A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 54 – Published 12/28/19
WHO WILL GO ALL THE WAY?
It’s wonderful to dream, but dreams are only a foundation of what needs to be constructed. In order for us to turn God’s visions and desires for our life into reality, we must move beyond our imaginations and go to work! Remember when we first discovered that a continual spiritual transformation was an important pillar within the Christian life? As we stood at the base of the mountain and looked up, it seemed impossible, but as we started climbing one step at a time by faith, we were rewarded with amazing progress. The problem with many of us that have been a follower for a while is that we have learned about the comfortable base camps along the way and how easy it is to stop climbing and settle for living in a mediocre and lukewarm attitude. When we lose our sense of spiritual zeal and urgency about reaching the plateau, we have drifted away from His presence and most likely will not reach our goals. So why is it important to reach the top of the mountain? It simply means being where God wants us to be. I can also include this journey will not be easy and in fact it’s filled with major obstacles and challenges. Many do not care about what God wants and end up living according to their own ideas and decisions. However, the declaration of how we did it, “our way” is nothing to be proud of. In fact, those who are determined to do whatever they want will someday be ashamed and deeply saddened by their own foolishness. Our creator loves us and wants the best for us, but has given everyone the freewill choice to obey God or live independently. Either way, everyone serves someone. Today is the day to make the commitment that we are packing our gear and preparing to ascend toward our spiritual destiny. God has a plan for each person and has drawn a beautiful blueprint for us to follow and reminds us in I Samuel 15:22 that, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” If we choose to believe this is not a serious matter we are deceived as the next verse puts it even more bluntly, “For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” A true follower of Christ comprehends that Jesus is the author and finisher of their faith and that He gives the orders about where and how we are going, when we are to rest and for how long. There is only room for one king upon the throne of our heart and whoever is sitting on our throne is the Lord of our life.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER
“Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus in the midst of the chaos and distractions of the holiday. May we may share in the songs of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship with those who are spiritually sensitive and wise. Let us be reminded that giving is an attribute of you as you gave your life for us. Thank you for your peace that passes all understanding.
May your love and compassion be seen and felt all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and sincerity with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry and content with clean hearts. We are determined to be focused on Christ as the true reason for the season.
Our lives are so filled with your blessings! Thank you for good health and the prosperity of your love. Thank you for coming to earth to save us and thank you for eternal life. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving everyone and being forgiven, in Jesus Name, amen.”
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 53 – Published 12/14
WHAT IS A CHRISTMAS SPIRIT? Part 1
Originally published as
A POSSIBLE YOU – Part 52 – Immanuel
Well, here we are again at Christmas and may I say that we have had some difficult trials and times of sadness but all in all this has truly been a year of blessing. I am so grateful our heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus to live on this earth and eventually SACRIFICE His life for our sins with His blood. It was the highest sacrifice and the ONLY ransom that had the power to redeem us and open the doors not only to heaven – but also allows us to walk in His presence NOW! God’s grace is amazing and has extended His invitation for anyone to become a child of the King of Kings. So, why do I feel a check in my spirit when I see Santa Clause? Because I am looking at an image of someone that appears to be trying steal God’s glory and take away the attention that the incarnation and resurrection deserves. Some might say, now brother, there is no reason why we cannot have BOTH! The other day I was driving down the road and saw Santa and all the reindeer right beside a nativity scene, and I thought nothing of it! I am sorry, but this bothers me and I believe it has everything to do with God’s Spirit speaking within me. There is only one God that has the divine abilities that NO OTHER god has – yet I cannot help but think it is no coincidence that an imaginative character would arrive at the winter solstice and claim to have super-natural powers that is equal to Jesus Christ. To be weary of such a popular entity should not seem strange neither should it be judged as being silly within the Christian world – I am afraid that is not the case. Many in the Christian faith justify this story as something that is crucially important to the development of the young and innocent imaginative mind. To be honest, I can tolerate the Christmas traditions because my human nature just like everyone else enjoys the ideas and concepts of magic and fantasy – but is there anything wrong with wondering how Jesus really feels about all of this?
I admit there is a world of topics to talk about that are more, let us say…peaceful and I am sure – less controversial. It is true that most people stand rather strong in their traditions and it is no secret that any drastic change in the way things are done would no doubt bring a negative response from those who disagree. But likewise, I would hope we have also come such a distance in our spiritual journey that it would be a shame to compromise with the world just because we like the warm fuzzy feelings of “anything” or any type of ritual or celebration that would be offensive to the Lord. I would be the first person to confess how the season of Christmas brings emotions that are sentimental and are difficult to explain, and I certainly do not want everyone I know to dismiss me as an old, grumpy and senile fanatic. I love the thought of the Father sending His only Son Jesus to the earth, but I am just trying to untangle all of the other holiday “symbols” that has tried to weave itself into the cloth of reverence toward God and goodwill toward men. I would never want to offend anyone and I want to be the first to admit that I have in the past actually opposed Christians that were trying to avoid being associated with the pagan connections with Christmas along with the negative chaos affiliated with commercialism. May I also add that I was not very loving in my approach to this situation neither was I, let’s see…filled with Godly wisdom and maturity. I remember when I was a younger man; I worked with a Christian fellow that decided to lead his young family away from the traditions of Christmas. He had been heavily influenced through the teachings of his church and had trusted their doctrines and spiritual leadership about not embracing certain holidays. I think what really irritated us was that he would openly describe the scenario of his Christmas mornings without a tree or presents and how his small children would cry. We all thought this was a type of “abuse” and would strongly criticize and accuse him with everything from being in a cult to having mental problems. So, I have seen persecution (and participated in it) and have witnessed the anger against a person that makes a decision to swim “upstream” against what the masses believe. This makes me consider that with such strong emotions that are expressed about such a trivial topic as putting up a tree and decorating it with silver and gold, how will people react when we are faced with following or rejecting the ideas and temptations associated with the anti-Christ?
We all make choices each day that are connected to our world-views. In order to be led by the Holy Spirit and follow God’s specific blueprint for our destiny, we must stay constantly focused and extremely sensitive to being side-tracked. I believe compromise is something we must on “full alert” with in order to stay pure in the holiness of divine truth. I cannot think of anytime when compromise should be accepted as each of us has the personal responsibility to seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We have been called to be a light and as we have mentioned before, the light from a “lighthouse” is not sporadic but constantly faithful. We are a “never failing” source of truth to voice His gospel and if pressed into a corner, we just need to boldly confess that it is wrong for us to participate in something we feel is not God’s will. I can safely say that we will all have the “opportunity” if we live long enough to stand before the world and proclaim our allegiance. I realize that no one is “forcing” us to celebrate holidays any particular way but I am only suggesting that it is wisdom to consider the social issues that are being discussed all around us and how that possibly in the near future our legal system will require all people to accept certain views whether they agree or not. My point is that with a small amount of compromise here and there or making special considerations at certain times, we can become vulnerable to a “weakening” or a breakdown of the standards and absolutes of our convictions. I realize we are not perfect, but I know that Jesus would never consider a small amount of leaven into His life. What I am trying to discover, is why we would.
Of course we know that our holidays are not what they seem, yet that does not seem to stop us from joining in. Many of the tiny details that have been passed along for centuries are traditions that have come directly from the witchcraft of pagans and heathens in connection with idol worship. With our appetite and endless infatuation for anything that appeals to our carnal imagination, it seems to make no difference what we do as long as we hide behind the justification that we are not really bowing down to idols. Subtle sins are like snare traps, very similar to watching television programs that offer just a few repulsive nasty words or just a small amount of erotica, nudity and lust. Satan has not been unleashing the floodgates of sin upon the masses all at once, but for the last 60 years he has slowly been serving the cool-aid one glass at a time. Those who hate the taste of sin can eventually acquire a tolerance to it when given small amounts every day. Selah. Social issues that years ago would have not even been discussed as an acceptable option have now become embraced as valid reasons for the numerous practices and lifestyles. The New World Order preaches their poison and the authorities are forced to follow the lies that has now turned God’s laws upside down! “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Allow me to ask you a question: would you rather be simple minded and left alone to believe the stories and fables you have been told, or would it be better if you conducted theological research and found that much of what you trusted as innocent – was actually dangerous? Let’s look at it like this: what if you were a scientist that studied the chemical compounds of processed food and how they affect the body and let’s say that you adored a certain snack that you ate several times a day. In your research you discovered that this particular treat caused a gradual shutdown of your organs and produced an aggressive growing cancer. Would you be sad that you stumbled across this knowledge that can now save your life or would you wish that you had never found the problem so you could have enjoyed your snacks? “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools” (Proverbs 3:35).
All over the world we can see how folk legends and traditions have become a “sacred” part of certain cultures and each society accordingly will strongly defend them. Whoever coined the phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” was not thinking about the consequences or dangers that is connected many times with things that are cute and seemingly harmless. Allow me to say that bombs made in the shapes of teddy bears do not lessen the unpleasant reality that “cute” can destroy! I believe when it comes to our pagan traditions that we can clearly see the connection between the love for children and our vulnerable emotions. The enemy knows that he could never persuade the masses to participate in a world-wide holiday with something that did not include our most valuable treasure – our children. He uses the innocent child, the needy, desperate, heart wrenching emotions of thinking about a child that does not have a store bought trinket. The concept of Santa is that he loves the little children so much that He has dedicated his entire life to making them happy with gifts. So, we charge upon the retail world in a furious “call to battle” against the crowds and go in debt as we try to make them happy in the name of how can I “wow” you with more materialism. Somehow all of this evolved from Jesus being born in a manger and dying on a cross to save the souls of a lost and dying world. “For certain men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles [special messengers] of Christ. And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13-14).
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 52 – Published 12/7/19
VISION AND DIVINE ORDER
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness.; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” Psalm 100:1-3.
The true church of Jesus Christ is a mystery not hidden from us but preserved for us. This unified body of believers is birthed from a holy vision of the Almighty and as with every spiritual truth there is always a general lack of understanding and this, unfortunately, brings consequences. “My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). Many in the church are convinced they know it all, but in reality, they are being used as a hindrance. They have religious knowledge but lack spiritual wisdom which are entirely two different things. This also explains why many modern assemblies are in such a lukewarm condition. This is not a criticism but rather an obvious and serious reality.
Of course, each true child of God is a member of the universal church. What does this mean? This does not imply they are invisible but simply means there are saved individuals around the world in many different groups who make up one universal body of saints. However, at this time, I want to focus on the local organized gathering of believers. When it comes to spiritual authority, we acknowledge Christ as the head of the entire church and must always ultimately submit to Him in all things. Unfortunately, many will say with their mouth they respect whom God has placed to lead each individual flock but their thoughts and actions sometimes prove to be contrary. Most Christians agree that each pastor who is truly called is given a vision, direction, and responsibility directly from the throne of heaven for a particular location and congregation. While there may be some truth in the idea that the desires of the members establish the style within the assembly that forms its own unique personality, the government within the church should be based on a holy order not made with hands. Others may think the elders, evangelist, teachers, apostles, prophets or even the worship leaders are the actual visionaries and spiritual authority and this may be somewhat true, but it is ultimately God’s institution and He wants to direct it.
If you ask each Christian what they would like to see in the area of worship or church ministries you would find there are many different opinions and ideas to make the church better and more efficient. The problems come when the strife, complaining, disagreements and the wounds of dissatisfaction becomes a painful infection of discouragement. This leads to private discussions of negativity that are intended to help but usually just grow into more sadness, anger, and misery. People have sincere intentions to see God meet the needs of the people but do not realize the enemy can use negative gossip and critical attitudes to start an avalanche of fear and hopelessness. This is a snare trap that Satan can use to steal our joy and enthusiasm for service, bring lukewarmness to our soul, decrease the anointing in our services and hinder the encouragement and edification to those who need ministry. How can we worship in Spirit and truth if we cannot trust the leadership? What can we do when the dark clouds of restlessness, envy, politics, control issues, and complaining flood into the church? Lots of prayers! We must first know this is where God wants us, and then realize if the leaders are wrong God will deal with them. In the meantime, it is our responsibility to obey HIS divine authority. We must also make sure that we stand strong with biblical truth in our conversations and not compromise what God has revealed to us. He is depending on us to be His witness and will anoint the messenger who delivers His message in holiness.
Our corporate worship with our spiritual family is a holy celebration, an outward proclamation of unity, love, and faith and is equally as important but yet separate from our personal “closet” quiet time with God to adore and express our love to Him. Within corporate worship and church membership, we are identifying with Christ, representing His Kingdom and submitting under His perfect Word of justice and truth. I’m not saying the under-Shepard is perfect because they are far from it but that is not the point – none of us are! What I am saying is that with all of the problems and warfare that is going on constantly, they are called and “selected” to be the receiver, the amplifier, and the speaker to the people; this includes following God’s specific instructions. This high level of accountability is a pressure cooker because of the worries that come from trying to please God – plus the overload of advice from every “armchair quarterback” that wants to help steer the ship. What the Lord is trying to teach His saints is not only the reverential fear of His presence but also to respect the direct line of authority in the office of pastor. I am not talking about a general idea of religious structure, I am referring to a personal “revelation” of respect for God’s systematical decree. The Father wants His people to trust and follow His voice but He also wants us to acknowledge and respect the pastor as the one who brings God’s appointed word of healing and ministry – in God’s perfect time – and who is the visionary of the worship and glory of God’s presence.
There are true stories of members in Kentucky who have brought guns to church business meetings. We may crack a smile at this, but this is an extreme example of an infected attitude of rebellion against a holy established order of spiritual headship. We would agree this is a dangerous state of mind and a blind spiritual condition but when people murmur and complain against the leadership of the pastor is it not the spirit of rebellion? We remember that Jesus was anointed to preach the gospel and lead the people in a heavenly direction but was often challenged and rejected by those He was trying to save. Many had their own visions of what the kingdom of God should look like and sound like while the Alpha and Omega was standing right in front of them. How can we trust the sincerity of a pastor if we do not love him? And how can we worship God and cry out for His presence if we do not love and obey His divine order which includes His messenger? If the church is not going the way we think it should, we have two options; get planted where God wants us to be or pray harder that God will open our eyes. Translation: adjust your attitude or your location. God does not want to “prune” the rebellious ones from the assembly unless they refuse to seek His face and allow the spirit of control to damage what God is trying to build. It is dangerous to continue in this destructive attitude as God will correct it one way or another.
Just because many assemblies do not function correctly does not mean that God has not created a perfect blueprint for vision and order. Our commitment and loyalty must first be to Christ, then to our Pastor, and next to our brothers and sisters in the body. Establishing these priorities are a strong foundation of commitment and a crucial part of a balanced and healthy Christian life. When we receive the divine revelation of God’s principals we progress and develop in spiritual maturity. But when we increase in pride from religious tradition and information without God’s holy enlightenment we become a hindrance and destined for failure. The refusal to follow these spiritual principles could be why churches and individuals have not advanced in their effectiveness.
This word is a hard message for all of us and we all have lots of problems and issues that we need to deal with. It must be studied from a spiritual, biblical perspective without any “coaching” from our emotions. Let us rest in His perfect peace as we trust that God is not trying to rule us with an iron fist or torture us with an overbearing agenda that receives pleasure from our agony. He simply wants us to realize we are standing on Holy ground in His presence and desires that we understand this; the vision and order of God’s church are perfect and just as strong and pure as it has ever been. Jesus is trying to do a deep work in all of us so we can handle the next level of power and anointing that He is ready to pour out through us. May we examine our hearts, repent, renew our mind and complete our victorious mission!
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 51 – Published 11/30/19
FOCUSING ON CHRIST
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha; you are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) What wisdom from the Master who understands and knows all things. It’s true we all have much work to do as a part of our destiny, but let us not become more focused on the kingdom than the king. Whatever God has called you to do, remember that He intended for us to have joy in the journey.
How awesome to be able to see into the life of Jesus with stories about real people that he interacted with. Here are two sisters that were friends of Jesus and they had such different personalities. Martha (the choleric) was the busy organizer, the “worker bee” that was always thinking, going, doing and unfortunately complaining because everyone else is not. Mary seemed to be more of a melancholy type that was less stressful, serious, and sensitive who took the time to enjoy the beauty of a meaningful personal relationship. It is easy for any of us to drift into being a Martha because our flesh feels “at home” living in the “pressure cooker” of a demanding emotional world. All you have to do is let your spiritual priorities go and you will find that you have drifted far away from the peaceful shore. But no one ever drifts into being a Mary. This is a thoughtful, conscientious life that has lived in both worlds and knows the difference. These individuals have developed the discipline to stay focused on what is really important to them by spending time alone with God. In their calmness, they have learned to listen to the Holy Spirit and are constantly aware of how both heaven and earth beckons us to come and spend our energy, attention, and concentration with Christ. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies and that seek Him with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:1-2)
Every day each of us makes life-altering decisions to either allow ourselves to become entangled with the cares of this life or to break free by choosing Christ above all things. We do have a certain amount of responsibility that we need to take care of but we also must make time to sit at the feet of Jesus and bask in the wonders and majesty of God. Notice the last part of the verse, “Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away.” What does all this have to do with worship? I’m glad you asked!
True worship is work! It is more than just singing a song or reading about it or thinking about it – it’s actually doing it! Just like prayer or demonstrating love; it is not as easy as it seems – it is a declaration of war. My question is who are we fighting against? Most of the time it is our own flesh. We spend time through the week listening to songs, meditating and trying to feel a spiritual connection with God about the song, practicing at home, typing, reading the music, transposing etc…then we make an extra effort to practice on Saturday evenings and also come to church early on Sunday to practice before each service. This “busy work” can push our buttons and poke our emotions if we allow it. Do we always feel like doing all this – of course not, but we push through it and realize there is a “sacrifice” of praise that comes with the true realities of spiritual warfare and trying to control our carnality that we all experience. It is not only the worship team that battles the flesh and the devil but the congregation is also fighting as they try to stay focused on God. Everything and everyone involved with giving glory and praise to God is stepping into an arena of sobering intensity. Worship is reaching for God while letting go of this world.
I remember a story that was told years ago by an aging minister that used to travel and preach. He said that he had lived in literally scores of homes in the forty years of his ministry. He said on one occasion, he was staying in the home of a woman who had seven children and though she had a large home to care for and attended to her husband’s family business in her spare time, he never saw her disturbed once. There was always the fragrance of Christ about her life, and he marveled at it. While staying in their home during a conference, one morning around five o’clock he noticed light filtering in past the door and in his curiosity but very quietly saw this woman kneeling by her piano. He quietly closed the door. The next morning the same thing and every morning after that. So, finally, he asked her. “What time do you rise to seek the Lord?” She replied, “Oh that is not my decision. I made a choice long ago that whenever He wanted to have fellowship with me I was available. There are times when He calls me at five; there are times when He calls me at six. And on occasion, He will call about two o’clock, I think, just to test me.” Always she would get up, go to her piano stool, and worship her Lord. I asked, “How long do you stay?” “Oh, that is up to Him. When He tells me to go back to bed, I go back. If He doesn’t want me to sleep, I simply stay up.” She made a choice to go beyond frustration, beyond the inconvenience, the schedules, and demands of routine. She was determined to focus on and worship Jesus as a state of mind. You can choose to be busy and not be troubled, or you can do nothing and yet be very troubled. It all depends if we are focused on Christ as the most important person in our life. This means to listen carefully and to allow Him to be the Lord of our heart.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 11/16/19 – PART 49
This is an excerpt from the latest book, “Convictions and Considerations”
“The next morning, Katherine awoke and, like clockwork, went to the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. As a part of her regular routine, she looked at the calendar hanging on the wall and noticed that it was the day before Thanksgiving. Katherine made a point to mark off the days and just a few weeks ago, she had circled her own birthday. Then she turned back the pages and found comfort in seeing that her wedding anniversary had been circled in the first week of June. She kissed her finger and placed it on June 4th and said, “I will always love you, John.” We’ve always heard that celebrating anniversaries and birthdays are intended to make people happy, but sometimes they also include the shadows of sadness and heartaches that remind us of what we have lost and where we are heading.
On one hand, we want to rejoice with others as we commemorate the cycles of these milestones, but rarely do we consider that our congratulations and celebrations not only remind us of a past that cannot be lived again but also one that cannot lighten the worries of an uncertain future. When we are young, life is fun, without any worries about aging. But when we are in our 80s, we seem to be focused on whether we will ever have another birthday. Of course, as Christians, we are to rejoice that others have moved on from this world and are celebrating in the next life. And if we are walking with God, we should also be looking forward to living with God forever in the glories of Heaven. However, all of this still does not take away the sense of dreading death. Why? Simply because we want to live. When we have enjoyed a good long life, it’s only natural to not want to leave. There is no condemnation for those who have worry and anxiety about dying. Yes, we are to have spiritual faith, but we also live in a natural mortal shell filled with basic human emotions.
Staring out the foggy window, the heaviness of sorrow surrounds Katherine like a coarse wool blanket. Across the dirt road, she gazed at the dry brown meadows and the silhouettes of dead trees against a background of frosted, rolling hills. There had been times of troubles before as life had always had its share of problems, but she had always at least attempted to generate a moderate amount of hope and faith. But today, where was her sense of encouragement and her confident declaration that everything was going to be all right? It was like peace and confidence had run away to hide and now she was left alone to face these unwelcome intruders of doubt and fear. She walked over to the table, sat down, and turned the pages of her old Bible to the 23rd Psalm. She read it slowly and when she approached the line, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” she paused and asked God to please allow her to sense His presence and to once again feel the security of abiding under the shadow of His wings.
Katherine left the Bible open, rose from the chair, and began to straighten the kitchen. After taking out the trash and cleaning the sink, she stoked the fireplace and noticed she was running low on firewood. There were a few small chunks of coal in the bucket on the hearth and out beside the house, there were only bits and pieces where at one time there had been a huge pile. Back in the old days, John had always made sure that coal was delivered in the summer so they would have plenty on hand when the cold winds started to blow. In the last couple of months, she had been fortunate to have thoughtful friends bring her a fair amount of firewood and bundles of small branches for kindling in case her fire went out. She hated to admit it, but she was now somewhat dependent on the kindness of others for her survival. Ida, her friend down the road was bringing her supplies when she went to town for her own needs. Kate was now thinking about the possibility of being invited to someone’s Thanksgiving feast, but for some reason, it just felt embarrassing and awkward. Life was changing and she did not like these feelings of anxiety, but come to think of it, so far, no one had asked.”
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
GOD’S TRUTH IS WAITING ON US
Most everyone knows there is a battle between good and evil but in order to draw clear lines that can help us identify the differences, we must actually know truth from error. As time continues to unfold, we are noticing the definitions of right and wrong are undergoing serious remodeling as our modern culture adopts and enforces a more politically correct way to live. Apparently, our new wave of thinkers has been given the authority to decide the old truth was in need of repair and are striving diligently to replace it with more open-minded and liberal considerations. I’m not referring to weeding out old school world-views or uneducated emotional opinions, I’m talking about the intention to completely do away with Biblical truth.
The responsibility of writing in a public forum includes speaking out and standing for what we know is right even in the difficult issues. I have been laughing at myself lately thinking about what a challenge it is to gingerly tip-toe through a minefield laden with political, religious and social issues without causing serious controversy. Nevertheless, I believe there is a way to speak confidently in love, with an open mind and yet without compromise – all at the same time. Heaven helps us when Christians become embarrassed and ashamed of Christ and His gospel.
The humanist might agree the Bible is an interesting account of ancient stories but probably will not endorse it as a serious guide to live by. These are also the same liberal thinkers that lean toward a more tolerant view of spirituality. What many do not realize however is that one intent of tolerance is to deny absolute truth in order to teach how the Bible is not relevant to the views or lifestyles of all people. In other words, the idea is to indoctrinate the future generations into accepting that one god is as good as another and everyone should respect this philosophy. This is in direct opposition to the Bible as Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 5 declares. Every person no matter what they believe are subject to the exact same guidelines and accountable to follow and obey the one true God of heaven and earth.
God is truth and He is the Creator of all things, (including all other idols) which proves He is the Alpha and Omega. Abandoning the Word of God and replacing it with religious ideas and philosophical doctrines is definitely not going in the right direction but rather is more of an excuse to abandon any type of spiritual accountability toward a holy God. There is nothing really to argue about; according to spiritual reality, it is God’s way or the wrong way.
For example, relativism denies that any religion or philosophy can declare the existence of absolute truth because according to this view there are no absolutes. They believe we can speak about God, but there is no way of knowing if what is said about the human race applies to each person individually. The idea that there could be one knowable and constant truth about everything and everyone according to this camp is seen as naive, bigoted and ethnocentric. The relativist looks at religious views as being the same thing as spirituality which is where they have misunderstood the point. Truth is not like using ice cream to illustrate how chocolate is not the true flavor. It is much more serious than a frivolous attempt to mock a holy God. Humans were created by the Almighty and were given breath and life and how dare any man or woman to try and make Him look like a fool. God, Himself is absolute truth whether we accept it or not. Humans are like children and will crawl on their hands and knees across a hot desert to keep from doing what they are told. Rebellion is embedded in the nature of all mankind and this destructive attitude is enmity toward the God who sent His Son to save them. We are given a free-will to decide how we will live and who we will serve but God does not force anyone to obey Him. We can relay the truth, but truth is not something we create. It was from the beginning and is waiting for us to embrace it. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” John 1: 1-3.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PLOWING THE FIELDS
“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south” (Psalms 107:1-3).
There should be no difference between corporate worship and private worship because our intention should be the same – sincerely telling Him how we feel and what we think about Him. However, there is a good indication that if we do not worship God as a lifestyle, we are less likely to express our feelings to Him in public. We realize that God wants us to worship Him in our personal day to day activities, but what is His plan when we come together and worship Him corporately? Well, it’s sad but many people have never really quite understood the super-natural phenomena that God desires to manifest every time we come together in His name. We know that our modern idea of church is not perfect, in fact, there are many things that we could say that are negative, but we must admit that God speaks highly of His church as a special representation of His Kingdom. Now, whether or not His concept of the church is the same as ours is debatable, but the point is that He does mention it quite a bit, so we must try to learn what it is and be willing to follow His instructions. God said it will be a glorious church and we should do everything we can to support it and be a part of it! We must remember that nothing in the church world means anything to anyone (from teaching the children to praying at the altar) if it is not Holy Spirit inspired and anointed with the breath of God. Amen. The foundation of our spiritual growth is learning because as we understand God’s Word, the more we know God personally, and that is what changes us into His image. God’s heavenly seed is the crown jewel of our lives and is the catalyst of God’s power to minister to our spirit, mind, and body.
Many do not think about plowing fields or seeds being planted when they attend a church assembly, but if this is not considered then why else would we be there? God is wanting to teach His people absolute divine truth and we do not have time to play religious games. Absorbing holy knowledge and the revelation of God’s wisdom is the key to being an overcomer in this life, which is exactly why the devil wants to provide everything in the religious world except God’s truth. Hosea 4:6 clearly teaches that without knowing what Christ is saying, we are in danger of destruction. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Read this next parable by Jesus slowly and allow this explanation of the power of His Word to be absorbed into your mind and heart. “Then he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still, other seed fell on GOOD SOIL, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
What does all this have to do with worship? Everything! What do you do before you plant a seed? As natural fields are PLOWED before the crops are sown, likewise our hearts must also be broken so the seed of God’s Word can be received. YES – Worship softens our “natural” resistance and PREPARES the heart to be planted with God’s personal instructions. When we begin to focus on His face and His great deeds of love and grace, we forget about our problems and the fears that come from our spiritual conflicts and focus on who he is. Without the plowing from worship, the seed cannot penetrate a stony or briar filled heart as Jesus warned us about in the parable of the sower and the seed. It is the Word that has the power to minister to us, and we should give it our highest priority. When we stop relying on our own strength and futile ideas that we can deliver ourselves or that we can take care of our own circumstances, we can more easily let go of our worries and stress. This deliberate “release” from our will gives God the opportunity to intervene in our consciences and reminds us that we can always “trust” Him to help us. As we continue to bow down to our Lord in sincerity and humility, He surrounds us with His presence as the exchange of love takes place between us. We pour out our hearts to Him in adoration, and He responds to us with His holy mercy, grace, and power. He awakens and generates our sensitivity and the expectation of His supernatural power to communicate and transform which feeds our faith to believe that what we are doing is really making a difference in our situation and other people’s lives.
There is a divine order and spiritual principle (not legalism) that when obeyed can open doors for the Lord to walk among us. After we have allowed God to spend time with us in holy communion, our hearts are now broken, arranged, cleansed, and made ready to receive God’s Word which is the power unto total salvation. We are being saved daily, total salvation is growing and evolving into an understanding of His knowledge and continually learning how to discern His wisdom. The more we mature in Him, the more we can begin to see our responsibility of being a “garden tool” for God as an instrument that He can use to help with His miracle ministry of plowing. Of course, the enemy has placed a target on us – he does not want us to lead the people into the “wonders” of God’s presence or do anything in God’s Kingdom where the power of God can be manifested. The condition of the people’s hearts are revealed in Mathew chapter 13 verse 15, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross [calloused] and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their HEART, and should be CONVERTED, and I should heal them.” The devil would rather see a talented but spiritually lukewarm “musical service” along with an intelligent but lifeless speech in church instead of a Holy Ghost inspired demonstration of God’s presence because he knows God’s anointed SEED is what brings healing, deliverance, victory, miracles, and true spiritual CHANGE! Satan realizes there are many levels of spiritual interest and there is a good chance that many desperately needy people will come in and out of the church and yet never receive the truth which can set them free. The heart must be made ready and “prepared” in order to be planted which is exactly why the dark-side is willing to engage in the highest, most fierce level of spiritual warfare to distract and stop anyone who has the intention to obey and the humility to surrender to become good fertile ground.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
MUSICAL STYLE IS JUST THE VEHICLE
If we take a close look at the words and themes of praise and worship music we will discover they are very much the same throughout the centuries and are just recycled with new sounds with different rhythms and instruments. Every generation has related to their own musical versions of what they thought was a fresh new contemporary expression of “I love you Lord”, but no matter the styles or how many different ways we can tell God how much we love Him, if it comes from a pure and sincere heart, it’s all beautiful to God.
When it comes to singing and expressing our feelings toward God in Spirit and truth, praise and worship are more than just musical emotion ABOUT God; it has everything to do with a personal relationship WITH God. Spiritual adoration is exposing our conscience and connecting with our Lord as we choose by faith to walk toward Him and draw nearer to His presence. There is nothing wrong with different styles because with expanding our variety we increase the potential that can relate and lead different personalities into God. With a spectrum of different types of music, we create more opportunities for others to bond with Jesus because music is so universal. Yes, there are certain styles that people do not enjoy as much as others but just because we are not accustomed to them and they are a little different does not mean they are not from Heaven. Style is just the vehicle that carries the precious contents of God’s message to us and our message to Him. “So shall My word be that goes forth out of my mouth: It shall not return to Me void (without producing any effect useless), but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” Isaiah 55:11.
Let us be careful that we do not presume that everyone’s musical style must be the same and to respect how other people connect with God, (they love their style as much as we love our style). Actually, worship is far beyond entertainment, religious programs, or even music in general – it is where God is known. Can the angels in heaven be categorized as having a particular style? I doubt it. Of all the styles of worship music all over the world, is there a style closer to God’s heart than any other? Probably not. What an awesome miracle that God can touch so many hearts in a personal way all at the same time and most do not even realize this universal wonder is happening constantly. As a worship leader, I’ve experienced how important it is to be led by the Holy Spirit as God takes musical notes and delivers His message that encourages our spirit and changes us from the inside out.
Worship is an avenue of communication that God has designed to bring us and keep us into His spiritual reality. Singing songs are not always necessarily worshiping God the same as doing religious activities are not always led by God’s Spirit. Nonetheless, the act of praising Him should be a sincere confession that He is our Father and we are His child. Adoration is a picture of our reverence and a symbol of humility as we bow before the Lord and Creator of all things and communicate how grateful we are for His mercy and grace. Our flesh hates to surrender control because it knows when we worship God we are denying the temptation and influence of the carnal nature. In order to worship God in “Spirit and in truth,” there needs to be a sincere attitude adjustment that realizes what is required within our hearts. We must lay our will down before His feet and acknowledge that He is our King and Master which is the ultimate submission to His Lordship. You see, worshiping God is not just singing a song, it is the awareness of His presence as a lifestyle. In this light, worship is a state of the mind and a condition of the heart. This concept of falling at His feet is crucial to the revelation of exalting and adoring God in the wonders of His holiness. When the writer penned the words, “He must increase (become more important) but I must decrease” (John 3:30), it’s clear that our attitude determines whether we are just going through the motions of a religious experience or genuinely serious about living with God in the beautiful reality of His presence.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 43 – Published 10/19/19
TAKING OUT THE TRASH
“The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; He sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; He is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name, for He is holy” Psalm 99:1-3.
How long will it take for us to realize that without repenting before we pray, preach, worship, witness, or any type of spiritual activity, we are not being as effective as we could be? Releasing our sin and asking God to forgive us is critical to being filled with the Holy Spirit, being aware and anointed and led by God’s voice. If we are doing things in our own strength, it will probably be no more powerful than a soap-opera. Just as we examine our hearts before we take communion, we must also deal with our sin every moment and allow Him to purify us with His blood. This lifestyle of constant preparation is very much like being sharpened, cleansed, purged, ground, sanded, washed and renewed which makes us a useable instrument for His glory. This is what yielding our will to Him and becoming a willing sacrifice is all about. Just like the Old Testament Priest that was very careful to enter the holy of holies with a pure heart, we too must be sensitive with our thoughts and attitudes. If there is any corruption and garbage between us and the Lord, we will always be uncomfortable and convicted in His presence and we should be. II Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” This is why we should pray and repent without ceasing and ask God to forgive us each time we approach Him. Being aware of our iniquities and confessing them to God reveals that we are beginning to understand our need to constantly “take out the trash.”
When we come before His throne we are called to “prepare” our conscience for the bright, penetrating light of His holiness to shine into our soul and flood our senses with His glory. Is there a connection between living in His refining fire and why we clean our house when we know company is coming? With our surroundings, we can clearly see our need to be clean, but internally we often avoid and deny the need to be pure and holy. Maybe it’s because we have become accustomed to living in a dirty environment. “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” I Peter 1:15-16. The image of Christ is to be reflected in our life to all people but how can His perfect purity come from a dirty vessel? We should not step forward and represent God’s kingdom with a corrupt agenda or being in bondage to sin. It would be better to do nothing than to have an intention to manipulate. We draw near and reach out to Him because we love who He is and are hungry and thirsty to absorb His truth. God cannot and will not be contained or controlled by our religious programs or forced to fit into our ministry outreaches. As soon as we create a system or a formula and think we have it all figured out – we miss Him. We cannot build something on our own and then ask Him to bless it. We cannot demand or command Him; we cannot manipulate Him or bargain with Him. It’s true our personality can play a significant part in our effectiveness, but we must remember that even this should be closely monitored. Being charismatic is alright but true humility is should be sought after with much prayer. We are empowered to do what God has destined for us to accomplish. Our ability is not as important as our availability and being spiritually pure is more important than wearing a new suit or how popular we are. “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 10/12/19 – Part 42
“He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite” Psalm 147:3-5. We have talked about worship in the corporate setting of the church and in times of quiet solitude. But there is another view of worship that is the highest form of expression in love, obedience, and devotion and that is the “worship state of mind” as an ambassador of God.
If going to church does not necessarily prove that someone is an obedient disciple of Christ then can we also agree that singing a praise song is not necessarily worshiping God. It’s true that singing unto the Lord can be a part of expressing love and gratitude but the scripture in John 4:24 say’s, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” However, it does not say that just “singing a Christian song” makes us any closer to God than when we sing a country song. Whether in deed or thought, one must be flowing with the intentions of pure love and adoration or the act will be tainted with the smell of ulterior motives. Many of our religious traditions have caused confusion and unfortunately, many Christians have been lulled to sleep by the subtle deceptions of what a Christian should be. The masses feel pretty good about their church attendance and how they participate in a “worship” service an hour every week but is this the complete, “big picture” of holy devotion, gratitude, and obedience? Of course not! Our traditions try to deceive us into thinking that going to church IS the Christian life (I wish it was that easy). Actually the tiny amount of time we spend in church together is more like a time-out in a ballgame where the players go to the sidelines to join together in the safety of unity, catch their breath, get a drink, wipe off the sweat and blood, listen to instructions from their coach and be reminded of their purpose and destiny – then they go back into battle. Like a team of players, the battle is not with each other but rather with our flesh, which is why we love peace and anointing when we are together. Another enemy of combat is against the devil which lives in the children of darkness and influences much of the world’s system where we walk and live every day. Allow me to add a thought here and that is if we cannot say no to our flesh, we will never be able to resist the devil.
I once thought that church was THE place of worship and that we should try to spend as much time as possible to magnify God. I was often frustrated because there were many other parts of the service that took up the time. What I have come to realize is that a church service is not the entire worship experience for the week but rather a time where we learn how to worship the rest of the week. Likewise, a sermon is not the only word we should receive all week but rather to teach us how to study and instruct us about how to learn more. Church is a practice session that equips and instructs us to get back into being a disciple when we leave the building. The truth is that worshipping in spirit and truth is not just going through the motions of ceremony – it’s how we live. Singing songs or working in Christian service, in general, is very elementary and shallow without the consecrated, committed life of being Christ-like. Unfortunately playing church is quite common which is why services are cold and lifeless. Worship is walking in the constant awareness of God’s presence or as commonly referred to as “walking in the Holy Spirit.” True praise and worship is living and walking out the words of the very songs we are singing about. If a person only goes to church and sings songs as a time of worship (that is good) but they may not understand the revelation of daily and hourly worship all through the week. This is an example of how a holy act of spiritual reverence can evolve into a religious ritual (and sadly the enemy has influenced this deception into Christendom).
Many years ago the Lord spoke to us through a prophetic word that God would give me a gift to write songs, but I would have to “walk them out” (this has been some hard walking) which is the reason we named our ministry at the time, “Walking Thru Ministries.” The Lord was saying that just because someone can write about truth (preach, teach, sing, serve or whatever), and yes, these are all forms and ways of communication that can help us learn how to LIVE for Him. However, working for His Kingdom and singing His songs are just busy labor without His anointing and our commitment to being Christ-like! Worshiping in Spirit and truth does not just mean our vocals are in perfect harmony or the music is in the right key. Also, our hair standing up on the back of our neck or goosebumps on our arms does not mean anything to God if our walk does not match our talk. It’s all about allowing Jesus to transform us into His image and being willing to yield our will so He can execute His plan through us. We can listen to sermons and sing songs while not even thinking about God or what is being said and I’m sure all of us have done it. Many believe that filling a quota of deeds somehow (in the cosmic filing cabinet of records) earns them a more pleasing position with God and a higher place of spiritual achievement but that is just an illusion. The Pharisees were constantly performing religious works and God was angry with them. Why? They were trusting a legalistic ritual and had no idea about a personal relationship with God. Their story and the confrontation with Jesus are written specifically so that we can see and understand the difference between religion and spirituality.
The first part of Proverbs 23:7 says’s, “For as he thinks in his heart so is he…” Church service is never just acting or putting on a show. But when the desire to express our love for God is our focus and intention – then are we true worshipers.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 10/5/19 – PART 41
BECOMING A WILLING SACRIFICE
We can do a lot of things and everything may seem fine, but if we are not serious about conquering the beast nature, we are only playing a game. A dear friend sent me this quote tonight by Winston Churchill and I feel it is absolutely right on. “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” Are we a part of this group, or will we fight against our flesh until we are known to be an overcomer? Every Christian should be reminded each day that we will never resist the devil if we are not willing to resist our flesh. This is another critical message that is worthy to be taped to our bathroom mirror. We like the idea of being religious, but organized religion cannot bring people any deeper into God than it can go itself. Why? Because it’s based on surface emotions instead of a personal relationship with Jesus and those who refuse to be delivered from its persuasions are destined to remain in the outer court. Even many faithful churchgoers do not know the difference and do not have a clue what it means to worship God in Spirit and truth. Sadly, many are comfortable to live in the outer court as they hide from and avoid any type of serious commitment that will cost them something. Contrary to popular belief, attending an assembly has very little to do with our relationship with Christ, as some who do not go to church at all are actually more spiritual than those who go every time the doors are open. The universal church contains all born-again Christians from all over the world, so to condemn someone for not being on the membership roll of an assembly when they are already a member of God’s church family is based more on legalism and traditions than being led by God. Ekklēsia (the word mistranslated as “church” in most English Bibles) is not something we attend but rather is what we are. As Christians, we cannot forsake our assembly because we are always assembled before God. We are the assembly, the “called out” of Christ. (The literal meaning of ekklēsia is the “called out ones,” but it was used by Greeks to refer to the people who were called out of the community to be members of an assembly.) Certainly, the Bible also speaks of the ekklēsia in a local sense as being in a city, according to (kata) houses or families, and as coming together (sunerchomai–literally, “coming together”). It is not referring as something apart from us that we go to, nor is coming together locally ever spoken of as a duty. The evidence from both the context and the words used is weighty. It clearly leads us to the conclusion that Hebrews 10:25 is saying that we are not to forsake the hope of our gathering to Christ at His return, as some had done, but instead we are to exhort one another concerning this hope, and we are to do this all the more as we see the day of His return approaching.
Do not misunderstand me, I’m not saying we should avoid or not care about going to a gathering of believers because everyone should pray and ask God where He wants them to go and what He wants them to do. If He is telling us to not be involved with a certain group, or guiding us in a specific direction, then I believe we should listen and obey. If we have found a solid Bible teaching assembly of believers who are serious about their walk with God, and we feel this is the place for us, that is wonderful. However, our attendance alone does not take the place of us helping others, taking the initiative to minister Christ in our community, using our gifts and talents, interceding, giving, witnessing, and being a light to a lost and dying world. Are there people in the churches who are actually enemies of God? Of course. Many are deceived and go to church for reasons other than to love Jesus. There are even pastors who play games and have never been born-again. How nice it would be if everyone who attended services were who they appear to be, but the reality is that God and the man-driven churches contradict one another. Speaking of man-made religious organizations, we remember Jesus also being in opposition with the religious spirits in His day. As we research the scriptures we will discover how the sacred symbolism of the tabernacle of Moses has not only been forgotten and discarded as non-relevant in the life of a believer, but also within the church. I have taught for years that many churches do not explain the reason for their existence, but are rather focused on entertainment and being more of a corporation than equipping the saints to live pure as God is pure. Could it be the tabernacle is not only an illustration of reality and responsibility of the constant evolution of our salvation but also a spiritual explanation of how God wants His people to live? When we enter through the door of the tabernacle, we see the rich blue, purple, and scarlet colors of the fabric and hopefully realize we are coming into an atmosphere that is heavenly and holy. The first object we see is the brazen altar made from bronze that is burning with fire which relays an unspoken message of sacrifice, judgment and God’s hatred of sin. The alter had four horns on the corners where the priest would bind an unwilling animal to be killed, but this altar also represents the cross and how Christ freely gave His life as a willing act of love and obedience. We are reminded of a debt we could never repay and how that salvation is a blood covenant between man and God and redemption that is established completely on His grace. Do we understand that we are marrying Jesus Christ and we are pledging our holy vows to live for Him alone? We should be convicted that our sin is what caused Jesus to die and now the least we can do is present ourselves as a living sacrifice and also die to sin. Do you believe this is how an average modern-day congregation approaches a church service or their daily life for that matter?
Next, we notice the bronze laver which is similar to a large sink that is filled with water. The bowl is made from highly polished bronze that acts as a mirror and when we peer down into the bowl we see a perfect reflection of ourselves. This act of self-examination is a critical learning process associated with a constant awareness of our thoughts and attitudes. The water represents the purity and power of God’s Word to cleanse us from the lies, deceptions, and filthy influences of the world and our own carnality. Our development as a victorious Christian has much to do with honesty and seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Can you imagine what would happen in our assemblies if everyone repented of their sins before the service began? I believe God’s Spirit would flood the building with His glory and there would be a release of miraculous power that we cannot imagine. Instead, we are experiencing a mundane and lifeless gathering which is clearly the result of many being perfectly satisfied with embracing intentional sin. When the mind is filled with sin and there are no intentions to change the direction of living, this “sin in the camp” brings and invites dark spirits into the church and this presence of corruption and negatively affects the environment. Yes, the wheat and tares look the same, but the tares are only playing a religious game. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” James 3:11-12.
Lukewarmness can be cured, but an individual must have a sincere desire to place Christ at the top of their priority list. Of course, we have all been hypocrites at one time or another and have fallen and made many terrible mistakes, but the Holy Spirit has been given to convict our heart that we might have Godly sorrow over our rebellion. To adapt to wickedness and choose to live in the misery of a backslidden state is one of the major reasons why the church is cold and the world does not see their need to be a Christian. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:20-21. To know the truth about our weakness and frailty creates a spiritual mindset of humility and gratitude for God’s forgiveness and mercy. Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Sadly, many modern churches have lost their spiritual sensitivity and have done away with the atmosphere of holiness. This explains why we do not see weeping and brokenness over sin and a burden and passion to pray for lost souls. Many in the church are filled with arrogance and do not even think about repenting in the outer court. They have not been taught about allowing God to plow the field of their heart in preparation for His holy seed to be planted deep into their spirit. Is God’s Word really being spoken or is the modern message more about philosophy and politics? Are the listeners applying God’s Word to their life and building their relationship with Jesus or can they even remember what is being delivered? The leaders of today’s church must know they are called to be God’s last hour messengers and decide they are not going to compromise or be afraid of the peer pressure to submit to the world’s agenda of social acceptance and political correctness. The personality of a local church is only as dedicated to Jesus and spiritually strong as the individual member’s commitment to truth.
The Christian life is centered on obedience to God. In creation, mankind was given authority to rule over the world including every beast, but many have not considered this also included the beast nature within their own heart. The Lord has provided many blessings and open doors for man to enjoy through God’s Spirit, but the ultimate commandment that has been given to mankind is the responsibility to draw near to God and turn away from sin. Humans have always wanted to enjoy God’s benefits while secretly protecting their carnal desires, however, this cannot and will not be accepted. Contrary to popular belief, it is a dangerous perception to say we believe in Christ and that we have entered into covenant with Him, if we are not actually listening to His voice or doing what He is saying. The story of Saul and the Amalekites is much more than a historical account of a king and his battle tactics. It is a sobering illustration of the defiance and rebellion contained within the human conscience. This carnal nature must be crucified by the renewing of the mind or the life is lived in vain. “So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed” I Samuel 15:7-9. Such a tragic example of the corruption and darkness within the heart of fallen man. Listen to these words again, do they sound familiar? “but they were not willing to destroy them utterly.”
Where did God say that a small amount of sin was alright? So many who profess to be a Christian shrink back from the cross when God commands His children to crucify the flesh entirely? Is this excuse not what the religious world has always stood for? This is why it’s easy to be religious and very difficult to walk with Christ. Perhaps the average normal Christian is holding on to some area of pride or covetousness, maybe a secret sin of perversion and lust, or possibly many are heavy laden with the weight of guilt from the sins of omission as they refuse to respond and obey God’s voice. The outer court attitude says, “Lord, I will gladly do away with all the things that are not important to me, but I will secretly hold onto that which means more to me than anything. I will go to church because it does not cost me anything, but I have no interest in denying myself of any pleasure.” Can we not see why we must count the cost of discipleship as it is proof that we have been spiritually transformed. God is not satisfied with those who shrink back from allowing Him to do a thorough work of reconciliation in their lives. He demands that every man and woman who declares their love and devotion to God should abandon any association of the beast nature within their life. Denying sin from our thoughts explains how we can take up our cross daily. The saints are called to present themselves a living demonstration of redemption as their walk reveals they are no longer in control and that Christ is now their only Lord and Master. We do not hear much about the refiner’s fire and its because only the dedicated and devoted to Christ wants to be completely dissolved and purified, leaving only Jesus for the world to see and know. This will not happen until an individual willingly crawls upon the altar of red-hot coals and willingly becomes a living sacrifice unto the one who sacrificed everything for them. Amen.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 9/28/19 – PART 40
HOW MANY ARE SERIOUS ABOUT RESISTING THE DEVIL?
“Many see the cross as a way God provided for us to be saved and this is true, but many who profess the name of Christ shudder at the thought of following His command to die upon their own cross.”
Of course we are glad someone else died for us and provided a way for us to go to heaven, but the decision to cease our intentional sin and allow our beastly nature to die is the point that many have missed and until this revelation has been inscribed upon our heart we will never understand why we are here or what we have been called to do. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:20-21. Taking up our cross is accepting that we are no longer managing our own affairs and are completely devoted to following and obeying God’s voice. There was never a more true statement than the individual who chooses to embrace the requirement of the cross will be the one who will gain the grace and understanding found therein. Those who avoid the suffering of the cross will suffer the greatest loss. We rarely hear the boldness of such a statement, but in the church, there are many enemies of the cross and this fact should bring us great grief and lead us to fall on our face and weep. This is another manifestation that has nearly disappeared from the church and also confirms the coldness and apathy that has quenched the sensitivity and holiness of the Christian lifestyle. Christ reminds us in Matthew 12:30, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.”
The life of the believer cannot help but extend into the assembly and sadly many members have discreetly allowed intentional sin to control the way they live. Temptations will always surround those who profess and this powerful assault has lured even the leaders into a normal and average lukewarm existence. Instead of embracing the cross as the only way to God’s holy of holies, most of the church has made the choice to enjoy a life of lethargy and carnality. The idea of God accepting us the way we are is true when we are lost, however, after we are saved we have the responsibility to submit our will to His extensive change process. The flesh is always looking for an excuse to avoid any type of sacrifice or discipline and has no problem with living in denial to God’s demands. What is the danger? This deception has actually poisoned the church and has caused the candlestick of many assemblies to be removed. What is the warning? A holy God will not tolerate a hypocritical and evil attitude of compromise and complacency which poses as the light of Christ. There are consequences for the hypocrite as God’s perfection cannot and will not overlook sin. Matthew 7:15-20 helps us to stay alert and should cause us to pray for discernment. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.” Living however we want was never an option and is actually an insult to a just and perfect God who requires His people to consistently develop into His image. If there is a word to tape to our bathroom mirror it would be, “accountability.” “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Romans 12:1-2.
A healthy spiritual life is being vibrant and strong, not because of our physical ability but because of our diligence to pray and our determination to maintain a close personal relationship with God. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:13-14. Those whose eyes have been opened and have made the commitment to follow Jesus with their mind and conscience are learning how to develop an awareness of His presence. They are quick to repent and are praying for the strength to turn away from sin and for the spiritual sensitivity to hear God’s still small voice. They are dying to self and have accepted their fate to die on the cross they are carrying. They abide where the blood of Christ is applied. They worship Him in the Holy Spirit and they worship Him in the Truth. They have become like a wise virgin and are filled with the oil of gladness and wisdom as they watch with anticipation for the coming of Christ. Nonetheless, where there was once excitement and zeal to go all the way with Christ, there is always danger lurking in the shadows. In John 10:10, Christ warns us of the need to stand guard against the attacks that we know are coming. “The thief (Satan) comes not but for to kill, steal, and destroy: I (Jesus) am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” This includes the strong demonic persuasions that come to us with lies and logical deceptions for the purpose of steering us away from God’s absolute truth. We are reminded in the story of Cain and Able, that God demands for all who follow Him to listen carefully and obey precisely. The Almighty demanded a blood sacrifice and yet Cain brought an offering of vegetables and fruits. There is much more to this true account revealing a religious deed of two brothers. It exposes our emotional tendency to create our own ideas about how to worship and serve God and how we expect Him to honor and accept whatever we say or do. Cain had the choice to repent and be restored unto God, but he became jealous and angry and killed his brother. The consequences were to live as a wanderer and this is how everyone will live when they decide to serve religion instead of the Creator. Romans 6:16 says, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” This is difficult to understand but if we are determined to serve God according to our own desires, we are actually worshiping our mental and emotional control which is a devastating deception.
There are many questions to ask ourselves, but whether or not we have a desire to go down the road of self-discipline is surely somewhere near the top of our list. Why do we not hear more sermons which talk about being weaned from the world? Because many pastors realize it is more prosperous to speak about blessings for the flesh instead of denying the flesh. Just because the majority of church members have no intention of surrendering their will to God, this is no reason to abandon the call to crucify our carnality and to die to all the allurements and devices of iniquity. To the saint who has decided to follow Jesus, there are three areas of attack; the world, our own carnal nature, and the demonic forces led by Satan himself. If we ever decide to become a raging fire for God, we will immediately be surrounded by these enemies holding buckets of water to douse our flame. The image of sacrificing our intentional sin should be the Christian’s normal response to the call of sanctification, but with liberal theologians providing a modern presentation of the gospel, the new world order has precariously modified divine truth into a false fairytale of legalistic rituals. Satan is not ignorant of God’s word by any means and uses his clever imagination to twist and distort the absolute truth into an enticing and seemingly intelligent philosophy of defective interpretations. “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” Romans 6:6-7. Instead of enjoying the darkness and secrets of sin, why are the professing Christians not praying, studying, and spending more time in the secret place of His presence? Why are those who claim to be taking up their cross, not disturbed with being comfortable in the world instead of pulling away from its deadly grip and choosing the narrow path of holiness? The answer will be revealed when we desire for our spiritual eyes to be opened and not until then. If we do not want to face the truth, we will run and hide and do whatever it takes to avoid this confrontation. This is exactly why many refuse to open their Bibles! “Out of sight – out of mind” is a painfully true statement and unfortunately when it comes to living an illusion, this pertains to more religious people than we could possibly imagine. It’s sad that many only call upon Him when they are in trouble or need a miracle, but God is not fooled by people thinking they can just use Him as a vending machine. This is not Christianity, but rather playing a deadly game of mockery and deceit. One can be an imposter before man but not before God. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before Him, nothing is hidden. He knows our every thought and the intentions of our heart and until we are ready to literally surrender our life to God, we will never consider calling upon Him to ignite our soul with His refining process in order to purge our sin and create in us a clean heart. We can walk down the aisle and be baptized every day, but until we are miraculously born-again we cannot comprehend the revelation of His grace which provides blood covenant salvation.
God is perfect wisdom and every word He has spoken is filled with meaning. The Bible has been given as the most important instruction manual on earth and contains vital information about how to live the victorious Christian life. Our Creator has always known about the fierce war between the conviction from the Holy Spirit and our carnal nature which is the greatest conflict within our human journey. The devil has been given far too much credit for our failures and actually has no power to make us turn away from God. The demonic realm is devoted to death and destruction but is limited with the ability to influence and persuade. God is in ultimate control and whatever schemes the devil plans, they must be approved as the story of Job reveals. The Bible gives us the key to being victorious over Satan and that is to simply ignore and resist him. The tragic problem is that most people are close friends with the enemy of their soul and have no intention of offending or turning against him. This is another weakness of the church where we seldom hear sermons about becoming angry and nauseous about sin. If sin does not make us literally nauseous, we definitely have a very serious problem. We could never overemphasize how the lack of reverential fear of God’s holiness allows rebellion and compromise to make camp in our heart. One of the most sobering passages about making concessions with evil is found in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” This makes it very clear that we cannot flirt with Satan and allow him to entertain us and then at the same time claim that we are walking hand in hand with Jesus. Mammon is said to represent material wealth, especially when it is associated with the evils of covetousness, arrogance and all that goes along with the love of money. This eternal truth should cause the serious disciple of Jesus to closely examine their life to see if the seeds of deception have fallen into the fields of their conscience and are growing a harvest of fraudulence. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” Romans 8:12-13.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 39 – Published 9/21/19
SENSING AN URGENCY TO ABANDON
THE WORLD AND EMBRACE THE CROSS
William F. Holland Jr.
The cross is one of the most widely known symbols in the world and yet very few understand what it means on a personal level. It’s common to hear historical sermons about how Christ was sentenced to be punished and all that He endured when He gave Himself to deliver us from spiritual death, but we are seldom told how it is God’s plan for us to embrace its power in order to defeat our own carnality. We are entering into an age where holiness and sanctification have become old fashioned and no longer relevant to a religious society who has opened the door to a more compromising and liberal lifestyle. Our culture may accept intentional sin as an ordinary way of living but God has never changed His original plan for His people to separate themselves and be different from the world. Romans 6:11 says,
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace.” When a Christian blends in with the world they have allowed the leaven to alter and distort their identity. Galatians chapter 5 talks about the leaven as it pertains to the kingdom of God growing slowly as yeast affects the dough, but we can also see the subtle deceptions of how unrepentant sin can spread within our mind and heart and corrupt us from the inside out.
When the world does not recognize someone is a Christian who claims to be, there is a serious spiritual problem with the one that is living an illusion. When there is no difference between being at a church and being at Walmart, we can say without hesitation that the church has lost its vision and the meaning of its purpose. We realize that Christians are trying to promote the gospel and identify with the cross as an outward sign of an internal transformation, however, this does not necessarily prove the individual who is advertising the cross is actually experiencing its influence. There has always only been one reason for the cross and that is to be an instrument of death for the one who is nailed to it. In this light, we can see it is much easier to present an icon that represents sacrifice and suffering than to actually participate. No one realizes the torture of the cross more than Jesus and yet He refers to this very device when teaching about the critical fundamentals concerning being His disciple. In Luke chapter 9 and verse 23 we find this sobering message, “And Jesus he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
One of the most deceptive confusing ideas within the world of religion is trying to convince people that our good deeds do not guarantee us a seat in heaven and our sins are not the reason anyone goes to hell. God’s Word has indicated clearly that we can do many religious works and be just as lost as someone who has never heard the gospel at all. How can this be? Because we are saved by God’s grace who calls us and allows us to receive Christ into our heart. It is His precious blood that is the only authority which can redeem and forgive sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 declares that, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This means that if mankind had anything to do with saving himself, he would be able to give himself glory for his own goodness and strength. Though we do not want to admit it, our fallen nature has a tendency to create our own concept of God and along with our freewill has the capability to justify error in order to convince our mind that we are correct. The salvation process of God being the Savior and us being subject to His divine sovereignty is the only way to genuine spiritual transformation and is the only hope of having our name written in the Lamb’s book of life. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Matthew 7:21-23.
The view of the cross is certainly one that varies according to how serious we are about personal change. If a person is satisfied with a normal religious lifestyle which regards Bible study and prayer as a responsibility set aside for only the clergy, there is a good probability they have never been born-again. It’s true there are many who for whatever reason are content with living in the outer court, but according to God’s Word, we know these masses will surely be disappointed when they stand before Him at the judgment and try to explain why they refused to do what He was saying. We have been given the capability to live and think within our own world of ideas, but our thoughts even though sincere do not protect us from being wrong. “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, this people draws near unto me with their mouth and honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” Matthew 15:7-9.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 38 – Published 9/14/19
This is an interesting message from Joseph Herrin. May the Lord give us HIS understanding and wisdom.
The Mark of the Beast – Part 5
The book of Revelation contains many stark contrasts. There is much that is dark and tragic, yet there is also great light and victory. While one group of men are judged by God for receiving the mark of the beast, another group is rewarded for achieving victory over the beast, his image and the number of his name. The book of Revelation speaks of saints who are overcome by the beast, as well as those who are overcomers, being marked in their foreheads with the names of the Father and the Son.
I would imagine that all who read this book aspire to be numbered among the overcomers. Great promises are spoken to the overcomers. These promises do not belong to all those who name the name of Christ. Many saints have fallen short of these things, and great numbers in this hour are in peril of forfeiting things that are impossible to value. To the overcomers is promised the following:
To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.
He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death [which is the lake of fire].
To him who overcomes, to him, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.
He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments, and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
A great deception has fallen upon the church, for a vast number of saints have received the lie that all that is required to inherit all of the things listed as the inheritance of the overcomers is that they maintain their confession of Yahshua the Messiah. Yet the Scriptures reveal that believing in Christ, and confessing Christ as Savior and Lord, is not sufficient to receive these promises. One must also be conformed to Christ, being sealed in their foreheads with the names of the Father and the Son. One must triumph over the beast, his image and the number of his name. The professing Christian must manifest the fruit of a transformed life by turning from sin and exhibiting righteousness.
Yahshua was very plain in revealing the fact that it was not enough to merely be a confessor of Christ or to even offer up many good works to God. There is only one thing that satisfies the righteous requirements of God, and that is to know His will and do it.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
These words of Christ reveal that mere confession falls far short of God’s will for the saints. Even doing good and miraculous works fall short, for one can still be self-directed in doing such things. Only this one will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he who does the will of the Father. And what is His will? That mankind should bear His image and His likeness, subduing and ruling over the beasts. This was God’s first command to man, and His will in this matter has not changed. The saint must come to a perfect resignation to the will of God in every area of his life. He must lose his soul life that he might gain the divine life. There is much symbolic language used in Revelation that speaks of the overcomers. Most prophecy teachers have focused only upon the physical, or carnal, sense of the words and they have stopped short of looking at the spiritual understanding that is most important. Following is one such passage that relates to the overcomers in Christ.
And they overcame [the devil] by of the blood of the Lamb and by of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
Many prophecy teachers today understand this verse to be one more evidence that a great martyrdom will take place in the last days, and that many Christians will be killed for their faith. Yet not all overcomers die as martyrs. The apostle John who penned these words did not die as a martyr, but he will surely be found among the overcomers. There is something more than a natural death being spoken of here, and Yahshua revealed to His disciples what it is.
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
Losing one’s life is clearly linked here to taking up the cross. Taking up the cross is not speaking of outsiders killing the saints, but rather it speaks of the saints putting to death their own flesh with all of its carnal desires. Not all believers have, or will, face persecution from without to the extent that they are killed for their testimony, yet ALL saints are called to take up the cross and put the flesh to death.
Now those who belong to Christ Yahshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Is it not clear that when the Spirit reveals to John an image of a great harlot riding upon a beast, that this harlot has not crucified the flesh? This is why John wrote that the beast would eventually turn on her and consume her with fire and eat her flesh. The death that all overcomers must die is not physical martyrdom, but a daily dying to the desires of the flesh and to the willfulness of man’s soul. Yahshua brings further insight to this matter with the following words:
Then Yahshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
I would like to point out a great deceit that has occurred in this hour, for I have never heard a single preacher or prophecy teacher share what I will share here. There has been much wrangling over what the last sentence here means. What did Christ intend when He said, “there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”? I have heard many theories, and all of them have spoken of this as being a positive statement that some would not experience a natural death before they saw Christ revealed in glory. Some have suggested that this was fulfilled when Christ was transfigured upon the mount in the presence of Peter and James and John.
Let me suggest to you another interpretation that is in keeping with the context of the passage. Yahshua had just declared that all who seek to save their natural, fleshly and soulish lives would lose them, and only those who died to their natural life by taking up the cross would know true life, the divine life of God. He then says that some of those to whom He is speaking will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. What death has He been talking about? Has He been speaking of physical death? No! He has been speaking of the death that is defined as taking up the cross. Yahshua was declaring that among those He spoke to, some would not know this death to the soulish nature of man until they saw Him coming in His kingdom.
These are not positive words He is speaking. They are words of great sorrow and calamity. Christ was declaring that many men would wait too long to experience the death that they were called to embrace. A death to the natural life of Adam. Some would not taste of this death until they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. This is why we read of such a grievous response from mankind when the sign of Christ’s coming occurs.
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Do you know who will be mourning the most? It will be those who have been confessors of Christ, but who have avoided the working of the cross in their lives. These will have avoided tasting of death to their fallen nature until it is too late. They will not be counted among the elect, the overcomers, and they will have their names blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life. The Lamb’s book of life has recorded in it the names of all those who have embraced the working of the cross, who have allowed God to bring them to a conformity to Christ in this life, that they might not have to experience the purging of the Lake of Fire.
Saints, listen to the words of Scripture:
May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
All those who are called as children of God have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. Yet of those who are called, few are chosen. Many will have their names blotted out of the book of life because they have refused to take up the disciple’s cross and crucify their flesh with its affections and desires. They have retained control over their lives and have lived according to their own direction and initiative. They have sought the things that will perish instead of that which is eternal.
All Christians are invited to present their bodies as a living sacrifice upon the altar of God now in this age that their flesh might be consumed and that they might come forth as gold that has been tried in the fire. Yet a vast number of saints have protected their flesh and have lived to fulfill the desire of their souls. They have loved their lives and they will lose them. Only those who have hated their lives will keep them.
Can you see the plain language that Christ is employing? He is not speaking about a physical death to the body, but rather a subduing and ruling over all that is of the flesh and of the beast nature. Some saints will wait too long to subdue and rule over that which God commanded them. When they see Christ appearing it will be too late. Some will not taste of death until Christ appears, and the death they will then taste will be the second death which is reserved for all those who have avoided the working of the cross.
[For a fuller explanation of the purpose of the Lake of Fire, and the understanding that many saints will share a place with the unbelievers there, see the book “God’s Plan of the Ages.” The Lake of fire is not for eternity as the church teaches today, for this “second death” must come to an end, for the last enemy to be destroyed is death. The lake of Fire shall pass away when its purpose is fulfilled.]
Let us return now to that which is written of the overcomers. John records that “they loved not their lives even to death.” Is it not plain now that he is not speaking of physical martyrdom, but of the working of the cross in their lives? The overcomers are overcomers because they have attained the victory over their own bodies and the beast nature that resides in the flesh. That John is using symbolic language to speak of spiritual matters is further revealed as we look at another Scripture relating to the overcomers.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Yahshua and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The word beheaded here comes from a Greek word that occurs nowhere else in Scripture. It denotes having one’s head cut off with an axe, which was a common enough type of capital punishment in Roman days. We read in the gospels where Herod beheaded John the Baptist in this way. But this was not the only method employed to martyr the saints. Many of the early saints in Roman times were crucified. Some were stoned to death. Many were taken to the forums and given to wild beasts such as lions. Others were burned to death as “Roman Candles,” and there were many other such ways in which the saints have suffered death at the hands of their persecutors.
We have to conclude that the Holy Spirit is not seeking to convey with these words that only those who are physically beheaded are numbered among the overcomers and will be given the honor of reigning with Christ during the Millennial period of the Kingdom of God. Rather, the words used to describe this beheading are filled with symbolism and are intended to be understood figuratively.
In an earlier chapter, we read of the overcomers being sealed in their foreheads with the names of the Father and the Son. This typifies one who has taken Christ as their Head, and they have no head of their own. These overcomers have the mind of Christ, and they live no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. In I Corinthians Paul employs the symbolism of one’s head being related to authority and submission. He writes:
I Corinthians 11:3
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
If a man has Christ as his Head, then this indicates that a man has no head of his own. He must figuratively cut off his head in order to take Christ as his Head. A man must die to his own will, initiative and desires that are found in his head, and he must take Christ’s head as his own. Man must live for the will of Christ, not only calling Him Lord, but living as if He is Lord. He must take Christ’s desires for his own, buffeting his body and keeping it in subjection when he should find desires arising which are contrary to the desire of Christ.
No man can take Christ as Head and keep his own head at the same time. God does not desire two-headed monsters. So all those who are overcomers must lose their own heads. This is the spiritual understanding of John’s words in Revelation. He is not indicating that the guillotine will be brought back into fashion in the last days, which is an idea many prophecy teachers are promoting. He is saying that the overcomers will be beheaded by receiving Christ as their Head in place of their own head. They will be perfectly resigned to the will of God in their lives, not pursuing their own agenda and goals, but living to do the will of God.
Many foolish things are being taught as truth in this day. Satan is pouring forth a flood of deception to sweep the saints away. The hugely popular books in the “Left Behind” series are promoting many erroneous interpretations of the words of Daniel and John. Tragically, they are encouraging many saints to focus upon a battle that will come from outside of their bodies, when the true battle lies within.
The overcomers will not attain victory by forming some political opposition group to withstand an evil world ruler, nor by employing carnal means to resist his domination. Such speculations are worse than folly, they are damnable lies and deceit, for they lead the saints away from the mind of God, and they inoculate them against the truth.
The overcomers in Christ will attain victory through embracing the cross of Christ. The blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and loving not their fleshly and soulish lives will bring the victory.
May many have ears to hear what the Spirit is speaking!
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 37 – Published 9/6
BEWARE OF BEING A PART-TIME CHRISTIAN
The more we venture out and look around in this great big world, the more we will run into people that are wounded, hurting, and trying to find relief from the pain. Christians can run to Jesus, but those who do not know the Lord are faced to deal with their problems however they can. Whatever has happened to these individuals in their past, we can be sure the enemy is convincing them they can handle these giants on their own and do not need anyone’s help or pity. This includes trying to numb the pain with anything they can find to fortify their denial and avoid facing reality. Yes, there are many who are blessed and have led sheltered lives, but if we stop and listen closely, we will notice there is also a large group that have not had it so easy. Allow me to say before we go any further that it’s much more comfortable to live in isolation and just focus on our own needs and desires. The old idea of “out of sight – out of mind” might allow us to think we are free from praying for others, but we are only fooling ourselves. God will hold His people accountable for what they did do and what they did not do.
It’s amazing how us NOT knowing about suffering (whether intentionally or not) can reduce our prayers into a “bless me” confession and shrinks the big picture of the world’s needs into a tiny peep-hole that we seldom would want to visit. I was thinking the other day about individuals like Mother Teresa who abandoned her life so that she could help others. She evidently started out with a burden and a compassionate heart and the more she became involved the more it became apparent that she had found her calling. To her, helping and giving became a revelation within her soul and I believe that all of God’s children are required to seek and find what He is telling them to do. It is not how much we do, but rather are we following and obeying what He is saying. In Mark 12:43-44 we are reminded of the poor widow that gave two cents into the treasury while many of the wealthy were donating large amounts of money. “And He [Jesus] called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in ALL that she had, even all her living.” When we think of a person’s gift or calling, we usually have ideas like a profession or something we are good at and for some this may very well be the case, but allow me to say that it seems only a few ever find it or for that matter even seek for it and even if they do know it they want to control it their way. The average or normal way of thinking is to give God His portion but our spiritual covenant calls for us to drop our nets and surrender to Him completely.
Have you ever been at work or involved with a group of people and watched how they act and listen to what they say while trying to imagine why they act the way they do? I have observed those that emit negative vibes and were always outspoken about how much they hated what they were doing, have never understood about the awareness of God’s presence. Many appear to be entangled in a miserable existence like a prisoner that cannot find a way out of their cell, and still they have no intention of turning to Jesus who is the only hope and refuge for their soul. This helpless feeling of failure infects the conscience with emotional pessimism and in turn haunts the soul with dark clouds of depression. If anyone has ever been there even for a short period of time, you understand what it feels like to fall into a deep hole where you can see the sky but are too weak to climb out. Allow me to say, there is no hole so deep that God cannot reach you! There is no island so remote that He cannot hear your cries! There is no place so dark that God’s light cannot find and rescue you! The God of all creation wants you to be filled with His joy but it will require a fierce determination to surrender everything over to God including your will. The three Hebrew children were in the fiery furnace – BUT SO WAS GOD! The disciples were afraid the storm was going to sink their boat – BUT GOD WAS ON THE BOAT! Remember this; it is never WHERE you are that establishes your victory – it is WHO you are with! The time has come where there are no more part-time Christians. We are heading into the last hours and God is calling for a separation between the wheat and the tares. We are either with God completely of against Him completely. If you have decided to take up your cross and follow Him with all of your heart, you will allow your mind to be transformed into a holy and victorious lifestyle. You and God are a majority and nothing can stop you from being an overcomer except your own decision to not believe His truth.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 36 – Published 8/31
Famous Christian departees have lost their sense of truth – Jenna Ellis Rives
The evangelical world has been rocked with the recent news of several prominent Christians who are suddenly and very publicly abandoning their faith. Marty Sampson, a Christian music artist, announced that he believes Christianity is “just another religion.” Weeks earlier, Joshua Harris, known for his books on dating and sexual purity, posted on Instagram that he had undergone a “massive shift in regard to my faith” and declared he is no longer a Christian.
In the midst of these few who are publicly abandoning their faith, there remain countless people across the world and throughout history who have been through the crucible, who have been tested by the fires of the culture and the difficulties of life, and have come forth professing the truth of Christianity — not as a religion or set of rules to follow to live one’s best life, but as a comprehensive explanation for the reality that we as human beings share in common and experience.
True Christianity is a worldview. It’s the manual to unlock the answers to life’s greatest questions. We all ask, Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? There are many responses to these questions that could be true. But the Christian explanation, through the Bible, reveals the best answer to those questions. I often tell my students I’m not a Christian just because I believe in the Bible. I am a Christian because the Bible is the best explanation for the reality to which we are presented. We all have to confront the truth of reality. Christianity is the only explanation that does not require humans to achiever greater enlightenment by virtue of themselves. It is our creator who revealed himself to us and provided the answers to these great mysteries so that we do not have to wonder or conjure our own explanations for who we are and why we are here and what is our purpose and desperately hope we might get it right.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This implies that we have a reasoned and reasonable faith. Not a blind faith or mere religion. I could very sincerely believe all manner of things that are not true. The culture asks us to believe sincerely that a biological man can be a woman. However earnestly one believes that, empirical reality tells us that is not true. I could with all sincerity follow a list of rules and rituals and call it a religion, and that would no more explain the reason for human existence than not doing any of those things.
True Christianity is neither blind faith nor a religion. It’s not memorizing trite comfort phrases like fortune cookies. It’s not attending life coaching classes on Sundays to achieve a better life or find one’s “best self.” True Christianity is the answer to our questions. Having real answers is having confidence in our hope and assurance that we have the truth. Don’t we want the true answers to those questions? One might say, “Why should I care about truth?” Well, do you want the real answer or the false one?
It’s interesting that after renouncing their “faith,” each of these public declarations ends with a distinctly Christian ethic. Sampson wrote, “Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe.” Harris said he feels “hopeful.” How can we know what it means to love, forgive, “do good,” and what do we have hope in, without a truthful standard and measurable definition?
Without even realizing it, these men are still borrowing from the Christian worldview. To understand what it means to love and forgive, “do good,” and be kind, one must first have a definition for what is right versus wrong and a reasonable explanation for where this moral ethic originates. When people publicly disclaim a shallow view of Christianity, they did not substitute it for a better explanation. In fact, they all say the opposite — that they don’t know where they’re going or precisely what they’re doing, they just “feel.” Instead of buying into the cultural lie that we are alone in this world to helplessly try and find our “best self” or “my authentic self,” wouldn’t you rather know with certainty who you were intentionally and with design made to be? True Christianity offers more than false hope and subjective feelings: It provides the true answers to life’s most important questions. The truth is that all human beings are made in the image of God. We have intrinsic value. We have purpose in him and are designed uniquely by him. Because when we are designed for a relationship with our creator, that is truly the only thing that can bring lasting joy, peace, happiness, and hope.
John Piper wrote, “The gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.” C.S. Lewis is also quoted, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This is true Christianity. There are millions who testify to this truth and have died horrible deaths for it in persecution, who have endured countless hardships without recanting, and who stand firm in truth today. These Christians are not holding fast to a mere religion or feel-good life coaching to be their best selves. True Christianity is life-changing, real, rational, and reasoned. So for these few who have left their “faith,” consider: Was it true Christianity to begin with or just religion?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 35 – PUBLISHED 8/24/19
THE PRESENCE OF FAITH WITHIN COMMUNITY
The concept of spiritual faith within any community usually leads to thoughts about various types of churches, and this can definitely be a part of it. However, if we step back and observe the larger picture, we notice that faith is more of a personal lifestyle than just the presence of a religious local assembly. There is a huge difference between being religious and being spiritual and this has everything to do with how we connect with society and our intimate relationships with God. The Christian evangelical emphasis is based on the great commission, which involves allowing the light of Christ to shine as we associate with those who are watching. Though many have yet to embrace their spiritual missions, the needs are great and there is no shortage of opportunities to become involved. As followers of Christ, we are given the responsibility to develop a genuine lifestyle of spiritual sensitivity and there is no greater environment to become walking, breathing lighthouses of compassion than in our local communities.
One definition of community, according to Merriam Webster, is “A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This allows us to develop lifelong connections with neighbors, co-workers, friends, church members, and businesses that can evolve into lasting relationships. Especially within the smaller communities, this concept can be preserved by caring parents and concerned individuals who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and become actively involved so that future generations can continue to enjoy a sense of belonging. In the 1830s, a young French nobleman named Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the United States, carefully observing its people and institutions. When explaining the success of America’s democratic republic to his countrymen, he commented at length about the critical role played by America’s religious devotion. He observed that spirituality was essential to forming this nation’s political convictions and I can see why. Those who genuinely walk with God are called to be spiritual witnesses and to testify everywhere they go as well as being practical assets by providing stability, trust, and integrity. With the stress of social correctness, we need the sincerity of sound spiritual wisdom along with moral demonstrations of God’s character now more than ever.
In 2006 and 2007, Robert Putham of Harvard and David Campbell of Notre Dame surveyed a large and representative sample of Americans about the role of faith in their lives. One of the unique contributions of their research was the discovery that individuals who considered themselves people of faith are more likely to give their time and financial support to both religious and non-religious causes. They also concluded with what George Washington declared in his farewell address, that “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” When discussing how Christians should participate in socially responsible ways, active faith is clearly just as vital for maintaining community today as it was when the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived. Since the foundation of love begins with God and family, we can agree the vision of community is to allow the character and compassion of Jesus to overflow into good works unto all people. This type of faith is not about denominations or a particular religious dogma but is more centered on an innocent enthusiasm to cooperate with others in order to live in peace. When people are committed to following God’s directives, they will not be able to ignore the needs of those around them. Thus, when followers of Christ reach out to embrace community, everyone benefits. Community faith is about individuals who feel an accountability to step out beyond the walls of the organized church and interact with the world that surrounds the church. Christians were never called to merely be observers – they are equipped and empowered to be contributors! Social religion is generally more interested in talking about the cross while the true disciples of Jesus consider themselves to be crucified with Christ. According to God’s Word, all who confess their allegiance to Jesus should be excited about becoming catalysts of change and prepared to embrace the challenge of living what they believe. As we accept the reality that we are what we think, may we consider our responsibility to become a genuine demonstration of faith, hope, and love.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 34 – PUBLISHED – 8/17/19
DEAD MEN CANNOT SAVE THEMSELVES
Remember that old painting where Christ is standing at the door knocking? It’s very popular and I’m sure that many of you have seen this image which reminds us of God’s love and how much He wants to be with us. This visual presentation is usually associated with the Bible passage found in Revelation chapter 3 and verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Those who study the Bible and enjoy researching the exegesis of scripture have learned that theologians and scholars have a tendency to argue about doctrinal interpretations, (yes, including this verse). We might wonder, isn’t it true that Jesus is standing at the door of everyone’s heart waiting and pleading to come in? Some say no. The Revelation text is commonly used as an evangelistic declaration which explains how Jesus is constantly knocking on the heart’s door of every lost soul and wanting to come in and save them from their sin, however, if we will take the time to rightly divide the Word, we will discover this particular passage is not referring to those who do not know Jesus, but rather is directed to Christians who are already members of God’s family. I know that people will say, “What is the difference?” but when it comes to understanding salvation, a correct frame of reference makes a significant difference. The preceding verses of chapter 3 are the words of Jesus and are specifically directed to the church of Laodicea which had fallen away from God. Christ was calling for these Christians to stop being deceived by the pleasures of this world and to repent, rededicate, and be restored in their personal relationship with Christ which gives us a correct context. This is a reminder for all Christians that in order to stay close to the Lord and enjoy His presence, we must continually open our heart and invite Him to be the Lord of our lives. When we allow our flesh and the devil to distract us, we push Jesus out of our life and keep Him at a distance. His response is to convict and call on us to turn back to Him.
It would be amazing how much we could learn about the Bible if only we were more interested. When we look closely at the depiction of Jesus standing at the door and knocking, we notice the artist has not created a handle on the outside with the intention of teaching that God will not force His way into our life as the door must be opened from the inside. Reformed theology teaches that God has elected those to be saved and there is never a need to beg or force anyone to accept Him. Like we mentioned earlier, those who preach a gospel which emphasizes the individual choosing God, declares that free will has everything to do with who will be saved and lost as they use this scenario to relay how that God is begging everyone to be born-again. Is this true? I’m convinced the gospel is the power unto salvation for all those who believe, but God already knows who will be saved and who will reject Him. Let’s turn to the Armenian side for a moment, who believe that man chooses his own destiny. If we think about the foreknowledge of God, we must agree that even before the Garden of Eden, God already knew who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Within the entire history of the world, He knew who would accept Him and those who would turn away. Since He knew who would be saved, this means when He sent Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice, His blood was only being shed for those who would accept it. Right? So, we have an important question. Was the blood offered to everyone or only to those who would believe? Thus, since the foreknowledge of God knows the destiny of every person, the blood of Jesus technically only paid for those who would be saved and He sent Jesus to be the holy sacrifice for them. Does this make sense? If so, this would indicate that every person is already purchased and redeemed including those who have not even been born. The old hymn says, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling oh sinner, come home.” I was taught that God’s Word causes conviction within the conscience and this generates faith for us to believe that God is true, to repent of our sins and that we need to follow Him. This is the Armenian view which believes salvation is based upon hearing the gospel and entirely up to a person’s freewill decision to follow Christ, while the Calvinistic view says that man would never accept Jesus unless they were first elected, drawn by the Holy Spirit, redeemed, adopted, and sealed forever.
Many Christians will agree that every person has free will to choose how committed they are to God’s voice “after” they are saved, but there are disagreements when it comes to the concept that Jesus is begging anyone to become a member of His family. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has been hopelessly lost and blind, which is why the Father sent Jesus to the cross as a sacrifice to redeem those who would believe. This means all that God has elected are purchased and bought with a price which is the blood of Christ. In this view, people respond to the gospel because they are already destined to believe. They are awakened because they are pre-programmed to recognize absolute truth and to embrace it. Many declare the correct picture of redemption is of us drowning in a sea of sin and God throwing us a life preserver “before” the foundation of the world and us grabbing it. Whatever way you decide to believe, the reality of salvation is that a person who God has known since the beginning of time becomes convicted by the power of God’s Word and is rescued and transformed by His mercy and love. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. The “works” the Calvinism opposes is the idea that man realized he was drowning, called out for help, and made the decision to accept the offer of being rescued. In other words, the Armenian is accused of believing that when we are all in heaven and someone says, “how did you make it here?” they will tell the story of how they made a decision to “choose” the Lord’s grace.
The argument between Armenian and Calvinism doctrines, present very serious considerations about the understanding of Biblical salvation as human free will versus divine predestination is quite an important issue when it comes to our relationship with God and how it relates to eternal life. Can a lost individual who has heard the gospel and under conviction from the Holy Spirit, resist God? Or do you believe that once a person sees and understands spiritual truth, they will be saved one way or the other? Whatever the case, a point to consider is the unbeliever will not seek God on their own. If the Lord did not provide an opportunity for someone’s conscience to be pricked, and their eyes to be opened, there would be no possibility for spiritual conversion. In this light, we can see the situation is not really a casual decision of whether or not to open the door, but a more desperate response to keep from drowning and dying. Who in their right mind would refuse a life preserver when they are going down for the third time? The question is whether or not the individual has truly recognized Jesus for who He is and the imminent danger of their depraved condition. With Christ and the door, the point is that seeking God is something that unbelievers will not do on their own. Calvinists are convinced the unbeliever will not seek God or salvation. Seeking spiritual truth is the quest of believers. Jonathan Edwards said, “The seeking of the Kingdom of God is the chief business of the Christian life.” Seeking is the result of faith, not the cause of it. However, once a person becomes a child of God, we can bring back the picture of Jesus standing at the door and comprehend our responsibility to develop our relationship and devote our entire life to Him. After we are born-again, we learn who he is and along with his spiritual influence, we ultimately decide how much we want of him or if we want him at all. Our free-will allows us to refuse the world and the choice to be filled with His Spirit to the level which we decide.
We use a lot of clichés in the church, and not all of them are helpful or even accurate. For example, many Christians talk about “asking Jesus into your heart” and while that phrase might have some vague Biblical underpinnings, it doesn’t shed any light on what it truly means to repent and believe. If anything, it muddles the sinner’s responsibility in salvation as it dulls some of the sharp edges of the gospel. Many believe the common misapplication of the Revelation verse has done more harm than good. Yes, the mental image of Christ knocking on the door of a sinner’s heart is moving but is not totally accurate. Christ is not pleading on every sinner’s spiritual doorstep. Jesus doesn’t need to beg or badger anyone into the kingdom of heaven (John 10:27-28). Salvation isn’t merely a matter of the Lord getting a foot inside the door of your heart, but rather it’s a work of total transformation (Ezekiel 36:26). And most important of all, salvation is not triggered by an act of the sinner’s will, it is God’s intervening work that rescues us from the just penalty of our sin (Ephesians 2:4-9). Calvinists often claim that “asking Jesus into your heart” is a man-centered abuse of the gospel message because it makes it look that God is the peddler and man is the shopper. What do you believe about this? Does man search for God or is God searching for man? Does a person desire to be saved, or does God convict the heart and draw the person to Him? The sinner’s prayer that I have always heard and have used includes asking Jesus to come into our heart. In this light, acceptance of man’s part is a critical aspect of the salvation process according to my way of thinking. One last question: Can God change a person’s heart and make them love Him and serve Him?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
GOD WORKS WITHIN HIS OWN SOVEREIGNTY
When searching for the whole counsel of God concerning the subject of healing and praying for miracles, let us concede that this is an exhaustive subject and our time here has hardly scratched the surface. Nonetheless, we would not be completely honest about the benefits of His covenant without mentioning His conditions. What does this mean? One of our final considerations is to acknowledge that our sin can prevent what we are hoping for. The principles of God’s truth and authority can override our faith. This is a complex area, but our iniquities and the condition of our hearts can lock the windows of Heaven and keep them closed. In other words, we cannot live a life of disobedience and expect to receive miracles from heaven. God’s laws are pure and holy and no one can mock the holiness of God’s truth. I realize that this creates many questions, but may we agree that many miracles are given on an individual basis and involve God’s perfect judgment and sovereignty. Many will ask, “What about the people in Jesus day that had sin in their life and yet Jesus healed everyone?” We must consider that the New Testament had not been written yet and the Holy Spirit had not been sent. These are crucial components related to faith, which we have today, but again we can agree that God moves according to knowledge. The more we know, the more accountable we are.
In this day and age of technology, we have been given the opportunity to study and rightly divide God’s truth more than any time in the history of the world. Yes, God’s will is difficult to comprehend, but in the times when we are confused and facing unexplainable tragedies, we do not need more complex humanistic philosophy; we simply need more spiritual trust! We cannot change the past, but we do have the choice to turn inward and ask God to reveal His vision for our lives. Embracing trust is a common, yet a very important, decision that can keep us safe in God’s peace, but it will require letting go of what we think and respecting His divine standards. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I choose to harbor sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Ask the Lord to help you search earnestly and honestly for any ill feelings within your mind and conscience and if hatred or bitterness is found, we can know He will forgive and deliver us and set us free. Many have resentment toward God for allowing events to happen, but this evil dark attitude holds us in the bondage of misery and pain. This is another reason why the refiner’s fire is so critical in the lives of God’s children because walking in His Spirit has everything to do with forgiveness and holiness.
There are several aspects related to physical healing and they are worthy considerations, however, can we agree that many times a miracle is nothing more than a person coming to Jesus and reaching out to him for help? Let us think about this story again found in Luke chapter 8 and notice the basic fundamentals. “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind Jesus, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stopped. And Jesus said, who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, who touched me? And Jesus said, somebody, hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” Luke 8:43-48. Did Christ favor her or give her any special privileges? Well, it does not mention she was special or anything particular about her personal life. We are all sinners and very needy for Jesus and she just seemed to be an average person. He knew someone had touched Him and received His power, but He was not even sure who it was. One thing we do know is that she was a truth seeker. She simply came in her desperate need believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had the power to heal her. Included in another account of this story we notice her positive confession, “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Today, you can also believe that Jesus can heal you. Whatever the situation, you can reach out in faith just like this woman and receive your miracle. The process is the same and you can also hear Christ reply, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” God is not limited in how He can heal you and we need to prevent our imagination from spending all our time and energy trying to figure out what He is going to do. It’s true, we might be instantly healed or maybe God will decide to use medical science, but in whatever way our Creator chooses to intervene, we will forever trust Him and declare “It is well with our soul.”
Lastly, no matter how hopeless the situation, God is able to change any circumstance. His compassion can remove all agony and sadness, His mercy can end all sorrow, and His wisdom can solve all problems. Whatever heartache, disappointment, or illness we may encounter in this life, there are many things our infirmities cannot do. They cannot cripple or diminish our love, shatter hope, destroy our faith, erase happy memories, stop us from praying, corrupt our optimism, ruin friendships, weaken our courage, steal our joy, blot our names from the book of life, or prevent us from living in the confidence and security of God’s presence. Jehovah means, “The Existing One” and Rapha means, “To restore and heal.” Jehovah Rapha is the Great Physician who paid the price with His blood and provides every type of healing for His people. The Lord Jesus Christ is good all the time and we can live in His peace, which passes all understanding when we love Him with all of our hearts and completely trust Him with everything. Our obedience unto Him is our highest worship and adoration. God cannot lie and He cannot fail! His Word is true forever and will never pass away. Give Him your weakness and He will give you His strength. “O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone” Jeremiah 17:14.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 32 – Published 8/3/19
AN ACCEPTABLE OFFERING
We have read about how strict God has been when following His precise instructions about offering sacrifices and worshiping Him. This should speak to us and reveal that He does not just take anything we offer and if the situation is serious enough He becomes very insulted and angry at our disobedience and disrespect. He explained about choosing only the finest animals to be slaughtered and how unblemished everything must be as a type and shadow of the ultimate perfection of Christ as the holy and faultless lamb that was slain for the sins of the world. Whenever something “strange” or contaminated was offered to God in the Old Testament, there were serious consequences and I would just like to share a passage that reminds us of what He expects from our worship. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered STRANGE fire before the Lord, which He commanded them NOT. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10: 1-2) I do not believe God has changed His mind on the issue of respecting His glory and the children of His Kingdom must develop the reverential fear of who He is or also face the discipline of His judgment. There are many ways that God can chastise and bring punishment including causing hearts to become calloused and searing the tenderness of the conscience. We notice in the tabernacle of Moses how the priest that entered into the Holy of Holies tied a rope around their ankles in case they were found with un-repented sin. For some reason, much of the church population does not connect their praise and worship or any of their works as being held accountable to the same standard. We must teach and live with the conscious awareness that the infinite Majesty of the universe requires the same holiness, humility, and brokenness for anyone that desires to approach Him. The selfishness, foolishness, lethargy, arrogance and general carnality that is brought into the sanctuary (and nurtured within our heart) is an example of “infecting” the gathering of believers with the leaven of impurity and distraction from what we are to be thinking about.
May our worship unto Him be accepted as a holy and pleasing sacrifice because He will not receive a carnal act of service. Let us be reminded of Cain and Able when they both brought their offerings unto the Lord. “And in the process of time, it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Able, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord HAD respect unto Able and his offering. But unto Cain and to his offering he HAD NOT respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5). God wants sincerity, pureness, and obedience. When offerings are made without the purification of repentance through the blood of Christ, the sacrifices are rejected and deemed as a mere religious deed that may be technically beautiful but has no eternal value. The entire point of being obedient is to willingly follow without any alteration or modification of His instructions. This is His creation, His salvation, His world, His heaven and within His perfect Word and plans will be accomplished His perfect desire.
“Dear heavenly Father, I am humbled in your presence. I choose to pour out my heart to you until I am empty of myself. Please fill me with your holiness, your wisdom and empower me to WALK as a representative for your Kingdom. The more I learn about you, the more I realize I know nothing. I repent for my un-cleanness. I am a chief sinner that cannot control my flesh. I have been a terrible example of a Christian. My mouth has spewed corruption and I have been an enemy to your cross. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me. I realize that I have such a long way to go. I want to make sure I know the divine order of how to live and grow in you. I plead with you to build me from the inside out. Wash me with your blood.
I desperately need you to fill me with your PASSION. Make me hungry for your presence and help me to develop an awareness of your voice within my heart. If I do not have your FIRE, I will not come out of my comfort zone. If I do not have your love working in my conscience I am nothing. Break me and melt me so that I can be molded into your image. Do a strong work in my heart that will literally CHANGE the way I think. I must become the disciple you have called me to be. I must become the witness you are waiting on. Fulfill your mission through me.
Give me the courage to walk away from the pleasures of this world and cause me to not be distracted by the attempts of my carnal nature to control me. Help me to overcome the laziness of my body. Help me to forgive others that have disappointed me. Help me not to see the church as something to avoid but to see it as you see it. Allow me to see the hearts of those who need your wisdom and understanding. Help me to share with them the revelations of Your Word. Give me the sensitivity to hear your voice so that you can use me in your divine appointments. Amen.
When we read the story of how God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s, it needs to “sink in” to our mind and heart that this was given as a clear illustration that He DEMANDS everything that is done for Him to be a certain way. This should be a constant reminder to think about how serious we should be in presenting the correct offering with the right attitude in our worship and our labor. It is difficult to comprehend and greatly misunderstood by the masses but God is not moved to respond to everything He hears and sees. He is so perfect that He cannot go against His laws and principals and cannot be coerced into making deals or compromising His own standards. Since God responds to faith and the “state” of the heart, He will not approve of gifts that try to manipulate or bribe Him or request that are tarnished with underhanded motives. What does all of this have to do worship? I think more than we can imagine! Just because God listens to us sing songs and pray or even teach does not mean He will count it as genuine or bless these “deeds” with His approval. God operates by discerning our faith and judging our obedience – and it will be forever true that He does not compromise! People all over the world constantly lift up praises with all types of different ideas and reasons (and God hears them all) but if their concept of God is not connected with the “TRUE” God and the correct procedures of His word – their religion is in vain. The Lord of all things does not accept a generic, flesh-based offering just because we went to all of the trouble to present it to Him. He will only accept offerings from the perfect heart of truth. Also, it is not the size of the offering or how much effort we put into it, but rather it must be “correct” and presented exactly as He requires or it will not be accepted at all. We can work our fingers to the bone and think we have accomplished much and yet be deceived. Going through the motions of worship along with religious rituals and meaningless singing with only an emphasis on programs and ceremonies are a waste of time and energy which explains why many churches feel more like morgues than springs of living waters.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 31 – Published 7/27/19
WONDERS OF WORSHIP – INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM
This is a collection of insights that have come from my experiences of leading worship and being involved with church music since I was a teenager. Many assume that leading a praise song is nothing more than making sure the singing and instruments sound presentable and many cases it might be, however, this is not what it is intended to be. The true concept behind worship music is to connect with God. A church music team is called to be a musically coordinated band of warriors that go before the congregation in order to help lead God’s people into His holy presence. What happens when we get there is filled with mystery and awesome “wonder” that no one can really comprehend or explain. In simple terms – the Lord draws us with His love and we respond back to Him with adoration. This constant communication exchange within worship and prayer is the journey of knowing God intimately and the true purpose and meaning of life.
Our fleshly nature loves to control our attitude and because he has “called the shots” for so long, he thinks he runs our life, (and sadly most of the time he does). BUT, when Jesus becomes the “Lord” of our heart, the old temptations and carnal thinking are supposed to die as we yield to the Lordship of the one who died to save us. A Christian is called (and commanded) to be led by the Holy Spirit – but what does this have to do with worship you might ask? I thought you would never ask.
When approaching God in worship and or in prayer, whether in the church or on our couch at home, let us remember that our frustrations, worries, apathy, fear, anxiety, depression, sin, and strife is causing a major roadblock to the holy of holies. Choosing to deal with the heavyweight of carnality before we attempt to come before His throne and worship Him is the best order. Remember the priest in the Old Testament would seek forgiveness before he entered into the holy place. We can come before God and cry out to Him in sincerity and ask that He cleanse us and prepare our hearts to fellowship with Him. The same is true with communion and asking God to come into our heart and remove anything that could hinder this holy and solemn relationship. When we come to worship corporately in the sanctuary we must be “on guard” as our flesh and the devil does not want us to worship God. Our will doesn’t want to die (we want our rights), and of course the enemy does not want to see us receive anything from the Lord especially God’s Word. Whatever attitude we bring in with us, the people will see it and be affected by it (good or bad). If we intentionally hold on to the rebellious baggage that is keeping us miserable, our spirit cannot enjoy God’s presence and we can actually hinder the spiritual atmosphere.
Those who have been with me in times where I have led worship have noticed that I pray (as we all should) before I begin the journey into God’s presence and fervently ask Him to forgive me, everyone involved and all who are present of their sins. Prayer cannot be separated from worship rather they are braided together as a strong cord that binds and connects man to God. It is our responsibility to abandon our selfish and sneaky motives and allow His holiness to be poured through pure vessels of honor. “freedom” from sin, gives us the opportunity to openly and boldly “profess our passion through gratitude and adoration.” The hope and joy of us worshiping around God’s throne to can be used as a testimony of our dedication and love for Him, and hopefully, others will want to come with us.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 30 – Published 7/20/19
Series – HOW FAR DO WE WANT TO GO WITH GOD? – (PART 8)
CONCLUSION – 30 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
It is not my intention to discourage or confuse anyone in their faith journey. In studying the Bible over the last 35 plus years, I have read quite a few explanations and commentaries from many teachers concerning many topics. And to be honest, I’ve taken a lot of walks and shed a few tears searching and seeking God’s truth among so many ideas. It goes without saying there are many areas of God’s Word that are difficult to understand and I often wonder just how much we can comprehend. In this small series, we have talked about the differences in Calvinism and Armenian views and I am still not completely settled in my heart about this vast subject. I feel it’s very critical to know what we believe and why, and these issues are a vital part the foundation of our faith and I will not stop pursuing them until I have peace in my soul.
I consider that everyone must decide if they are going to accept spiritual convictions from an emotional feeling or directly from God Himself. This is a personal decision that each person must make before they can press forward in their understanding of truth. The human mind is a miraculous wonder which can inspire, empower, and be used to glorify God, but at the same time, it’s also a very dangerous battleground that can deceive and influence even the most sincere student.
My questions are multipying and I’m sure they will continue to do so. When we run out of questions, we have become dull in our thinking and lukewarm and stale in our progression toward God. Am I saved today because God selected me before the foundation of the world, or because God looked down through time and saw that I heard the gospel, became convicted and accepted Jesus as my Savior? Is this the same thing? What is the difference? Divine election or human decision? Irresistible grace or human faith and choice? Are these not both an example of amazing grace and mercy? Does God love everyone and want everyone to be saved? Did Jesus die for everyone? Was His blood the payment to redeem everyone in the world or for only those who would choose Christ and or who were chosen by God? I want to conclude our series with 30 questions which are mostly directed from the Calvinistic view and answered with somewhat of an Armenien response. I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Blessings –
1. Do you believe that “everything” that happens is caused by God? I am not sure, I would need to think about this very seriously. Isn’t there a difference between “cause” and “allow?” I know and believe that if God wants to stop something He can. If something terrible happens, I would have to accept that He allowed it. I know this is hard to understand and makes God appear cruel, but we cannot see or comprehend what He is thinking and knowing. This is a fallen world and God can use tragedies to execute His plans if He so chooses.
2. If we believe that God carries the title of being Omnipotent, this means He has all power and control over everything. Included within His attributes is another title called Omniscient which means He knows everything past, present, and future. Even if God does not technically “cause” something to happen, He certainly has the ability to prevent it. The question is even though He may not have created something to happen, does this mean He is directly responsible for it happening? I’m reminded of Job and how he was living a great life with God and was very blessed until out of the blue his world came crashing down. It’s apparent that God had no intention of harming him, but was approached by Satan who asked if he could attack Job and destroy his life. God allowed Satan to do anything he wanted except take his life, so in this particular story, we are left with trying to decide if the devil is to blame or God. If we see someone abusing a child and do not intervene, are we not also at blame because we could have stopped it? If we see smoke coming out someones window and just keep walking, are we to blame for the house burning down? I believe the answer is yes in both circumstances, but when we are referring to God, we are talking about the Creator who has hundreds or thousands of different personal agendas associated with just one event. If we are looking to blame something or someone, we can blame sin.
3. When we imagine all the things that happen every day, we notice that God has a hand in everything. Some circumstances He intervenes and others He chooses not to prevent. We do not know why He does this but we can only trust that He has a purpose for all situations very much like the bigger picture of the story of Job. Do you have any further comments about this? I know the most frequent question in the world is “why did this happen?” As a chaplain and a first responder, I’ve faced situations where children have died and houses that burned to the ground and where diseases have taken good Christian people at a young age. Most of the time there are no answers and this is frustrating. We just cannot see what God sees. However, we must remember He is able to know and see the entire canvas while we can barely observe one tiny corner. We are looking through a dark window and can only see shadows and vague images. It’s like looking through a crack in a fence. We can only see a very limited view of a few feet, where when we stand on a ladder, we can see everything. His ways and thoughts are much higher and deeper than what we can know.
4. So, do you believe that even in the worst tragedy, that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose? Well, don’t you? This is a Biblical promise and meant to comfort us when we are perplexed and confused. I believe God and trust Him, but do I understand this passage. Not really. It sounds good, and I must accept it, but I am not able to comprehend how any type of devastating tragedy can be a good thing. I went to a funeral the other day to pay respects to a middle aged woman who died from cancer. There were so many prayers going out for this nice lady. She was a pastors wife, a Sunday school teacher, had children and several young grandchildren, all who loved her dearly. Taking her away from this family has left everyone speechless. God could have healed her, but He decided not to. This is so sad, I literally do not have any words to explain and neither does anyone else. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
5. Allow me to ask, does God love everyone who will ever be concieved? I have always believed that God is love and that He loves everyone. Even those in the womb. I know where you are going with this and many people will question God’s love referring to the existence of an eternal hell. The idea of an eternal place of suffering is a very serious reality.
6. If He truly loves everyone, why does He not save everyone and let them come to heaven forever? He only saves those who believe in Him. Without accepting God, a person cannot be saved. I know the Calvinists believe that God selects those He wants and leaves the others to perish, but I just have a difficult time with this presentation. John 3:16 mentions “whosoever will believe” and this sounds like a choice according to man’s freewill.
7. So, you are saying that technically a person saves themselves by believing in God. Yes. God throws a drowning person a life saver, but isn’t it true they must grab hold of it? How could anyone be saved if they did not choose to be? How can a person be anything if they do not have a desire? I was raised in a strict independent Baptist church who believed in election, but it seemed they would also preach salvation messages every service. I’m thinking they must have thought the gospel awakens those who are elected.
8. How do you believe about those who are too young to understand or the individuals that have mental handicaps which prevents them from comprehending? How can they be born-again if they cannot know the meaning of what is being said? This is a different situation and because they cannot understand anything and do not know what is going on, they are not held accountable. I have always believed that God has mercy on those who do not have a chance to hear the gospel and accept Jesus. I am convinced that God is merciful and that He would never send a child, a mentally handicapped person, or someone who has never heard the gospel to hell. What kind of monster would punish an innocent person? In this light, I believe heaven will be filled with innocent people from every tribe and nation around the world.
9. Many of the Calvinists reformers believe there are no innocent individuals and that only the infants or other certain souls who are a part of the elect will be saved. Those who not elected whatever the situation may be will go to hell just like the rest of the world who are not selected. Do you have any comment about this? Like I said in the last answer, to me this is still being cruel and unfair to the innocent ones. I cannot imagine this being the way that God feels. So you are saying there are only two groups of people, the elect and the lost and if a person is not elected they are lost forever. This does not sound right.
10. Again, I must remind you that no one is really without guilt. Mankind is depraved because of sin and have a sinful nature and Jesus has said they are born of their father the devil. A soul must be spiritually transformed from this darkness into God’s light in order to be saved. A soul must be purchased and redeemed. Do you agree that God knows whether a tiny baby would grow up to believe and accept Christ? Since you believe that everyone can accept Jesus, do you still believe those who would reject Jesus their entire life would still be given eternal life just because of their age? This is something I have never thought of. God knows everything and I believe He would know if they would ever accept Him. If this has something to do with His election, I can see this point much more clearer than Him just picking out people like we would select apples and oranges.
11. Let me ask you, did Jesus die for everyone? I believe the blood of Jesus has the power, authority, and ability to save everyone that has ever been concieved.
12. Allow me to put this another way. Does the sacrificial blood of Jesus pay for everyone’s sins? No, His blood actually only pays for the sins of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Or as you believe, His blood only pays for the elect.
13. So, this means that Jesus really did not die for everyone or pay for everyone’s sins. I believe we can say this is technically true. If Jesus’ blood paid for every person’s sins, then every person would be redeemed. If this was true, John 3:16 would read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that every soul who has ever lived would not perish but have everlasting life.”
14. Alright then, how does anyone become born-again? I’m convinced that every person must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and be convicted of their sins, and repent, and then cry out to God for Him to save them. This conviction by the Holy Spirit causes a person to feel guilty and see their need to be saved. They must ask Him to forgive them, yield, surrender, confess, and then receive Christ to be their Lord, King, and Master.
15. Does everyone who follows these instructions, become saved? If an individual is sincere, the Bible says they are saved and become a child of God. On the other hand, I also believe that many can people hear the gospel and realize they need Christ, but with their free-will they have the ability and choice to turn away from God and reject His invitation. The rich young ruler was listening to Jesus explain the way of salvation, but decided this was much too drastic of a commitment.
16. So, you are convinced that a human has the power to resist God? Yes. Man can do whatever he wants. Remember, Adam and Eve disobeyed a direct command from God. If we do have the choice to choose, we are being controlled against our will. If we are robots, what is the point?
17. If you are not convinced about irresistible grace, you must believe that human rebellion is stronger than God’s desire and ability to manage, rule, govern, direct, and command everything including a humans destiny. I do not believe that God forces us to do what we do not want to do. I believe that hell is filling up with people who simply will not submit their life to Him. If everyone including people like Noah, Moses, and Paul were controlled and forced to obey God, this makes it sound like they were puppets instead of individuals who willingly loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him. I know it sounds disrespectful to God, but it seems with being constantly disappointed with people’s decisions, His plans are not always accomplished.
18. Calvinist believe that no one has the power to submit to God unless God’s Spirit is completely controlling them. If a person could suppress his old nature, yield his will, and completely submit their life to God, we would not need the Holy Spirit. This is why it is critical to be filled with the Spirit instead of relying on religious legalism. This also explains why individuals are not only elected but also controlled to fulfill God’s purposes. I understand this and somewhat agree, but I still cannot discard the responsibility and accountability of man’s freewill decisions. Of course, I believe we can listen and be led by God, but not herded like cattle against our decisions. Yes, it would be amazing if every Christian would follow God perfectly, but it does not happen this way. We disobey, and we pay the consequences. This is how we learn and grow in our faith.
19. When we pray and ask God to save or heal someone and it does not happen, have you considered that maybe it was not a part of His predestined plan? This is a constant question that is difficult to know the answer. I believe we can know if we are walking close to God, but unfortunately most people, even church members are not. Does this make a difference in who is healed and who is not? Very possibly. I’ve always been taught that God wants to heal and save everyone, but that God’s salvation and healing also includes the condition that a person must believe in faith. I believe that God might say no and not heal this person, but I also believe according to the Bible that if no one has any faith in God’s healing power, maybe they died because of the lack of faith. Of course, we can ask God to save a lost person and to heal those who are sick, but actually these are two different things. I can understand that God would always want to save them, but He might not always agree to heal them. I know the Calvinist believes that God has already predestinated most of these situations.
20. So, do you include in your prayers concerning salvation and healing, “if it is God’s will?” Jesus said He had come to please the Father and accomplish His will, and this should also be our desire which is why I believe it is correct to include God’s will. I have no problem with acknowledging God’s plans, but I also want to face the possibility that my lack of faith could the problem. With as many scriptures that talk about our faith, I’m convinced we can fail in our faith. However, when it comes to salvation, my Armenian view causes me to believe that I do not need to ask if it is God’s will to save someone. I believe that God desires that no one would be lost.
21. Acts chapter 9 tells the story of Saul and God aggressively intervening as he was traveling down the road. This includes temporary blindness and a specific occurrence described as scales that were removed from his natural and spiritual eyes. Is this not an example of predestination? Yes. I believe that God does predestinate some people. Another example would be Moses, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and so forth. However, I am not convinced that God has elected or chosen every person. Why could He not choose some and leave others to respond and accept the gospel as their choice?
22. So, you believe that God chooses some people and offers salvation to others who will believe in Him? You believe that a carnal, blind, and wicked human chooses holiness and righteousness all on their own? We just talked about the scales needing to be removed so that a person can see truth. Which comes first, having faith or the scales being removed? I believe that God honors faith. When someone calls out to Him in faith and wants to be saved, He forgives them and literally and spiritually transforms them into His kingdom. If faith is not involved in the plan of salvation, then many of us need to go back to the drawing board and start all over.
23. Let me get this straight. How can anyone see their need for God if they are blind and filled with enmity against God? The Bible says that unless God draws someone into Himself, they will not be saved. Does not a person need to be divinely “activated” in order for them to have a broken and contrite heart which would lead them to repent and surrender their will to Him? I have always believed that the gospel brings conviction and faith activates the born-again process. I know that unless we are drawn, we will never be concerned with God. In this light, we do not find God, He finds us. I admit, this does lean heavily toward being selected.
24. The miracle of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life is more than a demonstration of Jesus healing power. To the Calvinist It’s also a perfect example of true salvation. Every person is dead in their sin and like Lazarus they are unable to respond until they are made alive “first.” Thus, according to reformed theology we must be selected to be born-again and then given faith to accept and maintain this gift of God’s grace. This is not how I have understood it, but it does cause me to think deeply. So, you are saying that hearing the gospel is the key that awakens those who are chosen and allows them to embrace and believe that God is true? If this is the case, then the gospel would have no effect on those who are not chosen. I think I am confused about the power of the gospel. I thought the power of the gospel could save anyone if they received it by faith, but you are saying that it only applies to those who have been predestined to be saved. I assume this is why the Calvinists still believe in evangelism, because no one knows who is chosen and who is not.
25. It’s true that we do not know who God selected before the foundation of the world. It is also true that no one who is chosen will desire to refuse or be able to reject their spiritual destiny. You mean that no one can resist being saved and no one can be saved unless God chooses them? Is this the meaning of where the shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep and goes to search for the one who strays away? I also remember in John 6:37 where Jesus says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Is this another predestination scripture?
26. With those like Lazarus and the rich young ruler, Jesus had not yet died and sealed redemption with His blood. Everyone at that point had to trust in the sacrifice that had not yet been made. Allow me to add that all those who have no desire to follow God are obviously not chosen. Isn’t it a fact that we can preach and counsel someone all their life about God and they could care less and will still die and go to hell? This is where I am still confused about limited atonement. If someone is not selected as a part of the elect, how can they be held responsible for not wanting Jesus? It seems to me if this is true, there are a lot of people who are being punished unfairly. I’ve always believed the Word of God is what activates faith.
27. I see your point and to the natural mind and emotions, it does sound like a logical argument. However, we must adjust our opinions to focus on the spiritual realm and allow God to teach us His ways which are much higher. I would hope that we can agree that God knows everything and this includes foreknowledge about the future. When we talk about election, can we not also include the fact that God knows who would have loved Him if they had been given the chance? Since He is the only one who is Omniscient, it makes perfect sense and presents God in a correct light of being a just and perfect judge. I really appreciate that presentation and I will continue to study this. This helps to explain that God loves and chooses those who would love Him. Thus, hell is the consequence for rejecting God’s love. So, if a person is elected, this means it would not matter if they were aborted, or had a fatal accident, committed suicide, or were murdered “before” they had a born-again” experience, right? If this is true, it seems that election is the real foundation of of being saved and hearing the gospel and repentance is a lesser aspect of redemption. In fact, why did Jesus come to earth at all, if the main point is whether or not we are elected?
28. When we consider that being elected by God to do His will is a mission we are born to fulfill, it does not align with the teaching of irresistible grace for a person to avoid God all their life and then nod their head to accept Christ as they take their last breath. It is most likely that those who are elected will respond to God when they are young and then go on to demonstrate their faith and live as a representative of His kingdom. Since the elect are bought with a price and they are not their own, it seems logical they would respond and be drawn to God at an early age. I’m sure there are exceptions and only speaking generally. I’m a chaplain and often called to the bedside of someone who is dying. I’ve heard the expression “death bed confession” and I’m not saying it is impossible, but I’ve often wondered about it. I’ve also heard about last-second fire insurance, but the questions include understanding, sincerity, and motives, just to name a few. The thief on the cross is often used to justify a last-second plea for God to save, but maybe this particular man had never heard of Christ before. I cannot help but ponder if a person can intentionally avoid God all of their life and then ask Him to take them to heaven with their last breath? Only God knows.
29. I must stop and ask you again, have you considered the view that God has selected everyone according to His divine sovereignty? I see many passages that seem to point to this, but I am still not convinced enough to say I definitely believe this. I am leaning more to the idea that God in His foreknowledge allows Him to make His decisions based on Him knowing who would have responded to the gospel. On the subject of predestination, what do we do with scriptures such as II Thessalonians 2:11, “And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” This implies that God blocks their conscience from being convicted and I assume it’s because He knows these people will never accept His grace. Also, I Timothy 4:1-4, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Its interesting to note that these individuals were once believers, but turned away from God and were unable to come back. Are these people saved but just became deceived or did they lose their salvation, or were they only religious and were never really saved at all?
30. Our last question is to ask who is hungry and thirsty to know what God is saying? We encourage everyone to dive deep into the Word of God to rightly divide and research intensely in order to find the hidden mysteries and infinite treasures of divine truth. I appreciate the Word of God and do not want to mold it around what I think. I want to accept it and embrace it for what it is and not for what I want it to be. I realize the edge of God’s Word is very sharp and also difficult to comprehend when trying to discern it with our natural emotions. It is spiritual revelation and cannot be understood with just our intellect. This is obviously why there are so many different interpretations, divisions, and strife. There is not a doubt in my mind that millions or billions of years ago God has seen every individual who will ever live. He knows all of their thoughts and their choices and even what they would have decided. I must base my faith on this fact and believe He is the perfect and just judge that uses not only every thought, word, and deed, but also His sovereign will in deciding the fate of every soul.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 29 – PUBLISHED – 7/13/19
HOW FAR DO WE WANT TO GO WITH GOD? (PART 7)
LIMITED ATONEMENT, IRRESISTIBLE GRACE, PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS and THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
This doctrine can be a slippery slope and is probably one of the most misunderstood and controversial aspects of reformed theology. When we begin with atonement, most everyone who calls themselves a Christian will agree that atonement is associated with the forgiveness of our sins by the life and especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus atoned or “paid for” our sins on the cross with His blood and was established and confirmed when He rose from the dead. As John 3:16 declares, God provided a way to heaven for all who believe it or at least this is the way I was taught which is relatively easy to understand, but the deeper we go the more complicated it becomes. Calvinism teaches what is called limited atonement which is basically saying that Jesus did not shed His blood for every person that has ever been born, but rather only for those who were elected by the Father before the foundation of the world. The thought here is that if Jesus blood had bought and paid for every person’s sin, then everyone would be saved and sealed. I have always thought that Jesus shed His blood for all who would believe, but here is where it gets difficult. Many Bible scholars say that actually, no one is able to accept God, but rather it is God who accepts us. Calvinism teaches the cross did not merely make salvation possible for those who decide to receive it, but that it made salvation definite for those who have been chosen. For this reason, many prefer to refer to this doctrine as Definite Atonement, as there is nothing limited about the power or effectiveness of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. His sacrifice is completely sufficient to save sinners and is made definite for those whom God has chosen. This view is reflected in Acts 13:48 where we see that “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Believers are those who were appointed to eternal life by God.
Irresistible Grace does not teach that God’s calling cannot be resisted for a period of time, but that this resistance will ultimately result in the person surrendering to God. For this reason, a better term may be Effectual Grace, signaling that God’s intentions will have their intended effect on a person’s life. Reformists are convinced the Bible makes it clear that when a person is drawn, no one can stop the will of God to save us. John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” In the case of the rich young ruler, we must consider a few points before making a conclusion. Number one; is he truly being drawn by the Holy Spirit concerning his salvation or is he just trying to figure out a way to secure his place in heaven? He did not appear to be broken over his sinful condition but instead was upset about having to surrender his earthly pleasures. Number two: we do not know what happened after he walked away sorrowful and we must include the possibility that he reconsidered the words of Jesus and accepted them later. If he was one of the elect, we know that he did. In short, this is the belief that all who are called by God to believe in Jesus will be saved. In John 6:37 Christ states, “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” and two verses later “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” God’s sovereign election is not contingent on our response; those who are called by Him will ultimately obtain justification and glorification. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” Romans 8:28-30.
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
If you have been justified before God you cannot lose your salvation. Once a person is truly saved, this salvation is eternally secure. In speaking about his sheep, Jesus taught in John 10:28-29, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” If there was a way the devil could steal our salvation he would. I have always thought about being born-again spiritually along the same lines of being born naturally. When we are born from the womb, we cannot become “unborn.” Likewise with our eternal security. I believe once our spirit has been transformed, we cannot keep going back and forth. Some say the Bible mentions God blotting out or eliminating someone’s name from the book of life which implies that we are all just an eraser away from losing the promise of eternal life. However, this concept needs to be studied with diligence in order for us to precisely know what God is really saying. Actually, it does not say that God will remove someone’s name. It says, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” Revelation 3:5. The statement that God will not erase someone’s name does not necessarily imply that some will be erased. People are quick to assume this is declaring that anyone could be removed from the book of life at any time, but this is a misinterpretation. If we study deeper within the context, it simply means that God is promising those who are saved that they will never need to worry about losing their identification with Christ. No one is written in the book and then later removed because once again God knows the future and nothing surprises Him. The Bible does talk about there being a great number of people who will fall away from the faith Those who do fall away from the faith were never true believers but rather were merely associated with a religious whim.
I’ve included an article by J. Vernon McGee
Providence Is the Hand of God
Thru the Bible
Dr. J. Vernon McGee
What is providence? Here’s a theological definition: Providence is the means by which God directs all things — both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil — toward a worthy purpose, which means His will must finally prevail. Or as the psalmist said, “his kingdom rules over all” Psalm 103:19. In Ephesians 1:11, Paul tells us that God “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Our God is running the universe today, friends, even though there are some who think that it has slipped out from under Him.
There are three words we need to keep in mind before we can properly understand the providence of God in relationship to the material universe and to man in particular. The first word is CREATION. We understand by “creation” that God, by His word, spoke this universe into existence. The only way that you and I, certainly as Christians, will ever understand how this universe began is by faith. We understand that God brought this universe into existence and the only way that we know this is by revelation. “…Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Romans 10:17.
Then the second word is PRESERVATION. That’s a tremendous word. It is by God’s preservation that the universe is held together. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ “upholds all things by the word of his power.” Colossians 1:17 says, “And he is before all things, and by him, all things consist.” I think it is remarkable that we have a universe that runs like clockwork today. Who runs it? The Lord Jesus Christ runs the universe. He upholds all things by the word of His power.
The third word is PROVIDENCE. Providence is the way that God is directing the universe. He is moving it into tomorrow — He is moving it into the future by His providence. Providence means “to provide.” God will provide. On Golgotha, the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. He was the Lamb that God provided. He was “the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29.
Providence means that the hand of God is in the glove of human events. When God is not at the steering wheel, He is the backseat driver. He is the coach who calls the signals from the bench. Providence is the unseen rudder on the ship of state. God is the pilot at the wheel during the night watch. As someone has said, “He makes great doors swing on little hinges.” God brought together a little baby’s cry and a woman’s heart down by the River Nile when Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe. The Lord pinched little Moses and he let out a yell. The cry reached the heart of the princess, and God used it to change the destiny of a people. That was providence. That was the hand of God.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 28 – PUBLISHED 7/6/19
HOW FAR DO WE WANT TO GO WITH GOD? (part 6)
We went out a little ahead of ourselves as we have already touched on election, but there is still plenty to talk about. Calvinists stand firm with the conviction that God will rescue whoever He wants and it has nothing to do with man’s actions or decision’s. They believe that if God did not reach out and save a human being, that no one would ever wake up one day and see their need to be saved. The comforter has been recognized as a part of the holy trinity which lives and works within a persons life and no doubt also plays a part in their salvation. We understand that man’s works and deeds has nothing to do with anyone being saved and according to this view, there will be many “hard workers” who will be shocked and disappointed on judgment day. I know that other religions are worshiping someone or something other than the true God, but I am somewhat confused with this idea when we are referring to the Christian faith. I cannot figure out why anyone would even be interested in Jesus or the church if they were not chosen. Why would a person devote their time and energy to God’s kingdom unless they were being led to do this labor? According to what we know about the power of deception, we must include the reality that many people serve God’s kingdom without actually knowing the king? Calvinists say the religious world is filled with people who are very devoted to what they believe and even many who call themselves Christians and are faithful to their theology but will be rejected because they were not a part of the elect. Could it be that many who were emotionally religious, will be turned away because they were not chosen before the foundation of the world? We find an interesting verse in Matthew 7:21-23 about those who are deceived about their spiritual identity. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Of course, this is disturbing and difficult to imagine. We have heard of the sheep and goats, and we know only the sheep are God’s chosen people, but could this passage be associated with unconditional predestination?
So once again, what is unconditional election? Unconditional election (also known as unconditional grace) is a reformed doctrine relating to predestination that describes the actions and motives of God in eternity past, before He created the world, where he predestinated some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest are left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment and eternal damnation for their transgressions of God’s law as outlined in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons. This election being unconditional means that man’s will does not have anything to do with it. Paige Patrick a Southern Baptist seminary professor said Calvinists and Traditionalists differ over the question of whether man who was made in the image of God, is able to freely respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the preaching of the gospel. “I say yes, but many Calvinists would say no,” Patrick said. “I agree that I am unable to save myself, but I disagree that I am unable, humbly, to make the decision to accept Jesus’ offer to save me.”
On the other side of the debate, Armenians believe in a creed called “Conditional Election” which means that God chose people for His salvation based on Him being able to see their response through the entire history of the world. They are saved with the “condition” that they accept and receive God by faith. His foreknowledge allows Him to see who would willingly accept His gospel and these are considered to be His sheep. I have always believed that God’s foreknowledge made much more sense when it comes to fairness than Him picking out a select group from among the inhabitants of the world and this what I currently believe. I know people will say that our emotional concept of fairness has nothing to do with it, but I believe that God is loving, merciful, compassionate, and decent which makes conditional election match His righteous attributes. God electing or accepting whosoever’s for salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will place their trust in Christ helps me to know and comprehend His nature and character. Conditional election says that an all-knowing God is Alpha and Omega and looks into the future and decides to elect people based on a future decision they will make about Christ. Does this make sense to you? If He can see the one’s who will embrace His truth, why would He not elect them according to their faith and love? It is considered “conditional” election because it is based on the “condition” of man doing something of his own free will. According to conditional election, those who God knows are “in Christ” and are elected by God, and those who will not choose to accept Christ are not elected. Conditional election is one of the Articles of Remonstrance that define Armenian theology, and it is a core part of that worldview and theological system. The Five Articles of Remonstrance were theological propositions advanced in 1610 by followers of Jacobus Arminius who had died in 1609, in disagreement with interpretations of the teaching of John Calvin then current in the Dutch Reformed Church. Those who supported them chose to call themselves “Remonstrants.” As such, it stands in direct contrast to the belief held by those who hold to Reformed theology, which believes that the Bible teaches unconditional election, the view that God elects people based on His sovereign will and not on any future action of the person being elected.
I have also wondered about the possibility (which seems a little far out there) but I’m still not embarrassed to mention it. We all have our questions, possibilities, and thoughts when it comes to the subject of predestination. When I try to understand reformed theology, I cannot help but see a scenario where the souls of every person are like planting a seed in a field. The field being the world from the time of Adam until Christ returns. In trying to imagine the Calvinistic view, do these reformists envision God having a small bag of wheat seeds which contain the chosen and elected to be God’s people? And then do they see God having a dump truck filled with seeds that are weeds that will never become a wheat plant and the Lord tells the devil that you are the father of these weeds. God spreads all of these seeds all over the world and in every age of time, wherever and whenever He desires. They all live, grow, and die together and in the great harvest at the end of the world, they are separated and judged. According to predestination, a wheat plant is born from a wheat seed and can never be transformed into a tare, likewise, a tare cannot be converted to a wheat. Is this why a person can listen to God’s Word all their life and not feel the need or desire to respond? Are there actually people all around us that will never care about God because they were not elected? Family members and friends that God knew would never accept Him, was not chosen to be a part of His family? As a person who believes in man’s free will, I would truly hope this is not the way it is. However, we must study the scriptures such as these which are used to support this doctrine and pray for the correct interpretation. Quotations are from the KJV.
Isaiah 42:1: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect chosen one Adam, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”
John15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
John1:12,13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Acts13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
Romans 9:15–16: “For he saith 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 that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Romans 9:22–24: “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Ephesians 1:4–5: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
Ephesians 1:11: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”
Philippians 1:29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5: “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”
2 Thessalonians2:13: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”
2 Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Week 27 – Published 6/29/19
HOW DEEP DO WE WANT TO GO WITH GOD? (PART 5)
I want us to continue observing the concept of Christian salvation to see what we believe and why we believe it. Many will say, “I already know all about salvation. Jesus died and rose from the dead and I believe He did this to save me.” I believe this also, but have you really looked closely at how it works? I realize that most of us have a general idea of redemption and why Jesus went to the cross, but as you know there are many parts and pieces to this greatest demonstration of love and mercy the world has ever known. Like I was saying earlier, it’s difficult to categorize people and assorted them according to labels or names or 5 points of this or that, but in order to systematize our studies, it’s important to know the steps of Calvinism and how they differ from the Armenian views. I will present both views and will also include some of my thoughts.
The 5 points of Calvinism are also known as the Doctrines of Grace and are named for the distinct theological stances taken by the French reformer John Calvin who lived in the early to mid-1500s. You have probably heard of the term T.U.L.I.P. and this stands for, total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the opposition which originated from a Dutch reformer Jacob Arminius who lived from 1559 to 1609 and his findings are called (you guessed it) the 5 points of Arminianism. Jacob actually studied John Calvin’s Biblical research for several years but eventually came to see salvation in a different interpretation. This is a very complicated study and can become confusing. I do not want to be boring or upsetting, and I’m also not trying to imply that I can even grasp such a vast subject, but I would like to at least lay all this out on the table and see if we can use it to help us comprehend more about the Christian faith.
We have heard about mankind being depraved, but do we really believe it? We are told that man’s righteousness is as filthy rags, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” Isaiah 64:6. And there are many more like, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. This should give us a sense of humility and cause us to fall on our face to God, however, it seems the modern church is falling away from this concept and replacing it with a more arrogant idea that we are good and deserving. Right out of the gate we are seeing that each of these subjects are not as simple as they might seem. We know that after Adam and Eve fell in the garden, that every human being was termed depraved and lost. What does depraved mean? Beyond being evil and having a wicked nature we can include such synonyms as, corrupt, debased, debauched, decadent, degenerate, perverse, perverted, reprobate, warped, sick, unclean, and unwholesome. Many do not like to hear that about themselves, but nonetheless, this is an important piece to the puzzle in the overall revelation of who we are and who God is. The only thing wonderful in a person is if God is dwelling in them. Without God, there is no such thing as a good person no matter what they say or do. We are permanently stained until Jesus washed us clean with His blood. If a person does not admit or accept this condition, they will never see their need to be saved and will continue living in an illusion.
Since every person is dead in their trespasses and sins, this means that every person is lost and deserves to be punished in hell. This is already opening up many questions. For example, if every person is depraved and destined for hell, what happens to infants when they die? Are they not born in sin? This is a little bit off our subject, but the Calvinists believe that only the predetermined chosen infants will go to heaven and all infants who are not selected will go to hell. This would mean that some will be saved and some will not because it has everything to do with whether they are a part of the per-determined elect. Many Armenians have no answer for this because they claim that God has not specifically addressed this subject, however, some Armenians believe that God saves all infants on the basis of divine mercy even though they are depraved and have not had the chance to accept Christ. This view has a difficult time arguing with those who believe an infant is innocent until they reach a certain age to which they become accountable and choose to be born-again or remain the same. I believe we can agree that most Christian pastors and ministers will publicly declare they believe that all infants go to heaven because of God’s love and grace. It has long been known that generally speaking, most everyone would not dream of saying anything contrary. Personally, I would agree that all infants, young children, and those who are mentally incapable to know right from wrong will receive eternal life. I base this upon my view of a God who loves children and who has compassion and mercy on the innocent. As far as adults who have never heard the gospel, we know they are not born-again, but we trust that God knows all the details of their life and will make the perfect decision with each person.
Both sides generally agree that mankind suffered from the curse of the fall, but they differ about who will be saved and how the redemption works. Calvinists believe that God elected or chose those whom He loved and wanted to be saved. This has caused much accusation from those who accuse reformed theologians of teaching that God obviously does not love everyone and that Jesus did not die for everyone. (By the way, it is interesting to research what reformed theology is). Many quickly jump to John 3:16 and say this is heresy and that God truly does love everyone in the world. One problem with this according to many scholars is the misunderstanding of the word, “world.” Calvinists believe the word world means the elect and declare that if Jesus died for every person, then all would be saved. They believe that all humans were destined for hell because of the fall, but with His grace, He only selected a certain amount to be rescued. To a Calvinist, this is still an amazing act mercy in that at least He did save a few. As for the atonement, they believe that Jesus died on the cross only for the souls who were chosen. His blood was the sacrifice which paid for the elect. Many verses are used to explain this such as, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
While the sheep ware destined to be saved, the goats will continue to live and die and spend eternity being punished for what seems to be something they had no control of. This is where the term “Double predestination” comes from and is used to describe how God selects those for heaven and decides who will go to hell. Here is a common scripture they use. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” Ephesians 1:1-4. However a person believes, we cannot deny that God chose His people before the foundation of the world. Many are confused and angry this could be possible, but somehow we must keep pressing forward and continue to ask God to show us His truth. One question is that with everyone already selected, why should we worry about evangelism? The reformers believe in evangelism because they do not know who is chosen. They believe that when a chosen person hears the gospel they are awakened by the Holy Spirit and will definitely respond to God. With double predestination, even if a person who has not been selected hears the gospel, they are not able and cannot respond because they were not chosen. The idea of total depravity with the Calvinists is that all are blind and do not have the ability to see without God saving us in spite of ourselves.
The Armenian view is that just because mankind is depraved, this does not mean they are unable to make decisions. This is called “unrestricted free will” and states that man was created with the ability to choose God or walk away from Him. I have always believed that man plays a part in his own salvation by being able to hear the gospel and be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and eventually choosing if he will accept God and His Word, or continue in his wicked ways. Even after a person is saved, I still believe man has a choice to be as close to God as he desires. I have embraced this idea of salvation and have called it covenant salvation because of the mutual vows of holy matrimony and the blood covenant agreement between God and whosoever will believe. My question is: Am I saved today because God selected me a billion years ago or because I heard the gospel and responded and accepted Christ as my Lord on my own? Election salvation is based on God selecting us, while free-will salvation is based on human decision. I have always believed that God can see through time and knew who would choose Him. This is called “divine foreknowledge” which to me makes much more sense than election. I’m not saying that some people are not elected, but I have a difficult time believing that every individual is chosen to go to heaven or hell on the basis of God’s desire. I’m also not saying that God is not sovereign, because I know He can do whatever He wants, but these teachings cast Him in a light that opposes my idea of Him. Is this my fleshly emotions? Maybe. I just do not want to think of God being like that. This attribute does not go along with how I want Him to be. I want Him to give everyone a chance to be saved if they want to. I was speaking with someone about this and they just bluntly said, “I don’t give two hoots what anyone else believes, I will believe whatever I want!” I get it, but is this really wanting to know the truth or just wanting to build our own conclusions and make us feel happy?
While on the subject of predestination, many will say that if God selected individuals to be saved, then it seems logical to assume that He also causes everything else to happen? Most reformers believe that God causes every teeny tiny thing. In other words, do you believe that God “controls” every move with every event that happens or just “knows” what is going to happen? This is a very interesting thought but did He “cause” or “allow?” Some scholars say there is a huge difference between the word “cause” and the word “allow” and we understand this, but sometimes I wonder if there is really that much difference. For example, God did not cause someone to have cancer because this is a result of the curse. However, if He does not stop it’s advancement, the person will surely die, which means He could have healed them IF He wanted to. So, even though He did not cause it, can we say it was His desire for them to die? This brings up another critical question that plays a significant part in our everyday life and personal relationship with Jesus. If God makes every decision through His sovereign authority, does this make Him responsible (either directly or indirectly) for everything that happens, including devastating wars, disease, and natural disasters? Some will say NO! God does not cause anything bad, it’s the devil who has come to kill and destroy. This is true, but we must admit that God can stop anything that Satan tries to do. Right? If God cannot stop Satan, then He is not God. Either way, whether we want to admit it or not, the Lord allows terrible things to happen. When Satan approached God about Job, the Lord could have told the devil to go away and leave Job alone but He did not. God watched over Job and “allowed” him to be tortured. We are told that God’s eyes are on the Sparrow, which I’ve always accepted as a literal truth as He constantly sees everything all at once. Let us pause for a moment and consider that when a tree falls in the forest, does God guide where it will fall? Does He tell the wind which direction to blow? Does He tell the clouds when to rain and snow? Or does He just allow things to happen however it happens?
So, if God is aware of everything and people are praying for a miracle, we must wonder why faith and prayer was not a factor in situations when the miracle was not given. I personally believe that God listens to His people when they pray and considers their request in the light of His plans, but does His sovereignty always overrule our faith? If I did not believe that prayer could change situations and circumstances, I would think that we were all robots and that our faith would only work when lining up perfectly with what God has already decided. We know that He has a specific will and many times I have wondered if the intention of prayer is about hearing God’s desires and praying along with His parameters and guidelines. Jesus prayer in Gethsemane and The Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6 are two examples of praying according to God’s will and not our own. We are led to believe that our faith can move mountains, but is this not also directly associated with which mountain God has already planned to move for us? Is not praying amiss asking for things that are not a part of His will that He has already drawn for us? I’ve always believed that a child of God could refuse to accomplish God’s desires, but in this way of thinking, God’s will is not always done. Do you believe that everything will be done that God wants to be done? If God told us to do something and we do not do it, did we fail or did He fail? We know God never fails, so we must be able to tell God no. I do not believe that all things are caused or forced to happen, but I cannot argue against the fact that everything that happens is allowed to happen. Nothing happens unless God knows about it and in my view, He is the only one who has the authority to prevent it. Why are there terrible tragedies? I do not have a clue. When my mother was 6 years old, she and another little girl the same age were playing around my grandparent’s house. Her brother’s bedroom was upstairs and he had been working on an old radio. He was not paying attention and when he connected a long wire as an antenna, he threw it out the window and it was dangling against the side of the house. Somehow it came in contact with the electric box below and was laying across the high-voltage wire which supplied power to the house. The little girl’s name was Betty Lou and out of curiosity she ran over and grabbed the wire and was instantly electrocuted and died. My mom and her brother could have been killed, but neither came in contact with the wire. There are many “whys” but very few answers.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Week 26 – Published 6/22/19
SERIES – HOW DEEP DO WE WANT TO GO WITH GOD? (PART 4)
TEACH ME YOUR WAYS OH LORD
I read an article recently from Rachel Held Evans, and though I do not share her views on theology, she did bring up up some solid points about the Calvinistic doctrines. She was not ranting against this movement even though she does spend a lot of her time arguing with those who embrace the reformed theology of Calvinism, but rather she was saying it made her cry because she was afraid of the possibility it could be correct. How honest is that? I must admit I have also shed tears about this. I have spent many hours writing late at night, contemplating and asking God to please help me know His truth – no matter how difficult and painful it is. One of her points was that if double predestination is the truth, then God is not who she thought He was. Before we go any further, let us try to understand double predestination. We have heard about the elect and how God has predestined His people (or at least some of them for salvation). This is called single predestination. Double predestination is the doctrine which believes that God has also made the decision for certain individuals to spend an eternity in hell. Here is a quote from B.A. Johnson that might help us with clarity. “There are some who find it difficult to read the scriptures consistently and deny the doctrine of predestination, while at the same time they are unable to reconcile the idea of a loving God predestining a person to eternal punishment. In an attempt to settle the matter, some have declared that they reject “double predestination,” and hold that, although God has predestined his elect to salvation, he has not predestined the rest of humanity to damnation. To the Reformed mind, this stance seems to struggle with a rather large logical difficulty – namely that if God has chosen those who will be saved, it must be equally true that He has chosen the rest not to be saved, as those are the only two alternatives.” I’m not saying I believe this and can definitely see why there is so much controversy over this view. However, I want to know what is true and will keep seeking until I find it. By the way, I encourage you to do an extensive personal Bible study about God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will. This subject is very interesting and spiritually satisfying to those who love dissecting God’s truth.
Continuing with the story, Mrs. Evans had been raised in a Presbyterian home where her parents had always assured her that God was filled with mercy, understanding, forgiveness, and grace and that He loved and wanted to save everyone. This gives all of us security and peace when we think of our Creator in this light. However, when she started to search deeper and read the commentaries from Bible scholars concerning certain doctrinal views about salvation, she was horrified with what they were saying. Sadly, she recently passed away at 37-years-old but had spent the last few years leading a campaign against the traditional church in several areas of conservative theology while being an advocate with supporting controversial social issues. Why is it so important to talk about the fundamentals of salvation? Well, we can not study and just assume that we know about God and His Word. Or, we can roll up our sleeves and start digging until we find the treasures of His revelations.
As we can see over the last 50 years, many churches have seen a decline in interest with the traditional church and much of this is coming from a new generation who wants to know why we believe like we do. Can we explain? To begin with, the fundamental views of God’s plan of salvation is the foundation of everyone’s life. Do you agree? There are two ways we can approach this: We can learn what God is saying and accept it as truth – or we can believe whatever feels good and makes us feel good. I personally believe that very few really care about what the Bible says or they would study it more. It’s much easier to listen to teachers who talk about how God wants to make you rich, instead of learning who God is and what He wants on our own.
The Armenians and Calvinists have been feuding for a long time and are like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s of religious doctrine. There are strong arguments on both sides and somewhere with God’s help, I would hope there is a perfect balance on the scales of divine truth. I do not like to be categorized or forced to wear a label when it comes to what I believe and yet when we enter into the ring of theology, our doctrinal identification becomes everyone’s curiosity and interest. Whether it’s us or someone else, it’s difficult to accuse or judge a person’s views because most of the time things are not as cut and dried as we assume. Before we attempt to take a deeper look at Calvinism and Arminianism, it would be good to lay down a few practical considerations. First, let us comprehend that God is not just another instructor or professor we can argue with. He is absolute infinite truth. He is sovereign and merciful and what He says goes – period. I know that we want to believe everything according to how we feel, but this way of thinking is a fantasy within our own imagination. We do not want to think of God as being anything but kind and loving, but this is not reality. If we think this is true, we have not read the Bible. He is the Master who does all the talking and we are the student who does all the listening. I can honestly say in my own life, this is one of the most uncomfortable subjects there is as I also realize my idea of fairness is not the same as His. It is my pride which argues and struggles against God’s decisions. I can relate to others who admit they are sad, confused, and angry about why He does certain things, allows things to happen, does not prevent things from happening. It’s on my face which is where I need to stay.
Second, we should ask God to help us keep open-minded. It’s not that God is changing His truth, but that our brain cannot always perceive complete truth and might need time to absorb and understand exactly what God is trying to relay. We might be convinced of something for 20 years and then one day God graciously allows us to discover that we were not seeing this correctly. When we come out of the gate with guns blazing and our worldviews set in solid concrete, ever God has a difficult time trying to teach us His Word. One more before we proceed. Whatever revelation you may be allowed to discover, do not be overwhelmed to the point of becoming resentful or drifting away from Jesus. Your personal relationship with God is priceless, but our emotions carry a very strong influence on our mind and conscience. Many who research and seek the Lord, are illuminated with divine wisdom which can be wonderful, but sometimes our discoveries can also reveal that God is not really like a kind grandfather who spoils us rotten. This is not to be received with fear or discouragement, but rather with humble reverence and awe. Within my studies over the years, I have wept much and have been broken over certain events and situations that I still cannot understand or explain. I’m convinced the deeper we go, the more we will be faced with endless questions that challenge our logical reasoning. This is the point; we cannot understand spiritual wisdom with our mortal intelligence. We must abandon our fantasy feelings and preconceived ideas that God is like Willy Wonka and the Christian life is like the chocolate factory. Praying and fasting for God’s wisdom and the truth will help us connect our spirit to God’s Spirit and enable us to see and hear what the Spirit has to say. Then we must accept this reality and His decisions as just the way it is.
For now, I am not going further with this subject. We will begin in the next devotion, to look at the 5 steps of Calvinism and also within this series, we will have a question and answer session that will include many interesting thoughts and considerations. For homework, I would ask that you do some independent research on your own this coming week and read about Calvinism and Arminianism and pray that God will give you His thoughts about this subject. I cannot understand how some Christians would not think this is important. It involves the pillars of our faith and the foundation of our salvation. Let us remember that God or His Word has nothing to do with the way we “think” it is.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 25 – Published 6/15/19
HOW DEEP WITH GOD WILL WE GO? (PART 3)
PREPARE NOW FOR CHANGES THAT ARE COMING
I want to be positive and optimistic. I want to present every issue and topic in a way that contains hope and encouragement and I’m sure you do also. So, what happens when we run into an issue that is negative? Oh, I know, we ignore it. Wrong! Well, we can pick and choose what we want to talk about, but is this wisdom, caution, or fear? For example, how can we talk about evangelism without declaring that an overwhelming majority of people are going to hell? (By the way, this probably includes a few of our family members). There are popular ministers who refuse to talk about hell because it is too upsetting and offensive. Have you noticed that some teachers will only talk about topics that make us feel happy and content? Why do you think this is their strategy? Because generally speaking, people, (yes even Christians) do not appreciate being reminded of the truth. I do not particularly want to talk about hell all the time either, but it’s on the short list of important spiritual realities. Even when we discuss God’s love and mercy, we still must include what happens when lost people do not want to listen or embrace God’s grace. This might crash the party, but everything in this life is not filled with contentment, enjoyment, or excitement. In Hebrews 4:12 we are given a practical representation of God’s Word as a sword with 2 edges which gives heaven and earth a perfect balance of absolute truth. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Sure, we can teach however we want, but acknowledging both sides is how we are directed and commanded to rightly-divide God’s instructions in order to gain divine revelation.
Ecclesiastes says there is time for everything, living and dying, planting and reaping, etc… When it comes to judgment, we automatically think of pain and suffering, but judgments can be terrible or favorable depending on which side of obedience you are on. We can know that His absolute truth can bring wonderful things into the life of those who are compliant and faithful to His voice, and likewise, it can bring negative consequences to those who turn away His commands. Ignoring this fundamental spiritual reality does not prevent this spiritual principle from being accomplished, but to avoid and deny it helps the individual live in a fantasy as we recall the old saying, “Out of sight – out of mind.” Of course, you and I realize there is no way we can discuss about people being selective in their religious lifestyle without mentioning the passage in Second Timothy about deception. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” I think it’s safe to say that many people today are more attracted to messages about blessings than they are God’s discipline for being disobedient. Human nature loves leniency just as a child does not want to be spanked, but would much rather be given a continual supply of cookies and candy. And of course, when the Christian life is presented as a journey of indulgence, hoarding, and carnal pleasures, someone is not being honest. We can go through the Bible and pick out all the blessing passages, but like God is saying, this is only one side of His sword.
So, isn’t a sword created to engage within an offensive battle? We are given several pieces of armor including a shield of faith, but actually, besides loving and evangelizing everyone, the Biblical Christian is called to fight against the devil and carnality. We are not talking about arguing with the world, but rather it’s referring to spiritual warfare. If you will stop and look at this carefully, you will see this is not happening in the average church. Of the many flavors and creeds of denominations, the churches love to sing, eat, and fellowship, but what about addressing sin? It is coming to the place where churches will only be allowed to present messages that remind us of how wonderful we are, how much God loves us, and how heaven is waiting for us in all of its beauty and glory. Nothing in the world to worry about because the tickets for heaven have been handed out and everything has been taken care of. Folks, this might sound wonderful, but this is one of the most dangerous deceptions in the history of Christianity. I will go further and say the general universal assembly is weak, deceived, confused, and many have never been born-again. It’s heart-breaking to face this reality, but thank God there is a remnant of disciples within the masses who know better. These are the ones who will not go along with the worldly church and will not compromise just because it gives them acceptance. We are coming to the point of no return when it comes to sin being welcomed into the churches. The church members will either have to tolerate the local assembly being filled with sin or will have to leave. Without compromise, there is no in between. The church is being attacked on two fronts. The world is fighting its way through the front door and demanding to be accepted or they will legally force their way in. It is also being deceived through the leadership ministry with subtle and deceptive curriculum. Seminaries are changing their views which are producing ministers that have a different of God than the older members. Younger ministers are identifying with the younger, more liberal congregations and are trying to more relevant to our culture than to continue standing for the dogmatic fundamentals of God’s ageless truth.
Many who are members of the false “religious” movement have lost their way and is not engaged with the Holy Spirit and sadly has no desire to be. If going to church is the extent of anyone’s spiritual life, they are living is a religious coma. It’s very concerning when someone says they are a believer and yet are without a spiritual burden or convictions about anything. In the Sea of confusion, it seems now that modern Christianity is becoming more about verbal social activism than being dedicated to the great commission and it is only growing worse. Verbal activism is nothing more than relaying what is heard on the news and giving endless opinionated commentary according to one’s own personal interpretation. It’s actually quite easy to gather a notebook of knowledge and then step out on social media and give the world a piece of our mind. Then after we are exhausted with telling everyone where we stand, we somehow think that our mission is complete and we go back to our life of comfort and ease. Do you really believe this is what we have been called to do? I wonder why many Christians have not recognized that arguing and spewing on social media is not really helping anything? It actually makes things worse. I realize that many want to convince the world they are wrong and need to see the light as they see it, but maybe this is not why they do it. Maybe they just love to be heard. Maybe this is the only place where they can say whatever they want without having to physically confront anyone. Whatever the case, most importantly, there is a lack of understanding or maybe just a rebellious attitude of not caring about listening to what God is telling them to do. Instead of praying and staying true to the responsibility of their personal blueprint, they choose to do and say whatever they want and have a false sense of confidence that their renegade approach is being blessed and justified by the Lord. What if they are wrong? God is angry against all sides because the point is that everyone is ignoring Him! What if God is demanding that we stay away from lustful and perverted television and social media and instead enter into our prayer closet where we can truly be effective in changing the atmosphere? Do people actually believe they can fight against the devil arguing about politics? Really? Do we just drop our tools out in the fields and walk away from the harvest so that we can go argue in a political debate with those who do not know God? It seems we have it turned around backward. Wouldn’t it be more effective to pray for someone’s salvation so that God can show them His ways and how to live? For some reason, Christians are thinking they can persuade the world to live for God with their intelligence and their understanding of politics and morality. According to God, this is not the way it works and it’s obvious as there is rapidly becoming no difference between Christians and non-Christians.
We need fervent intercession, the life-changing power of the gospel and the convicting dynamics from the Holy Spirit that can break a persons heart and reveal their need for God. Arguing in our flesh is making the church weaker, but it gives the person the five minutes of fame they are seeking. Going into a private place to fast and pray does not give the individual any glory or praise. In the prayer closet, no one even knows you are there. No one can pat you on the back or write a story about you or get up and testify about how spiritual you are. This is another reason why no one wants to do it. Has arguing on social media taken the place of prayer? Maybe there never was that much prayer, to begin with. Does your church spend time in prayer each service? Does it have special times during the week for prayer? I know about a church that has one service per week and the entire service is only 40 minutes because a secular business also rents this space on Sunday mornings. My point is that everything is changing around us, but God’s Word is staying the same. We are heading toward a time when all the views that were important to us will be discarded and replaced with new ones. If we refuse to let go of our convictions, we will be considered ignorant, uneducated or foolish. The new waves of thought and correctness are washing into our sanctuaries and there is no way to stop it. The religious system will continue moving forward, but God’s people will not be a part of it. His remnant will be few and they will be persecuted for standing with God. Everyone is given a choice to believe whatever they want and God allows this. The Lord is not alarmed as this falling away has been prophesied, but His people are commanded to resist this secular influence and to stay true to Him. Turn away from the temptation to argue and turn into His presence with intercession. Pray – Pray – Pray! The world is truly blind and lost and they will not turn from their ways unless God intervenes with His truth and they are allowed to see the brilliant light of His love, mercy, and grace. The Lord’s presence is increased when His people pray. There are no substitutes. No programs, meetings, boards, or special committees that can tear down deceptive strongholds and manifest the holy power of God except prayer. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: wake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” Ephesians 5:11-17.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 24 – Published 6/8/19
HOW DEEP WITH GOD WILL WE GO? (PART 2)
THE SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE OF OUR PARENTS
All of God’s children are showered with innumerable spiritual blessings and also considered soldiers in a relentless battle to pray for God’s kingdom to come. In our everyday life intercessions against the advancement of evil and the combination of rejoicing and sacrificing, we all have stories to share. Many times our testimonies about miracles are the attempts of humans trying to describe and give glory to a heavenly intervention. Whenever an individual embraces the truth of Yahweh the Father and Yahshua His Son, they are not only adopted into His family and become heirs of His kingdom but are also commissioned into His service whatever it might be. This is the area where our free will decides on our level of commitment, obedience, devotion, and loyalty.
We do not need to be theological scholars to understand that God works according to His perfect judgment. I believe in praying and positive confessions, but we must admit there are situations that throw us a curve-ball and sometimes we cannot explain what happened. It’s true when we fail to follow His instructions, we can end up out on a dirt road somewhere, wondering where we missed the exit, and then there are other times when it seems we’ve done everything right and we were still surprised and disappointed. I’m not trying to be discouraging, but rather looking honestly at why occasionally things turn out the way they do. I have always been convinced that our will has much to do with how close we are to God but do you also consider that maybe predestination has more to do with our lives than we imagined? Looking at the diversity of the world, this is an intriguing evaluation.
Speaking of unexplained mysteries, I have an interesting consideration to present this week. Have you ever thought how much influence your parents were to what you believe today? Do you not agree that most children are persuaded by their parents to believe certain things? Of course, there are exceptions, but I do think that generally, this is true. Allow me to ask: if were brought up in a Muslim home, would you be a devout Muslim today? Mmmm….. this is a tough one. I would say that if any of us were raised in this environment we would follow our tradition. The same is true if we were raised in a village of headhunters, in China, or in any tribe or culture on Earth other than a Christian heritage. Another consideration is not only which group we would be a part of but WHEN we were alive. What if we had been born in the ancient world where many nationalities and nations worshiped idols? Yes, we would probably follow whatever convictions and creeds that were passed down to us. I’m not sure about you, but this causes me to ponder about the grace of God and how I have been blessed more than I have ever imagined.
I’m going to keep it short this week because this one thought deserves much serious meditation. Do you believe that everyone else in the world is wrong except Christianity? Isn’t it true that most other religions around the world believe that everyone is wrong except them? Do you believe that everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus and turn away from the religion of their childhood if they so desire? Do you believe if you were a Buddhist and heard the message of the cross of Christ that you would have left everything and followed God? Do you agree that it is just as difficult for a Hindu to turn to Christ as it would be for a Christian to turn away from Jesus and embrace Hinduism? Since calculations reveal that 84% of the population is “locked in” to their personal religious worldviews, it seems that it would be very difficult to reach these individuals. One would think that evangelistic success would be more likely with those who do not believe in anything. According to estimates, 16% of the world’s population do not believe in any god or religion, which leaves I.2 billion people, but this is still a lot of souls to reach. I realize the power of Biblical truth can draw and convict any individual no matter where they are or what they believe and cause them to see their need to be born-again in Christ. We will always pray that all eyes and hearts will be opened.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, there are also many today who believe that all religions are connected with the same origin and that every spiritual person is worshiping and praying to the same divine entity. What do you believe? I ponder often about mercy and grace and I’m astounded at how many people believe different things. At this time in my life, I still believe there is only one true God, one truth, and one way to heaven and that is through the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ and His covenant salvation. If every religion is, all the same, Jesus would not have needed to suffer, die and rise from the dead. I believe it is His blood that separates the Christian faith from all other views and exposes all other religions as a false man-made opinion. The God of the Bible is the creator of all things and the only God who was from the beginning and has no end. No other God, idol, or religious belief system has the character attributes of the God of the Bible and this proves that Jehovah Yahweh is the God above all other gods. This would seem to be easy to identify, but also reminds us about the power of deception. This is the basic foundation of eternal security and it gives the Christian a very heavy burden to think about how many people will miss God and heaven. There is much I do not understand and the more I learn the more questions I have. Why was I born in the Christian faith instead of the Greek empire? I have no idea. I close with saying I am grateful for what God the creator has done in my life and I know there is much work to do before Jesus Messiah, the King of glory returns.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 23 – Published 6/1/19
HOW DEEP WITH GOD WILL WE GO? (PART 1)
I have been thinking lately about salvation. It seems most of the time we are so busy, we hardly have the time or desire to consider much more than the basics. Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to save us from our sin and welcome us into heaven forever. I realize this is the bare bones, but nonetheless, to many Christians, this is all they want to know or feel that they need to know. The concerning part about this reality is that many who claim to be a disciple of Jesus are deceived. This is not my opinionated judgment but rather accepting what God has said. “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21.
We begin with an understanding that salvation means “deliverance.” Of course, in Christianity, Jesus is the great deliverer for those who embrace and believe in Him. The word also means, “preservation, being saved, and redeemed.” The doctrinal idea is that Jesus is delivering us from the power of sin and saving us from being lost in hell for all eternity. On the surface based on a few scriptures, it appears that all a person needs to do is to simply ask Jesus to save them and they are born-again. Then we notice the rest of the Bible which explains the deeper facts about what is actually required to be a true follower of God. This is where the religious person becomes bored and turns on the TV. It does not take a genius to figure out that most individuals expect to go to heaven but have no intention of really listening to God or doing what He says.
In my years of research, I’ve noticed that salvation is given freely through God’s grace, but at the same time, it also is conditional upon the commitment and devotion of the believer. “How can this be? I thought that we were not saved by works.” It’s true, we are not saved by deeds, but our relationship with Him and our spiritual mission have everything to do with our obedience to Him. Salvation is a covenant “with” God and again, this is where many churches have failed to explain the disciple’s responsibility to live what we believe. Why? Because Christianity is a more pleasant invitation when it’s presented as a one-sided affair. People are likely to accept a free ticket to paradise a lot more than agreeing to step into a partnership which will require sacrifice, surrender, and complete dedication. If anyone dreams they can live however they want and still be in good standing with God, they are heading toward the most dangerous disappointment imaginable.
Since salvation is directly associated with our personal relationship with Christ, I hope we can agree there are many different levels of spiritual interest. I attempt to talk about Jesus every day with people I meet and know, and usually, my most meaningful conversations are with my wife. My first book was about spiritual intimacy with Jesus and becoming aware of His presence in our everyday life. You would think that Christians would at least approve of the idea, but most all of the comments I have ever received from that book had something to do with it having too many pages. I’m not saying I am a great writer or that the book was an easy read, but I’m more perplexed with why a devout Christian would not enjoy a book about worshiping God. The only thing I can come up with is that most Christians do not really think about worshiping God or maybe do not think about Him at all until they need Him. My next book is coming out this summer and is filled with encouraging stories and challenging insights about the Christian life. I hope it is a blessing to God’s kingdom.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Have you considered that people are usually more concerned about what they want than what God wants? Some may not know what the Lord wants, and others do not care, but whatever the case, would you agree that only a fervent few have taken the time to discover His desires and dedicated their lives to please Him? A common attitude in defense of being spiritually lukewarm is that it’s harmless and not a big deal, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Not feeling guilty or convicted when we are living in the cold and damp shadows of spiritual apathy is a dangerous realm in which to live. Beyond our own personal distance from God, we must consider the impact our halfhearted attempt of being a follower of Christ is having on everyone around us. Our imaginations are usually deceptive unless they are filtered through the Holy Spirit. This is easy to comprehend as for example, even Hitler believed he was making the best decisions for his country and the future of the world. God is absolute truth, but the interpretation is critical. Just because we are convinced something is correct does not mean it is. In many ways, one’s intent is irrelevant because the potential for much damage is real. Even if a person really does not know what God says about being holy as He is holy, are they not held accountable? When someone says, “I didn’t mean to make God look bad or to reveal my true identity as a hypocrite,” we are left wondering just what they were trying to do. For those who embrace their lack of understanding, we must ask, “Why do you refuse to care, and do you not realize you will be held accountable for avoiding reality?” According to God, ignorance is not an excuse for running away from the truth or declaring that we are one thing and demonstrating that we are the opposite.
Our un-renewed mind is carnal by nature and specializes in compromising and justifying. I personally know people who literally live like the devil, but see themselves as a normal and average Christian. How can this be? Sadly, these are the same ones who feel they should have the option to live in ignorance when it comes to sanctification and accountability. With the freedom to become as deceived as we want, we do not need to be psychiatrists to understand how denial works. The ability to be oblivious about the consequences of living independently from God is a learned behavior. It’s a fantasy world to criticize others for being radical and extreme in their faith while hiding behind their distorted ideas of divine grace. It takes just as much effort to keep our distance from God’s truth as it does to examine and accept it.
Is God always happy? Well, let me see…This is an unusual question, but I would say probably not. Since He is not made of flesh, we assume that He does not have emotions like us. But on the other hand, we read about His demonstrations of compassion and anger, so I guess this is still up for debate. It is my opinion that some things please Him and others cause Him disappointment, and most of it is associated with the way people live. So what do you think makes Him happy? Well, again, we have the scriptures which reveal His thoughts and these His desires. Remember, there was a time that He became outraged when the people of Noah’s day were living like sinful barbarians and He brought a flood that destroyed the whole world, except for eight people. We can clearly see that when individuals follow sin instead of submitting to His voice, this makes Him very upset. So basically, we can say the Lord is glad when we live for Him and aggravated when we choose to do whatever we want.
Here is a two-part question: “Do you believe the Lord is happy with you, and do you really care what He thinks about you?” Anyone can take the time and learn about God and what He expects from us. Yes, there is a problem with the world’s lack of spiritual understanding, but there is also a huge issue with people who realize what is right but arrogantly refuse to do it. These individuals intentionally walk in the shadows because His holy truth exposes more than what they want to deal with. They know deep down that He is not happy with them and yet they are content to avoid His Spirit and live in denial, far away from anything that will cause feelings of guilt or conviction. You see, the Bible was given to us so that we could understand right and wrong and emphasizes how much God wants us to be good. He is also not shy about explaining the consequences that will happen when we choose to be bad. One reason why it’s so important to read and study His Word (and exactly why many do not even open it) is that it empowers us to live up to God’s standards while eliminating our excuses. Charles Stanley is quoted as saying, “To discipline ourselves is to simply say no to our desires when they conflict with God’s will,” which is easy to say but difficult to do. God’s absolute truth convicts our hearts and allows us to see where we need to change, but self-discipline is painful and commonly avoided. Our nature wants us to live according to our desires without anyone bossing us around!
Have you ever wondered, with God being the Creator and judge of all things, our souls being priceless, and eternity just a breath away, why so few are interested? We can scream about hellfire and brimstone and there’s nothing wrong with presenting solid Biblical truth, but should we not be emphasizing, demonstrating, and relaying the message of God’s great love? There are many opinions about God, but there is a very little reflection of His character in humans. The Lord has a beautiful and wonderful invitation for everyone, but the tragedy is that many could care less and never respond. How can I make such a statement? Look around: Do people look interested in God to you? The Almighty desires to give us all we could ask or imagine but until we turn away from being the captain of our own ship and realize that He created us and bought us with a great price, we will not be concerned with our allegiance to His glory. We will never take our spiritual lives seriously until we refuse to be controlled by our wills.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
IS IT REALLY GOD’S WILL EVERY TIME?
At this point in my journey, I personally lean toward the view that God’s salvation is a covenant which includes the possibility for every problem to be solved and every need taken care of. However, I still wonder why many people suffer. Of course, prayer involves asking and believing, which are necessary components to receive a miracle, but it just seems more often than not that we are missing something. Could it be that our request is being hindered by unrepentant sin, or maybe a lack of faith and understanding? Could it be stubborn disobedience, or maybe it’s just not God’s time? And of course, another reason (which is only seldom mentioned) is that possibly God is saying no and does not want to give us what we are asking for. Whatever the case, if we accept that physical healing applies to only certain individuals and special occasions, we are declaring that our prayer petitions are only considered by the Lord when they line up with His predetermined plans. In other words, if we believe miracles have already been decided without regard for what we are praying for, how could our intense anticipation not become negatively influenced? How can we stand strong in relentless faith if we are always unsure of the outcome? This is clearly doubt and fear and is the opposite of being decisive and unwavering. Praying without believing is void of the power and confidence needed in order to please God.
Allow me to present another consideration. Is there ever a time when people fail in their responsibility and God’s will is not accomplished? Of course! If people choose not to pray in faith, could this sin of omission have a negative effect on the situation? I believe the answer is yes. For example, if we are praying for someone and they are healed, we rejoice and assume that God heard us and graciously intervened. If the person does not recover or even passes away, we are left to assume that it was God’s sovereign decision to not prevent the problem from overtaking them. This sounds logical, however, I wonder why we seldom mention our accountability and that possibly there was a problem on the human end of the situation? Could using “God’s will” when things do not turn out the way we planned, become a subtle “safety net” excuse which conveniently helps us explain why things happen? Could we be hiding behind this doctrine instead of facing our failure to be the intercessor that God has called us to be? Is this a reason why we seldom hear about miracles in the churches anymore, because being a spectator is easier than to engage in fierce spiritual combat? Yes, of course, it’s much easier to declare that whatever happens is always God’s predestined desire and it might be a clever way to excuse ourselves from falling on our face before God, but we will not be able to always deny or escape from the one who knows and remembers everything. The closer we are to God, the clearer we will understand Him, but this will take intense determination and a relentless passion to pray with our ceasing and having an awareness of His presence. This is also exactly what separates the ones who carry their cross from those who only talk about it. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” James 4:8.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
GOD CAN HEAL IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS
I realize we have discussed several aspects related to physical healing and they are worthy considerations, however, can we agree that many times a miracle is nothing more than a person coming to Jesus and reaching out to him for help? Let us think about this story again found in Luke chapter 8 and notice the basic fundamentals. “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind Jesus, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stopped. And Jesus said, who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, who touched me? And Jesus said, somebody, hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” Luke 8:43-48. Did Christ favor her or give her any special privileges? Well, it does not mention she was special or anything particular about her personal life. We are all sinners and very needy for Jesus and she just seemed to be an average person. He knew someone had touched Him and received His power, but He was not even sure who it was. One thing we do know is that she was a truth seeker. She simply came in her desperate need believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had the power to heal her. Included in another account of this story we notice her positive confession, “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Today, you can also believe that Jesus can heal you. Whatever the situation, you can reach out in faith just like this woman and receive your miracle. The process is the same and you can also hear Christ reply, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” God is not limited in how He can heal you and we need to prevent our imagination from spending all our time and energy trying to figure out what He is going to do. It’s true, we might be instantly healed or maybe God will decide to use medical science, but in whatever way our Creator chooses to intervene, we will forever trust Him and declare “It is well with our soul.”
We know that Satan is doing everything he can to keep the divine truths about salvation a secret, but isn’t he also trying to distract everyone from the reality of healing? In the tenth chapter of John, we read where he has come to steal, kill, and destroy, which includes no rules or boundaries when it comes to human suffering. The devil and his demons work around the clock to make sure everyone is watching television, playing video games, and being snared in the deceptive spiderweb of social media. These powerful persuasions tempt, hinder, distort, and influence humans to love money, enjoy more pleasures, and entice the heart with lust, envy, greed, and jealousy. Why? To keep every person focused on everything except God’s life-changing truth. Can we imagine how much deeper we could go with God if we started eliminating these diversions? Nonetheless, we are also recognizing the Lord is very involved in the medical community as He continues to give science the intelligence to comprehend how the human body functions and inspirational ideas for new treatments that can help us overcome diseases. In whatever way our Creator chooses to intervene, we are forever grateful for His mercy and compassion. May you have a desire to be close with the Lord today. There are many things which try to distract and cause us to worry. In order to grow in our faith and trust, our focus on Jesus is critical. Focusing will involve being dedicated and determined to spend quiet time alone with Him
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 19 – Published 5/4/19
SO, WHO WANTS TO PRAY?
I’ve noticed in my life that prayer involves some of the most intense spiritual warfare possible. When we do not pray, we feel alone and isolated from God’s presence, but at the same time, we do not necessarily feel resistance from the enemy. However, when we choose to respond with an urgency to pray, we are immediately attacked with every type of demonic ambush we can imagine. So, which will we choose? Will we remain lukewarm by keeping our distance from God while also avoiding the bees nest, or will we draw near to God and enjoy His peace as we stir the bees into an angry frenzy? So, who wants to pray? William Law is quoted as saying, “If we will stop and honestly ask ourselves why we are not as reverent and God-fearing as the primitive Christians were, our own heart will tell us that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but because we never thoroughly intended it.”
It’s important to not allow our conscience to become so dull and calloused that we cannot sympathize with another person’s pain. Human suffering is all around us but if we are not spiritually sensitive, we can become emotionally paralyzed zombies that are only concerned with ourselves. Love and prayer are very closely associated and it is sad but true that we will not pray for anything or anyone unless we have been deeply moved by the love of God. In fact, the amount that we pray is directly associated with how much we love. Have you noticed that when someone is going through a difficult time we commonly hear, “I’m praying for you” or someone might say, “Please remember them in prayer,” but I’ve often wondered how many will actually do it? Is proclaiming we will pray a promise that we will intercede or just a courteous gesture? There are a few who take praying seriously and may God richly bless and encourage them and it is worth repeating that intercession is always inspired by true love. I guess we could say the amount we care will inspire and measure how much we pray. There is another aspect to prayer and that is when it seems our words go no further than the ceiling. When we wait patiently, expecting and believing and the breakthrough does not come, it is common to feel bewildered and feel the agony that accompanies rejection and loneliness. It would be so nice if the Holy Spirit would knock on our door and we could invite him in for coffee as He explains all the details of our circumstances.
Have you ever felt frustrated with not knowing why your requests is being rejected, especially after you try to believe so diligently? Granted, I believe our lives are all about God’s will being fulfilled, but sometimes I would just like to know if I did something wrong that kept the doors locked or if the Lord maybe has something better planned for later. Whatever the case, I know that trusting Him takes courage and determination to keep pressing forward. Faith will require reaching down within the deepest part of our souls and embracing the truth that can set us free from the bondage of selfishness. Trusting that He is in control and wants the best for lives is very hard to do when things are not working out but if we stop and think about it, our journey was always intended to be a life of walking confidently, even when we cannot see clearly. Fear is seeing God through the eyes of circumstance which leaves no doubt why it is so crucial for our minds to be transformed.
In the times when we are knocked down and certain areas of our lives are just not working out and are disappointing, we do not need more humanistic philosophy, we need more spiritual trust! We cannot change the past, but we do have the choice to turn inward and ask God to help us and heal us. Trust is a common yet very important decision that can keep us safe in God’s peace, but it will require letting go of what we think and completely trusting what He thinks. Another obstacle that we must examine is unforgiveness. If we have any resentment in our heart toward another person, this could very well be what is keeping the door to our miracle locked. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I choose to harbor sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Ask the Lord to help you honestly search for any ill feelings within your mind and conscience and if hatred or bitterness is found, we must ask God to forgive us. This is one reason why the refiners’ fire is so critical in the lives of God’s children. The more pure we become, the more we are filled with His Spirit and the more He can move within us.
I will be the first to admit that I struggle with love and prayer. I know that prayer is the most powerful act we can do, but why is it so difficult? I think one reason is that our minds and bodies have partnered together to be contrary to anything that is connected with God and just because we are Christians does not mean we automatically have the cooperation of our fleshly nature to work with us in spiritual matters. In fact, there is a major conflict between our will and God’s will and this enmity is commonly recognized as spiritual warfare. If anyone would like to put this to the test, I challenge them to make plans to pray and they will see what I mean. Our human nature is perfectly content to live carefree and independent from any type of spiritual discipline and is always ready to fervently fight against it. When experiencing a crisis, it’s good to find a quiet place to think clearly and express our feelings to Jesus. This will bring peace to our soul. Meditating, praying, fasting, and confessing God’s Word are our most powerful resources to incorporate into our spiritual walk. Letting go of our worries and trusting Christ will never be easy, but it is a necessary component of the faith process. I will never forget one of the patient’s comments which seemed honestly blunt yet absolutely profound when one day he said, “Sympathy does not really help when we are suffering and all the stories that try to compare our crisis with what others have gone through is of little comfort. Fear and disappointment are issues that are only between me and God.” This is wisdom that can only be known by those who have been there. Let us remember that prayer is not just a time where we do all the talking, but also a time to focus and listen intently.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 18 – Published 4/27/19
THE COMPLICATIONS OF FAITH
Do you think there are times when God could use someone’s sickness for His glory? Do you believe He has caused certain individuals to be sick? These are difficult questions, but whatever our views, there is little doubt that God is more concerned with our spiritual condition than our physical body and our answers to these questions definitely play a huge part with our approach to prayer and our understanding of faith. Listen to this promise found in John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” Did you notice that asking is directly connected with His will? Once more we must go back and decide whether or not we believe that physical healing is God’s desire for us. We must know if our physical healing is a part of our redemption and believe the blood of Jesus not only paid for our sins but also provides for our physical healing? When the Bible says, “By his stripes, we are healed” was this only referring to delivering and healing us spiritually? Or does this blood covenant include the invitation for us to also be healed mentally, emotionally, and physically? Do we need to beg for something that Jesus has already provided through the cross or is this benefit available through our obedience and faith? Whether His covenant applies to spiritual and physical or just spiritual, a point worth considering is noting that when someone cries out to Him to save their soul, is there any doubt that He will “always” save them? So, since spiritual salvation is 100 percent guaranteed, why do many people not always receive their physical healing? Does this confirm there is a difference and that physical healing does not apply to the promises contained within our salvation covenant?
At this point in my journey, I personally believe that God’s salvation is a covenant that covers every problem and every need, however, I wonder why many Christians are suffering? They are asking and believing which is what I have always thought were the necessary ingredients to a miracle. Evidently, we must be missing something. Could it be that a request could be hindered by unrepentant sin, a lack of faith, or maybe associated with God’s timing? Whatever the case, if we assume the allowance for miracles apply to only certain and special occasions, then we are declaring that God’s predetermined plans will always be the final answer instead of our prayers and requests we make in boldness and confidence. If we believe that miracles have already been decided instead of a person’s faith, then we become very casual and unsure of the outcome which leads to apathy. If we fervently pray for someone and they are miraculously healed, we rejoice that God heard us and intervened. However, if the person does not recover and passes away, we are left with the conclusion that it was totally God’s sovereign decision and releases everyone from fault and blame. Is this the bottom line or are there hidden factors which always contribute to the outcome? I have more questions: Has this “safety net” doctrine caused lukewarm attitudes and faith to be diminished? Are people hiding behind the idea that whatever happens is always God’s desire instead of examining their own responsibility? Is there ever a time when people fail in their faith and God’s will is not accomplished? Of course! If people choose not to pray, could this sin of omission have a negative effect on the situation? I believe the answer is yes. This has happened so many times and I’m sure it occurs every day in each person’s life. The closer we come to God, the clearer we will understand the meaning and purpose of our life. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” James 4:8.
It appears the deeper we dig for solid answers, the more we can see that healing is actually much more complicated than we thought. We know we cannot just ask for anything, and that God is not our servant or like a genie in a bottle. But at the same time, we are encouraged by the Lord to step forward and not be afraid to request our petitions. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” So, we are taking all that we have discussed and are praying that God will give us His wisdom and understanding. Before we approach any situation dealing with healing, I believe we are to ask for discernment and allow God to speak to our heart as we listen and proceed according to His instructions. Is this not how Jesus ministered to the people? Once we have his instructions, we can continue in faith knowing that he is orchestrating the circumstance and that He is in total control of the situation. If the Lord has open arms for all who call upon him, I would think that He wants to help us in every way and that He has our best interest in mind. But how can we have confidence that he will give us the miracle we need? It has to be faith! Hebrews 11:1 is one of the most popular faith verses in the Bible. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This sounds like a mystery and it is. We must pray for the revelation of His wisdom to be “quickened” into our spirit and relayed into our conscience which is why our mind being renewed is critical to the ability to discern and understand this spiritual reality.
Suppose that you want to cash a check for a hundred dollars at your bank. Would you go to your bank where you have several thousand dollars in your account, place the check on the counter, get down on your knees, and beg, “Oh, please, cash my check.” Of course, this is not the way you would cash your check. You would simply go in with confidence, place the check on the counter, and wait for them to give you the money which is already yours. You know this is your money and you know there is no reason why you will not receive it. The confidence we have with this scenario is the same realization we must develop in our relationship with Jesus and the covenant he has made with us. Do we believe His promises are in our bank account and that we have access to them? He has spoken through His Word that His blessings are available to us because we are His children and heirs according to His last will and testament. There is no way to pray in faith unless we can spiritually see the evidence of what is not seen with our natural eyes. Faith is knowing in the spiritual dimension. We either know that God is saying yes, no, or wait, and this is the reason why our spiritual sensitivity is so important. Is there ever a time when we would know without a shadow of a doubt that God does not want to heal us? Likewise, do we definitely know that He does? Do you know that when you pray for someone to recover that they will and if so, how do you know? I believe the Holy Spirit can lead and guide us which is why I’m convinced that if we are always unsure about everything, there is something seriously wrong. We know He is broadcasting His signal, but maybe there is too much static in our connection or possibly a person has never been spiritually born-again and acquired a “receiver” replacement.
Many will ask, how can we know what God is saying and what He wants to do all the time? It will depend on how serious we are about being close to Him. If Christ is down the street and talking in a normal voice, we will not be able to understand what He is saying. If we are sitting next to Jesus, He can whisper and we can hear every word. Speaking of hearing, Jesus said in Mark 4:9, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” What could this mean? Most everyone has ears and can hear. I believe Christ was saying there is a huge difference between simply hearing and keenly listening. There are two types of ears as the natural ears are for receiving information and our spiritual ears absorb this knowledge which enables us to develop wisdom and understanding. When Jesus is talking about having ears to hear, he is referring to being equipped with a brand new spirit that has the capability to comprehend spiritual communication. As Christians, we can be as close to Him as we want, but this once again presents life’s most important question. How close do we want to be? It’s true that we desire all that He has, but we hesitate when it comes to giving Him all that we are.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 17 – Published 4/20/19
JESUS IS READY TO INTERVENE
I refuse to believe the possibility to be healed and receive miracles has been eliminated since the disciples passed away and Jesus returned to heaven. He is still here in Spirit, His gospel is the same, His authority is the same, and I have every reason to accept that all of His teachings and instructions are valid and have not changed. God has always said that faith pleases Him and it has always been a critical matter when it comes to receiving from Him. So with establishing these facts, we must ask where is the problem when it comes to receiving miracles? There is not an alteration in God’s mercy or grace or the desire to intervene – the failure has to be with us! God cannot fail, He is perfect, with Him there is nothing impossible, and yet we see Christians suffering from terrible diseases, poverty, snared in sin and dying all around us while friends and family are praying and asking for deliverance. Why is this happening? What are we doing wrong? “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” James 5:13-16.
This passage seems cut and dried. It is very clear and specific and actually simple. “The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” I suggest a couple of considerations based on this passage. Number one: Maybe we do not know how to fervently pray or maybe some do not want to. Number two: Maybe we do not understand what faith is and thus are not manifesting it. Number three: Maybe we are not walking in righteousness and some may not even be saved. We must agree these are very serious reasons that could hinder the process of healing or any other type of ministry. Whatever the case, the idea of being able to “release” the power of Jesus “through us” is crucial for his glory to be revealed. Notice that God is using the elders or spiritual leaders and telling them to pray and anoint the sick person. We are his hands and feet but it is NOT their power. They are an important part of the process but they are only channels and vessels. Again, it is not a power shortage with Jesus, but somewhere the connection is being lost with human responsibility. OK, now let us ask, “Why do we need to call for someone else to help heal us? Why can’t we just go straight to Jesus?” I believe we can, but we must remember that even though Jesus is all that we need, the power of prayer is multiplied when we join together in one accord. Agreement in prayer is not a new thing – it is Biblical. Matthew 18:19 says, “Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” In Acts 1:14 we read, “they all joined together constantly in prayer” and in 4:14, “they raised their voices together in prayer.” The concept of unity is a key as Acts 2:1 says,“with one accord.” What were the results? It was the filling of the Holy Spirit with boldness and Peter’s miraculous release from prison.
I still return to the fact that when Jesus ministered, He dealt with people one on one. He did not call a crowd together but sincerely asked them what they needed and He touched them and healed them. And today I am eager to know if what he is saying is exactly what He means. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” John 14:13-14. And again, we read this passage a chapter further in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Of course, the concept of abiding in God is a huge subject but nonetheless, it is a clear promise to those who live with God that we can pray for our healing and be healed. Another important condition to this subject is whether or not we believe that it is God’s will (plan or desire) to heal us in every situation. If we accept that it is not His will to heal us in every situation, then how do we know when to ask Him and when to stop believing? This is where discernment is crucial as to know what He is saying as it is our responsibility to be sensitive in season and out of season, in order to at least have some type of confirmation of God’s intentions. First Corinthians 2:16 says, “For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach Him? But we understand those things, for we have the mind of Christ.” If someone is 95-years-old, God may be saying this person has lived a great life and they are ready to come home. In this case, instead of praying for their healing, we would pray for them to have a peaceful transition from this life into the next life. However, if a mother of small children is battling cancer, we can know this is not God’s perfect destiny for her life, and we must fast and pray fervently for her recovery. In both cases and whatever the situation, God is always ready to intervene with His miracle power for His glory.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 16 – PUBLISHED 4/13/19
PRAYER CAN CHANGE ANYTHING
The ancient oriental culture has always been a leader when it comes to herbal remedies and knowing about the internal energy of the human body. Science has proven the body is filled with electrical impulses and psychology declares the emotional state of our mind has much to do with the balance of hormones and chemicals which play a major role in our overall health and well-being. When we bring our spiritual awareness and obedience to God into the mix and blend them with these components, we are producing a perfect atmosphere for genuine faith and being in the position to receive miracles. As Christians, we have learned about praying in confidence with His Word and trusting in God’s abilities and we know that Jesus wants to heal us and we know that healing and deliverance is a part of our covenant salvation. However, does this mean receiving His healing power into our own bodies is more than a possibility? Yes! We read where Christ never turned anyone away for physical healing and today we stand upon the true statement found in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” This is a clear indication that He feels the same compassion in this present time as He did when He walked the Earth.
So does this confirm that Jesus can work through us to heal others? Could we raise the dead if God wanted us to? Could we call financial prosperity to manifest if God gave us a specific mission to accomplish? Again, I believe the answers are yes! As we have said, the key is listening and obeying His voice and understanding that it’s His sovereignty and authority which allows these miracles to happen. Healing and deliverance have everything to do with His desire. We have been given the Holy Spirit, God’s word, angels as ministering spirits and the infinite power and presence of the indwelling Jesus. Yet, we sit on the couch, speak curses upon our lives, and happily live in carnality and spiritual ignorance. Is this a picture of the overcoming church? Is this the representation of a remnant warrior that speaks God’s word and is used as an extension of his signs and wonders? Are these the type of people who light up a room with the glory and authority of Christ? Unfortunately not. Our traditional way to approach sickness is to ask, “Lord, will you heal me (or whoever we are praying for)” and Jesus does respond to these requests, but nonetheless, we must understand He is waiting for our faith to be released. Faith is knowing and being confessed without a doubt. No matter what we speak or deeds we act upon we cannot please God without faith. Hebrews 11:6 clearly explains, “But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” These are the individuals that spend more time on their knees in their prayer closet than entertaining themselves with social media? Miracles come from the holy of holies in heaven and as the Tabernacle of Moses illustrates the Christian life, there is more to being a remnant follower of Jesus than t-shirts and bumper stickers.
When we continue to study God’s will concerning healing, we also notice a very special and important factor – the hands. Why are the hands always used to transfer the power into the situation? Are these conduits for the spiritual energy from God? Evidently so, because there are many references in the New Testament where Jesus laid his hands on those who were sick. Since Christ dwells within his followers, he has also commanded us in Mark 16:17-18 to continue his way of releasing his power. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Many times, we think the authority is coming from heaven but if we are saved, the power does not have to travel very far – it is coming from within us and going out through our hands. Question: Why can’t we lay hands on our own body as He uses them as an extension of His owns hands? Why would God not want to revitalize and renew the vessel that he lives in? How easy it be for him to heal the physical container in which he dwells and flood the house with his glory?
There is an amazing passage found in Isaiah chapter 6 that many teachers have referred to as God manifesting His glory in an Earthly temple. Others have said this story is a vision which changes the dynamics of the message. It’s true there were brick and stone temples before Christ, but as we have been saying, once Christ resurrected, He started occupying or possessing his disciples and reining within their conscience. We also have continued to build literal structures where God’s people assemble and have sensed His presence, but again, we know that God does NOT live in buildings made with mortal hands. So where does Jesus live on this planet? Listen to these words, is this not a type and shadow of Jesus sitting on the throne of our heart? “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim’s: each one had six wings; with twain, he covered his face, and with twain, he covered his feet, and with twain, he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me.”
There are different ways to teach this and so many things that can be pointed out and I believe God is allowing us to see more fresh revelation the deeper we are willing to search. I believe this can be seen as a literal and personal experience that Isaiah had and also can be taught as symbolic for an entire nation especially when based on the history of king Uzziah. I am also convinced that since the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to be our comforter, all Christians can identify with being filled with the Spirit. The Lord’s train has been said to be the extension of his robe and here the writer tries to describe God’s infinite majesty and glory and how this manifestation of his power completely filled the temple. Oh, if we could only imagine and invite Christ to fill our lives with his presence and splendor. If we would lay down our life and love him with all of our mind and strength, we would be glowing with his nature and character. If we would only allow the refining fire from the coal to touch our lips and purify our mind and our heart. This is a sign of being filled with his Spirit. This is when others will be able to see the Lord not in a building but in us! They will be able to see Jesus in our temple! The post of the door of our heart will move when God speaks and our life or house will be filled with the glory and anointing of his presence. He will ask his overcomers who will go for him and only those who are washed in his blood and speak the word of his testimony will have the faith and courage to step forward.
The main point I am trying to make is that the king of glory lives within us and this same creator that spoke the universe into existence can surely speak healing into your body! The curse of the fall cannot be used as an excuse to why God does not or will not heal the physical body. When Christ walked the earth, everyone who lived at that time was also plagued with the curse of sickness and disease just like we are, yet Jesus overruled the curse, Christ took away the darkness and hopelessness and willingly gave his light and hope to everyone who called upon him. Since he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why would He not respond to everyone when they call upon him today? People will say, “Maybe it is because there is sin in these people’s lives.” This might be true, but was there not sin in the lives of those he touched? When he healed people, did he always ask about their sin first “before” he gave them a miracle? Others will say, “It is because he has a certain timing for his miracles.” This is also true, but can you see any occasion where he told someone that he cannot heal today but maybe he will heal them later? Then we have the group who teaches that miracles have passed away and Jesus does not operate like this anymore. If this is true, we have a major problem trying to explain why the reality of faith has changed and we are now subject to accept and suffer anything and everything that comes our way. This idea would require that we change all of our doctrines about intercession and spiritual warfare, patience, hope, deliverance, the power of God, spiritual authority, God’s promises, scripture interpretations, the reality of mountain moving faith, and many other divine truths. This would mean that we are all predestined to be vulnerable to Satan and the consequences of the fall and the old concept of chance that whatever will be – will be. This cancels the foundation of praying and believing in faith and the battle-cry that declares, that prayer changes everything! The devil would love for us to just stop reading and praying and to leave everything up to fate. This is not the Christian way! God is the God of divine order and His promises cannot fail. Praying in faith is the heart of the Christian life and we will always have love, joy, peace, and trust in knowing that God is listening and will always intervene which fills us with hope and expectation.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 15 – Published 4/6/19
STAYING FILLED WITH GOD
What does it mean to be filled with God? Are Christians already filled with God and don’t know it, or is God’s Spirit like water that has to be poured in every day because it continually leaks out and evaporates? Could it be both? It would be difficult to imagine that the Holy Spirit would step in and out of our life from moment to moment. The same is true with believing that we could be saved or lost depending on what mood or attitude we are in. I tend to embrace the view that either we are saved or not and that either Jesus lives in us or he doesn’t. Now, with that being said, if we are born-again and he lives in us all the time, there are evidently levels or degrees of his influence within our mind and heart. This would mean that each individual child of God chooses how far they will go and how much they will do to please God. We can be as close and have as much of him as we want. This interpretation declares that our free will controls and decides just how much of God is activated within us. He can only rise up within a person and be a reflection of his image according to the willingness of that individual to surrender and yield their will to him. In this light, we know that God is sovereign, but will not force humans to love him or serve him. He has given them a choice to live however they want but has also warned that he will judge them according to their decisions. “And if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15.
I had a dream the other night where I was standing in a church sanctuary and someone was preaching. All the sudden an angry tiger was running around and the congregation were running in fear and jumping over the pews as the tiger was roaring and swiping with its huge razor-sharp claws. The huge beast saw me standing in the corner and began running toward me. I was terrified because I thought it was going to devour me and then I woke up. What should I have done, tried to fight it or rebuked it in the name of Jesus? The next day I knew the tiger was Satan and I considered about how the dark and deceptive influences have infiltrated the modern churches. Unfortunately, the aggressive demons have been able to walk among the saints unnoticed and are causing tremendous deception and destruction. James 4:7-10 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” This implies that we are to not only turn away from evil but to not become associated or entangled with it in any way. The only way this can happen is if we choose to stay focused on God. It is when we are involved and absorbed with the affairs and temptations of this life, that we become filled with compromise.
Since Jesus healed everyone and the only people who were not healed were the ones that did not believe him, we must ask some serious questions about healing. Does Jesus desire to heal everyone today like he did before or was that only a way he used to draw attention and establish his ministry? Since his resurrection and the fact that he now lives inside of us, what is preventing his healing power from being manifested? Is it because of him or us? This is a great question. If we are not seeking him for healing, if we are not involved in study and research about healing, if we are not fasting, praying, or expecting miracles, do you think the supernatural manifestations are just going to come knocking on your front door? If we are not believing it, we are not going to be receiving it. It is NOT Jesus who is holding back his miracle power, it is the lethargy and lack of interest on the part of his people. Instead of dedicating our life to God’s service we have foolishly acknowledged God as our cosmic vending machine. “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:2-3. We desire to do whatever we want and hope that God will give us everything we need. This in not the way it was supposed to be.
If Jesus is selective and only heals or blesses those he chooses according to his perfect will, then He would be a respecter of persons. Where at one time he answered everyone’s cry to be healed, now the church teaches that miracles have passed away and He does not do this anymore. So, why do we still go through the motions and say, “let us remember brother so and so in our prayers and ask God to heal him if it is his will.” Jesus never told anyone that. Another point is that if Christ will only respond to a person who is pure and filled with His Spirit, then we are being rejected because of our own carnality and rebellion. Again, in many cases, Jesus healed the person before He talked to them about their sin. Have we missed something? It seems simple, a sick person cries out, Jesus heals them and they praise Him. I will use myself as a specific example. I have a serious kidney disease called Polycystic or PKD for short. It is a progressive disease that is getting worse and there is no cure. It affects everything in my body and will eventually ruin the function of my kidneys and they will stop working. The medical world’s only answer for this particular problem is a transplant and this is not always successful. Does Jesus want to heal me or does He want me to suffer in pain and die from renal and heart failure? successful. I believe the salvation of God is based on His word and with His power and authority nothing is impossible. I am praying in faith that God is either going miraculously give me brand new kidneys or He is going to restore the ones I have. I will gladly take a transplant if there is one available and I praise the Lord for giving doctors wisdom and for amazing medicines. I will also gladly receive a miracle directly from His touch just like He did when He walked the earth. I have no doubt he can do it, and I believe He hears me when I cry out to Him. Why have I not received my miracle? I do not know, but this does not deter me from continuing to ask. Even if God does not heal me, I am completely confident that God’s covenant provides spiritual, mental, and physical healing.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
MORTIFIED OR SATISFIED?
Within the doctrine of Christian salvation, we have been told to accept Jesus Christ into our heart and that He comes to live inside of us and lead us into His will. Through nothing less than a divine miracle, we are able to absorb and be saturated with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and enjoy the privilege of having Jesus Christ himself, sit on the throne of our conscience as our personal Lord, King, and Savior. Do you agree with this? So, if our old spirit has been transformed into a brand-new spirit and we are now merged together with Him, it would only make sense that His idea is for us to become His hands, feet, and voice. As our Lord, His intention is for us to become His obedient servant and allow Him to do whatever He wants within our life. When we think of God, is this what comes to mind? As we have said in the past, before He can be in total control of our thoughts and actions, we must yield and surrender our will to Him. This means we no longer rule our lives or make our own decisions. We listen to His voice and we do what he says. Is this the vision He is talking about and is this what we really want?
Another consideration is found in Hosea 4:6 which declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Here we find a similar warning except this mentions the danger of not having knowledge. We are automatically wondering what type of information and I believe we can agree this is talking about spiritual knowledge and understanding about God and His word. So we see two things that Satan does not want us to discover and our next step is to learn why this is the foundation of spiritual warfare. Since John 10:10 clearly points out that Satan has come into this earth to steal, kill, and destroy, we can logically assume the devil is not only aware of this spiritual reality, but is determined that humans will never obtain these revelations. Satan realizes the unlimited power and authority can be manifested through God’s people when Christ is allowed to move within them. When Jesus walked the earth, He spoke with the greatest authority and miracles were a “normal” part of His life. He promised in John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Jesus is also speaking this hour to His followers. He is proclaiming that it is his desire that His people walk and live in the supernatural realm and do His mighty works, but why are we not seeing these manifestations today? Because we are being distracted from the vision and knowledge of divine truth. We are choosing to ignore His voice and obviously, we are not interested in finding His buried treasure of wisdom and understanding. We have become numb, cold, and calloused, and have not developed our spiritual sensitivity, and are tragically suffering from a severe case of lukewarm apathy. The question remains: “Do we care and have a desire to be awakened, or are we satisfied to remain the same?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
HOW WILL WE RESPOND?
Have you ever experienced times when you were excited and filled with anticipation, but after it was over, the expectation did not live up to the hype? It’s nothing to worry about because we all have our share of melancholy and despondency every now and then. This is just a normal part of life. Sometimes we even become sad and restless when life is going well, which may seem strange, but we were never intended to live only by our emotions. Feelings are alright when kept in the correct perspective, but when it comes to our spiritual lives, the Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength. This is internal confidence and peace that is much different from emotional happiness. Joy is a strength and courage we can experience that will edify and empower us with hope no matter what we are going through. However, let us be reminded that our joy has a tendency to leak out and needs to be refilled constantly, which also explains how easily we can fall away from God and become cold and irritable. For example, if we start acting like The Grinch and always blaming others for our problems, we have already fallen into a carnal mindset of arrogance and denial. These snares are deceiving because we cannot see what we have become until it is too late. Usually, after we are exhausted playing the accusation game and have embarrassed ourselves, the truth will expose and reveal that we have been focusing too much attention on myths and fallacies while ignoring the Holy Spirit.
God’s children are spiritually connected to their creator and have undergone a miraculous transformation, but this does not mean they are always walking with Him or even aware of His presence. In the old life, before we were a disciple of Christ, we were led by our feelings without any respect or concern for God, His Word, or His people. But when a person surrenders their life to Jesus, the result is not only a new spiritual identity but also a radical change in the way the individual thinks. This metamorphosis within the conscience includes refusing to allow human independence to lead the individual while embracing a new lifestyle of trusting and obeying God’s voice. The true Christian comprehends that following His decisions is the meaning of life. Even after a person enters into God’s family there is still much self-discipline, sacrifice, and determination needed to resist the temptations of the flesh which is constantly desiring to capture and control our thoughts. When we fail to maintain our spiritual zeal and perseverance to overcome sin, we automatically become detached from our joyful excitement, and this explains why many are miserable, even those who proclaim to be faithful followers.
No matter how wealthy or healthy we are, this temporal realm is hardly a continuous mountaintop experience. Actually, our existence here on Earth was never intended to be a perfect paradise because Heaven is an eternal dwelling place reserved for God, His angels, and His people. It may not be popular, but we will all have our share of valleys in this life as they are meant to teach us valuable lessons. By the way, the fear and darkness of the valley do not matter as long as we are holding tightly to His hand. The good news is that these sad and difficult places were only designed to be temporary situations. God wants us to learn how to be overcomers by allowing Him to open our eyes and ears so that we can know what He wants us to do. Since we all have free will, we have the choice to do whatever we set our minds to, and even Christians can make terrible decisions if this is what they really want. Jesus realizes how easy it is for humans to wander away from Him as He points out in the story found in Matthew chapter 18 about the sheep that becomes separated from the flock. Christ represents the shepherd and says the good shepherd leaves the 99 to go search for the one that is missing. How often do we consider that God loves us so much that He is constantly trying to rescue the ones who have lost their way? How easy it is for any of us to become untied from the harbor like a small sailing vessel that is pulled by the strong currents out into the open sea? This reminds me of the old hymn that warns, “You’re drifting too far from the shore.”
Have you ever felt a sense of emptiness and loneliness? Even when we are surrounded by family and friends and everything seems fine on the outside, we can experience a loss of peace and contentment on the inside as if something deep-down in our souls is missing. This “something” is our personal, intimate relationship with God that we have been neglecting. Have you wandered away from the shepherd? Are you as close to God as you would like to be? Are you tired of running away from His presence and what you know is the right way? Take a moment to pause and consider that Jesus knows where you are and will bring you back into His fold even if He has to carry you. Christ said in Revelation 2:4, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against you because you have left your first love” Can you hear Him calling? How will you respond?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
DO WE WANT GOD OR WHAT HE CAN GIVE?
It has been said that the Christian life is difficult to understand and I would have no reason to argue. The human mind is amazing when applied but the problem is that only a few individuals allow their mentality to expand beyond the elementary level. Generally speaking, the masses are satisfied with receiving a fish instead of becoming a fisherman as refusing to learn becomes the easy way to avoid responsibility. The motto of the default system is, “The less we know – the less we worry about.” There are many illustrations which reveal how the potential to be intelligent is given to everyone but the development of our potential is rare to say the least. The understanding of spiritual wisdom can be attained if one would apply themselves to diligent study, meditation, and prayer, but it seems that very few want to go beyond getting their toes wet. I wrote a book three years ago, and no has said they enjoyed it. In fact, I’m not sure anyone has read it all the way through. However, I have had a lot of people tell me it was too many pages and too deep. All the feedback I have received about the book and future books is to make them short and simple. I see others who love to read huge books that have twice as many pages and are highly complex. These novels are popular among the masses of the world and sell many copies. My book was about spiritual intimacy and worship with God and I cannot give them away, while these other books are about fiction and fantasy and sell many copies. What is the difference? The subject matter.
We would never have a reason to ignore the simple yet provoking invitation found in Matthew chapter 7 and verse 7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: Those who ask will receive, and the one that seeks shall find, and to those who knock it shall be opened.” Yet, how often do we think about this promise and if we do, are we asking correctly? This passage sounds like God is giving us a signed blank check, but it’s actually the basic blueprint for knowing God and finding His truth. If we only see this promise as a way to receive earthly and natural blessings we are only scratching the surface and have actually missed the point. However, if we are seeking the spiritual mysteries of life, we have found a key of faith that will unlock all the wisdom and understanding we could ever imagine. The problem is using this passage as a way to receive what we want instead of what God wants. The conditions for studying God’s Word has much to do with context and not selecting only the verses that appeal to us. Using the above passage as an example, it creates a larger picture of spiritual reality when we include, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6, and, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33. The intentions of our heart are always in question concerning what are we seeking and why.
Humans can build space stations, dams, bridges, and skyscrapers that take our breath away. Our advancements in the fields of technology, medicine, and science are growing so rapidly that today’s accomplishments will be surpassed next week. Seeing this happen all around us, we can conclude there is not a problem with our intelligence or our inability to learn. When it comes to knowing God, we can blame our ignorance and lack of interest. What if the average person spent as much effort learning how to be filled with God as they do concentrating on their own desires? Individuals are trained in higher education, serve as interns and apprentices, and with never-ceasing research and hard work are driven to know everything from the wonders of the universe to finding the cure to cancer but I wonder if there is another way to unlock even greater wisdom. Are we using all of our brain and is there a much higher intelligence that we are not aware of? We know there have been amazing demonstrations of building and construction with the examples of the pyramids that cannot be duplicated today. We have incredible machinery, genius architects, unlimited resources, and yet we are baffled to reproduce what was accomplished thousands of years ago. Did someone other than humans build them? Was this an example of alien technology? Was this intelligence given to humans by the fallen angels? Another example, is how did mankind know which herbs could bring healing to the human body? Who told them? How did they know about the universe? Since God has every answer and is unlimited in power, could a remnant of people have obtained this divine wisdom from Him? And if so, where is this supernatural power and spiritual intelligence today?
When it comes to spiritual comprehension it’s deeply concerning that we have never quite realized the wall of invisible resistance that surrounds us constantly. What is it that the enemy does not want us to know? Two verses come to mind. One is found in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” Here the writer mentions some type of vision and it must be very important since not having it causes those who do not have this vision to die. So, what is this vision? The first thing we think of is the vision is associated with seeing. However, is this referring to our physical eyes or our spiritual discernment? It’s true, that seeing with our natural eyes is good but it is not the vision that is the most important. A physically blind person may actually be able to walk with God on a higher level because they are not only able to develop faith, but can also focus their attention on the inward soul and spirit without the temptations, persuasions, and distractions of this world. The danger of being spiritually blind is not knowing God or his ways. This basic idea of this passage is another warning from God to those who refuse to embrace him declaring that a life without him is a road to eternal disaster but embracing him is a life of peace and happiness. Going deeper, we must take a closer examination of this vision in order to see a larger picture. Most people agree with accepting God as being the best way to live, but what do we think of when we consider the vision of God? Do we want to know how to become more like God or do we just want more blessings? How passionate are we about knowing God?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 10 – PUBLISHED 3/9/19
THE DEEPEST WORK OF GOD
by Carter Conlon
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with its swelling thereof. Selah” Psalm 46:1-3.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” Psalm 46:10-11.
“Be still and know that I am God!” is an incredible statement about which many songs have been written and countless sermons have been preached. But what exactly does it mean to be still? Does it mean that we simply do nothing? Perhaps you are wondering how exactly you are supposed to be still when all around you is noise and flurry – even that which claims to represent God. How do you let down your hands and give up trying to figure everything out when that is all you have ever done?
In reality, the deepest work of God is that which takes place in the hidden man of the heart. It is not something that makes a lot of noise. The Lord Himself expressed this truth as He called to His own people through the prophet Isaiah: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
In other words, the Lord is saying you would have found true strength by letting go of all human effort and putting your confidence in the work that only I can do. That is the real essence of Christian growth. Remember, the Christian life is a supernatural life. None of us can make ourselves holy – we can only yield our lives to the One who does this sanctifying work within us.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 9 – PUBLISHED 3/2/19
THE WAR ROOM IS WAITING
There are lost people all around us. Family members, friends, and acquaintances do not know the Lord and are heading toward a devastating end unless they respond to God’s love. There was a time when spirituality was more simplistic as most people considered that life was either good or bad and the answer to being delivered from the devil’s ways was to accept Christ and the gift of His eternal salvation. In today’s modern world, these ideas have drastically changed and not for the best. Spiritual simplicity has been thrown out the window along with the idea that God’s word is the absolute truth. The popular idea now is that truth is relative to whatever the individual believes and no one has the right to tell another person their concept of truth is wrong. In this way of thinking, we can see how sneaky the devil is and how his idea of spreading mass confusion was the perfect strategy to lead even more souls astray.
Much of the younger generation is trying to change spiritual truth into a new politically correct worldview and this presents many challenges for those who have been in the Christian faith for a while. It is heart-breaking to witness this growing spiritual deception that is spreading like an infectious disease and many Christians are experiencing feelings of despair and discouragement. We know that God’s truth is the cure, but how many followers of Christ are taking their responsibility to pray seriously? Are we as Christians accountable for those around us? If the answer is yes, then how can we make a positive difference in our network without fighting and arguing? My first advice is to avoid the subject if possible and focus on issues that we do agree about. “Now brother, we cannot be afraid to confront or fall into compromise.” This is not hiding from the issues or changing our views, but rather it is wise to follow God’s timing about how and when to talk about it. If we attempt to clash and quarrel in our flesh we are only making a bigger mess than it already is.
God is the only one who knows what can convict a conscience and change a mind and He has the perfect plan. An important key is for us is to listen and follow these directions which may not involve words at all. Actually, the Lord could possibly not use us at all in this particular situation because of familiarity and our refusal to follow His instructions. Maybe He just wants us to demonstrate love and humility while He is working on the solution. More than anything, we are called to pray. Some will say, “Of course I have prayed and asked God to save them.” This is wonderful, but it might take more than a ten second petition. There are levels of praying and a more serious matter may require a more serious approach. Fasting and intercession are often associated with going deeper with God and it only makes sense the closer we are to Him the more he will take us seriously. The prayer closet is a quiet place where an individual blocks out the world and spends quality time meditating and listening to God’s voice. This spiritual intimacy creates a stronger sensitivity as the intercessor not only develops an understanding about God’s plans, but are also becoming more confident in their faith. Do you believe that fasting and intercession can bring miracles into our life and the lives of others? Do you believe a person could fast and pray for someone to be healed or born-again and it would happen? If we agree, I am curious as to why we do not consider doing this more. My wife and I went to church with a family years ago and the father was very concerned about his teenage son. The boy had not yet responded to the gospel and the dad was carrying a heavy burden for his son’s soul. This man went on a secret fast of nothing but liquids for 40 days as he began to fervently intercede for his sons salvation. As the fast continued, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit began to speak to the boys heart and within a month of this fathers sacrifice of love, the son dramatically surrendered his heart to Jesus. I would hope we are willing to fast and pray for those we love.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 8 – Published 2/23/19
UNDERSTANDING IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY
The most common question that ministers and counselors hear is; why has this happened? Of course, like everyone else in the world, they have the same helpless look in their eyes and if completely honest, they will also meekly acknowledge they do not know. When there is an opportunity to respond, words need to be chosen carefully in order to effectively relay what God is telling us to say. Sometimes there are no words that make sense and we are left in the humility and reverence of silence. Being quiet may seem awkward and uncomfortable because we are nervous and want to come up with something, but being quiet is associated with peace. There is a time to meditate and it is much easier to think clearly without a flood of unnecessary noise and distraction.
Often in times of crisis situations we find ourselves at a loss in knowing how to comfort someone as they suffer and grieve. I have heard horror stories of insensitive comments that have been made and I’m sure you know some too. One of the best nuggets of advice I have learned is if you have nothing to say this is a sign from above to remain quiet. People do not need to hear rambling voices but rather to just know someone is there. Trying to remind everyone that God knows best or this trial is a part of His master plan is not always helpful besides we are not that smart and most of the time not that spiritual. The truth is that traumatic events are so complex and overwhelming, it’s doubtful we could understand it even if He explained it.
I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of mankind but much of the time He works in ways that are mysterious. I am also convinced that He sees much further than the present situation and is more concerned with the spiritual implications than our worldly inconvenience. We agree that good things can come out of tragedy but when they are happening to us, it does not seem that way. It’s one thing to appreciate signs of new growth sprouting after a forest fire but another thing completely if we lose someone in a car accident. These are times we stand still and realize that we can only see through a dark window and the reality of reason and cause are far beyond our capacity to comprehend. We humbly bow before our maker and trust that He is aware and orchestrating the world while the sovereignty of His perfect will is not always revealed.
I heard a story the other day about a couple who were expecting a baby but were informed from the doctors that something was terribly wrong. It was going to be a girl and even though it was determined she had cerebral palsy and would have certain disabilities the parents decided to have the baby. The mother was a Christian and through prayer was determined to do the best she could to love and take care of her. The father was not a Christian but also quietly accepted the responsibility of her special needs and both parents sacrificially raised her with all the problems and hard work associated with this level of care. The child grew and became a Christian and as she developed into a teenager she actually learned to be proficient with computers and helped with church camps. She was devoted to being a light for God that had been such an endless source of strength in her life. The mother had always prayed for her husband’s salvation and began to notice that he would listen carefully when their daughter would talk about Jesus and how she wanted everyone to know Him. Eventually the father was broken with conviction and reached out to God’s mercy and grace and received His gift of salvation. Today the mother testifies that God used the frailty of a disabled child to melt the heart of a strong man and this thought leaves us standing in awe of how Christ can make all things work together (even heartbreaking circumstances) for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 7 – Published 2/16/19
WHOM THE SON SETS FREE
For those of you that have never heard of a woman named Corrie Ten Boom and her remarkable family, it is truly a heart-breaking account of courage and sacrifice. We begin our story with Cornelia (nicknamed Corrie) who was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892. She was raised in a devoted Christian atmosphere and lived in a large house above her father’s business where he was a jeweler and watchmaker. This loving family believed in demonstrating their spiritual convictions by offering shelter, food, and help to anyone in need. They also held a deep respect for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, considering them precious in God’s sight and during World War II, actually participated in an underground organization that secretly hid hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities. Within their home, they built false walls, and alarm systems, but eventually were betrayed by one of their Dutch neighbors. Unfortunately, all ten of the family members were incarcerated, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague. Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie suffered and died there on December 16, 1944. Corrie miraculously survived and in her book entitled “The Hiding Place” she tells her inspiring story about the power of forgiveness. The depth of what she learned is seen in quotes such as this one; “You can never learn that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”
The evil horrors of the Holocaust are beyond comprehension and a sad reminder of the fallen state of mankind. When Corrie and Betsy were struggling to stay alive with sleeping on lice-infested straw and nothing to eat but a small amount of bread and water each day, she tells of a particular prison guard that was cruel to them and how these nightmares haunted and tortured her soul. When Germany surrendered the war, Corrie was finally released and after regaining her health, she began traveling around the world giving her testimony for Jesus. Another of her popular declarations: “Love is the strongest force in the world especially when we include our enemies.” It was now 1947 and she had been invited to a large gathering in Munich to share with a devastated country how God desires that we let go of the resentment and forgive each other. Her message was centered on confessing our sins, and as we forgive, God is faithful to forgive us and begin the healing process. She said it was common to have auditoriums filled with solemn faces and when dismissed they would not say anything and quietly leave.
One evening, she had just finished speaking when she saw a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat working his way toward her and then it was instantly clear, this was the evil guard from the concentration camp. He did not recognize her, and exclaimed, “What a fine message you have spoken fräulein” as he stretched out his hand. He joyfully confirmed how good it is to know that our sins are washed away forever. She literally felt paralyzed as it seemed the entire world had stopped. Emotionally confused, she fumbled with her pockets and stared at the floor as her mind flashed back to the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and the shame of her and Betsy standing naked in front of him as he mocked and slapped them with his leather crop. He spoke up again and said she had mentioned Ravensbrück and that he had been a guard there, but since that time, he had become a Christian and now believes that God has forgiven him for the cruel things he did there. Again, the hand came out as he boldly asked, “Will you please forgive me?” She admits this was gut-wrenching, but placing all of her trust in God, she followed the Biblical command, grabbed his hand and said yes, with all of her heart. Her words are remembered: “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” John 8:36.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Part 6 – Published 2/9/19
GOD’S TRUTH IS ETERNAL
Have you considered that people are usually more concerned about what they want than what God wants? Some may not know what He wants and the others do not care. Would you agree that only a fervent few have taken the time to discover His desires and dedicated their life to please Him? A common attitude in defense of being lukewarm is that it’s harmless and no big deal. But here’s the thing: not feeling guilty when we are living in the shadows of spiritual apathy does nothing to change how it affects those who see it including God Himself. Even our innermost thoughts do not change the impact our halfhearted attempt of being a follower of Christ has on everyone. Our imaginations can many times be deceptive unless they are filtered through the Holy Spirit. This is easy to comprehend as even Hitler believed he was making the best decisions for his country and the future of the world. God is the absolute truth but His interpretation is critical. Ideas are not always what they are perceived and just because we are convinced something is correct does not mean it is.
In many ways, our intent is irrelevant because the harm is real and much damage has been done. Even if a person really does not know what God say’s about being holy as He is holy, are they not held accountable? When someone says, “I didn’t mean to make God look bad or to reveal my true identity as a hypocrite” we are left wondering just what were they trying to do. For those who embrace their lack of understanding, we must ask, “Why do you refuse to care, and what have you done to make sure you will continue to avoid reality?”According to God, ignorance is not an excuse for running away from truth or saying we are one thing and demonstrating we are something else. It takes just as much effort to keep our distance from the truth as it does to examine it. Truth is associated with light because it allows us to see clearly. Those who seek God’s truth are drawn toward His light but we must also remember that light gives clarity for judgment. This helps explain why those who are uncomfortable in God’s light are perfectly satisfied to hide in the shadows.
Our un-renewed mind is carnal by nature and specializes in compromising and justifying especially when it comes to living however we want. I personally know people that literally live like the devil but see themselves as dwelling in the Holy of holies with Jesus. How can this be? Sadly, These are the same ones who feel they should have the option to live in ignorance when it comes to sanctification and accountability. With the freedom to become as deceived as we want, we do not need to be a psychiatrist to understand how denial works. The ability to be oblivious about the consequences of living however we want is a conventional element of privilege. The opportunity to blame others for being overly sensitive, radical, or extreme is to enjoy the patience and long-suffering of God. This temporary relief from the fear of conviction does not eliminate the haunting of guilt but merely distracts the mind from worrying about the soul. What is true is eternal and it does not matter if we know it or agree with it. Everything that is not true may be accepted in this life but will never be mentioned in the next.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 5 – Published 2/2/19
WHEN KING UZZIAH DIED – Carter Conlon
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4, NKJV).
What an incredible encounter Isaiah had with the Lord! And notice that it took place in the year that King Uzziah died. In order to understand the significance of the timing, it is important to know a little bit about Uzziah’s life. The book of Second Chronicles tells us that Uzziah was sixteen years old when he took the throne, and he went on to reign in Jerusalem for fifty-two years. Under his leadership, the nation rose to incredible heights of political, financial and military power, “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). The people flourished, talents and gifts were bestowed, and their ability to invent and produce new weapons of war made Judah the marvel of the nations.
You and I can lay claim to something similar in America. We are a young nation compared to most on the face of the earth today, yet it is indisputable that people who came to this country from all over the world were made strong by the hand of God. We were marvelously helped, wonderfully gifted, and became the envy of the world in many respects. However, there is an important lesson that we must learn from Uzziah. His death was an ominous warning to the nation that greatness without godliness opens the gateway to a sorrowful and tragic finish.
PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION
What exactly happened to Uzziah? The Scriptures explain it rather clearly: “He was marvelously helped till he became strong. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:15-16, NKJV). Although it was an act clearly forbidden in the law, Uzziah decided to go into the temple to offer incense. This act was a type of a society and its leadership becoming its own judge of what is right and what is wrong. He had known success for so long that his heart was lifted up in pride; he had reached a place where he assumed he could do nothing wrong in God’s sight. Of course, the Bible warns us that “Pride always goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (see Proverbs 16:18).
Eighty priests of the Lord went in after Uzziah, warning him, “It is not for you to burn incense to the Lord!” (see 2 Chronicles 26:17-19). In other words, what you are doing is not right. God has not prescribed it to be done this way. You are taking something that is wrong and calling it right; taking something evil and trying to call it good. Yet, as these men who represented the truth of God withstood this king of pride, he became furious with them. What a stark difference from those early years when he had sought the Lord in humility! Similarly, you and I are living in a time when a fury is mounting against those who speak for God. We are somewhere between persecution and prosecution in the house of God in this nation. Those who stand for truth, as Isaiah said, have become a prey of the ungodly-something to be vilified and cast down (see Isaiah 59:15).
With the censer still in his hand and anger rising in his heart, the Scriptures tell us that Uzziah’s forehead broke out in leprosy. It was a visible sign of the spiritually diseased condition of his mind-an outward expression of what had long ago started to ferment inside of him. He found himself shamed for the rest of his days, and he died in a leper colony. This goes to show that the disease of the soul first manifests in the minds of the people and then in their subsequent behaviors. For example, where did we ever get the idea in this nation that we were as God-that we could declare what is good and what is evil? Why did we assume we could transgress the Word of God, which was once our own foundation, and not pay a price for it? We suppressed the truth we once knew and, as a result, we have subjected ourselves to living in an illusion and opened ourselves to a diseased mind.
It is just as the Apostle Paul warned in the book of Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them…Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:18-21, 28). Once the envy of the nations, America is now becoming the mockery of the nations. We are becoming increasingly weak and confused; we are paralyzed socially, politically, and morally. It is obvious that the hand of God is not upon us in the way it once was.
So how does God respond when a nation finds itself in such a perilous condition? First of all, remember that it was “In the year that King Uzziah died” that Isaiah saw the Lord. In other words, it was the year when all hope seemed to be gone. It was the year when military might was failing, the economy was in tatters, and enemies were laughing. It was the year when greatness and glory seemed to be something relegated to history, leaving people afraid for their future. It was the year that God responded with a final act of mercy to that generation, and He did so by drawing someone into His presence. That is what He always has done, and that is what He always will do. “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4). Isaiah was drawn into God’s presence where he was given a revelation of the majesty, power, holiness, and glory of the One whose purposes were being fulfilled in the earth.
Upon having this encounter with God, Isaiah immediately became aware of his own uncleanness as well as that of the people around him. “So I said: Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Think about it – Isaiah was a religious man living in a religious nation; he even had some responsibility in the temple. Yet, until that moment, he had never fully seen the holiness of God. Suddenly, in the presence of the Lord, he understood that all of our human righteousness is as filthy rags. He understood that there is nothing we can do of our own accord-no sacrifice we make, no good thing we produce-that will ever give us the right to stand in the presence of a holy God. Keep in mind that the nation had been faltering because of pride under Uzziah’s leadership. At this point, the only thing that could counterbalance it would be a people who were not filled with pride but rather humility, so the timing of Isiah’s encounter was strategic.
Once Isaiah was humbled in the presence of the Lord, the Scriptures describe an amazing transaction that took place, “One of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7, NKJV). In other words, beyond recognizing his own uncleanness and that of the people, Isaiah now saw the willingness of God to forgive those who would turn back to Him! Isaiah did not have to plead or beg for it. Mercy came and touched him, and he became aware that it was the delight of God to forgive and cleanse. Similarly, in our day those who have been humbled because they have been in the presence of the Lord begin to recognize His incredible mercy. They understand that it is in God’s heart to forgive every man, woman, and child in America. He doesn’t want to judge! It is His desire to gather a people to Himself once again.
A DIFFICULT MINISTRY
After being touched by mercy, Isaiah began to hear the thoughts of God’s own heart as He was conversing with Himself-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8). In other words, who will go and be an ambassador of mercy to this undeserving people? “Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me. And He said, Go, and tell these people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed. Then I said, Lord, how long?’ And He answered, Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. But yet a tenth will be in it, and will return and be for consuming, as a terebinth tree or as an oak, whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:8-13, NKJV). Isaiah was eager to be sent as an ambassador of mercy, yet God was warning him that this ministry was not going to be easy. Nevertheless, it would make an eternal difference in one out of ten people that he would speak to.
By drawing a parallel to a tree that is cut down but still has life remaining in its stump-eventually causing a new tree to sprout forth-God was essentially telling Isaiah that this society has reached a point where the majority are against My ways. Despite the fact that you have stood in My presence, they are so bent on being their own god that most will not repent. Nevertheless, for your effort, one in ten will hear what you have to say. Even though the nation goes into trial and cities are laid waste, there will be one in ten who will have My life planted within them. No matter what happens around them, they will live. They will stand and endure; they will be like a tree planted by the rivers of living water. One in ten! Of course, that one in ten will still have to go through the same sorrow and trials as everyone else. However, a seed of God’s life will be found within them, enabling them to live when all around them seems lost.
WHO WILL GO?
And so this is my question for you now: Is the one in ten worth it? Is it worth suffering the rejection, the scorn, the vilification, the sneers, the lies of the nine-everything that we will have to endure in this generation if we desire to stand for God? Now bear in mind that if God gives us one in ten, it means that more than 30 million people in the United States will turn back to Him! Some who are already walking with God will be strengthened, others who are backslidden will come home, and many who do not know God will find Him. Oh, can you hear the voice of God calling out once again, “Who will go?” Who will be willing to stand, facing the fear of rejection and the pride of wanting to be loved by everyone? Who will go and tell the people of this generation about My desire to forgive in spite of their folly? Who will tell them that if they will just come and stand in My presence, I will touch them and plant within them new life and new hope?”
Perhaps you have thought lately, I cannot even bring myself to speak the name Jesus in my workplace. I am such a coward! Or maybe all you can see are your struggles and failures, and you wonder how you could ever be a mouthpiece for the Lord. Yet the beauty of the story of Isaiah is that at the point when he says, “Here I am, send me!” he is still undone. He is weak, and he knows it. He knows that he has no right to boast of himself, for he has seen what he is without God. In the same way, when God is about to use your life in a deeper way, you will become very aware of your own failures and frailties. However, it is in that place of brokenness and humility-that place where you are completely undone and keenly aware that you do not have the right to even speak the name of Jesus-that you truly recognize God’s mercy in your life. In His mercy, He has forgiven you, cleansed you, covered you and called you. And if He is willing to do that for you, He is willing to do the same for others around you.
Therefore, this is not a time to be silent. This godlessness of our generation is not going to go away on its own. Light must counter it and you and I are the light of this world. We are the hope of this generation. Remember, it is in God’s heart to use those of us who feel like we are undone. People who have been humbled in the sight of God tend to have a natural compassion for people in our society who are indulging in all sorts of behavior. They will not speak with arrogance, simply presenting another argument. No! They will stand humbly before all people, speaking with kindness. Just as they have been touched with the tenderness of God, tenderness will emerge from their lips. These are the ones whom God will use as His ambassadors in this hour, for they will be sent with one message to declare: “God is good, and His mercy endures forever!”
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 4 – Published 1/26/19
WHAT COMMUNION HATH LIGHT WITH DARKNESS?
Allow me to say, that according to God and the first amendment, a Christian has every right to not only believe whatever they feel is correct but to also express these ideas publicly. This is true with any other religious, social, or political group as the Lord gives every person the free-will to believe whatever they want. The new-age movement emphasizes the importance of religious tolerance and is constantly reminding the Christian of their need to accept and respect the views of everyone in the world. However, it seems the liberal one-world agenda should be reminded this attitude also applies to them. We are now seeing that only Christians are being held accountable to demonstrate tolerance toward what has been deemed as politically correct and socially accepted. When the Christian opposes the world they are immediately condemned as a poisonous, hate-filled resistance against the new-world-order. You would think that if the world can hold a sign that declares an adult has the right to kill their own children, a Christian has the right to hold a sign that says we absolutely believe they do not. However, this is not the way it is. When the evil masses grow large and become the majority, they overrule and are in control and this is what we are seeing in this hour. Evil is being allowed to flood the world only because God has given Satan a window of opportunity to roam the earth and to seek whom he may devour. I must include that when any nation violently demands their right to slaughter their own babies, to say the least, that nation is living in danger of God’s wrath. How much more can the God of creation take? How many more hours of mercy and long-suffering will he endure before he intervenes with the fury of his judgment? Can you sense the desperate urgency to repent and pray this hour? Are you listening to his instructions and preparing for what is to come?
Being a friend with someone includes being interested in what is important to them, accepting their thoughts, encouraging them, and respecting who they are and what they believe. So, are Christians called to be a close friend with those who oppose God? How can a Christian evangelize and witness to someone about the gospel of Christ and then compromise this absolute truth by joyfully accepting the views which are completely opposite to what we know is true? We cannot. Any type of idea or concept that is in direct opposition with God’s truth, (especially about who he is and the gospel of Christ) are to be considered as offensive to the Lord – and us. In this way of thinking, we are called to demonstrate his love and to pray for those around us but to never cooperate, agree with a lie, or concede to any type of false doctrine or blasphemy. Spiritual unity between brothers and sisters in the family of Jesus Christ is good, but there cannot be unity between God’s people and those who worship other gods, misinterpret scripture, those who are oppressed with evil spirits, or who practice heresy.
Birds of a feather flock together and when it comes to a bonding friendship, differences in opinions always result in being offended and attitudes of strife and resentment. Jesus mingled and had compassion on people throughout his ministry and loves everyone in the world now, but he has always strongly declared that he is the only way, the only truth, and the only light! There is a huge difference being friendly and being a friend and yes, it’s true, we are NOT to be best buddies with the world. If we join in and love the ways of the world we cannot love God. Listen to these next three verses as we can only have one master as Matthew 6:24 explains, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” I John 2:15 bluntly declares, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” And in James 4:4 we read, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Again, we are reminded that division is not good among brethren but there is an undeniable command for us to live in the light and stay away from the darkness. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not “entangled” again with the yoke of bondage.” It’s a dangerous deception to think that a strong devoted Christian can be popular and loved by the world. The world will only embrace us as long as we are enjoying and participating in their social lifestyles and political philosophies but lookout when we are put on the spot about what we believe. There will come a time when every Christian will be asked to state their convictions and worldviews and this is the big moment to either stand for God and be rejected or to compromise and become entangled in the sins of hypocrisy. A Christian trying to be nice and always smoothing everything over has become a slave to a compromising trade-off and a carnal settlement that has undermined the convicting, life-changing, soul-saving power of the blood of Jesus.
To endorse, agree, respect, or support an evil person or an atheist is wrong in the eyes of God and is nothing less than boldly encouraging and approving of the individual’s decision to spend an eternity in torment. I have mingled and been friendly with atheist and noticed how they project a dark spiritual presence that is dangerously deceiving. Satan is the father of lies and he leads his children by his spirit and the secret agenda of his dark kingdom is to recruit and distract everyone away from God. II Corinthians 6:14-18 is NOT an option but rather a direct order from our heavenly Father. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord (association) hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (non-believer)? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out (stay away) from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
We are to be cordial to everyone but to also discern and realize that a wicked heart is an enemy of God. Yes, we are in a deadly spiritual war against the forces of evil and are commanded to love everyone but it’s critical that we intercede for divine guidance and wisdom in order to know how to deal with them.
We cannot out-smart the world, over-power, or convince anyone to give their life to Jesus. We are simply messengers, instruments, and vessels to carry the good news of the gospel. We are to preach the reality of God’s love and use words if necessary. We are to spend much of our time praying because this is the most powerful demonstration of love we have. Since prayer and love are united together we can say with confidence that if we do not pray – we do not have love, and according to I Corinthians 13, if we do not have love, we are nothing more than a clanging and irritating noise. When we pray we release our faith and these petitions will set in motion the potential for a miracle! How many people do we know that needs the miracle of salvation? Who needs healing and deliverance? God is listening and when we pray, the Holy Spirit has the ability to convict a conscience and then Christ can open someone’s eyes and transform a life! How much are we to pray? How many miracles do we want to see?
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
PART 3 – Published 1/19/19
EXPOSING THE DECEPTION OF RELIGIOUS UNITY
I received a letter the other day from a young lady that was explaining her frustrations and disappointments with an outdated and unlearned society within the city she lives. She is educated, charismatic, and originally from a large metropolis who 5 years ago made a courageous career decision to relocate several hundred miles away into a more rural setting. She said she was an average religious person but was very limited in believing the Bible was actually God’s word. She believed in science because that was more solid proof about everything. The unexpected culture shock associated with conservative worldviews and traditional religious beliefs had taken a heavy toll on her mentally and emotionally and she was now resigning and heading back to her familiar and comfortable environment where her liberal ideas are respected and appreciated. Her complaints were centered against this smaller Bible-belt community who refused to embrace the modern direction the world is heading. Imagine that, a liberal thinker disagreeing with those who live according to what God has said.
As an aggressive personality in her politics and religious views, she was constantly running into situations that involved opposition, anger, disagreements, and resistance. She believes the rejection of her progressive thinking is simply the result of social and political ignorance along with a lack of higher education which nurtures a fear of the unknown and a stubborn refusal to have an open mind. She may have a point in some instances, but generally, this is becoming the norm when the younger generation and the older generation attempt to demonstrate tolerance. She was upset and disappointed because the old way of thinking was not willing to throw out their convictions just because someone like her said they are wrong. It is worth noting that she was oblivious to the fact that she also was not willing to consider their way of thinking which in this case is based on a literal Biblical perspective.
I realize that we cannot change anyone’s opinions, so I did not try to argue or beg her to believe that God’s word and Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. I sincerely shared that she had the free-will to believe whatever she wanted and my deeper concern with this scenario is the temptation for her to allow anger and resentment to seep into her soul. Unforgiveness can quietly slip through the back door of our conscience and cause separation between us and God because it is so subtle and deceptive. Whether we are a Christian or not, we can become so upset with people who do not agree with our views that we can become infected with hatred. Yes, we are disappointed, but we can release more miracle power praying than we can with arguing. So, how are Bible-believing Christians are expected to act toward those who are trying to replace Christian values with humanistic principals? The followers of Christ have now become a target of unwarranted hateful accusations and are facing decisions every moment, about when to stand and when to walk away. If Christians are quiet, they will be run over by the liberal masses and if they stand and fight, they are condemned as being filled with intolerance and discrimination. All Christians in today’s world that reveal their convictions are automatically persecuted and personally attacked with the intention of ruining their integrity. Since they are merely relaying what God has said, does this mean that God is also guilty of these allegations?
Let’s look closer as to why this young lady expressed her emotions against those who did not embrace her enthusiasm about other religions and political correctness. Her views are that ALL people deserved to be respected, accepted, and loved. OK, I’ll go along that God feels this way (to a certain point). I know we are to love people’s spirits and to hate their sin but this is a difficult tightrope to walk. Why? Because we cannot avoid offending them. You see, many people do not understand the complexity of interacting with those who do not worship God or embrace his truth. Christians are taught there is only one God, (the God of the Bible) and that every other religion is false and everyone who is trusting any other idea is being influenced by Satan. Just this fact alone is enough to create an extreme amount of tension and anger toward anyone that is not a Christian. How can a zealous Christian become close friends with someone whom the Bible refers to as an enemy without offending them? How can a Christian be excited when they hear a new mosque, a Buddha temple, or a Satanic church is being built down the street? Do you think Jesus and Ahab could have ever become close friends? Do you believe that Jesus could have worked peaceably together in politics with Pontius Pilate and King Herod?
The first thing that comes to a Christian’s mind when presented with the idea to be united with all religions is that Satan is going to draw others into this confusing deception and many more individuals are going to be persuaded into a poisonous lie. Knowing that we are judged for what we believe, does this sound like something where we want to bring them a pie, hug them, give them our blessings and tell them how much we appreciate their spiritual insights? As the religious world continues to promote the idea of unity among all worldviews, we must continue to continue to stand for spiritual purity and reverential fear unto God and his word. We have been called to pray for their spirit and ask God to open their eyes to HIS truth – however, this does not mean we are to join together with them and accept their views and tell them that God is pleased with what they believe. Jesus “mingled” with sinners and reached out to them in love but he never appreciated or respected their idols or their religions. He was demonstrating God’s love as an invitation to accept the “only way” to salvation.
Spiritual unity in God’s word is referring to his people who are born-again and a part of his family. It is not talking about all religions coming together as one mixture. This interpretation of scripture is not based on prejudice, it is clearly following God’s command for HIS church and HIS kingdom. Unity with the world’s religions is directly from Satan who intends to pollute and contaminate divine truth.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye (born-again Christians) are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” II Corinthians 6:14-18.
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 1/12/19 – PART 2
TRUTH IS NOT AN OPINION
When we think about how we build our personal worldviews, it is interesting to remember there is a difference between receiving wisdom from God and receiving it from man. When will we learn that it’s much better to receive information from HIS voice than from books, radio, television, newspapers, or our college professor? It may sound strange, but this also includes pastors and Bible teachers because each child of God must study for themselves in order to rightly divide and show themselves approved unto God. Sometimes teachers are wrong and we certainly do not want to become a blind person who follows another blind person. I believe we are accountable for what we believe as this will be a large part of our judgment. Since God’s word declares that “as a man thinks in his heart – so is he” we cannot overemphasize how important it is to KNOW the truth. We are what we believe.
Matthew chapter 7 gives a wonderful description about how we are all building our life on lies or truth. The Lord uses the analogy of building a house and explains how those who build on the sand will experience great loss and destruction. Those who build on the solid rock of God’s truth will have the foundation necessary to withstand the evil deception of the enemy. When we understand how important it is to receive our information straight from God, we can realize how dangerous it is to put our faith and trust in a person. It is sad and sobering to imagine how many people that have believed certain views that were wrong and these ideas could have very well cost them eternal life. Stop for a moment and think about the different political and religious philosophies that are in the world. There is only one God and He is the absolute truth. Everyone that opposes him is wrong and represents a lie.
Over the years I have listened to what unbelievers think and everyone is welcome to read my views. We would assume this would cause everyone to stand on the equal ground of acknowledging each other with a certain amount of respect and courtesy but that is hardly the case. Why? Because the lost will not consider a Biblical perspective and the remnant will not entertain ideas from a humanistic philosophy. Thus, the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” is more than just a cute rhyme. It means the lost world will band together and justify each other in their secular humanism, while God’s children will be drawn toward his light and will live within the holy covenant of his salvation. These differences are as far apart as the East is from the West. God’s people have been given a new spirit that is capable of communicating with him while the natural man lacks the ability to comprehend spiritual truth and operates only with his intellect. The secular system will argue this is overly dogmatic but this message is not an opinion. Christians are simply relaying HIS saving message to a lost and angry world.
“Jesus of Nazareth always comes asking disciples to follow him, not merely accept him, not merely believe in him, not merely worship him, but to follow him: one either follows Christ or one does not… We either make him Lord of all lords, or we deny him as Lord of any.” – Lee Camp
“The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven, but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.” – Dave Hunt
When we think about our path, we are grateful that God has provided his light to help us see where we are walking. We have his word that is filled with wisdom and illuminates our conscience so we can listen and hear his voice. We also have the Holy Spirit that has been given to comfort us and help lead us into God’s wisdom and understanding. Even with all of this help, I’m sure you will agree that at times we have a few potholes in our journey here and there that can make the road a little bumpy. This life was never intended to be perfect or without any problems. If every moment was enjoyable and we had rooms filled with gold, we would probably not have time to think about God or have a desperate need to hold his hand tightly. Whatever may happen, we will embrace him and trust him completely. I appreciate his blessings but I do not want so much “stuff” that I forget about his love and grace.
“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” – Charles Spurgeon
A LIGHT UNTO MY PATH
Published 1/5/19 – PART 1
WADING INTO DEEPER WATER
This is a brand new year and I hope this is a good year for all of us. We had a heart-breaking end to last year when we had to put our beloved China down. She was a brush-coat Sharpei and one of the smartest and loyal dogs we have ever had. So far in this first week, things have not been much better as we have been dealing with a serious personal setback with our finances. Yes, life has its share of ups and downs but in the end, we know that God loves us and will take care of us. I pray that with continuing these devotions, that God will continue to give us his wisdom and understanding. It is an honor to share these thoughts and I am grateful for his patience and mercy.
There are many subjects that are considered “deep water” which means that most of the time we end up talking about things we are really not qualified to discuss. What do you mean? I have the right to present my opinion just like everyone else. Yes, I know, but to be honest, the world is not really in need of more opinions. What the world needs is the truth of God! When it comes to the tsunami of thoughts and ideas, I have contemplated that very few people comprehend politics or religion (including myself) as it seems that worldviews are commonly constructed from bits and pieces of second-hand information and are as numerous as grains of sand on the beach. And similar to an iceberg, There is usually only a small amount of content is understood or while the other ninety percent of purpose and reason are hidden below the surface. Thus, things are not always the way they seem and to elaborate about what we do not know sadly only adds to the confusion for everyone. I pray that we can not only read and absorb more knowledge but that we will desire to demonstrate what we know.
I have been challenged to debates in my life even from my own family members but as I prayed about these situations I always felt the Lord saying this would cause more damage than good. I have never wanted politics or religious views to burn the bridges of my relationships because it never accomplishes anything. I enjoy writing about the Bible and the Christian life, but it is not my intention to stir strife or argue about spiritual matters. There are certain areas that I have written about which I feel confident that I have heard from the Lord, but to be honest, I have not really had the confidence to argue about politics or large portions of prophetic scripture for that matter because I have simply not been given the revelation of wisdom that is needed. I am reminded of the old saying, “It is better to be silent and thought to be a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” And of course, let us not forget James 1:19, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I want to always be reminded of the huge responsibility to represent God and only say what he wants me to say. As you know, this is very hard to do but I intend to keep focusing on Christ.
Whatever may come, we will obey his voice and stay focused on Jesus! Our spiritual path is meant for us to follow Him and I pray He will continue to give us His direction as we humble ourselves and agree to lay down our plans and ideas. Sometimes our path is confusing but the light of his love encourages us to trust Him even when we do not understand. God is aware of our circumstances and always has our best interest in mind. Faith is the evidence of things not seen so even when we have a lighted PATH, this does not always mean we can see clearly what is up ahead. The idea is to take one step at a time and hold tightly to His hand. Whatever happens this year, let us stay close to God and abide under the shadow of His wings. I hope this year brings spiritual peace and many blessings to you and your family.