Category Archives: Religion

The Greatest Threat

It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.

You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.

I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.

Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.

In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.

John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.

I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.

As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.

I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.

I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:

  1. Time’s up!
  2. The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
  3. Stop what you are doing (sinning).
  4. Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
  5. Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.

Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:

Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.

God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)

Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy.  We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.

Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.

Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.

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The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

Godly Zeal

Never be lacking in zeal; but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11, NIV)There are some questions that this appeal should stimulate us to ask. What does God mean by zeal and spiritual fervor? What kind of behavior characterizes this zeal? Would the appropriate expressions vary depending upon culture? In Romans 10:2, Paul writes that the Jews are “zealous for God.” Their zeal was commendable in that God was its object, but it was flawed because it was not based on a right knowledge about God’s way of salvation, as Paul proceeded to point out. Paul was referring to their zealousness in strictly observing the law. The Jews failure was that they pursued righteousness by works instead of faith. They were blinded by spiritual pride, thinking that they could attain right standing with God by their own effort and in doing so they stumbled over the stone, which is Jesus and His sacrifice. The modern Jew is much better off. Because of his inability to offer an appropriate sacrifice, he must rely upon God’s mercy. Yet modern Judaism still rejects the proper atonement for sin. True zeal for God is a product of repentance and godly sorrow and never results from pride, self righteousness or observing the law.

Jesus displayed zeal driving the merchants from the temple courts. This is the kind of zeal that the scripture encourages us to and yet how many modern Christians display this sort of zeal? When Christians disobey man’s laws in order to save children from being sacrificed in abortion mills, they are criticized even by the church. But, Christ and the Apostles disobeyed man’s laws in order to obey God on several occasions. There are Christians who are willing to pay severe consequences for obeying God and leaders in the church condemn them for it.

There are numerous examples in scripture of the zeal that characterized the Old Testament saints. Phinehas, the priest, was rewarded by God with a covenant of a lasting priesthood because of his zeal for the Lord. He led the Levites in executing the Israelites who were involved in sexual immorality and Baal worship with Moabite women. It is noteworthy that Phinehas also was allowed into the Promised Land with Joshua and Caleb after the previous generation died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. He later became the custodian of the Ark at Bethel. Both Zadok and Ezra, descendants of Phinehas, were known for their zeal in leading the people in renewal. The Psalmist tells us that Phinehas’ faith was “credited to him as righteousness.” Thus he was identified with Abraham as an inheritor of God’s covenant promises. His zealous deeds are attributed to his faith. His actions were not motivated by a self-righteous determination to enforce human ordinances. They were a product of his faith in God’s purpose to raise up a nation of people that would represent Him before all of the world.

Jehu was another who was commended by the Lord for his zeal. He was responsible for killing Jezebel and Ahab’s sons in accordance with the prophetic word of the Lord spoken through Elijah. He was not timid about proclaiming his “zeal for the Lord” before killing the ministers of Baal. The Lord commended Jehu for his zeal: “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2Kings 10:30, NIV)

Romans 12:11 admonishes us that our zeal should be an expression of service to the Lord. Our fervor should not be expressed in a carnal manner. Any zealous behavior for our own cause would be sin. We must be zealous for God’s cause, not our own. Our zeal should accomplish God’s clearly expressed will as defined in scripture. It is God’s will “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” We also know that it is God’s will for “everyone to come to repentance.” We need to make sure that our behavior glorifies God and remains in accord with all of His precepts, taking the entire revelation of scripture into account. In doing so we must be mindful that the greater and newer revelation of the New Covenant interprets the Old Covenant. As such, we no longer have permission from God to kill the prophets of Baal with the sword. But, while we are not free to duplicate the specific actions of Old Covenant zealots such a Phinehas and Jehu, we are exhorted to emulate their passion for God’s cause in ways that are consistent with the New Covenant.

What are appropriate expressions of zeal under the New Covenant? Working for the cause of justice is an appropriate expression of zeal for God. The movement to abolish slavery in the U.S. grew out of the heightened moral consciousness that occurred during the revivals of the Second Great Awakening. Charles Finney hated slavery with a passion and insisted that it was impossible to be on the right side of God and still endorse slavery. When he accepted the position of president at Oberlin College, he did so on the condition that the school be thoroughly integrated. The efforts of Christians to correct the injustice of slavery even led some to civil disobedience. Perhaps the best example of compassion and godly zeal in this effort is the underground railway that delivered slaves to freedom. Perhaps the best example of ungodly zeal is the efforts of John Browne which led to taking of human life without civil authority.

Undoubtedly, the most analogous social evil that we face today is the sin of abortion. I do not intend to argue the point that it is a sin. The word of God is clear to those who would have their eyes opened to it. Much of the work done to right this injustice displays godly zeal. The crisis pregnancy and adoption services that have developed are a clear example of Christian love in action. Unfortunately, most of the political lobbying efforts that have taken place have produced little if any fruit. Christians have spent millions of dollars and hours in massive efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and we are no closer than we were in 1973 when it was ruled upon. One of the most zealous and fruitful activities that believers have undertaken has been castigated by numerous outspoken leaders in the church as a bad witness and worse, as sinful behavior. I speak of the efforts of Operation Rescue.

The stated purpose of rescues was to save children from death by abortion. They were never intended to be political protests, nor were they intended to forcibly stop anyone from committing a victimless sin. Had that been the case, as their detractors suggested, civil disobedience would not have been an appropriate Christian activity. Rescues were most often criticized by church leaders on the grounds that they violated biblical admonitions to obey civil authorities. But, biblical rationale for civil disobedience has been established by numerous well respected theologians. Jesus broke the civil law. Indeed, Peter said “We must obey God rather than men.” It is God’s commandment to love our neighbor that rescues attempt to obey. It is the same law that moved Corrie Ten Boom to disobey civil authorities when she risked her life to protect Jews from Nazi cruelty. God’s law requires action in loving our neighbor. “Faith without works is dead.” God’s word commands us to love in deed and not to close our heart to a brother in need.  God’s chosen fast requires setting the captives free. When civilian authorities tell us not to rescue our neighbor being sent to the slaughter, they command us not to love, to disobey God.

The only way that one could refute the biblical support for civil disobedience in this case is to close one’s mind to the reality that abortion results in a dead child. Rescues were fruitful. I bare testimony to that fact. I have seen children who are alive because someone blocked a door, granting the mother enough time to think about what she was doing and for God to change her heart. I have labored as a sidewalk counselor at rescues. Unfortunately the Rescue movement died for lack of support. Perhaps as a result, we now have a new breed of frustrated John Browne’s going around killing abortionists and attempting to justify their actions by pointing to God’s laws. Again, this is not godly zeal.

Picketing and public protesting are legitimate expressions of zeal when they are intended to correct injustice, as defined by God. The church has a responsibility to represent God to the world. We are commissioned as ambassadors of reconciliation. If all we do is love and serve, we fail to completely represent our King. It is our task to be a prophetic witness, to reveal sin which separates men from God. We are called to “expose deeds of darkness,” and to be a “light on a hill…the salt of the earth.” Speaking out against injustice is part of fulfilling this command.

Radical obedience and bravery in the face of great danger are marks of zeal for God that have characterized the heroes of our faith. Stephen bravely proclaiming the gospel in the face of death and Paul obediently going to Caesar are only two examples from scripture. Church history is full of accounts of martyrs who died for their obedience to Christ. For their zeal and self sacrifice valiant members of Operation Rescue suffered beatings and imprisonment at the hands of the state and scorn from the secular media. If that were not enough, they also had to endure criticism and rejection from the church. In truth, the zeal, faith and commitment which they displayed was a great testimony to God’s love and power. The days of Christian martyrs have not stopped.

Tireless and extraordinary work for the cause of the gospel is another expression of zeal for God. Certainly the Apostle Paul stands out as an example of such zeal. He was responsible for reaching most of the Roman world within fifteen years. He did this facing incredible resistance including imprisonment and numerous beatings and ultimately martyrdom. John Wesley displayed great zeal for the Lord in preaching the gospel. He traveled more than 200,000 miles, mostly on horseback, and preached over 50,000 sermons. Billy Graham has preached the gospel around the world for sixty-five years and according to Eerdmans’ Handbook To The History Of Christianity he “is undoubtedly the most successful Christian mass evangelist in history” with converts numbering millions. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is certainly another outstanding example of zealous service to others and to God.

In order to be zealous for God, we need the correct world view. Zeal flows from having a proper perspective. Having our hopes centered upon Christ and His kingdom will cause us to be “eager to do what is good.” Observance of God’s chosen fast as given to us in Isaiah 58 will guide us in our efforts to be zealous for God:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn, away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”(Isaiah 58:6-8, NIV)

Christians must be zealous in discharging the commission given to us by our Lord. Christ’s exhortation to the lukewarm Laodiceans was to “be earnest (Greek: Zelos) and repent.” Lost humanity will not believe our testimony unless it is accompanied by great zeal.

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Give Generously

“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously….”(Romans 12:8)

Generosity plays an important part in bringing glory to God. When describing the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul said, “They gave beyond their ability…. entirely on their own.” Our motivation for giving should always be out of a pure heart of love for the recipient and a desire for God to receive the glory, never for us to receive recognition. Jesus condemned hypocrites for giving to be noticed. Paul promised the Corinthians that their generosity would result in praise and thanksgiving to God.  Many would assert that the church cannot be faulted for not giving and it is true that Christians do give generously. This is a great testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; however, we are often guilty of failing to exercise good stewardship in our giving. I am specifically referring here to giving offerings and not to tithes.

We need to be discerning about the ministries that we give to. One of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. This gift is not some natural or humanly developed gift or intuition. The gift of discernment involves a revelation from God of the motivating spirit associated with a person or behavior; whether it is holy or evil, demonic or divine, worldly, carnal or Christ-like. We should not be swayed by mass marketing appeals and impassioned sales pitches. We should be led by the Spirit of God in our giving. We in the western church especially need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to insure that our gifts really do benefit those who are needy.

The church needs to be the instrument of true charity to a needy world. There is a burgeoning movement in the church promoting “social justice.”  Unfortunately, many proponents of this movement are masquerading compassion to hide a socialist re-distribution agenda. To these leftists, charity must be dispensed by a behemoth government because they believe that people must be compelled to give through taxation. This is not a biblical approach to charity. Jesus never said, “give to Caesar in order to care for the poor.” No, He commands us to give directly to the poor. True compassion can only be dispensed by free people who give willingly. Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:7)

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Encourage One Another

The gift of encouraging is vital to the triumph of the church over the kingdoms of this world. Romans 12:8 begins, “If it is encouraging, let him encourage….” One who is an encourager would increase courage in the recipient. Courage is much like faith and is both an indication and a product of faith. The importance of courage in facing our spiritual battles cannot be over emphasized. In the first chapter of Joshua, as the Lord instructs Joshua to conquer the Promised Land, He exhorts Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous.”  Each time, the Lord couples the two character traits together, perhaps indicating a connecting relationship between spiritual strength or vitality and courage.

Barnabas is commended by Luke for his gift of encouraging. In fact, his name means “Son of Encouragement.” In Acts 11 we are told how Barnabas encouraged the new church in Antioch. The scripture describes him as “a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith….” The result of his work of encouragement was that “a great number of people were brought to the Lord”. He is identified as a prophet in Acts 13:1. One of the main reasons that God gave the church the gift of prophesy is “so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” We see Judas and Silas, identified as prophets, fulfilling this ministry in encouraging the new Gentile church in Antioch.

The ability to fulfill this ministry of encouragement is listed as one of the qualifications for an elder in Titus 1:9. Paul instructed both Titus and Timothy that encouraging the flock is one of the main tasks of a pastor. Encouragement gives the body strength to withstand trials. Timothy was sent to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.” Encouragement helps us overcome fear by building faith in our hearts. It tells us that we are not alone in the battle. Fear seems to have a grip on the western church. We have been bullied by our secular humanist culture to the point that many Christians are afraid to open their mouths about their faith. We need prophets and pastors with the gift of encouraging others to be bold in their faith.

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Prophesy in the Church Age

In 1 Corinthians 14:1 we are exhorted, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophesy.” It is interesting that of all the gifts, this one is the least understood, accepted and practiced in the church today. Many Christians are bound by a cessationist view of certain spiritual gifts, including prophesy. This is a stronghold of demonic thinking in the church. This is exactly the type of stronghold that Paul is referring to when he talks about strongholds in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. He defines these strongholds as arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.Those that teach that tongues and prophesy ceased at the end of the Apostolic age, based upon an erroneous interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8, are still “seeing through a glass darkly.” If the “perfect” has already come in the form of scripture, then what have we to look forward to? The purpose of 1Corintians chapters 12-14 is to provide divine guidance for the use of spiritual gifts in the church. One of the tests of divine inspiration is that the instruction is timeless. If the gifts were to cease in less than a century after Paul’s death, then why would the church bishops accept his writings as scripture hundreds of years after the Apostolic age ended?

What we need is relationship with the One who created us in His image. This relationship must include His manifest presence, which is more than words on a page. Books have been written to argue whether or not tongues and prophesy have ceased, so I won’t write another one. Suffice it to say that the world needs a prophetic witness to find God today.

The prophetic gift is probably one of the least understood of all the gifts. John Wimber taught that the gift of prophesy is available to all believers and is an anointing for the situation distinct from the office of prophet.  In the church today, one does not have to be a prophet to exercise the gift of prophesy and exercising the gift does not make one a prophet. Wayne Grudem, in his book The Gift of Prophesy In The New Testament And Today, gives as an example the prophetic ministry of Agabus to Paul in Acts, where his prophetic pronouncement was incorrect in a number of details and in his counsel of application. He refers to Agabus’ prophetic pronouncement in Acts 21:10-11, that the Jews would deliver Paul into the hands of the Gentiles. We see from Acts 2 1:27-35 that the details of his prediction were inaccurate. Grudem points out that by Old Testament standards, Agabus would have been condemned as a false prophet. Yet, Agabus is clearly recognized in more than one scripture reference as a prophet. Many, who believe in this gift, understand and practice it in an Old Testament fashion. The gift of prophesy in the New Testament has a distinct practice and function. Grudem points out that the Old Testament prophets who wrote scripture spoke the very words of God, as did the New Testament Apostles. He claims that New Testament prophesy has a different function and standard of practice. He teaches that in the church age, exercising of the gift of prophesy was never intended to be held up to a standard of infallibility.

Holding New Testament prophesy to a standard of inerrancy has resulted in much prophesy being judged as false and consequently discouraging the exercise of the gift. Because of its abuse, improper administration and misapplication, often resulting in serious damage, church leaders have squelched the practice of prophesy. Here again, this demonstrates a lack of faith in God manifested by a need to control His church.

Some, especially cessationists, have reinterpreted the gift of prophesy to mean only the speaking forth of God’s word in the form of canonized scripture. This wouldn’t seem like much of a spiritual gift, since anyone who is able to read could exercise it. On the contrary, the gift of prophesy involves telling forth God’s heart, His intentions and desires, etc., in the form of the “rhema” or living, active word of God appropriate for the time, person and place. In 1 Corinthians 14:25 Paul refers to an unbeliever coming under conviction when the secrets of his heart have been laid bare by a prophetic word. John Wimber explained the evangelistic exercise of this gift in his book Power Evangelism. He tells the story of receiving a revelation, in the form of what appeared like a tattoo on the forehead of a man he encountered on an airplane. God revealed to him that the man was involved in the sin of adultery. God used this revelation about a stranger to convict the man and John led him to Christ.

John Wesley wrote in his Journal: “Wed., Aug. 15, 1750- By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, The General Delusion of Christians with Regard to Prophecy , I was fully convinced of what I had once suspected: … That the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”

When Christians begin hearing God, receiving revelation and responding obediently to the Holy Spirit, we will arouse the world’s attention. Then, when we preach the gospel it will be with great power and credibility.

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The Transformation of the Mind

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.“ (Romans 12:2) Until recently, Christianity has been primarily a western world religion. Unfortunately, the world-view of the western world has been influenced predominantly by the scientific rationalism of the Greco-Roman and the European Enlightenment culture. This world-view de-emphasizes or completely denies the existence of the spiritual realm. In contrast, the world-view of first century Hebrews who wrote the scriptures was distinctly eastern, with an accompanying belief in the spiritual realm. The eastern mindset of early Jews and Christians did not require a scientific explanation for everything. Even though the Bible and Christian theology teach about angels, demons, spirits, miracles and a devil, most western Christians live as though they do not believe in such things.

But, this scripture teaches us that our ability to discern or know God’s will is related to the transformation of our mind. If we had a change in our world-view that allowed for spiritual phenomenon, including such things as supernatural empowerment as discussed in 1 Corinthians 12, we might be better able to determine God’s will. Without knowing God’s will how can we be obedient to Him? If we are not obedient to Him how can we fulfill the mission He has given us? Jesus claimed that He only did what the Father told Him to do.The success of His earthly ministry is attributable to His being in union with the Father and only doing what the Father was doing.

Once Christians begin to have the faith to believe in the spiritual realm and the supernatural, and we are in union with God, our witness will be accompanied by great power and our ministry will bear much fruit. Then unbelievers will turn to Christ in droves, because they will see that God is in our midst. Paul said that the Jews seek a sign.  That is a supernatural manifestation, and the Greek (ie. Westerner) seeks wisdom.This is in recognition of the divergent world- views. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.(1Corintians 2:4) Have you ever tried to convince a person that didn’t believe in God that God exists by rational explanation? When we transform our minds, begin to believe in the supernatural, cease conforming to the scientific rationalism of the world, begin discerning what God is doing and start being obedient to Him, many will be saved.

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We Need to Pray

Prayer is woefully lacking in the modern church. Few Christians have the kind of healthy devotional prayer life that brings them into a place of intimate communion with God on a daily basis. The pressures of daily life inhibit devotion. We appear to be Sunday believers. There has been an increased level of corporate intercessory prayer in the church, including city-wide and cross-congregational intercession. But, we have yet to reach the point that we are recognized by our love for one another. Rather than being known for our love and passion for Jesus Christ, we are more commonly known for our denominational differences. This is a stumbling block to the unbeliever. Jesus admitted that many would stumble over Him. I do not believe that He intended that people would stumble over the behavior of His church.

The revivals of the First and Second Great Awakening forever changed the culture of the Anglo-American world and laid a foundation of Christian values. Corporate prayer had a significant impact in birthing those revivals.

Prayer is one of the essential conditions of revival.  Almost every revival has been preceded by praying committed believers. The foundations of the First Great Awakening were laid by a group of Moravians who started a 24 hour a day prayer meeting that continued for 100 years beginning in 1724. It was missionaries from this same Moravian community that the Lord used to start John Wesley upon his journey to Christ. Moravians from Hernnhut were instrumental in leading Wesley to his own baptism of fire or second work of grace. It was Wesley’s preaching that fueled the Second Great Awakening.The 1857 revival in New York City began with a call to prayer by a single businessman and within six months more than 10,000 others were praying with him in various meetings around the city.

God’s word says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2Cor. 10:4-5) Our minds must be transformed to understand that we are waging a different kind of battle than what the world sees. That battle will be won by the Lord of Hosts. He will join the battle when we corporately humble ourselves and pray.

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THE EXAMPLE OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth has often been described as an allegory pointing to the redemptive relationship between Christ and His church, with Boaz the kinsman redeemer representing Christ and Ruth representing His church. An additional allegory exists in the story. Ruth the Gentile represents the Gentile church while Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, represents natural born Israel under the old covenant. It is noteworthy that the adoption of Ruth by Boaz occurs during the harvest and the celebration of Pentecost that is also associated with the birth of the Now Testament Church.

In the account, Naomi, her husband and two sons are refugees from a famine in Bethlehem who have settled in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite women one of them being Ruth. Subsequently, Naomi’s sons also die leaving her fruitless and in exile. This situation adequately portrays the spiritual condition of natural born Jews today. They are exiled (even today there are more Jews in New York City than in Israel) without a spiritual husband and without spiritual descendants. They are dead in their sins and trespasses and, having rejected their Messiah they are without a sacrifice to atone for them. God has even taken away their temple so that they cannot perform the Old Covenant sacrifices. Naomi claims that, “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”[1]  and, “The lord has testified against me.”[2]

Naomi attempts to persuade her daughters-in-law to leave her and go back to their own people. At first, they refuse, but Orpah eventually concedes. Ruth begs Naomi to allow her to stay and makes the famous statement, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [3] Ruth thus recognizes that she has no natural right of access into the Kingdom of God and that it is she that must be adopted.

The Gentile church should adopt the attitude of Ruth. We must understand that we are not natural branches and that we have been grafted into the Vine who is vastly different from us. We must understand that the bride will not be complete without the natural branches. We must recognize that the Jews as a people, at least a great many of them, are predestined to eventually heed the call of the Spirit and accept their Messiah. Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that the natural branches were rejected or cut off because of their unbelief. In their pride they stumbled over the Stone and thought that they could earn salvation by their own righteousness. So, they were cut off and left barren like Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Judea) at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Their return coincided with the celebration of the Feast of First Fruits that occurred on Abib 16 or two days after the Passover. It is interesting to note that Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose on the first day of the week or the Feast of First Fruits. The barley harvest is also a symbol of God’s harvest of the Jews. Ruth goes out to the fields to glean and meets Boaz the lord of that field. He shows her favor and she returns to Naomi full of his praises. Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz’ threshing floor and to lie with him, which she does. They fall in love (perhaps this threshing floor in Bethlehem was to be the place of Christ’s manger centuries later). Boaz promises to redeem Ruth under the customary Hebrew laws of kinship. He sends Ruth back to Naomi with six measures of barley, exhorting her not to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.[4] This act is symbolic of the gentiles bringing in the harvest of the Jews. This exhortation is to the Gentile church.

Next Boaz goes to the town gates, where the elders meet, in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth in accord with the Hebrew laws for kinsman­-redeemer. Naomi’s closest relative declines to redeem her because he does not want Ruth, as he is already married. So Boaz agrees to redeem Naomi and her property and to take Ruth as his bride. The elders of the village pronounce a great blessing upon Boaz and Ruth:

“May Ihe Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”.[5]

Ruth bears a son to Boaz. Her son was the grandfather of David and stood in the lineage of Jesus. This prophetically pointed to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The response of the women in the village is interesting. They tell Naomi:

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.”[6]

The women of the village report that “Naomi has a son[7] and they name him Obed, which means: “a worker, a servant; one who perfectly does the will of him who sends him.” It is interesting that Ruth’s child is equated as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and is seen as the one who will renew Naomi’s life and sustain her in her old age. In the allegory, we can see the prophetic allusion that the gentile church, adopted by Christ and in union with Him will bring forth a child, in this case a people, who will be seen as the fruit of the previously barren Jew and be known as the perfect servant. These redeemed ones will be Christ’s end time army that will walk in holiness, humility and power. They will fulfill the call of the bride. Christ, as Boaz redeems both Jew and Gentile, but it is the child of the gentile that helps to sustain the Jew in her old age. It is the fruit of the gentile womb, filled with the Spirit of Christ that will be seen as fulfilling the call of God’s people to be a blessing to the whole earth. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s plan foreshadowed and typified in the Book of Ruth, to re-graft the natural branches back into the Vine.

We must come to understand that the natural branches had the manifest presence of God revealed to them. Our modem, materialistic, rationalistic culture hinders us gentiles in relating to God. The Hebrew spiritual, mystical culture was an outgrowth of their knowledge of God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God and we cannot completely understand Him or the things He did apart from the culture and traditions of the ancient Jewish people. Other than the life of Christ the greatest volume of revelation about God and His character and nature occurs in the Old Testament. If the revelation found in the Old Testament is minimized the result is a failure to completely know God to the extent that He has chosen to reveal Himself. To properly understand that revelation, we must properly understand the culture of the Old Testament Jew. God revealed Himself to them in a way that they would understand. Our understanding of scripture can be greatly enhanced by a study of their culture. A study and practice of the biblical feasts helps us to do so as well.


[1] Ruth 1:13, NIV.

[2] Ruth 1:21 NIV.

[3] Ruth I:l6, NIV

[4] Ruth 3:17, NIV.

[5] Ruth 4:11-12, NIV.

[6] Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.

[7] Ruth 4:17, NIV.

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Should Christians Celebrate The Feasts of the Kingdom?

Some years ago, I was involved in a discussion with some Christian brothers and sisters about the difficulty of dealing with the holidays” in a fashion that would glorify God. It was then that the Lord began to reveal to me the importance of our spiritual heritage. It is interesting that the word “holiday” has its roots in the two words “holy days”. The specific holidays, which we were discussing, happened to be Halloween with its associated celebration of the occult and Christmas with its excessive materialism. We were specifically concerned about teaching our children how to deal with these holidays and the accompanying pressures to engage in ungodly behavior. The Lord reminded me that He has provided us with specific times to celebrate and has even shown us how to celebrate in a fashion that would bring glory to Him and draw us closer to Him. He has established feasts and celebrations and these are clearly explained to us in His Word. Thus was begun a study of the biblical feasts.

We are all creatures of habit and it is in our nature to set apart special times of remembrance and celebration. It is interesting that even as Christians we tend to celebrate, along with the world, the events and celebrations that the world system has established. Some of these are benign, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating them. The interesting thing to me is that we Christians will go about our lives ignoring the special days that God has ordained. This ignorance has occurred because of the historical perversion of our religious practices that began shortly after the Apostolic Age ended. Constantine began the secularization of our faith, which has continued through history. There is no doubt in my mind that this has been a spiritual strategy of the devil. It is part of his overall scheme to separate us from God and keep us from experiencing the fullness of the relationship that God wants us to have. Anti-Semitism that crept into the church very early in our history has fueled this distortion. Much of the Old Testament is ignored as writings for a by-gone era and for a select group of people, the Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. The apostle Paul warns us that, “all scripture is profitable….” (2 Tim. 3:16). He was referring to the Old Testament­. As New Covenant believers, we must make a distinction as to what part of the Old Testament is fulfilled and that which is yet to be fulfilled. How do we observe the Old Testament law? Some ask, “But aren’t the feasts for the old covenant?” It’s all God’s word; so how do we apply it in the new covenant? Jesus said, Till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18 MKJV)

Has all been fulfilled? What has been fulfilled? What is suspended? The civil law has been temporarily suspended, but not the moral law. The civil law and penalties were for the theocracy of Israel, which was a type of the Kingdom to come.

We must know what is fulfilled and how we are to observe the fulfillment. Christ fulfilled the sacrificial law. Now, we are to offer a living sacrifice. Christ fulfilled the Sabbath. Today, we must rest in His finished work. The feasts will be kept in the millennial kingdom. Zechariah 14 says, “And it shall be, everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16 MKJV)

Why did the church stop celebrating the feasts? Why did they cease to move in the gifts? Why did they reject the authority of scripture? We can see from the book of Acts that the Apostles kept the feasts. The reason that all of these foundational truths were abandoned:  anti-Semitism, secularization, and the influence of the spirit of anti-Christ.

I want to make it clear that I am not teaching that we need to keep the feasts in order to obtain salvation. I am not preaching “works”. Paul rebuked the Galatians for observing special days.[1] This was because they had put themselves back under the law, in seeking justification by attempting to keep the law. Rather, I am attempting to explain how we may have a fuller, closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can know Him more intimately by observing the biblical feasts in their New Testament fulfillment and in a New Covenant fashion. We can better understand, appreciate and teach to our children and those we disciple God’s purposes and plan for building a Kingdom for Himself.

The Lord’s feasts are but a shadow pointing to the glory to come. The feasts all prophetically point to God’s plan for establishing His Kingdom. The Old Testament heroes of faith that we read of in Hebrews 11 were saved on the same basis of faith as we are today, but they looked forward to the finished work of the Messiah. All that they had were shadows of what was to come. We have the facts of history. Appreciating the accuracy of those shadows and the faith that they inspired can bolster our faith.

Have you ever been to a banquet? A banquet or a feast is a celebration. It is fun. It’s a good time. It is a special occasion. God’s Kingdom Feasts illustrate His plan to bring blessing to our lives. The feasts illustrate His plan to restore His rule on earth, to bring His kingdom, to restore Eden. That is something worth celebrating! My interest in God’s feasts was born out of a passion for seeing His Kingdom established here on earth, for Christ’s return. I often think about what it will be like and when will He come. I want to know how I should prepare myself, and the rest of the world for His coming. The Feasts help us to understand God’s plan for building His church and bringing His Kingdom. The feasts were and are a prophetic revelation of the foundational principles of our faith referred to in Hebrews 6. These are not new principles. God revealed them in the Old Testament. Today, He is restoring the age-old foundations as He promised He would in Isaiah 58:12.

As with all of the Old Covenant, the feasts were and are a shadow of things to come. Celebrating the feasts should be faith building, keeping us focused on God’s plan. Therefore, God made it a command to all believers that we keep His feasts, “as a lasting ordinance.” They are not part of the sacrificial law that has been fulfilled. They are not part of the civil law for Israel that have been suspended. His feasts are not just for Jews, they are for all believers, all true Israelites. God never intended for the celebration of the feasts to stop under the new covenant. The Apostles understood this. They all continued to keep the feasts.


[1] Galatians 4:10, NIV.

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