WARNING WITH EMPHASIS…

Spiritual Blog - Warning

Jude 14-15 – “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  NKJV

 

I have found that when a word is repeated it is usually for emphasis and if it is repeated four times in on short passage the emphasis cannot be missed.  It is interesting that Jude would identify this Enoch as the 7th from Adam in contrast to the son of Cain who was Adam’s Grandson.  Although that is important it is not the most important, the message is.

Enoch prophesied about the condition of man.  His saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment…” should cause us to take note.  He is speaking of a condition of man’s heart that has progressively grown darker through the ages and of a time when God’s patience will be exhausted.  Judgment is coming.  I realize that some do not like to hear about judgment and I’ve even been told that judgment is such a negative it should be left to individuals in the privacy of their own thoughts, not for public consumption.

Notice what Enoch prophesied was about judgment and that judgment is the direct result of something worthy of note.  He says that God is coming to convict of all who are UNGODLY for their UNGODLY deeds, committed in an UNGODLY manner and for the things the UNGODLY have railed against God.  It would go without saying that their attitude, words, and deeds are also directed toward those who follow God.  I believe it is descriptive of a condition that becomes so prevalent in society nationally and internationally that God says ENOUGH. 

In the next few verses, he identifies them as grumblers, complainers who walk according to their own lusts.  They are sensual and cause division and discord.  He then urges those listening to build themselves up in their most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit and keep their hearts in the love of God always looking to Jesus.  He also identified the warning of our LORD that in the Last Time there would be mockers who would walk after their own UNGODLY lusts.  Is that not a picture of our day?

From the political podium to the classroom to the pulpit we have people either promoting this attitude, excusing it or ignoring it.  Ungodliness cannot stand in the presence of God.  When ungodliness is allowed to occupy the house God will move out.  He will move back in if we will turn from ungodliness but righteousness cannot cohabit with ungodliness.  When we allow good to be called evil and evil good we place ourselves in direct opposition to God and invite judgment.

If I read a passage and four times the Holy Spirit emphasizes the word UNGODLY I am arrested and my spiritual antenna rises to examine what the message is.  It is time that we, the Body of Christ, diligently and earnestly seek the face of God and turn from all ungodliness.  It is time that we consciously resist the devil and shun the very appearance of evil in our lives.  It is time that we seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.  It is time that we return unto Him and He will return unto us.

            God be with you as you go through this day!

WHEN THE RESTRAINTS ARE LIFTED… Do You Really Want To Be Here?

Spiritual Blog - Lawlessness

2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 – “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  NKJV

 

While these verses are sufficient in themselves to identify the need to be concerned, aware and vigilant in our present world I want to advance a couple of simple thoughts.  Paul spoke of the “mystery of lawlessness” that was already at work in his day and how can anyone deny has taken giant steps in ours?  We focus on that verse and talk about the Holy Spirit or the Church being removed so the devil will have no further restraint and then total chaos ensues on planet earth.

In this passage, the apostle warns of a time of incredible apostasy and warns that the Day of Christ would not come UNLESS there is a massive falling away and the man of sin is revealed.  He spoke of a time in which Great Deception would be prevalent in the world and even in the church or especially in the church.  He spoke of a time in which God would send or allow a strong delusion to permeate the religious world.  In his counsel and warning to Timothy Paul spoke of “perilous times” coming in which evil men would grow worse and worse.  Does that not remind you of this day?

But without getting into the debates about the Coming of the Lord, Pre, Mid or Post Millennialism let me ask this question, “When God lifts the restraints in this world do you really want to be around to witness it?”  We live in a world where there have been over 1.75 Billion Abortions during the past 40 years.  We live in a world where Islamic jihadists are brutally slaughtering Christians and anyone who will not convert to Islam at an alarming rate.  We live in a world where “lives do not matter” or so it would seem to a growing number of people.  We are seeing the ever increasing boldness of evil and watching as society has begun calling evil good and good evil.  We live in a world where some in Church leadership have adopted a ‘coexistence’ policy to the point they no longer declare the ONLY PATHWAY to salvation as Jesus Christ.  It is becoming a very dangerous world and in many parts of this planet if you are a professing Christian it is doubly dangerous.

What would it be like if there were no spiritual or moral restraints in this world?  What would the world be like if people followed the evilness in their hearts and did or took whatever they wanted whenever they wanted?  There is coming a time exactly like that and although I refuse to adopt a mentality of Escapism I am praying that God spares us that horrific world.  Knowing this world is coming is yet another reason to address the condition of our hearts.  The restraints will be and we may be witnessing the lifting of them now so I urge you to rekindle the flame of your first love with God.

God bless you as you go through this day!

WE WANT THE POWER BUT NOT THE FELLOWSHIP AND CONFORMITY…

Spiritual Blog - Fellowship

Philippians 3:10-11 – “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  NKJV

 

There are two great truths presented in this passage and I focus on the second.  However, we cannot have the second without first knowing Him.  Many Christians want the Power of God in their lives but few actually pray for the fellowship of His sufferings or to be conformed to His death.  I know there are immediate protests when I say that, but do we really seek to enter the fellowship of His sufferings or the conformity to His death?  I have visited and spoken in many churches that are crying out for the Power of God but almost none that are praying to enter into that relationship that is the foundation for that power.

Fellowship in the Greek is the word ‘koinonia’ and means partnership, participation and literally becoming one with.  Many churches call themselves ‘The Fellowship’ and are anything but a fellowship in the sense of sharing, partnership, participation and becoming one with the other members of that body.  If we are The Body of Christ then each member is connected to the other members in some way but if we are to become an effective local body we must develop ‘koinonia’ rather than being a group of people who identify with a particular brand, gather for a time of celebration and then go our separate ways.  There must become a joining and sharing if we are to present Christ to our communities with the effectiveness God desires.

But ‘koinonia’ of His sufferings, do we really seek that?  Do we even understand that?  I would never suggest not does the Bible that we are to engage in some type of self-flagellation spiritually or physically.  Suffering comes but it should always come as a result of righteousness, not some misguided view that the more we can cause self to suffer the more spiritual we are.  Our objective should be Christ and as a result, we will be hated by the world for the world hates and hated Him.  If we seek to know Him to the level and degree that we can identify with and through righteousness participate in His sufferings we will see the Power of God come dynamically.

Yes, Jesus did suffer physically on the Cross but since the Bible declares in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was tempted in all points as we but without sin, we know that He died to the world and that I believe is the heart of this prayer of Paul.  When we receive Christ as our Savior the Bible identifies that as the New Birth and clearly indicates that we become New Creations.  We have a New Self and in a real sense, our Spiritual DNA changes.  In that experience, OLD THINGS pass away and NEWNESS OF LIFE comes into our person.  If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to identify the baggage we are bringing over from the old we will not ‘die to self’ or ‘die to the flesh’ and will find it raising its ugly head time and again.  If we are to be conformed to His death we must allow God to do the spiritual work that is involved in bringing us into koinonia with His sufferings and His death to sin.

Every time I have ever talked to God about Power He always talks to me about Purity.  Preparation ALWAYS precedes blessing for if God were to give us His Power while our hearts were less than pure it would destroy us and do great damage in the Body of Christ.  We have seen people receive Power but fail to keep their hearts Pure and watched the destruction that followed.  It is no wonder that Paul spoke of a thorn in the flesh and the Bible continually instructs us to Guard our Hearts.  The disciples came back to Jesus raving about the Power that had been demonstrated in their ministries and He said, “Do not rejoice in this but that your names are in the Book of Life.”  The Heart is by far the most important part of your Christian walk, work or warfare.

Yes, we want the Power but let us also desire the Purity that comes with learning the fellowship of His sufferings and allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into conformity with His death.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

IT IS TIME TO SOUND THE ALARM…

Spiritual Blog - Alarm

Joel 2:1-2 – “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain!  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand:  2 A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations.”  NKJV

             This chorus is sung in church or used to be sung in churches that came from this passage always troubled me because the song seemed to advance the idea that this army was a good army when in fact it is an army of judgment.  Joel begins his prophetic warning with SOUND THE ALARM and “… let the inhabitants of the land TREMBLE…”   That sounds like a bad day, not a good day but that depends on your view.

The described events were terrible and the army described vicious and powerful and NOTHING escaped them.  Before them, people writhe in pain.  They are fierce and provide an almost invincible force to be reckoned with.  They are disciplined and the weapons coming against them are woefully ineffective.  They overcome the cities and ravish the houses like thieves.  In fact, they are so many and powerful the whole earth trembles at their presence.  They darken the sun and the moon with their number and the stars grow dim as a result of their presence.

Are they the Army of the Lord?  Yes, the Army of God’s Judgment.  This speaks of a terrible Day of the Lord in which God brings judgment to a people.  I have many Christian friends who live with a mentality of escapism.  They live with the hope and belief that they will face nothing bad and Jesus will rescue them as the Western Cavalry arriving in the nick of time to save the day.  I believe God’s word but ask, “What if God does not take us out before some judgment occurs?”  The greatest problem I have with escapism is it provides a platform for the devil to present a like argument as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “Has God said?” 

In this warning by Joel, the word of the Lord also gives a call to repentance.  There is the call to blow the trumpet in Zion and call a fast and a prayer gathering.  It is a call to brokenness and weeping before the LORD that He spare us.  It provides a hope that if we realize our condition as a people and rend our hearts before Him there is hope.  The terribleness of God’s judgment is beyond human comprehension.  No wonder Hebrews 10:31 tells us that it is a ‘terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

Jesus is coming back for us, He said He would.  Will we face perilous times?  The Bible warns us that the Last Days are just that.  I have had people tell me they are willing to run up financial obligations because Jesus is coming and they are only taking from the devil in creating obligations they cannot and will not pay.  There is so much wrong with that view it time won’t permit me to address it but suffice it to say we must live soberly and righteously at all times.  If we are translated and allowed to avoid the judgments coming that is wonderful.  If we become martyrs and die at the hands of those who hate God and the things of God that is honorable.  If we endure to the end we will be saved.

We are, I believe, living in the beginning of the Last Days and if Jesus tarries His coming we will face persecution beyond anything we have imagined here in America.  Some of us will be martyred for Christ and some will have their hope severely tested.  Therefore, it is imperative that we hear and heed the Alarm being sounded and make 2 Chronicles 7:14 a cornerstone.  If we have run with the footmen and they have wearied us what will we do when horses come?

            God bless you as you go through this day!

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN???

Spiritual Blog - Heart

Colossians 2:20-23 – “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations —  21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”  NKJVtas

 

Through the years I have heard Christians express their utter shock that someone professing to be a Christian would do certain things.  I heard a story of a man in a church who was dying.  He had received Jesus only a short time before his untimely sickness and as several of the church members gathered to his bedside to pray he asked one of the ladies of the church to light a cigarette for him.  She gasped and angrily said to him, “You are going to hell if you do that.”  The pastor was there and he reached down took the cigarette lit it and placed it in the lips of the dying man.  Some in the church wanted him run out of town for committing such a horrendous sin.  He explained, “This man was dying.  He had accepted Christ a few weeks earlier and while he (the pastor) did not smoke he felt that it was demonstrating more of the heart of Christ to honor the man’s request than placing him in greater trauma by refusing and heaping guilt on him that had not come as conviction from the Holy Spirit but from man.”  He went to the above passage and then turned to Mark 7 and began to read what Jesus said.

Our Lord spoke to the Pharisees and Scribes before Him the words of Isaiah the prophet and called the hypocrites.  Honoring with the lips but failing to have what comes from the lips find lodging in the heart was not pleasing to God.  He addressed the tradition of men and compared it to washing eating and drinking utensils on the outside.  Jesus then addressed that it is not what goes in the mouth of a man that defiles but what comes out of the heart.  The dying man had come to a loving knowledge of Christ and although he was placing something that could be harmful to his physical body out of his heart flowed a genuine love for God.  Some in the congregation were expressing judgment based on their personal preference and interpretation of Scripture.  The danger is that in judging by our standards we miss God’s standards and rather than manifesting the heart of Christ we can manifest the heart of a Pharisee.

Out of the heart come evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness.  Out of the thoughts which plant seeds in the heart and ultimately become words and possibly deeds is where the real problem lies not what one takes into the body by the mouth.  He attempted to address the problem of becoming so rigid in our ‘touch not, taste not, handle not’ that we lose our tender heartedness and fail to manifest the genuine love of Christ.

Hear me!  I am not endorsing taking things into the body that are harmful but I am saying that the greater issue is our hearts.  If we are IN CHRIST why are we bound by the traditions of men?  I never want to become a Pharisee and have a holiness that is only outward.  I want any holiness I have to be from within and when it is from within it will ultimately become manifest in the flesh as well as the spirit.  I am confident that God is perfectly capable of bringing conviction to any heart.  He directs me to teach His word and present His truth and in so doing the Holy Spirit speaks to hearts but ultimately it is God that brings conviction and if someone has a habit I do not condone it does not mean they are not a follower of Christ.  NO, it means we are not at the same place in our walk and level of understanding.  In fact, I’ve had the Lord bring conviction to my heart that I could not do some things and then told me that whether others did or did not do was none of my business.  He had a reason and has not always informed me as to why.  My response is that if the Holy Spirit says NO it is NO for me.  If He says YES it is YES for me.  Some things are just for me not to be imposed on everyone else.

Why I would NEVER?  No, you wouldn’t but that does not mean God has directed everyone else the same.  Some that look down their noses at people who have a habit they consider vile are guilty of seriously over-eating.  Both are usually expressions of a lack of discipline.  So before you condemn everyone not following your pathway to holiness remember that the splinter in their eye may be minor compared to the log in your own.  I have been there!

God bless you as you go through your day!

IS PERCEPTION REALITY?

Spiritual Blog - Perception

Mark 4:35-38 – “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” NKJV

 

We have all heard the cliché, “Perception is Reality” and for many, it is or becomes their reality.  The facts are inconsequential it is perception, and perception is that which their beliefs and actions are based therefore PERCEPTION is REALITY, albeit falsely.  In American politics, we had a very real example of that in 1960 when the first ever televised debate between two political candidates for president was presented.  John F. Kennedy appeared relaxed, at ease and in control whereas Richard M. Nixon came across as nervous and uncertain.  The perception and spin that resulted were that JFK was a much stronger and capable leader and therefore the choice of millions for President based on perception, not actual fact.  That element entered and altered American politics to this day and much of our political climate is PERCEPTION and that becomes reality to many.

In our text, we find the disciples in the midst of a storm and Jesus was sleeping in the boat.  They were terrified and presumed they were going to sink and die and Jesus was sleeping!  Their perception is heard by their question when they awakened Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  It was not LORD help us!  It was LORD since you are sleeping through this storm it appears that you do not care what happens to us.  You are not doing what we expected, in the manner we expected and in the time frame or with the urgency we expected, therefore, YOU MUST NOT CARE!   Perception was becoming their reality.

Thankfully Jesus did not let the story end there but arose, calmed the storm then addressed the problem.  They were fearful because they did not trust Him or the Father.  They trusted what they could see and what they could see presented them with the choice to succumb to fear or rise up in faith and they opted for the easy way out and let fear grip their hearts and shape their perception.  That led them to accuse Jesus of being unconcerned about their welfare.

When we allow PERCEPTION to become our REALITY we dismiss faith and embrace circumstances, conditions, appearances, and even fear.  Another reason it is imperative that we get all the facts before rendering a judgment.  Oh, we will not be able to prevent the formation of an opinion but hopefully, we will keep that opinion pliable and allow it to be shaped by REALITY, not PERCEPTION. 

When God does not meet our timetables or our preconceived idea of how He should handle the situation we allow the devil to advance His lie that GOD DOES NOT CARE or that GOD HAS FORSAKEN US.  We then forget the promises of Scripture that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us and the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:7 that we are to CAST ALL our care upon Him, for HE CARES FOR US.  He cares!  That is reality!  Perception says, he has not responded yet or in the manner or timeframe I expected or desired, therefore, He does not care.  Reality says, He is God and operates in His timing and according to His purposes.  Delay is not denial, it is delay and even that may only be our perception not reality for, in reality, His timing is perfect.

Therefore resist the devil and his attempts to coerce you into the trap of Perception and making it your reality.  BELIEVE GOD, not circumstances.  May God be with you and allow you to walk in Truth and True Reality as you embrace this new day in the Lord!

THE DO NOT DILEMMA OF GOD’S VISION…

Spiritual Blog - Wait

Acts 1:4-5 – “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  NASU

I challenge you to consider the fact that this instruction came AFTER Jesus’ revelation to them as to what their ministry and purpose were to be in the Great Commission.  He had also told them that they had AUTHORITY over all the POWER of the devil and drew a powerful picture of their purpose and ministry.

In Mark 16 He had informed them that they were to go into all the world and told them of the signs that would accompany them and those they won into the Kingdom.  The prospects were incredible and I am sure they were chomping at the bits to get started. In Matthew 28 the LORD brought to them the revelation that He had all authority, which I’m sure they had no difficulty believing having walked with Him.  He then told them to go into all nations and make disciples.  They had tasted this ministry and authority for in Luke 9 Jesus had called them together and gave them authority and sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to perform healing of the sick.  They went and the results were incredible.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them to WAIT for something they had no real understanding, the Holy Spirit’s infilling.

I remember in Bible School a young man said after the first semester, “I’ve got enough Bible now, so I’m leaving school to begin the ministry God has called me to.”  He went before he was equipped and failed miserably.  That is not to say that a Bible School education alone will ensure success in ministry but the attitude of being a Master while clearly still a Novice was problematic.  I’ve challenged young people and some not so young as to the prospects and possibilities in God only to find some of them unable to WAIT until they were released but went charging into battle without being fully equipped or trained.  Most of them came back battered and it was much more difficult to get them into the battle because of their impatience.  They reminded me of the Ahimaaz and the Cushite running to King David with news of Absalom.  Joab gave the message to the Cushite but Ahimaaz was so full of zeal he begged to run even without a message and outran the Cushite only to be turned aside by David.  How many times do we get a partial vision of what God wants and want to begin immediately?

Impatience and being overly zealous has done much damage in the church and individual lives.  In life, one may have an idea and a vision of how to start a business and done in the right way and at the right time would be incredibly beneficial and lucrative.  However, if you jump into the deep before you are prepared you will either meet with disaster and failure or encounter such struggles, trials, and difficulties you give up or fail to achieve what was possible.  Patience and Timing are incredibly important in life.  I knew a young man who was praying for a wife and felt that the Lord has witnessed to his heart that a particular young lady was the ideal mate for him.  Rather than waiting on the Lord to touch her heart and pursuing her in courtship, he went to her and informed her that they were getting married.  THEY DIDN’T!  He sabotaged something that God was working on by his impatience and he appeared to her as someone that she feared would become so domineering her life would be miserable.  I can’t say that I blame her.  I remember being in prayer one morning and the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart that I was going to become pastor of a particular church.  The church has a pastor at that moment.  I shared that with my wife and she said, “We are not going to that church.”  I prayed and waited and in a few weeks, I received a call from the Board asking me to come for an interview to be considered for the church.  I could have shipwrecked God’s Plan but I waited for His timing and His Open Door.  We went to that church as served as pastor.  During the time, there I saw many things I knew were in the heart of God and in the times, I waited for God’s timing, training, preparation, and provision they were successful.  A couple of times I tried to move forward immediately we experienced chaos and failure.

Jesus said wait, tarry, don’t go forth UNTIL and the UNTIL is the most difficult thing that most of us encounter in anything.  We don’t like to wait and certainly don’t like waiting when we are waiting for something that we do not understand and are not sure we will recognize when it happens.  It becomes a matter of CONFIDENCE and TRUST in God and His Word.  Hear me!  You can trust Him.  I also feel compelled to say, “The dream or vision of your heart can and will become a reality if you allow God to guide you in the process and wait for His timing.”  I am not suggesting that you operate in timidity and hesitancy but that you listen to that “still small voice” and when He says GO, you Go with your all but until He says GO you wait.

            God, bless you richly is my desire and prayer!