Month: November 2016

What is Death?

The post I have recently made is a powerful word that took me a while to receive from the Lord, but I hope it speaks volumes to you as it did to me. If you read my blog often, you’ll know I only write about once a month. However, this one is something the Father has impressed upon me; something someone is thinking about (or has) and needs to hear from a godly perspective or they won’t understand. They are like the Ethiopian eunuch who, when asked by Phillip, “Do you understand what you are reading?” replied “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”

You see, we have a human mind and we understand things only in a human way. If we are to understand G-d’s truth, we need not only to see things from His perspective but we need our minds to be set free and to be unencumbered from human teachings, human reasoning, “logic” and experience. The Lord has brought to my attention there are people who misinterpret verses such as Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” They might be asking, “Just because I don’t believe like you do, God is sending me to Hell? That isn’t a god I want to believe in.” (Those last nine words and/ or prepositions are something I SO want to address, but that’s not the Lord’s purpose here.) Let me stay focused on the issue at hand.

Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Jesus Christ is eternal. He is the Creator. The Creator- He alone- has the ability to give life. The clay cannot fashion itself. Instead, it is the potter or the sculptor who forms it because of his or her creative capacity. Of course, they are taking a shapeless lump of inanimate essence and merely changing its physical structure or appearance. He or she has limitations. However, G-d has no such boundaries or hindrances and, since He alone is Life, He alone has the faculty to GIVE life.

The Lord is pure, good (morally perfect), guiltless, blameless, righteous and holy! There is no sin in Him, nor can He sin. His nature is pure and holy; therefore He is 100% holy. There is no room for any spot, stain, blemish or wrinkle to be part of the mix. We were created unstained (as a race of people, in Adam and Eve our progenitors), but also with the freedom-inspired and freedom-mandated prerogative to “choose” in any and all situations. Adam and Eve, through enticement, deception, “reasoning,” and their own desires exercised their right to choose. This decision, as many of ours are, was in direct violation of G-d’s clearly articulated will. Since they disobeyed, sin entered the world and marred the Creator’s perfect work. Sin is 100% contrary to the Father’s nature and essence. This act created a breach, a separation. Holiness and unholiness cannot dwell together, cannot occupy the same space. Since G-d is life, anything outside of His nature is subject to death because it is no longer connected to the source that created and sustains it (see the very apt analogy our Lord Jesus used in John 15:5).

The reason that Romans 6:23 says that the wages (penalty, outcome, fruit, aftereffect, consequence, end product) of sin is death has less to do with what you might wrongly perceive as “dictatorial punishment” and more to do with the fact that pure life, light and truth cease to be uncontaminated if intermingled with death, darkness and lies. If you have a can of white paint, in order for it to remain white, not even the slightest bit of black, green, blue or brown paint can be blended together with it. (Now, for good theology, I have to say that we could never “change” who the Father is, nor His nature- He is immutable- but you get the idea). If you are doing the laundry and hope to keep your clothes white, you don’t wash them with something dark or colored. Red and white make pink. Now nothing has the intended outcome or use. G-d is so powerful and brilliant and perfect and complete, there is nothing and no one who could possibly alter that pure essence in any way. But the Lord is so set apart from us in our perishable and intrinsic state that we and He cannot live contiguously.

Since our inheritance is a corrupted, sinful and impure nature we cannot dwell with an incorruptible, sinless, holy G-d. There is nowhere else for us to go eternally but Hell. Heaven and Hell are the only two perpetual, everlasting dwelling places for the human soul. With the Lord or without Him. If China and Canada were the only two land masses on which to live in all the world, and China’s population was perfectly healthy, while Canada’s citizenry all had cancer, no one from Canada would ever be permitted to move to China. Does this illustration help? Now, you may ask the next obvious question as did some followers of Jesus in Matthew 19: 24-25, “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus’ response was this, “With man this is impossible, but with G-d all things are possible.’” Now you inquire, “How?” I’m glad you asked!

How wonderfully our Lord brings this full-circle by referring back to Phillip and the searching eunuch that were mentioned in the beginning! That passage in Acts 8: 26-40 includes the text the Ethiopian was reading from when he met Phillip, Isaiah 53: 7-8. This chapter is all about JESUS. Verse 3 tells us He was “despised and rejected by men,” just as He is today. No one wants Him and, if they do, they want to believe they can get to Him in a number of ways besides the only one the Father established. Verses 4-5 tell us how He took upon Himself our sins on the Cross. Verse 5 reveals how He brought us peace and healed us from sin, while He took the wrath meant for us. Verse 6 says all people have chosen to go their own way (like Adam and Eve, we have disobeyed), but the Creator’s great and unparalleled love for us brought about a plan to REDEEM us by laying on the Messiah our sin- all of ours. Verse 10 says He put forward HIS soul as an offering for OUR guilt. Verse 11 explains how we, if we choose forgiveness and the laying down of our own old way of life, will take upon ourselves HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS!

Still feel like blaming G-d for your own rebellion and wrong decisions? Still feel like you don’t deserve death (separation from Him)? G-d Himself surely doesn’t deserve it, yet His Son offered Himself in your place. He exchanged His righteousness for your iniquities. Talk about undeserving! He paid everything FOR you. His gift TO you is free. Take it!

G-d bless you.

SHEPHERDS or HIRED HANDS: Where they “follow”, we will “lead”?

A few months ago while I was in church, I heard our Pastor mention very quickly a short phrase that caught my attention—mainly because I don’t remember ever hearing or reading it before. It wasn’t part of the thrust of his message; it was just something he cited to make his point. Sometime later I heard it again somewhere, so I decided it was time to look it up.

There are four words found almost hidden, tucked away back in the fourth chapter and ninth verse of a lesser-known prophet by the name of Hosea. Interestingly enough, however, both times I heard this verse it was quoted (or rather, misquoted) in the reverse order of how it is actually recorded in the Word of G-d. I understand why, perhaps, my Pastor and other brother on the radio got it confused because the normal way we think, speak and comprehend a leader to govern, rule, guide or pilot us would be viewed and correctly spoken the way they did, “like priest, like people.” Their words reflect and imply that the way the priest or leader thinks, acts and speaks is the way those he presides over will likewise do. Certainly that is the hope and expectation if it is holy.

However, I said earlier that they misquoted the phrase. I mentioned that they, unintentionally, got it backwards. Hosea 4:9 says, “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.” This is a totally different viewpoint, a completely different angle and there is a reason G-d’s prophet spoke them in the order he did. The Lord is revealing to us through Hosea that the ways in which the people—the governees (the governed), not the governors—think, speak and act are often mimicked by their leaders. Clearly in such cases the “leaders” relinquish their role. What are they, then, if not leaders? Followers? No. They become, via improper action or lack of action altogether, impotent and for all practical purposes, useless (feeble, unfit, worthless, ineffectual). They EMASCULATE themselves.

In the case of Hosea the Lord says, “there is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed…yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.” The leader has not led or governed or set the example, but allowed the people to do whatever their sinful hearts and desires imagined. And, often, he has followed them.

In the book of 1 Samuel and the 15th chapter Almighty G-d reveals to Samuel (another prophet) and he relays to King Saul, that because of all the Amalekites did to Israel as they came out of Egypt Saul was to “devote them all to destruction.” ALL. So the king summons 210,000 men to wipe them out. Their instructions were, “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” But Saul took Agag (the Amalekite king) alive and kept the “best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs,” while only the “despised and blemished” were devoted to destruction. Because Saul did not obey the Lord’s commandments, G-d rejected him as king. Saul reported to G-d’s prophet saying, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” This was untrue and Samuel responded, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of oxen that I hear?” A few verses later we see Saul’s lack of leadership and authority revealed in these words, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Fear and disobedience led to “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.” The people sin and, through lack of governance, the ordained and divinely- given authority, the ruler follows suit.

A very infamous example is found in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew 27: 11-26. Pontius Pilate, who was Governor of Judea (the larger province which included Jerusalem), acquiesced to the religious ones and the crowd of Jews they had stirred up against our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible records his lack of authority in verse 24, “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing (his emasculation), but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying [in a face-saving effort] ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’” Even in this instance, the leadership lacked and led to another prophetic fulfillment of Hosea’s words, “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.” Even today we are already seeing the beginnings of a terrible but predictable harvest of bad fruit in the lives of children and young adults who, through their own rebellion and their parents’ (especially fathers, and in their absence) lack of exercising authority, are living out the prophetic cry, “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.” The children do whatever they want, parents don’t rebuke or discipline or guide them, and so they relinquish their lead to their offspring.

Now let’s see yet another example that the Spirit has just opened my eyes to. It is extremely relevant, has eternal consequences- both for good and for bad- involves both the believer and unbeliever, and we can see its beginnings, as well as modern-day applications and ramifications, in Ezekiel chapter three. The Lord G-d, in caring greatly for His wayward sheep, assigns His prophet authority and oversight- and this is where every believer needs to take note, sit up straight and pay attention. The Father calls Ezekiel (and you and me as His sons and daughters, born of water and the Spirit) to be what the Bible calls “a watchman.” Notice the successive verses:

Verse 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the House of Israel. Whenever you hear a Word from My mouth, you shall give them a warning from Me.”

Verse 18) “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’ [in your sins], and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his [eternal] life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”

Verse 19) “But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

Verse 20) “Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand.”

Verse 21) “But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

It is important that these two items are mentioned before the specific command, both to Ezekiel (as a man of G-d who speaks and models His Word) and to us (those of us who have been and will yet be truly saved by grace through faith): One, that we have been made watchmen over each other (both Jew and Gentile). And Two, whenever- and only then- we hear from the Holy Spirit (so we have to be listening, be attentive, be discerning), we speak the Lord’s Word to them graciously, with the love of G-d in our hearts, boldly, courageously and with no obstruction from the enemy or his agents who seek to silence us through the fear of offending someone. Today, that is his most powerful, effective and pervasive tactic; it is almost paralyzing. If you read again verses 18-21 collectively and straight through, you will see the absolute necessity of being obedient to the authority of Christ in you. If you become emasculated, the result is someone’s death eternally. But if you are cooperative and rely, as you always should, on the strength of G-d, you might witness the saving power of the Almighty. Isn’t that the Great Commission?

We are talking about “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.” The world is unsaved. The world is lost. The world is dead it its sins, as we once were. If we, like Pilate, wash our hands of the matter at hand (especially of another’s salvation) and seek only our own business and welfare- and, dare I say, comfort- we will become ineffective. Our witness will suffer, our Light will fade, and our salt will lose its taste and preserving essence. The sins of the world all around (THE PEOPLE) will rub off on us (THE PRIESTS), rendering us to be more like them; then the Father will take issue with us as He admonishes in Hosea 4:4. Let us not fall prey to watering down the Gospel to make it more palatable, less offensive, or both. And, believe me, it can be a very strong and persistent temptation.

How many people are attending churches today who truly are yet unsaved? Time and time again we hear altar calls which lack the substance and do not produce conviction because there is no foundation, which is Christ. They are invited to stand on Him who is the foundation (for there is no other), but they have not been sufficiently taught anything about that Rock in order for them to follow after Him or trust Him or to hold onto Him as an anchor when the storms come. How many people have “accepted Christ” without the necessary knowledge of dying to self, walking away from sin, carrying one’s Cross or the costs associated with true and committed discipleship? Now, praise G-d and bless His holy name that we can have peace, joy, forgiveness, eternal life, fellowship, prayer, His precious promises and so much more!!!

But let us submit ourselves to Jesus, let us present our bodies (including our mouths, lips and tongues) to Him as living sacrifices and let us be true leaders and turn the phrase around. Let us not give up- voluntarily or otherwise- our ordained positions of rule, of governing, of husbands and fathers and wives and mothers, of teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, police and elected officials and ALL the body of Christ who are Ministers. May we resist and change the growing tide and tradition of “LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST.”

God bless us, give us grace, convict us, empower us, save us and save others. It’s not too late, but the night is upon us and the hour draws near!