Sermon teaser ~ The world’s “Psalm 23”

The following is a work in progress as I talk about those that enter the sheepfold by anyway other than the Door (Jesus). This is “Psalm 23” as told by those who would deceive the sheep; stealing them away and thus leading them to be killed and destroyed.

A lord will be your shepherd
you shall not want because you will have lots of stuff.
He makes you lie down in luscious homes
with big fences so you will be at peace.
He will cause you to be happy.
He leads you in paths of success
for your name’s sake and for your heirs.
Even though you will walk among those who would oppose you,
you will fear no one,
for your many friends will give you meaning;
and thus you will live in comfort.
Your enemies will be defeated
for you will be among the privileged
and therefore your cup will overflow with fortune.
Surely success and money and fame
will follow you all the days of your life
and you will dwell in the biggest house in your neighborhood
(until you die).

Scary how true this is for many.

The Pastor -|—

Refuge in God

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. [Psalm 73:28]

Anyone can study the Bible and talk about what is in there. Anyone can memorize facts and spew them out in order to “win” a trivia contest. Anyone can memorize scripture in order to interject something into a debate/argument.  But it is only the one who places their very lives in the hands of God, through Jesus Christ, that  you can truly tell of God’s mighty works with any amount of passion and conviction.

There are many out there that preach about God. They stand in front of the masses, waving a Bible around, and tell of the mighty works of God. And these mighty works can be for you if only you believe right or give enough money to this ministry or think right or dream right. The problem is that this is not the mighty works of God that the psalmist is talking about. The mighty works of God are what God does for His children to show HIS glory; not OUR glory. God’s mighty works advances GOD’S kingdom; not OUR measly, little, weak kingdoms.

It bugs me when I hear about prosperity “gospel” preachers using the mighty works of God to advance a selfish agenda rather than to advance the kingdom of God. This kind of testimony says nothing about the truly amazing work of God; Jesus dying for sinners and rising to give eternal life to said sinners. THAT is a mighty work. And it is only truly a mighty work for you if your refuge is in the Lord God almighty through faith in Jesus. For,

it is there that you can truly see how Satan flees from the sound of Jesus’ name.
It is only in the refuge of God that true peace is known.
It is only in the refuge of God that true love in known.
It is only in the refuge of God that you can see how God is FOR YOU.
It is only in the refuge of God that true life can be known and received.

God’s mighty works can not be seen from afar, but only in the refuge of his loving arms. God is not a long distance relationship but rather an intimate, close, life-saving, cross-bearing, glory-showing relationship.

And let me tell you, for me it is good to be near God.

Mighty God, Your works are amazing, but Your work of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the most amazing of all. May I never stray from the refuge that in only found in You. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Be Fooled (2 Cor 11:14)

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. [2 Corinthians 11:14]

Paul here is defending himself, and his colleagues, against the attacks of those who claim to be “super apostles” but really are leading people astray. Basically he says they are nothing more than wolves in sheep clothing. And this makes sense because even Satan does this so why wouldn’t Satan’s servants do the same.

Satan was active and working hard to stop the church then and he continues to do the same today. And in a lot of ways, Satan is more powerful and crafty today largely due to technology and the speed of how information can be sent around the world. Someone’s message can reach thousands and millions of people very quickly. And with the age of social media; ideas can be spread and go viral very quickly.

It is, therefore, so easy for a worker of evil to disguise oneself as an angel of light. Just consider the prosperity gospel preachers out there; preaching a gospel of peace and health and success in this life and nothing more. They stand in front of millions of people and wave their Bibles around (“dressed” as an angel of light) all the while leading people down the path of destruction. Satan has got to be licking his chops today.

And because there are so many wolves running around in sheep’s clothing; as sheep we need to be on the look out. We need to be testing the spirits as 1 John teaches us. We need to be cunning and discerning; not taking everything you read and hear to heart just because of who says it (and that means testing everything I write).

So how do we test the spirits? There is no one fool proof method but below are three questions to get you started:

(1) Does the messenger accuse you of being a sinner?
YES ~ Great, but this still could be Satan. In either case respond by saying, “I know but I have Jesus“.
NO ~ You have a wolf. The truth of who God is starts with the admission that you are a sinner in need of a Savior.

(2) Does the messenger preach Christ crucified and risen FOR YOU for the forgiveness of your sins?
YES ~ Praise be to God!!!
NO ~ You have a wolf. A servant/messenger of Christ is going to preach this for this is THE Good News, and therefore, this Good News can not be said enough.

(3) Does the messenger promise peace and security in this life?
YES ~ You have a wolf. No where in the Bible does Jesus promise an easy life for his followers. Actually, he says you will have a cross. Be skeptical of messages that promise the easy life now through X-number of easy steps.
NO ~ Then you have a follower of Jesus who is actually following Jesus.

Granted, this is not a full proof testing system here, but it is a start. Basically, know your Bible, pray without ceasing and rely on the Holy Spirit. There will be wolves that will try to circumvent these questions, so beware. The wolves are out there, prowling around waiting for someone to devour. Don’t be their next meal.

Oh holy God, grant us a discerning mind to test the spirits and to be able to see the wolves in sheep clothing. May we be diligent in our study of scripture and may we seek your Holy Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Strong tower (Proverbs 18:10)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. [Proverbs 18:10]

Strong towers:
~ Money
~ Friends
~ Home
~ Career success
~ Children
~ Intellect
~ Humor
~ Sarcasm
~ Sex
~ Bible knowledge
~ Jesus knowledge

And the list goes on. Which ones here are your “strong towers”? Did I fail to mention yours? Basically, where do you run when the pressure is on? Where do you go when you need to feel safe? What defense mechanism do you activate to shield you from this world? Where is your safe haven; your fortress of solitude; your happy place?

We all have them. We all have strong towers. And I say “towers”, plural, because one is never enough it seems. Sometimes a situation calls for a different tower to run into. But the problem with strong towers here is that they really aren’t strong. They look good and impressive and powerful, but they can not deliver what you perceive that they promise. Strong towers here are really just towers of straw.

But notice where a righteous man goes; his strong tower is the name of the Lord:[9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:9-11 ESV]

The name of Jesus is exalted and therefore THE strong tower at which every knee shall bow someday. It is through the name of Jesus that you are saved from sin, death and the power of Satan. It is through the name of Jesus that you can have confidence in the face of death. It is through the name of Jesus that we can have hope and peace.

But be careful, the name of Jesus does not promise the easy way; rather the name of Jesus promises a cross. No where in scripture does it say that the name of Jesus promises a safe haven here in this life. It doesn’t promise success or riches or fame or prosperity; no matter what the property theologians say.

The name of Jesus is a strong tower because through faith in Jesus it promises eternal life; free from death, sin and Satan. And that is a Strong Tower.

Run to that
Cling to that
Dwell in that

The name of Jesus is to be exalted
The name of Jesus is to be praised
The name of Jesus is my strong tower

Praise be to God, always and forever, let’s pray…

Oh God, my Strong Tower through Jesus Christ, grant your children eyes to see the name of Jesus as THE strong tower. May we turn away from the straw towers of this world and run to you. We praise you that our safe haven in this world of evil and sin is the hope of the resurrection, and that we can have a name to cling to when death comes knocking. Oh God, my Strong Tower, may your name be praised and lifted high for all to see and run to. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Flesh vs Spirit

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [Romans 8:6-8]

The prosperity gospel…

[Oh no, here goes the Pastor again :-)]

…tries to convince people that peace is found in this life; through the flesh. It says that in order to “have your best life now” all you need to do is get your flesh in order. Meaning ~ thinking right, believing right, dreaming right, saying the right things and doing the right things. All of this, they claim, will curry God’s favor and therefore you will live “your best life now“. In essence, the prosperity gospel is trying to sell peace when it is actually bringing the wrath of God.

Those trying to sell this crap (excuse my language but this is what it is) have their minds set on the flesh and not on the Spirit and therefore they themselves are really not at peace. But when you are in the midst of what you believe is “your best life now” you don’t know you’re really not at peace. The flesh has a way of shielding one’s eyes from the truth.

So what is true peace if it is not found in this life? That answer seems pretty simple: By keeping your mind set on the Spirit which is faith in God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ A mind set on the flesh thinks only of this life; but a mind set on the Spirit thinks of the promised life to come through Jesus.
~ A mind set on the flesh can only achieve a temporary peace; but a mind set on the Spirit receives true, everlasting peace from the only true peace-giver: Jesus Christ
~ A mind set on the flesh can only achieve a fleeting happiness, that comes and goes and comes and goes; but a mind set on the Spirit has a joy that is not fleeting.
~ A mind set on the flesh CAN NOT please God; but a mind set on the Spirit has salvation.
~ A mind set on the flesh lives in death; but a mind set on the Spirit lives in Life.

And you probably get the point. When you have true faith in God through Jesus Christ then you submit to God’s Law and follow him in complete joy, for God is worthy. Your focus is on pleasing God, not the flesh. The prosperity gospel does not get this and therefore will never preach this. The true Gospel is understanding we can do nothing to achieve peace in this life but rather its submitting to God who is the only peace giver. It’s placing your faith in Jesus and believing your best life is yet to come, not now.

So set your mind on the Spirit and be at peace.

May God grant you a peace that totally blows your mind so that you may see and experience true peace in Him. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ What you really need to hear

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. [Matthew 21:21-22]

Oh how these verses have been misunderstood and misapplied.
Oh how these verses have been abused and therefore have caused many people to go astray.

If you believe right and have enough faith you can get what you want and “live your best life now”. This is the mantra of the prosperity gospel (not THE Gospel of Jesus Christ). The likes of Joel Osteen have championed this theology and have garnered many adherents, thus leading many people astray. And the reason these prosperity theologians are so “successful” is that this message is something people think they need to hear.

Give me the secret to success.
Tell me how I can be happy now.
How can I feel fulfilled?
How can I live my best life now?

Everything is about this life, now, and nothing about the life to come. It’s about manipulating and controlling God to get what you want. Throw in talk of Jesus and faith and you have enough to trick people into thinking this theology is legit; from the Bible.

Lord have mercy.

But what was Jesus really teaching in Matthew 21 about faith and prayer? Was he giving us a magic formula to get what we want out of prayer?

Absolutely not!

Two things are being shown:
(1) You may have faith, but you still doubt.
(2) If you truly know God you will ask according to God’s will, not your own. It’s then that you receive what you pray for.

The big difference here is that it is not about your happiness now (your will) but your eternal joy (God’s will). It’s about aligning your will with God’s will. It’s about humbling yourself and admitting that you are a sinner. It’s about realizing that without Jesus you can not get out of this world alive. It’s about realizing that you are meant to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This life may be crappy but you still can have joy; that is if you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior.

So don’t be fooled by false prophets and self-serving prosperity theologians by trying to reach for and cling to happiness in this life now but rather place your faith in Jesus Christ and cling to the hope of the resurrection. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is about how you have faith rather than who you have faith in.

Jesus is life and salvation and therefore the source of true joy. That right there will give you peace. And THAT my friends is what you really need to hear.

Have a blessed day enjoying God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Pastor -|—

Real victory

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
[Proverbs 21:31]

Prosperity theologians like to proclaim that victory is something we can claim through a right attitude.  They claim that if we can think correctly about ourselves or look at our situations in the right light we can claim victory or “favor” [ as one particular and misguided prosperity theologian likes to say].

But the author of Proverbs is saying that we can only prepare ourselves for battle but when it comes to “victory”…well…that belongs to the Lord.  And this is a victory we are given through faith in Jesus Christ.

Prosperity theologians don’t like to specifically mention the name of Jesus because that would give Jesus the power (which Jesus already has). To acknowledge that power takes power and control out on one’s hand.  The thing is, we have no victory (or favor) in this life without Jesus.  We have no future without Jesus.  We have no life without Jesus.

So prepare your horse for battle but don’t get too cocky.  Remember who’s in charge.  Any victory you win is from the Lord.  And favor?  Yup…through faith in Jesus Christ we have that too ~ the cross is proof of that.

Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:54-56]

edh -|—

Right between the eyes

I was talking with a person a while back about a funeral they attended…and I was saddened by what I heard.  I was saddened because  it didn’t sound like the Gospel was preached.  When I asked how the funeral went they said things like:

It was a great celebration of their life.
It was very upbeat.
Fun stories were shared about him.
“He lived a very good life.

There was nothing about the Gospel.  Maybe it was preached but those comments sure don’t sound like that is what they heard.  What this person remembers are stories and remembrances of the past.  I wish I would have challenged them more but being in a public place I shied away from confronting them…but maybe I should have.

[A missed opportunity]

I also remember another conversation (by the way…I am preparing for a funeral this week, that is why these memories are bubbling up).  This conversation was with a family.  I was meeting with them but was unable to do the funeral because of a prior commitment.  Luckily they had a family member who was a pastor so they were going to lead worship.  Through the course of the meeting the daughter was talking about the service and wanted lots of stories about her mother.  I chimed in and said a funeral has nothing to do with the deceased but everything to do with Jesus and what he has done for you and for me.  This was the response I got:

Well…at my funeral you are going to talk about me!

I really wanted to argue but I decided that wasn’t the place.  Besides…at her funeral she won’t have any say what I talk about 🙂

Why am I bring this up?

As I prepare for a funeral one of the things I am keenly aware of is that there could very easily be people there who normally do not attend worship.  These people only enter a worship space on Easter, Christmas, funerals and weddings.  They go through life without hearing the Good News.  So when they do finally show up in a worship space you just can not miss that opportunity.  You have to smack them right between the eyes with the Gospel, not fun stories about the deceased.  The dead person’s past life is not going to help them.  The only thing that will help is Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection; the victory he won FOR YOU and FOR ME.

Too many people in the world today water down the Gospel with the prosperity gospel (which is NO gospel at all; not good news).  The prosperity gospel says that if you believe hard enough, are a good person and keep your nose to the grindstone, you can be successful (to have your best life now).  If bad things happen then you somehow fell short. Please do not buy into this false gospel.

Once again…that is NOT good news.

And it bugs me to no end that this message is being preached by many so called ministers out there; leading people astray.  What they are doing is simply preaching a message that people WANT to hear, not what they NEED to hear.

What people need to hear is:
–We are sinners and can not survive this life on our own.
–There is hope.
–We have a savior in Jesus.
–That through faith in Christ there is forgiveness of our sins.
–That there is NOTHING we can do to earn, merit or deserve this grace.
–God loves you!

So when I prepare a funeral sermon (or any sermon for that matter) I try to keep in mind what people need to hear…and let them have it.

So as I prepare for this funeral on Thursday I am winding up and preparing myself to smack people right between the eyes with the TRUE Gospel.  And I pray that God will use the words I say to change someone’s life.  All to God’s glory.

So if you are reading this and coming on Thursday, get ready because I will be bringing it 🙂

Praise be to God!

edh -|—