Sunday, August 30, 2009

“...the times that went over David and Israel...”

And the acts of David the king, first and last,
behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer,
. . . and the times that went over him and over Israel,
and over all the kingdoms of the countries.”
1Chronicles 29:29-30

My times are in your hands.”
Psalm 31:15

It is difficult for one generation to fully communicate their times to a generation that follows. We can describe events and the feelings of our time, but the younger generation still cannot completely comprehend the attitudes and choices – the times – of a previous generation.

Our “times” are determined by God alone, and they are always greater than us all. They “go over us” as they went over David and Israel, and the whole world. One famous novel by Charles Dickens begins with the sentence, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” The times described in that book were world events and conditions that swallowed up tens of thousands of people and that affected everyone in Europe, and beyond Europe to one extent or another.

The times that my generation knew included the public availability of holy men, anointed by God, who encouraged true children of God to have faith for healing and deliverance. Every Sunday morning, God’s people could watch Oral Roberts or Katherine Kuhlman heal people on television. A few years later, we were also watching Jimmy Swaggart preach under the joyful anointing of the holy Ghost and watch hundreds of sinners be convicted of their need for God. About the same time, Ernest Angeley was sent by God to heal the sick and afflicted, and he was on television, too. And there were others.

But the times changed. Some of God’s servants grew old and died; some fell into sin and broke the saints’ hearts. Consequently, beginning in the mid-1990's, the next generation was left with hardly anything on national televisions stations that could edify their spirits, and had to settle for little more than stories of how times used to be. We have lived in an evil time since then, a time when the glory of God was rarely seen or felt. But there are signs that a different time may be coming.

There are men rising up again with the glory of God, at least a degree of God’s glory that we have not been used to seeing. Now we can hear, on occasion, the voice of our Shepherd. It is a faint voice still, but it is clearly his, and his people love it. The messages some men are preaching now are clearly the result of them being touched by God. Yet, there is much more glory needed in order for the body of Christ to be healed of its divisions and have our fellowship restored. As the great old hymn goes, “Mercy drops ‘round us are falling; but for the showers we plead!”

It has been a time of drought; pray for the rain. Pray for those men who are touching the mantle of Jesus, who are beginning to say things beyond themselves and feel things from God they do not yet understand. It could develop into a glorious time for the children of God if these men continue to follow the call they are receiving. It is also possible that this hopeful time could degenerate into a system of empty catch-phrases and false claims, as happened with the “charismatic movement” of the 1960's.

And don’t be concerned about whether or not the doctrine these sincere men teach is perfect. Pray for them to discern God’s voice. Everybody starts out wrong, and we are all delivered from wrong thoughts about God only as Jesus drives them out of our minds by revealing his truth. Just pray that the men who are now rising up with the promise of unity and power for God’s people will continue to follow the voice they are hearing. If they do, they will come to know the truth, and the truth will set them, and all who hear them, free indeed.

I long for this generation to see miracles and to hear the true word of God, as I was blessed to be able to do as a child and young man. If this time of promise passes, and men whom God has called refuse to follow Him, let it not be because we have failed to pray for those men. They are fighting battles that most of God’s people know little about, but those battles are real, and the results of those men’s battles will affect every one of us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Flattering Titles

Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person;
neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles;
in so doing, my Maker would soon take me away.”
Job 32:21-22

Holy and reverend is His name.”
Psalm 111:9b

From conversations with Preacher Clark in the late 1970's.

The word “reverend” means “worthy of deep respect or reverence”, and according to the Psalmist, it is a word that applies only to the name of the Lord. But, of course, fallen man is not content with letting God’s glory be His alone. He has devised a religious system that confers the title, “Reverend” to ministers who will agree to propagate that religion. Actually, within that religious system, fallen man has devised a hierarchy that is distinguished by showy titles. These titles help ordinary people like us to know the degree of reverence we should show certain men. According to this hierarchy, a n ordinary minister is called “Reverend”; but a man who is of the next highest rank is to be called the “Very Reverend”. And a man who has attained to the exalted office of Bishop is granted to title, “the Right Reverend”, while an archbishop in that religion is referred to as “the Most Reverend”. (I don’t know if there are any instructions available that would help us know how to reverence a “Most Reverend” man as opposed to a mere “Right Reverend” man, but it would be helpful if there was such a document.)

Of course, this is all nonsense. Holy and reverend is God’s name, not ours. Paul said, “Let all men be a liar, and let God be true.” I say, “Let God’s name be reverend, and let ours be nothing.”

Vain man’s claim of honor that belongs only to God is not reserved to “flattering titles”. The religion of Christianity routinely trains men to lay claim to many holy things that are God’s alone. For one example, consider baptism. In this eternal new covenant, Jesus alone is ordained by the Father to baptize; and yet, in weak imitation of Jesus’ baptism of the holy Spirit, many Reverends, Right Reverends, and Most Reverends, (all of them wrong Reverends) baptize with earthly water and tell people that God has ordained them to do so.

They are not telling the truth. Baptism belongs only to God in this covenant, and it is accomplished in the Spirit from heaven, not with water on this earth.

I could go on, but you see the point. May God give us the humility and strength to restrain ourselves from claiming glory that belongs only to God. If He does so, we will be more like Jesus, who sought no glory for himself, but only to do the Father’s will and to bring Him glory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

All Things

It tickles the Devil for God’s people
to blame their troubles on him
The word of the Lord to me, August 23, 1981

It is now about six in the afternoon as I write this, August 23, 2009. It was about this time of day, late in the afternoon of August 23, 1981, when I decided to do a study of the Scriptures concerning the attitude of righteous people toward their suffering. My family and I had not long returned from our usual early afternoon prayer meeting, and I had sat down to spend some time researching what David, Moses, Peter, and others said about the difficulties they faced. I wrote down many of their thoughts on suffering and pondered over them.

As the afternoon drew to a peaceful close, I completed my study, put down my pencil, and began to close my Bible. Then Jesus spoke to me, very plainly and very calmly. He said, “It tickles the Devil for God’s people to blame their troubles on him.”

I was astonished at what I instantly understood – its breadth, its depth, its height, its beauty, and its revelation of my heavenly Father’s love that I could hardly take in. I looked down at the several pages of righteous thoughts that I had written down during the previous two hours, and I understood them for the first time. I had felt them before; I had known they were right thoughts. But now, it was as if I could have written them myself. Now, I had fellowship with whoever it was who had thought those thoughts before me. Now, I understood what those righteous men and women had been saying! I was overwhelmed with the power of the truth that Jesus had just spoken to me.

I remember getting up from my study desk and walking in somewhat of a daze out my front door and standing on the porch at the top of the brick steps. I remember staring out at the huge, old, oak tree in the front yard of the house across the street. The word of the Lord had come to me, and suddenly, I was seeing this entire universe in a new way, a holier way, the right way, the way men of God over the millennia had seen this world after God spoke to them!

It had been my habit, picked up from other believers, no doubt, to blame the devil for everything that “went wrong” in life. But now, all I could see was the love of God in everything concerning me. I understood how perfect my heavenly Father was. I knew, I knew it deep in my heart, that every single circumstance in my life had been designed for me by my loving heavenly Father – designed just for me, to perfect my faith and to help make me more like Him. I saw my Father’s love everywhere I looked.

In a way, it was as if all my life previous, I could only speak of our “God”. Now, I thought of God more as “daddy”. I felt Him more than I thought of Him. He was no longer somewhere else, and I had to reach Him. Now, he was everywhere, and I could never be anywhere but surrounded by Him and His love. As David once said, “If I make my bed in hell, you are there.”


I think that the first thing I fully comprehended when the Lord spoke to me that day was exactly why it “tickles” the Devil for us to blame him for our troubles. It pleases Satan for us to blame him for our trials because as long as we are blaming him, we are not looking for our heavenly Father’s purposes for our suffering. And as long as we are not seeking Him to discover His wise purposes in our sufferings, we can never come to know Him.

To have faith in Satan as having power to determine any of the circumstances of our life is to honor him with glory that belongs to no one but God. To teach, as I once did, that “the Devil might get you if you sin” is to say that the Devil is the one who punishes us for sin, not God. To think those kind of foolish thoughts elevates Satan in our hearts to a position of power that is not his. It glorifies him as a god, the god of all the bad stuff in this life, doing war with the God of all the good stuff, and the God of all the good stuff can never quite keep up with all the bad stuff that the Devil, does. What foolishness!

Shortly after that wonderful, life-changing experience, I went to work on a book about it (All Things), and I asked some people I knew who were suffering to read the manuscript before its publication. The hope that it brought to those who were going through hard times and the peace that it brought to those who were dying let me know, if nothing else did, that the message Jesus gave me needed to be proclaimed.

As long as God’s people have trials to face, they will need to be reminded – and convinced – that their heavenly Father loves them. Nothing accomplishes that so well as for them to be taught that because God alone is God, “all things are working together” for their good. If Satan were in charge of anything concerning us, Paul could not have written that Scripture.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Commandments for a Place

“He brought forth His people [from Egypt] with joy,
and His chosen with gladness.
And he gave them the lands of the heathen,
and they inherited the labor of the people
so that they might observe His statutes,
and keep His laws.”
Psalm 105:43-45

We all know that God brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and that He gave them the “promised land”, the land of Canaan. But what is often overlooked is that He did those things so that the Israelites could fully keep the law that He had given them. Without possessing the promised land, some of God’s statutes could not be kept. It was only when the people of God reached the place which God had appointed for them that they would finally be able to obey all of His commandments. For example, as long as they remained outside the promised land, the Israelites could not provide the three “Cities of Refuge” in Canaan for people who accidentally killed someone. Nor could they observe the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the law’s three holiest times of the year. Outside of Canaan’s land, Israel’s judges could not carry out many commandments dealing with certain civil issues. And even some moral commandments could not be fully obeyed without possessing the land because those commandments concerned property issues. How can you covet or steal land if no one owned any land?

So, it is clear that God gave commandments to His Old testament people that they could not obey until they lived in the place God wanted them to live in. The same is true now, in the Spirit.

God did not call the Israelites out of Egypt just so they could be out of Egypt. He called them to a place, a holy land where they could fully obey and serve Him, and where He could bless them as He wanted to do. Likewise, God did not call us out of sin just so we could be out of sin. He called us to a place in the Spirit, and until we get there – together – we have no hope of fully obeying the commandments of God.

Cleansed from All Unrighteousness

Understanding this, John wrote, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1Jn. 1:7). Please notice that John said if “we” walk in the light, Jesus will cleanse “us” from all sin. He said nothing about an individual. The place to which God has called us is fellowship in the light. That is the earthly purpose for the calling of God on our lives, for people will know that Jesus is the Son of God only if they see us walking together in the fellowship of Christ. Jesus said it this way (Jn. 17:20-21): “Not only do I pray for these but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all might be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be one in us, so that the world might believe that you sent me. And the glory you’ve given me, I’ve given them, that they might be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, and so that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them just as you loved me.”

Our goal and our prayer is that the body of Christ (those whom Paul called “the Israel of God”) will come to the spiritual place to which God has called us! For when the saints attain to fellowship with one another in Christ, no evil will have a place among us. In that happy, holy place called “fellowship”, we as a body of believers will finally be purged from all unrighteousness and be able, at last, to keep all of the commandments of God.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paul’s Gospel

I’d have you to know, brothers,
regarding the gospel delivered by me,
that it is not of man.

I did not receive it from man,
nor was I taught it;

it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ.
Gal. 1:11-12

Paul’s wonderful gospel brought to light certain truths that had not yet been revealed – even to those who were apostles before him. For example, Paul taught that all forms of worship which are not spiritual in nature are vain. Paul’s stated mission was to make man’s worship of God acceptable to God (Rom. 15:16). How? By preaching the gospel so that men could repent of their vain ways, be sanctified by the holy Spirit and, so, offer acceptable worship to God.

Throughout human history, people of every culture have worshiped God, but being ignorant of the true God, mankind’s worship has been useless. But in Christ, we can at long last offer acceptable worship, for he sanctifies us by the Spirit of God. Jesus came to make us and our worship acceptable to God through the Spirit. “Those who worship,” said the Master, “must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24).

Before Jesus came, God overlooked much of man’s ignorance, “but now,” preached Paul, “He commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Spiritless worship is vain and must be repented of, if one hopes to please God and be saved in the end. Spiritless religion is Godless religion, regardless of what men call it. Whether Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, or Christianity, no religion is of God without the sanctifying presence of the holy Spirit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Heavenly Conversation

One of the thrilling treasures that one can find while reading the Old Testament is a conversation between the Father and the Son before the Son was revealed – speaking to one another through the mouth of a prophet! It is a pearl of great price to be able to recognize the voice of the Son making a request to the Father in the following prophecy from Psalm 102:23-24a, and then to recognize the voice of the Father replying to the Son in verses 24b-28. We know that these latter verses are the Father speaking to the Son because the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews plainly says so (Heb. 1:10-12).

First, the Son makes the same request of the Father that he made in the Garden of Gethsemene; namely, that he would not be made to die early (vv. 23-24a):

He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said,O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days!

Then we have the Father’s response to the Son (vv. 24b-27):

"Your years are throughout all generations. Of old have you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish, but you shall endure. Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shall you change them, and they shall be changed. But you are the same, and your years have no end.”

So, the Son foretells of his prayer for life, and the Father promises the Son that he will live forever. And they do this through the same prophet, during the same prophecy!

David must have wondered who was talking through him when the Spirit took over his mouth and said these things. He knew it was the Spirit (2Sam. 23:1-2), and he also knew that only at a later time would he understand what he was saying (1Pet. 1:10-12). But as for us, it is given to us to know the ones who were speaking through David because the same Spirit that used his voice has used ours and has given us the knowledge that David wanted but didn’t have: the knowledge of the Father and the Son.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Favoring the City of God

“You shall arise and have mercy on Zion,
for the time to favor her,
yes, the set time, has come.
Your servants take pleasure in her stones,
and favor her dust.”
Psalm 102:13-14

There is nothing just “ok” in the kingdom of God. Every situation is designed and perfect. Every doctrine is right and eternal. Every word that is spoken is pure. Every being in that kingdom is holy and is anointed to understand the mind of God and to live forever. There is nothing lacking in God’s kingdom, and there is no need of anything anywhere. Every morsel satisfies completely, and there is no discomfort anywhere, to any degree.

Gods’ servants are wise; they favor the poverty of the kingdom of God over the wealth of this world because they understand that the poverty of God’s kingdom is more precious than all earthly wealth. They trust the nonsense of the gospel over the revered traditions and eloquent philosophies of men because “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” They trust the puniness of the Spirit over the military might of nations because “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1Cor. 1:25).

Everything in the kingdom of God is better than anything in this world. If God’s kingdom has dirt in it, a spoonful of that dirt is more valuable than all the wealth of earth combined. That’s why God’s servants “favor the dust of Zion, and take pleasure in her stones.” The grace to stand in that city of God is more precious than any privilege that any earthly government can grant you. And anything of this world that would diminish your desire for that city, whether men consider it good or bad, is to be hated.

This is why Moses, living in the greatest comforts this world had to offer at the time, chose to go down and suffer with the enslaved children of God. He chose to be associated with the enslaved, chosen people of God than to be king of the whole earth. That is the heart of a true servant of God. He favors the worst of God’s kingdom over the best of anything else.

"Of Mercy and Judgment"

“I will sing of mercy and judgment;
unto you, O Lord, will I sing!”
Psalm 101:1

“Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God.”
Paul, in Romans 11:22

Those who are called into the kingdom of God are always subject to pressures against real spiritual growth and coming to the knowledge of God. Most of the time, in this culture anyway, the pressure is against the confession that God is “a consuming fire”, whose wrath against the wicked is sure and terrible. It was so in ancient time as well. There were many in Israel who insisted that it was wrong to see God as a God of judgment (Mal. 2:17). But David and Paul both knew better. David rejoiced and sang about both the mercy and the judgment of God, and Paul preached them both. They understood that the only way God’s children will come to know their heavenly Father is for them to be taught both that God is love and that He is “a man of war” (Ex. 15:3) and that “He hates the wicked” (Ps. 11:5). Both are true.

In Psalm 101, God expresses His great mercy by saying that He will watch over those who are faithful to Him and that He will allow those who walk in His commandments perfectly to live with Him forever (v. 6).

In that same Psalm (vv. 4, 5, 7), God expresses His terrible judgment against those who are unfaithful and wicked by making it clear that He will not grant them eternal life at the Final Judgment: "A froward heart shall depart from me; I will not know a wicked person. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him will I cut off; whoever has a high look and a proud heart will I not tolerate. He who works deceit shall not dwell in my house. He who tells lies shall not tarry in my sight."

The Spirit of Christ could sing through David of the terrible judgments of God just as easily as it could sing of the damnation of the wicked. The Spirit could also preach through Paul of the wonderful grace of God as easily as it could preach that God was “a consuming fire”. Until we can speak as easily of one as the other, we have not yet overcome the spirits of this age who cannot rejoice to hear of the horrors that they will someday surely face. They will try to make the children of God feel unmerciful or unkind if they rejoice in the approaching Final Judgment of the wicked. But that judgment is our eternal deliverance from all the pressures in this world, pressures that come from ungodly people who oppose the righteousness and knowledge of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

He Is Coming!

“Let the heavens rejoice,
and let the earth be glad!
Let the sea roar, and its fullness!
Let the field be joyful,
and all that is in it!
Then shall all the trees of the wood
rejoice before the Lord, for he is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the people with His truth.”
Psalm 96:11-13

Jesus is coming again! He will return to reign on earth with perfect justice for a thousand years. Humans have never experienced such a reign, though Israel experienced brief times of perfect justices whenever one of their kings loved God’s law and carried out its righteous judgments. But that did not happen often, and it never lasted long. But even at that, no king of Israel was as pure in heart as the Son of God, and none of those kings, even Solomon, was nearly as wise. The reign of Christ Jesus will be perfect in every part, and what a relief he will bring to the meek and to the upright in heart! Throughout his thousand-year reign, good people will never be oppressed, and wicked people will never escape their just punishment.

The return of Jesus is the greatest hope of all who truly love God. Every person whose heart and life is pleasing to God feels the yearning for the Lord’s return. If the Spirit of God is alive and well in your soul, then you already feel what I am talking about. In one of the last verses of the Bible, the apostle John wrote, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” (Rev. 22:17). Amen! The holy Ghost in us calls out for Jesus to come, and so do those who are ready for their Bridegroom to come and take them to his wedding feast in the Father’s presence.

The truth of the return of Jesus to rescue us from the governments and cultures of sinful man provides us with great comfort. Listen to what Paul said had been revealed to him by the Lord. He sent this message to the saints in Thessalonica, who were among his most faithful, and most persecuted Gentile converts (1Thess. 4:15-18):

"Now I say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are left here alive until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who sleep; for when the command is given, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ will rise first. Next, we who are alive and left here will be caught away together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus will we ever be with the Lord. So, ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS."


The Testimony of the Lord

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Psalm 19:7

“Thy testimonies are very sure.”
Psalm 93:5

During his great revelation of the end times, John was told that the saints overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11). We know what “the blood of the Lamb” is; it is the holy Spirit that cleanses the soul from sin. But what is the word of our testimony?

First of all, a real testimony is not just talk. I have been in many a prayer meeting in which someone just stood up and talked, thinking they were giving a testimony. It is burdensome to listen to such powerless talk. A testimony in the kingdom of God is a living thing; it is a confession of something God has really done, and it brings the spirit of faith and victory into a room. Solomon said that whatever God does lasts forever (Eccl. 3:14), and this is true about a testimony as much as anything else. I know saints who have testified for decades to a miraculous work that God wrought in their lives, and it still lives and convicts and thrills souls. If God really did what you are talking about, it is still alive. It still teaches, warns, convicts, and edifies. It is not just talk.

That is why, along with the blood of Christ, God’s children overcome the devil with their testimonies. The devil has no testimony because he refuses to tell the truth about himself. He would have to testify that he was a deceitful creature when he was in heaven, that he was cast out of heaven when the Son of God ascended into heaven, and that he is still a liar and cannot stop lying because God will not grant him repentance. If he were in a meeting of the saints, and if he were to testify honestly to the work of God in his life, he would have to cry out, “I am damned! I am damned! And there is nothing I can do to change!” That would be a real testimony on his part. That would be a “testimony of the Lord” because it would be a testimony of what the Lord has done. But Satan would not give such a testimony, for he is “a liar and the father of it.”

Now, what is the Lord’s testimony in your life? If you have such a testimony, please use it! It is a powerful weapon against the forces that are now being marshaled against you and against all others around the world who walk in the light of God in Jesus Christ. Your testimony of God’s work in your life is a rock upon which you, and we, can stand forever, for “the testimony of the Lord is sure.”

"You Are Evil"

“If you, being evil, know how
to give good gifts to your children . . .”
Mt. 7:11

“O generation of vipers, how can you,
being evil, speak good things?”
Mt. 12:34

What kind of relationship would you be able to have with someone who told you to your face that you are evil? What would your attitude be toward that person? Jesus told his disciples they were evil, and yet they kept following him. In fact, one day when they asked him who would be saved in the Final Judgment, he told them that they and all other people were so hopelessly evil that there was nothing they could do to escape the coming wrath of God (Mk. 10:26-27). And they still followed him.

Every man sent by God from the foundation of the world has told fallen man that he is evil, and the only people who have ever escaped from their fallen human nature are those who have believed those servants of God and cried out to God for help. If you are too proud to confess your sinfulness, you will never escape it.

Jesus gave Brother Earl a dream a couple of years ago in which he heard his former pastor, now with the Lord, calmly and gently talking to a brother who had done wrong. I will change the name he used, but here is what that man of God spoke to the backslidden brother: “Do you know how to get out of it, Sam?” Then after a short pause, he said very gently, but with authority, “You own up to it.”

We all “have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, and Jesus has made for us a way out of our sin. All we have to do is humbly bow before him and “own up to it.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Change in Speakers

“O come! Let us sing unto the Lord!”

“In the wilderness, your fathers tempted me . . . forty long years.”
Psalm 95:1, 9-10a

It is obvious that the speaker at the beginning of Psalm 95 is not the speaker at the end. The speaker from verse one through most of verse seven is a man, perhaps David. He is calling the people to worship. But the speaker throughout the rest of the Psalm is obviously God, for He is speaking of things He dealt with centuries before this Psalm was composed.

My father, an anointed minster of Christ, told me that a man must preach himself into the anointing of God. His point was that God doesn’t draft lazy people into His service. We labor in the Lord and prove ourselves; then, when He will, God takes over our lives in a new way, just as he took complete control over the Psalmist’s voice in the midst of his singing. From the point of God’s taking control our lives for His service, the difference will be as great as is the difference in Psalm 95, beginning near the end of verse seven.

Read it, and marvel at the power of God as it takes control of the Psalmists’s voice. Then, pray that God will take control of the lives of young men everywhere, to deliver them from their own opinions and anoint them to feed His people with genuine heavenly knowledge.

Monday, August 10, 2009


“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Psalm 92:13

“Every plant that my heavenly Father
has not planted shall be rooted up.”
Matthew 15:13

In the Bible, our entrance into the family of God is described in many different ways. It is described as being “born again”, being “adopted”, being “translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son”, and others. In the Scriptures above, we see both David and Jesus refer to it as being “planted” in God’s house. Isaiah called those whom God chose as His own “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isa. 61:3).

But Jesus’ mention of being planted also suggested that some who are in God’s house have not been planted there by God. How this can happen is a mystery, but in his famous Parable of the Tares, Jesus plainly stated that Satan really does plant some souls in the assembly of saints (Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43). Paul, Peter, and Jude spoke of men who “creep into” the assembly (Gal. 2 :4; 2Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4); so, we have to say that such a thing is a reality. And because it is true, we need, as the ancient philosopher Socrates said, to know ourselves. Or, to say it the way Paul told young Timothy, we need to “make our calling and election sure” and to “lay hold on eternal life.”

Take nothing for granted. Jesus, the righteous judge, is coming, and he knows who is his and who is not.

Two Reactions and Two Results

The first two verses quoted above speak of results of being planted by God as compared to not being planted by God. And the two results differ because the two kinds of plants have different responses to the work of God. If you are a plant that God has planted, you rejoice at whatever He does (directly or through one of His servants) and you bear the fruit of righteousness. This is what David meant by saying that God’s plants “flourish” in His courts. But if you have not been planted by God, though you may play the role of a believer for a while, somewhere down the line, God will do something that you don’t like, and you will be exposed as not belonging among the saints. This is what Jesus meant by a plant being “rooted up”. Something God does will, at some point, displease you, and afterward, you will find yourself no longer a part of the assembly of God. How that removal happens is up to God, but that it happens is a sad fact of spiritual life.

The reason there are different responses to the same works of God is that those who have been planted by God have a different nature from those planted by Satan. God’s plants love all that God does, but Satan’s plants love what God does only so long as it fits into their personal agendas.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Close Call?

“A thousand shall fall at your side,
and ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.”
Psalm 91:7

Try to picture the scene described in the above verse from Psalm 91. You are standing somewhere in the midst of eleven thousand people, and suddenly, a plague sweeps through, and every one of them drops dead beside you. Would you think that the pestilence had come near you? Of course you would, if you are a normal person. You would probably run away so that the plague would not kill you, too, and then you would no doubt tell your friends of your narrow escape from death. But the Spirit of God will give us a different perspective of that event because the Spirit teaches us to look at things from God’s point of view.

In God’s world, if God determined that the plague would not touch you, the truth is the plague did not come anywhere near you, even if some who died by it fell against you when they dropped dead. God’s will governs life, not circumstances. Did Noah almost drown in the Flood? Of course not. He was a safe as he was before it even rained, for God determined that Noah and his family would live. Did Jesus almost catch leprosy when he laid hands on lepers and healed them? Or did he almost sin when he stood in the midst of sinners? God’s will for him was that Jesus would not catch leprosy or commit sin, and that was the determining factor in Jesus’ life. Nothing else was relevant, and Jesus trusted his Father to care for him.

No one who knows God will say that Jesus almost condemned Peter, James, and John as being sons of the devil because they were standing nearby when Jesus condemned others for being sons of the devil. Physical proximity to wicked people is irrelevant in determining how close we are, in our hearts, to wickedness. The only thing that matters is our relationship with God; or more specifically, His will for us. If a nuclear bomb is detonated over our heads, and God has determined that it will not harm us, it would be wrong for us even to tell someone that we barely escape the explosion. For if God had decided we would be unharmed, then that nuclear weapon was as irrelevant to us as if it were not even in our universe.

David understood this. Or, at least, he yielded himself to the Spirit that understood it, and it declared the truth. When we yield our carnal thoughts to that same Spirit, we will judge all things from the perspective of faith, and talk of God’s saving power instead of how close we come to harm.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Most Hopeless

Though you grind a fool in a bowl with a pestle,
yet will not his foolishness depart from him.”
Proverbs 27:22

Solomon commented often about fools. He didn’t want his sons to become fools, and so, he strongly emphasized to them the great dangers of foolishness. The many comments which Solomon made about fools seemed to make it abundantly clear that fools are hopelessly lost in sin. I have carefully studied Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and what I have found is that Solomon plainly and consistently implied that there is simply no hope for a fool. He even thought fools to be so worthless and so contrary to a good life that he told his sons that it would be better to run into an angry she-bear than to meet a fool (Prov. 17:12).

That being the case, it is surprising, to say the least, that in Proverbs, Solomon also taught that there are two kinds of people who have less hope than fool! I remember how stunned I was to read those verses in Proverbs, especially after I had studied what Solomon taught about fools. At the time, I wished that I could ask Solomon how such a thing could be, but seeing that was impossible, all I could do was wonder at such wisdom. How can anyone have less hope than someone who has none? Without an answer, the best we can do is just to acknowledge that Solomon was profoundly wise, and then say “amen”, whether we understand it or not.

A Proud Man

The first kind of person who has less hope than a fool is the man who thinks highly of himself; that is, a braggart, or a proud man. Solomon said, in Proverbs 26:11, that even if you manage to separate a fool from his foolishness, he is as sure to return to it as a dog returns to vomit. (Dogs will eat their own vomit, in case some of you don’t know that.) Then, in the very next verse, Solomon added, “Do you see a man wise in his own opinion? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

A careful reading of Proverbs shows that pride is one of the seven most abhorred things in the eyes of God (Prov. 6:17) and that “every one who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). The extent of divine contempt for the proud cannot be over-emphasized, and the wrath of God upon every proud soul is certain. To sum up all the warnings Solomon gave his son about pride, we can say, as he did, “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18) because God loathes pride (Prov. 8:13).

A Hasty Man

The second kind of person who has less hope than a fool is a man who speaks or acts too quickly. This refers to a man who reaches conclusions too quickly, one who speaks before hearing all the evidence. This is how Solomon said it (Prov. 29:20): “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” It is very easy to be moved by someone who tells a sad story; but, if we would refrain from making a judgment until we hear all the facts, our conclusion will almost always be different from what it would have been otherwise.

As Israel’s king, Solomon was given holy wisdom so that he refrained from making any judgment until the accused had the opportunity to speak. He learned from God and from experience that some people know how to make themselves appear to be victims and that those people can move others to feel indignation at their “plight”. But Solomon’s strong desire to be a just judge of God’s people caused him to follow after righteousness and to wait until he knew the whole truth. And by doing that, he escaped many a trap that was laid for him by tearful, lying souls who complained to him of being maltreated.

Solomon warned his son of this trap of clever liars who know how to make themselves appear to be needy victims and who plead for a quick decision. Here are a couple of wise things Solomon taught his son concerning them:

A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor,
but through knowledge, the just will be delivered.”
Proverbs 11:9

He who is first in his own cause seems just,
but his neighbor comes and searches him.”
Prov. 18:17

True Wisdom

I am sure that there is a wise man somewhere who is able to explain why it is true that a proud man and a man who speaks hastily are more hopeless than fools. All that I can do is recognize Solomon’s wisdom to be true, and then humbly pray to God that by His holy Spirit, He keeps me, and all of us, from being either proud, hasty, or foolish.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Of No Reputation"

“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, but made himself of no reputation,
assuming the form of a slave, made in the likeness of men.”
Phip. 2:5-7a

Over the years, as I read the King James Bible, I often marveled that Jesus was able to “make himself of no reputation”. And I wondered, since we are to follow Jesus’ example, how we could follow him in this regard. After all, we cannot control what people think, and a reputation is something that is formed in the minds of others. So, I wondered, how did Jesus live so that he had no reputation? And how can I?

As I lay in bed last night, I was thinking about this, and verses from the Bible came to mind which dealt with Jesus and his reputation. There are many of them! Rather than be ”of no reputation”, it seemed to me that opinions of Jesus abounded and that they reflected two extremes. On the one hand, the Bible states plainly that some in Israel thought and said, among other cruel things, that Jesus was demon-possessed (Jn. 7:20). Those Israelites felt certain that Jesus was cursed by God. In their minds, no one could teach the things Jesus taught without having been turned over to Satan. Isaiah foretold of this reputation that Jesus would have among some of God’s people:

Isaiah 53
3. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid, as it were, our faces from him. He was despised, and we considered him worthless.
4. Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

When people feel this way about you, how can you say that you are “of no reputation”? In fact, those of this opinion would make it so that you have a very big, and bad, reputation!

But at the same time, there were some in Israel who felt just the opposite about Jesus. Among those people, Jesus had the very best reputation that a man can possibly have. At one point (Mt. 16:16), Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Later, another follower named Martha said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God who is coming to the world” (Jn. 11:27).

So, when people feel that way about you, how can you say that you are “of no reputation”? Those of this opinion would make it so that you have a very big, and good, reputation!

Then I saw that the phrase “having no reputation” may not mean at all that people hold no opinion about you, but that people hold so many conflicting opinions of you that most of the others can’t figure out what to think.

I believe that every person who truly follows Jesus will not only live the holy life he lived but will experience as well both the pain of outrageous slander from some and the comfort of being greatly loved by others, just as Jesus did. And if so, that is as close as one can come to being “of no reputation”, for there will be so many reputations about that person afloat that most people won’t know what to think.


I am thankful that the King James Translation of Philippians 2:6 included the phrase, “of no reputation” because it has given me much to think about over the years, and I have benefitted from the thoughts that the King James translation has provoked in me. However, that phrase doesn’t actually appear to belong in that verse. Instead of “made himself of no reputation”, the better translation might be, “he emptied himself”, or even better, “he divested himself”, for in this verse, Paul is speaking of the Son of God in heaven leaving behind his glory, or “divesting himself” of his glorified form to come to earth and take on the form of a man.

But that is a lesson for another day. Right now, I have been enjoying pondering over the question of how in the world Jesus managed to make himself “of no reputation”.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Flesh, the Spirit, and the City

Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!
I will mention Rahab and Babylon to them who know me.
Psalm 87:3-4a

These words from Psalm 87 were spoken by the Spirit of Christ through a prophet. The prophet knew where Rahab and Babylon were located, but he understood nothing about what the Son of God was actually talking about. Nor did that prophet know about the city of God that was revealed to John the apostle in his Revelation.

There are two ways by which man is brought into bondage in this life. He can be enslaved by the lusts of his own fleshly nature, or he can be enslaved by demons. “Rahab” and Babylon” refer to these two evils. In the Old Testament, “Rahab “ is another name for Egypt (e.g., Isa. 51:9-10), and Egypt is a symbol of the fleshly nature of man (as suggested in Ezek. 16:26). “Babylon”, on the other hand, refers to spiritual uncleanness, the place where men are brought into spiritual bondage by “doctrines of demons” rather than by the lusts of the flesh. Jesus speaks of these things to those who know him. That is, he teaches his children wisdom concerning such things, revealing how those enemies of our souls work their craftiness and ensnare the spirits of men. Paul also spoke of these two evils to the saints in Corinth, exhorting them to cleanse themselves of “from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit” (2Cor. 7:1).

At the same time, Jesus and his servants speak of the glory of the city of God, to which we hope to go when this age is ended. It is a city illuminated not by the sun but by the brightness of the presence of the Father and the Son (Rev. 21:23), and through which flows a river of life, bordered on each side with trees whose very leaves heal (Rev. 22:1-2). It is a city whose streets are laid with transparent gold, and where every hope for peace and pleasantness is realized. Jesus speaks of that city “to those who know me”, and he encourages them to be faithful and diligent so that they may overcome the two great evils that oppose them and, so, obtain that eternal life.