Sardis:The Zombie Church

First, let me state at the outset that I believe in the Church. I believe in it’s presence, it’s purpose and it’s power. Established by the Lord Jesus Christ, I also believe that it continues to grow and I am sure that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mat.16:18). This being said, it must be told that the present state of the Church is not good.

Having said that, it is important to note what the church is. The word church is properly defined biblically as, ‘a called out company or assembly’. The word is used in three different ways:

1. the local assembly – i.e., the gathering (‘…the church that is in her house’ Col.4:15)
2. individual believers – i.e., you are the church (the idea Paul conveys when he tells the Corinthians, ‘…you are the temple of God…’ 1Cor.3:15)
3. the universal/worldwide body of believers – i.e. all true Christians throughout the world

Once this is understood we can come to the conclusion that the messages to the churches are to be and can be applied to the church in general and/or to the individual members in particular. Although a church may be blind to it or unwilling to own up to it, every local assembly, more or less, will find its identity in one of the seven churches. Also, and this is important, the letters are addressed to leadership. They are to the churches in general (every member), and the pastors (leaders) in particular. Each letter opens with, ‘…unto the angel of the church of…’ The angels, without going into any long dissertation or explanation, speak of the pastors of those particular churches. A church, by default, will take on the nature of its leadership. What they do or don’t do, or what they allow or don’t allow, is in turn, what that congregation will follow through on. This is why leadership needs to be in alignment with the Lord’s program and not their own.

The Church at Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6

Their Reputation (v1)

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

This church had ‘a name’. This reputation identified them as:
• being alive
• being active
• being successful

It was their activity (works), which gave strength to the idea that they were alive and successful. But this was not the case. This was their outward appearance; how they looked to others. However, all these things were not a true indication that they were a living, breathing church. Jesus knew the real truth.

Their Reality (v1)

The truth about this church that Jesus knew was that it was actually dead. This reality was either unknown or unaccepted by them.Their works were hollow and incomplete. Any church void of the moving and operation of the Spirit of God is dead. A hollow word breeds a hollow faith, which breeds hollow works. It was hollow because it had lost its power; yet their problem was not necessarily doctrinal–it was obedience. They had the Word, but for them, it wasn’t enough; and once you put His Word aside, you will, eventually, venture into alternative facts. Today’s church is also guilty of reaching for something extra, and has, unfortunately gone the way of doctrinal error. The sad part about it is that doctrinal error is so accessible. Many high profile names speak a truth that is not truth, and preach a gospel that is not the gospel. Youth groups are dead and dying because their leaders are trying to entertain them, rather than preach the pure gospel, which is the Cross. However isn’t it good to know that even death is not beyond His touch? There was and is hope.

Their Recommendation (v2-3a)

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent…

Of all the seven churches, Jesus had nothing good to say about them. The closest he comes is telling them to strengthen ‘what remains’. His recommendation to them is a strong one, which amounts to a command. He tells them in essence, ‘You need revival’. That was the essence of His words ‘be watchful’, which simply meant, ‘Wake up!’ Jesus’ words also reach us today–we too need revival. We do not more dead words and dead services. No more promises of great financial and spiritual wealth. No more soothing, feel good messages that will serve only to reinforce the spiritual stupor we are in. With all the revival services that I see advertised, if it was real revival, churches would be full; ain’ts would become saints, and prayer meetings would be breaking out, instead of another concert. Here’s truth: good singing is not revival; great sounding choirs is not revival; passionate preaching is not revival; big crowds on consecutive nights is not revival; dancing and shouting before the Lord is not necessarily revival. Real revival reacquaints us with the Christ of our salvation; it sets us on a path of obedience. Real revival goes hand in hand with brokenness. That is where repentance comes in. He calls us to change; to turn around.

Their Reproof (v3b)

…if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

This coming that the Lord is speaking about is judgment. Scripture states in 1 Peter 4:17:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

Sometimes, judgment can come in the form of an absence of His presence, due to a grieving and quenching of His Spirit. Other times, His judgment can come in the form of sifting. That is, He will allow the enemy to have some leeway in our lives. Whatever way He chooses to judge, it can be avoided if we would judge ourselves. Here’s what the Spirit says through the pen of the apostle Paul:
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.1 Corinthians 11:31-32

This principle, set forth during a discussion of the Lord’s supper, holds true here. We must be able to receive His truth and make an honest assessment of our condition. Just come clean.

Their Remnant (v4)

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

Names. Individuals. It’s important to remember here once again that the church is made up of people. Jesus says here that there were some people—but sadly not many, who had not ‘defiled their garments.’ This is the harsh, but honest language He uses to describe those who had not allowed sin, Satan and self to intrude and dominate their lives. They had not allowed the world to pollute and contaminate their minds and hearts. They had made themselves so familiar with truth that when a lie entered into their hearing, their Spirit-given discernment immediately was aroused. There is yet that same remnant that exists in today’s church. Their ears have not been tickled by the latest fad or teaching. The only thing they are guilty of is remaining true and faithful to the Lord and His Word—and this makes them worthy; not perfect—just worthy.

Their Reward (v5)

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.

I’d like for you to get the full import of this word ‘overcome’. It speaks of those who hold firm to their faith even to the point of death, and against the power of their enemies, temptations and persecutions. Wow! In essence Jesus says, ‘he that continues to conquer…’ We ought to be living in victory, not always reaching for it. This can only happen through the Cross. Jesus promises three powerful things here. First, He says we will be clothed in white. This indicates full righteousness as we walk with Him on the streets of gold. Second, He states that our faithfulness means that we will be kept until the end. Finally, our names will be joyfully acknowledged before the Father. Could it be that our names will be shouted throughout the corridors of heaven? What a day that will be!

In spite of its present day condition, His Church is a glorious Church, and it will remain so because He is the Head, and hell’s best will not even begin dent its doors. We the body need to live up to its glorious calling.

Our Response (v6)

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Church, let’s not turn a deaf ear to our Lord’s words. Rather let us respond to His gracious invitation found in Isaiah 1:16-18:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

If we cannot hear what he is saying, maybe it’s time to go back to the altar. Only as we obey His word can we avoid the judgment He promises. Wake up Church! There is life in Jesus’ name!

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 he would say, ‘Each light represents a soul; someone who is lost and needs Jesus.’ The absolute profoundness of this 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 person; a potentially lost person. 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 don’t have a relationship with Jesus and 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.

The Toothless, Chained Lion

CHAINED LION

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So goes the warning. And it’s a good warning. We’re told to be on guard; to watch our back. The devil is out there; on the prowl. He’s seeking those who’ve left the door to their life open. Those whose steps have faltered; whose minds have steadily become conformed to this present world system, and have shifted their sight and their faith from Christ and the Cross to someone or something else.

These are Satan’s targets. They are his venison. And he will exercise a certain semblance of authority over these to a certain degree. In some cases, the Lord will allow some latitude to the enemy; not to punish his child, but to bring him back into right relationship; though I believe that we who are looking from the outside will not readily know what the Lord is up to in someone’s life , or even our own. Job had no idea what had taken place in the throne room of heaven between God and Satan, but he was greatly effected by it.

However, Satan holds no such sway over those who know who they are in Christ, whose sight is steadily and firmly finding its resting place in the Cross. They no longer put faith in themselves and what they have done, but are now placing it on Christ and what He has already done. For these, who ought not to think of themselves as better, the devil has no real power. Though he continues to operate like a lion, he has no teeth! I don’t say this in order to throw him a railing accusation, but I base the statement on fact.

When Jesus died on the Cross, He stripped Satan of his power. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:15). Those principalities and powers are the same ones referred to in Ephesians 6:12. These are the powers at war with us; the powers we battle against. The plain and simple fact is, we face a defeated foe! We still need to watch and pray, to stand firm and not be moved, and remain vigilant. Above all, we must trust Christ and the Cross. It was through His blood spilled for us there, that we have an abiding victory.

In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, he relates a powerful scene involving the book’s title character, Christian. It goes like this:

So I saw in my dream that he made haste, and went forward, that if possible he might get lodging there. Now before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off the Porter’s lodge, and looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them; for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the Porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt, as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, Is thy strength so small? Mark 4:40. Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.

Don’t you love that? Those lions represent both Satan’s forces, and the fear and intimidation that they attempt to unleash upon God’s children. These are some of the things that try our faith. But that fact that he is chained, means that he can do us no harm, as our our faith remains fixed on the Cross. The Cross is what causes him to tremble, because he knows it was there that he was defeated. ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb…’, is the Apostle John’s resonating proclamation (Rev.12:11).

The next time you’re tempted to fear, to doubt, to turn around or give up, remember: Don’t fear the lions–because they are chained. And don’t fear the lion, Satan, either, because he also has no power over you. Keep your eyes and your faith on Jesus.

A popular song says:

Satan the blood of Jesus
Is against you
Satan the blood of Jesus
Is against you
Satan the blood of Jesus
Is against you
You are defeated
You are defeated
You are defeated
By the blood of the Lamb!

Amen!

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

Too Much Church And Not Enough Jesus

Grabbed Frame 102 (2)

Pizza parties. Game nights. Movie nights. Seemingly clever little ideas to draw youth into the church or keep them in. It all sounds good, maybe done with good intentions. Food! Fun! Fellowship! Make it all worth their while. Give them a reason to want to come. We do need to at least make it a little more exciting, right? After all, who wants to go to another boring service? Give them something to do. How about a dance ministry? Step team? Mime? Anybody down for the drama team? Let’s call another week or two long revival, with an exciting guest speaker–or maybe a concert. That’ll bring them in won’t it? Here’s a novel idea: we’ll let them preach to one another and let them have their own worship team. Not a problem here; except let’s make sure that all the parties involved are saved first please? Let’s top it all off with some good music; not that slow old fashioned kind–something new, fresh, rhythmic and LOUD—because every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, the church has dug deep into the world’s grab bag and tried to implement many of these things into itself.  We cannot win the world to Christ using the worlds’ methods. The church has also, without realizing it, tried to improve upon the gospel message. By that I mean to make it more palatable to the taste. Let’s not talk so much talk about sin, and the blood; that’s not appealing. Let’s give them something more soothing and inviting. When this is done, it becomes watered down. A watered down Word will not and cannot save anyone.

I’m well acquainted with most of the arguments for these things. One,  for example says ‘Young people need to express themselves; they need an outlet.’ Take dancing for one. They say, ‘After all, didn’t David dance before the Lord?’ Oh yes he most certainly did! Only David’s dance was not choreographed; his was spontaneous praise.

If all any church can do is to play the music louder and faster to get the youth, (or anyone else for that matter), to jump higher, sweat harder, dance better, and shout louder, then what has been done? Nothing. Where’s the anointing? The doing of all those things does not guarantee the Spirits’ approval or presence.

Today’s church is off track, out of line, and gone astray. It has abandoned the old fashioned gospel and has made a plate at the table of entertainment and a ‘feel good’ message; a catchy, alluring and psychologized message that invites you to, among other things, ‘live your best life now’. It has gotten away from the mission statement given by the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15)

The church is not an entertainment outlet. Instead of ‘shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’, the church should be evangelizing and preaching and reaching the lost with the gospel. Not prosperity. Not social justice. Not a ‘happy, feel good’ word. You go ahead and live ‘your best life now’, and be as ‘purpose driven’ as you want to be, but there are hard times coming. Much harder than the hokum that’s being preached now can handle. The true, cross-centered gospel will liberate the sin-chained souls of men and women. None of the pseudo-gospels (which are actually no gospel at all), have any power to save or set free. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom.1:16). These so-called gospels only pander to the flesh and to those with itching ears; yearning to be told that everything is alright.

From where I stand, young people are disenchanted; many are deceived, and even more are lost. I see young people leaving the church because they do not see and have not experienced anything that is real. Sheer emotionalism will not cut it; and it is the fault of the church. Young people and others are being fed a steady appetite of ‘church’–or what is called church, and not enough Jesus. More dancing, more sweating, more jumping, more shouting–and no anointing. No power. There is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, but is that all you have? When the enemy attacks and comes in like a flood, if that’s all you do have, then the enemy will come in like a flood, and overtake them!

The church needs to come home to the Cross. That’s where our life in Christ began and where it needs to stay. There are no alternatives. It cannot be improved upon or minimized. Preach it. Teach it. Proclaim it. Live it. Cherish it.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

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

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.

The Forgotten Commandment

Grabbed Frame 25

There she was. On a subway train with a bible in her hand, trying to gather herself. I sat at a distance on the same subway car and watched as the fear and apprehension seemed to overtake her. I could sense what she was dealing with, because I’d experienced this type of fear before. What to say? How to say it? What if someone does not like what I say? What if someone has questions? I watched her and began to pray for her silently. I don’t believe anyone else on that car knew what was happening. But I did. As I recall, she did pass through the car passing out tracts, and saying ‘God bless you.’ When she got to me, I accepted the tract and looked directly at her smiling, hoping to encourage her. She went on to the next car. I never saw her again.

In its simplest form, evangelism can be defined as being the active transmittal or communication of the gospel from a saved individual to an unsaved individual. Whether it be one on one verbal witnessing, by tract, or by preaching from the pulpit, evangelism is the forgotten commandment. Nowadays it seems the church is more concerned with ‘bettering’ itself. From ‘health and wealth, to ‘name it and claim it’, to ‘blab it and grab it’, and now the so-called grace ‘revolution’, the unsaved have gotten lost in the shuffle. While the church continues to be seduced by these doctrines of demons, the lost are perishing. Where is the gospel? We would rather dance and shout and leave God’s house ‘feeling good’ because we ‘had church’; folk actually leave the church still in bondage and need of a Saviour.

Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15 are explicitly clear, and they should pierce us. He said ‘Go ye.’ This was not a passing thought or idea. It was not a good suggestion. It was a command; plain and simple. He expects us to evangelize, and any excuses are feeble at best.

The reasons why Christians do not evangelize are varied. The reasons can range from fear, ignorance, or just plain apathy. Whatever fear Paul and the other apostles may have had was replaced by boldness when the power of the Holy Ghost came upon them. Ignorance cannot be claimed if one knows what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and other places, and if that is the case, then its open disobedience-or maybe rebellion is a better word. In most cases apathy rules. Not that we do not care at all what happens to the unsaved; in most cases we know what scripture says. It also cannot be said that we are oblivious and have a total disregard for the lost. So what’s the problem? I believe that we are simply unwilling. Unwilling to go the extra mile. Unwilling to put our time and effort into it. Unwilling to (in some cases) put ourselves in peril. We want to fit in and not really make any waves. The quiet life. Live and let live. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. Invite folk to come to your church every once in a while, or to a concert your church is involved in. That’s about as far as many will go.

The proclamation of the true gospel will turn heads. It will cause the masses to do a double take. The true gospel will cause people to reassess and rethink all that they’ve known and heard. The true gospel, through the power of the Holy Ghost, will convict the world of sin (John 16:8).

The following is an overview of the meaning, purpose, content and results of Spirit led and inspired evangelism, taken from Acts 17:1-10.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

• EVANGELISM TAKES YOU WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE. Be led by the Spirit of God. (Acts 16:7). Whether it’s at school, on the job, or wherever you find people-that’s where the Spirit will send you.

2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

• EVANGELISM IS THE HEARTBEAT OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. Evangelism is what Paul did; He had an occupation as a tentmaker, but this was his calling. This was his manner or his custom. Wherever God places you in the secular world, you are only there as a means to spread the gospel where you are. More often than not, we get caught up in the culture of the job, and our Christian witness suffers because we become ‘one of them’. The gospel needs to be at the center of all we do in Christian ministry-regardless of our ministry. Whether you sing, sweep or simply sit, evangelism is something all of us should do. Also note he reasoned with them, ‘out of the scriptures.’ A working knowledge of scriptures pertaining to salvation is vital. Do you know how to lead someone to Christ through scripture?

3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

• EVANGELISM IS THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL. This verse contains all the components of what the gospel is: the fact that He lived, He suffered, He died, and He rose again-He is the Anointed One (1Cor.15:3-4). The gospel is actually the message of the cross. 1Cor.1:17 states, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. The gospel is not about me or you or what ever church we go to and what is done there. The gospel is about Jesus.

4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

• EVANGELISM IS MEANT TO BRING AND CAUSE CHANGE. The whole idea behind evangelism is to point lost people to Christ. When the gospel is presented, it will ultimately either be received or rejected. Let the Holy Spirit work. Leave the results with Jesus. If you give your testimony to someone, it is only as a means to point them to Christ and what He has done. Make sure you do not become the showcase and highlight as you speak. Keep Jesus at the center.

5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

• EVANGELISM IS AN INTRUSION INTO ENEMY TERRITORY (SATAN’S KINGDOM). Because Satan is the prince of this world, many are hardened in their lifestyle and thought. Everyone will not believe and all will not receive. Remember the words of Paul in 1Cor.1:18: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. When opposition is encountered, it is an indication that the Word has touched a nerve; the Holy Spirit is doing His ministry of convicting the world of sin.

6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

• EVANGELISM ACCOMPANIED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. A watered down version of the gospel message will be embraced by the world, but the undiluted gospel message will either draw men to Christ or repel them. Jesus said, And I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).

7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus,

• EVANGELISM HAS KING JESUS AT ITS CORE. Paul states in 1Cor.2:2, For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Remember what we said previously-we are not the focus, and our testimony is only a means to point people back to Jesus.

8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

• EVANGELISM WILL TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. Once you begin to take the gospel message to heart, and understand the need and purpose for it, and get a burden for the lost, it will change your life; how you respond to, and relate to the unsaved. The question must be asked, why did Paul and the others do what they did, with a seemingly reckless abandon, continually disobeying the powers that were at the time? I believe that they were thoroughly convinced, and were responding to the call and burden placed in them by the Spirit of God. It was a ‘woe unto me if I preach not the gospel’ mentality (1Cor.9:16). It was something they had to do. They understood the ramifications of not knowing Christ, and did not want to see anyone enter into eternity without Him.

So, at the heart of evangelism is the belief that people are spiritually lost and that the only remedy for this spiritual ‘lostness’ is Jesus; not therapy, not psychology, not ‘happy words’ telling them that they need to discover the ‘champion’ within them. The gospel endorses Jesus. Rather, the gospel is Jesus. He is the only answer to man’s dilemma. Do you believe that? Or have you forgotten this great commandment? And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

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