Archive for April, 2011

Exploiting God


            So they came to Jerusalem.  Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.  Then he taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have turned it in to a ‘den of thieves.’”

            And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy him; for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11: 15-18.)


            The priests and religious leaders were earning money from the sale of sacrificial animals within the temple.  They were also earning money from ‘short changing’ ignorant pilgrims who needed to exchange their Roman or Greek coins for non-pagan shekels (tithes of pagan coins were not accepted within the temple treasury.)  Those professing the highest degree of Godliness had been using God for selfish gain; those who prided themselves on ritualistic purity had defiled and perverted the purity of God’s Holy Dwelling Place.  Upon seeing this disgraceful sight, Jesus became angry; he flipped over the money changing tables, and used a whip to aggressively chase out those who were selling animals in God’s house.  No one arrested him; no one rebuked him; no one demanded an explanation; the crowds instantly recognized that what he had done was right.  He had put an end to wicked men using God for their own financial gain.  [Note:  This incident occurred several days before the Passover celebration.  The Israelites were strictly forbidden to have even a single speck of Chametz (fungus or mold) within their homes during the feast.  As part of the preparation for this annual festival, every Jewish home had to be swept out and thoroughly cleansed.  Jesus, being God’s son, chose to fulfill this command by sweeping the dirt out of his Father’s house (the temple.)]

            The religious leaders had mingled together the things of God and the things of man. Jesus’ whip sliced ‘in-two’ what should have never been ‘one’ to begin with.  His anger set right the divine order of things.  On one occasion in my own life, I felt the sting of God’s whip when I attempted to combine his goodness with my gain.  Many years ago I worked for a company that imported raw materials for kitchen and bathroom countertops. I handled numerous accounts, but was always on the lookout for any potentially new customers.  In my search I came across a large local company named, ‘Reborn Cabinets.’  (Cabinet makers always needed granite to complete their projects, and my company was a granite supplier.)  This cabinet company was started by a ‘reborn Christian;’ I myself had recently been ‘reborn,’ and I was anxious to work with a Christian company.  After many attempts to set up a meeting with their company had failed, I made one final attempt to reach them.  One day, I left a message with their manager expressing my desire to work with them; I finished the message with a ‘God bless you.’  I had hoped that they would hear the message and realize I was a Christian and give me a chance.  Immediately after hanging up the phone, I felt this pain in my stomach and an overwhelming feeling of remorse within my heart.  I had angered God, and grieved His Holy Spirit by attempting to use Him for my own worldly advancement.  After the feeling began to affect my workday, I made my way to the bathroom to pray; filled with remorse, I promptly begged God for His forgiveness.

            Today, there are a lot of people who need to drop to their knees and beg God for His forgiveness.  Too many people have sullied the name of the Almighty God in order to attain their own personal comforts.  Many ‘Christian businessmen,’ more dedicated to a dollar than to keeping God Holy, plague the body of Christ, using the name of God to secure customers.  Similarly, many people use God to increase their standing in the community.  Many use God to make themselves more attractive to a potential husband or wife.  Some use God to ‘pride-fully’ compare themselves favorably to others.  There are an endless number of possible exploitations of God’s name, but each and every one of them kindles His anger.  Of all the sins in the bible, using God for worldly prosperity arouses the greatest amount of divine fury; as such, we must continually, and fearfully, examine our hearts to make sure that we are not guilty of such sins.  If we discover any uncleanness in our hearts, we must beg God for His forgiveness, and ask Him to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You reveal and convict our hearts of any instances where we have misused Your name for our own personal gain.  We desperately desire to be free from these grievous sins; give us the power to change what we have been doing, and sweep out any dirtiness within our hearts.  Make us clean, and fresh, and new Lord.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.       

The Untouchables


            And it happened when he was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then he put out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  Immediately the leprosy left him.  And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded you” (Luke 5: 12-14.)


             Leprosy was a socially devastating disease; it rotted fingers, toes, eyes, ears and noses;  it maimed, disfigured, and hobbled it’s victims without killing them.  Lepers were feared and hated, not only for their hideous appearance, but because Leprosy was highly contagious.  Immediately upon contracting the disease, the victim was ostracized; they were no longer able to interact with family members and friends; no more shared meals; no more hugs; no more kisses; no more handshakes.  They were doomed to live in isolation outside of the towns and cities.  If they needed to travel near people, they were required to yell, “Unclean, Unclean,” so that people could avoid close contact with them (In some cultures they were required to wear bells to warn other people of their leprosy.)  A leprous man who had suffered the pains of being an outcast came to Jesus in desperation.  With a single touch, he was freed from his sickness.  Jesus immediately recognized the man’s desire to return to his family, so he commanded him to go to the priests for examination [In Jewish culture, the priests diagnosed social diseases.  When a person claimed that they were healed, they were required to go before the priests for examination.  If they were truly clean they would be allowed back in to the population; they would be able to return to their family and friends.]  God is not some cold and distant God.  He is a compassionate God.  He is concerned with our personal relationships.  He seeks to heal the sick.  He desires to reunite the outcasts with those they know and love.

             For the last two months while studying in the coffee shop, a man who appears to be no stranger to prison, has been sitting down right next me.  He plugs his phone charger in to the outlet I use.  He watches everyone very closely (a habit picked up in prison no doubt.)  One day, his pant leg was rolled up too high, and for an instant I caught sight of a tether fastened around his ankle (I wasn’t the only one keeping an eye on him.)  He elicits a feeling of uneasiness within me.  I feel like he is waiting for me to use the restroom so he can swipe something.  I’ve moved spots a couple of times and I’ve tried to avoid talking to him.  While I pondered what this scripture meant, he came in the door and sat down right next to me.  God spoke to my heart, and I realized that I was treating him like a leper; I was behaving as if he had some disease; the Spirit of God directed me to speak to him.  I introduced myself, and we talked for a bit about his situation; he had only been out of prison for two months, and no one wanted to rent him a room because of his criminal background; he has been living in his mother’s car, and can’t get work until he finds a place to live.  I was moved to share the love of Christ with him, and I invited him to attend a bible study in my home.  He seemed interested.  I told him his past did not matter to me, or to God.  In the eyes of the world, he was as leprous as the man Jesus healed, but with God he could be clean.  The Lord used me to reach out and touch a sick and hurting soul.  I was able to show him that there is a God who truly loves him.

             In this world, all around us, there are people who are treated like lepers:  drug addicts; criminals; the mentally ill; gang members; and the homeless (to name a few.)  The world has turned its back on many people, but God hasn’t; the outcasts of the world are His children too.  When you see someone no one else wants to talk too, bring them God’s message.  When you see those who are unloved, show them that God loves them.  Talk to the outcasts; eat with them; help them; care for them.  Don’t be afraid, but rejoice, knowing that God has chosen to use you to touch the lives of those He loves.

             “Lord heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would give us Your heart of compassion.  Use us to touch those who are untouchable.  Remove our fears and replace them with love.  Bring us opportunities to include and care for those who have been ostracized.  Give us more of Your Holy Spirit, that we can help to make the unclean, clean again.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Eternal Consequences


            Then one said to him, “Lord are there few who are saved?”  And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and he will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’  But he will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from.  Depart from me all you workers of iniquity’” (Luke 13: 23-27.)           


            In the ancient world, cities were surrounded by enormous fortified walls.  The city gate was usually a solitary entrance that was open during the day, and closed in the evening.  During the day everything that entered the city was inspected, including the people.  They were asked questions such as, “Why are you entering the city?” or “Do you know someone who lives here?”  These questions were designed to keep dangerous people out.  Within the city, individual homes also had single entrances which were open during the day and closed in the evening […] Hospitality was highly esteemed in Middle Eastern culture.  When people saw strangers in the public square during the day, they would question them politely in an effort to get to know them, before offering them a place to stay for the evening.  They asked questions like, “What is your name?  Where were you born?” and “what city are you from?”  When evening arrived, the master of the house would shut and lock the door.  Jesus used this cultural custom in illustrating a parable […] some foreigners tried to enter a man’s house at night, without having gone through the customary process of getting to know the owner first.  The homeowner replied, “I do not know you, where you are from.”  The owner in this parable represents God; the home is representative of heaven; the daytime represents life, and the night represents death.  The foreigners represent those who will not be allowed to enter heaven.  What does it all mean?  Those who build an intimate relationship with God in this life, will be able to enter His Kingdom.  Those who have refused to build a relationship with God in this life will be denied access to God’s kingdom when they die (there are no more opportunities after death.)  No matter how many times they knock on God’s door, they will spend an eternity in outer darkness.  God Himself will say to them, “Depart from me all you workers of iniquity […] I do not know you.” 

            Today, computers play a crucial role in our everyday lives.  There are many people who desire to do evil things to your computer; they desire to spy on you, and to steal your personal information.  There are many digital walls that keep evil people out.  So they look for ways to be invited in […] Email is a great way to communicate with others, but it can also be a very dangerous way to communicate; some messages can be used as a doorway to enter your system.  I get emails all the time with headings that say, “It’s Jen (who doesn’t know at least one Jen.)”  Or “Hi, I haven’t talked to you in while.”  The messages are designed to make me believe an old friend is knocking at my digital door.  But, one click can open the gateway for evil; a virus can crash my system, or a crook can access my financial records.  To avoid this danger, I have learned to investigate the source of the message before opening it.  If they don’t check out, then they don’t check in.

            In much the same way, God doesn’t open His door for just anyone.  He only opens his door for those He knows intimately.  This life is our time to establish a relationship with God, and that relationship will determine where we spend eternity.  If you have not taken the time to build a relationship with Him now, in the future you will find yourself locked out; and no matter how many times you knock, the door will never open.  Many who have died are probably already knocking; the only thing they have to look forward too is an eternity of looking back with regret, on the very short life they wasted serving themselves instead of seeking God.  If you are reading this message, you still have a choice; make God the center of your life.  Talk to Him; read His word; love others; spread the message; submit yourself to following Him, and when you arrive at His gate, it will open for you, and with Joy, God will welcome you in to His eternal kingdom.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately seek to know You, and to draw closer to You.  Draw near to us, and help us to serve You with joyful hearts.  Help us to overcome the lusts of our flesh, that we might do Your will in this place.  Father, we ask that You remove any obstacles that are causing us to miss the narrow path.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.”  Amen

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