The Chronicles of Nehemiah: An Uncommon Man

When we speak of someone being uncommon, it means that they are out of the ordinary, rare or singular–even unconventional. Our subject, Nehemiah, fits that bill to a tee. Let’s take a look at what the Word of God says.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4
The man Nehemiah was providentially and strategically placed in a time and place in history where his unique gifting could be used to their greatest advantage, and more importantly, to God’s greatest glory. He was not a prophet, nor a priest. But he also was not common…as we shall see.
But history had placed it’s mark on the life of this man. Though he was a Jew, he had not been able to settle in his homeland because he, along with his people had been displaced. Yet when told of the conditions of the city of Jerusalem (after he had asked about the people), and heard of the temple’s deplorable conditions, his heart broke. To have the response that he had for a people and place he had not known and possibly not seen, meant this: Nehemiah was an uncommon man, because he had an uncommon burden. A burden from the Lord will do several things, such as waking you up in the middle of the night, and drawing you closer to the Lord. What is the connecting thread between both of these things? We find out early on in this first person narrative penned by Nehemiah himself, just what it is. Nehemiah was a man of uncommon prayer. No less than eleven times in this book do we read that Nehemiah prayed. No matter what the situation was, Nehemiah took it to the Lord. His response to the heart rending news of the temple was prayer. Several months later, standing before the king, even before he spoke, he prayed. There would be many more occasions where prayer would be needed, and he would answer the call. Timely prayer cannot be undervalued.
As he stood before the king in chapter two, and makes his request, for what amounted to a leave of absence to attend to the Lord’s business, we find another vital quality about this man who was ministry-ready. He was a man of uncommon vision. He knew very well the terrible condition of the city wall; broken down and set afire, yet I believe he saw it raised up again. He also knew that he would be the human vessel the Lord would use to bring about this great work of rebuilding the wall. This type of God-given vision enabled him to do three things. First, it enabled him to see farther than others saw. Next, it enabled him to see before others saw, and finally this uncommon gift enabled him to see more than others saw. This brand of spiritual sight is greatly needed when stepping up and stepping out to do the work of the Lord.
This brings us to the one quality that solidifies and gives all the rest their potency. We read in 2:12 that God had put this thing in his heart to do. Nowhere does it say that in any way he tried to move away from the call; as Moses did, as Gideon did, or even as young Jeremiah did. No, Nehemiah was a man of uncommon availability. It’s as if he had been praying within himself, ‘Here am I send me; your servant hears and obeys.’ God is not so much concerned about ability as he is with availability.
As you embark to undertake the work and will of the Lord, please be reminded of the need and importance of these characteristics. Our prayer should be, ‘Lord, give me a burden, and lay someone on my heart. Lord, teach me to pray; in all things and at all times. And Lord, give me vision, that spiritual sight to see as You see. And Lord, as you do these things in my life, I make myself available to You. If You can use anything Lord, You can use me.’
Uncommon. That’s what I want to be. How about you?
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
(This is the first in a series of messages from the book of Nehemiah)

The Devil’s Dossier

The late Sir Roger Moore, of 007 fame, had his take on the character he played for so many years. Moore is quoted as saying, “…the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous. I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet, everybody knows he’s a spy…What kind of serious spy is recognized everywhere he  goes?” True words because the very definition of a spy states that it’s a person who ‘secretly collects and reports information on the movements and activities of an enemy or competitor.’ There’s also a great truth for us to learn here. Our enemy the devil, like a good spy, does his best to remain incognito, but we are cautioned not to be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor.2:11).
Why do I refer to Satan as a spy? Because while there is no official handbook on demonic activities, at least from their point of view (except of course the Bible, which tells us all we actually need to know), I believe, in some kind of way, that the devil and his minions  ‘compare notes’, with one another, so to speak, and compile a dossier, of sorts, on each one of God’s people. This dossier would include a compilation of our weaknesses, along with the sins that easily beset us and cause us to stumble or fall. It would also contain a list of our past sins; things long since under the blood of Jesus.
The enemy actually does use our past sins to indict a matter against us, which then have the potential to bring fear and intimidation into our lives; thereby rendering us virtually powerless to the kingdom of God. This is bad news. But here’s the good news: even though the enemy won’t let us forget our past, our God forgives and forgets our past sins, never to bring them up again against us (Isaiah.38:25; 43:25; Mic.7:19; He.8:12).
Now, the fact of an actual dossier kept on each of God’s children, may be pure speculation, but here is absolute truth that I do know: there is a very real devil, and he and his entire host of principalities, powers and rulers of darkness are out to silence, discredit every child of God who calls upon the powerful name of the Lord (Eph.6:12). They also seek to undermine every Spirit-anointed and God-ordained work or ministry.
Simply put, whatever dossier there may or may not be, the child of God is called to stand firm and not be moved by any enemy activities (1 Cor.15:58).We are keep the two-edged sword in our hand, while trusting in Christ and His cross, which ensures perpetual victory.
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

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.

The Unsaved Christian: An Explanation of a Growing Dilemma

And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: Galatians 2:4
 
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;   2 Corinthians 11:26
Yes. It is a contradiction of terms, and both a literal and spiritual impossibility. Absolutely. Yet this concept, holds true in the lives of millions. The apostle Paul dealt with them, and so will you. They are professors, but not possessors. They are the proverbial ‘have nots’, as opposed to the ‘haves’. They are the ones among us, who are not of us.They are the tares among the wheat. They are the false brethren spoken of in the preceding verses. They are the unsaved Christians, and they occupy seats in every church–even yours–and even mine.
Simply defined, an unsaved Christian is someone who for one reason or another, believes they are saved, when they are not. And so that I am not misunderstood, I will run the risk of being redundant: the unsaved Christian is not a Christian at all.
  • As it pertains to worship:

 

  • Mat.15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.   But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
 
The people Jesus is referring to here are the Jews; the Pharisees in particular.the very ones He came to minister to. One of the reasons Jesus had such a difficult time getting through to them was that they thought they were already in right standing with God because of who they were. So if they spoke well of God and even worshipped Him, God would accept it because it came from them. Jesus said that in actuality it was an exercise in futility; it was being done in vain. Remember, Jesus said those who worship Him must do it in Spirit and in truth (Jo.4:24). If His Spirit does not dwell in an individual, and they have not received the truth that can set them free, how can they worship God in the way He prescribes? It cannot be done. An unsaved person cannot worship God because they do not know Him.
  • As it pertains to works and service:

 

Mat.7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?   And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
 
An unsaved person, who is already living in deception, is open to further deception. Here we see individuals who were under the impression that they had been doing mighty works in the Lord’s name. Notice their catch phrase: ‘In thy name’. Adding the Lord’s name to a deceptive work does not legitimize it. Adding the Lord’s name to a legitimate work when your relationship with the Lord is non-existent, will not empower it. (Read the story of Sceva and his seven sons in Acts 19:11-20). Jesus was speaking to people who had never known Him, evidenced by his somber words, ‘I never knew you.’ They thought they were saved–but they were not. They were Christians in their mind but not in reality.
  • As it pertains to devotion:

 

Ac.10:1-2 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,  A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Cornelius meant well. He dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’; only it was not enough. The Lord still needed to dispatch an angel to him with precise instructions on what he needed to hear the gospel and be saved. One of the reasons the unsaved Christian remains decieved is because at least outwardly, they go through most of the Christian ‘motions’. They ‘do’ themselves into believing thwy are spiritually well. They attend church, probably regularly, and are even members.They pray convenient prayers, and they give sufficiently to appease their consciences. They may even hold positions in their particular church, and of course  they’ve been baptized. So at least on the surface, all the Christian ‘boxes’ have been checked.
  • As it pertains to self-righteousness:

 

Lu.18.9-14 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:   Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.   The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
As in our first case, the unsaved Christian feels emboldened and lifted up by the things that they have done. To understand this state of being all we need do is to read Luke’s preamble to Jesus’ words. Luke begins by saying, ‘And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous…’ This means they believed that the things that they were doing were good enough to put them in God’s good graces. But they were wrong.
Who should be to blame for this terrible deception and how can it be avoided? We’ll discuss it in our next installment, ‘The Unsaved Christian: Avoiding the Deception’.
That’s the word! Take it with you. God bless you.

A Divine Equation

Looking around today at the situation in many of our neighborhoods is enough to stress many of us out. One of the reasons for the rising crime rates among youth and others is that folk simply don’t know who they are. There’s an aimless apathy that comes upon many who have nothing to live for. This same aimlessness can grip the life of the child of God when they don’t know who they are in Christ. Serving from one ministry to another, not sure of where they fit in the body. The constant losing battle with sin in the life; never quite getting the victory. Knowing who you are in Christ, opens the door to your potential. Someone’s potential is an ability they have that has not yet been achieved; they are the possibilities that have not yet been attained.There are two who realize our potential even more than we do, though on two very different levels. God, of course, knows our potential and sees us as we can be, and He is constantly steering us into the direction of our purpose. Satan also knows our potential, but he is afraid of it, and he does all that he can to detour, distract and destroy our usefulness to the Lord. Here is the divine equation that the enemy seeks to undermine:
                              IDENTITY = POTENTIAL = PURPOSE
The governing or foundational principle that undergirds this equation is found in 2 Peter 3:18, which says in part:
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…
 
The more we learn of Him, the more we will learn of ourselves. When we get saved, we are not fully aware of all of our rights and privileges as children of God. This is why we must attend to the study of the Word. We must ask the Lord to give us a love and desire for scripture, ensuring that the Spirit will begin to reveal these great truths to us.
 
Your identity is the accumulation of all that you are and all you possess in Christ. They are the sum and total of the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon you. Here’s an excellent resource which gives a good sampling of who we are and what we have in Christ; we’ll speak more on several of these later: http://mercyme.org/my-identity-in-jesus-chirst/
 
It is important to note that Satan does not know our purpose, but he is well aware of our potential. This is the reason why he attempts to undermine, frustrate, delay and halt our progression, i.e., our spiritual growth in Christ.
Coming to the knowledge of who you are in Christ (your identity), unlocks the door to your potential, which will pave the way to your God-given purpose.
Satan would have the child of God remain ignorant of not only who they are in Christ, but also of what they possess.
Getting to the Other Side
Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him. Luke 8:22‭-‬25
 
I use this event to illustrate that there are storms of wind, raging waters, and many other things that the enemy will use in his attempt to keep us from getting to the other side; and that there is another place in Christ that we need to be. The other side represents a new place and different place, a place you’ve never been before. Within you, it’s that untapped place; that yet unrecognized power that dwells in you the moment the Spirit of God takes up residence in your life. This is your potential.
It is God’s power that turns potential into a promise. But all this will never happen until you come to an understanding and realization of who you are in Christ. When we speak of your purpose, we are not speaking of your dreams or your plans necessarily. Your true purpose is actually His divine will placed in and upon you. It’s His call put to action in your life. In another very real sense, your purpose is your potential realized.
Let’s take another look at our divine equation:
                            IDENTITY = POTENTIAL = PURPOSE
Coming to the knowledge of your identity in Christ is like the unearthing of buried treasure. Upon finding it, most of us would respond by thinking, ‘I’m rich! Now I can do the things and get the things I’ve wanted!’ The possibilities are now endless. However, it must first be put into its proper perspective. This treasure must have the Lord at the helm because it’s actually not about what you could do with it. It’s about what Christ can do through you because of it.
So let’s talk about your identity in Christ. Do you really know who you are in Christ? Do you know what you possess? Really? Clearly, the knee jerk response to such a question is usually a hearty, ‘Yes! I’miss blessed and highly favored!’ This is all true enough, however, the sad truth is that most Christians have not even begun to plumb the depths of all it means to be in Christ. Time will not permit for an exhaustive treatment of this subject, and I believe we will never fully know all that we are in Him while we are in this life, but I’d like to briefly touch upon several key scriptures which leave no doubt as to who we are and what our purpose is in Christ.
 
2 Corinthians 5:18,19 –I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Not only have we been brought back to God where we belong, but He has made us called us to the same to those who are lost and without hope I this world. This is another version of the Great Commission spoken by Jesus in Mat.28:19, where He tells us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. If for some reason you feel unqualified for the job, 2 Cor.5:18-19 qualifies you. You are a minister of reconciliation!
1 Peter 2:9,10 – I am a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:  Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Encapsulized within these powerful verses, we find several things that mark us as children of the Most High God. These alone should cause us to be proud of who we are in Him. We are chosen; we are priests of the Most High God who have been set apart by Him and for Him. What else could we ask for?
Romans 5:1 – I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Finally, as a child of God I need to know that I have been made righteous in the sight of God; completely forgiven! In the mind and heart of God, my former sins do not exist. In Christ, I have have no past. This alone gives me unsurpassed peace with God.
The inherent power behind these verses are nearly unmatched as it pertains to our position and purpose in Christ and should not be underestimated. Learning your identity opens up potential that leads you to your purpose in Him; and it’s the Cross of Jesus Christ, what He actually accomplished there by His death, that makes it all possible. A popular song puts it this way:
I’m walking in power
A walking miracle
I live a life of favor
I know own who I am!
Have you realized your identits in Christ yet? Do you know own who you are? Don’t forget the divine equation:
                                  IDENTITY = POTENTIAL = PURPOSE
That’s 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.

What Does It Really Mean To Be A Christian?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

This question has been asked and answered by many, with a variety of answers. Many people believe that they are a Christian based on the mere fact that they live in America. This is is based on the idea that the United States is a Christian nation. While this may be true at least foundationally, this is obviously not the case in actual practice. What does the bible say? What does Jesus say?
Is it going to church?
Is it living a moral life?
Is it treating people right?
Is it living in America?
Is it keeping a list of rules?
Since the very beginning man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means. Lets first take a look at Genesis chapter 3:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Gen.3:7-10)

Here’s what it is. Man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means ever since. We have our own ‘fig leaves’ that we use to cover our sin in an effort to put or keep ourselves in God’s ‘good graces.’ Whatever looks right and feels right must be alright, and God must approve of it–right? Not so fast. Before we fall into the world’s mindset and believe that God is a happy, tolerant, higher power who just wants us to be happy in whatever makes us happy, we must first search the scriptures. There we will find truth.

Those seeking to be justified by the things they do, by default, usually wind up saying things like the following to show that they are saved, or that at least they have a place in heaven:
But I’m educated
But I’m a member of the church
But I give to charity and feed the poor
But I’ve been baptized
But I give to the church
These are all works. These are all false hopes of salvation. But what does the bible say? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph.2:8-9). When a person becomes a Christian, they enter into a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. As for the aforementioned actions deemed to be good enough to make one righteous, the bible says that there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the way thereof ends in death (Proverbs 14:12).

The Case of Nicodemus

Nicodemus was a good, religious and upstanding citizen. When I say ‘good’, I mean that at least he was considered good by the people. Being a Pharisee automatically placed him in the upper echelon of their community–and they knew it. They were, for the most part looked upon in favor by the people. Jesus however, saw them in a different light. While the Pharisees, almost to a man, looked upon themselves as righteous and accepted in God’s sight, Jesus told them the truth about themselves. Listen to Jesus’ own penetrating words:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
Nicodemus may have also thought like the majority of the other Pharisees, that he was better than others. Here is a sampling of the Pharisaical mindset:
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:9-14)

I am sure that when Jesus came on the scene, and Nicodemus heard him, while as stated, he may have had this particular mindset concerning himself, Jesus words arrested him. The Holy Spirit began His convicting work in Nicodemus’s heart. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night because he knew that there would be backlash aimed in his direction had his Pharisee brothers known that he had come to question Jesus concerning the things He spoke. Though Nicodemus had probably thought that he was righteous based on his status and the things he did, he now realized that something was missing. He came to Jesus to find out what it was. Jesus obliged him telling him that he needed to be born again.

The Case of Cornelius

Here was a man, by all intents and purposes, who, if you did not know the intricacies of what a Christian is, would be your model of what a Christian should be. Read his profile found in Acts 10:1-2:
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Cornelius was doing things that some Christians don’t even do regularly! He was devout and respectful, and he had reverence for God. He was that type of person who would cross himself each time he walked past a church, cathedral or temple. Cornelius also had a heart for the poor, as scripture here says that he gave ‘much alms’, that is, charity to the less fortunate. Also, Cornelius did not just pray, he prayed always. In all he did, God saw his heart and knew his heart–but still–Cornelius was not saved. Had he died in that state, I shudder to think where he would have spent eternity. But God is gracious. God dispatched an angel to Cornelius who instructed him to seek out Peter who would in turn, speak words to him that would bring salvation to his soul, and as instructed by the Holy Ghost, this is just what Peter did. Cornelius and his family were saved, even before Peter could finish speaking!

In each case, both Peter and Jesus make it absolutely clear that becoming and being a Christian have nothing to with the good or righteous things we do. Being a Christian is not about turning over a new leaf, or deciding you’re just going to be better. Being a Christian means having a living, breathing, one on one relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many people believe that just by going to church over a period of time, or listening to gospel music of some kind–and enjoying it, or because they actually ‘like’ God, and try to do the best they can when they can, qualifies them as ‘Christian’.  Here is the bottom line: when your life changes from the inside out, and not from the outside out; when His Word becomes what you do rather than just what you hear; when your sin, more than anyone elses, becomes an affront to you, and prompts you to run to His throne for mercy, then you have entered into relationship.

In closing, please allow me one final thought. Please stay away from religion. It will kill you spiritually and eventually send you off into eternity without ever knowing Jesus personally. It will also drive a wedge between you and God and give you a false sense of security. It’s what the Pharisees were. It’s what Cornelius was. The mercy and grace of God bought them out. When they placed faith in Christ, He in turn, gave them new life. There it is. The Christian life is about living a new life. His life, in us. 

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John14:6)
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.