Yes, Lord! (Entering In)

Ecclesiastes chapter three begins by telling us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven.” The second part of verse seven specifies that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Again in chapter five, verses 1-3 say, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of G-d. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth…”, it continues, “…nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before G-d, for G-d is in Heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”

The word, “ecclesia” means the church, the body of Christ. This book is written to us and it is written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. To paraphrase, the Bible says that no one before him or since has possessed such wisdom; so just maybe he knows something we don’t and we should incline our ears, hearts and minds to. And, more importantly, we should heed.

Several months ago the Lord, through Holy Spirit, began to speak to me and call my attention to an area in which all congregations need a word. They need their hearts and minds—individually and corporately—to become aware of it, they need the humility to receive it, they need the eyes to observe it and they need the desire and grace to obey it. I have been guilty of this on occasion as well, so I bear witness to its veracity.

I am sure that all worship leaders would heartily agree with the wonderful words in Psalm 100:4 which exclaim, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!” I am not a worship leader. I am not part of a praise team. And it is not one of my spiritual gifts, but I have always presumed that this verse signifies the very reason we begin our services with praise and worship; we are entering His holy presence and these are instructions—glad instructions—on how we are to meet with Him. And lest you begin to think what I am about to share is trivial, incorrect or legalistic, consider well the humbling realization proclaimed in Isaiah 66:1, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; what is the house that you would build for Me, and what is the place of My rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My Word.’”

All of this foundation has been truthfully and carefully laid in order to lovingly, yet boldly, bring to light something which is overlooked and goes on Sunday after Sunday: WHERE ARE OUR HEARTS AND MINDS MOMENTS BEFORE WE LIFT UP OUR HANDS, OUR VOICES, OR BOTH? The words of our Maker declare in John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. G-d is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth,” not in the flesh or the deceitfulness of our own hearts. This need not be what some would call or perceive as a “hard word,” but a true word from our Heavenly Father who loves us but also guides us into and through His kingdom under His sovereignty.

We are, as members of the human race, a naturally- and relationally-minded species. As such, we talk and do things together constantly. A word we use in the church a lot is “fellowship.” Sometimes, due to distance, differing work schedules, family priorities and other things, we don’t see each other as often as we would like. So when we do see each other before the church service (for some of us, even as we struggle to get there on time, we do so in the middle of praise and worship), we tend to catch up briefly. Some of us do so after Sunday school and before the service begins. This time is usually spent talking about non-spiritual matters which are centered around our worldly concerns, circumstances or pursuits, rather than having our hearts and minds focused on Christ. Colossians 3:1-3 tells us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of G-d. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in G-d.” These verses refer to the goal we should aim to have all of the time, but especially when we come into His temple and before His throne. You can also look to Romans 8:5-6 which says, “For those who live according to the flesh…” (even momentarily) “…set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

So if we are late to church or we are not quietly, humbly and intentionally arriving and sitting (or kneeling) in the sanctuary in a mind and heart which are prayerful, contrite and prostrate, HOW CAN WE BE IN A PROPER STATE OR POSITION FOR WORSHIP? How can He see His children are seeking to worship Him “in Spirit and in Truth”? How can we reverence Him, as is His due, and how can we truly expect ourselves to go from fleshly at 10:59 a.m. and then shift into Spirit mode at precisely 11:00 a.m. (or as soon as the music starts)? We all know the answer to that. We can’t.

Thankfully, as an eternal spirit, the Father—like us—is a relational being as well. As we did seconds before our salvation took place, let us employ the wonderful promise in 1 John 1:9 which sweetly reminds us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Pastors, deacons and elders may need to heed these words as well (see Ezra 9:2b). As leaders and example-setters, you must lovingly and graciously address this issue with those you have been entrusted and called to shepherd. This is your duty in the Lord, and should be your pleasure as well. May we all be mindful of this each and every Sabbath or Lord’s Day. We are commanded to honor our earthly fathers (and mothers); how much more deserving is our Heavenly Father?

Blessings upon obedience, with glad hearts. Amen.

It’s Not the Law vs. Grace; It’s Just Grace

Many times we hear of people talking about the Old Testament as if it is starkly different than the New Covenant. We hear, for example, the almost stale refrain about the Law versus Grace. This implies that salvation was granted or obtained, in the OT, by means of keeping the Law—while it is now granted or obtained– under the New and present Testament, by a manner in which it is freely given, undeserved and unearned. This is primarily true, but the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see that both covenants are the same and they are both attained solely by grace. The paradigm is the same from one to the other, and why shouldn’t it be? After all, we can refer back to such verses as Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” as well as James 1:17 which says, “…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This is not a cute or clever rendering of scripture, nor is it a new opinion or concise commentary. It is the truth, and it is biblical.

Even though we know that the people living prior to our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth and public ministry were required to provide an animal to the high priest in order for him to make atonement for their sins, it was not so much their offering (deed or work) of the animal that provided a covering for their transgression; it was the substitutionary sacrifice, death and blood before the Lord G-d who generously accepted it and allowed it to atone for the iniquity(ies). In other words, the offerings were not really responsible for the “blotting out.” Rather, it was the grace of the Almighty who not only provided the Way or manner to begin with, but also received it as an act of mercy towards His people! Even then the words of another verse in the book of James (2:13) ring true, “…mercy triumphs over judgment.”

And, of course, we are absolutely aware of the sacrificial, atoning and propitiary offering of our Lord, Savior, Redeemer and King, Jesus Christ the Messiah! His willing, obedient, perfect, selfless, self-offering is the single-most awesome, powerful, unrepeatable act of grace the world has ever and will ever know. Grace is at the core of both the Old and New Covenants. If you have never looked at it that way before, as I hadn’t, thank Holy Spirit for revealing truth to you in a way that makes you appreciate Him in a fresh, new way!

G-d bless you.

The Virtue of Modesty

“Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency; simplicity, plainness, unpretentiousness.” What has happened to this characteristic and virtue? The Amish seem to dress humbly and do not call attention to themselves, either in attire or in their refusal to succumb to other worldly snares. If they stand out unintentionally, it is far better to stand out—positively or negatively perceived though it may be—for being humble or appearing common rather than for being proud or ostentatious. I applaud that.

One may also look at some Muslim women who wear long, loose-fitting and all-covering clothes. This custom is not only good to keep them free from sensuality, but it negates the possibility of calling men’s undue and lustful attention upon themselves. It also serves as a model or tradition for women to put their value in intelligence, faithfulness, love or something much better and far more important than one’s physical appearance.

Though I don’t know their motives or the intents of their hearts, nor what initiated, in particular, these habits or traditions—nor do I agree with their theology—I do want to give credit where credit is due. While these “religions” are non-Biblical in whole or in part, they are considered worldly. Why? Because we are either reconciled to God (Christians) or we are still unsaved Gentiles.

Unfortunately, we observe far too many Christian women dressing all too immodestly. This is not an attack on our sisters in the Lord, but it is a fact. I know there are many reasons: TV, movies, magazines, little choice in most clothing stores, the world they are in but not of, the lure of the flesh, and the innate desire to be noticed and feel attractive. However, the Word we claim to know, and to love, and are committed to live by has much to say to us and we should take note of, learn, and heed what our God says to us.

James 1:27 says for us, “to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of the hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Romans 14:21 relates that “it is not good to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” once you are made aware of it.

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul passes on the love-inspired admonition to avoid anything which may, or certainly will, cause another brother or sister to be tripped up or to fall. As is always the case, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The love, care and wisdom of the Father pays attention to the intent, purpose or motive of the inner man or woman. If our motive is love, then we will not do or say anything which will cause our brothers or sisters to have problems.

For example, we may have a brother who has had an addiction to alcohol or, in fact, may still be struggling with temptations. Though it is alright to have a beer or a glass of wine once in a long while, we don’t want to drink one when in our brother’s company. Or, we choose to purposefully avoid drinking all together so as not to cause someone who sees us to gossip, or to tarnish our godly character. As it is with godly love—AGAPE—which has the betterment of the other person in mind, we should voluntarily give up or sacrifice our “right” to do it.

Many women may know, or may not be aware, that at one point or another in a man’s life he will most likely struggle with pornography or some degree of sensual lust or temptation; its season may be short, long, recurring. Unfortunately, we have very little control or influence over the world around us in this area. And to the detriment of godly men in our churches all over the world, our sisters in the Lord are causing our brothers either to stumble or to be tempted, especially within the sanctuary (safe place) of the Lord’s assembly. This is the last place a brother should expect to see such worldliness. Tightly-fitting pants, high or short skirts, and low-cut blouses abound. To be frank, I am amazed that women of God who profess godliness and are baptized, Spirit-filled and born-again believers don’t feel the strong prick and conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit telling them what is said in 1 Peter (that we mentioned earlier).

The Father tells the Spirit, and the Spirit tells us that we should not let our external appearance define us. It should not be what makes us attractive. It should not be what makes a man find us desirable. (And men, it is our duty not to allow our flesh to desire these things). Beyond that, if our aim is to get positive attention from the opposite sex, it shouldn’t be. We should let God’s view of us be what matters. He loves us just the way we are, but righteousness is the goal for Him where our lives are concerned. If a wife wants to be attractive for her husband, she can dress appropriately for him and him alone – and at home. Why are you wearing inappropriate clothing (outward adornment) to church or to work? Do you want to be noticed by other men? I certainly hope not. God tells us that it is “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” which He (and your husband, boyfriend, or future mate) sees as very precious. That is part of being Christ-like. Isaiah describes Jesus as having “no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” And yet we are drawn to Him, but it is because of His heart; not His external appearance.

Finally, included in what we have discussed so far and going way beyond that, is what James tells us at the end of chapter one. He says what should be in capital letters followed by a few exclamation points to all of us, “Keep yourself unstained from the world.” Not only will the world take notice of us and know that we are Christians by our love, but it will think we are one of them if we insist on and continue to dress like them. Do we see a young girl or woman in tight jeans, short skirts or cleavage-bearing blouses and think to ourselves, “She must be a godly woman, or a symbol of purity or a pastor’s wife”? I don’t think so.

This is not an unkind word or a bully pulpit, but rather a long-overdue word of exhortation to all women, but specifically to those belonging to the body of Christ. This discourse may have caught many of you unaware, but it is absolutely true. I am willing to bet (not literally) that virtually any church-going man will confirm what I have said, given the right conditions, forum or anonymity. Don’t ask your husbands unless you have an unusually open and honest relationship AND you are willing to accept his transparent and vulnerable answer with extraordinary Christian love and understanding.

I am sure we men have an issue or two ourselves but unless you are willing and able to share and properly articulate it to us, we can’t do anything about it. Unfortunately, I have brought this up in the not-so-distant past with my pastor/ friend and shared that I knew and agreed with a couple of guys that wanted this topic addressed and out in the open. How can we not talk about this knowing what it is doing to the household? Though I respect him and know him to be a man of God, it frustrates and saddens me that he refuses to see any problem with it. I know this.

We don’t want to humiliate any women, of course, but the Bible does tell us that the Word of God is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Maybe a good idea within the individual congregations would be for an honest, articulate and humble man of God (layman or other) to relay these things to his wife or a sister who can speak in some sort of ladies’ meeting or conference.

God bless you all! Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The latter part of 1 Corinthians 14:12 says we are to “strive to excel in building up the church.” Amen.

Does This Look Like A Letter You Would Write?

How can I seek to know You BETTER or MORE, G-d, when I don’t truly know You at all? Shouldn’t I first get to know who You are by what You say about Yourself? Shouldn’t I spend time with You and listen to You? I need to hear the Truth about how my sins separate me from You and that’s why it seems You are far away. I need to be told and to understand that my sins which deserve death were paid for by Your Son Jesus. And that’s why it is only through Him that I can have a path to You. He bridged the gap that separated us. And I need to know it is Holy Spirit that convicts me so that I can run to You to ask and receive forgiveness, instead of running away from my guilt. I hear people who claim to know You speak about You, but in a way that is high and lofty and often doesn’t speak to me and help me to know or understand You or Your ways. They talk about You, say Your name often and sing to You but I feel left out because they don’t really help me to know You. I see people making apparently joyful noises and dancing, but is it just for the moment? Will it help them in times of trouble? Have they really yet given their lives to You? Will it help them to trust You in a way that fosters and nourishes a relationship? True, Your house is a sanctuary and a place of refuge. But what happens when I’m out in the world? Will I feel safe in Your presence there? Is there anything to the foundation of our relationship besides “feelings” and “emotions”? They come and go, and are up and down. They are unstable. They are shallow. Even though I sometimes associate these with You or make me run to You, are these to be all we share together? I know they mean well and want good things for me, but it isn’t really teaching me what I need to know about You. They sometimes seem to be superficial, or at least I perceive it that way. Why? Because, for all the singing and dancing and teaching. It just doesn’t resonate inside me. It doesn’t connect me to You in a way that’s real and heartfelt. I leave there feeling as if You weren’t there, although it looks quite different for everybody else. It’s like coming to Your house for Your birthday party where everyone is there because it’s for You and about You. There are gifts, cake, music, singing, laughing and ice cream. But I didn’t see or hear You there. Where were You? Did everyone else see you, but I missed You? Was it all a mirage? It shouldn’t be this way. I came to see You, to hear Your voice, to celebrate YOU. It was like, amidst all of the “noise,” I sat alone wanting to hear You speak to me and teach me about You and Your ways—even if it was correction or discipline. After all, I don’t come to Your house and spend time with You just so You can make me feel good and meet all of my needs. That’s me using You; that’s not a relationship. That’s not love. What do You get out of that? (Not that I really have anything to give You.) I really do love You! And I want to love You more. I want to be more like You. I have so much to learn from and about You. Please help me to be who You created me to be. Let people see some of You in me because I have been with You and You are good! Thank You for letting me share this with You and for letting me get this off my chest. It’s so good to know that we can talk to each other and that You listen to me and that I can call You anytime. Thank You. I know You don’t need me for anything, but You sought me out anyway because You knew I needed You. I am so grateful and I love You! What are You asking of me today? What can I do to show You I love You? Thank You for leading me beside literal still waters today. Thank You for refreshing my soul. I can now honestly say we spent time together and I am all the richer for my time with You. Through the joyful tears in my eyes, I can’t wait until every day is like this. I love You SO much! I am not deserving of Your love and friendship but, since You are offering, have done everything to make it all possible, and I need it so badly, I gladly and gratefully receive it! Thank You.

Seeds of Apostasy?

Most all of us are familiar with the wise adage, “Feed a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” The barebones issue behind this proverb is that, if you really care for another and his welfare as a person, you will invest in his life in ways that have less temporary, more far-reaching and eternal effects and benefits.

I got to thinking about that verse recently and how it might be viewed or perceived in our contemporary society almost anywhere in the world. Many people are concerned about compassion, humanitarian need and world hunger including politicians, celebrities and philanthropic foundations—at least superficially. And we should be. We should be willing to give of “our” time, “our” talents and “our” resources. Not to downplay these good deeds, but there’s a reason that Almighty G-d looks at the heart and not the outward appearance; the motive that drives the deed or work nowadays. It is much easier to write a check or toss some money towards a problem or cause (and that is not bad), but we know—especially from governmental efforts—this isn’t enough.

If I were to start a new job, many people would naturally begin to tell me what to do or they might even be willing to show me by way of demonstration. I might retain some of it, especially if it was instinctive, but what about something more difficult or more sophisticated? Though it takes more time and patience (two things in short supply these days), if you instruct me verbally while allowing me to actually do it myself, it will last and make a deeper impression. I would be able, from that point on, to perform it with little or no supervision. So with the way that “love” is wrongly perceived, expressed and expected in many people’s hearts, is it more compassionate to give a man a fish, allowing him to eat for only one meal? Or is it truly more nurturing to teach him how to do it for himself (investing time, talents and resources—oneself) and ensuring he is now able to be fed indefinitely (building a foundation)? Which one involves (more) sacrifice, and genuinely portrays love as the Bible defines it?

For the true, and not just professing, Christian (me and many of you), this means to put to death the lie we may sometimes believe about trying to reach and save the many with the Gospel—as if it is largely OUR responsibility alone– because so many are perishing, and invest in and concentrate on the ones the Lord has placed right in front of us and around us now. Making disciples takes time. Our Lord took three whole years, day-in and day-out, with His followers. In our loving quest to be obedient to the Great Commission and to baptize, let’s not lose sight of the foundation which MUST be built, and not to overlook the need for them to get used to being fed milk before moving on to the ingestion and digestion of too much or any meat too soon. In the secular and biological sense, eating milk and meat together or within a certain time frame of one another is very hard on the digestive system. Additionally, the dietary laws of both Judaism and Islam prohibit partaking of the two together. I mention this by way of emphasis to point out something I have observed in at least two churches I have either been a member of or have visited in the last few years, and I strongly suspect it is a much larger and widespread issue than I am aware of personally. The practice and probably unintentional habit of what are many times referred to as “altar calls”, as well as baptisms, are being performed without intentional, necessary and proper foundation-building.

I am fully aware of and so thankful for the work of Holy Spirit to convict a person’s heart and lead him or her to repentance. This can, and often does, occur during church services where we are free, unencumbered and encouraged to respond to the Lord’s prompting and urging for acknowledgment and confession of sins (Matthew 3:6), as well as gladly entering into forgiveness, salvation and the promise of eternal life! Hallelujah! But this is just the beginning of the true Christian life. It is only the first step with our Creator, Lord and Savior.

If we as brothers–male and female– or shepherds focus on the conversion (or the experience) and forget, downplay or sidestep the milk our “siblings” need as newborn babies in the faith—the discipleship process—we do them great harm, potentially setting them up for failure. This can, and quite possibly will, lead them to question what they committed themselves to, become frustrated and discouraged when trials and afflictions come, and can ultimately lead to apostasy. What does that term we sometimes hear, relate to the end times, and instinctively know isn’t good, mean? Simply, it means “a falling away.” Consider these words and verses, and how they relate to, teach about, warn, and apply to falling away and the foundation-building process:

1) “All scripture is breathed out by G-d and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
2) “Older women likewise are to…teach what is good, and so train the younger women…” (Titus 2:3-5)
3) “For by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of G-d. You need milk, not solid food…” (Hebrews 5:12)
4) “…so that we no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)
5) “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
6) “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
7) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And then the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
8) *** “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21) ***
9) “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12)
10) “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.’” (Acts 8:30-31)
11) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
12) {Research the difference between “Lordship Salvation” vs. “Easy-Believism.”} – the latter is a cheapening of grace.
13) “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:17-20)
14) “And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:27-30)
15) {Check out an excellent video called, “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman on Youtube or DVD.}

“Apostasy” in the Old Testament can be found in Jeremiah 2:19 as well as Hosea 14:4. The Hebrew word is “meshubah” and means “turning back, faithless, turning, waywardness.” The same word in the New Testament can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. It is the Greek word that is directly derived from “apostosia” and means “defection, revolt, forsake.” It is essentially the exact opposite of repentance. One must be unsaved, an enemy of G-d (see James 4:4, even if you don’t see yourself that way), still in his or her sins. He then turns to or towards G-d. While one must have “tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the Word of G-d and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4-5) at one time in order to possibly fall away. In other words, you can’t fall out of a tree that you have never truly climbed up into first.

How does this term “apostasy” apply in terms of not having a proper foundation in the “elementary principles” of the Christian life—the milk we must feed upon, ingest and allow to nourish us before moving on to the meat of this wonderful life of faith? Looking back to the earlier-mentioned and asterisked scripture found in Matthew 13:20-21, it is perhaps the best illustration of this point. If a proper, biblical, Spirit-and-Truth-infused foundation is not laid and tended, the necessary deep roots will not have been established and may— and possibly will—lead to a falling away.

Apostasy is many times thought of as a rebellious, defiant, willful decision, but it need not be. It can result from a weak, shallow and shaky base. This substructure can be improperly laid for many reasons. The Great Commission is hard enough. The laborers are few. The enemy is deceitful. There are false prophets and teachers. The world and its desires and lusts are around us on all sides. Wolves can enter the Church from without or from within, already being among us. Let us not lose the ones we have gained, due to our negligence. Let us not lose them to the false notion of ecumenism. Let us not lose them because the “foundation” was nothing more than experience, feelings and other nuances of sensuality. Let’s offer them substance. Let’s teach them, as the Lord Jesus did, to count the cost. Let them come to Christ in response to a conviction of sin. Let us as brothers and sisters walk alongside and encourage and reprove them. Let our pastors be shepherds, rather than just hired hands.

Help us, Lord Jesus. As the hymn says, “every hour we need thee.” Heavenly Father, lead, bless, guide and watch over us all. Holy Spirit, give us wisdom, revelation, insight and discernment. Thank You. Amen.

Salt of the Earth

Peace and grace to all who read this—friends, brothers and sisters. I wanted to share something with you that the Lord opened my eyes to just in the last couple of weeks and, as usual, since it was the Spirit of G-d (not my own understanding) revealing it to me, I knew I had to try to convey it while it was fresh.

Up until recently, every time I read or heard the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 about how the disciples of Jesus Christ are supposed to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth,” I admit the latter part has never quite cemented itself in my mind. I am quite aware that I think and perceive things a little differently than others at times; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it can be detrimental. I comprehend the truth and the word picture painted in verses 14-16, but it’s verse 13 that has always left me wanting more in terms of fully grasping it. The Lord is so cool! Praise Him for wanting us to learn more about His kingdom, His ways, for His Holy Spirit who the Father sends in Jesus’ name to teach us all things and to remind us of everything our Lord said. No wonder without Him we are lost.

I was driving back to where I work from an errand I had to run downtown. On the way back, I switched on Moody radio that has good teaching and preaching that I like to listen to when I get a chance. I heard the brother on the program mention our passage briefly. When I heard him say “salt of the earth,” I instantaneously went into familiar question mark mode. Then, just as quickly, the Holy Spirit became my rabbi (teacher) in a very personal way. That day was the cherished day that He pulled back that specific veil of my understanding and allowed my mind and heart to see as He sees!

He took me to a familiar scripture in Revelation 3:15-16 where Christ our Messiah is admonishing the church at Laodicea with these words, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” I never would have connected these two passages (Matthew 5:13-16 and Revelation 3:15-16), but I am so grateful to G-d the Father for showing me the connection. I pray to Him that I can adequately articulate it to you, rather than be a stumbling block. I need You, Lord!

The Lord Jesus Christ is making a comparison between eating or drinking something that should be served best either hot (as in a freshly prepared, oven-baked or pan-cooked meal) or cold (imagine ice-cold tea or water on a hot summer day). But He minces no words in describing what we already know- that if either one is served in such a manner that is room temperature or left over too long, it is no longer palatable. It is no longer enjoyable or appetizing. He goes so far as to say that He would spit it out if it is not useful; it has lost its taste and purpose. The Father reminded me of a verse I have only seen once before and it is tucked away subtly in the sixth chapter and sixth verse of the book of Job, “Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”
Many times when believers are asked about the qualities of salt, they respond that it gives taste, it stings or cauterizes (as in to sear a wound), and it acts as a preservative. All of these answers are correct. When this is asked of me or I ponder it myself, I come up a little short. How do these answers apply to me (a disciple of Christ, set apart from the world by grace and for His holy purposes)? How am I supposed to be salt? How am I supposed to make the Gospel palatable, without adding to it or taking away from it? How am I supposed to sting? How am I supposed to preserve, and what? But, for the purposes of this post and how the Spirit spoke to me, let me limit myself to the first and second questions which are linked together. How am I (my life) supposed to be a desired flavor?

Let’s go back to the Word of G-d and join the text in Matthew 5:13 together with the one in Revelation 3:16, and paraphrase them. You are from the kingdom, not the world. Your words and actions are supposed to be attractive and savory (winsome). But if you are not, and the things you say and the things you do are no different than the world around you, how will you be useful to Me (Jesus)? Since I have set you apart, cleansed you and created you for My purposes but you are not fit to be used (lost your saltiness), what do I do with you? How will others view Me and my Father? Why will they want to repent (other than by grace), be baptized and walk in newness of life?

Hard questions, huh? I think so, too. Pretty humbling stuff. But it sure begs self-examination, renewed commitment and focus on our Savior. It makes me think of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 3:11-16 which says, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed by fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on remains, he will receive a great reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire.”

Let’s look again at the properties and effects of salt that we mentioned before so that we can apply them to our lives and assure our usefulness (see 2 Timothy 2:20). First, we see that salt is used to give or add needed flavor to something which is bland. As believers, we know and have experienced repeatedly the savory aspects of G-d’s grace: forgiveness, unconditional love, peace, joy, hope (assurance), promises, wisdom and many other gifts which are all benefits of having a sanctified and transformed heart, mind and life. Our lives prior to our conversion and salvation had no taste- or worse- had a bad taste of which no one would want to partake. But now that G-d has given us a new heart and transformed us so that we now enjoy a salted life, we are to share this Good News of the Gospel of Christ Jesus to give piquancy (pleasantly sharp and appetizing flavor) to the lives of those around us. We are to take the salt of our new lives and use it to dash taste onto and into the currently mild ones of those we know and encounter and search out. That is the Great Commission.

Another wonderful aspect of salt is that, when applied to a wound, it both stings and cauterizes. The stinging characteristic of salt- though at first is unpleasant, to say the least- is quite good. The truth of G-d’s Word introduced into one’s life is a convicting agent. We don’t like to be convicted because it is then we are confronted with the evidence of our guilt and accountability due to sin. Satan’s influence over us presents us with a deadly “fight or flight” strategy. We either fight by getting defensive and trying to justify or rationalize our actions, or we employ the flight method which is to deny it altogether (a lie) and possibly remove ourselves from the “courtroom” by leaving the scene. The enemy doesn’t want to let the salt have its curative effect, which is to stop the bleeding in our lives. He doesn’t want to relinquish control over our lives which leads to death.

The Word of G-d teaches us in John 16:7-8 concerning the Holy Spirit. In it Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” The Father uses the tool of conviction (an awareness of guilt in your spirit) with the intent of drawing you to Himself; that is the opposite of the devil’s aim. How do we know not to fall for our adversary’s lie when he screams in our minds to run in order not to be caught, making us fear that the just Judge wants to punish and imprison us? Jeremiah 3:13-15 encourages and emboldens us, “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your G-d… and that you have not obeyed My voice, declares the Lord. Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your Master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

To those who have heard Him calling and resisted, it is not yet too late, though you don’t know how many days He has assigned you to live (Job 14:5), nor do we know the hour the Lord will return as a thief in the night. Heed this word found in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” When we have godly sorrow over our sins, desire forgiveness, repent of our former ways and submit to His Lordship, then our faith in Him and His grace to us cauterize the bleeding. Our lives are made new and the healing can begin. The pain of the salt is a good thing.

And it preserves. Based on how you react to the salt the Lord sprinkles over your life and what condition you are in at the time you receive it can and will determine what it is that is being maintained (preserved). If you are a Christian and are teachable and obedient, the aroma of Christ that is already in you will be enhanced. If you are a nominal believer, its sting may spur you to renewed commitment, or you may remain lukewarm if you respond to it like water off the back of a duck; it rolls right off with no effect. Your idleness will persist. Lastly, if you are an unsaved and unregenerate sinner, you can have flavor you’ve never had. Or you can be preserved in a spoiled state, content to be rotten and inedible. The choice renders its effect. Do you want Jesus to spit you out when He clearly loves you SO much that He died to save you, and He created you with purpose?

Born-again believers, we are the salt… of the earth! We are the flavor of the Messiah. We are the sting and cauterizing agent. We are the preservative. If we don’t have enough love and compassion (the world will not always see it as such), we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (I know this myself). If we are an earthen vessel (the shaker) which contains the salt but don’t allow the Lord to use us, we lose our saltiness. How can we be made salty again? We are no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. These are our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:13. Of course, we don’t lose our salvation, but is that all we’re in this for?

Father G-d, help us ALL to not only recognize salt when it presents itself, but to receive it gladly and with thanksgiving, allowing it to do its assigned work in us in our current state of a committed Christian, nominal believer, or as-yet-unsaved sinner. Give us, please, wisdom, grace and humility. Amen.

Your Soul as a Business Venture

Hi friends, brothers and sisters. I woke up around 1:30 last night to go to the restroom. When I got there and switched on the light, I realized I had a fairly strong nosebleed. After I cleared it up (not knowing what caused it) and went back to bed, I had a hard time falling asleep. The Lord kept putting on my mind this idea which the title describes coupled with the thought of needing capital to begin a business, but already being “in the red.” G-d often uses something in the physical to relate to something spiritual (Hosea 1:2, Jeremiah 1:13-14, Ezekiel 4:4, etc.), and maybe that’s where the nosebleed fits in; red blood and being in the red. I don’t know.

But He wasn’t talking about me. He was using this allegory to reveal spiritual truth. I suppose that there is one or more specific people who need to hear this and benefit from it. It is quite interesting and has caught me by surprise. I understand some of it, yet He is going to have to illuminate the rest. As I get it, I will try to articulate it without messing it up. I just perceive the need to do this now and to be obedient in that regard. If I procrastinate or let something else take priority, the one who needs this may not get to read it. I hope it makes sense.

What G-d is conveying is for us to see our unregenerate souls and our need for salvation through the lens of beginning a new business, and what is necessary before that can happen. When I got up this morning at three o’clock as I always do before getting ready for work, the Holy Spirit immediately started having me to write some things down- literally, as fast as He was telling me. Later- now– is when I’m going back to expound upon it.

The first point He spoke to me was that, when starting up, you need capital. Spiritually speaking, we all come into this world with a sinful nature. We’re already “in the red.” We start out with a deficit and, with each sinful act we commit as sinful creatures, we only go deeper and deeper into spiritual debt; more and more into the red. Who will get us out? Can anyone get us out? Anyone in this world also has a sinful nature. They start out in the red too and, like us, only increase their indebtedness with each passing day. We cannot look to others who are in the red to help us get into the black, that place of having our slates wiped clean of what we owe, let alone of enjoying any abundance or surplus. Since we are in the red and everyone we may reach out to is in the red, we lack the capital to start our business. So we are doomed to failure before we even begin.

He continued teaching me. If you go to a bank or other financial institution, they will require a business plan—a sound one that they deem a worthy investment to fund. In the book of First Timothy 3:4-5 (speaking here of the qualifications a man of G-d must possess and live out if he is to be in the position of an overseer; in this case, a church and, in yours, a business or your very own life) it says, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for G-d’s church?” As I mentioned, this is written for the man of G-d who hopes or feels called to be a deacon, pastor or elder of the Lord’s people. But the principle is equally sound for one who wants to branch out into a business venture.

Further application, and the heart of what G-d is saying, translates into the fact that we cannot get a loan from the bank if our business plan and accounting practices are not sound. If our own lives are not in order and we are in personal debt, how or why would they deem us worthy to take on such a risk with their money with nothing to gain in interest or property? The only thing left of any possible value to them to enter into a transaction with you would be collateral; some tangible asset such as your house or car(s). But again, if you are in the red—in debt—you don’t own them. Either they won’t take them because they don’t want to assume the debt or they will take them and sell them, but you will have lost everything you have paid into them so far, leaving you with nothing.

So it is with our lives. We come into this world entirely indebted because of sin, our human inheritance from Adam and Eve. But our lives are no better, so we pass on this same indebtedness to our children. Everyone born into this world shares the same problem. Is there a way out? Is there any hope? Do we look to our own reason, skill, intelligence, power, money, imagination, strength, fame, or something else? Remember, the Lord is likening how you would start up and run a business to how you look after and care for your own eternal soul. Even if you were to have some physical, temporal capital to operate a business and believe you are successful—in the black—you can’t take it with you. In that sense, even while enjoying it for a season, it stays here or fold,s and so it is in vain. You must look to, plan for, invest in and nurture your everlasting soul–ultimately by looking to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior!

Getting back to business, but bearing in mind your soul. One is temporal and one is eternal. One is of some importance and one is of great significance. One matters to men and the other to G-d. The bank, if still somehow but doubtfully interested, will ask you what product or service you have to offer and what is the likelihood people will buy or use it? If you want to get your soul in the black, is there anything you can do or offer to erase your indebtedness, your sin? Many think so. They try to be “good” (by whose standard?) from time to time, thinking that they are basically “good” people. They are mistaken because they deceive themselves into thinking they were born “in the black” when, in fact, they were born “in the red.” They have no spiritual capital, savings or collateral to offer that will somehow counteract that state. Besides, that is not how the kingdom of G-d works. Speaking of deeds or works as they pertain to both your soul plan and your business plan, how will you ensure you will be able to turn and maintain a profit? And will that be enough for you to have the preferred lifestyle for which you decided to go into business for yourself in the first place? And will it be enough to satisfy your creditors? The Word of G-d says in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” And Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” And even if you seem, in your own eyes, to be doing well, the truth again speaks to us directly and sharpens our focus in Mark 8:36 saying, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Who will be on your Board of Directors? The Bible exhorts, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). And another proverb urges (11:14), “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” The Word of G-d is most certainly true, but if these advisors and counselors are bankrupt or in the red, how will either of you get out? So the Holy Spirit has a way of getting through to us, “speaking our language” individually and allowing, in His great love, the Truth to confront us. THE BOTTOM LINE in the corporate world is all that matters at the end of the quarter or the fiscal year: You will never be able to do anything to get out of the red and into the black. Nor are there any hopeful investors capable of rendering you the assistance you require. The blood and forgiveness of JESUS CHRIST, the Lord and SAVIOR of the universe, is the only bailout plan: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

G-d bless you and give you eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a will to heed. Amen.