Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Only Logical Conclusion

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 23:6

With this last verse from the most famous of all Psalms, David was not giving us an example of the“name it and claim it” doctrine. He was merely stating what logically had to be the case, based on personal experiences with God.

To begin, as the first verse indicates, David was born an Israelite. So, he learned as a child that God had a special and close relationship with Israel, and it had begun long before David was born. David had nothing to do with it. This meant that just because David was born in Israel, the Lord was his Shepherd. He even sang about it: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who leads Joseph like a flock! You, who dwells between the cherubim, shine forth!”

Secondly, David had experienced sin, but then also experienced God’s redemption from it. He knew what it was like to feel condemnation and shame and what it was like to receive mercy from God. In fact, David at one point committed two sins for which there was no forgiveness under the Law, adultery and murder, and yet God had gone beyond the Law and forgiven the miserable king. When David said, “He restores my soul,” he was testifying to the great, unexpected, and unprecedented mercy he had received. David knew he had nothing to do with his being forgiven. God had simply reached down and rescued him from the shadow of certain death. If there had been a sacrifice David could have made that would have atoned for his sins, he would have gladly made it, but for the sins of adultery and murder, there were no sacrifices to make.

When David said, “You anoint my head with oil,” he was remembering the day he was out in the field keeping his father’s sheep when a thoroughly winded servant brought a message from his father in Bethlehem. It would have been something like this: “Your father says come to the feast immediately. The prophet Samuel has come to town, and he says we cannot eat until you come.” David went to the feast, and Samuel poured the anointing oil of God on his head, signifying that God had chosen him to be Israel’s next king. David had nothing to do with it. God had simply chosen him to be Israel’s next king. Nobody had advised or even asked God to anoint David.

When David said, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” he was remembering the courage and faith God had fed him when David faced the giant Philistine, and he was remembering the untouchable, sacred bread in the tabernacle which God allowed David and his friends to eat when he was running for his life from mad king Saul.

When David said that God “makes me to lie down in green pastures,” and, “leads me beside the still waters,” he was remembering the great peace that always came to him when he took time to draw near to God.

David was able to write, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” because God had convinced David that He loved him. God had convinced David that He was going to deliver him regardless of the circumstances in which David found himself. He had convinced David that He was David’s friend.

In saying, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” David was not claiming, as many do now, “I’m saved and you can’t make me doubt it.” Instead, he was simply confessing that God’s love had won his heart and that, based on the loving kindness God had repeatedly shown him throughout his life, the only logical conclusion was that God wanted him to live forever and was determined to see to it that David did.

Monday, December 29, 2008


For, lo, I will command,
and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
the way corn is sifted in a sieve;
and yet, not the least grain shall fall upon the earth.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
which say, ‘The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.’
Amos 9:9-10

Just how great do we believe our God is? How wise? How much control over His Creation does He exercise? David said God chastens the heathen as well as His own people. The wise prophet Daniel and the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar both understood that God alone determines who rules over the nations on this earth. Jesus said that God has numbered to you the very hairs of your head! And throughout the Bible, God is said to be in complete charge of every element of nature, not just the sunshine and rain, but the stormy winds and ice as well.

Just how much in command of the events and circumstances of this life do we believe God really is? The answer to that determines how much peace and understanding we possess. The prophecy from Amos 9, above, presents to us an astonishing view of God’s complete command of events in this world, and it calls us to faith in Him as master of His universe.

First, Amos’ prophecy is that God promised to scatter the Israelites among all nations, which He most certainly did. The Jews wandered among the nations for two thousand years before God brought them back to the land He promised Abraham and restored them as a nation in May of 1948. Hosea had prophesied (9:17) that the Jews would be “wanderers among the nations”, and they were.

But what God said He would be doing while the Jews were “wanderers” is the most amazing element of Amos’ prophecy, for He said that He would use that wandering process to sift out of Israel every soul that was joined to sin and rebellion. He is stating plainly that every soul would, over time, be destroyed out of Israel who would not confess that God is just and that the sufferings of the Jewish people were God’s punishment for their rebellion against Him. Over the centuries, those souls would be sifted out by the mighty hand of God, using evil men to accomplish His holy, though dreadful purpose.

On the other hand, not one “grain” of wheat, that is, not one Jewish heart that possessed some willingness to confess the truth will be lost to the sifting process. Which Jew died and which Jew survived Hitler’s awful Holocaust seems random to us because we have neither the power nor the wisdom to kill that many people without unintentionally harming some that we would want to save. But God is not a big one of us. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. Amos’ prophecy tells us that each Jew slain during the past two thousand years was slain only because God chose that specific life to be taken from the earth. God has never randomly done anything; why should we think He would randomly deal with His own chosen people?

When the Beast leads the armies of the earth against Israel in the final battle before the return of the Lord, God will determine which Jews are killed by the Beast’s armies (and there will be many) and which Jews will still be living to see Jesus come down from heaven to rescue them. The Beast’s attack on Israel will not be random . It will be the final shake of God’s dread sifter, and in that event, as in the events of the past two thousand years, not one grain of wheat will fall to the ground.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Opening and Shutting The Door

I have set before you an open door that no one can shut.”
Jesus, in Revelation 3:8

During a 1972 sermon in an afternoon prayer meeting at Grandma’s farmhouse, my father pointed out that Noah did not lock anyone out of the ark. God is the one who shut that door, to save Noah and his family and to condemn the wicked world outside. Then my father went on to quote a prophecy of Christ from Isaiah 22:22: “He shall open [the door] and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”

Later in that same sermon, and dealing with another subject, he quoted a famous portion of Scripture from John 10:7-9: “Then again, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you that I’m the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t hear them. I’m the door; if anyone enters through me, he’ll be saved, and he’ll come in, and go out, and find pasture.”

When I heard that Scripture, the Lord reminded me of the previous one from Isaiah, and putting the two together, I understood what Jesus opens and closes – himself! He either opens his heart to a person, or he does not. If he does open his heart to a person and convicts him of sin, no man can make that conviction go away. And if Jesus closes himself to a person, no one can make that individual feel the call of the Spirit of God.

That thought reminds me of what Paul said in Romans 9: “For He said to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then, it is not of him who wants it, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. . . . Therefore, He has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens.”

If you have any interest in, or feel any sincere curiosity about the things of God, it is only because Jesus is opening his heart to you now, and is inviting you to come in. Take advantage of the golden opportunity of that open door. There is not another one like it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Not In This Place!"

Prophesy not again any more at Bethel,
for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.”
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, in Amos 7:13

What was Amaziah thinking? That high ranking priest forbade Amos to speak, a man whom God anointed and called away from his herds in Tekoah, and then sent him to Bethel to prophesy to the fallen tribes of the north. Obviously, Amaziah did not believe Amos was sent from God to say anything to the worshipers at Bethel. But why?

Amaziah was a part of Israel, the chosen nation. He was a descendant of Abraham, and a partaker of the promised land with all the other Israelites. Amos’ message could only have blessed Amaziah if he had received it and done things God’s way.

Let’s consider Amaziah’s reasons for running Amos out of Bethel. First, he said, “This is the king’s chapel.” In other words, “Amos, you can’t give prophecies like that in a place like this. Here at Bethel, we prophesy pleasant things to the king. We promise him the favor of the gods, not their displeasure. He doesn’t pay us to forecast doom and accuse him of sinfulness, as you do.”

Secondly, said Amaziah, “This is the king’s court.” In other words, “It isn’t a smart career move to say bad things about the nation and the king here. In fact, it is downright unpatriotic. In this place, we flatter the king and proclaim messages that support his policies.”

Men have always had their “high places” where the word of God seemed out of place, such as their great public buildings and their fine cathedrals. When Paul spoke to the saints of “spiritual wickedness in high places,” he was not speaking of heaven; he was speaking of earth. God dwells with the lowly, and you will not find many of them in the high places which men have built.

Do you know of any place where men would think a message from God about righteousness and sin would be unwelcome? If so, stay out of it and pray to hear the voice of God.

Monday, December 8, 2008

“Prophesy Not!”

“‘Prophesy not!’ they say to them who prophesy.”
Micah 2:6

“They hate the one who rebukes [the wicked] in the gate;
they abhor him who speaks uprightly.”
Amos 5:10

Strange as it may seem, God’s people have a long history of rejecting the truth when their heavenly Father sends it to them, and of abusing the messengers He sends to them. The biblical record shows that only a small percentage of believers – people who truly do belong to God – welcome what He has to say to them or treat His messengers with respect.

In Micah 2:6, God quotes some of the exact words that His people used to demand that His prophets keep their mouths shut: “They say to those who prophesy, ‘Prophesy not!’” Then, He went on to tell Micah that since His people wanted Him to be silent, He would be silent. His prophets, He said, “shall not prophesy to them, so that they will not be ashamed.” In other words, God decided to cease from reproving them for their sins and causing them to be ashamed. He decided to give up and leave them to their own lusts. In short, He decided to let the darkness of sin have them (Mic. 3:6-7):

Therefore night shall be unto you, and you shall not have a vision, and it shall be dark unto you, that you shall not divine. And the sun will go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded. Yea, they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.”

It is an honor for God to think on us and to speak to us, whatever it is that He says. As both David and Job said, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” Jesus said that he chastens and rebukes everyone whom he loves (Rev. 3:19), and we need him to do that for us. But if we stubbornly refuse His counsel when He offers it, and if we maltreat His messengers and demand that they stop speaking His word to us, we may provoke the Lord to do just as we demand.

Not Just the Old

This kind of rebelliousness against the word of our God is not just an Old Testament phenomenon. Paul lived to see every congregation that he established in the Roman province of Asia turn against him. With a heavy heart, the aged apostle told young Timothy, “All they of Asia have forsaken me.” Included among these fallen saints were Paul’s beloved converts in Ephesus, whom he had forewarned with tears, that “after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). But even though he could see it coming, there was nothing Paul could do to prevent that awful prophecy from being fulfilled.

Paul also prophesied of the apostasy of a large part of the world-wide body of Christ. He spoke to the Thessalonians of “a great falling away” among God’s people, and he told Timothy that the time would come when God’s children on earth would “not put up with sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, they will heap to themselves teachers [that is, they will hire ministers], having itching ears. And they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2Tim. 4:3-4).

Everything Paul said would happen to the body of Christ came to pass. But can we see it? Or are we among the ones whose eyes have been blinded by that strong delusion that has carried away the saints of God and made them unwilling, or unable, to hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Curse of Your Choice

Come to Bethel and transgress . . .”
Amos 4:4a

God is a poet and a singer, a clever writer and an artist. This is revealed in many ways that we can easily see, and in a few others that we do not so quickly grasp.

In the verse above from Amos 4, God is speaking to Israel through the humble herdsman Amos, in mockery of the call to worship that Israel usually heard. The false prophets in Israel would call to the people to “Come to Bethel and serve God!” But God spoke through Amos in mockery of them, saying, “Come to Bethel and transgress!” In English, the cleverness of God cannot be seen, but to the Israelites, it could not be missed.

The Hebrew word for “serve” is avad. That Hebrew word rhymes with the Hebrew word for “transgress”, which is avar. So, Amos sounded just like one of the false prophets, calling the people to worship before the golden calf at Bethel – until the last syllable was spoken. That last syllable, an “r” instead of a “d”, made the rulers in Israel furious, and it must have stunned the people who were deceived by them. Because of the way Hebrew letters are shaped, even when those two words are written, they can easily be confused, just as Israel was confused in Amos ' day concerning what was service to God and what was transgression against Him. The call of the false prophets to come to Bethel and worship promoted the very thing that divided the chosen people, the very thing God hated most. The worship at Bethel was a curse, not a blessing, and yet it was promoted by virtually all of the leaders of Israel, religious and otherwise, including the kings.


What would the Lord say to us now? His people now are divided into a thousand different Christian sects, and instead of being ashamed of ourselves and crying out for Jesus to come make us one in love and faith, we boast of our divisions as if they were good. The false prophets of ancient Israel did no worse than what many of the leaders of God’s own people are doing now.

Have you ever seen the bumper stickers and billboards which call men to “Join the Church of Your Choice”? But church religion fragments God’s children; it divides them into various sects that are contrary to each other in doctrine, in traditions, and in practice. The signs are promoting the curse! Division is a curse, not a blessing! We can never be united in Christ if we all “join the church of our choice.” God’s heart must be broken for the divisions in His earthly family, and yet those divisions are unashamedly promoted as if Christ died for us to be divided and to be taught different doctrines about him and the Father.

I wonder what God might write on the billboards which promote the curse of division among His children? Instead of “Join the Church of Your Choice”, I think He might write, “Join the Curse of Your Choice!”

Fathers, have you picked out a curse for your family yet? Mothers, which curse is your favorite?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sometimes Evil Wins

“Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off;
for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Yea, truth faileth, and the one who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”
Isaiah 59:14-15

“Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee;
yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why are they all happy who deal very treacherously?”
Jeremiah 12:1

For most of my life, I have thought that, one way or another, if severe persecution ever came upon me or upon others in Christ, the righteous would somehow be able to get enough of the truth out in their defense to turn the tide, if they were close enough to God. Looking back on it, I don’t know why I ever thought that. The Bible is full of examples of perfectly innocent, wise, and upright people being ruthlessly persecuted. And in most of those stories, those suffering saints were unable to do anything to escape from the persecution or stop it.

If by declaring the truth and exposing the persecutors to be who they really are, God’s servants could overcome the envy and lies spoken against them, Jeremiah would never had been cast into a mud pit, Micaiah would not have been imprisoned, Urijah and Zedekiah would not have been murdered, John the Baptist would not have had his head cut off, and Paul would not have been beaten with rods.

Think about it. If being truly righteous and innocent, and exposing one’s persecutors to be hypocrites and liars could provide a man security in this world from injustice and cruel persecution, would Jesus have ever been crucified?

Over the past two years, especially, I have seen God give wicked men success in their ungodly machinations against innocent and humble souls. I have seen courts rule in favor of liars and unfaithful husbands, and against innocent and upright children of God who had done no evil at all; on the contrary, they had been maltreated and had themselves done good at all times. I have seen elements of the world take up the cause of deceitful brothers and sisters, and then broadcast their slander as if it were important news that everyone should know. There have also been times when I have seen God provide deliverance for his children from the cruel wrath of backslidden men. But a most important lesson I have learned through suffering the vexation of helplessly watching evil win is that escape from injustice, persecution, and public abuse is not always the lot of the righteous; nor has it ever been.

As much as I wish it was not true, I cannot help but to expect God to give more victories to the wicked over the upright, and to do it soon. I expect soon that the souls of righteous people will be vexed, as Lot’s soul was daily vexed at the filthy conduct of the wicked in Sodom. And I feel that our Father’s purpose will be to help us turn loose of things in this life that may mean more to us than we think they do, or that is good. Prepare your hearts.

In both Daniel and Revelation, the world ruler that John called “the Beast” is mentioned. And in both books, we are plainly warned that the saints will be overcome by him! There will be no escape for God’s people from his cruelty. Daniel said it this way: “He shall speak great words against the most High, and he shall wear out the saints of the most High.” But John was plainer: “And he shall open his mouth in blasphemy against God . . . . And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to prevail against them.” The deeds of the Beast will be wicked, and his acts against the saints will be unreasonable and cruel, but no amount of right, reasonable talking will provide relief from his arrogant wrath, and no saint will escape his abuse by telling the truth. Quite the opposite. Telling the truth will only make things worse for them and make their sufferings worse.

I cannot promise those to whom I minister the word of God that they will not suffer. It would be more honest of me to promise them that they will. “All who live righteously in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” wrote Paul, and I know these sheep, that they are righteous people. Moreover, I am certain that if they suffer, they will suffer unjustly, for I know them, and I know that the life of holiness which Jesus taught, they live. And they know me and my manner of life. If more persecution comes my way, the Lord will let them know whether I am suffering for evildoing or for doing what is good in his sight.

Every child of God everywhere should be warned. Just as there is such a thing as doing evil and then suffering for it, the Bible makes it clear that there is also such a thing as doing good and suffering for it. And the blood of many thousands of precious, humble, and godly saints throughout history bears witness to the fact that, in this present, wicked world, evil sometimes wins.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Divided Heart

“Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty.”
Hosea 10:2

“Teach me your way, O Lord. I will walk in your truth.
Unite my heart to fear your name.”
Psalm 86:11

The worst of all spiritual conditions is to have a divided heart. A divided heart is a heart that fears both God and men, or both God and the devil. A divided heart loves God, and loves the world, too; and while the world will congratulate you for not giving all your heart to Jesus, God will destroy you for it. God would rather that someone hate Him than to love Him and love the world. And He would rather someone have no faith at all in Him than to have faith in both His power and the devil’s.

There was a Pastor with a divided heart in the ancient city of Laodicea. Jesus sent him this message, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I prefer that you be either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.”

The most troublesome people on earth are God’s people whose hearts are divided. They cause the body of Christ far more pain and suffering than the world possibly can. When the Lord chastens or reproves those with a divided heart, they often go to unbelievers with their complaint because they know enough truth to know that unbelievers cannot discern where they really are. Judas had a divided heart. Judas loved Jesus . . . and money. And after Jesus exposed Judas’ slander among the disciples, Judas betrayed him. No one else could have done that.

The Romans would not on their own have crucified the Lord, but the Jewish elders with divided hearts cornered Pilate and forced him to give the order to have it done. That is why Jesus told Pilate that the sin of the Jews was greater than Pilate’s sin (Jn. 19.11).

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye; therefore, if your eye be single, your whole body will be light; but if your eye be evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore, if the light in you be darkness, how great that darkness is!”

The darkest place in Creation is not one of those Black Holes that astrophysicists have discovered in outer space. The most darkened place in this Creation, according to God, is the soul of saints whose hearts are divided between their God and this world (Jer. 17:9).

James exhorts saints with divided heart with these words: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Sound advice. The most agonizing torment in the Lake of Fire is reserved for those whose affections and thoughts are controlled by the love of God . . . and by love for someone else.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Two Who Cannot Receive the Spirit

Jesus paid the price for the sins of the whole world, and now, “whosoever will” may be cleansed from sin by the Spirit of God. But there are two kinds of people who cannot possibly receive the spiritual cleansing that Jesus paid for.

The first group who cannot receive the holy Ghost is sinners. Sinners are people who are living in rebellion and sin, and they must stop doing that if they want God’s Spirit. Every man who has ever been sent by Christ has agreed that those who are living a wicked lifestyle must repent and cease from sin in order to receive God’s Spirit. They must, as Jesus said, “Repent and believe the gospel.” And when a sinner repents and stops sinning, then he is no longer a sinner and is in a position to receive God’s Spirit.

One ceases from sin before he can be born of the Spirit. The very reason God baptizes a person with His Spirit and washes his sins away is that the sinner has believed the gospel and has ceased from sin.

We learn from the Scriptures that everyone who truly seeks God stops sinning. The very act of seeking God implies a cessation of sin. Listen to what David said (Ps. 119:2-3): “Blessed are they that keep God’s testimonies and that seek Him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.” The author of Hebrews tells us that God is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6); that is, He rewards those who believe in His Son and stop sinning. And God’s “reward” for those who believe the gospel and cease from sin is the baptism of the Spirit.

The second group of people who cannot receive the Spirit of God is the saints of God. The ones who belong to God cannot receive the Spirit because they already have it. Paul said, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9b). And the corollary to Paul’s statement is this: “If any man have God’s Spirit, he is His.”

These, then are the two kinds of people who cannot receive the Spirit of God: Saints and sinners.

Becoming Innocent

“How long will it be, ere they attain to innocence?”
Hosea 8:5b

In prisons around the world, there are many poor souls sitting on death row who wish they could undo the crimes they committed. And there are even more people, not in prison, who live a life of regret, wishing they had not done some of the things they did in their lives. These are in another kind of prison, the prison of conscience, because once a deed is done, they know it cannot be undone. But because of Jesus, there is hope, for “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and He understands everything” (1Jn. 3:20).

God can make a virgin out of a harlot. And God can make a guilty soul as innocent as a child. He begged Israel to take advantage of His offer of innocence: “Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). This reversal of guilt is not possible with men, “but with God, all things are possible.”

God is willing to make us clean and innocent, regardless of our past. That is the wonder of the love and power of God. What more could any of us ask of Him? Through Jesus, God has provided a way to make us all pure and innocent, and worthy to live forever in His presence.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It Really Happened

“They will go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,
but they shall not find Him. He has withdrawn Himself from them.”
Hosea 5:6

Those who have studied the Old Testament well know that God’s mercy is great. They know how He suffered patiently great indignities and disrespect from His own people for centuries before He finally turned them over to heathen conquerors. It was heartbreaking to God Himself when the time came for Him to withdraw from His people and turn them over to the will of their enemies.

Our point here, though, is not how much it grieved God to withdraw from His own beloved people, but that He did it at all. What does the fact that God ceased trying to communicate with Israel and withdrew from His chosen people teach us about God?

The most important lesson for us in this is that we know, from observing His example with Israel, that there is a limit to God’s patience with sin and rebellion. He will make a greater effort than any man would, to save His people from their sins. There is no man who would have waited as long as God did before turning away from Israel. But He did it. At long last, He did it. It broke His heart, but He did it. And He did it because He did not know what else to do for them. “What could have been done more unto my vineyard?” God cried (Isa. 5:4). “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me’ ” (Isa. 1:2). Through Micah, God pleaded with the children of Israel, “O my people, what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.” But they could not tell God anything wrong He had done to them, or how He in any way had wearied them with too many commandments, or with commandments that were difficult to keep.

And in the end, He resigned Himself to carry out the only remaining course of action. He would leave them alone. “You are not my people, and I will not be your God.” . . . “For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house; I will love them no more.” . . . “I will go and return to my place until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face. In their affliction, they shall seek me early” (Hos. 1:9; 9:15; 5:16).

Hosea cried out, “My God will cast them away because they did not hearken unto Him, and they shall be wanderers among the nations” (9:17). But it appears that nobody who heard him paid any attention to his words or his grief.

It happened. That is the point. And Paul said that these things happened to Israel, “as examples for us, that we should not desire evil things, as those people did” (1Cor. 10:6), and that they “happened to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition. . . . Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1Cor. 10:11-12).

If we are already saved, and if our salvation is assured whether we do God’s will or not, then how does God’s treatment of His people in the Old Testament serve as an example to us? The whole point of the history of Israel being preserved by God is to warn us of what God will do to His own people if they fail to keep the covenant they made with Him when they become His.

The point is that “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Rom. 11:21). Or, as Jesus repeatedly said, one way or another, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord! Lord! will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And Peter went so far as to say that it is better never come to Christ at all than after coming and being washed from sin, a child of God is unfaithful to the Lord. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2Pet. 2:20-21).

“Worse than the beginning”! Isn’t it worse to have been called and cleansed by God and then have Him withdraw from us than never to have felt His love at all? Aren’t they in a worse state who have been received into the household of God, and then cast out, than are those who have never been in the family of God at all? It happened to many in Israel, and it has happened to many in this covenant. We must confess that it really happened. As deeply as it grieved God to do it, He withdrew Himself from His own people who did not walk uprightly with Him. And that fearful reality serves as a warning to us who believe.

Let’s cause our heavenly Father no heartache. He wants to care for us and to save us, and He will. All we have to do is humble ourselves and co-operate with His love. Let us resolve to “be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ has also loved us.” Let’s make our loving heavenly Father happy, not sad.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Always, and All Ways, Perfect

God is not a man . . .”
Balaam, in Numbers 23:19

This could be part of a long series on the topic, “God is not a big one of us.” There are many, many ways in which God is not like us. This is just one of them.

Nothing God thinks has evolved. What He thinks now is perfect because He is perfect. And what He thinks now is exactly what He has always thought. God hasn’t matured intellectually even a tiny bit. He was perfect in wisdom from eternity, and He is perfect in wisdom now. God is not now even a little wiser than He used to be. Nor is He more discerning than He once was, or more knowledgeable. He has always known all things perfectly, visible and invisible, including all things in the future.

The spirit of evolution infects all of modern society, including how man perceives God. That is why, as men’s thoughts evolve (or devolve) concerning what is right and wrong, and what is good and evil, they imagine God as changing with them. But that spirit only succeeds in winning converts on earth. It does not infect God or confuse Him. He still knows Himself, that He is what He has always been and what He always will be. Everything He has ever done, said, or thought is perfect; it cannot be improved upon.

Fearing, loving, and praising God comes as natural as breathing to those who see Him as He really is: perfectly good, perfectly wise, and perfectly powerful. Every creature in heaven knows that, and that’s why none of them is an evolutionist.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How Do They Do It?

The simple-minded man believes every word, but the prudent man looks well to his going.”
Solomon, in Proverbs 14:15

Assembly of God Doctrine on Spirit Baptism

Sometimes, it is just astounding to me. I read the words of religious teachers, but what they say is so contrary to the plain sense of the Scriptures – and sometimes contradictory to their own words in other places – that I marvel at how they manage to gain such a large following. The latest episode that made me marvel at the ability of false teachers to impress millions and persuade them to adhere to their teachings had to do with the Assembly of God sect, the largest of all Pentecostal sects.

A few months ago, we freely mailed out over 27,000 copies of one of our books, Speaking in Tongues at Spirit Baptism, to Pentecostal churches across America, including Assembly of God churches. Yesterday, one of those books was returned to me by an Assembly of God pastor in Altha, Florida. In addition to the returned book, the minister there included a brochure published by the Assembly of God organization, Our Distinctive Doctrine, The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was happy to receive it, and I read through the twenty questions and answers about the baptism that were in the brochure.

What struck me most about the brochure is not that the AOG doctrine is wrong. Long ago I studied what they teach, and I already knew it was wrong. What struck me this time was how obviously wrong AOG doctrine is, and yet how many of God’s people support it. This brochure stirred up anew the deep grief I feel for God’s divided and confused children – not merely because they are taught badly but because the badness of what they are taught is so obvious – and yet they do not seem to notice!

Why? How can a doctrine be so wrong, so illogical and so unbiblical, and yet be so popular among God’s people? It would be understandable if it was just the world that supported false teaching. That would even be expected. But God’s people! Why do they support brands of Christianity, such as the Assembly of God sect, that are so clearly wrong?

Paul exhorted the saints to “prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good.” John exhorted the saints to “try the spirits to see if they be of God.” Jesus commended the pastor in Ephesus because he had the wisdom and the courage to put false apostles to the test and to expose them as liars. But where is that kind of zeal for truth, and courage, and godly wisdom among the saints today? The lack of those things among God’s people is the answer to my original question, “How do the false teachers gain such a large following?”


If we are prudent, we will “look well to our going.” That is, we will examine carefully what a man tells us about God. We will not take for granted anything a man tells us, but we will wait for the witness of the Spirit before we commit ourselves. The Spirit alone can guide us into all truth, and we should never support any man who claims to serve God until Jesus has confirmed to our spirits that what that man has for us is really from God.

Do you know what the man really teaches who is teaching you about God? Have you examined his doctrine? Have you “looked well to your going?” Or are you among the many who are “simple, and believe every word”?

From a different perspective, let me point out that one of the biggest headaches for a true servant of God is people who follow him but who do not really know whether or not he is sent from God. Jesus had many such followers, and every one of them were a burden to him. I would rather have a thousand enemies than ten such friends. I have always exhorted everyone associated with me to get in touch with God for themselves and find out why they are associated with me. I tell them they must know why they are involved with my work in Christ. If they truly belong with me, they need to know it. And the only way to truly know that I am their pastor and this is their spiritual home is to have it shown to them by Jesus.

God’s people have not been taught to examine themselves and their faith, but to do so is an element of righteousness. When and if the saints do examine the doctrines they are taught, they are going to be stunned at how wrong they are, and how simple-minded they have been to support the men who have been teaching them for so many years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just For A Few

"Enter through the strait gate
because wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction,
and there are many who enter through it.
How strait the gate and narrow the road that leads to life!
And few there be who find it
Jesus, in Matthew 7:13-14

Tonight I happened across a television movie telling the fictitious story of two elderly people reminiscing fondly about their grossly immoral romance of their youth. What a lie it is, that sin will leave you with happiness in your old age! What a powerful snare is laid by such movies for young people, as it leaves them with the impression that there will be no consequences for sin, even to the grave! But such is the mind set of many movie makers.

I turned the channel in disgust and there was James Bond, a completely wretched and depraved man, but portrayed in movies as a hero to be admired and emulated.

I again turned the channel in disgust, and there was a nationally televised ball game being played in a huge stadium, which was packed to the highest rows with screaming fans, despite the cold weather and late hour. (It is now 11:30 PM, and the game will probably not end before midnight.)

I turned off the television, heavy and discouraged, and talked to Jesus. We cannot compete against the movie makers, I told him, the clever men who make evil seem so good, and good seem uninteresting, and who make sin seem exciting and right and sincerity and purity seem old fashioned. Typically, announcers for the major ball teams have great talent for making it sound as if what is happening on the playing field is very important, when the truth is that life would continue if those men never even played the game. But the world lives by what it hears and what it sees, and worldly wise men know how to make their product look and sound good. How depressing it can all be!

But then the Lord reminded me of two portions of Scriptures. In the first, the prophet Jeremiah was completely discouraged by the popularity of the false prophets, and the Lord let Jeremiah know that He had been watching, and that He knew what the false prophets were doing and saying. He had heard their lies, and He had watched the false prophets cause His people to forget God with their phony prophetic dreams. Then, God got to the point:

"The prophet who has a dream [one that is really from God], he is to tell a dream. And he who has my Word, he is to speak my word faithfully! What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord."

With this, God was telling Jeremiah that to the heart that is hungering and thirsting for righteousness, there is no comparison between the words of the false prophets and the words of the true. He was telling Jeremiah not to be concerned about the many false prophets in Israel, nor to be concerned about how many people were led astray by them. And God’s point is clear: False prophets exist for the multitudes of people in this world who want to hear lies. Somebody, then, must be there for the few who are searching for the truth.

The second Scripture Jesus brought to my mind was the one in which he told Pilate, "For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." (Jn. 18:37). Jesus, too, was outnumbered by false prophets, but that was neither here nor there to him. He knew that the multitude of false prophets were there for the entertainment of the multitude who were content with lies. But he also knew that he was there to bear witness to the truth, even in the midst of a thousand lies, for the sake of the few humble souls who wanted the truth. His job was to bear witness of the truth, not to look around a count how many deceivers were out there.

We need not be discouraged if the world does not hear us. Isn’t it to be expected that most people on this earth would be interested only in worldly things? Didn’t Jesus tell us, "The world loves its own"? But we are not of the world, and those, like us, who are not of the world will hear us, regardless of how many other voices may be talking. Jesus said his sheep hear his voice, and in reality, they are the only ones who can.

John wrote, "They who are of God hear God’s voice." And Jesus warned us that God’s way of salvation would be found only by a few. In other words, only a few people, relatively speaking, will ever truly be "of God" and receive the Word of God when it comes. But what the Lord showed me tonight is that those few who hear the Word are the only ones for whom the Word was sent in the first place! God does not fail, and His Word does not fail! The Word of God comes for His sheep, to feed and to show them the way home; it does not come for the world.

My friend, if you broadcast the truth of Christ, and just a handful of people ever receive the seed you have sown, rejoice! You have succeeded, for the seed you sowed was sent only for the ones who can receive it; the seed was not sent for the world. The world at large will never receive Christ. Our task is to proclaim the good news so that the few scattered sheep of God who are on earth can hear it and find their way home.

"Judgment Day"

“God has appointed a day
in which He will judge the world in righteousness
by that man whom He has ordained.”
Paul, in Acts 17:31

The phrase, “Judgment Day” can be a misleading term. That great and terrible day will not be a day of making judgments at all; rather, it will be a day of pronouncing of judgment. On “Judgment Day”, Jesus will not need to study the record of our deeds and then try to decide what to do with us. His decisions are being made now, while we live. We are all being judged right now, based on what we are doing right now. Then, what will happen on “Judgment Day” is the Lord’s pronouncement of our eternal judgment. May God give us the grace to receive an eternal inheritance “among the saints in light”!

Because of this truth, the upright can “rest in peace”. They who have kept the faith can peacefully “fall asleep” in Christ with great hope, knowing that Judgment Day is coming, and longing for it to come.

The Sabbath Is For Rest

“He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”

Genesis 2:2

Jesus said he patterned everything he did after his heavenly Father’s example. He told people in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing of himself except what he sees the Father do; for whatever things He does, these things the Son also does, and in the same way.” So, if we are going to be like Jesus, we’re going to follow the Father’s example and do things His way. Some may complain that living that way amounts to imitating someone, but what is wrong with imitating a perfect example? Paul exhorted the saints to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), and those who heeded Paul’s counsel found perfect peace and joy.

In truth, everybody on earth is imitating others, and that is perfectly normal. One way we can tell if a person is from a culture different from ours is that he imitates, in clothing or mannerisms, others from his own culture. So, where is the harm in imitating God, or in imitating those who are close to him? Aren’t we exhorted to follow the faith of those who follow Christ? “Follow me,” said Paul to the saints, “as I follow Christ.”

How God Kept the Sabbath

What did our heavenly Father do on the first Sabbath day? And then, what did He tell us to do on the Sabbath? In the beginning, after God had finished His six days of creation, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made” (Gen. 2:2). Thousands of years later, when He established the Old Testament with Israel, God told them, “Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your foreigner who is staying within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

So the weekly Sabbath day was given to men as a day of rest. It was not originally intended by the Creator to be a day of worship. The question is, if we are to be like our heavenly Father, and He rested on the Sabbath day, what are we supposed to do? His later commandment to Israel let us know: we are to rest, just as He did!

Men transformed God’s Sabbath from a day of rest to a day of worship, and then, as their worship rituals became more elaborate, rules concerning the Sabbath became tools of oppression and left people with no day of relief. When Jesus came, he found that God’s people had taken their eyes off God; they had ceased from following God’s good example; consequently, they were in deep bondage to religious works. Jesus never stopped following His Father’s example, and that is the basic reason religious leaders hated him so much and killed him. Jesus told them at one point, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” But they would not hear. His liberty to follow God’s example was a threat to their control of people’s lives.

In Western Culture, one result of men transforming the idea of a weekly day of rest into a day of religious activity is that it left no day of rest for man. Consequently, wanting their rest but afraid they would offend God if they did not devote themselves to worship on “His holy day”, men designated another day for rest. So now, we have a two-day “weekend”. Our weekends give men five days to work, one day for rest, and one day for God.
Following Jesus

Years ago, I realized that Jesus is not a Christian, even though I claimed to be one myself. I wondered aloud, on several occasions, why I was something that Jesus was not. But since everybody I knew in the Lord claimed to be a Christian, I assumed that was what I was supposed to be. But in May of 1993, Jesus let me know that he wanted me to be like him instead of being like people, even his people. He called me out of Christianity and delivered me from being a Christian so that I could serve the Father “in spirit and in truth” instead of after the traditions of men.

Do we really believe that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts? Jesus said, “What is highly esteemed among men is abomination to God.” Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” When God reveals to us what He thinks about some of the things we regard as holy, it can be frightening. His thoughts really are not our thoughts! One sister testified that when God first started calling her (she was a dedicated Christian at that time), He spoke to her heart and revealed to her that everything she had always thought about Him was filth. (You can read her testimony at It was a stunning word from God, but it brought her relief, too, because she was already beginning to understand that she did not really know God (in spite of her college degree in Christian Education). But such a revelation is frightening only as long as we cling to our superstitions rather than simply trust whatever God says. When we do that, His word brings us peace.

The same is true about this revelation from Jesus to me concerning God’s original purpose for instituting the Sabbath day. We need not be afraid to rest if God’s will is that we rest! All we need is faith. When our loving heavenly Father gave us a day of rest, He commanded us to rest, not to worship, on that holy day. He loves us! Let’s obey Him! To have rest for our bodies and our minds is essential to sound physical and spiritual health. With oppressive religious activity, Satan has robbed God’s people a million times of much-needed rest. But God gives us rest; He does not take it away. This is one of the reasons that the Father is calling to all His children, “Come out of her my people!” He is calling us to come rest with Him!

The simple truth is that if we live God’s way, including resting whenever He says rest, we will have no time left over for anything false or evil. And if we work when he says work, we will be prepared to rest when His rest is offered.
There Remains A Rest
In Hebrews 4, we are told that there still “remains a rest for the people of God.” In that verse, the author is referring to the rest we will find on the New Earth which God has prepared for those who love Him. But in truth, there remains in this life a rest for the people of God, a rest which they have forgotten about, the spiritual rest of walking in the Spirit of God instead of in the traditions of men. Long ago, God lamented through the prophet Jeremiah that His people had “forgotten their resting place.” The same is true today. God’s people have drifted away from the life of the Spirit in order to fit into a form that is not of God and to help to carry on Christian traditions that are not of God. Their souls are tired. They are being used up. They need God’s rest.

One young saint from Louisville visited a Christian place of worship not long ago, and she said that as she sat there and watched the religious forms being carried out, all she could think was, “What about God?” and, “What about the Spirit?” The ceremonial worship she saw being offered to God there could have been performed if the Son of God had never even come to earth. There was none of God’s rest in what those worshipers were doing, and she was glad to go home, where she knew she could find it.

Being Like Jesus
If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be Christians, but we will all be good in God’s sight, and happy. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be “heavily laden” with the doctrines of men, but we will be excited and zealous about growing in the knowledge of God. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be confused as to what is right and wrong, but none of us will be proud and overbearing with the truth we know. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will live in fear, but none of us will be careless in our attitudes or speech. To be like Jesus is to have rest in our souls. And to have rest in our souls is to be holy and pure and to enjoy the true Sabbath of God.

The Only Right Response

From a conversation with Brother Bob Payne.
Brother Bob pointed out to me recently that whatever the Lord does to us ought to make us humble. No matter what God does, he said, whether He blesses or curses, heals or harms, praises or rebukes, rewards or chastens, the only right response from anyone to what God does is humility before God.

If being blessed does not make you humbler before God, then you probably need to suffer for a while. Seeing that, and loving you, God will no doubt provide that need in your life. Then, if suffering succeeds in helping you become humble, then your heavenly Father will no doubt bless you again because that is always His first choice for us. God takes no pleasure in seeing humans suffer, other than what good that suffering may do for our soul.

Remember! No matter what God does in our lives, He is right. And so, if we have a wise heart, whatever God does to us will only serve make us more aware of His greatness and, so, enable us to humble ourselves ever more before Him.

Eternal Life

"I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."
Jesus, in John 10:10

"The Spirit is life because of righteousness."
Paul, in Romans 8:10

The phrase, "eternal life" does not refer, in the main, to a length of life; time is irrelevant in eternity, and so "length of life" is meaningless in eternity. "Eternal life" refers primarily to a kind of life – God’s kind of life, which is holy, and good, and wise. If you would live forever, then you must simply live the kind of life that will last forever, God’s kind of life, without sin. Sinless life is eternal life.

The good news is that we can live God’s kind of eternal life! That is what Jesus came to make possible. "I am come that they might have life," he said, "and have it more abundantly." Without God’s kind of life, Jesus considered humans to be dead. When he saw a funeral, Jesus saw dead people burying other dead people (Mt. 8:22). That is how much greater, and different, God’s life is than man’s.

Delighting and Condemning, Part Two

“You are my Lord. My goodness does not extend to you
but to the saints who are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight.”
Psalm 16:2-3

In Psalm 16, Christ spoke through David to reveal that all his delight is in the righteous. He used the word “all” because that is the truth about how he feels. He delights in the upright with all his heart; he has no joy left over for the wicked. All of his delight is directed toward those who love God and keep His commandments. If we would be like Jesus, we must feel as he does and, like him, delight with all our heart in those who love God and walk in His ways. If we do, we will not only rejoice in the upright, we will also condemn those who do evil. A few years ago, Sister Sandy had a startling dream from the Lord about the importance of not only loving righteousness but recognizing and hating evil. This was how Sandy told the dream:

In the dream, I went into a little shoppe. It was one of “ye ole shoppes” as in days of old – big wooden plank floors and a long counter where you went to check out merchandise. It was also dimly lit, as were the old shoppes in those days. I noticed as I walked into the shoppe, there was a man standing behind the counter. He was the owner of the little shoppe. He didn't say anything and was very business-like. He just continued doing what he was doing behind the counter as I began to look around. Suddenly, I saw there on the wooden floor the cutest little floppy-eared bunny. He had the most beautiful big brown eyes and the softest fur. I reached down to pet him, and he just sat there very still and made no motion to move as I touched him.

I looked over towards the owner of the shoppe, and obviously the owner of the bunny, and said, “This is the cutest little bunny!”
When I said that, he replied, “Yes, but I am going to have to kill him.”
With astonishment, I said, “Why?!!”
"Because", said the owner, “he has become too friendly, and will not recognize when the Enemy comes.”

There is no doubt that God has had to take some of His children home prematurely because they became too friendly with the world and became a danger to themselves and to the body of Christ. My father told me once that if you do not waste your money, the devil would try to trick you into giving it to somebody who will waste it for you. The same can be true in other areas of life. I have known sweet saints of God who would not have harmed the body of Christ for any amount of money. At the same time, these saints were so friendly with people who hated the truth and those who stood for it that the body of Christ was jeopardized when that over-friendly saint was among them.

When Jesus said, “Watch”, he did not simply mean, “Watch.” He meant, “Watch out!” Some very sweet souls in Christ watch very well; they see wrong spirits as well as right ones. But they make all spirits, the evil and the good, feel welcome to move freely in their presence; they do not watch out.

James said, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” With that wisdom, James warns believers throughout all generations that no matter how much we personally love the family of God, if we are companions of ungodly souls, if we make too much room for the ungodly in our presence, we may be used by Satan to do damage to the saints whether or not we want to. In that case, our loving heavenly Father, like the owner of the overly friendly bunny in Sandy’s “Old Shoppe”, may be forced to take us home, for the good of the body.

Be wise. The welfare of the body of Christ is far more important to the Father than the welfare of any of the body’s individual members.

Hold On To What You Know!

If you find yourself going through a hard time, it need not be that you have erred and are being punished for it. In fact, it may well be that you have been doing so well that your heavenly Father has judged you worthy of a trial that will perfect your faith and bring you closer to Him! Job suffered, and before his suffering, God Himself described Job as "a perfect and upright man." Jesus suffered horribly, and we know he was sinless. What are such things telling us?

In times of disappointment or any other kind of earthly suffering, one secret of surviving and doing well spiritually is to hold on to the things you know are true. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, were extremely disappointed that Jesus was killed. They were dejected as they walked along the road home. When the Lord appeared to them along the way, but did not allow them to recognize him, they expressed their disappointment, saying that they had once been sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ death seemed to have proved them and the other disciples wrong; it certainly dashed their hopes.

But it is the other thing that they told Jesus, still not realizing that it was he to whom they spoke, that showed them to be the kind of people God loves. They were crestfallen because of Jesus’ death, but they refused to deny him as being sent from God. In spite of the danger involved (after all, they might still be arrested as being his followers), they plainly said that Jesus was sent from God and that he was a "prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people." They might have given up hope that Jesus was the Messiah, but they stubbornly clung to what they knew in their hearts; namely, that Jesus was good, not evil, and that he most certainly was sent from God to Israel.

They were disappointed; they were hurt; and they were embarrassed. It seemed that their faith had been misplaced by thinking Jesus was the Savior. Still, they would not deny what they knew in their hearts. Jesus was sent from God! These two humble men were the kind of people God loves. Even when they were confused, ashamed, and grieving, they were faithful to what they knew.

God doesn’t demand anything more from any of us than to be faithful to what we know. What we think might be, or what we hope, we can safely question. But those whom God loves are those who refuse to deny what they know in their hearts is true.

The blind man Jesus healed in John 9 is one of my favorite characters in the Bible for just this reason. When put on trial for being healed, he pretended to possess no more knowledge than what he actually had. He, too, was the kind of man God loves.

When the envious elders condemned Jesus and pressured the healed man to condemn him as well, he refused. And he refused, not because he knew Jesus was good but because he didn’t know whether he was good or evil. He suspected that Jesus was a man sent from God, but he did not know him, ands so, he couldn’t say. And he had the nerve to stand up against the men who tried to force him to say what they wanted him to say. He happily and boldly confessed in court, "Whether this man is a sinner or not, I don’t know. But one thing I do know. I was blind, and now I see!"

They excommunicated him.

But God loved him, and when the terrifying word spread through Jerusalem that someone had been cast out by the elders, Jesus heard of it, and he searched for and found the man (Jn. 9:35-38):

And Jesus said, "Do you believe on the Son of God?"
He answered, "Who is he, sir, so I can believe on him?"
Jesus said to him, "You have both seen him, and he is the one speaking with you."
Then he said, "Lord, I believe," and he fell down and worshiped him.

The important thing to remember in this story is that just an hour or two before Jesus, the mighty Son of God, went looking for this rejected man, the man had said of Jesus, "Whether he’s a sinner or not, I don’t know." Why is this significant? Because it shows that God is not touchy. He does not require us to pretend to know more than we really know. And at the same time, the healed blind man confessed openly what he did know; namely, that Jesus had healed him. Look at his pure heart! The despised man refused to let go of what he knew Jesus had done for him, even though it meant being cast of the congregation of God!

It is critical to your future happiness that you recognize the difference between what you know and what you believe. Preacher Clark tried to get this point across to us long ago when he told us, "Anything you believe could be a lie, as far as you know." That is true, and it is Ok with God for you to admit it. It’s Ok to be completely honest with yourself and others. God is not offended by it. Men often are.

Those whom God loves are the ones who "speak the truth in their heart." That means that they are thoroughly honest with themselves, willing to be wrong about anything they believe, and refusing to deny before men anything they truly know.

True "Justice and Equality For All"

“He is faithful and just . . .”
1John 1:9

Earthly justice is good, just as it is good to take care of the environment, get enough exercise, or eat a balanced diet. But good as those things may be, there are matters which carry much more weight with God and matter most to men’s souls.

There is an earthly, social justice, accomplished by earthly means, and there is a spiritual justice that is achieved only by the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God. Jesus did not suffer and die in order to make earthly societies just, but to make individuals pure and good in God’s sight, to justify them and transform them into living testimonies to the righteousness of God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The social justice that carnal men strive for has some earthly benefits, but that is all. Those benefits can change at any time, and they end with the grave. That is why Jesus, Paul, and other servants of God did not focus on changing societies. God did not send them to do that because it was the eternal part of man that needed to be secured, not the temporal conditions of nations.
This is why Paul commanded slaves to be good slaves, and masters to be good masters. Instead of what is called “social justice”, Paul preached the eternal justice of God, which is this: “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” This is a kind of equality and justice that carnal men cannot attain to, even if they manage to acknowledge that it exists, because the flesh cannot use God’s weapon to achieve it: the holy Spirit.

In the Spirit of God is where true and lasting justice is found. In the Spirit, earthly conditions, being transitory, become irrelevant. There is no bigotry among those who walk together in Christ because in Christ, none of the earthly differences that give rise to bigotry exist. That is why nobody walking in God’s Spirit becomes entangled in earthly social reform movements or earthly political movements. Such things are worldly and can only affect worldly conditions. They are unworthy of Christ.

The Savior was sent to deliver fallen man from sin and to make him a citizen of an eternal and perfectly just kingdom, not to change the external political and social conditions in which man lives out his vain, sinful life.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Delighting and Condemning, Part One

"You are my Lord. My goodness does not extend to you
but to the saints who are in the earth,
and to the excellent in whom is all my delight."
Psalm 16:2-3

In Psalm 16, Christ spoke through David to reveal that all his delight is in the righteous. He used the word "all" because that is the truth about how he feels. He delights in the upright with all his heart; he has no joy left in his heart to feel toward the wicked. All of his delight is directed toward those who love God and keep His commandments.

What then does the Lord feel for the "vile" among men? The answer is found in Psalm 15. This Psalm begins with David, in spirit, asking God who will be allowed to live forever. This was God’s response:

"He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned, but he honors those who fear the Lord. He who swears to his own hurt and does not change. He who does not lend his money on interest, nor take a reward against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved."

Notice that one of the things required of us, if we would live forever, is to condemn a vile person. In other words, in our hearts all our delight must be reserved for those who are righteous, just like Jesus.

Think of it. You must condemn the wicked of earth if you want to please the Lord. Taking any degree of pleasure in wickedness could cost you your soul. In 2Thessalonians 2, Paul refers to some saints who would suffer the wrath of God for just this reason:

"And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie, so that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness."

Paul mentions this same group of believers who would lose their souls in Romans 2, when Paul describes the spiritual condition of backslidden saints who are cursed by God:

"Who, knowing the judgment of God that they who commit such [sins] are worthy of death, not only do the same, but take pleasure in them who do them."

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the eternal life you desire (Ps. 37:4), and take no pleasure in wickedness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will cause you to "ride upon the high places of the earth, and he will feed you the heritage of Jacob your father" (Isa. 58:14). Delight yourself in the law of the Lord, and be blessed (Ps. 1:1-2).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Value

What is man, that you are mindful of him?
Psalm 8:4

There is not a case of one of us having value, and then God finding it out. It is God’s thinking that we have value which creates whatever value there is in us. He is going to destroy heaven and earth because, to Him, heaven and earth have no value. But “Unto you, O man, do I call.” That call of God to us creates our value. Jesus dying for you meant that you are valuable to God.

When we mortals think God has value, it’s only because we have discovered something that was true, whether we were aware of it or not, but when God thinks we have value, that’s creating value in us. If He didn’t think it, you wouldn’t have it. God has no opinions. He thinks it; then it is. And He thinks you are of great value.

Never a Choice

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God,
and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love.
By this was the love of God made manifest among us,
that God 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 as the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God loved us like this, we also should love one another. . . .
And we have known and have trusted the love that God has for us.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him
1John 4:7-11, 16b

One choice you will never have to make is the choice between loving people and doing the will of God. They are always the same thing. You cannot choose one over the other.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Prayer

It is good to be back home after an absence of eleven days. Late tonight, in prayer in my office, my earnest prayer to God contained more than just my words. Sometimes God would finish my prayer for me, and at times, I knew God was giving me the prayer to pray at that moment. I want to share some portions that I can remember of my communion with God tonight, and I ask you to help me to pray these things. I want to see a move of God’s holy Spirit among His people!

Here are some of the thoughts, and some of the words the Lord and I said to one another tonight:

The happiest people on earth are those who have done the work they were given to do. They are the people who were prepared at the moment Jesus gave them a task to perform. The happiest people on earth are those who have not missed their opportunities.
The saddest people on earth are those who were unprepared when their moment came.
(The point the Lord was making in my heart when he said this to me was that this, and nothing else, is the real reason some of his people are happy and the real reason some of his people are discontent. So, if you are not happy in Jesus, prepared to be used. Stay ready. Jesus has something for you to do! And it will make you happy to do it!)
"Lord, deliver me from worldliness. Deliver me from the things that rob You of my time. Deliver me from the things that rob me of Your money. Deliver this body [of saints who meet in my home] from the things that rob You of their praise and that rob them of Your glory."

Let me serve those who are truly seeking you. Let me know them and love them, and let them love know and these precious sheep here with me.

At one point, I began to pray this prayer: "Lord, there are things we cannot change ..."
Then, the Lord finished the prayer for me. He said, ". . . but things WILL CHANGE with sufficient prayer."

Is there is something in your life that you wish would change? Then answer this question: Have you prayed enough about it?

"Lord, to serve You and Your people is the most precious thing in this world! The most valuable thing in life is to be of value to Your people! Lord, give us value! Dwell among us!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Free Indeed

Those whom God sets free are “free indeed”. But being “free indeed” includes being free to return to bondage if you prefer that to the liberty you are given in Christ. Paul pleaded with the Galatians to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (5:1).

If you are not free to return to sin, you are not really free at all. When you are freed by the blood of Christ from sin, you are free to return to it, and sadly, many have made that choice (2Pet. 2:22). When you are healed by the love of God of a broken heart, you are free to return to the pain. When you are healed by the power of God of a disease, you are free to be sick again if you choose to live the kind of life that takes you there. Jesus warned people of this (Jn. 5:14). When you are delivered by the wisdom of God from debt, you are free to fall back into it. The freedoms that Christ gives are perfect freedoms, and that means you are free not to have them if you prefer your former condition.

Many reasons are offered by those who choose not to remain free. But the truth always is that they do not love the “liberty of the sons of God” and they refuse to bear the responsibilities toward others that come with that liberty.

The freedom of Christ is the freedom to be like Christ. And that means the freedom to love people the way Jesus loves people. That is what those who return to darkness prefer not to do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God's Will and Loving People

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God,
and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. . . .
He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love. . . .
If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us
1John 4: 7-8, 12
You will never have to choose between doing the will of God and loving people. You will never have to choose between walking in the will of God and walking in the love of God. They are the same thing.

Your Testings

From a testimony by Uncle Joe, early 1960's.

"Your testings make you bitter or better."

What Looks Good to You?

"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
1Chronicles 16:29

"Then I heard something like the sound of a large multitude,
and like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of strong thunderings,
saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give glory to Him because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready!
John, in Revelation 19:4-5
"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
John, in Revelation 21:2
Some folk are put off by the children of God when the Spirit falls on them and they respond with joy and praise. But it looks pretty to me. The world is impressed with lovely buildings and somber religious ceremonies. But I would rather see the Spirit fill somebody and feel their relief, or hear their shout of victory than to see the glittering gold and "priceless" antiques of the Vatican any day. The power of God on one of His saints is beautiful, a real work of art; but lovely treasures of earth gained by making false claims and teaching false doctrines about God hold no attraction to anyone in love with Jesus.
What attracts your heart? What really interests you? What do you think is worth your time? We frail mortals attract the attention of God. Our welfare is what most holds His interest, and caring for us occupies all of His Son’s time, day and night. When we are faithful to God, we are happy, and when we are happy, we look very good to Him. (Paul even suggested that those who walk in the Spirit smell good to God!)
When the bride of Christ is prepared for him, she has adorned herself with the beauty of holiness, and she looks good to Jesus. I wonder if it is possible to attract him so much, to be so full of peace and joy, that he would desire to come for her early? I wonder if the bride could become so beautiful to the Lord that he could not bear to be away from her any longer, and he would ask the Father if he can come for her now? I know that Paul said God was ready to avenge all disobedience, when our obedience if fulfilled. And Peter said that we could hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. Could it be possible that Jesus is just waiting for his bride to make herself irresistible?

Emptying Yourself

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, existing in God’s form, did not consider equality with God
as a prize to be seized upon;
instead, he emptied himself, assuming the form of a slave,
made in the likeness of men
Paul, in Philippians 2:5-7

To save us from death, the Son of God in heaven emptied himself to come here and be like us. He divested himself of all that he had in glory with the Father and was "made in the likeness of men." In return, the gospel demands that we follow the Son’s example. We must repent, which means to empty ourselves to be made like him.
This emptying of oneself is a requirement, for we must be filled with the Spirit in order to be made like Jesus. But as Uncle Joe once said,"God doesn’t fill up anything but empty vessels."
Sister Donna also made a remark one time that says the same thing in others words. She said, "The only good you are to anybody is how alive you are in the Spirit." Isn’t that true? Isn’t our value to others really measured by our closeness to God, who loved the world so deeply that He gave up His only begotten Son for our sins?
May God help us live close to Him so that our lives will truly benefit others.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Altogether vanity

And when they heard these things, everybody in the synagogue was filled with rage, and they rose up and drove him out of the city, and they led him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built, to throw him off the cliff.
Luke 4:28-29

And when it was day, he departed and went to a deserted place, but the crowds looked for him, and they came to him, and they tried to keep him from leaving them.
Luke 4:42

"The sweet psalmist of Israel" once said, "Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Ps. 39:5). This means that no man has anything to offer to God except his sin – and faith that God is indeed faithful to forgive our sins if we confess and forsake them (1Jn. 1:9).

When Jesus walked among us, he "knew what was in man" (Jn. 2:25); therefore, he was not moved by either their hatred of him or their love for him. The people of one city might want him to stay with them forever, while those of another city might want to kill him. If Jesus had given in to either of these two groups, he could not have accomplished his mission. If he had not made the effort to escape the hatred of mobs who wanted to kill him before the Father’s appointed time, he would have come short of fulfilling his mission. And if he had not made the effort to escape the love of disciples who wanted to save him from suffering, he would have also failed in his mission.

Both the love and the hatred of fallen man are worthless to God, and if Jesus had been moved by either of them, he would have failed to accomplish the will of God. The gospel calls for us to acknowledge that everything that fallen man feels and thinks is worthless to God. Paul said it this way, "In me, that is in my flesh [i.e., nature], there is no good thing." If we have been delivered from sin and darkness, it is only because God has done it, and if God has done it, then He did it by Himself because we can do nothing to help God save us. We don’t know what to do to get ourselves out of sin, and we wouldn’t have the power to do it, even if we did know what to do.

Jesus had a disciple who betrayed him, which was evil, with evil intent, and he had a disciple who wanted to keep him from going to the cross, which also was evil, but with good intent. He had disciples who forsook him, feeling malice, because of his doctrine, and he had disciples who clung to him, feeling love for him, even when Jesus wanted to be alone with the Father’s love. But whether they were disciples who forsook Jesus and hated him or disciples who smothered Jesus and loved him, all men were lost, and if Jesus had been moved by either group, we all would have been lost. Thank God that Jesus saw how utterly blind and desperately needy we all are!

If the people of Nazareth had gotten their way, Jesus would have died after his first sermon – and nobody else would have ever heard the good news Jesus preached. But had the people in Capernaum had their way, Jesus would have stayed with them and built up a successful ministry for himself in that city – and nobody else would have ever heard the good news Jesus preached. The result of human hatred and human love is always then same; it is all contrary to the Spirit of God.

God help us, and save us from ourselves! Regardless of intentions, the only result of anything man does on his own is always the same – confusion and death.


"He who does these things will never be moved."
David, in Psalm 15:5

Jesus suffered and died in hope of gaining influence in our lives. He wants to influence us so that he can save us from heartache and, in the end, from eternal death. He loves us and desires nothing but eternal happiness for us – and he knows how to make it happen! If we trust him, and co-operate with him, he will lead us to the happiness we all want, both for ourselves and others. The word "trust" means simply to yield to the sweet influence of Jesus! The happiest people on earth, and the safest, are the ones who are most yielded to the influence of the Spirit of Christ.

In ancient times in heaven, the cherub called Lucifer began to envy God’s influence over His creatures, and he began to lie about God in order to steal some of that influence for himself (Isa. 14:12-14), and it worked, even among many of the angels! Another way to say this is, Lucifer wanted to move others, to share in God’s holy influence over their choices and feelings; he wanted God’s creatures to think of him as they had always only thought of God. And that is still his purpose.


Whoever influences you has power to move you or to prevent you from moving. The goal of every child of God should be to grow in grace to the point of being "led by the Spirit"; that is, to move only when the Spirit leads one to move. And when the Spirit is not leading you to move, then obedience to God means to "be steadfast, unmoveable," and "established in grace" (1Cor. 15:58; Heb. 13:9).
To remain unmoved by the spirits of this age, in spite of all they say and do, to remain unmoved in our decisions, our thoughts, and our feelings, requires great spiritual strength, but then, that is exactly why Jesus died for us, to give us strength. Paul said it this way, "When we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:6;8).

Many people are moved by fear of death, but Jesus came "that through death he might . . . deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15). We see this fearlessness in Paul when he was being warned of the suffering that lay ahead for him by believers who loved him. In Acts 20:22-24, Paul told a group of saints "I am going, bound in the spirit, unto Jerusalem not knowing the things that will befall me there, except that the holy Spirit bares witness [to me] in every city [through which I travel], that bonds and afflictions await me. But none of these things move me; neither do I count my life dear to myself."
Being Moved

King David was moved by Satan once (1Chron. 21:1), and the result was tragic for all of Israel (1Chron. 21:14). David was crushed with grief over the suffering he caused his beloved nation by allowing himself to be moved from perfect trust in God. Over 70,000 of his fellow Israelites died as a direct result of David’s error. The grieving king pleaded with God to let him suffer instead of the people, and God soon forgave him, and Israel’s suffering ended.

Of course, there is more to the story than that. The whole nation had provoked God and brought this terrible disaster on themselves (2Sam. 24:1), and God had sent Satan to move David so that He could chasten Israel for its disobedience. But the point is that it was only by the king being moved by Satan that the suffering came about. Both the king and the nation were chastened by God because the whole nation, including the king, was already doing something (we are not told what) that displeased God.

We hurt ourselves and everyone around us when we are moved. I know that by experience. But I also know that the Lord is for us, not against us, and that he is listening for our cry, as he was listening for David’s, when we find that we have been moved by some strange spirit away from communion with God. He is able and very willing to help us in those times. If you ever find that you have been fooled by the adversary and have moved from your heavenly Father’s peace, don’t even try to cover it up. Confess it and let Him heal you. Don’t be afraid of losing your status among the saints; they are all "helpless pilgrims, just like you", and they will understand, and will respect you even more for being a good example of what to do when we find that we have been moved.

Friday, September 5, 2008

"Leave Them!"

Then his disciples approached him and said,
"Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard that saying?"
But he answered and said,
"Every plant which my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted.
Leave them! They are blind guides of blind people.
And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit."
Jesus, in Matthew 15:12-14

It seems difficult for God’s sheep to do as Jesus said for us to do when we perceive that a man is not speaking from God; that is, "Leave them!" Is it that the sheep have such tender hearts that they cannot bear to hurt a man’s feelings by leaving him? Is it that they fear gaining a bad reputation among men? Whatever reasons there may be, disobedience is still disobedience, and Jesus said for his sheep to "Leave them!"

Solomon gave the same wise counsel to his son: "Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the words of knowledge" (Prov. 14:7). Leaving ministers who do not teach the truth, and joining oneself to a true servant of God, is a principal part of righteousness because "he who walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools will be destroyed." Our souls’ eternal destination is too important for us to be paralyzed by fear of hurting the feelings of fools who would teach us about God, or fear of their displeasure. That is why David encouraged young Solomon to "forsake the foolish, and live! Go in the way of understanding" (Prov. 9:6). There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about forsaking the foolish.

It serves as a good warning for us to be taught that one who refuses to depart from false teachers, refuses to depart because he has already gone astray. Solomon said it this way, "The man who wanders out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead" (Prov. 21:16). Solomon is warning his son that a person is already outside the will of God who stays with a minister whose teaching is not the truth.

What these wise words of Jesus and other servants of God boil down to is this: sometimes, the fastest way to go astray is to go nowhere at all, but just to sit still at the feet of a man who does not know God.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Over You in the Lord"

"Know them who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord,
and admonish you, and to esteem them very
highly in love for their work’s sake."
Paul, in 1Thessalonian 5:12-13

"Remember them who have the rule over you,
who have spoken to you the word of God, whose faith follow . . . .
Obey those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves,
for they watch for your souls, as they who must give account . . . ."
Hebrews 13:7, 17

Sometimes, people are uncertain as to who really is "over them in the Lord". They are willing to do as Paul said to do toward elders in the faith, but they don’t know for sure whose faith to follow, whose admonishments they should receive (false teachers sometimes admonish saints for doing right), and whom "to esteem very highly in love for their work’s sake." God’s humble people want to know whose faith to follow and whose teaching to receive. It is easy to find out who is President of the country, or Governor of the state, or Mayor of the city, and so forth. Everyone in the world seems to know what the laws are, even if they break them. But God’s children want to know who is who in Christ, whose commandments to obey and whose authority to submit to, in the kingdom of God.

Here is one way you can always tell who is "over you in the Lord": Whoever is over you in the Lord is genuinely happier for you to be blessed than you are yourself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Trees of the Lord

“The trees of the Lord are full of sap.”Ps. 104:16

“Every plant that my Father has not planted will be uprooted.”Jesus, in Matthew 15:13

Throughout history, men have quarreled fiercely, even fought wars, over who is serving God and who is not. The entire history of man can be learned, in general, by following the records of wars and false religion. But Jesus let us know the simple fact of the matter; namely, if God doesn’t make a person His, that person just does not belong to God and will be damned in the Final Judgment. That is what the Lord meant when he said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted will be plucked up.” In the end, only those God has chosen will be saved.

As simple a truth as that is, it has been an extraordinarily difficult truth for men to believe. The nature of man rebels against the notion that God is in absolute control of His kingdom. There are no unguarded borders and no illegal aliens in the kingdom of God. Every person who now shares in God’s kingdom first received a personal invitation from God to leave their own country and kin and come to Him. In other words, to use Jesus’ imagery, there are no trees anywhere in God’s kingdom except the trees He has personally chosen and planted there.

Let’s humble ourselves before God and confess this unchanging truth. Only those whom God cleanses from sin are cleansed from sin. Only those “born of God” are “born again”. Only those called by God can come to Jesus. Only those baptized by God are baptized; only those circumcised by God are circumcised; and the only people on earth who know God are those who have been taught by God.

Until God makes a man worthy of eternal life, that man is unworthy of it, no matter what anyone thinks of him or what he thinks of himself. Earthly titles and reputations count for nothing with God. His precious Son Jesus had a reputation among certain religious leaders for being demon-possessed. That reputation didn’t count with God, either. Men not only can be wrong; men are wrong, all the time, unless God makes them right. And the sooner we confess that truth to ourselves, the sooner we will understand that God is always right and that only those He makes right are right with Him.