"UNINTERRUPTED WORSHIP"

There was a 3 Star General who was speaking and addressing a large auditorium of Officers and as he was speaking another Junior Officer walked through the doors. Now, understand, that his late arrival was already was not in keeping with proper PROTCOL, but he entered into the auditorium anyway.

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"THE PURGING OF TRUTH"

Each year Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with patriotic parades, tasty, smokey BBQs, relaxing picnics, red, white and blue flag waving and fantastic fireworks. Each year we set aside a day to celebrate American Freedom and remember how we gained our self-rule as a nation "of the people, for the people and by the people." And that freedom of self-rule has made America a Beacon of Liberty throughout the entire world for over 200 years!

And the way that we celebrate the Fourth…with all the excitement, enthusiasm and noise...it really does recreate some the spirit of the American Revolution; it’s the same kind of fiery spirit that caused our Forefathers to declare their Independence from a tyrannical government.

But, you know what? There was another Spirit that our Founding Fathers possessed and exhibited that we must not allow to disappear from America and that Spirit is the Holy Spirit.

Now, I realize that not all of the Founding Fathers were Born Again Christians with the Spirit of God dwelling in them, but the majority of them were and those who were not were certainly influenced and in hearty agreement with the Judaeo-Christian values taught within the Bible. So, much so that they all agreed to use those same values to form our government. 

The three branches of our government, the judicial, the legislative and the executive powers were inspired by Isaiah 33:22 which says "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us."

It was at the very first meeting the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 that a petition of American complaints against the tyranny of the King of England was written out and that petition was then presented to King George III in hope of avoiding war and bloodshed.  At that meeting they opened up the Bible and read Psalm 35.

"Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am your salvation. Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them. For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have dug for my soul. Let destruction come upon him unawares; and let his net that he has hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall. And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto you, who delivers the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that plunders him?” (Psalms 35:1-10)

Once Congress had finished reading that passage of Scripture they began a 3 hour prayer meeting that was so intense that some of the Founding Fathers never rose up from their knees the entire time!

That meeting then led to Virginia’s Revolutionary Convention which met in a church in Richmond, Virginia. In the pews of that church sat men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and they sat there and listened to Patrick Henry as he pleaded upon the conscience of these men to stand up and fight against the tyranny they were under!

He knew that they had exhausted all political diplomacy and he said “We must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left to us!”

He went on to claim that the cause of liberty was a “holy cause” and because of that they would prevail against the greatest military power on earth. Patrick Henry knew what they all knew…he knew that "if God be for us then who can be against us?" He knew that war with England was unavoidable and he said that loud and clear.

He said that some men are crying “peace, peace…but there is no peace.” He said that “the war has actually begun. Our brethren are already in the field. Why should we idle here?” And Patrick Henry finished his speech with his famous line…“I know not course others may take. But as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

We know that the men sitting in the pews of that church heard his words and they agreed with him because today we continue to celebrate the Spirit of July 4, 1776, the day that we formally declared our independence from an oppressive, tyrannical nation that ran rough-shod over the rights of its citizens. This is our American heritage.

Leading up to July 4, 1776 there had been several clashes between the American Colonists and the British Army, most notably the Boston Massacre in 1770, but the first Independent American blood that was spilled for our liberty was spilled on April 19, 1775 on a church green in Lexington, Massachusetts and then again in Concord, Massachusetts.

During these 2 battles, the inexperienced and greatly outnumbered colonial farmer-soldiers displayed their courage and determination by standing up against the might of the King and laid claim to what they believed was their individual, God given inalienable natural rights! You see, they truly believed the Word of God which said:

"All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto you, who delivers the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that plunders him?" (Psalms 35:10)

And from that point on they exhibited the kind of courage, bravery and personal endurance for the cause of Freedom that has been the trademark of the American Soldier ever since!

The very next month, the Second Continental Congress met in Pennsylvania to discuss the formation of an American Army. While that was taking place, news of the British surrender at Ft. Ticonderoga in New York was received. The War for American Independence was in full swing and there would be no turning back!

Now, that was all a very long time ago and we all know what the outcome was. And when we look back on those days, we should be in awe at just how far we’ve come as a nation in just a couple hundred years…in the last couple hundred years, America has been exalted in the world as a nation, but the question of our time has to be “Are we still heading in the right direction?”

Over and over again average people on the street are being interviewed and are being asked some very basic questions about our American history. And so many people today don’t know where we’ve come from or what our true history is!

Just as it was during the time of the American War for Independence…our time is a very troubled time! These are troubled times because we’ve lost our way as a people, we’ve lost our moral compass and its tragic that we’re raising generations of Americans and sending them out into the world without any frame of reference or any ideals of the past that will help them to navigate through life as an American.

How can we be graduating High School and College kids who can’t even answer the most basic questions concerning our national history or government? Or better yet, how is it that we've allowed our federal educational system to deliberately fail to teach them these important things?

This stuff isn’t Ancient History, folks, this happened right down the road from us just a short time ago! You see, compared to the lengthy history of other countries, histories that that span thousands of years, compared to countries that have had numerous failed systems of government, how is it that we have allowed our children to become so ignorant about the history and the events and the people who gave up their lives and their wealth in order to preserve and pass on to us true American Freedom?

From the War for Independence against the British to the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have paid the ultimate price in their blood to ensure that your liberties as an American remain protected! They have fought and died for our God given, unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”!  And not only for us but for people all over the world! I ask you, will we allow their great sacrifice to be spit upon and forgotten?!

I submit to you that our children aren’t being taught our true American history because it’s impossible to separate the beginning of our country from the strongly held Christian convictions that the men who founded this Great Republic possessed. And yes, we are a Constitutional Republic not a mob rules democracy or an elitist atheistic Communist/Socialist system!

The reason our kids aren’t being told the truth is because it’s no longer politically correct to be historically correct! The truth is that Jesus Christ and the Bible took center stage from the very beginning of our country. The correct history of America is that this country was formed in the churches and the flames of freedom were fanned from patriotic preachers in the pulpits! 

May God give us some Patriotic Preachers today who aren’t afraid to stand against the tyranny we are experiencing today!

I bet you’ve never seen in a modern public school history book tell you that the very first act of Congress was to authorize the printing of 20,000 Bibles so that America could evangelize the Indians! Yes, I said Indians, not Native Americans! Just for the record…I’m part Indian and I’m not even partly offended by the word Indian. I’m actually proud of my Indian heritage!

Just because people are no longer taught these things doesn’t mean they’re not true, but they are being forgotten.Where are we headed as a country? I’ll tell you where we’re headed…we’ve gone from a country who proclaimed “In God We Trust” and actually meant it, to a country that's attempting to kick God out of everything! We’ve become a self-righteous, narcissistic nation that trusts God for very little if anything at all.

I ask you, is that the direction that the Founders hoped we would go? If you read their own writings, if you read their own words, you’d have to come to the conclusion that it’s not.

The First Amendment of our Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Amen! I’m all for that! I’m all for that because we don’t want a State run religion in America like there has been in so many other places in the world. The Founders didn’t want a State Church in America like the Church of England. They didn’t want the government forcing anyone to belong to a certain church, denomination or even religion.

The things I’m saying aren’t new. They used to be taught in history classes. In 1853 the House and Senate Judiciary Committees formed an investigation to find out if the Founders really wanted a“separation of Church and State” like we see in America today. Did they really intend for a separation of Church and State where God cannot be mentioned and where Christianity is excluded from all public service, policy and discourse.

This is what House and Senate Judiciary Committees determined in 1853, they said: “Had the people during the Revolution had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in the cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal statement was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not one sect (denomination)…In this age there is no substitute for Christianity. That was the religion of the Founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. The great vital and conservative element in our system (the thing that holds our system together) is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of our the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I could cite quote after quote from the Founding Fathers themselves and others who lived right after them and if you are an unbiased, thinking, rational, logical person you would find it impossible not to understand how they felt about this.

John Quincy Adams said that the single greatest result of the War for Independence was that Christian principles and our form of government were indissolubly linked together…not separated. John Quincy Adams’ father was John Adams who was the second President of the United States. John Adams was the man who encouraged and helped Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.

Do you think that just maybe John Adams' son might have understood the intentions of his father and men like Thomas Jefferson? The idea that the Founder’s intended a complete separation of Church and State is a twisting of their words and the historical facts in order to achieve an un-American and ungodly political agenda.

For years the Founder’s words and even their character has been attacked, slandered and twisted in order to shut Christians up and keep the Christian faith out of public life and to stop us from being any kind of influence on our culture!

But, you know what? Our Founders knew what all genuine Christians today know. They knew that the problems of the world and our country could never be solved by any human government. They knew that mankind's problems could only truly be solved by the power of Jesus Christ to change the hearts of people by redeeming them.

And…today…we’re told that’s not true. We’re told they never believed that and that kind of extremist, right-wing Christian thinking cannot be expressed in the public arena of our government because it's “unconstitutional”. There’s a Separation between Church and State!

Well, where do we find the phrase “separation of Church & State”? Is it written in the Declaration of Independence? No. Is it in the Constitution? No. Where does that phrase come from? It comes from a personal letter.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” comes from a letter that was written to a Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut. You see, the Danbury Baptists really liked being Baptists and as our new government was taking shape they began to get a little nervous. Why?

They were worried that the United States government might try to force them to belong to an official government Church. You see, in England the Church of England was the official Church and you either belonged to the Church of England or you were persecuted.

But, the same man who wrote “God, Who gave us life, gave us liberty” and “No power over the freedom of religion is delegated to the United States by the Constitution” and “I consider ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man” and that all mankind is entitled by God to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, that same man also wrote “The doctrines of Jesus are simple and tend to the happiness of mankind.”

And that man was none other than Thomas Jefferson himself, the same man who assured the Danbury Baptists that there was a “wall of separation between Church and State” and therefore they didn’t need to worry about the government meddling in their religious affairs.

You see, if what we’re told today about the Separation of Church and State is true…if it’s true that the Constitution requires a complete separation between anything in the public square and anything in the government that has to do with Christianity then Thomas Jefferson was the ultimate hypocrite! 

He’d be the ultimate hypocrite because just 2 days after writing that letter and stating that there was a “wall of separation between Church and State” Thomas Jefferson attended church worship services that were regularly being held in the House of Representatives and he continued to do so during both of his terms as President!

Oh, but his hypocrisy wouldn’t stop there! During those same years as President, Jefferson also sent Federal tax dollars to build a church and pay the salary of the priest! If Jefferson was so dedicated, so insistent upon the separation of Church and State as its defined today, then tell me…why did he sign 3 different acts that set aside government land in order to help Christian Missionaries to spread Christianity?

Was he the ultimate hypocrite or has his words been twisted and taken completely out of context? Jefferson wasn’t a hypocrite and at least one Supreme Court Judge agrees. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist said “unfortunately the establishment clause has been freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor.”

Hey, I thought that a metaphor is something that shouldn't be taken literally! They must not teach that in schools anymore either! But, even so, the impact of that metaphor and the laws that have been made because of the deliberate misleading of Americans by many dishonest people has led our nation down a path that we were never intended to go.

In 1962 our entire nation was radically transformed by a small group of activist judges that made up the Supreme Court. Sound familiar? Those few judges decided that the word “Church” that Jefferson used no longer meant a “federally established denomination” as it did when Jefferson wrote it, but instead they applied a new definition to it and said it now meant “any religious activity in public”.

And that’s when we as a nation began to take a drastic, wrong turn and we removed prayer from schools and then we began the legal murder of babies in the womb! Over 50 million children destroyed since the Supreme Court's decision in Roe vs Wade! What’s interesting about that is that at the time the Supreme Court said that since there was no “window to the womb” they couldn’t classify babies in the womb as being human.

Well, guess what? Technology has caught up with them. We now have an actual window to the womb…it’s called 3D Ultra Sound where you can clearly see that the child in the womb is a human being even in its earliest stages and as a human being has all the Civil Rights of a human being under our Constitution…so will they now reverse their terrible ruling? I don’t know…probably not as long as we as a nation continue to reject God.

And, of course, today so much of what the Founders said is now being vilified because it’s so politically incorrect! But, I would say that given our historical and political foundation, true political incorrectness is illustrated by the sweeping ignorance of the modern American regarding religion and government!

Proverbs 8:35-36  says "For whosoever finds me finds life, and shall obtain favor of the LORD. But he that sins against me wrongs his own soul: all they that hate me love death."

You see, our forefathers weren’t incorrect in the least. They knew exactly what kind of government and what kind of country they were forming and they knew what kind of nation they wanted to pass down to their children and grandchildren. And as long as we continue to rewrite our history and purge our nation from our Judaeo-Christian Heritage we will continue going down the wrong path; we’ll continue going in the wrong direction, further and further away from God and further away from His Sovereign blessing and protection.

Now, I know that it may sound like I’m attacking America because I think it’s become such a terrible, wicked place. If that’s what it sounds like to you, then you don’t understand where I’m coming from at all. I love America!

Even though we’ve had many problems in our past and have done many wrong things and even though we’ve turned our back on God and are ripping up our spiritual roots, I still believe in America! I still believe that America can be the greatest nation on earth!

But, if we don’t change ways…if we don’t change our direction, America will become just like every other nation on earth…inconsequential and unextraordinary at best.

It’s way past time for Christians in America to get serious about their faith. American Christians need to stand up and speak up! American Christians need to spread the Gospel all across our Land bringing love, hope and revival to the people of our nation through knowledge of Jesus Christ! American Christians need to begin voting according to their faith and not their wallets or their emotions.

You see, if Christians voted like real followers of Jesus and if we began to stand up for the liberties that our sons and daughters have died to provide, the very liberties that came from God Himself…if everyone who was truly a Christian would just do that then we’d begin to see this country turn around and begin moving in the right direction again.

Before the Israelites entered into the Land that God had promised them, before they entered into the land that was flowing with His rich provision, protection and blessing, God gave them a strong warning through Moses. He said:

“When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which he has given you. Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day: Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built fine houses, and dwelt in them; And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty land, where there was no water; who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might test you, to do you good in the end; And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto your fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:10-20)

We are insane and futile in our thinking if we think for a moment that we can preserve the greatness and beauty of America and the American way of life…we are insane and futile in our thinking if we think that we can enjoy the blessings and freedoms that God has given us while at the same time forgetting Him and purposely cutting and ripping up our spiritual roots…because "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any nation" and America will certainly perish from this earth if we continue to be disobedient to the voice of the Lord our God!

May God help us and may God save America from itself! 

GO BLESS, BRATS!

 

"BEING THE DAD HE NEVER HAD"

Psalms 127:3:5 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."

My Dad didn't have it easy growing up. He was born in 1945 into a very poor family and moved around from place to place often living in abandoned houses because his father was a migrant worker and followed the crops taking his family with him.

The home he grew up in was nothing like the home he gave my sisters and I. His home was a place of physical abuse, alcohol abuse and hunger. I didn't know my grandfather but what I do know about him is that he wasn't a good man or a good father.

My Dad was the "baby" of five children and he was "Momma's Boy"...he was so close to his mom, but she died when he was just 16 years old of a brain aneurysm and whatever resemblance he had of a home died along with her.

Very soon after the death of his mother his Dad moved another woman into the house. This led to an altercation between my father and my grandfather and my Dad found himself thrown out of the house. At 16 years old he was now on his own.

At 19 he joined the Army and for the next 20 years the Army gave him the home he never had. Not only that, but he was able provide the kind of home to us that was far better than anything he ever experienced as a child.

I was 8 years old when my grandfather died, and i remember how my Dad and Mom jumped on Space-A Flight from Germany and went home to bury his father. My Dad paid for the funeral and gave honor to the man who never gave him anything. Many years later my dad gave me a motorcycle out of the blue and when I asked why, with tears in his eyes he said to me "My Dad never gave me anything...and I just wanted to give my son a motorcycle."

My Dad did things with me that his father never would've done with him. He took me camping, bike riding and swimming. He wrestled and played with me on the floor always letting me "win". I'll never forget how he made an Army uniform for me by altering one of his own to fit me!

One summer while we were stationed in Germany, he took me camping in the Black Forest and I remember so badly wanting to carry my own knife to whittle with. So, he took an old pair of his combat boots and cut some of the black leather off and made a sheath out of it, perfect for the little paring knife he took out of the kitchen drawer! I'll never forget how grown up I felt when he hung that on my belt!

Even though my Dad was far from perfect, even though he had a bad temper at times, I know that he tried very hard to be a good husband to my mother and a good father to us 3 kids.

Now as a Dad and Grand-Dad myself, I know he did the best he knew how considering the home he grew up in.  By his loving example, he taught me everything I know about being a good Dad and a Grandfather.

Thanks, Dad for not being a quitter and for being a fighter. Thanks, Dad for giving us what you never had...a loving home, full bellies and a warm bed. Dad, you are my hero! My children, my children's children and I are forever indebted to you for being the kind of man you are!

You broke the cycle of abuse, alcohol and hunger. You've given us everything we could ever need! And I know that you've made your Momma so very proud!

I love you, Dad and I'm honored to have your name and to have you call me your son.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

 

"CHRIST AND THE COLLABORATOR"

Luke 19:1-6 “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was the chief among the tax collectors, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at your house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

Anytime you have oppressed people you will also have collaborators. A collaborator is a person who cooperates with the enemy in a traitorous way against their own people. During World War 2 there were some Jews who collaborated with the Nazis against their own people. In the infamous Warsaw Ghetto there were Jewish Police who actually helped the Germans deport their fellow Jews to the concentration camps! Those Jewish collaborators were just as guilty as the Nazis and should be just as despised as the Nazis, maybe even more so!

During the time of Jesus the Jews were being oppressed, not by Germans, but by the Romans. And just as there were some Jewish collaborators with the Nazis there were also Jews who collaborated with the Romans; Jews who oppressed their own people for personal gain. Zacchaeus was one of those collaborators.

The Romans collected high taxes from the Jews and one of the ways that they collected those taxes was by sub-contracting the job out to a local Jew who lacked scruples and wasn't sensitive to what his people thought about him. And you need to understand that this was a very, very lucrative deal. You could make a lot of money for collaborating in this way and it was very tempting for someone who was willing to betray his own people and join with their enemy oppressors in order to make a buck! These collaborators got rich off of the poor; they got rich off of the oppression of their own people.

Now, we’re told that Zacchaeus wasn't just an ordinary tax collector we're told that he was a "chief" tax collector. That means he held a high rank and he was in charge of other tax collectors under him. He was the big boss, he was guy at the top of the pyramid scheme, he was the local “Mafia Capo”, and he became rich through extortion, greed, false accusations, threats and robbery. He was high profile and well-known in Jericho...and everybody hated him.

Ironically, the name Zacchaeus means the "pure one". Now, I'm sure that his parents had great things in mind for his life when they gave him a name like “the pure one”. They probably had dreams of him serving God and living a pure, godly life as a devout Jew, but that’s not how he turned out. Whatever plans or hopes his parents had for him were ultimately destroyed because of his love of money.

The Bible tells us that the “love of money is the root of all evil” and it was Zacchaeus’ love of money that made him become a collaborator and it was his love of money that made him willing to endure the shame and hatred of his fellow Jews, maybe even the hatred of his own parents.

Sadly, the "pure one" wasn't pure at all, he was defiled; he was unclean because there wasn't anything more impure for a Jew than to be a Tax Collector for the Romans. The "pure one", Zacchaeus, had become the scum of Jewish society.

It would seem that at this point in Zacchaeus’ life that he's reflected on his bad choices and he must've thought that he was “in too deep” and that he really couldn't stop even if he wanted to. It would be impossible for him to get out of this dirty business that he was in even if he wanted to. He must've thought that he couldn’t EVER be redeemed by God, he couldn’t EVER rejoin his Jewish brothers and sisters because he was just too bad and he had just gone too far into a life of sin.

Listen up, BRATS! It's never too late to be redeemed and forgiven by God! It's never too late as long as you have breath in your lungs! You're never too bad and you can never go so far that God cannot seek, find and save you! You CAN be redeemed!

As Jesus entered into Jericho a huge crowd gathered and that crowd began to swarm Him. We’re told that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, he wanted to see the One that everyone was been talking about, but that huge crowd made that very difficult for him because "he was little"; Zacchaeus was short. In fact, he was so short that he couldn't see Jesus over the huge crowd.

But he really wanted to get a glimpse of this famous Rabbi Jesus, who might even be the Messiah, so we're told that he "ran ahead" of the crowd. He went ahead of the crowd and he climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus as He passed by. Now this must have been a humbling thing for him to do because Mafia Capos, rich businessmen, bank presidents, mayors and city counselors, men of power don't climb trees in order to get a better view, little CHILDREN climb trees, not high profile, prominent men of position.

What this tells us is that Zacchaeus was willing to humble himself just to get a glimpse of the Lord. In Matthew 18 Jesus said "Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

You see, we must come to Jesus like a little child and Zacchaeus was already half way there whether he knew it or not.  And "when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him". He was spotted by Jesus!

Not only was he spotted, but Jesus stopped and singled him out and He called Zacchaeus by name to come down out of the tree and come into the crowd of people that Zacchaeus had been extorting from. When Jesus called him to come down, it’s likely that the crowd expected Jesus to justify their anger and hatred of Zacchaeus and say something like this:

"Zacchaeus you’ve brought the anger and hatred of this crowd upon yourself by oppressing your own people and by breaking the Law of Moses! You are a collaborator with the enemy, you’re bleeding your people dry, and therefore you deserve ridicule and anger! You need to stop what you're doing, you need to go to the Temple and be purified by the priests because you've defiled yourself and you've defiled your entire household! NOW GET DOWN OUT OF THAT TREE, repent of your many sins and beg God and these good people for forgiveness!"

Now, of course, had Jesus said something like that the crowd would've cheered, but that's not at all what happened...because Jesus never did what was expected of Him. Instead of rebuking Zacchaeus, Jesus told him to "make haste, and come down; because today I must abide at your house."

What?! Jesus was going to Zacchaeus' house?! Jesus wanted to spend special one on one time with a defiled, unclean Tax Collecting, Collaborating Sinner!? Yes.

Of course Zacchaeus was more than happy to have Jesus over to his house because surely he had ever had a guest like Jesus, in fact, he probably ever had ANYONE over at all besides other tax collectors and sinners because no respectable Jew in Jericho would've ever gone to Zacchaeus' house!

Zacchaeus was content with just getting a glimpse of Jesus from the tree as He passed by, but now Jesus was going to be a special honored guest in his home! This was more than he could have ever hoped for! And  Zacchaeus came down from the tree and he joyfully received Jesus!

You see, Jesus called Zacchaeus by name. Jesus knew WHO he was, Jesus knew WHAT he was and Jesus knew WHERE he was....just like he knows who you are, what you are and where you are. Today, the Lord Jesus is calling you to quit hiding and to come to Him just as you are.

The God Who made you, the God Who holds your life in His hand, and the God Who sent His Son to die for and to save sinners…He knows you. He knows you by name, He knows who you are, He knows where you've been and He knows what you've done...He knows it all and He calls you to come to Him anyway.

When the Lord stopped and called Zacchaeus to come down out of that tree, that call changed that Chief Tax Collector's life forever. You see, Zacchaeus wasn't just being called to come down out of the tree, he was being called to come into the Kingdom of God! Zacchaeus thought he was well hidden in the branches and leaves of the sycamore tree, but Christ saw him and called him and Zacchaeus found himself hidden with Christ.

Colossians 3:2-3 says to "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

Come to Him because it's not too late, you haven't gone too far and you're not too bad for Him to forgive you! By the fact that Zacchaeus received Christ so quickly and so joyfully tells me that he really was looking for a way out. Deep down he really did want out of his life of sin. He wanted out, but he felt like he had gone too far and that there was no way out for him and there was no one who could help him get out…that is… until the collaborator collaborated with Christ.

Zacchaeus not only stopped collaborating with the enemy of his people, he also stopped collaborating with the enemy of his soul and he chose to switch sides once again and join himself with Christ. Have you done that yet?

If you find that you've hidden yourself away, content to watch other people from a distance walk with Jesus, then make haste and come out of hiding today and join yourself to Christ!

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"WHEN KINGDOMS CLASH"

Matthew 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

Luke 16:16 "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it."

Many people wonder what Jesus meant by His statement “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force” in Matthew 11:12. There are at least two ways His statement can be understood. One interpretation is that the two parts of His statement are essentially the same; He’s saying the same thing but in different ways. In other words, the kingdom is under attack and its attackers are violent men who are trying to take it by force.

The phrase “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence” is a phrase that seems to refer to persecution against Jesus' movement which was announced by John the Baptist and, of course, John the Baptist was arrested, imprisoned and beheaded by King Herod. Jesus mentions John the Baptist to point out that he was a casualty of this spiritual war and a victim of this trend of violence against the Kingdom Of Heaven.

This violent persecution against John by Herod was an example of the type of violence that the Kingdom will experience and Jesus says it began with John and it will continue to happen as two kingdoms clash with one another.

The second part of his statement is a little more difficult because he says “the violent take it by force”. What does that mean? Again, some people think the Jesus is just restating the same thought about violence against the Kingdom of God by violent men, but using different words.

The word Matthew used for “violence” and “violent” is a Greek word that means “forceful”. In the Greek this literally says: The Kingdom of Heaven is being forced and the forceful ones are snatching it. In other words, “forceful” people will take the Kingdom of God by force.

So, if we were to understand that Jesus is actually making two separate statements, one statement that the Kingdom of God is under violent attack and the second that those who are the defenders of the Kingdom must be equally forceful and determined to defend it and expand it, then this clearly describes the spiritual warfare taking place between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God; the clashing of two kingdoms.

There is a war going on and it’s a war of between two kingdoms. This is not a natural war but rather it is a spiritual war that often manifests itself in the natural world and as the Kingdom of God advances it is forcibly resisted. Therefore, Christians need to take hold of the Kingdom and advance the Kingdom forcibly as well.

The Kingdom of God will not be established without stiff opposition from the Kingdom of Darkness and those who attempt to enter into the Kingdom of God are going to have to do so under that stiff opposition because there are two clashing kingdoms, one which is loyal to Satan and the other is loyal to God.

There is no neutral ground in this spiritual war, in this clash of kingdoms you are either in one kingdom or the other. Jesus said that “He that is not with me is against me;” (Matt. 12:30).

Now, of course, Jesus is not saying that we should use physical violence because He clearly spoke against doing so. When He was being arrested, Jesus told Peter to “Put away your sword: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52). When Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, He told Pilate that “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here (John 18:36).

Even though the hostile world often uses physical violence as a means of resisting the Kingdom of Heaven, those who follow Jesus do not use the same tactic. Christians do not persecute or physically force people to enter in, however, our strategy is still one of force, one of power, because the force that we use is truth and the Power of God found within the Gospel! Romans 1:16 says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes”.

Being “forceful” does not mean that you are to be physically violent it means that you are just as determined or even more determined to seize the Kingdom for yourself and others as the enemy is determined to stop you. Often the world uses extreme force in trying to keep people out of the Kingdom of Heaven; likewise, those in the Kingdom of Heaven must be extremely forceful in helping people to enter into the Kingdom.

When someone leaves the kingdom of darkness and enters into the Kingdom of Light, they become an automatic target by a spiritual force that doesn't want Jesus to reign as King and that kingdom of darkness reacts violently. When the Kingdom of Heaven meets that violent force we must have an even greater force and resolve not to shrink back, not to be dissuaded, removed or to lose spiritual ground that’s been taken for Christ through the Gospel!

Jesus’ followers must not be intimidated by violence whether physical or spiritual! Christ’s followers have to meet the resistance of the world with an even greater resolve in following Jesus and in taking ground by leading others to loyalty to Him.

The parallel verse to Matthew 11:12 is Luke 16:16 which says “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.” Again, Jesus is saying is that we must be just as determined to press into the Kingdom of God as its enemies are to keep us out of it.

So, what does it mean to press “into” the Kingdom? Pressing into it means to follow Jesus by dying to yourself and taking up a cross as a true follower of Jesus. This requires great force or determination because everything is fighting against you. The enemy of your soul, the devil, other people and your even own sinful nature wars against you. But we are challenged to push back the darkness.

Paul says that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

Your salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of God was NOT without violence! God’s dear Son suffered and died a violent, bloody death in order give you access into His Kingdom!

Therefore, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that all of you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that all of you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).

Press hard into the Kingdom of God and stand your ground! There will be only one victor in this great battle of light versus darkness and His name is King Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Be loyal and serve your King and never give into the power of darkness in this world!

Revelation 12:10-11 "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now has come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

"AMERICA IS DOOMED"

Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."

If this Proverb is true (and it is) then America just might be doomed! We are in trouble….America is in trouble not only because our nation has abandoned righteousness, in many cases we actually despise righteousness! In fact, our nation not only tolerates sin, sin has now a become matter of national policy and law. And unless America repents and returns to righteousness, America is doomed.

This Proverb should remind us of something Billy Graham wrote. He wrote: “Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” (My Heart Aches for America)

“Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

When a nation is exalted that means it’s been raised up in rank, honor, power and wealth and when a nation is reproached it’s a disgrace and it’s scorned and shamed because of its faults. America was once a righteous nation and was exalted in the world, but no longer.

America was once a righteous nation, but that doesn’t mean we were a perfect nation. You see, there’s a difference between having the righteousness of Christ and being self-righteous. Once there was a time when we as a nation leaned heavily upon our need for the righteousness of Christ and His Gospel, but now we’ve rejected that and instead we hold to our own self-righteousness and sin.

Reproach has come to our nation and I believe that God is giving us a final warning before taking action. If you read the Bible you’ll see that God puts up with a lot from people and gives many warnings before He brings judgment to a nation. All throughout the Bible God sent His Prophets to the nation of Israel who brought forth His Word warning them that God would take strong action against them if they did not change their ways.

Likewise, America has received many strong warnings over the last generation; God STILL has His Prophets in our nation, although they’re fewer and fewer all the time. For decades, God has been warning America through His preachers that judgment was coming if we didn’t change our course, change our behavior and return to righteousness.

But instead of heeding God’s warnings we as a country have shook our fist in God’s Face and have said “We’ll do what we want to do! You can stay out of our business. GET OUT!”

That’s not always been our response, however. In the past God warned America and America heeded His warning and we experienced what was called the 1st 2nd and 3rd Great Awakenings. These were periods of unprecedented spiritual revival in America.

The First Great Awakening began in the 1700’s with the preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield; the Second Great Awakening began in the early 1800’s and lasted to the mid-1800s with the preaching of Finney and others like him. The Third Great Awakening was led by men such as DL Moody and it lasted until the early 1900’s.

All 3 of the Great Awakenings were periods of great spiritual revival brought on by our willingness to heed God’s warnings and in each Great Awakening America experienced a national revival which led to the genuine conversion of millions of Americans, which in turn caused this country to change its course and its behavior and turn back to God and His righteousness. And every time the nation was exalted.

Is there any hope for America? Yes, there is hope. If we as a nation repent quickly and return to God we can avoid His judgement and be exalted once again. God told Solomon, “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Is there hope for America? No, there is no hope if we as a nation refuse to repent of our many sins. If we continue down the path of sin then America will eventually go the way of so many other godless, sinful nations that fell under the judgment of God and America will disappear from the stage of human history forever.

Psalms 144:11-15 says “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner pillars, polished after the similitude of a palace: That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a state: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.”

America needs to remember that “happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” and we need to realize that our only hope is a return to righteousness through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. America’s only hope is to become a righteous nation that hates sin. If we don't do that then America is truly doomed. 

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"GOD'S D-DAY"

John 6:39-40;44;54 "And this is the Father's will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

Four times in this one passage Jesus stressed that those who are His disciples will be raised up from the dead...when? He said "at the Last Day". Could Jesus have been more clear than that? No. So, if this true (and it is because Jesus said it) then it is very important for us to understand what He meant by “the last day”.

 The Apostle Paul wrote "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of the Lord is at hand (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ).

These verses are about Jesus' Second Coming which Paul calls "the day of the Lord" and I contend that the “day of the Lord” that Paul mentions is the same day as the "Last Day" that Jesus spoke about.

1 Thessalonians 4 is where the classic teaching on the Rapture is found and the Thessalonians apparently felt that Christians who had died would miss out on Second Coming of Lord. So, they needed some instruction on doctrine of the resurrection of the saints, therefore this passage is mostly about the Resurrection.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, the Resurrection is inseparably linked to the Second Coming and the Rapture is inseparably linked with the Resurrection. Paul says that those who have died in Christ will be resurrected, not raptured and those who are still alive at the Second Coming will be raptured, not resurrected.

According 1 Thessalonians 4, Christians are raptured at the same time as those who died in the faith are raised from the dead, which according to Jesus happens when? On the Last Day.

If words mean anything at all, then the “last day” Jesus spoke of means that there will be no other days after that final, last day. The phrase the “Last Day” means exactly what it says: it is the last day. The reason it is called the last day is because it is also the Day that the Heavens and the Earth are replaced with an eternal New Heaven and a New Earth. 

2 Peter 3:10-13 says: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought all of you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness."

When does Peter say that this will happen? He says it will happen on the "Day of the Lord" or at the Second Coming, the Last day, the Day of God. It all happens on the same Day which goes by a few different names.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 says: "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:"

This is what is called the Day of Judgment and it must happen on the Last Day since there are no other days after the last day.

2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”.

1 John 4:17 says : "In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

Matthew 12:36 says  "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."

2 Peter 2:9 says: "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:"

2 Peter 3:7 says  "But the heavens and the earth, which now are, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."

Jude 1:6 "And the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

The Apostle John described this Final Day of Judgment by saying that Jesus is going to sit upon His throne of judgment and men will either be judged unto righteousness or judged unto condemnation (Revelation 20:11-15). We must continue to warn people of God's Judgment Day, His "D-Day", right up until the very end, even as Noah did, so that some might heed our warning and come into the Ark of God which is Jesus Christ and be saved.

For Christians, the judgment of this world is not a reason to fear because God has promised that those who are His children are not children of wrath and are not subject to His judgment; “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

For Christians there will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more sorrow, only joy in the eternal presence of a good and loving God in the New Heaven and New Earth.

We are looking forward to the Last Day and to the time of His Second Coming when God will once again bring man into His Paradise called the New Heaven and New Earth thereby bringing the ultimate redemption of mankind and the world.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

GO BLESS, BRATS!

“GOOD NEWS FROM OVERSEAS”

Proverbs 25:25 “As cold water is to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”

In 1978 my family had just returned for a 3rd Tour in Germany when my parents got the bad news that my Dad’s father had passed away. We had only been there a short time and we were still in Temporary Housing so we really didn’t know ANYONE, but the Army is a family so my parents were able to find someone who was willing to take in us 3 kids while they jumped on a Space-A flight back to the States to go to the funeral.

Unfortunately, none of us can even remember who the family was that took us in for that month, but I do remember it was in Mainz-Kastel Housing.

As the weeks dragged on without ANY news at all from my parents I became very discouraged and sad. When were they coming back? What was going on?! Why was it taking so long? There’s a saying in the military that “no news is good news” but in this case no news was definitely NOT good news to me! But, after my dad's 30 day leave was up they returned and we were all reunited. I remember that day very well!

As an Army BRAT in Germany in the 1970’s the only time we ever heard from our relatives back in the States was when we received an occasional a written letter or made very rare phone call. It was a time before the internet and the distance between family and friends made getting any news from them of any kind, good or bad, was a lengthy process. It usually took several weeks for a letter from the States to arrive via our APO NY address in Germany! Yet somehow my grandmother always seemed to time our birthday cards just right!

Once a year we made a phone call to my grandparents. Each Christmas Eve my Dad would place the long distance overseas call to a tiny town in Vermont where my grandparents lived. Sometimes he would let one of us kids hold the phone while we waited for what seemed like several minutes for it to ring on the other end. As I held the phone to my ear I would imagine the signal crossing the Atlantic until it finally reached them and someone picked up on the other end.

Those birthday cards and phone calls were always greatly anticipated (not just because there might be a dollar or two in the card either) because of the joy and the refreshment that they brought to us while we were living in a far country. Letters from the States that gave us updates on various family members helped to make us feel as though we were connected even though we didn’t even really know most of them.

This Proverb is fairly simple to understand. We all know what it’s like to be thirsty and we all know how a cold glass of water can refresh and revive us. When you’re thirsty and are handed a fresh, cold drink it WILL put a smile on your face!

Earlier in the Proverb Solomon says “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Proverbs 25:13). What is it that Solomon is saying “refreshes the soul”? It’s the message that is brought, the good news from home.

You see, good news has can rejuvenate you especially when your far away and it’s long overdue! Anyone who’s ever spent long periods of time away from home in a far country knows what it’s like to wonder what’s going on with everyone “back home” and how everyone is doing. Even just hearing about their normal day to day activities can revitalize your heart! Just to know that everyone’s okay helps to give you the strength to endure the distance.

Who needs to hear from you today? Who is in a “far country” and is discouraged due to lack of good news from you? WISE UP! In this day when we have instant messaging and fast communication, there’s no excuse for us not to lift someone’s spirit with a simple piece of good news!

Of course, the good news that we should all be sharing to those both near and far is the Good News of the Gospel! Isaiah 52:7 says “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that says unto Zion, Your God reigns!”

Quench someone’s thirsty soul  and bring them the Good News today!

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"ARMY MOM STRONG"

 "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; "- Proverbs 31:28 

"Honor your mother".. On this Mother's Day, I am sitting here reflecting on how I was raised as an Army Brat. As I think about my Mother, I realize that there is no doubt that my Mom, as a career military wife, was a solid rock in our family's strong foundation.

My Dad had well-earned the rank and title of Sgt Major Cook and he was the leader of many men.. but my Mom, she also well-earned her rank and title.

She earned the rank and title of "SGT ROCK." Even though I call her Sgt Rock that doesn't mean that our Company was "easy". No, it was far from being easy!
As Sgt Rock, all too often she found herself alone, left by herself to lead a small family squad of 2 girls and a boy.

Many times my Dad was called away on TDY and my Mom had to fill his fatherly boots. She did this in more ways than I knew then as a child or that I could even know now as an adult.

And she did this extra duty with excellence all the while fulfilling and performing her own responsibilities as a loving, caring mother.

Sgt Rock disciplined us when we got out of line, she made sure we were well supplied, well clothed, well fed and in bed and up for school on time.

She dealt with all the daily issues that arise in the life of a young, growing family with teen aged girls. She was also the one who had to sit on the edge of a bed wiping away tears from the eyes of a little boy who missed his Dad so much and who was angry at the Army for taking his Dad away.

She had to be the one to explain the importance of what Sgt Major Cook was doing to a boy who had a hard time sharing his father with the US Government.

My Mother possessed and exhibited an unfeigned loyalty to my Dad and to the United States Army and she taught her children to do the same.

Sgt Rock is a leader who played a tremendous role in shaping me into the man I am today.

Make no mistake, I have always loved and respected my Father very much and I am grateful that so much of who he is has been instilled in me as a man and Father.

To this very day I still look up to Sgt Major Cook, but even so, as a grown man so often I find myself also looking to Sgt Rock and leading my own family by her wonderful example.

So, Thank You, Sgt Rock, thank you Mom, for being all you could be and more! I love you Mom! Happy Mother's Day to my Mom, Sgt Rock!

 

 

"STOP BEING TOLERANT"

Proverbs 8:12-14 “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the perverse mouth, do I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.”

Here in Proverbs 8 we’re given a very good description of what the fear of the Lord actually looks like. Fearing the Lord means hating evil. We hate evil because evil is opposed to God and it’s dangerous to us. We hate evil because evil is what destroys the relationship between us and God. A wise person hates evil because a wise person understands that evil is the thing that puts people at odds with God.

There will be a day when all evil is judged and therefore, we want to distance ourselves as far from it as possible! Wisdom HATES things like pride, arrogance and a perverse mouth. A wise person HATES SIN!

Psalms 119:53 says “Horror has taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake your law.”

As one who fears the Lord, thinking about the fate of those who do evil and the prospect of them standing in God’s horrific judgement sends a shiver down my spine!

In 1973 a man named Karl Menninger wrote a book called “Whatever Became of Sin”? A few years ago, I happened to pick this book up at a yard sale and read it out of curiosity. The book stressed that many of the problems that we face as a society are a direct result of the disappearing concept of sin. What that means is that we stopped calling sin…SIN. We've stopped using the word “sin” to describe evil behavior and we started using words like “mistake” instead. Let me tell you, most sins are not a mistake, most sins are deliberate evil actions by done by people with a fallen, sinful human nature.

Menninger recognized as far back as 1973 that we were on a slippery slope by refusing to call sin by its proper name and by re-classifying certain sins as “sicknesses” or “diseases”.

It’s unfortunate that we as a society have chosen to do away with so many of the Judeo-Christian principles and doctrines regarding good and evil and now we’re truly reaping the bad fruit of it. Biblical truth was the glue that held this nation together and now we no longer want to call sin…sin, much less call it evil! In fact, we’ve taken it one step further so that many people refuse to recognize that such a thing as sin even exists.

In 2008 the Oxford Junior Dictionary released its latest edition which dropped many words that they claimed were no longer in common use. Among the words dropped from the dictionary was…you guessed it, the word “sin”. And I’m telling you it’s only a matter of time before it’s dropped from the American lexicon as well. You see, the thinking is: If we can just do away with sin then we can do away with the need for a Savior.

If you asked the average person on the street “What is sin?” you would find that the world has no answer, but let me give you the definition of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). And what law might that be? It’s the Law of God; and we’ve all broken it; we’ve told lies, we’ve stolen, we’ve taken God’s name in vain, we’ve coveted, we’ve been disrespectful to our parents, we’ve ALL done something evil at one time or another!

Now, someone might say, “I don’t believe in God’s Law, so it doesn’t apply to me”. The truth is that God’s Laws are real whether you believe them or not. Let me illustrate…let’s say you get pulled over by “The Law”, or the Police, for going 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. Try telling the Cop that you shouldn’t get a ticket because you don’t believe in that law and see how well that works out for you!

It’s very clear that we’re all sinners. We all sin by violating God’s Law, but in the politically correct world we live in there’s just no room left for calling sin…SIN. It seems we’ve become tolerant towards everything except the truth that people sin and sin is evil.

You see, if we can just remove all of that talk of sin from our society then people will feel so much better about themselves, right? So let’s take prayer out of school, lets remove the 10 Commandments from our public places that way no one will even know what they are and if you break them out of ignorance then how’s that your fault?

Again, let’s go back to the speeding illustration. If you tell the cop who pulled you over that you shouldn’t get a ticket because you didn’t know that the speed limit was 30mph then he’ll say to you: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”…and that’s why the Bible tells us in Romans 1 that we’re ALL “without” excuse because God has given us a conscience to know right from wrong and has told us to hate evil in His Word.

A politically correct nation can’t tolerate the biblical truth that we’re all sinners. A politically correct nation can’t tolerate the biblical truth that we’re all born in sin and we all fall short of God’s standards, and so we exchange the truth for cute little sayings like, “Nobody’s Perfect”. Well, that’s the whole point isn’t it?

Jesus said “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

You see, that’s the high standard of GOODNESS that none of us can meet and that’s Jesus’ point…we’re NOT perfect, we’re NOT all basically good, we’re ALL born with an evil sin nature! We ALL sin and therefore we’re in ALL in trouble with God.

Slowly and I would say methodically, we’ve removed the fear of the Lord from our society and we’re being conditioned to be desensitized toward sin, so much so that most people can’t even recognize sin when they see it anymore, let alone speak out against it or hate it! Television, movies and the internet have been normalizing sin for decades. What, in the not-so-distant past, would've been considered scandalous sinful, wicked, evil behavior is now being lifted up as the norm and is even celebrated today!

Isaiah 5:20-21  says “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Sexual immorality, violence and profanity abound…not only downtown in the red-light districts…but in our living rooms coming out of our TVs and our children have been taught to accept and embrace these evil behaviors that the Bible clearly teaches are sinful and destructive!

As a society, we’ve NOT chosen to “hate evil”, instead we’ve decided that we’ll “tolerate” evil. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil”! This is what’s missing from our society and culture today! We claim to live in an “enlightened” society. We claim to live in a civilized, modern society that is “tolerant” of others. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to a place where we tolerate far more than we should!

I wonder, is it just that our ancestors were a bunch of prudes or could it be that they were actually more enlightened to the truth than we are?

We can’t tolerate evil, we need to “hate evil” because God hates evil! God doesn’t tolerate sin and neither should we. It’s unwise to do so and today much of our culture has neglected and rejected this most basic instruction.

When we fear the Lord, we WILL hate evil and if I’m going to have a right relationship with God, if I’m going to be in fellowship with God, then I must hate the evil in my own life AND in the lives of others as well.

 “Well that’s not very tolerant”…EXACTLY.

 WISE UP! And stop being tolerant of evil!

  GO BLESS, BRATS!

“HOW TO LOVE YOUR ENEMIES”

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the tax collectors so? Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

If you’re already perfect “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” then you have no need to read any further. But if your like the rest of us who haven’t yet reached perfection, for those of us who still struggle with loving unlovable people, we'll continue reading, because Jesus has some life-changing, MIND-BLOWING instructions for us on how to love those who we would rather not give the time of day to.

In verse 43, Jesus quoted a common teaching among the Scribes and the Pharisees when He said “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” There are actually two things wrong with that statement.

Jesus was quoting their interpretation of Lev.19:18, but there was a problem with that interpretation because they misquoted the verse. Leviticus 19:18 actually says: “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

So, we can clearly see that they misquoted this verse by ADDING something to it. What did they add? They added the words “and hate your enemy”.

You see, the Scribes and Pharisees taught that it was okay to hate your enemies; it was justified. They taught that some hatred was okay because they hated Gentiles; they hated Samaritans, they hated Romans, they hated Greeks and since they refused to admit that their hatred was sinful, they simply said “love your neighbor, AND hate your enemy.” They added that in order to justify their own hatred of some people.

Nowhere in scripture are we EVER told to hate our enemy in fact, in many places we’re told just the opposite.

Exodus 23:4-5 says “If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of him who hates you lying under its burden, and would refrain to help him, you shall surely help with him.”

Proverbs 25:21 says “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink:”

Again, nowhere in scripture are we told to hate our enemy. Not only did the Pharisees add something to Lev. 19:18 but they also left something out. What did they leave out? They left out just two little words…they omitted the words “as yourself”. Lev. 19:18 says to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but they just said to “love your neighbor”. Well, what’s the big deal? Isn't that close enough?

No, it’s not close enough! Because after all, we CAN love our neighbor if we choose to do so, that’s not too hard to do, but when it comes to loving our neighbor AS MUCH as we love OURSELVES, well, most of us fall vastly short of doing that!

Most of us focus the majority of our attention on loving ourselves more than others. For example, we want to increase our OWN personal comfort, we want to improve our OWN personal situations and most of us spend the majority of our time pursuing our OWN enjoyment and our OWN pleasure. The majority of the time, most of us are thinking about ourselves and our own lives, not about others. Some of us don’t even know our neighbor’s name let alone love them as much as we love ourselves!

We know it’s human nature to love people who love us back and treat us well, but Jesus said we’re to love those who curse us, hate us and persecute us! I have to ask myself, “Do I stop being kind and gracious to certain people because I know that they don’t like me? Or because they mistreat me?”

BRATs, I want you to know that there are certain truths and teachings in the Bible that when I read them, if I’m being honest with myself, I’d have to say that I’m not even close to lining my life up to perfectly.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe them, I believe what Jesus said is true, I believe the Bible, but the problem is that I’m not always OBEDIENT to the Bible, nor do I always want to be obedient to it, if the horrible truth be made known.

In verse 44 Jesus has given us the “what” we are supposed to do; we’re supposed to love our enemies. He says in verses 46-47 loving our enemies separate us from the unbelieving world. He says if we love only those who love us back, we’re acting no different than unbelievers act.

Jesus told us WHAT to do (love), He told WHO we’re to do it to (our enemies) and in He told us WHY we should do it (so we will be like God), but aren’t you thankful He didn’t end right there? Aren’t you thankful He didn’t just give us the “what”, “who” and “why” but He also tells us “how” to love annoying people, insulting people, mean people, difficult people, people who hate us and mistreat us?

I’m so thankful He gives me specific instructions on HOW I can do this because there’s NO WAY I would know how to do that on my own. Jesus gives us three simple, yet very hard, ways we can love our enemies like God loves them; He says:

• Bless them that curse you
• Do good to them that hate you
• Pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you

Bless, do good and pray. This is how we can love the unlovable; by doing these three things. He said to bless them, do good to them and make sure that you pray for them…how are you doing in this area?

I’ll finish with a final look at verse 48: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” If you were looking for a short, simple and concise summary of the entire message of the Bible then this would be it: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

I don’t know about you, but verse 48 leaves me with the recognition of my utter and complete dependence upon a Savior because I know that even when I’m at my very best, I’m not perfect like God is perfect and that’s Jesus’ point.

I want to confess to you that loving people like God loves people is my greatest struggle and my greatest failure. I can’t do it, often I don’t even want to do it, and therefore I know that the only way I can do it is through Christ Who lives within me and strengthens me to bless, do good and pray for those I’d rather hate.

May we all know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge and may we all be filled with all the fullness of God to enable us to love our unlovable enemies.

GO BLESS, BRATs!

"ONE CHAPEL UNDER GOD"

1 Corinthians 1:10 "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

When Paul tells Christians that we should "all speak the same thing" how is this possible with so many different denominations and their distinctive doctrines that don't always agree? And since there are many Christians with many different viewpoints on may different subjects, what is the "thing" that should we all be speaking the "same" on? The answer lies in what Paul says just two verses later.

1 Corinthians 1:12 "Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ."

This is how the Corinthian church was not all speaking the same thing. They were speaking four different things, one saying "I am of Paul" another "of Apollos" another "of Cephas" and still another "of Christ".

The "same thing" that they all should have been saying was "I am of Christ." Paul makes this very clear in the verses that follow because he says in verse 13: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

In other words, no one should be saying "I am of Paul, Apollos, or Cephas" or anyone else for that matter, because none of them had been crucified for you and you are not baptized into their names.

Christ alone was crucified for you and a Christian is baptized in the name of Christ, therefore, Christians are "of Christ". So all Christians should be speaking this same thing...namely, "I am of Christ!"

So, why so many denominations? I will make a bold statement. Every denomination was started because someone, somewhere at some time disagreed with the church that they were a part of and started a new group.

Now, it is possible that the view they held was the correct one, but my point is that Christians are supposed love Jesus and love each other and they can disagree with each other on a number of things, but "theological hobby horses" do not give us the excuse to be divided as the Body of Christ.

I can fellowship with people of other denominations as long as they are in and are of Christ! And how is one found in and of Christ? By grace through faith alone.

Have you placed your faith in Christ for salvation and eternal life? Do you know Christ as your Lord? Have you pledged your loyalty to Christ and His teachings? If so, then you are in and of Christ just as I am in and of Christ and we are unified in speaking the same thing.

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"WHO'S BORED?"

1 Timothy 4:13 "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine."

Some Christians are guilty of neglecting the Word of God and they're guilty of making excuses as to why they don’t read it…“I just don’t understand what I’m reading.”

1 John 5:12: "He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life." That’s not hard too understand, is it?

Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." How about that? Is that too hard to understand?

Yes, of course, some of the Bible can be hard to understand, but the truth is that most of Bible is very straightforward and easy to understand…if we just read it.

"But, I don’t like to read”.

Do you like to eat? 1 Corinthians 3:2 says "I have fed you with milk, and not with solid food: for until now you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able."

Hey, if I put a T-Bone steak in front of you and you say “No, thanks, I don’t like it”, say no more! I'll take it! And I'll show you what a knife & fork are for!

You see, the Bible is our spiritual food and if you want to suck on a baby bottle the rest of your life be my guest, but as for me, I’ll take the meat!

“It’s boring and I fall asleep when I read it.”

First of all, DON'T read it right before bedtime…also if you think a Book which is a communication and a revelation to you from the Eternal Creator of the Universe, the One Who stretches out the heavens themselves, the God Who knows all and is all…if you think a Book that He’s written JUST FOR YOU is boring... then I really worried about your spiritual condition!

As a kid moving back and forth from the States to Germany, in every airport we sat in my mom always told me, "Son, only boring people get bored!" Listen, the Bible isn’t boring...PEOPLE are boring! The Bible is a supernatural Book and contains God’s power for salvation, life and all godliness and He’s given it to us to read! Does that sound boring to you? Not to me!

“I don’t have time to read the Bible”.

Did you find time to eat? To watch TV? Surf the Web? Play Video Games? Listen, if you’re time is very limited, then it’s even MORE crucial that you to redeem the time that you DO have! What redeeming value can you place on your time?

Some Christians have a hard time with Bible reading because they haven’t disciplined themselves to do so. Let me try and place in your hands a very do-able reading plan. One that you can become disciplined in keeping, day after day, month after month and year after year.

Now, I found on the Internet a Four year Bible Reading Plan. FOUR YEARS to read the entire Bible! That amounts to reading about less than a page a day.

I have to ask: How much do you have to HATE something to ONLY WANT to do it ONCE every 4 years? Four years to read The Book?! You know, this wonderful, great Holy Book Christians claim to revere and love? Four years??? Sorry, but I think that’s disgraceful.

I think every Christian could easily read, at the minimum, 10 pages a day. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to read 10 pages of ANYTHING and please don't tell me that you don't have 15-20 minutes a day to spare...10 pages a day would put you through the average size Bible once EVERY 132 days! That’s about 2 ½ times a year and that’s not bad! That’s not bad and that’s not unreasonable either.

Here's the simplest & best reading plan in my opinion. Read 10 pages a day and a Proverb for the day (because there's 31 and most months have...30 or 31 days).

If you do that you will get you through the Bible 2 ½ times a year and Proverbs 12 times a year. I like to do that, but I also do something else that I’ve found to be VERY beneficial. I also like to listen to the Bible.

How many of you have a job where you can either listen to a mp3 player, iPod or cd player? If you do then I strongly recommend that you get the Bible either downloaded or on cd.

I listen to 15 chapters of the OT and 5 chapters of the NT every day. "Oh, but you're a pastor you can do that..." I was bi-vocational for the last 10 years and I did it when I worked full time in Insurance too.

Listening to 20 chapters takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes of listening time. What this does is it allows me to LISTEN through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation 4 ½ times a year! That’s 20 chapters, 5 days a week.

When I add that to my 10 pages of reading a day which takes me through 2 ½ times a year, I’m literally going through the Bible 7 times a year between listening and reading. And that’s not too bad for a little over hour a day of reading and listening is it?

Do you realize how much you can learn about God and how much you can learn that’s NEW each and every time you go through the Bible? It’s amazing and it's exciting! I'll NEVER get bored with it!

1 Timothy 4:13 says to give attendance to READING…are you doing that? If not, start today...it'll change your life. 

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"DO YOUR DUTY"

Luke 17:7-10 "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he has come from the field, Go and sit down to food? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird yourself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward you shall eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not not. So likewise all of you, when all of you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are useless servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

In this Parable that Jesus told, a servant came in from working in the field and when he did Jesus pointed out that as a servant, he can’t just come in from the field and expect that his day is over, no, he has to continue to serve his master until the day is done.

Jesus said that this servant shouldn’t expect to be congratulated or even thanked. Why? Because it’s his duty to serve his master and Jesus also pointed out that once he’s done with everything that his master wanted him to do, he doesn’t have the right to say "Why haven’t I gotten some thanks or appreciation for this?" He can only say "This is what I’m expected to do. This is my duty.”

Through this parable, Jesus pointed out an obvious fact in their society. The duty of the servant toward his master was common knowledge. You see, in the parable, the servant has been working hard all day and in our pampered society we think that he’s entitled to take break, sit back with a cold one, put his aching feet up and watch the game.

But, in Jesus' society the servant's day wasn't over when he came in from the field…because the Master hadn’t eaten yet. So the servant still had to serve his master dinner and once all of his duties were done, then and only then could he eat and rest.

So, Jesus pointed how the master-servant relationship worked in His day, but aren’t you glad God isn’t that type of Master? God is a kind and loving Master Who puts the needs of His servants above His own.

Jesus said in Luke 12:37 "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to food, and will come forth and serve them."

Oh, that’s my Jesus! My Jesus is a Master Who will sit His servants down and will serve them at the end of the day! He is a Master Who girds Himself in a servant's towel to wash their dirty feet. That's the kind of Master that we serve! But, as He pointed out, that’s not the way that the world's masters treat their servants. In the world the master would never serve the servant! The worldly master would never think to congratulate or reward his servants for doing that which they were expected to do.

The servant in the parable understood the relationship he had with his master and he knew that he had no right to complain. He was there to serve his master until EVERYTHING was done and the master doesn’t thank the servant and the servant doesn’t expect to be thanked.

The truth is that even if we could serve God perfectly and even if we could obey the commands of God perfectly and even if we sacrificed everything to serve Him and we've out-served all others in the Kingdom of God, at the end of the day, all we could say is “I’ve simply done my duty.”

BRATS, it's not only our duty to serve Jesus Christ, but it's also our privilege! Let's serve Him with everything we've got! For in the Kingdom of God, the least shall be greatest and the greatest shall be least.

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"PAY BACK"

Matthew 18:21-35  "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun  the reckoning, one was brought unto him, who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and released him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what you owe. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me: Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you? And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses."

Jesus told this parable to point out the fact that we have been forgiven a debt that’s impossible for us to pay back. Verse 24 says a man owed his king 10,000 talents. Translated into dollars that amounts to about 2.5 billion dollars! And when we consider the average day's wage at that time, it would’ve taken this servant 160,000 years to pay back his debt. In other words, it couldn’t be done! He could NEVER pay back the debt he owed; he was in a hopeless situation.
 
Even so, the man asked the king to "have patience with me, and I will pay you all." You see, he was dreaming and the king knew he was dreaming! There was no way he would ever even put a dent in his huge debt, so the king in kindness and grace forgave him his impossible, unpayable debt.

And after being forgiven that huge unpayable debt, you would think the man would learn something about grace, mercy and forgiveness and live differently, but instead the man went out and he found someone else who owed him a "hundred pence" which was several months pay, but still not an unpayable debt. And instead of being kind like the king, he violently threatened his fellow servant throwing him into prison until he paid it all back.

When the king heard about this he was rightly angry and he decided to make the unforgiving man pay back his unpayable debt after all and the man was sentenced to 160,000 years in prison!

BRATS, this parable should be a very sobering warning to us today. There is a  principle here that we need to learn and that principle is this:  If we have been forgiven much then we will forgiven others much. If you’re not a forgiving person then perhaps that’s an indicator that you haven’t really been forgiven much or that you really don’t understand the true value of God’s forgiveness.

You see, if we truly appreciate God’s forgiveness toward us then out of our gratitude for God, out of an understanding of what He’s like and out of a desire to like Him, then we would forgive others just as He has forgiven us. That means we would forgive those who not only owe us small debts, but those who owe us  huge, unpayable debts as well.

In Luke 7 Jesus was invited to eat at a Pharisees house and at this time it was customary for an invited guest to have their feet washed, but Simon the Pharisee didn’t have anyone do that for Jesus, so a woman with a bad reputation as a sinner came in and she began to do what Simon had refused to do.

And Jesus said "Simon, See you this woman? I entered into your house, you gave me no water for my feet: but she has washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. You gave me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil you did not anoint: but this woman has anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto you, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:44-47).

BRATS, who are we most like? Are we most like the wicked servant who wanted forgiveness of an unpayable debt for himself, but wasn't willing to forgive the small debts of others? Or are we like this woman, who realized she had been forgiven much, therefore, she loved much?

I am convinced that the more we realize our own sinfulness and the huge amount of sin debt we've racked up against God and against others, the more we will appreciate the love and forgiveness that's been shown to us through Christ and the more we will be happy to forgive others.

After all, Jesus paid a debt He didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay. Love much, forgive much and...

GO BLESS, BRATS!

 

"YOU BE THE JUDGE"

Many people say it is wrong to “judge” others because they fail to read the Bible in context. The truth is that this the only verse in the Bible that speaks of judging in a negative way and you can't understand this verse unless you understand its CONTEXT because judging can refer to a number of different things.

If this verse is read in its proper context, you will read that Jesus explains that the WAY that you judge others is also the WAY that you will also be judged. Therefore, if you are a hypocrite and you are judging someone by a standard that you do not hold to yourself then you shouldn't do that.
Jesus then says "And why behold you the splinter that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?" (7:3)

In other words, if you have something in your eye you can't see very well and if you can't see very well then your vision will be out of focus; you're not seeing things right and there needs to be a correction. So saying, “Let me remove that splinter from your eye” is a figurative way of saying “Let me correct you, let me point out where you are wrong.”

Now, Jesus says don’t try to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye when you have a beam in your OWN eye! That is, do not judge and think you can correct other people if you (by the same standard) are worse off than they are. If you judge others hypocritically then the same standard by which you judge others will be turned on you and you will fare very badly.

In context, Jesus continues to say, "You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the splinter out of your brother's eye." (7:5 )

So, if removing the splinter from your brother’s eye means to judge him or to correct him (which it does) then Jesus makes the point that you can only do that once you have removed the beam from your own eye! But, once you remove the beam from your own eye then you can see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

BRATS, I know that many people misuse Jesus' words all the time...even Christians! But He NEVER said we shouldn't make any judgement at all. It is a GOOD thing to remove splinters from other people’s eyes, it is a GOOD thing to point out to people where they are not seeing correctly, where they are wrong; and when we do that, that is called judging.

When Jesus said “Judge not" this is not His entire statement. It is made clear by His entire statement in context that He was saying that we are not to judge others by a standard we ourselves would be condemned by.
If you have flaws in your life that are the same as the person you are criticizing then you must correct yourself FIRST and THEN you can legitimately criticize or correct someone else. This is what Jesus is teaching.

People love to quote Matthew 7:1 without any context, but there is a much less frequently quoted verse on this subject can be found in John 7:24 in which Jesus says "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

Just as in Matthew 7, Jesus says “Judge not”, but here He says do not judge “according to appearance”. But then He goes on to say that we SHOULD judge…but judge righteously.

Jesus commands people NOT to judge the same number of times that He commands them TO judge…why don't we ever hear anyone quoting Jesus here in John 7:24? Why don't people ever say "You should judge, but judge people righteously"? Because according to Jesus we SHOULD judge, but when we do we should do it properly.

If you DO judge hypocritically or merely by appearance then you are in violation of Jesus’ teaching, but on the other hand if you DON'T judge righteously then you are also in violation of His teaching! Let's endeavor to be Christians who have proper balance and let's not just parrot what the world says without scrutinizing their statement by the Word of God.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:15 that “he that is spiritual judges all things”. Clearly, Jesus and Paul are both saying that making judgments is something Christians must do, but that it is to be done righteously and without hypocrisy or by appearance.

So, you be the judge, BRATS! FIRST judge yourselves and THEN you may judge others!

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"GOD'S SUPER BOWL"

1 Kings 7:23-24 “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and its height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. And under the brim of it round about there were knobs compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knobs were cast in two rows, when it was cast.”

Forty-nine years ago on Sunday January 15, 1967 and the Green Bay Packers faced the Kansas City Chiefs in what was to become an unofficial American holiday known as…Super Bowl Sunday. Today in Super Bowl 49, it’s the Patriots and the Seahawks and 150 million plus people are looking forward to watching the game and yes, the even commercials too.

Now, most of you probably aren’t even aware that over 3000 years ago there was another “Super Bowl”…a Super Bowl in Israel which was also seen by millions of people, but this Super Bowl definitely had no pigskin; had no commercials and no half time show…this Super Bowl was God’s “Super Bowl”.

And God’s Super Bowl can be found here in 1 Kings 7 where we’re given a detailed account of the construction of the first Jewish Temple known as Solomon’s Temple. In 1 Kings 7:14-15 we’re told that Solomon had two intricately designed brass pillars that guarded the entrance of the Temple and each one was 27ft high and 18ft in diameter and he named them Jachin & Boaz (vs. 21).

Try and picture in your mind what you would’ve seen if you lived at this time as you entered into the Temple Courtyard. The first thing you would’ve seen was the Temple itself. The Bible describes Solomon’s Temple as being 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high with its highest point at about 20 stories high. In the center of the courtyard you would’ve seen the great Brass Altar where sacrifices were made to God. This altar was 30ft long by 30ft wide and 15ft high and it had a staircase for the priests to go up and down the altar.

You would also have seen the 10 brass lavers which surrounded the outside of the Temple; there were 5 on the north side, and 5 on the south side (vs. 38). Each one of these lavers was about 6ft high and each one was filled with over 200 gallons of water which was used to wash the Temple utensils and the sacrificial animals before offering them to God.

Each one of these lavers rested on a brass base that had wheels which made them portable, probably so that they could be filled from what was called the Molten Sea which stood at the south-eastern corner of the courtyard. And there was no way you could have missed the Molten Sea!

The Molten Sea was a gigantic basin, made of brass. It held 12,000 gallons of water; it was in effect, a “Super Bowl”, which was 15ft in diameter, 45ft in circumference, over 7ft high and 3 inches thick, weighing over 30 tons! This “Super Bowl”, rested on a base 10ft high made out of 12 solid brass oxen, which held up the tremendous weight of the Molten Sea. The oxen were divided into 4 groups of 3, all facing in 4 different directions, east, west, north and south. And just as the brass altar spoke of sacrifice, these oxen spoke of service.

The Molten Sea, God’s “Super Bowl”, was used by the priests to wash their hands and feet before they began in their service to God. This was done in keeping with the Law of Moses (Exodus 29; 30:19) so that the priests could be purified and clean prior to approaching God.

God had Solomon make the Molten Sea because the priests needed to be washed and this washing had to be repeated over and over and over…every day. Before they could do anything, God said that they had to be cleansed and sanctified.

Just as the brass altar spoke of Christ’s sacrifice for all believers, the Molten Sea spoke of Christ’s sanctification of all believers; sanctification means separating something or someone apart for a holy purpose. The Molten Sea sanctified the priests day by day as they served God. And this really is a wonderful picture for us to see.

You see, just as the sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament had to be made over and over and over, the priests also needed to be cleansed from their sin over and over and over. The Bible teaches us that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was the final sacrifice made once for all, but in order for us to progress in sanctification, grow in holiness, we must come to Christ over and over and over to be cleansed from our sin. Why? Because we still sin, don’t we?

God had made it very clear that there was no way that anyone, no matter who they were, not even the High Priest himself, could approach a Holy God and handle Holy things while at the same time being defiled by their sin. The priests needed to be washed clean before handling the Holy things in the Temple.

A man named Uzzah learned this lesson the hard way in 2 Samuel 6. Remember, David was transporting the Holy Ark of the Covenant on an ox cart when it started to teeter and fall off, but…“Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it” and the Bible says that “the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah; and God struck him there for his irreverence; and there he died by the ark of God.”

Now we might think that God’s treatment of Uzzah was too harsh, but Uzzah made a terrible mistake. While his intentions were good, he made an assumption that cost him his life. Uzzah put forth his hand to prevent the Holy Ark of God from falling over to stop it from being defiled by the uncleanness of the ground, but made Uzzah assumption that the ground was dirty and his hands were clean. Again, if a priest didn’t wash his hands and feet before handling Holy things God said he would die! And Uzzah forgot that and he forgot that his hands were unclean.

In Exodus 29 Moses was commanded by God to wash the Levites before consecrating them into the priesthood. This was a onetime washing typified the washing of regeneration and of salvation that only happens once in the life of a believer. Titus 3:5 says: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

In John 13 Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. The Bible says that when He got to Peter, Peter said "You'll never wash my feet". And Jesus said, "If you don't let me wash your feet then you can have nothing to do with me”.

So, what did Peter say? “Not my feet only, but also my hands & my head too!” In other words, “wash all of me!” And then Jesus said something that ought to cause us to think about Moses and his onetime washing of the Levites. Jesus said it wasn't necessary for Him to wash all of Peter because he was already clean. What did He mean by that? Well, later on Jesus told His disciples “you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). 

Basically Jesus was saying “Peter, you’ve been washed unto regeneration and have been baptized, that kind of washing only happens once, but you do still need to be sanctified.”

Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus wants to sanctify and cleanse His Church. How?  With the washing of water by the word. Why? So, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

The Molten Sea, God’s “Super bowl”, sent an unmistakable message to all those who saw it and used it. It shouted out a message of sanctification and its importance in our service to God. You see, God never intended that the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament would wash away sin; they were a picture of what Christ would do. They were a picture of Jesus; the Lamb of God Who takes away sin.

And God never intended that the outward daily washing of the priests would ever sanctify them inwardly. These washings were meant to be a picture of the sanctification that would happen in Christ. That’s why Jesus told the Pharisees they were like white washed tombs, which are outwardly clean but inside they were full of dead men's bones and filth.

You see, the Pharisees weren’t washed with the washing of regeneration and they weren’t being sanctified inwardly in their souls. The Molten Sea in the Old Testament ought to speak volumes to us as New Testament believers because the New Testament calls us “a royal priesthood and a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

Just as the Book of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus Christ is an infinitely better High Priest than the Old Testament high priest, Peter says that we are as the royal priesthood infinitely better than the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament.

Hebrews 8 teaches us that the Tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the washings, that they were all just “a shadow of heavenly things” to come. These were pictures of what would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant.

You need to know that nothing has changed in principle from the Old to the New Testament. God still requires that His priests be washed clean before approaching Him. God still requires His priests to be Holy. Why? Because the New Testament says “as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conduct; because it is written, You will be holy; for I am holy.” (Peter 1:15-16).

The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was a picture of the New Testament priesthood of all believers in Jesus Christ and the Bible declares that when you repent of your sin and cry out to God for forgiveness and when you place your trust in Christ and His sacrifice as a payment for your sin, then you will be washed clean in by the shed blood of Jesus Christ! “Though your sins be as scarlet they will be made white as snow!”

The Bible declares that at that very moment you’re washed by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost onetime only, but after that you need to wash the parts of you that come into contact with this sinful world, your mind, your mouth…we still get soiled and dirty because we still sin and we still need to be cleansed constantly.

We may be able to hide our sin from each other but we can’t hide it from God. You know, I’m sure to everyone else around him, Uzzah’s hands looked clean but they weren’t. Are you washed? Are you washed today? Are your hands and hearts washed? The Book of James says “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” and he was talking to Christians!

1 John 1:8 says “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Solomon’s Temple is gone and so is God’s “Super Bowl”, the Molten Sea so the question looming over all of us right now is: How is it that God’s Royal Priesthood is able be washed today if we don’t have the Molten Sea?

We’re told in 1 John 1:9 which says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Everything in the Bible speaks of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament spoke of Christ. The tabernacle, the Temple, its furnishings and all of the sacrifices and ceremonies were pictures of Jesus Christ and His saving work for unclean sinners.

Get this today! Jesus Christ IS the Molten Sea and He has an endless supply of clean, fresh water; enough for everyone to be washed clean over and over and over.

Have you been washed? Have you been washed with the washing of regeneration? Are you being washed day by day and receiving the cleansing of Christ? Are you being conformed more and more into His image? Are you walking in sanctification in as you approach your Holy God?

In the Book of Revelation there is a picture of God sitting on His throne and the Sea of Brass is nowhere to be seen, but there is a Sea of Glass before the throne which allows us to boldly walks across and approach His throne and join in the heavenly chorus singing: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” 

We join in singing this because as Christians we can and we will stand before His throne having been washed clean by the Blood of Christ having our conscience purged and having gotten right with God and cleansed from all of our sin.

Jesus is God’s “Super Bowl” make sure He’s yours too!

GO BLESS, BRATS & GO PATS!

"LIGHTEN UP, ST. FRANCIS"

Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

It’s been said over and over by Christians and non-Christians alike that "God must have a great sense of humor", but sometimes I wonder if some Christians really believe that. You see, I've met many Christians whose countenance and sense of "sanctified sobriety", which is in the place where their sense of humor should be, seem to deny God and His people a good laugh or ever allow them to make a funny joke.

These "serious saints" often understand humor and holiness as being contrary to one another; somehow they think that the joy of our religion is found in “a sad countenance”!  In my experience this is a Christian perspective that's out of balance with Who God is, Who Jesus is and who we are as people created in his image.

In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. From the very beginning of time it was God’s intent that mankind be made in His image. Therefore, God used Himself as a pattern when He made us. God created us in His own image and that didn’t consist of a “physical likeness”  because “God is a spirit” (John 4:24).

The likeness of God in us was more of a “mental” or “emotional” likeness which included free thought, as well as a “moral likeness” which included righteousness and holiness. It's important to note that God didn’t make any other creature in this way and the very fact that God had made human beings in His own image defined our unique relationship with Him. So, it was God’s will that we would embody His attributes.

Generally speaking, God placed His moral character, His ability to reason, His virtue, and His spirituality into man when He breathed the breath of life into him and “man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7b). Our nature at creation was sinless “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and therefore our emotions, intellect and, yes, our humor was very good as well. But then something happened to destroy that sinless nature and godly image.

In Genesis chapter 3 we read about the fall of man. In Genesis 3:6 we read how Adam disobeyed God when he and his wife ate of the fruit that God had forbidden. We read how at that moment sin entered into creation and the curse death along with it (Gen. 3:7; 22).

Because of this fall into sin, man’s nature went from one that walked in perfect holiness, communion, and fellowship with God in the image of God, to one that was completely separate from God. Our human nature went from one that was in perfect accord with God to one that was diametrically opposed to God and His ways.

Adam’s disobedience brought condemnation and death to all mankind (Rom. 5:12) and man was to be forever born into a state of sin (Psalm 51:5) and its this state of sin that becomes the driving force in the human heart and blocks our ability to commune properly with God.

It’s because of Adam’s transgression we are all by nature, born to sin. Our sin nature affects all that we think, say and do...including our humor. This is the reason for dirty jokes, off color jokes, inappropriate innuendo, things that my mother said should never be said in “mixed company”, things that the Bible says are unbecoming of saints ; filthiness, foolish talking,  jesting, “which are not fitting” (Eph. 5:4).

But, I’m afraid that in a desire to be obedient and pleasing to God in the area of humor some Christians have become “sanctified stick-in-the-muds” and they have built a “humor hedge”, a buffer that’s designed to move us away from the slightest possibility of inappropriate or nonspiritual humor. However, by creating the “humor hedge” they seem to have lost a genuine God-given ability to have a sense of humor; failing to find anything funny!

These same Christians must also be oblivious to the fact that Jesus had a great sense of humor simply because they don’t “get” His jokes! Jesus’ jokes go right over their heads because they are convinced that Jesus as a “man of sorrows” certainly never laughed and certainly never cracked a good joke! However, is this the correct image of Christ that is revealed to us in the Bible? No.

The stereo-typical stoic Jesus is not found in the pages of Scripture! As I said, Jesus had a very good, and I mean that literally, a very good sense of humor.  Irony is an example of humor that I find God has used often to confound men and Jesus was a Master of ironic humor.

From the very beginning of His ministry Jesus displayed a witty ironic humor. For example, when He “walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-17).  Do you get it?

You see, I can imagine a slight, smart smile on Jesus’ face as He said this! You see, the phrase “fishers of men” has become standard and routine fare to us today, but when Jesus first said it, His irony must’ve been strikingly humorous.

In Jesus’ sayings and teachings, His sharp wit and His use of wry, sly humor through the preposterous (Mark 10:25), through irony (Matt. 6:2;16) teasing (Luke 7:24-26), absurdity (Mark 4:21; Matt. 7:34; Luke 6:41), sarcasm (John 3:10), exaggeration (Matt. 5:29-30) , surprise (Mark 10:15) ridicule (Luke 6:39; Matt. 23:25-26) and bantering one-liners (Matt. 15:26-27) come shining through for the one who can actually appreciate His kind of humor!

Sadly, an appreciation of the true comedic genius of Jesus is still quite rare, but it’s there nonetheless…it’s there for the one “who has an eye to see or ear to hear” and a heart to lighten up and laugh!

GO LAUGH AND GO BLESS, BRATS!

"THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED"

Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed.”

The word “gospel” means “good news and it seems evident to me that the Apostle Paul felt rather strongly about anyone who would preach “another” message or one that was different than the one that he preached and dare call it the true “gospel”. Even so, in the day in which we live we find the Christian Church literally inundated with all kinds of different “gospels”.

Unfortunately, if someone wanted to they could, without much difficulty, find another so-called “gospel” that fits their own personal preference and sadly, there is no shortage of slick preachers espousing a man-made “gospel” which the Apostle Paul would undoubtedly call “another gospel”; which is not good news at all.

There is only ONE true Gospel and it is defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. He wrote: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and in which you stand; By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures”.

Paul gives us the Gospel message in very concise terms. He said “Christ died for our sins”. Why did Christ have to die for our sins? The Bible teaches us that the “wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We’ve all sinned against God, we’ve all broken the laws of God and justice is demanded, but God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, Who lived a life in perfect obedience to the law just so He could trade places with the guilty.

1 Peter 3:18 says “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit” and Paul also said that Christ “was buried, and that he rose again the third day”.

When the High Priest of Israel went into the Temple’s Holy of Holies once a year to make an offering for the nation’s sin the fact that he reappeared alive proclaimed to everyone that the offering had been accepted. Jesus Christ’s dead body was placed in a tomb and on the third day and He was physically resurrected. His resurrection proclaims to all of Creation that the offering of His life as a sacrifice on the cross was fully acceptable to God the Father as payment for our sin. Jesus Christ has been offered “once for all” (Heb. 10:10) and God has accepted His sacrifice.

Paul also wrote in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.”

Those who preach the Gospel have something far greater than the pretenders of the Gospel! There is power in the Gospel! What kind of power? Paul continues, “For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).The Gospel says that God has provided righteousness for us!

Isaiah 64:6 says that our righteousness “are as filthy rags”, but in the Gospel there is a righteousness that God will accept; the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to the believer by faith. This is the only righteousness that will allow any of us to be able to stand before God without being declared guilty of sin. This can only happen when we turn from our sin and trust in what Christ did for us on the cross.

This is the reason why we must reject all other “gospels” and preach the true Gospel! The only alternative to the Gospel is to endure the judgment of God. That is why the Gospel is such good news! That is why Paul was not ashamed of it!

The Gospel is not about gaining earthly wealth or about being poor, the Gospel cannot to be watered down for the sake of filling seats otherwise it is not the Gospel! The Gospel CAN be known and CAN be understood by all and the Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to die in the place of sinners and rose again so we can be reconciled to God.

Romans 10:9-11 says “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says, Whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.”

I am ashamed of fake, phony, false man-made “gospels”, but I am NOT ashamed of the true Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the “power of God unto salvation”.

GO BLESS, BRATS!

"THE LONG AND SHORT OF PRAYER"

Matthew 6:7 "But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

Many Christians struggle with their prayer lives. In my opinion the difficulty stems from the fact that our flesh fights against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Often we feel convicted regarding our prayer lives mainly because we sense that we need to spend more time in prayer.

This may be true, but just how much time should we spend praying anyway? After all, didn't the Apostle Paul say "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Does that mean we should never stop praying? I don't think so. I think what Paul was saying is that we ought to have a lifestyle that incorporates prayer.

So how much or how long should we pray? Presumably, the amount of time we should spend in prayer all depends on how much we have to say to God or how much He has to say to us at any given time. I love to spend lengthy time in prayer when I can afford to do that or when the Spirit leads me to it, however, praying a long time just to say "I've prayed long, I've put in my time, I've done my duty" seems to devalue the time spent. Sometimes when we pray our minds will wander and so we have to wonder if that's the best use of that time.

The point I'm trying to make is that there is no reason to believe that there is less power in a shorter prayer than in a long one. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He actually taught them a very short prayer.

He said, "After this manner therefore pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” (Matthew 6:9-13) Amen.

The fact that Jesus taught them this short prayer immediately after His statement saying we should NOT pray as the some people do thinking that a lot of words are somehow more spiritual than less words, suggests to me that there can indeed be great power and strong potency in a shorter prayer.

Nehemiah seemed to have a very healthy prayer life, yet his prayers that are recorded for us seem to be made up mostly of shorter sentences offered up to God spontaneously at various times. He prayed while working on the wall or during negotiations with his enemies; he would often just stop what he was doing and speak to God.

Now, it is true that God could call you to pray for a lengthy period time. There were times when God called Israel to pray and fast for a certain period of time on special occasions. So, it is possible that God could call individuals or churches to pray for a particular period of time, but we should never turn our prayer life into a legalistic religious ritual as there is no certain amount of time in which we are required to pray set forth in the Bible.

Our prayers are to be regular communication and conversation with God made up of respectful requests for ourselves and for others. Our prayers are to be confessions and praises made and given for the purpose of seeking His forgiveness, care, guidance and will in all things.

So, take time throughout your day to speak to God and let your prayers rise as a sweet smelling incense before the Lord! And...

GO BLESS, BRATS!