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Sunday, May 27, 2018

5-26-2018        The Works of their own hands

Working Hands

When I was a youth and even as a young Christian I heard about the “Apostate Church”, the church that turns away from Jesus just before His return.

Don’t be shaken by spirit nor by word nor by what preachers say concerning the return of Christ.  Don’t let anybody deceive us but the son of perdition shall be revealed and the church (at least in part) shall fall away from the true faith.  They will follow him who calls himself, and has set himself up as God (2 Thess. 2:1-4).

We are living in a time when men love wickedness and have forsaken God offering praise to that which is Not God or sacrifices to the works of their own hands (Jer. 1:16).  They are pushing God farther and farther from their consciousness.  I’m not talking about just the ‘world’, I’m also talking about the church!  Think about how many public places have removed, not religious, but Christian implications from view over the past several decades.  References to “God”.  When I was in school, we always opened the day with the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the “Lord’s Prayer”.  Not anymore, unless you’re in a Christian school.  God is being eradicated from people’s thinking – in the world!
Falling away?  Look at the Old Testament.  Adam was with God (in the garden), disobeyed and fell away (cast out of the garden).  Through the guidance of Moses, God delivered Israel out of bondage and out of Egypt.  But how long did it take them to start grumbling?  Not long – “give us food”, give us water”.  Once in the promised land, when Israel was beset upon by their enemies, God raised up judges to deliver them.  You would think that one judge would have been sufficient but Israel had twelve judges from Othniel to Samson and Samuel was also considered a Judge and argument can be raised the kings and prophets who followed as to whether they have been considered judges as well.  Israel would come to the Lord, then fall away.  From King David through the final kings of Israel, Israel would follow God then get comfortable, settle back and then start follow their own devices instead of the living God.  When off track, God would raise up a king or a prophet to get Israel back on track.  That would work for a while, but, once things settled down, Israel would become complacent once again and forget God, falling back into doing their own thing.

Read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, then the letters which Paul and the other Apostles wrote.  From the encounter on the road to Damascus until his death, Paul served the Lord about thirty years, not even a generation.  The New Testament epistles were written because the fledgling churches had already gotten off track.  How quickly can the enemy get our focus off of the Lord and into the world.  Not even thirty years!  Save John, all the apostles were gone by about seventy AD.

Things haven’t changed much over the past two millennia.  Alas, it is easier to take the easy road and that seems to be human nature, than to follow the narrow path (Mat. 7:14), living how God has directed.

We think that today’s church is pretty stable, right?  That’s why we have the Roman Catholic Church, the ‘mainstream’ Protestant Churches, the ‘Pentecostal’ Protestant Churches and all the other ‘independent’ Protestant Churches functioning independently, many thinking that ‘they’ have the only way into eternal life.  The body is “cut off for our parts (Ezek. 37:11), that is divided with each part (denomination), pretty much, going its own way, serving God all by itself. 

But, even so, all is well, right?  How intense has interdenominational ‘infighting’ been in the past?  “Their” doctrine is wrong, ours is right, one has to be baptized only in the way we baptize – sprinkling vs immersion, in “Jesus’ name” or “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  How many clergy have been brought down because of misappropriation of funds or sexual misconduct?  What does the church tolerate today which God clearly speaks against (Lev. 18:1-22 & Rom 1:18-29)?  How many Christian couple “live” together without the benefit of marriage?  How many churches, which we might be aware of, have crumbled because of disagreement over personal opinions that don’t even pertain to our relationship with God or salvation?   

Our passage from Jeremiah implies that ‘man’ can easily get ‘hung up’ in worshipping other gods or even the works of his own hands.  Remember, worshipping other gods doesn’t necessarily mean bowing down to a “Baal” but can be anything that turns us away from the Creator of heaven and earth.

So what are other gods?  What are the works of our own hands?

The easy thing to do is to turn from the only true and living God because He is too hard to follow and literally start worshipping things (idols) made of wood, stone, ideas, etc. but we’re too smart for that right?  Following other religions that profess eternal existence through anything other than Jesus also falls into this category.  I’m not going to name names, but how many religions can you think of that deny Jesus as the Son of God?  That deny Jesus IS God (John 1:1-14)     

Denying God’s existence is another ploy the enemy (Satan) uses to get us off track.  Science has done such a good job at trying to explain how God did things, rather they’ve convincing many that God doesn’t really exist.  Everything that exists just “happened”.  Ask yourself this, has science ever given the odds of this being true.  I don’t know, but for everything to come into being as we see and know it today, those odds must be phenomenal.  For Cells, molecules and organisms to come together in the right combination to have what we have (???). 

In Jr. High (am I giving away my age?) I remember those mathematical theorems from Geometry.  The ones where you had to follow a specific procedure to prove your answer.  I never could get the procedure to work, even if I copied it straight out of the math book, but I could tell the math teacher what the answer was.  Yes, I got it wrong because I couldn’t use the formula.  I couldn’t prove  how I arrived my answer.

Proving our answer, of course, is the foundation of scientific thinking and I suspect, today, even if it means juggling (or maybe manufacturing) the facts a bit to make it work is OK.  People do this with the bible, too.  The poisonous snake jumped out of the woodpile and bit Paul on the hand (Acts 28:1-6) and he suffered no ill effects when he should have either dropped over dead or at least became extremely ill.   Because of this, there is a segment of “Christianity” which ‘proves’ their faith by playing with rattlesnakes and the like.  Have they forgotten the passage where Satan challenges Jesus to jump off a temple pinnacle (Matt. 4:5-7).  After all, the angels watch over Jesus, right (Psalm 91:11-12)?  And Jesus’ response? “It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God (Matt. 4:7).  In case you missed it, with Paul, Father showed how He protects us for Paul didn’t know the snake was there.  Yet, today, Christians will take the bible out of context even to prove how ‘spiritual’ they are. 

Okay, so let’s think a bit about things that may draw us away from God that aren’t so obvious. 
I deserve that week-long vacation, which I’ve planned on all year.  Going to the beach, mountains, taking a cruise, whatever.  I need the rest, right?  I agree.  If we’ve worked hard, we do deserve the rest.  When we normally spend time with God, then we go on that vacation, do we also vacation from God? 

God asks only a small portion of our day to be devoted to Him.  Think of our tithes.  The top ten percent of whatever our increase ($$ or anything else) belongs to God (Lev. 27:30), it is His.  So, do we put our vacations ahead of God.  That is enjoying our time of relaxation but forgetting about God.  I didn’t say we had to be in our home church, after all, is the only time we talk with the Lord when we’re in church?  I would hope you have personal time with the Lord at home as well.  The scriptures do say to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  That personal time is when we can sit down in a quiet place and commune with our Lord, one with one.  And it can be anytime, anywhere.  Remember praying with the Lord is talking with the Lord, pouring our heart out to Him in repentance, praise or petition for He knows our heart (Psalm 139:23).  Our prayer be spoken in our ‘native’ language but can also be just a groan or a noise for we may not know what to say at times (Romans 8:26), or how to say it.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with desiring nice things, nice, house, awesome car, beautiful lawn, nice clothes, etc. but we don’t let them become our focus, our goal.  We may have to work towards some of these, but we don’t become consumed with desire for them (Rom. 6:14-18). (Paul said that he knew how to have and to not have (Phil. 4:11-13) and he was content in whichever state he was in.  Can or do we say the same?  That doesn’t mean we don’t try to improve our ‘lot in life’.  We should always be trying to improve ourselves, to be better off tomorrow than we are today.  But has improvement become our God?  The only thing we care or think about is being ‘numero uno’?  Our car, home, family, sports team, TV, whatever?  What are we addicted to?  This includes substance abuse as well as ‘things’.  What can’t we ‘live’ without?  I’ll just die if I can’t have my Hershey bar!  The only life and death subject that really matters is our relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord!  And the fact that through’ salvation’, the Holy Ghost living within our hearts, makes that eternal relationship possible and solidifies it.  He is our strength.

What we put ahead of God becomes our God).  So what do we put ahead of God?  Jesus says we should love the Father with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30).  Is He first in our life?  When we consider the ‘tithe’ again, giving God ten percent of our lives, time, finances, etc. Still leaves us ninety percent with which to work.

I’ve already said that ten percent of everything that we are belongs to God, but let’s use time as an example.  There are twenty-four hours in a day.  Let’s assume that we need eight of those hours to sleep, get rest.  That leaves sixteen hours.  Let’s say we have a job and, of course we have to travel to and from that job so let’s allot another ten hours for that.  We’re down to six hours now of ‘free time’.  If we give God ten percent of our total day that would be about two and a half hours which would leave three and a half hours four whatever.  Okay, I haven’t mentioned weekends yet.  Most of us only work five days a week.  I said most of us.  So whatever days our weekend falls on we gain back about ten hours each of those days – no work, no travel time so we have twenty more ‘fluff’ hours on our days off from work.  Understand that those two and a half hours Father requires doesn’t have to be all at once, but when we do give it, it should be our best.  At a time when we can give Him uninterrupted attention.  Daniel prayed three times a day to God (Dan. 6:10), even when the king said people could give nothing precedence over him and God honored him giving him favor, even with man (Dan. 2:46-49). 

We should find the best time of the day to give God our best, our first fruit.  To start the day with Him would be good, but you may not be able to focus early in the morning.  Find your time.
As one reads the Old Testament, when Israel forgot about God and cast Him aside is when they ended up in bondage but when they put God first, things went pretty good.  God hasn’t changed how He works (Heb. 13:8).

Our gods and the works of our own hands are what we put ahead of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This doesn’t mean we can’t do anything, but those things we do, worship, work, play, even relax, we do as unto the Lord, to please God (Col. 3:23).  This is how we keep God in and on top of the things in our life.


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