Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Marriage Covenant

Covenant

 

God created man because of His nature. God is creative. He is love, He loves and love always wants to expand community. Thus, His first and last command is to be fruitful and multiply, that is to be like Him. Man can’t do this alone. Genesis states that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. Man was created for relationship, first with God and then with each other. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God uses the analogy of the marriage covenant to illustrate His relationship with His people.

Kingdom relationships are based upon covenant, a mutual agreement of commitment. Covenant is God’s way of protecting relationships. His commitment to faithfulness is total. He wants the same from us. God keeps His covenant in spite of our failure. Covenant is not the same as a contract. In a contract, if the conditions are not met, it nullifies the contract. We live in a world estranged from covenant keeping and commitment. In fact we might say that covenant breaking is the foundation of all sin and because of sin, Christ died. He offered His own body as a sacrifice to restore relationship or covenant.

People often want the benefits of a relationship without commitment. They want sex without consequences. The high divorce rate in our culture reflects an attitude that doesn’t value commitment and covenants. Satan is attacking marriages, especially Christian marriages like never before. Now, he is even influencing our society to re-define the institution of marriage.  Why? It is because Christian marriages are intended to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church. Satan seeks to destroy that testimony. In today’s secular culture, marriage is considered to be a contract sanctioned by the state. This is far from the truth. Marriage was ordained by God. We often hear distortions of the marriage institution such as people living together and claiming that they are married “in God’s eyes.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Marriage in God’s eyes requires biblical covenant. Without that, such people are nothing more than fornicators. In fact, people with a marriage license from the state who have no relationship with God or His church are not married in God’s eyes. They are also fornicators. People, even Christians, believe that divorce occurs when one gets approval from the state. Wrong! Divorce occurs in God’s eyes when the covenant is broken. If there is no biblical covenant, there is no marriage or divorce. On the other hand, if there is a biblical marriage covenant, divorce occurs when the covenant is broken, not when the state says so. You can read more of my thoughts on divorce here.

We must overcome the works of darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to live in accord with God’s principles and redemptive order. In Genesis 15 there is an account of God making a covenant with Abraham. “After these things the Word of Jehovah came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, You have given no seed to me. And behold, one born in my house is my heir. And behold, the Word of Jehovah came to him saying, This one shall not be your heir. But he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. And He brought him outside and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be. And he believed in Jehovah. And He counted it to him for righteousness. And He said to him, I am Jehovah that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it? And He said to him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took all these to himself, and divided them in the middle, and laid each piece against one another; but he did not divide the birds. And when the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. And it happened as the sun was setting, and a deep sleep fell upon Abram. And, behold, a horror of great darkness fell upon him! And He said to Abram, You must surely know that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also I will judge that nation whom they shall serve. And afterward they shall come out with great substance. And you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it happened, the sun went down, and it was dark and behold, a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp passed between those pieces. In the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, I have given this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the giants, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Gen 15:1-21) We can observe here that the covenant involved a promise, a public testimony, a sign, and a penalty for violation. The ritual of sacrificing an animal and walking between the pieces was a traditional middle eastern tradition. The one making the promise would swear an oath to become like the sacrificed animals should he violate the covenant.

A covenant requires a public testimony before witnesses and God. To have the blessing of God it must be blessed by God’s instrument on earth, His church. A biblical covenant is remembered by a sign, such as a ring, a handshake, the cross, or bread and wine. God established standards of behavior to protect covenant. Breaking a covenant necessitates forgiveness. The Word of God tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no justice or payment for sin. In biblical culture, a covenant was sealed by a blood sacrifice. The covenant was taken seriously and was considered to be permanent.

At Calvary God offered His own body to seal the covenant of redemption. God’s redemptive process holds out the possibility of restoration of the original partnership that God created between Himself and man as well as between all mankind, including marriage partners.

God teachers us that there a four requirements for a marriage to succeed. There must be severance, permanence, unity and intimacy. When questioned about marriage Jesus referred to Genesis and His Father’s original command, saying, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:24) The loyalty and fealty to one’s birth family must be severed. This doesn’t mean a breaking of relationship, but rather the forming of a new loyalty. Marriage is intended to be a permanent covenant. The unity and intimacy of the marriage relationship is intended to reflect the unity and intimacy of the Trinity and the unity and intimacy of Christ and His bride, the church.

 

 

The Truth About Divorce

Divorce

 

As described in God’s word, marriage is intended to be a life long covenant. A true biblical covenant is witnessed and confirmed in submission to God ordained authority, that is, the church. A wedding is a public expression of commitment. Marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. It should be public and permanent. When Jesus spoke on marriage, He referred back to the creation account: “A man will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) This creation account reveals an intended progression. Leaving comes first. It implies a public act of commitment first. Then there is uniting. This is more than just sex. It involves communion. Only then do the two become one. Marriage is God’s plan for commitment. It is not just a piece of paper as some so glibly state in seeking to dodge commitment.

The hypocritical Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about divorce in order to entrap Him. Their hearts were cold and selfish. They were really not interested in the truth. It is interesting that the word “divorce” is only found in seven verses of scripture; in Jeremiah 3:8, God says He divorced Israel. Did God sin?

In the sermon on the mount (Mt. 5:31) Jesus addressed the issue of men divorcing their wives. He makes reference to the civil law given for the now defunct theocracy (Deut. 24). This law was established by God to protect women. In their culture only men could divorce their wives, not the reverse. Women were treated like property. By Jesus’ day, Jewish men had so abused the letter of the law that men were divorcing their wives for burning dinner. So, Jesus addressed this issue to men in order to prevent these easy divorces, which were perverting God’s original intent. He is saying that men should only divorce their wives if they have been sexually unfaithful, thus alluding to the practical reality that women do not usually do the kinds of things that constitute separation without becoming intimate with another man. For example, Jesus didn’t address the issue of physical abuse. Does God want spouses to stay in a relationship where they get beat? I don’t think so. But the reality is, most women don’t beat their husbands.

Matthew 19 recounts the incident where the hypocritical Pharisees (a very religious, legalistic sect who made all of the appearance of being “holy”, but who Paul correctly pointed out were like white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones) tried to entrap Jesus with a question about divorce: “And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3 MKJV). Legally, the letter of the law (Deut. 24) did allow them to divorce a woman for any reason. But they missed the Spirit and intent of the law! Jesus answers the question by referring them back to God’s original plan for marriage recounted in Genesis 2, which was that the two should become one forever. He adds, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6 MKJV) Notice that Jesus does not use the word “divorce.” That was a legal shadow that the Pharisees were hiding behind, but, as usual, Jesus goes to the heart of the issue. The issue is not a legal document made by man, but who is causing the separation of the two that God intended to be one. The legalistic hypocrites always point to the only reason that God permits divorce for, but they don’t know God or His heart. If a man is beating his wife regularly, they would say, “That’s not a cause for divorce.” But the truth is that the two are already separated as far as god is concerned! Going to court doesn’t make the reality, it only confirms it! Preachers are commonly heard to say, “God hates divorce!” I hate to disillusion you, but that is not specifically in scripture. Divorce is not listed in Proverbs 6 as one of the seven things that God hates. The truth is that God hates all sin and all covenant breaking. He has a solution, which is yielding to the lordship of Jesus Christ and relying upon His sacrifice for you sins. Forgiveness and restoration can only be found by faith in Christ.

If you want to know what God’s will is for husbands, read Ephesians 5:25 and following verses. He expects you to love your wife as Christ loves the church. He expects you, not her, to die to your own selfish desires. Do you know how God wants you to handle the property issue? God wants you to give it all to her, because you love her and are willing to die for her.

Jesus is Sovereign over Disease and Death

Healed woman

Healing a woman and raising a girl; Mark 5:21-43

“And Jesus having crossed again by boat to the other side, a large crowd collected on Him. And He was near the sea. And, behold, one of the synagogue rulers came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet. And he begged Him greatly, saying, My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come, lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed, and she shall live. And Jesus went with him. And many people followed Him and thronged Him. And a certain woman who had had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and had not been bettered any, but rather came to worse, having heard about Jesus, she came in the press behind and touched His garment. For she said, If I may but touch only His clothes, I will be cured. And instantly the fountain of her blood dried up. And she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And knowing instantly within Himself that power had gone out of Him, Jesus turned Himself around in the press and said, Who touched My clothes? And His disciples said to Him, You see the crowd pressing on You, and do You say, Who touched Me? And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done in her, came and fell down before Him and told Him all the truth. And He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be whole from your plague. While He still spoke, they came from the synagogue ruler’s house, saying, Your daughter is dead; why do you still trouble the Teacher? But hearing the word spoken, Jesus said to the synagogue ruler, Do not be afraid, only believe. And He allowed no one to follow Him, except Peter and James and John, the brother of James. And He came to the synagogue ruler’s and saw a tumult, and weeping and much wailing. And going in He said to them, Why do you make a tumult and weep? The girl is not dead, but sleeps. And they laughed at Him. But when He had put them all out, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those with Him, and went in where the child was lying. And He took the child’s hand and said to her, Talitha koumi; (which interpreted is, Little girl, I say to you, Arise!) And instantly the little girl arose and walked (for she was twelve years old ). And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And He strictly warned them that no one should know this. And He said to give her something to eat.” (Mar 5:21-43)

 

Jesus is sovereign over nature, the physical realm and demons, the spiritual realm. He was not surprised by the storm or in finding a demonized man. Jesus is not taken by surprise, He is completely man and completely God, and, though laying aside the prerogatives of deity (i.e., supernatural powers), He is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and He hears and obeys what the Father is doing. Through the Holy Spirit He has all power. Those indwelled by the Spirit, as He is, have access to the power of God as they obey the Father as He does.

Jesus is greeted by a great multitude. Though He has an opportunity to minister to a large group, he does not ignore the request of an individual. Don’t be afraid to leave the needs of the crowd to help an individual. If need drives your ministry, you will burn out.

This is an important person, the synagogue ruler. Perhaps he was the ruler of the synagogue where Jesus cast out a demon and healed a man with a withered hand. I doubt that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. I suspect that he had seen Him heal and hoped that Jesus would heal his daughter. He wanted Jesus to hurry, but there is a delay. Jairus is probably frustrated at the delay. This shows us that Jesus did not neglect the outcast to curry favor with the powerful.

The woman with the flow of blood for 12 years has been abused by doctors and cut off from fellowship in the community. She is poor and unimportant. She was continually unclean according to Lev. 15:25-31. She could not go to the temple to worship. She could not touch anyone, or they would be unclean for the remainder of that day. If she sat in a chair, it was unclean. She was cut off from fellowship.

It leads us to wonder why these laws were imposed. Perhaps it is because the Jews refused His offer of Grace at Sinai and wanted religion, so he gave them a religion with laws that would illustrate their inability to achieve acceptance by their own power. The law is a teacher to drive us to Christ as it shows us our imperfection.

Leviticus gave God’s people the rules for worship illustrating  God’s holiness and perfection and that there is only one path to God.  Jesus claims that He is the way, the truth and the life; none come to God except through Him.

The woman sneaks up behind Jesus and touches His garment and is immediately healed. Jesus knew it. Was He surprised? He asks who touched Him. Did he know? Why did He ask? Did He know the name of the Gadarene man and his demons? Jesus asks us questions because He wants us to seek answers. He uses all events as a teaching opportunity. He is the great teacher. What did He want to teach the woman, the crowd and his disciples? He knew that this woman would touch Him and He wanted to have a conversation with her. We don’t know what was said, but from what the gospels tell us about Jesus and salvation we could make a good guess.

She told Him the whole truth. The scriptures are inspired, every word. Had she not told the whole truth before and what happened to inspire her to confession? I think she came to believe in Him after witnessing His mercy. This woman is often pointed to as a great example of faith. She had faith in a common superstition that power resided in the garment of a holy man.  Like the disciples at this point in His ministry, she probably had little or no understanding of who He was and what He would do.  Can you imagine the fear of being found out when you just defiled a holy man? This explains her fear when she is discovered.  Is Jesus defiled by her touch? Jesus touches a leper and he is cleansed. He imparts cleanliness and life when He touches us or we touch Him. Nothing can make Him unclean. Jesus is not defiled by sinful man. Does God not allow sin in His presence? Jesus has overcome sin and the law of ordinances that are against us.

Jesus tells her, “your faith has made you well (sotso = whole)”. She was not healed because she believed in a superstition. Was it the garment that healed her? She was healed because of who He is. Some use this scripture to teach that we simply must believe in order to be healed. I reject that. There are examples in the gospels of people having no faith and being healed. It’s not what we believe, our faith or what we confess that forces God to act. It is His mercy and compassion that moves Him to heal. It is his nature to heal.

Does God want us to have faith in Him? Does He honor faith in Him? Absolutely, yes. We must have faith in Him in order to be saved. But, our faith is not sovereign. He is. She was healed while her faith was still in immature, hoping in a superstition.

Jesus tells her to go in peace. Peace comes from trusting in Him. A messenger comes and informs the synagogue ruler that he is too late. Did Jesus know that the girl would die? He tells the ruler, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.” What is the man to believe? How strong was his faith at this point? Trust in the person and character of God delivers us from fear. Jairus believed, but his daughter was dead. We must trust Him and His timing. The delay brings greater glory to God. His delay sometimes leads to a greater demonstration of His power. Never give up on God. Death is not final and it is no barrier to Him

Why were only the three permitted to follow? Some teach that we must not allow unbelief to be present in order for God to act. This is not true. It probably had more to do with respecting the family’s privacy in their moment of grief. Jesus wanted witnesses to recall the gospel but not a crowd of gawkers. These were His best friends whom he knew He could trust. He never drew attention to His miracles. In fact, He usually discouraged recipients of His grace from reporting them. He does not seek to manipulate people into faith by displays of power. He refused that evil temptation in the desert.

She was really dead, just like Lazarus was dead. He says the same thing about dead believers in 1 Corinthians 15, because their physical death is not permanent. The servants were wailing. Their tradition blinded them to God’s mercy and power. He makes a point of telling us that the girl was twelve. She had been alive as long as the woman had been ill. What’s the point? Is it to give the numerologists something to speculate about? Possibly, to illustrate that the two incidents are related and that there is a harmony. There is one consistent message: Both accounts teach the importance of trusting in the person and character of Christ.

Victory over disease and death is not about what we believe, but about who He is. The power of the great physician and the hope that He inspires stands in sharp contrast to the limited abilities of this world’s doctors. We see an insider and an outsider compared and contrasted. There is a public miracle and a private miracle. It does not matter what your social status is. In all cases, Jesus is your only hope. The power is in the person of Christ, not in a fabric or formula.

A famous TV evangelist says, “The word of faith is all you need….” This is not true. The living word, not your words is what is needed

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost

The experiential reality of being in Christ and therfore in the Spirit is both a present experience and a finished reality, not just a legal position. In one sense, I am always walking in the Spirit because I am in Him and He is in me, so whatever I do, I am in the Spirit, but in another sense, I do not always do what the Spirit is doing or would have me do (This sounds like Ro 7:21-24?). That requires a choice to obey. That does not negate salvation by grace, for it is God that supplies the grace the faith and the power to obey (definition: the power of God unto salvation).

 

Different theologies will cause us to have different understandings of such biblical terms as being filled with the Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The term is not actually found in scripture. But it is prophesied in John 1:33 & Acts 1:5. The first supposed occurrence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is recorded in Acts 2 referencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost where the disciples spoke in known foreign languages which they probably were not fluent in or taught. Pentecostals and Charismatics see this as the initial experience of the believer where the Holy Spirit empowers them with the supernatural charismatic gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Understand that the Greek “charis” means grace. So these gifts are an expression of the grace or power of God and their purpose is for the edification of the body. This empowering is frequently confused with the initial indwelling or receiving of the Holy Spirit. Here is where we encounter confusion as a result of different understandings of terminology.

There are three common interpretations of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Cessationist: Same as the baptism into Christ when the believer is born again. It’s not for today. The charismatic gifts ceased after the close of the canon and Apostolic age.
  2. Pentecostal: recurrence of the Pentecost experience where speaking in tongues is always the evidence
  3. Charismatic: initial empowerment by the Holy Spirit in the outpouring of any of the charismatic gifts.

Let’s examine each one. Cessationism is the belief that the supernatural charismatic gifts are no longer active today and that these gifts were only meant for a specific time when the church and the New Testament canon was being established. This belief is based upon a dispensational theology that considers the Apostolic age to be a separate dispensation of God’s grace. They believe that with the complete written revelation of scripture, the charismatic gifts are no longer necessary and relevant. Therefore, there is only one spiritual (as opposed to water) baptism where the new believer is placed into Christ’s body. Their scriptural basis for this is in 1Cor 13:8-10 which says that prophecies will pass away and tongues will cease when the perfect comes. They conclude that the “perfect” is the canon of scripture.

There are several problems with this interpretation. First, in context almost all Greek scholars will say that the “perfect” is referring to Christ, especially since Paul goes on to speak of seeing “face to face” in v. 12, thus implying personal relationship. Secondly, if the charisma were only temporary and would pass away when the writer passed on, why spend three chapters teaching on the proper use of the gifts. That idea denies the timelessness and value of scripture. Finally, this understanding denies relevant experience. Those who teach this say that documented history of the gifts being exercised throughout the church age are simply examples of people who were deceived. While I would not deny that there are many instances of false manifestations, to lump all of them into that category is to deny the power and sovereignty of God. I have seen documented miracles. These manifestations are occurring with people who have faith in the Christ of the bible and are seeking Him. It is to say that God is powerless to prevent His elect from being deceived. So, as with the case of the dead man walking, who is unwilling to examine his theology.

In defense of cessationists, scripture teaches that there is a baptism into the body of Christ that all born again beleievers experience at the moment of conversion. 1 Cor 12:13, Gal. 3:27, Eph 1:13. So, all believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. For us charismatics or pentecostals to ask “have you received the Holy Spirit?” is confusing. To imply that some believers don’t have the Holy Spirit or are somehow an inferior class of Christians is not only incorrect but hurtful.

Let’s take a closer look at the scriptures to see if there are different baptisms. In the ones I just read, who is doing the baptism and what are we baptized into? According to 1 Cor 12:13, the Holy Spirit is placing us into Christ’s body and we receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit. Can you get more of the Holy Spirit as a person? Is He divisible? Does he come in big and little pieces? No! Now, I’m not saying that you can’t receive more grace from Him. Now look at John 1:33. “And I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water, that One said to me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)Who is doing the baptism and what are we baptized into? Christ is immersing us with the Holy Spirit. That’s different isn’t it? It also speaks of an observable physical manifestation – fire. At Pentecost tongues of fire were seen. John was referring to the Pentecost experience. This might better be described as an upon experience as opposed to an in experience. See Acts 8:16: “For as yet He had not fallen on any of them, they were baptized only in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  We can imply that this upon experience is accompanied by a supernatural or charismatic manifestation, whereas the initial baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit may not always be so. Even though Acts 2 says they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the term “filled” as used in Acts doesn’t usually mean filled in the same sense as indwelling, but more literally “looked or acted like” in the same sense that a misbehaved child would be called full of the devil. The disciples had previously received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit prior to Christ’s ascension as recorded in John 20:22. Did the Holy Spirit leave them before Pentecost? In fact, there are a number of occasions recorded in Acts where the Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit. Are we to suppose that the Holy Spirit had leaked out? But if it really means that the subjects appeared like the Holy Spirit, then that implies that they were doing something noticeable that would normally only be equated with the supernatural, thus they were exercising the charismatic gifts. If we consider this to be more of an empowering or upon experience, then it can be understood as an experience of receiving extra grace beyond the communion of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, Watcman Nee in his great little book, The Release of the Spirit describes this empowering not as an empowering from the external Spirit but as a process of yielding to the inner working of the Spirit which then manifests outwardly. So then we can view this baptism of the Holy Spirit not as a single second work of grace but as continuing repeated empowerings as the Spirit leads when He determines. This is the traditional charismatic viewpoint and aligns itself with the understanding that the charisma, with the exception of devotional tongues, are not really residential gifts, but situational gifts.

I do not hold to the Pentecostal position that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always confirmed by gift of tongues. There are examples of Christians in Acts who are filled with the Spirit without any mention of tongues. Specifically, Paul in Acts 9 has a vision of Ananias coming to him, which would be a revelatory gift, or word of knowledge, prior to ever speaking in tongues. And Paul claims in 1 Cor 12 that not all speak in tongues but may prophesy or exercise another charismatic gift. We have seen from experience that some Christians have moved powerfully in other gifts having never spoken in tongues. We cannot deny that these gifts are supernatural empowerments so it would be wrong to contend that they had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And yet I have spoken with many such believers that were taught that they had not received the Holy Spirit. This is wrong and damaging teaching.

 

Have You Been Offended?

offended

Have you ever been offended by a friend? David was. He thought King Saul was his friend. He had done nothing to hurt Saul and yet Saul was seeking to kill him. Listen to David’s lament: “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Ps. 55:12-14)
Jesus said that offenses must come. (Luke 17:1) What a strange statement. What did He mean? He understands our fallen human nature and He knows that we will sin against one another. But He uses our failings and the failings of those around us to refine us; to make us and mold us into His image as the potter does to clay.
Offenses are part of a trap that the devil uses to put people in bondage. Offense is the bait. If you consume the bait (feed on it in our hearts), you become caught in a trap that leads to bad results: bitterness, unforgiveness, betrayal and even revenge. Hurt people erect walls, their love grows cold, and often they betray friends. Harboring an offense blinds you to your own sin because you’re always blaming others. It is the heat of trials which separates the impurities such as bitterness from our character. God created us to reflect who He is. Unless we’re pure, we can’t do that.
Some offended people have been treated unfairly. David and Joseph are two examples from scripture. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers because they were offended over his dreams. So, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. But, unfair treatment is no excuse to become bitter or hang on to an offense. David was betrayed by Saul. Jesus was betrayed by Judas. They forgave and refused to become bitter. Unconditional love allows others to hurt us. The more we are dead to our selfish interests, the less it hurts when people treat us wrongly. David didn’t take revenge when given the opportunity to kill Saul. Jesus trusted His Father to judge those who persecuted Him. (1Pt 2:21-23)
Escape the trap: forgive! God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). We’ve offended God more than anyone has offended us and He forgives ( Eph 4:32).
How do we forgive? Joseph demonstrated it (Gen 50: 15-21). He forgave his brothers. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He recognized that God had a plan for his life and that he would redeem his own suffering in order to help others. What great faith! Offenses hurt, but God has a plan to use it for good; to refine you.
Sometimes you need to put words to it in faith. You have to say that you forgive even when you may not feel it. You must ask God to change your heart. He tells us to overcome evil with good; reach out in loving action.
How many times do you forgive someone? Jesus said, “seventy times seven.” In other words, forgiveness should be granted without limits. If you’re counting, then you have missed the point. Reap the benefits of freedom; restored fellowship.

The Feast of Trumpets

Shofar

The King is coming, get ready
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: `On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'” Leviticus 23:23
Last Saturday (9/30/00) began the celebration of the ten day biblical feast of trumpets which reminds us that the King is coming. Jesus will return to this earth and set up His kingdom.
God says to celebrate the feasts. They belong to Him, they are not just for the Jews, they weren’t just for the Old Testament, they are for today, “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times… This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.” Lev. 23:4 + 21
The feasts give us insight into God’s plan for His church and the process of being conformed into His image. They were and are a shadow of what was and is to come. The accuracy of the shadows inspired faith in the past ages and they do today as well.
The feasts give us a glimpse at God’s prophetic calendar. All of the bible feasts relate to the harvest. God is a God of Order and Design . God did significant things on significant days and He has revealed it in His Word. God used the harvest theme to show His plan for His harvest of souls. Many of Jesus’ parables or teachings about the growth of the kingdom and salvation had harvest themes. In the Old Testament, God ordered three pilgrimages each year in which every Israelite was to go up to Jerusalem. These were: The feast of Unleavened Bread which begins with Passover and is during the early spring or planting season;; Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after Passover and marked the beginning of the barley harvest, and then the feasts of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar which mark the completion of the harvest in the fall. The number “seven” in scripture is frequently associated with the theme of completeness.
The theme of the fall feasts is the completion of God’s harvest. The two feasts of the seventh are Trumpets and Booths. The first day of the seventh month begins the ten day Feast of Trumpets culminating on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. Trumpets announce the coming of the King which is to be preceded by time of great repentance, revival, spiritual battle and the final sanctification of the believer Booths celebrates dwelling with God. (see Zech 14:16)
Fall feasts of ingathering are yet to be fulfilled; they point to the return of Christ and His millennial reign. 1 Thessalonians 4 associates the return of Christ with the blast of the trumpet.
So how do we as Christians celebrate these feasts today. God’s Word gives us four requirements:
First, it is to be a day of rest. As New Covenant believers, we interpret this to mean that we should spend time with the Lord in prayer and worship. We should rest in His finished work.
Secondly, God calls a sacred assembly: a time of gathering together for corporate worship.
Thirdly, we are to “blow the trumpet.” A literal trumpet blast is a good reminder and can be fun, but in the larger sense, we are to sound the alarm that the King is coming.
Finally, we are to make an offering by fire. As New Covenant believers, we understand that Christ has fulfilled all of the sacrificial law in the sense that it is no longer necessary to perform animal sacrifices. Jesus is our perfect sacrifice for sin. But He still calls us to make a sacrifice of our own lives in dedication and worship to Him.
The burnt offering is described in Leviticus chapter 1. Interestingly, the entire subject of Leviticus is worship. The first offering discussed is the burnt offering. Lev. 1:9 says, “the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” This offering was completely consumed and it points to our complete dedication. We are to be a spiritual burnt offering, purified by the refining fire of God’s loving discipline. We are to be a perfect sacrifice unto our King. Our offering is worship
Every feast before the Day of Atonement is just practice and preparation for the final one when the Lord will return. Don’t be taken by surprize The Lord’s return and the establishment of the Kingdom is our great hope. (Titus 2:13)

Teamwork

Teamwork

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. … For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, ….” Romans 12:1-8
Teamwork is characteristic of people in covenant. All fruitful spiritual action comes out of relationship God works as a team. Jesus only did what the father showed Him to do. (Jn 5:19)
Have you ever observed a crew team of rowers. A successful team must work together in perfect timing and rhythm following the cadence of the skipper. Can you imagine what would happen if they all decided to “do their own thing”? It would be a disaster. An interesting thing happens when they reach racing speed. The hull rises up as the boat hydro-planes. By teamwork, the whole ship is raised up. It should be just so with the church. Even though we may have different roles and functions, we all still need to work together as a team. In basketball each player has a different role. If one player did all of the scoring, it would be easy to defend against him or her. But if we’re all doing our part, it’s much easier to score.
God’s plan is to work through the church. (Eph 3:10) We are part of a body, members of one another (Ro 12:4). We may have different types of ministries and gifts, but all are intended to build up the church. (Eph 4:11-16) We all need to serve in some manner. The quantity of work is not as important as embracing a clearly designated responsibility.
There is a spiritual principle of agreement whereby there is an exponential release of power when we work together in agreement. “One will put a thousand to flight, but two will put ten thousand to flight.” Dt. 32:30 (Mt. 18:19-20) That is why it is so important to attend corporate worship. God doesn’t call us together to worship because He is some kind of egomaniac or because He is insecure and needing our praise. God needs nothing. Corporate worship is not just for individual edification. God calls us to worship Him as a body because there is a greater anointing when more of us are gathered together. We receive a greater blessing by gathering together to worship Him. We will experience greater growth and maturity by making a firm commitment to one congregation.
Additionally, by working together as a team, we reap the advantage of mutual protection. We are in a spiritual war. Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs. We need each other in this spiritual battle.
In order to work as a team, we must adopt the attitude, mindset and heart of a team player. We must adopt a goal for the good of the team versus individual achievement. We must have a commitment to working together.
The mission of the church is to fulfill the great commission by making disciples and teaching them to observe all things that Jesus taught. We will fulfill that vision as we work together as a team, giving of our time, treasures and talents.

The Kingdom of God on Earth

Kingdom

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: “He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment. Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize. We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.” Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat. God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve. (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

The return of Christ is one of most written about subjects in the entire Bible; it is the main message of God’s word. Christ is coming to rule and reign; to take back His creation. The Bible reveals how to be saved from the judgment to come and be a member of God’s kingdom. This is what Jesus Christ had to say regarding His return to this world:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’ “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens…. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. … What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:24-37

There are some questions about Christ’s return that have interested people throughout the ages: how and when will He return?

How will He come? What will it be like?

This scripture says He will come in the clouds and in glory, not quietly like a babe, and not secretly as some teach. “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

The Bible says He will come with fire. This speaks of divine judgment upon those who have rejected His rule. He will judge those who refuse His offer of forgiveness.

“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” 1Thessalonians 1:6-7

He will come like a thief, by surprise:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare…. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 2Peter 3:10-12

When will He return?

Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour, but there will be some signs. What Jesus revealed was not intended to gratify the curiosity of men. Why was He deliberately evasive? He wants us to live by faith. If everyone knew exactly when He was coming back, most would wait until the last second to get right with God. He wants us to always be prepared for His coming. He said His second coming would be like the days of Noah. In other words, things would be occurring normally. People would not be expecting it

Some people think that because Jesus has waited thousands of years to return, that He was not who He said He is and is not coming back. The Bible warns about this deception:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2Peter 3:3-11

SO WHAT SHOULD OUR ATTITUDE BE?

We should be eagerly waiting, looking for His return. We should be ready; spiritually prepared and in right relationship with Him.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2Peter 3:14

That is why Jesus told many parables about being ready for His return. It is not important that we know the time. It is important that we be ready at all times.

2nd coming

Wise Counsel

Finding God’s will through counsel and revelation.

We can know God’s will. We can “hear” His voice with spiritual ears.
God often speaks through other believers. God speaks through supernatural revelation or prophecy as 1Cor 12 says. Prophecy is not just telling the future. It is communicating God’s heart on a specific matter. The purpose of prophecy (all gifts) is encouragement and edification of the believer. What we consider revelation today should never violate the written word of God. 1Corinthians 13 says that we only hear in part, so we must be careful to check any revelation by the Word of God. God’s will can be proved. “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Ro. 12:2

Why should we seek or listen to counsel? Because individually we only hear in part. No one has a monopoly on wisdom or hearing from God. The Bible says that there is wisdom in multitude of counsel. (Prov. 11:14) I believe that this is referring to a cooperative decision where the Lord speaks in times of corporate prayer.

One must be humble in order to receive counsel. The world may view a need for advice as a sign of weakness, but we should not be insecure or defensive. Advice from a friend is precious. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” Prov. 25:11-12

Who should we allow to speak into our hearts and lives? Should we let just anybody? It is important that we block words that can be bad advice, mislead or injure us. But, we also must be careful not to reject words just because they are hard or difficult to accept. Words from God may be sharp as a sword, discerning thoughts and intents of the heart.

We must have faith to hear God’s counsel through others. A friend earns the privilege to give intimate counsel. The one we should listen to is a covenant friend, one in relationship; one we trust; one with proven wisdom and Godly character. We must judge prophets first by their character rather than charisma.

How is Godly counsel delivered? It is given in a Godly manner and in God’s time. We should prayerfully consider counsel before giving it. It should be offered in humility, realizing that we could be wrong. We should understand the person’s situation before giving advice; don’t be like Job’s friends. Some people need compassion more than advice.

Consider a case of prophetic guidance and free will shown in the Bible in Acts 21:10-14. Agabus was a true prophet. He had a message from God for Paul and then he offered counsel as a solution to that word. The Word of the Lord ends with the prediction that Paul would be placed into bondage. There is no mention that the Holy Spirit prompted the advice. The anointed word was that he would encounter difficulty. The carnal word was “don’t go”. Notice that Agabus and the others didn’t force their will upon Paul. Here we see a case of counsel as to direction not a rebuke for sin. This is not a question of doctrine, or where there is clear guidance in the written word of God. This pertained to what some call the permissive will of God. Paul would not be violating some moral code by disobeying the advice not to go to Jerusalem.

The prophetic word was a confirmation of what Paul had heard earlier from the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22-24). Later on, he had another word directly from Jesus that confirmed his decision to go to Jerusalem (Acts 23:11). Paul’s friends heard from God about what would happen, but they missed God’s will for Paul. Prophetic guidance must be balanced against freedom to hear and decide individually. We should guide people with spiritual principles and allow them to make their own decisions.