GOD SAID “NO”

Now you can get my Sunday Sermons from The Gathering Church in Audio with the notes at www.properknowledge.com  Download the free app. On both Android and iPhone by searching Proper Knowledge Ministries.  There are currently recordings from the MORPH series and all of the DANIEL series will be featured there. Check it out!  My blog will now focus more current events and weekly thoughts.  Thank you.

NO

I have a tore up little book with yellow pages falling apart from use on my bookshelf.  I have read and reread it many times, used it for sermon illustrations and Bible studies, leadership groups and individual counsel.  It is a little book of poems by Lois A. Cheney titled God Is No Fool and it is one of my all time favorite books.  I like the book especially because the poems are theologically correct and politically incorrect.  It is always refreshing for me to find truth artistically expressed.  Thanks to the internet and Amazon I was finally able to order a couple of used copies of the now out of print book.  I would encourage you to do the same too before there are none available.

What I also found on the internet while searching for the book was a claim and copyright by someone else of one of my favorite poems by Lois Cheney.  Apparently many people now using the poem give this person credit for her inspired work. Just to set the record straight, Claudia Minden Welsz did not write the poem And God Said “No”!  Lois A. Cheney did. There is a copyright on her book, God Is No Fool, which contains that poem published in 1977 by Pillar Books.  The copy right on the book of poems, is 1969 by Abington Press. Apparently Ms. Welsz re-copyrighted Cheney’s poem because her copyright is from 1980. And to plagiarism God says “NO!”  Below is the poem attributed to the true author:

And God Said No!

By Lois A. Cheney

I asked God to take away my pride, and God said “NO”.
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said “NO”.
He said her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience, and God said “NO”.
He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation,
it isn’t granted, it’s earned.

I asked God to give me happiness, and God said “NO”.
He said He gives blessings, happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain, and God said “NO”.
He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
and brings yo closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow, and He said “NO”.
He said I must grow on my own, but He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me,
And God said “Ah, finally you have the idea”!

FAKE NEWS?

Now you can get my Sunday Sermons from The Gathering Church in Audio with the notes at www.properknowledge.com  Download the free app. On both Android and iPhone by searching Proper Knowledge Ministries.  There are currently recordings from the MORPH series and all of the DANIEL series will be featured there. Check it out!  My blog will now focus more current events and weekly thoughts.  Thank you.

FakeNews“Fake news” You’ve heard the phrase and its true! I often watch opposing news stations in order to decipher the “real news” myself.  While watching CNN and MSNBC regarding President Trump’s speech in Poland I heard nothing but put downs from news reporters and pundits until I went to FOX.  “Dark” was the one word I kept hearing to define his delivery to the people there. I went on line to find the recorded speech so that I could judge it for myself without commentary. I listened intently to the whole thing while searching for the darkness.  There was absolutely no darkness at all!  It was actually a very positive and uplifting speech for which the Polish people cheered throughout!  It was sincere, well thought out, well prepared, well delivered and very presidential! Our president assured our allies that we would be faithful to them, he stood strongly against Radical Islamic terrorism and expressed how important it was that we defeat it together, he also spoke of our great need for God and stood up for the Christian faith that both our countries must hold onto in order to succeed. It was a great speech!

Later, as I surfed news stations I heard another criticism. “The president just read a prepared speech”.  He never deviated from it they said.  I sat amazed at the irony. When the president is unscripted he is ridiculed for being crass, repetitive and bullish. So now he is “scripted?” I just wish he could get his tweets scripted as well! The media hatred for Trump is so obvious and blatant that I don’t even see the point in watching such news anymore, but I do.  I need to know what both the “haters” and the “lovers” are saying so that I can find the middle which is most often the truth.  More importantly, I must never just assume that I am getting the full picture from anyone.  I must, and you must, check out both sides of the news for clarity and sensibility. At this point in history to do anything else is just being a poor citizen.

Flipping this dilemma into a spiritual conversation I will add that there is an abundance of “fake news” about Christianity too.  Yes, there are “haters” and “lovers” of Jesus.  The great difference here of course is that Jesus is truly innocent of any wrong doing.  He even once was crucified at the hands of His “haters” and then forgave them.  People often hate Jesus for what others have done or said while claiming to follow Him.  Still, some simply hate Jesus because they don’t understand Him and that is largely due to “fake news”.  Much of what is said about Jesus and the Bible in documentaries, books, movies and even in some pulpits is simply “fake news!” We must never assume that we are getting the full picture of Jesus and the Bible from anyone. We must check out both sides of the news for clarity and truth our selves. At this point in history to do anything else is just being a poor human being.

Read the Bible’s account of Jesus for yourself.  In fact read all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and compare them. Then ask yourself some serious questions without any outside commentary.  Do you think Jesus was a liar?  Do you think Jesus was a lunatic? If your answer is no then His claim to be Lord must be true. Don’t believe the “fake news” that the man Jesus never existed.  That fact is thoroughly established in the historical documents that make up the Bible. To disregard them would be on the same level as denying the ancient manuscripts that identify world histories and personalities. In the Bible it says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.   Philippians 2:10-11 This will be “good news” for some and bad news for others. In regards to news, it is the most important news that we should have a clear grasp of.

When All Is Gone But God (Daniel 1)

 

ByTheRiversOfBabylon

Detail: By the Rivers of Babylon, Gebhard Fugel, 1920

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church                       The Book of Daniel/Lesson 1

For audio application of this message and others go to: http://www.properknowledge.com

 

Introduction Isaiah 40:8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 3:4

The book of Daniel identifies Daniel as the author and was likely written around 530 B.C., shortly after Babylon was captured by Cyrus. Liberal critics claim the book was not written by Daniel and is fictional. They say that the writings were completed in the Maccabean period (second century B.C.), after many of the prophetic fulfillments had taken place; however, the linguistic evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls silence this claim and several of the prophecies of Daniel could not have taken place by the second century anyway.

Liberal critics are always looking for a way to silence the supernatural of God’s word and to render it useless for modern day living.  Remember, it is the liberal critics who also say that it was the Reed Sea (which can be as low as 4 feet and in strong winds can be reduced to several inches) that Moses and the Jews crossed over. Not the Red Sea which is thousands of feet deep.  The problem with that argument is that the entire Egyptian army was destroyed when the sea closed up again…in four feet of water?  Archeology always seems to be unearthing the truth about scripture, and the truth always comes up in support of the Bible and its claims…but that will have to be discussed in a whole different series.

The problem with Daniel for people who don’t want to admit that God is sovereign over the   kingdoms of men (Daniel 5:21b) is that the prophesies in this book prove that He is.  As we read in His very word: The word of God abides forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is God breathed and always and forever useful for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the end God will be found true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

Long Coming Judgment Daniel 1:1-2, Jeremiah 25:7-14

The very book of Daniel is the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies.  You may remember some of them from our study in Isaiah. God promised that judgment would come upon His people because of their turning away from Him.  This is a stern reminder that God will indeed judge His people if they refuse to repent (God bless America! Pun intended). The first two verses of the book talk about the beginning of the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem.  The first deportation by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took place in 605 B.C. and included the capture of the Jew’s rotten King, Jehoiakim, Daniel and his three friends.  The second took place 19 years later in 597B.C. and included the prophet Ezekiel.  The third deportation took place eleven years later in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians finally destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.  In the first siege Jehoiakim was captured but later returned to Jerusalem as Nebuchadnezzar’s servant for three years to pay tribute to him. During that time King Jehoiakim reigned as a vassal of Babylon, and the prophet Jeremiah preached in Jerusalem. God’s message was that the Babylonian invasion was God’s punishment for Judah’s sin and that the Hebrews should repent. Jehoiakim did not repent and nor did the Hebrews. The 70 year Babylonian captivity of the Jews came to pass just as prophesied by God’s prophets and at the end of those years Babylon was made “desolate forever” just as foretold. 

Would God — could God judge the United States of America in a similar way?  If He does it would certainly be consistent with His character in disciplining His children. Our “Christian nation” has certainly ignored God and His warnings. In this event, what should God’s faithful children do in the midst of such judgment?  Daniel is our example of faith under pressure rather such circumstances become so extreme or not.

 By The Rivers Of Babylon  Daniel 1:3-7, Psalm 137

In His book Agents of Babylon, Dr. David Jeremiah opens his first chapter with the fictional account of Daniel’s captivity. Using historical facts he paints the picture of what Daniel and his people likely went through as they were pushed 900 miles on that four day journey to the  rivers of Babylon.  The book of Daniel just gives us basic facts but Psalm 137, like Dr. Jeremiah’s insightful historic fiction, gives us emotional insight through a sad song written by an anonymous author. Psalm 137 captures the ache of those who were taken from their homes and brought to Babylon for slave labor. “The rivers of Babylon” refers to the whole country, sharply contrasted to their beloved Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar’s troops invaded and eventually destroyed. Demanding that the captives sing – an act of joy – when hearts were breaking for their many losses (loved ones, homes, country, etc.), smacks of cruelty. It      reminds us of Nazis demanding that the classical musicians in Jewish concentration camps entertain captors with their beloved Bach and Brahms. In this Psalm we can better picture Daniel and his pain, his great loss and even his outrage and hate for his captors.  Dr. Jeremiah even describes Daniel as being castrated by the Babylonians.  This is not stated in the book of Daniel but it is historically accurate of what the Babylonians did to men they captured. Castration was often performed to  ensure a king’s advisors did not have children or romantic interests that might tempt them towards betrayal.

When All Is Gone but God  James 1:2-8, Hebrews 13:5-6, 2 Peter 1:3-11

For Daniel, and his three friends, all was gone but God and one another.  What are we to do in such a hardship?  We never see a written word of Daniel’s bitterness or complaint.  What we do see is him praying and standing firm in his faith, and so God used Daniel mightily!  As a result, Daniel influenced kingdoms and kings all the way down to those “three kings” in the East so many hundreds of years later…those three magi who followed the star of Bethlehem to Jesus. They knew Jewish prophecy because of Daniel and his faithful friends.  What about you?

It is always our choice to embrace hardship and cling to God or to crack under pressure.  When bad things happen we can either hold on to God’s promises in faith or curse Him in despair.  We can become bitter and doubt Him or we can believe and bloom where we are planted (or uprooted: whatever may apply).  His divine power will give us everything we need to overcome evil.  We must stop thinking that we are somehow entitled to “the good life”   because we believe.  Daniel was a believer too, but he persevered in his faith.  We must also.

Morphing Into Eternity

ButterflyLetGo

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church                          Lesson 7/Series Conclusion

The Good in Dying John 12:23-26, 1 John 2:15-17

In referring to His own death, Jesus proclaimed a good thing…in fact a wonderful truth.  His death, like a fallen seed on the ground, would produce the life and freedom of many others.  The death of Christ alone, of course, paid the price of sin for all who believe in Him (Romans 4:25), but this fact is also true of our death too. Jesus makes this clear in verse 25.  The selfish, who live their lives for themselves will one day loose that life—we all eventually will, but those who “hate their life in this world” by comparison (1 John 2:15-17) and live to make Christ known will   inherit eternal life with Him. The way that we live and die will also produce the life and freedom of many others… or not!  This is then why the scriptures say:

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.   Psalms 116:15

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness John 15:13-14

We can see clearly in scripture that the death of Christ was necessary for the salvation of mankind.  We can also see clearly that the death of many soldiers was and continues to be necessary for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” This well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which that Declaration says have been given to all human beings by our Creator and that governments are created to protect. You can be sure that if none were willing to fight and die for these rights then none of us would have them.  We would be slaves to an evil empire and our posterity would be too.

In the same way that Jesus laid His life down for our salvation, and soldiers laid down their lives for our liberty, so are each of us called to lay down our lives for one another.  In fact, if it were not for Christians who laid down their lives throughout history for the proclamation of the   gospel to others this great hope would have been lost. If we love our life so much that we are unwilling to give it up for anything then we have truly planted nothing of any lasting worth on this earth. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

“If you haven’t found something worth dying for, you aren’t fit to be living.”

Living for God 1 Peter4:1-19, 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

The Apostle Peter encouraged believers to “suffer” in our bodies.  In other words he taught that we should deny the temptation of living for ourselves and follow in Jesus’ steps.  In these end times (which are always around the corner for any of us) he encouraged believers to use their God given gifts to serve others so that Christ might be praised and to even to “rejoice” in suffering for the furthering of the gospel. After all, this is what we were made new by Christ to do: to reconcile others to God.

Can I Get a Witness? Matthew 5:14-16, Hebrews 12:1-3

Why are you a believer in Christ today, if indeed you are?  It is because of someone’s witness in your life.  Why do you have hope for life and the ability to face death when it should come?  It is because of someone’s witness.  When we see another person example Christ, live out the gospel and face certain death with faith and hope in Christ we grow, we bloom, and we too offer fruit to this world. We live as a light to the world and one day we too will die, and like a seed falling to the ground, new life will come from our witness.

Thank God for those who have witnessed to you now.  Thank God even for the death of those loved ones who have planted those seeds in you.  It is now your turn to bloom under that great cloud of witnesses that went on before you .

Heaven is the Hope John 14:2, Revelation 21:3-7, Philippians 1:21

Jesus promised His faithful people a resurrection from death, He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”John 11:25   He also promised that He was preparing a place for us and that He himself would greet us and take us there (John 14:2).  This same Jesus raised the dead Lazarus (John 11) and raised himself from the dead too (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). The Apostle Paul also explained the process of our resurrection from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.  He explained:  What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.

As the gospel singer Matthew West sings: “This world is not our home, we are grounded until it comes our time to go — and our souls are aching with a void that won’t be filled until we see our mansion high upon that hill…  Heaven is the Hope we hold on to!”  (Heaven is the Hope/ Live Forever CD) 

Jesus speaks from Heaven’s throne in John’s Revelation: “I am making everything new!”  The total Morph is coming friends…until then be that witness.  “To live is Christ to die is gain”.

Morphing Through Worship

worship

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church                                                        Lesson 6 of 7

Painting Your House Revelation 21:5, Galatians 6:7-9, 1 Chronicles 16:23-31

I hate to paint a house or building more than just about any other kind of work.  I hate it most because I want it done right and for painting to be done right you have to prepare the surface to be painted.  You have to strip away the old paint, evenly sand the surface and apply the right primer.  After a coat of primer you can paint and then you put on the second coat…if you wanna’ do it right.  If you want to hurry the job you’ll be sorry later.  The paint will dry, but it won’t stick, or if your surface is rough new paint just accentuates the ugliness.

I remember many a botched paint job in my life.  There was the bedroom done in love… poorly.  The holes were patched with rock hard putty rather than spackle and a scrapper was not used in its application.  When the project was presented to me I smiled and said thank you but inside I was reeling at the little painted peeks all over the walls.  Later I tried to fix them and repaint but let me tell you that rock is very hard to sand.  I remember painting our cabin twice. We didn’t strip it or prime it.  We just didn’t have the money.  That is why we did it twice (Thank God we finally sold it!) .   Another time I painted my bathroom in latex paint.  Clean up was great but I found out you can’t paint latex over enamel.  In time it all peeled off in sheets.  The last time a pro did it.  He scraped off all the latex, then the enamel, then he sanded, then he put on a primer and then painted two coats of paint.  That was a year ago and it still looks great! I’m praying that Jesus comes back before it needs painting again.

How many of you want your paint job done right?  How many of you want that fresh coat of paint to stick and look beautiful into eternity?  How many of you would rather let the professional do the job if it didn’t cost you a thing? 

 I am using paint as a metaphor in my lesson today and God is the professional while you and I are the ugly wall in need of painting.  God is making everything new!  Spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.  He is applying beautiful new color to our drab lives.  Do you want it to stick?  Do you want His new application to accentuate your flaws or do you want them hidden away forever?  Do you want His masterwork to peel off in sheets after a time or to remain until He comes again?  God has a plan to morph our lives into something beautiful and He is the   professional that is freely coming to your house to make all things new.  He will come and redo every room that you let Him into, but you must prepare the walls for painting.  He will instruct you and help you every step of the way, but you must prepare yourself for His work.

The Apostle Paul encourages us not to grow weary in doing this good thing.  We are encouraged to sow (plant seed) to please the Spirit.  What pleases the Spirit of God you may ask? To Give God His worth…which is exactly what worship is.  In fact God commands us to worship Him and none other. 1 Chronicles 16:23-31, Exodus 20:2-6 Giving God the worship and praise that He commands not only lifts Him up but primes you for the work He wants to accomplish in your life.  Do you want to be morphed into something spectacular by the Master?  Then worship Him!

Offer Yourself Up  Romans 12:1-2, Deuteronomy 6:5-7, James 4:5-10

Jesus once told the Pharisees that if his disciples didn’t praise Him then the rocks would cry out. Luke 19:40   Make no mistake about it, God’s people must give Him praise and worship.  It is what pleases Him and offering our bodies as living sacrifices is our expected and reasonable act of worship. Romans 12:1-2   Only then can we be able to test and approve God’s new work in our lives.

When the Word says to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” it means our whole self:  Spiritually, Mentally, Emotionally and Physically.  God’s people were ordered to do this from the onset of their relationship with God. Love the Lord your God with “all”.  Jesus called this the “first and greatest commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38   How you express your love , thanks and adoration to God is how you worship Him.  When we submit ourselves to God in worship He shows favor to us and the devil flees.  When we come near to God in worship He comes near to us.  As we humble ourselves before Him in worship He lifts us up and does His masterful work in our lives.

Our Worship and praise of God in every aspect of our life prepares us for His spiritual, mental, emotional and physical work in our lives.  Are you preparing yourself for His work?  Are you giving the Master painter the praise He is so    worthy of?

Morphing through Worship in “Spirit and truth”.  John 4:23-24

Your praise and thanksgiving to God are vital in your relationship with Him.  Each of us are unique.  There is no one with your fingerprint, your exact expression or testimony.  In fact we could have had any of your public testimonies before the sermon today instead of none. What a joy it would be to have a list of those wishing to testify before a service or writing them out for a newsletter. I do see many of you morphing into God’s beautiful creations and your acts of worship are growing in this place, but some of you are still holding back in giving God the worship He so greatly deserves and that you are so in need of.  If your praise and worship is not expressed then it is sorely missed by God and you are not getting the make-over that God wants to accomplish in your life.  He is gracious and will paint the walls of your house, but it will become obvious that the work of the Spirit will not stick to your unprepared walls of flesh.

Jesus said that the worship that the Father seeks is in the Spirit and in truth.  Unless there’s a real appreciation and passion for God, there will be no Spirit of God expressed in us. At the same time, we must also have knowledge of the God we worship or there is no truth. Both are necessary for God-honoring worship. Emotion without truth leads to a shallow experience. Truth without emotion can result in joyless legalism. The Father wants the Spirit and truth!   The more we know about God, the more we appreciate Him. The more we appreciate, the deeper our worship. Allow God to do the work He wants in you.