Category Archives: Religion

Teamwork

Teamwork

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

The Kingdom of God on Earth

Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Joyful

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

 The kingdom of God is characterized by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” A revelation of God will produce great joy in the heart of the believer. Paul frequently petitioned the Father to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation….” Jonathan Edwards’ account of the First Great Awakening contains reports of extraordinary manifestations of joy. He writes:

 “Extraordinary views of Divine things and the religious affections were frequently attended with very great effects upon the body… .The person was deprived of all ability to speak… .the soul so overcome with admiration and a kind of omnipotent joy as to cause the person unavoidably to leap with all his might in joy and mighty exaltation.”

My daughter attended meetings in St. Louis conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne in March of 1994. Mr. Howard-Browne has been used powerfully by the Lord. During one of the meetings, She had a revelation that led to great joy and faith. She became drunk as it were in the Holy Spirit and began to have visions of angelic beings pouring huge buckets of water over the assembled congregation. She saw a vision of the Lord Jesus dancing with a beautiful bride. The Lord spoke to her about His affections for His bride. She was then miraculously healed of a scoliosis of the spine which she had suffered with since childhood. She remained unable to speak for three days. She also experienced emotional healing that enabled her to develop relationships on a level she had previously been unable to attain.

 The scripture does not condemn outward expressions of joy. Indeed, it says that “the joy of the Lord” is our strength.” Certainly, being regularly out of control would result in a bad witness, but occasionally being overwhelmed with joy at the revelation of God’s love and mercy is understandable. This reaction might also occur when experiencing deliverance from oppression or pain. These momentary outpourings can be vital in maintaining that inner peace and joy that would cause others to see Christ in us or to ask what it is that sustains us. Perhaps this is what Peter was referring to when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Certainly this scripture would apply to questions regarding our personal testimony, but it could also apply to curiosity aroused when we display peace and joy through trials. It is significant that Paul couples the exhortation to be ‘joyful in hope,” along with, “patient in affliction,” in Romans 12:12. Sometimes, only the joy that comes down from above can sustain us through the afflictions that come at us from the forces of hell.

The lasting significance of the “Great Awakenings” was the moral foundations that were re-established. The bars and prostitution houses closed and families were preserved. The Cane Ridge Revivals of 1801 radically transformed the frontier. “Instead of gambling cursing and vice, spirituality and genuine Christianity characterized the early westward movement. It was God’s great hour. Revival stopped skepticism in its tracks and returned the helm of the country to the godly.” Pratney points out that sympathy for the poor was affected by the 1857 Awakening. The work of the Salvation Army was born during this revival.

A willingness to be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and to yield control to God is a mark of godly zeal. In speaking of Whitefield and Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon has noted,  “The world said they were mad; the caricature drew them as being fanatical beyond endurance; but there it was, their zeal was their power. Of course the world scoffed at that of which it was afraid. The world fears enthusiasm which is kindled by the thought of the ruin of men…, the enthusiasm which believes in the Holy Ghost, which believes God is still present with His church to do wonders.”

Our mortal bodies sometimes experience unusual manifestations when we are touched by God, but if we have the faith and trust in God to let Him touch us, He will radically change us. And in doing so, He will use us to radically change our world.

The scripture I refer to here, Romans 12:12, ties a joyful attitude to faithfulness in prayer as well: ”Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The outpouring at Pentecost came about after the disciples were “All together…with one accord, steadfast in prayer.” It is nearly impossible to be steadfast in prayer without the joy of the Lord in one’s heart. The two concepts are inexorably linked together here. The most important thing Christ’s church can do is pray. When God raises up an army of prayer warriors who are obedient to be in one accord with Him, our world will be won to Christ.


 

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The Natural Branches

God makes it clear that He has not rejected the natural branches forever. God’s election is sure: “the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.”[1] Ephesians 1:4 tells us that “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundations of the earth.” God predestines on the basis of foreknowledge. He is not a captive of time; He looked into all of human history and chose those who would choose Him. God chose the descendants of Israel to be a nation of people that He would work through. Even though He has not chosen every individual person of that natural nation, He has not forgotten them as a people. In Jeremiah 31:37 God says, “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all of the descendants of Israel…” [2]. Had he rejected them forever, their destiny would have been the same as other nations that He has obliterated forever. Malachi 1:2-5 recounts that God hated Esau and that his descendants would always be under God’s wrath. This was because Esau had no faith and was willing to sell his inheritance to satisfy his flesh. Perhaps Esau’s descendants were cursed in that each one individually would follow in the paths of their patriarch and reject God. Historical evidence proves that nations like Edom (Esau) have been wiped from the face of the earth. But, miraculously, Israel has survived as a nation for three thousand years. God has preserved them through conquest exile and holocaust and has returned them to their promised soil in these the last days.

Many eschatologists (those who study the future as it concerns the end of this age) claim that the next major event on Gods calendar is the rapture of the church. I do not believe this to be the case. For over nineteen centuries, the church consistently taught that Christ would come for his church at the end of the Great Tribulation. A comparison of 1 Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 20 would confirm this view. In Revelation 20, Tribulation saints are included in the “first resurrection”, i.e., the rapture. Moreover, this is consistent with God’s character. Scripture repeatedly refers to one church, one bride and one new man from Jew and Gentile.[3] Jesus is not a polygamist. He will not celebrate His wedding feast in heaven while part of His church is being martyred on earth! Romans chapter 11 refers to God’s plan to graft the natural branches, natural born Jews, back into The Vine. This later day ingathering of Jews to Christ is the next major event on God’s eschatological calendar. We are beginning to see this occur to a small degree evidenced by the birth of such messianic organizations as Jews for Jesus. God will draw the Jews back to Himself in mass. Romans 11:15 refers to this phenomenon as resulting in the “resurrection from the dead…” This verse most obviously refers to the great resurrection when Christ will gather His church unto Himself and thus the in-grafting of the natural branches would precede the rapture.

 

Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that not all natural born Jews are the inheritors of the covenants and promises of God, but that the spiritual descendants of Abraham, those who have inherited the promises by faith and have been born of the Holy Spirit, are true Israel. In speaking of the natural children, the Jews, Paul writes that theirs is the divine glory (Ro. 9:4). God chose to reveal Himself to Israel and to establish His literal earthly kingdom through them as a prophetic representation of the Kingdom to come. The Divine Glory is the revelation of Gods nature and person. So in this text Paul is reminding us that the natural Israelites had experienced the physical manifest presence of God. Moses, Joshua and others met God face to face. A pillar of fire and smoke guided the nation of Israel. God parted the Red Sea and the Jordan for them. He miraculously delivered them from their enemies on many occasions. On several occasions, God literally answered their prayers with fire from heaven. God literally stopped the rotation of the earth for Israel. They saw the power of God. Their descendants have been taught about the mighty supernatural saving acts of God on behalf of His people. When they see God moving like this on behalf of His people today, it will get their attention.

Many in the church believe in and attest to the miraculous power of God today, but many either do not believe or do not expect God to do the miraculous today. Perhaps that is why we do not see God’s manifest presence to the extent that it would capture the attention of the world and the Jews in particular.

Romans 11 makes it clear that God will draw the Jews back to Himself by causing them to envy what we as Christians have, that is a relationship with the one True God. But, how will they recognize that we have this relationship? The key is the manifest presence of God in our midst, which will produce fruit in us that the Jews will recognize as being from God. Modern Judaism has placed more credence upon this world and good deeds than correct theology. The natural branches will be able to recognize The Vine when they see Him in our midst. We must begin to look and act like Him.


[1] Romans 11:29. KJV.

[2] Jeremiah 31:37,NIV.

[3] Ephesians 2:15 NIV.

Real Hope

Real Hope

Welfare and income redistribution don’t provide any lasting hope. Real hope springs from faith in Christ. The virtues of good character provide a reason to hope.
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Thy Kingdom Come

Kingdom of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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