Friday, October 30, 2009


Note: After Uncle Joe was visited by an angel in 1959 and healed of the cancer that the doctors said would kill him in 60 to 90 days, he immersed himself in the Scriptures, and as he studied the Bible, he wrote out many of his thoughts. Here is one of them.

If something influences us, we follow it. The question, “Who are you following?” is only another way of asking, “Who is influencing you?” We can, of course, follow, or be influenced, by good as well as by evil. When Paul exhorted the saints to “follow after the things that make for peace”(Rom. 14:19), that was only another way of saying, “Let yourself be influenced by the peaceful spirits of others.” When he wrote, “follow after charity” (1Cor. 14:1), he was only saying, “Let your spirit be influenced by the charity you see in others.”

Here are some other things Paul wanted the saints to follow:

1Thess. 5:15: “Ever follow that which is good” (that is, “Always let good people influence you.”)

1Tim. 6:11: “Follow after righteousness” (that is, “Let righteous people influence you.”)

2Tim. 2:22: “Follow faith, charity, and peace” (that is, “Let faithful, loving saints influence you.”)

Heb. 12:14: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness” (that is, “Let God’s holiness and peace influence how to treat others.”)

Heb. 13:7: “Remember those who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conduct” (that is, “Let the example of faithful elders influence you.”)

Heb 6:11,12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end, so that you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (that is, “Work steadily in the Lord as you see others do.”)

1Peter 2:21: “. . . leaving us example that you follow His steps” (that is, Let the example of Jesus influence you.)

My father once told me that others will follow you, once your mind is made up. In other words, you will influence others once Jesus has sufficiently influenced you. But not only will people follow us once we are on the right path. On the day of judgment something else will follow us, too, as Uncle Joe’s last Scripture shows us!

Rev. 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Sacrifices of Israel

Jesus said that he was “meek and lowly in heart”, and then he issued an invitation to his disciples to “Come, learn from me” (Mt. 11:29). Men of God, years later, would write that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is “the radiance of God’s glory and the reflection of His very being” (Heb. 1:3) and “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). But if the Son is the mirror image of his Father, and the Son says he is ”meek and lowly in heart”, then what does that truth tell us about the Father?

It tells us in words what the Father told Israel in works.

In Leviticus, the laws governing sacrificial works in Israel are given. One of the astonishing things about God’s sacrificial system is how simple and generous it is. While the gods of the Gentiles were demanding extravagant and costly gifts, including the sacrifice of innocent children, the God of Israel demanded so little that Israel could not even believe it was sufficient. The main reason ancient Israel failed in their walk with God was that He was so good that they could not believe it. For one instance, if the entire nation of Israel was found to have transgressed, what was required to make atonement for the sins of all those millions of people was one bullock! That was all: “When the sin which they have sinned against it [God’s law] is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin” (Lev. 4:14).

Perhaps even more astonishing, especially in comparison to the oppressive, self-serving demands of heathen gods recorded in the sagas and laws of ancient Gentiles, is what God demanded when someone stole from Him as compared to when someone stole from a mere mortal: Here are God’s requirements for such sins, as found in Leviticus:

Trespass Offering for stealing from God
1. The owner must bring the offering to the Lord (Lev. 5:15a).
2. It must be a ram without blemish (5:15b).
3. A fine will be determined by the priest (5:15c).
4. The guilty must “make amends” for the harm, and add 20% to it (5:16a).
5. “And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the Trespass Offering, and it shall be forgiven him” (5:16b).

Trespass Offering for stealing from a neighbor
1. The owner must bring the offering to the Lord (6:6a).
2. It must be a ram without blemish (6:6b).
3. A fine will be determined by the priest (6:6c).
4. The guilty must restore what he has stolen, and add 20% to it (6:5).
5. “And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord, and it shall be forgiven him.” (6:7).

The humility of the Almighty revealed in these Trespass offering laws is breath-taking. He could have demanded anything – everything – of those who succumbed to fear, or greed, or were just ignorant, and failed to render to Him what was His due, in tithes and offerings. But His concern was not with Himself; His concern was for the one who had done the wrong, to restore him to fellowship and safety within the congregation of the Lord’s people. The focus of God’s law was on our well-being because the focus of God’s heart was on our well-being.

If there had been a law given which could have given life,” wrote Paul, “surely righteousness would have been by the law (Gal. 3:21). Before the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost so that we could walk in it, walking in the light of the law that God gave Israel was as close to God as anyone could be. The righteousness of the law was a pure and great a righteousness as anyone could have before God shared His righteousness with us, through the Spirit. The Old Testament law revealed God’s loving heart, and His perfect justice, as well as it could have been revealed without having God Himself dwell in us and guide us from within. The sacrificial system of the law was just one of the tools God used to reveal Himself to Israel, but other than the sunshine and the rain, it was the one He used the most.

If you would like a copy of my summary of Israel’s sacrificial system as it is described in the book of Leviticus, it is available. It was a very simple system; still, one must study it carefully in order to grasp its beauty.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Psalm 119 Imitation

David wrote a Psalm (119) in which each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. He went through the whole alphabet in order. I thought I'd try that, and it blessed me. I really felt some good feelings when I did it. YOU try it and see how you feel. Here is mine:

All my ways are in you.
Before the beginning you knew me, and you loved me.
Come to me now, and teach me.
Do not leave me to those who hate me, for
Evil men would destroy me.
Forgive the foolishness of my youth.
Give me life, and I will delight in you.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings, for
I am poor and needy.
Just the breath of your mouth made the heavens.
Keep me as your own, and make me glad.
Let me walk in your ways.
Make me to know you and to be as you are.
Never let me be moved.
Open my ears with your song.
Put your hand upon me for good.
Quicken my steps so that I can walk in your ways.
Raise me up to sit with you in glory.
Save me.
Take me into your kingdom forever.
Until I see your face, I will not be satisfied.
Very often my thoughts are on you.
When will I see your face?
EXcept for hope in your mercy, I would have been overwhelmed.
You are life to me.
Zeal for your people has driven me to your altar.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wanted by Carnally Minded Men: The Flesh, Dead or Alive

or “Why Seek Ye The Living Among the Dead?”

It is, of course, very important to know who is saint and who is not. God makes a person a saint by baptizing him with the holy Ghost, for a saint is anyone who has been sanctified, regardless of whether or not he has remained faithful to the Sanctifier, Jesus Christ. The act of being sanctified by the Spirit makes one a saint, not the behavior of that saint after being sanctified. Every person who has received the holy Spirit is a saint because of what God has done, not what that person has done. And such a person is a saint, whether or not men say so. A person’s becoming a saint is altogether the work of God, not of men. Only the One who has the power to baptize with the holy Ghost has the power to sanctify.

Christians have a bizarre and extended rite by which they claim to make a person a saint. As part of that prolonged ecclesiastical process (sometimes it takes many years), the rotted corpses of dead candidates for sainthood are disinterred and examined. From the January 11, 1999 edition of U.S. News and World Report comes a detailed description of how Christians make saints. Part of the process is that the persons who have nominated someone for sainthood must write a detailed, scholarly paper, called a posito, in defense of their candidate. On page 56 of the article, we are told that the posito “is often accompanied by the much grimmer task of exhuming the candidate’s corpse.” For example, the thoroughly decayed corpse of Pierre Toussaint, who died in the 19th century, was dug up by Christians in 1990, and “a forensics team spent 15 days excavating his grave, using computer imaging to match the skull to an antique photo of Toussaint.” Explained one of the Christians who was promoting Toussaint for Christian sainthood, “Rome wanted assurances that these were the real remains of Pierre Toussaint, and not just a bunch of bones.”

That’s a good idea, I think. If you’re about to make somebody a saint, you’d better make sure you have the right guy.

The article goes on to explain that disinterment of a corpse is especially needed in cases in which the candidate has been dead a long time, because “the church requires proof that the person actually existed.”

This is another good idea. If you’re about to make somebody a saint, it is best to make sure the guy even existed.

It’s a good thing that the Lord never has to dig people up and examine their skull for fifteen days before giving him the holy Ghost. With their tongues rotted away, it would be very difficult for them to speak in tongues. Can you picture Jesus, in making his decision to give someone the holy Ghost, sending a band of angel investigators to earth to make sure the guy existed? If it were not for the fact that Christians claim to be doing the weird things that they sometimes do in the name of the Lord, they would be committed to a mental asylum. Instead, they honor each other and are honored by worldly men as wise, devoted servants of God. What a world!

Actually, the digging up and admiration of corpses is a long-standing tradition among Christians. This is not a well-known fact, but it is an indisputable, historical fact. Any reputable history of early Christianity will describe the crucial role that “relics” played in the spread of Christianity to Barbarian societies in northern and western Europe. “Relics” are body parts taken from dead Christian saints, believed to have power to bring good fortune to those who possess and revere them. Incredible lengths have been taken by multitudes of Christians, especially in Europe, to secure (sometimes even rob graves and steal) body parts of dead saints.

The rapid spread of Christianity among the superstitious Barbarian peoples was made possible in large measure by the use of relics. This gruesome element of the Christian experience is described in many histories of early Christianity, but the practice of the veneration of relics is not merely an ancient phenomenon; it has remained an important part of Christianity. In the late 16th century, king Philip of Spain, an extremely devout Christian, collected thousands of various body parts from cadavers of saints – hands, feet, ears, fingers, whatever he could get – then placed them in golden vessels in a specially prepared gold-plated wall in his palace, and slept close to them. To this day, body parts from Christian corpses can be found in thousands of chapels and “holy sites” around the world, and pilgrimages to those relics are still made by faithful Christians.

The most famous disinterment came in the “cadaver synod” of A.D. 897. In this case, Pope Stephen VI ordered that the still-rotting corpse of his hated, recently deceased predecessor, Pope Formoses, to be exhumed and put on trial. From page 83 of the book, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Eamon Duffy. Yale University Press, 1997), we are told that “the corpse, dressed in pontifical vestments and propped up on a throne, was found guilty of perjury and other crimes, was mutilated by having the fingers used in blessings hacked off, and was then tossed into the Tiber [River].” We are not told what defense the dead Pope offered on his own behalf. Apparently though, Pope Stephen’s display of Christian zeal was too much for even Christians to endure. Stephen was deposed, and later, while in prison, strangled. We are not told if his body was brought to trial or was sliced up and given out to provide relics for various chapels in Europe.

Folks, such a history as this is unworthy of the name of Jesus. But this is Christianity’s history, and God ordained that men should record it so that His people could clearly see how ungodly that religion is, and so that they would be encouraged to obey God and come out of it. That is why I am bringing it to your attention. It is a nasty thing to dig up a corpse for any reason, but it is spiritual insanity to dig up a rotting cadaver as part of one’s service to Jesus. To do so is to partake of one of the world’s grossest delusions. Is there any wonder that the Spirit is crying out to us, “Come out of her, My people”?

My advice is for us all to wait until Jesus comes, and let him raise up the dead. He’s the only one who really knows how. Those whom he raises up will live again, and will live in new, glorified bodies, not in the same old fleshly bodies in which they lived previously. Those decayed corpses of flesh will be left behind for the entertainment of fools, to worship or to condemn in court – whatever they choose to do with them. Those who belong to Christ have far better things to do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Offender, The Offended, and Jesus

I have edited this message which Uncle Joe (1915-1996) wrote in private almost half a century ago. As usual with the things he wrote, one can sense both his wisdom and his struggle with putting forth what he saw in words. Hopefully, with my few additions and clarifications, I have made the wonderful insight of his message more accessible to the reader. Uncle Joe and I were kindred spirits, and knowing what he meant to say made my task much easier than if I were editing the message of a stranger.

I hope you will enjoy this and other messages from Uncle Joe, written in private after he was healed of cancer in 1959, but that are now being salvaged from his papers, typed and made public. In this one, he is trying to describe a place with God that is only found in the Spirit.

The Offender, The Offended, and Jesus
Joseph H. Murray

As long as we are among those offending "one of the least of these" or among those being offended by "one of the least of these", we cannot be of help to either of those two groups. In fact, we are found to be in one group or the other, needing help ourselves.

Before one can be used of the Lord to help God’s people, we have to move from the stage of being an offender or from the state of being offended at every little thing that comes our way -- and move to the plateau of which Paul wrote when he said, “none of these things move me” (Acts 20:24).

It is written, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). No one can be offended unless there is an offense in him, because we cannot reap anything that we do not sow. Therefore, we should depart from all sin so that no one could sin against us.

If we are liars, we should stop being liars so that no one could lie to us. We should stop deceiving others so that we could not be deceived. Again, I say, we can only receive into our basket what we have it open for, and what we already have in it. If a trash basket, we receive trash. If a vessel of honor, we receive the good things of God and things that are honorable.

Jesus never puts any one down but draws both the offender and the offended to the same level. When he was arrested in the Garden, this happened: “And one of them [Peter] smote the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. Then Jesus [rebuked Peter and] touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:50,51). Here, Jesus put Peter and the man whom Peter wounded with his sword on the same level. He rebuked his disciple and helped his enemy. They both needed his righteousness.

Again it is written, “Then said Jesus unto Peter, put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it” (John 18:11). Then said Jesus unto him, "Put your sword back in its place, for all they that take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).

On another occasion, Jesus stood on the stage of one of life’s tragedies, “And the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what do you say? This they said, tempting him, so that they might have something by which to accuse him, but Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
"And then again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground, and they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
"When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more” (John 8:3-11).

It is a pity that those Pharisees and Scribes did not stay around long enough to hear Jesus speak those consoling words to this wretched woman, for neither would he have condemned them for wanting to throw stones but not being able to. He would have spoken the same words to them: "Go and sin no more.”

In doing what he did on this occasion, Jesus demonstrated that, to him, the offender and the offended in this world were on the same level. And he was able to help them both because he was neither one.

The Law of the Lord was Prophetic -- And Still Is!

The Law of the Old Testament was God’s Law. It made God’s requirements clear for the lifestyle, worship, and justice system of Israel. The Law was a revelation of how God viewed right living, right worship, and good government. And God still thinks what He has always thought! What God thought was righteous conduct in Moses’ day, He still thinks is righteous conduct. And what God thought was righteous judgment then, He still thinks is righteous judgment. If God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is “the same today, yesterday, and forever,” then what is the Father? If you know God at all, then you know this:

1 - God has never learned anything.
2 - God has never had to correct anything He ever said or did.

The principal reason God gave His Law to Israel was to point them to the coming Messiah, His Son. Paul described the Law as Israel’s schoolmaster which led to Christ (Gal. 3:24). And that same Law, written on our hearts by the Spirit, is now doing for us what it once did for Israel. It is pointing us to Jesus Christ, preparing us for his coming, but this time it is his second coming, not his first.

Governing the Earth

A very great benefit of studying the Law of Moses is that the kind of judgments found in the Law are God’s kind of judgments; therefore, they are the kind of judgments that Jesus will render when he rules the earth for a thousand years. The Law is not a dead, worthless relic of the past; it is telling us what kind of government to expect from Jesus when he sets up his kingdom on earth. Jesus will rule over the wicked, “with a rod of iron”, and the “iron” judgments he will execute are the kinds of judgments found in Moses’ Law! The Law is still pointing to Christ and preparing God’s children to reign with him.

To prepare to reign with Christ Jesus means to learn to agree with him in judgment! We certainly are not prepared to reign with Christ if we disagree with his judgments. We are supposed to be in the process of developing the mind of Christ so that we judge as he judges, and feel as he feels about everything. We are in training. That is why God sends trials and temptations our way. Consider this description of the millennial reign of Jesus, from Zechariah 14:

16. And it shall come to pass, that every one who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
17. And it shall be that whoever will not come up of all the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
18. And if the family of Egypt that has no rain still does not go up, and come not [to Jerusalem to worship God], then there shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite the heathen who come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
19. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

At the present time, believers are given no authority to physically punish the wicked. For that, we must wait for the return of Jesus. It is sin for a believer today to become entangled in the political or military affairs of this world. We are citizens of a heavenly country, and we are here as ambassadors of Christ. This world’s social ills and political controversies are none of our business. Our king is coming to conquer and replace every government in every place. His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit, and we who believe are in the critical process of learning to walk in the Spirit, judge in the Spirit, and stand in the Spirit against strong opposition. We are kings and priests to God, but not yet with earthly civil authority. That will come, though. Are you prepared to judge the world with Christ?

The Son of God occupies his position as well as he does only because he completely agrees with everything his Father thinks. How well we occupy our places in the kingdom of God will be determined by the same standard. Do we think what God thinks? Do we feel what He feels? I am only as good a pastor as I agree with Jesus. I am harmful to the body of Christ unless I judge as he judges. Any time I think one thing when Jesus is thinking another, I am wrong, and I have become a stumbling block to every saint under my care.

Because Jesus always thinks the way the Father thinks, Jesus is always right. The fundamental issue of life for every child of God is, Do we think the way our heavenly Father thinks? Jesus has the mind of his Father, but do we have the mind of Christ? The value of the Law of Moses is that it gives us a glimpse into the Father’s mind. Moses’ Law was the most precious insight into the heart of God ever known until the Spirit of God was poured out on the day of Pentecost. But what kind of thinking, what kind of judgments, did the Spirit bring into men’s hearts when it came, if not God’s kind of thinking and God’s kind of judgments? That was, after all, what God promised in Jeremiah 31:

31. “Behold, the days come”, says the Lord, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,”. . . says the Lord.
33. “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,” says the Lord, “I will put my Law into their inward parts and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34. And they will teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord!’ For they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” says the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

That promise, that the Law would be put into believers’ hearts, was fulfilled when Christ ascended into heaven and the Spirit of God was sent to dwell within us and to give us the knowledge of God.

What about the Other Commandments?

We are all familiar with God’s moral commandments that are in the Law, laws such as “love your neighbor as yourself”, “thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not bear false witness”, “thou shalt not covet”, etc. Everyone agrees that God’s moral commandments are “holy and just and good.” But what about the other judgments of God revealed in the Law, the ones that reveal what God considers to be perfect justice? What about His commandments for the judges and rulers of Israel, the criminal judgments (perfect because the Giver was perfect) such as public whippings for wicked transgressors, or the execution of murderers, adulterers, and harlots, or the forced double or quadruple repayment of stolen property?

• Do we agree with God’s Law, that kidnappers should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that the owner of a dangerous animal should be executed if that animal kills someone and the owner knew the animal was dangerous? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every witch should be burned alive? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every person who worships any God but Jehovah should be executed? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every homosexual should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every adulterer and adulteress should be put to death? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns.
• Do we agree with God’s Law, that every son or daughter who rebels against his parents and becomes stubbornly self-indulgent is to be stoned? Jesus does, and he will execute such judgments when he returns. (Jn. 8:1-11).

The Law of Moses is telling us about the future reign of Christ! It is not a useless ancient document. It came from God and served a purpose to point people to Christ – and it still does, though now it points to his future reign instead of his suffering and death.

David offered the following descriptions of the Law and the judgments of God, from Psalm 19:

7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Do we feel as David felt about the Law and judgments of God? To the extent that we do, we have the mind of Christ and are prepared to reign with him. To the extent that we do not, we are carnally minded and unprepared to reign with Christ, and we will doubtless be a stumbling block to some child of God while we live.

God’s ways are not our ways, but they are right. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, but they are perfect and true. And only those who think as He thinks will reign with His Son when he returns to this earth.