pursue such a world to the best of our ability to keep the hope alive, so others may desire the same for their lives too. In the meantime, why do we fight to cling to the sword when God desires our hands cling to plowshares?

Coach

Do Not Turn Your Back on Him

Fires of Rebellion
Fires of Rebellion

Do Not Turn Your Back on Him

Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. But both rebels and sinners will be destroyed, and those who abandon the Lord will perish. Indeed, they will be ashamed of the sacred trees you desired, and you will be embarrassed because of the gardens you have chosen. For you will become like an oak whose leaves are withered and like a garden without water. The strong one will become tinder, and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench [the flames]. Isaiah 1:27-31 (HCSB)

God admits, he is a jealous God! He says plainly, you cannot claim to love him and prefer to walk after other gods in your life – money, relationships, power, beliefs, and fleshly desires. God promises he alone is sufficient and will provide, protect and preserve us if we will simply love and obey him.

Who knows us better than our Creator? However, many of us cannot help ourselves; we want it all! We attempt to walk the exemplary Christian life –  attend church, develop a circle of church friends, and engage in various church activities – yet, we also cling onto a life outside our Christian persona. Certainly, God desires for us to be engaged in the real world, but not to experiment and exchange our godly ways for the world’s ways. God urges us to be like “light” and “salt,” drawing others to the life God desires for us. However, many of us cannot help ourselves; we would rather identify with the influence and temptation of the world, but we try to do so on the sly. However, we are told, “God will not be mocked” by such a lifestyle. God says, you are either all in or all out – you cannot have it both ways.

In this passage, Zion represents God’s holy possession which he redeems by justice, and all those who have turned from all other gods in their life to the One true God are declared righteous –  in a right standing with him. However, everyone else is deemed to be a rebel and faces the dire consequence of their disloyalty because they abandoned their covenant commitment to God. When destruction comes, he will not be there to put out the fires that will to destroy their life. Without God we will be like kindling in the fire pit is the image we are given.

Will we stumble from time to time? Yes! We all will find that we have been drawn to temptation along the way, however when you keep God as the focal point of your life, he will be faithful to check your ways and redirect your heart. Those who keep God as their first love will recognize and respond to the check of God’s Holy Spirit. However, those who ignore the check of the Spirit have allowed their selfish desires to remove God out of being the focal point of their life and risk turning totally from God’s presence and protection. God will never give up on you, but he allows you to choose! He just says with a sigh, as you leave to go your way, “Can you put out the fires that will come your way?”

Coach

Whatever is God’s, He Protects and Purifies

05_12_11---In-God-s-Keeping_webWhatever is God’s, He Protects and Purifies

The faithful city – what an adulteress she has become! She was once full of justice. Righteousness once dwelt in her – but now, murderers! Your silver has become dross; your beer is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, friends of thieves. They all love graft and chase after bribes. They do not defend the rights of the fatherless, and the widow’s case never comes before them. Therefore the Lord God of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah, I will gain satisfaction against My foes; I will take revenge against My enemies. I will turn My hand against you and will burn away your dross completely; I will remove all your impurities. I will restore your judges to what they once were, and your advisers to their former state. Afterwards you will be called the Righteous City, a Faithful City.” Isaiah 1:21-26 (HCSB)

What is relevant to us today from this passage? If we claim to be God’s people whether as a family, a church (God’s house), a community business or a Nation under God, God’s covenant should be evident and reve3al that God is serious about taking proper care of what is His. His covenant is straight forward, and He declares that if you love Him, you will obey Him and love whatever and whoever He loves too.

However, if you claim Him as the Lord of your life, but you live for yourself, is your love pleasing to Him?

In churches claiming to be God’s house, are there acts of rebellion that God must deal with? In a Nation who claims to be “Under God,”  claiming His protection, what is that Nation doing to warrant God’s covenant care? We may believe whatever God protects, God purifies for God’s purposes, but do we accept our responsibility in that relationship? Sooner or later, God rejects those who only want the blessings but choose to disobey His covenant conditions and only lift up pretentious offerings and piousness. Whether in the family, the church, a company or a nation, if there is a claim of being God’s people, God is seeking His people to seek his will, his ways, and his wisdom, never our own will, ways or wisdom!

What hope do we have for our families, churches, communities or our country to be deemed as Righteous and Faithful again? How about start with praying for authentic revival that will return hearts to God as the first and foremost love, and then the churches, communities and country will follow. Revival always flows upward in a society blessed by God. Churches, community enterprises nor nations can protect and purify people like God does! Churches, community enterprises and nations are made up of people. God alone can bless the people and call His possession righteous and faithful. Citizenship, company ownership and church membership never saved anyone!

What is your status with God? Do you believe that your offerings are acceptable by God? Do you believe God accepts the sincerity of your acts of mercy? If you were God, would you deem your own heart to be righteous and faithful? Whose will, ways and wisdom do you seek as the guide for your life? Is your heart genuinely God’s, worthy to receive his protection and purification?

Coach

Stop, Listen and Learn

stop-look-listenStop, Listen and Learn

Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. “Come, let us discuss this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 1:16-20 (HCSB)

God’s covenant is clear! From the beginning of His Word, he has stated that when man is left alone to choose the ways to go, he will stumble and fall. Without God revealing the choices of good and evil to man, man will inevitably choose wrongly. That in of itself is the story behind the Garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge when left alone. Prior to that man only knew the presence and protection of God, thus goodness existed. However, once evil (choosing to disobey God’s will) was unveiled, man has chosen to wander through life by his own choices rather than remain in the will, ways and wisdom of God.

Thankfully, God, since the beginning of the history of man, has displayed time and time again, patience and persistence in his effort to restore man to a right relationship with him. Yet, in God’s wisdom he has chosen that the decision of submission be a free will choice by man – a choice made with a clear view on the consequences of that choice to be made.

God continues to call out to each of us, this very day, with the same words he declared long ago: Just STOP doing what you are doing, LISTEN to what I have to say to you, and LEARN your mistakes and know I love you enough to forgive you, IF you will just do what is good.

The reason so many of us do not turn to God is we feel we are too far gone, too full of baggage, and thus feel it is too late  – God will not have anything to do with us. However, God declares plainly that he knows how guilty we are – how bloody our lives have become! Yet, he promises to turn the bloodiness of our lives into the purity of snow and the innocence of lamb’s wool. His forgiveness is absolute! All we have to do is turn our will over to God’s will, give up our old ways and walk in God’s ways, and stop trusting our selfish wisdom and accept God’s wisdom. And, to counsel us, God has given us his Spirit and his Word.

From this passage in Isaiah, written several hundred years before the time of Christ, we can see the God’s wisdom by the message and life of Jesus. God chose Jesus, his Messiah (Christ), to walk among us sharing the message of reconciliation. Yet, in the life example of Jesus, God declares for all eternity, “The only sacrifice I desire lies within your heart.” The message found in the message of Jesus said, “Just love God as God has loved you and realize all is forgiven and made right between God and you.” Just stop, listen and learn that God loves you and asks that you love him enough to return to him in your daily walk, he will do the rest.”

Did you know that God loved you that much? How have you demonstrated your love for him lately?

Coach

Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

WRONG-WORSHIP

Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you [this] trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. I despise [your] incense. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with [them]. When you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” Isaiah 1:10-15 (HCSB)

God will not be mocked! God seeks fidelity and sincerity in our worship and in all our relationships.

If we say we love and cherish someone, then our actions should testify to it. However, history has proven repeatedly that we (mankind) have tried to go through the motions to gain the benefits of a relationship without really committing to or investing in the relationship.

Why worship God if you are only committing or investing in your own needs? If you were God, how would you feel when it is clear our hearts and minds were focused solely upon being seen or heard. In our own family relationships, how would you feel if you expressed a sincere “I love you” to your son or daughter and in return all you got back was a contrived and almost rehearsed, “Yeah, I love you too! Can I have the car keys?”

Our lives can reveal a glorious, passionate relationship with God and others, or it can reveal a very lonely, self-centered, orchestrated and artificial existence. God provides us with many stories of the desolation that comes to lives pretending to be one of God’s chosen ones. They are the sad examples of those who gladly desire the benefits of God’s covenant protection and provision, but are more focused on the benefits rather than the relationship with God. They feel entitled to the benefits without investing in the relationship. If you were God how would you feel in such a relationship? Would you grow weary of such a one-sided arrangement?

God created us to be in relationships. Loners do not survive in this world without causing controversy, chaos or conflict. However, we are selfish by nature. However, God knows how we were created and shares His love unconditionally to demonstrate how to love others, as He loves us — but God also declares, genuine love only comes from making a choice. Love does not come naturally, but is necessary for our well-being. However, love cannot be contrived or rehearsed. It must come from within and not merely be an outward action to elicit a self-serving response.

Is your love relationship with God sincere or are you going through the motions? If you are sincere, you understand what God’s ways, God’s will, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word is all about in your life. Worshiping God is not to be an outward action but an outpouring of love that comes from within our hearts, minds and souls.

Coach

Freedom of Choice vs. Common Good, Who Cares?

Locke_SocialContract

Freedom of Choice vs. Common Good, Who Cares?

Listen, heavens, and pay attention, earth, for the Lord has spoken: “I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s feeding trough, [but] Israel does not know; My people do not understand.— Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the Lord; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs [on Him]. Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep on rebelling? The whole head is hurt, and the whole heart is sick. From the sole of the foot even to the head, no spot is uninjured – wounds, welts, and festering sores not cleansed, bandaged, or soothed with oil. Isaiah 1:2-6 (HCSB)

Why is it we try to go our own way in life and are willing to be continually beaten up by our wrong choices? Why do we say, Lord I love you and believe your Word to be truth, BUT I want to try my way for awhile? Why is it we want a Savior but will not heed His message of repentance, which simply means “quit doing what you are doing and turn to my ways”?

Mankind through all the centuries has been consistent in one thing: rebellion. We are somehow drawn to the conflict that arises from our desire to do things our way. We are willing to fight and wreak havoc on one another just to prove our ways are right, rather than seek the right ways. The great philosophers of the Enlightenment period in Europe, to whom America’s Founding Fathers were very familiar, believed that every person is entitled to certain natural rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of property (or, as Thomas Jefferson modified it, pursuit of happiness). That being said, if everyone was entitled to such freedoms, no one would be free from conflict. There actually would be constant conflict among mankind, because everyone would be pursuing their own common interests without agreed restraints that govern men fighting for their fair share of those common interests.

The great social philosophers came to the conclusion, in the “natural state of man chaos and conflict would naturally govern the affairs of men.” Therefore, the social contract theory declared, for mankind to survive, compromise, collaboration and cooperation for the common good be necessary and require the surrender of unrestrained natural rights, allowing an agreed authority to exist that serves man by preventing chaos and conflict over common interests. Thus, the underlying principal of the Social Contract Theory was that only the only true common interest for all of mankind was the Common Good.

Our Constitution was founded upon these ideals. However, such enlightenment did not come from man’s uniquely contrived wisdom, but from the covenant relationship between man and God. The “Social Contract Theory” sprouted from man’s understanding that God’s covenant was a “constitution” with mankind. It offered clear boundaries upon man in respect to the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of property (or ultimate happiness). However, our innate desire for our own natural rights seems to get in the way, and we embrace conflict because of our insatiable thirst and hunger for power, position, property and the prestige they afford anyone in society.

The great challenge in the history of mankind has been our surrender to God, our creator and ultimate authority. God alone knows what our best interests are. God alone knows how life, liberty and pursuit of property (happiness) is possible only through the common good, where the interests of others are as important and valued as our own interests.

Living in the right relationship with God is a gift not to be taken for granted. In that relationship God offers each of us the liberty (freedom) or right to choose what we deem right for us, but God also spells out the consequences for our choices (blessings or curses in the covenant). However, God clearly states, there is nothing we can claim to be ours that is not derived from God. He never gives up its ownership, merely gives us stewardship in this life so we can learn to make right choices. 

God established “Government” to exist so that rebellion should not dominate our lives and right relationships would establish the “common good and good will” for all men.

Coach

How is Your Future Anchored?

cornerstoneIs Your Future Anchored by a Cornerstone or a Millstone?

Then the word of the Lord came to them: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there,” so they go stumbling backwards, to be broken, trapped, and captured. Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you mockers who rule this people in Jerusalem. For you said, “We have cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.”

Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.”

Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be trampled. Every time it passes through, it will carry you away; it will pass through every morning – every day and every night. Only terror will cause you to understand the message. Isaiah 28:13-19 (HCSB)

millstoneIn our lives there may come a period where we desire to believe we have all the answers and will seek alliances and deals that serve our specific interests and desires. When dreams become our passion we will even make deals that will have dire consequences upon our life, but we run ahead anyway because we are satisfying our immediate desires (lusts). We blindly choose to leave the future in the future.

Many of us will mortgage away our souls for a temporal opportunity to please our self. This may be buying the car we cannot afford, a house that is beyond our budget’s capability, blindly believing we are not causing a strain on our financial future. We borrow from our future security to take that awesome vacation that we always wanted to take, but could never afford. To please our inner self, we are willing to mortgage all we have to please the momentary lust that gnaws within us, just so we can pretend to be what we are not!

Churches run the same risk for the sake of pride. They place a heavy burden on the backs of its members clinging to the notion, “if you build it bigger and nicer more people will graciously come, share the burden for the privilege to fill the vacant seats.” The church justifies its decision by claiming, “Let’s put our faith in God by mortgaging the church’s future ability to do the ministry work by investing in a bigger sanctuary or fellowship hall.” They then call on the church to earnestly pray for the Lord to bless their decision to grow their church – they call such a decision an “obedient leap of faith.”

However, what occurs? Debt becomes their millstone. The church’s budget is forced to reduce the real ministry work of the church (acts of mercy, kindness and generosity). The debt requires the church leadership to constantly badger the members for more faithful giving to pay for a debt they initiated. Sooner or later, dissension and divisiveness festers within the church body, and rather than filling seats, seats are being vacated.

Why do we choose to twist things to suit our vision and then pray for the Lord’s blessing of that vision?  Are we so used to the “millstone” we have forgotten the promise of the “cornerstone”? One supports, the other crushes! Which of the two anchors your future?

Coach

 

Woe Those Who Challenge the Potter

jars-of-clayWoe Those Who Challenge the Potter

Stop and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with beer. For the Lord has poured out on you an overwhelming urge to sleep; He has shut your eyes – the prophets, and covered your heads – the seers. For you the entire vision will be like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to one who can read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read it, because it is sealed.” And if the document is given to one who cannot read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read.” The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service – yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship [consists of] man-made rules learned [by rote] –therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden. Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. [They do] their works in darkness, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”

You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand [what he’s doing]”?

Isn’t [it true that] in just a little while Lebanon will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest? On that day the deaf will hear the words of a document, and out of a deep darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The humble will have joy after joy in the Lord, and the poor people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:9-19 (HCSB)

Today there are so many issues about “religion”! What form of religion is the right religion? What religion is the source of truth to a world desiring to know the truth? Is there a religion that anyone can rely upon as the right way to understand this world and the Creator of the world? Well. Let’s consider first of all what religion is: Religion consists of man-made ideas, rules, laws, traditions and teachings about life and the world we live in and what lies beyond. Religion is like the analogy in the passage above – the clay is telling the potter what shape the potter is to make the clay.

God never desired His people to enter into a religion. God does not require pomp and circumstance to worship Him. God is not pleased by processions and possessions that are designated in religious ceremonies. The preparation the Lord calls for is the people’s hearts, minds and souls. The Lord is not the creator of religion and thus is not interested in the argument of what religion is the right religion. The Lord offers a relationship and only those in relationship with the Lord have the blessing of His revelation of what is truth. Even the ecclesia of the New Testament that Jesus spoke about is improperly named a church, which we today define as an organization, a structure made of men, by men, for the members. Today when we speak of a church we envision everything but what Jesus intended by the term ecclesia, which means “called out”. In essence, the “called out” are those who recognize and have placed their faith in the Lord and the relationship that He has intended for man. The church was never intended to be constructed with walls that separate His people from the world. The church was never intended to be an organization of men who establish rules, laws, teachings, and traditions that define what they are comfortable with. Man was never intended to define what worship is all about. If worship is directed to God, then it is God who must instruct man in how to please Him in worship, and that is plainly stated in His Word.

According to this passage, preachers and teachers who instruct according to ways of the church are at risk of man-made truths to please the people, but fall well-short of pleasing God, because the church organization has often failed to be the source of God’s will, God’s ways, God’s wisdom according to God’s Word.

Warning: God’s Word, God’s Truth is not like Wikipedia where everyone can add their own definition and understanding of the truth about various words. When that happens in the church where religion is the emphasis, the blind are instructing the blind, and the truths taught are deigned to please men, not God. The Word of God is not intended to please men, but to change the hearts, souls and minds of men.

Coach

 

“On That Day” is too late!

man-praying“On That Day” is too late!

An oracle against Damascus: Look, Damascus is no longer a city. It has become a ruined heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they will be [places] for flocks. They will lie down without fear. The fortress disappears from Ephraim, and a kingdom from Damascus. The remnant of Aram will be like the splendor of the Israelites. [This is] the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. On that day the splendor of Jacob will fade, and his healthy body will become emaciated. It will be as if a reaper had gathered standing grain – his arm harvesting the heads of grain – and as if one had gleaned heads of grain in the valley of Rephaim. Only gleanings will be left in Israel, as if an olive tree had been beaten – two or three berries at the very top of the tree, four or five on its fruitful branches. [This is] the declaration of the Lord, the God of Israel. On that day people will look to their Maker and will turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars they made with their hands or to the Asherahs and incense altars they made with their fingers. On that day their strong cities will be like the abandoned woods and mountaintops that were abandoned because of the Israelites; there will be desolation. For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and you have failed to remember the rock of your strength; therefore you will plant beautiful plants and set out cuttings from exotic vines. On the day that you plant you will help them to grow, and in the morning you will help your seed to sprout, [but] the harvest will vanish on the day of disease and incurable pain. Isaiah 17:1-11 (HCSB)

During this period of Israel’s history, Isaiah prophesied the Lord’s warning about the deception and conspiracy of Israel (Samaria) with Aram (Damascus). Like many of us today, they hoped that they could continue to walk in their polytheistic, syncretistic ways and lived in ways that best seemed right to them. As allies, Samaria and Damascus hoped to thwart the onslaught that the Lord arranged, ergo the Assyrians from Nineveh. However, once the onslaught began, the outcome was clear – the people of Israel abandoned their worthless idols and self-made gods and they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. However, the Lord’s judgment remained steadfast! God knew the intent of their hearts. They were not repentant souls seeking to return with contrite hearts to God’s covenant promises. They were people who realized too late that their contrived gods, convenient allegiances and concocted schemes were powerless to save them. They sought the Lord’s protection for their own personal interests. They expressed no genuine love for God, just their love of self. Thus, in summary, the Lord declared, You believed you could be fruitful without me, but now you have realized the folly of your foolishness. 

When “On that Day” arrives, may we all believe a life altering truth: The Lord knows our motives and responds to sincere, contrite hearts, not lip-service from selfish, self-serving hearts!

How many of us only seek God in the tough times, when there is some great or urgent need? How many have erected idols and worshiped their own will, ways, and wisdom. How many have filtered God’s will, ways, or wisdom according to their own wishes, whims and foolish folly?

When life is stacked against you and there is a genuine threat to your life or security, and as a last ditch effort do you fervently cry out to the Lord? Why should the Lord honor your last minute request? Do you think God’s love, grace and mercy are that flexible and forgiving? Consider the words that the Lord said to Solomon:

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice. If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times. 2 Chron 7:12-16 (HCSB)

Sincerity, humility and fidelity of one’s heart, soul and mind are what the Lord seeks from His people. The Lord does desire to forgive and to respond to all our prayers, but the answers may not always be the yes you desire when you come to Him with a “give me” attitude.

“On that day” is too late. Today is the day to consider your relationship with the Lord, for there is no promise for tomorrow. 

Coach

The Created Cannot Be the Creator

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867.
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867.

The Created Cannot Be the Creator

For a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts is [coming] against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up – it will be humbled— against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up, against all the oaks of Bashan, against all the high mountains, against all the lofty hills, against every high tower, against every fortified wall, against every ship of Tarshish, and against every splendid sea vessel. So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness of men will be humbled;  the Lord alone will be exalted on that day. The idols will vanish completely. People will go into caves in the rocks and holes in the ground, away from the terror of the Lord and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth. On that day people will throw their silver and gold idols, which they made to worship, to the moles and the bats. They will go into the caves of the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs, away from the terror of the Lord and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth. Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth? Isaiah 2:12-22 (HCSB)

It is one thing to feel good about your life and the accomplishments that you have been blessed to enjoy, but beware when you seek to stand upon those accomplishments and boldly proclaim they are your accomplishments, the result of your efforts and authority. Pride is a cancer within our heart, soul and mind that causes all of us to see and hear with the filter of self. When Pride rules within us, anything we hear, see or sense that does not honor our self is considered a threat to our Pride and we will find a way to deny, discard or destroy it.

In a prideful heart there is no room for anyone but the owner of the heart.

Sadly, man’s pride creates a false sense of superiority, just as the images Isaiah depicted in the passage. The lofty cedars of Lebanon and strong oaks of Bashan were used to build the great Temple, the fortified gates and walls with their high towers protecting the formidable city of Jerusalem. The mighty sailing ships were symbols of power and prestige when Jerusalem proudly profited from their goods as the center of trade, power and wealth. However, whatever is created by the pride of man, cannot stand unsullied. Eventually another kingdom of man will rise to tear down what other kingdoms of man have built. Nothing that man creates lasts forever and thus not worthy of the same praise and adoration that God, the Creator deserves. There is but one God, One Creator, no matter what the pride of men proclaim.

Consider the scientist who claimed to create things just like God, and he was able to do great things in the eyes of his fellow man. His pride stirred his heart to send out a challenge to God, “I can create just like you God.” God simply replied to the scientist, “So you can create like me?” The scientist proudly puffed his chest and declared. “Yes!” God then responded with a smile, “Okay son, show me how you can create like me?” The scientist scurried and gathered the materials he needed to create, but the Lord said, “Stop! I thought you said you could create like me?” The scientist said, “Well, yes!” Then God laughed and replied, “Then, go create your own dirt, dust and clay!” Then God lovingly said, “How easy it is to forget, in the beginning I created all of this from nothing. That is why I am who I am, God. The created can never be the Creator.”

Centuries after Isaiah wrote his dire warnings to Jerusalem, Jesus echoed the same warnings to the leadership in Jerusalem, but suffered under their arrogant defiance, but the result was the same. What about us? Can we defy God and deify our accomplishments, because of our arrogant pride? Who are we to worship our creations and ignore the Creator?

Coach