Monday, December 27, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Adapted from a sermon on December 15, 2010
“...to make all men see what the fellowship of the mystery is,
which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God...”
Paul, in Ephesians 3:8-9
The ultimate goal of everything Satan wants to destroy, or envies (he actually doesn’t want to destroy it; he wants to have a part in it, but he can’t) is the fellowship of the saints. And I dare say just a few of God’s people on earth really understand what fellowship is.
Fellowship is when we feel the same thing, when we have the same mind - without talking it over beforehand. It is when we have the same judgment concerning situations and people, and the same love for one another. And that fellowship is created when Wisdom comes down upon us. It is something created by God. It is not voted on by men. It is not of the will of man.
The apostle John taught that when you are born into the kingdom of God, you are born “not of blood [that is, of human blood, or human origin], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (Jn. 1:13). What is so difficult to get across and to really get anchored in the hearts of believers is that, in Christ, the kingdom into which they are born is a kingdom where every thing that counts is not of human origin, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man. If something counts in the kingdom of God, is it not of the will of man, not of the will of the flesh, and not of human origin, that is, not of the blood of this world - no human race, no human genealogy, or any such thing. Those are the three things John said that those in God’s kingdom are not of: you’re born not of the will of man, not of the will of the flesh, and not of “bloods” (actually, that word is plural in the Greek). That means, you who are in Christ are not of any human race, not of any human genealogy, or anything like that. You no longer have any national earthly identity.
But what God’s people, in the main, do not understand is that when you are born, you are born into a place where everything is that way - not just you. It is a kingdom where your communion with God and with one another is not of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh. It is not a physical thing. It is not of earthly origin. If you have communion in the kingdom of God, it will only be of God, just as your birth into His kingdom was only of God. Communion with god happens only when God creates something to eat with you. It is when He creates something invisible for you to share with Him. And when He creates something within me and within you for us to enjoy together in Christ, we have fellowship. It may be a common judgment of people, or of some circumstance, or the times in general.
But the important thing to understand is that if God doesn’t create it, we don’t have it - even if we both want it, even if we both vote for it, and even if we both claim to have it. Nothing of earth matters; nothing of earth makes anything happen in God’s kingdom. Nothing in God’s world is of the will of the man. It’s not of the will of the flesh, but of God. Everything. The doctrine. It cannot be of the will of man. It’s not, not in God’s kingdom. It cannot be of the will of the flesh. It cannot be of human origin. Nothing in God’s kingdom is any of those things. We who believe are in a different universe now. In Christ, we crossed a line into a heavenly kingdom that is in no part human. We are in a different world. We are in a different universe. Paul’s famous phrase, “Behold, all things become new”, is real. You are not even yourself anymore. Paul said, "I die daily" because he was living in that new realm, where his thoughts and his feelings were not of human origin. His very life was not of his own will or his flesh's will.
Our feast days, our baptism, our holy places, the robes you put on for worship - nothing in our kingdom is of the will of man. You know as well as I do, when you see those colorful choir robes in Christian churches, some man has willed to buy those pretty robes as opposed to what he considered less pretty ones. And because that choice and that purchase was of human will, it cannot be a part of the kingdom of God, which means that means that pretty choir robes do not belong in your world. God called you out of that world; now stay out of that world! Jesus is saying, “You were born into my world. Stay in my world and be satisfied.” Godliness with contentment will make you rich.
Many of God’s own people are not content with the world into which they were born when they were baptized with the holy ghost. They are not content with it because God’s world is not of the will of the flesh, and they are still in the flesh. Or they are not content with it because God’s world is not of the will of man, and they are still self- willed. Or they are not content with it because it is not of human origin, and their hearts are still attached to this world. Discontented and divided saints are still enamored of things that originate on earth; some ceremony, some doctrine, some familiar form that is not a part of God’s kingdom.
We, here, do not want any of that. We will not have any of that. The holy ghost will not have any of that, and if we’ll deny ourselves and have the holy ghost in our midst, he won’t allow us have any of that. He’ll save us from worldliness. He’ll save us from the religious system of Christianity, which is altogether of the world. He’ll save us from that unclean spirit so that when we can experience true fellowship in Christ, and so that we can come together as a body and have it be for our good and not to our harm. We benefit from our gatherings only when we live close to God, and we live close to God only as we follow the Spirit that is in no measure of this world.
Our sweet, shared life in the Spirit is the mysterious fellowship that Satan hates above all things because it is not of the world, and he cannot possibly participate in it. He has been cast out of God’s kingdom, and he is very angry about that. He envies and slanders everyone God still welcomes into the pure fellowship of that holy kingdom. Even if a body of saints were fooled into making room for Satan, even if they would be foolish enough to welcome him into their assembly, Satan could not participate in the fellowship of holiness because wherever he is, the fellowship is not, and he will never understand it.
If we are to continue to enjoy our fellowship in Christ, we must walk together in the Spirit and refuse those things that are of the will of man, or of the will of the flesh, or of human origin. Instead of trying to serve God in those things, let’s all do the will of God and serve him “in spirit and in truth”. Doing that, neither the things of this world nor Satan will ever pollute our communion with Christ and with one another.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Good morning John.
Today I was organizing and mailing out various tract and CD orders from the Isaiah58 web site that came in over the past couple of days.
When a person orders a CD from the site, I usually add one or two old CD's (those that went un-purchased) to that person’s order since it does not really add anything to the postage, and so that people can hear live meetings.
This morning as I reached into the box, of perhaps 50 to 100 of those left-over CD's, the sweetest feeling came over me. I could have picked any of the CD's in that box! We have things of real value! Things that go unclaimed among us just might be golden nuggets of life to someone who is hungry for reality in the Spirit. Many have never heard what is on a CD that we have hundreds of extras of. Tears came to my eyes when I thought about how rich we are in spirit, that we have such things of value. Where would we be without those gifts from God, without each other, without this truth? It's hard to even wonder. I am thankful, after your wonderful message last night, for you, for the saints who before us and paid a price, and for every child of God whom Jesus has put into my life right now.
And beyond that, I am thankful for soberness, for sanity, and for the readiness of mind and heart to want to get this truth to God's wandering sheep.
Amen, Brother Gary!
God has chosen, for His own good reasons, to wonderfully bless us and give us a special work to do. I pray that we walk worthy of our calling. Our situation calls to mind one of the things God told father Abraham when He first spoke to him, in Genesis 12:1-3. God told that good man that all the nations of the earth would someday be blessed by the blessing that He was giving him. In other words, God was not blessing Abraham just to bless Abraham. And we can be assured that God has not blessed us just to be blessing us.
We have a holy calling upon us, and a work to do. May God give us the strength and wisdom to accomplish it!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus, in John 14:6
You do not really know the truth unless you are the truth. The truth is not a thing; it is a person, and you must have fellowship with him in order to know him. The truth on earth was the Son of God, while he was here. Now the truth on earth is other sons of God who are here. Nor is the light a thing; it is a person. If you are not in him who is the light, you do not know him who is the light. He was the light of the world as long as he was in the world (Jn. 9:5); now, those in whom he lives are the light of the world. The Word of God is not a thing; it is the Son of God, and he is alive. He took on flesh when he took on the body of Jesus of Nazareth, as John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” And he still comes and takes up residence in the hearts of those who believe in him. Has he become flesh in you? He became flesh in Paul, and Paul testified of it. He said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ is living in me" (Gal. 2:20).
If the Word of God comes to you, he comes to re-create you in his own image. The Word of God comes to you to establish your thoughts, to shape your spirit, to direct your steps. He does not come to be challenged; he comes to take charge, to guide, to heal, to deliver. The Son of God did not take on flesh in order merely to become a topic for discussion. He came to govern, to purge, to make the believer perfect before God.
I do not ask, “Do you know the truth?” It is less important that you know than that you become the truth. Nor do I ask, “Do you know the way?” or “Do you see the light?” The issue is, are you the the way and the light to others? John wrote, “As he is, so are we in this world.” That was good for John and those he knew in Christ, but for us, the question is, are we, like those saints, like him who is sitting at the right hand of the Father?
Jesus never intended for us to stand on earth and point up to the sky, at him, to show men the light. He came to make us lights in this world. Besides, even if we get men to look up, they still cannot see him. They can only see us. Knowing this, my wise father taught us never to speak of Jesus to others unless we could also say to them, “Be like me.”
Paul wrote that “when he ascended on high, he gave gifts to men. . . . And he gave some, apostles, some prophets, some teachers,” etc. This means that, as your pastor and teacher, I am a gift to you. And as light for others in this world, you are a gift to them. Are you really a gift for them? Or let me ask it this way: Does he who is the Truth live in you? Does he who is the Light shine in you? Does he who is the Way walk in you? Can others attain to eternal life by following you? They can if you are following Christ. Paul unashamedly told the saints in Corinth, “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1Cor. 11:1). This was not an unusual statement for Paul to make. He constantly exhorted the saints in every place to follow righteous men, both himself and others (e.g., 1Cor. 4:16; Phip. 3:17; 1Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 3:7, 9; Heb. 6:12. He knew that godly, mature saints were gifts to the rest of us, that like Jesus, they didn’t just talk about the truth and the way to us; they were the way and the truth for us, and Paul wanted us to take full advantage of them, as gifts from a loving heavenly Father.
Monday, December 13, 2010
"God has highly exalted him..."
The honor of men is nothing in comparison to the honor God gives. Jesus did not covet and would not accept honors that men bestow. “I do not receive honor from men,” he said (Jn. 5:41). Even when people wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king, he refused and withdrew from them to a mountain alone (Jn. 6:15). He did not come to gain earthly honor; he came to do the will of his heavenly Father (Heb. 10:7). And as a result of his single-minded pursuit of honor from God, God “highly exalted him, and has given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phip. 2:9-11).
Jesus even refused to honor himself. He said, “If I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my Father who honors me, whom you say that He is your God” (Jn. 8:54). Jesus was wise. He understood that no honor is worth having unless it comes from God.
In fact, he warned men that seeking and receiving honor from any other source will result in spiritual confusion. He told them (Jn. 5:44), “How can you believe, who receive honor one from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God?” Fallen men are so blind to the things of God that they often do not recognize God’s honor when it is given to one standing among them; and they can badly misunderstand what is being done when someone is truly honoring God. Men have been known to go so far as to accuse someone of madness, or even demon-possession, when he is, in fact, honoring God. They did that to Jesus, and in reply, Jesus said, “I am not demon-possessed! I am honoring my Father, and you are dishonoring me” (Jn. 8:49).
Jesus loved God (Jn. 14:31; Ps. 91:14-16) and pleased Him because he desired only the honor that comes from God. He was even willing to suffer unjustly and die in order to please God. In response, God gave everything to Jesus (Jn. 3:35) and revealed Himself completely to Jesus (Jn. 5:20).
Everybody who hears from the true God comes to Jesus for mercy (Jn. 6:45), and nobody can come to the real Jesus unless they do hear from God (Jn. 6:44). Perhaps the most astonishing honor that the Father has given to Jesus is His requirement now that all people everywhere honor the Son just as they honor the Father (Jn. 5:23). Consequently, no one will be saved from eternal damnation who fails to honor the Son as God. But everyone who loves Jesus will be loved by God, and Jesus said that God will come to that person and live within his heart (Jn. 14:21-23; 16:27). Consequently, there is no hope of eternal life but through Jesus (Acts 4:12). This is the honor that God has bestowed upon Jesus, and there is no greater honor than that which the Father has shown to His Son.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
This is a message by G. C. "Preacher" Clark, from about 1965,
slightly edited by Pastor John for this BLOG
Sin, as we know, is very subtle and deeply imbedded in the nature of mankind. Of the three elements of which this world is made - “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1Jn. 2:16) - the lust of the flesh seems to be chief. Many of us who follow Jesus have been deceived by the spirit of lust and have made gluttons of ourselves. We have often denounced “the lust of the flesh” in other respects, but not in our overeating. Throughout the Bible, God condemned gluttony and drunkenness with the same degree of displeasure. Nevertheless, we find many among the followers of Christ who have failed to see this. All true children of God, I feel, are opposed to drunkenness. At the same time, many of these prohibitionists are inclined to eat too much.
After conducting healing campaigns and mailing out thousands of anointed handkerchiefs – since 1930 – I have learned that the greatest physical cause of sickness among the people of God is overindulgence in eating. Obviously, Jesus saw this deceiving demon at work when he enjoined his disciples, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be with overcharged with surfeiting [self-indulgence, or gluttony], and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Lk. 21:34). There have never been so many “overcharged” hearts as we find today, and not all of these heart failures are coming from drunkenness and cares of this life. Thousands of truly converted people are sick and are suffering with heart trouble or other ailments associated with overeating.
Did you ever wonder why artists have never depicted any of Jesus’ disciples as being overweight or of the fleshy type? It is because they know that no one could have followed Jesus very long and remained overweight. There were times when Jesus and his disciples could not so much as pause for a meal (Mk. 3:20). What about you? Some have gone so long without fasting and have gained so much surplus weight that the demon of lust will not let them fast. He makes them sick and nervous every time they try. No, the artists have yet to paint one drunkard or glutton among the followers of our Lord.
You remember that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a little “red pottage”. Oh, that demon of gluttony! Esau, of course, had plenty of good wholesome food, for he was “a man of the field” – a deer hunter; still, he craved “red pottage”, a thick soup made by his brother Jacob. Seemingly, I can hear his words now, as he cried to Jacob, “Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage” (Gen. 25:30). There has been a time when gluttons and drunkards were taken out by the elders of Israel and stoned to death (Deut. 21:18-21). It is fortunate for us that we live under this New Covenant of grace, for we might lose some of our good sisters and brothers in the Lord – not for drunkenness, to be sure, but for gluttony.
No artist could draw a more vivid picture of the gluttonous multitude which is in the body of Christ today than these following words, coming from the pen of the Apostle Paul in his description of some of the saints at Philippi: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind early things” (Phip. 3:17-19).
Reader, perhaps you are asking the question, “Am I among these gluttons who are making a god out of their belly?” The answer will have to come from you, my friend; however, I will ask you a few questions in helping you to form the correct answer. First, let me ask you, are you overweight? If you don’t know, check with some competent authority and find out. For instance, my weight once was one hundred eighty pounds, thirty pounds overweight. My height calls for one hundred fifty pounds, which I now weigh. So you see, I was thirty pounds overweight, or shall I say twenty percent glutton. Since bringing my weight back to normal, I feel like a new person, especially in body. I suffered many different diseases during my twenty years of carrying this surplus weight. But since my last healing, which was most miraculous, I have brought my weight down, as I was shown to do, through the great light on this subject: Gluttony.
God can and will heal any disease coming from the evil of overeating; however, His healings still carry the command, “Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you” (Jn. 5:14). That great man of God, the apostle Paul, turns this emphatic statement of Jesus’ into the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” The answer is obviously “NO”; for when God heals us, He wants us to cease doing whatever brought on our sickness. In other words, if sleeping in a draft gave you a cold, and God heals you of this cold, then He expects you to quit sleeping in the draft. Or if eating too much has brought on high blood pressure, heart trouble, or one of the many other diseases which come from being overweight, then God requires a reduction in your eating. Gluttony works just like any other sin. The thief must quit stealing, the liar must stop lying, the glutton must stop overeating. Children of God, let’s keep our bodies free from the sin of gluttony, realizing they are the temple of the Spirit of God. There is a place in God where sin and sickness cannot reach us. I know this to be true, even though we may not be altogether there. Yet, thank God for His promise and the desire we have to reach this place in Him. Listen to this promise of His: “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in His sight and will give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you which I have brought upon the Egyptians [the world], for I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex. 15:26). Again, God says to His people, “And you will serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you” (Ex. 23:25). Don’t forget, God never changes. The preceding promises are as much for us today as they were for Israel centuries ago.
God’s power to heal is being increasingly demonstrated, as time approaches for the gift of healing, along with the other gifts, to be re-established as normative in the body of Christ. Every honest and sincere minister will declare the availability of God’s healing power. And, as we have stated, there is every reason why we should bring our souls, spirits, and bodies into harmony with the perfect will of God. Paul, in counseling his followers, said, “I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless [kept sound] unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes. 5:23). What precious promises are given to us – if we will only obey God!
The gospel of Christ has not only a forgiveness-of-sin quality but also a healing quality. But we must remember that to receive and retain either or both of these blessings, we must obey the command, “Go and sin no more.” May the Lord bless this message to the heart of every reader.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Eating and Drinking in 1Corinthians 11
Thank you for your previous reply to my question about 1Corinthians 11.
It's true that we now worship God in spirit and in truth, but these believers were "physically eating and drinking" earthly substance without conducting themselves properly. That's the reason why Paul was correcting and instructing them on that matter. But why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit, as you explained to me?
Greetings, Brother Jerome.
Let's eat together this message from Paul to the Corinthians, one small bite at a time, and wash it down by taking a spiritual drink or two! The following is from our translation of 1Corinthians, which you can find on our web site: www.GoingtoJesus.com
¶ 17. Now, in the following instruction, I do not praise you, for you come together not for the better but for the worse.
NOTE: Their gatherings in Corinth were so out of order that it would have been better for them not to have any gatherings at all. But what was the problem? Paul explains:
18. For, first of all, when you come together as a congregation, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.
19. For it is necessary that there be factions among you so that those among you who are approved by God might be revealed.
NOTE: The root cause for their meetings being worse than worthless was the lack of unity that existed among them. Paul already addressed the issue of their divisions in 1:10-13, so there was no need to go into that again here. He refers to it here only as an explanation as to why it would be better to have no gatherings than to have the kind of gatherings they were having.
20. Therefore, when you meet together in the same place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
NOTE: The word "therefore" is key. "Therefore" means that the reason they cannot partake of "the Lord's supper" is what Paul had just said to them; to wit, they are divided. It is not because of their use or misuse of natural substances, such as bread and wine. Division among the saints is what prevents the blood of the Spirit from flowing from one to another; it prevents some from receiving the testimonies of others, and vice versa. We MUST have the blood of Christ flowing among us, or we should just stay away from each other.
The reason it was not the Lord's Supper wasn’t because of what they were eating, or how they were eating, but because of what they could not eat. Because they were divided, they could not eat each other!
21. For in eating, each goes ahead and eats his own supper first, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.
22. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for God’s congregation and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you.
NOTE: In these two verses, what Paul says was being done wrong was that the richer believers were bringing food to a meeting and eating it in the presence of hungry, poorer believers without sharing any of it (v. 21). That was cruel. The point of Paul bringing that subject up was to emphasize their divisions and lack of the love of God, and to command the saints in Corinth that if they wanted to eat physical food, then -- notice this! -- they are to eat it at home, not bring it to the gatherings of the saints! This is what Paul was talking about when he indignantly exclaimed, "What! Don't you have [your own] houses to eat and drink in?" In these verses, Paul is not trying to teach the saints how to eat and drink physically when they meet; rather, he is forbidding them to eat and drink physically at all when they meet.
One of the basics of building successful home meetings is to leave off physical eating and drinking. I have seen home meetings wrecked because meals and snacks became a regular part of the meetings. You may have noticed that I mention this issue in my instructions for a sound home fellowship, on the front page of the PastorJohnsHouse web site. This is what I wrote:
“I have never seen a prayer meeting succeed in becoming what it ought when eating and drinking becomes a part of it. Don't mix food with worship. The same can be said about ceremonies. Don't bring church into the home and then think it is not church. You can have church religion in a home as well as in a church building. Leave off snacks and leave off ceremonies. Just live in the Spirit together, and grow together in the light of God.”
23. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread,
24. and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “Take and eat. This is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25. Likewise, after supper, he also took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of me,”
26. for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
NOTE: Here, Paul explains that fellowship among the saints (receiving one another) is the bread we break, and that drinking of the Spirit is drinking of "the cup of the Lord". Paul has already explained in 1Corinthians 10:15-17.
27. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a manner unworthy of the Lord sins against the body and blood of the Lord.
28. Let a man examine himself; only then is he to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30. Because of this, many are feeble and sick among you, and quite a few have fallen asleep.
31. If we would judge ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
32. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we be not condemned along with the world.
NOTE: Since eating and drinking the Lord's Supper is not a physical consumption of earthly substance but a shared spiritual experience, if we partake of that experience in an unworthy manner (that is, with secret sin), we will be judged for it. If eating and drinking natural substance were deadly for sinners, Christians would be dropping dead all the time, for they regularly partake of their fleshly ceremony, and at the same time confess that they cannot cease from sin. Besides this plain fact, Jesus himself told us that "nothing entering into a man defiles him; it is what comes out of a man that defiles him" (Mk. 7:14-23). On another occasion, when Jesus, like Paul, seemed to be speaking of natural eating and drinking (Jn. 6), he told his disciples, "The flesh is worthless! The words that I speak to you are spiritual, and they are life!" Paul was speaking the same way, spiritually.
33. So then, my brothers, when coming together to eat, wait for one another.
34. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you do not come together for condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
NOTE: Finally, Paul exhorts the saints to love and consider one another ("tarry for one another") if and when they do meet for a meal, and as a last reminder, that they are NOT to eat natural food when they gather to worship the Lord, but to eat physically at home before they come to the meeting. Otherwise, their meetings will be harmful for them, not beneficial.
Above, you asked me, "Why did Paul not explicitly explain to them to forsake those earthly, fleshy substance and partake in the real things of the spirit just as you just explained?" I cannot imagine how Paul could have more plainly told them to avoid (in worship) the consumption of earthly, fleshly substance and to partake, in harmony, of the real things of the Spirit. By giving the commandment -- twice -- for them to eat physically at home before their meetings, was not Paul doing exactly what you say he did not do? Is that not how you see it? Please let me know.
FYI, Jerome, I have been a student of the background of Western Culture for some years now. Let me point out to you a widespread element of the Classical culture which in time was transformed into the religion of Christianity. In the Classical world, there was no sense of responsibility for the poor. If a wealthy man had an impulse to give of his wealth, he normally would give something to his city. He would sponsor the construction of a temple, public baths, or an amphitheater, or erect a statue to one of the city's gods, or sponsor some sporting event, etc. Simply giving to the poor was not done because (1) it brought no fame to one's city and, therefore, brought no fame to oneself, and (2) the poor were commonly seen as lesser creatures, even of "inferior blood", and so, not worthy of much consideration.
One erudite book that deals well with this topic, though it is thick reading, so to speak, is The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire: Citizens, Elites and Benefactors in Asia Minor by Arjan Zuiderhoek. Mr. Zuiderhoek convincingly shows how deeply embedded in the Classical world was the impetus and pressures to give -- but to the city or state, not simply to the poor, and that the inspiration for most munificence at that time was the desire for fame, not love for one's fellow man. The rich did not consider the poor their "fellows" at all.
In the attitude of the richer folk in Corinth, we can see this Classical quality of carelessness toward the feelings and needs of the poor, and I believe that is what Paul was indignant that the saints there were allowing the status of the wealthy in the Greco-Roman world to become a guiding influence in the congregation.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
We have some old recordings of prayer meetings (from the late 1960‘s through the early 1980’s) that were held at Grandma’s farmhouse in Nash County, NC. Her farm was far from any city of size, and there were not a lot of people involved. Sometimes, no more than a dozen people showed up (but they showed up happy). When young Earl Pittman became involved with them and received the baptism of the holy ghost, he loved those simple gatherings so much that he purchased some equipment to record them. What a treasure those recordings are to us now!
I was young when Brother Earl did this and did not take part in the fellowship he was enjoying, so these meetings are new to me as well as to others. Some of the sermons, testimonies, and singing of those saints are absolutely thrilling to us; they challenge us to be finished with the world, to love and honor Jesus, live a holy life, and be pure in the sight of God.
One of the most stunning of those old testimonies came from 65-year-old “Uncle Joe”, a big man with an even bigger heart. Here is his testimony in that prayer meeting held in the farmhouse in which he was brought up, and six years after his mother, “Grandma Edna” had died:
Uncle Joe’s Testimony
You know, I’ve been thinking. Instead of saying, “You’re going to reap what you sow,” just say, “You are going to reap what you strew along the way.” You know, you can’t do anything without being rewarded for it. My mother rewarded me, I was thinking this week, about the time we moved down to Flood’s Chapel. We had no mule, had no wagon, had nothing, and the woman [on whose farm] we lived ....we were using her team to farm with. Mama bought a hundred pound sack of sugar, and she wanted me to bring it from the store to the house, and she said if I would do it, she would give me a quarter. And I put that hundred pounds of sugar on my back and took it to the house, she gave me the quarter. A quarter might not seem like much now, but back then, a quarter was five Pepsi Colas or five games of pool. She rewarded me for doing that, praise God, and God is going to reward us.
I believe we can know how long we are going to live. I got in touch with God last week, and He told me how long I could live -- with an option I could call for more if I wanted it. [After a little silence from everyone] I know what I am talking about! God told me I could have fourteen more years. I would just be as old as Brother Clark is, 79. With an option to ask for more if I wanted it. And ya’ll just need to make up your minds that you’re gonna have to put up with me a little while; ‘cause I’m going to be around. I’m not doubting God one bit. Glory to God. Whether I want to or not, I am here for a purpose. I didn’t choose God. God chose me. He hasn’t called somebody He didn’t want. He called everyone He wanted and needed. Glory to God! And it’s for a purpose that He called. Glory to God! We’re here to answer that calling. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that. Where in the world would we be if we hadn’t obeyed God’s call to be here, Earl? Praise God! It’s because someone sowed some seed along the way. Somebody yielded something. Gave something. Left an example that we should follow their footsteps. Same example as the Lord left. Praise God! “Who did no sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth.” No bitterness. That’s why they say a dove is like the holy Spirit; there is no bitterness. He can’t eat the things that other birds can eat because he doesn’t have any gall to devour it, to digest it with. I heard that said the other day. Praise God. I think it’s wonderful.
I don’t have anywhere else to go. Praise God! I’ve already been. Glory to God! I’ve been to all these false churches. Given a hundred dollars to this man and a hundred dollars to that man. What in the world did we gain from it? A lot of times, we even felt bad about it. I did. I’ve almost come nearer backsliding over that than anything I’ve ever done. A man came there in the middle of the winter and had a heater in his tent, I went out there, didn’t have anything, wound up giving him, I think, about 97 dollars during his campaign. After I left there, I nearly starved to death for lack of food. I didn’t nearly starve to death, but I was missing what I gave to him and regret giving it to him. It was sin for me to even do it, I believe. I do believe I was mistreating myself by doing it, and they get up there and beg and plead, and get on and plow on our sympathy and on the good nature that God has given you, to get money out of people, and I just go ahead and give. Glory to God! I’m not giving anything now I don’t regret. I don’t have much to give, but what I give now I don’t regret a penny of it. And if I didn’t think I was supporting the truth, I would want that back. Every penny of it! Glory to God! Hallelujah!
As I listened to this old recording for the first time, not long ago, I started counting up the years Uncle Joe lived after this testimony, and I realized that at the end of his promised fourteen years, God did give him, through a doctor, the option of more years if Uncle Joe would agree to undergo an operation to remove a small spot on his lung, but as Uncle Joe said to me at the time, “I’ve been cut on enough already. I think I’ll just let it go.” By being cut on already, Uncle Joe was referring, in part, to the major surgery he went through in 1959, when doctors at Veteran’s Hospital in Durham, NC, found him so full of cancer that they gave him a mere sixty to ninety days to live. But, of course, those doctors could not take into account a visit from God’s angel when they made their prognosis. That sweet visit from the heavenly messenger extended Uncle Joe’s life and filled it with health -- for another thirty-seven years!
I dare say that the folk in Grandma’s living room that day could hardly believe that God had actually revealed to Uncle Joe how much longer he would live and that if Uncle Joe wanted it, he would be given more years than that. I do not recall that the subject was ever mentioned again, either by Uncle Joe or anyone else. But the word of God is true, and that is why we can trust our souls to it, and boldly testify of it, as did Uncle Joe.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man. Preserve me from the violent men who imagine mischiefs in their heart. Continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.
Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men who have purposed to overthrow my goings. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords. They have spread a net by the wayside; they have set traps for me. Selah.
I said unto the Lord, “Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord.” O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked! Further not his wicked device, lest they exalt themselves. Selah.
As for the head of those who compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
The prayer of this godly man was no doubt answered. There can be no doubt that God did rescue him from the poisonous hatred and evil intentions of those who wanted to destroy him and his work and that God did pour out "coals of fire" on the head of those evil men. But if God did so, He did so only because the godly man did things God's way. He took his cause to the Lord, and then waited on Him for justice. He did not avenge himself.
God will answer our prayers for His help, too, if we follow the Bible’s wise examples of trusting God. David provided a perfect example of trusting God to be his avenger when he and his loyal friends were fleeing from David’s angry son, Absalom, and his army:
5. And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera. He came forth, and cursed still as he came.
6. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.
7. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, “Come out, come out, you bloody man!” And, “You man of Belial!”
8. The Lord has returned on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned.” And “the Lord has handed the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son!” and, “Behold, you have been taken in your own mischief, because you are a bloody man!”
9. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray you, and take off his head.”
10. And the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? Let him curse so, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ Who shall then say, Why have you done so?”
11. And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, “Behold, my son, who came out of my bowels, is seeking my life. How much more now may this Benjamite do it? Leave him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him.
12. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”
13. And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.
Solomon exhorted his son to follow King David's example:
21. If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.
22. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord will reward you.
Paul exhorted the saints in Rome to give good heed to Solomon's wise counsel:
19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
20. Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.
21. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Every righteous soul, regardless of the pain inflicted, waits on the Lord to judge his cause. To avenge oneself is an expression of unbelief and pride. It is ungodly so much as to “bring a railing accusation” against the devil himself (Jude 9), much less to speak or do evil against human beings who have done you wrong. Be patient. The day of righteous, eternal Judgment is coming, the day when all things will be made known, and all things will be made right. In the meantime, trust in the Lord and live as He says for you to live.