Month: December 2015

The Three Stages of Life

Hello once again friends, brothers and sisters! The Lord speaks to my heart often about things I need to know for my life and for things He wants me to pass along to others as well; many times I need to learn them for myself in order to share them with others. I type them and save them (the original revelations and pieces of illumination) in my phone because, when the Holy Spirit gives something to me I need to record it so I don’t forget it. In this case, it was dated for March of this year (2015).

Quite simply, as the title above suggests, there are three phases in our lives; however, we quite often pass into and live according to, only the first two. Number one is unavoidable and the other two are conscious choices. Number two is where most of us dwell and remain. Number three is the prerequisite for true life and most of us never reach it or take hold if it.

We were created, took form and have breath because of God and God alone. We are not born innocent as many suggest or as the myth would have us believe. But we are born IGNORANT, to a large degree. What are we ignorant of? In Acts 3:17, Peter tells the Jews that though they murdered the Lord Jesus, they “acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” A little later on in 17:23 of Acts Paul proclaims to the Athenians that their many objects of worship (idols) are worshiped “in ignorance.” The book of Ephesians instructs us that we are “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in [us], due to [our] hardness of heart.” This ignorance denotes a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding, or being unaware. In this case, it refers to the Word and Law of God. We come into this world with a huge deficiency in this area. It is due in part to the want of formation in our young minds, but primarily because of the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve; our relatives and predecessors. In His love expressed through mercy, God the Father “overlooked the times of ignorance…”

We complete that verse with the words”…but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him [Jesus] from the dead.” You see, we are born with a sinful predisposition, already separated from the Father, even before we have done anything, whether good or bad. As we come into a knowledge of God Almighty and His holiness through the observation of created things (Romans 1:19-20), we are now accountable. We are daily and keenly aware of our imperfections and limitations (to say the least). In this present age, especially, we have access to churches, teachings on CD, podcasts, television, DVDs, radio, books and the internet in addition to the very Word of God in the Holy Bible itself. So once again, we are without excuse. Making choices against availing ourselves of these plentiful, easily- and widely-available resources on a daily basis sets up our judgment and serves as evidence against us. Why would we do this to ourselves?

The second of the three stages of life is characterized, as the Lord revealed to me, as FOLLY. Another word for this is foolishness. Some words in both the Old and New Testaments (Hebrew and Greek) for folly are: stupidity, disgrace, sexual immorality, shameful rebellion, senselessness, perversity, futility, moral ineptitude, minds closed to the truth, and vice. These are words which describe or are associated with human choice and/ or its consequences. In short, it clearly displays a knowledge (rather than previous ignorance) and a disregard for it. This is purposeful, intentional and shows a deliberate willfulness. We make all kinds of wrong choices leading to all kinds of consequences while aware of, and having access to, the laws and ways of the Creator. This is the height, and a premier distinction, of folly.

The period which I hesitate to refer to as last- because it is virtually never chosen or attained- is called WISDOM. One of the most important and foundational truths revealed to man by God is found in both Psalms and Proverbs and says, “The fear of the Lord is wisdom.” And the latter book goes one step further by echoing “and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The Lord Jesus alludes to His disappointment and foreknowledge by imploring us to “enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” And if Jesus were on the earth today, He would undoubtedly add “because many are not looking for it.”

Wisdom is translated around 150 times in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Proverbs (one of the five books in the Word of God referred to as “the Books of Wisdom”), to mean the God-given ability of the transformed heart and mind to live in conformity to the plans, purposes and character of God. Wisdom is impossible apart from Him. Not only is it the knowledge of the righteous ways of Jehovah, but it is the desire, intent and purposeful choice to make godly decisions and to live them out. To not know them is IGNORANCE, to know them and to reject or ignore them is FOLLY (and leads to destruction), and to know them and willingly, intentionally, submissively and obediently live by them is WISDOM. It is, in a simplified but true sense, skill or ability imparted by God for right living. As with salvation, it is a gift of the Father but useless if not embraced and put into practice. God bless you.

What is your “Heartitude”?

Hello friends, brothers and sisters. I was having a Bible study with my wife and an elderly Christian neighbor a couple of months ago on the topic of having a hard heart. Since that time, about two weeks ago to be exact, I had a stirring in my spirit. I have to admit it was uncomfortable and convicting. At first, the natural reaction is to cover it up, to justify it or even ignore it. We feel guilty and we are. If we still live in darkness (we are unsaved and under the power of sin), we want to scurry when the lights come on, rather than fess up; as if the Lord doesn’t see or know anyway. Isn’t that strange? If we, as believers, feel conviction it is a warning from the Holy Spirit urging us to confess and be made clean (1 John 1:9), and to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

I use that specific introduction because it brought to my mind the “heartitude” (heart attitude) of a radical Muslim’s manner of proselytizing and how, sometimes, if our heart is cold or callous, we can be or come across similarly to others. If your eyebrows just rose or you got momentarily defensive, let me explain and you’ll see what I mean.

His or her tactic- in words and in actions- amounts to “Convert or Die!” Not much of a choice and, if one utters the acceptable words or appears on the surface to alter his or her conviction, they are most certainly meant only to pacify or assuage their tormentor. Is the extremist’s motive such that he or she truly wants the other person to experience something beneficial such as forgiveness, peace, joy or everlasting life (if it were a possibility in the Muslim or any other faith)? No, not at all. His intent with the hardest, coldest, most calloused, most evil and murderous heart is to dominate, rule over, instill fear, imprison inwardly and outwardly, and to oppress the “infidel,” the unbeliever.

As Christians, we are called by the Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples (not simply converts) in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible says we are His ambassadors, as the Lord is making His plea through us. Our motive is to be the unconditional and grace-filled love of God in Jesus which we have living in us, poured out upon others. Our main method of evangelizing others should include sharing our testimony with them; God’s power in and over us at conversion, and the wonderful, life-changing freedom, peace and joy we are experiencing as a result.

One day long ago when I used to drive forty-five minutes to an hour away on Friday nights to do jail ministry at a prison, the Lord spoke to my spirit as I was driving down the highway with words very similar to these: ‘Ken, why are you doing this with these guys? Is it because you have true compassion for them and want to see them snatched out of the fire, or is it out of a sense of obedience to Me?” What’s wrong with either one, you might be thinking. It’s the difference between the motives of the heart. Jesus often taught us valuable spiritual lessons in the form of parables in order to make them practical for everyday life. Let me try my hand at it, briefly.

“There were two Christians walking down the sidewalk. On the way to their destination, they encountered a man at a busy intersection with a sign that read: “Veteran. Homeless. Please share whatever you can. God bless you.” Both men simultaneously reach into their pockets to pull out their wallets. Both men give ten dollars and continue on their way. One man has God’s approval and one does not (much like Cain and Abel), at least not to the same degree. Why? Because one of the brothers gave out of a genuine desire, with compassion, to bless the homeless veteran. The other brother did it so his generosity could be observed by passersby (or to eliminate his guilt over not wanting to do it at all).”

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves with the wrong motive due to many things such as hardness of heart, apathy (lukewarmness), the busyness of life, distractions or mere dutiful obligation. Even if done with outwardly apparent zeal, we may be deceiving ourselves. Is our aim in sharing the Gospel based solely on the need for others to be saved from their sinful condition? Is our message perceived by the listener as only a Heaven vs. Hell mentality? Both convey a softer version of the “convert-or-die” heartitude, though the principle is the same. Or is it a tender-hearted and gracious, yet bold and courageous motivation which leads others to conviction, godly sorrow, repentance, forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life—not with the promises and lures of false gods and doctrines of the present age. True riches, satisfaction and fulfillment are found only through Jesus Christ.

I have fallen prey to hard-heartedness, even for a season. Have you? We don’t want people to hear the Good News and have it not take root. We want it to produce a harvest with fruit that is thirty-, sixty-, or one hundred fold. Let’s pray that we don’t unintentionally have a convert-or-die heart attitude when presenting the best news one can be given and made aware of, even if they seem to reject it. I look around and see disinterest, greed and selfishness. I hear of all the evil, atheism, agnosticism, persecution and upside-down laws being made and I am tempted to think, “Who wants to listen?” Isaiah felt the same way in chapter 53, verse one when he asked, “Who has heeded the message?” But then the Lord Jesus would not have commanded us to pray to God to send out more laborers into a ready-and-waiting harvest if it wasn’t ripe for the picking. God bless you.

God’s “Permissive” Will

As far back as, at least, 2006 I can remember hearing this terminology used, quoted and taught on the radio and other media. This phrasing has always been a little perplexing to me and it hasn’t gotten better since. Frankly, I flatly believe it to be theologically unsound. I bring it up today only because it bears correction in order for us to have some solid understanding, in a foundational and ongoing sense, of our sovereign heavenly Father.

According to those who promote this doctrine, it is meant to convey that part of Almighty God’s character which allows or permits (hence, the term “permissive”) bad or sinful things to happen in this world. Specifically, it is oppositionally linked with His “sovereign” will. Since we know and are grateful for His sovereign, absolute and autonomous will, we use that term in association with such things as forgiveness, redemption, salvation, godly love and discipline, revelation from His Word (“Rhema”), spiritual maturity and grace, among other blessings.

God’s “permissive” will, however, is used to explain things which do not fit His character such as murder, sexual sin, theft, bribery, lying, stealing, but still occur. The reasoning behind it is that since the Father is in ultimate and self-governing control, He alone can cause it to happen, allow it to happen, or stop it from happening. I can follow this logic and could be tempted to agree with it at face value. Many commonly embrace this attitude and question or blame God when something awful occurs. They do this as an automatic, outward manifestation of the innate knowledge that He is all-powerful and in control. The issue I take with it is the wrongly used word “permissive” along with the misunderstanding and propagation of the word “will.”

Let’s unpack this a little to digest and better comprehend that misnomer. So when we mention the word “will,” we are not referring to the future tense (I will go shopping this afternoon), nor are we alluding to a dying person’s last wishes (Grandpa left my brother his war medals in his will). We’re not even talking about the capacity of a human’s resolve or determination (His first son was a strong-willed child). What we are expressing is a “deliberate desire or intention” and “what one desires or ordains.”

God does not permit or allow sin to happen in the general and vague sense that we understand it. Can He stop it? Yes, and no. He is able to stop it. But He cannot or does not do so because we are made in His image. One of the manifestations of that blessing is that we have freedom; the freedom to choose. Since we are sinful, we are flawed and incomplete. Did God make us sinful? No. Did He make us with the opportunity to choose good and/ or evil? Yes. So is He to blame when we opt to sin? No. Responsibility and freedom are inextricably linked. We have the freedom to choose and to act and, due to that, we have to accept the positive and negative rewards and consequences which result from our exercising that freedom. So, God in the simple sense does not allow sin to happen. He does not “permit” it. We do. We have been given liberty and charged with the responsibility to use it well. When we don’t, we alone are charged with the accountability of its misuse. As far as His “will” is concerned, God is all-good. He is pure. He is morally perfect. He is excellent and completely virtuous. He is holy and full of AGAPE love. Humans do not have this kind of love, apart from being born again spiritually. And, even then, our cleansed hearts battle our body’s fleshly nature, so we cannot express it all of the time.

Look at two seemingly similar words, but they are a world apart much like twins can look identical but act with strikingly different personalities. The first is the word “tolerance.” In today’s world this means the acceptance of many, if not all, types of attitudes and behaviors. Indeed, one is considered a bigot or hateful if they are intolerant of these same worldviews and lifestyles. One correct definition says it is the ability or willingness to put up with opinions or behaviors that one does not agree with. This is human.

The second is at the very heart of the Creator. “Toleration” is the endurance and forbearance of evil, especially that which one has the power to abort, quash or prevent. The Bible testifies of Jehovah that He is longsuffering, which means to “show patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.” This is quite true. God does not allow or permit sin to happen. This is our human perception (which is faulty due to our less-than-perfect nature) of a godly trait. God has given us, in our freedom, the capacity to choose good or evil, to follow our God-given conscience or to ignore it. It is we who allow or permit our own sin and that of others. God’s WILL—“the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action,” “diligent purposefulness or determination,” “deliberate intention or wish”—is not inclined towards sin, evil, self-gratification or anything of the sort.

To say, write or believe in these three words, “God’s permissive will,” is to paint the Lord as something He is not. It will taint one’s understanding of, and belief in, God. It will not necessarily stand in the way of one receiving the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into their hearts and lead them into salvation, but it may hamper one’s walk (relationship) with Him unduly. It may cause one unnecessary grief and frustration in understanding and living out their faith. And it may get in the way of them sharing their faith with others. These are obstacles and stumbling blocks we must do without.

God bless you.