About the Seasons of Life…And Avoiding the Convenient One

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. What’s your favorite season? Depending on who you are, and no matter what your seasonal preference is, you’d have to admit that each one has its own perks. Look at winter. Winter has Christmas! Yay! The children say to that (and many adults too, I’m sure). Ah springtime! Melting snow, nasty cold weather slowly disappearing, along with the blooming of flowers–readying themselves for warmer weather. Then there’s good ‘ole summer! Schools closed, vacation time, warm days at the beach, and the park. Can you beat all that? Finally, the only season with two names. Autumn brings the promise of color! Those summer green leaves transforming into bright oranges, yellows and shades of brown; all falling to the ground. And not to forget, the children go back to school! Yay again!
Each season also has its downside. And once again depending on who you are, it’s too cold in the winter, too rainy in the spring, too hot in the summer, and too many leaves to rake in the fall. It’s all a matter of preference, but the simple fact is seasons come and seasons go–and that will never change. Read the Lord’s words in the first book of the Bible: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). That’s the promise. As long as this earth remains, there will be seasons. I believe this truth; and I believe this principle can also be carried over into our spiritual lives. The fact is that our lives in the Lord also consist of seasons.

God says that there is a time and place for everything. This is not as much a theological truth as it is a practical truth. All seasons however, must be seen in their proper perspective. In addition to these seasons or times we experience, there are several other seasons we go through that the bible speaks of both specifically and not so specifically; yet I believe most have experienced many of these seasons for ourselves.

  • There are seasons of plenty
    Ex. Egypt’s seven years plenty (Gen.41:47-49)
  • There are seasons of drought
    Ex. Egypt’s seven years of famine (Gen.41:54)
  • There are seasons of dependence
    Ex. Elijah being fed by ravens (1Ki.17:6)
  • There are seasons of doubt
    Ex. Lord I believe: help thou my unbelief (Mk.9:24)
  • There are seasons on the mountain
    Ex. Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:20:40)
  • There are seasons in the valley
    Ex. Elijah running for his life (1Ki.19:3)
  • There are seasons of transition
    Ex. Abram moving on from Ur (Gen.12:1)

All of these seasons, both good and bad, play vital roles in our lives and help to shape us into the persons we are and will become. The psalmist stated, ‘It was good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes’ (Psa.119:71). Ultimately, all seasons serve a definite purpose and are in God’s sovereign control. Once again, the Word declares: ‘…all things work together for good to them that love God…’ (Ro.8:28), and also from Eccl.3:11: ‘…He hath made everything beautiful in His time…’

The list of Seasons can go on and on. A thing qualifies as a season if you remain there for a significant amount of time. But there is another season-it’s a season you want to avoid at all costs. It’s a season you don’t want to step into. Yet many, because they are so zoned in to making it happen for themselves, willfully enter in to this season by giving God a rain check; and with a friendly ‘don’t call us we’ll call you attitude, walk away from God’s best for them. They have entered into the convenient season.

What is the convenient season? A convenient season is a time of your own making. It is putting God on hold. It is time and life on your own terms. It is a season that finds you attempting to undermine and derail the plan of God for your life. It is the sinners’ or saints’ excuse when under conviction and refusing to surrender to God’s will and way. It is a refusal to say, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ Read the words of governor Felix to the Apostle Paul after being convicted by the Spirit of God to change his ways: “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts‬ ‭24:24-25). Notice that Felix trembled after hearing the powerful gospel. This discomfort gave him all the reason he needed to remove himself from Paul’s presence. What he didn’t realize was that he was actually attempting to distance himself from God’s presence.  The truth is that you can never unhear the Word of God after the Spirit of God has impressed it upon your heart and mind. Felix’s response shows us that in addition to placing himself into a convenient season, he also entered into:

  • A proud season…when I(v25)
  • A presumptuous season…I will(v25)
  • A selfish season…makes it
    all about you
  • A deceptive season…he listened to Satan’s lie what other lies will he tell him?
  • A declining season…Whooping Goldberg  had a line in the Oscar winning movie ‘The Color Purple’ that went like this: ‘…till you do right by me, everything you think about gonna fail!’

Though not precisely scriptural, the statement yet has an aura of truth around it and here it is: As long as an individual chooses to remain on the opposite side of the will of God, whatever it is that they do will be tainted-it will ultimately come to naught-at least for them. This is because it will have the stench of disobedience upon it. That thing may be good and right; but it is not good and right for that person because it’s not what the Lord told them to do. The convenient season says, ‘I’m in my place, I’m in my time–I need to complete me before I deal with with God.’

The convenient season in all cases are seasons of procrastination. In all cases they are seasons of avoiding the truth. It is the result of running from God. Runners from God have a language all their own. They say things like:

  • I’m not ready
  • It’s not my time
  • I will later…promise
  • What if this way is not the right way?
  • I have other things to do…let me go and bury my father first (Lu.9:59-60)

Avoiding the convenient season is as simple as saying, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Except saying it is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. We have to come to the end of ourselves by concluding that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what is best. God’s will is not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter priority. He must come first or I run the risk of following myself and not Him; and when I follow myself, ultimately I’m no different than the proverbial dog who chases his tail-getting itself nowhere.

So when faced with the choice to do or go God’s way, or your own…don’t settle for convenience. Avoid it at all costs. You’ll be glad you did.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Word To My Hyper-Holy Brethren:Caterpillars Can’t Fly

No, I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not angry at anyone. And I don’t for one second presume to think I know better or am better than anyone else-because I’m not better and I don’t know anything. I’m just a small voice in a small corner of the world, trying to fulfill the Great Commission. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about anything with the words that follow. But I’d like to address several important issues that have been scratching at my heart and mind lately. Indulge me if you please.

Ok. Let me lay down some ground rules. I am Pentecostal. No shame for me there. I would probably be described as being of the more ‘conservative’ brand; comparatively speaking-as opposed to those who are hyper or ultra Pentecostal. I am neither, but I am Pentecostal nonetheless. We’re the ones who speak in tongues. Some of us jump, shout, and wave our hands; we are quite the demonstrative ones. Some even run, spin around or wave their hands; and I hold no malice toward those who do those things–I do some of those things myself. But it must all be Spirit led and Spirit driven, and not flesh driven. Having said all that, I must say sadly, that as I see it, much of the bad doctrine that has permeated the church in recent years, has come from our camp (I speak also of the closely related Charismatics). It’s actually a shame to even speak of different ‘camps’–seeing that God does not recognize denominations anyway.

Do Pentecostals have the corner on spirituality? Of course not. Depending  on what church you attend, why is it that we Pentecostals sometimes spend so much time and effort trying to make everyone else just like we are? Let me tell you what happens sometimes, or rather what I have witnessed. In some churches there are ‘cliques’. These cliques sometimes call themselves ‘ministries’. Some of them, however, are quite ‘exclusive.’ To be a part, you basically have to do what they do and speak and believe what they do. If you don’t measure up, you become a piriah (an outcast), and you get treated as such (yes, I’ve seen it).

In some churches, tradition prevails over truth in some matters. Many people, especially young people, are made to feel as if they must ‘conform’. They are inadvertently pushed by well meaning, but overzealous parents and in some instances pastors, to be baptized, take communion, or even ‘preach’. I once heard a pastor tell a young person, ‘You’ve been coming to church long enough, why are you not baptized yet?’ Surely time spent in church cannot be the criteria for getting baptized and such, right? Am I missing something? Caterpillars cannot fly. Longevity has its place, but that alone is no substitute for salvation. Before baptism and the like can take place, a person must be saved. Encouraging individuals, especially youth, to do saved things, will not benefit them-if they’re not saved. As it pertains to preaching, the church is not the place to ‘hone’ your preaching skills. Young people don’t need to ‘learn’ how to preach. If the call of God has been placed on someone’s life to preach, He will make it known. The church is not the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. You may be thinking, ‘Who set you up as a judge, and how do you know who’s saved or not?’ What I will say is that God has given us discernment; the Spirit-led ability to know whether someone or something is of God or not. In our desire to see young people serve God, we must not attempt to ‘play God’ by placing them behind the pulpit to keep them on fire for God. If some of these are not saved in the first place, as stated previously, then there’s no fire anyway; putting them behind the sacred desk will do them no good, except possibly giving them a false sense of security, resulting in the mistaken idea that they must be a Christian; ‘After all, I preached!’, some may say to themselves. When will we learn that going and being in church is not the equivalent of being in Christ. The pulpit, as far as the preaching of the Word goes, is for those who have been called to it.

The following matters are not weighty issues at all. They do not affect one’s salvation in one way or another. I bring them up only as points of reference as they pertain to youth, or others affected by it. For instance, does the bible explicitly state that it is a sin for a woman to ‘straighten’ or ‘perm’ her hair? Weaves? No. Many young people in hyper-holy churches are told yes. How about braids? Or pants on women? Sleeveless blouses in God’s house anyone? Those who are part of the hyper-holy crowd will tell you that these things are evil, worldly, and just plain ungodly. Once again, I’m simply using these cases as examples. My aim is not engage in any lengthy debate. I’m only saying that for those who believe that these and many other such things are actually sinful, young people in particular are placed under pressure and highly scrutinized. The older ‘saints’, in an effort to keep them and the church ‘holy’, are actually turning out ‘clones’, i.e., younger versions of themselves. Is this what we want? Listen to what Jesus said: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mat.23:15). I’m not calling anyone a child of hell, but what I am saying is that we should avoid adopting a ‘pharisaical’ mindset. Should we not want folk to be like Jesus, and not like ourselves? With all of our holier than thou, pre-conceived, ‘I think that’s what Jesus would’ve done’ attitudes? Half the things folk do in church, in His name, He never sanctioned anyway!

When it comes to matters of praise, worship, the moving of the Spirit of God and prayer, how is pressure placed upon the young? First of all, church, i.e., the worship service, is not a circus. The Spirit of God can have His way without it being a free for all. Anything should not go in God’s house. The Holy Spirit is the moderator of worship services-not we ourselves. Some of the things I’ve seen over the course of many years in several places, amount to one thing–flesh. Scripture tells us in 1 Jonn 4:1, that we should test the spirits, to see whether they are of God or not. He’s telling us here not to be deceived; everything that looks of God is not of God. So, when some well meaning saint places their hands on someone to pray for them, and the immediate response of the one being prayed for is a shake, and a shimmy, and a shout, and the same response comes from the next one, and the next one, and the next one, etc.; and all of the responses are exactly alike in word and motion–then I know that something is rotten in Denmark! No rocket science is needed to figure out that something’s not right.

Mimicking has become an art in many Pentecostal churches. As I stated at the outset, I’m Pentecostal myself. We’re loud. We express ourselves. This is what we do. However, we all cannot do the very same thing, in the very same way, at the very same time all of the time. It’s not a spiritual phenomenon, but it is a fleshly one.What I believe has happened in some places is that folk have simply, and maybe unintentionally picked up one another’s behavior, and made it their own. When this happens they are not allowing the Spirit of God to work uniquely with them, and settle for ‘conforming’ to what everyone else does. This in turn causes the Spirit of God to step back because not only is He grieved, but He is quenched now that the flesh has come in. Scripture plainly states: ‘…So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ (Romans 8:8). Young people, sometimes because they don’t know any better, or because they just want to be a part, unfortunately fall into this terrible behavior of just doing; copying and mimicking what the older ones do; and it’s not good, and it’s not right. Caterpillars cannot fly.

As far as the scripture goes, a wrongly divided word will do untold damage to those who hear it. When preachers add restrictions and read things into scripture that are not there, they place invisible shackles upon those under the sound of that word. For the young, many of them carry those chains with them into adulthood, with varying degrees of misery. As they grow, many begin to question certain restrictions that have been placed on them because they don’t find proof of these restrictions in the Word for themselves. This is because these restrictions do not exist! Rather, they are the unfortunate misinterpretations of those who have treaded down legalism’s path. Legalism is a dangerous monster and it’s victims are many. Young people who have chosen to opt out of church due to all they have seen, heard and experienced. For each one who has opted out, several others have thought about it or are presently thinking about it. A young lady told me years ago that she couldn’t wait until she turned eighteen, because then she was going to leave home, and leave church, due to the fact that she had had enough. All I know is, from that point, I began seeing her less and less-until I didn’t see her anymore.

Let me close by saying that we are not perfect. This should be obvious. But we must take pains to get the Word right. If not we run the risk of pushing people out rather bringing them in. The Word of God is described as a hammer; (Jeremiah 23:29), but we must not turn it into a spiked club. The Word is a sword; (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) but we must refrain from using it as a dagger. Let’s draw them to the water of life that they may drink-freely. We must not impose, we must not force, assume or take things for granted. We need to draw young people and everyone else to the living water, but we cannot make them drink. It’s the simple presentation of the gospel-the message of the Cross, preached under in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit that will change lives. Anything more, or anything less, will not produce the desired results. Only saved people should do ‘saved’ things. Caterpillars can’t fly; and they shouldn’t try-not until they’ve been transformed into butterflies. And then the sky is the limit.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

The Missing Ingredient

Imagine your favorite food. You taste, and it’s just not right; something is missing. You go and get that one ingredient that will make it taste the way it should. Once you add just enough of what was missing, you can eat on to your heart’s delight.

There are two types of people in every congregation: those who profit from the Word preached–and those who don’t. There always seems to be a case of us or them. Two students, same teacher; one passes and one fails–us and them. Consider also
two siblings with the same parents. Each child goes in two opposite directions in life–once again a case of us and them. In every group, some seem to go up and others seem to go down; some move forward in life, and some go backward; some do well and others not so well. Then there’s our case of the two people in the same congregation. Both under the same preacher, hearing the same gospel and only one of them profit from that word being preached–us and them.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb.4:1-2

This word preached that proved to be unprofitable to the hearer is not the fault of the Word. The Word of God has the power to pull down strongholds. The problem here is that the Word which was heard was not mixed with faith. The hearer simply did not believe. As it was then, so it is now.

The Choice of Unbelief
Do not fail to enter into His rest because you fail to believe–unbelief is the crux of the matter:
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭

The phrase ‘harden not your hearts’, obviously indicates personal choice. This was for the Israelites, their unfortunate response upon hearing the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of direction; why do we run from it? It is the voice of peace; why do we ignore it? There is a price to pay for not trusting His voice, as they would find out. The price we pay is no less. No, we don’t just die away as many of them did. It is a slow death to void oneself of His help. To put oneself at odds with the One that we will give an account to is a foolish thing. To choose not to believe what He has spoken, has to be the highest form of treason; choosing our way over His.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:‬19

The Character of Unbelief
Unbelief is, at its root, rebellion. It is both a hardening of the heart and a departure from the living God.

“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation…”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:8‬a

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:12‬

We are told here that unbelief is akin to evil which is a departure from the Lord. This makes unbelief a very serious matter.

“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭

The Chemistry of Unbelief
“…but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it”Heb.4:12b
Several things cannot be mixed the Word. You cannot mix worry with the Word and you cannot mix doubt with the Word. Worry and doubt are cut from the same mold, and are actually the opposite of faith. Another thing that cannot be mixed with faith is apathy. Apathy naturally says, ‘I don’t care.’ The only thing that can be mixed with the Word is faith.

Two Impossible Things
First, it impossible to live the Christian life in your own strength. Most will deny that they do this. However, when individuals continue to ‘work’ at being a Christian and trying harder by doing more in an effort to keep from sinning, then living through your own strength is what is taking place. Second, it is impossible for someone who is not a Christian to live the Christian life at all–and don’t say ‘Who would ever do something like that?’, because it happens every day and every Sunday in churches all over the city, country and world–individuals caught up in church life. This is commonly called religion and uncommonly called churchianity.

The Consequence of Unbelief
Old and young alike, show up to church to have a good time, or to fulfill some duty, or even to make some connection–business or otherwise. Unfortunately, some are so blinded, deceived and far away from God, due to a false sense of security, and an over abundance of self-righteousness, they just don’t get it. No matter how much they hear, they don’t understand. They are the ones that scripture says are ‘ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2Ti.3:7). This is truly a sad state of life; to be in the right place to hear the truth, yet not able to receive it and walk in it.

I believe there are several things we can do to, in a sense, ‘protect’ our faith. These things themselves are accomplished by keeping Christ at the center of all we do by faith.

  • Do not allow the difficulties of your present circumstance overshadow the reality of God’s truth. All God’s promises concerning our well being in times of trouble, must be received.
  • Don’t be a hearer of the Word and not a doer; this is deception – (Ja.1:22)…thinking that because you have heard and have put yourself in a position to hear, that this amounts to righteousness on your part, or that God is somehow pleased.
  • Don’t be a learner and not a believer – 2Ti.3:7 (one who does not trust or have faith); this is also deception. Learning in this way only makes you acquainted with facts.Facts are good; but they are not enough. Remember, truth that does not transform, is truth that has not been properly received.

Without faith, hearing and learning become exercises in futility. Not entering into rest in the Lord due to a refusal to believe, actually causes one to short circuit and sabotage ones’ own destiny.

The Cure for Unbelief
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

The cure for unbelief is faith! It is shown by coming boldly, that is, coming in confidence and assurance, to receive what is needed, in this case, rest. This must be done by faith because:
“…without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Once we enter in to His rest by faith, great things will begin to unfold.

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Need some rest? Add some faith!

Thats the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

The Lights In The Windows

windowsatnight

My former pastor, Jack A.SanFilippo, was a man among men. It was through his preaching that I was introduced to Jesus. As a teen, on several occasions after evening services, he would drive me home. I can still hear him, as on more than one occasion he would say to me: ‘Michael, do you see all these buildings? Do you see all those lights in the windows? I would answer, ‘Yes,’ and would say, ‘Each light represents a soul; someone who is lost and needs Jesus.’ The profoundness of the statement escaped me then, but I’ve understood it now for many years. His words may seem a bit extreme to some, but the fact is, he associated each light with a soul; a potentially lost soul. His statement was an expression of the burden that he had for souls. I’ve never known anyone since then who had the passion for the lost that he had. He would cry, pray, and even walk the streets to reach out to the lost. It was through his example, I began to learn the value of a lost soul. No one is to be thrown away. No one is a hopeless case. Though he went to be with the Lord over thirty years ago, I have tried to keep his example and his words about ‘the lights in the windows’ in my heart every day.

Jesus, first and foremost, had a burden for the lost. We see this truth spoken by the Lord himself:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

When we speak of ‘the lost’, it is sort of an in house phrase. It is a phrase sprinkled throughout the New Testament used to identify those who are not saved. People are lost because they have lost their way. This is the universal condition of those who are without Christ. Here’s what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians about the fact of being lost:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12‭-‬13

It is an unfortunate condition because most who are lost, don’t see themselves in this way. Some may even be offended at being described in this manner. Aliens? Without hope and without God? Far off? No way! Most will tell you that they know who they are, where they are, and where they are going. Of course there will be exceptions. These see their lives as sort of a wandering maze, going from one thing to another and not quite knowing what it’s all about. They probably wouldn’t tell you, but they are searching, but have no idea what they are seeking for. They go from job to job, weekend to weekend, party to party, club to club–even relationship to relationship looking for that elusive peace and satisfaction. Oh, they do manage to find occasional happiness and a pseudo-peace that temporarily masks their need, but nothing quite gives them the peace they seek, because like sin, pleasure is but for a moment.

Why did Jesus have this burden for the lost? It was because He knew and understood several things. First, take a look at this verse:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:18

As we have seen in Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. Here they are. They are described by Jesus in no uncertain terms. So concerning the lost, Jesus understood that:

They were BLIND
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:4

Satan and this world system of which he controls has effectively blinded the very minds of the lost, causing them not to see or understand their dangerous condition.

They were in BONDAGE
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
2 Timothy 2:26

This blindness keeps them in bondage to the enemy. He has managed to both trap them and enslave them-because he could. The lost have no personal power over him.

They were in DARKNESS
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:19
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18

This is part of the lost condition; blindness implies darkness, and for the lost, it is preferable. This is because the lost are under the dominion of Satan.

They were in DANGER
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

This is the culmination of blindness, bondage, and darkness–condemanation. The lost in this condition. Daily, they are on the precipice of destruction, one heartbeat away from an eternity without the Lord. Yes, the lost are in great danger.

In light of these things, what should the Christian’s response be to the lost? Our response, I believe, should the same as the Lord’s. We should have a burden for the lost. A burden that causes us to remember the most important part of men and women. The soul. Until the soul is brought into union with Christ, that person will wander; that life will be incomplete. A great old chorus says it all:

Souls are crying, men are dying,
Won’t you lead them to the Cross?
Go and find them, Please help to win them
Win the lost at any cost!

Win the lost at any cost–are you doing your part?

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

The Truth The Devil Just Can’t Handle

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)

The devil is a deceiver. His name says it all. Here in our verse the phrase ‘he speaketh of his own’, means that he speaks from his character. He is a liar; he lives in untruth. It is what and who he is. Deception flows from his pores, so to speak. He lives to deceive and above all, and most dangerous of all, he himself is deceived. He thinks he will win. He’s seen the last page of the book, which spells out his doom and his demise, yet he still believes he can change it all. Somehow, he believes he can defy what has already been declared and decreed by the finger of God through the Holy Ghost. It is because of this arrogant and twisted self-deception, that there are several things that he simply cannot accept, or handle. I believe that these are the things that drive him to destroy people; that fuel his blind, yet intelligent hatred toward humanity and the true Christian in particular because it is we who proudly carry the name of the One who defeated him at the cross. So,  first of all,  here is truth number one that the devil just can’t handle–

The fact that he himself is not God
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa.14:13-14)

These verses are tagged simply as Satan’s 5 ‘I wills’. These five statements spell out his wish list, his bucket list, if you will, with the last one being his ultimate goal; what he’s wanted almost from the start. Having said that, there are three titles ascribed to Satan that I’d like to bring to your attention. First, scripture states that Satan is the ‘god of this age’ (2 Cor.4:4). Secondly, in John 12:31, he is spoken of as ‘the prince of this world’. Finally, in Eph.2:2, he is called ‘the prince of the power of the air’. With all of these grandiose titles–and I’m sure he appreciates and embraces them all, it’s still not enough for him. He wants to be God himself. He would love to dethrone God if he could, but he can’t, so let’s move on. The second thing that the devil just can’t handle is–

The fact that his beauty was not enough to get him what he wanted
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isa.14:11-12)
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone wasthy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so:thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezekiel.28:13-15,17)

Look at all Lucifer had going for him! He was given power, beauty, wisdom, and even an anointing! Yet he forfeited it all because eventually, he came to believe that all of this merited him equal status with God. But of course, this would not be the case. This is a truth he just can’t handle.

Pride is a serious matter.  If it was able to bring an angel of God down, then what do you think it can do to us, who are created a little lower than they were? God is absolutely repelled by pride because it was the very thing that instigated this thing we call sin. The bible states emphatically that, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). Pride is also actually first in a list of seven things that are an abomination to Him.

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Prov.6:16-19)

Thirdly, I believe the devil just can’t handle–

The fact that he can’t do exactly what he wants to do
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12)
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2:6)
I believe it rankles Satan to no end that he cannot really do what he wants, when he wants. We see here his proposals to God, as to what he wanted to do, and we see Gods’ response as to what he actually could and could not do. Do you ever wonder sometimes, why you are even still here, when you have such an enemy as Satan who wants and is willing to destroy you? Why doesn’t he just do it? It’s because he can’t. God has drawn a line in the sand, and the devil won’t–can’t cross it.  If he hasn’t been given permission to do a thing, then he just can’t do it. Oh sure he has been given some power along with some rope, and he does manage to ruin,destroy, and blind the minds of those who do not serve him, but he does not have a free hand. All he does and is allowed to do falls under the sovereign and watchful eye of his creator.

Next, we see that the devil just can’t handle–

The fact that he doesn’t get the worship he craves
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Mat.4:9-10)
This certainly must be classified as desperation at its peak. Satan is literally asking Jesus to worship him! At the same time though, his request has a two-fold purpose. First, he obviously  wants to be worshipped for his own twisted reasons.  Remember, he wants to be God, so he naturally desires the worship that goes along with it. Second, and actually more importantly, if he could get Jesus to sin, he would have effectively ruined God’s plan of redemption for humanity. This of course, he was unable to do.

The last two truths that the devil can’t handle probably stick in his craw more than all the rest, because they have to do with Christ and His people. The first being–

The fact that the blood of Jesus sets men free
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev.12:11)
Because he was unable to thwart God’s plan of redemption, he cannot handle the truth that Jesus’ blood that was spilled on the cross, still has the power to save, heal and deliver from sin. Satan’s plan backfired; blew up fight in his face. You see, the very thing that the devil wanted to happen, that is, Christ dead and out of the way, was the very thing that God needed to happen. No, I am not saying that we owe a debt of gratitude to the devil for inflaming Jesus’ foes with hatred enough to have him crucified. But what I am saying is that God uses the enemy at times to fulfill His purposes. The fact is,  Jesus came to die, only the devil didn’t know it. This is how he would go about destroying the works of the devil. WhAnd I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. When we read Joseph’s words in Genesis, we see a principle that God lays out in scripture, namely that God is able to take what looks bad, what is bad, and cause it work for His purposes. Joseph said, ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive’ (Gen.50:20). The things that make us scratch our heads and say, ‘Why?’, are the very things that God is able to use for our good. This is what happened at the cross. It certainly looked bad, at least for three days. But joy came on Sunday morning! That’s the kind of God that we serve! His blood still sets people free–and the devil hates the blood.

Because Christ did die on the cross, something else fantastic happened, and it’s the final truth that devil really can’t handle. It is–

The fact that he has no power over the child of God
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col.2:13-15)
Here we have the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’, the ‘coup de grace’, the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.  These are some of the most powerful and overlooked passages in the bible.  They speak to the nature and enormity of the defeat that Satan suffered at the cross. It was both public and humiliating and he’s been trying to recover from it ever since, to no avail. He still stands powerless before the ‘cross wise’ child of God. When we understand that Satan was disarmed at the cross, having his power over us snatched away, we can better appreciate the victory that was purchased for us there. Christ’s death on the cross secured a perpetual victory for all who trust in Him, and an enduring and most devastating defeat for the devil. He fell there, and he will never get up because he was crushed.  And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen.3:15). 

So there you have it. Prophecy was fulfilled, and truth came to pass–just like God said it would.  And oh don’t you know that the devil just can’t handle the truth!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Are You Paying Attention?

PAY ATTENTION

We live in fast paced world. Everything and everyone is on the move, and everyone seems to be busy doing something, and who’s to say what’s being done is not important? But with all the things there are to do, who has the time? With things pulling you in every direction, and everyone wanting a piece of you, what’s important? What is worthy of your valuable time? What do you pass off, and what do you pay attention to? Because as should be obvious, we do need to pay attention to what’s going on around us.

When we look at it from a spiritual perspective, it all becomes even more important to pay attention. Scripture is full of admonitions to ‘take heed’, which means not just to pay attention, but to pay careful attention. Both Old and New Testaments speak at length about this often looked over discipline. We read in Deuteronomy 4:9:

  • Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life…

And then in Hebrews 2:1:

  • Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Whether you are a babe in Christ, or have been living for the Lord for any number of years, paying careful attention to our walk should not be underestimated.

One of the reasons why so many Christians struggle, is because they live loose, slipshod, and raggedy Christian lives. What I mean by all that is that they live on a ‘whatever sounds right is right’ mentality. A little bit from here, and a little bit from there; a little dab of this and a little dab of that. When it comes to their daily walk, and trying to make practical application of these ‘spiritual tidbits’, the struggle ensues, because what it all amounts to  is what resembles a patchwork of belief systems, pulled in from different places to make a whole with no solidity and no root; just a runny doctrinal mess. It needs to be understood that an improper doctrinal foundation will only lead to trouble down the line. For this reason, and several others we will explore, we need to pay careful attention. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COVENANTS & COMPANIONS

  • Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: Exodus 34:12

This speaks of our relationship with the world. The Lord is saying that we should not make, or have any close, intimate alliances with the world. We cannot ‘sleep with the enemy’, so to speak. Here’s how the New Testament breaks it down:

  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

The Israelites were prone to backsliding; they were easily beset by the sin of compromise. The danger lied in becoming  too closely entangled with the people and their ways and allowing those ways to become their own. This challenge is also ours: to be in the world, and remain unspotted from the world. I don’t believe any of us do it to any perfection because as one preacher puts it, ‘the clinging vines of the fall’ are not easily broken. However, who you surround yourself with and who you allow into your space  matters. We need to pay careful attention to our covenants and our companions. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE COMPASS OF OUR HEART

  • Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16

The Lord says that we are to pay careful attention to our hearts, because simply put, as the heart goes, so goes the life. King Solomon put it this way:

  • Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that,

  • The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Wherever and whatever our hearts are drawn to, will be the place where our affection lies. Jesus himself said:

  • For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21

All this means that we need to pay careful attention to our heart’s trajectory. Where does it lean? In what direction does it constantly point you toward? Which way do you find yourself turning? If we do not get a handle on this, we will slowly find ourselves turning aside, running to, and embracing those things which can only bring us back into bondage. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CARES OF THIS LIFE

  • And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Luke 21:34

When there’s too much going on in our lives and around us, our minds and hearts can become dulled, and numbed to it all. Once again, the heart is referenced as we’re told to pay careful attention to our hearts (which can be translated, ‘mind’ here), so it doesn’t become weighed and bogged down with,  ‘stuff.’ It is not just our alliances that ought to be selective, but also our activities. We may not have issues with partying or drunkenness, as spoken in this verse, but we all have cares in this life. These are the things that cause us to take our eyes off what is most important. Jesus said that the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life will choke the Word out of our lives and make us unfruitful (Lu.8:14). Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO  PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COMMUNICATION

First, we need to pay careful attention how we communicate the Word to others:

  • And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth? Numbers 23:12

We all feel we have something important to say, and what we have to say is important, except when what is being said clashes with His Word. That’s when my words are no longer important. His word rules.
When speaking, relating, explaining or proclaiming the Word of God, we must be careful to speak what the Lord has spoken. In our verse, Balaam speaks this way because he had already proven himself to be willing to tickle the people’s ears for a price, and God found it necessary to chastise him. We must never make the mistake of muzzling, softening, changing, adding or subtracting anything that God has spoken or has done.

Secondly, we must pay careful attention how the Word is communicated to us:

  • And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15

When I say ‘how’ the Word is communicated here, I don’t mean the manner in which it is done, but rather the content of what is spoken. Is it truth? Does it line up with the Word of God? It’s important to note also that scripture usually uses the word ‘leaven’ to illustrate sin. Here it means ‘doctrine’ or ‘teaching.’ Jesus says to pay careful attention to, and be on guard for the teachings of two groups: the Pharisees and the Herods.

The leaven of the Pharisees can be defined as, ‘the hypocrisy and religious traditions that overturn and set aside God’s righteous commands, and both invalidate and make of no effect God’s Word and God’s will.’ The leaven of Herod can be similarly regarded as, ‘the spirit of secularism and worldliness, along with the attending immortality and corruptness that accompanies them.’

We have to pay careful attention as to who we allow to speak into our lives. With the myriad of voices around us claiming to have a ‘word from the Lord’ we must be very selective. New believers need especially to arm and equip themselves with basic foundational teaching. But what is right? Who is right? When it comes to doctrine, everything that glitters is not gold. Much of the church’s teaching nowadays can be classified as ‘fool’s gold.’ It looks right, it sounds right, but if I may use the vernacular–it ain’t right. The key is not accepting views of those who preach human ideas, unbiblical traditions, or a secular humanistic type of gospel.

  • Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

Once again the admonition is to be on guard. Receiving and accepting this type of teaching will bring weakness to the church in general and to your personal walk with the Lord. False teaching, properly labeled, ‘doctrines of demons’ in scripture, will always seek to drive a wedge between the Christian and truth. Are you paying attention?

FINALLY, WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CROSS

  • How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Hebrews 2:3

This great savation is all about the Cross. It is the Cross that saves us, it is the Cross that sanctifies us, and it will be the Cross that keeps us.

  • Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

The Cross is the power of God, because it was there, at the Cross, that Satan was defeated, and remains defeated. If we neglect and overlook the Cross, we do ourselves great harm. We must embrace it and keep it at the center of all we do, because it is the center of who we are. Are you paying attention?

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Authentic Worship

AuthenticWorship_ban1

Worship. Underrated and undervalued. How does it happen? Can anyone engage in it? Is there a wrong way to do it? One thing is for certain: worship needs to be real. Authentic.

However, before entering into a larger discussion concerning our topic, I’d like to first offer an explanation of terms. Those two terms are: 1) Praise and, 2) Worship

I believe sometimes we make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably. However they are not the same. While there may be elements of each within both of them, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

There are several words for praise in the bible, and without getting bogged down in the original languages, suffice it to say that the definitions range from blessing and thanking Him with our mouth, to lifting and spreading the hands to bowing the knee, or even dancing. Having said that, let’s take a look at several scriptures.
Psa.33:2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
Psa.149:1 Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
Heb.13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

According to these scriptures, praise can consist of song, music, or words, and should be done consistently, even when it is a sacrifice.
Depending on which version of the bible you use, where the word praise is seen in the KJV, you may read ‘rejoice’, ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘declare’, among others. These words are all reflections of what praise is.

Here’s one more great verse concerning the power of praise:

2 Chr.20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
This is a great truth! When we praise, it not only serves to fend off the enemy, but also enables us to walk in His power and protection. There is victory through praise!

Worship, on the other hand is defined as, ‘to make obeisance, do reverence to; to serve, or give homage.’
Take a look at these verses:
1 Chr.16:29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Psa.95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
Psa.96:9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

As we see in these verses and in so many others, worship is not necessarily singing and such (though of course it can be), but it is more of an action taken in acknowledging the Lord in who He is.
Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring Him. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work or our giving. We even serve others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our lives should be an act of worship.
The difference between praise and worship can be stated this way: praise is about what God has done; but worship is about who God is.

This subject is much to exhaustive to be treated here, and I am by no means an expert–but I am a participator. Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on this important matter.

So how do I worship God authentically?
I’m going to make a startling statement. Anyone can praise. Anyone can shout, dance, or lift their hands. Praise can also be fickle. To be fickle is to constantly change loyalties or affections.  At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the praises went up, and the garments went down. There were no doubt genuine praisers in the crowd. But among them were many who would shout, less than a week later, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ This is not meant in any way to demean praise, and place it on a par below worship. Both worship and praise are absolutely essential elements of every Christian’s life, and both need to be authentic. But because of the nature of worship, it being a way of life, authentic worship can only flow from authentic people of God.

Jo.4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

According to this pivotal verse, God is not seeking authentic worship; He is seeking authentic worshipers–if God gets this, He will get the other.

What does it take to be an authentic worshiper who offers authentic worship? Several things must be in place:

Authentic worship is dependent upon authentic relationship
As stated earlier, authentic relationship cannot happen apart from salvation. I must know Him, serve Him, and appreciate His goodness in order to worship Him.
Authentic worship must be in response to God’s awesomeness
When I am confronted with God’s greatness, I am filled a desire to honor Him. Worship has to with the worth of its object. Worship is ‘worth’ship. He is worthy!

Rev.4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Psa.145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
One version translates a portion of this verse as: ‘and most worthy to be praised’

Authentic worship should have the heart as its source
Mat.15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (also Isa.29:13)
Worshipping the Lord with our heart is synonymous with worshipping Him ‘in Spirit’

Authentic worship must be transparent
We must come to Him as we are, not trying to be who we’re not. In John 4, the woman at the well was never going to enter into proper worship of God until she came clean about who she was.

The Binding Tie

The final thing that ties all this together is the fact that worship is sacrifice. Read these crowning words from scripture:

Rom.12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Rom.12:1 (Expanded Bible) So [Therefore] brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I ·beg [urge; appeal to] you to offer your ·lives [selves; L bodies] as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be ·only for God [holy] and pleasing to him, which is the ·spiritual [or authentic; true; or appropriate; fitting; or rational; reasonable] way for you to worship.
This verse makes it plain that authentic worship is to be:

An offering of ourselves
This statement lines up with Jo.4:24. It states that we are to worship ‘in spirit’. This means that we are to worship God with all that we have: mind, body, soul and spirit.
Exclusive to God
Only God is deserving of and is worthy of this type of worship.
Isa.42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
God does not share His glory with another, and neither should we.
Pleasing to God
Our main goal as Christians, as it pertains to God, is to please Him. This means obedience. Jesus said ‘…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’
When it comes to authentic worship, you cannot be a member of the ‘eighteen inch club’. Eighteen inches is the approximate distance between the brain and the heart. To worship Him authentically, I must not just know Him: I must know Him. Listen to David’s heartfelt cry:

Psa.27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
Psa.27:4 (Amplified Version) One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

Is this where I am? To please Him, to dwell in His presence and simply gaze upon the greatness of who he is? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the attitude of authentic worship. We all fall short because we are all still wrapped in this flesh; yet God sees graciously sees our hearts. Even now, let us begin to enter in to his presence by lifting up holy hands. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Ti.2:8)

Bye Bye Mr. Flesh

Grabbed Frame 101 (2)

A short open letter to the flesh based on selected scriptures from Romans Chapter 8.

Dear Mr. Flesh,

How are you? Not well I presume. You’ve probably been feeling a bit lonely of late, so I wanted to write a letter to you to let you know where we stand. Do not think that I am not aware that you are lurking underneath it all. I know you want things your way, but I have a new Master now. I need to let you know that I don’t owe you anything and that I will not give you the pleasure of sitting on the throne of my life. I have learned that when I allow you to be in control, I do not please my new Master. If I would have let you remain in control, you would have killed me. As it is now, because of my new Master, I have life and I have peace. I’ve also come to know that because of my new Master, I no longer entertain guilt or shame. When you were in control, I would always come away feeling that way. It’s all because of my new life. You see, the Spirit of my Master lives in me. I know how that sounds, but it’s true, and as long as I keep in step with Him and not you, I’m free.

I’ve spent and wasted so much time trying to measure up by keeping law. The ‘rules’ some might call them. The problem was that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t pull it off with any satisfaction. It didn’t matter if I prayed harder, or louder, or even read my bible more. Everything I did led to a dead end because it was part of the problem. I was putting my faith in the doing those things, rather than my Master. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with those things. It’s just that I made a law out them. You never liked when I did those things anyway. Doing those things could never work and it was all because of you. I hate to be so blunt, but you’re weak. I didn’t know that I could never be free by living that way; but I was certainly trying. I’m under a new law now, so to speak, all made possible by my Master–and make no mistake—things are different now. I am definitely not perfect, but I’m free. I want that to be clear; I’m FREE.

I’m sorry. I didn’t tell you my Master’s name. His name is Jesus Christ. He’s the one responsible for this new change in me. He has made me (and I don’t apologize for being redundant), free. Truly free. The struggle is over. Bye bye Mr. Flesh. If I see you again, it’ll be too soon.

No longer in you, but in Christ,
A Set free Child of God

Rom.8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Cutting It Straight

NEWSHOWLOGO 145Excuse me as I wax blissfully about one of my loves…

Oh the joy of studying the bible! There is nothing like having a pile of commentaries and dictionaries stacked up on my desk just to go over a passage! The pure joy of plumbing the depths of New Testament Greek just to understand one word! The utter feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly what you have to do when you get home-STUDY! Yes!

My words may seem sarcastic to some, but it should be apparent that I really love studying the bible! It is my hobby and my pastime, if I may describe it as such. Most and more important than all that, it’s my calling. It is what God has given and gifted me to do for Him as a contribution to His church. I teach, and if I teach for Him, it must be right.     My approach, my preparation, my perseverance, and my presentation must be proper.

Bible reading and especially bible study are obvious necessities of the Christian life. Along with prayer, they are commonly known as spiritual ‘disciplines’. They’re called disciplines because they don’t come naturally to us. We will do them and do them to a greater degree as we surrender ourselves to the Spirit of God. Without bible reading we will not know fully what the Lord wants to communicate to us, and without bible study, we will remain in a state of spiritual infancy. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12).

As I study the Word, first my approach must be right. I must believe that it is His Word and not my own. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6). I must be careful not to insert any of  my own bias into it. I must not force a meaning into it that is not there. When this is done, it plants the ungodly seeds of false doctrine.

When it comes to bible study, the scripture we love to tout the most, and rightfully so, is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Having said that, it is important to note that the word ‘study’ in this verse (in the original Greek), actually has no direct reference to reading or studying as we understand it. It is from a verb that means ‘to make haste’, ‘to be zealous or eager’, or ‘to make every effort.’ So what is it that we are supposed to be eager and making every effort to do? We are to be presenting or showing ourselves as approved unto God. But how? Stay with me.

Secondly, my preparation to study the Word must begin with prayer. Asking the Lord to quicken His Word in the mind and heart and remove any obstacle so that they are ready to receive from Him. The fact that the Holy Spirit here uses the word ‘workman’ here, indicates that I am a laborer, and that the business of being approved unto God will not be easy. Satan will do all he is able to do to sidetrack and derail our faith. This is why we must keep our eyes on Christ and His cross, knowing that the battle was already won there. That leads directly into the third point. Perseverance will only happen on my part as I continue to rest my faith in Christ and all He accomplished on the cross. Anything less weakens me and pulls me away from Him.

Finally, there is the presentation of the Word. Approval also has to do with a proper handling of the Word. The phrase ‘rightly divide’ is one word in Greek and it means ‘to cut in a straight line.’ As I prepare to teach or preach, I am to be honest in my handling of it. The Word must be taught and preached in a straightforward manner, being careful not to tickle any ears in the process. In other words, as a minister of the Word, I must resist the temptation to tell people what they want to hear; which will probably make them feel good. Rather, I should speak exactly what the bible says, mincing no words. It should be understood that the Word does not always bring comfort as we know it. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read among other things, that scripture is useful for reproof, which has the idea of bringing conviction, and also for correction; two things that we need from time to time as we traverse this life in the Lord.

As it pertains to the Word, when I approach, prepare, persevere and present the Word with these things in mind, and make every effort to do so, I will know that I have been approved unto God; maybe not unto man, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to the Word, cut it straight–and no tickling!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.