Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are You Practicing Witchcraft?

"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." I Samuel 15:23a

The L-rd sure does have a different view of things than we do, doesn't He? We tend to make light of our sin; justify it; excuse it; call it "a mistake"; show it in a positive light. Take stubbornness, for instance. Don't we tend to think of that as a strength of character? If someone is stubborn, we generally define it along the line of tenaciousness: they aren't easily swayed or moved, something we tend to think of as an attribute. A stubborn person can have many good qualities, but as Proverbs 16:2 says, "All the ways of man are clean in his own eyes; but the L-RD weigheth the spirits."

The Bible is clear to remind us that G-d's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not like our thoughts: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isa. 55:9

In G-d's eyes, stubbornness is a wicked sin---akin to idolatry! If we think about it, that makes sense.

Stubbornness is saying that we think we know best; it isn't just a matter of being tenacious. Stubbornness digs in the heels, and is not reasonable, even when proved wrong! Stubbornness is like the proverbial donkey---it wants his own way, to do his own thing; disobedient!

Stubbornness prevents us from having an open mind and heart to the will of G-d. Stubbornness says MY way, MY opinion, MY will, MY decision.....stubbornness is very willful. Do you see the relation of stubbornness to idolatry when we put it in this context? Remember the discussion about pride being the same as idolatry? G-d says that stubbornness is as idolatry because of the prideful component inherent in the sin of stubbornness.

Stubbornness isn't something to brag about; it isn't to be worn like a badge of honor. If we have a heart to please G-d, we will want to repent of and root out this sin in our lives. When we see a stubborn streak in our children, we need to deal with that, and teach them that it is sin.

Rebellion is kin to stubbornness. G-d says it's as the sin of witchcraft. We wouldn't even think of dabbling in that wickedness, yet, we may be steeped in it within our hearts!

G-d does know our hearts.

Saul, King of Israel, was guilty of the sins of witchcraft and rebellion---and this was before he sought out the witch of Endor!

When the L-rd, through the prophet, Samuel, confronted him about his sin in I Samuel 15, Saul justified himself: "Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the L-RD, and have gone the way which the L-RD sent me..."--vs. 20. In vs. 21, Saul further insisted that it was all "to sacrifice unto the L-RD thy G-d in Gilgal."!

Oh boy---don't we do the same thing at times?! Justify a wrong attitude or justify doing something we know is not what the L-rd would have us to do by insisting we really did do the right thing, and even had the right motive! Why--we did it for the L-rd!! Doesn't that make it right?

G-d's ways are higher than our ways......Samuel rebuked Saul in vs. 22, 23---"Hath the L-RD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the L-RD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams."

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the L-RD, He hath rejected thee from being king."

What a sad, pitiful moment in the life of Saul, the first king of Israel! To be rejected by the L-rd! Too little, too late, Saul then admits his sin and seeks pardon. But G-d knew his heart.

Saul was sorry he got caught. Right up until the time Samuel pronounced G-d's judgment upon him, Saul insisted.....stubborn, rebellious man that he was.....that what he had done was not so bad, he had even done it for the L-rd (so he said, anyway)! Only when he was told the consequences of his wicked disobedience in rebellion and stubbornness did he try to make amends. But G-d would have none of it.

Friends, the L-rd does not take our rebellion and stubbornness lightly. These sins will destroy us; G-d will not use us because He cannot trust us to obey faithfully.

We need to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts and show us if we harbor the sin of witchcraft within us.

May we truly pray with King David,

"Search me, O G-d, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psa. 139:23, 24

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Members one of another.....

Romans 12:5---"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."

Are you bought with a price, washed in the Blood? Do you know that you matter? Do you realize that you are needed? Do you have a sense of belonging? Are you aware that you are an integral part of a LIVING BODY of believers? Are you fulfilling your calling in a local church body?

I think that most Christians do not understand the responsibilities and privileges of being part of the body of Christ.

As the above verse states, every ONE of us are members one of another. We BELONG to each other! We are part of a LIVING BODY----a living organism! The church is not a mere organization---it's a living, breathing organism. If believers would only get a hold of this truth, I think it would revolutionize local churches.

As we know, the body of Christ is made up of believers who have repented and trusted Him as Savior. Each believer plays a unique role in the body. Paul, burdened that the baby Christians in Corinth understand the importance of their place in the body, explained this to them in I Corinthians 12.

Verse 12---"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."

OK----so let's break this down: There is ONE body of believers. That body has many members. Many members, but ONE body. We, being many members, but one body, make up the body of Christ.

Paul reiterates this in verse 14---"For the body is not one member, but many."

Paul is trying to get the Corinthian folks to understand how the body functions. Is the body made up of one part (member), only? No, of course not. The body would not be able to function without the various members, just as our physical bodies cannot function as just a head or an eye or an ear.

But how do most churches function? Sad to say, most churches struggle, disabled and limited by non-functioning members. They are trying to get by one-handed, hopping on one foot much of the time.

Evidently, the church in Corinth was not functioning as it should either; everyone going their own way, and doing their own thing, rather than working together and functioning as a unit--as a body.

Paul asks them in verses 15-17---
"If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?"

It doesn't matter what we think---truth does not depend upon our opinions or ideas or how we feel---regardless whether we recognize what our function is, we still remain part of the body. G-d holds us accountable! We need to find out how we fit within the body, and then perform our function. If G-d has called us to be a foot, though we do not obey that calling.....we're still a foot---albeit a lame one!

Notice, that we do not decide which member we are----that's G-d's business! Verse 18 says, "But now hath G-d set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him."

Remember, we are here for His good pleasure and for His honor and glory. The L-rd knows how to gift us and use us best, and He wants to use each one of us----He sets "every one of them in the body" as it pleases Him to do so. So, it isn't we who decide whether we're an eye or a foot or a mouth----G-d chooses our function as a member. But, it is our responsibility to faithfully execute our function in the body!

And herein lay the problem in Corinth---and in many of our churches today:

Paul addressed the reluctant body parts. Let's look at verse 19---"And if they were all one member, where were the body?" Hmmm.....sounds like everyone was wanting to be the head or the eye or the mouth, but no one wanted to be the hand or the foot! Or, it could be that only one person was functioning as a member, and everyone else just warmed a pew! That's a pretty sad body, wouldn't you say?

Paul reiterates in verse 20, the truth that the church is made up of many members, but is one body. We all know that when Scripture says something repeatedly, we best take note and heed it!

Paul now proceeds to come at this lesson from a different angle: Verse 21---"And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." Ah---no room for elitism here!

Have you ever tried to function within a church body where someone thought they were the whole body in and of themselves? They have to do everything, be everything, insert themselves everywhere? No one can do what they can do or as well as they can do it? No one else's help is wanted; other members are marginalized.

So, oftentimes a church either struggles with a lack of functioning body parts, or with a body part (s) trying to be something they are not! Either way, that church body is not pleasing to the L-rd!

G-d's intent is that the body should be healthy, with every member (body part) fulfilling its function, working together to glorify the L-rd. Verse 25 admonishes us, "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another." In other words, there should be no conflict in the functioning of the body. There is no room for pride or contention, for laziness or slacking, for selfishness or lack of love.

I Corinthians 12:26 sums it up well: "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." It doesn't matter whether we are the mouth or the hand or the eye or the ear-----we are part of the whole body. If the head is hurting, the hands, feet, eyes, ears---all will hurt with it, and should compensate and work together to help the head. If one member is blessed, then the other members should recognize that blessing and be blessed for that member as well.

Friends, the church is not an inanimate organization that is established for our use, at our convenience, and for our own purposes.

WE----as a body fitly joined together---ARE the church!!!

We need to "discern the body".

Christ died and shed His precious Blood for the church! He instituted the church as the organism through which He works. The gifts which He bestows on each one of us are to be used within the body of Christ for His glory, not be to selfishly used for our own enjoyment and edification.

Edification---a good Bible word! We are commanded to edify one another. How can we possibly do that, if we are not fulfilling the function G-d has assigned to us within the body? We cause the body to be anemic and disabled if we are awol or derelict in our duties as members of the body!

It's been said that there is no perfect church, and if one should find it, not to ruin it by joining it! But, we can reach for what G-d desires, as Ephesian 4:16 describes: "From Whom [Christ] the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." This is the ideal for the body of Christ and every church!

Do you think your church is lacking in some way? Is your church healthy and growing? Are you doing your part to function as the member G-d has called you to be?

Let us remember and heed what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write---"....for we are members one of another."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Got Pride?

Pride---it's what goes before destruction!

We all know that it caused Lucifer's fall. Throughout the Old Testament, G-d warns, rebukes and punishes Israel for the sin of pride. Because of the sin of pride, they go their own way, refuse to be instructed by G-d's prophets, and even justify their sins, claiming innocence of any wrongdoing! Pride is a wicked, heinous sin in G-d's eyes. Why, then, is it strangely absent from the Ten Commandments?! Or is it??

If we study the sin of pride, we see some interesting things. For one thing, we know that G-d sure hates this sin!

Proverbs 6:16-19
spells that out very clearly: "These six things doth the L-rd hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." Notice that pride leads the list!

Proverbs 8:3 further reiterates how G-d hates the sin of pride: "The fear of the L-rd is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." Notice the progression of sins......pride starts in the heart, and the rest follows!

Pride is the forerunner, or the root of the other sins. What causes us to lie? Pride. What causes covetousness/jealousy? Pride. What causes murder? Pride. What causes selfishness? Pride. What causes a "sorry ol' sister" to spread gossip and sow discord in a church? Pride. What causes stubborness and rebellion? Pride.

So you see, the Ten Commandments deal with sins that are the embodiment of the evil, pride, with idolatry at its head.

What was the one sin of which Israel was so often guilty? Spiritual adultery, right? They went whoring after other gods---which we all recognize as idolatry. This violated the first two commandments: 1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. 2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image....

Isn't it so true that we often fail to recognize idolatry in our own hearts? We think because we don't worship idols of wood, clay or stone that we don't practice idolatry, when in fact, we are saturated with self-idolatry!

Pride, dear friend, is nothing more than self-idolatry!

Pride is an integral part of our culture! Aren't we "proud to be an American"? We're proud of our children and grandchildren. We're proud of our heritage. We're proud of our accomplishments. We throw that word around without even thinking about what we're saying. Pride has come to mean something good in our eyes. We're admonished to "take pride in our work". Children are encouraged to do well in school so that they're parents will be "proud of them".

Pride has infiltrated our relationships and way of life like a toxic ooze. Marriage conflicts, petty grudges between siblings and coworkers, competition and rivalries within churches----all are a result of pride. Proverbs 13:10---"Only by pride cometh contention...." Down deep in our heart of hearts, we must think we are better than the other person to behave this way. Criticizing someone else to make oneself look better is a result of pride. Unforgiveness or refusal to apologize for a wrong done are a result of pride.

No, my friend, self-esteem is not the underlying problem of our society. Pride is!

Oh, pride is so wicked! Our enemy is full of pride and seeks to entrap us in its clutches. Pride is bondage! It keeps us from loving the L-rd as we should, and from loving others. It hinders us from victory over sins with which we struggle ! It destroys us from the inside out.

Nowhere in the New Testament do any of the writers say that they are proud of anything or anyone. But Paul does use another word that has a different connotation and emphasis: that word is "glory".

Paul said in Romans 15:17--"I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to G-d." Paul said on more than one occasion that he gloried in his infirmities; he gloried in them that the power of Christ might rest upon him (II Cor. 12:9). Paul gloried in the Cross: Gal. 6:14---"But G-d forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our L-rd Jesus Christ...."

Pride, being a very selfish sin, puts the emphasis on our own selves, on our own benefit. When we glory in something, we rejoice because of it pleasing the L-rd, and benefiting others; we enjoy the benefits ourselves as well, but it isn't because of anything on our account.

All that we have, all that we are, all with which we are blessed is not from anything of ourselves for which pride should play a part; everything comes from the L-rd: James 1:17---"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Got pride? There is a remedy with which our generous Heavenly Father also provides a blessing:

Isaiah 57:15---"For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

Matthew 23:12---"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."