DONT REFUSE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

gift_of_the_holy_spiritThis is for people who believe in the operations of the gifts of the Spirit today.

The Holy Spirit wants to move in church meetings. Instead of Paul stopping everything in Corinth he instructed them on how to operate in the gifts of the Spirit.

There is no reason for us with proper instruction and biblical parameters to not see the Holy Spirit in the gifts in the midst of the church meeting.

Just because there are abuses doesn’t mean that the gifts are not in operation anymore. Just because there is divorce doesn’t mean that marriage is a bad institution. what is mind-boggling is that we really would not know a lot of the specifics about the gifts of the spirit if the Corinthian people were not making mistakes with them! God is not intimidated by our problems and that is why he’s given us good teachers to keep people in check with the Scripture. we wouldn’t know what a word of wisdom is from a word of knowledge-if Paul would not have said, “Concerning spiritual gifts brethren I would not have you ignorant.” (1 Cor 12: 1).  In fact, in summarizing the spiritual gifts he points out the fact that all true spiritual gifts point to one thing – Jesus is Lord. Then his body, the church is edified by the proper and biblical operation of the gifts of the spirit.

But I can hardly see the Holy Spirit and the gifts moving in the church meeting when the worship team and the Pastors jump from song to song and they never stop to take time to worship and to wait on God.  It betrays a feeling of anxiety and fear – I would say that it is clearly unbelief to not allow the Holy Spirit to move-to quench the Spirit and grieve the Spirit in such a manner.

It is true there are many false prophets and prophecy – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t real genuine people speaking in confirmation of the Scriptures.. Don’t despise genuine prophecy that forth tells the Scripture in an elevated discourse.

Why? The Holy Spirit can do more in a few minutes, I say in a few seconds then anything we can do.

Do not quench the Spirit Paul says. Don’t put the Spirit’s fire out! Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. What freedom? – a face-to-face encounter with Christ through his word, the ordinances and real fellowship. How can we offer in benediction the words the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit – what we don’t believe or allow for communion of the Holy Spirit. where is that communion is not limited to just the church service – but what a great place, in church as we worship together to learn about the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Do we want people to encounter God or not? Or do we want them to learn some better behavior modification and be completely unaware of God’s presence and reality. That is what were going to end up with-that is what we have right now.

Many people tell me what we have the prayer meeting. Then people can operate in the gifts. Who do you think you are? It is sad to think that you may be resisting God and you are limiting the holy One.  do you think that the God who is taken back by people’s rejection of his grace would not feel the same way about rejecting his gifts? Can you really take that chance?

Are you telling the Lord that he can do this here but not there?

Oh well, we do not want to scare visitors away. It would seem that you have lost your fire. Could it be that you are not preaching the whole counsel of God as you claim to? The Holy Spirit loves to move where the Bible is preached. It could be the problem is not people operating in the gifts of the Spirit but your refusal to preach all that God says in his Word!

Have you lost your way? Are you not afraid of  dishonoring God? Did not Jesus say that my house shall be called a house of prayer? Does this not even tell you that our main goal in the church is to address God and not man.

Does this not also indicate that God will speak to people through his Word and the operations of the gifts of the Spirit? This also may indicate that we are under a biblical mandate to allow the gifts of the Spirit to move in our church because that’s the way a church is supposed to be. Wow what a novel idea:  modeling our churches after what Scripture teaches.

© 2014 Soul Health Care Ministries. Give credit where credit is due.

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JESUS AND GRAVITY

ascension of ChristI never seen anything like it. At first, I thought I was seeing things or hallucinating.

One moment he is standing talking with us answering our questions and then the next moment he begins to…rise in the air.

How could this happen? Why is this happening?

It was if gravity lost its power for a moment. He did not float it was though a invisible power pulled him upward.

He waved goodbye and became smaller and smaller and then he vanished in the clouds. All of us were stunned. It was like a dream.

I felt like shouting, “Don’t leave us!” But he was gone.

We just kept staring at the clouds wondering if he would come down again.

He has disappeared before and we thought he would reappear. So we just waited.

All of a sudden two beings that came from nowhere-heavenly messengers beautiful and powerful stood by us and spoke up. I thought I would have a heart attack. They told us,

“Galileans why do you keep staring into heaven? This SAME JESUS that was taken up from you into heaven will come again back to earth in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

I was excited and sad. I missed him already.

THE REAL MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE

Dean Inge said once, “If you marry the spirit of your generation you may be a widow in the next.”

I fear that this may be a clear and present danger into which certain denominations are falling headlong if they do not deal with the lust that preachers and churches have in coddling the culture and spirit of the age instead of exposing it’s evil and offering Christ as the remedy for sin. 

Why are some ministries and churches working so hard to be like Jezebel who painted her face to impress the world that does not know or love Christ (2 Kings 9:30)? If Jesus Christ is not relevant in and of himself, dear friends, you can be sure that is not a gospel message you are hearing. Christ is alive now! He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13: 8) . That is genuine relevancy and a no frills, plain vanilla gospel.

During the 1960 Olympics (held strangely enough in Rome, Italy) the Saturday Evening Post featured a cartoon showing a runner carrying a message of victory. He came stumbling and gasping into the palace and fell prostrate before the King. He had a puzzled look on his face and he mumbled, “I’ve forgotten the message!”   All that effort and he forgot the message!

We are making much effort but it is becoming evident that we have forgotten the message. The reformation reminded Rome many years before the forgotten message of justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone. God forbid that the church with all its resources and opportunities forget the message of the gospel! What is that message?

Jesus Christ is the real message of the Bible.

He is the Word of God speaking to man (John 1:1). Not just an idea, a concept, a philosophy, a way of living or a religion. He is God’s Word personified. God in these last days has spoken to us in final and full revelation in his Son (Heb. 1:1-2). Patriarchs and prophets spoke for God in the Old Testament piecing together symbols and types but God has spoken clearly for himself in his only beloved and begotten Son Jesus Christ.

Paul says that “the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things…” (Heb. 10:1). Christ was hidden in the Old Testament’s pages and was revealed in the New Testament.  As I first learned it,

“The New in the Old concealed, the Old in the New revealed.”

Jesus insisted that he was the true message of scripture with those that seemed to revere scripture but he knew did not love him (John 5:42)! “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.“ (John 5:39-40).  Imagine possessing such a reverence for scripture as they examined, studied and memorized it with admirable enthusiasm! They should be commended and imitated as far as that goes. Yet somehow the Word was not in them and the result was that they marginalized the message of the Bible by their traditions (Mk. 7:13) and they had no love for the Author in their hearts. That terrifies me! It causes me to examine my heart and pray with Augustine, “Grant what thou commandest and then command what thou wilt!”

We should also realize that Christ is the subject of his own teaching. He says, “learn of me.” (Mt 11:29). The apostle referred to this when he talked about how they learned Christ (Eph. 4:20). He says, “Let me teach you about me.”  How does Christ teach us about himself today?   He does it by those things, “written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45). The whole purpose of the Bible is to lead people to Christ!

“Christ is the end of the law.” (Rom 10:4) meaning Christ is the goal and fulfillment of the scriptures. God had him in view when he gave his law. The law was put in charge of us to bring us to Christ. “The law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.” (Rom. 7:12) and it tutored us about the nature and attributes of God and his perfect law which we see in his Son Jesus (Gal. 3:24).  We have a dire need to know all the doctrines of the Bible and a working knowledge of scripture, but has it lead us to Jesus? Is what we are learning leading us to praying? Does our theology birth and nurture affection and desire for communion with Christ?  Is the knowledge we have producing a growing love for Christ? Or is it all and end in itself?  Ah, it is Christ that fulfills the righteousness of the law in us (Rom 8:3) by his saving grace and pours the love of God in our hearts (Rom 5:5).  Obedience for us is not forced or coerced but willing. That desire to commune and obey is refreshed and cultivated by the scriptures true message, its wonderful theme, Jesus.

There are so many that take the truths of scripture and teach it like a science class. Then you have others who make micro-wave meals and junk food. This is not serving manna from heaven.  When scripture is read, studied and preached with understanding the Holy Spirit lights up the scripture with Christ.  This is not about commercialized religion where they try to sell you what you already own. It is not about a sterile religion clinically tested by egg heads in religious laboratories. It is about God speaking to men and women by the Lord Jesus Christ! You do not need man’s keys, principles, steps formulas or methods. The way has been made open into the holiest place, where Christ stands in the presence of God for us, speaking to us through the both the Older and Newer Covenants. When we read and ponder the truth of scripture, God’s voice speaks to us through those writings and they all cry out, “This is my beloved son, hear him!” (Luke 9:35).

God’s Statutes: Loving God’s Law

“The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart…”

AMONG church attendees there are two kinds of people, those who see God’s law as constraining, others which see it as liberating.  That is because they make a distinction between God’s Word and God’s Law that the Bible never makes.  God’s law reveals God’s will and nature. We do not make up our own standard of obedience once we are saved by grace. That standard has never changed, nor will it ever.

The human heart by nature is opposed and hostile to God’s laws (Rom. 8:7). After regeneration the laws that they once hated are written upon their heart by the flaming pen of the Holy Spirit and He ignites a love for God’s written Word that they did not have before (2 Cor. 3:3). God’s law before and after salvation reveals sin in our lives (Rom. 3:20), but we come to love the law of God because when it exposes our sin, it leads us to Christ over and over again.  The same external law that led us as a schoolmaster to Christ for salvation (Gal. 3:24), acts now as the internal law that reveals his perfect will and leads us to Him as the Lover of our souls (Rom. 7:22; 8:2)! 

When God exposes our error and sin, the Bible promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). The word “confess” or homologeo according to Dr. Ken Wuest is not just to freely admit our sins but  in the Greek it is in the  “present subjunctive, meaning continuous action. This teaches the constant attitude of the saint toward sin should be one of a contrite heart, ever eager to have any sin in the life discovered for him by the Holy Spirit and ever eager to confess it and put it out by the power of that same Holy Spirit.”   We are liberated to confess our sins, repent and with tearful joy knowing that our fellowship with Christ is growing each time as he delights to forgive us. Glory to God!

Now the word statutes in today’s culture refers to the policy that prohibits something or permits something.  In the Hebrew language in Psalm 19:8 statutes comes from a root word which teaches that God is paying attention and overseeing how He wants things ordered. His Sovereign grace is at work in our becoming more holy and Christlike. This verse teaches that God orders and oversees his law in all of it facets especially those of the heart and our relationship to Him. He is tending and gardening the soil of our hearts through the sharp blade of his Word (Heb 4:12). He plants the seed of the Word (Mt 13:37) and sustains it by the water of the Word (Eph 5:26) and that makes our hearts fertile and productive for him (1 Cor 3:6-7).

These statutes are right. What He says, He has every right to say because He is Creator and King. God is God. Those who believe his Word are orthodox, those who do not are heterodox.  Simply put one is right and one is wrong. As Christians we believe the Bible is right, it is the settled and established policy of heaven. It is the rule that rules our lives. Unlike relativists or humanists we believe that God has given us those rules as our absolute truth and sole authority.

These statutes are so right and just and equal that obeying them brings great joy to the heart.  A person who is a Christian does have a fear of God, for sure, yet they need not live under the threat of penalties for not doing God’s will. Instead, they trust in the law of God as a prescription for health. He provides through his statutes the internal understanding and motivation to do God’s will as he directly communicates with us, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Heb. 8:10). When the Word is in the heart it affects the thoughts and emotions.  Because they are written on our heart they provide the desire and the ability to act upon God’s will (Phil 2:12, 13). They bring rejoicing of heart, a joy of heart that has a clear conscience knowing we are going the right way, heading in the right direction.

God calls us to serve him for his own sake. He is our motivation and we love his laws. We serve Christ for Christ. We love and serve God because he is worthy and has given us worthy laws that propel us to be zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). 

The Truth in Love

How often do you hear people half quote the scripture and say, “Well, now brother…sister…we need to speak the truth in love.”  But how often has that out of context phrase been misused to sacrifice truth and to justify people’s sinful lifestyle all in the name of fake love.  It is what the old preachers used to call “sloppy agape” or it is “grease” instead of grace. We know how often Satan is prone to misquote scripture when he employs his choice weapons of compromise and deception.

But we know that truth refers to the holy book of the scriptures (John 17: 17) and Christ is the truth personified (John 14:6) and the real church guards that truth (1 Tim 3:15).

The context is as follows:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:14-16).

That phrase will somehow seem different in light of the other verses with which it is associated.

It is clear from this passage that God calls people to stop acting spiritually childish or immature and in order for that to happen the truth must be expressed in love.

1. People who act spiritually childish are (v. 14):

  •  Fluctuating: Their hearts and minds are in disorder like the surf on the beach they are back and forth. They are double minded (James 1:6-8).
  • Restless:  The word used here periphero where we get the word peripheral. They are easily moved by the winds of side or surface issues. They love the latest spiritual fads and trends and reject biblical tradition (2 Pet 3:16).
  • Unstable:  No matter the wind whether a gentle breeze or tornado, because they are not firmly anchored to the pure doctrine they are easily blown away (2 Tim. 2:18).
  • Cheated: The sleight of men is kubeia which means they roll the dice by taking chances on the methods and formulas made up by false teachers (Jude 12, 16).

2. Speaking the truth in love means (v. 15):

  • The truth needs to be spoken, the clear, unvarnished truth of scripture. It represents things as they are.
  • The truth spoken in the original language means “truthing in love” it is seen as walking or holding up the plain truth of scripture in Calvary love or agapao love (3 John 4).
  • The truth must be spoken without a sour, unfeeling disposition and a genuine concern and love for others spiritual welfare.
  • The truth has a goal of maturity of the hearer which has for its model Jesus Christ who is the truth (John 14:6).
  • The truth is necessary because we are members of one body and when one part is infected all are in danger of being hurt (Eph. 4:25).

3. Christ is the head and body of all pure teaching (v.15-16):

  • Incorporated: The truth incorporates us into Christ who is the head and Lord of everyone and everything (Eph. 1:22).
  • Positioned: The truth of scriptural teaching brings organization and body’s parts are anatomically correct. It represents Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 27).
  • Consolidated: The body is united and connected by the truth of scripture and Christ (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 2:19).
  • Proportioned: The body is supported and not one part overworked, every part is in exact proportion to its strength in Christ (1 Cor. 12:24).
  • Edified: The body grows and builds itself in strength and maturity all by the principle and power of Christ’s love (1 Cor. 14:5).

We need to speak the truth with “Calvary love” to those who are easily affected by waves of doubt on the inside and winds of deception on the outside. They are being cheated by false teachers and lying spirits who use the methods of men and extra-biblical practices to mislead them and by hurting the immature and weaker brethren they hurt us and they attempt to steal the glory from Christ.

We speak the truth with the love of Christ, not human compassion or understanding but in light of the truth. This is an hour where unity cannot be based on the LOWEST common denominator but the high standards of scripture and the loftiest model of Jesus Christ head of the body, his church!

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” Abraham Kuyper

THE LORD IN CAPS!

The LORD in caps“The LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; he will save us.” (Isaiah 33:22). 

You can’t help but notice as you read this verse in Isaiah’s prophecy, the three times God is referred to as LORD. In a following article I will discuss the Hebrew name for God, but for now, something struck me: the three times that the letters of the word LORD is capitalized.  It is no mistake or translator preference that the Holy Spirit made sure the  letters  LORD are emphasized to stand out from all the rest.  When we see the King of the universe in his beauty, he is the chiefest among ten thousand (Isa 33:17; Song 5:10) he stands out among the rest!

He is the only One worthy of worship!  “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isa. 2:11).  He is above all other lords and gods because they are not real! They are lower case and miniscule-small potatoes. But the LORD alone is the living God,  “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.” (Ps 96:5).  He is the only true God and there is none else. He is King of kings and Lord of lords!  

I am sure I am not the first one to emphasize this.  I am only a humble voice. But I can join the choir of  men of God, “that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” throughout the ages (Mal 3:16).  How we need to see our LORD  as he really is-the Sovereign matchless King of the Universe! Let me tell you who love scholarship something incredibly deep about the LORD. He is BIG!  HE is immense!  He is GIGANTIC!  The LORD is HUGE! He is the great LORD. “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” (Deut. 4:39).

He is not small nor miniscule. You cannot fit an image of him in your pocket, paint him on a stain glass window or wear him around your neck.  “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth.” (Deut 5:8).

He does not fit in church buildings! Solomon builds his golden temple for God that today would bankrupt several nations and then moans, “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (2 Chr 6:18). 

This does not mean God is limited to time and space. It does not mean volume or size per se.  What it does mean is that He is Omnipresent or everywhere present!  “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” (Jer 23:24). This LORD is uncomfortably close.  “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Ps 139:7-8).He is unavoidable. He is everywhere at once! He cannot be contained localized or reduced! Every person alive must deal with him and they cannot run away from him.

We do not serve God in small case but in caps! We should be “case-sensitive” in our proclamation of the gospel for many of those preaching today have minimized God in order appease people. The Psalmist says, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Ps 34:4). The word “magnify” shows that God should be praised, prized and valued! But I like the other meaning-intensify. We must make people see the great LORD God they cannot see. God is always great and even our praise cannot ever at any time match his greatness. But again, Peter tells us to “sanctify” the Lord God in our hearts (1 Pet 3:15).  God is already Holy.  There are angelic beings that cannot cease to spill this fact from their lips (Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8).  But Peter  makes it clear we must see the LORD  and value the LORD  as the apex of holiness, the highest and the greatest. The LORD  is God all by himself, without worship, without acknowledgement by men “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps 90:2).   The reality of God must be pressed upon people.

He is uncontrollable. I know in this age in which we live people prefer a domesticated Deity to the biblical untamed Deity. But He is the Sovereign Lord, ” Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (Rom 9:18). God is not civilized enough for today’s culture and world. The religious marketers for years in all ages have attempted to repackage and sell their new and improved deities to no avail. Men have attempted to dumb truth down, they have attempted to create a more acceptable image of God.  God does not need better public relations men in the pulpit but prophets, those who preach his word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Despite all this, God remains the same when the universe and its inhabitants are moth-eaten and are tossed aside like old clothing the Bible says of the LORD, “but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”  (Ps. 102: 26-27). Here is a novel idea-preacher tell people who God really is!  We are under the impression that we should hold back on certain truths about God because people will not understand or that is “too deep for them” We love the old, “don’t scale the fish before ya catch ’em.” philosophy.  It is pathetic. Churchianity in America  has become intoxicated on the notion that it should make the less palatable or harder to digest truths about the LORD like the fine print or a disclaimer.  But God is the immutable and impassable  God who says, “For I am the LORD, I change not!” (Mal. 3:6).

Let me end with this Psalm, “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah. Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.” (Ps. 66:1-5).

THE SECRET STASH OF OIL

lamplight2“And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matt. 25:7-13NKJV).

This parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Kingdom of God is like these ten virgins. The virgins would seem to be symbolic of people who say they are Christians. They all appear to be believers. But they are not. In the Age to come, only the righteous and holy people will live together. Jesus said that in his day and ours it is like coexistence between weeds and wheat, good and bad, and of course, the wise and foolish (Matt. 13; Mark 4).

The Lord’s verdict is that five were sensible enough to have that secret stash of oil and five were foolish for not bringing it. The parable goes on to show the bridegroom delayed in his coming. The hour became late and there was no specific time given for the bridegrooms coming so they nodded off and went to sleep. There is some spiritual blackout approaching before Christ’s coming and if there are no batteries for your spiritual flash light you will be in the dark forever.

Oil is an accepted symbol of the Holy Spirit and the oil mentioned here in this passage has to do with the work of the Spirit of grace in our hearts. The Holy Spirit wants to teach us about Christ, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.” (John 15:26RV).  He gives us illumination and understanding about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit also wants to help us in our devotion and dedication to Christ, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13). In another version it says, “It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him.” (GW). The grace of God is the secret stash of the oil grace that will burn with knowing and loving Christ that gives us the illumination and dedication to Christ we need.

There are two instances in the gospel that shed light on this passage. On the mount of transfiguration when Jesus brings his disciples up to pray, the disciples slept: “But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep and when they were awake they saw his glory…” (Luke 9:32). When Christ unveiled his glory instead of praying they experienced blackout. Like oil in the lamp that fuels its flame so that it lights up the room, Christ wants to illuminate our hearts by his Holy Spirit teaching us about him. The light of Christ enlightened our hearts when we first became Christians (Heb 10:32). This is called illumination or the time “God’s light shone on us” (GNB).

But in the time of illumination or the time Christ would have given them understanding they experienced blackout!

Again, in the garden of Gethsemane, while Christ was agonizing in prayer, they could have demonstrated their dedication to him. Instead he found his disciples, “…sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, “Why sleep ye? Rise and pray lest ye enter into temptation.’” (Lu. 22:45-46). What is interesting is that the name Gethsemane means “oil press” and can relate to the beaten green oil used for the golden candlestick of the Old Testament tabernacle. Jesus prayed and profusely sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) and he wrestled with drinking the cup of God’s wrath against sinners on our behalf. He would say, “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). The oil of devotion was pressed out of the Son of God who learned, “obedience by the things which he suffered (Heb 5:8). It was the same for the disciples, when the oil of devotion should have been pressed out or created in their hearts they slept. In the time of devotion and obedience they blacked out.

The disciples were blacked out in sin. They had to be saved by grace (Eph 2:8-9). Sleep on take your rest Jesus told them (Mk 14:41). Jesus would have to sleep for them three days in the tomb (1 Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus turned them back to himself (Luke 22: 31-32). That is the oil of God’s grace. Sleeping means they were out of the picture. They could not manufacture oil or save themselves. Like Adam (Gen 2:21-22) and Abraham (Gen 15:12). God was doing a work of grace they had no part in (Eph 2:8-9). Only Christ could give them the oil they needed. We know that Christ’s everlasting love has softened our hearts in his Sovereign grace, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (see Eph. 5:14).

They all were startled awake as they heard the cry, “Behold the bridegroom approaches go out to meet him!”  Now, the only time that remained at this point was to ignite their lamps. There are people very proud of their lamps. They have the “sinner’s or salvation prayer” lamp or the water baptism lamp, church attendance lamp, the ministry lamp but no oil of grace in their spiritual inventory. I want to tell you that they loved their lamps of self-righteousness more than the oil of knowing and loving Jesus Christ! That is clear from this parable. There is no difference between the ten virgins until that fateful moment when we see five ladies holding radiant torches and the others staring at their smoldering lamps.

These types of weddings commonly took hours and this presented the possibility for their lamps to burn out so the sensible girls brought extra oil. The thing that is most surprising is that since most of the weddings of that culture took place at night, it would seem just plain common sense to bring oil with them, thus their folly and stupidity is seen. Something so important, a fact of such common knowledge is overlooked.  Jesus taught, “You also must be ready all the time for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (Mt. 24:44).  

The five simple ladies were excited at first, but their enthusiasm sprung a leak.  As far as they were concerned, the party is over before it has begun.

They look at the other ladies igniting their torches, chattering with excitement, their hearts glowing with an amber flame like their faces. The silly ladies cry, “Give us some of your oil, we have run out!”  The response of the wise virgins was, “We only have enough for our lamps. You are going to have to buy oil of them that sell!”

We must remember that the oil was something that the sensible virgins could not give to the foolish virgins.  We cannot give the oil to others; they must buy it for themselves. This means a denomination or organization cannot dispense oil.  You cannot rely on a refueling with oil from your pastor or church.  Children who have Christian parents cannot siphon their parents oil tanks for a ride into heaven, nor can a wife borrow oil from her husband or a husband from his wife. They were asking the wrong people at the wrong time for oil. It is Christ and only Christ that can pour the extra oil of his spirit into our hearts. No one can give you what he can.

What a lesson for us- we should be found greeting Him at the door upon His arrival, not shopping for oil in the middle of the night.  Love and devotion cannot be bought. Anyone who waits this long does not love and know Jesus they only like his parties. The sensible virgins watched the foolish go out to buy oil at midnight and of course, there are no shops open. They slept through business hours. Our Father’s business of salvation will close its doors one day. There is coming an hour where no matter how genuine the repentance God will not honor anyone’s requests due to their procrastination. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). You and I are on God’s schedule, not He on ours.

The bridegroom comes while they were away and the door of “opportunity” is permanently shut with a sickening clap. It was customary for the owner of the house where a wedding was taking place, after all the invited guests were checked in, to close the door, not allowing a soul to enter no matter how persistent they were in their pleas. This prevented the curious and unwelcome guests from access to the reception. The door we speak of is the entrance to God’s kingdom (Lu. 13:28). It will be like the constant ringing of a phone, and no answer. It will be like a running to a gate at the airport, to find you have missed your flight and all flights to that place have been cancelled indefinitely. It will be knocking on a door that refuses to open. The Bridegroom will eventually separate those who know him from those who do not. Christianity cannot be casually browsed through, you cannot come late! What a warning for those who have lamps but no oil. Like Augustine said, “God promises forgiveness for repentance but what promise does God give for our procrastination?” There is coming a time when God cannot be reached and therefore be ready at all times.

The foolish virgins can hear the laughter and music of the wedding reception and their hearts see a closed door. They are missing the wedding. They panic and bang and bang on the locked door until a response is given.

If we add the commentary of Luke chapter thirteen, they begin to panic and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us!”

There is a muffled voice behind the door, “Sorry, you’re not on my guest list…I do not know you!” 

They say, “But we’ve known you all our lives!’

He interrupts, “Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.” (see Luke 13:25-27Message).

No excuses, apologies, or explanations are accepted. Why? This is the heart of the matter: they are strangers to him. He does not have a close relationship to them. They do not burn with the secret stash of oil that shows they know and love Christ.  Jesus affirmed this declaring, “I know mine own and mine know me” (John 10:14). Salvation is God knowing us. God is omniscient he knows everything but this is a different knowledge. It is saving knowledge. Paul said, “But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God…” (Galatians 4:9). It is a privilege for a person to have God reveal Himself to them. It is an honor for us to love him who loved us so much. We would do well to put salvation in those terms.

As for the foolish virgins of today, they have been duped by the worst kind of lie, self-deception, and they do not know the bridegroom. They only look like virgins and have a lamp, but they have no oil. There are many who profess to belong to Christ and even claim to know and love Him, but they only have a façade of religiosity, just an empty lamp with no light, with no evidence of “the power of God unto salvation…” (Romans 1:16). This is a terrifying prospect for silly neglectful church goers. They do not care until it is too late. Their “break glass in case of emergency” relationship with God will not help them. The Lord’s delay serves as an opportunity for these hypocrites to sin. They do not see it as the Lord’s longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:8-10) and giving them opportunity to repent (Rev. 2:21) but they think the Lord is neglectful and careless about his promises. Jesus warned, that day would be, “like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth.” (Luke 21:35CEV).  They will be caught and trapped by their own hardness of heart.

As for the elect wise virgins, they went with him into the marriage! This passage is an encouragement because God is our Savior. Heaven is where Jesus is. That is why the wise virgins want to go to heaven. It is not heaven unless Jesus is there. We are saved and supported by the secret supply of his grace in the most difficult of times. His mercy and kindness is extended to all who will prepare to meet with Him. They are promised that their “bottle of oil shall not fail” (1 Kings 17:14). They are vessels of His mercy and He who is the author and finisher of their faith oversees their salvation.

Thomas Brooks the great puritan writer wrote about this and said, “Oh, God forbid that my heart should be affected or taken with anything in comparison with Christ. The more I know Him, the more I love Him; the more I know Him, the more I desire Him; the more I know Him, the more my heart is knit unto Him. His beauty is captivating. His love is ravishing, His goodness is attracting, His manifestations are enticing, His person is enamoring, His lovely looks please me! His pleasant voice delights me, His precious Spirit comforts me, His holy word rules me! All these things make Christ to be a heaven unto me!

Reformation Now!

martin20lutherHappy Reformation Day! is not the usual greeting you expect on October 31st. But it is this day in history over 490 years ago that began a spark that turned into a blaze when Dr. Martin Luther challenged the existing form of Christianity with the Holy Scriptures. Sadly, the real meaning of this day in history has been ignored or forgotten by the evangelical church with its harvest festivals to substitute for the secular celebration of Halloween. In a day when the study of church history is either revised or ignored we are tempted to relegate the chronicles of the Christian church and things like the Protestant Reformation to the place of insignificance. 

 

In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, the church was living in a Babylonian Captivity or under a religious slavery for over a thousand years! The people of God could not even read the Bible or pray in their native tongue in those days. The scriptures, written in Latin, were chained to an altar for a thousand years and prayers prayed directly to God by ordinary people were forbidden. People were told that absolute unquestioning obedience was the only way to be saved from hell. People could not partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. People lived in fear of a vengeful God and forgot the mercies and love of God.

 

But God heard the cries of his people groaning under this tyranny and began to light the torch of the Protestant Reformation. Through men like John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale who set the foundation for this movement, Martin Luther arose.

 

Through a simple, innocuous act on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a proposal on the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the erroneous doctrine and practice of indulgences or paying for the forgiveness of God as a tax to release people from a mythological place called purgatory a place where sinners went after they died to pay for their sins and be purified by a “temporary” punishment that could last from hundreds to thousands to millions of years!

 

People were taught that gazing at relics would shorten their time in purgatory like purchasing an indulgence or a payment for pardon for sin. A relic was some body part or clothes of a dead saint. A saint was a person who seen as having a superior holiness and virtue above other people in the eyes of the Roman Church. People were taught that the viewing of these relics promised to reduce their time in purgatory just like paying for an indulgence. This entire tradition that existed for hundreds of years, was based on the false doctrine of a metaphysical “treasure chest of the church,” which supposedly contained the merits of Christ and the extra spiritual credit of the super-saints. They were like leftovers of good works that these super saints did not need for their own salvation. The Roman church taught that this surplus could be used vicariously or used on the behalf of others. The Pope was entrusted with this surplus and could draw on it as if it were a bank account for the use of others.

 

The Pope at that time, Leo X, used this tradition for to raise funds for St. Peters Basilica and to fill the empty bank accounts of Rome. He appointed a Dominican monk name Johann Tetzel a fast talking religious salesman, who went through the cities and villages of Germany to promote the sale of indulgences. This monk produced live infomercials that manipulated people to buy indulgences to get forgiveness of personal sin and amnesty for a loved one or a relative who had died and whose soul was in suffering in the flames of purgatory. It was a fast growing Christian marketing technique that some people bought hook, line and sinker. Others were disgusted by it. It was confusing and was a major turn off to Germans and a blatant double-cross of true Christian faith and teaching! Pope Leo X approved as long as money kept rolling in.

 

Thus Dr. Luther was strategic in his choice to nail his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors. Since the Castle Church faced the city of Wittenberg’s Main Street, the church door operated as a public bulletin board and was the best place for posting important notices. It was All Saints Eve and indulgences and relics were particularly sanctioned. This one document exposed the rats hiding in the Church of Rome’s basement! Martin Luther’s life had been completely changed by the discovery that the scripture taught that being made right with God by grace alone, through faith alone and by Christ alone. He began to scrutinize other practices of the Roman church in light of scripture at that time and the more he investigated the practices of the church he saw this religious business as a symptom of an ever-growing deformation of the Church. We could say more but time does not permit. But let me ask you a few questions.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INTRODUCE A NEW REFORMATION INTO THE CHURCH? Do you even think American Christianity needs to reform? This church needs an overhaul and restructuring! By this I do not mean peripheral issues of church government, styles of worship or denominational distinctiveness. But we should break down the idols of the new church growth movement and focus in on growing the people we pastor. What we need are men and women who are attentive to the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon Holy Scripture. God is calling us to respond to the words of Christ who said, “I will build my church!” (Mt. 16:18). Christ will build his church and he word of Christ should dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). You must let God’s Word shape the church you have been called to pastor. God created the world by his Word (John 1:1) and he can build his church with it! You must read, preach and pray the scripture and let it by itself interpret itself and it will change lives. It should hurt you to see the preaching of the gospel substituted with motivational humanistic messages. Media and religious entertainment have replaced the spiritual gifts. The church is spiritually sick. People are wounded, hurt, and guilty and slaves to destructive, overwhelming sins. The church today focuses on behavior modification, psychology, marriage seminars, step programs, principles and keys for success instead of having the heart changed through an encounter with the one who turns the heart of stone into a soft heart! Where are those shepherds willing to pour in the stinging wine of truth and correction where there is disease? Where are the men and women who comfort not with false hope but with the application of the balm of mercy and forgiveness to heal them after their repentance?

 

THE CHURCH MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT IN ORDER TO REACH THE WORLD. Consider what God sees in the world and says that, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease.” (Zech 1:15MKJV). The people in your community are not terrified at their coming day in court for eternal sentencing in hell. They are rushing headlong into it! He is grieved with what is happening in the world. Today is much like the days of Noah, human wickedness is becoming more and more unrestrained and the earth has become a cesspool of sin. We live in the last days! Seven years have passed since 9-11 and even then after the short lived flood of souls into our buildings, it showed us that the church is not ready to bring the masses of hurting souls to Christ! Mobsters and madman control entire countries. Terrorists unafraid of killing others and themselves are brainwashed in thinking their eternity is secure if they will annihilate themselves for their religion. The global economic collapse around us is a wakeup call to the corruption that is rampant in the government and corporate America and smacks of a certain inclination to having the man of sin ushered into power. Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord and we have lost our credibility. Oh that the church would return to the Lord their God with fasting and weeping in his presence! You must lead and be an example in that repentance.

 

LET GOD OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE. Like King Josiah who rediscovered the scriptures you may be shocked at what you see (2 Chr. 34:14-21)! How things change when the word of God is really understood! In certain periods of history the church’s beauty has gone to its head and made her vain and apathetic. But the people of God who think they are rich can be miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev 3:17-18). Many churches and preachers are backslidden. The religious and societal pluralism and multiculturalism of our day has made the people of God in danger of unknowingly exchanging their God for other gods and ensnaring them in the trap of Satan. All the compromise with the world has left the church of America powerless and we sit outside begging for the blessings of God like Lazarus did for the crumbs of the rich man (Luke 16:21). Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of the church, not atheism or liberalism. The children’s bread has been given over to the dogs, the pigs trample the pearls of biblical spiritual truth and we have forgotten the blueprints that scripture gives us for a simple pure love for Jesus Christ. Instead of being beside themselves for Christ, consumed by a love that breaks their heart for the lost people in the world (2 Cor. 5:11) people in church are selfish and cold. The people of God are living dangerously close to the world in these last days! No matter your beliefs about prophecy we are not to take this lying down. Can you handle the truth about yourself and the church? It is a special grace to love the truth! That is why,

 

YOU MUST BE WILLING TO REPENT OF PRAYERLESSNESS AND NEGLECT OF SCRIPTURE. This is the pastor’s greatest sin and a gravest error! A preacher must be a man of prayer. Do people see you as someone they would call for prayer? There are not many preachers that we would call for prayer but we know some mothers among us we would call first. Satan would rather you do anything other than pray. He will begin to see if can distract you by urgent issues and will even viciously oppose you and try to stop you by guilt, fear, loneliness, accusation and anxiety. The scripture is our food and sustenance and if we do not feast upon it we cannot feed others. We cannot give a drink of living water to anyone if we have not tasted of the powers of the age to come on a regular basis. You have not had a call on your life since you were born to throw it all away because you are unwilling to spend time with God in solitude and secret prayer. You will become cold, dull and lifeless and Satan will lull you into a stupor and a conceit where you won’t even know you are dead. Nothing can satisfy us like being in the presence of the God who loves you. We were set aside that we might be with him (Mk. 3:14). Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), but it is not what we have done that Christ looks for but if we knew him (Mt. 7: 21-23). Our greatest asset in the kingdom is that we know him (Jer. 9: 23-24). A person who knows the Lord is a vessel meet for the Master’s use. No matter how animated and skilled in speaking you are it does not matter. That is not the anointing only man fueled talent. On the other hand, your messages are not dull and ineffective because of your personality, but because they are not delivered with a burning heart ignited by the Spirit of God. Where have all the men of God gone? The Bible says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” (John 1:6). To be a man or woman of God you must come from his presence in prayer to be sent out to the world. When we pray with all our hearts we will find him (Jer. 29:13) that is how,

 

WE LET GOD REMOVE ALL OF OUR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HIM. God says, “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22NIV). We cannot be valiant for the truth if we do not know the Lord ourselves (Jer. 9:3). This can only happen as we pursue to know the Lord intimately, personally and let him remove all our mistaken beliefs about him by the study of scripture and learning about our relationship to Christ (Hosea 6:3)! What we understand about God will impact our personal lives and the relationships around us. Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). Men and women of God how we need to know the Lord! Dr. Luther had many issues but despite all his faults and sins he was the vessel God chose to use in his day! An unknown monk, the product of the religion of his day who shuts out all other counsel and turned to the Holy Scriptures for guidance about his guilt ridden soul, his misconceptions about God and found out that a merciful loving Christ was a man forsaken by God and crucified to make us right with God. We must do the same and that revelation will shake us to the core (Psalm 1:1-3). God tells us,

 

YOU ARE A SERVANT OF CHRIST AND MUST PREACH THE ENTIRE SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD. You cannot pick and choose what you think will help people, or what you think will meet their needs. A man pleaser cannot be a servant of Christ (John 12: 43; Gal 1:10). You are first and foremost a messenger that gives what God says, not what you say. God can replace the preacher who refuses to preach his Word with someone who can do it much better. There is a homeless man drunk sleeping on a park bench somewhere that God can save and fill with his Spirit that can preach better than you. God speaks through his Word and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, is very interested in what is being taught in your church (Rev 2:14-15). We have been wrung out of truth by the tightening grip of men who refuse to preach the Word of God, the Bible (Rom 1:18), and let it loose to do its work despite the consequences. They are disappointing clouds that have no rain and that cannot quench spiritual thirst! These rebels are wandering planets who cannot be trusted for direction because they do not proclaim hearty, wholesome biblical truth. They have a look of godliness that denies the power of the Word and the power of the spiritual gifts (2 Tim 3:5)! No wonder the Bible says, “And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them.” (Jer. 5:13).  They seek to meet the felt needs of people but sell those souls religious products and principles rather than giving them Christ-God’s unspeakable gift! God says their need is the preached Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit at work among them! It is only the spoken Word and the Holy Spirit that can slay the spirit of antichrist that has run amuck in the United States with the sword of his mouth and the brightness of his coming among the people of God. How we need men like the prophet Elijah in the scripture who had a voice like a thunderclap and a heart like a raging inferno!

 

YOU MUST DETERMINE TO BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. What if men and women of God, pastors, and churches, decided this Sunday that enough is enough? The Bible is not just a sermon book but a book that is living a powerful to reveal the God who saves, heals and fills people with the Spirit of God (Heb. 4:12)! What if right now you developed a courage that is completely fueled by heaven? A courage that despite all your fears of what your people in your church or community will do or say or act that you will determine to preach what God gives you through your intense prayer and study of scripture every time you stand behind the pulpit. This decision you are about to consider has danger. It may cost you. Courage is not the absence of fear but right action in spite of fear. It is at times these that God has a man or woman to speak the heart of God to the Church and bring them back to him. You must determine to be that person. The religious spin doctors, powerful leaders in the community, even some positioned in your church are far more agile and powerful than you and they will oppose you. God will be with you, do not be discouraged and depressed or fearful (Josh 1:9). The Spirit of God will give you a mouth, or ability to speak and wisdom that your enemies will not be able to withstand or contradict (Luke 21:15).

 

YOU MUST RECOGNIZE THE CLEAR TRUTH THAT THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IS WHAT SETS THE CHURCH APART FROM THE WORLD! The place of religious amusement and pretending end with this truth: Christ among us and in us and as us. The church is the body of “Christ members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  (Eph 4:30). Should we not begin to ask, “Saw ye him whom my soul loves…My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song 3:3; 5:6). Without the scripture being the center of our lives and preaching how can we say he is among us? Jesus among his people is the real acid test of the Christian faith. For he says, “there am I in the midst of them!” (Mt. 18:20). Is it unreasonable theology to believe that Christ walks among his churches (Rev. 2:1)? There is a unique, biblical experience other than omnipresence (Acts 17:28) that Christ actually manifests himself in the life of obedient Christian individuals and church gatherings (John 14:21-23). Where is the preaching that talks about Christ as the scripture portrays him? Where are those who preach about Jesus Christ and who he is? Where is the message that Jesus saves and Jesus heals and Jesus fills with the Holy Ghost! The beauty of Jesus among his people is our main message! The old chorus we used to sing was, “Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime, Jesus when the sun goes down!” That was the secret of the apostles-it was a full diet of Jesus! We are poverty stricken without Christ’s abiding presence. It is time to seek the Lord! It is time to stop the wheels of religious machinery from turning and fill the altar of our churches with weeping! We must pray that God cleanses our hearts from sin, prayerlessness and disregard of his Word! The hammer of Martin Luther that tapped so long ago the Wittenberg Church is now drowned out by a louder knock of Him who seeks entrance to this lukewarm, tepid, church in America! How long will we leave him outside covered with the dew of the night as we live sterile lives, focused on self and success rather than on those who need the message of the scripture! We need a Reformation Day of our own.

 

God Bless you as you go to prayer and the Word to seek him!

 

The Bible in Chains

Bible in ChainsThe word of God is not bound.” (2 Tim. 2:9).  But sadly, there have been times in history that the Bible was chained to an altar written in a language only scholars could understand. Thank God for great men like Wycliffe, Luther and Tyndale we can read the Bible in the language of the people. Now many years later, with so many interpretations something has gone wrong and many are still thirsty for the fountains of the scripture to be opened by men who call on the Lord with a pure heart whose sole motive is to glorify God (2 Tim. 2:22).

This day of doctrinal chaos is heartbreaking. What is worse is when men who profess to believe the “cardinal doctrines” of scripture suppress the truth in unrighteousness by holding back and committing spiritual fraud by not proclaiming what the Bible really says (Rom. 1:18)!  There lies the Bible in chains! God hates the false doctrine of preachers who preach from their own spirit, desires and thoughts! He loathes when men hold the party line, being political and he ridicules the pastors who reinterpret his Word in order to pander to people.

Many preachers on the television, radio, and Internet are so misleading by making the word either ambiguous or uncertain or they preach only what they deem to be practical and positive. The focus on the agenda issues and negelct the weightier matters of the Word of God. In some cases, domestic abuse, perversion, adultery, malfeasance is the poison fruit of these ministries because they have chosen another god with another message because they have discarded the scripture and its proper interpretation (Hosea 7:4). It is high definition heresy. The issue is clear: to abandon God’s Word is to abandon God. To not preach the scripture is abandoning his covenant (Deut 29:25) and despising his Word by breaking his commandments (Num 15:31; 2 Sam 12:9).

All the religious experts want you to buy what they are selling: knowledge of God without embracing the teaching of scripture. God has called men who preach to be charitable not marketable. We must in love freely give what the Lord says not wholesale the fashionable ideas of our day. These diabolical hunters of the souls of men are becoming worse “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13) and they are regarded as the experts on church growth and about God. Yet the Bible seems chained up, relegated to a small corner and back room for those who “want to go deeper.” The Bible is peripheral, the scripture is marginalized any way you look at it-it cannot be central when the agenda of flesh is in the center.

A bone chilling verdict has been pronounced many times against those people who profess to serve the one true God in any time period who become backslidden and even apostatize from the faith. This judgment begins “the house of God first” (1 Peter 4:17) and the pastors and churches that refuse to obey will be robbed of the most precious gift God has ever given his people: the Word of God. Imagine that! God will no longer speak to his people. Evangelicals may have the Bible, our wonderful confessions and creeds, but could it be possible, could it be they do not have the testimony of Christ because a shroud blinds their eyes, a cold mist covers their heart because of their unbelief (John 5:39; 2 Cor. 4:3-4)? 

If Christianity chained the scriptures to an altar for one thousand years and the Jews of Christ day rejected the Messiah even with the scriptures and the voice of the prophets read in their synagogues every day (Acts 13:27) can we no longer be suspect? Have we provoked the Lord to jealousy are we greater than him (1 Cor. 10:22)? This unbelief is the notion of being relevant without being prophetic. It charges God with lying by saying that his Word is not enough. I insist that God can, will and may have begun already a deep sleep upon their hearts, blindness to his truth and muffled their voice (Isaiah 29). The unintelligible spittle that I have seen lately in the media from the pulpit is not the word of God but it the useless wisdom of man. The prophecy of the scriptures lies dormant  because we have made it irrelevant fine print.

The United States has entered into another era which comes in history from time to time where it is said, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.” (Amos 8:11-13).  Even today we have to reach back many years to the commentary of the reformers and a few men of like precious faith.

There is a lot of “sharing” of religious thoughts and ideas going on today in many different ways, shapes and forms but it is not the word of God.  Why shoul we complain then when we see that God sends this famine. He is the source of it. People have serious problems with such a statement. In the church today we defend God as if he was flawed somehow and that when tragedy happens we use some other excuse saying that this is not God and even attributing it to the devil, global warming and the like. But God is Sovereign and he issues a guilty sentence on apostasy and he does it by removing the gift of his Word and his servants who preach it and the signs that accompany it in God ordained, God anointed preaching (Ps. 74:9; Mk. 16:20).

Arthur Pink commenting on the witness protection program of Elijah the prophet says about God. “The most valuable gift He grants any people is the sending of His own qualified servants among them, and that the greatest possible calamity which can befall any land is God’s withdrawal of those whom He appoints to minister unto the soul, then no uncertainty should remain. The removal of the ministers of His truth is a sure sign of God’s displeasure, a token that He is dealing in judgment with a people who have provoked Him to anger.” 

In the Gospel of Luke there is a lesson in the account of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is sent to eternal hell and is tormented.  His family saw him die. They had his funeral. The sent the flowers. They mourned and dispersed his inheritance. The buried him. He was dead. But they are unaware of where he is after he is dead. He is in a burning hell. This man sees Abraham and suddenly he is gripped with the condition of his family. He knows they are not ready to die and they will end up in where is he is. Even in his own pain a sense of unselfish desire grips him. He must tell his family about this place!

He begins a heart rending dialogue with Abraham and asks for the chance to be sent from hell back to the world of the living and to his family. This man would have been the greatest evangelist that ever lived. A man, who dies, buried and sent to hell and then resurrected to tell others to repent so they won’t go to hell. But Abraham does not say it is impossible, (Christ holds this title of Great Evangelist) but Abraham it is quite unnecessary. Notice what Jesus reports in Luke 16:29-31:

“Abraham saith unto him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

And he said, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”

And he said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” 

Jesus Christ the resurrected Prince of Life teaches us that if people do not believe the scriptures, they will not believe the miraculous and, “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” (John 12:37). If they cannot believe the Bible they will not believe in the testimony of one who has come back and has witnessed what is on the other side of eternity.

Oh that we had people that would turn to Christ just because the Bible says to do it and because men of God challenge them by the preached Word! The Bible says that John the Baptizer “did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man (Christ) were true.” (John 10:41). I pray that once again we would base the worth of a man’s preaching ministry on his love for God in the accuracy of his testimony about Jesus Christ.

When a man steps behind the pulpit and really preaches the Word as intended he must leave the consequences to God Almighty. When the barrel of the Bible gun is pointed at the world in its politics, sexual orientation, abortion and evolutionistic beliefs there is no problem. But when the bullets fly in the church-that is a different story and you will see plenty of elbows and heels. Many times when a preacher begins to compare the scripture with the way the church is being run I am sure that they will be seen as a threat. Many man pleasers end up in leadership in this structure with their sycophantic brown noses and spread the odious gospel of flesh without harm. But anyone who desires to preach the Word will be berated as unspiritual, unteachable, and unaccountable and bullied verbally or shunned stealthily. The Bible does never, ever agrees with sinful man, it does not compromise with rulers and it does not change for the law breaker. It brings comprehensive and total change.

 

God is calling men today to speak his unfettered, uncontrolled and undomesticated Word. To preach the Bible with fire of the Holy Ghost burning in their belly, with lips touched by the finger of God, with heads anointed with the oil God’s presence who do not trust in their own words but in the scriptures testimony about itself that it is God speaking to the people.

 

How long will the Bible be in chains? How long will it be shackled to the altars of denominational, religious and political rhetoric? When will we allow the same book that released an entire continent from religious slavery as in the Protestant Reformation to liberate the United States from it sins? How long will we cower from the message of the scripture because we are afraid of the power it carries and the sword that it wields to overthrow everything we hold dear and replace it with God’s glory and life? It shakes all that can be shaken until only it the living Word of God remains which cannot be toppled.

 

How long will we shun the same word that brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the paralyzed and life to the dead? How long will we limit the Holy One and resist the Holy Ghost because of uncircumcised hearts and ears! The word of the Lord is near us, it need not be brought down from heaven or lifted up from the depths and that word is come to test us and everything we are to see if we will speak it for God and his glory. Oh dear brother, preacher, pastor unchain the Book of books, let his words fill your tongue and God will give you his authority, power and Word as he speaks in his Divine Right, “Let My people go!”

Plain Vanilla

“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Neh 8:8).  

WE need to preach the Bible as it is, plain vanilla. Is it such a novel concept to let God speak for himself, to us from the written Word? Just to preach the scriptures without marketing, slogans and flimflam. That is why I believe God is calling out to men today to make known openly and publicly the Word of God it in its full strength. We should make it obvious that we are intentionally and unmistakably broadcasting the scriptures in our homes and from our pulpits. The scriptures ought to be perspicuous: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation (Merriam Webster).  How preachers need to stop apologizing for the Bible and avoiding certain topics and take up the attitude, “What I am saying is between you and God!” with the people they pastor. God has not called us to force his words down people throats but he has called us to preach them until their hearts are under the influence of Sovereign grace and saving faith.  We also need to recognize that we deal with holy things and that we should not waste them on wild dogs and ungrateful pigs, so said Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:6. We should take the book of the covenant of God and his elect people and read it in the audience of the people (Ex. 24:7). In Nehemiah’s Day It says, “they read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.”  (Neh. 8:9NLT). 

Christ unbolted the closed minds of men so the could understand the Older Covenant scriptures in their revelation of Him (Luke 24:25). The Holy Spirit would bring back to the Words of Christ as spoken to their minds (John 14:26; John 16:13-15). They would write these things down and give them to us in a book, “Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matt. 13:52).  The apostles wrote and proclaimed the scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). God has called men to bring out the treasures of the Word of God its silver, gold and precious gems to those who are humble, harassed and hungry for righteousness.

Only his Words are powerful enough to save the soul (Heb. 4:12). There has never been a generation more ignorant of the scriptures than today. I see in churches, among the most well meaning pastors, the methodologies of the flesh, that only have human power and cannot save. It frightens me. The tactics of manipulation, placing Divine endorsement like a stamp on the packages they sell and of course speaking of how relevant and practical these methods are, go forth like a new gospel. It is positively medieval. I would rather “fail” in my “ministry” preaching the whole of scripture and only winning a few people than preaching motivational psychology and ending up with many people who participated in a clinically tested religious laboratory experiment that is not endorsed by scripture. Why you ask? “Thus saith the Lord, “Cursed is the man and maketh the flesh his arm and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jer. 17:5). As the Old hymn says, “The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.”

Only his Word can save the soul from hell, not human tradition. Not new experiences.  People are spiritually sick because the Word is not flaunted. I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)  Paul was full of passion to warn his brethren, build them up and preach a message that if they would believe, it would assure them of their part in their eternal inheritance. Like the ground that God cursed because of Cain, we should reject the notion of being only, “engaged to the method but married to the message.” Paul tells Timothy, “thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15).  It is the scriptures that make people wise about salvation. But not the philosophy and psychology of the world.  The lost will die in their sins unless we preach the Word of God to them. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor 1:21). This is not God calling for us to be stupid but to be uncompromising. God the Savior of all men especially those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10) is calling us away from the impotent, lifeless methods of the flesh because the world cannot know God by philosophy and psychology. They can never know God by speculation and behavioral science, only by preaching God’s Word by the power of His Spirit. Jesus made it clear to his disciples “What gives life is God’s Spirit, human power is no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life giving Spirit.” (John 6:63TEV).