Ladies, don’t be ashamed.

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Kids, you may not want to read this. You guys comment on there being too much information and too much public displays of affection….in our own home! Given the topic and where I’m going with this I really think you will wish you hadn’t read it.

In our society we have allowed the media and the entertainment industry tell us what a woman should look like. They portray anything from a size 0 to a 6 with long legs, perfect hair and breasts and with just the right amount of makeup as the picture of beauty. It’s so rare to see a lady with a mom bod as an anchor, on the cover of a men’s magazine or starring in a major motion picture that I can’t think of one.

When it comes to sex the same industries portray sex in marriage as boring and nonexistent unless a spouse is having an affair. The picture portrayed is of fit couples having active & fulfilling sex lives in one night stands or in a relationship outside of marriage.

What the world (for a lack of a better term) or the enemy has done is take what Yahweh (God) designed and perverted it, just like with music and worship. This perversion has created insecurities in many women. This insecurity has invaded the marriage relationship and hampered sexual intimacy. The insecurity comes in how you look, how you think he thinks you look and are you enough after watching that movie. What has not helped is churches that only refer to sex as bad until marriage then become completely silent on it. They neglect to talk about the importance to both spouses or the role Yahweh created for sex, intimacy and seducing one another.

One of the biggest hangups is your bodies. Ladies, you have nothing to be ashamed of! What is portrayed as ideal is fake, airbrushed, surgically enhanced with long-term medical issues. There is no shame in your mom bod or some of the wrinkles and stretch marks that come with time. I can also tell you that the vast majority of you, your husbands don’t mind at all. The few of you who married insecure, selfish boys who are hung up on it…I’m sorry. None of us look like we did 20, 30, 40 years ago and if you doubt your husband finds you desirable, ask him. Embrace the body God gave for it is good.

My wife and I met over 20 years ago while she was training horses and I was a Marine. November 1st we will have been married 21 years. We are both built a little different from what we were then and I have no problem with her body. I didn’t when she was smaller than a 6 or larger than a 18. The story it tells of our life is as much a part of the attraction as the appearance. What I see, and most of your husbands (ask them), is a woman who has walked with me through ups and downs of life. Through fears, sadness, triumphs, good and bad.

What  about the stretch marks? What about them? They are from carrying two children, our children. They are from the ups and downs of illnesses and medication. They are from periods of depression where food seemed the only cure. They are from weight loss from a determined, disciplined spirit. There are a few curves that weren’t there a few years ago, no problem – they tell the same story. To be honest I also have a little weight where it didn’t use to be. The thing is it all adds to the overall beauty and attractiveness of a woman.

Ladies you can stop always trying to keep yourself covered or hidden in the dark from your husband. I promise he will approve of seeing more of you. Don’t be ashamed to show him a little more skin or to dress provocative or sexy for him. He probably hasn’t seen that side of you in a very long time and will very much welcome it. Men were created very image, sight, oriented. The site of you will provoke memories of sights, smells, taste and feeling from physical touch. Never underestimate the power of that.

As I said before, Yahweh designed us to have a healthy and satisfying sex life with our spouse. It is good to flirt with your husband and even tease him during the day with a promise of what’s to come when the kids go to bed early (On that topic, your kids will not die of neglect if you put them to bed at 9. I bet all of your kids have some form of entertainment in their rooms. You need to make that time for you and your spouse before it’s 11 and you guys can barely stay awake.)

If you doubt that it’s really good and not a bit dirty read the Song Of Solomon. It’s in the Old Testament right after Ecclesiastes. It’s a short book that is full of all sorts of imagery such as:

” Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is better than wine ”

” The king has brought me into his bedchambers (his bedroom) ”

” A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that  lies all night between my breasts ”

” Behold, you are fair my love ”

” I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste ”

” His left hand is under my head, his right hand embraces me ”

” For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely ”

These are just excerpts from chapter 1. Consider the following:

” The curve of your thighs are like jewels ”

” Your two breasts are like fawns ”

” The stature of yours is like a palm tree, and your breasts like it’s clusters. I said I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches. Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples and the roof of your mouth like the best wine ”

These are just a few excerpts from chapter 7. There is still one more chapter in the book. What is very obvious is they not only take great pleasure in each other, but also in telling each other. The more you tell your spouse the more anticipation you will build. This is a great example of how we are to be with our spouse.

There are other verses that highlight  Yahweh’s desire for us in this regard. In Genesis 2:25 it says they were naked and not ashamed. Proverbs 18:22 says he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 5:18-19 says let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times and always be entrapped with her love. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 says “…let husbands render to the wife the affection due her and like wise the wife to the husband …. the wife does not have authority over her body, the husband does and the husband does not have authority over his body, the wife does …. do not deprive one another …. come together again so that Satan does not tempt you. ”

The picture is clear ladies, you are a blessing. Not something to be embarrassed and hidden in shame. We were designed to enjoy each other, not neglect even unintentionally. You were created in His image (Genesis 9:6). He is the King of kings making you royalty, a member of His royal priesthood (Hebrews 7) through adoption (Galatians 4:5-7). So don’t be ashamed, be bold and seduce him like you used to. I promise it will get his attention, it will wake something inside of him and revolutionize your relationship.

There is a burden on him that I will address soon in a later blog. Keep in mind we live in a time when everything is telling the man he is not needed, stupid, bad for society, be seen but not heard, sit down and shut up and when you are wanted we will tell you. For their entire lives they have been told to stop and behave anytime a hint of masculinity rears its head. Their apparent lack of interest or initiation is not from a lack of interest. It comes from a lack of interest in being smacked down one more time. One more time of being rebuked, rebuffed, scolded and denied. They have retreated inwards and you need to draw them out and give them permission to pursue you.

As for me, after more than 21 years with her – I am more than happy to take a hold of the branches of that palm tree and enjoy the clusters. I am more than happy to get my hands on those jewels every chance I get and she knows it. She knows I still desire her only. It is good and the age of the tree matters not and does not deter me. It’s the history, familiarity and shared life with her that makes it so much more and unable to lose interest. I bet your husbands feel the same – try him.

Andy

An effective and simple Bible study

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Every time I see or hear the phrase “Bible study” I get leery. A few reasons with one being it’s a money-making scheme by way too many people claiming to have special insight into scripture, but really it’s about getting their brand out there. The second is they are telling you what you are supposed to get out of each chapter and verse. What if that is not what the Holy Spirit wants you to get? The third is, what if they are wrong? What if they are so wrapped up in religion or prosperity that they are way off the mark? The fourth is all a bible study (some call it a devotional) does is put everyone using it on the same page. Small groups love using a book or study as a way to keep the group on the same page. This is nothing more than conformity and we are seeing the cultural ramifications of conformity being forced. It’s also easier than truly discipling.

Rest assured, this is not to get you to buy, let alone suggest you buy someone else’s devotional or Bible study. Doing your own studying with prayer is much better. There is nothing wrong with adding trusted commentary or such to your own study as an aid, but not to usurp prayer. What this is about is an easy and simple way to study on your own which is hermeneutics, the art and science of studying the Bible. Every time I hear that word I think of a class I took where we had to read and study a book titled ” Living by the book: The art and science of reading the Bible ” by Howard G Hendricks. It’s a good book if you want more or a more in-depth & complex options to study scripture. To be honest he had techniques that I still don’t understand.

A tip about studying the Bible, it should not replace your routine or semi-routine devotional time. It should be “in addition to” like the offering is “in addition to” the tithe. If you get to caught up in the study and neglect the devotion you can find yourself not seeing what the Lord wants to tell you personally. This is a trap that many pastors find themselves in and burn out spiritually as a result.

Now I want to direct you to an article that my cousin posted to Facebook by accident from the website The Sower. The article is titled ” The calling of the disciples ” by John W. Schoenheit. In it he explains why the disciples of Jesus were so willing to abandon what they were doing and follow Him when he called them. It also shows a flaw in how we read scripture.

We read the Bible in chapter and verse format. A format that it was not penned in. Originally the Bible was penned in a letter format with thoughts easily traced from one paragraph to another. The chapter and verse concept did not come around until the 1560 Geneva Bible. The Puritans did this to aid in reference and memorization. They did not intend for us to use the verse concept to break up thought and build false doctrine.

We go on to read it one book at a time with each book being its own account. We don’t read it as each book being a chapter in a larger story with the same theme throughout the whole book. So when we read the gospel account of Mathew, then we read Luke’s account we are reading it as two separate and fragmented stories. Instead we should be reading them as the same story from different perspectives so we can piece the pieces together.

The article I mentioned explains to us why the disciples were so willing to walk away from their jobs and businesses to follow Jesus. To get that understanding you have to pull key information about each person from the four gospels. So to know why Andrew was so willing you would find all the verses pertaining to Andrew and read them together and you will find that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and would have known who Jesus was. Do the same with John, Simon, Mathew and the rest. You will get a picture that makes sense.

This applies to any other topic you want to study from healing to prayer to faith, fasting, tithing, etc. List all the verses pertaining to the topic and read them as one thought. When doing this you can not only use the verse that has the word you are studying in it. The entire thought will be laid out in the surrounding verses.

Take the oft quoted James 4:7 “resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Every time that is quoted you are only getting the “B” clause. The “A” clause of the verse is “So humble yourselves before God”. The true meaning of James 4:7 becomes “So humble yourselves before God, resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Not surprisingly you don’t hear much about the “A” clause of that verse because it puts the burden of action on you. Now to get the true context you have to go back to verse 6 to see why you should humble yourself before God. There you will find “And He gives generously as the scripture says; God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. To close the context you need to go on to verse 8 which says “Come close to God and God will come close to you.” Now you have the entire thought which tells us that we must humble ourselves to God which will draw us near to Him and Him near to us as a response. This action will cause the devil to flee because he can not be in the same proximity as the holy God. Truth be told, to get the entire context you need to go back to chapter 3 to get the “rest of the story”, but for this exercise this will do.

Without the proper context we have people and pastors running around saying “resist the devil and he will flee from you” without telling you the rest. They, and you, in-turn wonder why the devil is still pummeling you. You think, “I’m resisting but he won’t leave me alone!” He won’t leave you alone until you draw near to God. Context is key!

The next time you are in church, or watching your favorite on T.V., use this technique to further your knowledge of what they were talking about and to see if they are using scripture correctly. If they are not you need to quickly get away from them.

Andy

Worshiping the god of safety

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Safety is something that most sane or rational people value. Some value it more than others. Often mothers and wives place a much higher value on safety and security than their husbands, sons and fathers. As a people we tend to place an emphasis on the safety of the nation, our schools and society over other things to include common sense. This sense of needing safety and security has invaded business decisions, elections, financial decisions and our churches to the point that it looks like we worship safety as a god instead of worshiping Yahweh and His son Jesus.

So now that some of you have already become defensive let me explain why I say this and what the Bible says about our safety and security. First and foremost Jesus (and the apostles who wrote what Jesus said as He said, In the beginning the word existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.) told us not to be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they can not touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell ( Mat. 10:27 ). We are also told that if you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you give up your life for My sake you will save it (Luke 9:24). Here are two verses out of several that clearly tell us to not fear man, but fear God and give up your life. Now giving up your life does not always mean to literally die, but to give up what you want to advance and bring glory to Him. Sometimes in some areas that will mean death. The point is this, trying to hold on to what you want gains you nothing.

All the apostles (disciples) were martyred through gruesome means except John. They tried to boil him alive, but the oil boiled and he was not harmed. Since the days of the original twelve, countless other believers have believed so strongly in the gospel message that they volunteered to spread the good news in places they knew could, and most likely would, result in their death. Some who actively spread the gospel suffered hardship, but not killed by mans hand. They also “gave up their life” in order to share the truth.

I think of Heidi Baker and her husband who gave up their comfortable & financially prosperous life in America for a life of service to the orphans in Africa. I think of K.P. Yohannan’s wife who was raised in a very wealthy family in Germany and refused the future of that as a teenager because she knew she was to be a missionary and spread the good news. I think of Jim Elliot who knew death was a distinct possibility and went anyway. In spite of his death his son and wife continued to evangelize the people who killed him. I think to the times when my wife, children and myself were the most alive and happy. Those times were times when we were spreading the gospel in areas that were not very receptive to our “kind”…at first. There are others who gave up everything that marks one as succesful in our society to spread the gospel and obey the command of Jesus to “GO!”

To be honest, nowhere in the Bible does it say to seek safety and security. Not one passage! The opposite is true starting with Jesus saying ” If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes even your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:25)” He is saying not too literally hate them, but to love Him so much more that you will follow Him despite what the others think is good. It’s about having so little regard for this world that you will obey Yahweh above all else regardless of the cost. Like a man getting married, he will leave father and mother and cling to his wife. Once married the loyalty of the man is no longer with father, mother or any other relative, But solely with the wife – the bride. It’s the same picture as following Jesus is marriage as He calls the church His bride.

Jesus also said that “But beware! You will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers (Mathew 10:17-18a)”. Jesus went on to say “A brother will betray a brother unto death, a father will betray his own children and children will rebel against parents and cause them to be killed (Mathew 10:21)” We see this in certain Hindu regions and almost all Islamic nations where being a Christian is a crime and often punishable by death if a family member does not commit an honor killing to save the honor of the family and the prophet Mohammed. Paul was stoned, beat, ship wrecked, bit by a snake, at time went without food, imprisoned and finally beheaded. Before he became a follower of Jesus he was a pharisee and very popular with much power and authority and without a care to his personal safety. That changed when he had a personal encounter with Jesus.

The only security Jesus gave us is that we are more valuable than the birds of the air (Mathew 28-31), if you receive Him you receive the Father (Mathew 10:40), whoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life and there is no judgement on anyone who follows Him by Yahweh, the Father (John 3:16-21) and anyone who openly declares that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart will be saved (Romans 10:9-13). There are more verses about His assurances to us as followers of Christ. None of these even hint at safety and security here on earth, only in heaven.

Given this, why do Western Christians, churches and boards of all manner insist on balancing everything against safety and security? If it’s safe and secure those people, neighborhoods and nations have already become majority Christian. In insisting on a degree of safety and security we are voluntarily giving up authority and liberty found only in Jesus and the power of His spirit. We have advocated our position to the enemy who knows fear. Who can smell it like a dog can smell fear on a person. In persisting on this safe approach we have forbidden and talked people out of doing what they know God told them to do, but due to those in “authority” persuading them it’s not a good idea because it isn’t safe, doubt takes root and they question whether it really was from Yahweh. You pharisees are putting undue rules on people causing them to stumble and sin by disobeying the Lord’s command!

This has permeated all aspects of our society to include untold numbers of laws and rule making in the name of “safety”. Every time this happens we give up more of our individual liberties and rights of the individual states. We forfeit that to the federal government and will not get them back without a huge struggle. The same in the spiritual realm. What we voluntarily gave up we will not get back without a much larger and time-consuming struggle than needed to be in the first place.

We quite literally worship the notion of being safe over the word of God that commands us to go. He didn’t command us to go only when safe. He commanded us to go without regard to our personal safety and well-being. To be true followers we must be willing to sacrifice our personal safety, the safety of our 401K, IRA and pension plans. We must not be hung up on not going because we will lose our health, dental and life insurance. Our decisions to follow Him and walk in obedience spreading the truth of the gospel must not be hinged on the security of a steady paycheck. You have not truly lived until you have stepped out into what the majority calls crazy without a man-made security blanket and spread the gospel message & love of Christ to those who can do nothing for you of equal magnitude. Then you will see the power of the Spirit, signs and wonders and experience the excitement of true living.

I encourage you to shake of the religious spirit that causes you to live with safety and security as paramount concerns. I encourage you to evaluate where your life is going and to what degree do you feel truly alive and at peace in your spirit.

Andy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City On The Rise

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“The city on the rise” has been the slogan for Rocky Mount NC for a long time. As slogans are supposed to, this one is designed to imply something that is happening. The hope is it will convey to people that the city is up and coming with new and great things.

Many in the city, and surrounding areas, do not see it this way. They are all to eager to point out all the problems and flaws the city has. You will hear about the corruption, low wages, lack of jobs and on and on and on. On the social media groups dedicated to the area you will see the mindset of the people very clearly. It’s in your face from Christians and non-Christians alike. They always have evidence to point at to support their thoughts and opinions on the city.

Recently an article was published by USA Today, that I reposted, that lists the top 25 worse cities in the US to raise children. Rocky Mount is listed as the 5th worse city. Factors like violent crime, low wages, graduation numbers, access to health facilities like gyms and low preschool enrollment are used as a basis for the ranking. Things that are not listed that anyone in Rocky Mount will tell you is the perceived corruption in city council, the unfriendly people in many churches and racism.

To be honest, I have been one of those outspoken critics of the city for too many reasons to list here. Frankly it will do no good to list them. My dislike for the area has become so deep that I don’t refer to it as home. Instead I would say “going to the house”. I became so preoccupied with when we could leave the area again that I stopped seeing what was here. A change was activated while listening to a podcast by a pastor in South Carolina. He recounted what the Lord showed him on a trip from Fort Worth TX to Waco while driving on I-35. It centered around Isiah 35 and has been stuck in my spirit for over a week. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that chapter and listened to that podcast. The first time it was like a fire was shot in my soul with the clear message being ” this is why I moved you back.” That being said, my wife and I can not do it on our own.

Now there is a problem and a solution to the problem. The problem is not everything listed above. Those are symptoms of the problem. The root cause of the problem, the sickness if you will, is the people. In Proverbs 18:21 it tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Whatever we speak we will reap the consequences. What that means for us in this context is this, everything we speak over the city we will reap the consequences of. If we speak bad, negative and less than wholesome – that’s what we will reap. Conversely, if we speak good, positive and blessings on the city, that is what we will reap. The citizens are actually speaking the issues into being and giving these issues the right to remain. Speaking is an action and as we say “actions have consequence”.

The solution is to change the way we speak about the city and the issues faced. That, in-turn, will change the mindset about her. Just as we can speak the bad into existence, we can speak the good into existence. In short order we will start to see the city differently, in a new and positive light. This started when the Gathering of believers were meeting regularly. What has happened to the city is a cause of that gathering ceasing their meetings and creating a vacuum. As I blogged on Feb. 6th titled A city united through a gathering of believers, there was a point when you could feel the city turning a corner.

There are those, I was one, that continue to talk her down and look for an exit making us less engaged in the effort to bring about change. The more we talk positively, even prophetically, over the city the more we will desire to be engaged. You will find yourself becoming more fond of the city and noticing things that seemed hidden to you about her bringing more hope for the future that will be better for your descendants.

The city is an inheritance for us all. An inheritance that we are forfeiting because our mouths are actually stopping the blessings that some have prayed for. Some who have prayed have received a promise that they will not see, but like Abraham their descendants will see the fulfillment of the promise. Some will not see it because it has been delayed due to our spoken word, but still a valid promise. In delaying the promise with our undisciplined tongues we are actually robbing our children, grand-children and great grand-children of their promised inheritance.

Look to Numbers 13:27 – 14:24. The Israelites cried and ignored the promise from God to deliver the land to them. Their mindset and the words of their mouth resulted in a generation dyeing without seeing the fulfillment of the promise. The words of their mouth robbed them of their inheritance.  This is exactly what is happening in Rocky Mount today, and other cities across the nation.  Our mindsets and words are robbing us of our inheritance.

Now some will say the promised land is elsewhere, that you have to go through the desert wilderness to get there. They will equate Rocky Mount and the tri-county area as that wilderness with nothing good to offer. The truth is Yahweh can turn a dessert wilderness into a paradise. There is always hope! Look to Isiah 35. The whole chapter is about hope for restoration. Look around Rocky Mount. At one time the city was prosperous. You can see by the number of old homes in the downtown areas. When there is restoration there has to be redemption of what was lost or stolen. One can not happen without the other.

In Isiah 35 it speaks of the wilderness being glad, the wasteland will have new flowers, the desert will be green and the Lord will display His glory. As a result the tired and weak will get strength and hope. The blind and deaf will see and hear and the lame will jump for joy because God is coming to destroy our enemies. It says many new streams of water will come and water the dry ground bringing new vegetation (growth) which is a new ecosystem. It just gets better form there. Think of the areas that are considered a wasteland due to past floods and abandoned buildings where business once stood.

The focus on the church has been to fight, to be prayer warriors. It’s been to fight for what is rightfully ours that the enemy has stolen. I submit that there is a better and more productive way than continuously trying to engage in spiritual warfare.

For this I will point to Joshua. The Joshua that was Moses’s right hand man, the one who was so hungry for Yahweh that he would not leave the tent of meeting until God’s glory left it. He and Caleb were the only two who advocated for attacking the enemy and taking the land God had promised them while the others cried, wept and turned their backs on the promise. When Yahweh took Moses He placed Joshua as the leader of Israel.

Now Joshua was a warrior and firmly entrenched in that posture so much so that he confronted the angel of God’s army and demanded to know who’s side he was on ( Joshua 5:13-14). Prior to this, God told Joshua that He was with him, would not abandon him and everywhere his foot trod He would give him the land. This book also talks of Caleb being over 80 and not weary, but still eager to take possession of God’s promise. Two things stand out. The first is if we walk with God HE will give us what has been promised. Secondly if we don’t let age be an excuse to no longer take possession you will see great things. A third thing that the account of Joshua shows me is that Yahweh fought the lions share of all the battles for Israel. Joshua had his role to play and did so with obedience. Through that Yahweh did the heavy work in giving the promised land to Israel.

The take away is even though Rocky Mount might seem as a desert wilderness right now, it does not have to remain as such. To bring the change we must walk with God in unity. We must start proclaiming, speaking, as if things already are even when we don’t see them. We have to start declaring higher graduation rates, lower addiction rates, lower unemployment, higher paying jobs, new manufacturing, Godly people on the seats of city council and Kingdom minded people leading the local churches. We must start proclaiming confusion and hindrances to the local gangs and human trafficking rings and speak about the new revival that will sweep the area and break the old curses brought on by the cities fathers sins that keep getting passed from generation to generation until a generation dares to stand up and say enough is enough and break the back of segregated worship! This goes to even small things like talking about the great service you will get at Olive Garden or San Jose instead of saying service is always bad in the Mount, might as well go to Wilson.

Ladies and gentleman, it can be done and done by a small number of people.  A remanent like the 120 praying in one accord for days waiting on the promise Jesus said He would send in the opening of Acts. The ones who prayed until Pentecost broke out, shaking the establishment religion and ushering in over 2,000 years of a whole new kind of church. Who is tired of the status quo and ready for the adventure of turning a city upside down to reclaim a promised inheritance?

Andy

What if we are looking at the 5 fold ministry gifts wrong?

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The concept of the “Five Fold Ministry Gifts” comes from Ephesians 4:11 where it says ” Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, and the pastors and teachers”. The term “five fold ministry gifts” comes from man alone. That term is not used in scripture, it’s just a catchy phrase to sum this up without listing them all off when discussing them. I don’t have a problem with the term “five fold”, my issue is the premise that only a few get the gifts by election.

Some translations read “He gave some….”, others say “He gifted some to be….”, the Passion translation says “He appointed some with grace to be….” while others simply say “He (speaking of Christ) gave to the church…”

Of the various translations I find a combination of “He gave to the church” and “He appointed some with grace” to be the most consistent with the rest of the New Testament. If we look at it like this, He gave to the church those whom He gave grace to be …, we will get a better understanding of what Paul was saying.

When we phrase it as “gave some” it denotes an election by someone or something. Was the election by man or by Yahweh? If we say they were given by God to some, why do we have church and denominational boards to determine who has what gift? Why do they look at the external package and talents to determine? If we say man determines who has which of these gifts then that would be consistent with the above mentioned entities telling this one you have it and that one you don’t just because they look the type and have talents that closely resemble a certain gift.

Jesus made it clear that those who answer the call, die to themself, and follow Him at any cost all the days of their life are gifted with talents (gifts). A precedent is also established in scripture that Yahweh does not care what a person looks like, what they do, have done, live, have lived, stutter, not stutter and educated or not educated. He has made a practice of using the least likely and least remarkable to do the impossible so the praise will go to Him. Scripture also tells us not to worry what to say, that when the time comes the Holy Spirit will speak for you. We claim we know that Yahweh’s grace is sufficient for every situation for those who are in obedience to His will. Despite this we still have highly educated people evaluating others to deem them fit for what they themselves are not doing and have not done. How many people have been legitimately called by the Lord to something and people talk them out of it claiming they aren’t qualified?

Given this, I do not believe the “Five Fold Ministry Gifts” are just for certain people or that certain elect get two gifts bestowed on them. I also contend, in an unpopular opinion in many circles, that there are still apostles. If the position of apostle was only valid for those who walked with Jesus then we have two problems. The first, how does Paul claim to be an apostle? I’ve heard different dances around this centering on He was a witness to the life of Jesus. That holds as much water as a spaghetti strainer when the next question is posed. Secondly, if apostle was only good for the 12 plus Paul, why list it? By listing it, then man discounting it as not valid opens the door to say other passages of scripture are not valid for today. After all, things today are not the same as they were 2,000 years ago. This is a slippery slope that bit us on the marriage issue and will continue to bite us. We can not quote verses and say the entirety of scripture is good for learning and rebuke then turn around and say “well this one…it doesn’t apply” simply because we haven’t experienced it, understand it or like it.

So, what if the grace to be any of these gifts was given to anyone when it was needed to edify and build up the church? What if those who were unabashedly sold out, 100% committed to Christ with no regard to the cost, were in a position where the Holy Spirit was free to release anyone of these gifts at the right time in any follower? I say those who walk fully in the Spirit have that grace and it is not accepted nor understood by religion.

See, religion can not control the gifts when Yahweh decides to release them. Religion can not control when it happens. It can not control how it happens, what it looks like and who it comes through. Religion tried to have its way and claimed Jesus was so unorthodox and such a threat to them they killed Him. Religion still tries to stifle the Spirit in a bid to maintain control in the erroneous belief that they know best. This is why we have so many churches and ministries concerned with performance and appearance over the power of His presence. I will take a group under the bridge, in the woods, in an old theater or the Wal-Mart parking lot any day over religion! Everywhere religion has a stronghold there is difficulty and poverty. When religion is chucked and presence is embraced signs and wonders follow.

Afterall, Paul walked in all five gifts. When a gift was needed it was there. This was due to his faithfullness to Jesus and comittment to not being distracted by outside influence. Nowhere in any translation of the Bible can I find where it says that God will not give like kind giftings to others like Paul. It’s up to us to determine how bad we want to be used. How important is it to be truly set apart.

Andy

The many insights to the parable of the prodigal son.

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The parable of the Prodigal Son is well-known to anyone who has been in church for any length of time. There’s a lot of lessons that can be taken from the story. Some are obvious, some not so much and some just plain overlooked. For some the most obvious lesson is the prodigal son because your Bible has a headline over that section calling it that. It automatically gears your brain to see what the title tells you to see. This is a common flaw in most English translations that I wish was not there.

The entire thought of Luke chapter 15 is the master, father, owner, shepherd not allowing the ” one ” to be lost without going to great lengths to get that one back. It’s to give the image of God, Yahweh, the Father’s desire to make sure not one is lost, but all have the opportunity to come back to Him. The interesting thing about this section of chapter 15 is the title of ” Prodigal Son “. The only person in the parable that considered the son a prodigal was the brother. I’ll come back to that later.

The most obvious lesson here is the son taking what he felt was his and going away from home to live how he wanted to live. When things dried up and he was scrounging slop from the pig pen he realized he should go home. It was better to be a servant there than a slave where he was currently. This indicates the relationship with the father was such that the son was confident that his dad would take him back as a hired hand at the very least. He didn’t feel as if he was banished and unwelcome to return. Those two lessons are of great importance for all parents, especially fathers. Kids will eventually strike out and some will do so without your blessing. Some will fail and want to come back. Your attitude towards them, your actions when they leave is a determining factor on whether they feel they can come back to set things straight. The revelation of how things were with his father and the willingness to come back would not have happened if the father was not loving and caring.

The second lesson is the devotion of the father. He didn’t stand in the way of his son leaving despite wisdom gained from life telling him it was a bad idea. While the son was gone the father continued to watch for his sons return. Nowhere does it say the father sat in judgement over the sons poor decisions. It doesn’t say he lectured the son when he got back. It says he ran to his son when he saw him coming and embraced him. It goes on to say that he put all the things back on his son that showed everyone his position in the family. He didn’t make his son work for the forgiveness asked for. Instead the father gave quickly and restored him to his former place.

These first two lessons are perfect illustrations of how God the Father acts. He doesn’t stop us from wandering off. When we do He will not allow to stay gone in peace. Through prompting from the Holy Spirit, what we call a guilty conscience, to stop and go back. Through a series of events that allow us to hit rock bottom to bring us to our senses. Whatever the means He will allow to happen to bring us back. He will not condemn us when we return and truly repent seeking forgiveness. Instead He quickly restores us to our rightful place as heirs to the throne, a royal priesthood – His child, not a servant.

The third lesson is one we don’t really look at with western eyes. I’ve read the story numerous times, but until I was shown this through a book titled ” Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes ” did I see the significance of verses 14-16 where it talks about a great famine sweeping through the land that caused great hunger and very difficult times where one had to struggle for survival. In the Western world we glance over the famine reference because we can not relate to a true famine. When someone from the Middle East, Asia Minor or Africa read this they completely understand the significance of the famine. Without the famine life might not have become so miserable that the son wanted to go home. He might have fought it out and made a life for himself. As it were the famine came taking away all options but returning to the father.

What a perfect picture of our relationship with the Father Yahweh and our own stubbornness! We will fight kicking ans screaming trying to do it our way, trying to pave our own road. Eventually when things get so bad that we are truly at wit’s end, bottom of the barrel with no other options we return to the Father who has been waiting for us to make what should have been our first choice.

The last lesson I’m going to highlight is the reaction of the brother. When the brother came to realize who the party was for he was more than angry. Notice the brother is noted as being the ” older ” one. The older one in this culture was the rightful heir, the one with greater responsibility and rights. When the younger was recognized and celebrated he allowed jealousy to rule his emotions. His response says it all. He was angry that his father was celebrating the son that abandoned them while he ” slaved ” for the father. See, he had a slaves mindset, not a mindset of a son ( sonship ). Because he had the mindset of a slave he could not rejoice because, in his view, another slave who did less should not be recognized.

What I find interesting is the older son proclaiming that his brother spent the money on prostitutes. How did he know that? He had yet to talk to his brother and didn’t know he was back yet. The only way he knew was if he was engaged in gossip, spying on his brother and getting reports or took time away for a quick trip himself. When we get mad and our sense of whats fair gets trampled on by someone who we know was living in sin we point it out. ” Well you know they were hanging out with those crack heads “, ” you know he was drinking with that woman ” and so on. What business is it of yours? If God accepted them back with forgiveness and they truly repented then all is good. If you are not walking in the same level of favor, faith and worship then something is out of place in your life.

How often do we see ” Christians ” get upset, uppity and offended by someone walking in blessing that just a short time ago was living like the prodigal? How often do we hear grumblings of ” I’ve done all this work “, ” I’ve always been faithful to God “, ” I’ve tithed every week ” followed by a variation of ” they don’t deserve it, who do they think they are! “. They don’t think they are anybody, they know they are a redeemed child of God and have fully accepted their forgiveness. They are not stuck in religion that tells them they have to work and perform for God’s favor like the oldest son thought.

Read Luke 15, the whole chapter without reading the headlines over each section. Honestly, read the entire Bible like that. Ignore, black out, find a Bible that doesn’t have them, but read it without someone else’s comments on what the section means and see what the Lord wants you to see. You might be surprised at what you find.

Andy

What did Jesus mean when He said “turn the other cheek”?

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When Jesus gave what is dubbed “The Sermon on the Mount” He gave a peculiar instruction that defies human nature. To be honest the whole Sermon on the Mount goes against human nature, but the one to turn the other cheek is hard to swallow. What did He mean exactly when He said that? Was He saying when someone hits you to not defend yourself, but allow them to hit you again?

The whole sermon deals with our actions and reactions from the heart. We are prone to react in a very un-spiritual way when sued, forced to do something we don’t want to for someone we don’t like, when slandered and especially when assaulted. The reactions He is instructing are so radical that we must have His spirit in us to respond in these ways. Almost everyone says they will never turn the other cheek when hit, that they will defend themself against violence.

Mathew chapter 5, in context, gives a different outlook to verse 39. To get the proper context you have to read the entire chapter as one thought, one line of thinking to arrive at a given point. Verse 39 relies heavily on a custom of the day that involved getting hit on the right cheek, not being assaulted with the intent of bodily harm. If the intent was to allow evil people to beat a believer with the believer giving no resistance Jesus would not have instructed His disciples in Luke 22:36 to sell their cloak and buy a sword.

In that time period the ultimate insult for someone to give was a backhand on the right cheek. It was worse than being spit on or at. What Jesus doesn’t want us doing is trying to defend ourselves against insult, criticism and rumour. He’ll do that for us in time. The meaning of turn the other cheek is to let them continue showing their true colors and your character testifying to the I AM.

That’s the same reasoning behind verses 40 – 48. It’s to show you are set apart from the world. It’s to show that you live under the influence and discipline of the Spirit, not man. It’s to be set apart, peculiar, different to attract people. We can’t attract people when we act like everyone around us. There’s no allure or testimony to the power of Christ in that. Everything we are instructed to do is for the purpose of glorifying Him.

Spiritual Boot Camp

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I was listening to Jack Graham on Sirius XM the other morning when he used the phrase ” Spiritual Boot Camp “. To paraphrase, as I was driving and couldn’t write it down, he said when God called the Israelites out of Egypt He had to take them through a spiritual boot camp. That line stuck with me.

Boot Camp is a time when the military attempts to break off all individual thinking. They try to break off all civilian mindsets, thinking and actions. They then go through the process of attempting to build the person up into a Marine, soldier, sailor or airman. They teach the basics of what it means to be a Marine, soldier, etc. and the basics of how to think, act, respond and obey.

When a person is in boot camp and they fail to learn what is required at different stages they are then ” recycled ” to a training company that is not as far along as their current training company. There they must go through the process again in the hopes that they will learn it the second time around. The military will only ” recycle ” a person so many times before they are deemed a lost cause and discharged, never attaining the prize they set out for. The same thing happened to the Israelites. God only allowed them so many attempts at getting the basics right.

Spiritual boot camp would be a time when a person learns how to think, behave and obey as a follower of Christ. In Israel’s case they didn’t know of Jesus, but did follow the Father – Yahweh. The two most important and basic acts are faith and obedience. You can obey without faith and be in disobedience or you can have faith and disobey. Obeying with faith is the basic form of obedience that God is looking for. In order for these two behaviors to sink in our thick heads as first nature responses God has to take us through various basic tests, situations to grow our faith and willingness to obey.

The Israelites were shown what God could do while in Egypt. They were elated, full of joy and excited as they were leaving the county with their new-found freedom. The very first obstacle they encountered they reverted to their captivity mindset and had a complete loss of faith, which is disobedience. Every step of the way they showed no growth in this regard. They complained, doubted and disobeyed God at every turn. As a result God continued to ” recycle ” them until the only ones left alive to obtain the prize were the obedient and faithful few.

In the military a person advances from boot camp to the next level of training where they are given a bit more freedom and responsibility. Some call the graduation from boot camp as a promotion without an advancement in rank. The church , or body of Christ, is referred to as an army and the individual as soldiers in more than one instance in scripture. The same principle holds true, when you demonstrate a firm grasp on faith and obedience you are advanced, or promoted, to another level. The opposite is true in both the military and the body. Those who refuse to conform stay at the lowest rank with no recognition or advancement. Eventually the military will discharge the person due to ” failure to adapt ” under a ” good of service ” administrative discharge. The same principle is true when you read how we are to respond to a fellow believer when they are in unrepentant sin and when Jesus talks about abiding in the vine.

There is a point where an individual refuses to conform to the mere basics of the faith. At this point, not only does God’s Holy Spirit stop convicting and guiding you, but the enemy Satan also leaves you alone. You have demonstrated that you are no threat to him and no benefit to the Kingdom. The good news is there is always a second chance to come around. God will not abandon you, but He will leave you alone in the hopes that once you have worn every option out your way you will come back to the Father.

If you find yourself going through the same trials it may be because you have failed to learn the basic traits of faith and obedience and are being ” recycled ” through the same training evolution until you get it. You might say I have faith, but what does your mouth say while you are going through said trial? You might say I’m obedient, but do you obey the voice you hear when praying or does your obedience stop at love your neighbor and giving your tithes & offerings?

You might say that I know I’ve made it beyond the basics and I still have trials. You are going to. Jesus never said we wouldn’t, just the opposite is true. Just like the military when you promote to new ranks. There are new training evolution’s, new schools and new responsibilities with each promotion. With your promotions and advancements there are new responsibilities that bring new trials. Some have dubbed this as ” new levels – new devils “.

Don’t lose heart as we all go through the same training evolution’s as believers. We all have to learn the basics to move on. None of us do it perfectly and our advancements do not all look the same. God has different things for each of us, but no position is less than the other regardless of how people see it.

Andy

 

 

Tips for a happy life.

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Everybody wants to be happy. It’s a driving force behind many of our decisions. We buy things thinking we will be happy once we have it. We eat, drink and consume things with the hope it will make us happy for a time. We even make life long decisions like marrying someone with the thoughts that “if I can just be married I’ll be happy.” We do all manner of things in the pursuit of happiness. It’s so important to us that the pursuit is listed in the beginning paragraph of one of America’s founding documents.

In 1988 Bobby McFerrin released a song titled ” Don’t Worry, Be Happy “. It spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Chart with 2 weeks in the top spot. Besides it having a catchy tune it spoke to the desire in all of us. There have been numerous books, movies, blogs, articles and advertisements putting out the idea of happiness that we flock to. The root of advertising is to make you think you must have it, once you do you will be complete and happy. Whether it’s the perfect romance, the perfect spouse and family, the perfect car, phone, clothes, home or whatever, if we make and spend enough money we will find happiness. Sadly that feeling is fleeting and feeds a desire to do and get more to obtain that feeling again.

The truth is being happy is a state of mind more than anything else. When we allow ourselves to think we will be happy if we can only do the things fed us by corporate America and the media, then we find we aren’t. What I’m going to give you are  6 easy things you can do to bring happiness and contentment to your life that cost little to no money.

  1. Eat and drink with joy. In other words be thankful for what you have and that you are not starving. Eat and drink each meal as if it’s a banquet. There was a saying we had to yell in boot camp when asked  ” What is today! “. We would respond with ” TODAY IS ANOTHER GRAND AND GLORIOUS DAY IN THE MARINE CORPS WHERE EVERYDAY IS A HOLIDAY AND EVERY MEAL A BANQUET!” It seems absurd, but I’ll tell you that by the time we got to the chow hall we were thrilled with whatever they threw on our plates. It was a mindset of gratitude that we got food, much less hot food.
  2. Live happily with your spouse. The easiest way to achieve this is to start talking to each other and not at each other. Talk to each other and not through the kids. Stop complaining about your spouse to friends, family, co-workers and stop hanging around those that do. Stop comparing them to someone else and they can become your greatest blessing.
  3. Do everything with excellence. As discipline begets discipline so does excellence beget excellence. Once you are conditioned to do everything in that manner you will not settle for anything else. You will sleep better at night knowing you gave it your all, your best effort. This also helps make you a bit more tired at the end of the day as you spent more energy than someone trying to find the laziest way out. None of your skills and talents will go with you when you die. You might as well give people the benefit if having them now.
  4. Remember that the fastest, strongest and most skilled person does not always win or come out on top. Sometimes they don’t even get recognized. Sometimes luck, or chance, just wasn’t on their side. At times the slower, weaker and less intelligent gets pushed on top. They may have had a bit of wisdom that you didn’t or their character and work ethic was being recognized. Dwelling on it will distract you. Analyze why, learn from it and move on. Let it be an opportunity to grow and mature. Carry on, your time will come.
  5. You can not predict when tragedy or hard times will come. All you can do is prepare with the knowledge that those times will come. None of us can escape it. The mindset and preparation determine how we will come out the other side. Dwelling on the myriad of different things that can go wrong will only lead to anxiety, depression and a general hopelessness that robs you of all happiness.

These five things are actually wisdom passed on from a king in his older years of life. They are lessons learned as he reflected on life that he penned for us. The first sentence of all 5 are his, the how to are mine and his mingled together. You can find these in Ecclesiastes chapter 5. That’s a book in the Old Testament of the Bible right after Proverbs. I know! Who would have thought so much relevant wisdom would be found in the Bible? Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself.

The last component for true happiness comes from contentment in all things good or bad. This contentment comes from peace that generates a general happiness and is rooted in your spirit through following Jesus. Add that component to the previous 5 and you will have a joy that you don’t understand at all times. You stop following Him, or never start, that true happiness is never on solid ground. You will continue to try to “get” things to fill the void in your spirit, but never really fill it. You won’t be able to put your finger on what exactly is lacking. You will do the previous 5 and your stress level will come down and you will have a greater measure of happiness, but that void….. Ultimately true happiness is a condition of your mind and spirit.

Andy

Praying for Mikialah

Some of you who will read know of the medical problems our daughter is having. Those who are praying, we do appreciate the prayers.

Mikialah has been having severe, persistent headaches since November. She has also had nights of little sleep, nausea, random & severe chest pains resembling being shocked, random loss of breath, random eye twitching and a few other symptoms. The hospitals we’ve been to locally all have blown it off as “normal for a teenage girl”.

Wake Forest Baptist Hospital took it serious and got her in pretty quick after contacting them. The thought was it might be related to a disconnective tissue disorder. After a lot of examining they determined it wasn’t that, but something outside their wheelhouse was wrong.

We eventually got her into John’s Hopkins. The doc there diagnosed her with New Daily Persistent Headache. He studied all the results from all the hospitals and doctors we’ve seen beforehand. He didn’t see anything concerning and went with that diagnoses and gave a lot of good info. He also prescribed two medications. The pain med was slowly increased in dosage over a couple weeks.

Today Amber talked to the doc and told of Mikialah’s chest pains increasing in severity. He instructed to immediately take Mikialah off the meds. He is aware of the side effects of sudden withdrawal, but thinks that is much less of a concern than the side effects this drug has concerning the heart.

There’s no end to what to pray for. All this is it out if pocket expense as Obama Care wiped out our old plan and priced us out of coverage. Mikialah is looking at some painful days ahead unless Jesus intervenes. Amber is dealing with this basically alone as I’m gone weeks at a time. It’s draining on her mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Combined it effects her physically also.

Now to where I’ll offend some of you. If you are praying out of fear and anxiety, don’t. Pray out of boldness and faith only.

If you’re praying and telling God what to do, stop! You’re wasting your breath. Pray for His will and His glory first, then your request.

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray He said “…your kingdom come, your will be done…” We overlook His will and jump to our demands then get discouraged when nothing we demanded happens.

The good news is Mikialah is the strongest person I know. She’s much stronger than Amber or myself. She plainly stated that she can’t just lie in bed, she had to learn to deal with it. Her faith is still good and has said that she knows this is preparation for something. She knows it’s to be a witness for someone and we know her strength and endurance is from the Holy Spirit.

So when you pray, pray for His will & His glory first. Then for whatever the Lord places on your heart or don’t pray until you can.

I’ll do another post later laying out the treatments to date in some detail.
Andy.