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Sermon of the Week 
Friday, February 23 2018

Proverbs 16:33 “Man may make his plans and carry them forth,                                                         but God has the final say”.

Life has been described as a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a deck of cards, a carousel, a theatrical play, an adventure, a sporting event, a merry-go-round, a symphony, a quest, a race, a party, a dance, or a journey.

I like the description of life, as an unfinished painting which is always in progress. Each day I live, each life that touches mine, each experience and each situation are the brush being dipped in a new color added to the canvas of my journey…

If I hang around you long enough, I will discover what really matters to you and how the things you value most are the colors which help you make sense of life… You express these things constantly by the clothes you wear, your use of time, your choice of music, the people you hang out with, what you read, the car you drive, your hairstyle, the bumper stickers on your car, and even the tattoos you may wear. (on and on we could go, but these are a few)

If you view life as a race, then you give value to training and endurance. If you see life as a party, then you likely value your fun.

If you see life as a game, then you probably are all about winning and losing. If you see life is a theatrical play, then you probably value the story line and the cast of characters.

If life is like a mountain climb to you, then you are probably all about accomplishment and achievement.

If the mirror you’re viewing your journey through is distorted or unclear, then you will have false or unreal expectations, which will leave you in a state of constant disappointment.                                                                   At one Army base, the training at the rifle range was canceled but the 10 mile run was still on as planned. One soldier was heard saying, “Does it bother anyone else that the Army doesn't seem to care how well we can shoot, but they are extremely interested in how fast we can run?”

The good news is that we serve a God who has already been where we are going and He has been preparing for our arrival and knows the best route to take. 

John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also”.

In Tolkin’s novel which became the movie, “The Hobbit”, Bilbo Baggins figures his life will be like all the other Hobbits in the Shire. He will live and die in the small community he is a part of. But along comes Gandalf who chooses him as the unlikely candidate to help the dwarves reclaim their kingdom of Erabor from a dragon named Smaug. Suddenly he is launched into a most unexpected adventure and our hero is faced with a choice: stay or go? Stay in the warmth of a peaceful existence in the Shire, a predictable life with predictable outcomes, or go and risk your life with 13 strangers on an unexpected journey that changes all of their lives forever…

The Hobbit is a lot like reading the unexpected journey of Abraham, or Joseph, or Moses, or David, or Jonah….

God’s Word tells us that life is a test, about trust, beliefs, our core values and the ability to see that there’s more than what it appears to be at any given moment. We see that all the heroes of the bible….

What God said to Abraham, He says to all of us today in our unexpected journey….    

He told him to go out to a place He would show him…..He said “I will bless you”…. He told him, “There is greatness in you”…. And He said “you will be a blessing to many others”…. 

Everything happened with Father Abraham, just as God had said, and the same will always be true as we obey the Lord. 

In the midst of all the unexpected, there were things that could always be expected ….As you obey, you will reach your destination….“He will bless you”…. “There is greatness in you”…. “You will be a blessing to many others”…. This is the title deed, signed by God, to your spiritual heritage. Don’t let anyone or anything tear it from your grasp!

There was nothing in Abram’s life that made him deserve to receive God’s blessing, but he was chosen by God to receive His blessings and favor and it is because He chose you, that you receive it as well….

The unexpected journey is the journey “of Consecration…it’s Jesus saying to us the same thing he spoke to the disciples… “Come Follow Me”

Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. v4 According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him as we are covered in His love. v5 For He has predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His own will, v6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has already made us accepted in the beloved”. 

For those early Bible pioneers, every mile took them further away from what they relied upon as their security, and caused them to depend more upon God. All the comfortable and enjoyable sights and sounds of home were a distant memory. 

Make no mistake, friend…. The real purpose of your journey is an encounter with God. He is making His story into your story. And He wants to finish what He has begun in you….

1Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and of good courage, and just do it. Fear not, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God, will be with you, He will not fail you, nor forsake you, and you shall finish all the work of the LORD”. 

A test was done by a university using subjects ranging from groups of kindergartners through adults…. Each group of 20 people had 19 who were in on the test and 1 who was the Guinea pig. The person conducting the test drew 3 lines on a chalk board. The group was told to raise their hand when he pointed to the longest line. The leader would point to the second longest line and all 19 who were in on the test would raise their hand. The Guinea pig didn’t agree, but would look around and see every hand raised but his and then raise his hand to. This happened 75% of the time in groups of every age. The conclusion of the test was that the majority of the time, people would rather choose to be popular and accepted than be right!

Those fathers of the faith we read about in the bible, were tested constantly in their unexpected journey and the majority of the time, they chose to be right according to a higher truth, than be accepted and popular. 

Our journey is filled with all kinds of obstacles - Canaanites, Perizites, Jebusites, termites and cellulites. (a lot of “ites”)

How you handle these obstacles or your “ites”, will determine if you succeed or get stuck somewhere in your journey. 

Words like “trials,” “temptations” and “refining fire” show up often.        God is watching your response to people , problems, pain, privilege, possessions, pleasures, pay, parents, past, present, pollution, persecution and poverty. Here’s the good news. God wants you to be a success, to overcome and to overflow in every way possible.  Here’s what He promises us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation (test/obstacle) has happened to you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, He will never let you be tempted (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will always provide a way out (and may I add under, over, around or through it) so that you can win it! 

A condemned prisoner who was awaiting execution was granted the privilege of choosing whatever dishes he wanted to eat for his last meal. He ordered a large platter of mushrooms. The prison guard asked him "Why are you just eating all these mushrooms and nothing else?" "Well," replied the prisoner, "I always wanted to try them, but before now, I was always afraid I would die if I ate them!"

The Unexpected Journey is about Facing Your Fears….                                                       The fears you don’t face have become your new limits….                                                 And every time we speak out of fear, we are designing our future with our words!                                                                                                                             Let me ask you, if you overcame your fear, what would you be able to do? What is “fear”….? It is “False Evidence Appearing Real”…..

If obeying God would kill you, just how many times would you be dead already!!!!!!

Everyone is going to die, but wouldn’t it be worse to die for no cause at all… just die because that’s what everybody has to do….                                                                                     The men of the bible died fearless, classic deaths, that was part of thetestimony. THEY WERE REAL CLASS ACTS! What do I mean by that?           I mean that they died the way they lived… Bold, brave, courageous. I think of Isaac and Jacob who called their kids and laid their hands on them in blessing before they died. I think of Samson whose final act in death was pulling the roof down on his enemies so that he killed more in death than in life. I think of Stephen who was stoned and as he died, he looked up and saw Jesus welcoming him home. I think of the apostle Paul and the disciples who were busy sharing Jesus with folks right up to the moment of death. And how Jesus died so that we could live bold and full lives and then empowered us to die a victorious death as well. 

This unexpected Journey is about Divine encounters that God has waiting for us… God walked and talked each day with Adam and Eve in the garden. He gave clear and precise instructions to Noah. He was a close friend to Abraham so much so that Abraham was know as the “Friend of God”… Jacob certainly knew what it was like to experience Divine intervention….Paul had such an encounter that he didn’t know if he was in the body or out of the body….John the Revelator was so caught up in the heavenlies that he was able to record all that is coming on the earth, as we get to the end of days.

God turns the unexpected journey to the transformative journey!!! 

We are the clay and He is the master potter and the journey He has us on is the hand of God that is shaping us. We’re not who we started out to be and we aren’t who we are going to be by the end of this “Hobbit” journey. 

This is your story we’re talking about. It’s an amazing story…..God wants to use it….It marks a new way of seeing things, a new direction, a place where I suddenly realized why I was going through this valley,  climbing this difficult, rocky mountain and experiencing this wilderness place .

The unexpected journey is the In between place… We might call it being between a rock and a hard place….Abraham and forerunners like him, built altars to mark their journey and so should we. An altar is a place where you get things rearranged and repositioned before the Lord. An altar is a stake in the ground. It is a place where you anchor to God and His presence, His promises and His provision. Altars were like a declaration that shouted “Here’s where God showed up and showed off in my journey.” 

On one occasion it says that Abraham pitched his tent between Ai and Bethel. That’s significant, because Ai means “a heap of ruins” and Bethel means “The place of His presence”…Abraham was declaring that no matter where this journey takes me, I’m keeping my eyes on Him because whatever I’m going through, and wherever I am, He is with me and it becomes the place of His presence!

We were made by God for His purposes, and when that bad thing happened that threw you off course….when the injustice that let you down so you lost your way, took place…. When that person betrayed you…. What will it matter in 100 years (after all you’re going to live to be at least a million) Be like the sweet old lady who was so cheerful and had no enemies in the world, because she had out lived them all!!!!

Keep moving forward….and don’t look back, you’re not going that way! Your life will have many stories but your life is more than your stories…. Your life becomes part of your arsenal, so you can pass through to your next story. Don’t hold on to any stories that want to keep you from advancing, and don’t let any one place define you… keep moving forward, because you are more than the sum total of any one story.

Some folks have gotten stuck in the part of the story where someone left them, or where they were treated badly on the job, or where they were used and abused….. You’re just moving from your Ai (the heap of ruin) to Bethel (the presence of God)!!! 

I love that part in Samson’s story where he was confronted with a lion and he slew the lion, then some time later, as he passed that way, it says that he took honey from the carcass of the lion. Come on!!! Take some honey from the very thing that attacked you!!!

Keep moving! Don’t stop….. there’s a lot of journey left in you!

Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world!

This is when you Lift your voice and sing “To God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory, For the things He has done. With His blood He has saved me, with His power He has raised me, To God be the glory, for the things He has done.”

The Unexpected Journey Releases The Power of Change…..

My daughter Karen is constantly rearranging everything in her house. I have to be careful when I go to sit down that the chair is still there. She loves interior design. She enjoys changing things around. 

That’s the way God is…. We see change as threatening but God sees it as opportunity. He loves to take all the painful places in our story and rearrange them to help us find a new way we never thought of before. 

Our story is a blend of the natural and supernatural….. Romans 8:4 “….We walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. v5 Forthey that are after the flesh focus on the things of the flesh; but they that are spiritually minded, the things of the Spirit. v6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”…

At the center of Joseph’s life story was a coat of many colors and a dream. His story like ours, is a beautiful blend of the natural realm and the supernatural realm. We are always looking to see where God’s spiritual is woven into our natural.                                                                                            Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1846. He had the idea of a machine with a needle that would go through a piece of cloth, but he couldn't figure out exactly how it would work. He first tried using a needle that was pointed at both ends, with an eye in the middle, but it was a failure. Then one night he dreamed he was taken prisoner by a group of natives. He was told he had only that night to come up with a solution to his sewing machine, or he’d be executed. He worked desperately but with no solution to be found. As he was being taken to be executed, the Indians were dancing around him with spears. It was then that he noticed that their spears all had holes near their tips!

When he woke up, he realized that the dream had brought the solution to his problem. By locating a hole at the tip of the needle, the thread could be caught after it went through the cloth, which made his machine successful. He changed his design to incorporate the dream and found that it worked! 

The closer you get to Jesus, the more willing you are to let go of everything that isn’t part of His story and His purpose for you.

I’m reminded of the sculptor who was asked what he was carving. He said he was carving an angel. It’s really very easy, I simply remove all the stone that isn’t an angel and I set him free!!!

God is chipping away everything that isn’t His best for you. Let Him remove everything that isn’t your story, and release it to become what it was always meant to be. 

The unexpected place is the place to shine…..God wants you to shine and show off his grace through the unexpected places. It is in those times that others will be attracted to the God you serve.

As author John Baker said, "You will never know that God is all you need until God is all you've got”. 

It was true at the Red Sea crossing, It was true when Elijah faced the prophets of Baal on Carmel, it was true as David stepped in front of the giant, and it was true as Noah locked his little family in the ark…. It will be true of us as well and we will all find ourselves in those places. 

As Joseph said to his brothers at the end of his story that is recorded in Genesis 50:19 ”Don't be afraid, Am I in the place of God? v20 You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." 

And all of Israel walked out of Egypt at God’s appointed time, because Joseph was faithful and let it shine, on his unexpected journey. 

Just as God had a butler, a baker and a Pharaoh lined up for Joseph, I believe He has the right people, in the right place at the right time for you as well!  God could have kept Joseph from prison, Daniel from the Lion's den, and Paul from being shipwrecked three times – but He didn't because He was more interested in revealing His glory than He was in their comfort… and when we are willing to shine in those type of places we will see His glory as well.

I have prayed my best prayers in my darkest of days. I have encountered God in glorious worship when I felt abandoned and out of all options. When I have faced pain and overwhelming problems, I needed to know that the darkest night is just before the dawn. Oh, yes, This hope we have to sustain us and motivate us. 

1John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. v3 And every man that has this hope in Him purifies and prepares himself”.  

Eugene Land was a self-made millionaire. He had been a featured speaker at board meetings and conventions. However, on a fall day in East Harlem, Mr. Land was about to face an audience that simply terrified him, it was 59 sixth graders. What could he say to inspire these students, in a school with a dismal graduation rate. He expected blank stares and hard hearts. Ignoring his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart and an unexpected journey began to happen. He told them, “Stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you that graduates.” Six years later, nearly 90% of that 6th grade class went on to graduate from high school. These are just a few of them. One class member said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. I had hope and an opportunity.”

We have something to look forward to, God has something waiting for us.

“Your harvest is in the unexpected places”….                                                                   God has your harvest in the unexpected places….Here’s the story about the picture on the screen…. 

An African Christian said that during the depression he lost his job and had spent all of his life savings." He said, "One Sunday night both of us wanted to go to church but the church was eight miles away, and bus fare was ten cents, and we only had fifteen cents to our names. His wife said, 'Honey, you walk to church, and when you get to church you put a nickel in, and when you leave, you'll have a dime to ride back.

So he walked to church and as he was walking, he felt blessed because I thought about people who didn't have no legs to walk. When he got to church, the Holy Ghost said, 'Put the whole fifteen cents in.' And he started arguing with the Lord. 

"The choir started singing, but all he could hear them singing was, 'Put the whole fifteen cents in.' When it came time for the announcements all he could hear was “Put the whole fifteen cents in.” He put it in and watched that offering plate take his last money in the world further and further away from him.                                                                                               The sermon that Sunday was 'They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles.' Well, that got him ready for the 8 mile walk home. 

One block from the church a strange lady stopped him. She said, 'Mister, I don't know you, but, here, take this address, and if you need work they're hiring there tomorrow.' He walked another block, and the Spirit of the Lord said, 'Look down.' When he looked down, there was a dime. As soon as he picked the dime up, a bus pulled up. He put his dime in, and it gave him back fifteen cents change. He said, I got too much back. The bus driver said, 'Shut up, man, and sit down.' He said, 'Thank you, Jesus.' He got back home, blessed with a job, blessed with the same fifteen cents he left home with. And he’s worked at that job for thirty-three years!

Where’s the best place to be? The best place to be is Right Where You Are….. That’s God’s starting line for you! 

When you pull up Google maps, it will begin with where you are, and it will take you from there….God starts right where you are!                                    

The lion’s den for Daniel, was the perfect place to be. The fiery furnace for the three Hebrews, was the best place they could be. The storm at sea, and a sinking boat, was the perfect place for Peter and the disciples to be, because it was a miraculous place, where God could do His supernatural work. Where He could show His power and cause unbelievers to be brought to Him. 

The lions, the furnaces, the storms, the seeming impossibilities, are all in the hands of the one who works all things according to His will. 

In the center of His Will, we find direction and guidance; for He knows the Way. In the center of His Will, we have His protection and provision; for He is our refuge. At the center of His Will, we have assurance of hope, fullness of joy, and the promise of peace, for HE is with us!! He is our hope, He is our joy, and He is our peace!

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the LORD, plans   for peace, and not for evil, to give you an expected end”. 

I want to close with this thought, when Jesus told the disciples to cast the net on the other side of the boat… they were tired from fishing all night, and they just wanted to clean and mend their nets and go home to rest before the next day of fishing started. But Jesus wanted them to claim a harvest in an unexpected place .

Claim Your Harvest in the Unexpected Place…. I believe Jesus is telling us that we need to claim the unexpected harvest! He’s the same God who fed Elijah with ravens, Manna came from heaven, the five loaves and fish multiplied, water turned into wine, and a boat sinking catch of fish could have only happened in an unexpected place ….

God enables someone to sell a home even though “no one’s buying”

He enables you to find a job even though “no one’s hiring”

He enables you to get through something you thought would be too difficult to finish”

He enables you to do something you thought would be impossible”

He brings reconciliation with someone who has an “irreconcilable difference”

He gives strength to go through something that you thought you could never endure” Women who were barren, gave birth to children…and Abraham and Sarah had a son, she was 90 and he was 100 years old….The sun and the moon stood still for Joshua so he could take the victory… Peter was drowning, and the Lord let him walk on water.. 

Claim the unexpected harvest and the victory He has for you, in your unexpected places on your unexpected journey!

Posted by: AT 08:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, February 14 2018

I was pondering what direction to take this Sunday, since Wednesday is Valentine’s Day…. And I felt to move in what some would think is a very romantic direction… I believe God is very romantic….

So, we’re going to be looking at what the Bible says about kissing. You know don’t you, that the Bible is just FULL of kissing…                                            So my message today is “The Message Behind The Kiss”…                                          

Scientifically, a kiss is the ovicular juxtaposition of the oral protrusion of the outer cavity. From the view of germaphobics, it is the mutual interchange of salivary bacteria. 

More romantic is the view that a kiss is a secret told to the mouth instead of the ear. So, however you look at it, one thing is for sure, kissing is a pleasant reminder that two heads are better than one.

A man and wife were sitting in their living room when they noticed their neighbor across the street pull up in to his house. He stepped out of the car with flowers in his hand, met his wife at the door and laid a passionate kiss on her.

As they were watching all of this, the woman turned to her husband and wistfully said, “Why don’t you do that?” The man looked at his wife and replied, “Well, Honey, I’m really shocked that you would ask me that, I hardly even know that woman.”

I think we understand that she was really saying to him that she wanted to know that she had value to him as well…

That’s what kissing is all about in the bible …. It’s declaring that a person is important, that they have value, and they are a person of worth to you.

Scripture shows us, parents and children kissing one another often….When Elisha was about to follow Elijah, he asked first to return and kiss his mom and dad….Paul told the church to greet one another with a holy kiss…Peter said that we were to kiss those who were receiving charity as a symbol of their worth, 1 Peter 5:14 ….

We love best when we learn to copy God’s kind of love. The kind of love that gives value, worth and affirmation to your life. God is perfect and we’re not, God is Holy and we’re not, God is righteous and we’re not…. So when we receive the God kind of love, we are made to feel much better than we are, because He brings the best of everything into our life. We that are part of His church are called the bride of Christ…

When a couple get married, in the marriage vows, they express to one another that they now dedicate themselves to help one another to be the very best that is in them, and to be there in sickness and in health, for better or worse, richer or poorer, to move through it all together and come out better on the other side!

Who could complain or reject that kind of commitment and who would turn away from that kind of love!

Two old guys are playing golf. At one point, the ball rolls into some bushes and, when one of the players goes to retrieve it, he is confronted by a frog that claims to be a beautiful princess who has been turned into a frog by a terrible wizard. If the player will kiss her, the frog will revert to a gorgeous princess and marry him, and they'll both live happily ever after. 

The player puts the frog in his pocket and returns to the game. After a while, the frog, inside the player's pocket croaks,“Ribbit, Ribbit” which in frogese means "Sir, did you forget about me? I'm a beautiful princess, if you kiss me . . ." and so forth, to which he replied, "Dear lady frog, I will be completely honest with you. I have reached the age where I would rather have a talking frog than someone who will spend the rest of her life trying to change me."

The Power of love is the power of change….And that’s exactly what true love’s kiss will do, it will change you in ways you never dreamed….it is futile to resist! The Lord is kissing frogs every day and transforming them with his redeeming grace!

In Psalm 85:9-10 it says “Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss one another.”

When God forgives our sins, His righteousness is satisfied and we receive His peace. That is the KISS of God who KISSES us with His righteousness and His peace.

Steve and Kathleen love baseball. It was a Tuesday night, they had seats in the first row of an upper deck along the third-base side of the field for a home game with Yankees against theMets.

The Judge hit a ball headed straight for Steve. Steve leaned over, extended his hands, and made a great catch. It was his first-ever catch at a game, ever! He exchanged fist bumps with people in his section, and put the newfound treasure in the hands of his three-year-old daughter Emily, she promptly tossed it over the railing to the fans below! Her dad’s arms went up, his face showed shock, and mom’s jaw dropped. At thatmoment, Emily’s joy turned to sadness and the look on mom’s face showed that she had disappointed her two heroes. Her face began to cloud with the guilt of having done a “bad thing”….Immediately, her dad grabbed her, spun her around, gave her a big kiss and said… YEAAAH… THAT’S MY GIRL!!! Her face changed, the situation was transformed and she had value and acceptance!

That’s what Jesus did from the cross… He threw you a big kiss, and said, WOW, DO I EVER LOVE YOU!!!

That’s what the story of the prodigal son is all about….

Luke 15:20 “… while the wayward son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” 

Let God give you a big KISS right now!

In the gospel of Luke, Simon the Pharisee had a problem with the prostitute who poured costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair, all the while, kissing his feet.                                                     Simon said, Luke 7:39 “...if he truly were a prophet, then He would have known..." Simon couldn’t understand why a sinful woman would be acceptable to Jesus? Jesus went on to tell Simon a parable on forgiveness. Simon had not properly honored Jesus when He came into his house; but this “sinner" had never stopped honoring Him. True salvation brings a great difference into our life. A prostitute who only used men, was now honoring a man…..

This woman was expressing her salvation belief, with a kiss. Scripture indicates that those who have been forgiven much, should be grateful for much. And she was expressing her gratitude as a soul set free and released from a sinful past. 

Our attempts to honor Him are like kisses to Him. Friend, have you “kissed your Saviour” lately? Do you honor Him in your life with your kisses of worship and your kisses of obedience?

Psalm 85:10 “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed one another”.

How amazed we should be that the unbending and uncompromising truth of God, which cannot be negotiated, and which no person could measure up to…. Was blended with the mercy of a savior who was willing to take our judgment, and bear our penalty. Mercy and truth met together in Christ, so that we could obtain mercy to help in our great time of need. And instead of judgment we receive the kiss of His righteousness and peace. Instead of condemnation, we receive value and worth!

I might add that the more we strive to receive His truth and His righteousness, the more we will feel the kiss of his mercy and grace….

There was a couple who decided to break off their engagement. Having made the decision, the woman, said “I suppose that we give back all the letters we wrote to each other." He agreed and said, "I suppose we should return each others kisses." And by the time they had finished giving back all the kisses, they had agreed to stay engaged”.                                                                                                             There’s just something about a kiss that does more than merely bring about a joining of the lips. It has the power to also bring about the joining of hearts and lives.

Song of Solomon 1:2 “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of Hismouth, for your love is better than wine”. 

There is a direct parallel in this romantic longing to the realm of the spirit. Many times the believer's soul feels a longing for more of the presence and the touch of God, and longs for the good old days of close and loving communion. We sing, everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before, but in reality we know this is not always so. Many days we can look back and long to return to a former day when our love seemed sweeter and stronger, and when we sense the presence of Christ more intimately in our lives.

Believer's, are like this lonely shepherd girl, in Solomon’s song, who cannot be happy and satisfied until they experience the kiss of the Shepherd. This was true for the Old Testament saints who looked for the coming of the Messiah. They looked at this loverscry and said, that is us, Israel crying out to God to come near. We have seen the relationship that Abraham, Moses and the prophets had with Adoni, but we want the kiss of salvation and atonement by Messiah Himself, for this would be the very kiss of God.

A lady took her nephew to her church one Sunday. He had not been in church before, and was watching everything. When the service was over, he was bursting with excitement. He said, "Auntie-did you see God's kiss?" "Whatever do you mean?" she asked. "I saw it- it’s God's kiss-on the window of the church. I make my kisses in the shape of a heart and draw an arrow through it, and God does the same thing”. Then she realized he was referring to the heart which was placed over a cross on the stained glass. The cross was indeed the kiss of God.              A kiss is a means of reconciliation, and an expression of closeness… God has given us the symbol of His kiss, His desire to draw close to us, and it’s in the shape of a cross!                                                                                 The cross has been called love's greatest weapon, and by the kiss of the cross our Divinelover defeated the plan that Satan had set in motion, to separate us from our God and He bridged the gap between man and his fellow man and man and God.

If we do not kiss the true Lover of our souls, we will end upkissing some deceiver. Idolatry is simply kissing a false lover. Idolatry is about giving of your heart’s affection to something, or someone, who cannot sacrificially love and save your soul.

When it comes to giving our loyalty and affection to the wrong things, we need to be like the guy and the girl who kissed, and she said “Kiss me again and I’ll be your’s forever”…. hearing that, he said “thanks for the warning”!!!

I Kings 19:18, "Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." To have kissed Baal was to have submitted to him as Lord. And so, to have kissed Christ is to have submitted to Him as Lord.             I recall years ago, at the end of the service when the committal was shared, a fellow came to the altar to get his life right with God. When I looked over at him, he was throwing kisses o God, in appreciation for the forgiveness of sin and the peace in his heart which he had received.

The bible is also replete with accounts of the kiss of betrayel…Judas was the most famous betrayer of all, when the kiss he gave Jesus was to identify the one they had come to take and crucify.Jesus took the sting of betrayal, so you could be free of it’s pain and it’s sting. You may have been betrayed, but it doesn’t have to be part of who you are or where God is taking you…. He paid the price so you don’t have to. Jacob betrayed his brother by pretending to be Esau and getting the kiss of blessing which rightfully belonged to Esau….

Samson was sold down the river by Delilah’s kiss of betrayal in order to learn the secret of his strength so she could deliver him over to the Philistines for a price….. We need a whole lot less Judas kisses and a whole lot more Jesus kisses!

I mentioned that There was a lot of kissing going on in the Bible, which is still a practice in some cultures. Jacob and Esau kissed when they met after a long separation. The father of the Prodigal Son kissed him when he returned. The kiss that expresses love and acceptance and places value on another person, should never be out of style. We need a lot more of those kisses!

And yes, some folks still kiss in the church. If you give Mae a hug, count on it, she’s going to give you a kiss. But usually we do a lot of  kissing at weddings, and even there you had better be careful. 

One guy said to another guy, "How did you get that black eye?" He said, "I kissed the bride after the wedding." "Why everyone does that," the other guy said. "Yeah," responded the injured man, "But this was two years after the wedding."

Studies show that if a man comes home and does not kiss his wife, she unconsciously wonders if she looks terrible andstruggles with whatever it is that has come between them. And of course the man doesn’t have a clue! 

Kissing is the fuel that keeps the flame of love burning, and true lovers never get tired of it.

Beecher said, "God pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting forgetfulness." 

Bret Harte wrote, “Never a lip is curved with pain, That can't be kissed into smiles again”.

We have been talking about kissing in the bible, but what we’re really referring to is healing, affirming, validating love….

I love You, can mean many things…Most of us have known the 3 levels of love, which are 

Eros love…that is sensual and physical attraction to someone….

Theleo love…. Which is influence, the desire to be in prominence, or to have power, position and be respected.

Phileo love… which is emotional love, affection and care for another as long as it is returned. 

But the soul of every person, longs for Agape love…. Which is God like love, and is vastly superior to any other form of Love. In essence "Agape" is a permanent commitment to love God and our fellow man, without any conditions placed on it. All the other forms of love need,  reciprocation in order maintain their passion and motivation, while Agape flows through us from God and it does not need confirmation from others, for it is satisfied with simply loving.

In the conversation between Jesus and Peter, Jesus challenges Peter to love with Agape John 21:15 “So when they had dined, Jesus said to Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, do you (Agape) me more than these? He answered, Yes, Lord, You know that I (Phileo) You. And He said unto him, Feed my lambs. v16 Again He said to him, Simon, [son] of Jonas, do you (Agape) me? And He answered him, Yes, Lord, You know that I (Phileo) You. And He said unto him, Feed my sheep. v17 Again He said unto him, Simon, [son] of Jonas, do you (Agape) me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Do you (Agape) me? And he said unto him, Lord, You know all things, You know that I (Phileo) You. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep”. 

Peter was at the Phileo level, but Jesus was loving him into the Agape level, so that he could fulfil his destiny as one chosen to be in the world but not of the world. To love with Godly love, which keeps giving when nothing is given back through those around him, that’s Agape.

In this regard, Agape in us, comes through faith, but faith works by love. Agape is not a feeling, it is a belief… it loves based on what it cannot see. And it is always activated through faith. If you only love based on what you see and feel, then it is not by faith. But because it is faith, doesn’t mean it is blind, brain dead, or stupid! 

I believe one of the best definitions given to us, of Agape is found in 1Corithians 13:4 “Agape has patience, is kind, Agape is not envious; Agape is not vain, is not puffed up, v5 does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, v6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. v7 Agape quietly bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. v8 Agape never fails. v13 And now abides faith, hope, and  Agape , these three things remain; but the greatest of these is Agape” .

Our will governs our emotions. Out of control emotions are really a problem with will power. Certainly it’s OK to be emotional. We are emotional creatures. But our emotions at some point need to be programed by God’s truth. Love, and hate are both part of our will. Our redeemed will is the track which our emotions are to run upon. Unless the path of the will is charted by the discipline of the spirit of truth, our life will be a roller coaster of hurts, disappointments and unmet expectations. 

I want to close this by having everyone give God a kiss….that’sright, the kiss of praise… Or like the guy who was throwing God kisses from the altar….just lift your hands and praise Him for loving you, with His Agape love…..

Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. 

The kiss of God is the kiss of power, the kiss of love and the kiss of a sound mind….

Posted by: AT 08:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 06 2018

Or when our Perception becomes our Reality….

It’s like the 5 blind men who examined an elephant. One examined the tail and concluded the elephant was like a rope. One examined the ear, and concluded the elephant was like a large fan. One examined the trunk and concluded it was like a large snake. One examined the leg and said the elephant was like a tree. Another examined the tusk and said the elephant was like a large spear. The last one examined the back and said it was like a leathery wall. They were all right based on what they had each examined.  

It has been well said that “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the less you know, the more you think you know”…

Ecclesiastes 3:11  “He has made everything beautiful in His time, He has also set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God has made from the beginning to the end”.

 The word “beautiful” is the Hebrew word “yaw-feh” - which has the idea of fitting things together - so that when everything is fitted together the way its designed to be fitted together – the results is that it becomes something beautiful.

Believe in the person God wants you to become!

Romans 8:28 expresses this same idea…..”When all things fit together, they work out for the good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His best intentions”

Let me give you a very basic example…..At our home in Ramrod, it was very dark on our street at night…some folks complained that the unlit streets were unsafe and would make it easier for thieves to do their thing…..but the flip side of the coin is that everyone who came to my home said the stars were the brightest they had ever seen…. The darkness actually allowed the stars to be seen even more beautiful!

God is just as present, doing His amazing work in the light as He is in darkness, in birth as He is in death.  He’s just as awesome in the sowing of the seed as He is in the harvest that has come to it’sfull season.  He’s just as present in the times of peace as He is in times of war. His greatness does not change and He remains the same when we understand and when we don’t. While we may only see chaos and futility, God is there, fitting it all together into something with meaning, purpose and a Divine design – He is turning it all into something very beautiful.

When God appeared unto Solomon as a young man, and told him that He would give him anything he asked for….. Solomon certainly shows us what God is looking for in all of us…..Solomon answers the lord in    1Kings 3:9 “Give your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. “For who is able to judge so great a people? v10 And the answer pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. v11 And God said unto him, Because You have asked this thing, and have not asked for long life or riches for *…..yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but you have asked for understanding to discern in judgment. v12 Behold, I have done according to your words. For, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there will be none like you before or after you and there shall arise none like unto you. v13 And I have also given you that which you did not asked, both riches, and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto you all your days”. 

The God who is sovereign over eternity - who created time - who uses time according to His purposes - who sees time as one continuous eternal now - who knows every detail of history and all the possibilities of what might be at any given moment - that same God is working all things together - into what is beautiful - fitting - according to His will.

We have no idea how God is going to fit all of it together, but what God offers us is the assurance that He is making something beautiful in the defining and transitional times of our lives.

Acts 16:25 "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." Many folks will think you’re really strange in those moments when your theory becomes your experiential theology!

It is at the midnight times in our lives is when we find out the difference between “Bible Theory” and “Experiential Theology”…. Paul would be the first to say that it’s not an easy road…. He would tell folks of his prison time, the floggings, of being exposed to death again and again. Five times he received forty lashes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked. He would tell of spending a night and a day adrift at sea, in danger from bandits, betrayal by false brothers. He had often gone without sleep, known hunger and thirst and been exposed to the cold without adequate clothing. 

And in all those situations Paul discovered that God was working, arranging, adjusting, connecting and creating something good in the midst of it all! It all gave Paul greater faith in three important areas….

The first area is “TO GO WHERE YOU’RE SENT”….In all that Paul went through, he was always on his way to where he was sent…. He wasn't thrown for a loop when he ended up in jail, or when he endured being beaten by the authorities. You see those are the times when your Bible theory, becomes your experiential theology…. When your confession becomes your core beliefs.                                                                                      If you don't believe in the sovereignty of God, then you'll probably be bitter and angry and very discouraged. If you don't believe in a God who numbers the very hairs on your head, then you may think that something strange and terrible has happened to you.                                                            But if you believe in the sovereignty of God, then you know that nothing can happen that is not part of His greater and better plan for your life. And you understand that you don’t camp there because you’re just passing through, you’re on your way, to where you’re sent!

When where you are makes no sense, and you may not see any purpose in the things happening to you right now….you know that this means there is a next time and a next after that…. That God will take you over it, under it, around it or through it, but He will take you to the NEXT THING! Those are the times when we can only shout….

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me, beside still waters, He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me, Your rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the presence of the LORD forever”.  

I’m on my way to God’s next thing……I will praise Him, when I can’t predict Him!.... I will worship, when I can only wonder! I will exalt Him when I am humbled before Him! And I will obey Him when I can’t understand Him! (And I must say that happens often)!

A young boy and girl were looking at some old family photos on the computer and they asked their mother, "Who is the guy on the beach with you with all the muscles and curly hair?" "Oh”, she said, “That's your father." …"Then who's that man who lives with us now?" (Things change, but God remains the same)!

Paul makes a powerful statement in Philippians 4:11 “I do not speak to you out of my lack,  for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. v12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to experience need. v13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”. 

What is so powerful about this is that Paul writes these words while he is chained to a Roman soldier, as a prisoner of Rome. Even though things haven’t gone the way he thought, he talks about contentment. Contentment is fully accepting where you are until you get to the next place and there is always a next place when your trust is in the Lord!

So if you’re Paul and Silas and it's midnight, and everything around you is telling you that it’s all going down the tubes, you start praying and singing hymns of praise to God at the top of your voice. And you don’t stop until God has the final say!

God in His wisdom will take us all to those places where our theories must become our theological reality. 

There’s a world of difference in just going somewhere and being sent! John 20:21 “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you. v22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”……                                                               If you’re not sent, then you’re just taking a walk…. 

This is about more than just going for a walk, this is A POWER WALK! For this walk, we receive power from on high. Sent ones are anointed, equipped and brimming with power.                                                                        When you’re in those impossible situations, and all of hell is breaking loose, and you’re facing the biggest Goliath you’ve ever faced…. It’s good to know that it’s where you’ve been sent to fulfill heaven’s intentions on earth. If you know He sent you to the other side, you know the storm can’t sink you until you’re there!

Remember as you stand in those earthquake zones of life, where the ground is shaking under your feet, and everything is topsyturvy…. It’s exactly where God has put you, when you know that you’re sent!

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves (well, how about that, it’s right where you are) be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 

Matthew 10:19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. v20 For it is not you that speaks, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks through you!”

If you know you are where you are because you are sent…. Then you understand that you have skills that are not of this world. You are just the instrument, and God is the source and the outcome has been designed for that specific circumstance and situation.

And that’s (let’s see what’s that word again?) Oh yeah, Paul said it was CONTENTMENT! That stabilizing gyroscope called contentment, the

next time your theory becomes experiential Theology…. 

That next time is about Staying Where You’re Put! Submission is not the same as agreement. When I don’t agree with God, I still submit!

That means, wherever you happen to be, even though it may not have been your first choice, you’re going to let God pour Himself through you in that place. It means that you believe down deep in your soul that you are where you are because God wants you there, and that when he wants you somewhere else, you'll be somewhere else. You’re not just taking up space, but you are Pro-active in knowing there is a higher purpose.

In the Andrae Crouch song “Through It All” he sings…. 

“I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys,I thank Him for the storms He brought me through. For if I'd never had a problem,

I wouldn't know that my God could solve them, I'd never know what faith in God could do”.

But you’ll never know this truth, until you stay put, where He put you!

A man had his dog in the back seat, when he parked his car at the store. He didn’t want the dog jumping over the seat and as He backed *…..away from the car, he continued to say “stay, stay, stay”. A woman standing at the store, who didn’t see the dog, said, “Sir, if you want it to stay, all you need to do is just put in park”….

David gave special honor to those who were assigned to stay put…

He had led the army into battle to retrieve what the enemy had stolen, but he left some behind to guard the village while the rest went to war.. there was a debate about dividing the spoils of battle and not sharing with those who had stayed behind to stand guard. David hears them out and then he makes a ruling ….1 Samuel 30:24 “Those who have stayed by the stuff, shall have an equal share of the spoils with those who went out to fight against the enemy."

I heard a parable about a wealthy land owner who hired two men to draw water from a well and fill a tank which was near by. The strange part of the task was that they were to use two baskets to carry the water. As soon as they got the basket full, it would start leaking out. One of the men became frustrated at this apparent waste of time, and said he was quitting. The other man said, what is it to you, we are still getting paid to do this. So lets do what we’ve been hired to do. But the other man quit and the one carried on until the owner showed up the next day. The well was almost empty, but as the worker lowered the basket one final time, it revealed a priceless diamond which had been at the bottom of the well. The job wasn’t about the water, or the baskets, it was all about the diamond at the bottom of the well. 

Stay by the stuff! It’s all about the diamond at the bottom!

The last thing I want to share as your Theory becomes Experiential Theology… is Be Faithful To Give What You’ve Got… I guess I should qualify that….“Always give 100% unless you’re giving blood”

The bible tells us that when Paul and Silas were in prison, they still praised the Lord. I don’t know how well Paul and Silas could sing, but when they were in stocks and chains, they sang the best and loudest they could! It was loud enough that the whole prison heard and everyone was  encouraged and their spirits were raised.

My grandma could clear out an entire church pew, she sang so terrible, but my, my, she loved to sing unto the Lord! She really believed in making a joyful NOISE unto the Lord!

During the hardships of World War II, a man walked into a diner, sat down at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee. The waitress promptly set a steaming cup of coffee, with a spoon and paper napkin.  The customer asked for the sugar, which, because it was being rationed, was in a glass container, sitting safely out of reach, under the counter.  

The waitress produced the sugar and watched as the man poured not one, not two, but three heaping spoonfuls into his cup.  

Grabbing the precious container, she quickly returned it to its place of safety under the counter, as the man swirled the spoon once or twice and then sipped his coffee, he asked for the sugar again.  

Well, she glared at him and said, “sir I’m sorry but you’ll have to use what you’ve got."

When God called Abraham, he answered “Here am I”

When God called Jacob in a vision, he answered “Here am I”

When God called Moses from the burning bush, he answered “Here am I”

When the boy Samuel was called, by God he answered “Here am I”

Isaiah says, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me”.

When God calls someone to a special task. The Hebrew word He used is hinnainee (hin-nay'-nee), which means "Here I am." So When we say here I am, God answers with “Here I am” also….God is offering Himself fully to those who are willing to offer themselves unto Him.

In the worst moments of life. When tragedy strikes, when life caves in, when your plans are dashed on the jagged rocks of reality, when you find yourself in a place you never wanted to be, that's when you discover what you really believe. As long as things are going good, you don't really know what you believe. It's all just theory. But it’s at the midnight hour, that you discover your experiential theology. 

Anyone can sing "Shout to the Lord" when life is good, you've got money in the bank, your marriage is strong, your kids are doing well, you're happy in your job, you love your church, and all is right with the world. But If you can still sing with Paul and Silas and praise God at the midnight hour, then what you've got is the real stuff!.

Not only will YOU discover what you believe in times of trouble, that's also when the world will discover what you believe, that's when they will want what you have!

In the Message bible, it translates 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 like this…

“So, my friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, and inspiring your speech”. 

If you’ve been to one of the major airports, you’ve seen one of those “moving sidewalks”. Have you ever decided you didn’t want to get on those and just walk on the normal walkway? I did that one time. I’m walking along at a fairly good clip and I look to my left and here goes this lady just standing still, and leaving me in the dust. I tried to pick up the pace, but it was no use, she wasn’t even breathing heavy and I was puffing along not even close to keeping up. Now, I always get on those things and as I walk, it feels like I’ve got wings on my feet.

That’s what God offers us.  He knows our next place !

It's not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord!

When a person gets aligned with God’s “Here am I” with their “Here am I”.. incredible things begin to happen. Things start to pop. Ministry happens, people’s lives are changed!

Do you understand that you are where you are and in what you’re in for a higher purpose? 

Most kids can tell you what they want to be when they grow up. Can you imagine someone asking the young boy Jesus, what He would like to be when He grew up? His dad was a carpenter, so He was supposed to be a carpenter. And He says, well, I am God, and I am going to be the savior of the world when I grow up! And folks experience “brain explosion”….(ker-pow)! Jesus knew that His purpose was to bring glory to god!

John 17:1 “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come, glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” 

I can tell you why you are where you are and in what you’re in…..You and I are here to glorify God in this place and the next and the next….

You were created for this. You were brought into this world to be a lover and a follower of God. You were placed here to bring glory to Him. Surrender to that calling on your life. Put a torch to the bridges you’ve been keeping as a fire escape in your life,just in case things don’t work out, and step down on to God’s moving side walk, where a glorious and exciting future awaits you. Where His greater purpose and glory are waiting to be accomplished as He flows through you.

I close with Habakkuk 3:17 “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is  no herd in the stalls. v18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. v19 The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places”. 

Prayer….

Lord, as David wrote, “you are good, and Your mercies endure forever”. We thank you that you know what you are doing in every situation and circumstance of our lives. We find our contentment in that, because many times we are clueless. We rest our weary souls on you, the Rock of Our Salvation.

Give us confidence to believe that You, who started a good work in us will bring it to completion, and even today, You are bringing it to completion. Grant us grace to say "Here I am" when you call us to bear witness at midnight. Help us to stand fast, never moved, trusting in you, now and forevermore, until the day comes when we see You face to face. Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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