Laying on Hands, Part 3 – Acts 8:14-24

The Laying On Of Hands Also Imparts The Holy Spirit

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

Delayed Delivery

There are several ways that the Holy Spirit comes upon people:

  1. Through the Holy Spirit’s action
  2. Through Jesus’ action
  3. Through the Father’s action
  4. The laying on of hands by disciples of Christ

There are interesting things about these cases.  When Jesus breathed on the disciples, they had received the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit did not come upon them IN POWER until Pentecost.  In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came upon those whom He chose, and could leave when He desired.  That is most likely why David wrote in Psalm 51:11 :

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

But what is even more interesting in this passage is that these believers had believed on The Lord Jesus Christ, been baptized into The Lord Jesus Christ, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit!  It was by the laying on of hands that these New Testament believers received the Holy Spirit.  It should be noted that Cornelius and all who were present received the Holy Spirit in power without the laying on of hands when Peter came to visit them.  In the New Covenant that Jesus gave to us, the Holy Spirit is a down-deposit of our inheritance in Christ.  He cannot, and will not, ever leave us nor forsake us.

Immense Impact

In each case, it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came upon each person IN POWER that they were able to be fully utilized by God.  The church today appears to believe that we merely just “need to believe” upon The Lord Jesus Christ to receive the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).  This passage in Acts, however, indicates that this is not always the case.

Before even the disciples could do anything, they needed to wait until Pentecost, having already received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, BUT NOT IN POWER.  As a believer in Christ, who has had the Holy Spirit come upon you IN POWER, YOU also have the ability to impart the Holy Spirit upon believers if He has not come upon them, and they believe.

If you do not believe that the Holy Spirit has come upon you yet, and you have believed upon The Lord Jesus Christ, ask your church leadership to lay hands upon you so that you also can receive the Holy Spirit.  And pray that the Spirit of God who then indwells you would come on you IN POWER.

Elementary Education

Paul notes in Hebrews 6:1-3 that one of the elementary teachings of the faith is the laying on of hands.  As disciples of Christ, we should be familiar with this teaching, and as such, this should be taught to ALL disciples of Christ by the church.  It is difficult to move on to more advanced subjects without taking the time to learn the basics.  Trying to understand calculus without learning addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication is a fool’s errand.

When the church fails to properly disciple believers, believing that it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to properly educate each believer (which He does…), we open the door to generations of believers who are ill-prepared to take on the enemy and may become a hindrance rather than a help to the church (observe how many disciples of Christ are not walking in the gifts of the Spirit that He has provided to them!).  Paul went to great lengths to teach the believers about these things so that they would be empowered to do the work that God had chosen for them before the foundation of the world.

When we don’t take the time to disciple the church (not only the elementary spiritual truths of the Bible, but also the advanced ones as well) new believers (and even seasoned believers) may not be properly equipped to do what God has called them to do.  In the same way, you wouldn’t just give collegiate-level textbooks to a 13-year-old and tell them to read the books and come back to take their baccalaureate test.  You would provide them with the foundational education necessary, send them to classes with teachers who are able to teach the subjects, and then provide them with tutors if required.  If we do this for secular teaching (which has temporary rewards), why would we not do this for Spiritual teaching (which has eternal rewards)?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking to be discipled, and discipling where I am qualified?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word.  Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who leads me into all truth.  Thank You for the body of Christ who help me grow and keep me accountable.  Thank You for Your love, patience, mercy, and provision in all things.  Thank You for the wonderful Gifts Your Spirit has given to me to use for Your glory.  Please help me to understand the spiritual truths that I may not know, and to walk in Your gifts.  Help me to grow in knowing who You are, and exhibiting Your character to all that I encounter.  Grant me wisdom to seek out others who can fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and I pray that Your Spirit would energize the leadership of the body of Christ to grow closer to You, learn the elementary and deeper spiritual truths, and to be faithful to teach the body so that we would be a holy people empowered to do all that You desire us to do.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Be Prepared – 1 John 3:3

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Worthwhile Warfare

You are under attack.  Whether you realize it or not, you are being bombarded in the three main areas your adversary – Satan and his minions – have found to be most effective in derailing your efforts at remaining in Christ:

  1. The lust of the flesh
  2. The lust of the eyes
  3. The pride of life

There is a VERY GOOD REASON that the Western World is not seeing the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus when He said:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

The reason?  We are not a holy people.  We go to church (rather than BEING the church).  We seek and revel in the prosperity The Lord Jesus Christ has provided to us but don’t seek as our first priority that His kingdom prospers, even in our difficulties, and we don’t take the time to ensure that God has our full attention to transform us into the image of His Son.

I was recently at a worship/revival service where a man said that every believer should be able to do what Jesus did in His ministry:

Heal the sick, raise the dead (Gasp!  Anyone try this one lately?), cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  – (Comments in italics mine)

He then dedicated the people gathered (a local body of believers who knew each other and a few others that were invited) for service to the Lord.  He prophesied over their lives in the dedication part of the service with complete accuracy, telling people about themselves that he could not have possibly known (including the strangers among them, of which I was one).  After the dedication, he began to heal those who were sick.  Broken bones were mended.  The crippled and infirm stood up, jumped up and down, and praised God.  He drove out demons, calling them by type or name, and released people from their control.

This was a first for me.  Never had I seen someone operate with the power of God in such a way.  Then he made good on his promise that anyone can do these things.  My wife had recently had a concussion, and went up for healing.  After being healed, a man with a broken ankle went up for healing.  Looking around, the guest speaker at the revival service spotted my wife, and said to her, “Come here – YOU lay hands on him!”

My wife, in faith, walked over, placed hands upon the man’s ankle, and was told by the guest speaker to command the ankle to be healed, and say it with authority.  My wife did exactly that.  And then the most amazing thing happened – my wife said that under her hands she felt the bones of his ankle moving around and mending!  The guest speaker asked the man to walk around, and he did.  He could now jump up and down on it.  My wife doesn’t have the spiritual gift of healing.  She was just being faithful to the Word of the Living God, and He responded.

The following morning, I decided, in faith, to put this to the test.  My wife suffered (past tense!) from hypothyroidism.  I laid hands on her neck where the thyroid was located, and prayed, “In the name of Jesus Christ, thyroid, BE HEALED!”  I sensed the Holy Spirit of God tell me to command it to “BE HEALED!” two more times.  But, how do you take a thyroid for a walk?  Later that evening, after putting on her bed-clothes, my wife said to me, “I’m hot.”  The only way that she was warm in the past was severe sickness (fever).  We took her temperature, and it was normal – almost two full degrees higher than normal.  It has been that way ever since.

WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND OUR AUTHORITY IN CHRIST

The Western church (at least, a significant portion of it) is not teaching the disciples of Christ how to engage in spiritual warfare and how to use their authority in Christ.  I will not speculate here as to why.

God wants us to be free – to live free! – for if the Son frees you, you are free indeed.  But we continue to live in bondage.  And the reason why?  One of the very core reasons of this is that we are not preparing ourselves to meet the Lord.

Proper Preparation

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

We are to be a holy people, set apart from sin, and set apart to God.  But truly, how are we set apart?  Apart from telling people the Gospel, would anyone be able to identify you as a disciple of Christ from your actions?  Are we feasting our eyes on the latest R-rated films?  Do we feast our bodies with excessive alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or food consumption?  Can anyone tell us apart by the way we speak (not only the words we use, but how we say them)?  These are just a few indicators.  It was once said (I don’t remember who) that we should ask ourselves, “If there was a trial today, would there be enough evidence to convict you as a disciple of Christ?”

We are to be preparing ourselves as the bride of Christ.  The bride removes her old garments and puts on the wedding garment.  She waits in eager anticipation for the coming of the groom.  She preens and puts on her best makeup, perfume, jewelry, and has her nails buffed and polished to perfection.  She selects the very best shoes to wear.  She seeks to be as beautiful as possible for him, to be his delight.  If we do that just for OUR spouses, how much more so should we be doing this for The Lord Jesus Christ?

It is time that the church takes holiness seriously, and that the holy ones of God are released to do what God has purposed for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Heart Hunger

We are to seek the holiness of God in our everyday lives.  We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  It is to be our heart-cry.  We are to eagerly desire the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as we grow in righteousness:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.

Does your heart crave the word of God?  Do you long for and desire to be in the continual presence of the Lord?  Can you say, with complete honesty:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

If not, do you WANT to be able to say that with joy?

Delightful Deliverance

The good news is that there IS deliverance from the soul-crushing rut of running into the same sins and (to a certain degree the same temptations) over and over again.  If that is how you feel, YOU NEED DELIVERANCE.  Disciples of Christ can be overwhelmed and influenced by Satan and his minions in many ways.  Once we have granted the enemy LEGAL GROUND to afflict us through unrepentant sin, curses (generational and otherwise), and ignorance of the word of God, we are the enemy’s new plaything.

There are several fine resources available to help you to shake yourself free from the grasp of the enemy (a couple of them are listed below).  If you want to live free in Christ, please take the time to read these resources, do the hard work, and free yourself:

Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Awesome Authority

You have AWESOME authority in Christ!  With the same power in you that raised The Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (the Holy Spirit of God), YOU can live a free life, do the works that Jesus did, and even greater works than those, as you consistently yield yourself to the authority of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago, and now sits at the right hand of God praying for you:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question – Am I truly walking in the freedom promised to me by My Lord Jesus Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, forgive me for not taking your word at face value.  Forgive me for not believing what You have made plain to me in Your word about Your authority, my authority in Christ, and for not seeking you with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  Lord Jesus, help me to be the bride that is radiant and adorned with holiness, greeting You when You come for me dressed and prepared for the wonderful future You have promised to me, sealing Your promise with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to tear down any stronghold that holds me captive to the lie and does not comport with Your holy word.  Help me to rely completely upon the Holy Spirit so that I would walk in Your ways.  Help me to fight the good fight, to prepare as I need to prepare, and to stand for You, even unto death.  Help me to put to death anything in my life that would keep me from following you with utter abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes:  Here are two resources that can be used hand-in-hand for deliverance of demonic oppression and interference in your life.  Please note that while I may not agree with everything the authors say or live out in their lives, the information in these resources is extremely beneficial to taking off the last of the grave-clothes, and keeping them off:

The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson

DELIVERANCE and SPIRITUAL WARFARE MANUAL” by John Eckhardt

If you have not been taught about spiritual warfare and deliverance, these resources may be challenging to both believe and read.  Set apart time to fast (a juice fast or Daniel fast if medically necessary) and pray that God would open your eyes when you read the books, protect you from interference from the enemy, and reveal the truth about spiritual warfare and His word to you as you read.

If you find that you cannot read these books (you feel pressure to not read them), pray earnestly that God would show you anything that you need to confess in your life to Him and repent of, anything in your life you need to renounce, and any amends that you need to make first (and go make them).  After this, open your Bible and begin reading the four Gospels and Acts.  If you feel reluctance to do that as well, seek out a church that will pray over you and help you with this issue (the interference of the enemy).  The body of Christ is there to uplift, uphold, bear the burdens of, and hold accountable all of us in our walk with God.

It IS possible to live freely in Christ.  Just because you haven’t experienced it yet does not mean that it is not possible or feasible:

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…”

Maturing in Christ – Hebrews 6:1-3

Lay The Foundation Of The Basics Before You Move On To Maturity

1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Begin with Basics

Paul encourages us to move beyond the basics.  We are not to remain babes in Christ, but, like teenagers, move on to maturity.  However, we do need to start with the basics.  Paul lists several of the basic principles of the Christian faith:

  • foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God
  • instruction about cleansing rites (they are no longer needed, since Christ has cleansed us with His shed blood)
  • the laying on of hands
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • eternal judgment

Each of these is important, as they are part of the foundation upon which we build with Christ as our cornerstone.  Without the cornerstone and basic foundation, the rest of the structure that we build will not be sturdy, straight, and sufficiently load-bearing.  Paul used these analogies because the average person at the time of his writing would have understood them and their relation to the spiritual truths he was attempting to convey.

Apprehend your Authority

The next step in this process is to understand who we are in Christ.  One of the reasons disciples of Christ in the Western world seem impotent in their endeavors (not all, but many church bodies don’t seem to have the impact that they should) is that we do not understand our authority in Christ.

The average Christian either does not understand or believe all of the verses in the Bible.  If we truly believe something, we will act upon it.

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

This verse is to be tempered by remembering that Christ completely yielded Himself to the Holy Spirit, and only did what the Father was doing, and only said what He heard the Father say:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

We are to be submitted to God.  When we are submitted to God, listening to Him, and obeying His commands, whatever we ask will be given us.  And the reason it will be given us is that our focus will be upon the Father’s work, and what we ask will be to the Father’s glory:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Step in Subservience

The only way to successfully walk the walk of being a disciple is to walk in obedience to God.  We hear this over and over again.  Why?  Because it is FOUNDATIONAL to our victory over sin as well as maturing in Christ.

If we were to go out every night and drink ourselves into a stupor, sleep in until the afternoon, and basically do whatever makes us feel good in the moment, people would look at us as though we were children.  Only children don’t understand or take hold of responsibility.  Only children put up temper-tantrums when they don’t get their way, and refuse to do what they know they need to do because of petulance and self-righteous anger when they don’t get their way.

Until we get to the point where we fall on our knees and say,  “Lord Jesus, Thy will be done in my life”, and we truly mean it and seek His will in our life every second of every day, we will be less than optimally effective for Him in our service to Him.  Will we ever get there?  No.  We have a sin nature.  Even Paul said he wasn’t there yet:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Possess your Plot

God has assigned to each of us our work to do.  We need to seek God and get our marching orders.  In the case of the Israelites, they were told to possess the land of Canaan.  God went out before them and drove the wicked inhabitants out so that they could claim the land that God had given to them.

In the same way, we are to possess the land that we have been given.  We are to conquer the sins that so easily beset us.  We are to understand, use, and become proficient with the spiritual gifts that God has given us.  We are to plug in and yield ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to grow in holiness and understanding of the Word of God.  We are to become fully mature, do our work, and mentor those who are not as far along as we are.  We are to seek others to mentor us.  And we are to walk with those who can act as accountability partners.

There is significantly more that we should do.  But just like the Israelites, we are to take a little land at a time, inhabit it, fully possess it, and move on to conquer more of the land that God is preparing for us.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I matured in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided victory of sin for me in Jesus.  You have made it possible to live in righteousness before You.  You have given me the opportunity to grow in You.  Help me to fully mature in Christ.  Help me to be a workman who is well-trained in how to use Your word.  Help me to overcome the sin that so easily besets me.  Give me victory over my flesh and the enemy of my soul.  Bind Satan and his minions that they would be unable to react as I plunder their dominion – to seek the lost and to tell them the Gospel.  Grant me victory today, and help me to be fully yielded to the Holy Spirit that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Staying Babes in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

We Are To Mature, Not To Stay Babes In Christ!

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Spiritual Splendor

The word of God is full of the spiritual meat.  It provides guidance for every aspect of life, in every situation.  And while the word of God does not specifically say, “I want you, <Your Name Here>, to go to such and such a city and get such and such a job and do such and such a ministry…”, it does provide guidance for every area of our lives.

Psalm 119:105 says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  There is just enough light to see the cliff, or where to put our next foot.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit through faithful and fervent prayer to God to get anything close to a longer-term indication of what we should be doing (further than our next footstep).

In the word of God, as we mature, we begin to understand the deeper truths of walking in step with God in our spiritual life.  God reveals wonderful nuggets of truth that help to transform our lives from merely adoring children into prepared adults, making mature decisions, walking confidently in His guidance and being resources to those who are still maturing in Christ.

Stop Shuffling

Everyone who has been walking with God for more than five years (and for many, perhaps even fewer years…) should begin to mature in Christ.  Paul says something very interesting here.  He gently scolds the Hebrews (and us!) for their passivity in failing to pursue a more complete understanding and comprehension of the spiritual truths of God, and even says, they are no longer even trying.

Many people believe simply that since they are saved, God will take care of their spiritual feeding through divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.  But God says to seek Him with ALL of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  God greatly desires that we mature, just as parents everywhere, wish that their teenagers WOULD JUST GROW UP ALREADY…

There is a great frustration among parents when they watch their 18, 19, 20, 30 year old children act exactly like that – CHILDREN.  There is an expectation that their children would mature, and then do something productive with their lives, not live in their parent’s basement until they are 50 only eating junk-food, watching TV, and playing video games all night with their friends.  In the same way, God desires that His children mature, stand strong, and do the works that He has prepared for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Fabulous Feast

The good news is that as we mature, we have a veritable feast available to us to feed upon.  As a child, we grow and develop feeding on the rich milk of our mothers.  But there comes a time when we need additional nourishment in order to grow our bodies.  ONLY drinking milk (or not eating or drinking anything else at all…) will eventually cause malnourishment in our bodies.

In the same way, by feeding upon the “meat of the word”, we become nourished, strong, and able to do the work that we need to do.  Those of God’s people who are not seriously seeking him through prayer, reading his word, and seeking out an understanding of his word (its meaning and application in our lives, as well as implementing it as part of our daily routines) are on the path to spiritual malnourishment, as well as being weakened for the enemy of our souls, to pounce upon us, overpower us, and devour us.

As we feed upon the word of God and pray, we grow strong.  There is an amazing cornucopia of delights as we delve deeper into the word, and our lives are transformed by its principles and guidance.  Cheetos and milk duds may taste good for a snack, but what is better than a ten course meal with all of the trimmings to satisfy your hunger?  The word of God is like a good Amish buffet – wholesome, tasty, satisfying food, always with new varieties, to fill us, tantalize us, and give us strength as it satisfies our hunger.

Delightful Discernment

Those who truly are babes in Christ should feed on milk until they begin to mature, being able to distinguish the difference between what is good and what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  Just as adults don’t exclusively drink milk, we don’t feed steak to a baby that has no teeth!  As we train ourselves, though the transforming and renewing of our minds in the word of God, we are better equipped to understand and implement the deeper truths of the word of God.

We should all seek to want to feed upon the meat of the word, so that God would be able to use us in a greater capacity.  God is able to use anyone in Him in any way that He chooses.  He, however, is more easily able to use those who are mature in greater ways than the infants.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I as mature as I should be for the length of time that I have spent as a child of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your patience, mercy and grace.  Give me a heart that constantly seeks after You, and greatly desires to grow and mature towards holiness.  Help me to get out of any spiritual ruts that I may be in, and to pursue You as the cheetah pursues its prey.  Provide me with strength, guidance, resources, and good mentors so that I can become who You desire me to be.  Help me to overcome any strongholds in my mind that may be keeping me from seeking to grow.  Help me to turn my eyes more fully upon Jesus, and look full in His wonder face so that the things of this world will grow strangely dim.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Great Commission – Acts 26:15-18

You Have Been Saved For A Purpose

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'”

” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

Seeking Servanthood

When Paul had his encounter with the Living God, he was first directed to be the servant of the Lord Jesus.  The first concern of God after people come to him is to follow Him and to serve Him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In a culture where we are told every moment of every day that it is all about YOU, this seems to be a foreign concept.  After all, if it is all about ME, why should I care about any of YOU?  This is a tool of Satan as he attacks our minds:

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This three-pronged attack is very effective at distracting us from being effective servants of the Lord.  If Satan can get us to desire fleshly things, or covet with our eyes, or fill our hearts with pride, he can effectively destroy our walk and ministry for the Lord.

Servants have no rights of their own; their master is Lord over them.  Many of the letters in the New Testament start with the author identifying themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Worthwhile Witness

A great deal of Christians, when witnessing to the lost say, “God has this wonderful plan for your life” or “Escape the fires of Hell!”.  And while both of these are true, we are to be telling people that God desires that people know Him.  We are to tell people what God has done for us in our lives – to free us from the bondage of sin, and to give us the opportunity to live life in victory.

We are to show that we are living lives in victory.  That is how Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail, resulting in the jailer and his family coming to know Jesus as Lord.  Many have come to faith through the faithful witness of disciples of Christ after people see the peace they have in their lives through difficult time, terrible illness, and other distress.

Smash Strongholds

In order to live our lives in victory, and to help others live in victory, we need to break down the strongholds in our lives:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These strongholds are arguments and pretensions that we have in our minds that are contrary to the revealed word of God.  Just a couple of these (certainly not an exhaustive list!) are:

LegalismThere is no law against love

Our works earn us a place in heaven – It is by grace alone through faith that we are saved

God can’t forgive me of my sins, they are too great – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them

We can have strongholds in our lives about finances, sex, and any other number of topics.  God, through His word, is the only authority for all aspects of our lives.  He created the universe and us.  He knows everything there is to know about us.  He knows what will harm us and what will prosper us.  And since Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, we can trust what He says is correct.

Show Salvation

We are to tell of God’s salvation to the lost.  Before witnessing, we are also to pray that God will open the eyes of the blind and that the deaf might hear so that the lost will see the goodness of God, and the free gift of salvation.

By being faithful servants, who have been freed from the bondage of strongholds and pretensions in our minds through the word of the Living God, we are then able to go and do what we have been commissioned to do – make disciples of all nations.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I a faithful servant to Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious, and Your beauty is beyond description.  You shower us with your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  If I only knew just how much You provide for me and protect me from, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praising You.  Father, open my eyes to the strongholds in my life that keep me from being free to serve You as You desire.  Show me in Your word the truth that I need to see in order to shake myself free from the bonds that I have created.  Bind the works of Satan, and help me to be free, for since Jesus has freed me, I am free indeed.  And Father, please send me to people, or send people to me, that I may witness of what You have done in my life, that You would be glorified and that others would know of Your love for them, that they too might be freed and be saved.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Responding to the Word of God – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Don’t Just Read The Word Of God – Respond To It

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Massive Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

As we read the word of God, our hearts should react.  The Israelites who were gathered before Ezra when Nehemiah was the governor over Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days experienced great mourning when they heard the word of God read to them.  Jesus indicated that this was to be our state of heart as well when we hear the word of God and we realize that we are falling short of it.

The word of God is not merely words inspired by God and written by men for us to give historical records and inspirational thoughts; rather, the word of God is living and active:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word of God is able to show us exactly who we are in our inward attitudes as well as our outer words and deeds.  Scripture is able to accurately pinpoint the weaknesses and failings in our character, thought processes, and beliefs.  It is able to do so because it is both alive and absolute truth:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When our hearts respond to the word of God, we are ready to be trained by it.

Supernatural Strength

Nehemiah records that the ordeal in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was taxing on the people.  Anyone who has been under the threat of violence, where working with one hand and your other hand on your weapon is not a very peaceful ordeal.  The Israelites experience this even today on a near day-to-day basis with the threat of suicide bombers, shootings, beatings, and missiles being directed towards them.

The last thing that God’s people needed right now was to become overwhelmed with dread at the thought of just how far short they were from the glory of God.  Nehemiah commanded that the people not grieve on this day, for it was holy to them.  They were to embrace the joy of the Lord.  This is their strength, and our strength as well.  God has sovereignly paid for our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Our natural response is to mourn over our sin.  But we should then embrace the joy of our salvation, for it is in that joy that we have strength.

Pain, suffering, misery, mourning, and many other physically and emotionally draining situations sap our strength from us.  When we have joy in hope (the certainty of outcome, not wishful thinking), we are able to look at these difficulties and put them in their proper perspective.  Until we are able to grasp the joy of the Lord, we will be subject to the storms of emotion.  Life is hard.  For many, life seems impossible.  When every breath is a challenge, and the situations of life threaten to rob every aspect of normalcy in life from you, only the joy of the Lord can lift you out of the pit of despair.

Stay Still

The Levites (the Levitical priests) had counseled the people to be still.  Elsewhere in the word of God, that phrase is used as well:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

But what does it mean to “be still”?  One of the best translations of this phrase is “cease striving”.  As humans, we have a desire and drive to do things our way.  We tend to rely upon the gifts and resources that God has provided to us rather than on the provider of the gifts and resources.  When we rely upon God, we will cease striving.  Our hearts will “be still”, for we will be expectantly waiting for God to act, rather than acting on our own.

Cheerfully Celebrate

God had done a mighty work in and through those who had rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  The Israelites were told to celebrate this great victory that God had given to them.  Do we take the time to celebrate what God has done in our lives?  Do we publicly acknowledge the victory God has given us over our enemies?  Do we embrace the joy of the Lord in such a way that it is winsome to others?  How we respond to what God has done and is doing in our lives is very important to God.

Embrace Erudition

All of this was very important because of one thing: the people had understood the meaning of the word of God.  We too should seek and embrace the word of God and its meaning in our lives.  Learning the word of God should be foremost in our minds:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

[Blessed is the one…] whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in the joy of the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your joy is made complete in me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Thank You for this gift, and for Your joy.  Help me to know Your word and to embrace Your word in my heart and my mind.  May Your law be on my lips when I first wake in the morning until I go to sleep at night.  Help me to understand Your word better so that I can live it out in my life.  Help me to cease striving, and to fully receive Your Spirit without measure.  Give me the desire and ability to die to myself so that the Holy Spirit can display Your character through the life that You have provided to me.  Help me to rely upon You more each day and less upon myself.  Help my heart to be attuned to Your word and Your direction so that I might live in a way that pleases You more.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to have a heart that is sensitive to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Understanding God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:4-8

Seek Out God’s Pastor/Teachers To Better Understand God’s Word.

4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Reverential Respect

In an insightful view of ancient worship, Nehemiah records the gathering of ALL of the people who were able to understand the law of God in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.  After he opened the scroll (the book) of the law, the people stood up.

God is a holy God.  He desires, and deserves, our respect in all things.  In the same way that our Earthly fathers desire respect from their children, God desires (and more rightly deserves!) our respect.  Standing up when God’s law is about to be read is a way to show that respect.  It shows that we are attentive to it, and that it deserves our full and undivided attention.

Powerful Praise

Ezra next praised our great God, YHWH.  In response, the people raised their hands and responded with “Amen, Amen!”  This meant “truly, truly!”  It is a sign of acknowledgement and agreement with what is being said.  We hear it and we do it.  But how often do we think about it?  How often do we take the time to truly ponder how we respond to God and His word?

Wonderful Worship

The people then bowed down and worshiped God with their faces to the ground.  Do we show the same respect for our Father in Heaven?  Are we willing to bow down and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Is our view of God so high that we bow down with our faces to the ground?  Do we give everything in worship to Almighty God, or do we merely acknowledge Him with words?

Concisely Convey

Due to the lack of modern convenience of sound systems and, in that location, a parabolic-shaped theater setting, the Levites (designated priests of God amongst the Israelites) were spread in the crowd of those gathered.  As they read the word of God to the people, they made sure that the people understood what was being read.

Reading without comprehension is filling time, or even giving lip service to the material being presented.  To honor the author, we should take the time to ponder and understand what the author intended for us to get out of their writing.  The Levitical priests, as they read God’s word, made certain that the people understood what was being read to them.  They took to the time to explain the full meaning of the law of God.

We need to understand what we are reading so that we can apply it in our lives.  When we read God’s word, and then don’t understand it, we may say “wow, that was interesting”, but what effect will it have on our lives?  How will it draw us closer to God and each other?  How will it penetrate our hearts to show us ourselves?  The word of God can only act as a mirror to our soul, properly reflecting what is there, when we can see what is in the mirror.

It is imperative that we seek out teachers of God’s holy word who have a clear and accurate understanding of it.  The selection of our teachers will greatly influence our understanding and application of the word of God.  And while God will certainly honor our attempts to live out what we know, He greatly desires that we understand His word more and more each day, so that we can participate in His character, and know Him more fully through living out His word in our lives.

Today, take the time to re-read the section of scripture that you read, and see if God reveals more about it to you, or more about you to yourself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to fully understand the meaning of scripture that I am reading?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have graciously recorded for us the history of Your people and how You have interacted with them.  Thank You for Your diligence in doing so.  Help me to better understand Your word so that my life can be transformed from what it was into what it should be.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to better understand the word of God.  Show me where in my life that I need to make changes so that I will better honor You, Lord God Almighty.  Help me to take more time, and do more research, so that I will have a fuller, richer, and accurate understanding of what I am reading.  Help me to put it into action, for Your word is living and active an is able to help me to recognize my innermost feelings and desires.  Help me to align my heart with Yours, Oh God!  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Waiting for the Spirit – Acts 8:14-17

No Believer In Christ Will Walk In Power Until The Holy Spirit Of God Comes Upon Them

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Beginning Believers

There is a debate amongst the bodies of disciples of Christ in various regions as to when the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer in power.  In order to understand this, the Bible must be taken as a whole.  For instance:

These are just a few examples to illustrate the differing circumstances that surrounded the Holy Spirit coming upon someone in power.  The simple fact is, disciples of Christ will NOT BE EFFECTIVE until the Holy Spirit comes upon them in power.

Power of Prayer

Prayer is the most powerful offensive tool that the believer in Christ has in the arsenal.  We are given unfettered access to the Throne Room of God at any time through prayer.  Anything we ask in the name of – the character of – Jesus, God the Father will do so that He may be glorified.

In this case, Peter and John went to Samaria to greet the new believers there.  Notice that the very first thing they did was pray.  John the Apostle was known by the nickname “Camel Knees” because he prayed so much!  Peter and John first prayed that the Holy Spirit would come upon the new believers (in power).  After bathing their requests in prayer, they acted upon their belief.  They laid hands upon the new believers.

Holy Hands

When they laid their hands, bathed in prayer, upon the new believers, the new disciples of Christ received the Holy Spirit in power.  They recognized from their own lives, having to wait until Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit, that the new disciples would be ineffective until they had received the Holy Spirit.

The laying on of hands was to designate someone for a specific purpose or task.  When hands were laid upon the new believers, they received the Holy Spirit in power to provide them with the necessary means to be effective in ministry.  Each of us should greatly desire that the Holy Spirit come upon us in power.

If you are not sure if the Holy Spirit has come upon you in power, you should earnestly pray that God would do so.  Examine your life to see if you are living it in a manner that is pleasing to God.  Confess all sins, and repent of them.  Eagerly seek and desire the deeper understanding of the Bible and God’s will in your life.  God greatly desires that His people are ready and prepared to do the works that He has assigned for us to do since before the foundation of the Earth!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question:  Has the Holy Spirit come upon me in power?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious and full of grace.  Father, please help me to walk in Your ways.  Forgive me for my sins.  Help me to turn away from them and leave them at the foot of the cross, for Christ has born them already.  Help me to better understand Your word, that I would be able to live this life in line with Your word more and more each day.  May the Holy Spirit come upon me in power, that I would be prepared to do the works that You have prepared in advanced for me to do.  Strengthen me as You did when the apostles laid their hands upon the believers.  May You and You alone be glorified in what You are about to do.  This I ask in the name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

The Faithfulness of God – Micah 7:18-20

God ALWAYS Keeps His Word

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.

Perfect Pardon

Unlike men, God is perfect in all His ways.  When God pardon’s our sin, He pardons it completely.  It is as if it had never happened:

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

God no longer holds our sin against us.  We who are in Christ, who have believed upon the name of the One and Only Son of God, have been cleared of all charges – past, present, and future.  God greatly desires that as former criminals we be reformed and act as He would desire, just as man wants former criminals to be reintegrated into society in a lawful and peaceful way.  Sanctification is the tool that allows that to occur.

Faithful Forgiveness

God is not a liar.  He is incapable of lying, for God IS truth:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God is completely faithful to forgive anything that we have done, anything we bring before Him.  We must, however, turn from our sin and turn towards God.  When we ask for forgiveness and then immediately (and WILLFULLY) go back to what we were doing, we are basically like the child who says to dad and mom “I’m sorry (that I got caught, please spare me the consequences of my actions, I’ll be more careful to hide what I am doing from you going forward).”

God greatly desires to see us walk in His ways.  His faithfulness to forgive frees us from the fear of punishment that the un-Godly will encounter.  God is faithful in all things, for His very nature – His character – allows Him no other course of action when we approach Him in good faith, no matter how many times we stumble and fall.  Will a loving parent reject a child who falls down and skins their knee when trying diligently to walk carefully and cautiously?  If we would not, why would God?

Abated Anger

We are created in the image of God.  God has emotions.  He gets angry.  But God’s anger only lasts a little while.  God will not turn His face away from us forever in His anger.  God will not turn His face away from those who are faithful to Him.  He delights in His children.  God tells us to be angry and do not sin.  He also tells us that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  God is NOT a hypocrite like men.  If God tells us to do something, will He then not model it for us?

Moved to Mercy

God’s heart is a heart of mercy.  Knowing that we are unable to do what He commands us to do, He took it upon Himself to pay our debt.  In His great mercy and compassion, He sacrificed His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our iniquity and to receive our just and due punishment upon the cross.  He now has legal authority to show us mercy.  God greatly desires for all of us to come to Him.  But without His mercy, we are unable to do so.

God’s mercies renew every morning:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We fail to remember the mercy and compassion of God because the enemy of our souls, when we transgress God’s law, tries to convince us that God will not forgive us.  It is that much more important that we seek out God and his mercy that we may be free from the bondage of sin – our guilt.

Fully Faithful

God is faithful in all that He does.  He cannot be unfaithful, for His very nature relies upon it.  Imagine that God’s faithfulness wavered.  Would not everything that He did be tainted by that?  Imagine if gravity only worked some of the time, and it was completely unreliable, working and not working randomly.  What would happen?

In the same way that we can trust that the Sun will rise every morning, that the Moon will rise every night, that the stars will cross the sky, that God is faithful in each and every thing He does, and in each and every promise that He makes.  God has made many promises to Jacob about his inheritance and descendants.  God will keep each and every one of these promises faithfully in just the right time and in just the right way so that God will be praised and glorified to the utmost degree.

Profound Pledge

God has pledged to Abraham millennia ago that He would love his offspring, care for them, and make them so numerous that they would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky:

17 “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

God does not lie, and He does not make promises that He cannot keep nor will not keep.  God keeps every pledge He makes, no matter how long He takes to fulfill it.  Since He has prophesied through His prophets about these things, He fulfills them at just the right time.  And the time has come when God is calling all men to Himself.  His angel has gone out into the world and proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. He is gathering His people as He promised to the land He gave to their ancestors, and He is bringing all things to a close.  Seek Him while you may find Him, for time as we know it is about to end.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I relying on the faithfulness of God through my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are completely faithful and trustworthy.  Nothing and no one can cause Your plans to fail.  You have carefully engineered through millennia the circumstances that have brought about each and every prophesy that You have given to us.  Your word will stand now and forevermore.  Help me to trust You completely in my pain through my trials.  It is very hard to do so because of the lies of the enemy.  Stand strong for me and with me as I overcome all things in Your strength.  Give me everything I need to grow through my trials, and comfort me as I fend off the stinging rebukes of my enemies.  Holy Spirit, plead my case before the Father, and pray for me, for I don’t know how to pray through these things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Flesh vs. Spirit – Romans 8:5-14

Living According To The Flesh Leads To Death

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Fleshly Failure

Carnal Christianity is a danger that faces the every disciple of Christ.  The world, the flesh, and the devil try to draw us away from the Spirit of God through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  In the United States, the blessing of God has provided a petri dish where it is easy to focus on the pleasures of the flesh.  Financial prosperity clouds the judgment, and can provide an environment where people can forget that it is God that provides.  Culture seeks to please the flesh, rather than the Spirit, and leads people into every manner of evil.  Moral Relativism, self-actualization, Secular Humanism, the media, the entertainment industry, and advertisements all seek to draw people away from reliance upon God to reliance upon self, or the goods and services that are for sale.

Spiritual Specialization

Disciples of Christ are called instead to submit to the Spirit of God.  This is how we know that we are in Christ.  For the flesh desires what the flesh wants, and what our spirit wants is contrary to the flesh.  The Holy Spirit of God woos us through the word of God, gentle prodding and encouragement.

Yielding to the Spirit gives life.  Even though the flesh is subject to death because of the curse through the disobedience of Adam, the Spirit gives life, and life abundantly through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Though the flesh may fail, the Spirit gives us life.  The Spirit can do this because of righteousness.  God is holy, and cannot abide rebellion to righteousness.  When we submit to the Holy Spirit, He conforms our desires to pursue righteousness instead of that opposes that which is righteous.

Careful Commitment

If a person claims to be:

  • A child of God
  • Saved
  • A Christian
  • A disciple of Christ

then they have an obligation to submit to the Spirit so that they will grow and draw close to righteousness, for the image-bearers of God should not be bearing the image of any other.  Salvation is not fire-insurance; it is the opportunity to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.

Just as a criminal who claims to be reformed should act reformed, so should we as redeemed sinners.  What good does it do a criminal who has been freed to go back to the same life that they lived before?  Their actions will certainly catch up to them, and they will face judgment again for what they have done.  In the same way, disciples of Christ have an obligation to allow the Spirit of God to conform us to the life that lives in harmony with God.

The signature evidence that a disciple of Christ is a true child of God is that their life gives evidence that they are being led by the Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question: Am I being led by the Spirit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the opportunity to draw close to You.  Thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit to lead me, teach me, guide me, encourage me, convict me, pray for me, and advocate for me.  Father, help me to walk in righteousness before You.  The temptations of this world are strong, and I pray for the strength to resist their pulls on my life, and the wisdom to recognize that which will cause me harm.  You have provided the things on Earth for our pleasure, but to be enjoyed, not worshiped or pursued.  Help my heart to also pursue You first.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Developing Discernment – Proverbs 1:10-19

Don’t Gain The Whole World Just To Lose Your Soul

10 My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot”-
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wicked Works

Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the Earth (with the exception of Jesus Christ), penned these words to help his son, and us, to glean from the supernatural wisdom that God imparted to him.

While it may be obvious to many that aligning ourselves with wicked men (and women!) is to be avoided, the wicked acts of men are readily seen and understood.  It is the more subtle acts of men that do not seem on the surface to be wicked that we are to avoid as well.

Wicked Words

Men (and women!) have learned how to play on the fears of others to get them to do what they want them to do.  The modern term is social engineering.  Most people will respond to someone who speaks in an authoritative voice to them, because they have been taught by their parents to be respectful and obey authority.  Although that may no longer be the case with our youngest generation, we react this way naturally.  Other types of psychological manipulation are used by these people as well.

Men (and women!) will also try to lure us into doing evil things by making good sound evil, and evil sound good.  They will play on our desire to “get ahead”, or fulfill a need in a way that does not honor God.  Humans have a natural capacity to justify our actions when our consciences bother us.  We avoid pain as much as possible, and we are then placed in circumstances where we will have to make a (often life-altering painful) decision to honor God, or go another way.

Wondering Why?

There are many reasons why we should avoid the advice of wicked people.  Solomon lists several:

  • Their feet rush into evil.
    • Rather than seek God to honor him with their minds and hands, they rush headlong into evil, both ignorant of its eventual outcome, as well as the consequences here in the physical realm.
  • They are swift to shed blood.
    • These people care nothing about each other, nor others.  They are swift to shed blood, as long as it benefits them somehow.  They do not have any concept of the value of human life, and may even traffic in it so that they can gain wealth and power.
  • The consequences are that others will see our actions plainly.
    • These people think that they are operating in darkness, when their deeds are made plain to the world!  But the question becomes, does the world even care?
  • The outcome is that they figuratively (and sometimes literally) shed their own blood!
    • Rather than do harm to their intended victims, they harm the very people they are attempting to protect – themselves!  Like Esau, they spurn their inheritance and gladly trade it for a little physical comfort.
  • Their eventual end is that they have ambushed themselves towards a specific end.
    • Their eventual outcome is that when they die, they cannot take their ill-gotten gains with them.  They must then face Almighty God before the White Throne Seat of Judgment, and pay at that time the most steep price imaginable – their eternal soul – for what they have done in the flesh.

Death and Destruction

The eventual outcome of these people is that they face death and destruction of their souls.  Discernment is required to avoid the schemes that others use to try to entice us into doing what they want us to do:

The only way to avoid these schemes is to put on the full armor of God, spend time with God in His word and prayer, and learn to discern when to spurn that which will burn.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I rightly discerning good and evil?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You are pure, holy, without blemish or spot.  You greatly desire all people to walk in holiness and righteousness before You.  Help me to rightly discern when others are trying to do me harm.  Help me when I inadvertently find myself cornered by the deeds of wicked men intent on destroying me, my family, my career, or my character.  Father, protect me from the wickedness of others, and help me to see Your wisdom, will, and way so that I may keep myself and my family from harm’s way.  And when You do allow wicked men and women to place me in circumstances that I did not willingly choose, I pray, Father, that You would deliver me from them just as You delivered Peter from the jailers.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Blindness – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

If Satan Had Understood The Purpose Of Christ, He Would NEVER Had Tried To Crucify Him

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
the things God has prepared for those who love him-

6 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Worldly Wisdom

There is a worldly wisdom that pervades our culture.  It reveals part of the truth, but ignores the truth about the spiritual activity that goes on around us.  The world desires that the rest of us follow its lead, hoping that we will not be “duped” by the truth of the One who is all-wise who came among us.

Wonderful Wisdom

God’s wisdom has been and, for many, is still a mystery that they are unable to unfold and comprehend.  The world seeks God “in the box” – the known universe – but ignores the Spiritual realm as “something spooky filled with ghosts and other benign and malicious creatures”.  God instead greatly desires to reveal the mysteries of the Spiritual realm to us, but in His way.  His wisdom has been recorded in His word, but even now is ignored by many due to the strongholds that prohibit them from seeing the truth.

Reigning Rulers

The reigning rulers and wise people of this world are blinded by their inability to properly discern Spiritual truths.  Even Satan, who once was with God in Heaven, is unable to properly discern spiritual truth.  If he had understood the purpose of Christ coming to Earth in the flesh, Satan would NEVER had placed the hatred in the hearts of men to crucify our Savior.

If man had not crucified our Savior, Jesus would not have received the punishment that we were intended to receive.  Jesus would have had a wonderfully long ministry on Earth, but our sins would not have been atoned for by His blood, because it was necessary that man shed Jesus’ blood for the plan of God to succeed.

Particularly Prepared

God reveals His wisdom through His word and the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the truth as it was, and is, being revealed.  We need to rely upon the Spirit of God for this revelation, because we simply cannot comprehend apart from Almighty God’s help the depth and beauty of His wisdom in all that He does.

Salvation was a mystery from the very beginning.  It is something that the angels of God sought out, but did not know either, until it was revealed.  This was done to glorify God, as well as to ensure that God’s plan would be fully fulfilled in its proper time and by the proper vessels.

Spirit Searches

The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of all reality, including the thoughts of God and men.  We cannot even begin to fathom what God is doing because His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways.  It only makes sense that He would need to reveal to us these things, for they cannot be ascertained apart from spiritual insight provided to us by Almighty God Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I listening to the revelation of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word reveals Your will and Your ways to me.  Help me to learn these lessons, and to keep my heart attuned to Yours.  Help me to listen to the Holy Spirit as He unveils the truth about life and Godliness, and reveals Jesus to me.  Help me to remember that spiritual blindness can occur if I am not seeking You with all of my heart, mind soul, and strength.  Guide me in the ways that I should go, and prepare me for what is to come.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Spread the Word – Isaiah 12:4-6

The Lord Expects You To Tell Others What He Has Done

4 In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Powerfully Proclaim

Has the Lord God Almighty done something wonderful in your life?  Has He redeemed you?  Has He helped you to overcome?  Has He provided for you?  Has He healed you?  Has He made you triumph over your enemies?  If so, proclaim to the world what God has done!  And even if He hasn’t done that for you (maybe you haven’t needed anything like that done for you yet?), proclaim what He has done for the Jews and the Gentiles:  He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the final sacrifice for sin and adopted you as His child!

Regale the Record

When you tell the world what He has done, tell them of the great and mighty things God has done for others as well.  Tell about how He took Abraham, the son of an idol maker, and made his progeny more than the sands of the sea.  Tell of how He parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites as Pharaoh and his army were chasing them down, and delivered His people while destroying their enemies.  Tell them of how He struck Saul of Tarsus blind, revealed Himself and renamed Saul as Paul, and what He did through Paul’s life.  Don’t forget to tell about how God has kept every promise and fulfilled every prophecy He has made so far, all in perfect timing, because God is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and All-Present in His creation.

Exalt and Exclaim

God is to be exalted above every name and everyone.  He is worthy of all praise, honor, glory, power, dominion, and deserves to be made known to all.  His righteousness is perfect, and even the angels surrounding His throne cry, “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”  If the angels in His presence declare the holiness of God, should we not also do the same?

Sing Songs

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!  So you don’t sound like the singers in Pentatonix.  So what?  With what breath God has placed in your lungs, and with the lips and vocal cords God has given you, make a joyful noise unto Him!  Do you not think He knows what skill (or lack thereof) He has given you with regard to your voice?  Is it that:

  • You cannot sing?
    • Has the Lord taken your voice from you?  If so, use what God has provided to you to make a joyful noise to Him.  Clap, whistle, stomp your feet!
  • You don’t want to sing?
    • If not, why?  The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Find your joy in Christ, and let it come out of you again, even in your pain, misery, and despair.  Overcome for just a few minutes.  Don’t let the enemy of your soul get the better of you!
  • You aren’t trained to sing?
    • Take classes.  As your worship team at your church to help you.  Take that smart phone you have, record your voice as you sing, and try to match people who are singing.  Ask God to help you to use your voice to honor and glorify Him.  He desires that you do this, so He will make a way…

Everyone, Everywhere

We have been commanded by our Savior to go out into the world, making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All means ALL.  Tell everyone!  You are the messenger, the mail-delivery person.  Deliver the mail!  Do you job!  Don’t worry if people get angry at you.  They are angry at the message – this is to be expected.  They cannot separate the message from the messenger, so they may lash out at you because they can’t reach up into heaven to strike against God Himself.  It is an occupational hazard.

Shout Shamelessly

Do you feel the overwhelming desire to shout praises to God because of His goodness, mercy, and grace?  Let it out!  God is giving you the OK to do so.  We need to express to Him our joy in what He has done for us.  The world may think we are crazy.  But God is pleased when we seek to please Him first and not worry about what the world thinks.  Don’t let the enemy of your soul stifle your praise for God because of the whispers in your ear telling you that you shouldn’t: God’s holy word says that you SHOULD!  If David could dance and leap before the Lord in joy, why shouldn’t you?

God is Great

We cheer on our Football Team, our Basketball Team, our Soccer Team, our Hockey Team, our Baseball Team, and every and any other team that is out there.  Why, then, can’t we cheer on our God?  Should we not proclaim to all that God is Great?  Do we only reserve praise, shouts of exclamation, and roars of excitement for sporting events and concerts?  What’s the difference?  Do you not shout for your team to win even if you are at an away game, wearing your team’s jersey, aware that others may not be so thrilled with your choice of team and their success?  If you are willing to do this for “mere mortals”* at a sporting event or in a public gathering where the games are shown, why wouldn’t you do this for your God who is MUCH greater than any sports team?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I proclaiming the works and goodness of Almighty God to others more often and more loudly than I cheer on mere mortals?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are too gracious to me.  Help me to let the world know of what You have done.  Help me to get my priorities straight, and to give You the greater honor and glory that You so rightly deserve.  Help me to be bold in telling the world about You and what You have done for them and myself, and I pray that the Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of any who hear me so that they would receive the seeds that are sown, and be ready to say “Yes!” to Jesus.  Remove the cultural inhibitions that I have, and make me bold for Christ.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


  • You have never met a “mere mortal”.  The Bible instructs us that everyone dies once, then goes to face judgment.  Each and every human being you encounter has an eternal destiny, and though the body may be destroyed, at the second coming of Christ, the graves will open and the sea will give up the dead, and all will be summoned before God, either at the White Throne seat of judgment where the wicked will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire with Satan and the fallen angels, or take their place at the right hand of God where they will receive their reward in righteousness.  There is no in-between.  Let there be no mistake about it – everyone has an appointment with the Holiest Judge of All – The Lord God Almighty.  With that in mind, look at others now with a different sense of purpose.

 

Letting Go of the Past -Isaiah 43:18-19

In Order To Move Forward, You Need To Leave The Past Behind

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

Finally, Forget!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have selective amnesia?  To suddenly be able to forget something to the point you cannot even remember that it occurred? God, through the prophet Isaiah, is telling us that we have the ability to place the past behind us.  We are capable of utilizing our brains in such a way that we can forget the past and put it behind us.  It generally involves three steps:

  1. Dealing with the past (emotionally, spiritually, and relationally)
  2. Choosing not to dwell on the past
  3. Choosing to dwell on a more powerful passion – the future!

In order to move forwards, you need to first deal with the past.  This can involve several steps (the following is not an exhaustive list, but several broad starting points – let God direct the path YOU need take):

  • Repent of past sins
    • Approach God with an open and humble heart.  Allow God to show you where you need to forgive, what you need to rectify, and what you need to abandon.
  • Repair past relationships
    • Reconcile with anyone that may have anything against you.  Allow God to show you who they are.  There may be people who are just too dangerous to reconcile at this time (or ever), so be aware of God’s leading in this
  • Settle old debts
    • Do what you can to settle any debts you have with anyone.  Make a clean break  where possible.  Sometimes, this is not possible financially. Allow God to direct you in what you can do, and let Him do what He needs to do.
  • Stopping fruitless projects
    • Arborists will cut a diseased limb off of a tree to save the tree.  This is not an act of cruelty to the tree, but rather a life-saving act of mercy.  In the same way, allow God to show you where time and life stealing endeavors in your life are causing you too many problems, and let go of them.  The desires of the past will be replaced with a vision of the future…

Don’t Dwell

We are told to place our worries, problems, emotional distress, and everything that we have to deal with at the foot of the cross.  This is bringing it to Jesus in prayer, asking that He bear the burdens that are too difficult for us to bear, and walking away.  The problem with many disciples of Christ is that after we set down our baggage at the cross, we pick it right back up and walk away with it.

Practically, this is when we give something to God, then we keep remembering it in our minds.  God is able to move our sin as far as the East is from the West.  He is able to forgive and forget.  We need to do the same.  The problem is, many of us don’t want to forget.  We immediately begin thinking of how so-and-so did such-and-such to us.  When we do that, we have picked up our baggage and taken it with us as we leave the cross.  Additionally, the enemy of our souls, Satan, will remind us and hound us constantly when we are trying to let go of something.  He’ll place thoughts in our mind like, “How DARE that man in that car just careen in front of you and nearly cause you to crash!  Unbelievable!  What is the world coming to?  What is wrong with these people?!”  By getting us to rehash the past, we are unable to focus on the future…

The brain is very interesting.  It acts like a record.  After repeated thought patterns occur (dwelling on the past), it forms grooves in the brain to reinforce the pattern, thought, or behavior (we call this habits, attitudes, and character).  The brain can then more quickly access these pathways, and they slowly become ingrained in us.  And when we encounter a problem, it goes to these “thought highways” where we can”quickly resolve” the issue.  It is like a needle in a record’s groove – there is a path that is easy to take, and we can get into ruts where the needle just skips and goes in the same groove forever and ever…

However, the brain is dynamic and can change.  We need to forge new paths, or highways, in the brain.  And just as it is difficult to make a new groove on a record with a needle, so it is with our brains.  Eventually, when we no longer use the old highways, the brain will eventually allow them to dissipate.  Eventually, these old highways become distant echos of the past.  You truly can retrain the brain.

Different Development

God then reminds us that He is constantly doing new things!  Rather than watch movies in our minds about the past, we can look to the present and the future, where God is already causing new developments to occur.  He is constantly and actively at work in our lives, the lives of others around us, and in the world.

Because we are created in the image of God, we have curiosity.  In Revelations 21:5, God tells us He is making everything new.  The Greek word used for making, poiO, means continually making (new).  God recognizes that we become bored easily and can focus on the past.  Even in the far future, in eternity, God will be doing new things continually!

Embrace Eruptions

In order to embrace the present and the future, we need to pay attention to what is going on around us.  God is moving, and if we don’t carefully watch, He may go off in a direction while we are too busy smelling the dying roses.  We need to be open to what God is doing, and to watch carefully and eagerly to perceive what is about to come.

The skill of discernment is sadly lacking in many disciples of Christ.  This skill is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the continued growth and protection of the disciple.  We have been told that we can test and approve of God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.  How can we do that if we are not even attempting to discern what His will is in a particular matter?  Practice makes perfect.  Start today, and ask God to help you to develop the skill of discernment.

Forging Forward

God has said that He would go before us and prepare a way ahead of us.  Just as he drove out the people of Canaan for the Israelites so that they could inhabit the inheritance of the promised land, God is also preparing a path for us individually and corporately.  God is always looking ahead, making minor course adjustments here and there so that everything that He ever prophesied about through His people and recorded for us to know will come to pass.  God is not a liar, and He will not be made out to be a liar.  God will ensure that his plans will ALWAYS succeed, even if that means that He needs to move mountains or take people home.  We are to discern that path that God is making and walk alongside Him as He forges a new path forward.  By walking alongside Jesus, rather than camping out in the past, we are best prepared to grow and let the past go.

Royal Reclamation

When streams are created in the wasteland, the life-giving water begins to transform the area as plants find renewed ability to grow and flourish.  Physical water allows the land to flourish; spiritual water allows God’s people to flourish.  God is opening springs of living water in each of us through His Holy Spirit, and the living water that gushes out brings life and life abundantly to us.  And as the holy things are being watered, the dead, dying, decaying things of the flesh begin to rot and return to their proper place.  But just as rotting material stinks, so will our sin nature attempt to get our attention.  We must focus on the future, and in doing so, we can and will let go of the past.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I focusing on the future, or dwelling in the past?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is good, and it tells me that I am able to let go of the past.  Help me to process the emotional scars of the past so that I can move forward to the future.  Give me the ability to refute the accusations of the enemy of my soul, and to dwell on what You are doing rather than on what has already occurred.  Give me a renewed sense of Your plans and purposes so that I may see where the path lies that You have forged for me to move ahead.  Give me the strength to leave what is behind me at the foot of the cross, and to forge forward to what You are getting ready to do.  Help me to deal with the baggage of the past, and to approach the future with unhindered, open hands, raised in adoration and worship of You as You lead me forward.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessings of Obedience – Psalm 128

Obedience To God Results In Blessings By God

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children-
peace be on Israel.

Revel in Reverence

Obedience is a word that is treated like the plague.  Very few people want to be obedient.  To be obedient means that there may be (most likely will be) great sacrifice, pain, and personal loss in a person’s life.  Jesus likened obedience to love:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Obedience to the word of God brings about the circumstances necessary to transform the lives of men and women into the character and capacity of Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In obedience we find freedom.  And in freedom, we find joy and peace.  God greatly desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can have the freedom to follow Him:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The difference between obedience and legalism is that obedience leads to freedom, and  legalism leads to bondage.

Bountiful Blessings

Obedience has its own rewards, apart from the joy of knowing that God is pleased with how you are living your life.  Obedience brings and abundance of blessings.  God is faithful and rewards those who seek after Him in obedience.  There are many blessings to be found in obedience.  The Psalmist lists several.

Wonderful Wife

The man who is obedient to God will have a wife that is fruitful.  Children are a blessing and a reward from God.  Additionally, the wife of an obedient man is most likely following in his footsteps, and is obedient to God and to him as well.  Everything that she does will pour forth out of her joy in Jesus and her husband.  She will be able to trust in her husband, and show him the respect that he desires and deserves, because she will already be showing God the respect that He deserves through obedience.  Her hands will be busy, and she will be fruitful in all that she does.

Chosen Children

When a man is obedient to God, his children will most likely follow suit.  Children model their parents, whether they want to or not.  They learn by watching our example.  And when it is real to them, they will embrace it as they taste and see that the Lord is good.  They will grow in grace and righteousness before God, and will be a blessing to their parents.

Powerful Prosperity

In obedience, those who follow God will be prospered.  God looks to the future and the spiritual rather than the present and the physical.  And while He desires that we prosper here on Earth, He has an even stronger desire that we prosper in Him.  Obedience produces the character that God desires in His children in the same way that parents desire that their children obey them.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

After all, in obedience, we are afforded great, abundant, and valuable wealth:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ

Long Life

Obedience to God gives us wisdom, and God grants long life to those who seek Him in obedience.  They will live a full life, and be afforded the opportunity to see their grandchildren grow.  Their heritage will be available to be a blessing to them, and they will rejoice that God has given them the opportunity to witness it and to participate in their upbringing.  This is not an iron-clad contractual promise, but rather a generalization that bears out in our experience as we live long and prosper on the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking obedience to God, or His blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have greatly blessed me in that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ to me, and have given me the faith to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.  Give me a heart of obedience so that I will be like Your servant David, who heart was continually turning or turned towards You.  Help me to overcome my sin so that I would be able to be even more obedient to Your word and Your will.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I might yield all that I am and all that I have to You in worship.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Compromising in Fear – 1 Samuel 21:10-15

Fear Drives People To Do Crazy Things

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

Calamitous Compromise

Compromise has a tendency to lead to our ruination.  In David’s case, it saw him descend into such low depths that he went and camped out in enemy territory, even acting insane because he feared for his life.  It didn’t help that Saul was looking to kill him.  But it bears looking at the life of David to remember why compromise can ruin our lives.

Sometimes difficultly will find its way into our lives.  Saul had sent out the equivalent of the Airborne Rangers and the Navy Seals to go find and eliminate David.  When the best of the best is out to kill you, it can drive a person to fear.  And when we act in fear, we begin to compromise.

Embedded in the Enemy

In an effort to be free of the constant hounding by Saul, the king of Israel, David went to Gath.  The first sign that you are “off the rails” in compromise is when you believe that it is safer in enemy territory than where God has planted you (apart from direct revelation from God that it is time to flee).  Any time we begin to compromise, we set ourselves up to be placed in a situation that will require even GREATER compromise.  Upon hearing that he was recognized, and rightly so for his prowess in battle, David begins to act counter to his heroic nature.  Instead of hiding in caves, he does something worse – he hides in plain sight.

Distasteful Deceit

David begins to act insane.  He knows that he will most likely be left alone if he appears to be a non-threatening, drooling idiot.  Rather than inquire of God for what he should do, David takes it upon himself to try to provide his own protection through compromise.  And while it surely saddened God that David was acting this way, David looked to himself first and took matters into his own hands.

We compromise any and every time that we believe we have a better chance at success than God does.  And while most of us are certainly are in no position to criticize David, God was gracious enough to give us his example so that we could learn from it.  God had successfully hid other people from harm many times in the past:

Careful Consideration

Every time that we take a step in compromise, it leads us down a dark path.  As we walk farther away from the truth, it becomes more murky, and we find that it becomes easier to do things that, under normal circumstances, we would never even consider doing.  People in desperate times have eaten their own children during sieges to stay alive.

So what can we do when we are faced with compromise?

  • Turn our eyes upon Jesus.  He is the one who is our strength and shield.  Not every encounter with the enemy allowed the righteous to live (read the second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven), but they faced death with dignity and brought great glory and honor to God in how they handled themselves.
  • Pray to God for wisdom.  Oftentimes, we are blind-sided with great difficulty that demands swift and immediate action.  Sometimes, we are so emotionally overwhelmed, that our first instinct is to act and not to ask.  That is when it is most dangerous.  There is certainly a time to act before asking (YES, pull the little girl out of the burning car first…)
  • Pray to God, asking for strength to do what is right.  There will be times when our enemies have backed us into a corner.  They have maneuvered us into what appears to be a no-win situation.  But when we hold steadfast to God, and refuse to compromise, God may yet deliver us from our difficulties.  And when we refuse to compromise (do what is evil in the sight of The Lord God Almighty), no matter the consequences, God is greatly honored and glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with compromise, and possibly terrible consequences, what is my first reaction?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is no evil in You.  You do not compromise Your goodness in any way for any reason.  Give me strength as I face the consequences for doing what is right in Your eyes.  Uphold me before my enemies, and let them know that I fear and revere You more than I do anything that they can do to me.  Give me a steadfast heart that always seeks You, Lord God.  Help me to overcome any fear that the enemy is trying to place in my heart, and to boldly step out in faith.  I may not survive, Lord, but I know in my heart that You will be honored and glorified in this.  Help me to have great peace as I face difficulty, and I know, Father, that You will reward faithfulness to You, if not in this life, in the next.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Press on Towards Christ – Philippians 3:12-14

We Have Not Yet Arrived

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Aggressively Advance

Paul had a form of tunnel vision.  It was the intentional, singular goal in his life – that he press on towards Christ.  Paul realized that the distractions of life would pull at him, and try to derail his efforts, keeping him from doing what God had determined before time began that he should accomplish:

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Each of us has a calling from God to do what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish.  We must strive with every ounce of energy in our bodies to do that which God desires for us to accomplish for, and in, His name.

Awaiting  Arrival

Many people would look at the ministry of Paul and say that Paul had arrived, that he had advanced as far as he could spiritually, was mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But Paul reminds us here that he himself recognizes that he has not yet arrived.  Paul can only see one thing – Christ and Him crucified.  Paul is in the process of allowing God to nail everything that is not of God that is still in Paul to the cross of Christ.  Paul still has a sin nature he inherited from Adam, and that causes him distress:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Forget the Former

Paul has a secret weapon that he uses effectively and mightily in the war on his flesh: He forgets what is behind.  When we dwell on the past, we are not able to focus on the future.  The past holds us in its grip, reminding us of our failures (guilt and shame), as well as our successes (pride and haughtiness), and traps us in a mental loop where we are unable to see clearly what we are doing or where we are going.  Paul reminds himself that he is forgiven.  You are forgiven!  All that you have ever done, are doing, and will do, is forgiven by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The ordinance of baptism is not only sign of obedience to God and to that world that you are now identifying with Christ rather than the world, it is designed, symbolically, to represent the cleansing of your sins, shedding all of the dirt of your past.  Practically, this act is designed to remove from your conscious and subconscious, all traces of guilt and shame for what has gone before.  When we go under the water, then come back up, our conscience is completely clean.  We feel new, and the burden of what was has been removed from our shoulders:

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ [Emphasis mine]

The blood of Christ washes our sins away.  Baptism washes the psychological effects of our sin away.  When we are baptized, we can feel that God has cleansed our conscience, and from there move forward.  If you have not been baptized because:

  • You have heard that it is legalism (it’s not – obedience to God is not legalism, it is the act of  gratitude and respect towards your Father in Heaven)
  • You have heard it is not required for salvation (it isn’t – the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised he would be in his kingdom [also look at Joel 2:32].  Requirements are just that – absolute, inviolable precursors needed to ensure success)
  • You have heard that you don’t have to be obedient in this command

then I highly recommend that you find someone who is willing to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that you can receive the blessing that comes both from obedience and the cleansing of your conscience!

Pointedly Proceed

Paul was straining towards what is ahead.  His sole focus was to keep his eyes on Christ, and continue to arrange his life in such a manner that he was passionately pursuing his own sanctification as well as the mission that God had provided to him.   Paul sought to please the Lord in everything he said, thought, and did.  He did not always succeed, but rather than live in the past, Paul strove towards the future and his goal: honoring his Lord Jesus Christ in all that he did and all that he was.

Gazing toward the Goal

The key to doing all of this is to keep our eyes focused solely upon Jesus.  There is a refrain in an old hymn that puts this in perspective:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What am I doing to press on towards the goal?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may all praise and glory be unto the Lord God Almighty, who is worthy.  I thank You for Paul’s life as an example of how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Thank you for showing me that perfection in this life is not possible, but it is You that looks at the hearts of men, and gives grace and mercy to all of us who fail, even though we strive with all of our hearts to obey You in everything You have said.  Grant me the strength to forgive myself, and help me to keep my eyes upon Jesus, so that I would always look forward, and leave the past behind.  Father, I know it is Satan who tries to get me to dwell in my past.  Help me to let go of the past.  And Father, I ask that you would help me to better understand how baptism cleanses my conscience.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, unaffected by my past, that I can strive with the singular purpose of love and obedience in following Jesus.  Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Philippians 1:27-30

Show No Fear – That Will Be A Witness That Any Who Oppose You Will Be Destroyed

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Live the Life

Paul exhorts us to live a life worthy of the gospel that we have received.  In the world today, it is so much easier to just “go with the flow”.  We must be vigilant, and guard our hearts against the pull of the world, our flesh, and the devil.  Everything that we do is being witnessed by men, angels, and God.

And although only God can see our thoughts, Satan has been around for who knows how many millennia, and he and his cohorts in crime are pretty good at guessing what we are thinking.  Impossible, you say?  How is it then that con artists are able to “read” a person – properly evaluate how a person is reacting to something – and then feed them information that will speak to their inner desires, resonate with them, and then get them to do things that no one in their right mind would ever voluntarily do?  They are able to see the “tells” that we all have.  We have imperceptible changes in breathing, heart rate, pupil dilation, fidgeting, and other subconscious involuntary reactions to our environment.  They are able to “read” them – notice them and then watch for them – as they probe us with their carefully crafted words.

Satan can do the same thing.  He and the demons have been studying humans since the creation of Adam and Eve.  They know more about you than you know about yourself.  They cannot read your thoughts, but because we are spiritual creatures, they are able to interact with us on a spiritual level, and “whisper in our ear” the lies that they want us to believe and internalize.  Not every thought in your mind started with you.  Satan can bring back to memory the deepest and most emotionally powerful memories that you have, usually of your failures (to shame you) or your successes (to lead you to pride).  That is one of the reasons that Paul told us that we should, “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When we do that, we are able to put everything in its proper place, and remember our training (“If you love me, you will obey my commands…”, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”).  A good offense needs a good defense as well.  Otherwise, the enemy will easily break through your line of defense, and cause you unspeakable pain while interrupting your carefully planned strategy for success.

Stand Strong

Paul also exhorts us to stand strong in the one Spirit.  In Ephesians 6:14, we are told to “stand firm“.  The Greek word for this is stEte.  It is an imperative command – we should do it! – and it has the word-picture of a Roman soldier who has dug his shield and both his feet firmly into the ground, bracing himself for the impact of a rushing hoard of enemies.  Paul tells us here we are to stand firm as well – stEkete, or “YE ARE STANDING firm”.   We are to lock shields with our brothers and sisters in Christ, hold the line, and in all of this, be unified in purpose and thought.

Unified Undertaking

Paul tells us to strive together as one for the faith of the Gospel.  We are to all be engaged in the last great commission of our Lord and Savior:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Face your Fear

Ah, the dreaded subject that is on our minds.  What will we do when we are opposed?  Internally, we are all frightened.  We are human, and God has instilled within us a very good mechanism that biologically activates a number of chemicals that inform us of what we should do when we are in perceived or real danger.  We experience fear.  It is a self-preservation mechanism that, if we didn’t have it, would cause many more of us to die unnecessarily.

If we had no fear in and of ourselves, we would do crazy things, like jump out of airplanes thousands of feet above the ground, jump off thousand food cliffs into coves of water, and…  Oh, I guess there ARE people who do these things!  We can overcome our fear of dying, pain, public embarrassment (that’s a hard one), public humiliation, and many other things that cause us fear.

But we don’t overcome them the way the way the world overcomes them.  We rely on and trust in the Lord God Almighty, who in our time of distress, gives us a peace that is beyond understanding and guards our hearts in Christ Jesus against anything that our enemies can bring against us.

When we react in this way, we are bringing two separate witnesses to bear:

  1. We are being saved (removes any doubt in the minds of those who oppose us)
  2. Our opposition will (eventually) be destroyed by a holy, righteous, and faithful God who doesn’t take it lightly when someone messes with their child (unless they repent).  Ask any parent what they would do if someone was trying to bring harm to their child.  Multiply that times infinity (God’s love and wrath are eternal), and you have God’s final reaction to any who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord in the flesh and opposes His children.

Selected for Suffering

Jesus Christ endured great hardship and suffering while He walked the Earth and died on the cross for our sins.  Since the student is not greater than the teacher, we should expect similar hardship and suffering while we engage in His work here on Earth.  Endure all hardship as discipline.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   Look to the life of Paul, and consider your suffering in light of His good example.  Remember what God said to Ananias concerning Saul, who was breathing threats against the brothers:

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When faced with fear, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that I am to show no fear in how I conduct myself.  You expect this of me, because You will provide for my every need at the time I need it.  You have said through Your servant John, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Help me to endure and allow perseverance to complete its work so that I may be mature in love.  Help me, as I overcome the enemy of my soul, that I would grow and mature in my walk with You.  Grant me the strength to walk, and the desire to live in holiness and righteousness before You and man.  Help me in my time of need when fear threatens to overtake me so that I would be bold, even unto death.  For even in death, You have promised me that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  This I ask in the precious name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Called to Suffering – Acts 9:16

Can God Trust You With Suffering?

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Carefully Called

We can rejoice that God does not do things at random:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

God, omniscient, knows all things, and has a plan that is coming to fruition.  He carefully selects people for what He wants them to do.  He said the following of King David:

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'”

Many people were called by God for different purposes.  Some were to lead God’s people as judges, prophets, or kings.  Others were called to be intercessors, such as Esther.  Still others were called to discipline the Israelites through conquering them and enslaving them.  In every case, it was God who called them for His specific purpose, in His specific timing, for His greater glory.

Providential Purpose

God has purpose in everything that He does.  God does not waste any opportunity.  What appears to us to be random sequences of events are actually the carefully placed trellis that leads those who climb up it to where God wants and needs them to be.  We are but a mist, here today, and gone tomorrow.  We do not have the luxury of divine perspective with regards to long periods of time, because the average life span of a human being is seventy years, eighty if God is gracious.  We are unable to see the intertwining connectivity of timing and events, and to see the tendrils of connectedness between seemingly unrelated events and how and where they will intersect with one another in a tsunami of repercussions.

In all things, God has specific purposes for what He has called us.  Each of us are to play a part in it.  Paul likens this to being parts in a body, each one with unique features but that are part of a greater whole, contributing to or inhibiting the growth and health of the whole.  In everything, there is purpose.  God places purpose in His creation to reveal to us that He is full of purpose, and that we are to play a part in the purposes of God.

Heavenly Hardship

One of the most difficult, yet needed, purposes for God’s plan is people who have been chosen to be examples.  Some have been chosen by God to be examples of what is good.  Others have been chosen to be examples of what is not good.

For example, Able, the son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should do because he made the right offering before God.  Conversely, Cain, another son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should not do because of his offering before God, and his subsequent actions in regards to his offering’s rejection by God.

We need to keep in mind that the student is not above the teacher.  And Jesus Christ, the very best example that the Lord God Almighty could have sent to us experienced divine hardship on a scale that none of us can even comprehend.  He suffered and experienced great hardship throughout His life, but always with the attitude that God the Father had purpose in His hardship, and that in being yielded to the Holy Spirit, His life would glorify God.

One of the most difficult hardships to be given by God is the hardship of suffering.

Severe Suffering

No one likes to suffer (unless they are mentally deranged).  Suffering produces pain in our lives, and makes our lives so difficult that we can barely function.  At times, suffering can be so severe that we are incapacitated by it, and truly cannot even function.  Ask a person who is recovering from ninety percent of their skin being burned off in a fire if they are able to function.  The answer is obvious – until they are healed, they cannot.

God called His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to ultimate suffering for us.  As payment for our sins, not only was the burden of our sins – every sin that every human being ever committed past, present, and future – laid upon his shoulders as He hung on the cross at Calvary, God withdrew His presence from Him, and He experienced complete and total separation from the presence, provision, and protection of God in complete and total isolation with that burden placed upon Him in ultimate pain and agony.  Let it never be said that our salvation is free; it is freely given to us, but the cost was unimaginable.

Sometimes people are called to severe emotional suffering.  They have survived rape, torture, abuse, war, and other unspeakable circumstances.  The scars of these events will affect them for ages to come.  But they have been called as witnesses to the power, grace and glory of God as He leads them out of the bondage that such devastation has caused.

Sometimes people are called to severe physical affliction.  Most people have experienced some type of physical affliction, whether it is sickness or a broken bone.  But God has called some to suffer, not for days, months, or even years, but DECADES of life with pain that would cause the average person to curl up into a fetal position in the corner and bemoan their life (take a look at the life of Job for better clarification on this).  Ask people who have trigeminal neuralgia what it is like to live where, possibly every few seconds, or every second, it feels like someone is striking your face with the full swing of a baseball bat.  This particular affliction is also called “the suicide disease” because people would rather take their own life than live with the consequences of it.

In some cases, such as Lyme’s disease, it can not only be a painful, life-sucking, energy-draining, body-wasting disease, it can cause great misery.  Pain can be medicated away, even with morphine drips.  But misery is in an entirely different category.  Being in a state of extreme misery for any extended period of time will have a person begging God to take their life.  And when the pain and the misery go on day after day, year after year, DECADE AFTER DECADE, and the person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom it appears God has forsaken in their disease and time of need, what are they to do?

Total Trust

God has called these particular people to suffering as example to others.  Suffering (and the hardship that comes with it) produces character, and character produces hope.  Hope, in the sense that the Bible uses the word, is not wishful thinking, but rather a reasoned and sound expectation that some future event will occur.  In this, disciples of Christ have hope that God will work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  The purpose is to trust that Almighty God is sovereign, that He has a plan, that He has not forsaken those who suffer hardship, and be an example to others that in their pain and hardship, God is real and is able to get them through their trials as well.

When these great saints of God are called to severe suffering, and show complete and total trust through it, it is a powerful message to those who do not believe in God that there must be something that is helping those who are suffering to believe.  It is evident to most people who, in light of this type of suffering, there is no circumstance in the world that can force a person to believe that their suffering has purpose and is worth enduring apart from the sovereign grace and power of Almighty God.

Total trust in God yields great fruit, both in the life of the one suffering, and in the example provided to those who need an example to continue on in their own difficulties.  God loves it when we trust Him through these difficulties.  David spoke of this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The trust goes two ways.  We are to trust God, because He and He alone is completely trustworthy.  But God also trusts us.  To those whom He has placed the terrible burden of suffering, He trusts them to properly display that trust right back at Him.  The more hardship God brings into your life – and that which is NOT caused by your own sin, actions, or as consequences of your life choices – the more that he is trusting you for something great.

There is a story that goes something like this:

A man was at a lumberyard watching the lumberjacks move mighty trees from the forest down the river to where they would be sawn for wood.  At a junction in the river, there was a lumberjack who, every now and then, would direct one of the large trees floating in the water down a smaller path of the river.  There appeared to be no difference in the appearance of the trees, so this seemed odd to the man.  The man then asked the lumberjack directing these trees down the river what he was doing.

The lumberjack told the man the trees he was directing down the smaller path were from the very top of the mountain.  They received the most abuse from the weather, and they were constantly buffeted by the wind, rain, and snow.  These mighty trees looked like the others, but because of the abuse they took, along with the fact that they had not broken in the process, were of exceptional quality.  The wood had a much finer grain, and when used by carpenters, made the very finest furniture and brought the highest price on the market.  They were destined to be used by the most skilled artisans in the land for the most sought after projects, and were to be displayed in the most coveted of places because of the beauty that grew in them due to the hardship of the weather.

And just as the trees in this story brought praise to the artisans that used them with their great skill, so will the hardship in our lives be used by God to bring Him the maximum amount of glory, and be useful for displaying His craftsmanship and character.

Glorifying God

The end result of everything that God has done in the past, is doing now, and will do in the future, is to bring glory to Himself.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength.  He alone is The Great I AM, providing for our every need, displaying His love and infinite power to all who would take notice.

When a person is willing to be used by God for this purpose, God will use them mightily in ministry and to display His glory.  There is no greater honor than to be used by God in this way, as Jesus Christ demonstrated to us on the cross at Calvary.  But are we willing to go through the difficulty and hardship that is required to bring about the changes necessary to properly display what God has planned in His heart for us to show the world?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to allow God to bring hardship and suffering in my life to fulfill His plans and purposes for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is perfect, and Your will and character are perfect as well.  You have shown throughout Your word that You can be trusted with everything, for You are perfect in every way.  Father, help me to endure suffering and hardship as discipline.  Help me to gain Your perspective on my circumstances so that I may be willing to be used by You for the calling that You have placed upon my life.  Help me to be faithful to You throughout the process so that during the trials, and when I come out on the other side, You will be shown rightly to all who watch.  Guard my heart against bitterness through the process, and fill me with Your peace and power that all things You have planned would come to pass.  This I ask in the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Carnal Christianity – Genesis 13:12-13

We Are To Pitch Our Tents Towards God, Not Towards Sodom

12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Choose Carefully

Each of us will eventually be faced with a choice.  When we reach that fork in the road, we will have to choose which way we should go.  And though there may be more than two choices, there is usually one good choice, and not-so-good choice.

Lot was given first pick of where he would like to go.  Rather than choose the land as far from sin as possible, he chose the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah.  In itself, choosing this direction is not evil.  However, we must be very careful when we choose to dwell near evil, because constant exposure to wickedness can deaden our revulsion to it.

In today world, in Western Culture, we have reports where people are being raped and murdered, and rather than help the innocent victims, like the Good Samaritan, people turn the cameras of their smartphones on and, in wonder, record the wickedness of men, only to later post the videos of the encounter on such file-sharing services as YouTube, hoping that it will “go viral.”  In a world where people would willingly allow unspeakable evil happen to their neighbor to generate ratings on their YouTube channel, they have become inured to the effects of evil.

The path to desensitization is a slow and insidious process.  Once we become desensitized to something, we can properly justify its existence, and if we are not careful, embrace it as normal, natural, socially acceptable, and then preferable.  Let’s look to the life of Lot to see how “pitching our tents towards Sodom” can lead a person from revulsion to acceptance and “tolerance.”

Parked in the Periphery

When the groups of men of Abram and his relative Lot became so large that there was quarreling between the two group, Abram told Lot to choose a direction and he would go in the other.  Lot chose the fertile plains towards Sodom, and “pitched his tents towards Sodom.”

When we intentionally head towards wickedness, we need to be particularly careful that we are not influenced by our situation.  We are called to be light and salt.  But we must not be deceived:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Lot, in choosing what appeared to be the more verdant land that promised to greatly prosper his family, chose an area near a people who participated in great wickedness.  This would eventually lead to his family’s downfall.

Gathered at the Gates

After Lot had been captured and later rescued by Abram, we later see that he was sitting in the city gates.  This was the prominent position where the elders of the city would gather.  Lot, as a believer in the Lord God Almighty, should have been of great influence in the land.  He was now a part of the city elders, the equivalent of being on City Council.  He had every opportunity to talk to the people, but as we will see, the people did not heed his example, and later would threaten him for even suggesting that they abstain from abject wickedness.

Lot was no longer in the periphery, he was an active part of the community, and actually making decisions for the community.  On the surface this would appear to be an ideal situation.  But let’s look at how much the people actually respected and revered his position of authority with them:

Total Toleration

Lot’s place was now at the city gate.  He was in the thick of things.  He could either be an influence for good, or “go with the flow” and  “go along to get along” so that he wouldn’t rock the boat and possibly damage the economic benefits that came with such a position and influence.  Let’s see exactly how much he had influenced the culture:

4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

We can see that they, in their wicked and insatiable desires, immediately classified him as a foreigner, and an obstacle to their carnal desires.  They actually threatened to do worse to Lot than they had planned to do to the angels.  It is interesting to note that they are making a comment about Lot’s attitude towards their behavior.  Note that they say, …”and now he wants to play the judge!” (emphasis mine).  He apparently had not said a thing to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah about their wickedness.  He would have been soundly trounced and driven out of there had he said a single word that offended them.  Their reaction conclusively shows that he remained quiet about their lifestyle until now.  We can only speculate as to why.  But the Bible does say:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But now let’s look at Lot’s reaction.  While protecting visitors was of utmost importance in the culture regarding hospitality at the time, rather than rebuking them, he offered his two daughter’s to them to be ravaged with their peculiar predilections.  While it is true that in Lot’s time women were not thought of as highly as they are today in Western culture, this was an abomination – to sacrifice your own children.  Would it not be better to protect your family, and go down swinging?  Lot compromised by potentially harming his innocent family in order to try to maintain peace and the hope of still living among people who might very well have done unspeakable horrors to his innocent children.

Lot had been influenced by the culture rather than influencing the culture.  There is always the danger that, when living in the midst of cultural decay, we adopt the attitudes of what we see around us as acceptable, and don’t even realize how deeply we have been affected by wickedness until a time of desperation and great trial comes upon us.  It is only then that we will see how we will respond.  Which training and beliefs will win through the trial – the teachings and beliefs in Almighty God, or the Godless beliefs of the culture we have CHOSEN to live in?

Paul indicated that we are to separate ourselves from the world.  This is not to separate us physically from the world, but rather to separate our values, beliefs, morals, and actions from what the world system teaches.  As we go about our ways, we must constantly be in communication and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and walk yielded to the Holy Spirit of God, lest we find ourselves slowly being sucked into culture, and eventually, indistinguishable from it.

When we reach this stage – where the way we act is indistinguishable from the world around us – that we find that we have become carnal Christians.  We are no longer disciples of Christ, but rather holding on to a semblance of piety, spouting belief in the holy word of God, and perhaps even memorizing the word, but not allowing its power to transform our lives into the character and caliber of people as befits us as image-bearers of God:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Final Forbearance

When we get to this stage, we are confronted by a holy, almighty God:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I influencing culture, or is culture influencing me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy God, and cannot stand sin in Your presence.  Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me.  Show me my transgressions, and expose any inroads that the enemy has purchased in my soul.  Help me to see how egregious this is to You, and to be shocked again at the vileness of sin.  Give me a right perspective that aligns completely with Your heart and Your word.  Let me not go my own way, but rather purchase gold refined by Your fire, so that I may be restored to You.  Help me to be a powerhouse influence in culture.  And if that costs me dearly, so be it.  I would rather be hated by men and near to You than to be loved by men and spewed out of Your mouth.  Help me to fight the emotional battles that need to be fought, and provide me with the strength to have solid footing when there are consequences for speaking up for You.  I announce to the world this day that my allegiance is with Almighty God, and not culture.  Do with me what You will, I already know my eternal future.  Let me say to the world, “come with me that you may have life, and have it super-abundantly”, and know in my heart that You are sovereign over all, Lord God.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Discernment and God – Philippians 1:9-11

Perfection In Love Provides Discernment For What Is Good

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Lengthening Love

Paul was given, as part of his gifting by the Holy Spirit, a heart to see the people of God grow in their knowledge and discernment. Paul recognized that since God is love, increasing in the very defining characteristic of Almighty God would provide the perfect place for the development of knowledge and insight into the wonderful character of our Creator.

As we grow in love, we grow in the understanding and capability to actively participate in the character of God, and therefore to know Him experentially. This gives us the opportunity to increase in our discernment of what is good and proper. Love fulfills the law, and love shows us the way to what is good. For of every good giving and every perfect gift, love is the most powerful and lasting of them all.

Increase Insight

Paul desires that we develop the insight into the character and experiential knowledge of God. It is not merely enough to learn about something. To truly understand it, you must embrace it and experience it. It them becomes real for you, and as you practice anything, its nuances and the depths of its virtues become apparent.

For instance, it may look wonderful to jump from an airplane, free-fall for a while, and then pull the cord to release the parachute to glide gently to the Earth. This all looks good, fun, and liberating, but until you actually do it, you won’t experience the thrill of free-fall, the wind against your face, the buffeting of the air against your body, the temporary feeling of liberation from gravity, and the majesty of seeing the land beneath you from a great height.

You won’t experience the nuance of controlling the parachute with your controls, moving left and right, leveling and directing your glide, working with and against the currents of the air, and the moment of truth as you try to gently end your flight without causing harm to your body as you either suddenly or slowly decelerate your fall with your feet and legs. It only becomes real to you when you do it. Words cannot truly describe what the body must experience. And words cannot truly describe what the spirit must experience as well.

Develop Discernment

As we exercise our spirit through the practical application of love, we will have the wonderful opportunity to increase our capacity to discern what is good. Exercising love provides the circumstances in which we can more fully understand and discern what is good and right. This gives us the perspective of wisdom – the practical application of knowledge – that helps us to grow spiritually wise.

Discernment is a vital tool in the life of a disciple of Christ. Discernment provides the filter through which paths can be assessed to end in good or evil. Discernment give the disciple insight to grow in love and the character of Almighty God. Without discernment, we will fall for every trick of the enemy, and find ourselves ruined, and possibly find our faith shipwrecked:

1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

4 “But let no one bring a charge,
let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother-
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

Filled with Fruit

The fruit of righteousness comes from and through the experiential knowledge of following Jesus Christ – obeying His commands.  When we obey Jesus, we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit has He did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  And when the Holy Spirit of God indwells us, and we give Him permission to work in us and through us, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Producing Praise

When we are walking in the spirit – being filled with the fruit of the Spirit by the One who provides the fruit, we live a life that bring glory and praise to Almighty God.  As we bear fruit in accordance with the will of God, we develop discernment concerning both how to bear fruit, and what we should avoid in order to bear more fruit.  Just as an arborist prunes trees so that the dead wood no longer burdens the tree, and increases the available nutrients for the good branches, so does discernment help us to stop feeding the dead wood in our lives.  It is only when we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit that we are living a life that is correctly modeling our divine calling and nature as image-bearers of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I increasing in the insight and discernment by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to bear fruit through me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is the greatest honor to bear fruit for You.  You have given me life as a branch unnaturally attached to the vine, grafted in for Your pleasure.  You prune my dead wood, and help me to grow and bear even more fruit for You.  Help me to recognize the dead wood in my life, and to deny it any thought or energy.  Help me to let it die, and be pruned off, so that I would grow in grace, wisdom, and discernment of what is good, proper, and holy.  Help me to be sustained by Your nourishment, for You provide for all of my needs.  Guide me in the way I should go, and help me to do all that You have planned for me to do in Your will and Your way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Titus 2:11-12

Live A Godly Life By Saying No To Worldly Passions

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

Grace of God

Salvation to all people has now been made available through the graciousness of The Lord God Almighty.  Grace is the mitigating factor in for the perfect justice of God.  He cannot look upon evil with approval.  Grace provides us with the opportunity, clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, to come before Him in prayer for the forgiveness of sin.

Taken to the extreme, grace can be abused.  Paul warns us that we should not continue sinning so that grace can abound.  We are to accept grace as an intervening agent that is our source of salvation, and provides us with the opportunity to walk in holiness and uprightness before God.  If we rely entirely upon grace to see us through life, and live our lives the way that WE want, we are not submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  There are some key scriptures that bear repeating over and over.  One is the command of Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief:  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  By relying completely on grace and ignoring the commands of the Holy Spirit of God, we place ourselves in a perilous situation where Christ may refuse to acknowledge us when He returns:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Decline Distractions

We are to be in training as soldiers of Christ, not involving ourselves in the affairs of civilians.  In this, we are to focus upon the desires of our Father in Heaven, and not the pursuit of worldly passions, which is ungodliness.  We are to rightly discern what is good and right, and what is wrong and evil.  This is a skill that every disciple should be training to do.  As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, we can test God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.

What is it that plagues you?  What trips you up, sucking you into its death spiral of doom, ruining your walk with God, and destroying your relationships and efforts at pursuing righteousness?  It is these things that we need to say “No” to so that we are able to say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to righteousness, and “Yes” to victory.  Without declining ungodliness and worldly passions, we are like a cup, being constantly filled with the world, with no space left to be filled with God.  Saying “No” empties us of the passions and pursuits that vie for our time, talent, and treasure in conflict with the known will of God through His word.

Get Godly

Live a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly in this present age.  Each and every person alive on Earth, whether they choose to acknowledge it, is an image bearer of God.  Everyone, by their very existence, owe their very lives to God, for He has created us.  When we choose to live lives devoid of self-control, we deny what God has already declared is true – that we bear His image.

It is only by living upright, godly lives that we are able to properly bear the image of God.  We have been given the opportunity by God in a gracious act of love to be able to choose how we want to live our lives.  Plagued with a sin nature, and the constant goading and pressures of the world, the devil, and our own evil desires, we do not have the strength by ourselves to overcome this.  Always turn to God when you sin.  Allow His grace and mercy to overwhelm you, and take joy in Him who created You so that You will find the strength to continue when circumstances do their very best to destroy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I find that living a godly life is a greater desire in my life than that of worldly pursuits?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly pour out your grace and mercy upon me.  Help me in my weakness so that You will be my strength.  Help me to lean upon You for strength as my circumstances overwhelm me.  Give me a heart like David, that I might continually turn to You and desire Your holiness in my life, regardless of how bad I have messed up.  Help me to be humble before You, that You would lift my head up and restore me.  Grant me the desire and strength to live a holy life, far removed from the worldly passions and pursuits that bombard me with promises of fulfillment that only You can fulfill.  Shake me out of my complacency, and equip me to focus on the tasks at hand.  Remove the pull of desire that distracts me from You and fulfilling Your will in this life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Ambassadors for Christ – 1 Corinthians 5:16-21

You Have Never Met A Mere Mortal…

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Powerful Perception

As humans, we have a tendency to look at people as just physical beings.  We don’t actually “see” the spirit, so we look outwardly.  Before we knew Christ, we did the same.  But God has awakened within us our spirit, and made us alive in Christ.  And we now need to look at everyone in this same way – alive or dead.

Zombies are a fictitious creature that are physically dead, but somehow animated (usually through some type of viral contagion) that makes the body appear alive, but without the ability to consciously be aware or responsible for its actions.  In a way, before we knew Christ, we were spiritual zombies.  Our spirit was dead, but our physical bodies were still going about doing things.  Once we become alive in Christ, we see the spiritually dead for what they are – and they aren’t even aware of their condition.

Each and every human ever created – whether from the dust or rib like Adam and Eve, or through conception by the Holy Spirit or physical relations – has a soul.  And each of us have an eternal end – either spiritually alive in Christ, or spiritually dead in the Lake of Fire.  Since we have been awakened, let us make every effort to see people in this way, and to tell them of the good news of Christ, that more may awaken from their slumber before it becomes permanent death – eternal separation from the Lord God Almighty.

Creation Changed

The translation in verse seventeen is not quite right.  It should read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation…”  Every time someone is awakened from their spiritual slumber from death to life, a new body part is added to the body.  And when that happens, the body changes – the church (the entire body of Christ) becomes an entirely new creation, having a new part attached to it!  As new parts are attached, the body is able to perform its job better, because it now have more opportunity with its fuller capability to serve the Lord.

And just as Paul said, “The old is gone, the new is here!”, the body is now different and new, and something that it wasn’t before.  The old body now looks different and can act different – it is something new that the world has never seen!  Every time someone accepts Christ, the body of Christ grows and needs to be viewed differently.  We ignore the change to the body to our very peril.  Each piece needs to grow into maturity; otherwise, it will drain the body of resources, and perhaps even make the body look sickly, weak, ineffective, or outright distasteful.  The body must be nurtured, fed well, and exercised in order for it to work effectively.  We cannot ignore new body as it morphs into its new shape and function without severely impacting its health.

Reconciliation Retold

We have been given the message of reconciliation.  Like a messenger who has been given a time-sensitive and urgent message to deliver to key allies in a war, we have been given the message of reconciliation of God and Man through the God-man Jesus Christ.  The message that God is now reconciling us through the shed, perfect blood of His one and only Son Jesus Christ is of paramount importance to get to our allies – those who will listen, receive, and obey the message.

Deliver the Declaration

We have been tasked with getting the message out to all the world.  All people need to hear the message, so that the body can remain healthy and growing, and ensure that all who would be reconciled to God would do so.  You have heard the message.  Be reconciled!

At this time, even in the Middle East, where night has fallen and no one can work, Jesus is sending them dreams and visions, revealing Himself to all who would listen to Him, and imploring them to be reconciled to God.  But even those who have not heard the message will be held to account:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Don’t fall down on the job; be the messenger that God intended for you to be.  Deliver the message to everyone, and let God work on their hearts and the growth of the seed that you have sown.  Remember – You have never seen a mere mortal.  Everyone has an eternal destiny.  Help others find theirs, as you have found yours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I look at people, what do I see?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to me, and opened my eyes that I would see, and opened my ears that they would hear.  You have redeemed me out of the miry muck of sin, and have given me the robe of righteousness that covered Your Son.  Father, give me a heart that reaches out to those who do not know You.  Help me to model Your character to them, and to treat them as You have treated me, with love, compassion, mercy, and grace.  Help me to reveal You to them, and to speak up regardless of the circumstances.  But in all things, give me a heart of obedience to the Holy Spirit, so that in Your timing, Your way, and with Your words, the message of reconciliation will be properly delivered to all.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Witnessing for God – John 4:39-42

The Power Of The Spoken Word Is Not To Be Underestimated

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Say Something

Sometimes, the most important thing to do is just to say something:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Since faith comes through hearing the message, if we don’t tell other people, how will they come to faith?  God not only uses people, but also the heavens above to speak about Himself:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Even the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  All creation bears witness to Him:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

God prefers that people hear testimony about Himself from people, for we are more persuasive, and people are more able to relate to our experiences.

Seed the Soil

When we speak about Almighty God and His Son, Jesus Christ, we are sowing spiritual seed in the hearts of whomever may hear.  It takes a great effort to prepare the soil, fertilize it, and get it ready for the farmer to plant seed.  The Holy Spirit, using the trials of life, gets the soil of our hearts ready for the seed of the Gospel.

And like all seed, it needs to be watered, and the soil needs to be weeded.  If we don’t, the soil will dry up, and the seed will die.  Paul used this analogy as well:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

It is important to remember that our job is to plant and water.  God is the one who prepares the soil, and makes the seed grow.  That’s not our responsibility.  Many people take on the burden of results when that solely belongs to God.  Then, when it takes time for the seed to grow, they grow discouraged.  Just as seed takes time to germinate and grow, so too does the word of God in the lives of many people.

Hefty Harvest

And when the plant has reached full maturity, it is time to harvest it.  We have been given the wonderful opportunity to see the work that God has done in someone’s life come to fruition when they believe upon The Lord Jesus Christ and give their life back to Him.  God uses us to help people make the final leap from faith to action.

These are very simple things that disciples of Christ can do, and have been commanded to do.  Yet for some reason, many are not engaging in the tasks that we have been assigned.  Whether it is fear of rejection (you are just the mailman!), not knowing the right answers (be a Berean – study the scriptures!), or whatever else it may be, we need to be engaged in the business with which our King has entrusted us.  Let us be found faithful in our responsibilities so that we will not be ashamed when He returns.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I actively seeking out opportunities to witness to people about the work that God has been doing in my life and the lives of His people?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, give me a heart that is burdened for the lost.  Help me to be more attentive to those who do not know You, and share the good news with them.  Strengthen me when I am challenged, and help me to overcome all obstacles that I may face when speaking about You.  Give me an opportunity today to share You with someone who doesn’t know You, and help me to be content in just doing that.  And when it is time, help me to be one of the workers sent into the fields to harvest those whose soil has been prepared and whose seed has matured.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:40-42

God Will Certainly Reward Each And Every One Of Us For What We Have Done In The Flesh

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Welcoming the Witness

Jesus proclaims something very profound here regarding witnessing for Him.  When someone accepts you, they are accepting Him.  Those who witness for Christ at His request are His ambassadors.  They have the full weight and power to go out and represent the person abroad.

The disciples of Jesus have been given His full authority to act in His name – His very character – to represent Him to others.  And when we represent Him, we are, in fact, representing the One who sent Him – His Father.  Jesus was God the Father’s ambassador to men, and we have now in turn been passed the baton in this relay race.  Everything that we do will reflect upon not only Jesus but also God the Father – for good, and for bad.  We should keep that in mind before we form conclusions in our minds, say anything to anyone, or do anything that might bring shame upon God.

Receive the Reward

Jesus also clarifies what type of reward we receive when we welcome His ambassadors.  Those who welcome a prophet (as a prophet) will receive the reward of a prophet.  That should cause us pause.  Even if we are the lowliest workers in His kingdom, when we receive a prophet of God as a prophet, we receive his reward as well:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

If we receive a righteous person, we receive a righteous person’s reward.  There is only one who is righteous, and He is Jesus Christ.  He received a great reward – eternal life.  In a like manner, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness:

1 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Retain the Reward

Gaining the reward is the first giant hurdle.  We have an obligation, a blood-debt, so to speak, with the One who purchased our lives with His very own blood.  Jesus died upon the cross for our sins, offering His blood as the final, and only permanent atoning sacrifice for them:

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

We are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.  And Jesus provides us with the litmus test:

If you love me, keep my commands.

When we aid and assist an ambassador, we are, in effect, aiding and assisting the one who sent him/her.  Even providing relief of the desert sun by giving a cup of cold water to the least of his disciples (ambassadors), we are, in effect, doing it to Him:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

And although the gift of salvation is a free one, insofar as we do not have to earn it but merely accept it, how ungrateful would we appear if we did not thank the One who made it, and show our appreciation for His efforts?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask some questions:  How do I receive ambassadors from God?  Am I living in such a way that I am a faithful ambassador for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have sent Your prophets and recorded Your words through them in Your word.  Help me, Father God, that I would listen to Your word, and receive them as You sent them – as Your ambassadors.  Help me to yield myself to Your Holy Spirit, for He testifies about Your Son and is the One You have sent as a down-deposit on my inheritance in You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient to His voice as He speaks to me through Your word.  Guide me so that I would be a faithful ambassador for You as well.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:34-39

Choose This Day Whom You Will Love

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own
household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Agitation and Accord

From the moment a person chooses to believe God and follow Jesus, their life will be irrevocably changed.  People that they once had great relationships with may now become their bitter enemies.  War will ensue where peace had prospered.  And although we are told that, to the best of our ability, we should be at peace with everyone, we will encounter people who view our change of allegiance from Satan (and the world) to God as a declaration of insanity and hatred towards them.

Many people will not be able to understand that disciples of Christ are not people who are now members of a cult.  In their minds, that is how they are perceived.  One moment, they are drinking, carousing, swearing, doing everything that everyone else is doing (right or wrong), and suddenly they become Mr. or Mrs. “goody-two shoes”, declining to participate in activities once considered dear, acceptable, and pleasurable by everyone else.

In the eyes of the world, you have become an enemy of the state – your very actions now show that not only can you not be trusted because you are changing, but that someone or something has remarkable remarkably changed your life, and in their eyes, usually for the worse.  They don’t want to know what it is, because they may begin to get “sucked-in” and have to give up their way of life.  They may also be concerned that in the grey areas of life that they live, you may now have to “rat them out” if they do something that is a bit unlawful.

In their eyes, you have declared war on them and your relationships.

Family can turn Foul

Even the most stable of relationships can be affected.  Jesus lists several familial relationships that may be strained or even broken because of your sudden love of God:

  • Fathers and Sons
  • Mothers and Daughters
  • In-laws and their children’s spouses

Fully expect there to be some resistance by any who have not given their lives to Christ.  Most people in culture believe that family comes first.  And when you give your life to Christ, they may feel as though you have broken this “unwritten” rule of relationship.  The fact is, when you give your life to Christ, you are – in effect – changing your allegiance from your biological family to your spiritual family.

Love the Lord

Your identity has now moved from your biological family to your spiritual family:

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Additionally, we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything else:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

In this short passage, it seems to indicate that we must hate our family.  This is not the case!  This is a form of hyperbole – Jesus is merely pointing out that our love for Him should be so strong and secure that our love for our other family members should look like hate in comparison.  We are to love them, but we are to love God even more!

Bear your Burden

This next part of the passage is very similar to the instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples elsewhere:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

We are to bear our burdens and do so with joy.  The Lord God Almighty has replaced our heavy burden of trying to earn our way into Heaven through good deeds (impossible) to merely believing upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for our sins.  Grace and mercy are ours if we decide to accept them.  And in doing so, we must be obedient to God and His word, for we do not wish to rebel against the one who gave their lives His life for ours!

And while obedience to God (which some call works or legalism) does not grant entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, it does show that we love God, even more than our very own lives.  For if we love our lives (the way that we want to do things, living in a way that pleases us rather than pleases God) we will lose them.  If we lose our lives (living them in such a way that they are pleasing to God, regardless of the consequences and outcome of that level of devotion to Him) for His sake, we will gain them:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living my life in such a way that, by example, it is a powerful witness to how much I truly love God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me eternal life through the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live life in such a way that it is a powerful witness to others of You and Your word.  Help me to witness in both actions and words, that both would be in harmony and unity with Your will.  Help me to overcome any sorrow or anger when others who were once considered my friends turn against me because of my love for You.  Help me to have a heart of compassion towards them, and I pray that You will powerfully prepare the soil of their hearts so that the seeds of salvation would take root and flourish in them.  Help me to always remember that You come first, no matter what.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for clarity, spelling, and other errors.

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:26-33

Do Not Fear, For God Will Reveal All

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Forgo Fear

Most people feel fear.  We are greatly concerned about the unknown.  We dread change, and know that there will be consequences to our actions and inaction.  Jesus tells us here that we have nothing to fear.  John clarifies this in his letters saying,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When we are in the Father’s love, there is no need for fear.  We can be assured that God will take care of everything, even if we are, as lambs, being led to the slaughter.  God has already provided for the eternal salvation for our souls, and we can look forward to spending all eternity with Him.  Because of this, we no longer need to fear men nor death.  God has provided in perpetuity for all of our needs.  We can then focus on what He desires us to do:  obey Him in submission to His Spirit, relating the revelation of Him and His Son through His word.

Relate the Revealed

God desires that we relate what He reveals to us through His word and His Spirit to the world.  He desires to be known by all people:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Our job is to speak the word of God to anyone and everyone who will listen.  Some will plant seeds, some will water, but it is God who gives the increase.  Sow seed everywhere, and let God do with it what He desires.  Our job is to spread the seed; God’s job is to prepare the soil and grow the crop.

Our Creator Cares

In our distress, we may sometimes feel like God doesn’t care about us or our situation.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  God greatly cares about all of His children, and He has been actively pursuing them in every place where they live.  For Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be impaled upon the cross nearly two thousand years ago for our sins while we were yet sinners.

Jesus reminds us here that He takes great care in all of His creation.  He is aware of everything that goes on in it.  He provides for the smallest of birds, the sparrow, who are worth very little in the eyes of men.  He reminds us that nothing can happen to them outside of the express will and consent of The Lord God Almighty.  And if He cares so much for the creatures that are of little worth, how much more will He care about us?  He cares so much that He knows how many hairs are on each of our heads.  While that seems strange, it is to imply that there is nothing too insignificant about us that He does not know about or care about.  We take great care and delight in knowing the smallest of details about the ones that we care about.  God does the same, only to a degree that we are unable to even fathom.

When we are tempted to believe that God doesn’t care, it is merely the enemy trying to sow discord, dissension, and distrust in our hearts towards God.  He has been using the same tactics from the very beginning of man – tactics that have been successful for millennia.  After all, what did he say to Eve to entice her to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil?

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Do not Disown

Finally, Jesus gives us a warning.  We are to acknowledge Him before men.  When we do this, He will acknowledge us before the Father.  And if, in fear, we choose not to acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge us before the Father.  We must decide once and for all that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, and that He is the one who saved us from our sins.  We must decide that no matter what happens to us here on Earth, our lives are bound with His.  Our very actions are the litmus test of our faith.  Faith without works is dead.  We must realize that what we do is a far stronger witness than what we say we believe.

In more modern terms, talk is cheap.  What we do reflects our true character and beliefs.  We can lie to ourselves and say that we believe and are fearless; however, when we are faced with our very mortality, what will we choose to do?  Decide now, for our actions will determine whether we are being truthful to ourselves and faithful to God.  Be prepared for what is to come, and trust in the Lord God Almighty who has numbered every hair on your head.  For He will follow through and take care of you, even in death, when by both your words and your actions you acknowledge that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, is Lord of your life.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do my actions match up with my profession of faith in The Lord God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised and honored, for You are faithful in all that You do.  You have shown us through Your Son that You love us and have loved us, even when we were Your enemies.  Give me strength, endurance, and character this day so that when I am presented with the opportunity to magnify and glorify Your name, that I will not hesitate to do so.  Help me to acknowledge Your Son, Jesus Christ, before any and all men, regardless of the consequences.  Help me to prepare my heart for what may come, and trust in Your character and power to see me through anything that I may encounter.  Help me to be faithful even in death, Father God.  This I ask in the name and character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Witnessing for God – Matthew 20:21-25

And They Really ARE Out To Get You…

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”

Betrayed by Brothers

Jesus warns His disciples that when they are obedient to His word, they will be betrayed by their very own siblings.  And they won’t just be betrayed – they will be betrayed unto death.  Following Christ as a Disciple, especially witnessing for Christ, carries with it inherent risks.  In Western culture, these risks have been avoided for centuries because the tolerance for others religiously was greatly permitted.  However, since the fulfillment of Scripture of both the reformation of the nation of Israel (1948) and their subsequent independence of gentile control through the Six-Day War (in 1967), there has been an all-out assault on Christianity in the last haven on Earth for them.

It is common in the Middle East nations that have embraced Islam as their core tenet of society (whether overtly or covertly) to ensure that anyone who is caught believing in YHWH and His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, is put to death in a most immediate, public, and brutal way:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Persecuted by Parents

Parents love their children.  Most parents would place themselves in harm’s way to protect their children, even to the point of death.  But once a person becomes a disciple of Christ, that protection is forfeited.  The hatred of God by His enemies is so strong, that parents would betray their children, even allowing them to be arrested and put to death.  In many cultures, especially ones where they strictly adhere to the teachings of Muhammed and the Quran, there is a duty to reveal anyone who does not believe as they do.

Parents turn their backs on their children, and betray them even to death when they are strict adherents to the “religion of peace.”  But even two thousand years ago, Jewish parents would do the same, believing that their children were apostate, believing in false gods.  And the penalty for that was death.

Children will Cross

This was not a one-way street.  If children found out that there parents were apostate, they also had a duty to report them for the very same reason to receive the very same punishment.  The one that is worshiped in the Jewish culture will not tolerate worship of false Gods.  Neither will the fundamentalist adherents of Islam allow anyone who was declared to be Muslim worship anyone other than Al iLah.  Love that would normally bind together families and smooth out differences is not tolerated when it comes to whom or what a person worships.

Jesus warns that this will happen, so be prepared for the consequences of following Him as His disciple.  It very well may mean the difference between physical life and death.  But thanks be to God that He, through the blood of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, has given His disciples eternal life found in Him.  Regardless of whether we live or die in the flesh, we are spiritually alive in Christ, and will be so for all eternity, starting from when we believe upon His name.  Worry not about whether you are going to be persecuted or even put to death.  You are alive in Christ!

Depart before Destruction

Jesus instructs his disciples to flee persecution.  He does not require His disciples to be doormats for His enemies.  When persecuted, feel free to flee somewhere else where you will not face persecution.

It is truly a sad day for the disciples of Christ that the United States of America, once the bastion of liberty and a nation that permitted the free exercise of religion now openly persecutes and prosecutes those who adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  No longer is their protection to freely worship in public and private.  The state-mandated religion of Secular Humanism is now the religion du jour and the only one fully tolerated by the government (with the exception of Islam being preferred in the background).  Be prepared to lose everything if you decide, as a disciple of Christ, to live by your beliefs in public as well as private.  And now that the last bastion of freedom has vanished, there is no place on Earth where it is safe for disciples of Christ to go and practice their faith without fear of governmental reprisal.

Assault for Association

Jesus warns His disciples that they are not above Him, meaning that whatever mistreatment that He experienced living His life for the glory of God and to His honor, His disciples would endure the same as well.  The student is not above the teacher, receiving preferential treatment and avoiding the costs associated with the learning and practice of that learning in public.

Fully expect that for your identity in Christ that you will be singled out and persecuted if you live your life in the same manner as your Savior.  It is inevitable.  However, in the same way, your identity in Christ brings with it great rewards as well for you are not above your teacher, and will be rewarded for your obedience and submission to Him when God has appointed you to give an accounting for your life.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I fully prepared to suffer the same way that Jesus suffered and for the same reasons?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, please prepare me for what is to come.  For your Son has said that because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most will grow cold.  Help me to endure to the end that I may be found in Christ.  Give me hope, strength, courage, wisdom, and boldness in life that regardless of what my enemies do to me that I will not flinch but rather be emboldened to speak what I have heard and seen.  Give me courage like a lion that when I am called to account by men I will not shrink back, but rather submit to Your Spirit and thus be used as You intend me to be used.  This I ask in the faithful and precious name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?