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THE CONVERGENCE OF MONEY AND FAITH

 

Satan has continually attempted to offer the things of the world to the multitudes of Believers who are in search of spiritual fulfillment.  Since the beginning of the Christian movement, people have been in search of tangible, sense orientated evidence of God’s presence and favor in their lives. The pursuit of material happiness has overtaken Holiness as the primary interest of the Believer.  Money has been used as a lure to entice people away from the spiritual riches of the Kingdom of God.  Satan offers money as if it was God’s initiative to bless the Christian with abundance. The Devil wants God to get the attention through the use of man made substances.  When money becomes an evidence of spiritual blessing, the true blessings of the Kingdom will lay unclaimed.  Satan attempts to influence man away from holiness to achieving anything that would promote sensual satisfaction.  In offering the financial abundance, he hopes to entice Believers into fleshly desires which will, in effect, draw them further away from God’s intended purpose.  Satan is a masterful strategist who knows the Scripture.  He takes Scripture out of context to promote a temporary excitement.  Christians proclaim from the roof tops how God delivered them from financial ruin and blessed them with riches.  Money soon becomes the evidence of spiritual blessings.  Before long the $ sign and the cross become intertwined to exhibit a new and living way.

Human beings are sensual in their desires.  Man is motivated by feelings and experiences.  Anything that will bring emotional and physical satisfaction is man’s ultimate desire.  Things that will bring pleasure and mental satisfaction are readily accepted as God’s desire for us.  The premise is correct, but the process of achieving these goals is wherein the difference lies.  Satan promotes feelings; God promotes Faith.  Satan offers earthly treasures under the guise that it is God’s desire for Believers to prosper financially.

I don’t believe God wants His children to live a life of a pauper, but neither does He want them to live a life where their dependence on Him could be overshadowed by the riches of the world.  Monetary significance is not what the Kingdom of God is all about.  David said that he never saw the “righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps. 37:25)  God has always taken care of the Believers.  Paul told the Philippians that God would supply all their needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)  There are Christians today that claim Scriptures to cover their wants.  Satan opens the world’s riches and distributes them to individuals who have misinterpreted God’s Word.  Soon, money and the Believer have merged to form the concept of a Prosperity Gospel.

Whenever there was a need in the New Testament Church, the Believers sold possessions and brought the proceeds to their worship communities where the money was then distributed to those in need. (Acts 4:34,35; 2:45)  It was not the world’s money, but Believers taking care of each other.  Today, Believers are being taught to bring what money they have to the Church and “seed it,” with the anticipation that God will multiply it in return to them.  Satan is a great barter.  He will offer monetary rewards in exchange for one’s holiness.  The Bible states emphatically that the love of money is the root of all evil. (I Tim. 6:9)  Even with that warning, many Believers are incorporating money into their spiritual portfolios.  Christians must never lose sight of the fact that it is not the acquiring of materialism that benefits our Faith; rather, it is the peace that passes all understanding which comes from our relationship with Him.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

 

Seeing the Scripture and its promises to the Believer is truly an exciting venture.  To read the Bible with the assurance of its validity is a reassuring asset to the Christian walk.  The problem I have is seeing the fulfillment of these divinely expressed words in the lives of Believers.  The statement of who a person is in Christ meets with jubilation, but to see the evidence exhibited in individuals is another thing.  There is the miraculous description of new birth in which one is given a new heart.  Scriptures abound with what we are in Christ when we accept God’s invitation.  The problem is that there is little evidence of changed lives in those responding individuals.  It is true there have been lives that have been dramatically changed to such a degree that people watchers have been amazed at their transformation.  Yet, at other times, there is little or no change in the individual.  I realize there is a process in which individuals grow up in the faith, but that process begins with a totally different heart.  It is a rebirth, Born Again reality. Why, then, is there so much old nature in what people claim as a conversion experience?

The Bible is saturated with words describing the other side of conversion.  If the Word is correct, then each Christian should be a living, walking, breathing, spiritual temple of the living God.  It is within every Believer that the Triune God lives and dwells.   Jesus earthly ministry affected multitudes.  This same Jesus now reigns in the lives of His people, but the effect on the world seems to be minimal in comparison.  Why is there so little difference in people who accept the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

Maybe the answer lies within the framework of one’s understanding of the Scripture. Being Born Again has been a Biblical concept that has been misrepresented and misunderstood.  To experience this reality of being Born Again, one must come to the point of acknowledging that one’s present life ceases to exist, that the person who you once were is no longer a living individual.  Christian society illustrates its lack of Biblical understanding by teaching that you have another individual co-existing within you and that you are, in effect, a spiritual schizophrenic.  We are saved by faith.  Our Faith is not only in the Triune God, but in His Word as well.  Instead of fitting our new birth into our existing being, we must have faith that our previous life has been done away with and we are starting all over again!  When we accepted Jesus Christ, our old being (nature) passed away and we became a new living being. (II Cor. 5:17)  We must accept this by faith!  We will have our old bodies, but the inner man has now become a new born individual created in the likeness of Him.  Our new life parallels the path of the human body which desires milk and the basic staples of life.  Understanding and grasping God’s nourishing Word, we begin to walk in newness of life.  As we continue to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the world begins to see the image of Christ wherever they look.

Being Born Again is not achieved by mimicking led prayers, but it is the falling on our knees at the altar of sacrifice and surrendering our lives.  It is the dying of ourselves and the birthing of a new creation.  This is where it all ends and starts.  Being Born Again is not the fusing of the new being with the old being.  It is a new beginning where former things have passed away and all things have become new.  If we do not understand this, we have failed to understand God’s redeeming plan.  Some believe that the experience of being Born Again is the same as asking Jesus to come into your heart.  It is not seeking Jesus’ presence in part of your life; rather, it is a heart transplant that bears the reality of the new birth. The Biblical word “saved” pertains to a deliverance or protection from the assaults of Satan’s worldly kingdom.  No matter what happens upon this planet called earth, the Born Again individual will be delivered from God’s judgment and Satan’s reign of terror.  That deliverance will not be by escapism but by the protection that God has around His people.

The question arises that if one is truly Born Again, why have we not walked in the light of the Word?  Why is the church not living in the victory that the Scripture describes?  If we have truly been Born Again, why are we displaying the same old nature with which we were first born?   Take a look at Eve, the help mate of Adam.  She began as God created her, but due to listening to the enticements of Satan, she birthed the sinful nature.  By doubting God’s Word, she became susceptible to Satan’s leading.  Satan has used this same tactic in challenging the new creation in Christ.  He attempts to get us to question God’s Word and to interpret its meaning for a self serving purpose.  Think for a moment, how many times we have looked at the Scriptures and said to ourselves that God really did not mean what He said?  Where did those thoughts come from?  Babies have a tendency to desire whatever will make them comfortable or happy.  Satan will throw every sensual pleasure to the Born Again individual.  When we feel good, we are happy. Individual churches are birthed to cater to a feeling orientated experience.  The old natures are resurrected and restated in the Born Again by mind games that Satan plays.  It will not be long before we are experiencing two natures, the carnal and the Divine, which will be at war with each other.  The Apostle Paul explained the reality of the dual nature when he shared his struggle between doing the things he did not want to do and not doing the things he wanted to do. (Rom. 7:14-25)

How does one live and exist with the new nature alone?  Paul gave the answer when he said, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Rom. 7: 25)  When all the challenges of life are waged against the Believer, he immediately realizes that victory has already been achieved through Jesus Christ.  When Satan tries to deliver the package containing the dead issues of our past, we need to reject it with a return stamp that says, THAT PERSON NO LONGER LIVES HERE, RETURN TO SENDER!  We, as Believers, need to spend time with our FATHER (God) and fellowship with our BROTHER (Jesus) while learning from our TUTOR (Holy Spirit).  We are part of the family of God, so let us live like it!  Babies desire to be with their mothers and fathers for all their needs are met.  When are we going to desire continuous fellowship with our Creator?  We need to be in such fellowship with God that the only time we are not conscious of Him is when we are asleep, and even then, the subconscious continues the intimacy.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO READ THE SCRIPTURE

 

The 23rd Psalm starts out with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  The joy of knowing that He is my shepherd is overwhelming.  To know that He takes care of me and leads me into endless possibilities brings a confidence that is displayed with excitement and joy.  My Shepherd does not drive me, but leads me into each new day.  I do not fear tomorrow for I know who holds it.  There is no wanting in my life, for He is everything I would ever want.  Even my sleep patterns have been determined by Him.  He leads me beside the living water of His Word.  This water refreshes and renews me.  He renews my mind each day with the same energy of the day before.  As I enter the new day, the road of right living awaits my arrival.  I will walk in His ways and represent His Kingdom that His name may be magnified.

If there ever comes a time in which I face death by persecution, or accident, or sickness, I will not fear the experience, for my Shepherd will not forsake me.  He is there to comfort me with His staff of preservation and His rod of protection.  When my enemies surround me, He prepares a spiritual feast for me to enjoy, while the unrighteous stand in need.  I am blessed to receive His anointing that overflows from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

As my Shepherd leads me, I will be surrounded with goodness and mercy that will accompany me all the days of my life.  To top all this off, I will worship Him in His dwelling place throughout all eternity!

Whenever I read the Scripture, I read it as if it were addressed to me.  I take it personally.  In every story that is related, I picture myself being there.  I am at the Red Sea parting.  I am with David as he flees from Saul.  I am with Jonah on the ship to Tarshish.  I am on the hillside listening to Jesus’ teachings.  I am on the boat with the disciples when the storm comes.  I am in the Upper Room on the day the Holy Spirit comes upon His disciples.  When we allow ourselves to experience the Scriptures, it will produce a life changing experience.  When I see the nails driven into Jesus hands and hear Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” I feel He is saying that to me.  It is like He sees right through me, knowing how I have failed Him, yet He forgives me.  I feel a pain in my side when they pierce my Savior while on the cross.  I am there on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples who were confused with the events of that day until Jesus opened their understanding.  They would later proclaim how their hearts burned within them as He opened the Word.  I can feel what they did as the Holy Spirit opens my understanding to the Scriptures.

The Bible is not literature, but is the living, written Word of God.  It is as up to date as the internet.  God is still speaking through His Word; we just need to listen!  As I read and experience the Scripture, I read it as God’s personal Book sent just to me.  Learn to take it personally, for it is truly God’s Word for you.

 

 

DEFENDING THE FAITH

Whenever a person’s religious preference and expression is challenged, there is bound to be a vocal response in the form of aggressive rhetoric.  When an individual receives any self-interpreted affront to their faith, there will be a jettison of defensive words and actions to express how they have been offended.  This formula of response is prevalent to so many religions.

It is interesting how Religious persecution is a selective process.  The Atheist, Agnostic, Existentialist, and Humanist will attack movements that will be met with the least resistance.  To attack followers of Islam and their Koran will largely be ignored due to the Muslims zeal and commitment to Mohammad.  To attack their religious leader is a personal affront to them, and they will respond accordingly.  When is the last time you heard people ridicule and make fun of the Islamic Faith?  Many Muslims are willing to die for their faith and will defend it, whatever the cost.  The Christian faith, on the other hand, is ridiculed and maligned with little of no constructive response from Believers.  Today, the Word of God is being defamed as simply literature that is out of touch with reality.  If the same attack was made on the Koran, there would be a price to pay.  Where are the Christians during these times of spiritual assault?  What should be the Believers’ response when the name of God is merged with words to express anger?  How should Believers respond when Jesus Christ is used as a common swear word?  Where is the Church during the assault against the foundation of this once great Country?  Where is the Church when Christ is being taken out of Christmas?  Where was the Church when God was kicked out of the schools?  Why has not the Body of Christ stood up for the God who has loved them so much?  Any response that the Church might initiate against the attackers of their faith will basically be in the form of verbal counter attacks.  Instead of displaying a tooth-for-tooth mentality, the church needs to learn how to promote what they believe through a display of graceful actions.  This is not a time to bunker down and launch Christian missiles into the oppressor’s camps, but a time to turn the cheek while displaying the hope of our calling.  The Bible states that a “soft answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)  There is a difference between responding offensively to the challenges to our Faith, and defending our beliefs.  Tragically, the Church has merged these concepts into one action.

Christians need to stand up for our faith and not be ashamed for what we believe, but how we go about doing that is critical.  When a Believer counterattacks the oppressors with Biblical arrows, the outcome will be a wounding and the closing of the door of opportunity to those who need God.  Every Christian should never let an assault against the Kingdom of God go unanswered.  But we need to learn to defend the Gospel with an attitude of forgiveness and grace, and not with condemnation and anger.  When the world sees our works and attitudes, maybe they will realize Believers are the real thing.

The American Christian movement has become a faith of excuses and complacency.  It is quick to respond to the negatives of life, and slow to promote the positiveness of the faith. When one compares Western Christianity to its counter part in Eastern countries, there is little similarity to each other.  Believers in Third World countries are willing to face any obstacle to carry the message to the lost, while many American Believers have a hard time walking consistently in what we confess to believe.  Let every true Christian learn to stand up for the Faith with love, and not stand out as an instrument of judgment.

CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY

The Neo-Christian movement is a creation of man which has flourished in the Western Culture.  Western Christianity has identified itself as a religion of self consumption and promotion.  It is a movement that has coined the phrase “spiritual capitalism.”  It is a religion of receiving instead of giving.  It is a movement that displays financial success as the evidence of spiritual favor.  What we have seen in our “Christian country” is the merging of the dollar sign and the cross.  Christian prosperity is promoted while worldly famine and want is being ignored.  The flag of financial prosperity is being flown over many congregations that promote the faith known as “self-ianity.”  I believe that true Christianity is not a cultural phenomenon, but a movement that should be just as valid in the back roads of India as in the super highways of the United States.  The Christian beliefs that are promoted in America should have equal emphasis and success in every part of the world, and if it doesn’t, then we have birthed a counterfeit Gospel.  Whenever Christianity promotes financial aggressiveness to the point of anticipating a return of monetary wealth, it must also work for the Ethiopians and like cultures or something is wrong.  Capitalism and the Cross seem to have joined together to make Western Christianity unique to the rest of the world.  More and more people are being drawn to a gospel of financial success.  Churches are filled to capacity when a teaching of financial security and stability is promoted.  Messages abound with the claim that if you give financially with liberality, God will bless you with monetary significance.  Some of these people have credit-carded and borrowed themselves into debt by irresponsible stewardship, and then they seek a Biblical message that will free them from their debt responsibility.  Self-serving ministries entice debt ridden Believers into giving money in the hope of receiving financial freedom and untold wealth.  To support their theories of financial sovereignty they surgically remove and promote Scriptures that are taken out of context.  A wealthy “wanna-be” is urged to take the money that should be used to pay off their debt and seed it to a self promoting ministry.  In so doing, the world is further encouraged to sneer at the Christians who do not honor their financial obligations.

How would this type of Christianity work in places like Pakistan, Uganda, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic?  Western Christianity has promoted a faith that would be more conducive to the Apocrypha than to the Canonical Bible.  How can American Christians promote financial prosperity when so many in the world are struggling to survive?  We build comfort zones with our church structures, while others live in zones with little or no structures.  Western Christians fill their gluttonous stomachs, while many Eastern cultures have a hard time filling their mouths.

The Church needs to redefine its mission.  The Church is not a creation of Western Culture, but a world wide movement which presents and lives Biblical truths.  The Gospel is to go into all the world and present Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Christianity is not a movement of self absorption, but a vessel in which the love of God is poured into us, so that we may, in turn, pour that love into others.  We need to stand away from the mirror and look out the window, and not only see the needs of others, but also reach out and meet those needs.  Let us move from self-indulgence to a diligence of serving each other.

DON’T THINK IT, DON’T SAY IT

How do we respond to problems and every day situations that challenge our comfort zones?  Probably the majority of individuals react with a rush of emotions that causes their daily progress to experience a temporary interruption.  The tendency of so many is to exaggerate the magnitude of the negative disruptions.  Human nature has taught us to expect the worst and hope for the best.  The negative seeds are the fastest growing of life’s seeds, and by our attentiveness to them we are, in effect, promoting their germination.  Little do we realize that entertaining the negative will lead to its offspring, which is pessimism.  To help pessimism flourish, the world fertilizes it with the constant bombardment of negative news through the mass media.  So much of the populace today spreads misconceptions and fears faster than a speeding bullet.  Rumors and gossip are both good fertilizers for the negative.  The effects of situational problems have a strong relationship to high blood pressure, ulcers, anxiety, and other mental and physical manifestations.

Why is it so easy to accentuate the negative and so difficult to promote the positive?   Maybe it is all related to how we spend our time.  If the “daily news” occupies more of our time than the “Good News,” we are bound to develop a negative attitude.  People become, to a large degree, what they read and hear.  Negative thoughts will lead to the flooding of the spirit which can short circuit a Believer’s fellowship with God.  Positive thoughts propel people into Godly actions.  Pessimism looks at opportunities and sees the impossibilities, while optimism looks at the situations and sees the possibilities.

Moses sent twelve men into the Promised Land to check out the territory that God was going to give His people.  For forty days, they scouted out the terrain.  Truly, it was a land of bountiful blessings.  The necessities of life displayed their bounty.  When the spies returned to the staging area of their camp, the multitudes gathered to hear the description of the land that was to be theirs. Ten of the expedition was ready to share the down side of the excursion, while Joshua and Caleb could hardly wait to share their positive aspects of the journey.  The ten “negative-ites” painted a picture of certain doom if they were to invade the land. The ten proclaimed that because the people of the land were so powerful, they looked at themselves as grasshoppers.  To justify their self demotion, they even claimed that was how the occupants of the land saw them. (Numbers 13:33)  The people were so affected by the negativity that they wept before the Lord.  It got to the point that the multitude wished they had never left Egypt.  They even thought of appointing a leader that would take them back to Pharaoh’s land. (Numbers 14:1-4)   Joshua and Caleb bravely attempted to reassure the people that the land was theirs for the taking.  They proclaimed that if they just obeyed God, He would give the land of endless possibilities to them.  The multitude responded by calling for their death. (Num. 14:10)

Life and death is in the power of the tongue. (Prov. 18:21)  If we use our negative seed spreader, we will not only see ourselves as insignificant beings, but Satan will see us in the same way.  We have all experienced the blessings of God, yet we tend to major on the negatives in life. The more we spread negativity, the greater the degree of pessimism.  Joshua put it simply to the people when he said, “Do not rebel against the Lord.” (Num. 14:9)  When we become negative and pessimistic, we are, in effect, rebelling against God.  Let us learn to speak and obey the Word, instead of negating the Word by our fears and feelings.

THE CHRISTIAN CIVIL WAR

During the American Civil War over 600,000 soldiers lost their lives as a result of the idealistic promotion of thoughts and undertakings that were interpretations of self-interests.  People were drawn onto opposing sides in which each thought they were right.  A Nation founded expressly to pursue religious freedom became a Country divided against itself.  It was the North versus the South. Federal Government versus State Rights.  Anti-Slavery versus Pro-Slavery.  Industrialization versus the Cotton Fields.  The issues became incendiary coals waiting for someone to strike the match.  Families were divided.  Politics was birthed with its brother corruption.  The world watched as this prototype of God’s earthly Kingdom tumbled into chaos.  As difficult as it is to understand how the issues of division could have resulted in such human carnage, it is equally staggering to grasp its similarity to the Christian Civil War.

Satan is the great divider.  Ever since Cain and Abel, man has opposed one another over the issue of Religion. God makes it very clear that He hates those “that sow discord among brothers.” (Prov. 6:19b)  Yet today, Believers are attacking one another for not understanding Scripture in the same way they do.  When Elijah stood before God, after being intimidated by Jezebel, he cried out to God that he was the only one left who was preaching truth.  He felt that he was the only true bearer of God’s Word.  God listened to the self-absorbed prophet cry out in his despair, and then simply told Elijah that He had seven thousand followers who were still loyal to Him. (I Kings 19:9-18)  There is an “Elijah Complex” that has been manifested by so many spiritual leaders today.  They feel they are the only ones with a true understanding of the Word.  They oppose those who do not share their interpretation, even to the point of verbal attacks and anti-propaganda.  John rebuked another Believer for casting out demons simply because that person was not in the same “denomination” as the disciples.  Jesus rebuked John by telling him that a person who would do a miracle in His name was not someone to worry about, for if he is not against Him, he is for Him. (Mk 9:38-40)  Paul, writing from prison, stated that however the Truth was preached, he rejoiced. (Philippians 1:18)

To hear Pastors and Teachers call their fellow servants false prophets, enemies of Christ, and proponents of Satan’s kingdom grieves me to the point of experiencing a wounded heart.  Why can’t the redeemed of the Lord adopt the rhetoric of Gamaliel when the Jewish Council faced the interrogation of Peter?  He simply said that if it was not of God, it would not succeed. (Acts 5:38, 39)  The Christian Civil War is dividing families, communities, churches and, tragically, the Body of Christ.  Satan applauds the disharmony, knowing that as long as the Church is divided, less and less people will be brought into God’s fading Kingdom.  Intolerance and exclusiveness seems to be the flag of the Christian nation.  Not only is the influx of potential believers being curtailed by the infighting of Christians, but many young Christians are running for the doors to escape the cruelty that is being shown towards one another.

Whenever the servant of God becomes the focal point of the Gospel, there will always be the reality of disharmony.  Whenever the messenger of God pronounces destructive criticism, there will always be divisions.  Whenever a ministry enters into sectarian theology, there will always be a separation of Believers.  Whenever a Pastor/Teacher causes his flock to oppose those who have different interpretations of the Truth, there will always be hindrances to achieving spiritual maturity.  May we all strive to see the fulfillment of Jesus prayer that all His followers would be “perfected in unity” so that the world would know who sent Him and would believe in Him. (John 17: 21, 23 NAS)

WHY AM I HERE?

As we continue on our course to a life ending reality, there is a search for purpose and meaning to life.  To the older generation, it is a time of reflection.  There is an evaluation of past accomplishments and failures.  Questions are entertained as to what contributions they have made to society.  Will they be remembered for their service to God and country?  Will they say that their deeds have made their community a better place?  Will they claim they have lived up to their purpose in life?

To the younger generation who has started the race of life, there is a whole different mentality of searching for the reason for their existence.  I have seen so many young people struggling to define who they are and what their purpose is in life.  To the teenager who has graduated and left the family nest, the world awaits their arrival.  The enticements offered to the seeking novice take the form of sensual satisfaction.  Pleasure and fleshly fulfillment are flouted as the way to happiness.  If they take the “lure,” they will find only temporary joy.  Problems arise when their new found experience tends to fade out and the search begins again for purposeful identity.

A short time ago, I shared with a young person that the Bible contains the answer for why she exists.  Immediately, she moved from openness into a defensive posture.  She stated emphatically that she wanted nothing to do with the church.  She claimed that the only difference between Christians and her is that they go to church.  She stated that she worked with Christians and their public life style was just as messed up as her life.  The younger generation today is more discerning than we give them credit.  They can spot a phony a mile away.  They would rather have someone reach down and help them gain their footing, than to be preached at by individuals who display inconsistencies.  What they are searching for is authenticity.  They are equally tired of experimenting with the things of the world and finding no lasting satisfaction.

If the Church truly has the answer for the seeking, we need to realize that we must exhibit the Truth, not only by our words, but by our life style and behavior.  If we can’t live the life we promote, we need to hide in our church buildings until we are ready to practice what we say we believe.

The message to our younger generation is they cannot define their purpose in life by way of the created; rather it is through the Creator.  The Bible makes it clear that man exists for God. (I Cor. 8:6 NAS)  Our whole purpose in life is to be available for God to use us in whatever capacity He chooses.  To be able to respond to His beckoning call, we must realize that we also exist through Jesus. (v.6b)  Every day we need to desire God’s will for our lives.  The more we study the Bible the more we become aware of His desire and purpose for our life. We are called to have fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ and to be instruments of His Grace to a seeking world.

Realizing why we are here, brings purpose to life.  It is no longer what I want; rather, it is what God wants.  Understanding that our life is in God’s hands, makes our journey productive and purposeful.  We exist for God through Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here.  Have a happy journey!

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…

There are some great actors and actresses that entertain us with their gift of role playing.  It is enjoyable to see plays and screen performances that carry one into imaginary scenarios.  From grade school to the theater stage and the golden screen, there is the journey from giggles to standing ovations for those who dare to express a role of make-believe and character adaptation.

Some of the greatest performances today are not on the stage and screen of the theaters, but in the pulpits and pews/chairs of the churches.  Some of the best performances for a leading role belong to Pastors whose life style, outside of the pulpit, is more conducive to an entrepreneur who strives to be a co-owner of “the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50:10)  Many churches are alive with actors and actresses instead of disciples and believers.  Some are role playing instead of living a life as a follower of Jesus.  Some learn the language, but only speak it around other actors.  Some open the pew Bibles on Sunday, but leave their own Bibles closed during the week.  Some join in corporate prayer, but fail to carry on a conversation with God daily.  Some exhibit faith in small challenges, but fail to walk in faith during difficult times.  Some keep their wallets closed to the Lord, but open to their own needs and wants.  Some role-play how well things are going, when in reality they are struggling.  We can fool all the people some of the time, but we can’t fool God any of the time.  Your fellow actors may nominate you for an outstanding performance in the appearance category, but will you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when you stand before the Lord? (Matt. 25:21)

Hypocrisy is playing a part under an assumed name.  It is imitating or impersonating another.  The Bible speaks of hypocrisy, or a form of the word, 36 times.  Jesus addresses the issue 19 times in the three synoptic gospels.  It was the religious community that received the blunt of His chastisement.  The Jewish leadership taught Biblical truths, interspersed with editorials and interpretative teaching, but the real problem was that they were not living what they expounded.  Today, Satan would nominate his demons for best supporting actors in their role of playing innocent teachers in sheep’s clothing.  Special Effects would go to his evil spirits for their performances in changing the content of God’s Word to mean something completely different than what was intended by the writer.  Nominations for best actor would go to Christians who imitate true Believers.   Original musical score would go to churches that have carnal beats with Christian lyrics.

The entertainment value of “playing church” is immensely satisfying.  To some actors and actresses there is the satisfaction of attending Worship once a week.  But to the true Believer, the Sunday experience is a pause that refreshes; it is a time of refueling and fellowship with other Saints that have been living their week in service of their Lord.

Let each one of us take a closer look at our lives.  Are we playing a role, or are we the real thing?  Have we memorized our lines, or are we a living epistle?  Are we walking our talk?  Are we truly contending for the faith, or are we just spectators waving the flag of allegiance?  If we walk like a hypocrite and talk like a hypocrite, then we must be a hypocrite.  If we want God to be true to us, let us learn to be true to Him!

THE DOOR CALLED ATTITUDE

Attitude is a manner of showing one’s feelings or thoughts.  Throughout life we have all displayed emotions that have demonstrated both our positive and our negative reactions to different situations.  Body language, as well as our words, has been the conveyor of these attitudes.  It doesn’t take much to have our thoughts and feelings exhibited for everyone to see and experience.  If we display a positive attitude, it will be easier to experience the Grace of God.  When we exhibit a negative demeanor, sin will be at the door of our minds, ready to entice us to sinful action.

Cain and Abel were born outside the confines of the Garden of Eden.  They were raised under the authority of their parents.  They were taught what was right and what was wrong by the self determination of Adam and Eve.  It was possible the under parental upbringing, their children were taught to bring an offering to the Lord.  Thus, it was through the blood sacrifice that the “Adam’s family” acknowledged their responsibility for sin.  Knowing the importance of bringing an offering before the Lord, Abel brought a lamb, while Cain presented fruit.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but “regarded not” Cain’s offering.  God’s rejection of Cain’s offering triggered a response in Cain that showed, through his countenance and attitude, his independence from God.  The Bible says he was “very angry and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 4:5)  God warned Cain that sin was waiting at his door and, if he did not resist, sin would control him. (Gen. 4:7)  Within days, Abel would lie dead at the hands of his brother.  As with his parents, Cain chose not to heed God’s warning.

God asked Cain five questions:  (1) “Why are you angry?”  (2) “Why has your countenance fallen?” (Facial expression)  (3) “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (4) “Where is Abel your brother?” and (5) “What have you done?”  Cain’s only response to these questions was that he did not know where Abel was, and why was it his responsibility to keep track of his brother? (Gen 4:9)  Anger develops when one’s deeds are not in harmony with the righteous acts of the obedient. (I John 3:12)  Jealousy and envy are the roads to separation from God.  If only Cain had acknowledged that his deeds were in conflict with God, Abel’s blood would not have been shed.  Through the attitude of Cain, sin had gained a foothold which would cause him to slip even further from God.

I have noticed over the last few years, a ridiculing and dismissal of ministries that promote positive thinking.  Opponents of these “attitude” teachers have even gone so far as to expose them as “false teachers.”  Where do we get the idea that having a positive attitude about our self is detrimental to achieving spiritual truth?  When we realize what a Believer becomes through Jesus Christ, we cannot help but develop an attitude that exemplifies the joy that resides within us.  Is not our spiritual altitude related to our attitude?  Attitude is the window through which people see what we are experiencing.  If, on the other hand, a positive attitude is taught as a substitute for Biblical Truth, then we have made a critical error.  But if that attitude promotes the reality of who we are in Christ, the doorway to greater spiritual truth will be opened.  Negative attitudes within Believers tend, at the best, to promote the Law; whereas positive attitudes display God’s Grace.  Cain’s attitude opened the door to “evil deeds,” while Abel’s attitude welcomed the “righteous” deeds. (I John 3:12)  Do we have the right attitude?