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What's in your Search History? (Morning Companion)

I came across a news story going back to 2006, where a couple of enterprising reporters at the New York Times caused some well-deserved embarrassment to America On Line.

In August of that year AOL intentionally leaked search records covering a three month period that contained twenty million key search words of over 650,000 users. While they did not identify the users by name, they did assign unique numbers to every user, thus making it possible for the tech savvy to research the released metadata and identify individual users by name.

Besides opening the question of privacy rights, there is also this unsettling question: if someone were to see your search history, what would they see and what would they learn about your heart? It has been said that your god is what you think about most of the time. If your search engine history is an indication of what takes first place in your life, what would it show?

It's unlikely that anyone would zero in on your search history, but think about this: I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:10).

If God were to search your heart and mind, what would he find?

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain! (New Church Lady)


The Wizard of Oz is a classic movie that I have been watching since as far back as I can remember. As a child, I very much wanted the Wizard to be real and impressive and the answer to all the needs of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and Dorothy, and I was disappointed when Toto discovered that all the Wizard’s power was nothing but smoke and mirrors, posturing and braggadocio. They trusted him and he let them down.

Recently, I was talking to one of my sons about the church he grew up in and the feelings he had about the possibility that some of the leadership was corrupt. It’s never easy to see someone you put on a pedestal turn out to be faulty, let alone corrupt. And it is so much more disappointing if you are talking about spiritual leadership.

My own personal experience has been that if you just attend church once a week, eat at the pot luck and then head home for your Sabbath nap, you will likely be a happy church member, unaware of power struggles and problems, stumbling blocks and sins among the servants of God.

However, if you dig in and serve – if you see behind the curtain – you are going to find that all humans, even the pastor, even the other leadership, even your fellow servants, even you, have sin in our lives. If you get a look behind the curtain you might just see folks fighting pride and human nature and temptation and a variety of sins that trip us all up. In that case, I have some advice for you:

Pay no attention to” the man/men/women behind the curtain. Instead, keep your eyes focused on the God behind the veil.

What I mean by that is that the leadership of your congregation are not to be your source of faith. Church leaders and fellow brethren can be a source of inspiration and examples of service and love. We should each strive to be that for each other. But, ultimately, we are not meant to put our hope in any other human being.

One of the great benefits provided by the sacrifice of Jesus was the removal of the veil that partitioned man off from direct contact with God. We read about that in Mark 15:37-38 [ESV] And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

2 Corinthians 12-16 expounds upon the glorious benefit of seeing behind that veil: Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. [ESV]

Whereas the Israelites in general could not go into the Holy of Holies in the temple at all and the High Priest alone was the only one allowed in and then only once per year [see Hebrews 9:1-10], Jesus changed all that, entering Himself into the most Holy place and through His sacrifice, opening the way for us to go there in prayer whenever we want.

God is open to us. He wants us to come into the Most Holy Place – to meet with and learn about Him – to get a glimpse into the character of God. Our God is no longer behind the curtain and we will find no flaws in discovering His true nature. When we look behind the curtain that was once there, to see our Father God, we see perfect love. We see forgiveness and hope. We see perfect, righteous judgment. We see mercy that is renewed daily.

There is no veil to separate us from God the Father, who desires our presence even more that we in our most needy times desire to be there with Him. Our human minds cannot fathom all the wonderful things about God, but He is not hidden from us at all.

There is no Wizard of Oz to grant your desires for a heart, courage, knowledge or a home. But behind the veil we are welcomed into God’s own heart and receive a heart of flesh to replace our hearts of stone [Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26]. We find the courage to wait on the Lord and to face trial and trouble. [See Psalm 27:14; 31:24; 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8]. We find real knowledge and understanding that delivers us from living a life of ignorance and sin. [See Proverbs 11:19 and 2 Peter 1:2-6]

And we find a place to call home for all eternity with the Father God. John 14:2-3 [NIV] My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

All this wonder is waiting for us in the presence of the Lord, now that we can see behind the veil.

Pay no attention to the men and women behind the curtain. Let’s fix our eyes on the real giver of every good and perfect gift – the real source of heart, courage, knowledge and a home. Let’s pay attention to the God who is no longer behind the veil.

Playing Whack a Mole! (The Word and The Way)

In Caddyshack, a corny comedy from the 1980s, the groundskeeper, played by Bill Murray, goes through a series of increasing ridiculous scenarios to try to get rid of a gopher who is doing minor damage to the golf course. The crescendo of this insanity is Murray’s character actually blowing up the golf course, and the gopher gets away. Now for the scripture and the tie-in:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)

For the past four or five years, our movement has been playing “whack a mole” with ludicrous doctrines. Every year some new strange doctrine comes up and then those who would normally be talking about sound doctrine go to war trying to tamp down the strange doctrine. This scenario has come to such a climax that we’ve seen multiple strange doctrines come up just in 2017. It’s a gigantic game of “whack-a-mole” and guess what? The movement is a smoldering mess. In the name of YouTube hits or website traffic, we have gone full sensationalist. Those who propose the “next new thing” are lusting after attention in the form of web traffic. Those who just can’t take the bad teaching any more are fighting an endless battle, because we feel, if someone doesn’t fight back, then the madness will win out. But, again, this has left our golf course in ruins. It’s to a point where we are literally damaging the sheep. In one of a few anecdotal incidents, I recently had a conversation with a believer in the north-east who refused to go to Sukkot because of the crazy teachings circulating in the movement. She simply can’t take it any more and regards the holy assembly as being profane.

So what do we do? Clearly the “whack-a-mole” track isn’t working out. All it is doing is elevating false teachers and creating division. I say we ignore it. Instead of scouring the internet looking for some new thing to slam, why not go nuts and read our bibles? Or perhaps perform an in-depth study on a section of the bible using actually credible resources? Why not take a month and read Josephus, the Antiquities of the Jews, and really understand the context of first century Judea. Why not just return to our first loves, actual truth, and meditate on the WORD like we are supposed to do. Sukkot 2017 in Wewoka wasn’t burdened down with esoteric and strange doctrines and, guess what? It was kind of nice and relaxing. So let’s start filling in those craters and replanting some grass. That’s what I’m going to do.

Job's Conversion (Children of God)

The Book of Job goes way back – nearly to the time of the flood. As far back in time as that was, there are some lessons that we can learn today. We find that God was working with Job before, during, and after his ordeal – when He blessed Job with a double portion (Job 42:12). Job fancied himself a self made man, and he did not give God the proper credit that was due Him. It is not that Job was not generous, because he was. He was especially careful to take care of the widows and the fatherless. Job was not an evil man, and yet he came far short of God’s expectations for him.

Job 34:37 Job added rebellion unto his sin … and multiplied his words against God.

Time and again Job rightly justified himself to his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They accused Job of many sins and they were totally wrong. Job’s fault was that in justifying himself – he began to blame God – and in doing so he was very wrong.

Luke 16:15 And Jesus said unto the Pharisees, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Job was a righteous man, but his problem was that he thought that he had reached the pinnacle of righteousness when he had not. We can find an example of that today in the churches of God. Members think that they are in the right group, and they start to feel righteous - even when they do not include all the other brethren in their circle of fellowship. Job felt like he was doing it all right, but in fact, he was coming short of the Kingdom of God. Job had that failing in common with the Pharisees of Jesus’s day.

Matthew 5:20 Jesus said, Unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

One of the better lessons that we learn in the Book of Job is how God is relentless in His pursuit of bringing Job to where he understood and knew God more properly. Job had thought of God somewhat like a super-man with the foibles of a man - and Job was not afraid to set Him straight. He thought that God was capable of being mean spirited and capricious. Job was so sure that he had the complete picture of salvation and conversion.

In his mind, Job thought himself greater and more righteous than God (Job 35:2). That is hard to imagine, but time and again Job had the audacity to “set God straight.” Job did not appreciate God’s great benevolence. He did not understand that God is perfect and always had his very best interests at heart - and that God is greater than man. God sent Elihu to rebuke Job, and then God dealt with Job personally from a whirlwind. Job’s pessimism had grown out of bounds:

Job 34:9 Job said, It profits a man nothing that he should delight himself with God. God showed Job example after example of His elaborate creation with its intricate workings. Finally Job began to realize how vastly superior God was to him – not only with the physical universe but with His involvement with Job’s spiritual welfare.

Job 40:1-4 Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said, Shall he that contends with the Almighty instruct Him? Let him that reproves God answer it. Finally Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees thee.

Let us will explore the concept of being right, because like Job, even when we are right, we might not be right with God.

Stop Your Whining! ~ God (Sabbath Meditations)

We Christians do a lot of whining.

As I write this, understand that I have one finger pointing out and three pointing back at me. We whine to God about so many things big and little.

It's not as if we whine like spoiled little children. “Wahhh, that's not fair!” “Wahhh, I want that toy! Give me that toy!”
We know that wouldn't fly with God. So, our whining is more refined, more ... spiritual. “Please, most powerful high benevolent God ...” or “Oh merciful Father, who knows all of our needs and answers all of our prayers, please ...” and then we proceed to pour out our litany of requests and petitions.

It's not that asking God to provide for us is a bad thing. If it were, we wouldn't be instructed to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God wants His children to come to Him with their physical needs and concerns. But, there is a thin line between asking and whining.

God, why do you allow our family to keep struggling financially?” “Why did you let my children abandon their faith?” “Why can't you give me the perfect church to attend?” “Why can't you change my husband or my wife?” In short, “Wahhh ... I follow you, why aren't you blessing me?”

When we question God, aren't we really questioning whether He loves us? After all, if He really loved us, He would take care of all of the problems in our lives, wouldn't He?

Thus, we measure whether God really loves us by how He provides for our well being. God becomes a kind of magic 'genie in a bottle'. If we rub that magic bottle by doing all the right things and obeying in every way, God will fulfill all our heart's desires. We get so focused on all the things we don't have that we forget the one huge thing we do.

The children of Israel spent a lot of time questioning God's love. From the day they were delivered from Egypt, their voices were a constant stream of whining and complaining. It started with their sojourn in the wilderness and didn't let up, even after entering the promised land.

God addresses their whining in Malachi 1:1-3, “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, says the LORD. Yet you say, wherein have You loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? says the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”

Notice how God cuts to the chase here. He doesn't waste time addressing their litany of complaints and unmet requests. He gets to the heart of it. “You don't think I love you?! For crying out loud, I chose you! I set My name on you! You are blessed above all the nations. Isn't that enough?!”

In His words to Israel there is a powerful, perspective changer for you and me. In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Isn't that amazing! Doesn't that blow your mind? God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross for you. He made a way for those He would call to become part of His Family. He chose you. He set His name on you. If you never receive one more thing from God in this life, isn't that enough?
Apparently Paul thought so. In Philippians 4:11-12 he writes, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 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 suffer need.”

It's not that Paul didn't petition God to provide for his physical and emotional needs. He did. But regardless of the outcome of those requests, he didn't question God's love for Him. He knew he had plenty for which to be thankful and in that knowledge, he was content.

Notice it says that Paul learned these things. I wouldn't go so far as to say Paul was a whiner. But it does seem that he didn't always have the right perspective. It's possible, that at one time, Paul had to learn to see beyond his physical condition, his physical needs and wants, to appreciate the one amazing gift he did possess.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul says, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God used this situation, only one of many in Paul's life, to teach Him to be content in the grace that God had provided. God had redeemed Him. God had chosen Paul according to His purpose. God said, “Paul, if you get nothing else from Me, my grace should be enough.”

It's that lesson that allowed Paul to declare in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

I find it encouraging to think that if Paul, a man mightily used by God, can learn to see beyond today to the awesomeness of tomorrow and let that hope be sufficient to sustain, strengthen and drive Him, then maybe there is hope for this whiner. Maybe I can stop treating God like a genie in a bottle and truly give thanks for the awesome grace that I have been given through the loving gift of His Son. And maybe I can truly come to the place where, from my heart, I can say, “your grace is sufficient for me.” It is enough.

Divided ... We Stand (New Horizons)

Many brethren continue to hanker after the dream of a single unified church embracing all the varied assemblies, large and small, corporate or independent. Indeed one church group insists that all of us must gather under its roof in order to escape their projected terrors ahead of us.

It doesn't take much study of the Scriptures to demonstrate that this condition of ‘corporate unity’ has never existed—not in the New Testament church of God, and certainly not in the ensuing centuries under the shocking and corrupt history of the mediaeval church.

In the New Testament each assembly was self-governing while respecting other assemblies. Perverse human nature drove a move for domination by power-hungry ‘Christian’ leaders and the distortion of the title ‘bishop’, with the proliferation of myriad pseudo-religious ‘titles’. Church leadership titles—even up to ‘pope’—for over a thousand years became a commodity for sale to the highest bidder, or for sexual favours.

The simplicity of those first assemblies evolved to a multiplicity of church offices, becoming a secular world-dominating organization whose tentacles all but strangled the Christian faith. All dissent was smothered by the infamous Inquisition—enthusiastically endorsed by eighty popes over five centuries—by which thousands were hideously and callously maimed and murdered and massacred, in the name of Jesus Christ. Those few who remained faithful to the Bible were more often than not cruelly martyred by the ‘church’.

We are, perhaps, more civilised today (and civil law forbids murder). But the same tendency to dominate underpins the multiplicity of our denominations. Assemblies with little to divide doctrinally gather to worship separately, sometimes in the same building at the same time! The clue? The ruling clique, the apostle, the ‘king’ inherits a band of devoted, but often unthinking, followers in support. Once the reins of power have been gained, leaders tend to keep a tight grip on their authority—and impose it.

It’s time for change. Not to organizational union, but for a return to the New Testament pattern of individual assemblies, serving the church and proclaiming the Good News of salvation through Jesus, and in co-operation with one another.

Who is my mother? (Think Red Ink Ministries)
Mark 3:33, “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
Let’s look at the first time the incorruptible seed of God conceived life. The story of the birth of Christ is not given to us to make a celebration or a day of giving gifts. It is given as a glimpse of the marvelous work of God as He joins us, in this life. It is a picture of the birth that is to occur in all of us.
Emmanuel - meaning ‘God with US!’
When the angel appeared and made his salutation to Mary, his greeting contained a declaration of favor: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” The awareness of being favored, accorded to those who are visited by the Holy Spirit, is nearly absent today.
Somewhere among the dialogue of ‘whosoever will’ and indiscriminate ‘Jesus Loves You’ bumper stickers, we have laid aside the glorious doctrine of election and adulterated the sovereignty of our God.
We have come to expect our God to promptly answer when we call, but when the Creator of the universe visits you, it is a wonderful day, and you are highly favored, “...for thou hast found favour with God.” (Luke 1) “[We] were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
‘Christmas’ Has Hidden the Story of the New Birth
Then the angel explained to Mary what was about to happen: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
We see here that the “holy thing” is Christ. After questioning the impossibility of such a proposal and being assured that it would be as God said, Mary submitted to the will of God and surrendered herself totally to Him. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38)
In this story we can begin to see a parallel to the experience we call being born again. We see the overshadowing or visitation, the expectation of an impossibility, the questioning within, and finally the submission to the higher One. When we reach this point of submission we have the seed of God implanted in us.
This seed has within it the DNA structure of a new you in Christ. As Mary was to carry Christ within her for the next nine months and then give birth, it is our responsibility to care for and nurture that seed to birth and finally, maturity.
Paul spoke of this mystery. “To whom God would make known ... this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you.” (Colossians 1:27) In Ephesians 4:15, Paul spoke also of our growing up into Christ, “But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
As you submit to God in this process of the new birth, He places His seed within you. The new birth is not an instantaneous one that takes place the second you pray a ‘sinner’s prayer’ as is commonly taught today. First, there is a visitation, a yielding, and then a pregnancy, which you are expected to nurture and care for, till it comes to the time of birth. If you do not cherish the new Seed of Christ, you could miscarry and lose this “holy thing” within.
The doctrine of instantaneous ‘new birth on demand’ is faulty and misleading. There are scores of people still struggling with sin and trying to reconcile their present wretched lives with their past experience of being ‘born again’. When, in reality, their visitation only planted a seed that they must bring to the birth by responsible and caring behavior.
Remember that the Scripture says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:12) We have been given the “power to become” just as a woman impregnated has been given the potential to bring forth life.
The care and nurture necessary to bring about this new birth successfully is to be guided by Christ, to be a disciple, and carrying one’s own ‘cross’ - to do the will of the Father. In fact, being a disciple is living under the discipline that creates the proper environment for the new birth. No one can successfully bring new life into an environment hostile to the nature of the life conceived in them. You cannot force the lips of Christ in us, to tell lies, nor force His hands to strike, His mouth to curse or His heart to worship idols and yet expect this holy Seed to thrive.
You must first learn to obey His Commandments and do His will to successfully bring about a live birth of the Seed within. Luke 14:27, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” You must DO the will of God to care for, and not miscarry, the seed within. After you have been ‘mother’ to this holy life within you, it is then that you are born into the family of Christ, and have become brothers and sisters of His.
Second, after prenatal development, comes the birth, and ‘mothering’ of this new ‘Christ in you’ and is a matter of feeding, protecting and maturing. As Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) Being born again consists of the Spirit and Life of Christ being born in you. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
On this particular day when Jesus was teaching and ministering to His followers, His mother Mary and His brothers were standing outside the place and were calling to Him. For what cause He was ignoring them, is unknown. Whether it was for this lesson alone or for other reasons, we don’t know. The crowd told him that His mother and brothers were outside and wanted to see Him, and Jesus asked a profound thing. “Who is my mother?”
As you consider the holy child that you are carrying and birthing as raising the seed of God, ‘Christ in you’, you may now see new depth to the question of Christ, “Who is my Mother?”
This is a question you need not answer, as the answer is given quickly afterward: ‘And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God my Father the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother”.’
Do your utmost, dear friends, to achieve this worthy life, ‘Christ in you’.