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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 24, 2006

How Were Old Testament People "Saved”?

In this post, and comments, and perhaps series of posts, I will be asking a lot of probing questions. I want to show how and explore if we have truly thought out this issue fully, and not simply dismissed it with cliché and platitudes. This issue brings up so much, and it is entirely relevant for today, as we will see when we progress into what I hope will be the fruitful discussion on this matter. What did they have to do at the moment to be saved?

Let me state clearly that I have ideas that I will be putting forth, but not at first. Perhaps they will develop in the comments to this post, but I want to stimulate discussion, and see where people are coming from. Many have heard that looking forward to a redeemer, which is and was Christ, saved OT saints, and looking back at what He did saves NT saints.

Perhaps many will agree with that, yes, but more detail is what we are looking for. What I mean to say is don’t simply parrot out the lines you have heard, as if we haven’t heard or considered them before, without explanation, and hopefully exegesis. Tell us what you believe based on the biblical record, don’t just try and be a smart guy. Please don’t condescend to others with different opinions, especially with an “of course” sort of attitude. That isn’t wanted here.

Okay. Just as we look back in history to Christ's sacrifice for our sins on the cross, Old Testament believers looked forward to His sacrifice for them. Jesus fulfills the OT types and shadows, but come now; do we really think that they understood all this? That they understood a man would die on a cross for their sins? If so, why didn’t they recognize this when Christ was on earth? Why were they looking for a Messiah who would give them an earthly kingdom?

Some believe that Old Testament saints were saved by keeping the Law, or at least by trying to and not going after other gods. This to them is what constituted faith. Others believe that they were saved by grace through faith, but how was this manifested? By grace, through faith, on account of Christ alone: yes, but by grace through faith in what, God? And what did they believe about God that saved them? And did God do something forensic, or what, to those that believed?

By faith, yes, but what was the content, the focus of faith, God? Certainly not Jesus Christ revealed, as we know Him, correct? What then does this say of others today who never hear of Christ? The questions this brings up are many, varied, and important as well.

Too many times I hear simplistic, and I believe cop out answers like, “if they follow the light they have, God will give them more light”, or this might even lead to “people not having to believe in Jesus but be saved by His work anyway” like C.S. Lewis and others claim.

Things and verses to think about and discuss:

Salvation – David in Psalms, and statements like, “let the redeemed of the Lord say so”.

John 8:56 – Abraham saw Jesus? Then what about Luke 10:24 / 1 Peter 1:12?

Hebrews 11:26 – Moses foresaw Christ?

1 Peter 1:11 – did the Holy Spirit indwell OT believers? John Piper believes so.

Let’s get to it…

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Friday, July 21, 2006

The Power in Proclamation

…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life
(John 6:63)

The Holy Spirit of God gives life unto the Word today, changing it from mere letter to life giving water. Likewise, in all our religious pursuits, we must be ever mindful of the need for the Spirit to bring to life our proclamation of the Gospel. The Spirit is the only thing that can possibly succeed for more than a season.

The talent of mankind preaching to the lost, or reading the Scriptures without the Spirit can only convince our minds, but the Spirit is needed to reach the heart for everlasting change. The famous scientist, mathematician, and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know of”.

Many have known about Jesus, but haven’t known Jesus. Jesus tells us in John 17:3 that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son who He has sent. If something isn’t in the head it isn’t likely in the heart, but knowing the Father and the Son requires more than intellectual assent to doctrine. Both theology and devotion must be present in order to truly know God.

And so heart knowledge is critical to a man’s eternal destiny, but what is the difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing someone? How can we know Jesus personally, if He ascended to heaven 2000 years ago? How do we take head knowledge and turn it into heart knowledge?

Let’s give you an example of the difference between knowing about and actually knowing someone. Think about this: You may have studied the life of a famous person, say Martin Luther, to the point that you know basically everything there is to know about him. You know his doctrine, his birthday, his ideas, and where he lived. But someone else, who actually lived with him, say his wife, might not know everything he believed or might even forget his birthday, but she talked with him everyday, slept with him, ate supper with him; she actually knew him.

See the difference?

This is a key as to why experience is as important as reason in the pursuit of God, for reason alone is not sufficient in the Christian walk, and reason will not bring conversion. Only the Spirit converting someone’s heart will count for eternity. To quote Pascal once again, “It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason”. Only the power of the Spirit can turn head knowledge into heart knowledge.

This is precisely why we must accept no preacher who may have all the letters of academia but does not have the unction of the Holy Spirit, the enduement of power from On High for service to the Kingdom. Of course we must not confuse adrenaline with anointing, but the question is this: Has God called the man to preach?

To the extent that a man shows his talent, he is the worst preacher of all time. To the extent he shows power by the Holy Spirit, he is the greatest preacher of all time.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

The new head of the Episcopal Church, USA (ECUSA) is continuing to show her true colors. This article from Time magazine, July 17, 2006 speaks for itself…

UTTER APOSTASY. PERIOD. It is only getting worse…GET OUT NOW!

Here are some comments on this interview and on the ECUSA and PCUSA’s direction…

http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch73.htm

http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=2588

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-allen9jul09,0,2668973.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

Here is the Time interview and a link to it: (emphases mine)

http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1211587,00.html

Rough waters aren't new to Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a former oceanographer who is the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Bishop Katharine, as she's known, takes over a denomination rocked by controversy at home and abroad for its liberal stance on gay clergy. She talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about her mission of social justice, the relationship between science and religion and whether faith in Jesus is the only path to heaven.

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?

Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

The issue of gay bishops has been so divisive. The diocese of Newark, N.J., has named a gay man as one of its candidates for bishop. Is now the time to elect another gay bishop?

Dioceses, when they are faithful, call the person who is best suited to lead them. I believe every diocese does the best job it's capable of in discerning who it is calling to leadership.

Many Anglicans in the developing world say such choices in the U.S. church have hurt their work.

That's been important for the church here to hear. We've heard in ways we hadn't heard before the problematic nature of our decisions. Especially in places where Christians are functioning in the face of Islamic culture and mores, evangelism is a real challenge. [But] these decisions were made because we believe that's where the Gospel has been calling us. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has come to a reasonable conclusion and consensus that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church and that our ministry to and with gay and lesbian Christians should be part of the fullness of our life.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion, wrote recently that a two-tier Communion may be a solution. What did you read in his message?

The pieces that I saw as most important had to do with the complexity of the situation and the length of time that this process will continue. He's very clear that we're not going to see an instant solution. He's also clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan or provincial life--which some people have been asking for.

There's much debate about whether science and religion can comfortably coexist. You're a scientist and a pastor. What do you think?

Oh, they absolutely can. In the Middle Ages, theology was called the queen of the sciences. It asks a set of questions about human existence, about why we're here and how we should be in relationship with our neighbors and with the divine. And science, in this more traditional understanding, is about looking at creation and trying to understand how it functions.

What is your view on intelligent design?

I firmly believe that evolution ought to be taught in the schools as the best witness of what modern science has taught us. To try to read the Bible literalistically about such issues disinvites us from using the best of recent scholarship.

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Pastoral work can be all-consuming. How do you relax?

I run regularly. I like to hike, and I take one long backpacking trip a year. Flying is also a focusing activity. I come from a family of pilots, and it's always been part of my experience. It takes one's full attention, and that's restful in an odd kind of way. It takes your mind away from other concerns, not unlike meditation.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Chapter 61 of Isaiah is an icon for me of what Christian work should be about. That's what Jesus reads in his first public act. In Luke, he walks into the synagogue and reads from Isaiah. It talks about a vision of the reign of God where those who are mourning are comforted, where the hungry are fed, where the poor hear good news.

What is your prayer for the church today?

That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbors. And it does not mean bickering about fine points of doctrine.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In the Name of God, or Good?

We have been having an ongoing discussion about the PCUSA changing the language they will use for the Trinity.

If we change this we will be changing more than we imagine.

I believe this comes down to our conception of the sufficiency of the scriptures, primarily. However, we have touched on or referred to tangential items such as sola scriptura (scripture alone) itself, the authority of the early church councils, the erosion of the family structure, the doctrine of inspiration, functional subordination, ontology, and a host of others.

I have added (July 19) a new link by Al Mohler on this topic.
Obviously the Trinity is of major importance in Christian theology, and if you have ever wondered why such a big deal is made of it, or the implications of such a change in language, we invite you to take some time and look at what has been going on. Leave a comment; we will address all as we are able...God bless you....
____________________________________________________________

previously...

ADDENDUM: (11:25 EST, July 12)

Here is another link from last year adressing this issue in general.
It is about "calling God Mother"...helpful material...


The established, mainline churches of America are going the way of the world. First, we reported on the ECUSA mess, and now this from the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA). The PCUSA has been known as a liberal mainline denomination for some time, especially when considered against the more conservative Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). The PCUSA has approximately 2.4 million members, but has been declining for years. They have ordained gay clergy, amongst many other questionable ideas.

Now they have decided to alter the language used in the Bible to describe the Trinity. At the recent General Assembly meeting, they voted to allow the denomination's churches to use the phrase "compassionate mother, beloved child, and life-giving womb" (among 12 new accepted phrases) instead of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" when referring to the Trinity.

The question is why?

This may seem minor to you, but it is part of an ongoing process of capitulation to the world. The fruit is ripening on this bad tree, and none of it is good. This is only the latest episode in a slippery slope that has this denomination descending into the abyss. One by one, the largest and oldest of the American churches begins to reflect the sentiments of worldly philosophy. What some imagine as merely being inclusive we would call insanity. This may be in touch with the feelings of the world, yes, but is it in touch with the heart of God?

Once again I say to you: GET OUT NOW!

Agape press story on the Trinity controversy:

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

THE DISEASE OF ME

Pat Riley is the head coach of the 2006 National Basketball Champions, Miami Heat. However, he is also remembered as the former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his book “The Winner Within,” Riley warns of the dangers of “The Disease of Me.” He writes how his former team, the Lakers, allowed their egos to cause one of the quickest falls in the history of the NBA. They had won the championship in 1980. They were chosen to win it for a second consecutive time, but resentment, competitiveness, and discord set in among the players. They bickered over who was getting the attention and recognition they individually felt they deserved. As a result, the Lakers shifted their attention from the teamwork of winning to the self-centeredness of whining. They lost in the first round of the playoffs. Riley summed it up by saying, “The Disease of Me leads to the Defeat of Us.”

One of the great statements found in the Bible was the one made by John the Baptist when he spoke of his relationship with our Lord. In John 3:30, when questioned about how he related to Christ, he answered, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is not an easy action to take because of our human ego. One said, “The biggest addiction we have to overcome is to the human ego. Why, because ego stands for “Edging God Out.” This is why we should make a conscious effort every day to place Christ on the throne of our life, and not our ego. I’m confident that many have read this statement before, so bear with me, because it makes a sobering point:

The six most important words:

“I admit I made a mistake.”

The five most important words:

“You did a good job.”

The four most important words:

“What is your opinion?”

The three most important words:

“If you please.”

The two most important words:

“Thank you.”

The least important word: “I”

In the Greek of the original New Testament, the word for “I” was “ego.” Today we use it to describe someone who has an inflated opinion of himself.

Allow me to list, first, some practical ways to crucify our ego, then, some practical ways to put others first. To begin with, here are some practical ways to crucify our ego:

1. Resist the temptation to defend or vindicate yourself. It has been stated, “An ego trip is something that never gets you anywhere.”

2. Resist the temptation to praise yourself. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

3. Let others win. In a disagreement, realize that the real issue is not who’s right, but our relationship. In planning and strategizing, let others have the credit for an idea. Peter Marshall prayed, “When I am wrong, dear Lord, make me easy to change, and when I am right, make me easy to live with.”

4. Remind yourself of God’s sovereignty. All our gifts, talents, accomplishments, etc., God gave to us. Paul stated in Romans 12:6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”

Second, here are some practical ways to put others first. Of all the classical spiritual disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility.

1. Make a conscious decision every day to consider the needs of others, and place higher value on their needs than your own. J. F. Newton said, “An egotist is not a man who thinks too much of himself. He is a man who thinks too little of other people.”

2. Listening. Take time to listen to others. Take a genuine interest in their life. Make them the expert. People want to feel valued and important. One of the flagrant problems with most conversations is that we fail to listen. I read of a speech teacher who stood in the receiving line of a major corporation fundraiser event. She grew tired of shaking all the hands, asking, “How are you?,” and hearing the same old responses. So, she thought she would try an experiment. She greeted the next twenty people in the line by smiling and quietly saying, “I have leprosy.” The responses were unbelievable. They smiled back and said things like, “How happy I am for you,” and “How wonderful! You must tell me all about it sometime.” Only one person said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” Erma Bombeck was correct in stating, “It seems rather incongruous that in a society of super-sophisticated communications, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”

3. When asked for help, be available, whether a menial or very important thing. Someone stated, “In Christian service, the branches that bear the most fruit hang the lowest.”

4. Take time to encourage others. Booker T. Washington said, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

Several years ago, I was in attendance at a birthday party, and the host read this humorous poem that speaks volumes:

“Once I found a friend who knew everything I felt,

He knew my every weakness and the problems I’ve been dealt.

He understood my wonders and listened to my dreams.

He listened to how I felt about life and love,

And knew what it all means.

Not once did he interrupt me, or tell me I was wrong.

He understood what I was going through,

And promised he’d stay long.

I reached out to this friend to show him that I care.

To pull him close, and let him know how much I need him there.

I went to hold his hand, to pull him a bit nearer,

And I realized that this perfect friend I found,

Was nothing but my mirror!”

Watch out for the “Disease of Me.” It will lead to the Defeat of Us.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Dave Arnold, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Fl.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Hot Buttons and Humility

Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
(Ephesians 4:3)

Sometimes in the blogosphere, we write things that others take in the wrong way. They have a view of some certain item that causes them to “rise up” in defense of some supposed injustice. Yet sometimes this defending of God’s honor, scripture, matters of conscience, or whatever the case may be, is unnecessary. Sometimes it is done with a misunderstanding of what the other person actually meant. Even if the person wrote something that could be or perhaps even should be construed a certain way, not every one articulates their thoughts to the level that is needed in the particular instance, especially in written form. Can we, and if so, how can we take things back before it gets out of hand? What happens when it gets to the point that “its on!”

This is one of the problems inherent in the written word, whether in the blogosphere, a letter to a friend or relative, or even and especially when interpreting the Bible; what was the intent of the author. We must remember to separate the emotion from the intent. We all have hot buttons, those issues that we debate with a passion, sometimes with more heat than light, but always with heat. As Christians, how then can we best engage in vigorous yet humble debate? Here is a link to a prominent blogger, the jollyblogger, addressing the issue.

http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2004/05/some_thoughts_o.html

Please leave some comments on this one, if not about the article link then about the issue itself. I expect we can learn a great deal from each other if we will "enter in" this discussion.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

The “Ad” Agencies














…your adversary the devil… /… we have an advocate…Jesus Christ…
(1 Peter 5:7 / 1 John 2:1)

Advertising is big business in the world today. It is a known fact; if you want to launch or reposition your product in the market, you need to advertise. The influence of advertising can be felt throughout the modern culture, from what we wear, to what we eat, to what we drive, and for some, even where we worship. What we allow ourselves to come in contact with will influence our decisions. Often, it may even cause us to try and buy inferior products and services.

When companies are vying for a limited amount of currency, they concoct advertising campaigns in order to draw attention to their product, and away from the competitor. “Ad campaigns” are the bread and butter of business marketing. But good advertising does not necessarily mean a good product; only time and use will tell that.

Have you ever bought a product because it all of a sudden hit the market with a bang and everyone was talking about it? How many times, however, have you found out that you were sold a false bill of goods? The product was not of the quality you imagined it to be, and it didn’t perform as you thought it would. It’s enough to make you not want to listen to commercials anymore.

Eventually if enough people are fed up with it, they will file a claim for false advertising. Even if no one does file a claim, you will tell others if you’ve been burned, that’s for sure.

Now consider this. How many times have you bought a product based on word of mouth, one that may not have been advertised as much, but it was testified to by people you learned to trust? It was of the highest quality, greater than you imagined it could be, and it performed far beyond expectations. This makes your day, and you want to tell others about this great product.

The “campaign” wasn’t as slick, but the “ad” was true and the product was better. You’re all too happy to tell others by word of mouth.

Well, it is the same in the spiritual world. There are “ad” campaigns being run all the time. However, there are really only two agencies vying for your spiritual currency. The Bible describes the two heads of these organizations, calling one the Adversary (Satan) and the other the Advocate (Jesus).

The Adversary is described as a “roaring lion”. His ad campaign is aggressive and loud. It is designed to appeal to your flesh, and he uses the world and its carnal enticements to ensnare and recruit people to his company. The problem is, all his goods are addictive, and destructive. They wear out, they are of poor quality, and the cost keeps going up. Eventually, it costs you your entire life, but that life isn’t worth much now anyway. You have to become a slave to what you thought was a great set of goods. The returns are diminishing, and you borrowed on your spiritual capital to the point that you can’t get out of debt. No one can pay up, and this company is going out of business.

Conversely, the ad campaign of the Advocate is different. He is described as righteous, and He seems to speak in whispers. However, the goods the Advocate is advocating are good. His strategy is aimed toward the heart, His goods are built to last, and they are of a timeless quality. The best thing is that they are free. Instead of just costing you your crummy old life, you get a new life in return. You willingly serve this company who treats you so well. The returns keep getting better and better, and you are building up spiritual capital all the time. This company will never go out of business.

Which “Ad campaign” has your attention more often?

How is your spiritual capital?

Whose stuff are you buying?

What “company” are you supporting?

When are you going to make the switch to the Advocate?

One ad agency gives you a real Person, and the other ad agency gives you a wrong program. Jesus isn’t a product, He is a person, and unlike our adversary, He won’t sell you a false bill of goods.

The Bible says to buy the truth (Proverbs 23:23). Think about it…

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sense and Sensibility


These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
(Jude 19)

The little book of Jude has many important things to say. Those persons and religions who deny Christ as the Son of God, who follow after worldly pleasures or gain, and who would deny the immanency of His second coming are the focus of this powerhouse epistle. Here we see that those who cause needless division, or those who focus upon earthly things as of first import, are those people identified as not having the Spirit of God.

Sensual here does not mean sexual, but denotes someone who is ruled by the senses rather than by a renewed mind according to God’s Word. In other words, their feelings dictate their devotion to God. If they are feeling good, they are all about serving God. If they are feeling down, then forget about it. Such are also tossed about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), and take heed to seducing spirits (1 Timothy 4:1).

So-called Christians who do not ground themselves in the Word of God, who are not concerned with contending for their faith, are ripe for a fall. When sensual believers are met with trials or encounter the inevitable pains of life they invariably slip backwards or give up their faith altogether. When experience takes precedence over the Word of God we are in danger of being ruled by feelings rather than by God, and become targets of deception. Are you sensual, or do you have the Spirit?

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Separation in Progress

Updating our post “STRIKE FOUR: ICHABOD!”

By the grace of our Lord the pastor of the largest congregation in the Episcopal Church, USA (ECUSA) has announced that Christ Church, Plano, Texas, will be separating from the denomination, while attempting to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Please pray for this man, this church, and other churches that will surely, by God’s grace, be leaving this synagogue of Satan. I praise God for allowing David Roseberry to see the light and heed the warnings so many have given. I say it again: GET OUT NOW!

HERE IS THE STORY FROM AGAPE PRESS:

http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/7/32006d.asp

Here is the link to our previous article:

http://voiceofvision.blogspot.com/2006/06/strike-four-ichabod.html

Do your friends in the Episcopal churches they attend know of any of these events? Now is the time to tell them about it, do so with grace and humility, but also with earnest and truth.

This brings up another topic: SEPARATION…..any takers? Let’s define terms first, shall we?

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

You’re in Denial

Peter said…yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
(Matthew 26:35)

This is the familiar story of Peter and his three denials of Christ. There is an important lesson to see here about the presumption of faith. Our flesh is certainly never as strong as we believe, and cannot be a replacement for our humility. The strong self will, as mentioned in the last passage we dealt with, must give way to a sense of humility. No matter how long we have been a Christian, no matter what we have experienced, no matter how deeply committed we are to the Lord, it is by His grace that we can do anything, and we are not to presume our own faith.

Notice that the rest of the disciples said they would be there till the end also. Of course they all left but John. This type of herd mentality can get you into real trouble in a revival meeting. You may make commitments you aren’t ready to keep, and you might just allow yourself to be seduced by a spirit not of God. Don’t always go with the crowd, especially just for the excitement’s sake. This leads to the boom and bust spirituality so rampant in American Christianity these days.

Did you ever wonder how riots get started? Ask yourself a question: have you ever went along with something you were unsure of, just because some of your peers were doing it? Think about this and you will see how the chain reactions seen at some revival meetings are more about sociological factors than spiritual phenomena.

If you are a dispensationalist, that is, you believe in a literal great tribulation period, project this idea forward. Imagine if you will the people “left behind” and the pressure to take the mark of the beast. What if there was no pre-tribulation rapture? If you believe that believers will be gone when the great tribulation starts, and yet it doesn’t happen, how easily would you be duped into taking the mark? If you believed you wouldn’t be here, then you couldn’t possible take the mark so you would be safe, or so you might think, but what if? Food for thought, indeed.

In any event: don’t deny Christ by going with the crowd.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

That Sinking Feeling

…when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink,
(Matthew 14:30)

Even when we have a word from the Lord, if we lose sight of Jesus, and look at circumstances, we can lose faith. Peter had seen Jesus calm the raging sea before (Matthew 8:26), and yet he still doubted. Knowing God can do all things, and even being in His presence, is not always enough to get the job done (Luke 13:26-27).

This is relevant for today because we can be on the right path, and doing God’s will, and in a moment, look away and begin to sink. It is not a matter of strong self-will, i.e. “I will not look away.” Faith is not a singular event; rather, it is an ongoing, diligent effort to be in dialogue with the Lord, trusting in His sovereign hand to bring us through life’s storms.

Let’s give a hypothetical example to further bring this into focus with regard to what you may see today. You have attended a meeting of a famous evangelist before, and experienced a tremendous move of the Spirit upon you, and it was evident to the others there as well, with many people shouting, dancing, speaking in tongues, prophecy, and even some unusual manifestations such as laughing and jerking. But you prayed to the Lord to not let you be drawn into something that wasn’t from Him. You felt sure that this meeting was okay, and didn’t see any bad fruit coming out from it.

Several months later, this same evangelist comes to town again, and the occurrences of the unusual are more pronounced; your best friend, whose discernment you trust and have known in the Lord for more than ten years, begins to laugh uncontrollably. Others around you start to laugh as well. All the signs seem to point to this as being from the Lord, and you don’t want to miss a move of the Spirit.

Now is the time to realize your dependence on Jesus: the “signs” all around you are like the storms from this passage, the circumstances; you are not to look at those, but at Jesus, remember? These signs don’t look fearful, like the storms did to Peter, but they are distractions from looking directly at Jesus.

What do you do? Instead of just “letting go”, ask yourself some questions. What is the evangelist speaking about? What started the “chain reaction”? What is the result of this, pleasure, feelings of euphoria, or genuine joy (with Jesus being the center of our attention, not our feelings)? What does this have to do with Jesus? Does this bring about a change in those who experience it? What change, a repentant attitude, or a more heartfelt desire toward God?

Remember to pray about God protecting you as you had at the earlier meeting. Being part of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon believers at a gathering can be an enriching, and life changing experience. I’m sure you would agree, however, that missing it would be better than being used as a tool of the Devil. You won’t be missing out on eternal life if you miss these phenomena, so why worry? Let us always be aware of who is being glorified.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What Do We Really Want?

…the desire of our soul is to thy name
(Isaiah 26:8)

What do you want in this life? Or, what do you want out of this life? What are your ultimate desires? Fame, fortune, power? Or maybe we should ask what do you want to do with your life? Or where do you want to go? Most have thought of these things at one time or another.

Well, what if you could have whatever it is that you wanted? No, really, if you could have anything, what would it be? Money, fame, power, position, immortality, irresistible appeal to the opposite sex, perfect love, whatever your heart desired, whatever it was that stirred your soul; what if you could have it all? Would you want the same things that someone else wanted?

The truth is, we all want the exact same three things, and anything that we wanted would fall under one or more of these three categories. The particulars about what we think will give us these things are what separates our desires on the surface, but they are the same in essence nonetheless. The only three things that people really want are safety, satisfaction, and rest. Perhaps they would be better delineated as security, fulfillment, and peace. Whatever the case may be, everything we long for is summed up in these three things.

For example, if we want money, it is for a sense of security, or perhaps a feeling of satisfaction as well. If we want fame it would be for satisfaction, if we wanted perfect children it would be for a sense of peace. If we desired power, it would bring us security we might believe, and a sense of fulfillment, and perhaps rest, if we had ultimate power. If we wanted irresistible appeal, it would be for security, rest, and satisfaction to a degree for all. You might try and counter by saying that you don’t want or need much, just enough to get by, but of course that is enough to give you a sense of peace, or satisfaction; see what I mean?

We could go on and on about this. But lets look at why we fail to achieve these three things and how we go about falsely pursuing them with things that can never meet our desires. We seek out temporal means of obtaining the eternal desires of our soul, things that can only lead to more needs and less actual satisfaction, safety, and peace. Most would agree that the reason many of us medicate ourselves with food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or any number of addictions is because we are not having our needs met in one of these areas.

The astronomic rise of stress, even in affluent America, and even among the well to do, with the meteoric rise of self help books and prescription and over the counter stress medicines for depression attest to the fact that we are losing the battle for the passions of our soul. Even those professional athletes or entertainers with all of their monetary wealth and fame often blaze out of control in their epicurean madness, endlessly searching for that latest thrill that will keep them on the emotional redline of soulish release. They have enough to keep discovering that they can never get enough. The ones who don’t have the cash flow or ego stroking, or who don’t then medicate their misery often give up and commit what I would like to call “stoicide” by surrendering to the “grin and bear it” life.

So we have three types, basically; the ones who have stuff but realize, often too late, that “stuff ain’t enough”; the others who “medicate to placate” their misery; and the realists who keep a stiff upper lip, as it were. Everyone is striving for God, but not the real God, only a god of our imagining: both the quest for beauty and the quest for truth are quests for God, and the quest for a scientific “unified theory” is the same thing. We want to be god, and we cannot fathom grace, as it truly is, that there is a Creator, and He can be known. All we want to know is things about His creation, yet we can know Him. God is willing to bring us into fellowship with Himself, and yet we play around with lesser things.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Live and Learn?

…Moses made a bronze snake… He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made…
(Numbers 21:9 / 2 Kings 18:4 – NIV)

Hezekiah destroyed the brass serpent that Moses had made to save the people from dying. The Israelites had kept it for around 800 years, and were worshipping it as an idol. The people were burning incense to it, but Hezekiah called it a brass thing, and ground it to powder. Remembering God’s faithfulness is wonderful and powerful, but we cannot create idols and expect them to deliver us. Sometimes the very thing that was good for us becomes a snare to us, and we must be on guard against this.

Why don’t we have original copies of the Bible, and why is it important to not place too much stock in the ancient relics such as the shroud of Turin, the Ark of the Covenant, the burial box of James, or the recent discovery of what may be Noah’s Ark, etc.? While they might be interesting, the proof you need is the Holy Spirit making Jesus alive to your heart, and in your life (1 John 4:13). We worship whom the Bible is about, not the Bible itself (John 5:39). It wouldn’t give us any power to have these items today; it is God who is the power! Knowing God’s power and His attributes is great, but we cannot worship His attributes, that is what the Hindus do, they make a God for every emotion, but God is bigger than peace, or even love. Remember that!

You may think that you don’t have any idols. Oh, no? This story of the brass serpent relates because the problem for most people is that they live in the past, or look only at the present, and have to learn in the future. What we should do is learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future. We can’t live in the past, the serpent represented past glory, and some people live on the fumes of a faded fire. Many long for the good old days, but we know that this is wrong (Ecclesiastes 7:10). The promises of God are stale words for some, promises that aren’t for them. The Bible does not speak life and liberty anymore.

Another terrible manifestation of this is when people hold themselves captive by their own guilt. Be saved and set free (Galatians 5:1 – NASB)! Friends, Jesus saves sinners from their sin, but we must know the truth intimately (2 Peter 1:8-12) to be set free in this life (John 8:31-32). Jesus took captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8), so start living like it! Whatever happened in the past thirty years ago, twenty years ago, or even last week, isn’t enough to drain the reserves from the Heavenly bank of grace! Hebrews 7:25 states that Jesus is able to save us to the uttermost, that He ever lives to make intercession for us. You don’t live in the past; proclaim your planting of the Lord as a tree of righteousness to His glory (Isaiah 61:3)! Your relationship isn’t about your past; it is about His past!

Why was the census David took wrong? Because he was looking to the present, at the great army he had amassed, and “counting” on it, instead of looking to God. He was being confident in what God gave him, not in God himself. It is like how we love the feeling when the Holy Ghost “shows up”, when we feel His immediate presence. The feeling is good, but we must look for God, not the feeling, the feeling is the reaction to the Spirit, not the Spirit Himself. It is all about the Giver, not the Gift.

This can be such a subtle problem; consider the Publican (Luke 18:11), who was grateful to God for his righteousness, but thought that this was his relationship, instead of continuing dependence. But doing righteous things is only our duty (Luke 17:10); it doesn’t constitute our relationship. Even though God imparts a measure of righteousness to us, and we will continue to grow in that grace, it is still on the basis of Jesus, and the imputed righteousness of God’s Son that we can come boldly before the throne.

Many look to the present, and live “under the circumstances.” They never grow up and realize that they can do all things through Christ, which strengthens them (Philippians 4:13). They deny the power of God that can come through suffering and depending on Him. You don’t have to be under your circumstances. Jesus is bigger than your circumstance!

We must learn from the past (Romans 15:4), not wait until we have to learn from the future, like the Israelites did against the Philistines. We cannot expect the Lord to bring us victory without having a present tense, dynamic relationship with Him. 1 Samuel 4:1-11 tells of how the Ark of the Covenant was lost and Shiloh rejected by God for Jerusalem, as Asaph also tells us in Psalm 78, we cannot rely on formulas to give us the victory.

When we are stuck living in the past, we have to suffer defeat in the present, and only then learn of our victory in the future. Satan dogs us with thoughts like “sure your sins are forgiven, but you still have to suffer the consequences in this life.” But Paul says to forget the past, and press on towards the mark (Philippians 3:13-14), he tells us by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are a new creation, behold, all things are new, we must begin to recognize who we are in Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) Many never heed the voice of the Lord, and are enrolled in the wrong school, the school of hard knocks. They have to “live and learn”, they are like children, and they must touch the hot stove for themselves before they learn to avoid it. You don’t have to wait till tomorrow to enjoy the blessings of God. Your future glory with Jesus begins right now (John 17:3 / Ephesians 1:3 / Colossians 1:27)!

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