Category Archives: Religion

The First Communion

Last Supper2

 

We had communion in church on Sunday. It is always such a blessed event. It gives us a chance to reflect on our spiritual condition. I’ll always remember my first communion experience after being born again. After receiving the elements, I sat there in the pew reflecting on my sinfulness and rebellion and on Christ’s amazing sacrifice for my sin. I was weeping and my hands were shaking. As I opened my eyes and looked at the little cup in my hand, I saw that the juice had spilled out and was all over my hand. At that moment, the Lord reminded me that His blood was on my hands. I had received the cup as a child growing up in the Methodist church, but back then it was just a ritual without meaning to me. After this first born again communion, I knew I would never be the same. Whenever I take communion now, I reminded of that first real time for me.

This past Sunday, the preacher read from 1 Corinthians 11:24 and 25 as is customary, reminding us that Christ’s body was broken for us and His blood was shed for the remission of our sins. As we were taking communion, I was thinking about what that first communion meal must have been like for Christ’s disciples. As post-canon Christians, we have the advantage of having the Word of God including the New Testament that explains Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in the context of the gospel. We understand what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplished for our salvation and the establishment of His Kingdom.  The first disciples had none of that. All that they had were Hebrew traditions and the Old Testament which were a shadow of the good things to come. They had the teachings of their master, but the gospels are replete with accounts of how the disciples did not understand completely the things that Jesus taught them. We know from the gospel accounts that none of them understood that Jesus would rise from the dead. None of them understood why His death was necessary. None of them understood that the earthly Kingdom that Jesus spoke of was not for their time. They were all expecting Jesus to evict the Romans and re-establish an independent Israel. Their earthly nation was the only “Kingdom of God” that they knew. They believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, but they really did not understand His mission until after the resurrection. So, this first communion initiated by Jesus must have sparked many questions in their mind.

To begin to understand how the disciples may have thought about this event, we have to realize that this took place during a traditional Passover meal. The Passover observed in the first century was different than the modern Jewish holiday. It was more like the Passover celebrated by Moses and the Hebrews before the exodus. In the first century, they still had a temple, a priesthood and observed sacrifices, unlike modern Jews. During Jesus’ three years of ministry, He most likely observed the Passover with His disciples at least twice. But this time, it was different. Jesus broke tradition at His Last Supper. The unleavened bread that Jesus broke had always been a reminder to the Hebrews of the manna that God provided in the wilderness. During the Passover meal it was intended to remind them of God’s miraculous provision and care for them in providing for their physical needs. He kept them alive! Life literally came from heaven. When Jesus said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Take and eat,” it must have stirred a memory for the disciples from an earlier time in Jesus’ ministry. It was not necessarily a good memory. The event is recorded in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. It occurs the day after Jesus had fed 5,000 men plus women and children. This huge crowd followed Him to the other side of the sea at Capernaum. His ministry was growing exponentially. It was flourishing. He was known throughout Judea and the Decapolis region. And then, He tells the people that He is the bread that came down from heaven. People began to complain. Jesus responds, “I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he shall live forever. And truly the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) He told them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood! John records, interestingly in verse 6:66, that most of the crowd left. It was bad marketing, Jesus. The Jews, who wouldn’t even touch a dead body, probably thought to themselves, “This man is a pagan. He wants us to be cannibals. The Pharisees are right about this man.” He asked the disciples if they wanted to leave. Peter responded, “where else would we go? You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter and the disciples most likely did not understand what Jesus was saying, but they believed He was God in the flesh and they accepted Him by faith, even though they did not understand. What great faith! Oh, that we could have that sort of faith. So, Jesus was repeating at this Last Supper what He had earlier taught in Capernaum where He was soundly rejected. It certainly must have caused the disciples to think about Jesus being their source of life like the manna from heaven in the wilderness.

 

There were four ceremonial cups of wine served during the Passover meal intended to remind the participants of four promises that the Lord had made to the Israelites prior to the exodus from Egypt. The first cup was called the cup of sanctification and was to remind them of God’s promise to set them apart from the Egyptians and the second was the cup of thanksgiving to remind them that the Lord rescued them from bondage. “Therefore say to the sons of Israel, I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rescue you out of their bondage. And I will redeem you with a stretched-out arm, and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God. And you shall know that I am Jehovah your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”(Exo 6:6-7) The third cup was the cup of redemption intended to remind them of God’s promise to redeem them. This is the cup that Jesus spoke of as representing His blood that purchases our redemption. The fourth cup was known as the cup of completion and was not served until the end of the meal. Jesus identified His sacrificial blood with our redemption, but not with the cup of completion. His ministry is not yet finished. This reminds us that He is coming again. His Kingdom is here and not yet. There is work that remains before the Kingdom comes in its fullness. In the interim, let us serve Him with faith like His first disciples. There are things that we may not understand when we see evil and suffering, but let us believe in Christ’s divinity and goodness. In this age, we don’t have all of the answers, but we can trust in the Lord like His first disciples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

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)