I Would Like a Refill, Please!

By Patrick Hawthorne

Sweet-Tea

Several years ago, I made a trip to Boston.  Being from the deep South all my life, it was a new experience for me, to say the least.  Going into one particular restaurant, I had a hankering – a craving for you Northerners – for some sweet iced tea.  When I asked the waiter, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  “There is sugar on the table,” he stated rather smugly.  Good thing I didn’t ask for grits.  His head might have exploded.

Now, you folk from the North don’t know a thing about sweet tea, especially when drank from a Mason jar.  You cannot…and I repeat…you cannot add sugar to tea after it has gotten cold.  All that sugary goodness just drops to the bottom of the glass quicker than my IQ after watching one episode of the Kardashian’s.  Nope, sugar must be mixed in while the tea is hot.

Needless to say, I did not ask for a refill.

 This morning, while I was pondering sweet tea, I was also pondering Ephesians 5:18.  “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…”  Did you know that God gives refills?

“But be filled with the Spirit,” is actually referring to an initial filling with an unlimited supply of refills.  In other words, our Heavenly Father will not fill you up and then let you run dry. He will never put a limit on the buffet of His goodness. He wants to make sure your glass is always full.  The question is, “Are we asking for the refill.”

We see an example of this in Acts 4.  Peter and John had just been threatened by the Sanhedrin to not speak the name of Jesus.   “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… (Acts 4:8 NKJV bold/underline mine.)  As we can see, Peter was already filled with the Holy Spirit.  He got this on the day of Pentecost.

Now, look down in verse 31. “And when they (Peter, John, and their companions) had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  Simply stated, those who were already filled with the Holy Spirit got a fresh refill.

If you are feelng a little empty or just want your glass topped off with a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit, take heart. Our Heavenly Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ is ever ready to pour you up another helping of His Holy Spirit.  All ya got to do is ask.  Be blessed.

 

 

 

 

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Let God Out of the Box

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“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord… (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV)

 

 

The Commander was furious as he stormed away from the home.  “That prophet!” he spat. “He doesn’t even have the decency to come outside, but sends his lowly servant instead.  And for What?  To tell me to dip seven times in that filthy water? If a dip in the water is all I needed, I could have stayed home where the waters are at least cleaner than the Jordan…” (2 Kings, Chapter 5:1-14)

Naaman, Commander of the Syrian army, had made the long trek to Samaria at the approval of his king.  A man of valor, Naaman was instrumental in several successful raids against Israel.  Albeit, the one thing he was unable to conquer was the leprosy that was slowly eating away at his flesh.  Hearing of a prophet named Elisha from a young Jewish slave girl, faith rose within him that the God of Israel could heal him.  But now, instead of receiving his healing in the manner and flair that he had envisioned, Naaman was storming off in a rage.

“Wait, my father!” pleaded his servants as they ran to catch up with him. “If the prophet had told you do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?”’  The sense of urgency could be heard in their tone.

Lowering his head, Naaman conceded that his servants were right.  Pushing aside his pride, the Commander walked to the edge of the Jordan.  Sighing, he reluctantly removed his tunic.  Where once healthy skin covered his body, now a patchwork of dry pale skin intermittently mixed with darker healthy skin remained.

Stepping into the water, Naaman obediently dipped as instructed.  One time, followed by two…three dips then four.  Nothing was happening! Five dips, now six.  Was the prophet right?  Would he be healed?  There was only one way to find out.  Taking the seventh and final dip, Naaman rose up from the cover of the water.  Looking down at his body, his skin was not only cleansed of all leprosy but was restored to that of a small child.  Praise God!

This story of God’s mercy is compelling on many levels, but I would like to focus on one aspect.  In verse 11 of 2 Kings Chapter 5, Naaman makes an interesting comment. He says, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’”  Naaman was expecting Elisha to make a big deal over his presence and to perform a holy ritual worthy of his (Naaman’s) religious ideology.  When it did not happen the way he expected, he turned away in a rage.  Fortunately, Naaman had bold people around him to talk common sense into him.  Had they not been there, he would not only have missed the physical healing of his body, but the spiritual healing of a prideful soul.

How many times have you or I had a preconceived notion concerning the manner in which we thought the Lord should do something for us?  When it did not happen in accordance with our ideology, did we, like Naaman, storm off in a rage spouting that God must not care?

If God is telling you to do something in a particular manner, rest assured that He is telling you for a good reason, one that will benefit you in a way you never imagined.  Do not try to hold God in a box of preconceived notions, but allow Him to operate in the manner He chooses, a manner which will always be in line with His Word.  Be blessed!

Note:  This is a re-post from 2014

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Is Your Hypocrisy Hurting Your Witness ?

By Patrick Hawthorne

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11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. (Galatians NKJV.)

I remember the old school days.  I was never the popular kid nor was I the unpopular kid.  I was kind of in the middle.  You know…the kid who was just there; the one who everyone seemed to tolerate as long as I kept out of their way.  Don’t get me wrong.  I was fine with being that kid.  It worked out well for me because I preferred staying back in the shadows.

There were times, however, when I was the only familiar face in a crowd and a cool kid would come and talk to me because they did not know anyone else.  We would talk and enjoy each others company, that is, until the familiar face of another cool kid entered the room.  It was then that the first cool kid gravitated to the other.  Once again, I became the shadow in the group, tolerated but forgotten.

In a Biblical comparison of Galatians 2:12, the cool kid was Peter and I was the gentile.  In Galatians 2:12-13, we read that Paul admonished Peter because of his fear of the Jews of the circumcision.  The word “fear” is phobeomai (φοβέομαι) which in this case refers to an improper impediment to faith and love (Mounce Greek Dictionary).  In other words, Peter was not afraid of the people, per-say, but was afraid of what they thought of him for hanging out with the gentiles.

When dealing with our non-Christian friends, there are three main questions we must ask ourselves,  When our Christian friends come around, do we have the tendency to withdraw from our non-Christian friends?  If so, is it because we are behaving badly with our non-Christian friends?  Or, is it because we are afraid of what our Christian friends might think because we are not hanging out with the “in crowd?”  In either case, we are playing the hypocrite and are damaging our witness.

Jesus was never one who cared about what others thought of Him?  He was happy hanging out with saints and sinners alike because it was them who changed, not Him.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. May we be imitators of Jesus so that hypocrisy may never be found within us .  Be blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Refiner of God’s Fire

 

 

By Patrick Hawthorne

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“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:1-3 NKJV)

“I have loved you.”  In beginning the Book of Malachi, we are greeted by these words, “I have loved you.”  This love – God’s love – so great and so pure; a love so intense whereby we can almost imagine we hear the whisper,  “I vow to never leave you as you were when we first met.”

“I have loved you.”  In the midst of our sins, the Refiner of God’s Fire met us.   In the midst of our sins, the Refiner of God’s Fire saved us.  Yet, in the midst of our sins, the Refiner of God’s Fire will never leave us.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation (Jesus) has appeared to all men…” (Titus 2:11)

Casting us into the fire of His purification, the Refiner of God’s Fire patiently sits and waits as the fire forces the dross of sins impurities to rise to the surface so that it may be scraped away, little by little.  Such a delicate task, the Refiner of God’s Fire leaves it for no other.  In the fire we remain until we are pure before Him.

For the grace of God that brings salvation (Jesus) has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteous, and godly in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV).

“I have loved you,” says the Refiner of God’s Fire.  Yet, we whine and cry as we go through this purification process.  “Wherein have You loved us?  Why must we endure the suffering of this fire if You love us?”  His response is, “Because I love you, I will not allow you to remain in the wretched state I found you.”

While purification and cleansing is never pleasant, it is necessary if our desire is to be Holy as He is holy.  That which is impure cannot stand before the Pure.  To that I say, “Send me to the Refiner of God’s fire, O’ Lord.”  Be blessed.

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You Have Robbed Me!

By Patrick Hawthorne

In continuing my thoughts on the Book of Malachi, we come to an interesting passage in chapter 3, verse 8-12.  It reads,

“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT).

For days I have been bothered about Malachi 3:8, “Yet you have cheated me.”  Or, as the New King James Version has written, “You have robbed me.”  Of course, this was met with, “What do you mean?  How and when have we cheated you?”  Knowing that the Lord desired for me to learn a valuable lesson, I meditated on this verse until I felt that I was arriving at an answer.

“You have robbed Me!”  The word ‘robbed’ implies something that is gibbous – something that is somewhat hidden but apparently round or convex.  An example would be a crescent moon.  Even though part of the moon is hidden by a shadow, it is apparent the moon is round.  The figurative form of the word means to hide or deceive.

Apparently the hearts of the nation of Israel was gibbous.  Just enough of their heart was exposed so that the appearance of honoring the Lord was evident to those peering in from the outside.  Yet, from the God who looks from the inside out – who peers through the heart – they were only deceiving themselves.

“You have cheated Me.”  But you ask, “What do you mean we have cheated You?”  The people honestly thought they were right with the Lord.  They were going through the motions.  They were somewhat honoring the Lord with some of their tithes and offerings.  They were good…right?

“You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.” Israel was cursed with a curse for not bringing the entirety of their tithe unto the Lord.  They had missed the most important part… Love and honor for the Lord.  “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruit of all your increase…”  (Proverbs 3:9)

This is not to say that God had cursed them.  They had cursed themselves by blocking the flow of His grace to them.  See how God says, “Put Me to the test.”  God, true to His opening statement in chapter one, “I have loved you,” wanted to prove His love through His grace.  Yet, they were robbing Him of the opportunity to bless them.  This is proven out in the New Testament.

 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 bold/underline/color mine)

This post was not intended to be a debate on tithing or not tithing.  You do as you wish.  Actually, this post is more about approaching the Lord with a whole heart, no matter what we do.  However, in keeping with the theme, “As for me and my house, we will honor the Lord with the tithe knowing that He is able to make all grace abound toward us, that my family always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  We will tithe because God has loved us and we love Him.  Be blessed.

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A Warning to the Teachers

By Patrick Hawthorne

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  (James 3:1-2 NKJV)

Verse 1 of James 3 strikes fear into my heart.  The context of the words, ‘stricter judgment’ has a genetive association (same or similar) to what Jesus expressed when He said, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” (Matt 23:13-13 KJV bold/underline mine).

I have been meditating on the Book of Malachi lately.  Written mainly to the priest, it is an applicable lesson for all who assume the position of spiritual authority, whether great or small.  It is a lesson for those of us who teach through our words both written or spoken.  It is the lesson of “Live what you preach, teach, write…and yes, blog.”  It is the lesson of the Lord saying, “I have loved you,” but then brings harsh criticism against the leaders for going through the motions of worship yet who deny God by the attitude of their hearts.

“Let not many of you become teachers.”  I cringe when I think of the times that I have stood before others, teaching the Word of God, knowing that I only gave a small portion of my time to the Lord in preparation.  I cringe at the times I halfheartedly prayed or worshiped, just going through the motions for the sake of appearances.  I cringe as I think of those whom I may have caused to stumble because I was too lazy to wait upon the Lord for a message of His choosing.  I cringe at the times I have written a word of teaching but have not sought the Lord or prayed that my words would be used to His glory.

Ah, but I like what I read in Malachi 4:2-3, “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.

There is healing that is available.  Healing of what?  Healing of hearts that have been out of tune with God’s heart; healing through repentance and a course correction.   As a warning to the teachers, I say, do not take lightly the position that has been given you by the Lord.  Judge yourself now.  Seek the Lord now and make the proper course corrections.  Be blessed.

 

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A Form of Godliness

By Patrick Hawthorne

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I have been reading and meditating on the book of Malachi.  Listed seven times throughout the book is one word that expresses the condition of Israel.  That word is, “Wherein.”  Starting his letter, Malachi  -who is expressing the words of the Lord – writes, “I have loved you.”  Immediately this is met with, “Wherein have you loved us?”

“Wherein.”  A common way of saying this is “what do you mean?”  “What do you mean that You have loved us?  What do you mean we have offered You polluted sacrifices?  What do you mean we have despised Your name?”

On the outside looking in, Israel was doing everything right.  They were serving God, sacrificing to God, and being obedient to the letter of the law.  On the outside they had a form of godliness but on the inside, at the very core of their heart, had denied the power thereof.  On the outside, they appeared to be doing everything right yet their hearts were far from the Lord.

In 2 Timothy 3 we are told that in the last day’s men will be lovers of self.  They will be covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, and a host of others.  The finale to this is, “Having a form of godliness, BUT DENYING THE POWER!

Many are the church buildings of today.  I say church buildings because many of the members are not of the Body of Christ.  Their ministers are of the spiritual dead leading a blind congregation on a path leading to the gates of hell.  All the while their anthem cry is, “Wherein?”

The word, “form,” (morphosis) means formation.  Used only twice in the New Testament, the word means to have an outward semblance, “an image or impression.”  In other words, these lifeless churches walk the walk, talk the talk and have, in many cases, fooled themselves and others into believing that they are right with the Lord.  Consider the words of G. Campbell Morgan Malachi’s Message to the Men of To-day.

“That is one of the dangers of the present day.  Take Christendom at large.  You have thousands who can give you good reasons for belonging to the Church, who have some purity in their lives, and seem to be not only maintaining the outward forms, but appear also to hold tenaciously to the truth which is the formative power of the Church, and yet whose lives are not in correspondence to the truth they hold.”

This is frightening to me.  “Wherein – what do you mean – I am lost? Have I not declared, “Lord, Lord?”’  And then our Lord Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (from Matthew 7:21-23).

My prayer is that all of those who read this will hold to and feast upon the truth of God’s Word – that our eyes would be open to any bit of deception that might blind us from the truth of our own spiritual condition.  My prayer is that we not be found guilty of having a form of godliness but in truth deny the power.  Be blessed.

 

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