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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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes He Can! (2)

And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
(Romans 4:5 – ESV)

I want you to be enflamed with an important truth. This is the truth that should light the fires of your faith above all others – that we are justified, declared righteous by faith. Now I don’t want to simply inspire you as any good writer or orator can do. It is important to be inspired but more important to be transformed. I don’t want to excite you; I want to exalt God.

When you don’t believe you can be deceived that’s when you already are. People today hear the rhetoric of a human hope, and think that all we need to do is unite. But beyond the rhetoric, what is the record of such things? How has that worked for us in the past? What is different now than then, has the human condition changed; can we actually believe that we have evolved out of our own depravity? People don’t believe that they are simply trusting in themselves but think that they are trusting in some higher cause. They have been fooled in that regard before. Can they be fooled again – yes they can.

I am not saying it is wrong to unite but what is important is what we are uniting around, and the Scriptures declare that there is only one real truth that we should be uniting around as far as changing our world is concerned, and that is the truth of Jesus Christ. They talk about change you can believe in, but they cannot change themselves. I am speaking of a name you can believe in, Jesus Christ. A leopard cannot change its spots but can Christ change a heart – yes He can.

The problems we have are because of who we are, and the answer to who we are is who He is. The only real way we can have lasting peace, lasting hope, lasting joy, lasting change is though the lasting love of Jesus Christ. Can He change our world – yes He can.

They speak of a call that will sound out from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea. They say yes we can. It is all about them. But I speak of a call that will sound out from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell through time and to eternity – yes He can. It’s all about Him.

You may not be the greatest speaker, but as a Christian you have the greatest truth, and you can proclaim it because of who He is – yes you can. They have no real hope, they cannot justify their rhetoric, but God through Jesus Christ justifies the ungodly and we can be justified in our proclamation of Him as our only hope, the only hope for the world. Can He save it? Yes He can.

When the rhetoric is gone the record will remain. Which of the world’s wonder men have risen from the dead, whose words live on, which person, what rhetoric, what record remains? Who has changed the world for the good more than any other, and who can change it for tomorrow and for eternity? Can anyone else – no they can’t. Can Jesus Christ – yes He can.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes HE Can!

And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
(Romans 4:5 – ESV)

People are always looking to follow someone, to find a message worth believing, a cause worth living and dying for. Well I am here to tell you today that we have the message the world needs to hear. The message everyone needs to heed. We have the message about the greatest love and of the greatest truth of all time. We have something that anyone and everyone wants. Our message is about truth, love, joy, and lasting peace, for time and for eternity. We have what everyone else is looking for. We have THE message, something money cannot buy, something effort cannot earn, and something unity cannot bring.

Now I don’t say these words lightly, I don’t want to engage in empty rhetoric. The message we bring isn’t steeped in empty rhetoric; it is breathed by a God given reality. Before we engage in rhetoric we need to be equipped with reality. So many voices in the world today, as in every previous day, are giving the false hopes of a false belief that we can indeed save our children, our world, our souls, and ourselves just by banding together around that very cause – the salvation of humanity by humanity.

The rally cry today is the same as it was back in years following the Flood of Noah’s day, at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) – yes we can. However, all the power of the people is of no effect if the people have no power to change their own hearts. Despite all of the rhetoric the Bible tells us the reality of the situation. Can we change our hearts – no we can’t.

When words and actions are in conflict, it's always the actions that carry the day. For most, indeed for all, including me, their rhetoric doesn’t match their record. If you look to some person to save you, people will always let you down, including yourself. That is why we cannot look to our own experience, but we must look to God and His Word for assurance. All men have sinned; all have come short of the glory of God. They are not God, they do not have the purity, and even if they did, they do not have the power. They all must rely on other flawed persons, and no amount of flawed build up can lead to pure ends. Man cannot climb his way out of his own heart.

I am not going to give you my personal testimony, my experience is not the reason I am justified, but in my experience I live out the fact that I am. I won’t trumpet my own righteousness now or as compared to how I used to be before I knew Christ, no matter how far I have come or how far I will go, and I hope to go very far, it will mean nothing compared to Christ. It is Christ whose righteousness I depend on. It is through Christ that I have been declared righteous. It is because of Christ that I can claim to be justified. It is because of Christ that I have peace with God. It is because of Christ that I am changed and it is because of Christ that I have inherited a home in heaven. That rhetoric is based in reality and the record of Christ backs it all up.

I am not simply relying on rhetoric of my own making. I am not relying on a record I have achieved. I am not relying on some false hope. I am relying on the Word of God and on the record of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have to rely on anyone to achieve perfection, purity, and power, and we can rely on Him to save us. Can He do it? Yes He can.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Relief of Unbelief

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
(Hebrews 3:12 – ESV)

When temptation comes, you will either dwell on the thought, or pray, as you ought. When you dwell on a thought, the thought dwells in you. The devil’s delight is for you to look at that thing and become intoxicated with it, or fear of losing it, or despair of defeat from it. Don’t let the devil have a place inside your head. Don’t magnify his words and let them develop into your will (James 1:14-16), magnify the Word of God in those moments of evil desire.

The longer you look at the giant the bigger he becomes, the longer you pray to God the closer He becomes. When the temptation comes and what is in front of you seems too big that is when you want to draw back, to let go, to give in to unbelief and feel temporal relief, to be rid of the pressure and to find temporary peace. But it is a false peace. Until you kill that thing it will come back time and again.

Most people will just let the enemy have an outpost as long as they don’t have to battle with him. You think you cannot overcome it and it is true in your flesh you cannot, just as the Israelites couldn’t overcome the giants in the natural unless God had enabled them to be able to. God was for them, and is for you if will but draw near to God when faced with the giant temptations to draw back. They should cause you to realize that you must draw near to God or you will be consumed by the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

60 Seconds (18)

THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN

The late preacher and author, Vance Havner, wrote, “Some time ago a friend of mine took me to a restaurant where they must have loved darkness rather than light. I stumbled into a dimly-lit cavern, fumbled for a chair, and mumbled that I needed a flashlight in order to read the menu. Gradually, however, I began to make out objects a little more clearly. My host said, ‘Funny, isn’t it, how we get used to the dark’? We are living in the dark…and we get used to it. There is a slow, subtle, sinister brainwashing process going on, and by it we are gradually being desensitized to evil. Little by little, sin is made to appear less sinful, until the light within us becomes darkness – and how great is that darkness!”

Hebrews 3:13 warns of “the deceitfulness of sin.” The word “deceitfulness” refers to a trick, stratagem, or delusion. Andrew Murray stated, “All sin is deceit.” Alexander Pope described the gradual process:

“Vice is a monster of such frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Ayn Rand, who was an atheist, wrote a long passage in The Fountainhead on how to wreck a society. One of the rules she cites is to teach the people to laugh at everything, including the sacred and sinful. Proverbs 14:9 states, “Fools mock at sin.” Marketing sin under a different label is a very effective tool of the devil. Today, lying is merely “stretching the truth.” Lusting is “healthy admiration.” Sexual perversion of all types is described as “practicing under God-given alternate lifestyles.” The killing of the unborn is termed “pro-choice” and “planned parenthood.” Advocating that there is no absolute truth is accepted as “broadminded tolerance.” To stand for Biblical truth of right and wrong is called “intolerant.” The promoting of pluralism (many paths to Heaven), is called “loving and open-minded”, yet those who advocate that Christ is the only Way to eternal life are labeled as “bigots.” Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (5:20). Jeremiah stated, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination. No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush,” (Jeremiah 6:15). The warning of Dr. E. M. Blaiklock needs heeding, “Our greatest security against sin is to be shocked by it.”

Christ revealed, “Men love darkness rather than light,” John 3:19. A man in his village went out and gathered a pail of figs. He brought them into his hut that evening, lit a candle, and took a fig out of his pail. After biting into it, he discovered half a worm. He threw the fig out the door, and took another fig. After biting into the second fig, he again discovered half a worm. He threw the fig out the door, and tried a third time. Once again, there was half a worm. So he blew out his candle and enjoyed the rest of his figs in the dark. “Man has become naturalized in unnatural sin.”

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

www.davidarnoldonline.org

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Planting or Poaching?

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,
(Romans 15:20 – ESV)

For a church planter asking to use your building for a foreign language church, wonderful, we might need that for those that don’t speak English in our area. For a church planter to be asking to use your building so that they can plant an English church, the question becomes, why? What about the church you are asking; isn’t it good enough? The unsaved can come to our church as easily as yours, what you are doing is trying to plant YOUR type of church. It amounts to little more than a business idea, like franchising your brand. If the one church doesn’t preach the gospel, then well, but if they do, what makes you think you are right to start another church in the same area? If you say that they won’t come to our church because of this or that well then what you are selling them is your brand not presenting Jesus Christ. You are not given license by God to start up your idea of a church just anywhere because you want one there, Mr. Mega man. The numbers might look good to you, but did you ask the local pastor what opening up your spiritual superhighway might mean for his flock?

If the church is huge and could use a little smaller model for the overflow instead of making itself a mega monster, then well. But if the church is already small, why bring another one in? Especially if you haven’t even been there to see if they are preaching the gospel and striving to present Jesus Christ in His radiance by expositing the biblical truth? If they don’t have “numbers” why aren’t you helping THEM? If you make that assessment only by what you don’t see there, like a lot of cars, what are you saying about your measures? When is the last time some large ministry helped a struggling church with its building, instead of building a new one for themselves?

Now I guess if there are no “Lutheran” or whatever denomination in a small town, then perhaps. But all too often it is just a different Baptist or independent church starting up and siphoning off other churches with their newness. Or the hip church, where you can feel good and do good stuff and drink coffee and eat donuts and be assured we love you, Jesus loves you, and no one is going to come down on you. Or how about the satellite church from a mega in another state, who put a lot of money into their building, advertising, etc., and the church starts off over 500 people. Never mind that more than half of them are just goats in training to look like sheep. Why do these churches always plant in middle and upper middle class neighborhoods? It is probably because that is where goat herders can be most successful.

Letting other churches using your facilities, sure, we can do that. Bonding together for common causes and civic projects, yeah, probably will do that. However, church planting is not increasing the Lord’s work if it is for any other purpose than evangelizing a community. It may grow nickels and noses, but it strives against other local assemblies and creates parochial interest and tends to democratic flesh minded choices rather than God fearing people. Oh, but how often it happens. I wish people would listen to Paul. 2 Corinthians 10:16 – so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. Truth is I am not really worried about so called “sheep stealing”. I just want to encourage faithful, small church pastors to realize it is most often goat gathering.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Check This Out!!!

We have retooled, restyled, and are now reintroducing the all new VOICE OF VISION webite, located @ voiceofvision.org. It will serve as our main ministry hub, where you can access information regarding all of our outreaches, etc. You can download or listen to any of our sermons or radio programs, see our Church website, you can get to this or any other related site from there, and we have several of the articles you see here on this blog site available in .pdf format.

Please take a look, we hope you will be delighted...let us know what you think!

Many thanks go out to our Church's Minister of Music, Radio Producer, and Website Manager, Chris Cohen...who is also a professional Master of Ceremony, Videographer, and budding blog buddy...


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Off the Hook?

on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
(Romans 2:16 – ESV)

Sometimes there are people who do not participate in a certain type of sin yet they stand up for the idea anyway. Those people who want more than acceptance of these sinful ideas, they want approval for them, are not wanting to save others so much as to have their own sinful ways justified. Those who are overly tolerant, indecisive or inclusive, or who chide you for being judgmental seem as if they are taking the high road. However, when the full truth of men’s hearts are revealed, we might find that they are doing so, not just to let someone else off the hook, but so that they might let themselves off the hook. However, God doesn’t grade on a curve He grades based on Christ.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Increasingly Decreasing

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:8 – ESV)

If these qualities are increasing: think about that. In the kingdom of God we are either increasing or decreasing. To be more precise, we are either increasing in fruitfulness, and thereby decreasing in self and sin, or the opposite, we are increasing in self and sin, and thereby decreasing in fruitfulness. We are either moving forward or sliding back, there is no status quo in the process of sanctification. We must be about the business of increasing, growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). The alternative is spiritual blindness (2 Peter 1:9).

In the list Peter gives here in 2 Peter 1:5-10, his words seem very similar to if not the same as Paul gives in Galatians 5:22-23 when describing the fruit of the Spirit. It is often said that we do not produce the fruit we only bear it. However when we consider this passage and others we must realize that we do indeed have a part to play. Certainly it is still it is done in God’s power (1 Corinthians 15:10 / Galatians 2:20 / Philippians 2:12-13), but we are elected to action not apathy (Romans 8:29 / Ephesians 1:5,11). Just because God is sovereign doesn’t mean we are static.

You see, when we were spiritually dead, the Enemy blinded our spiritual eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4). Then God said let there be light and we were born again (2 Corinthians 4:6). Even so, as believers we still see as through a dark glass (1 Corinthians 13:12). However, we can increase our spiritual sight even through the dark glass as we behold Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The problem is that many are not learning by yearning to let their light shine (Matthew 5:16). They don’t really want it because they don't think it’s worth it. Instead of giving off the radiant glow of their Redeemer, they turn down the dimmer switch. They think that just because they have seen the Light that they can turn the heat on and off any old time they like. The lights are down, they become drowsy, and the place gets cold. Soon they fall fast asleep. If they decide to get up and move around to get some warmth, they go bump in the night against anything and everything because they cannot see, it is dark! And they are just sleepwalking anyway.

Paul gives us the remedy, he tells us we must awaken by being more righteous in behavior than we were before we fell asleep and put the light out (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). He says it is high time to wake up because the dawn is near (Romans 13:11-12). If we do Christ will give us light and we may be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:14-18). But we cannot be filled with the Spirit when we are sleepwalking around, drunk on the drowsiness of the dimmer switch. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6 – ESV). We are all increasingly decreasing: either in sin, or in sight.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Devil's Bread

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 1:13 – ESV)

Something more than the Bible will give you something less than Jesus Christ. Don’t go there, don’t chase some “anointing” (Matthew 24:23-26). I don’t need to find a special anointed place when I’ve already got the Special Person who is preparing a place for me in heaven (John 14). Even so, right now, what place could be more special, more anointed, than the throne room of God (Hebrews 4:16)? You don’t need me or anyone else to get you there.

I stake my claim that the Spirit is moving based on the Word of God, not the word of some “anointed” fraud. I don’t need to go get some anointing I’ve already got all I need right here. The Bible is sufficient to meet all our spiritual needs. If it’s not in the book, you don’t need to look. People say “but look at the fruit”; friends that ain’t fruit that’s just nuts. Fruit is about more than the moment that you are in the church looking at people raising their hands and excited. The reason its called fruit is that it takes time to grow. The Bible tells us to look for fruit that remains, fruit that lasts. So called revivals often have no real results. It is not simply about excitement but lasting commitment. Let’s finish up like Paul, let’s stick with the scriptures.

People want to say that we are just worshipping the Bible, they say we had better heed John 5:39. It is true that we need to worship Jesus as He is found in the Bible not worship the Bible itself. The answer as to how to study the scriptures without making them the idol is to remember Christ. We are looking for Jesus, the one presented within the pages of scripture, not some false anointing calling itself Jesus that we don’t find in the scripture. That is the key.

Now this isn’t done by just knowing facts about the Bible or facts from the Bible, but knowing the God of the Bible, knowing His will, His way, His wisdom. This isn’t simply about memorizing more verses, although that is good. This is about learning to value Christ above all else, and to be able to taste His goodness so that you pass the tests of faith when they come. You will know what Christ is like and when something isn’t up to standard, to avoid it. Its value is seen for what is really is, pleasure for the moment but poison for your soul. You learn to discern.

If you have ignored getting more from His Word, if you haven’t been using the normal means like prayer, Bible study, witnessing and such, and yet you want some spiritual power encounter, you may get it, but it probably isn’t from God. He has already provided, He has already given you more, but you want something else, not something more.

So you go to some place other than where the Word of God is faithfully preached, to somewhere they are talking about exciting things but they aren’t found in the Word of God, and you receive something that to your mind was from God. But we may be asking for something God isn’t giving, like some made up anointing or mantle or whatever. We ask because of our desire to be an instrument in an area God doesn’t want us to deal in, and then we get some counterfeit.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he told Jesus to ask for the stones to be turned into bread. Jesus knew that though this would be granted, sometimes we are not supposed to ask, because we know that we have got what we need already. Jesus said man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1). We have His Word now, we have enough, and we don’t need some charlatan tempting us to eat the devil’s bread.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Long Walk of Faith

So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."
(Genesis 22:14 – ESV)

The journey to Moriah took three days, like Jesus spending three days in the tomb before the resurrection. Abraham walks three days to deliver his son as a sacrifice. Jesus walks three years to deliver Himself as a sacrifice. Abraham and Isaac are a type of the sacrifice of Christ, but their faith was no match for the Son of God. They were they type; He is the antitype, the fulfillment.

We can be in situations and we can realize that we are being tried, tested, and proven (1 Peter 1:7). If everything you have, everything you hold on to, everything that means anything is being taken away, you still have Jesus (Hebrews 13:5). He will not leave, He cannot be taken away, and we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Christ has made the journey. He has perfected the walk. He has made the sacrifice.

Jesus had to taste the torment of knowing He was going to be giving up His own life, but more than that, He tasted death for all men (Hebrews 2:9). This was not simply the physical pain of the cross but also having to drink the cup of the wrath of God against the sin of you and me, of all God’s children. Jesus suffered torment, not just of having done it his own way and then having to walk the long road, as Abraham had to do. Christ had never done it His own way, but He only ever did it His Father’s way, and yet He had to walk that long road, and taste death for all our sins.

By this type God’s people were to be trained to look for Christ. The Tabernacle and then the Temple were also pictures of the Ultimate Sacrifice seen in the death of Jesus. We can now look back and see God’s grand design and His masterful work in painting us pictures of redemption.

Now it is our chance to live as portraits of His grace, pictures of redemption, living sacrificial lives that point to our Master and the Maestro behind it all. Does you life point to the beauty of Christ? Does it glorify Him? Are you on that path? Are you keeping your eyes on Him even as the pressure may mount? Are you learning to trust Him and treasure Him above all else?

Look to Christ, learn of His greatness, His glory, of His love for you, and you will learn to love Him, and loving Him, you will learn to live like Him. The sound you will hear, the song that will move you, is the sweet sound of salvation, which is the Master Plan from the Maestros hand. We know that we will have tough and trying times in this life but our God is working it out according to His plan, and we can rest assured in Him (John 16:2-4, 2 Peter 3:14-18).

The introductory verse of Genesis 22:1 helps the reader understand that God never intended to allow the sacrifice of Isaac to come to full fruition. The test was not known to Abraham but God was known by Abraham – this is also what we see with Job 13:15, Daniel 3, Matthew 10:25, Luke 12:4-5. When you know the character of God you will trust Him, when you know the love of God you will treasure Him.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, October 17, 2008

What about Isaac?

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
(Genesis 22:9 – ESV)

How would God fulfill His promise to Abraham that Isaac would have many descendants, one of these being the Messiah, if he was supposed to kill him? Abraham could only speculate, but he trusted God, because he knew God. Abraham drew a conclusion; "God will raise Isaac back to life" (Hebrews 11:17-19).

How did Abraham “know” that God would not allow the seed, Isaac, to be destroyed? God had promised a seed from Sarah, and God had delivered in spite of Abraham having gone against the plan of God, thinking he was going for the plan of God, in having Ishmael. God made it right even though Abraham had messed up, so that is why he could trust this time when asked to offer up Isaac. We make mistakes, we still sin, we think we are following God and we are not at times, but even when you have done wrong you can trust Him to make it right if you will walk on the right path now, and when you fall down again, you get back up and trust again.

Now we often look at the faith of Abraham, but what about the faith of Isaac? He must have known he was the promised seed. He must have been able to stop his old father from sacrificing him, but he went along with it. We cannot know for certain what age he was, but we do have some clues. Isaac was given the task of carrying the wood for the impending sacrifice, enough wood to consume a human body when set on fire. Joseph is called a lad at the age of seventeen (Genesis 37:2) and at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:12, 46). The men with him are also called by the same Hebrew word. It would seem he was at least a young man, and not a child.

Abraham didn’t know exactly what was going to happen but on he went anyway, as did Isaac. An altar was constructed, wood arranged, and Isaac bound, a process that probably took 2-3 hours. What discussion must have been happening? Isaac had heard his father tell the servants that they would return, and he had also asked Abraham, basically, “Hey, what’s going on here?” (Genesis 22:5-8). His father replied that God would provide a sacrifice, and Isaac had to trust his fathers, both heavenly and earthly, as he allowed himself to be bound on the altar of sacrifice. Like Isaac we need to have faith in our Heavenly Father even when it seems as if we are on the chopping block. Abraham’s trust that God will provide doesn’t reduce his agony, agony grips his every step up the mountain. Isaac also trusted that God would do what was right even if it meant he would be the sacrifice.

It is interesting that some Jewish commentaries state that Isaac with the wood on his back is like a condemned man, carrying his own cross! Of course we know it to be a type of the Messiah, Jesus (John 19:17). It is also interesting in that we also have a cross to bear so that we may identify with Christ. He does the work but we carry the name and bear the cross, and share in His sufferings, but also His comfort. Abraham had to have faith for the “long haul”. Isaac had to have faith right in the most intense moments. We go through both.

It is hard to stay committed to something we don't value. We might think we value God, but increasing trials point to the truth. Is God increasing in value to us? He must be if we are to face increasing trials. Is future grace and God’s glory more of a treasure to you than pleasure or temporal relief of pain, especially as the pressure mounts? Sometimes we aren’t certain about what is going on, but we can know for certain that God will make everything work to our own good even if we have to suffer the details while we are on the way (Romans 8:28). We must learn to value our relationship with God, and this will increase our spiritual vision.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dead Man Walking

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
(Genesis 22:4 – ESV)

In this scene it starts out hard but gets harder every step of the way as the details are filled in. Abraham had been walking with God, he had been given the promise, and he had received the seed, the one that started the line that would give us the Messiah, though whom the whole world would be blessed. But now he is being asked to destroy the dream, and he had already thrown Ishmael out of the camp.

Imagine that night before; Abraham must have had restless sleep, if any. In the early morning hours, instead of having his servants saddle his ride, or cut the wood, he did the work. When he got up early and got everything together, including Isaac, what did Sarah think? What did Abraham say to her? We do not know.

Imagine the walk, and how hard it was to keep his eyes on God and His will. He could have turned back or taken some other way, no one else would have known, no one else would have thought him to be doing anything wrong. It was a long walk alone with God and the knowledge of what he was about to do, but it still was about the walk with others as well. There was plenty of time to turn back, three days at least, and then it was still far off, the long climb to the certain death of his son, it would seem. Oh the temptations to turn back, or stand still or not to finish it out, and no on else would even have to know! How often this has been us!

From other narratives we know that Abraham did reason with the Father about things he didn’t understand, although he would still submit to them. He made his case, and said, in effect, not my will but thine be done. In Genesis 15:2-3, he raised an objection to God's promise; in 15:8, he raised a doubt; in 17:17 and following, he tries to get God to bless him his own way; and in 18:23-33, he reasoned with God on the basis of God's character.

Above all, fellowship with God was what Abraham treasured. Abraham wasn’t sending the promised seed to its destruction, even if Isaac had to die. No, he wasn’t abandoning the promise; he was fulfilling it, taking it one step at a time. Not in his own strength, but in faith, with the power of God, as a soldier in the Lord’s Army.

God has promised to be with us every step of the way (Psalm 23:4), but we aren’t promised that we will see every step along the way. That is what dying to self, and walking in faith is about. We think that we cannot do it, but the Bible begs to differ. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). We can see the far future, and we know the end result will be to our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28-30), but for now we must be as dead men walking.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Right Here Now

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."
(Genesis 22:1 – ESV)

The text says that God was testing Abraham “after these things”. What things? The background to this is helpful in our understanding of this scenario as it goes forward. Specifically he had just sent Ishmael from the camp (Genesis 21:14). Abraham had done it his way, and now, having lost Ishmael, he would have to seemingly let go of Isaac also! Was Abraham supposed to just let go of God’s promise? Why would God now tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

Imagine how difficult this whole event must have been. We only see the resolve to do what was commanded, and this is to drive the point home, no other words are given so as not to dilute the potency of the pressure which must have been palpable. Looking at the text and comparing it to events in our lives, we can all feel it. It was tangible; Abraham could taste the torment of those moments, as he drove Ishmael out of the camp, as God told him he would have to sacrifice Isaac, as he took the long journey up the mountain, all the while knowing what was about to happen. Abraham had to be fully committed right then in the now, or he would fail in the near future. In a sense, it isn’t hard to see our own lives within this story.

We often have to go through a long haul and often against heavy odds, and have to suffer many stresses and struggles, loss and anguish, to follow after God when it seems He is actually coming against us. This passage teaches us that we must still have faith; we must still trust God even when our eyes see things that tell us not to. We must truly surrender our hearts to God. We must let go of our own way, of trying to help God out, not wanting to wait, not wanting to have to go through any pain, not wanting to sacrifice something we worked so hard and so long for, not wanting to throw it all away, not wanting to admit it was all wrong. We must stop trying to justify ourselves or our actions, stop trying to add our works to His words, and stop trying to hide behind some pretense to good motives. It is time for full commitment, right here now.

After these things, this is when the test comes. After having done it our way, now we try and do it God’s way, and it seems to be getting worse. The life we dreamed about and we think God has promised us is being torn apart by God Himself! This text should help us to stop guessing about why some things just don’t seem to go the way we think they are supposed to. We abort our assignments because we think God is going to abort our dreams. However, if Abraham, who is our father in the faith (cf. Romans 4:1) had to learn to fully commit then so do we. Abraham kept on believing God, and that is why he could keep on going forward in faith.

We are often asked, “Why does it always seem like everything goes wrong, even when I try and follow God?” Sometimes it is because we just try God on a trial basis. We will follow until it doesn’t go our way, but that is the problem, we still want to go our way. We want God to make the path nice and easy and then we will follow; we will only repent and obey to the extent that it satisfies our own desires. Instead God must be what we learn to desire, what we learn to place our value in, and then as we treasure Him above all else we will pass the tests, we will learn God, love God, and live God, and not worry so much about our own agenda. Then when it rains we won’t complain, when we lose things we gain God, and we will press on in faith.

It is time to stop pretending and time to be repenting. Just because they are spelled with most of the same letters doesn’t mean you can get the order wrong. It is time to stop trying to get God on our agenda, and time to start getting on God’s agenda, no matter what we might have to do. We have to give up our right to govern ourselves according to our tired old selfish nature. Partial commitment will lead to part time Christianity, with the eventual downgrade, back into the old way you never really left from. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26). We need to commit, or else we will quit. It is time to let our Lord be our Lord, for real. Things may seem cloudy in the short term, but we need to have a long term vision about what God is doing in us and where He wants to take us, and learn to value it, even when we are made to change course, or we won’t act right. Here. Now.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

60 Seconds (17)

WEARY

These words appeared on a bumper sticker, “Some days all I want to be is a missing person.” Neil Eskelin wrote, “Which is the greatest handicap, a broken bone or a broken spirit? A loss of health is nothing when compared with a loss of heart.”

In Daniel 7:25, we read that in the last days, Satan would strive to “wear out the saints of the Most High.” The Hebrew word for “wear out” is to “mentally tire, make the mind weary.” H. Jack Morris, D. Min., a marriage and family therapist, wrote in his article, “Strength For The Tired And Weary,” “Life is too big to handle alone. Living cannot be a one-man operation, yet many people try to cope with their burdens and manage their responsibilities single-handedly. The result is often physical tiredness and weariness that won’t go away even with sleep or relaxation. Life was designed to be lived with God’s help.”

Becoming weary has been a challenge for generations. Rebekah, when having problems with her son, Esau, stated, “I am weary,” Genesis 27:46. Job, after his tragic losses, said, “My soul is weary of my life,” Job 10:1. David, due to constant stress, wrote, “My soul is weary,” Psalm 6:6. And Paul admonished all of us, that it is possible to “grow weary while doing good,” Galatians 6:9. A saint of old confessed, “I may not get weary OF His work, but I do become weary IN His work.”

Francois de la Moth Fenelon said, “Should we feel at times disheartened and discouraged, a simple movement of heart toward God will renew our powers. Whatever He may demand of us, He will give us at the moment the strength and the courage that we need.” Isaiah spoke to those who grow weary in Isaiah 40:29 – 31. He stated, “He (God) increases strength,” then gave three examples. First, strength to soar, “They shall mount up with wings like eagles.” Here is the possibility to bring Heaven within our grasp, of setting our affections on things above, and living in heavenly communion. Second, strength to run, “They shall run and not be weary.” This speaks of strength for emergencies, and the assistance we need in severe difficulties. Third, strength to walk, “They shall walk and not faint.” This is the strength we need for the daily plodding and routine of life.

In some parts of India, there are provided along the road, resting places for those who carry heavy loads on their heads. They are called “sumatangas.” They have a shelf where the traveler can drop his burden. Beneath is a shady recessed seat where he can rest. Referring to one of these, a native Christian woman said, “Christ is my Sumatanga!”

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…and you will find rest for your souls,” Matthew 11:28 and 29.

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

www.davidarnoldonline.org

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Obama the New Age Messiah?

First, we will take a look at a recent letter that was sent out. It was not approved by the Obama campaign, and actually has less to do with him, and more to do with the belief system of the people who sent it. In effect, it does point the way to discernment, as we see how any cause can be rallied around so as to introduce the New Age agenda.

The sentiment described in this correspondence is typical of the humanistic, feel good spirituality so prevalent and pervasive in the world culture today. It may seem humble and holy, in a sense, but it is not a new or novel idea, it is an old tool of the Enemy of our souls.

After the letter, we will then give a response…

Hi all of you beautiful people here, there, and everywhere...

From California, New Mexico, and Peru, there are several of us who are making the commitment to join together Thursday evening at Sunset (October 9th) in Prayer to send loving energy, positive intentions, and courageous support to Barack Obama as he steps forward at this heightened, crucial time just before the Presidential Elections. He needs all of our loving support right now, through action and prayer. We would like to ask You to join us Thursday evening in creating a beautiful, synergistic, healing, and powerful circle around Barack Obama and his team and, of course, for all of the world. How we respond to the world's many dire problems and needs right now, in this moment, will decide the very fate and health of our planet. Let's come together!

So here what it looks like... Around sunset, please engage in any form of prayer that feels good to you, in any way that prayer manifests for you... whether it be through song, mantra, the drum, a walk in the woods, or silence... anything will do. Through our prayer, we can collectively envision Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Then, at 9:00pm California time (8:00 New Mexico time, 7:00 Florida, 7:00 Peru time) we will engage in silent meditation for one half hour to an hour in prayer for the good of the planet in the hope that with these new elections comes the necessary changes to facilitate the rapid healing for ourselves, our families, our communities, our children, and the animals, which all embody our very sacred Earth Mama.

This is all so very very important. Please feel free to take it to any level you like... you can use this time to be alone and go deep, or have a party with your neighbors and community in celebration of life and Obama and all good things to come, celebrate the last day of Durga Puja (the Hindu holiday for the 9 nights of the Goddess), which is Thursday, with Kirtan and food and good prayer (like we are!), or celebrate the first day of Yom Kippur which also begins at sundown (which is the Jewish holiday of reconciliation). However you do it, please pass this on to everyone you know so that they, too, can participate and be a part of the magic and help us circulate this energy to the four directions of the globe.

This is not just an issue that affects the people of our country; this affects the whole world. We are a global community, and likewise, the people of the world are looking at us wondering what is going to happen next. We should call on our friends from all over the Earth to join us at this special time. Thursday Night at Sunset, music, dance, prayer, voice, togetherness in Celebration Thursday at either 7, 8, or 9 at night (depending on time zone so we can all be in silence and prayer TOGETHER) in an effort to build more vibrant energy and support for the efforts of Barack Obama and all who are behind him.

In love and in light,
In goodness and in Prayer,
In Joy and in Celebration,

Now in light of that letter, we offer up a measure of discernment, from a Christian perspective…

It does seem wonderful, doesn’t it? But now is where we “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1ff). What is the reasoning behind this sort of appeal? What beliefs and belief systems inform this type of thinking? Is this something Christians can be involved in, just because this sounds so loving, so wonderful, so worshipful, so willing to be inclusive and helpful?

The problem, among many, is that while it seems so "nice", like you can just choose your own path to celebrate and help, that is where it is sinister at heart. The reason things like this can be so inclusive, you know, celebrate Yom Kippur, we include you Jews, and celebrate the 9 nights of the goddess or whatever, we celebrate any expression, is because none really matter in that type of system. All things are God, it is pantheism, or it doesn't matter because all things have God in them, all part of one energy force, which is panentheism. It can be all-inclusive because God is all or is in all, so it seems so very tolerant and nice, but it is actually the very opposite, that we celebrate nothing as holy above all the rest, and therefore you cannot tell me that I or anyone or anything else is not God!

They might not say it like that but it filters down and out to the truth that if everything is God, then nothing is. When I say nothing is, I mean that the God they worship is nothingness. It is not simply that this God doesn’t exist, but that what is worshipped is actually the concept of nothingness.

It is a denial of Christ, His deity as compared to our humanity, sin, the need for atonement, the inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible, the realities of heaven and hell, and it makes man God and God man, or birds, or rocks, or rats, or everything or in everything. There is no separation between God and man or anything else, and we then become the arbiters of what path we choose, and we cannot, ultimately lose. Of course, that IS true in Christ, but not in and of ourselves; this letter is denying the exclusive claims and atoning work of Christ. Humanity in union becomes the savior instead of Christ as all in all.

Also we can clearly see the old heresy of earth worship repackaged in a new age, hippie hairdo. Romans 1:25, and of course hundreds of texts speak against this very type of EVIL. We need to tear down this arrogance disguised as love which exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are not God; we don’t get to define the terms. This evil mess may be seductive and seem so very loving, but it is not love at all. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Of course, this may seem to make us the enemy of everyone else, but it isn’t true. We are the enemies of the Evil One who spawned this evil message, not the person who wrote it, but the spirit behind it. Those that are attaching themselves to it are attaching themselves to eternal death, and we are not against people, we are for the Truth. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). They are not the enemy but they ARE victims of the enemy (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

We must hope that some will realize that it is “no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15), and pray, not for some energy field or unknown prayer force to help their deception and demonic dreams, but for the glory of Christ to shine upon them that they might repent and be saved, to the praise of His glory.

This message really isn’t about Obama, or whether or not you should vote for him. Obama and the election is just the instrument to introduce the idea of the God of our collective consciousness. This is about people who have been deceived with darkness posing as light.

Can we bring the Light of Truth and the knowledge of True Grace to this darkness?

Yes we can.

In His grace, and for His glory,
J.D. Hatfield
Pastor, Riverside Christian Fellowship
Voiceofvision.org

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Practicing Perfection

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:14 – ESV)

It has been said that practice makes perfect, but it is not just that any type of practice makes perfect but that perfect practice makes perfect. A baseball pitcher cannot simply throw the ball around and keep missing his target, and then think that because he has spent time throwing that this alone will lead to perfection. No, he must hone his skills and get to the point where he can hit his target, time and again, so that then when he is in a game he will repeat what he has practiced. He has to get it right first, and then repeat that process, perfect practice makes perfect. Imagine the pitcher who never threw a strike in practice, taking the mound, and believing he will succeed hitting the strike zone just because he has been throwing the ball in practice, yet never actually hitting his target! Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Well it is the same for our biblical life. We have to learn to learn. Those that are “perfect”, or mature, have learned to handle meat because they have learned to handle milk, they have become mature, skilled, and they practice, they know how to grow, they exercise their judgment and know how to exercise judgment. They have learned to discern.

One true and first test of discernment is that godliness leads to discipline and diligence (2 Peter 1:5, 10 – eagerness and earnestness, which implies effort to be speedy) and if not it is deception. Godliness wants to be godlier, it exercises (the word for trained in this verse is our root word for gymnasium) their senses, their perception. Their judgment is exercised that is why they can exercise judgment. Learning leads to maturity, and mature learning makes for mature discerning. A baby doesn’t run before it crawls.

When we are immature, the truth becomes a toy, when you have something but don’t know what it is really for, you don’t know how to properly use it. They are unskilled and unproductive. Those that won’t discern will not be able to apply the truth or they will turn truth into lies, and take something advanced to advance their own agenda.

We must concentrate on Christ. Why is this so hard? Because your natural instinct is to turn to yourself, instead of to Jesus. That is why we want moral exhortations rather than true grace, we want steps, programs, formulas, and things like that because we want to be able to use God to get things right rather than actually trust Him with controlling it all. You see we can even give it all to Him and yet still be in control of it, we sort of loan Him the leadership of our lives, and then snatch it back when we feel threatened, persecuted, frustrated, or that we are suffering too much. We say, “wait a minute, this isn’t going right, you are doing it wrong, or I can do a better job, or you are missing something”. We want results but He wants a deeper relationship. God is able to change your instinctive patterns without you having to jump through hoops. It will take real work, not cookie cutter formulas, but real fellowship, and this is what good relationships are all about. If we will submit to His will and commit to study, then God will use our own experiences to teach us more precisely, we will learn to discern.

When you are facing hard or disappointing circumstances, boredom, loneliness, money problems, fighting with a spouse, distance from a friend, it’s easy (and instinctive) to turn, and we think we are trusting God but we are only turning to ourselves many times. You need to go to God, He hears you, but will you hear Him, from His Word? God gets better, He gets brighter as you trust Him and are able to see Him through the circumstances. That is how He shows His brilliance. He can shine when nothing else can. I hope you can learn to discern that. You can over time if you are willing to do what it takes to become mature. Perfect practice makes perfect.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dieting for Discernment

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:14 – ESV)

The mature know what to look for; they know what to swallow, unlike a child who will swallow anything and everything it can get its hands on. The baby just wants an experience of what this or that tastes like. They haven’t been trained yet. Their senses are wired for “now” and they aren’t ready to decide what they eat yet without getting hurt.

This is talking about decisions that are not laid down specifically in a list. If you are mature you can know God’s will without some list. You see the devil is a liar and he knows how to take something and package it so that it does not look or smell or even taste like poison. The label doesn’t exactly match some explicit warning in scripture, and for those who are untrained they don’t know how to discern by using the scope and sweep of scripture. You don’t need a proof text to have proof that the devil is at work. If you know God’s character by having been trained in God’s Word then you will know if God is at work or not. Don’t assume you do. Too many Christians are babies playing around with poison thinking they know God better than they do.

By reason of use (KJV) they practice until they are trained, which means constantly doing it, but they have learned to do it with the milk first. Then they have matured to the major leagues. They have become productive, fruitful in every good work, and the fruit isn’t poisoned.

This does bring up an interesting question, because there are people who read the Word every day, they apply themselves, they teach others, and live what many would call obedient lives, but they still fall for every fad and fraud that comes down the pike. Why? They don’t practice their discernment skills, and then they think that meat is something other than it is. They think they have a handle on it all. They aren’t so much looking to be trained as they are looking to teach, and they actually need to be taught again.

Just because someone teaches kids math in elementary school doesn’t mean they don’t need to keep doing advanced math on their own. If they stay put mentally they will regress back. People may seem obedient compared to others, but what about where God is trying to take them, are they submitted to that? To whom much is given much is required. I confess this is a big area for me in my spiritual life; I can’t just compare myself with everybody else. Neither can you.

Now, ask yourself this: Does this give any instruction for how we should deal with ourselves, as we strive to grow in Christ? Does it give any instruction as to how we might deal with others whom we disciple? Discipleship requires effort, physical, mental, spiritual. Grace is not opposed to effort. The opposite of grace is not effort, but merit. We need to recognize that we need to give the effort. We need to recognize that God is demanding an effort. We need to demand effort from those we disciple. Instead of taking the easy road or looking for the microwave miracle, we need to heed the biblical message and methods. There may be episodes of great movement in short amounts of time, but the key is to keep moving all the time. No pain no gain.

We need to become mature in our learning or we will just waste our time. We need less trial and error and more trial and triumph. We can pass the tests if we will submit to the teacher. The best way to prepare for the trials of tomorrow is to live like they were here today. I am not talking about worrying; I am talking about focus.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, October 06, 2008

From Milk to Maturity

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
(Hebrews 5:12-13 – ESV)

Now the problem becomes slippage. We have to go back to basics because people become sluggish. People forget what they know: Use it or lose it. Their spiritual life is slow, even though they may have lots of entertainment and excitement about it. They might have advanced before but they have gone backward. They had become dull of hearing, and they had come back to the place of needing milk, the same word in Greek is used in both verses. Not everyone is called to be a teacher in church, but everyone in church is supposed to be teaching, we ought to help others grow, to explain things to spouses, children, younger people, unbelievers, etc., etc. (cf. Titus 2). After all this time they ought to be able to teach but they have become unteachable.

The truth is that this is why some people need to be at every revival or happening or conference or anything that mentions God and is exciting. It is because their spiritual and you could say scriptural life is actually slow, sluggish, it has no push, no strength, and they have been deceived into thinking activity is spirituality, that excitement is empowerment. They want an experience they don’t want to exercise, and so they need to be re-taught again and again. Their spiritual ears had become dull. Their maturity level had sunk to a milk only diet. The Bible was becoming uninteresting. Things of the world were becoming more exciting and attractive than the Word of God and the greatness of His salvation. They are drifting instead of rowing against the current of sin, and that means drifting backward toward destruction. They weren’t learning, they weren’t discerning, they weren’t skilled, and they were self-willed.

You need to handle the bread and milk before you try and eat the meat, it is for the mature, those that aren’t will mess up with the meat, they will choke, and you don’t feed a one year old a steak. The problem is that they are unskilled, they stay babies, or they reverted back, because they are not exercising with the milk they have. People want to go from toddler to titan without even knowing or living what the Bible teaches. That makes growth based on them not God, they act the part, they get a lot of superficial knowledge and can maybe quote a lot of verses or perhaps they can even teach, but there is something missing, and they will fall when tested. A giant baby is still a baby. It hasn’t cut its teeth, and it needs milk. Milk produces righteousness and then you are ready for meat when you become skilled by practicing and can discern truth.

So the path to becoming more discerning, to becoming mature, to being able to handle the Word of God and sense when something’s a fraud is not to jump from milk to meat, but to learn how to drink the milk. Even then you are still not supposed to be teaching some deep truth yet. You apply yourself, stop being lazy, stop thinking you’ve heard this before, stop thinking you know it all, stop thinking you are ready for meat, stop looking back, start exercising what you know, submit your will, become obedient, practice, become skilled. Learn to eat the food on the table, and stop dropping it off your plate onto the floor and waiting for the goodies. You don’t recognize how good what you have already is, and when you do, then you will grow from that instead of thinking it isn’t enough, and then you will become mature.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Hard Hearted Hearing

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
(Hebrews 5:11 – ESV)

So this passage (Hebrews 5:11-14) says that there is much to learn from the Word of God (the bible), about the Word (Jesus), but too often we don’t give it the due diligence it requires, we let it go and become slothful and stagnant. Then persecution, problems, suffering and situations draw our attention back to our old life and our old ways. We see them as more comfortable than moving forward, and we start to continue to look back, and we become hard of hearing and hard hearted. We can be a Christian for a long time and think we have heard it all before, but while we may have heard it, we have stopped being affected by it.

Now someone can have intelligence but not be learning. Someone can be smart but not skilled. Someone can be doing but not be developed. Some one can have been built up in the faith, but become lax and worn down. This is not simply about biblical knowledge but obedience and faith (trust). 2 Peter 3:18 – this is not simply a call to be more studious but more serious. It is a call to surrender control and submit to study. It does take BOTH to grow. If we don’t keep growing, we start to be slowing, and then we will wither away.

In the Pastoral Epistles, Timothy was instructed to pass along what he had learned, a fully orbed faith. It was not just doctrines of facts and figures. Instead he was given instructions on how to recognize those who had learned. Here in Hebrews, the writer recognizes that by their affections for comfort and companions rather than Christ, he can see that they had stopped learning and were looking back and starting to move backward. A lot of people get confused on these types of issues, because they think that they are simply trying to minister to spiritual stragglers, but they are the ones being left behind.

While it is certainly true that we must be doers not simply hearers of the Word, we cannot be doers if we are not hearers. Otherwise our doing may just be doing what we think is right but it is wrong. Now all of this is about becoming skilled, yes, but it is a matter of will before it is a matter of skill, and if you get the order wrong you will be out of order, which we see so often with people who know a whole lot of bible but are a whole lot of ungodly. This isn’t an excuse for the rest of us to not study, it is a call to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is a call to keep on moving forward in our sanctification, becoming less like the world and more like Christ, in true holiness and in the knowledge of Him. Sometimes we can be so preoccupied with ministering to others that we become casualties ourselves. Can you hear what I am saying, or do you think you have it all figured out?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Turn and Learn

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
(Hebrews 5:11 – ESV)

Some things are hard to explain (interpret or translate), because they don’t know the language. The writer was going to compare scripture with scripture and show them the superiority of Christ through this Melchizedek. This would require effort and thought, and they weren’t quite ready for it. It is like a first day apprentice who doesn’t know the trade; they have to know and learn to use the tools before they become truly effective. Or like a professional who has to acquire continuing education credits to keep their license.

Now there is a reason they don’t move in to more trust: lack of submission leads to spiritual dullness. They have become dull of hearing. The second problem is study. They have become slothful and sluggish (same word as in Hebrews 6:12) in study – not only lazy but slow even when they aren’t. Now we are talking about being spiritually slow, and that is not a function of the intellect. Feasting on God's Word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge of the will. Will you submit your will to God? Will you be willing to obey what the scriptures teach? If so, will you search and study the scriptures? If you do, then you will learn, grow, and understand.

The pathway to maturity and to solid biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person. The real path to obedience is not outward conformity but submitting your will. Then you concentrate on your target by studying the scriptures, and no matter your intellect, your spiritual senses will become more and more attuned to Christ. Jesus has run the path before us (Hebrews 6:19), and He is the key to staying on the path, to keep looking at the One ahead of us, so we don’t lose our way.

Most think that intellectual development is the key to maturity, but this text tells us that isn’t the truth. This is actually obvious even from the everyday unbelieving world. How many smart people do stupid things? How many who have it all still slip and fall? How many people who are geniuses also become madmen? How many children do you know who can overwhelm you with their knowledge of technology but they cannot even handle fifty dollars without it burning a hole in their pockets?

Some are unlearned because they won’t be taught. They won’t submit themselves to study or to be taught by those who have studied. This is often the case with many who have authority issues and yet don’t study for themselves. They just go by their feelings but their feelings, their “powers of discernment” aren’t developed; their skill is like a monkey with a machine gun. Only through experience have they learned anything, and it is not enough. Experience can be good if biblically understood. We need to study and then experience will teach us more precisely. Then our learning processes will speed up.

The way people often learn is flawed, faulty, foolish, and it wastes time, effort, and effectiveness. When your head is turned you cannot hear; you can hear the sound but not the substance because you aren’t paying attention. Who are you fellowshipping with, which camp has your attention, what has you turning your head? If you think some program or some book or anything else is so great but it doesn’t have you digging deeper into the scriptures, it is leading you away from them. If you aren’t turning the pages of the Bible, something else will turn you away from it, and yes, away from God.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Truth is the Issue

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
(Hebrews 5:11 – ESV)

About this refers to the priesthood of Melchizedek (vs.6, 10 / Genesis 14 / Psalm 110:4) and how it related to Christ, this is what he was about to discuss. He had just discussed Christ as the Great High Priest and how He was called of God like any true man of God is, and he was about to go into just how superior Christ was than all the other priests before Him.

Now before he goes into this meaty subject there is a sort of parenthesis here from Hebrews 5:11-6:20. The writer is telling them of where they were at spiritually. He was taking stock of their situation and telling them they were not mature enough, and why they were having this problem in the first place. They hadn’t advanced in Christ as much as they should have. This didn’t mean mystical experience but understanding God’s Word and thereby His character, His way. They were failing to discern how disastrous their current course would be if they didn’t decide to press on in the faith and into Christ and away from Judaism, and away from those who wouldn’t separate from those who had turned back.

They should have been solid but they were falling apart, like many today. Growing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, discovering just how supreme and loving and available He is to us, this is what guards us from error and fads and frauds when we feel the weight of suffering or persecution and the pull of the popular opinion, whether that be in the religious world, our family, our church, or whatever. The way to keep discerning is to keep on learning. You cannot rest on your laurels and rest in Christ at the same time.

Now I am not going to say Christian counseling is wrong, but I do think we see that something is wrong when we have so many people who call themselves Christians needing or looking to be “counseled”. Why do so many Christians need counseling today? Why do so many stay immature? This text gives us a clue.

When we are naïve we fail to grasp important issues. These Hebrew Christians were not able to make the distinction between what scripture taught and what they felt was right or what the tradition they were leaning on said. This was about the primacy of the scriptures in theirs and of course our lives in practice not just theoretically (Hebrews 4:12). The Melchizedek priesthood was not of tradition at all only a scriptural matter. There was no Melchizedek priesthood to the Jews, and so they would have to rely on scriptural precept relating to Christ in practice alone.

Even though this was only mentioned briefly in the verses before, this verse says, basically, “of which we have much word” (logos). There would be no familiar tradition to lean on “just in case”. It was something different than what they had learned before. Many are simply looking for affirmation of what they already know and believe. They are looking to be reinforced in their best intentions, not looking to see God’s ways. It is no wonder we see so many “problems” with Christians today.

This is the way it is with people. You see the Bible isn’t just a new set of moral rules we already know about, it is a whole new way of thinking, and His thoughts are not our natural thoughts, not our best intentions. We need to be renewed in our minds or we won’t get it, and many never do get it. Now there are a lot of religious traditions and denominations, but the issue is not about which system has the best morals or seems to be the most loving, the issue is “what do the scriptures say”. The truth is the issue.

People don’t want to break away from old patterns because they may have a grain of truth and they provide a measure of comfort. People become so wedded to error and a false view of God that it is no wonder they think you are attacking them personally if you mention certain things as being false. They want to save face rather than come clean. They are trying to cope yet they give themselves no hope. Something other than scripture holds the weight of authority over them.

This is why every new book, new fad or old fraud sends them into a frenzy or tizzy. This is why we need to make the commitment to scripture beforehand. People don’t actually yield their will to the authority of scripture; they don’t submit their hearts. They don’t have faith. They don’t trust God. They don’t trust the truth. So their first problem is submission.

Of course, it is easy to imagine if this were today, we would hear people saying that the writer is being too harsh, judgmental, and divisive, not loving enough, or whatever. However, remember this; God never shows love at the expense of light.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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