Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Fast that God Has Chosen


Some men in ancient Israel were disappointed when they fasted from food, but God still would not answer their prayers.  “Why have we fasted,” they complained, “and you take no notice?  We have afflicted our souls, but you do not acknowledge it!” (Isa. 58:3a).  God then answered them, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, that they were fasting the wrong way.  To fast, He explained, is not to merely abstain from food; it was a godly lifestyle, which He went on to describe.

As I read the short list of deeds and attitudes that God considers to be a true fast, the last element of that fast struck me because it reminded me of how Jesus said he lived before God.  Isaiah said, “If you honor God by not pursuing your own ways, nor choosing your own will, nor saying a word of yourself . . . .”  When I read that last phrase, “nor saying a word”, I remembered that Jesus said this: “When you lift up the Son of man, then you’ll know that I’m the one, and I’m doing nothing on my own, but as my Father taught me, I say these things” (Jn. 8:28).  “My doctrine is not mine,” he told the people, “but His who sent me” (Jn. 7:16).

None of us, on our own, really have anything worthwhile to say because, on our own, none of us really know anything.  To wait on God for what to say is a tacit confession of that truth, and Jesus always waited on God.

We are free to have our preferences in this life of colors, food, and other earthly things, and we are free to enjoy the earthly things we like.  But in judgment or in teaching, if we would please God, we will not say a word of our own.  Righteous judgment and eternal truth come from God alone, and to live in that truth is part of the fast that God has chosen.





Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Communicating the Truth Requires Patience


The communication of truth requires patience on the part of both the teacher and the student.  The truth cannot be declared in a moment, unless we just say, “Jesus”, and leave it at that.  But even then, we must sit at his feet, as his disciples had to do, and patiently hear him.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Human Anger


The following are some verses that deal with fleshly, human anger.  We would do well to take them in, for if we do not listen to God’s counsel, we may be overcome by the spirit of anger that is raging on earth in our time.  And those who are overcome by fleshly anger, Paul said, “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Biblical counsel #1: Forsake Human Anger

Psalm 37:8 – Refrain from anger and depart from rage.  Do not fret yourself in any way to do evil.

Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

Colossians 3:8 – And put away all these things as well: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy talk from your mouth

1Timothy 2:8 – So then, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger and argument.

Biblical counsel #2: Human Anger Does Not Accomplish Anything Good

James 1:19-20 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now, the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, emulation, angry outbursts, rivalries, disputes, divisions, envy, murder, bouts of drunkenness, revelings, and things like these, concerning which things, I forewarn you, as I also warned you previously, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Examples:
Luke 4:28-29 – When they heard [Jesus speak], everybody in the synagogue was filled with rage, and they rose up and threw him out of the city, and they led him to the brow of the mountain on which their city was built, to throw him off the cliff.

Acts 19:28-29 – When they heard this, they were filled with rage and began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Then the whole city was filled with tumult, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, traveling companions of Paul.

Biblical counsel #3: Fathers, Beware

Ephesians 6:4 – And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21– Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they be discouraged.

Biblical counsel #4: Fools Are Full of It

Ecclesiastes 7:9 – Do not be hasty in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.

Proverbs 12:16 – A fool is known in the day of his wrath, but a prudent man covers over an insult.

Proverbs 27:3 – A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s anger is heavier than them both.

Proverbs 21:24 – His name is scorner who is proud and haughty, acting in arrogant pride. 

Biblical counsel #5: Be Slow to Anger

Proverbs 14:29 – The man who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty exalts foolishness.

Proverbs 16:32 – He who is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he who governs his spirit, than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 15:18 – A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger causes strife to cease.

Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

Biblical counsel #6: Results of Fleshly Anger

Proverbs 19:19 – A man given to anger will bear punishment, for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

Proverbs 30:33 – For as the churning of milk produced curds, and the wringing of the nose produces blood, so the pressing of anger produces strife.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Made into an Abomination


Moved by the Spirit, David spoke of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God after He had brought them out of Egyptian slavery and given them Canaan’s land:

“They mixed themselves with the heathen and learned their works, and they served their idols.  They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons and shed innocent blood – the blood of their own sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was defiled with the blood.  Yea, they were defiled by their works, and they played the harlot by their deeds.  Then the anger of the Lord burned hot against His people, and He made His inheritance an abomination” (Ps. 106:35–40).

God made His own people, Israel, an abomination to people everywhere after they had, for a very long time, treated His law and His servants as though they were abominations.  Israel reaped from the nations of earth the scorn for God that they had sown.
Paul made mention of God cursing Israel in his letter to the saints in Rome.  In the first chapter of that epistle, Paul said that because Israel did not live the truth God had shown them, He turned them over to the demon of homosexuality.  Here is what Paul wrote:

Romans 1
21. For although they knew about God, they did not honor Him as God, nor were they thankful, but they were made vain in their thinking, and their senseless heart was darkened.
22. Claiming to be wise, they were turned over to foolishness,
23. and they traded the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness of corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
24. Therefore also, God turned them over in the lusts of their own hearts to uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves,
25. who traded the truth of God for a lie and began to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.
26. That is why God turned them over to shameful passions.  Their females even exchanged the natural use of their bodies for what is contrary to nature,
27. and the males likewise, leaving the natural use of a female, burned in their desire for one another, males committing disgraceful acts with males, receiving in themselves a fitting recompense for their error.
28. And since they did not see fit to retain God in their knowledge, God turned them over to a depraved mind, to do things that should not be done,
29. being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, and full of envy, murder, strife, treachery, ungodliness.  They became gossipers,
30. slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, devisers of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31. undiscerning, unfaithful, unfeeling, implacable, unmerciful,
32. who, knowing very well the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also approve of those who practice them.

May God not only give us knowledge of the truth, but with it, also bless us with a love for it, for it is love of the truth, not merely knowing it, that will save us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Common Sense vs the Spirit of God


Sometimes, people with common sense can see the lack of wisdom in a law that officials pass.  In that case, people with common sense will sometimes transgress the law and be arrogant and bold with it.  But God’s children are not supposed to be led by common sense, but by the Spirit, and the Spirit will lead us to obey the laws men make unless a law commands us to do something contrary to a commandment of God.  I have heard lately some grumblings among us about the orders from our governor concerning the corona virus restrictions, and that troubles me.  Do not be stubborn and rebellious.  The governor’s stay-at-home order does not contradict any of God’s commandments.  Obey it, and please God!
Jesus had common sense, but he did not allow himself the pleasure of being led by it.  He once told the leaders of Israel, “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but [I’m not going to do that because] my Father is true.”  Jesus only did and said what his Father wanted him to do and say.  Let us all follow his example.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Perfecter and Perfecter and Perfecter


To us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. . . .
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 9:6b, 7a

In this world, to attain to perfection in any endeavor, men must labor, and fine-tune, and experiment, and fail, and try again, and improve, and labor some more.  Only then, and not very often, is perfection in any endeavor achieved.  Perfection is always the goal, and the end result of a successful effort.  And once attained to, there can be no improvement, for perfection is the supreme state of being for anything.  Nothing in this world can be better than perfection.  It cannot be improved upon; otherwise, it was not really perfect to start with.
Jesus showed this congregation some years ago that this world has everything backwards.  In this world, perfection is the end of the process, but in the kingdom of God, perfection is merely the beginning of the process, for after that, life in Christ just gets perfecter and perfecter and perfecter.
This is what the Spirit meant when it said through Isaiah that of the increase of Jesus’ government, there would be no end.  Jesus’ government is in righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Ghost, and so, for those who love and follow Jesus, this means that throughout eternity, by the infinite power and wisdom and goodness of God, they will increase in righteousness, and in peace, and in joy.  Jesus’ government in us begins the day we are born again, the day we are made perfect before God.  From that point on, because we are in him and he in us, we go with him beyond our beginning perfection and are made perfecter and perfecter, growing in grace and the knowledge of God.
The best that a person can be in this world is perfect.  But in our Father’s world, for those who love and obey Jesus, perfect is the worst we will ever be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Many Gods of Christianity


For even if there are those who are called gods,
yet, for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things,
and we live for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things, and we, through him.”
Paul, in 1Corinthians 8:5–6

Rome honored many gods, but they honored three gods above the rest.  Originally, the three were Yahweh, Mars, and Quirinus (Romulus).  Later, they changed the three main gods to Yahweh, Juno his wife, and Minerva.  And besides these three, the Romans honored hundreds of other gods who reigned with various degrees of power over different places and aspects of life.
When the Romans embraced Christianity, they did not forsake their ancient three gods; they renamed them again.  This time, they gave them the names of “Father, Son, and holy Ghost”.  What they did forsake, and even ridicule, was their ancestors’ traditions concerning how to honor those three main gods, as well as the others.  They rejected animal sacrifice, for one example, but they replaced that ceremony with another, the Eucharist, which they said was a new kind of sacrifice, a sacrifice of Christ.  In this new and improved form of sacrifice, the priest, they say, miraculously changes the eucharistic bread into the actual body of Jesus, and changes the eucharistic wine into the actual blood of Jesus.  And then, just like their ancestors, they partook of the sacrifice along with the gods, eating and drinking with them the body and blood of the Lamb.
Long before the gospel was preached by Jesus, many sophisticated Greeks and Romans had begun to think that there was probably just one Supreme Being, whom they usually represented as the sun.  This sun-god was often called “Sol Invictus”, or “the Unconquerable Sun”, and the Romans engraved his name on many ancient coins.  He was the favorite god of the first Christian emperor, Constantine.  All the other gods, ancient sophisticated people would say, may be real, but even so, they were only living aspects of the Supreme God.  One might say, the many gods were really just one big god, and the one big god was really many.
This polytheism disguised as monotheism continued when the Romans became Christian, but in order to appeal to all parties, they devised a crafty solution.  For the devout Christians who demanded that there was but one God, the Empire said yes, there is one God, but He reveals himself as three persons, who were not three different persons, but were really just one person who was three.  So simple!  And on the other hand, in order to please traditional Romans’ desire to honor all their ancient gods, the Empire said yes, but just call the gods by biblical names.  So, the most important of the gods who were not one of the three main gods (who were not three, but one) were called Mary, Paul, Peter, etc.  These gods, too, Rome said, could answer prayers, just like the big three (who were really just one).  And these big three (who were really just one) would not be jealous or otherwise displeased when prayers, incense, and the like, were offered to the lesser gods, just as it had always been.  What solution could be better?
Christianity has many hundreds of these minor gods, just like ancient Rome, because Christianity is Rome, disguised as the Assembly of God.  Christianity’s minor deities are called “patron saints”, and within the purest form of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, those who are confirmed into that faith are expected to choose one of the minor deities as their favorite, to especially revere as they go through life.  If a Roman was a soldier, he might especially revere and pray to Mars, the god of war, while if a Christian is a soldier, he may choose Saint Adrian, Christianity’s patron god of soldiers and arms dealers.  Or an ancient Roman alcoholic might choose to especially revere Bacchus, the god of wine and partying, but a Christian alcoholic may choose Saint Amand, the god of vine-growers and bartenders.  The list goes on and on, but isn’t it obvious what a great development this was for the Roman Empire and for the apostate believers who blended with it?  They all agreed just to call Rome’s ancient gods by biblical names, and abra-cadabra, everybody was happy!  They all agreed just to condemn the old Romans and their gods’ names and traditions, but to continue to walk in the filthy spirit of man and just call it the holy Spirit of God!  How easy is that!  Just condemn the old, heathen Empire and call it the new, sanctified Church of God.  Voila!  No more persecutions of Christians, and everybody gets along – unless someone does not go along with the new system.  Then, just like the Rome of old, who cruelly crushed whoever did not submit, Christian leaders would cruelly crush that soul, in the name of their new God, the old Yahweh of Rome.
The problem with all this, of course, is that it is what it is.  In other words, the problem is that Christianity is itself.  It is not of Christ.  Its gospel is a lie, which it calls truth; its god is Yahweh, whom it calls God; and its worship is wickedness, which it calls righteousness.  Christianity is nothing but the Roman Empire in drag, a grizzled old warrior calling himself the bride of Christ.  But when the wind of God blows, you can see his hairy legs beneath that bridal dress.
Other than that, though, Christianity is ok.  Go ahead and join the church of your choice.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Through Him


The world was created through him.”
John 1:10b
To indicate that a man did a job all by himself, we say it was done by him.  But to indicate that he sent another man to do the job, we say that the job was done by the first man through the second.  This is why John said the world was created through the Son of God.  God is the Creator; even Jesus said that (e.g., Mk. 13:19).  However, God created all things through His Son. The writer of Hebrews said, “God spoke to us in these last days by a Son . . . through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1b, 2b).  Jesus confessed that the Father was greater than he and that he did and said only what the Father wanted him to do or say.  He was the perfect Son and the perfect Servant of God.  The Son did not create anything on his own; God created everything in heaven and earth through him.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

God Wants To Save Your Whole Life


Pastor John’s message for the teenagers 7/3/19 

I know what the Lord was telling each of these teenagers in here tonight while I was praying for them.  He kept saying after each one, “God wants the life.”  You young people grew up around holiness; you’re in all the prayer meetings, and you have learned how to act in them.  You have learned how to act when you feel the Spirit.  But God is not interested in your prayer, your songs, or your worship from you unless He has your life.  He wants the life.  That includes how you treat one another when you’re out together somewhere. That also includes the times you are home by yourself.  He wants your life.  He wants you.  That’s what God wants.  He wants you, and if He doesn’t have you, then you’d be better off not to praise the Lord.  That’s what Paul called eating and drinking damnation to yourself.
You can learn how to act in a meeting of the saints, but if God has your life, you’ll know how to act around sinners, and you’ll know how to act outside the meeting of the saints.  If God has your life, He has your heart.  And if He has your heart, He has your tongue, your hands, your decisions, and your desires – if He has your life.  That is what He is after because He wants to save your life.  Yes, God wants to save your life, and if you want to save your life, then give it to Him.  Get rid of it because you don’t know what to do with it.
Paul says we don’t even know how to pray like we ought to.  He gave his life to the Lord, and he said the Spirit talks some good stuff through me!  Praise God!  He gave his life to the Lord, and just look at the result!  Look at his faith and what he did.  Do you want to be worth something in this world?  Give your life to Jesus.  You’ll be valuable to every person you meet.  You’ll have something good for them even if it’s nothing more than a warm smile.  You’ll have it for them if God has your life.  You won’t be a bad influence on those around you, especially the younger ones looking up to you.  You won’t be something they’ll have to overcome to do the right thing.
If God has your life, He has your attitude toward parents, toward government, toward authority, and toward those who are smaller or weaker than yourselves.  If He has your life, you will bless them, and God will bless you.  That’s what God wants.  He wants to save your life, not just your soul.  
My father told us that it is a good thing for older people to get right with God and not go to hell because that is a soul saved; however, it is better for people to come to God while they are young so He can save their whole life.  That’s what God wants to save – your life!  He wants your life because only He knows what to do with it.  You don’t know.  I didn’t know when I was young.  I made a mess out of my life.  Jesus picked me up out of the dung heap and said, “Give me your life.”  I said, “I give up.”  I gave up, and he gave me a life!  This is the life Jesus gave me when I gave up mine.  This is the life Jesus gave me.  He created this person who is talking to you out of the ragged life that I gave Him.  And it was a pleasure for my “old man” to die, let me tell you.  It was a relief for my old self to get out of the way and just let Jesus guide my life. Amen!  Hallelujah!  Praise God forever!

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Mysterious Bond


That which we have seen and heard we are showing you,
so that you may also have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship
is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1John 1:3

Jesus often puzzled and/or angered men because of his enigmatic answers to their questions.  They did not know that his answers were coming from his heavenly Father, and if his Father did not give one to his heart, Jesus would not speak.  You will recall his silence when some elders demanded that he render a judgment on the poor woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1–11).  And you will recall the exasperation of Pontius Pilate when Jesus would not speak and defend himself against the false charges brought against him: “‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’  And yet, he did not answer him with even one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.  Therefore, Pilate said to him, ‘You do not speak to me?  Do you not understand that I have authority to crucify you, and I have authority to release you?’ ” (Mt. 27:13b–14; Jn. 19:10).
Jesus spoke to men only after the Father had spoken to him.  He saw much among his nation that would have profited from his wise advice, but he refused to offer it unless the Father, through the invisible bond He had with Jesus, moved him to do so.  Jesus once told the rulers of the Jews, “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent me is true, and the things I’ve heard from Him, these I speak to the world” (Jn. 8:26).  And John immediately adds that “They did not understand that he spoke of the Father to them” (Jn. 8:27).
No, men did not understand Jesus because they knew nothing of the mysterious bond that Jesus had with his Father.  They did not understand how he could say, when he was standing alone in their midst, “I’m not alone, but I am with the Father who sent me” (Jn. 8:16b).  And when they demanded of him, “‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus did not tell them, but only answered, ‘You don’t know me or my Father’ (Jn. 8:19).  If they had known about the sweet fellowship of the Father and the Son, they would have known that the Father was leading Jesus by the Spirit and that He was always with his Son, everywhere he went.
Jesus suffered and died so that we could receive the Spirit and share in his mysterious bond with the Father.  And even though he knew that in this world, a multitude of voices can be heard claiming to speak for his Father, he was not worried at all.  “My sheep”, he said, “hear my voice, and “they will never follow a stranger” (Jn. 10:27, 5).  We can rejoice in that.  It is a promise from God, for Jesus would not have said it unless the Father had said it to him first.  If we walk faithfully in the sweet, holy Spirit that Jesus purchased for us, we will always recognize his voice when we hear it, even in the midst of a mad world, filled with voices clamoring for our attention.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Prosperity of the Wicked


I will punish the men who are settled on their lees,
who say in their heart, ‘The LORD does neither good nor evil.
Zephaniah 1:12b

Wait for the LORD!  Be strong, and He will strengthen your heart.
Wait, I say, for the LORD!
Psalm 27:14

It can be very puzzling when the Lord does not do what seems to us to be needed.  Even Israel’s prophets were puzzled and disappointed by God’s failure to act in the face of obvious injustice.  Lonely, frustrated Jeremiah cried out to God (12:1–2a), “You are righteous, O LORD, although I complain to you.  Nevertheless, let me speak with you about your judgments.  Why does the way of wicked men prosper?  All those who deal treacherously are at ease.  You have planted them and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.  You are near in their mouth, but you are far from their affections.
I have felt the same way at times.  The Lord is right in all his ways, I know; still, I wonder why the wicked schemes of men succeed so often?  In this world, I have learned, evil sometimes wins.  Why does God not stop it from succeeding?
Young David must have had feelings like that, persecuted as he was by King Saul, though David had done only good to the King.  It must have been a great encouragement to David when the Spirit spoke through him and said (Ps. 37:7–11), “Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for Him.  Do not fret yourself because of him who makes his way prosperous, because of the man who carries out evil schemes.  Refrain from anger and depart from rage.  Do not fret yourself in any way to do evil.  For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait on the LORD will inherit the land.  Yet a little while, and the wicked man will be no more.  Though you diligently watch his place, he will not be there.  But the meek will inherit the land, and they will delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
When David became King, one of his chief musicians was a man named Asaph.  This Asaph also went through a time of great frustration at God blessing the wicked, and when he was past that trial of his faith, he wrote a song about it:

Psalm 73
A Psalm by Asaph.

1. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; my steps were almost gone.
3. For I was envious of those who are praised.  I saw the happiness of wicked men.
4. For there are no bonds on them until death, and their bodies are stout.
5. They are not in trouble as other men are, and they are not plagued along with other men.
6. Therefore, pride encircles them like a necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
7. Their eye stands out with fatness; they have more than heart can wish.
8. They mock and speak wickedly of oppression; they speak loftily.
9. They set their mouth against heaven, and their tongue walks through the earth.
10. Therefore, His people turn away after them, and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
11. And they say, “How can God know?” and “Is there knowledge on high?”
12. Behold, these are the wicked, always at ease; they increase in wealth.
13. Truly, in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence,
14. for I am plagued all day long, and correction comes to me every morning.

At this point in Asaph’s song of testimony, he says he stopped and realized what a bad example he would be to God’s children if he gave in to the feelings of envy and bitterness:

15. If I had decided, “I will talk that way,” behold, I would have offended a generation of your children.
16. When I tried to understand this, it was hard for me
17. until I entered into God’s sanctuary; then, I considered their end.
18. You have surely put them [the wicked] in slippery places; you cause them to fall into ruin.
19. How suddenly they come to desolation!  They come to an end, consumed by terrors.
20. As it is with a dream after one has wakened, when you rise up, my Lord, you will disregard their semblance.

When Asaph’s faith in God’s judgments was restored, he realized how foolish he had been:

21. When my heart was bitter, my soul was pierced,
22. and I was brutish and did not understand.  I was like an animal before you.
23. Yet, I was always with you.  You held onto my right hand.
24. With your counsel, you will guide me, and afterwards, you will receive me to glory.
25. Whom have I in heaven but you?  And I delight in none on earth besides you.
26. My flesh and my heart fail.  God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27. For, behold, those far from you will perish.  You will destroy all who go a-whoring from you.
28. But as for me, the nearness of God is good for me.  I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, that I might declare all your works.

The key to Asaph’s deliverance was this: “I entered into God’s sanctuary; then, I considered their end.”  In other words, when Asaph was at his lowest point, he was still seeking God, and when he sought God, God answered him, and when God answered him, Asaph believed what God said.  That was the key.
When the ungodly prosper, when God does not immediately punish them for their behavior, they are happy and feel blessed, and they become more ungodly than ever.  They think either that God is pleased with them or that there is no reason to fear His judgments at all.  When the upright see the wicked prosperous and happy, they seek God to find out why the wicked are so blessed.  And when He shows them His coming judgments, they are encouraged and are content to wait on Him.




Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Led by the Spirit


Then he answered and spoke to me, saying,
‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
Not by strength, nor by power,
but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Hosts.’
Zechariah 4:6

Paul said that only those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God (Rom. 8:14).  He did not say that those who join the church of their choice, or those who repeat Romans 10:9, or those who claim to believe the Bible are children of God.  Just those who are led by the Spirit.  That’s all.
We could apply Paul’s standard to every righteous person since the beginning of the world.  Only those who were led by the Spirit to prophesy were prophets, not those who were esteemed prophets by the people, or those who graduated with a prophesying degree from the Prophecy Institute for Saving Souls (or whatever).  Just the ones who were led by the Spirit.  Likewise, only those who were led by the Spirit in wisdom were wise men, not those who were esteemed wise by the people, or those who graduated with a wisdom degree from the School of Higher Insight in Theology (or whatever).  Just the ones who were led by the Spirit.
Think about it.  What true man of God ever was not led by the Spirit?  For that matter, what true man of God was ever led by the Scriptures?  What scripture did Noah read that inspired him to build an ark?  What scripture inspired Abraham to leave his country and his kindred?  What scripture moved Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, or what verse told David that he should challenge and kill Goliath?  What verses did the lions read that told them not to eat God’s servant, Daniel?  What scripture did Jesus quote to heal the sick or raise the dead, or what scripture carried Paul to the third heaven to hear things unlawful for him to speak?
It has always been the case that those who are truly God’s servants are led by God’s Spirit, and now that the Son of God has given us that Spirit within, it is more true than ever.  God help us never to think that anything else will do.

Monday, April 13, 2020

God's Hedge


And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job,
that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect 
and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil?’ 
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?
Have you not made a hedge around him,
and around his house, and around all that he has on every side?’
Job 1:8–10a

God did have a hedge around Job and all he had, and He had kept that hedge around Job for many years.  But now, He would take that hedge down, and He sent Satan down to earth to rob Job of his health, his children, and all that he had.  But have you ever noticed that Satan, though he was wicked, remained unharmed?  And he was unharmed because God had a hedge around him, too – to protect Satan from the wrath of His Son, who was still hidden.
Thousands of years later, when God revealed His Son, after Jesus ascended to the Father, he cast Satan out of heaven forever.  In other words, God took down the protective hedge that Satan had enjoyed when He glorified His Son, and the glorified Son removed that wicked cherub from his exalted position and banished him from the presence of God.
The Son was revealed, and Satan was judged, only in God’s time.  “In the fullness of time,” Paul wrote, “God sent His Son.”  There is another judgment coming, the Final Judgment, and it, too, will come at the appointed time.  Satan now roams the earth “seeking whom he may devour”; however, when Jesus returns to earth, he will cast him away again, this time from earth and into the Bottomless Pit, and then, after a thousand years, into the Lake of Fire forever.


Monday, April 6, 2020

A More Certain Word


[Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice
was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son,
 in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice we heard coming out of heaven
when we were with him on the holy mountain. And yet, we have
a more certain prophetic wordto which you do well to give heed, 
as to a light shining in a gloomy place, until the day breaks 
and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.
2Peter 1:17–21
What could be more certain than hearing God’s own voice coming out of heaven?  Hearing God’s voice coming out of you!  When the holy Ghost comes into your mortal body and moves you to speak, that is more certain than hearing God’s voice coming from anywhere else!  And we would all do well to give heed to that, just as our brother Peter said.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Missed Blessing


Be ready, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of man is coming.”
Jesus, in Matthew 24:44

One day about forty years ago, brother Earl Pittman and I were traveling in his truck to visit some of the saints we knew.  We did this often and enjoyed it.  This day as we rode along, we were singing songs, praising God, and talking excitedly about the things of the Spirit when, all of a sudden, the Spirit fell on me and I heard myself say, “We’re going to have a visitor from the Lord tomorrow!”  We were both surprised, but pleased, and since there was nothing to do about it then, we continued our trip toward ours friends’ houses.
At that time, I was living in a very old and run-down house we had purchased.  Every day, it seemed, I worked on that house to rescue it from the grave.  The day after my trip with Earl to see our friends, I was working to patch the floor where I had torn out a crumbling fireplace.  I worked through the morning, and in the afternoon, I heard that “still, small voice” several times tell me, “It’s time to stop now.”  But I pushed on.  There was a lot to do.
Finally, late in the afternoon, I put my tools down and went to get cleaned up.  As I was getting out of the shower, I heard a knock at the front door.  I remembered what I had said the day before.  “The visitor from the Lord!” I thought, and rushed to get dry and dressed.  I rushed to the front door.  No one was there.  I ran out to the sidewalk in front of our house and looked in both directions.  No one.  “How could he have gotten away so fast?” I wondered.  It didn’t strike me until I was writing this line that I didn’t think to look up.  That is where the visitor had come from.  As it was, I stood there, feeling very bad.  Why had I not listened to the tender voice of Jesus, telling me it was time to stop working on that old house?
There is an old hymn that exhorts us to “take time to be holy.”  We all have projects to finish and responsibilities to meet.  But when God offers us a blessing, we would be wise to make time for it.  Jesus said that the cares of this life can choke out the word of God in our lives, that is, earthly responsibilities can rob us of blessings we would receive if we only made time in our busy schedules for Jesus.  Be wise.  Attending to important things, necessary things in this world, can rob us of blessings the Lord sends our way, blessings received only by those who have put their tools down and are waiting on the Lord.






Salvation


Some years ago, Jesus gave me a brief vision in which he taught me what salvation is.  In the vision, I saw him with me, with his arm around my shoulder.  He had gently turned me away from this world and was leading me in the other direction – forever.  It was sad to think of never even looking back to see my wife and children one more time, or the places of my childhood, or the sweet friends in the Lord that I knew.  It was just Jesus, a little taller than myself in the vision, and me, walking away from it all forever.  How would they all do in their lives?  What would happen to them, and how would they respond?  Jesus was asking me to think only of the eternal things to which he was taking me.
At the time, having learned that salvation is the end of our faith, as Peter said (1Pet. 1:9), and that we must endure to the end to receive salvation, as Jesus said (Mt. 24:13), I assumed that Jesus was teaching me how it will feel at the end of my life when I must go to receive my reward from God.  I am sure I will feel some sadness at leaving the ones who love me and whom I love; in fact, I feel that now, just thinking about it.  But I think that was not his point, and I have only now realized it.
I was sitting in my recliner, remembering how my father lived his life, wondering how I could explain it to someone, when that brief vision of Jesus and me came to mind.  “That’s it!” I thought to myself. “That is how he lived!”
Our eternal salvation is at the end, but our journey starts now, when Jesus comes to us and turns us away, not just from the sinfulness of this world, but also from the people and things in this world that we love.  There is joy in having our hearts turned from sin, but sorrow in having our hearts turned from people and places we love to make room for God to be first in our hearts.  This is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “He who loves his life shall lose it, and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life” (Jn. 12:25).  And he made that truth more personal when he said to his disciples, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:37–39). 
When Jesus comes and puts his arm around your shoulder to turn you away from this world and your life in it, he is handing you your cross.  Go with him and bear it; look steadfastly to God for guidance, not to your wife, or your children, your friends, or your own mind.  It’s the only way to do what is truly right, for others and for yourself.  And if you do that with Jesus, in not too long a time, you and they will be glad that you chose the road of salvation instead of following them.

Friday, April 3, 2020

My Testimony


Some years ago, I went out at dusk to pray before that night’s prayer meeting.  I walked along the railroad tracks that ran behind large warehouses near my home, and as I prayed, the holy Spirit came upon me and began to speak through me in an indignant tone.  It was as if the millions of pieces of gravel along the tracks were the people of earth, and God was speaking to them through me.  This is some of what the Spirit, with intense scorn, said: “What difference does it make, what men say about anything? [The Spirit spoke the word “men” with supreme contempt.]  If men call a man a prophet, does that make him a prophet?  If men call a man a pastor, does that make him a pastor?  What difference does it make, what men say about anything!”  And finally this, “Am I confused by your delusions!”
Even though God was demanding an answer, not a single stone along the tracks could render one.  They were, of course, completely insensible to my voice.  But then, unless God touches our hearts, we humans are as dead to Him as those railroad stones were to me.
Then the Spirit began to laugh through me – powerfully laugh – but without the first hint of joy.  It was a terrifying, threatening laughter which echoed off the long tin roofs of the warehouses along the tracks.  I literally staggered under its power.  God’s fury burned through my eyes as His laughter roared from my throat.  The laughter consumed me, and I could not speak, but my heart was begging God, “Please, God, don’t ever let me hear you laugh at me like this!”
While that was happening, I could hear the Spirit speaking the words that it spoke through David long ago, as a warning to proud children of God (Prov. 1:24–26): “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity.  I will mock when your fear cometh.”  I was terrified.
When my twilight prayer ended, I was left standing alone on the tracks, marveling at what I had experienced.  How worthless are our thoughts and ways, and how desperately we need to think God’s thoughts and know His ways!  God is not confused by our delusions; we only confuse each other with our vain ideas about God and how to serve Him.
I tell this story to emphasize a critical point.  God being the Creator means that whatever He says, is, but as for us, we make nothing true by speaking it.  Men claim many things, but nothing is truly possessed unless God has given it.  There is nothing human about God!  He cannot die, and He cannot lie.  Even if the entire world were to join hands and proclaim a thing to be true, God would not be moved or confused by it, for He knows that nothing is true unless He says it.  None of the claims or pompous pronouncements of men carry any weight whatsoever in heaven, and God knows that.  But do we?
My friends, only the man God calls a pastor is a pastor.  Only the man God calls a prophet is a prophet.  Only the man God anoints is anointed.  And only the man God says is born again is born again.  Finally, you should know that God recognizes no assembly of worshippers as being an Assembly of His unless He created that Assembly by His Spirit, and it is not wise to participate in the worship of any assembly where the Spirit is not welcome and the people are not free to be moved by it.
Pastor John

Government in the Assembly of God, Part 4


The Authority of Rulers in the Assembly of God

This is the last of four parts of a Bible study that I did some years ago.  Instead of writing out all my thoughts, I have decided to provide you only with my old notes and let you and the Lord fill in the gaps.  Enjoy the time with Jesus.

1. Hebrews 13:17:
There is a spiritual gift of ruling among the saints (Rom. 12:6–8).  Some examples of God’s anointed servants exercising authority among the saints are:

Acts 4:32–35 and 1Timothy 5:8–11:
authority to make decisions concerning the money brought to the Lord by the saints

Acts 6:1–6:
authority to appoint certain people to certain jobs for the welfare of the saints


1Corinthians 9:1–15 and Philippians 4:10–18:
authority to live, or to refuse to live, from the financial support of the saints, whatever is best for the Assembly

Note
(1) Tithes and offerings are a person’s confession that there is government in the Assembly of God, that there are rulers among God’s people.  It is a confession much like Abraham’s, when he met and rendered tithes to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:6–7).

(2) It is unreasonable to bring God’s money to a man who is unable to bless you.  It is unreasonable to bring tithes and offerings to a man whose displeasure you do not fear or whose commandments you would not obey.

(3) A ruler in the Assembly has authority to give commandments to God’s people.

(4) The servants of God have authority to deal with troublemakers:

2Thess. 3:4–16: forbidding them to eat at the expense of the saints

1Tim. 1:20: turning them over to Satan

1Cor. 5:9–13: sending them away from the Assembly

(5) Rulers over the saints are free to do WHATEVER is in the best interest of the Assembly.  That is the reason they exist.

When God Has to Judge:

The rulers among the saints are a shelter for them from the wrath of God.  Where there is no one with an anointing to judge among the saints, Jesus steps in.

1Cor. 11:31; Rev. 2:13–23; 3:1–6