The Believer’s Consecration & Preservation

Sometimes, as we are in our lifelong sanctification process, particular habits of sin take time to diminish and disappear altogether. G-d hates sin because He is holy and because it is what keeps us apart from Him. But He is also patient and long-suffering with us, as long as we are submitted to Him and we cooperate obediently with the authority and power of the Holy Spirit as He continuously works to cleanse us from all unrighteousness—and from glory to glory.

There are, however, also sins, habits and strongholds which last longer than necessary; sometimes due to our unwillingness to give them up. There is a very serious admonition (born of love) in G-d’s holy Word that, in today’s world, might seem too harsh to actually put into practice. Turn to Matthew 18: 15-17, please. The passage reads, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

You may think this cruel and unloving, but these words come directly from the overflow of our Lord Jesus’ perfect heart. He is the very One who willingly died for our sins. His words are trustworthy. Ask yourself these questions: WHY did our Lord die? WHAT were the purpose and benefit of His grueling execution? It was to set us free from the power of sin, and to redeem and restore us so that, though we were scarlet, we could become white as snow in the eyes of Almighty G-d. His death afforded us the possibility to be eternally free of defilement, but we have to see our need and want salvation in order to take hold of this promise.

Further, we hear a lot these days of the often-misquoted and misunderstood text which tells us (but we wrongly interpret) that we are not to judge one another. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells the Corinthian church, “What business is it of mine to judge those OUTSIDE the church? Are we not to judge those INSIDE the church? Expel the wicked from among you.” This exhortation is in line with Christ’s instructions. 1 John 3: 6 explains the reason for the unwillingness to comply with the Lord’s command by pointing out, “No one who abides in Him [Jesus] keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” Verse 9 says, “No one born of G-d makes a practice [continual, intentional habit] of sinning, for G-d’s seed abides in Him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of G-d.” And this is frightening, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10: 26-27). Wow! Maybe that seems harsher yet. There are many who don’t “believe” in this Jesus. They believe in an idol they have manufactured in their hearts and minds. Our Lord is indeed the very essence of love (1 John 4: 8, Colossians 1: 15, 2:9), but to love is not to endorse, embrace, accept or tolerate anything and everything; actually, that is at the heart of wickedness because it is opposed to G-d.

Perhaps you have wondered about passages such as Acts 5: 1-11, Joshua 5: 6 or another that makes us question the goodness (moral purity) of our Creator. When you take into account and ponder the overarching picture of the perfection of creation, His desire for fellowship with man for all of eternity, man’s disobedience and the breach in relationship that has ensued, His plan of restoration and the unfathomable love, compassion and mercy of G-d to come into the world and shed His blood to wash us clean so that His original purposes would not be thwarted, you should begin to see that nothing unclean, blemished, defiled, spotted, soiled, corrupted, mixed, stained or rebellious can or should be allowed to exist with Him in perpetuity.

When I used to read Genesis chapter three, I didn’t quite understand what was actually being conveyed in verses 22-24, particularly the words in verse 22, “…Behold, the man has become like one of Us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the Tree of Life and eat, and LIVE FOREVER–.” What the Holy Spirit is articulating is the seriousness of what must not be allowed to transpire. Namely, now that man has sinned, he who was created to live eternally must now not be permitted to or else there would be NO END TO SIN and, therefore, no possibility of man to dwell with his G-d and no victory over sin. Please let that sink in.

Verses 23-24 declare, “Therefore the Lord G-d sent him out from the Garden of Eden… He drove out the man [and his wife], and at the east of the Garden of Eden He placed the cherubim [angel] and a flaming sword that he turned every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” You see, G-d is eternal with no beginning and no end. He is also 100% holy! So, in order for His people to be reconciled to Him and live forever with Him and in His presence, we must be holy—unblemished, unspotted, undefiled, unsoiled and unstained—as He is holy. He is consecrating those who will follow Him, calling them out of the world, cleansing and restoring them to be fit for His plans and purposes. Anything rebellious, disobedient, sinful and, therefore, wicked, will perish as they have chosen to do by refusing and rejecting the grace and free gift of eternal life. What seem like drastic measures to us are necessary to CONSECRATE AND PRESERVE the purity of His kingdom.

May the Lord G-d grant you wisdom and understanding. Amen.

Putting to Rest the Subjectivity of Faith and Truth

You have probably heard people say that “faith is blind,” that it cannot be proven or that it is subjective; and that is the reason many people such as atheists, agnostics, scientists and others who don’t live according to faith find it hard to believe in and submit to. Truth is the Word of God, the Bible. These same people profess and believe that truth is relative, that it is measured according to the individual and that it holds no absolute, distinctive place in the world.

What does it mean for something to be subjective? It is when an idea or beliefs are based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions. What is wrong with this way of thinking and living is that feelings, tastes and opinions are unstable. They are constantly changing—both for the good and for the bad—and are affected by many sources which have no absolute basis; by absolute, I mean things which are independent, firm, trustworthy, unchanging, and are not relative or comparative. G-d’s truth and Word are absolute. They are tried and tested in each believer’s life. Christian testimonies bear witness to this fact. They are stable, immovable, fixed and an anchor for one’s life and soul. If we live our lives, make decisions and place faith (trust) in things which do change, our very lives and beliefs are unstable and unreliable and, in turn, can and do make our lives chaotic. Who wants to live this way? I don’t truly believe anyone does.

In contrast to something being subjective, is when an idea, belief or word is considered to be objective. This represents something which is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions, but is instead taken to be factual, measurable or observable. We are beings currently living in a physical world and we have been created with senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) to help us relate to the things in creation. But that is not all we are. We were created for eternity, and that’s why we also have souls and spirits. You might say we are three-part creatures.

Atheists are people who claim to believe that God doesn’t exist. They, as all people, are intelligent beings. The Lord says in Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about G-d is plain to them, because G-d has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” And Psalm 53:1 states, “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no G-d.’” From their choice not to believe and the evidence of the Lord in the physical world all around us, we must infer the atheists’ reasons are subjective, rather than objective.

Agnostics profess to neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence or nature of G-d because, they claim, nothing can be known or is known about Him beyond the physical realm. The previously quoted passage from the book of Romans addresses this issue as well. So their stance is unstable because, for some personal or undisclosed reasons, they straddle the line between belief and disbelief. One cannot balance forever on a fence. One cannot stand on an imaginary line between the shore and the ocean. They, eventually, will fall off the fence, and must choose dry land or opt for immersing themselves in the water.

So what are the reasons behind the atheists’ denial, the agnostics’ indecision and all other unbelievers’ lack of faith? Is it from personal experience? Is it from rebellion? Is it out of ignorance of the truth? Or is it something else? My bet is, at the root and beyond the symptom, it is most assuredly due to something subjective, something which changes and is tied to or based on a feeling, emotion or opinion. I understand. But remember that such things are unstable and fluctuate. They are sometimes up and sometimes down. Have you ever been in the position of having to make a decision (especially an important one!)? Monday, the information or issue presents itself. Tuesday, you’re mad or sad about something and so you start to make a choice about Monday’s issue from that “down” mindset. Wednesday comes and you find yourself in a cheerful mood. When pondering Monday’s issue, you see things in a different light and your decision starts to alter because your perspective is different. It doesn’t necessarily follow that good moods lead to wise decisions or that bad moods lead to foolish ones. It’s better to have an even, balanced approach (where you can hear from the Lord, and gain wisdom) which is unaffected by the winds of emotion, opinion, idea, outside manipulation or something else.

Faith and Truth are not SUBjective. They are OBjective. And, as such, they should guide our lives. Unfortunately, many people wrongly believe that they cannot be proven, tested or measured and so claim, profess, live by and teach to others that they are fallible, subjective (vary from person to person, relative), unsubstantiated and cannot be authenticated. I am a Christian and I can tell you emphatically from a measurable, objective viewpoint that the truth of G-d and His Word, and faith that is grounded in both is very much verifiable from within (the changes that the Lord brings about in my heart and mind that I bear witness to) and from without (the testimonies of others who know me– believers and unbelievers alike—can substantiate changes in my attitudes, speech, habits, character, integrity and so forth). Psalm 34:8 exclaims what I would also counsel you to do, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”

The following scriptures are objective in a very real sense in the physical world. Malachi 3:10-11 is trustworthy concerning our command to pay the tithe (10% of all our increase- money, time, talents, etc.) to the Father who owns and gives everything. It says, “Bring the full tithe into my storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, and see if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.” I have done this for years and I have never had my needs unmet.

Psalm 37:25 testifies once again to the concrete, objective truth (not blind faith) in which believers correctly place their trust, “I have been young, and am now old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children beg for bread.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 is a wonderful, sure, measurable (within and without) promise. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This talks about how, after having given your life to Jesus and placed your trust in Him alone for the salvation of your soul, the old person that you were who was dead in his sins, will inwardly die once and for all, and outwardly fade as your new life in Him will show forth. The prophet Ezekiel echoes this objective reality in chapter 36, verse 26 when G-d says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh [a soft heart].”

There are many more I could cite. Perhaps the atheist, agnostic, scientist or university professor (not all of the last two, but most) may question the manner in which I test and prove my claim. After all, they may argue that my results have not been authenticated by means of something made by human hands such as litmus paper, a machine or invention of some sort. This is true. But I remember in high school an experiment called the “borax bead test.” The essence of this cool exercise was to use a very simplified “tool” (a handle attached to a wire with a loop at the end) and to hold at its end (the looped portion) some powdered borax. When dipped in various liquid chemicals such as Chromium, Copper, Manganese, etc., and subjected to a flame via a Bunsen burner, the chemical forms a bead and turns color. It is thereby identified through its association with its blue, red, green, yellow, brown or other hue.

I mention this because the analogy of 1) the unknown substance from 2) the casual observer, which is then subjected to 3) fire to produce 4) an objective result, is quite apt for our discussion. In the Word of G-d, the Bible, many times the illustration and truth of the Father using “the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10) and “it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Corinthians 3:13) and again, “these trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold” (1 Peter 1:7). Notice the physical and measurable and objective terms used: affliction, revealed, show. That which is objective may be so even if the observer doesn’t know where to look or what he’s really looking for. If he doesn’t understand or has never seen it before, he will easily overlook what is obvious to others, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that it isn’t so, that it should be dismissed or even mocked.

Finally, 1 Samuel 16:7 assures us, “…for the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Faith is not blind and it IS objective. G-d bless you and grant you wisdom.

What is Death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G-d bless you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Magoo: A Portrait of God’s Grace

Hi once again my friends, brothers and sisters- and those who may have unintentionally been guided here by divine providence, or those who decided to check it out because of the odd title. Either way or both, we welcome you and hope the Lord speaks to you and your life.

If you know who Quincy Magoo is, you remember watching the show and laughing at the dangers and misfortunes that came so close to wreaking havoc in his life. He always seemed to avoid falling prey to them, while simultaneously being completely unaware of their existence on all sides. As these perils missed their target, he was walking around legally blind and definitely clueless. I would certainly recommend following this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GTHXTEvIcI) briefly so you can know what I am referring to and so you will have a mental picture of what I will allude to during this post. It is the intro or what you would call the “trailer” to the original cartoon series which aired a little before my time from 1960-1961.

The grace of G-d has many manifestations in the world and it is a phenomenal, unbelievable, undeserved promise and gift in the life of a believer–a true born again, committed and submitted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. But just so you know how loving, patient, compassionate, merciful and steadfast the Creator is towards even the unbeliever, we can look at the 31-second clip of Mr. Magoo to get a small glimpse of what the grace of G-d looks like even in the lives of those who actively (and passively) reject Him.

You may laugh at what may appear to be an absurd, jovial tutorial to explain the undeserved, protective, powerful hand of the Almighty over us, but it is how the Father above chose to reveal it to me—perhaps because it is so simple that a child can understand it. And maybe even because the images it conjures up won’t soon leave your memory, causing you to realize the many and varied circumstances of His love in your life in the near future. For me, it’s both.

You see, when most of us who do not believe (and by that, I mean have not yet trusted and put faith in the Son of God for the cleansing of their sinful natures and subsequent transgressions) in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and who have not turned from their wicked ways (ungodly thoughts and actions) to receive the blood-bought, free gift of forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life through the Messiah go about our daily lives not giving G-d a second, or even first, thought concerning His care, concern, sovereignty, control and governance over us, we are every bit as blind as Quincy Magoo. If you didn’t view the video before, now would be a good time to do it.
From missing death at the hands of the speeding train, to his avoiding injuring himself while plowing through the barn, to evading being stuck in the mud and subsequently being washed clean by the water gushing out of the water hydrant that should have messed up his transmission or other integral parts of his jalopy, to being picked up (rather than sideswiped) by the hook of the crane, to landing on the firm tracks of the roller coaster, to missing multiple tragedies by avoiding a head-on collision with the passengers on the ride, to escaping being electrocuted after having run straight into the high voltage electrical box, among all the other examples in the individual cartoons, this is a multi-faceted and symbolic representation of how the Almighty watches over us every minute of every day and cares so much for us that the Bible even says about those who belong to Him, “Yet not a hair of your head shall perish” (Luke 21:18). And He is so concerned about our feelings, hurts, discouragements and calamities that “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8).

The point I am trying to convey and to fix in your hearts and minds is that many of us are as unaware of G-d’s hand of care, love and protection over, and in, our lives and as clueless as Mr. Magoo! Many of us go through life devoid of any relationship with G-d. This is not due to His inaction or lack of reaching out. Jesus spread His arms as wide as humanly possible as He died to pay for your sins on the Cross. But the inaction is on our part. And we are quick to assign blame to Him when the consequences of our OWN choices result in ways we do not like.

Have you ever been driving down the road or highway and gotten distracted with your cell phone, changed the setting on your radio or even fallen asleep at the wheel for even just a minute only to have regained your focus or woken up before running off the road, drifting into another lane or had just enough time and distance to slam on your brakes before hitting the car in front of you? These are Mr. Magoo moments. These are just a few instances of grace. That’s G-d’s hand of protection over you. And, chances are, as glad as you were that you avoided catastrophe, you didn’t even stop to consider His arm or providential security over you. You probably just went on about your business just like Mr. Magoo.

If you’ve ever been inclined to think to yourself or even to vocalize the lie that G-d does not care for you, or to trust that you are somehow responsible for all the good that happens in your life- that He mistakenly doesn’t deserve recognition and gratitude for- you may now visualize yourself in Mr. Magoo’s unsmashed car, or envision yourself walking over one moving construction beam to the next ten stories in the air while your feet nearly miss tripping or falling into a snare set for you by the devil himself, or a trap you inadvertently set for yourself by the ungodly choices you have made.

If the Lord G-d Almighty were to remove His hand of grace- even while you are still a rebellious sinner- from your life for even a day or hour or minute, the events that would transpire, or the calamities that would befall you would shock you! You would bend to your knees in gratitude and gladly receive the much more powerful, tangible, observable and eternal grace that His FREE GIFT affords you! Mr. Magoo is blind, but these words have just opened your eyes. What will you do?

God bless you.

Obedience ≠ Legalism

Hi friends, brothers and sisters. I have really wanted to address this for a couple of months since the Lord first put it on my heart, but I also wanted to get more revelation from Him so that I would not just be giving my opinion. I have had a couple of opportunities to talk about it with some friends and brothers as it pertains to their circumstances (I hope they have received and heeded G-d’s Word), but just in the last couple of days have I heard the Spirit letting me know now is the time to expound upon it.

G-d Himself gave me the words for the title of this particular post. As you can see, it is clear and concise. I will admit that we have to understand what “legalism” means in the correct sense for us to comprehend and apply this admonition to our lives. As the root implies, “legal” has to do with G-d’s laws, statutes, precepts and commands. G-d is the Judge of the whole universe and all authority comes from Him. Scripture is full of examples and words where obedience brings blessing, while disobedience brings about consequences, discipline, judgment or even eternal torment (these depend on factors such as the person’s heart, their saved or unsaved condition, attitude and mindset, among other things).

Legalism can be expressed as an over-attachment or dependence upon the letter of the law rather than the spirit (intent) behind it, as a means either of salvation or as a manner of living out one’s life and faith before Almighty G-d. The problem lies not at all in the obedience but when one views his salvation as hinging upon it, or as a means of control over others to ensure it. Yes, we must believe (trust) and have faith, but it is entirely the grace of the Father (the free gift) that makes this possible. Another problem associated with, produced by or arising out of such a mindset is a hard and calloused heart. In other words, a hard and stony heart can cause it, and it can cause a hard heart. Neither is preferable. And the issue with this is that it leads to a limited understanding of, and relationship to, Almighty G-d, and with others as a result.

For many of us, it can be reinforced by our upbringing. Mom and Dad tend to reward us for our good behavior (obedience) and discipline us for our bad and unacceptable behavior (disobedience). Our parents or guardians are our first line of authority to whom we must submit, and we know that all authority comes from G-d (see Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13-25). I was telling my wife this morning that I am somewhat sympathetic to the original, prevailing attitudes of the Pharisees because they were the religious leaders- teachers of the Law- and that for hundreds of years the somewhat cold awareness of sin and the need for cleansing was simply something that needed to be observed and kept. They often referred to Moses’ writings to validate themselves. But, as the Lord spoke to me years ago on the highway at night on a long drive to do prison ministry, “Are you doing this only to obey Me or is it also because you love and have compassion for them, and desire their salvation?”

Obedience is good and pleasing to our Creator, it is necessary and is a great place to start, but the relationship is the aim; they go hand-in-hand. We must always bear in mind that Almighty G-d is our Authority. It is to Him we must submit, as He is Lord. And obedience is the key that keeps the relationship going. In fact, if we look to the beginning in Genesis, we observe that our disobedience is what caused our original separation from G-d (and it has only grown) and created the need for a restoration process to come into play. This is the reason our Lord Jesus came to the earth and died an excruciating and substitutionary death for the sins of all humanity.

There is a casualness among many, if not all, believers towards G-d (myself included). We have gotten accustomed to His abundant mercy, steadfast love, continual grace, His unexpected and unsurpassed generosity and provision. This is a common thread in us, His disciples, and it creeps up on us. It is rarely intentional. It is quite human; we gravitate towards the good, easy and comfortable. We avoid tribulation, adversity, confrontation and affliction- almost at all costs. Thus the often heard phrase, “the path of least resistance” has become an unspoken mantra or motto for us, especially the Gentiles. They, the unsaved world, know or care little for the things of G-d and His righteousness, so they have not only a casualness towards their Creator, but a full-blown apathy or outright rejection. How worse the disease for them. They even deny their condition.

So having defined legalism and discussed casualness, let’s now talk about how we must find and live out (be hearers AND doers) the aim of obedience in the way that is pleasing and honoring to G-d Almighty.

The Spirit of the Lord gave me this simple and scriptural four-word phrase, “BE CAREFUL TO DO,” concerning what we are learning right now. For expediency, I searched it in Bible Gateway in the ESV Bible that I study, teach and preach from. The results came to over thirty scriptures, not including other words and phrases that had this same principle in different terminology. It would do each of you well to look up each one of them individually to “see” these jewels, and for their frequency and repetition to cement their importance in your mind, heart and Christian life- all as it pertains to loving your Savior! (It may be helpful to note that mostly all of the following references are found in Deuteronomy, the Book of the Law. Does the Lord give instructions or laws in vain or for them to be kept? You know the answer to that.)

“BE CAREFUL TO DO” … Exodus 23:22, Deuteronomy 5:1, 5:32, 6:3, 6:25, 7:11, 8:1, 11:22, 11:32, 12:1, 12:28, 12:32, 15:5, 17:10, 24:8, 26:16, 28:1, 28:13, 28:15, 31:12, 32:46, Joshua 1:7, 1:8, 22:3, 2 Kings 17:37, 21:8, 1 Chronicles 22:13, 28:10, 2 Chronicles 33:8, Ezekiel 18:19.

Would you characterize G-d as legalistic, overly concerned with strict obedience to His laws and commands for no particular reason (vanity)? Or would you say there are reasons for adherence to our Perfect Lawgiver? Many people view Him only as someone who is strict, cold, aloof towards us, authoritative, domineering, rule-centered, dictatorial, distant or other. Those who are tempted to think this way do not know the Father and, therefore, do not know Jesus Christ either (see John 8:19, 14:7, 16:3…). If He were concerned with us keeping the whole law only, He would not tell us that He wishes that no one would perish (2 Peter3:9), or tell us that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23) or that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). It is the lack of knowledge and hard-heartedness of man who loves his sin (see John 3:16-19, especially the latter verse) and rejects G-d, who sees Him as a threat to their so-called, wrongly-perceived “freedom.”

In the Book of Exodus, there are two particular commandments which are close to my heart. One, because the Lord put it there a few years ago. I do not struggle with obeying it personally (only due to the grace of G-d!) but I strive with enforcing it with and in others. It is the third commandment which says, “Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.” In today’s culture, this is most frequently heard when people, even many Christians, exclaim “Oh my G–!” This is totally in vain as they are not talking to Him or about Him. It is futile. This is extremely abominable to our Holy, Perfect heavenly Father! He even warns us in the very next breath of this same verse that “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Given the massive overabundance of the OMG phrase echoed today, there are innumerable souls walking around guilty of that offense alone!

Second is the commandment- not suggestion- found in verses eight through eleven. It stresses the importance to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath (rest, abstinence from work) to the Lord your G-d. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made Heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Just so you know that I do what I explain and speak to others (see Romans 2:21), my wife and I decided a few days ago to put our particular routine under this command as well. We will “BE CAREFUL TO DO” our laundry on the other six days. There is plenty of time the rest of the week, we just need to make it a priority so we can be careful to do as the Lord has instructed us. And if you are tempted to think about using the machines to do the work (washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, etc.), human work is still involved in the loading and unloading, the applying of cleaning liquid and/ or softener, the folding, the putting away. And you must liken these machines (doers of our labor), to the admonition in verses 10-11 which refer to “your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your livestock, or the sojourner…” Those of you who own your own businesses should not be open on Sunday or to allow your employees to work either. Whether they are Christian or not, the Lord’s perfect ways are for us all. You will be accountable even if you are off, while forcing your laborers to violate the Sabbath.

As the title of this post states, this is not legalism; it is obedience. The Lord gives us many freedoms in differing situations in His Word, but these commandments are just that, “rules given by God to be observed and kept.” Going back to Genesis 2:16-17, “and the Lord commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” We know what transpired. Whether they thought and reasoned, whether they were lied to and deceived, whether they wrongly assumed authority in the devil that only belongs to G-d, the bottom line is that they disobeyed. They sinned. I’m quite sure Eve did not view G-d as being legalistic, not would she have dared to do that.

Turn with me in your Bibles, please, to a true case-in-point found in 1 Samuel 15:1-35. Please take the time to read it for yourself right now before going any further and keep it opened. I won’t re-post it here, but let’s summarize it to see how correct, full obedience (“be careful to do”) is of great value and importance to our Lord Jesus Christ, and how anything less just won’t do. I urge you again to read it first before just reading over the synopsis here, or the effect and practical understanding for your life will be lacking.

The passage begins as Saul has been anointed and appointed King over Israel by the prophet Samuel. The Lord tells Saul to “devote to destruction” every Amalekite- “man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey”- because they had opposed Israel (G-d’s chosen people) while they came up out of Egypt. G-d tells Saul in verse three, “Do not spare them.” In other words, kill them all. (He is very zealous towards His sons and daughters, just as we are.) Verse eight tells us that Saul begins to veer from G-d’s command by saying, “And he (Saul) took Agag King of the Amalekites alive.” Verse nine relates further deviance in this way, “But Saul spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good (remember, when Eve disobeyed she thought that the fruit was good), AND WOULD NOT UTTERLY DESTROY THEM. All that was despised and worthless [only] they devoted to destruction.” Is this what the Lord’s commandments were? To spare the King and to keep the spotless animals? Saul obeyed in part. He was not “careful to do.”

Beginning in the next verse and going forward, the Lord tells Samuel- Saul’s personal prophet and the Lord’s unmistakable mouthpiece- that He regretted making Saul King because he turned back and did not perform His commandments. This disobedience even angered the prophet. A couple of verses later Saul greets Samuel saying, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Samuel refutes Saul’s claim of obedience by asking him, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of oxen that I hear?” In other words, since G-d told you to kill everything, why is Agag still alive, along with the sheep and the other animals? If you did as the Lord commanded, I would not see the Amalekite King and there would be silence instead of animal noises. Their voices are the evidence of your disobedience!

Saul tried to explain away his guilt by saying the people had spared the best of the animals to sacrifice to G-d; maybe this was true, maybe it wasn’t. Skip ahead to the lesson our Father wants to clearly communicate to all of us today in the words of G-d spoken through His prophet directly to His servant (Saul, you and me), in verses 22-23, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, TO OBEY IS BETTER than sacrifice, AND TO LISTEN than the fat of rams. For rebellion (disobedience) is as the SIN of divination, and presumption is as INIQUITY and idolatry. Because you have rejected (chosen to dismiss, deemed worthless by disobedience) the Word of the Lord, He has also rejected you (seen you as unfit and unuseful) from being King.”

Obedience is not legalism. Obedience is loving your heavenly Father. Obedience is not pausing to think, consider or reason, but simply to hear and to do. As hard as it may be to want to make sense of His commands at times (His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts), they often times may not. Obedience is the proper response in acknowledgment of God’s authority, sovereignty and kingship over our lives. Isaiah expresses this well in chapter 45, verse 9, “Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to Him who forms it, ‘What are You making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?”

G-d saved us while we were still sinners, horribly incapable of saving ourselves and, therefore, destined to death, and eternity in the lake of fire. This is how Jesus showed His love. Daniel addresses His Creator this way in chapter nine and verse four, “O Lord, the great and awesome G-d, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” 1 Corinthians 7:19 says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of G-d.” Solomon, the wisest man who has ever lived, teaches us quite succinctly in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. FEAR G-D AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, FOR THIS IS THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN.”

G-d bless you with the grace you need. (Hebrews 4:16!!!)

Sin is a Virus

I have recently had problems with my anti-virus software. I never had issues with it before. Even when I called it up to check and/or change my settings, the prompts on the screen would not take effect. After getting in touch with the manufacturer, I asked the agent to gain remote access so that he could see exactly what I was trying to describe to him. Once he did and ran a sort of diagnostic, we could both see that I had contracted a virus; one that over-rode my long-trusted software. The only way to fix it, I was told, was to have them back up all my files and programs, disable and remove the isolated virus, and then reload all my data. I am still debating whether to go forward with it due to the cost/ benefit analysis and the short term duration of the warranty.

Not long after being confronted with this news, the Holy Spirit began to let my spiritual eyes see what my natural eyes were tuned into but with God’s perspective. We need to understand through this real-life parable how this invasive, domineering, corruption known in both biological and technical lingo as a virus is all too relevant and familiarly devastating in the spiritual realm. It is called SIN, and there are many parallels. Although iniquity is localized in the human heart- much like the virus is contained in a specific area also (a program)- it metastasizes throughout a particular organ or even the entire body, as our diseases are often due to transgression or man’s fallen condition in general. But if it does not spread, its effects certainly reach far beyond its once physically-restricted point of origin. The same is most assuredly true of our sin nature. While people such as technicians may be able to eliminate a virus and restore a computer to proper working order, no such person outside of JESUS CHRIST who is G-d has the ability to cleanse and restore both the human heart and its host’s relationship to his or her Creator. Yet while I am the one who incurs the cost to repair my laptop, there is nothing I can do to pay the price of renewing my heart. Only my Lord and Savior would, could and did provide it to me free of charge; but it cost Him dearly!

Just as all my data, files and programs have to be removed in order to isolate and remove the virus, Jesus Christ willingly put aside His divine power in order to die in our place. Philippians 2: 5-8 says it this way, “…Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of G-d, did not count equality with G-d a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a 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.”

In like manner as I need to give consent to the technician to go forward with the process of restoring my computer to the way it was originally designed and made to function before it was corrupted by the malware, I also must recognize my need and allow the Redeemer of men’s souls to apply His saving blood and His powerful work on the cross to my sin-infected heart. I do this by acknowledging its condition and need of repair before Him humbly, sincerely and contritely (feeling and showing sorrow and remorse upon the Holy Spirit convicting me), asking for the forgiveness and cleansing He already desperately wants to give me, then receiving the gift of justification (being made right-eous with G-d), sanctification (to be set apart for His holy purposes), restoration (the act or process of returning something or someone to its originally designed condition by repairing or cleaning, the act of bringing something back that existed before) and eternal life (being enabled to spend forever in G-d the Father’s presence). In similar fashion to the newly-installed components in my laptop, Scripture tells us that G-d’s Holy Spirit now indwells us. 2 Corinthians 1:22 words it like this, “[G-d] …who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee [down payment, deposit]” until the day of redemption.

So this horrible, pervasive virus called sin that has been part of us even before we were born because of our human connectedness to and inheritance from Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience (transgression, iniquity, sin), has been eradicated from its soul permeation by the design and plan of our merciful and compassionate Almighty G-d, through the willing, obedient, bloody and excruciating death of Jesus Christ the Lord! Hallelujah! All praise to His holy name!

If I knew my laptop could be restored fully and for free, I would truly be a fool not to take advantage of this marvelous, but time-limited offer. It is not only something I should do; it is something I MUST do. My life now and eternally depends on it. In the case of many, they actually like and prefer their corrupted laptop as it reveals in John 3:19, “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.” But as it is with only a few, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7: 13-14). And “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13: 24).

G-d bless you and give you wisdom.