HARDENING OF THE ARTERIES!

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!
The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
    as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw everything I did.”

Psalm 95, verses 6 through 9; from the New Living Translation

I was nearly 7, I think, when my Papa Burbank died. I remember they called it “hardening of the arteries”. Today we know it as plaque buildup in the arteries. Now they can do things to help open up the flow of blood and avert death. Back then there wasn’t anything they could do for it. My reading for this morning, Psalm 95, and it’s verse about hardening of the heart, got me to thinking about him and his cause of death.

And though the miracles of modern medicine helps us today avoid the same outcome as Papa Burbank with our biological heart, it’s the spiritual heart that is in danger today. Spiritually speaking, we are at our Meribah. In case you’re not familiar with Meribah, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. God had miraculously delivered them from Egypt and a life of slavery. He provided food in the form of manna every day. And when they complained about Heaven’s Food, God provided them with quails. Now there water supply is all but gone. I compare this to having nothing to drink before a procedure or surgery. You’re not really thirsty until you can’t have anything. So they turn against Moses and whine and complain, complain and whine, because they are so thirsty. Remember that God delivered them and has provided everything they needed up to this point. Now, why in Heaven’s Name would they start doubting God? Simple, it was what was in their hearts and it was hardening those hearts.

It’s said that you are what you eat. And that’s so very true. And here is something even more true: You are what you allow into your spiritual heart. And this is where our culture, and our United Methodist Tribe are at. Too many have allowed the bladerdash and flummery of progressive theology into their hearts. Our culture has jumped in Doc Brown’s Time Traveling Delorean and arrived before The Fall (that’s when Adam and Eve messed up) and bought lock, stock, and barrel into Satan’s lie that we are capable of being our own god. That given the right information (that’s what many call the “forbidden fruit”), we are free to choose our own path by determining our very own version of what is right and what is wrong.

The result is that the life-giving flow of “blood” has been blocked and denied access to our spiritual heart. And that heart has become hardened. And without treatement, that heart will cease to function and we will die. Remember my Papa Burbank! And there is no medicine or medical procedure that can restore that flow of life-giving blood. And there is no hope that neither progressive nor liberation theology can change this outcome. There is only one way, one source to prevent our hearts from this inevitable outcome.

If only you would listen to His voice today!

Psalm 95 verse 7

His Voice will never, I mean NEVER, contradict His Word that we know as The Bible. Our hearts are like Jeremiah (chapter 17, verse 9) described: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” That’s the Bad News, folks. But now for the Good News. Ezekiel said (chapter 36, verse 26):  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those poor, pitiful Hebrews, so many have forgotten how that through the ages God has been faithful to lead us to the life that sin has stolen from us. Physical heart transplants are amazing. But what’s more amazing is Spiritual Heart Transplants. So, if your heart has become hard, then there’s only one place to go–and that’s at the foot of The Cross!

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! PART 5

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

John chapter 3 verse 3 from The Message

It’s time to bring this–call it my musings or my rants–to an end. I prefer to think of these words as “one who is crying out in the wilderness”! Just a quick reminder: Cuss words are words we just don’t say or need to say in public, or even in private. And today’s New Cuss Word is Conversion. According to Google, the definition of Conversion is “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.”

I have a Honda Goldwing; but it has had a Conversion Kit installed to change it from two wheels to 3 wheels. Now this Goldwing doesn’t have the same characteristics as it did when it was made–in fact, it can’t have the same characteristics because it’s been “converted” from it’s original condition. One of the many big things for John Wesley was his desire to see the Conversion of people. Call it Conversion, Being Born Again, or Saved the results are the same. Just like my Goldwing has completely changed from how it was made in the factory, so we need to be completely changed.

Wesley would insist that everyone is under sin’s influence. But to break free of sin’s influence and domination over our lives required that we be changed completely from the inside out. But the message of progressives ignores this need we all have to be Converted! (See in the first paragraph the meaning of “conversion”!) They believe–and want the rest of us to believe–that Conversion isn’t really necessary. All we need to do is just love God and love people.

They justify their abandonment of the Orthodox understand of sexuality by saying that Spiritual Gifts exist in those who live outside of that Biblical Sexual Ethic. They insist that by calling homosexuality incompatible with Christianity we are denying them a place to exercise their “spiritual gifts”. If they see Spiritual Gifts inside them, then those gifts exist in them. Thus it means that God has justified their “preferred choice of sin”. However, there can be no Spiritual Gifts outside of the indwelling and abiding presence of The Holy Spirit inside each of us. And The Holy Spirit does not fill nor abide inside the heart and spirit of any person until they have been Converted. Now, The Holy Spirit is around them–pursuing them–but The Spirit is not abiding. In fact, The Spirit cannot abide in any heart that is still corrupted and polluted with sin. That why Conversion is necessary. When Nicodemus was confused about what Jesus meant by saying we must be born from above, Jesus clarified it:

 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

John chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 from The Message

By circumventing the necessity for Conversion, we continue to live outside God’s Original Design. Any group that chooses to call itself a “church” must have at its core the conviction that Conversion must happen in each of us. And thus we see today the Chaos and Decline of The United Methodist Church. Our leadership and some of my fellow clergy want us to sidestep the necessity of Conversion for a process that resembles the World–but NOT the Kingdom of God. A church without the message of Conversion is–well, it isn’t a church, that’s for sure. It’s a vessel from The Enemy to decieve the people from The Truth. We must be changed from one thing–one form–to a completely different life. The Life that Jesus modeled for us–The Life that Jesus died to provide for us–cannot become a reality until we are Converted.

Heaven–You Can’t Get There From Here! Part 7 The Final Answer

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Well, here we are at the end of this semester.  I pray and hope that you are able to see with clarity the fallacies of these 5 Plans.  I would be remiss and a failure to be a good professor if I did not give you the correct answer to the question:  How Do You Get Into Heaven?  Now, there are some other ways out there, but I think they will fall into one of these 5 plans.  So, what’s the answer to the question, How do we get into Heaven?  Remember my earlier disclaimer—this might be offensive to some.  If you’ve been reviewing your notes as I instructed you to do, you will now remember from the first lesson that this question is really the question of your heart:  How Do I Get Into A Relationship With God?  With no further ado, let’s look at the correct answer:

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We do it like Jesus said to Nicodemus—and here’s the plan:  To Get Into Heaven, We Live In A Relationship With God Now!  And here is how Jesus says this relationship happens, the only way the relationship happens:  Be Born Again

Anyone here ever heard of the expression Born Again Christian?  This phrase falls into the category of Repetitive Redundancy.  It’s the same thing as saying “Christian-Christian”.  If you’re a Christian, you’ve been Born Again.  If you’ve been Born Again you’re a Christian.  You don’t have to say it both ways.  Here’s a diamond of Truth:  You can’t be a Christian if you’ve never been born again.  Not now—not ever!  But if you have been born again–born from above–born through the Grace and Mercy of God–you are a Christian, or as I prefer to say–A Real Follower Of Jesus!

Slide26.JPGThis was the source of confusion for Nicodemus.  Do you know what Nicodemus’s name means?  Conqueror of the people—but Nicodemus is the one conquered by this single thought.  And this is the one thing you need to remember today:  You Cannot Have A Relationship With God Until You Are Born Again!  We need to be conquered by the same thought that conquered Nicodemus–the conqueror of people.  Until we have been conquered—our egotistical pride has been conquered—our feelings are conquered—our ways of thinking are conquered—heaven will always be out of reach—and so will God be out of reach.

None of these 5 very human Plans will cause anyone to be born again.  So, how are we born again?  It’s 3 simple steps that defies human logic and destroys human ego.

 1. We Die! Die to all that you have been.  If it’s your goodness, then die.  If it’s your sense of failures, die.  If it’s you sense of worthlessness, die.  If it’s your fears, die.  Being born again is all about starting all over in a new way of living in relationship with God.  Philippians 3:8-9—

8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.  I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Until you die in this moment and die to all your past moments you can never live in this Relationship with God.  This is what it means to Confess our sins—that God is right about us being sinners.

2.  Be Born By The Water. Not the waters of baptism, but the water of the Word of God.  Paul was writing to Ephesus about how husbands are to love their wives.  But it’s also about how God loves us and what needs to happen in us.

Ephesians 5:25-26—For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

This is what repentance means and looks like.  We turn away from that old life and into the new Life.  We let the Word of God go to work in our daily life—doing what the Word says do—avoiding what the Word says don’t do.  You allow the Bible to shape your life from this moment forward.  What God’s word says to do and not to do cleanses us and liberates us from our default setting–that of being hostile towards God.

3.  Be Born By The Spirit.  The Spirit is the one who creates the new heart that fills you with new desires, new passions, new strength, new gifts and a new purpose for your life.  It’s the only power for people who are Born Again.  People who are not Born Again only want the form but not the power.

2 Timothy 3:5 (TPT)— They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power.  Stay away from people like these!

This is what walking by faith means.  This is what it looks like to live a life IN the Grace of God.  You look towards and listen to the Holy Spirit.  This is the power of God that you need to be at work in you.  It is the Power that you need UNTIL the Head Master gives the Final Exam.  Read what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:3

How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

At that moment of The Final Exam, He will see you as you are–covered with the blood of Jesus and clothes in both His righteousness, and your life of honoring Him–if you have been born again.  The Final Exam has only 2 questions:

1.  Did you trust in Jesus so that your sins could be taken away?  Did your trust come through Confession (admitting you’re a sinner) and repentance (meaning you choose to turn away from your old sinful life in order to live life as He intends)?

2.  Did you join in with God’s work of redemption and restoration by living in His Power as you loved the least, the last and the lost?  It is the Holy Spirit that both empowers and equips you for this task–the very task you are created for.

Get ready for the Final Exam by practicing–practice living in the Presence of Jesus so that you become the Presence of Jesus in this fallen and sinful world.  At the risk of sounding like your piano teacher:  PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!

And remember…love God with ALL your heart.  Love others the WAY He loves you.  And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM, The Head Master and Keeper of your hearts!

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