Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Shipwrecked

Bimini

 

I recently was blessed to hear from an old friend who attended a home fellowship group that I led more than twenty years ago. It was great to catch up on what had happened in the time that we had not been in touch as we had moved to another city to plant a new church. It was a blessing to learn that he was still walking with Jesus. It was sad to learn about others that we knew whose faith was shipwrecked. We did not get into a discussion about eternal security. We agreed that there are strong arguments on both sides of that issue. Whether the ones we spoke of were never really “saved” or whether they forfeited their salvation could not be known for sure on this side of eternity. But, it was sad to hear about people that we knew and who had some kind of testimony about a relationship with Jesus Christ and are now no longer walking with Him. We both expressed thanks that God had kept us in His care.

 

After we hung up I began to think about what was it that enabled me and my brother to persevere. I was reminded of the analogy of the three-legged stool. A stool with three solid legs will stand, but if you cut just one leg it will topple. It occurred to me that there are three aspects to the Christian faith that must be present in order to persevere.

 

First and foremost, the believer must keep their eyes, their mind, their life focused on Christ. He must always be the main focus and purpose of life. The letter to the Hebrews affirms this saying, “Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2) Unfortunately, as in the parable of the seed, some people hear about Jesus and accept Him with enthusiasm, but when the care of life occur they take their eyes off of Christ. Perhaps they are drawn by promises of what Christ can do for them or by some outpouring of common grace such as a healing. But when difficult times come, and Jesus promised that they would, they are allured by Satan’s lie that Jesus is not the only way to God and they fall away. Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this life. It is the Refiner’s fire. The Christian life does not get easier, in fact, as one matures it is often more difficult. It is like climbing a mountain. The higher one goes the harder it gets, but the view, real revelation and understanding, is priceless.

 

The second critical leg for the believer is fellowship. Again, Hebrews warns us not to forsake fellowship, relationship, with other believers, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25) Many people leave churches because they are offended in some way. Such people are focusing on others rather than Jesus. People are broken and will always disappoint, but leaving fellowship is not the solution. Maybe the Lord would have you in a different church, we’ve changed churches a few times, but staying away from church forever is dangerous. Sooner or later, that missing leg will cause your stool to tumble. You must understand that we are in a spiritual battle. The devil seeks to destroy every Christian. I was an Air Force pilot. When pilots go into combat, they fly in formation for mutual protection. Solo pilots get picked off. Every believer needs to be in a place where they can be discipled, hear the Word, worship with other believers and be encouraged and accountable.

 

The third leg is being in the Word. Regular scripture devotion is necessary for the believer to stay in fellowship with Christ. The importance of regularly hearing God’s Word is repeated in the scriptures. “But He (Jesus) said, No; rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luk 11:28) Ephesians outlines the spiritual armor that God provides us in our battle with the devil. It is the shield of faith that quenches the fiery darts (lies) of the enemy. And faith comes by hearing God’s Word. “Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom 10:17)

 

The Apostle Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy warning him about those whose faith had become shipwrecked. “This charge I commit to you, my son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before about you, in order that you might war a good warfare by them, holding faith and a good conscience, which some have put away and made shipwreck as to faith. Among these are Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan so that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1Ti 1:18-20) Apparently, Hymeneus and Alexander had become blasphemers which is to say that they had spoken falsely of Christ. They had turned away from the clear doctrine of the faith established in God’s Word. One of the tragedies of some modern so-called Christians is that they have abandoned a belief in the inspiration and authority of God’s Word. They make themselves the judge and create a false Christ of their own making, which is blasphemy. Paul continued to instruct Timothy, “Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2Ti 2:15) God’s Word is the only source of all truth. Regular meditation on God’s Word is necessary for remaining in the faith. “But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1Jn 2:5)

 

 

Loving Confrontation

Confront.jpgIt is an act of love to confront in love. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall rebuke your neighbor, and not bear with sin because of him.” Lev. 19:17

Confronting a brother or sister about what causes a breakdown in relationship is an act of love. The Lord knows that we will sin and break relationship, so He commands us to rebuke our brother or sister in Christ. It is sin that destroys relationships. Our alienation from each other is an extension of our alienation from God. Sin doesn’t take place in a void. It is done unto someone else. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts”. Love is the opposite of sin. It restores relationships. Avoiding confrontation out of fear is not love. We must confront in order to restore relationship when it is broken. Confrontation prevents us from carrying a grudge which is sin.

The purpose of biblical confrontation is not to purify the church or root out all sin. That is Jesus’ job. He said He would separate the wheat from the chaff. We shouldn’t attempt to play God or think that it is our job to “clean up” the church. Who do we confront? A fellow believer when relationship is broken due to sin or perceived sin against us. We must have established relationship before we can confront.

How do we confront? Matthew chapter 18 contains Jesus’ instructions on how to confront a brother or sister. Jesus thought this to be important enough to give detailed directions. Consider the context of Christ’s instructions. The chapter begins with the disciples arguing about being greatest. Obviously there was a breakdown of relationship because of pride. Jesus exhorts them to have the humility of a small child. In verse 7 He says, “offenses must come, but woe to him by whom…” He then warns about temptation and exhorts them to deal ruthlessly with causes of sin, not to compromise. The context is offenses. He warns about looking down on others and then teaches about how to confront a believer who sins against you.

He ends His instruction about confrontation by emphasizing the importance of reconciliation, and the blessings and power of unity. (verse 19-20) There is spiritual authority bestowed upon us to maintain unity when we follow God’s principles of confrontation.

These famous verses are often quoted to prove our authority in spiritual warfare with spiritual forces of evil, but they are referring to binding and loosing people from relationship. Jesus concludes by telling the parable of the unmerciful servant, who imprisoned his debtors after the King had forgiven him. Confrontation hinges upon our willingness to forgive.

We must go with the right motives; go in love. Our motivation must be to keep the person as a covenant friend. We must not be motivated by a desire for revenge. We must die to our own self interest. It is preferable to be unjustly wronged than to have no reconciliation. Reconciliation is more important than personal rights.

A critical attitude that inflicts petty and nasty criticism for the purpose of inflicting hurt is the counterfeit of loving confrontation. Go with the understanding that you too have offended people and needed mercy. You will be judged in the manner that you judge others. (Mt 7:1) Remember that God has forgiven you a greater debt. As in the parable of the unmerciful servant, your unforgiveness towards others puts them in bondage. Be patient; give the Holy Spirit time to work. Don’t expect someone to apologize or confess wrong immediately.

Who is responsible for initiating confrontation? The burden is on both parties, regardless of who is at fault or who is offended. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you; Leave your gift at the altar, go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Mt 5:23

There is a principle demonstrated here: Halt other spiritual activity and seek reconciliation first.

Go privately first. This contains the problem. If you talk with others first, it only magnifies the problem. Different viewpoints make reconciliation more difficult. It biases the people you talk to, and may cause them to sin.

Why do people talk about grievances with friends first? Because of insecurity, lack of faith in God to defend them, fear of rejection and self centered pride that insists on being right.

Be honest with the one you confront, don’t beat around the bush. But remember, there is no time limit mentioned for the different stages. It may require more than one meeting. If there is dialog and progress occurring, don’t go to next level.

The next level occurs if the person won’t listen. Then we are to take two or three witnesses. That doesn’t mean to bring others who agree with you, but have no knowledge of the alleged sin. It means to bring someone who actually heard or saw what happened! If there is no such person, then drop it. Forgive and forget!

At this level, where others are involved, it is important to avoid the impression of putting the other on trial. You must affirm your love and desire for covenant friendship. At this point, someone uncommitted to covenant relationship may avoid such a meeting. Inability to resolve at this level indicates a more severe problem with relationship than with the specific sinful behavior.

If the person still refuses to listen, tell it to the church. That does not mean to stand up in church on Sunday morning and shout out your case. It means, tell it to the leaders. If reconciliation can’t be achieved it is the job of leaders to inform the congregation. By this time, the offender has demonstrated a covenant breaking attitude that threatens the fabric of the congregation’s relationships. By excommunicating an individual, the leaders are merely noting a fact of what has already occurred so that no one is operating under false pretenses. The offender has brought the definition of pagan upon themselves. We must keep in mind that discipline has the goal of reconciliation. Reach out to the person as an outsider.

The Foundation of Worship & Intercession

Fire From heaven

 

 

“And when He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in Heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer. And many incenses were given to him, so that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints on the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God from the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar, and cast it into the earth. And voices and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake occurred.” (Rev 8:1-5)

 

There is silence in heaven, in dreadful anticipation, trembling suspense in view of judgment about to be poured out. The prayers of the saints are offered as a sacrifice on the altar. The altar pictured here is the altar of sacrifice situated before entry to the inner sanctuary. In response, the angel casts fire from heaven.

The context in revelation 8 is fires of judgment. The earth will undergo a baptism of fire. “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” [2Peter 3:7] The fires of judgment fall on those who reject God’s offer of mercy and refuse to repent. God’s merciful wrath is meant to drive men to their knees before it is too late. Fire has a purifying effect. It burns up anything impure. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” (Malachi 3:2 MKJV)

There is also fire of purification and empowerment that comes upon those who do believe and repent. It is like the coal put to Isaiah’s lips. (Isa. 6:6) It is fire from the same altar. And this word, ‘Yet once more,’ signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, so that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for also, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ (Hebrews 12:27-29 MKJV) “each one’s work shall be revealed. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try each one’s work as to what kind it is.” (1 Corinthians 3:13 MKJV) This reminds us of the tongues of fire that fell on the disciples at Pentecost when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and power. Pentecost symbolizes more power, more grace. The empowering fire of His Spirit doesn’t come without the purifying fire. It’s the same fire! It has different results on different people. For people of faith who repent, the fire of God purifies and empowers. It brings life rather than death. For unbelievers who are stiff necked and refuse to repent, the fire of God consumes their destructible flesh. In the resurrection (yes, they get resurrected bodies too, see Rev. 20:5, 15), they burn forever because they are unable to be purified, having refused to conform their hearts and will to God’s love.

 

The fire is a response to the prayers of the saints. We pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Do we really want to see revival? Do we really want souls redeemed? Do we really want to see God glorified? Then, we must have fire from heaven! If we want fire to fall from heaven, then all saints must pray. Our incense must reach the altar. Why do we worship? Why do we intercede? It is necessary to accomplish the commission and vision God has given us. It results in God being made manifest or glorified.

 

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. And those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your righteousnesses were made known. And after these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in Heaven.” (Revelation 15:2-5 MKJV)

 

This is true worship. Worship opens the way into the holy of holies, the place where we meet God. Worship begins with praise, thanks and adoration. To be passionate for God, one must be able to express emotion. We should worship because it comes from the heart. It must be more than just an act of the will. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8) David was passionate. He danced before God. His wife, Michal mocked him and was judged for it; she remained barren as a sign of her spiritual barrenness. The symbolism is obvious; there will be no fruit without passion. The Holy Spirit is restoring intimacy to our worship; there is a God orchestrated shift to songs like the Psalms directed to God as opposed to songs about Him as though He were not in our midst. Real passion for God should create new songs. New expressions of love and adoration are fresh bread to our spirits. We glorify God by enjoying Him. We should seek Him hedonistically like a thirsty deer seeks a stream, for the joy of knowing Him. Selfish interest for this kind of pleasure is a gift from God.

 

 

 

A Mountaintop Experience With God

Three On Top.jpg

 

Mountain climbing has historically been associated with a spiritual quest. The psalmist wrote: “I Will lift up my eyes unto the hills, where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2

A mountain can be a place of revelation. It was on a mountain that Moses received the Law of God: “And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up” Ex. 19:20. God revealed things to the Apostle John on a mountain: “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city.” Rev. 21:10

Mountains can be a place of solitude where we can connect with God. Jesus withdrew to the mountains to pray and be alone with His Father (Mt. 5:1, Mt. 14:23, John 6:15). Jesus called his disciples on a mountain (Mark 3:13-15). He met them on a mountain after His resurrection (Mt. 28:16). Jesus was transfigured on a mountain top (Mt 17).

Mountains display the power of God, the awesome power of His creation. Mountain climbing, like few other endeavors, can reveal how helpless we are at the power of creation; how quickly our security can vanish. An ascent of a high peak can remind us of the importance of realizing that we are at the mercy of God and the need to trust in Him.

Mt. San Antonio, commonly called “Baldy” is a 10,500’ peak in the San Gabriel Mtn. chain in southern California. To professional mountaineers, it’s a walk up. But, for novices like me, it’s still a struggle. I climbed to the top of Baldy with my daughter and son-in-law in June of 2001. During our climb, the Lord was speaking to me almost continually. He was showing me all sorts of analogies comparing climbing the mountain to our walk as believers in Jesus. It truly became a spiritual journey for me.

As is common in southern California in June, the LA basin was covered with clouds for a good part of the month, including the day we climbed. It is possible to drive to within 10 miles of the summit, to an altitude of 6,000’. As we drove up the canyon, somewhere around the 3,000’ level, we emerged from the overcast to a bright sunshine. As we came out of the clouds, it reminded me of being born again. I was reminded of how dreary life was before coming to Christ.

Life under the dominion of Satan is very much like life below the clouds. Life goes on from day to day in the man-made world, but you can’t see the beauty of creation that is so close to you, because your eyes are blinded by the fog. The Bible says that the spiritual eyes of unbelievers are blinded by the god of this world, Satan (2Cor 4:4). Before being called by God and being given the gift of faith, we are spiritually dead, unable to see God, just as the people below the clouds can’t see the mountains. The distractions of a busy life and the cares of this world blind us to the beauty of God that surrounds us.

I suffer from allergies and impacted sinuses. Humidity makes the condition worse. I noticed that as we ascended to higher altitude (less pressure) and emerged from the clouds, my sinuses began to drain and I could breathe again! The Lord reminded me, that He is the one who heals all of our diseases and restores us; It is by His stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53). When I first was born again and gave my life to Christ, He healed me of my alcohol and pornography addiction. I was reminded that it is in drawing close to God, that we are healed and that eventually we will be completely restored.

After driving as far as one can and parking the car at the Mt Baldy ski area, we took a chair lift from the 6000’ level to the lodge at Baldy Notch (8000’). Riding the chair up reminded me of how the Lord carries us when we are new believers. The ride seemed easy. We began to see more as we ascended up the steep grade, but we were still boxed in by canyon walls which seemed huge from this vantage. Later on, as we climbed higher, the ridges surrounding the canyon appeared small compared to what we had climbed and what lie ahead. Some of the challenges that we face as new disciples seem huge to us at the time. When we look back upon them after the Lord has taken us through them, they don’t seem so big.

As we rode up, below us we saw remnants of civilization discarded below us; things people had dropped and lost; baggage discarded along the route. It reminded me of the things of our carnal nature and the world system that we discard as we progress in our walk with Christ. Soon we arrived at the notch and the lodge. It is a place of refreshment and rest which seemed unnecessary on the way up, but on the way down it was sorely needed. God affords us times of rest in our walk between times of trial and challenge. In the early days of our walk, when we are zealous, we don’t appreciate the times of rest as much as we do when we are older, having been through many trials. 

We began our climb up an adjacent ski slope. The slope was steep and in the open sun. The climate was warm and sunny with a light breeze. We saw a peak in the distance, which seemed near and we mistakenly assumed it to be the summit. We later found out that it was only an intermediate smaller peak about half way between us and the summit which was obstructing our view of the main peak. It is a fact that the Lord won’t give us more than we can handle. Often times He prevents us from knowing what lies ahead in order to keep us from becoming discouraged.

As we continued to climb, the journey began to become a labor. We started to sweat and we had tp stop every 10-15 yards for breath, as the air was getting thinner. We moved from shade spot to shade spot. Our journey with Christ would be impossible if we did not take time to rest in Him. Only He can provide shade from the torments. So, our walk is broken down into intermediate goals that seem attainable.

Eventually, we came to a place of choosing different routes. Both were acceptable. One was the bunny slope, which is easier, but longer. The other was the main slope, which is steeper, but shorter. The Lord permits different paths to maturity. The ones that mature us sooner come at a greater cost.

When we arrived at the top of the ski run, we met a guide who had done the journey before. We learned that the summit was far beyond and still out of sight. We discovered that the journey is more difficult than it first appears. To the unlearned and unschooled, the Christian walk may seem simple. As one who has walked with Christ for more than 20 years, let me assure you, it is not simple if you are truly dedicated and willing to take up your cross and follow Christ. It is not for the weak; the higher you go, the harder it gets. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the Christian walk gets easier as you grow. It becomes more difficult with each progressive step. But, the blessings are also much greater with each step. The higher you go the more you can see; revelation is cumulative and it comes at a cost.

We were feeling the stress of the climb and seeing the size of the peak, we felt it would be impossible, but we just kept going (Phil. 3:14). Along the way we stopped to rest by an old weathered bristlecone pine tree that resembled a cross and it seemed to grow out of a rock. It is God who sustains us through our walk with Him. It is He who gives us rest. he hides us in the Rock who carried the rugged cross on his back for our sins. it is our appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice and His forgiveness that encourages us to “run the race.” (Hebrews 12:1-8)

Along the route to the summit we had to traverse a long narrow path atop one of the ridges which descend from the peak. The path was only about 2’ wide and the slopes on either side descended for thousands of feet covered by loose rock. To stray off of the path would mean certain death. This was a reminder of the narrow path that Jesus spoke of. (Mt 7:14, Prov. 15:10, 24) The narrow ridge leading up to the peak from the east side is called the devil’s backbone. The wind on this ridge was blowing strong constantly and the temperature must have been close to freezing because there were patches of snow up there in June in southern California. I remembered that the attacks from the devil come like gusts to deter us from the goal, but, in Christ, we walk on his back, he is under our feet. (Luke 10:19, 1Pt. 5:8)

We could now see the top.  Again we were out of breath and needed to rest on a rock. As we ascended the summit, people would appear small in the distance. The further we progress on the journey of knowing Him, people appear smaller compared to His creation, His purposes and His Kingdom.

The peak was so desolate, nothing but rock. Getting closer to God, we realize that HE is a giant rock, nothing competes for His glory. As we approached the summit we felt a light headed sense of euphoria. (2Tim 4:7) Now, there was nothing to obstruct our view. We could see 360 degrees around us, in all directions. However, we soon realized that we couldn’t stay at the top; It was cold and would get colder as the sun went down. Besides, we were hungry and there was nothing to eat up there. The Lord reminded me that He has called us to go down and live on the earth, not in the clouds; that this earth is our abode, both present and future. (John 17:15-16)

The trip down was much easier and quicker, but we had to be careful of slipping. It reminded me that in our Christian walk, we must not be overconfident. Once we have been to the top we are more susceptible to the danger of pride.

At the bottom, we met a couple just starting their climb. By now, it was late in the afternoon and they were a little on the chubby side. They asked us if they were on the right path and how far the top was. It was obvious to us that people don’t take the journey seriously; they start too late and they refuse to shed excess baggage. The journey is for the strong; it doesn’t get easier, it gets better

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.

 

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.

The Greatest Threat

It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.

You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.

I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.

Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.

In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.

John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.

I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.

As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.

I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.

I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:

  1. Time’s up!
  2. The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
  3. Stop what you are doing (sinning).
  4. Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
  5. Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.

Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:

Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.

God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)

Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy.  We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.

Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.

Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.

The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Generously

“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously….”(Romans 12:8)

Generosity plays an important part in bringing glory to God. When describing the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul said, “They gave beyond their ability…. entirely on their own.” Our motivation for giving should always be out of a pure heart of love for the recipient and a desire for God to receive the glory, never for us to receive recognition. Jesus condemned hypocrites for giving to be noticed. Paul promised the Corinthians that their generosity would result in praise and thanksgiving to God.  Many would assert that the church cannot be faulted for not giving and it is true that Christians do give generously. This is a great testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; however, we are often guilty of failing to exercise good stewardship in our giving. I am specifically referring here to giving offerings and not to tithes.

We need to be discerning about the ministries that we give to. One of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. This gift is not some natural or humanly developed gift or intuition. The gift of discernment involves a revelation from God of the motivating spirit associated with a person or behavior; whether it is holy or evil, demonic or divine, worldly, carnal or Christ-like. We should not be swayed by mass marketing appeals and impassioned sales pitches. We should be led by the Spirit of God in our giving. We in the western church especially need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to insure that our gifts really do benefit those who are needy.

The church needs to be the instrument of true charity to a needy world. There is a burgeoning movement in the church promoting “social justice.”  Unfortunately, many proponents of this movement are masquerading compassion to hide a socialist re-distribution agenda. To these leftists, charity must be dispensed by a behemoth government because they believe that people must be compelled to give through taxation. This is not a biblical approach to charity. Jesus never said, “give to Caesar in order to care for the poor.” No, He commands us to give directly to the poor. True compassion can only be dispensed by free people who give willingly. Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:7)

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