Spiritual “Tinnitus”

Tinnitus, if you are unaware (as I was until a short while ago), is a medical condition whereby there is a “ringing or a buzzing noise in one or both ears that may be constant or come and go, often associated with hearing loss.” This, of course, is a physical problem experienced in the natural realm. While this issue is or can be a cause of concern, what is much more unsettling is to have this predicament in the supernatural.

Humankind is created with a conscience but, because of our inborn sinful state (born with, not created with) it is imperfect at best even under the most desirable of conditions. When bad decision-making, beer or alcohol, drugs, etc. are involved our judgment is even more impaired. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is, according to John 16:8, to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” We don’t like this ringing or buzzing in our ears. Actually, it is in our hearts. The reason we don’t like it is because, as the Lord Jesus Christ reveals to us in John 3:19-20, “And this is the judgment:  The Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  Further, Hebrews 11:24-25 exposes that Moses was no stranger to temptations but, by G-d’s grace, he overcame. This text says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

You see, our Heavenly Father wants to reconcile us to Himself so badly because of the faithful  and immense love He has for us, that He is willing to convict us by way of that metaphoric and persistent ringing in our ears (hearts) so that we will, in acknowledgment of our guilt before Him, turn (repent), confess and be saved.  As He speaks to us through the prophet Jeremiah, “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you 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.” Despite His unequaled and unconditional love, His extreme patience and the grace He bestows upon us, especially in the form of His gift of “spiritual Tinnitus” – which we often find annoying and a tremendous irritant – His longsuffering with us is not without limits. If we ignore or drown out this admonition long enough, we will succeed in expelling it. This is dangerous, although it may seem like a relief.

1 Timothy 4:2 mentions a “seared” conscience and Ephesians 4:18 alludes to its cause saying, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of G-d because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (unwillingness to accept the Truth of the Word of G-d and the Gospel of Jesus Christ). What does the word seared mean? It means to become burned and insensitive so that it can no longer feel or be awakened; to cauterize. It stops the pain, but that is the “indicator” of a deeper problem. Pain, though unpleasant, is a good thing. It lets us know we have a complication. Often we feel no pain, we have no knowledge of a wound or deep injury. If and when this happens, a serious trauma may need addressing, but goes untreated, many times leading to death. How many times have you heard of or experienced having one health issue requiring a trip to the hospital, only to find out that if it had not been for that problem that you were aware of, the doctors would not have discovered and informed you of an even more immediate disease elsewhere? So, no one wants to go through the extreme discomfort of, say, appendicitis, but if that is what leads you to finding out you have a tumor or still-treatable level of cancer, then the pain and the appendicitis not only become blessings, but life-savers as well.

While this life is important, it is only temporal. Our souls are eternal. Do not despise the conviction you experience as a guilty feeling and unwelcome reminder of your sin before Almighty G-d. Embrace it. The Lord and Savior of all mankind—the Lord Jesus Christ, G-d in the flesh—said in John 3:17 these comforting words, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” If you develop spiritual Tinnitus, you can alleviate it one of two ways. Either you can choose to ignore it, drown it out, cover it up, explain and rationalize it away, allow distractions into your life which will seem to muffle it until it becomes seared, desensitized and calloused. This leads to eternal death, as you let it go untreated. OR you can respond to it in the manner it was designed for:  Acknowledge your sinfulness genuinely in sorrow, confess it before the G-d of the universe who wants to heal, redeem, forgive you and wash ALL your iniquities away with the cleansing power of His shed blood, repent (turn away from your sin and turn to Him in a committed relationship), and be saved and baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Isaiah 43:25 shows us, “I, I am He, who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  Hebrews 4:12 exclaims, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”  Psalm 103:11-12 blesses us with these wonderful words, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him:  for He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.”

If you are crying right now—perhaps even sobbing—give your life to the One who made you and longs for you to be reunited with Him. If you are not affected by this, perhaps you have muffled the ringing and buzzing of conviction in your heart and life. Your conscience may very well be seared; this is troublesome. Fall on your knees and cry out to Him. Ezekiel 36:25-27 assures the repentant soul, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your unrighteousness, and from all your idols. I will clean you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.”

Glory Hallelujah to the King over all kings and Lord over all lords! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! He is worthy to be praised! Amen and amen.

 

(Think of this analogy of “spiritual Tinnitus” when Holy Spirit speaks to you before you carry out the sin you’re thinking about committing. Think of this when Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin so that you can repent—1 John 1:9.) If you ignore it, eventually your conscience will become seared. The Bible uses that exact Word to let us know we will all get, or already are, desensitized to His voice—the deafness will set in after the warnings, admonitions, and even outright rebukes of the buzzing and ringing have been disregarded long enough, that we no longer hear them at all. Or that complete deafness has set in.

God bless you.

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The IMAGE of the INVISIBLE

The Lord Jesus drew me to the Word about His preeminence. It is found in the first chapter of Colossians, primarily.

Verse 15 says something quite interesting that I have glossed over before. He is telling us that He- the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior- is THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD. In John 14:9, our Lord said that when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father.

He gave me the thought that when Adam and Eve were first created, there were no mirrors. There is no way they could have known what they looked like until they saw their reflections in a lake or a river or a pond. Then the Lord spoke to me and said that our true selves- our hearts- are invisible as well; that who we are when we speak and act are the images of us who are truly invisible. Since we see and know the Father through what we see and hear the Son do and say, people know who we really are through our images! Wow! This is exciting…and convicting.

(Now that our Lord Jesus Christ has ascended to the Father and no longer walks this earth, how are we, His body, to live in such a way that the lost, unbelieving, doubting world all around us can “see” the invisible Savior in and through us? Our invisible selves must be known through our words and actions in order to reflect and magnify our Lord in the same way His words and actions reflected what He saw and heard what His (and our) Father did and said.)

The unseen Father created the Son in the visible sense (He and the Father are one, they have always existed together, the world was created by and through the Father as related in Genesis 1:3ff, but also formed by Christ as related in Colossians 1:16) for many reasons. One of these reasons was/is to make the Father known and to exalt Him in the earth. John 17:26 reveals this to us. Romans 1:19-20 makes it clear that creation itself makes God’s existence known. Moses made God’s authority, commands, power, laws, expectations, righteousness and justice known. Jesus makes God’s character known. And we are to make Jesus known. Why? For one thing, so that the True Son may be distinguished from the many, many world- and self-created false Christs which may satisfy the flesh’s desires for a form of religion, but which cannot save the soul or satisfy its need (and, hopefully, craving) for forgiveness, salvation and eternal intimacy with Almighty Jehovah God.

Secondly, our Creator made us with the intent of us having an eternal Father-child bond with Him forever. What happened that got in the way and caused both physical and spiritual death? Sin happened. Sin is disobedience. Sin is rebellion. Sin is going our own way. Sin is having no interest in loving the Master of all the universe, turning away from Him and only stopping and turning back briefly when we need something from Him that our own efforts cannot provide. Sin is selfishness. How utterly audacious of the creation to spurn the Creator! He is a dinosaur and we are ants, to use a simplistic metaphor. His power and authority could crush us in an instant, and His impartial justice would find us guilty on the evidence alone.

But He doesn’t. He desires mercy over simply judgment. Why? Because He is real and the very essence of a love that mankind can barely comprehend, let alone emulate. From the very beginning, when He first formed the earth along with man, and breathed life into him, He knew that even the initial crown masterpiece of His creative imagination (mankind) would fall short of the Master’s perfection and glory. So, even then, He put a future rescue plan into effect that would result in our reconciliation to Himself; something we could never and would never do.

This plan needed a sacrifice; the clean for the unclean, the perfect for the imperfect, the sinless for the sinful. No matter what you have been told, taught or understood in the past, the Almighty brought His as yet invisible self into time and space by sending a part of Himself to the womb of a young human woman by the power of the third part of Himself, His Holy Spirit. Once this fully God and fully human Jesus Christ was born into this world, His ultimate purpose and destiny was to die…for us. God Himself provided and was the sacrifice. The invisible God was made known through the image of His Son. During His earthly life, even as a boy, He spoke of His Father to us, He only spoke what He heard God speak to Him. He only did what He saw God do. And He was perfectly obedient, even to the point of death… for us.

His earthly image displayed the love, power, meekness and truth of the unseen Creator. The Father was “seen” and made known through the image of the incarnate Son in His UNSTAINED and unblemished life. Coming full-circle back to Colossians 1:15, the inerrant Word of God, the Bible speaks of the pre-eminence of Christ Jesus. Eminence is a term which means and signifies supremity, first in order, highest in rank. PRE-eminence is a spot reserved for the only One who could occupy and rightly deserve even a nitch carved out above and beyond that which mere human and angelic standards would dare to envision. He is incomparable, indescribable and, now, also invisible as He is enthroned at the Father’s glorious right hand.

And now, our task as His true sons and daughters- CHRISTIANS- having been made new creatures and washed fully clean in God’s eyes by His sacrificial, atoning and propitiatory blood on the Cross, by His power and grace alone, is to be the image of His now unseen form. He made us UNSTAINED and we must REMAIN UNSTAINED by yielding and submitting to His ways, obeying His voice, cooperating with the inner promptings, leadings and convictions His Most Holy Spirit speaks to us daily in our invisible hearts and souls. The Word says we are His ambassadors, His witnesses, His disciples, His proxies. Let us get serious about putting away anything in our outer lives and inner lives that would mar, tarnish, soil, blemish, wrinkle or stain the image of the Messiah to a world that needs Truth and Faith and Hope and the Savior’s LOVE.

He is coming soon! The time is short. Let us embrace fully the sanctification He is working in us. We are His bride. Let us be sober-minded and diligent in our pursuit of holiness. Let us not dirty the white linens we have been given to wear and don before the wedding and the feast. May His wisdom and grace be ours in abundance!

Amen.

 

“UNSTAINED” — A Message to Us, the Church

My dear friends, my brothers and sisters, you who are called by Christ’s name…

I’d like to share some things with you that I KNOW are G-d’s heart for His sons and daughters. Our Lord Jesus has been telling me some things through His Holy Spirit, and showing me too, for quite a while. It touches me and it should touch you as well as we are all part of His body. I really, really hope you will Hear, Listen, Receive and Heed His words.

When G-d Almighty first rescued and called out the Israelites, He chose them; they did not choose Him. It was done by His plan, mercy and unequaled love. He warned them in Deuteronomy 7:4 not to INTERMARRY with the idolatrous, ungodly people of the lands which surrounded them saying, “for they would turn your sons away from Me, to serve other gods.” In Ezra 9:2 it is revealed that “The holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands.” This is important. The Lord is warning us today as well. You see, whether the Lord Jesus Christ comes back first or we die first really doesn’t matter. Either way, we don’t want to be caught without oil (see Matthew 25:1-13).

I am quite sure that when G-d’s chosen people first heard the warning they thought to themselves, “This will never happen to us” just as Peter was so sure he would not deny our Master. But one decision after another turns into a habit which turns into a lifestyle; one subtle distraction and one wrong choice at a time. And, before we realize it, we need to “make confession to the Lord…do His will” and “separate ourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives” (Ezra 10:11).

For our ancestors, the INTERMARRIAGE was with real people; for us, it is with real habits. Do you watch “The Walking Dead”? Have you read “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Do you listen to Beyoncé or Katy Perry? Do you, if you’re a sister, have to wriggle into your pants or jeans to fit into them, or maybe even button up your blouse a couple more inches? Do you laugh at things we know we should no longer find funny? Do you have a little more beer or wine in the house than Coke, coffee or water? If not these, then something else like things or attitudes in your heart and mind that you should not be harboring or entertaining (my problem many times), even if not quite so obviously unbecoming for an ambassador in Christ. Remember, the Lord gave me the message first so I am in this right along with you. But He did tell me it’s for the church, of which you and I are both a member. I’ll be the first to remind you of Romans 8:1 (Hallelujah!), but we also need to bear in mind that we are salt and light, and we no longer are—nor should we be—feeding on milk. We have INTERMARRIED to one degree or in one area or another. We have allowed ourselves to take on the characteristics of the people around us. Ephesians 5:27 reminds us that Jesus our Lord is not only coming back in glory, but that He is going to “…present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing… so that we might be HOLY and without blemish.” He is coming like a thief in the night. Though we expect and anticipate Him, we know not when He will return.

The Holy Spirit threw spiritually cold water in my face recently with a phrase I knew that I had no idea of its depth, but which I also knew I was about to learn. Just as when the Lord sent Israel into Babylon with these words from Jeremiah 29:4-6, His paraphrased message was “Settle down. You will be in this place for a while.” In other words, I need to teach you something. I need to show you a few things. I need to

 

do a work in you, and it’s going to be for a season; how long or how short depends on you.” I am excited, eager and somewhat clueless. The phrase is part of a slightly larger context yet it jumps off the page saying, “it is no longer I who live” (Galatians 2:20). I know it scripturally. I understand it grammatically and somewhat intellectually. I am about to learn it by living it. It is necessary in my look-alike contest with my Savior and it is the promise that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

Have you ever noticed or thought that, at first read, our Messiah seemed like He was almost talking people out of becoming Christians? If these people would have encountered us, we would most certainly think the Father had given us a divine appointment to either plant, water or harvest. Look at the following verses and see what I mean:

 

(Luke 18:18-22) says, “And a ruler asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me.’”

And…

(Luke 9:23) says, “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

And…

(Luke 9:57-62) tells us, “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ To another He said, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow You, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

 

Was the King of the Jews trying to dissuade these would-be disciples? No, of course not. They very reason He left Heaven to come to Earth and die was to “seek and to save the lost.” So what was, and what is, His purpose in making these statements? It is because there is a COST to true discipleship. There is often no value in something when there is no cost associated with it. Matthew 13:44-46 explains the Kingdom of Heaven in this way, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  I was telling a young boy who my wife and I know and love as he was taking care of some shoes that were recently bought for him (he said they were very special) that when you are young, don’t yet work and receive everything you have from others, you don’t necessarily put a lot of value in them. We, even as adults, do the same. When we begin to receive something as a result of a cost being associated with it (whether it’s labor, money, time or sacrifice), it means so much more and we don’t take it for granted. As a matter of fact, we care for it all the more!

His older brother saved up eighty dollars after working alongside his dad in order to get a friend to buy him a video game, but was told by his aunt that it was something frivolous. She also asked him if this other boy could really be trusted. He then decided it would be better to buy himself some new sneakers. When he did this and they got just a little bit dirty after playing outside, he quickly went inside (without any word from us) to clean them and put on an older pair before going back outside. He was taking care of them. Why? Because they cost him something and he attached worth to them.

When Jesus Christ purchased our redemption and our salvation it was because, to Him, His own creation are “pearls of great price.” Philippians 2:7-8 says, “But (He) made Himself nothing, taking the form of a bond-servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Hebrews 12:2 shows how much value He put in being in the presence of Almighty G-d and paying our ransom, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of G-d.” When we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we must realize that He is the Almighty, the Creator, the beginning and the end of everything. The Word of G-d puts our basic relationship in humbling perspective saying, “Heaven is G-d’s throne and the earth is His footstool.” Where He dwells and where we dwell paint a true and somewhat stark reality of the pecking order here. G-d, in the incarnate person of Jesus Christ, left His holy abode to submit to and walk among His sinful and rebellious creation. Why did He do such a thing? Why not just simply look at the evidence in our lives and say “guilty”? Though He is a just judge to be sure and no one can contradict His righteousness, He loves us with an enduring and everlasting love. We can’t wrap our minds around this pure, divine love because our version of love is stained, tainted, blemished and spotted.

When we go back to Deuteronomy 7:1-9, we want to focus on two excerpts; verses 3-4 and verse 6. The first one says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following Me, to serve other gods.” The One true and living G-d, Maker of Heaven and Earth, has shown great mercy, unprecedented and sacrificial love toward us in order to draw us out of the world and to make us a people for Himself. He has shed His own precious blood and, for those who acknowledge their guilt and willingly place themselves under its cleansing drops, they will find themselves astonishingly purified. As He warned the Israelites not to intermarry in order to maintain this justified and reconciled relationship, He tells us the same today in verse 6. It explains, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your G-d. The Lord your G-d has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Those of us who have been born-again of “water and the Spirit” and have been “baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit” who have confessed their sins and received forgiveness (the true sense of the name “Christian”), have not only had their sins wiped clean, paid for and forgotten by the incomprehensible and free gift of Jesus the Christ, but have also had His righteousness (complete sinlessness) imparted to us! In this phenomenal exchange, G-d Almighty now looks at the true Christian and sees us as He sees His Son—blameless. Unstained.

The charge or command not to intermarry is just as paramount, just as relevant and just as imperative today for you and for me. While we may not literally intermarry with those unsaved people around us today, we must not do as they did in Ezra 9:2. It laments, “THE HOLY RACE HAS MIXED ITSELF WITH THE PEOPLES OF THE LANDS, and in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”  Our intermarriage today consists of secular (ungodly) music, worldly clothing and immodesty, godless movies, taking the name of the Lord in vain in staggering abundance, pagan thinking, profane speech, liberal views, doctrinal compromise, Trunk or Treat, Easter egg hunts, Black Friday, fleshly desires and lusts, and much more. When we were purged of our sins by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ the Messiah, we put on clean linens and white garments. We must not flirt with the activities and habits of the people around us. If we do, it is the same as devaluing or taking for granted that blood, and making the pain that caused it to pour forth.  It is to be like a pig and, once cleaned, to go back and roll around in the mud. Yes, thank the Lord we are not condemned and we are being sanctified, we are being purified to remove the dross from our lives. But we must be sober-minded, humble, grace-seeking and intentional –since we were made unstained—in remaining unstained. Praise the Lord we have this promise in case we unintentionally sin (1 John 1:9), “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  This promise is for the believer.

If you have found yourself dabbling in this modern type of intermarriage recently, if only for a season, you can and should “make a covenant with our G-d,” as I am doing and as the Word instructs us. Ezra 10:11-12 declares, “Now then make confession to the Lord, the G-d of your fathers, and do His will. SEPARATE YOURSELVES FROM THE PEOPLES OF THE LAND and from the foreign wives.’ Then all the assembly (the church) answered with a loud voice, ‘It is so; we must do as you have said.’”

Praise and give thanks to the Lord of lords and King of kings, Jesus Christ! He is a great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, yet without having sinned. Hebrews 4:16 blesses us by sharing, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” James 1:27b admonishes us “to keep oneself UNSTAINED from the world.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 exclaims, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, YOU ALSO BE HOLY IN ALL YOUR CONDUCT.” 1Thessalonians 5:22 warns us to “ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL.” Are these instructions daunting? Yes. Challenging? Yes. But thanks to the Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ in His declaration to the Christian, the committed follower, that we can do all things through and because of Him and the strength He provides! Finally and again, Ephesians 5:27 exhorts us that He is coming back, and “so that He might present the church (us) to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she (us, the church) might be holy and without blemish.”

Maranatha! (Our Lord is coming!)

God bless you with wisdom, grace, discernment, obedience and love. Amen.

Finding Several Treasues in One Place

Hello friends, brothers and sisters. I hope that all of you have been doing well and that the Lord Jesus has been revealing Himself to you, drawing you to Himself in a very personal way, and that you have begun to hear His voice and to respond to it by following after Him as a sheep to its shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd.

I was in church one evening this week and someone said something to me which troubled and hurt me. They probably didn’t mean it to affect me the way it did, but it was something which didn’t need to be said. It bothered me to the point that I walked out of the room we were in and into the hallway. When I did, I was met by one of my brothers in the Lord who happened to be there already for another purpose (God’s providence and perfect timing). We spoke for a few minutes, he kindly and attentively listening as I unburdened my heart. Previously, I didn’t know him particularly well but now I am very grateful to him. On another evening since then, we came across each other again and, this time, in better moods. He proceeded to share a “joke” with me. After a few seconds of separating from one another, I immediately realized that it was one which Christians shouldn’t find funny and that we shouldn’t be sharing with each other, or anybody else for that matter. It wasn’t long but managed to tell of someone who broke two of the Ten Commandments. We all have our faults and areas which beg for sanctification—I am well aware of several of my own—but this situation came back to my mind a couple of times, especially this morning in my private and expectant time with my Heavenly Father. As I thought about how to approach my brother about this in a gracious and loving way, the phrase from Scripture that the Great Revelator (Holy Spirit) reminded me of was “Am I my brother’s keeper?” found in Genesis 4:9. I already know that “Yes”, I am. “Yes”, we are. The Bible instructs us that if we truly love each other, we will not allow each other to continue in sin, nor should they ignore our sin. Sin is what separates us from Almighty God, so we are instructed to help keep each other in line with the Lord’s will for ourselves in all areas.

I did a little research from various biblical resources the Father has blessed me with over the years and found that the word which is translated as keeper in that verse is best described or understood to mean “protector.” In other words, Cain was responding to God’s rhetorical question this way, “Am I supposed to help protect my brother?” The implied answer is a resounding “YES!” And, in that case, Cain absolutely did not; just the opposite.

As I continued to read from Genesis chapter four, I began to see just how spiritually diverse and rich verses 8-25 are. There are several truths to be explored and expounded upon, and many lessons to be learned, in this section of godly text. It would provide a month or more of good preaching to a devoted pastor, and a wealth of healthy pasture for an eager flock. Obviously, it would take way too long to do that here, but let’s touch on some things the Lord wants us to feed and ruminate on. Then, as one or more of these becomes personal for us as individuals, and as Holy Spirit speaks directly to each one of us (He IS a very personal God), we can seek the Lord in prayer and in His Word additionally, to learn what He is wanting to do in and through our lives, minds and hearts.

The context leading up to the Lord’s exchange with Cain is found in verses 1-7. It tells us that Adam and Eve, after having been driven out of Eden due to their sins of disobeying God and obeying Satan (although they were not consciously aware that’s what they were, in fact, doing), bore Cain and Abel. The latter was a shepherd and the former a gardener/ farmer; he worked the ground to produce crops for food. When both sons brought offerings to the Father out of what they had received, the Bible tells us that Abel brought an acceptable offering to the Lord—the “firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” [This is one of the reasons we give our tithe to the Lord before we pay our bills or spend money for ourselves. It is a reminder that everything we have comes from Him and that He deserves the first and the best! Nothing less for the King of the universe.] However, Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground.” It does not say the first or the best of what was produced, suggesting that Abel’s gift was out of faith, obedience, love and gratitude, while his brother’s was merely a secondary thought and done out of obligation. On your birthday, would you rather receive a gift that someone put thought into and was glad to give, or one that was clearly and merely done more out of a sense of obligation or even compulsion?

Because Cain’s offering was given out of a wrong motive (see 1 Samuel 16:7), it was unacceptable to God. Cain then became jealous of his brother, which led to anger. It was this anger in his heart that provoked him to murder his own brother! Can you imagine murdering someone else simply because he or she did something right and you chose to do wrong? Or for some other petty reason? Yet that is precisely what we see and hear of virtually every day. Students commit school shootings over such instigators as Facebook posts. Another is shot and murdered because of someone’s bad or careless driving on the highway. Others murder their unborn babies because they disregard God’s perfect and safe statute about only having sex within the holy context of a committed marriage between one man and one woman and, when the couple finds out they are pregnant, they murder because the child is viewed as an inconvenience to them. This is the reason our Lord Jesus Christ warned us in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Hell of fire.”

The Father goes on to tell Cain that because of his sin, the ground/earth/soil that he works will no longer yield crops for him. The Lord says he will now be a “wanderer on the earth.” Cain replies that he cannot bear this punishment and that, because of his sin, he will be “hidden from God’s face.” Further, Cain was sent “away from the presence of the Lord” and “settled in the land of Nod east of Eden.” It is the same for us. We are brought into the world already having a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5) and, as such, are living away from the presence of the Lord. In retrospect, it is most assuredly one of the reasons that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to G-d. Jesus was the sacrificial lamb presented as an offering on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins. Though Abel could not have possibly been aware of the significance and foreshadowing of his actions that day, I am now convinced his offering of the firstborn of his flock (see also Exodus 11:5, Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15ff) was pleasing to G-d because of his heart and because of the spiritual meaningfulness. I bet you (figuratively) 100% that Abel’s gift was a lamb. I see that now.

Another sermon-in-the-making is alluded to in verses 23-24. They say, “Lamech said to his wives:  Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say; I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Lamech was a son of Cain).  Now, please understand that just because your father or mother has a propensity towards a certain sin, does not mean you will automatically do it. You are your own person and you have your own free will. You can and do make your own choices and you are responsible for them. But just as we can choose to follow others’ good examples—as Christians strive to follow the perfect example taught and lived out by the Lord Jesus Christ—we can also be unduly influenced by others’ misleading and wrong examples. If you are brought up from a young age under someone’s continual bad example, their words and actions can have a severe and lasting sway over your thoughts, words and actions. But you don’t have to emulate that. Again, you are your own person with your own responsibility and accountability before G-d. Further, another reason to surrender your sinful lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ is that you receive the grace, authority and power you need from Him to be set free from such a lifestyle and such snares which keep you from the life you were created for and born to live out for His perfect plans and purposes.

Closely related to this—and I do not claim to understand it all—is the issue which some have come to call “generational curses.” There is one scripture found in Numbers 14:18 which says, “the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation.”  He will forgive the repentant and contrite in heart of their sin, but the rebellious will not find it because they don’t seek it or want it. Again, in Exodus 20:4-5, the second of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

A final and wonderful blessing to be taken away within this passage is that the Lord G-d can and does replace what has been taken from His sons and daughters (those saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ). My wife and I know a couple personally who can testify to this. Verse 25 says, “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain murdered him.’” G-d, who is the author of love and life, had compassion on them and gave Adam and Eve another child because Abel was murdered and taken away from them by Cain. Not only did they lose a son, but it was by the hands and heart of their other son. Their grief and sorrow were doubled, and the Lord had tender mercy upon them.

When we lived in Lima, Perú for two-and-a-half years, the Father allowed me to teach at a Christian school for most of that time. My best student– a young, respectful, polite, intelligent, Christian girl named Daniela—had developed cancer the year before we arrived there. She loved Jesus and testified about His goodness and faithfulness often; in public in front of audiences, and in private. The year after we moved back to the States, she died. She was only 15. Though we were grief-stricken by the news, we could rejoice all the more because we knew for certain she was in the literal presence of her (and our) Lord and Savior for all of eternity! This isn’t wishful thinking or some kind of fairy tale. It is a promise from Almighty G-d to His saints. We kept in touch with her parents and found out that, within a year or two, her mother and father—our friends in their mid-forties—were blessed with another daughter, just like Adam and Eve! God is good!

And I can say “Amen!” to that because all of these wonderful truths were shared with me and shared with all of you, even as a result of someone hurting me, which led to me being comforted by the Holy Spirit (the Bible calls Him our Comforter) through a brother in church. And even though a couple of days later that same brother shared a joke with me that was improper to both find amusing and to share with another believer (or anyone else, for that matter), the Lord redeemed that situation by leading me to Genesis 4. Now I have been blessed by His Word and I trust many of you will be touched by what He has revealed in a very personal way also! Praise G-d who loves us and is calling us back to Himself while there is still time, if you will heed His merciful yet urgent call. As John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, who were cousins, began their public ministries with the same words, “REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND,” I echo them to you.

God bless you.

ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

Hi again friends, brothers and sisters. Hope you are all doing well. It hasn’t been long since my last post, but I wanted to share something with you, some important aspect of truth, that we ALL need to know and be keenly aware of.

I was driving out of our neighborhood very early in the morning on my way to work and found it hard to see through the windshield in the dark, so I turned on the defroster. As I continued on carefully, there was a streetlight ahead which made the frosty windshield even more difficult to see out of. I said to myself, “I don’t need the light” (of the streetlamp). The Spirit corrected me immediately saying, “You need the Light, what you don’t need is artificial light.” Artificial light is false truth. That is what sounds right, but isn’t. That is the world. That is our own reasoning. That is Satan.

When we are driving at night and we see light from a streetlamp illuminating a tree, we know it’s not real light; it just doesn’t look the same. When we watch the news and see a reporter on the scene, we know the light isn’t real because the subject has an unrealistic sort of outline around them from the light-box that is being used to give added illumination and clarity.

We only recognize false light because we know what the sun looks like and we see its light all the time. Because of knowing and being familiar with what the genuine is and looks like, we can easily tell the counterfeit or the substitute. But can we do that with the Truth—the Light of God’s holy Word—in a day, an age and a time where so many claims of light and truth abound? Not if we don’t know the genuine Truth, the only Truth, the Bible.

2 Corinthians 11: 13-15 are verses which, if nothing else, should make us realize just how urgent it is to authenticate what it is we are letting into our hearts and minds. Truth is eternal. Truth is left standing when everything else falls. Truth is faithful, genuine, pure and trustworthy. It is revelatory. It can be tested experientially and can be found reliable time and time again (which is objective, not subjective). It does not change, nor does it need to because it is from God, and He is perfect; His Word and Truth do not need to change.

God Almighty, the One and only Living God Jesus Christ, is Light and Truth. Since we come into this world already marred by an inherited sinful nature, and we see—and live in—a world full of sin, it is normal for us to see the shades and hues of gray and think it is light. It is all around us every day and that is all we know. It is all we have ever known. We don’t even question it. So until we encounter truth and accept it for what it is—and it should be obvious (even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at first) because it stands in stark contrast to all else—we will never know otherwise. Darkness is part of the human soul and experience since sin separates us from the Light of God, the Light of Jesus Christ and the Light of the Holy Spirit. Until the light pierces it, exposes it, and we are attracted to it, and walk in it, nothing will change. All the counterfeits in the world will be impossible (without the light) to detect because we are darkness, living in and among darkness, and even the variations of darkness the world offers and tries to pass off as sound, from off-white all the way to charcoal-gray, are still impure and still fall short of God’s infinite and eternal glory.

2 Corinthians 11: 13-15 shines light on this. Its words say, “For such men are false prophets, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

(Even if one does not recognize the Lord and follow Him, He is the Light of the world. He is a lamp for our feet and a light unto our path. Those who do not follow Him, won’t admit they are walking around in the darkness. So, whatever they consider to be “light” for them is artificial and counterfeit.)

Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.”

John 3: 19-21, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”

1 John 1: 5, “This is the message that we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Psalm 27: 1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold (refuge) of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Matthew 7: 24-27, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house (life) on the rock (Jesus). And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house (life), but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock (Jesus). And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house (life) on the sand (anything else you trust in). And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house (life), and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

The Lord gave His budding prophet by the name of Isaiah a rare, exquisite and incomparable vision of His dwelling place, His light and holiness. The scene viewed by a man of God is described in Isaiah 6: 1-7, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

We are born into this world, before ever having done anything good or bad, with a sinful nature. We have choice and a conscience to steer us in the right way, but it is this inherent, stained essence within that gives us a propensity to do evil, rather than what is good and pleasing to God. I say this to help you understand that you are born (NOT created) into darkness. You were created to be children of Light.

Since entering this world we are only accustomed to being in the dark. It is not totally without light, because it is the Lord’s and it is not totally dark as is Hell. But the devil is called the “god (small “g”) of this world” temporarily because of sin. The more sin spoken and lived out in deeds, the more influence Satan has. Again, I explain this for your awareness and knowledge and benefit, and for you to now see that you came into this world stained, you live in a world that is stained and, by your ungodly actions, contribute to it being further stained. Additionally, and the point I am belaboring and purposefully trying to drive home, is that with all of this in mind, you are only used to hues and gradations of darkness. Even those of us who have by the Lord Jesus Christ’s amazing love, willingness and obedience to the Father and His glorious and merciful plan of redemption, been cleansed and UNSTAINED by His precious blood, still live in this world totally aware of the darkness all around us.

You can look and read in the book of the prophet Ezekiel 1:4-28 and again in the testimony of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 2-7 also, but I believe Isaiah’s account is best because it is his words which capture the vast disparity between this sin-engulfed life and world which is all we are accustomed to, and the splendor, purity, majesty and holy grandeur of Heaven! Isaiah did have a saving relationship with Almighty God; they were not strangers. Isaiah knew what it meant to hear from the Lord and, as such, was sent to tell others what Yahweh wanted mankind to know. Yet even this prophet, this holy man, this man of God uttered these words after only a glimpse of the magnificence of God’s all-encompassing Light, purity and holiness. He exclaims, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of UNCLEAN lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of UNCLEAN lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6: 5). And in verse 3 of the same passage, even the angels who worship God day and night and are in His presence 24/7 still find cause to proclaim, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS; the whole earth is full of His GLORY!”

So what are we to do? Are you still compelled to trudge on in the darkness? Are you not beckoned and drawn to this wonderful gift of Light and Love? You do not have to feel or be chained by the darkness, for the Light and Love and Power of JESUS CHRIST is stronger than any force of evil in the seen or unseen realm! Yes, our enemy is formidable, but Jesus is King and He is Sovereign and He has all Authority in Heaven and on earth. Jesus can and will and wants to set you free. But the bonds of sin must be broken off of you. Sin is what keeps you in the kingdom of darkness, while being redeemed, born-again and cleansed by the Savior’s blood is what releases you from those shackles and allows you entrance forever into the Kingdom of Light! Praise His holy name! He is good. There is none like Him. He is all-knowing (He is already aware of your sins, even the secret ones, so confess them to Him), He is present everywhere (there is NO place where He cannot see or reach you), and He is all-powerful (there is nothing impossible for Him—He is faithful and trustworthy).

Do not continue to be fooled or enticed or deceived by the MANY artificial light sources in the world. Come to the Master! Read His Word and His alone—EVERYTHING ELSE is counterfeit. No new age, no yoga, no Mormonism, no Islam, no Jehovah’s Witness, no Catholicism (I was one for many years, I am sympathetic), no Scientology, no “Christian” Science, no evolution, no movements, no politics, no Oprah, no Buddhism, no Communism, no Emergent Church (quite deceitful and spiritually deadly), no shallow or weak churches which offer weak foundations and do not produce maturing believers, no atheism, no agnosticism, no relativism, no secular humanism and on and on and on. Satan often succeeds by confusing the seeker and believer alike with potions consisting of a teaspoon of truth (taken from the Bible) for credibility, a dash of the name of God or Jesus, and mixed (and DILUTED with) a generous amount of full-blown “lie broth” put forth, among other things, as reasoning. This was the strategy that was employed from the beginning and which worked so well against Eve and Adam.

Please come to the TRUE LIGHT! God give you grace and wisdom and discernment in abundance, and the courage to make the right choice.

 

The Psychology of Unbelief

Believing in G-d Almighty, the Creator, is  natural and congenital. It is the default way of thinking. It does not need reasoning or explaining to arrive at its conclusion. It does not need to be proven. It is the normal and proper outflow of life.

Unbelief, however, is a choice. In order not to believe, one must “go against the grain,” so to speak. It is not natural. It stands in opposition to inborn intelligence, observation, evidence in the world around us, and requires a conscious and aberrant, unnatural decision. By virtual definition, it is rebellion, rejection and pride—rebellion because it is a choice to deny the natural and created order, rejection because it defies truth, and pride because it presumes to know more or better than the One who designed and brought everything into being and is sovereign.

Let us delve into this for a moment so that we can see the truth and objectivity, rather than opinion and subjectivity, of that statement. My purpose here is not to win an argument, nor is it to push a worldview. It is to take information that we have at hand and pursue it thoughtfully, honestly and rationally to arrive at a conclusion. To believe in the existence, authority and sovereignty of G-d from the previous and opposing viewpoint of an atheist, agnostic or otherwise-professing unbeliever, is to return one to his prior and proper state, to his or her “default,” and “manufacturer’s settings,” or to “reboot” his or her mind and return it to the way it was originally made. In other words, it takes a purposeful and intentional act on the part of the person who claims unbelief to arrive at that mindset.

It is not a result of passivity (or mental coercion) but, rather, activity. One does not arrive at atheism, secular humanism, relativism or any other non-God-centered order of thought, speech or action without a deliberate, self-willed choice. To use a word picture or a practical, real-world example to illustrate this point, think of it this way. You may see a person with blue, green or purple hair. He or she, for whatever reason, decided they didn’t like their own hair color. He or she then decided they would go somewhere to have it dyed (or to do it themselves at home). We know from history, science and several thousands of years of observation that these alternate hair colors are not the product of our DNA coding, nor are they the way any of us looks, according to nature, as we come out of the womb and grow and develop. It is a result of being unhappy, displeased or otherwise discontent with the normal and good created order. We must make a conscious selection and then act upon it. Further, we must continue to make that sentient and premeditated choice to maintain that hue of our hair. If not, as it grows, our given hair color will resurface and take over. That’s innate. It’s the norm and standard. It’s suitable and appropriate and fitting.

This process of inclining the mind to the abnormal and the antithetical on an ongoing basis becomes a type of stronghold, an almost “inaccessible place” to enter and to correct. It has a subtle way of perpetrating our psyches with a varied combination of half-truths, deceptions and full-blown lies which we want to believe because, among other things, it convinces us that we need things that falsely promise to please and satisfy, yet are very short-lived and always come with a price that outweighs the value we place on these initial desires. Sooner or later, we find our minds and hearts conforming to ideas that were once foreign to us that we should have rejected, but continued to entertain. Our souls get indoctrinated, recalibrated and alienated from what we know to be true and right.

Many times,  emotional pain drives us to try to make sense of the cause of a horrible experience. When we can’t or don’t receive what we believe to be a suitable answer from whatever source we seek, our defense mechanisms kick in and immediately assign blame to one whom we know to be in authority (in one way or another) over us. Why? Because we believe that person or being has the power to keep it from happening. This is a very common occurrence. Blame gives us temporal and false satisfaction in that it deceptively alleviates our pain, convinces us we are not to blame for the action (if we truly are) and excuses our responsibility and accountability in the process. If not dealt with openly and honestly but, rather, suppressed, the guilt we transfer, displace or assign to the perceived object of our condemnation leaves our hearts hard and calloused and bitter; quite often into our adult years, if not for a lifetime. We can attach culpability to parents, teachers, law enforcement, clergy or the government but, most often, we do so to Almighty G-d. That’s easy enough to understand, even if untrue, because G-d is the beginning of all authority and all forms thereof, and there is no one higher on that scale to lash out at and assign that misplaced accountability. That wrongful reasoning and unbelief are only further embedded in one’s mind when he or she does not know Him, can’t hear Him and can’t see Him. As in the movie, “A Case for Christ” (based on the best-selling book by the same name), the author, Lee Strobel, was an all-out atheist. He and his father had an implied, yet not implicitly stated, relationship that was strained, to say the least. This seems to have led Lee to fully embrace a staunch, unbelieving worldview and it does seem to lend some credence to what I have heard many times before, true or false (you can decide that for yourselves if this is part of your experience), and that is that one’s view of authority and G-d the Father is clouded by the relationship one has had with one’s earthly father.

For instance, your father is head of the household and our Heavenly Father is head over all of mankind and creation. Your father provides safety and protection from harm (that is not self-inflicted) and our Father above is a refuge, a sanctuary, a stronghold and a “shield and buckler” to those who obey– and do not reject—Him. Our earthly fathers are to provide for us in terms of food, shelter and clothing. Our Divine Designer and Father gives us these things and many more freely because He loves us unconditionally. In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sinned and were ashamed because of their nakedness, our Heavenly Father provided for them by making coverings of animal skins. Eden was full of trees and vegetation for food. They lacked nothing. And they were able to build shelters/ homes from the materials the Lord gave them in nature. So whether you have a knowledge of these things from the Word of G-d or not, it is understandable to see where you—especially if you don’t know how good, loving, faithful and steadfast the Eternal Father is—might make a parallel in your heart between your father and The Father. Then, you or others might very well attribute the traits of your natural father (whom you can see) onto and over the personality and character of your supernatural Father (whom you can’t see).

In another place in Mr. Strobel’s intriguing film, he sets out on a two-year journalistic and investigative quest to disprove the claims of the Bible and to prove that his unbelief and atheism are warranted. In one particular scene and exchange with one of the many experts (both for and against Christianity) he has spoken with at length, the person he is interviewing poses Lee what is a perfectly apt and logical question which, quite frankly, gets absolutely straight  to the heart of the matter without animosity or arrogance. He asks, “At what point is all the evidence enough?” By this, he means to express that with all of Mr. Strobel’s (and perhaps your) prejudicial feelings, with all the research he has done, with all of the unanticipated answers he has found, with all of the historical and archaeological proof others have unearthed and placed before him, when does he finally realize and acknowledge the truth of everything and submit, rather than to stubbornly, emotionally and defiantly persist, to the claims he has worked so diligently, yet vainly to counter? Absolutely, a fantastic and common-sense thing to ask!

What prompts this gentleman to ask this question is that, after speaking to Strobel and hearing his comments, and understanding what doubts and prejudices underlie his inquiries, and knowing from their exchange as well as those of many others Lee has had prior to this one—including documented testimonies, verified medical reports, historical proofs and archaeological discoveries (a plethora of evidence from many sources across a wide human spectrum, virtually all of which are secular)—there comes a point where you have to ultimately ask yourself, “Is my unbelief more reliable than the information and knowledge I have accumulated to the contrary?” If you answer “yes,” where does the authority of the source of your unbelief come from and is it correct? If you answer “no,” then your persistence in cynicism, incredulity, distrust and dubiety are unfounded. What then?

You are left with only two choices. One, to set out on a continual and intentional hard-hearted, foolish, stiff-necked, stubborn and eternally perilous path despite the invalidation and refutation of your original position (I don’t use these words to be mean-spirited, but the Bible uses these words and they are accurate, even if a bit hard to chew). Or, to confront the source of your disbelief honestly and to acquiesce to the truth, ask the Heavenly Father’s forgiveness (which He has been patiently waiting to lavish upon you), receive it with deep gratitude, confess the sins that by now have most probably convicted you, submit to and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and receive a new and soft heart in exchange for your old heart of stone. You will be a new creation and become a son or daughter of the Most High! Freedom and unburdening await you.

G-d bless you.

“Thomas’ Unwitting, Yet Excellent Testimony”

His name means “twin.” In John 11: 16, he says to the other disciples while speaking of Lazarus whom The Lord Jesus Christ was about to raise from the dead saying, “Let us go also, that we may die with him.” What did he mean by that? Was he being sarcastic? Cranky? I don’t know.

Does the New Testament offer any insight into this man’s personal faith journey? In other words, what snippets of his life can we observe that give us some clues, if any, that would lead up to his ultimate, personal exclamation of faith? What struggles, doubts, fears and worries can we see as he walked alongside his Creator and Savior? And what should we glean from this? What does Scripture show us beyond his often-touted disbelief? What led him to finally proclaim, “My (KYRIOS) and my (THEOS)?” And what does that say to us? Was it a divine and personal revelation for him like it was for Peter when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living G-d”? Is it necessary to see Jesus as both? Why not just one or the other? We’ll come back to that crux in a moment.

In John chapter 14, the Christ (Messiah) is alluding to His disciples about His return to the Father and assuring them that He would come back to take them with Him. He tells them, “And you know where I am going.” The same Thomas we just mentioned asks a reasonable question, “Lord we do NOT know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” (Verse 5). After His resurrection, He appeared to His followers. Thomas was not present to see him then, so when the others exclaimed, “We have seen the Lord!” he didn’t believe. (Had Thomas not witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead and so had trouble believing Jesus raising Himself from the grave was a possibility?) We all know his response from John 20: 25, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.”

These are the only mentions of Thomas other than his name simply being listed along with the other apostles. They don’t tell us a lot about him, unfortunately. But there is one more, and it is an important one! And it tells us quite a bit more than we realize and might ordinarily walk away with. Thomas and our Messiah have a brief, but spiritually powerful, exchange! After the verses which have earned him the bad rap as a doubter—as if this man who followed Jesus everywhere had no faith—the next five sentences, especially the last, should make us think quite differently about him. But, more importantly, they should lead us to two essential, significant and paramount truths which are lost on many today. Verses 26-28 declare, “Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas WAS with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe!’” (Now here’s the excellent part…) “Thomas answered Him, ’My LORD and my GOD!”

John 20: 28 is a very important bit of biblical text!!! Not only is it a definitive statement of faith and submission by the previously-doubting devotee that is a pivotal moment in his life (and the same can be said for us), but it is a very telling and revealing testimony concerning who CHRIST JESUS is to an individual who professes to be His pupil. Additionally, it is a paramount cornerstone in the way the Gospel is portrayed, relayed, confessed and lived out.

We can read verse 29 (Jesus’ response) and be tempted to move on. But when we do that, we miss what Holy Spirit wants to have our hearts’ eyes opened to. Thomas doesn’t only declare, “My God” (THEOS). While this portion is critical because many and most in the world simply acknowledge Him as a teacher, a good man, a moral person, a historical figure, among other things, to recognize that He IS G-d is necessary and huge! In truth, whether one believes it or not, Jesus is THE awaited and foretold Messiah, He is THE Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, He is our atoning sacrifice and THE propitiation (the One who took upon Himself the full and just WRATH OF G-D for our sins), He has been given ALL authority on Heaven and Earth, He is THE One whose name is above every other name, He is THE One to whom every knee will one day bow, and THE One by whom all mankind will be judged and to whom we will be held accountable for our deeds and words. He is not only THE sacrificial Lamb, but He is also THE conquering Lion. He is forgiving and merciful. There is none like Him. He has always existed and will always exist. He is eternal, going back and going forward. He is THE King of the universe. And He laid down His life FOR YOU and FOR ME. Then, miraculously and powerfully, took it up again. He IS G-d.

Equally as tantamount to genuine salvation and rebirth is Thomas’ testimony that Jesus is “My Lord” (KYRIOS). This is actually the more personal and deliberate confession and decision which he makes. This may well have been his moment of salvation, when he became a true Christian and an authentic believer.

Why do I say this? Even though we have things in our lives that we use to “substitute” for Almighty G-d, things we put our trust and faith in:  doctors to heal us, romantic relationships to make us feel loved, weapons to guard us and protect us and possibly even help us get revenge, money to make us feel secure and comfortable, clothing and makeup and accessories (shoes included!) and hairstyles to make us feel attractive, education to give us self-worth and self-respect, power and position to impress others and so that we feel important and significant (I have struggled with that without realizing it), alcohol and drugs to numb pain and loneliness—all of these are temporal and none of these ultimately satisfies or fulfills us and, most assuredly, none of these can cleanse us and forgive us of our sins. So, when we finally realize and admit our desperate need for our Creator and Savior, and acknowledge what only He can do for us, then we may, like Thomas, make the exclamation, “My G-D.” The “No” god of the atheist, the “Maybe” or “I’m not sure” god of the agnostic, the false god of world religions, and the “Not yet” god of just about everyone else becomes “MY GOD!” Thomas confesses this. He understands and accepts the relationship between the Potter and the clay, the Creator and the created, the Sinless and the sinner. This is the first part.

Part two involves the individual and public witness, the jubilant “manifesto,” if you will. When the true disciple professes JESUS CHRIST as his or her LORD [having made the metanoia–the change in the mind (thinking) and repentance (change in the direction of his life)—and his or her confession (with the mouth, issuing forth from the overflow of what is in the heart)], several key processes are taking place:

  1. He is submitting ALL areas of his life to Jesus’ authority
  2. His old nature is dying and getting buried
  3. He is gaining a new, righteous nature
  4. He is gaining a hunger and thirst for heavenly laws and statutes
  5. He is making Jesus the MASTER of his life
  6. He is obtaining grace (that which he does not deserve and cannot achieve through his own efforts)…

 

What does the Greek word KYRIOS mean? It signifies that G-d Almighty is chief, head and ruler. It means that all authority and sovereignty comes from Him. It means that He is the owner and creator of all good things. It is a title of respect. Making Christ your LORD means also that you trust His divinity (that He IS G-d), that you are no longer a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness (because the Word says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price”- you were ransomed from sin and its power over you), and because He gave His life for you, you are giving up your life for Him to be used by Him for His perfect plans and purposes. One movie I watched recently explained it this way, ‘You don’t just keep your old life and add Jesus to it. He becomes the One you obey, the One to whom you submit, the One you commit to as you listen to His voice and follow Him.” Galatians 2:20 shows, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

The LORD Jesus Christ warned us not to simply say the word or title “Lord” as if it meant little or nothing, but that those who are truly His disciples will actually do the will of the Father (Matthew 7: 21), so that the title “Lord” means everything to them! In Luke 9: 57-62, the LORD Jesus admonishes, exhorts and tests the commitment level of those who thought they were fully ready and fully willing to surrender to His Kingship. When one promised that he would follow Him anywhere, Jesus responded by saying that He has nowhere to lay His head at night. The implication was that there are uncertainties and discomforts involved in truly following Him. When He commanded another man to follow Him, that fellow answered that he first wanted to go bury his father and then he would go with Him. Jesus replied that it was more important and a true test of his love and devotion to the Son of G-d, to let others who are uncommitted to His work and uninterested in salvation  to go and bury him, and that the man was to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. Still another promised to follow Him, but only after he had a chance to say goodbye to his family. The King forthrightly revealed that whoever goes back instead of going forward in a vow isn’t fit for the Kingdom of G-d. As Kyle Idleman (Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church) succinctly but excellently puts it, we shouldn’t just be fans of Jesus, but rather be followers (committed disciples). That’s why our marriages are sacred and holy to G-d Almighty—they are earthly commitments and mirrors of our faithfulness to Him and His love. We are His bride, and there is no divorcing our G-d! We are with Him whether  rich or poor,  whether sick or healthy, in good times and in bad times, as it should be because He never leaves or forsakes us.

Thomas shouted, “My LORD and my GOD!”  Have you done, or are you prepared to do, the same? He  certainly is worthy, and your life and eternal soul absolutely depend on it. G-d bless you and give you grace and courage, wisdom and gratitude.

CAUSE OF DEATH: Unintentional Misrepresentation

Hi friends, brothers and sisters. A few weeks ago, I was driving to the bank for work and listening to Moody Radio for a few short minutes. The preacher on the broadcast read these words from 1 Corinthians 14: 7-8, “If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” Wow! I didn’t remember hearing or reading this verse before. The Lord really got my attention. To be honest, I didn’t really take the time to see what Paul is saying here in his particular context, but I KNOW what the Spirit said in my spirit. It resonated so strongly, particularly because of the way in which the word picture spoke to an issue that is oftentimes prevalent in today’s church.

An item which needs to be addressed is the term, “indistinct.” It is an adjective which describes something which is unclear or not sharply defined. Some synonyms would include blurred, cloudy, fuzzy, unfocused, hazy, vague and indecipherable to name a few. When I heard this, it was like Ezekiel described in chapter2, verse 2 of the same book, “As He spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me.” What the Lord Jesus is emphasizing is that there are many—MANY—today who hear the Gospel presented to them in such a way, that it has been drained of its message and its power to the point where its “notes are indistinct.” And if this Gospel is unclear, “how will anyone know what is played?… who will get ready for battle?” How many people today, in churches and out, have heard the most important, most valuable, most life-transforming and life-saving declaration of all time in a manner which is improperly or unclearly dispatched?

If the announcement is vague, or if it is weak, watered-down or sugar-coated (so as to make it more palatable), or if we market it or sell it (in order to make it attractive, or to otherwise draw people in), or if it is incomplete or without power from on High, then the souls with whom we share it will either not respond, or not respond correctly, and so will remain unsaved. I have seen it and heard it again and again and again. I have probably been guilty of it myself on one or two occasions.

Sometimes, perhaps, we know we have a mandate to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20), but we may be fearful of the reaction we may get. To this, Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of G-d for salvation to everyone who believes (trusts), to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” In Matthew 7: 21-23, our Lord Jesus Christ recognizes the danger and warns, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only 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 mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will (have to) declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’” The Lord Jesus is not being harsh; He is simply sharing the truth. Remember, He willingly suffered and laid down His life for all. It is His desire for all to be saved. What He is saying is that, whether it be the fault of the messenger who gave “an indistinct sound” in his sharing of the Gospel or whether the hearer filtered the true message through the sieve of his or her own itching ears (2 Timothy 4: 4), the confession of sin, the godly sorrow, the repentance did not occur and so salvation never took place. The restoration and reconciliation never transpired and so the Sinless and the sinner remain separated. There is no right relationship, so they never “knew” each other. Perhaps the knowledge is there—in the mind—but the heart did not receive, the seed never took root, and so no transformation ever occurred.

We really do have to be obedient to the Word in Romans 12: 1 which exhorts us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to G-d, which is your spiritual worship.” We need to, most assuredly, offer the pleasing and aromatic sacrifice of our lips and mouths (and hearts and minds) to the Lord Almighty so that He can speak through us without filter, hindrance or stumbling block. Paul admits in 1 Corinthians 2: 4, “And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Further, Holy Spirit spoke to me on another occasion revealing the need for love and grace, yes, but not at the cost of the full measure of the Truth. In fact, it is He who uses truth to bring about conviction which, ultimately and if responded to sincerely, leads to forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life. Consider these powerful, Spirit-filled, non-politically-correct, possibly-offensive testimonies which not only prove that confrontation is often necessary, but does not need to be feared, avoided, obstructive or heated.

Peter says in Acts 2: 23, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of G-d, YOU CRUCIFIED AND KILLED by the hands of lawless men.” And again in verse 36, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that G-d has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED.”

Peter speaks boldly again in Acts 3: 13-15, “The G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob, the G-d of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus WHOM YOU DELIVERED OVER AND DENIED in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But YOU DENIED THE HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and YOU KILLED THE AUTHOR OF LIFE, whom G-d raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

Yet again, Peter proclaims in Acts 4: 10, “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED…”

Peter and the apostles answered the council and the high priest in Acts 5: 30 declaring, “The G-d of our fathers raised JESUS, WHOM YOU KILLED by hanging Him on a tree.”

Stephen was direct and bold, yet filled with the Holy Spirit and Truth when he addressed the people in Acts 7: 52, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of THE RIGHTEOUS ONE, WHOM YOU HAVE NOW BETRAYED AND MURDERED.”

(To personalize these truths, we must be willing to accept the responsibility and admit  that MY and YOUR sins crucified Jesus, MY and YOUR sins murdered Him, MY and YOUR sins betrayed Him, MY and YOUR sins rejected Him, MY and YOUR sins hung Him on a tree, MY and YOUR sins killed the righteous One and the Author of life…) This is why we are guilty. This is why we need salvation. This is why we need forgiveness of sins.

Remember the Word of G-d promises us in 1 John 5: 14-15 that “This is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And since we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” Their prayer and that which should be ours is found in Acts 4: 29-31 and says, “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to Your servants to continue to speak Your Word with all boldness, while You stretch out Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, AND THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND CONTINUED TO SPEAK THE WORD OF G-D WITH BOLDNESS.”

We can’t tell people to simply, ‘accept Jesus into their hearts.” Although Revelation 3:20 does say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door (of his heart), I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me,” the understood command and necessary prerequisite is stated in Matthew 3: 5-6 of John the Baptist’s ministry, “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, AND THEY WERE BAPTIZED by him in the Jordan, CONFESSING THEIR SINS.” We can’t assume, when giving an altar call, that the hearers will grasp the biblical context of the invitation, since so many are biblically-illiterate; that is to say that they lack knowledge of the overarching narrative of Scripture and thus, have little or no understanding of the context from which we take the message of the Gospel. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7: 8-10, “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

I like church signs and the messages they post, for the most part. They served and still do serve and predate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. But sometimes they get it wrong. I still have a picture of one of them in my phone that I took, not to blame, but to keep as a reminder of what our focus should be. It reads, “Free trip to Heaven: Details inside.” It’s true and it might make us chuckle, but what the Spirit says in between the lines is, “We, the church, need to go out and tell the world; not to expect them to come to us.” The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 19-20 reads in part, “GO, therefore, AND MAKE disciples…” It doesn’t say, STAY AND INVITE all to come.” I used to be so much better at this, about evangelizing (face-to-face). I am, in this last paragraph, preaching to myself as well. It is so easy to get and to be distracted, busy, even with good things. We’ve got to be intentional and purposeful. If we don’t, our congregations will age, die off, there will be no one to carry the baton in our place, and the church will close its doors. We are seeing this happen all the time today. G-d will surely answer this prayer! Again, to apply 1 John 5: 14-15, if we ask according to His will, we KNOW we have our prayer answered. All we have to do is make sure we know His will in a certain area, and the Word will tell us this. The Lord Jesus assured us in John 4: 35,”…Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Again, in Luke 10: 2, our Lord Jesus points out, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Now let me say this, which follows the same scriptural principle. It may sound harsh, but I hope not. Regardless, we need to know this. In the same way that Christ Jesus distinguishes between the true and the false, the fruitful and the vain, John 10: 11-13 relays, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing (or little) for the sheep.” So the Master makes a distinction between a hired hand and someone who truly cares, and the same principle is at work when we sew good, true seed versus pushing a type of “Easy- Believism” as opposed to a “Lordship Salvation,” to use an example. It is true in many areas of life that we cannot—and do not want to—force anyone to accept the good that we want to share with them and give to them, but let us ENSURE that the reason they do not choose, or do not find themselves allowed, to enter the kingdom of G-d on that great and anticipated day, is not because we have watered-down, sugar-coated, or otherwise misrepresented the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ! If there is no godly sorrow, if there is no conviction of sin, if there is no confession, if there is no repentance, then there will be no rebirth (John chapter 3). There will be no regeneration.

Our Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ would not have left the Father’s presence. He would not have come down from the splendor of Heaven. He would not have laid aside His authority and glory, and assumed many of the limitations of His creation willingly, and would not have submitted to a bloody and unjust crucifixion if all we had to do was accept Him into our hearts, say a prayer, respond to an invitation—all bugles with indistinct sounds—or something else that wasn’t as clear as a commitment, grace, faith, the cost of discipleship, as well as a death and burial of our very selves and our very lives.

Matthew 6: 24 states, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other…”

Romans 5: 8 shares, “But G-d showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Luke 9: 57-62 necessitates committed devotion, “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ To another He said, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

The Gospel means “Good News.” If the sinner asks where the good is when we proclaim it, we gladly explain the exchanges that take place: First, that He took our sin upon Himself so that we can receive His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5: 21). Second, that through the disobedience of one man—Adam—sin was passed on to all of us, the obedience of one man—Jesus the Christ— forgiveness is made available to all (Romans 5: 18-19)!!!

Amen and amen! Speak the truth in love, graciously and boldly. No watered-down flavor of Gatorade. No icing, honey or cotton candy. No “Try Jesus: if you don’t like Him, the devil will always take you back.” Just the Word of the Lord.

We Absolutely Must Learn to GLEAN

The Lord G-d set the precedent and the law. Ruth put it into practice. Job, Jeremiah, Judges, Isaiah and Obadiah spoke of it. What does it mean to “glean”? Dictionaries tell us it is to extract from various sources; to collect gradually bit by bit; to gather leftover grain or other produce after a harvest left by reapers; to gather slowly and laboriously bit by bit; to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little; to understand what someone is saying or a concept being put forth, to follow what someone has said. If we look up the scriptural references where the word “glean” is used in one form or tense we can take away some useful knowledge from several key words and phrases in those contexts: take the aftermath, despoil, strip, go over a second time (no waste, implying worth, value, patience, intentional extra labor), extract, slow/gradual/bit by bit, leftover, what is left, learn, discover, follow, collect from different sources (barley, wheat, grapes, olives), glean from both the righteous and the wicked and more.

Matthew 15: 21-28 says, “And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before Him saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And He answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

The importance of the law and ordinance the Lord G-d Almighty established and commanded in Leviticus 19: 9-10 has love and care as the motivation, just as it was in my last post (…love…discipline…holiness…). His love was for the poor to always be provided for, but they worked for it to have dignity, respect and purpose; not just a type of spiritual welfare. Gleaning cannot happen or occur where no interest and attention and action do not take place. Gleaning is a verb. As is revealed in Matthew 15, Jesus Christ our Lord acquiesced to the woman of Canaan because of more than her faith. He gave in to her because of compassion and because this lady was intending—and willing—to glean from Him. And isn’t that exactly what we do when we inherit salvation, and as we live out our Christian lives?

There are several scriptures attesting to that same kind and motivation of His love shown in the care and heart the Father has for the widows and orphans. Deuteronomy says, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” The Apostle James talks about how caring for orphans and widows is pure religion in G-d’s sight. And in the book of Acts, just prior to Stephen’s testimony and stoning, the disciples were concerning themselves with the widows and making sure they were looked after and fed. Gleaning marries the two seemingly polar characteristics of generosity and humility. The former has to be willing to share or to give out of his abundance and not to be greedy (“do not reap…right up to the edge…neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard”) and the latter has to be willing to receive whatever is provided (“you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” and “even the dogs eat the crumbs”). We can look at Luke 8: 40-44, Acts 5: 14-15, Luke 5: 18-19, Luke 10: 38-42, Proverbs 25: 2, Luke 15: 13-23 and many, many others to see examples of those who are humble and willing to glean from others whether it be food to eat, a healing to occur, or to receive truth for living a holy life.

The eighth book of the Old Testament, I have determined, is required reading for any true and maturing disciple. I make this determination after eighteen years as a born-again, John chapter three believer, having just recently been made aware of its magnitude. Due to the Lord Jesus loudly whispering the word “glean” unexpectedly in my spiritual ears, I understand more deeply and appreciate much more fully James 4:16, “G-d opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And I personally feel that the protagonist of this four-chapter biography should be added to the list in Hebrews 11 at the end of verse thirty-two and just before verse thirty-three.

Who was she and why do I feel this way? Her name is Ruth. She was one of two daughters-in-law of Elimelech and Naomi. Naomi’s husband died, but she had two sons. Years later, these two sons died as well. Ruth becomes one of three widows. Her unwavering loyalty and devotion to her mother-in-law is almost inconceivable. She follows Naomi to Judah from Moab. She is a stranger in a strange land. She wastes no time looking for work and provision in Bethlehem. Her mission? To glean! She goes to a field filled with workers gathering and harvesting grain. She, herself, does not harvest, but she gleans. Remember the Lord’s law of love introduced in Leviticus 19: 9-10? “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and the sojourner: I am the Lord your G-d.”

This is profound for several reasons. One, it teaches us the foundational principle of dependence upon the Lord. Two, it shows us the crucial heart attitude of humility. (How many times have we suffered want or need because we were only willing to receive out of our own ability and independence? Or we missed out on provision because it didn’t come when we wanted it? Or we refused aid and comfort because it didn’t come in the form we expected it?) Three, if Ruth had not been willing to collect what others had left behind or considered of little value, she and Naomi would not have eaten. Four, if she had not been willing to “eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table” as the Canaanite woman did to save her daughter, Ruth would not have met Boaz (who was the owner of the field). Why is this vital? The last chapter of this historical account tells us, “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son…they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” Further, Jeremiah 23: 5-6 promises and prophesies, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he shall reign as King and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.” Finally, Matthew 1: 1 reveals, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” What does this mean? It means that if Ruth hadn’t gleaned in the field, she wouldn’t have met and married Boaz and given birth to Obed. If Obed had not been born, David would not have been born and become King. If David had not been born and been promised a permanent kingdom, our Lord Jesus Christ would not have fulfilled that promise and prophecy, and we would all be confined and condemned to die in our sins without a Savior—God in the flesh. Our very salvation is a form of gleaning! By Jesus’ life in us, we glean from Him also righteousness, peace, joy and eternal life among other things.

In gleaning, we can learn a lesson indirectly from something we see someone else going through. We can be blessed by being close to, or associated with, someone who is experiencing a form of prosperity. We can bless others—as they glean from us—by what we receive naturally and supernaturally, and giving to them. Gleaning is actually shrewd; take the parable of the three servants the master left in charge of his money while he was away (Luke 19: 11-27). Gleaning can be a test of our faithfulness, and how we manage and steward that which is entrusted to us, especially the Gospel.

As I mentioned earlier, our very salvation and lives depend on us gleaning from what was sown and reaped by Jesus Christ! He did the work. We gleaned the rewards. We must check our motives, though. We should work and labor so as to have others glean from us. We are not to be so concerned with ourselves that the importance we attach to gleaning is what we can gain from it. We can benefit, but the Word of G-d, the Bible, tells us to be more concerned about the welfare and interests of others. The kingdom of Heaven is not about what I can gain and store up (Luke 12: 13-21), but it is about what I can gain SO THAT I have something to share and offer others (Genesis 12: 2).

Of great and fundamental significance is the fact that since we, as Gentiles, have been “grafted in” (Romans 11: 11-24), we have gleaned from the fields and vineyards of the Jews! Hallelujah! Praise the G-d of Heaven and earth!!!

The book of Ruth is actually, now that my mind and heart have been opened to this truth, one of the more eminent books of the Bible. Why? Because the real and observable and tangible and historical marriage—a covenant—is between one who gleans and the one who permits the gleaning to take place. It is a relationship between the one who has to something to give and one who needs what the other offers. It is a conjoining of a redeemer with one who needs to be redeemed. It is a real life account of a type of savior (Boaz) with a type of one who is lost, out of her own country, one who has experienced loss, one who has no true God and one who has no direction (Ruth). It is a very real depiction and portrayal of the Messiah Jesus Christ and us; those He came to seek out and to save. He has everything and we have nothing. We must be humble and contrite, realizing our own condition and need, and be willing to glean from His field and vineyard and orchard. We must be grateful. We must realize that He loves us and wants to provide for us in a way that meets our spiritual needs far and above and over our natural needs, but does both.

He is Boaz. We are Ruth. Let us leave Moab and come to Bethlehem. Let us leave our old lives with our old ways and with our old, worthless gods (whatever we put our trust in and value). Let us be reborn. Let us come to the One true God, Jesus Christ. Let us glean from Him all that our hearts and souls need. Let us allow Him to be our Redeemer. Let us be His bride. The harvest of souls is close to being, but not yet, over. The edge of the field is still there. The vineyard is not stripped bare. The olive trees have been shaken, but some remain to be picked up off the ground. Glean while you are able. The night is almost here. Praise His holy name for His love, mercy, compassion and sacrifice for you and for me! He is worthy, and should be exalted in our hearts and lives, and through (with) our mouths!

The Lord bless you. Amen.

Out of Love to DISCIPLINE for Holiness

We were members of a relatively small and somewhat new church of about fifty people, and served there the whole eight months we attended until we made the decision to leave. My wife and I were unofficial youth pastors to a group of young people (about twelve to fifteen in number) ranging in age from 14 to 23, with most of them being around seventeen. The Lord-guided opportunity to feed these kids the Word of God every week was something we loved, took seriously and did faithfully. On many days, I wish we could still, in good conscience, be there doing it. I knew before we began the journey with them from the Holy Spirit telling me in my spirit, that they needed a strong foundation. That’s where He took us for quite a while before moving forward. We would seek Him through prayer, listening, studying and receiving certain timely insight and revelation. Not all of these young people are born-again, to be sure, but they paid attention (most of them), seemed genuinely interested and, as time went on, asked relevant questions and we got to develop relationships with some of them, even having them over to our home on a couple of occasions.

However, there were two young men who quietly yet surreptitiously managed to distract more than one in the class, including both my wife and me. The first once or twice we overlooked it in favor of the Word and what the Spirit had to say at the moment, but then made the choice to address the matter with them both after our time together one following Sunday. One of them is the pastor’s son and the other (a couple of years younger) the son of a good, soundly-Christian couple. The boys seemed to take it well and we had hoped that our kind, yet stern approach would nip this behavior in the bud. Over the next month it happened again and we addressed it…again. A couple of weeks after that we spoke to their parents about it. It still didn’t stop. Finally, we brought it up again after church with the parents and the boys. The older one, the pastor’s son, was kind of solemn; at least for appearances’ sake. The other boy who is usually humble and polite at all other times, however, began to get visibly frustrated and angry, even though he tried to restrain it when his father spoke to him about it in our presence. After only a few minutes, though, the young man walked away– almost defiantly– out of the hallway where we were gathered and into the place where we worship. He walked straight over to the far wall and, as he walked along it, slapped and banged his hand on the wall. His mother tried to appease him and tell him to calm down, while we and some who were left in the church (including pastor, his wife, the worship leader and his family) were bewildered and caught off guard by this behavior.

As we all went instinctively towards him to find out what was wrong with the situation, our pastor put his arm around him as he stood beside him and across from us. My wife tried to explain to him why the young man was reacting this way- because of his continual behavior issues- and the pastor (who we know well and get along well with) replied, “This is church, not school. No rules, only love” or something almost verbatim. I, for the moment, was purposefully silent because I didn’t want my emotions and flesh to take over. I could feel them building. The worship leader came over attentively to try to convey love, understanding and restoration to all involved, and I appreciated his sincere and appropriate effort. At some point very shortly thereafter I heard the pastor say the words, “No discipline.” I was calmly incredulous! I reiterated in a questioning tone, “No discipline?” I spoke kindly, respectfully yet firmly to the man whose authority I was under and said, “We’re not talking about rules. We’re talking about behavior, conduct, integrity and character.” After a few more brief exchanges by others including the boys, someone prayed as we all agreed to do, and my wife and I went home.

After arriving at our house, talking and praying a good bit over the next few days, my wife didn’t want to go back. After all, she might be a little hypersensitive to the lack of respect and the unforeseen outburst since she’s a teacher by profession. She and her colleagues get this lack of respect, to one degree or another, on an unfortunately frequent basis at school. She, rightly so, expected better at church. I, on the other hand, wanted to return if only for the ministry we had been given and entrusted with, for the sake of all the other young people, and to at least share one more teaching the Father had put on my heart. And I did.

After what turned out to be my (and our) last Sunday there—the Sunday after the incident—and after continued examination of ourselves, the situation and probably not enough prayer, we decided we wouldn’t be returning. It wasn’t out of emotions, bad relations, bitterness or anything like that, though. My earnest and biblical assessment of it all forced me to ask this question: “If we are to be under this man’s authority, yet he embraces “love” and dismisses discipline, and doesn’t understand, teach or model this dual doctrine (love and discipline) as taught all throughout scripture, especially in Proverbs and in Hebrews 12 and by the Father Himself, then we can’t remain. The line of authority and headship vertically is God, over the pastor, over us, in perfect alignment. But the pastor, in passively ignoring or misappropriating the doctrine has moved himself to the left or to the right, and has created a misalignment. And so we departed. We didn’t want to but couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to be led and fed by and place ourselves under the authority of someone who didn’t believe, and so act, in accordance with a fundamentally, biblically-sound thread of doctrine and teaching, no matter how good our relationship was otherwise. It was even our friend (our pastor) who texted me, alluding to Amos 3:3 in the midst of this, although that did not play a factor in our decision. Rather, we just thought of it as him revealing his heart. There is no ill will or animosity, just an important enough difference—not of opinion—but of belief and ideology, to separate from one another. We love them and pray the Lord will take the veil off his understanding, as we all our growing and maturing until Jesus’ return.

And so, as a result, I perceived the Spirit of God leading me to take the very appropriate step to seek Him and to study further and extensively on the issues of Love and of Discipline. What follows are my results, solely from God’s Word. There was no eisegesis involved. That is when, I have learned, “a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text” in order to prove or validate their own personal beliefs, understanding or agenda. Let’s dive in! (A note: the numbers in parentheses are the Strong’s references to either the Hebrew or Greek so that we know for certain what the meanings of these words are in their original languages.)

Hebrews 12: 5-11 tells us this, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline (3809) of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved (1651) by Him. For the Lord disciplines (3811) the one He loves, and chastises (3146) every son whom He receives (3858). It is for discipline (3809) that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons (5207). For what son is there whom his father does not discipline (3811)? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate (3541) children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected (1788) them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined (3811) us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines (3811) us for our good, that we may share His holiness (41). For the moment, all discipline (3809) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Job 5: 17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves, therefore despise not the discipline (4148) of the Almighty.”

Psalm 94: 12-13 “Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O Lord, and whom You teach out of Your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.”

Proverbs 3: 11-12 “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline (4148) or be weary of His reproof (8433b), for the Lord reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Proverbs 12: 1 “Whoever loves discipline (4148) loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof (8433b) is stupid (1198).”

*** PROVERBS 13: 24 *** “Whoever spares the rod (7626) hates (8130) his son, but he who loves (157) him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 23: 13-14Do not withhold discipline (4148) from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with a rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Proverbs 29: 17Discipline your son, and he will give you rest…he will give delight (4524 or 4574) to your heart.”

Proverbs 13: 1A wise son hears his father’s discipline (4148), but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (1606).

Proverbs 6: 23 “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs (8433b) of discipline (4148) are the way of life (2425b).”

2 Timothy 3: 16 “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching (1319), for reproof (1649a), for correction (1882) and for training (3809) in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

THE VERY WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD…
Revelation 3: 19 “Those whom I love (5368), I reprove (1651) and discipline (3811), so be zealous and repent.”

All the relevant, pertinent and Spirit-chosen terms the Bible uses– which are forms of or related to what is known as scriptural DISCIPLINE in both the Old and New Testaments—are defined this way:

DISCIPLINE (3809), NT= to chasten or instruct
REPROVE (1651), NT= to convict, expose, fault, rebuke
ILLEGITIMATE (3541) NT= bastard, base-born (of low birth or origin), born out of lawful wedlock, shameful, not lawfully recognized (this word is not a form of discipline, BUT is important because the verse it is taken from uses it to tell us that if the Lord does not love us, He will not discipline us and we are considered as unlawful, unrecognized, lowly born children)
HOLINESS (41), NT= ultimate purpose for discipline
RIGHTEOUSNESS (1343), NT= meeting the demands of God’s law, being acceptable to God in every way, justification/ being made right with God
DISCIPLINE (4148), NT= correction, instruction
REPROOF (8433B), NT= rebuke (to scold in a sharp way), to express disapproval of, to reprimand
REPROVE (3198), NT= to disciple, to reason, to rebuke
STUPID (1198), OT= brutish (like an animal, savage), foolish, senseless, unwise, silly, ridiculous
ROD (2626), OT= staff, stick, scepter (weapon or instrument of bodily punishment) borne by someone in authority
HATES (8130), OT= to have great animosity (hostility, strong-dislike) or ill-will against a person, one who is against God, dislikes all manner of good
LOVES (157), OT= love for a son, family in particular, for discipline and knowledge
DELIGHT (4574), OT= delicacy, to take or give great pleasure in, dainty (meaning delicious and choice- of special excellence)
REPENT (3340), NT= turning from one’s sin, having/ making a change of mind, bear fruit or evidence in doing so, do it voluntarily (no coercion)

REGARDING THE LORD’S WORDS…
LOVE/ phileo (5368), NT= kiss, love, strong desire to act and express affection to, chasten
REPROVE (1651), NT= convict, expose, fault, rebuke, to express disapproval of, not to be silent
DISCIPLINE (3811), NT= chasten, scourge, to punish as to correct, to restrain or subdue
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Now I’d like to stay on the same subject, but alter our course so as to show you something that the Father–in His perfect love for us– has designed and created in order for us to not have to experience DISCIPLINE. But because none of us have followed or obeyed, the love that is expressed in discipline that is necessary for and leads to holiness is a tool He uses to communicate to us.

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Notice below that the words in capital letters are emphasized that way to show you where the words in the verses relate directly to limits and boundaries.

[Boundaries in Nature/ Creation] In Job 38: 8-11, the Lord says to him concerning nature, “or who SHUT IN THE SEA with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its GARMENTS and thick darkness its SWADDLING BAND, and prescribed LIMITS for it and set BARS AND DOORS, and said, ‘THUS FAR SHALL YOU COME AND NO FARTHER, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’”

[Boundaries in the Spiritual Realm] John 10: 1-2 describes an enclosure like this, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the SHEEPFOLD by the DOOR but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the DOOR is the shepherd of the sheep.”

[Boundaries in the Physical Realm] Genesis 1: 9-10 tells us, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be GATHERED TOGETHER into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were GATHERED TOGETHER He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”

[Protective Boundaries] Revelation 21: 10-14 puts specific measurements and details in place to ensure our safety, “And He carried me off in the Spirit to a great high mountain, and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like almost rare jewels, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had A GREAT, HIGH WALL, WITH TWELVE GATES and at the gates TWELVE ANGELS, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the WALL of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

[Specific and Corporate Boundaries] Revelation 12: 15-17 gives these details, “And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. THE CITY LIES FOURSQUARE; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 STADIA. ITS LENGTH AND WIDTH AND HEIGHT ARE EQUAL. HE ALSO MEASURED ITS WALL, 144 CUBITS by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.”

[Romantic Boundaries] Song of Solomon 8: 4 warns, “Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, DO NOT STIR UP OR AWAKEN LOVE UNTIL THE APPROPRIATE TIME.”

[Eternal Boundaries] Luke 16: 26 declares, “And besides all this, between us and you A GREAT CHASM HAS BEEN SET IN PLACE, so that THOSE WHO WANT TO GO FROM HERE TO YOU CANNOT, NOR CAN ANYONE CROSS OVER FROM THERE TO US.”

[Permanent, Relational, Heavenly Boundaries] Matthew 25: 10-12 stipulates, “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding banquet, and THE DOOR WAS SHUT.’ Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord’ they said, ‘OPEN THE DOORS FOR US!’ But He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’”

[Financial Boundaries] Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be DEVOTED TO THE ONE and DESPISE THE OTHER. You cannot serve God and money.”

In His omniscience, holiness, love, justice and authority, Almighty God knows boundaries, limits and restrictions are necessary and beneficial for a host of reasons. As listed in the previous scripture references, some are geographical, some are interpersonal, some are romantic and sexual, some are for physical protection and sovereignty, and many are spiritual. But all are necessary, good and proper. As we saw back in Genesis 3, the very first fruits of the free, human race were given limits and they, with their wayward proclivities, could not contain themselves or muster enough self-control (or trust!) to remain within their proper positions. So the need for discipline in all its forms is healthy, nurturing, loving and beneficial (profitable, valuable, advantageous, rewarding, gainful). Discipline is at its core, and should be seen as, fundamental to our well-being. The foolish despise and reject it, while the wise receive, embrace and heed it.

So since the Lord has connected discipline to limits and boundaries, what is His motive? What is the intention of the Father’s heart towards His creation, towards His children (humanity) and towards His sons and daughters (those who have been saved and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ the Messiah, those who will inherit eternal life)? It is His love! Yes, even judgment as nations encounter on earth for their sins, is a grand form of discipline and, therefore, love. Consider these words from Ezekiel 18: 29-32 which get straight to the point, “Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are My ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.’”

All forms of discipline have embedded in them the implicit aim of getting us to change course from where we are (off course and away from the Lord) to where we should be (back to the waiting, loving, forgiving, merciful arms of our heavenly Father and Creator). Almighty God will employ whatever means are requisite, whether subtle or harsh, in order to save us—in a temporal situation/ circumstance or, especially, in a manner which has eternity and the salvation of our souls in view! This is why Hebrews 12: 6 relates, in essence, that not to exercise discipline is actually unloving. In other words, if I don’t love you, I don’t care about you or what happens to you, so I’ll let you do whatever you want; it’s tantamount to apathy. Conversely, the Lord Jesus Christ will allow inconvenient, bothersome, difficult and even painful experiences to find their way into our lives in order to bring us into, or keep us within, the safe, secure and nurturing boundaries of the sheepfold. Adding an extremely personal touch and exclamation point to this lesson is His willingness and obedience to the Father’s plan of redemption through His own sacrifice for us. John 15:13 exclaims, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This, the Savior did.

Hebrews 12: 4 emphasizes, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” as Jesus Christ did for you. But what are the purposes and benefits of discipline to which we are to submit ourselves? What is the Father doing in us in order to bring about the “peaceable fruit of righteousness”?

CHASTENING = scolding sharply (Hebrews 12:6)
INSTRUCTION = teaching (Ephesians 6:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, Proverbs 10:17)
CONVICTION = outward declaration of or inner sensitivity to sin, guilt, defilement (John 15:7-8, 1 Corinthians 5:12)
EXPOSITION = writing or speaking in a way that illuminates or explains (Ephesians 5:11-13, John 3:1-20)
REBUKING = scolding sharply, reprimanding (Proverbs 13:1)
LEARNING = acquiring of knowledge (Proverbs 1:2-5)
CORRECTION = action taken to reverse a mistake or a fault (2 Timothy 3:16)
REPRIMANDING = rebuking severely or formally (1 Timothy 5:20, Proverbs 29:15, 17:10, Matthew 16:23)
REPROOF = expressing disapproval of something said or done (Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:11-12, Revelation 3:19, 12:1)
REASONING = thinking logically, drawing conclusions, analyzing, explaining (Isaiah 1:18-20, James 3:13-18, emphasis on 17)
TRAINING = guiding the mental, spiritual, moral development of; instruction (2 Timothy 3:16)
TEACHING = holding discourse, instilling doctrine, expounding upon something, to present and explain systematically and in detail, to elucidate or clarify something (Colossians 3:16, Acts 15:1-2, Hebrews 8:10)

And what does the Word of God tell us about itself in 2 Timothy 3:16, which was referred to more than once above? “ALL SCRIPTURE is breathed out by God and is profitable for TEACHING, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, and for TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.” This seems to suggest that, in one sense, the whole of God’s Word is about love/ discipline. Unfortunately, we equate discipline with punishment or restriction and so we view it as negative. Rather, discipline is a good thing, a necessary thing and an extremely loving thing. We need to change our perspective. Casting off discipline in the names of love and grace is neither, nor is it biblical or godly.

Since delving into all of this and being taught by Holy Spirit, the Word of God gives these seemingly harsh ways of instilling discipline into a brother or sister (Christian) which are actually very apt and biblical manners exhorted by the first century church, spearheaded by Paul himself. Our culture now, even in many local church bodies, has gone soft and weak, being deceived in our minds into thinking that we need to tolerate (accept, put up with) virtually any speech or behavior, especially that which runs counter to Truth. Has the pendulum of the Lord Jesus’ ways swung to the left or to the right? No. He and His ways are perfect and complete. They do not need to change. “He is the same yesterday, today and forever.” So it is man and his thoughts and ways that have migrated from east to west and from north to south. We don’t need to walk on eggshells in fear of offending someone, especially those in the church—though we do want and need to be loving and gracious in our hearts toward others. Remember, the Father says love is the motivation for discipline, correction, teaching, rebuking, etc. and these are the tools that bring us back to Him. To not say anything is, really, to be unloving because it shows we are not doing anything to keep another from stumbling and making huge mistakes. Take into very thoughtful consideration these examples that the Apostle Paul uses to teach the church.

The Lord JESUS Himself says in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.” Can you imagine any church today actually obeying and employing even the first, let alone all, of these four Christ-commanded lessons? If we did, and with the right motive, our churches would be healthy and deep and strong, instead of ill and shallow and weak.

The three-time missionary Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (Christian) if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. PURGE THE EVIL PERSON FROM AMONG YOU.” Pretty straight and to the point. He doesn’t mince words. It sounds quite unloving, though. Is the apostle being excessively harsh? No. He is writing under the direct, unfiltered influence of Holy Spirit. But we must consider the context, of course. Verses 1-2 tell us that not only were some Corinthian believers committing sexual immorality (red flag for any disciple!), but it was “of a kind that is not even tolerated among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? LET HIM WHO HAS DONE THIS BE REMOVED FROM AMONG YOU.” So you see that excessive sin is dealt with promptly and effectively. 1 Peter 1: 14-16, James 1:27 and Ephesians 5:27 all deal with the theme of holiness. We bear the name of Christ, and we are His ambassadors and priests. Such behavior is intolerable.

Our brother Paul a few verses earlier again rebukes in 1 Corinthians 5: 3-5, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, WITH THE POWER OF THE LORD JESUS, YOU ARE TO DELIVER THIS MAN TO SATAN, FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS FLESH, SO THAT HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED in the day of the Lord.” Again and emphatically, discipline for the sake of redemption, restoration and regeneration. The motive is love.

Paul writes this letter to Titus (1:7-9), leaving him instructions on how to further establish the church in Crete. He issues these specific instructions. “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain. But hospitable, a lover of good, SELF-CONTROLLED, upright, HOLY, and DISCIPLINED. He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, SO THAT HE MAY BE ABLE TO GIVE INSTRUCTION in sound doctrine and also TO REBUKE THOSE WHO CONTRADICT IT.” The apostle is giving counsel to his younger brother in the Lord as to how to set up and properly preside over a new and budding church on the island belonging to present-day Greece. Notice the familiar attributes of being self-controlled (personal discipline), being able to give instruction (another form of discipline that we mentioned earlier) and being able to rebuke (yet another of the types of discipline we covered previously). These are all given and carried out with the love and consistency of the Father’s words and examples from Genesis 3 all the way through Revelation 3.

I want to leave you with a couple of well-chosen phrases that capture the essence of our reasons for covering this together…“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” And… “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” UNTIL NEXT TIME, GOD BLESS YOU AND THANKS!