Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Very Superstitious


Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness” – 1 Timothy 4:7

When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was a day that I didn’t care to eat dinner.  On the first day of the year my mom would cook hog jowl, cabbage, and black eyed peas.  As a kid, I didn’t care for ANY of that!  But here in the south, hog jowl and black eyed peas are thought to bring you good luck, and cabbage to bring you money – green in your wallet.  So many people eat them on New Years Day.
We also had to be careful what we did on New Year’s Day.  You don’t want to work that day, or do laundry, or be sick, because superstition says that what you do on that day you will do all year long.

But it’s not just in the south that these New Year’s Day superstitions have become tradition.  In Spanish countries, some will eat 12 grapes at midnight – one for each month.  If the grape is sweet, then that month is predicted to be easy and pleasant.  If one is sour, then it is thought that that month will be a hard one, filled with trouble.  Some will eat donuts or Bundt cakes on New Year’s Day because their round shape is thought to bring fortune.  Others will hide a coin in a pan of rice before it’s cooked, which should bring good luck to the one who finds it.
It can be so easy to fall into these traditional superstitions and observe them.  But friends, let us not be so easy to lose our focus of who is really in charge of things.  There is no other power at work in this world that God Almighty.  He rules, He reigns.  Nothing is done without His doing it, or allowing it.  Is there any part of our lives that God is not “Almighty” in?  Is there any part where He does not control the future?  Then why do we become double minded at the thought of bringing ourselves good fortune or luck?  Why do we participate in superstitions?

In 1 Timothy 4 Paul wrote to Timothy.  He told him that ”in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”.  He goes on to say that people will stop marrying.  We now see many who choose to live together outside the bonds of marriage.  He says that some will stop eating certain foods.  We also see many now claim to be Vegetarians, or Vegans. (Yet, God has said that all things He creates are good for us to eat as long as we eat it with thanksgiving).  Paul makes the case clearly that we are living in the times that he is speaking of, and then says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness”.  Friends, Paul is speaking to us! Our generation! 
We are not to be superstitious people and allow satan to distract us  - not even for a single day!  If we believe in anything other than the power of God for our good fortune and our blessings, then do we truly believe in God?  Are we allowing God to be Lord of all?

I encourage you to spend this New Year’s Day superstition-free!  Instead, thank God for a New Year and all the new things He will bring your way.  Trust Him with your future, listen and obey His voice, and wait to see what God will do.  He's taken care of you so far, and He won't fail you now.  God never fails.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Leaving Heaven

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” – Philippians 2:5-7

I had a vision not long ago while worshipping.  In that vision I was standing behind Jesus as He left Heaven for earth.  Dressing in a long flowing robe, He started away from the throne, looked over His shoulder briefly at what He was leaving behind, and continued until He was out of view.
That lead me to the thought of what it was Jesus would have left behind in Heaven.  I don’t think He would have missed the grandeur, the gold streets, the jeweled things, and the riches of God.  His Father God owned it all.  He chose gold to be the gravel of Heaven.  The physical assets of Heaven may have been attractive, but I don’t think Jesus would have valued them the way we will.  In His economy, gold and jewels are worthless.

He might have missed the sweet smelling aroma of the sacrifices of the people (Exodus 29, Leviticus 1&2, Numbers 15). For Christ, the smell of the people of God offering up sacrifices for their sins was the smell of a heart seeking to please God, seeking to remove the enmity between God and man.  If the smell was sweet to God, it must have been sweet to the Son as well.

He might have missed the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).  But I doubt it was the sound of their voices as much as the words they sang.  Any word in Hebrew said three times means completeness, perfection of the word.  To say “Holy, Holy, Holy” is the highest of compliments.  It was to offer the greatest of praise. 
As a beach lover, I wondered if He would have missed the crystal sea that is before the throne, or the rainbow that is around the throne (Revelation 4).  But then again, what is a sea, crystal, or a rainbow to the one through whom they were all made (John 1)? 

I believe what Jesus would have missed most from Heaven was love.  Consider a place of endless love.  Jesus was surrounded with the love of God the father, the love of the angels, the adoration of the seraphim and cherubim. There was no hatred, no ulterior motives, no distrust, no lack of faith, no self-promotion.  There was no backbiting, no bitterness, no prejudice, and no jealousy.  In Heaven, it was love.
According to God’s word, no one else, except satan, has ever left Heaven.  Satan was thrown out for acting like a human.  He became full of pride and jealousy and self-promotion, and could no longer worship God because he was worshipping himself.  But Jesus…that’s a different story.  He had done nothing to deserve earth.

Yet, He came anyway.  Jesus was there before the foundation of the earth.  He knew the plan God had for us to receive him as our eternal sacrifice.  He knew that coming to earth mean an earthly life among sinners, and death.  He came, experiencing hatred for the first time, experiencing mocking, bitterness, jealousy, our weak faith, our weakness to sin, our contempt of each other, our prejudices towards nationality, our selfish motives, and our lack of trust in Him.  It was a far cry from Heaven, and yet, He came.
He came to prove that He loves us more than He loved the splendor and worship of Heaven.  He came not to show His disdain for our sins.  Even though He was righteous and could have condemned us, He didn’t.  He loved us.  He came to prove His obedience to His Father God.  He came to allow us to see Heaven and live with Him eternally.  Jesus, perfect Jesus, wants us to be with Him eternally.  He showed us love, so that we could understand love, and love Him and each other in return.

In John 15:11-17 Jesus speak of love and joy.  He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL. This is My commandment, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  YOU DID NOT CHOOSE ME, BUT I CHOSE YOU and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  THESE THINGS I COMMAND YOU, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Jesus calls us to love each other, not just in words, but in deeds.  He calls us to be self-less in love, even to the point of laying down our lives for each other as He laid down His for us.  He tells us that when we do this, we will have joy, and our joy will be FULL – a heart full of joy.  Doing His will, He calls us His friends, personal friends of Jesus.  If you feel He didn’t mean this toward you in particular, consider what He means when He says “You did not choose me, but I chose you”.  He has a personal love for you – an individual love for you. 

Do you want to experience a little bit of Heaven on earth?  Love one another.  I cannot think of a single gift Jesus would prefer for His birthday than that we show unconditional self-less love for one another.  Imagine what it would be like if we all just oozed love for each other in everything we said, everything we did, and every though we had toward each other.  Would that not be heavenly?  Find someone who needs to be loved, and open your heart to them.  Let the love of God instruct you and show you how to love with His unfailing love.  Yes, you might get hurt.  Jesus did.  But love anyway.  Love one at a time until all are loved.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From the Star of Bethlehem to the Moon Covered in Blood

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.  Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.” – Genesis 1:14-16

From the beginning of time, God created the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens to be “for signs and seasons”.  But astrology has gotten a bad name because it often leads to the worship of the sun, moon, and stars.  In Deuteronomy 4 Moses warns for us not to become idolaters, and he says in verse 19 “ And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them”.  Yet, God did give them for a particular purpose.
When we learn of the heavenly bodies God created, we learn of Him, and His love for humanity.  One such lesson can be found in identifying the Star of Bethlehem.  Frederick A. Larson, a lawyer who became interested in the history of the Star of Bethlehem and its identity has written an entire study on the Star of Bethlehem.  His study is backed up by God’s word, and the prophecies of Jesus Christ.  And even more importantly to this daughter of God, it shows God’s magnificent beauty in showing His love for us.

The stars were created to be signs for us in a universally seen form, and they have been studied even at the oldest point of Biblical history.  Job gave the names of two clusters of stars when he writes in Job 38:31 “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?” God named the stars himself according to Isaiah 40:26 which says “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing.”  Again in Psalms 19:1 David writes “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world”.

The stars are God’s creation and are used by God to deliver signs to those of us on Earth.  One such sign was the Star of Bethlehem. In his study to determine which star was the Star of Bethlehem, Larson employed the mathematical equation of Kepler, a mathematician of the 1600’s.  This is the same equasion used by NASA, and allow us to place the stars in a particular place in the sky on a given date and time, based on the earth’s rotation and the revolution of the stars. 

Using that equation, Larson had to find the exact timing of the appearance of the star, and Jesus’ birth.  He used God’s word to determine the time, which had to have been during the reign of Herod, who died in 4BC.  He also understood that the star had to rise from the east according to Matthew 2:2.  And, the star had to stop.  It had to appear stopped over Bethlehem.
In knowing these things, he looked to see if anything significant had happened in the night skies over Bethlehem in the time that Jesus would have been born, which is considered by many to be 3-2BC.  And yes, there is something amazing that happened.

There is a star known to the Babylonians as “Regulus Sharu”, and to the Romans as “Regulus Rex”.  During this time, Jupiter, travels and passes Regulus.  But something unusual happens.  Jupiter then goes backwards three times, circling Regulus. 
The beauty of this comes from understanding the name of the star Regulus, which in both Babylonian and Roman, is “King”.  It was the King star.  Jupiter is known as the King planet.  The King planet circled the king star three times, creating the effect of a halo over the star, as if the planet of kings was crowning the king star.  And in what constellation did this occur?  It occurred in Leo, which is the Lion constellation.   God’s word says in Genesis 49:10 that Jesus would come from the tribe of Judah, which carries the symbol of a Lion.

But this would not have shown a great light, nor given time for the Magi to have followed the star. Yet nine months later, from conception till birth, Jupiter does something else unusual.  Travelling through the sky Jupiter meets courses with Venus, the mother star.  They join, with Jupiter sitting atop Venus, in the form of an infinity symbol, the mathematical symbol for eternity.  The brightness was so great that this is still shown in planetariums today.  This is the bright star that was seen, and is confirmed through other incidents, such as the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  However, to the uneducated eye, it would have appeared to just be a star, hence the reason Herod did not know it had happened.  The Magi that travelled to follow the star would have been of Jewish descent, and would have understood the significance of what they had seen based on the prophecies of the Messiah.  Jupiter, travelling ahead of the Magi, would have appeared to stop over Bethlehem, based on “retrograde motion”, which is the same effect we see of a car going backwards when we pass it on the street.  When did this occur?  It would have been the night of December 25th, 2BC, when Jupiter entered retrograde motion. 

But during this time, something else happens in the night sky.  The new moon, a phase of the moon, is shown, and it rises from the feet of another constellation, Virgo, the Virgin. No one can miss the analogy of the new moon starting at the feet of a Virgin, and Jesus being born from the Virgin Mary.  But there is another symbolism made from this sign in the stars.  To fully understand this, we have to move 33 years forward to the time of Christ death on the cross. 
Joel prophesied of Jesus’ death in Joel 2:31, saying “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”  Peter quotes this scripture on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  On the day that He died, there was a lunar eclipse, a time when the moon, created for darkness, overtook the sun, created for light. Evil is often referred to in God’s word as darkness, as righteousness is referred to as light.  In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

The day in which Christ died was a Friday, called a “day of Preparation”, because the Sabbath was on Saturday. It was during the feast of the Passover, which occurred during the lunar month of Nisin.  Since Passover would start between Nisin 14 and 15, Larson found the exact date by looking at when this would have occurred on a Friday.  The exact date of Jesus’ death, according to the Jewish lunar calendar, would have been Nisin 14, 33AD.  That day on our calendar is April 3, 33AD.
It is on that day that many ancient astrologers record a lunar eclipse, and the earth being overtaken by darkness at noon.  One such, Trallianus, wrote in “Olympiades” that “In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, [AD 32–33] a failure of the Sun took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day [noon], so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Niceaea”.  At that time, according to Matthew 27:51-54 the earth quaked with such a great shake that tombs opened, and the curtain that separated people from the “Holiest of Holies” in the temple was torn from top to bottom, removing the barrier between the mercy seat of God and man.

And on that night, in the night sky, a full moon was seen.  As is with any lunar eclipse, the earth casts a blood red shadow over the moon.  This time, the moon, blood red, was again at the feet of Virgo, but this time, it was a full moon, as a life fully lived out and covered in blood.
(All this information was gleaned from www.bethlehemstar.net, and the work of Fredrick Larson. There is a DVD that tells the full story, which was produced by the same producer that gave us “The Passion of Christ”.  It is available on the site and on Christianbook.com.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Fullness of Time - Shiloh


The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” – Genesis 49:10

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”  The life of Christ was one with specific timing, and specific purpose.  His birth was to be at a specific time. 

Had He been born at the time of God’s covenant with Noah, we may not have understood the wrath and mercy of God. God destroyed all the earth at that time due to the wickedness that prevailed.  All animals, plant life, and people were destroyed, except for those that God placed on the Ark (Genesis 6).  But after the destruction, Noah built an altar.  He offered up a burnt sacrifice of animals and birds to God.  Genesis 8:21 says “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.”  God made a promise to Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by flood.  We needed to see God’s willingness to destroy wickedness, and we needed to see God’s grace and mercy extended to those on the Ark.

Had Jesus been born at the time of God’s promise to Abraham, we may not have understood that faith pleases God.  At seventy-five years old, Abraham heard the voice of God saying in Genesis 12:1-3, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”  Imagine the faith it took to uproot your family, leave the country you had known all your life and everyone you knew behind, and travel to a place that you had never seen.  There were no maps, no GPS, no weather forecasters, only the voice of God to direct him.  And because He was faithful, God said to Abraham, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Because Abraham was faithful to God, from His children would come the Messiah, a blessing to all the families of the earth. From Abraham’s decedents would come the Nation of Israel.

Being old and having a wife that was barren, it took faith to believe even a single child could be born to them.  But in Genesis 15:5 God said to Abraham, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.”  And because Abraham believed, his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:7, Romans 4:3), even as our own righteousness comes through faith in God and the Son, Jesus Christ.

Had Jesus been born at the time of God’s covenant with Moses, we may not have understood our sinful nature and dependence on God.  While the children of Israel were in slavery to Pharaoh, God came to Moses and gave him ten plagues to be pronounced on Egypt, each one showing the people of Israel His power.  When they had been freed from Egypt, He made a covenant with Moses for the people, and instructed Moses to tell them in Exodus 19:8-6, “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”  Obey my voice, and keep my covenant – that was all we had to do.  In return, God would allow us to be a special people to Him, a Holy Nation.  But we could not do it! 

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the Levitical Laws for the people to follow, yet before he came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments, they had already broken the first one.  God knew they could not keep the laws, but the laws were necessary.  Romans 3:20 says that “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  Through the laws given to Moses we understand our sinful nature. 

When the people of Israel sinned, they brought a sacrifice to the priest who offered it to God as a payment of their sins.  Being unholy, we were not allowed to enter the presence of God to offer our own sacrifice.  The priest would bring it to God.  But the forgiveness of sins was always given by God.  We are still dependent on God’s forgiveness for our righteousness. 

Having understood the wrath and mercy of God, that faith is necessary to please God, and that we have a sinful nature, and are dependent on Him for righteousness, God made another covenant.  This covenant was made with David, a descendent of Abraham.
God saw the fine house that King David lived in, and came to the prophet Nathan with a message to King David.  The message was “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?” (2 Samuel 7:5).  God wanted a temple, a place to be with His people.  But I believe that God wanted even more.  God also told David that “He will make you a house”.  The temple would be a temporary dwelling place for God to be near His people, until Christ came and allowed us to become the temple for His Holy Spirit.  Christ was promised as the “He” that will “make you a house”.

God promised to bless David, and establish his throne with his descendants.  In 2 Samuel 7: 12-16 God says, “I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”   And later, “Your throne shall be established forever.” 

It was necessary that Jesus be born of the tribe of Judah to fulfill God’s promise to David and to establish a royal people from his house.  But it was also necessary that it happen at the exact timing of Jesus’ birth. 

At the time of His birth, Herod the Great was King of Judah.  For the first time in history, the throne of Judah was filled by someone who was not of Jewish descent.  Yet, God had promised that the throne of David would be established forever.  In Genesis 49:10, Jacob’s blessing over his son Judah prophesies of this time, saying The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”

Shiloh in Hebrew means “to whom it belongs”.  In Matthew 1 we read the genealogy of Jesus Christ.  David was born fourteen generations after Abraham.  Jesus was born 28 generations after David, and was therefore, the “Son of David”, fulfilling the promise to David that his throne would be established forever.

Galatians 4:4 says “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  Through Noah, we learned of God’s wrath and mercy.  Through Abraham, we learned the importance of faith, and that faith pleases God.  Through Moses, we learned of our sinful nature and dependence on God.  Through the promise made to David, that “He will make you a house”, we receive Jesus Christ.
The throne being occupied by Herod was the time for which Christ should come and take it back, because it belonged to Him.  Shiloh, “to whom it belongs”, points to the fact that the throne of Israel was God’s from the very beginning.  God had been the King of the Israelites until they rejected Him, and  begged for an earthly King (1 Samuel 8:4-7), and He gave them Saul.  In returning the throne “to whom it belongs”, He reclaimed His people, establishing Jesus as our King.  And as our Lord and King, “to Him shall be the obedience of the people”. 

Shiloh has come, in the fullness of time.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


There are some days I’m just sick of being a “Christian”.  Today’s one of those days.

After what has happened with Phil Robertson and A&E, there will be many “Christians” who raise their voices today about homosexuality.  Yes, they’ll almost all say it’s sin, they’ll disagree on the degree of the sin as if trying to rank it with many others, they’ll disagree on whether a homosexual can be saved, they’ll disagree on many things, and yet…they’ll keep raising their voices against A&E.

Can I just ask you to do one thing?  If you are not equipped to go into the battle, would you do us all a favor and not go to the front lines?  Keep your mouth shut of you have not spent enough time in God’s Word to know what it says about this sin and others!  There is NOTHING this world needs less of than someone who says they’re a Christian and yet all they have to show a lost world, a world sliding slowly into hell, is hatred. 

God asks us to step in where our brother and sister are in need of correction, and “rebuke” them (www.BibleGateway.Com – do the keyword search). He tells us not just to stand against their sin, but to convince them, to teach them. 

NOT ONE TIME does He instruct us to take a global stand against a single sin and form an alliance against that sin.  Do you see the faces of those you are condemning? Tell them to their face what God says about homosexuality.  Your posse standing against them does them no good.  Do you want to give the “Church” a bad name?  Show your hatred, show your condemnation, and withhold your love.

Let me ask you this.  How would you like God to give up on you? How would you like God to just say, “I’m done.  I give up.  He/She can do what she wants.”  Does the thought that He could do that hurt?  Read Romans 1:24-32.  How many times does it day “God gave them up”, or “God gave them over”?  Can you not have compassion on these that are so desperate for God’s grace and mercy?  How can you say you love God, who you haven’t seen, if you cannot love your brother, who you have seen? (1 John 4:20)

To those of my friends that are living homosexual lives, can we have a talk?  First, know that you are loved, and your soul is more important to me than I can express.  If you need to know what God’s word says about this sin in particular, if you even care to know, I’ve dug it out and will share it with you.  And I am sorry that today you will be hurt, ridiculed, hated, and passed by with those that do have His Word, and yet because they don’t care enough will not deliver it to you.  I am sorry that your preachers, your Sunday School teachers, televangelists, and “the church”, who have all been anointed by God to deliver His Word are silent while you suffer because they don’t feel they have the “right” to speak to you about this. 

Philippians 2:4-5 says “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” What kind of friend would I be if I sat silently, and did not tell you what God’s word says?  What kind of friend would I be if I kept God’s word to myself, looking out for myself, and no one else?  I have to do what Christ instructed me in John 13:34, which is to “love one another as I have loved you”.  And oh yeah, He loves you too.

Now, years ago I did dig out what God’s word says about homosexuality.  Here’s the link if you want to know.  And you have my ear if you want to talk to me about it.  I will talk to you about it one on one.  All you have to do is message me, and yes, it’s confidential.  I can keep my mouth shut while my ears are open, which seems to be by God’s design.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Addicted to Religion


But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” – Galatians 4:8-10

Paul had spent time in Galatia and had converted many from Judaism to Christianity.  The people had been devout followers of the Mosaic Law, the law of the book of Leviticus, which included observance of many feasts, sacrifices, and atonements.  The converts had believed in Christ and accepted His free gift of salvation.  In Galatians 4:6-7 Paul speaks of their conversion saying “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  These were born-again Christians who had been given the seal of the Holy Spirit living in their hearts.

But when Paul writes to them in Galatians, he is writing because they have reverted to the observance of festivals and religious days.  He finds they are offering sacrifices and receiving atonements from the Jewish leaders. He asks them in Galatians 4:8-10 if they desire to return to the “weak and beggarly elements” and to “again be in bondage”. He goes on to say “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain,” and again says “I have doubts about you”, doubting that their conversion was authentic.

The people of Galatia suffered from an addiction.  They had an addiction to religious traditions, based on the first covenant made with the people, which was the Mosaic Law.  This was the covenant made with Moses on Mt. Sinai, when God gave Moses the Levitical laws for the people to observe, to be made holy.  This is the way they were raised, the way they had been lead to believe worship was done.  Even though they believed on Jesus Christ, their addition to the old ways of worship, the traditions they had been taught, were still being followed.

Our faith-based heritage begins with Abraham, to whom God gave the second covenant, the promise of Jesus Christ, and salvation through Him.  There is a symbolism in Abraham’s wives and his two sons, which is explained in Galatians 4:22-26, which says:

For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

God promised that Sarah would bear Abraham a child in her old age.  But Sarah became tired of waiting, and not seeing God’s promise come to the birth of a child.  She encouraged Abraham to seek a child from the slave, Hagar.  So Abraham had a child by Hagar, and his name was Ishmael.  Ishmael was born out of Hagar’s bondage, slavery to her earthly Lord, Abraham.  But later on God fulfills His promise to Sarah, who gives birth to Isaac.  Isaac is born out of God’s promise, and out of the love she and Abraham had for each other.  Paul expresses that Hagar was a symbol of the old covenant of law, and Sarah was a symbol of God’s second covenant, the coming of Jesus Christ to redeem us. 

The brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, did not get along, and neither did Sarah and Hagar.  To this day their ancestors war and fight.  Paul recognizes this split in the heritage of Abraham, and says in Galatians 4:29-31 that those born of Hagar “persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit”, and quotes the Old Testament scripture where God tells Abraham to “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”, and expresses that we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

But are we truly FREE?  Are we free of religion and traditions that bind us?  We can become so entangled in habitual worship services that we fail to worship at all.  We again, just as the Galatians do, observe the day of Sunday without participating in true worship of the One who made us free.

Consider this – and please don’t be offended.  What would happen in your church service if things did not go according to the pre-printed program?  What if instead of 3 songs, a prayer, a sermon of three points and a poem, an invitation and dismissal, what if something else occurred?  What if the song service continued into the full time of worship and there was no message from the pulpit?  What if the preacher’s sermon continued for a second hour?  What if during the preacher’s sermon, there was another song service of worship, followed by more preaching?  Be honest and answer to yourself how you would react.

We are habitual creatures.  But worship should not be out of habit, or we return to slavery and bondage, just as the Galatians did.  It may take you by surprise to find that the early church did not have a 3-song/prayer/sermon/dismissal type of service.  It may take you by surprise to also find that they didn’t always meet in one place, or at a certain time.  Church as we know it is not according to God’s word.  I’m not saying it’s all bad, but I am saying that we have been given to Holy Spirit to be our guide.  Where better to let him guide us than in our worship service?  He will not lead us into chaos, because God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  What I am saying is that we need to be willing to step out of our comfortable program-led services and truly worship God from the heart, as His Sons and Daughters, instead of slaves.

Individually, we need to take inventory of our deeds of worship.  Why do we go to church to begin with?  Is it to see the people? Is it because “it’s Sunday, and that’s what we do”?  Is it to get God off our backs, which is my personal testimony from my youth?  Why do we sing the songs we sing?  Is it because we mean the words, or is it because we have memorized the words and just sing along?  Is our daily prayer a memorized set of words, or is it a conversation with God?  Let us not return to the slavery and bondage of legalistic worship when we have been given the freedom of Jesus Christ, when we have been made His children, born of love.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Believing Isn’t Enough

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” – Matthew 7:21-23

Begin raised in a Christian home, I’m proud to say I’ve been in church all my life.  From the time I was small I heard stories of God and Jesus and the disciples.  Believing in Jesus was easy.  He was the one the Bible was about.  He was the one with the five loaves of bread and two fishes.  He was the one that died on the cross.  But salvation didn’t come to me at the time I believed Jesus was God’s son.  Believing that He was God’s Son didn’t happen at any certain point in time, but through a life of being taught who He was.  Salvation came when I realized not who He was, but who I was.

There’s a huge difference in intellectual belief in Jesus and believing IN Jesus.  Thousands upon thousands of people have walked an aisle, signed a card, joined a church, repeated a prayer and said they believe in Jesus.  Oh, I would love to write 10,000 pages on the evils that are occurring in churches under these false pretenses of “saving” people.  Nowhere in God’s word does it say “repeat this prayer after me”.  No one ever was saved that way!  Nowhere in His Word does it say you have to join a church, or sign a membership card.  What the heck are we doing letting people that preach this kind of doctrine into our churches?  Are we that blind to the evil that they present? 

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone ways “Oh, you should take your youth to Judgment House!” or “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames will show them what hell is like, and they’ll want to be saved” - or just pick your fear maker of choice! When the Bible talks of fearing God, this is NOT the kind of fear it means. 

Would someone please tell me where in God’s word a man was ever saved by this kind of fear?  And if this kind of ministry is true, where are all those that repeated prayers and signed cards now?  Are the pews full of changed lives? No. Instead we have thousands upon thousands of people walking around thinking they’re holding on to a “get out of hell free” card when in fact, they will stand before God one day and hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”(Matthew 7:23).

I’ve heard people even make the stupid comment that “yes, but if even one is saved – it’s worth it.”  Really?  It’s okay if 99 go to hell if you truly make one believer? Consider that when you stand before God and He requires their blood at your hands.  We cannot deliver 99 to Hell and be justified by sending 1 to Heaven.  Do you think God does not also love the 99?

And if these methods truly save people, I ask you, where are they now?  Are they changed?  Do their lives prove they are following God’s will, or can you even tell a difference in their lives and that of a non-believer?  No!  They are walking around professing to be Christians, yet living like a non-believer.  How many times have you heard non-believers use this kind of “Christian” as an excuse for not believing? “Well, so-in-so says they’re a Christian, but I know I’m a better person than they are!  If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want it!”  Now it’s not just 99 going to Hell, it’s one more for each they deceive. Is it still worth it?

I’ve been in services like this where young people will come forward, tears streaming down their faces, repeat a prayer, sign a card, and you never see them again.  Yes, they confessed Christ with their mouth, but not their heart!  True believe in Jesus Christ doesn’t work that way.  True belief in Jesus Christ ignites a fire inside that will not go out.  It’s a hunger and thirst to know more about Him, to be changed by Him, to allow Him to rule your life.  Unless He changes your life, you are not saved.  That’s what Matthew 7:15-20 means when it says “by their fruits you will know them”. 

There is a common misconception that belief in Jesus will save a person.  I’m sorry if that’s what you’ve been taught, but that’s just not true.  Now – hear me out on this!  It’s time we stopped believing what we believe just because that’s how we were raised.  We must determine in God’s word what His word really says, and believe it from our hearts instead of our traditions. 

First, let me clear your minds of the “Oh my God!” thought that what I’m professing is that you are saved by your good words.  No friend, that’s not what I’m saying at all.  Salvation is always a matter of God’s grace, and nothing you can do of your own good deeds.  Being raised in church, being a pastor’s kid, being the song leader, teaching Sunday School, helping the poor, visiting the imprisoned -  that’s not going to save you! None of that will get you into Heaven.  If you could save yourself, wouldn’t it have been foolish of God to send His own Son to die for you? Do you think God would let Jesus, His only Son, suffer and die in vain?

Let’s back that up with God’s word.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Gifts are free, wages are earned.   Salvation is a gift!  It’s the gift of eternal life “in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  It comes through faith.

Romans 3:23-24 reiterates that in saying “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.  All have sinned. Grace, God’s mercy through faith, is free.  You can’t earn it.  Romans 3:28 says “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified [made right with God] by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Your deeds won’t save you.  Signing a card, repeating a prayer, joining a church, teaching Sunday School – are all deeds!  Faith in Jesus will save you – God’s grace will save you.  But faith is stronger than just intellectual belief.

Consider what James said in James 2:18-19: “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Are demons saved?  If all it takes to be saved is to belief in Jesus, then they are.  But of course, they are not! 

James says that salvation takes more than just believing in God.  Demons believe.  But their lives are not changed by that belief.  They’re still demons! Faith changes you.  Faith shows up in your life.  Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report”(Hebrews 11:1-2).  If there is no evidence in your life of the unseen change inside, I urge you to consider your status with God.

There’s a reason they call it the ‘rebirth’ and being ‘born again’.  Salvation creates a new life.  The old you must die so the new you – the you who is given life by your faith in Christ – the you who receives the Holy Spirit that will live in you – can live.  True salvation will leave you changed.  True salvation places the Holy Spirit in you (1 Corinthians 6:19).  How could you possibly not be changed when the Holy Spirit lives inside you? 

True salvation will give you a desire to walk with God, to not disappoint Him, to be the child He loves.  No, you won’t be perfected at the point of your salvation - but you will be changed in your desire to live for Him.  Justification, which is salvation, happens not over time – but at once.  Just as you have a birthday and time of birth, you will have a rebirth day, a time and a place that you can remember when you prayed to God, in faith, believing with your head and your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified and killed so you could live.  It is the day you see who you are, and see your need for a Savior, and accept Him as your Lord.

But let us not make the mistake of calling Him our Lord, proclaiming that we have new life, and yet thinking we can continue living the old lifestyle.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  You tell me what that means if it doesn’t mean we are to be true followers of God’s will.  We are to make every attempt to kill the sinful nature that is in us. 

Romans 6:12-14 says “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” It’s about presenting yourself to God, living the new life He has given you.  It’s being made ALIVE FROM THE DEAD – trading a life of sin for a life of righteousness.  It’s about letting Him change you, getting to know Him intimately through His word, praying, confessing (yeah, you’re still going to sin!), and pushing through to live as a new creature anchored in Christ.

Here’s another big misconception.  Most people who are not saved just don’t think it’s all that important to take God’s word seriously today.  After all - you’re not dead yet.  But I ask you to consider this: How many people have you known who knew the day they were going to die?  Do you believe God gives them a “get out of Hell free” card just because death was unexpected?  Listen carefully.  There are no “get out of Hell free” cards. 

Revelations 20:10-15 tells of the time to come, which I believe is coming soon. It’s the time in which satan will be cast into Hell, along with all his demons - who believe in Jesus.  It says that there “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Day and night. Forever. Eternally, suffering.  

But they won’t go there alone.  At that time, God will sit on the throne in Heaven.  John says “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life [which contains the name of every born again believer]. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  You either have a second birth, the rebirth of salvation, or you will have a second death.  Which do you prefer?

Let the reality of your impending death take hold of God’s words and your heart.  If your name is not in the Book of Life, if you have not been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, you will be judged by your works.  “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” is what it says in Romans 3:23, and you are included.  There will be no getting out of hell free.  Your fate is the same as satan and the demons who “believe in Jesus”.  Without the rebirth, your destiny is the wages of sin - death (Romans 6:23), the second death, and hell will be your eternal future.

Don’t be scared into salvation – but be changed by who He is and His great love for you.  He chose to send Jesus to save you even before the earth was created.  Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  He loves you even before you took your first breath with a love that is incomprehensible.  It’s not a love based on how you act toward Him.  It’s not a love that’s based on how you treat others.  It’s not even a love based on how you live.  He loved you more than His only Son.  He choose to make Jesus leave the riches of Heaven to become a poor carpenters child, to wander the earth from town to town, just to be tortured and killed – all so that you could be given new life, and live with Him.  You are God’s greatest desire.  You are His Passion.

1 John 4:10-11 says this of God’s love: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.“

Regardless of what you may have claimed in the past.  Regardless of any prayer you repeated, card you signed, church office you held, or any aisle you may have walked.  Today, take the time to pray in faith to Him, and accept His love so that you can “live through Him”.  Nothing else is so important that it should gain priority over this.  Nothing else will begin an eternal change in your life. 




Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The True Tabernacle

“I WILL GIVE YOU A NEW HEART and put a NEW SPIRIT within you; I will take the HEART OF STONE out of your flesh and give you HEART OF FLESH.” – Ezekiel 36:26

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,  a Minister of the sanctuary and of THE TRUE TABERNACLE WHICH THE LORD ERECTED, and not man.” – Hebrews 8:1-2

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MINDS AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” – Hebrews 8:10

 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD, not on TABLETS OF STONE but on TABLETS OF FLESH, that is, of THE HEART.” – 2 Corinthians 3:3

The True Tabernacle of God is the heart, where Jesus ministers to us through the Holy Spirit.  He has written His laws on our hearts – no longer on tablets of stone.  He ministers to us through His Holy Spirit.  A minister of the tabernacle offers up sacrifices and offerings for sin.  Jesus has completed the work of sacrifice for our sins, and now goes on to perfect us through His Holy Spirit using conviction and guidance. 

In John 8 Jesus stood with the rulers of the old laws, the scribes and Pharisees who sought to perfect themselves through the Levitical Laws.  They brought in an adulterous woman for Jesus to condemn to death by stoning, according to the law.  But instead, Jesus showed mercy, and likely so as He says “I desire mercy and not sacrificein Matthew 9:13.

Jesus spoke to the men who were with her and said “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  One by one, they all left, leaving only Christ, the only sinless one, with her.  But He did not pick up a stone.  He said to her “Neither do I condemn you, GO AND SIN NO MORE”.

Jesus’ message to us today is the same.  He does not condemn us, for He has justified us through His salvation and His righteousness.  But He continues to tell us through His Spirit, “Go and sin no more.” Walk away from sin – that is the core message of His ministry to us who are saved.

This is the ministry of His Holy Spirit in our hearts – to guide us into all truth, discernment of right and wrong, and to perfect us through our obedience to His voice (John 16:13). 

When you hear His ministering voice, you have two options.  You can give into your self will, and sin, bringing dishonor to the true tabernacle of God.  Or you can choose to obey His voice, and work out your own salvation. 

Salvation is God’s free gift - but not a gift to be put on a shelf till life is over!  Use the salvation God has given you, the free gift of His Spirit. Allow Jesus to minister to you, and to perfect the true tabernacle.    

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Success in God’s Kingdom

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:35-46

Being in a position of power is something many of us long for.  We go to college, get our degrees, work our way up through the ranks, and are finally promoted to a position of authority and power, and then – only then – do we feel we have somehow ‘arrived’.  Why?  Most often, it is because we desire respect and honor among men. 

Think about it.  No one in their right minds would say “Boss, I’d love more responsibility, please”, yet power has great responsibility.  With responsibility comes worry and even harder work.  But we cannot be satisfied being in the ranks because we feel we aren’t successful until others look up to us.  This is the pride of man, and in God’s kingdom, it doesn’t have a place.

I love the way James and John approached Jesus and said “Teacher, we want You to do for us WHATEVER WE ASK.”  Now that’s being upfront about the matter!  Before even stating what they wanted, they showed they wanted power, even over Christ.  Their request, to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus, was to be put into authority over the other ten disciples, to be His “Assistant Managers”. 

But Jesus rejected their request, telling them that  they would go through much of what He would go through, but that the positions they requested were not His to give, but were already appointed.  But what happens next creates division in the disciples, as it says the ten remaining disciples were “greatly displeased with James and John”.  Just put yourself in their shoes.  Your co-worker has now asked to be appointed your boss!  Oh yes, there’s going to be friction.  Is this not how many churches end up with “clicks” and power struggles and divisions?  Does any of that sound like what the Body of Christ should look like? 

James and John aren’t so different from us today, and the disciples are not much different from our churches today in this respect.  There are those that seek positions of power within the flock.  They want to be appointed deacons or committee members or leaders.  But their motives are not pure.  Anyone can take on the work of the church, and I promise you – no one will complain!  Jesus Himself said that the harvest is great and the workers are few!  But some want it so they can say “I am _______________”, blank being a position of honor and respect within the church.  The problem with church positions and titles is that it leads to pridefulness, and the “I am _____________” statement.

Let’s be very clear about this.  There can only be one “I am” in the church, and He has been “I am” from the beginning.  Anyone attempting to reign over people for the purpose of honor and respect is taking away honor and respect from God.  A good servant of God should be nearly invisible for having hidden himself to allow God to receive all glory.  If you work for Him, all glory for what you do should be cast at His feet, willfully!  If you do any work for God, even cleaning a toilet at your church, the glory for that work should be God’s, who gives you the opportunity to serve Him. 

Jesus clarifies positions of power within the body of Christ by saying “whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Service is greatness in the Kingdom of God, and not service for man, but service to God.  If you perform your churchly duties out of a desire to please people, you’ve missed the mark.  People don’t count, and neither do their opinions.  People will not stand and judge you on judgment day. 

But if you do your work for the body of Christ out of a sincere love for God, then you are truly a Christian, for Christ served out of love for His Father.  When you give over your life and your desires to follow Him fully, to become His slave, then you find success in God’s kingdom, for Christ Himself was obedient even unto death.  He was made lower than the angels who served Him in Heaven so that He could fulfill His purpose on earth for us.    

Who among us would choose to be made of lower status within the body of Christ, to even become an invisible slave to the service of God?  That is the one God finds successful.