Imagine... you have been working in your field, say, 15 hours. Like non-stop. Behold the dozen bushels of harvest that sweat and more sweat have earned you. The guy’s meager 5 bushels in the adjacent field makes you feel, well, somewhat superior. That is until....
Until you gander at the other neighbor. 25 bushels! How could that be?! Rattled, you walk through other fields. One dude has 3 bushels, another 17, another 31. And one guy has 150!! You heard me, 150!!
Now imagine.... you have been a christian, say, 15 years. You have flocked with the flock, faithfully surrendered your tenth, volunteered for this and that, a regular team player. You’re in heaven now, and the Lord Jesus shows you the fruit of your life. There before you are 12 bushels of “treasures in heaven”, the fruit of 15 years of christianity. “Not bad,” thou thinkest. That is until....
Until you see the “treasures” of some others. One dude has 17 bushels, another 31. And one guy has 150!! You heard me, 150!!
Question: How does a guy grow from a 12-bushels dude to a 150??? Wrong answer: Go to church more often, try real hard to change, more volunteer work, give more money. Correct answer: Repent, return, gaze.
Repent of idols (that which has captured your time and attention). Return to your First Love. (Put Him first.) Gaze steadily and determinedly upon Lord Jesus. (‘Behold and become.’) The very Son of God invites you into an ever-deeper, ever-finer relationship with Himself. You know He hates lukewarm. Lord Jesus is passionate about you, and would like an enthusiastic response to His Great Invitation. ("Yes, Lord Jesus, I fully accept!!")
The Great Invitation (“Abide in Me, and I in you.”) really is a wondrous and holy thing. Ignoring it is almost as dumb as that relative who continally resists Christ’s salvation. Your eternal reward will be relative to the quality of relationship with the Lord. (“He who abides in Me bears much fruit.”)
An open letter to adherents of the Kelowna Ministerial Association:
Paul taught the Corinthians, “Let two or three…. speak and let the others judge.” (NKJV). Please give my proposal prayerful consideration. Thank you.
Whereas there is a division within Christ’s church whereby members are segregated into either the clergy (or ministerial) and laity (laymen, laywomen); and
Whereas such division has no New Testament precedent; and
Whereas this practice is contrary to the words of the Lord Jesus, “All of you are equal as brothers and sisters.” (NLT); and
Whereas your denominational/associational licenses and ordination certificates are strong symbols propagating such division, I offer the following recommendation:
In the near future, after ample discussion and debate, agree to meet as a group in a public place (such as Kelowna City Park or Prospera Place) for the purpose of publicly disposing all such certificates, this preceded by a public announcement of your intention especially directed to those under your influence.
Consider disposing your certificates by casting them in a fire visible to all, or inserting them in a shredder, or simply tearing them before the audience and, more important, before the Lord Jesus.
And further, select one to vocalize sincere repentance unto the Lord Jesus, expressing the group’s regret for its part in the rendering of His church into two segments.
Please do not be slighted by this proposal, unusual but, from a Biblical perspective, reasonable. Instead consider….
Consider: The red words in your Bible give no hint His twelve were to be so endorsed.
Consider: Saul was certified (Acts 9); Paul was anointed.
Consider: Christ appealed to His works for endorsement, not a certificate.
Consider: Differences of conclusions, within your ranks, of various texts nullifies the argument that the practice of licensing protects the purity of the Word.
Faith moves God. Brothers, accepting this proposal could release the power of God in our city. Contemporaries elsewhere would know immediately of your brave deed, and some would follow your brave, Godly example.
Evangelical: (Merriam-Webster) emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion.… of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified
child of God.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child
of God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child of
God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association as evidenced by his/her obedience to various evangelical traditions.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child of
God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association as evidenced by his/her obedience to various evangelical traditions, including those contrary to the teachings of Christ.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child of
God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association as evidenced by his/her obedience to various evangelical traditions, including those contrary to the teachings of Christ, this being a prime reason why he/she rarely mentions the name of Jesus.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child of
God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association as evidenced by his/her obedience to various evangelical traditions, including those contrary to the teachings of Christ, this being a prime reason why he/she rarely mentions the name of Jesus, the mere mention of that name evoking power to convict of disloyalty to his/her First Love.
Evangelical: a born-again, redeemed, Blood-washed, sanctified child of
God whose loyalty is attached to an evangelical denomination or association as evidenced by his/her obedience to various evangelical traditions, including those contrary to the teachings of Christ, which is a prime reason why he/she rarely mentions the name of Jesus, the mere mention of that name evoking power to convict of disloyalty to his/her
First Love, but nonetheless retains the capability to repent of aforementioned disloyalty and recapture the passion and commitment
for Christ possessed at the time of rebirth.
You call the man Pastor because everyone else calls the man Pastor.
John is Pastor John, Jack is Pastor Jack and Joe is Pastor Joe because John, Jack and Joe taught you to call them Pastor.
There are practical reasons for calling the man Pastor, but a much more significant reason not to…. the Lord Jesus Christ forbids it. Listen to your Master:
“DO NOT BE CALLED ‘RABBI’; FOR ONE IS YOUR TEACHER, THE CHRIST, AND YOU ARE ALL BRETHREN.
“DO NOT CALL ANYONE ON EARTH YOUR FATHER; FOR ONE IS YOUR FATHER, HE WHO IS IN HEAVEN.
“AND DO NOT BE CALLED TEACHERS; FOR ONE IS YOUR TEACHER, THE CHRIST.”
True, the Lord Jesus does not specifically outlaw calling a man Pastor, but let us reason together….
In these three verses in Matthew 23, various translators use a variety of words expressing what they believe to be forbidden titles: Rabbi, teacher, master, father, instructor, leader, director. The Lord Jesus did not specify Pastor because it was not the custom to call religious leaders by that title. Nonetheless, He said enough for you to ‘get the picture’ if you want to ‘get the picture’.
And if you don’t you won’t.
For those who don’t and won’t, consider: If it were the evangelical practice to call the man Lord would you call the man Lord? And if not, why not? After all, our High Priest did not instruct us, “DO NOT CALL ANYONE ON EARTH” Lord.
If you call Whoever Pastor Whoever simply because everyone else does, and even occasionally refer to him as Reverend, you would surely call him Lord Whoever if that were the custom.
No way!, you say. Jesus is my only Lord, and I would never call any man Lord!
Really? How many shepherds do you have (pastor, as you know, means shepherd)? And yet you call several men Shepherd, an insult to the good Shepherd who proved His love at Calvary.
You have one pastor; His name is Jesus.
Most christians do not want more truth than what they have.
More is, and always has been, available to those hungry for more. But more is declined because more is undesired.
Though pagans differ from christians as darkness contrasts light, pagans and christians also have much in common. Both have a degree of smarts and dumb, both lay up treasures on earth, cater to god comfort, lean on their own understanding and loathe change. Which prompts both to dodge truth.
The believing catholic should be set free by Matthew 1:25 which clearly states that Mary surrendered her virginity after the birth of the Babe. For a lover of truth this passage would begin a domino effect: Hmmm. If Mary lost her virginity she cannot be the “Blessed Virgin Mary”. And what about the other stuff the cc teaches?.... like the sacraments… and purgatory… and the priesthood and pope. How can I trust them?
Same with the mormon confronted with the discomforting fact that his Book of Mormon has undergone 3000 corrections and changes. Same with the jw who learns their founder and subsequent presidents very often prophesied falsely. And same as….
And same as the evangelical who learns that calling a man Pastor is as non-Biblical as calling a man Father and an insult to the Pastor who laid down His life for the sheep. For a lover of truth, this should initiate a rippling effect. Hmmm. If I have been mislead here, where else? Does Pastor Jesus really want me to tithe or is this fiendish trickery? Did the Lord Jesus really appoint that guy to preach every sunday? And what about this license stuff? And what about…?
The evangelical would not be one if he were a lover of truth. A love for truth would cause a ripple effect leading to his freedom. But like the catholic and like the mormon and jw, the evangelical has deep roots into his religion, and he resists any truth that would agitate his world.
It takes grit to be a disciple of Christ.
Paul was an ardent, enduring, fruit-bearing disciple of Christ who had plenty of grit. If the man lacked grit he would not have been an ardent, enduring, fruit-bearing disciple of Christ; he would be, well, sort of like….
Like us. Like timid, compromising Typical Evangelical.
Does anyone think Paul would fit into our 2000 and something christian society? No way would they let this Christ-centered apostle behind a pulpit. Paul would be considered fringe, rebellious, a loose cannon…. certainly not a team player.
Paul’s lack of political adroitness was adequately exposed when he publicly confronted one of the elites. “When Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed (Galatians, chapter two).” When Peter seriously compromised his commitment to the Lord Jesus, others of inadequate mettle joined him in his hypocrisy, yes, even Paul’s companion Barnabas.
(Surely Peter and his cohorts are ample proof leadership cannot, at least not always, be trusted.)
Can anyone imagine Paul the pew-warmer? Or Paul the tither? Can anyone picture a Reverend Paul? Paul the denominational ambassador bowing to ecclesiastical lords?
It takes grit to be a disciple of Christ.
A disciple of Christ must forego the approval of most. Obedience to the Word always precedes conflict. Those above will be suspicious of the one submitting to the lordship of Christ.
Typical Evangelical calls the man Pastor simply because he fears the man called Pastor. No, his motive is not humility; it is concern of consequences. Success in the church demands certain compromises. Like the teen who must be accepted by peers, the evangelical must be accepted by peers, the approval of the “head of the church” quite secondary.
One gets grit by asking for it. “Ask and you shall receive.” Lord Jesus, Like Peter I am guilty of compromise. I have betrayed Your trust. I repent. Give me the necessary courage to walk in obedience with You, my First Love. Amen.
When a community of believers steadfastly clings to teachings contrary to Biblical evidence, what does that say of that community?
How can there be collective agreement on absurdities?
How can a fallacy survive the scrutiny of so many students of God’s Bible? (Are we not all students?)
Church history is loaded with examples of masses missing the mark.
Today’s generation can readily see the mistakes of yesterday’s saints. Why couldn’t they see the obvious?
And we perceive the absurdities of other religions. Why can’t they see the obvious?
Our neighbors should know better, our friends ought not to, ‘they’ just don’t get it.
There is only one group who has right thinking, a pretty good balance, correct doctrine.... and that’s my people. I trust no one but us. If only others would be reasonable and follow our lead, submit to our wholesome perspective… how blessed they would be.
Unlike ‘they’, ‘we’ can’t be wrong because, obviously, if we were we would have changed course.
The pharisees were convinced of their correctness of doctrine and deeds. The catholic, mormon and jw, though quite contradictory in their conclusions, are equally persuaded. If we were mistaken we would have, obviously, changed course.
Mirrors are handy things; who can live without them? ‘They’ reflect ‘us’. How many faulty associations does it take to adequately prove the frailty of all? True, the denomination/association that commits to God’s word and submits to the Holy Spirit will be relatively free of wrong perspective but …. there has never been such an assemblage.
‘They’ cannot be trusted. Nor can we, he, she or ‘me’.
‘They’ don’t love Him wholeheartedly. 'They' compete with Him for you, both wanting your loyalty and obedience. In whom will you trust?
Only the Lord Jesus can be trusted. He will guide you to the degree you look to Him for guidance. If you have replaced the teachings and leadership of Christ for that of an association, repent. Remove your trust from them and set it on Him.
Everybody’s good at something….
Like the computer geek speedily ‘mousing’ the monitor into subjection while murmuring how slow this computer is.
Like the carpenter managing various tools with supreme dexterity until mission accomplished.
Like the housewife baking her 1,000th pie.
Like the acrobat who “flies though the air with the greatest of ease”.
And like the pastor who skillfully leads the people into his perspective.
It’s sunday morning and ‘Pastor’ John is delivering an important message on the authority of Christ. He has been trained, and more relevant, he has honed his skills via hundreds of sermons. Meticulously he shepherds the congregation into the needful truth of subjection unto the lordship of Christ. The people chirp encouraging “Amens”.
Next sunday, John is at it again, using his persuasive powers to convince the same people to embrace a false teaching, the authority of leadership over the lives of those under their ‘ministry’. (As a true teaching can contain occasional oopsies, so can a false teaching include truths. However, no matter how many truths a message embodies, they do not make a false teaching less false.) He quotes Hebrews, “Obey your spiritual leaders.” He manipulates Ephesians 4:11 (“He gave some, apostles, and some, prophets, etc.”) to support his defective perspective. The people chirp their “Amens”, though a bit less enthusiastically.
The following sunday John attempts balancing the two, explaining how it is possible and needful to obey two masters who often conflict, all his persuasive finesse needed to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Though the confused could not verbalize the pastor’s message in their own words, “Amens” do go forth, the congregation having long ago learned submissiveness and unity.
Unlike the computer geek, the carpenter, the housewife and acrobat, John is credited with possessing a heavenly anointing and a God-given mandate. Wrong. If John did what you do he probably would be equal in skill. And if you did what he does you might even surpass his communicative ability. And you would get the same “Amens”.
Sometimes it’s painful to look at ourselves. But it should be a delight.
Coffee mug in hand, she begins the day looking in the mirror. “I have a lot of work to do!” So the applications begin until the person she is no longer resembles the person she is.
There was a day of contentment, way back in the beginning of her new life in Christ, but sadly, as passion for the Life-giver dwindled, contentment slowly evaporated, and now she settles for being enviable.
Determination and self-discipline on all levels are required to maintain the envy of others, and many fail miserably, settling for respect. Still others find respect too high of a reach and simply spend their day dodging criticism, resigning to insignificance. More degrading than insignificance is pity, to be avoided at all cost.
In christian society, as in secular, enviable is sought after, respected is accepted, insignificant is tolerated, and pitiable is ignored.
The answer to the dilemma of falling short is to stop looking in the mirror…. so to speak. If the sister with the mug set her gaze upon Him rather than herself she would be free of the draining competition, and regain lost contentment. Artificial would soon give way to genuine.
True, she really is a mess. Ravaged by sin, that of her own and that of others, the person she was meant to be will never be fully realized this side of eternity. Disappointments, betrayals, calamities, sicknesses and failures…. these have left their residue.
But look deeper. She is washed in the precious blood of the precious Lamb. She is clean and justified, even holy. Her attention is longed for by the Elite of the elite. Daily she gains sanity and satisfaction and sophistication.
As the door into the family of God is (faith in) Jesus, the door into contentment and purpose is (faith in) Jesus. If only the redeemed could grasp the enormity of the Redeemer’s Great Invitation, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”
You are a container. You contain things…. good things, ugly things.
Angels, too, are containers. But angels only contain wholesome goods, like trust and peace and joy.
Christians contain way less bad stuff than unbelievers, but nonetheless our cache is large. Within us are anxieties, lots and lots of anxieties. If an angel were to reach inside and pull out anxieties one by one, he would be amazed at the number of boxes he fills. How could he/she hold so much stuff?
There’s the big worries, like, Will I marry the right one? and, Is my loved one going to recover? and, Is my rebel teen going to get through this? and, Is that tumor cancerous?
There’s the nagging apprehensions, like, Do they think I’m okay? and, The boss seems edgy lately. and, Will I have enough? and, Does ‘Pastor’ Whoever like me?
And there’s plenty of little guys: Will I say something stupid? and, Gas is up again! and, Lord, did I do enough today? and, The insurance is due this month.
Peter: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
We must learn to be cast-aways. No, not the castaway alone on an island, but the one who learns to cast away anxieties before they damage us. Fling before they sting.
Anxieties injure soul and body. Anxieties cause us to fall short, walk into calamities, love less. Faith brings good, fear attracts bad. Answered payer requires faith, and we cannot believe with a heart full of cares.
Jesus sometimes got angry, but never was He anxious. He took His time, but was never late. His trust in the Father was His sufficiency and cut His path through life.
Listen to JESUS: “…. nor have an anxious mind…. let not your heart be troubled…. My peace I give to you…. I will never leave you.”
Only cast-aways can follow Him closely. To ‘let go and let God’ is difficult but essential. To abide in Jesus we must trust Jesus.
An imaginary letter to Paul the apostle approximately two millennia ago.
Paul of Tarsus:
The intent of this letter is to propose a more efficient way to advance the gospel, which I understand to be the burden of your heart.
While I appreciate your gallant effort to repair tents to help finance your travels, I suggest we contract an alliance whereby I inject my business skills to enhance the success of your ministry.
Your letters are well read by christians throughout the Roman Empire, and your reputation as an apostle, endorsed by colleagues in Jerusalem and further endorsed by signs and wonders, has opened a lucrative door of opportunity. This is my proposal:
1. I will hire copyists in five key locations within the empire to produce an extensive supply of copies of your letters to be sent to numerous locations.
2. I will hire travelling agents to offer our products at house churches and various places of sale. Agents will be paid by commission.
3. The price of each duplicate will be determined by market demand, expenses incurred, your salary (sufficient to cover travel and provisions), and a reasonable profit for myself.
I encourage you to take advantage of your flourishing credibility by producing more writings, from short articles to extended manuscripts. I can supply rewriters and proofreaders to increase production.
From a business perspective, it is imperative we saturate the market quickly. When others of influence, e.g. the original apostles, realize the potential profit from marketing the gospel and their teachings, they undoubtedly will simulate our strategy.
This is a win-win opportunity. Your influence over the minds and hearts of christians will greatly increase. You will be able to travel with speed and safety (and comfort) to areas thus far unreachable. And this venture will inject needed commerce into local christian communities.
I envision the coupling of your anointing and my expertise will result in the furtherance of the gospel you so dearly love.
Your brother in Christ,
Marcus of Antipratis
NOTE: The next article will be Paul's imaginary reply to this imaginary proposal.
An imaginary response from Paul the apostle to an imaginary letter sent approximately two millennia ago (read previous article):
Marcus of Antipratis:
Thank you for your letter inviting me to participate in your business strategy. My reply is an emphatic “no”.
My precious brother, the truths of God are not to be marketed alongside fish and cattle and spices. Believers are not to be charged for Christ’s spiritual goods. The Father gave His Son and His Son gave His life. Christ was our example when He walked among us, and our example did not sell.
Can’t you see how your trust in business and profit has corrupted your perspective?
Would you approach the mother of Jesus with your business plan, suggesting she testify of her miraculous impregnation and her life with The Holy One? Surely her testimony would be more lucrative than my letters.
Do you really think Peter would accept a salary to feed the Lord’s lambs? Or John would market the keen insights received from the Holy Spirit? Or the others would record for gain the many adventures with their Master? Can you really visualize the noble centurion profiting from his servant’s healing?
On two occasions the twelve witnessed Jesus thoroughly enraged by the money-changers in the temple and the religious leaders who profited from their wicked expertise. And all twelve heard the Lord Jesus plainly instruct, “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Honest business is honorable. But business often becomes an idol, something more attractive than Christ. I encourage you to be a part-time businessman, not a part-time disciple. Busy yourself laying up treasures in heaven. Do not be enticed by what our High Priest called “the deceitfulness of riches”.
Ministry can never be lord. Compromise, always a temptation, brings dreadful consequences…. always. Should generations after us stagger in unbelief and compromise, let it not be because of our immoral precedent. He commanded “freely give”, “freely give” is easily understood, “freely give” is what we must do.
Paul of Tarsus
Betcha never heard of the ‘Evangelical Cycle’.
The ‘Evangelical Cycle’ runs various courses but each ends up in the same place. Perhaps the most typical cycle goes something like this….
He/she begins the cycle a God-person. A God-person is one who speaks of God, speaks to God and petitions God. Notably, a God-person speaks God.
A God-person is, at least somewhat, a humble person. He knows there is Someone bigger than himself. He respects that Someone and attempts to placate that Someone. To appease, he spends his days being good enough. He becomes a doer, anxiously measuring his deeds, hoping the good outweighs the bad.
A God-person will sometimes become a Jesus-person. A Jesus-person is one who has discovered the Lord Jesus and received His great salvation. A Jesus-person is still a God-person, but now he relates to a God he knows, no longer a distant God, a God he has learned to call Father.
Notably, a Jesus-person speaks Jesus…. because Jesus is his enthusiasm. He speaks the overflow of his heart and his heart is enamored with Him. A Jesus-person is a content and appreciative and effective person. He is not a doer, but gets things done. He enjoys life because he enjoys Christ. He is filled with, and managed by, the Spirit.
Soon the Jesus-person becomes an Evangelical-person. An Evangelical-person is one who has been enticed to attach himself to an evangelical institution of one sort or another.
An Evangelical-person is one who speaks evangelical jargon, governs himself by evangelical logic, and keeps step with other Evangelical-persons. The Evangelical-person becomes, once more, a God-person, though now he is a born again God-person.
The Evangelical-God-person speaks of God, speaks to God and petitions God. Notably, an Evangelical-God-person speaks God…. no longer speaking Jesus. God has become, again, the Someone to be placated. To appease, as before, he spends his days being good enough. He becomes a doer, anxiously measuring his deeds, hoping the good will outweigh the bad.
Evangelical Cycle complete.
Tithing…. let’s look at it.
It is difficult to climb a mountain, more challenging to master the hacky sack, harder yet to be first in the class, and more formidable still to overstate the damage of the tithe doctrine.
The tithe practice not only damages the individual evangelical (another 333 Words topic), but the harm spreads everywhere. Though God’s ways work, man, with eager assistance from the dark world, creates alternatives.
God’s way is the evangelical being directed, individually…. repeat, individually…. by the Holy Spirit in all decisions. He is the Spirit of truth, sent by “the head of the church”, who leads into all truth. He makes much out of little. The one submitting his/her givings to the Spirit’s governorship bears much fruit and begets a multitude of spiritual offspring.
Adversely, the evangelical alternative is to bunch evangelicals together and operate in unison. This perverse unity is accomplished through the very potent pulpit. The preacher convinces the evangelical that the Holy Spirit directs his life indirectly. Direction filters through hierarchy, not personally. Lordship of the tither’s funds is surrendered to human agency. Trust is in the redeemed, their ability to discern and spend wisely, not the Redeemer.
Tithing, the only Old Covenant requirement adopted by evangelicalism, finances a building that should never have been built, salaries that should not be paid, and numerous accompanying expenses.
Most damning, the bulk of funds that the Lord Jesus intended for the salvation of multitudes is intercepted at the local church and spent on local concerns. It is this atrocity that makes it difficult to exaggerate the damage of tithing.
The account of Lazarus and the rich man is not a mere parable. Lazarus was, and the rich man was; we know so because Jesus said so. The torment of the rich man is nothing compared to the dreadful Lake of Fire, his future residence.
The abundant fruit of the Lord’s way minus the meager fruit of man’s way equals eternal perdition for millions, perhaps billions.
Way back when both kids were seventeen they discovered Christ, the catholic at a catholic charismatic prayer meeting, the evangelical at summer Bible camp.
Both wanted to serve God significantly. The one accepted his yearning as ‘a call into the priesthood’, the other as ‘a call into the ministry’.
It took the one four years to get a bachelor degree, another four to get through seminary, and six months as a deacon before he publicly took his vows of celibacy and obedience. Now he gets to stand behind the altar in colorful vestures, change bread and wine into Jesus, and forgive an assortment of sins.
For the evangelical, the pathway to his goal, the pulpit, was easier. After two years in seminary he was a salaried youth pastor. Proper submissiveness to superiors earned him assistant pastor, and eventually his own pulpit and congregation.
Both catholic and evangelical now have what many (most?) secretly crave…. an audience. The need to be heard runs deep. Who doesn’t want to express, to teach, to point the way? Those wanting significance less would never make the required investment.
Each audience assumes their leader’s relationship with Lord Jesus is exceptional. Hardly.
For these two, abiding in Christ is a major challenge. A servant of man cannot be a servant of the Lord; to get where they are necessitated unreserved loyalty to those higher.
Surrendering hard-earned relevance is tough. And both still have respective ladders to climb, and must outdo the competition. The goal is always bigger audience, greater significance. It’s tough. Non-stop, those over and those under must be placated. Like the salesman, they feign enthusiasm; being real is non-productive.
Naturally they cannot lead their followers into intimacy with Jesus. Can’t give what you ain’t got.
Too bad they couldn’t get together for a coffee. Maybe they would each mirror the other and remind each other of the time their light shone brightest and they were most effective for the Lord’s kingdom…. way back when they were seventeen.
The usher collects more than tithes and offerings each and every sunday. He collects allegiances.
Something troublesome is happening within the heart of the tither with every passing collection plate. His tithe is anchoring him to another way. Allegiance is being transferred from God’s way to man’s way, and therefore from God to man.
Our Lord taught, “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart of the evangelical follows his treasure. He who gets his money gets his allegiance, be it Jesus or another.
Only the one sensitive to the Spirit’s leading is actually giving (returning) unto the Lord. With each response to the Spirit the bond between believer and Lord Jesus is strengthened. The stronger the bond, the more wholesome the evangelical’s outcome.
It can never be emphasized sufficiently: What matters most is one’s quality of relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is the christian’s responsibility to guard his/her heart from straying.
Not some, but most slip from passionate to tepid. They were negligent. They allowed their heart to be impressed with the status quo. Imperceptibly, trust in others grew; imperceptibly, trust in Lord Jesus shrank.
Jeremiah 17:5: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord.” That’s all humans, even the good guys.
The tither long ago abandoned a life in the Spirit, and made a heart-agreement to gratify church lords. Not good. There is ample reason to distrust yourself and others…. both you and they have a history of mistakes. All are “mere humans”. None can be trusted.
Tithing can harden the heart. Because he dropped his tenth into the plate, the tither is not responsible for supporting evangelists or missionaries or third world workers. He can turn away from the neighbor and relative in need because, you see, he already gave substantially last sunday.
We keep step to be accepted, the foremost reason tithers tithe. Approval of the licensed is paramount; approval of Jesus secondary.
“As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”
Father was the Sender and Lord Jesus was the Sent-one and mankind is the sentee.
The Sent-one returned, now “seated at the right hand of” the Sender, but not before He sent replacements.
Now, Lord Jesus is the Sender, we are the sent-ones and our world is the sentee.
There is no plan B. Sentees will perish if sent-ones slack off.
The Sent-one was diligent and determined, and His Sender rewarded His faithfulness by giving “Him a name…. above every name”. If we don’t strongly desire to please our Sender, we won’t.
Please hear this….
It was the Sent-one’s relationship with His Sender that caused Him to accomplish His commission. Miss that and you miss everything.
Jesus taught, “Without Me you can do nothing.” We must learn…. quality of relationship between Sender and sent-one determines sent-one’s outcome. Unhappily, relationship is infrequently emphasized in Christ’s church.
Father and Son were together. Together. Jesus breathed the Father, faithfully relayed His commands, obeyed without hesitation. If our love is not purposely set upon our Sender, ego purposely crucified, free will purposely directed, chance of finishing our course is nil.
Ministry, the real kind, necessitates preparation. We prepare by abiding. Sinless, Jesus was majorly advantaged; for Him, bonding came naturally; perfection amalgamates perfectly with perfection. With us, inching closer is work. Illegitimate relationship-bonds must be broken, religious ambitions discarded, priorities reset, sluggish souls mastered. Yet to overcome is possible.
We overcome by gazing. Gazing. Anchoring to our Sender gives semblance to our Sender. Ministry is not ‘me’ and it’s not Him; it’s ‘us’, Jesus and ‘me’. Fruit comes through surrender.
Be forewarned: Determined sent-ones pay a price. As Jesus, they will encounter the wrath of religious lords. Those closest will not understand. Hang with the gang or be rejected.
Sent-ones will one day give an account to their Sender. We would be wise to be diligent, eternity up there being seriously affected by obedience/disobedience down here.
1Jn5:21: “Children, guard yourselves from idols.”
Idols are something most christians have, not ‘most’ like 51 percent, but ‘most’ like maybe 90 to 98.
Of the 90-98, perhaps less than 10 percent are aware of those leeches sucking away their life and contributing nothing lasting in return. How blind we are to the obvious. “The human heart is most deceitful.” Those with idols are actually idolaters, and nobody is going to admit being one of those guys.
Should the evangelical, scurrying off to work monday to friday, depositing his entirety into career/business, honestly scrutinize his motive, he would admit the purposes of Lord Jesus are not what drives him, but rather the demands of god-whatever.
The young couple stares lovingly at their answered prayer lying in the crib. How long before the blessing of the Lord becomes a replacement of the Lord?
Adrenalin flowing and sweat pouring, the tennis player desperately returns that *!*!*!* ball, determined to defeat and deflate his brother-in-Christ. Whoever or whatever he represents, it sure ain’t Lord Jesus.
The pastor-preacher guy provoking his people to give, to do, to build may be out of a heart to please the Master. Or…. maybe not. If the tither were serving Christ he wouldn’t be tithing. And the evangelical wouldn’t be an evangelical.
Lucifer’s idol was ‘me’. Adam’s was Eve. Judas loved money. Judaizers served the old way, and Galatians caved to Judaizers. Ephesians “left their first love”. And the record of God’s chosen people?.... let’s not go there.
Idols are ugly things that christians have and have christians. Proficiently they hinder intimacy with the King…. Christ and idols are incompatible. The more affection set upon the one, the less for the other. Lord Jesus is repulsed by leftovers.
Idols are easily identified; we talk and think prime love primarily. The surrendered talk/think Christ. They alone are protected from idols. “Guard yourselves from idols” by total commitment unto Him.
Sadly, though all want Him more, few sufficiently want Him more.
Evangelicals and Paul talk differently. Evangelicals and John talk differently. Evangelicals and Peter talk differently.
The apostles’ letters were infused with Jesus…. “servant of JESUS”…. “CHRIST the power of God”…. “we preach CHRIST crucified”…. “CHRIST our Passover”…. “JESUS CHRIST the righteous”…. “the blood of JESUS CHRIST”…. “the Lord JESUS CHRIST”…. “apostle of JESUS CHRIST”…. “Father of our Lord JESUS CHRIST”….
The three were early church Jesus freaks. Their writings are peppered with ‘Jesus’, much more than ‘God’ (and ‘Father’ and ‘Holy Spirit’). Did they not write “by inspiration of God”? Can we assume since they wrote Christ, they spoke Christ?
Evangelicals speak ‘God’ much more than ‘Jesus’.
Paul to the Ephesians (1:1-5): “Paul an apostle of JESUS CHRIST by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in CHRIST JESUS: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord JESUS CHRIST. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord JESUS CHRIST who has blessed us…. in CHRIST, just as He chose us in HIM…. having predestined us to adoption as sons by JESUS CHRIST to Himself.”
An evangelical ‘Paul’ would write: “Paul, an apostle by the will of GOD, to the saints who are in Ephesus. Grace to you and peace from GOD our Father. Blessed be GOD who has blessed us, having predestined us to adoption.”
The news media speak ‘God’. The religious speak ‘God’. Politicians speak ‘God”. But christians ought to speak ‘Christ’ primarily. That’s the will of God.
Evangelicals speak differently because they’re different. Typical Evangelical has Paul’s passion minus 75%, minus 75% his commitment, plus at least 75% more distractions.
All that can change: Lord Jesus, I repent. I want the fervor I once had. I am no longer an evangelical (a charismatic, a whatever). By Your grace, I will not be negligent or ashamed to speak Your name. I recommit my life to You. Where You lead I will follow. No longer will I compromise, no matter the cost.
There is a life in the Spirit. Only our Lord Jesus lived this life fully. The rest of us must be content with ongoing improvement. Progress, that’s our goal.
The Man Christ Jesus was a perfect man, living perfectly. When Jesus was walking on the road to wherever, He was where He was supposed to be when He was supposed to be there. He walked in the Spirit. They were together.
For discussion sake, and to allow for human frailty, let’s define ‘life in the Spirit’ as being influenced and directed chiefly by the Holy Spirit. Even using this relaxed definition, life in the Spirit is a rarity.
We do not seek to be Spirit-controlled, and the Holy Spirit has no such intention. Contrary to popular thought, God is not a controller, and thus doesn’t have ‘everything under control’. God, in His sovereignty, gave man a free will; He will never trespass that free will. That’s never as in never.
The Holy Spirit was sent by Lord Jesus from the Father. He leads into all truth, the big ones and little. Trouble is inevitable to those not governed by this precious Governor. Deception and confusion come when we trust in another. And in several anothers we do trust.
The Lord Jesus speaks through the Holy Spirit to those having “ears to hear”. He teaches the teachable, relates to the abiding, influences the surrendered.
Only the devoted can discern between the voice of the Lord and a ‘good’ idea. Others are confused by reason, circumstances, church leaders, religious ambitions, good intentions. We are swayed by those to whom committed.
Life in the Spirit is essential to proper exercise of gifts and talents, essential for laying up treasures in heaven, essential to finishing one’s course. And such a life is available only to the Christ-centered. The Spirit does not shout to the distant, but whispers to those nearby.
Life in the Spirit necessitates death to self-rule, self-dependence, self-whatever. How can two be lord of one?
D-Day, june 6, 1944: The Allies attacked their enemy on the beaches of Normandy, France, the largest amphibian invasion ever.
Object: Establish a beachhead. A firm foothold was required from where they could further advance the war. The enemy must be subdued and dethroned.
Both sides realized victory or defeat of the entire war would be determined on the beach. The enemy defended the coastline with minefields, concrete walls, barbed wire, fortified artillery emplacements and thousands of troops.
You, too, have an entrenched enemy that must be defeated. And you, too, must establish a beachhead, a firm foothold from where you can gain further victories. You have a determined enemy who must be brought down. The otherwise is a future parallel to the past.
You think the enemy is him, her or them. No, the enemy is…. you. Sure, they are accomplices. And certainly “spiritual hosts of wickedness” are involved. But the real enemy is you.
As Paul’s enemy was Paul (“The good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”) and Peter’s enemy was Peter (“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”) so your enemy is you…. distracted, pampered, self-focused you.
For you, a beachhead is not a plot of land, but an hour of time. One hour, hopefully the first and freshest hour, you and Lord Jesus, no one else. Every day, without fail, the rest of your life. An hour of abiding, soaking, communicating. No petitions, no prayer list, no distractions.
When this foothold is established and permanently fortified, you can get on with the business of subduing and dethroning the you in you. One hour will eventually turn into three or four. When you work or socialize you will be mindful of Him. In time your entire day will be a day of abiding.
For now, think beachhead. It will be hard, real hard. But you do have an ally, the Holy Spirit.
Seems like the GOD-IS-LOVE-ONLY crowd within evangelicalism is growing.
Yes, God is love; the Bible says so. But God is not love only.
God is also justice, holiness, mercy, compassion, wisdom and many etceteras. He is all these at once. What does such look like?
He looks like Jesus. God became as we are, a man. He was called Immanuel, God with us. He alone perfectly expressed the will and ways and words of God.
GOD-IS-LOVE hung on a cross. Money changers faced the wrath of GOD-IS-HOLINESS. Children were attracted to GOD-IS-GENTLENESS. Debaters were beaten by GOD-IS-WISDOM. No, God is not love only; the life of Jesus clearly demonstrates otherwise.
CHRIST-IS-LOVE said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” CHRIST-IS-LOVE instructed the seventy to declare to any city rejecting them, “The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.” CHRIST-IS-LOVE said to the Ephesians, “I will come quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”
What does a CHRIST-IS-LOVE-ONLY evangelical do when he reads one of hundreds of quotations that is uncharacteristic to the Jesus of their imagination? Simple, he skips to the next verse.
A CHRIST-IS-LOVE-ONLY evangelical only says some of what Jesus said, and does only some of what Jesus did. He has no commonality with the reformer. His Jesus does not challenge, debate, correct or get angry.
A GOD-IS-LOVE-ONLY pastor can be just as detrimental to the purposes of God as a GOD-IS-JUSTICE-ONLY pastor. Or GOD-IS-THIS-OR-THAT-ONLY pastor. Since everyone’s perception of God is somewhat distorted, many sharing the pulpit is healthier than one or a few. Although the average of 100 evangelicals could never equal Jesus, that average is much closer than any individual.
Like the woman who forces her oversized foot into an undersized shoe, so the determined ‘only’ people manipulate scripture to fit their distorted Jesus. Scripture says what it says because its Author is who He is. We ignore parts and pieces to our harm, and those we influence.
A very large barn, this barn. On the side of this very large barn is a very large red dot, about three feet diameter. Fifty paces from this very large dot are a number of christian archers, varying in social status, men, women and children.
The first to shoot is Charismatic Charlie. Pulls back the string on his longbow, takes aim and…. misses. Hmmm. Next is Evangelical Ed. Looks confident enough, but surprisingly he misses too. Double Hmmm. Same with numbers 3 to 20…. all miss…. not even close.
But here comes Pastor Peter. He will show them how it’s done. Looks real cool with his fiberglass flatbow, colorful arm-guard and chest-guard. But looky here! Doesn’t come close to the target! Another pastor, another miss. What’s going on?!
But there’s still hope. Next guy is from elsewhere, keynote speaker at a big conference. This bowman appears super-capable, and even has a crossbow. Just can’t miss with a crossbow…. but he does!
Next up, a new convert to Lord Jesus, with an old bow and crooked arrow. Bulls-eye! Last to shoot is some little kid with a bow much longer than he is. Wow, another bulls-eye!
Take a look at the barn now. Lots of arrows above and below and all around the red mark. Only a few stick out of the target.
Paul to the Corinthians: I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds might somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
What does today’s church look like?
Looks like the barn with all those arrows stuck in it, only a few in the target. Looks like a membership of, mostly, deceived Eves no longer devoted. It’s in need of revival.
Heaven looks like that barn with every arrow stuck in the very large red dot. All, angels and saints, are devoted to Christ.
Don’t be disheartened. Through sincere repentance arrows can be pulled out and shot again.
Because God is who He is, you are who you are.
If God were different than who He is, you would be different than who you are…. or perhaps you simply would not be.
But actually, it is impossible for God to be different. To be different, He must be either less or more than perfection, and perfection is…. perfect. Less than perfect is not perfection and better than perfect is an impossibility.
Many philosophize why God does this and why He does that. He does this and that because it is the right thing to do. We know that because He is perfect.
Many say God can do anything. Sorry. We can do many things all-powerful God can’t, and we do what He can’t every day. Perfection can only do perfection; imperfection can and does both the perfect and imperfect.
Why did God create Lucifer, knowing he would rebel and cause such havoc? Simple…. creating Lucifer was the right and perfect thing to do. And why did God create humanity knowing that we would fall into depravity and suffering? Same answer.
We cannot understand why right is right, but we know He only does right.
You are a creation of right. What does a right God fashion? Well for one thing…. you. You have every reason to feel special, because you are. Your affections are coveted by the perfect One. You are loved, thoroughly, by Love.
However, things went amok. You have not been blemished by sin, you have been wrecked by sin. That sin got you separated from your Daddy. And you were stumbling in the wrong direction, heading straight for a place you get queasy thinking about.
Because God wanted His kid back, He became as you are to rescue you, to deal with the sin that threatened your eternity. You are now more than a created one, you are a re-created one, “born of the Spirit”. You are washed in innocent blood. You are a co-heir with Christ.
We are all influential, even the non-influential. We influence others, others influence us. That why, “Bad company corrupts good character” and good company edifies.
We do not influence equally. Mom and dad affect more than friends and neighbors. Pastor Whoever is the focal point of the congregation.
As we know a tree by its fruit, we know parents by their offspring. The five children of Billy and Ruth Graham today spend much of their lives preaching the truths of God and dispensing mercy.
Societies produce after themselves. That’s why French children speak french and English english. Terrorists are fruitage.
Wise parents insist on knowing a school’s record before enrolling Johnny. They check out a neighborhood before purchasing a house. They are selective with their friendships. They understand influence.
Religions influence heavily. Every religion can be evaluated by its adherents, the influenced being unintentional ambassadors.
To a degree, you are who you are because of words heard and models within your sphere. Evangelicals are products of evangelicalism…. and its ambassadors. To determine if evangelicalism gets a nine out of ten or a mere two, study Typical Evangelical.
Can you see that if you had attended the church down the street, be it evangelical or otherwise, you would think and do differently? If so, you understand influence.
For the religionist, there is always a door out. We live in a free country. To leave is painful; to stay is tragic. Some remain with hopes of changing the way it is. But that is folly. The way it is has been that way for a long time and is impervious to meaningful change.
If you are not a disciple of Christ, you are a disciple of another. There is hope for the unsatisfied errant; the future is bleak for the content. Only the one who dares to prayerfully introspect will realize his real master.
Few christians are long-term disciples of Christ. You can be. Acknowledge your folly and tell Him your intentions. He will embrace you.
The Bible has much to say about a subject strangely ignored. When is the last time you heard or spoke or thought of “the judgment seat of Christ”? Join the club…. christians in july have more thoughts of christmas than that day.
Be assured, after it’s all over down here, there’s an account to be given up there. That could be a happy time…. or not.
2Cor5:10: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The GOD-IS-LOVE-only people might have a problem with the ensuing verse: Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord (some translate “the fear of the Lord”), we persuade men.
“We persuade men” because this is an acute happening. “We persuade men” because, “If anyone’s works are burned he will suffer loss.” That’s eternal loss.
“Fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
Picture yourself standing before a very solemn Jesus, torch in hand. Before you is a heap of “wood, hay, straw” covering, hopefully, “gold, silver, precious stones”…. your life’s “work”. After Lord Jesus ignites your collection, you have but one question: Will anything remain after the chaff is burned off?
Consider: Will this event be a time of joy or sorrow for most? The answer is all around you.
Are your neighbors laying up treasures on earth or in heaven? Is time spent pursuing riches, pursuing man’s approval, or pursuing Jesus the Christ? Are they the “wise man who built his house on the rock” of His sayings or the “foolish man” who didn’t? Are they declaring Christ to their generation?
Don’t hang with the heedless. Associate with the passionate. Always enjoy the Redeemer more than the redeemed. Choose Lord Jesus above all. Esteem Him highly.
Your Lord promises you: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” Fruit translates into rewards. Much fruit, much rewards. That’s eternal rewards.
Evangelicals are the “wise man who built his house on the rock.” And evangelicals are the “foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
We are talking mixture.
After a lengthy discourse to a large crowd, the Lord Jesus skillfully defined wisdom and folly as the wise man who heard His words and obeyed, and the foolish man who heard and didn’t. (Matthew seven)
Wisdom is obedience.
The Bible is a gift, God’s book to us. Evangelicals wisely build on some of those words and foolishly build on contrary words of tradition. Compromise is an unholy mixture. Compromise is disobedience. Compromise is betrayal.
New traditions can be as wayward as old. Post-evangelicals are reminded of their susceptibility to the same mistakes. To realize their propensity to do dumb, house church (and small church) people only have to remember.
Christ’s “grace is sufficient for you”. The river will never run dry. But if you seek a better way rather than a better relationship, various trappings await. If you don’t ‘get’ John 15:4 (look it up), you will get stung…. again.
The abiding are not disobeying. And the disobeying are not abiding. The religious obey to be nice, the fervent obey to abide.... to relationally gain “the pearl of great price”.
Abiding isn’t easy, disobeying is. It takes grit and much time to reverse a life in me and them for a life in Him. But man, is it worth it!
Richness of eternity will be determined by life on earth…. because obedience is rewarded. The judgment seat of Christ is directly in front of the born-again. God’s own must give an account to His Son who sent them.
The foolish building on sand do not behave as sent ones; there is no urgency. The wise heed Paul’s admonition, “It is required in stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
Time on earth is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Why not live for eternal there rather than brief here?.
The Sent-one, because He was the Sent-one, brought trouble to many….
His mom, loving God and minding her own business, found herself in the family way, an embarrassment both to her and her man. And this was just the start. Wasn’t easy riding a donkey to Bethlehem with nine-month-old Jesus inside her belly. Soon they were fleeing to Egypt. They were alarmed when twelve-year-old Jesus was missing, having decided it was time to “be about My Father’s business”.
Mothers wailed as the sword fell on their infants guilty of being born in the same locale as Jesus. A mob cursed themselves and future generations when they stupidly cried, “Let His blood be on us and our children.”
Conflict followed Jesus everywhere. The controllers were offended by anyone refusing their control, and made life miserable for Him and His followers. When “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all that were buying and selling”, He became a marked man.
Jesus brought back Lazarus, enjoying himself immensely in paradise. Now a breathing testament that Christ is who He claimed to be, Lazarus, too, must be eliminated.
Jesus’ forerunner was beheaded. Tension accompanied the twelve wherever because Jesus had a way of igniting the wrath of the elite. No doubt Pilate was never the same after caving before the pharisees. Peter buckled, and denied His master.
Post-Calvary, trouble continued….
James “was put to death with a sword”. Stephen was stoned. Believers everywhere were mocked and harassed. John was banished to Patmos and the other apostles were probably martyred. In Rome, christians were actually fed to hungry lions.
Over the centuries, much blood spilled from those bearing that precious name. Today believers are often rejected and persecuted by family and country for becoming His. Will it ever end?
No, not before Christ’s return.
JESUS: Don’t imagine I come to bring peace to the earth! No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword!
JESUS: Everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to Me.
“The Lord of the harvest” made an interesting proposal to two brothers busy doing their fishing thing: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Peter and Andrew obviously considered being “fishers of men” a more worthy and interesting occupation than fishers of fish, for “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”
Over the years there have been imaginative schemes to evangelize. None have improved the Lord’s simple plan: “Follow Me.” The brothers, having made a decision to follow, now had another decision: Do I follow Christ from a distance, or up close?
The tighter the relationship, the more successful the lifelong fishing expedition.
Of the twelve, John, James and Peter followed closer, Judas was most distant, probably John was closest, none were exactly equal in fervency. We are not talking physical nearness, but relational. On the night of His arrest, at the Passover meal, Judas was with Jesus, but Judas was not with Jesus.
The two fishermen-turned-disciples had three years to observe the carpenter-turned-evangelist. Jesus was their, and our, example. To learn from others is most unreasonable, most diminishing.
There was forthrightness in their leader, always telling it like it is. Regarding the outcome of those who embraced His message and those who rejected, the Truth spoke the truth, all of it. The GOD-IS-LOVE-only people should note that soon after John 3:16 comes 3:18: “He who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son.”
Supplementary to the inspirational beatitudes were references to “hell fire”. Mercy, not criticism, informed the hell-bound they were hell-bound. Attaining heaven is but half the salvation message, escaping hell equally important.
Christians avoid speaking ‘hell’ (like it was a four letter word or something). Not good.
Lord Jesus spoke the words of Him who sent Him. These words include: hell, destruction, everlasting punishment, torment, gehenna, judgment. Christ’s sent-ones ought to be diligent to speak the language of our Sender. That’s what faithful ambassadors do.
“And He healed them all.”
They came to Him because “He healed them all.”
First individually, than by the dozens, then by “great multitudes” they came and left rejoicing, set free from a variety of disorders.
If you were there then and seriously infirmed you would have travelled far, if your condition allowed, to Him who “healed them all”.
Because “He healed them all” they came and heard His salvation message. Miracles have a way of grabbing one’s attention. A desperate need eradicated melts the skeptic’s heart.
“Immediately many gathered together, so there was no longer room to receive them…. and He preached the word to them.” Though “the word” is much more needed than healing, healing brings the crowd to hear “the word”. Combined, healing and preaching assures success for the evangelist (and whoever).
Wouldn’t it be cool, like really cool, if you could heal the sick. Your neighbor, the one who thinks you’re a wacko Jesus-nut, gets sick and you bonk him with healing power. Loved ones recover by your “prayer of faith”. Demons tremble at your rebuke. Sigh.
Sadly, 'the way it is' doesn’t work that way. The sick christian pursues Doctor Whoever as readily as the pagan, and if Doc can’t fix him, he dies. Perhaps you are convinced, as many (most?) are, that he is supposed to die because, obviously, if God wanted to heal him He would, right?
Who do you think healed the “man lame from his mother’s womb” at the temple gate “called Beautiful”? Was it Peter and John who caused this man to be “walking, leaping, and praising God”? Or was it Jesus, though in heaven “sitting at the right hand of God”?
Hear (like really hear) Peter’s response to his incensed accusers: “FAITH…. has given him this perfect soundness.”
Though ‘the way it is’ may have convinced you otherwise, it is faith (that’s faith in Him!) that moves mountains, casts out demons (yeah, they’re still around), heals the sick, and many etceteras.
Very imaginary Merf and Mannie have volunteered (actually, I gave them no choice…. heh-heh) to help illustrate the monstrous difference between the christian distant from Christ and the one relationally close. Or, simply said, FAR vs. NEAR.
This forty-ish couple, fanciful and ordinary, attend Bread of Life Fellowship, equally fanciful and equally ordinary, where they long ago received Christ.
Merf lucked out when a coin toss made him NEAR and Mannie FAR. Poor Mannie. Her christianity doesn’t rate higher than two-star, and boredom and blahs often come visiting.
And poor Merf too. Don’t think fervent won’t get you strife. Mannie, she’s got lots of comrades to sympathize with her for having a man who doesn’t go with the flow, hang with the gang, jest with the rest. Lonely boy, that Merf.
Now Merf and Mannie started out very together, both fervent, both much accepted. And later they drifted from Christ together. Sure, the passion was gone, their elation too, but they still had each other.
And then a setback. Merf said Un-unh, no more, I’m outta here! and shucked his lukewarm christianity and headed backwards to find that fervent christian he once was. Just like that. And that’s when their problems began. No way was Mannie going to risk irking her supportive friends nor dump her pastor who had evolved from confidant to mediator between her and Jesus. Because acceptance outvalued camaraderie with her Merf, marriage warfare escalated.
Anyhow, Merf and Mannie star in my “FAR and NEAR” series of articles, ten in all.... pithy and pointed, I would say. So….
If you’re interested why Mannie exchanged her elegant purple cloak for a drab dark one, or…. if you want to read of the strangest altar call ever, or…. if you want to firm up your understanding of the consequences, imminent and eternal, of one who abides intimately in Jesus and one who doesn’t, or…. if you simply want to become better acquainted with Merf and Mannie…. then…. just…. visit.... FAR and Near.
Jesus said (that is, JESUS said): “He who abides in Me…. bears much fruit.”
Though “all scripture is inspired by God”, some verses are more relevant than others. Hear again…. “He who abides in Me…. bears much fruit.”
These eight words should be considered, reconsidered and reconsidered again…. “He who abides in Me….”
Okay, enough already! I get it!
No, you don’t get it. If you didn’t get it before you don’t get it now. Not that these words are difficult. No, you haven’t gotten it because you don’t want to get it.
Hunh? Why would anyone not want to get it?
Why do heathens not get John 3:16? Simple…. they don’t want Christ.
But I’m a christian! Of course I want Christ.
Yes, you certainly want Christ, but you don’t want more of Christ. (And, thankfully, you don’t want less.) More of Christ is, and always has been, available. Those wanting more have “ears to hear” His words, and those who don’t…. don’t.
Most want to produce fruit; few want to bear fruit. Only those who have learned they can’t can.
Here’s the problem: there’s no boasting in bearing, nothing whatsoever to satisfy one’s need to be relevant. Also, to abide in Christ (primarily) one must de-abide (primarily) in others.
When is the last time you heard these eight words preached? Can’t remember, eh? You see, the preacher-guy often doesn’t want to be a bearer any more than you. More than most, the preacher wants to produce…. to do, to build, to conquer the world for Christ.
Jesus said (that is, JESUS said), “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”
So this is the way it works: Father is glorified when you bear much fruit…. you bear much fruit by abiding in Christ significantly…. to abide in Christ significantly you must renounce your idols.
Okay… now I get it.
No, you don’t. Your head gets it, but not your heart, where it counts. That takes serious repentance.
Brother/sister, I know the answer to your problem(s). I mean, I really know the answer. Like really, really, really.
Your thinking, Can’t be ’cause he doesn’t know me or my problem. Well, you’re right and you’re wrong…. I don’t know your problem but I do know the answer.
Your answer is my answer, is her answer, is his answer, is their answer. I point you to 2Cor11:3….
I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ.
Do you see the answer to your problem? (Hint: last three words.)
Let’s go into NT writings to define “devotion to Christ”.
Devotion: Mary sat at the Lord’s feet.
Devotion: “Do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord” Peter replied, “You know that I love you.”
Devotion: “To live is Christ.” (Paul)
Devotion: They sang in a mighty chorus: “The Lamb is worthy.”
The devoted are “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High” and beneficiaries of the many promises of Psalm 91. The devoted are believing believers, and it is faith that receives. The devoted have an unobstructed channel to the very Son of God. And “our Father”. And “the Comforter”.
Are you getting it?
You were once there, in company with Mary and Peter and Paul, enamored with Lord Jesus. No need to build a new altar, just return to the old one.
Can you remember when the fire burned at rebirth? Life was Jesus and Jesus and Jesus. But what Paul feared for the Corinthians (“I fear that somehow you will be led away….”) happened to you and those around you.
Yes, most have lost that “pure and simple devotion to Christ”. And you lost yours because you emulated those who lost theirs. Fellowship with those you can see meant more to you than walking with the One you can’t see.
Do you have the temerity to dump your idols and return to “pure and simple devotion to Christ”?
You are a tree. Further, you are a good tree. Like all good trees, you bear good fruit. When you get to heaven you will be amply rewarded for the fruit of your life.
Happily, you, the good tree, can become a good-er tree. A gooder tree bears more fruit than a less good tree. The more fruit, the greater the rewards.
Yes, eternal rewards, the kind “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Earned rewards determine your proximity to Christ. Those most rewarded will be closest to Lord Jesus…. forever. Think about it. New Jerusalem, soon to be your home city, is immense, large enough to comfortably house all the angels and all the saints and whoever else are up there. It necessitates that some will be close to Lord Jesus, perhaps within sight, and others thousands of miles away.
Distant or close, you will be content with your station. But those closer will be happier. And happier is quite attainable. Which brings us back to you, the tree.
It does take effort and wisdom to improve the tree. But understanding how to increase your ability to bear fruit is not the first step; the first step is to want to. If you don’t want to, you won’t. If you want to, sufficiently, you will.
There is a price to pay. Unattended trees do not improve. You must attend to the tree….daily, earnestly. You must understand diligence.
Our precious Teacher: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” (That’s “much fruit.”)
Lord Jesus gives a somber warning: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Neglected trees degrade. A tree no longer bearing much fruit, instead bearing little, is in danger of becoming fruitless. Pray, right now, that you never become fruitless! Whatever our Lord meant by “cut down and thrown into the fire”, you do not want to be included.
House churches. Why start or attend a house church?
If, as an ex-evangelical (or ex-whatever), you conclude you have to belong to something, attend something, you are mistaken. You belong to Christ, you have been bought and paid for by His innocent blood, you are now His. Those mindful of belonging to Him have no inclination to belong to something.
Attending, however, doesn’t have to (and should never) emerge into belonging. If attendees of a house church (hc) possessed and maintained a healthy perspective the gathering would be beneficial to all.
The impulse for christians to gather is strong simply because of Whom we have in common. Gathering in homes should be normal christianity, not peculiar, friends and neighbors being friendly and neighborly, sharing and caring for one another. But something went wrong way back in church history that caused christians to embrace a detrimental and synthetic christianity. Institutional churches are now considered Godly, and hc's considered fringe.
But not all hc’s are healthy, no more than all friendships.
So what makes a hc healthy? The same that makes an individual healthy…. a right agenda.
To be sound, the hc’s agenda must be the same as a (sound) individual’s agenda…. which is the same as Paul’s agenda…. and John’s and Peter’s and all other enthusiastic followers of Christ throughout the ages: to know Him.
A man of God is not an ‘us’ person. Something’s fishy with “We believe this or that.” Christianity is a one-to-One issue. The ultimate healthy hc consists of Jesus-and-me adherents intent on surrender and obedience. And when Jesus-and-me people gather, they gather, not unto each other, but unto Him.
Jesus-and-me disciples must guard their hearts from the constant danger of slipping into Jesus-and-us. While Jesus-and-us christians are the norm, a Jesus-and-us disciple is an impossibility. One intent on keeping stride with the assemblage will lose his focus on Christ. And an improper focus will most certainly eventuate a shift of loyalty.
A pleasant and sturdy hc is a Christ-enraptured hc.
Evangelicalism is an impressive superhighway aimed straight for a friendly, brilliant light, a radiance outpouring from none other than our extremely precious Lord Jesus Christ.
Can you see it? It’s a balmy day, the countryside on both sides an extensive golden hue from the ripened harvest. This four-lane Evangelical Express glimmers as the glow of Lord Jesus plays on the blacktop and white lines separating the lanes. Traffic is heavy, the cars varying in prestige. Seems like it shouldn’t be long before each vehicle reaches the epicenter of brilliance ahead, right into the very presence of the King of kings. But….
But look closely. The cars seem like they’re not moving. As a matter of fact…. can you believe it?.... most cars are actually travelling backwards! Yes, they are inching away from the radiance, away from Jesus!
What’s going on?! We all know evangelicals are continually drawing closer to Christ, right? They do go to church every sunday, and some on weekdays, right? They pay their tithes and even offerings once in a while, right? What’s going on?!
Wait a minute! See that Ford minivan? And that Honda Civic over there in the far lane? And that gray Chevy up ahead? Praise the Lord!, they’re driving forward, heading toward Jesus, tenaciously weaving through the backwards traffic, not deterred by frowns of the confused who are seemingly unaware they’re in reverse and annoyed by anyone daring to travel an opposite direction.
And look over there to the right, cars driving enthusiastically up the access ramp…. seem to be filled with passion for Jesus…. must be new converts. Poor saps, they think it’s smart and proper to travel the impressive Evangelical Express. (That’s why you got on, right?)
Oh, oh! Once they become one with the traffic, they slow down, just wanting to fit in. Oh, oh! Now they’re coming to a stop. Oh, oh! They, too, start inching backwards, away from Jesus.
Mercifully the Evangelical Express has exit ramps. Exits are for exiting, right?
Seldom in my 333 writings do I speak I or me. This article is an exception. I want to share why I write, why 333, where I am coming from.
The message I preach is, amazingly and sadly, seldom emphasized, though no other word is more relevant and dear to the heart of the blessed Trinity, the Three-in-One. The gospel truth that Christ punctuates, and I echo, rates far higher than all other Bible subjects. Embrace this truth and you embrace every good thing; miss it and nothing will work.
Listen (really listen) to your Lord and Teacher....
Take my yoke upon you. That's unity.
I am the vine, you are the branches. That's intimacy.
Follow Me. Togetherness.
Where I am, there my servant will be also. Fellowship.
I have called you friends. Relationship.
In every religion there is a strong resistance to Jesus Christ. That's every religion. That friction with our Lord Jesus is in catholicism, protestantism, mormonism, hinduism.... every religion.
Evangelicalism is a religion.
Evangelicalism is where I came from. Evangelicals are those (chiefly, but certainly not all) to whom I parrot the call of the Master: “Come unto Me”.
Evangelicalism, like every other religion, competes with Jesus for the loyalty of His own. It, too, is divided into a ruling class and a ruled class. It, too, refuses the Holy Spirit's governance of the pulpit. It, too, usurps the lordship of Christ.
I write because I must. I challenge the accepted because the accepted must be challenged. I do battle with ambitious builders and controllers who have themselves become lord and “first love”. I write because Christ's people are living far below their high calling (“Abide in Me, and I in you”) and potential.
The message I preach isn't strange, complicated, or new. I do not point to a religion, a movement, a saint, a program, a method. I point to “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, “the Lamb of God”, “first love”. My heart's cry is, “Hail to the King!”
Today you have sown. And today you have reaped. Same with yesterday, same as every day of last week, last month, last year. Same as every day since, as a kid, you became accountable. Yes, you’ve been busy…. sowing and reaping, reaping and sowing.
Today you are reaping what you have previously sown. Today you are sowing what you will subsequently reap. Like gravity, it’s a law that can’t be escaped or adjusted.
Johnny Appleseed reaped apples because Johnny Appleseed sowed apple seeds. That man has taught us a truth, as does the farmer and landscaper: What we sow is what we reap. Having a nice day? Thank yourself. Not so nice? Chastise yourself.
We can’t understand why this *#*#*# problem is happening, forgetting that way back when we planted yucky seeds. We pray and the *#*#*# doesn’t go away. The law of planting and harvesting is powerful, and its effects won’t dissolve with less-than-fervent, less-than-repentant-packed prayers, and, often, a lapse of time.
Except for “the Man Christ Jesus” we have all sown a mixture and we are all reaping a mixture. We get good from the good and bad from the bad. Be encouraged, we can always enhance life by simply improving the mixture.
Bible verses are good seeds, sit-coms are bad. Humility augments, pride diminishes. Generosity precipitates prosperity, greed brings poverty. Encouragement edifies, ugly words depress. Forgiveness sets free, unforgiveness binds. Obedience protects, sin destroys. Self-thoughts sadden, Jesus-thoughts cheer.
Others seed into your life, speaking word-seeds which access your mind and, with your permission and to your benefit or harm, slip into your heart. To protect you you must discern the good from the bad, ejecting harmful seeds before they injure.
A common mistake is to sow to be good. No, we sow good seeds to be close. To Him. He alone is our good enough.
The Bible is filled with powerful seed-words. Obedience to those words is good planting. Consume, consider, treasure, memorize and submit to the seed-words of God.
What do Father John and Pastor John have in common (other than their name)? Much. And much of that much isn’t good.
The relationship between Christ and new-born born-again is excellent and should not be tinkered with. Yet this is what John and John do, regularly and efficiently.
Relationship. Let’s look at relationship….
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” The Father was satisfied with His Son’s sacrifice, and now you are acceptable. Again, you are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And more, you are actually coveted, yes, coveted by the living God. Now that you are His, relationship with you is paramount. Words could never express His want to be in daily, abiding relationship with you, His beloved son/daughter.
Do you remember your “In the beginning”, when eternal life began and you discovered a spiritual realm so warm and beautiful? Relationship was rich then. Soon after, you met Father John, a born-again charismatic priest. Or was it Pastor John, a born-again evangelical rep?
“Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!”
Like most, John and John have learned to turn it on, simmer it down and turn it off with finesse. Warmth and approval make a recruit. Adjusting that warmth and approval steers the recruit.
There is no ill intent. Don’t we all want friends to see it our way, to attend our church?
Understanding of the two subordinates is both right and wrong, and lead those they lead into right and into wrong. Success is when they, as ambassadors of their respective religions, manage to become a mediator between christian and Christ. Only then can they manage the christian’s life efficiently.
Neither is ordained to do what they do. They are deputies of an unholy alternative. They were not positioned by the Lord Jesus Christ but rather religious lords. On behalf of others, they plunder the loyalty set on the Master. This they do in ignorance.
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man.” That’s any man, good, bad, whatever.
There’s a difference, big difference, between being dissatisfied and being unsatisfied. You’ve been served a gross meal and you’re dissatisfied. You’ve been served a yummy meal and you’re unsatisfied, wanting more.
Are you dissatisfied with your christianity, or unsatisfied?
If unsatisfied there is a special word for you…. MORE.
For the unsatisfied there is MORE, much MORE. Do understand: MORE is more of the Lord Jesus Christ, relationally speaking. A sinner’s prayer by which he enters the kingdom is basically a sincere, “Yes, Lord Jesus!!”; those within wanting MORE must be equally sincere, “Yes, Lord Jesus!!”
But if you’ve been served “a gross meal”, you certainly don’t want MORE, but rather No more!
A sane man could not be dissatisfied with what our generous Lord Jesus has freely given. And a sane man could not be satisfied with being institutionalized (as by an institutional church).
For the dissatisfied there is, and always has been, an alternative. You must exit, say g-o-o-o-d-bye and g-o-o-o-d riddance, and pursue Christ anew.
The more sincere and fervent the “Yes, Lord Jesus!!” the more you will benefit. You will have as much MORE as you insist on having, but do understand, the more MORE, the more you must discard.
MORE costs plenty, perhaps everything, perhaps your life. Peter said, “We have left all and followed You.” You have not yet “left all”. MORE will weaken the bond between you and family, you and friends. Hanging with you will be uncomfortable; hanging with them will be uncomfortable. Some things you did, which others are doing, you can no longer do. And say good-bye to self-rule.
But MORE will also give more of every good thing. Before you are new possibilities, new adventures, abundance of fruit. You will have “fellowship of the Spirit”. Finishing your course will be possible. You will not be embarrassed at the judgment seat of Christ. For eternity you will reap the benefits of choosing MORE.
So “stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”
In the family (that’s the family), students make better teachers than teachers.
We are both student and teacher.... always learning, always teaching. The newborn begins life (that’s the new life) as a student, keen to learn. Let's call this youngster a Student-first. Unfortunately, the Student-first often evolves into a Teacher-first. Not good.... very not good.
A Teacher-first itches to educate more than to be educated. He has forgotten to, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak.” To be heard is more needful than hearing.
Pulpit-people, it seems, are Teacher-first people. Not always, but mostly. They have been conditioned to speak much and listen little. To be influential is nobler than being influenced. Theirs is a life of exhorting, encouraging, persuading, prodding. Conversation is not their thing.
Lord Jesus was a teacher, but not Teacher-first. He spoke what He heard. (“The Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say.”) Father and Son were attuned, One to the Other.
A Student-first is a more effectual teacher than the Teacher-first because she has been listening.... to her teacher.... the Lord Jesus. She knows not only what Lord Jesus has said, but what He is saying. Holy Spirit connects her to Him.
A Student-first, then, is a student first and teacher second. You find this brother/sister sitting, like Mary, at the feet of the Master, satisfying their thirst to know Him and His ways. Their need to expound is far less than their need to be nourished, and being in His company more desired than being influential.
Teacher-first fancies an audience. Bigger the audience, higher the high. If many are unavailable, an audience of one or a few will have to do. Serious repentance is required to recover the high ground he once held as a Student-first.
If you are now a Student-first, never surrender this lofty ground. A Student-first – in a conversation or behind a pulpit - is a force for Christ. Only the Christ-centered can communicate Christ. Lord Jesus can work through humility.
I can see you, but I can’t see me. You can see me, but you can’t see you. I will never ask you to reveal me to me because you might. You wouldn’t ask me to reveal you to you because I might.
Distorted self-analysis can be convenient, though longterm consequences are harsh. If I were transparent I would confess the occasional hot arrows of envy when I hear of a brother being recognized for his writings or other accomplishments. And the hardness of heart when compassion would be the expectant response. And the many days I dither in unbelief. And the people I avoid because my sick soul deems them inferior. And….
But…. no…. better not go there. Could be someone out there thinking I’m altogether. Reputation is everything, right?
A reputable brother once said publicly, “I have a tendency to be a phony.” How many christians have you heard confess the equivalent.... even in private conversation? This brother was used extensively by Lord Jesus because of his unpretentiousness.
Typical Evangelical (etcetera) has serious hindrances, stifling his pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ. But because of Adam's fall the obvious isn’t. To be free from self-deception we need to humble ourselves. But because of that *!*!*! fall we find humility difficult.
But humility is a must. Because God gives grace to the humble, only the humble.
Many (most?) of us are not as spiritual, appreciative, knowledgeable, discerning as we think. It takes mettle to inspect ourselves honestly.
If only we loved Lord Jesus as much as we assume we do, how improved life would be. Love can be measured by obedience; much love, much obedience. But will we measure?
Indeed, someone is measuring. Obedience and disobedience will be revealed. Publicly.
Those closest to Christ are less short-sighted. Absorbing Him is absorbing truth. We need truth. We want to know, now not later, the real 'me', and thus our need for more of Him and grace He freely gives.
A blind man near Jericho asked Jesus to heal him. Jesus complied. (Did not our Lord say, “Ask and you will receive”?)
Had the blind man not asked he would have retained his blindness. Had Jesus walked by this gentleman a dozen times, yes, a thousand times, He would not have healed him, such respect He has for man’s free will.
The gentleman could have thought, Life ain’t so bad. Others have to work all day while all I have to do is sit and beg. I can hear the children playin’ and the flutist flutin’, I can smell the flowers others plant and tend, my food tastes as good as anybody’s, I have time to reflect and socialize. And I kinda enjoy all the attention and pity.
Spiritually speaking, preferring blindness over sight is not uncommon.
Generally, evangelicals (etcetera) do not want to see more than they see (know more than they know). If they did, they would ask Lord Jesus to shine light on traditions considered sacred. And The Teacher would comply. (Did our Lord not say, “Ask and you will receive”?)
Odd, incredible and sad are adjectives insufficiently describing self-imposed short-sightedness.
Scrooge thinks he’s practical. Sinner isn't sinning, but simply non-religious. Reaper of foolishness is a victim of circumstances. Touchy has a sensitive spirit. Angry is merely expressing righteous indignation. Fearful is cautious. Confused understands. Blind sees quite well, thank you.
We can convince ourselves we are who we are not. Those who cannot hear hear well. Those who can't can. Those who misunderstand understand.
There has always been an alternative to self-deception. However....
Our holy Jesus will not give sight to those choosing blindness. We must want to know, enough to petition. We won’t ask unless we are willing to accept changes that truth always brings.
We cannot see ourselves unless the Lord gives insight. Fortunately, salvation from hidden hindrances - that seriously devalue our relationship with Him - is available. (Did not our Lord say, “Ask and you will receive”?)
NOTE: Would Lord Jesus have you forward this article to others?
Do not be deceived, little regard for the Bible is little regard for the Author. One measures loyalty to the Author by obedience to what He has declared, not sentimentality.
Sentiment can be a cop-out. During praise and worship, one declares, “I love You, Lord!” because she does, and another declares, “I love You, Lord!” as a synopsis of, “Please be assured I really love You, Jesus, even though my life seems to indicate otherwise.”
Lord Jesus is not a gushy sentimentalist. Never did He verbally express love even to His intimates. When Peter declared, “Lord, You know I love You”, our precious Jesus never responded, “Luv you too, Pete.” When departing from the eleven into the clouds He didn’t shout back, “Sure do luv you guys!”
Lord Jesus wasn’t/isn’t wordy. While most of us talk more than necessary (and more than becoming?), He doesn’t. He conveyed love solidly through deeds of love.
To the flippant Jesus said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?”
“To obey is better than sacrifice.” Sacrifices of expression are good, but to obey is better. Again, little regard for the Bible is little regard for the Author. Worship minus submission is shallow.
Love: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to do His work.”
Love: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Love: “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Doing is more earnest than saying.
This is not a try-harder, do-more, be-better article. However, the free will God has given does enable us to steer life. We can choose obedience. We choose, He empowers.
Do consider: The Son of the Highest is actually inviting you into deeper, finer relationship. One of the costs of acceptance is obedience. Submission to the Bible is submission to Him.
Yes, do consider.
NOTE: And please prayerfully consider forwarding this article.
In our quest for spiritual gain, doctrine should never trump relationship…. that is to say, one’s determination to know truth should be less than knowing the Truth, including truth about The Truth…. or said another way, being doctrinally sound is good but being relationally sound is better, much better.
For most evangelicals (etcetera), there was a dismal moment when He was discarded for an it. Our very first days in Christ were full of the wonder of Him. For many, it didn’t take long for evangelicalism (or whatever) to turn one’s focus from Him to one of many its, one of the its being evangelicalism itself and another being an inordinate (disproportionate, irrational) need to be doctrinally correct.
(Are you experiencing meager fruit? A skewed loyalty is the reason. If you don’t expel your it and reinstate Him on life’s throne, meager will continue to be normal and approaching judgment day will be an embarrassment.)
Doctrine police often cite Ac17:11 which speaks of the “noble” Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” to rationalize their obsession to be doctrinally flawless. However, those townspeople “searched the scriptures” to determine if the Nazarene was indeed the promised Christ, not to intensely defend/decimate doctrines such as eternal security, the reality of hell-fire, end-time prophecies, and many etceteras.
1Cor8:1: “Knowledge puffs up.” Knowledge puffs the professor, the plumber, the poet, the prosperous and the poor. And misaligned christians. The itch to know for the sake of knowing is less than virtuous. Only the ego is enriched.
The religious love to expound their stuff to the less informed. Not so the fervent.
Knowledge actually comes more readily to those not obsessed with it, those occupied with Jesus. That’s because more of Christ equals more of “the Spirit of Christ” who “will guide you into all truth”.
Ps119:11: “Your word have I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
A pure motive for learning is to serve Him rightly.
A pulpit in a house church? Seems unlikely, out of place, unnecessary. And yet….
A pulpit, correctly governed and employed, can prevent the hc from sinking from a stimulating ten-string guitar into an aggravating (clink-clink-clink) one-string. Hunh? Let’s look at it….
In the evangelical church, he who controls the pulpit is the powerbroker. One excessively influencing many is quite unhealthy. But just suppose….
Just suppose there was an open pulpit accessible to all equally. Anarchy, you say? Well, let’s tweak that a bit….
Suppose there were a few rules determined by all that applied to all, such as a time limit for each person. Great idea, thou thinkest, but sounds a bit cumbersome for most evangelical services. Okay, good point, but what about….?
What about a pulpit in a hc gathering where numbers aren’t a problem? Think about it. A pulpit accessible to all, let’s say a group of ten. All ten have equal opportunity to express. No one speaks except from the pulpit. Yes, this will be awkward at first, but the advantages are numerous, like….
Like shared influence. Protection from ambitious controllers. No sibling rivalry for top status. Equal opportunity to use God-given gifts. Diversity of expression. Safety in numbers from faulty doctrines. And more….
Utilizing a pulpit would be excellent training for all ten. We learn by doing. Those jitters will eventually go. Who knows what doors of opportunity will open. And much more….
If the Holy Spirit, and not man, is the orchestrator, the orchestra being the ten, Christ will be magnified. Much fruit will come. Still not convinced? Consider the alternative, no pulpit….
A powerbroker will arise, undoubtedly a controller. The Holy Spirit will be less wanted. The other nine will eventually resemble the fellow in the evangelical pew, insignificant, stunted, bored. Instead of a stimulating ten-string guitar, the hc will sink to an aggravating (clink-clink-clink) one-string. Only guy that will be happy is….
The controller…. with his need to lead, itch to influence, hankering to be heard.
NOTE: “Should I forward?.... or not?.... maybe I should.... others might be blessed/challenged.... But.... on the other hand.... maybe not.... don't want to tick anyone off.... why risk it?.... But.... on the other hand....”
The problem with a singular, overly influential spokesman in a house church setting is his propensity to draw the group into his ‘camp’. And chances of him arising out of an inferior camp are better than 95%.
There are in the church of Christ many camps (factions, persuasions). Listed are a few:
It is in our nature to draw others into our persuasion. Vegans want the world to eat lotsa veggies. Environmentalists and political activists want to sign us up. ‘Leaders’ from various camps itch to realign the entire church. That’s just the way we are.
And that’s a problem.
#1 leader-guy burns to convince us of his understanding of the sovereignty of God. #2 reaps his irresponsible sowing and concludes God is testing him (and, obviously, everyone else).
#3 once peppered his sermons with “Jesus-Jesus-Jesus” and since backslid to a less discomforting “God-God-God” (just like unbelievers). #4 believes he’s God’s appointed and you’re his helper.
#5 is stuck in the gospel of works, his creed being, “Let’s get ’ir done!” 6 wants us to squeeze fun out of a condemned world. 7’s focus is Israel and end-times, and yours must be also.
#8 wants everyone reading the globetrotter’s websites and emails. 9 wants everybody to stop believing/preaching hell. And that brings us to #10.
Only those in this “Christ-focused” camp have opportunity to accomplish their calling. These will be eternally wealthier than those of inferior camps. They definitely, positively will not be embarrassed at the upcoming judgment seat of Christ.
Yet the chances of a #10 out-muscling his 1 to 9 siblings to dominate the hc group are nil. Ain’t gonna happen.
So what’s the answer?
There is a (strong?) argument for a consensus-governed open pulpit in the hc gatherings. Because each is gifted you need each other. And because each is so very unfinished you need protection from each other.
NOTE: Or some equivalent method to ensure equal opportunity to share.
House church groups should be careful to question all aspects of evangelicalism, not assuming anything considered acceptable as acceptable. Because singular leadership has so dominated the way it is one might conclude there is something regarding the evangelical way that is Biblical and worthy to be imitated.
To underscore the point, a popular evangelical Bible commentary describes Peter as leader of the apostles. Why, oh why, such a conclusion? Well someone had to be leader, right?
There has only been one qualified leader of both the universal and local church…. His name is Jesus! Soon after He left He appointed a representative, the Holy Spirit. Over the centuries, evangelicalism has managed to replace this “Spirit of truth” with itself. The appointees of the IC (institutional church) are appointed by the IC because of their compliance to the IC. Often the evangelical is squeezed to choose between Christ and….
Now wait a minute! Hold on there! Doesn’t Peter exhort elders to “shepherd the flock of God”?!
And doesn’t Hebrews say, “Obey those who rule over you”?!
And doesn’t Ephesians tell us that the Lord appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers “for the equipping of the saints”?!
And didn’t Paul tell Titus to “appoint elders in every city”?!
Please! Chill out and take a few deep breaths! Let us reason together….
Do you think we are to obey anyone other than the Holy Spirit? Like really? Yes, sometimes He speaks through human agency, especially to youth (“Younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.”) and those young in the Lord. But if you think we are to blindly obey rather than simply bear a humble readiness to defer and submit, what about….
What about the times elders disagree with each other (which are often)? How do you obey both? And more important, when they disagree with your understanding of the Bible?
And nowhere does the Word indicate elders officiate church gatherings. Conversely, they lead by “being examples”. Only.
There is one chapter in the entire New Testament detailing the suitable order of house church gatherings. Because there is one only, it makes no sense to avoid 1Cor14 when determining the Lord’s will regarding house church management. The most pointed verse in 14 is 26. So let’s look at 1Cor14:26….
How is it then brethren?
How is this thing supposed to work?
Whenever you come together…
Probably they had “come together” in houses. (Perhaps they invented the house church.)
each of you has a psalm,…
The word “each” is used elsewhere when referring to one-another ministry. A sampling: “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all”, “distributing (gifts) to each one individually as He wills”, “as each one has received a gift, minister it to each other”.
has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue,
Seems like those Corinthians were tongue-talkers. Paul speaks of public tongues which requires an interpretation. Incidentally, not all tongues are for that purpose. When Paul said, “I speak with tongues more than you all” he was referring to personal prayer. (“I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.”)
has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.
Of high importance, everyone was to be involved in ministering to everyone. Verse 31: “You can all prophesy one by one.”
Let all things be done for edification.
That’s “for edification” of the hc. “All things” include “a teaching” and “a revelation”. By whom? By whosoever the Holy Spirit chooses.
But where is the elder most say is required to steer this thing? Not only can’t the guy be found in the entire chapter, but the entire letter, and…. both letters to the Corinthians, and…. the letters to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians.
Though elders were there, Paul never mentioned them. Not once. Perhaps painful to ‘leaders’ and perhaps freedom to non-‘leaders’, elders did not officiate.
The hc people managed themselves by consensus.
Elders cannot be trusted.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh. How about.... ?
Since elders, like non-elders, are unfinished works of the Lord Jesus Christ who is slowly and meticulously refurbishing them through the agency of the most Holy Spirit AND, having been, like all of us, seriously damaged by sin, those of their own and those of others, are in the ongoing process of sanctification and in the wrenching battle of self-rule versus Christ-rule, AND because their understanding is limited, this evidenced by the fact they are still learning, AND because their souls, while perhaps healthier than average, must nonetheless be diagnosed as defective, AND since they themselves would readily agree their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ is not nearly as intimate as desired, it would therefore be less than wisdom for non-elders to place a high expectation on elders’ ability to teach and direct, or regard them as one’s prime example.
Uhmm…. no…. perhaps the first statement is easier to grasp and remember: Elders cannot be trusted.
Peter was an elder (“I who am a fellow elder”). He walked with, camped with, ate with the very Son of the Highest. He was there at the multiplication of the bread and fish, the healing of multitudes, the transfiguration and ascension of Lord Jesus. He was given a personal mandate to “Feed My lambs” and to take the gospel to the gentiles.
Surely, thou thinkest, this elder could be trusted.
We’ve heard that weak-kneed Peter became indomitable Peter when baptized “with the Holy Spirit and fire” at Pentecost, and served Lord Jesus faithfully and fearlessly all his remaining days. Well, not really….
Galatians tells of a compromising Peter refusing to eat with gentile converts, “fearing those who were of the circumcision”, influencing other Jews to follow his atrocious example. Peter, an elder, proves elders cannot be trusted. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man.”
Peter would surely agree that One is worthy of our trust, our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Pet5:3: “Lead them by your own good example.”
How are elders to lead “the flock that God has entrusted to” them?
“Lead them by your own good example.”
One more time: How do elders lead?
“Lead them by your own good example.”
It’s baseball season. On most teams there are a few particularly talented and dedicated players who have but one obsession, to win. But this is a team sport, and unless all players give their best, winning will be but a dream. How can the few instill their skills and determination into the others?
“Lead them by your own good example.”
Because they have the talent they have the respect and because they have the respect they have opportunity to influence. By example the gifted minority can lift team spirit dramatically. They can boost the others by creating and maintaining a positive atmosphere in the dugout, and, more important, playing with consistent intensity on the field.
If the few respectfully submit to the authority of the coach, the entire team will emulate them, resulting in harmony, resulting in better baseball.
And more. They could invest hours hanging out with the less competitive, sharing both their savvy and enthusiasm. As they bond, their passion for excellence will spread, creating a winning attitude.
It is unnecessary to hold an official position to affect the outcome of any team sport. Same applies to the house church….
Elders have opportunity to positively influence the ‘team’ by their “own good example”. As they give homage to the ‘coach’, the Lord Jesus Christ, defer to the Holy Spirit, and bond with those less passionate, they will create a wholesome atmosphere.
Elders must never ‘play’ coach.
Evangelicalism was created by elders not content with merely functioning as elders but assuming official positions, the ‘office’ of pastor, bishop, et al. Although church history proves officiating does not work, hc’s, oddly, often feel a need to be officiated by an elder in their gatherings.
The Holy Spirit will officiate…. if invited.
AMAZING!! is all around us. However, AMAZING!! will amaze only those having the spiritual sophistication to be amazed. The dull yawn.
When an appreciative christian sees the lively sparrow bouncing in air from here to there she is amazed, perhaps recalling the words of her Teacher: “Not a single sparrow can fall…. without your Father knowing it.”
Wikipedia tells us there are approximately 140 species of sparrows, billions of these little guys, each hefty evidence of God’s realness. “The Lord of heaven and earth” fashioned them with feathers, wings, a beak, a heart, and many etceteras, and shepherds every one of them daily. Now that’s not just AMAZING!! but more like….
AMAZING!! X 100.
There are 10,000 species of birds, trillions of incredibly gifted, flying phenomena. And they’re all hungry. Who could calculate the number of insects consumed daily? And each insect is as incredibly designed as the bird that gobbles it. Surely that makes our God at least….
AMAZING!! X 1000.
And what about all the seeds those critters devour? A seed is a miracle. Gazillion seeds are gazillion miracles. What does that say about God…. ?
AMAZING!! X gazillion.
And then there are all the animals that run and bounce and climb and hunt and fish. Fish…. did I say fish? Every lake, sea and ocean is an aquarium of miraculous swimmers and crawlers and creepers and floaters. That makes Him….
AMAZING!! X …. what comes after gazillion?
And what about up there, you know, the stars and galaxies, and universes and…. ? And what about heaven? It’s immense and sparkly, with billions of angels and millions of people like us.
Us. Yeah, what about us? We’re amazing too. We can listen and laugh and learn and love. And…. sadly…. we can do what no other earth-creature can….
We can sin.
We can, we did, we do. Though sin has made us the most grotesque earthlings, God is making us beautiful again…. through Christ…. who washed His own in His own blood. Oh, the love of Jesus….
AMAZING!! X…. ???
Ian and Isabelle Ingram, 1234 Imaginative Avenue, Whereverville, are institutionalized evangelicals, institutionalized in heart and mind.
Today, sunday, Ian is intent on beating his record time of 22m20s. They arrive at their beloved institutional church, Immanuel Learning Institute, at exactly 22m04s, having executed six lefts and three rights, hitting four green lights and only one red. Not bad, but 16s shy of his record.
An hour previous, after putting on their sunday-go-to-meetin’ best, the honorable twosome, as is custom, sat at the kitchen table and carefully calculated their week’s combined income (before deductions, of course), not neglecting Isabelle’s winnings at bingo, pressed 10% on the calculator, and since it amounted to 0.97 away from $140, generously decided to make it an even seven 20’s, considering the 0.97 an “offering”.
Isabelle is proud of her Ian, having recently been promoted to head usher, his years of faithful service and fixed smile having paid off. Both pleasure in the approval and acceptance from those of higher rank and also their equals.
Ian and Isabelle Ingram self-institutionalized themselves fifteen years previous when they opted for membership, adopting the Institute’s vision as their own, making a verbal pact to finance that vision through “tithes and offerings” and submit to leadership. Now their institutionalized heart and mind find comfort in sameness…. same pastor in the same suit preaching from the same pulpit in the same church to the same people. Can’t get enough.
They survive vacations by attending local institutional church services.
The advantages of membership are many: a vote on serious church matters…. choice of programs through which to serve…. weekday Bible/prayer…. a pastor when requiring direction or solace…. satisfying social life…. sense of belonging.
But that proverbial coin does have another side….
Ian and Isabelle Ingram of Whereverville are less than entire, a christian divided in two (or is that three or four?). Fullness of the Spirit is only for those “led of the Spirit”. Subservience to man disqualifies them from nearness to Lord Jesus.
House churches range from dysfunctional and ineffective to quite beneficial.
If you don’t comprehend the high calling of your personal christianity, you will not realize the high calling of a hc. Only those who get it will get it.
Regarding your life and your hc, you must, you must, you must get it! And you won’t get it by looking around, because they don’t get it either.
A hc consisting of a small band that gets it will affect their city and affect their country and affect the nations.
Yes, nations are the prize for those who get it! Salvation of multitudes nearby and distant is but one reward of those who understand and truly embrace the high calling of God.
Paul got it: “To live is Christ.”
Not, “To live is christianity.” Not, “To live is churchianity.” Not, “To live is honorable behavior.” Not, “To live is soul-winning.” But….
“To live is Christ!”
“To live is Christ” is wrapping one’s entirety around Jesus Christ. “To live is Christ” is to purposely and continuously set one’s love and focus on Him.
Very few (that’s very few) are prepared for the future “judgment seat of Christ” because very few can now say, “To live is Christ.” Most live for something or someone else. That’s why billions will perish; only the infatuated beget abundantly.
To get from where you are to a higher place (“To live is Christ”) is a difficult and lengthy journey. Gathering with equally determined believers will get you (and them) higher quicker.
A healthy hc is simply a group that gathers unto Jesus Christ…. enthusiastically.
The Bible records such an enthusiastic gathering unto Lord Jesus. At His triumphal entry into Jerusalem “sitting on an ass’s colt” they spread branches and even garments before Him while shouting heartfelt praises.
The hc that gathers with similar passion unto the Lord Jesus will evolve into a potent force that will rock the world. They will rock the world by simply becoming passionate for Him.
There is a simple, practical truism that would benefit every house church that adopted it: WHAT WORKS FOR ‘ME’ (you are ‘me’) PROBABLY WORKS FOR THE HOUSE CHURCH.
Why would God’s ways change when 'I' becomes we and he/she becomes them? You find the answer for US by determining the answer for ME. For example….
Question: Who should be the lord of MY life?
Answer: Jesus Christ.
Question: Who should be the lord of THE HC?
Answer: Jesus Christ.
Question: What should MY agenda be?
Answer: “That I may know Him.”
Question: And OUR agenda?
Answer: “That may know Him.”
What is MY biggest hindrance to knowing Him?
And OUR biggest hindrance?
What can I do to know Him more intimately?
Pursue Him diligently.
What can WE do to know Him more intimately?
Pursue Him diligently.
What is MY high calling?
What is OUR high calling?
How do I gain more of Him?
Humility. Prayer. Study. Repentance. Perseverance.
How do WE gain more of Him?
Humility. Prayer. Study. Repentance. Perseverance.
Is it difficult or easy for ME to go deeper?
Same for US?
Who is MY elder/pastor/teacher?
Who is OUR elder/pastor/teacher?
Who should orchestrate MY life?
Lord Jesus via Holy Spirit.
Who should orchestrate THE HC?
Lord Jesus via Holy Spirit.
How should I relate to elders?
Honor them and follow their (good) example.
And THE HC?
How can I protect myself from deception?
Jesus: “Abide in Me.”
How can WE protect ourselves from deception?
Jesus: “Abide in Me.”
How much preplanning should I do?
How much preplanning should WE do?
How can I insulate myself from discord?
Stay focused on Lord Jesus.
How can WE insulate ourselves from discord?
Will I make mistakes?
Will WE make mistakes?
As questions arise regarding the group, apply the question to yourself. This could simplify determining the answer for the group.
Lord Jesus emphasized important issues by referencing them in different ways, issues of import both to those who are His and those who are not.
To “those who are not” He repeated their need to be rescued from the consequences of their sin.
To “those who are His” our precious Jesus expressed in several ways His want to bond with His saved ones. Perhaps the most descriptive language expressing the necessity of togetherness is located in John, chapter fifteen: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
Lord Jesus expressed “Abide in Me, and I in you” in various ways….
To several Lord Jesus said, “Follow Me”. One cannot continually follow another except by being fixed on that another. Being fixed is abiding.
Jesus: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” He has every right to be “first love”. Loving Christ supremely equals “Abide in Me”.
Lord Jesus often used the term, “Believe in Me”. The Amplified says, “adheres to, trusts in, relies on”. Adhering, trusting, relying…. all are synonyms of “Abide in”. As Lord Jesus promises, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit”, so He promises, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also”.
Lord Jesus expresses intimacy with several analogies, such as….
Shepherd and sheep: “I know My sheep, and are known by them.” And….
Master and servant: “A servant is not greater than his master.” And….
Sender and sent one: “Nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” And….
Teacher and student: “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am”. But perhaps the optimum is….
Vine and branch: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Why does the greatest Man ever, “the man Christ Jesus”, desire to bond with us little guys more, much more, than we want to bond with Him?
I mean, don’t you think it should be the reverse?
Doesn’t the sports fan want the company of the superstar much more than the star wants his company? Who would be more thrilled, the canadian who received an invitation to a royal wedding or the queen who received an invite to the canadian’s wedding?
But hey, we are talking about The Great Invitation by the “King of kings”, directed to all christians, to enter into permanent, rich companionship! Most christians are actually declining the One whose “name which is above every name”, He who is “sitting at the right hand of God”, the object of heaven's worship. Why do we say, in effect, “Thanks Lord, but no thanks”?
Can we deny making such a refusal?
Lord Jesus assures His own, “He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.” “Much fruit” is evidence of abiding. So, within evangelicalism (etc.) where’s the “much fruit”? Yes, we see little fruit, indicating a degree of abiding. But doesn’t little fruit indicate lukewarmness?
So again, why?
The reason we are less than responsive to The Great Invitation is simply because there is something seriously wrong with us.
Perhaps we are like the abused child that finds difficulty responding to her adoptive parents’ affections. Or we instinctively know that abiding in Christ necessitates relinquishing self-rule. And cherished idols. And illegitimate lords. And tawdry television. And inferior friendships. Etcetera.
Christ does cost.
But to get from here to there, to become the person we now are not, to lay up an abundance of treasure in heaven, to please both the Master and our precious Father, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to positively affect the outcome of many, to have prayers readily answered, to walk in God-given authority…. we must (must!) abide in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you heard the expression ‘Community Life’? How about ‘Church Family’? These seemingly express the intent/desire to build a community centered on the local church. Organized activities extend beyond sunday services, and vary from picnics to beach parties to shared meals to feeding the homeless to many etceteras.
All for the intent of bonding, strengthening church unity and creating an army of do-ers.
And how is such a local church managed by the Holy Spirit?
It matters little to decision-makers that both mentioned expressions cannot be found in Scripture. The eleven didn’t set out to build community. And that’s because Lord Jesus didn’t instruct them to build community.
1J1:7: If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
This fellowship is authentic and rich and fruit-bearing, the only kind acceptable to Lord Jesus. This is true ‘Community Life’, minus human genius.
Adders and Subtracters: If we walk in unity, we have fellowship with one another.
And this is true. Likeminded of all persuasions enjoy their own company. But what does this fellowship accomplish? Does such fellowship require the evangelical to relinquish individual guidance of the Holy Spirit?
And is this fellowship at the expense of fellowship with Christ? Does increased togetherness through increased activity actually decrease the flow of grace?
Each stands alone at the judgment seat of Christ. Alone. ‘They’ won’t stand with you. Our eternity is determined by the value of communion, in the here and now, with Lord Jesus. Gathering together can enrich that relationship, especially in a house church environment whereby each and every share their Spirit-given gifts. But equally required is….
Alone time, probably more than together time, causes Christ to be “formed in you”. The church’s giants of the faith became giants, mostly, through slow growth during thousands of hours of personal, purposeful abiding in “the true vine”.
‘Community Life’ can be an encroachment upon much needed alone time between Vine and branches.
Have you noticed that The Word never records any of the twelve being disabled? No sprained ankles, no migraines, no hernias, no toothaches. Not in the three years they walked with Lord Jesus, nor afterward.
Why is that?
There were sick folk all around them, sometimes pressing from all sides. Sniffling kids, coughing grannies, sneezing pharisees.
An air flight is a common place to catch something nasty simply because many share a confined space. At times the twelve were compressed by the infirmed desperate to touch The Healer, squeezed in the melee as they protected their Lord from being crushed.
Weren’t there flu bugs back then?
Certainly they didn’t wear protective gloves when they themselves laid “hands on the sick”. Yet there is no indication they contracted the afflictions of others.
Psalm 91 is a treasury of promises of protection for “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High”, the “Most High” being our Lord Jesus. Could it be that the twelve’s proximity to Christ, relationally speaking, was their protection?
In Christ’s universal church there has always been the near, the far and the in-between, those relationally close, those relationally distant, and those somewhere between. Could it be our protection is relative to the value of relationship with Christ? Even precisely so?
The pitiable traitor excluded, the apostles were obviously well bonded to their Master. After “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” they were still sufficiently bonded to be protected. Since “God is no respecter of persons”, will He not protect all who are relationally knitted to Him?
If yes, why is His church populated by so many enfeebled? And what does the medical condition of the church tell of its spiritual condition?
There’s ample reason to fear pride and self-ness and lukewarm-ness; the proud, the self-centered and the tepid merit insufficient safeguard.
Protection requires far less faith than healing. Once entrenched, infirmity is difficult to expel. The wise maintain companionship with their Protector.
Title: PULPIT POWER
Author: Larry Jones
Setting: Bryden Falls, skirting the Canada-U.S. border, somewhere in western Canada
*** Terry Maclin (Pastor Mac), ex-marine, founder and pastor of Bryden Falls Community Christian Center, captain of the Challengers, a men's church baseball team
*** Vivian Maclin, wife, mother of twins, co-founder of the Center, church secretary
*** Reuben (Roo) Tanner, plumber, back catcher
*** Jenni Tanner, wife, stay-at-home mother of five
*** Trevor (Tree) Kenny, ex-marine, president of the division's American Northwestern Baseball League, coach and pitcher for the Grizzlies
*** John Douglas Tanner, homeschooled, shortstop, violinist for youth's MorLord Worship Band
*** Katie Maclin, eighteen, vocalist for MorLord
*** Phil Ferguson, assistant pastor, pitcher, assistant coach
*** Donald Williamson, one of seven elders, retired pastor, past denominational elder
The Center, having quickly evolved from a home Bible study into a sizable church, was considered a success story at denominational headquarters. Pastor Mac was invited to be keynote speaker at the upcoming bi-annual convention; perhaps his testimony would be an inspiration to struggling pastors.
The stability of the Center was suddenly threatened by a simple request to Pastor Mac by Reuben Tanner, plumber and ballplayer, to have access to the pulpit. He claimed to have a message from God to the congregation.
Maybe you're thinking, “So what's the big deal?”
Exercise your imagination....
Suppose you were Reuben; how would your pastor respond to your request? How would you react if he refused? Slighted? Angry? Embarrassed? (Perhaps worse yet, suppose he agreed?)
You are the pastor, and a respected layman requests the pulpit. Would your reaction be, “You gotta be kidding!”? But on what grounds could you deny him? (Why would you want to?)
That was Mac's dilemma. On what basis could he deny a highly respected church member? Suppose saying no vexed the leagues star ballplayer?.... the Challengers minus Roo wouldn't get far.
But how could Mac agree? Wouldn't everyone expect equal opportunity? Mac had always ran a tight ship.... because.... what he feared the most.... was a dreaded…. church split.
NOTE: Pulpit Power can be accessed at larryjones.ca
Of the thirteen (that’s the twelve plus our precious Christ) who do you think was the strongest? Who would win an arm-wrestling contest? Who could outrun the pack?
Certainly not Matthew; tax collectors got flabby sitting around collecting coins. It’s hard to imagine loser Judas winning anything. Perhaps one of the rugged fishermen?.... a guy got tough wrestling fish and nets and Lake Galilee all his life. Maybe Peter, considered the eldest?
Nope, none of these.
It was not “His daily toil of handling, hewing, and shaping the tough wild olive wood and hard acacia common to the region” for more than two decades that made Lord Jesus stronger than the twelve. Nor the thousands of miles He trekked over rough trails as He ministered life to His people. (Someone estimated a compiled distance greater than the earth’s circumference.)
Only (the before the fall) Adam matched Christ in vigor and health and strength. Only these two could say, “He has nothing in Me”.
Romans 5:12: Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin.
The after Adam was much weaker than the before Adam. With sin came death. Slowly but steadfastly the man deteriorated. He lost his wholeness.
Only “Him who knew no sin” knew no sickness. Never was His body violated by infirmities common to us, we who are quite familiar with sin and unbelief.
So when you think of The Teacher, don’t associate Him with your pasty, spectacled fourth-grade teacher puffing his way up the flight of stairs. “The Son of Man” was a man’s man. The “Lamb of God” was plenty tough. Didn’t need help overturning the money-changers’ tables and clearing the temple. After a beating that would kill most He still had the capacity to prophesy to the “daughters of Jerusalem”.
This man’s Man would have us recover that which was lost through forgiven sin. To be strong and whole. To be like the before Adam. To win the arm-wrestling contest. To outrun the pack.
NOTE: Rabboni, The Life Story of Jesus. W. Phillip Keller. Excellent, excellent book.
The evangelical can learn much from the Jehovah’s witness. The two have lots in common, more than either would boast about….
As the jw associates with Jehovah’s witnesses only, the evangelical hangs with evangelicals only. And as the jw will marry a jw and raise jw kids, the evangelical will marry his own kind and the pair will endeavor to raise content and dutiful evangelicals.
More significantly, both read the same Bible. And no less significant, both verbalize allegiance to that same Bible. A stranger to the two might think that either the jw would become an evangelical or the evangelical would become a jw. But no, it doesn’t work that way….
Both ceded their right and responsibility to analyze for himself; indeed such independence might annoy God. Both are confined by non-Biblical mandates subtly imposed. The two have given themselves over to the way it is, which they generously finance. Both dodge outside influence, both think himself independent, both are team players, both are sufficiently rewarded with praises.
Heart/mind-conditioning is continuous. While sunday morning finds the evangelical submerged in evangelicalism, the jw is doused with kingdom hall logic. Imperceptibly, the bond that binds them to their respective non-Biblical, inorganic, institutional systems is strengthened. Imperceptibly, freedom dwindles.
Their support is wanted, their opinions not. Objections, or even strongly verbalized suggestions, directed to the controllers could put the entire family at risk simply because the institution is the family’s main source of acceptance and approval and spiritual diet. Never make the status quo edgy.
Still, the differences between the evangelical and the jw far outweigh their commonality….
While the one trusts Christ alone for his salvation, the other trusts his organization. While one is heaven-bound, the other heads for a place he doesn’t believe exists. Also, the jw’s serfdom is degrees more severe.
Nonetheless the evangelical who sees himself in the jw offering a free Watchtower at his door might realize his own bondage.
Might apologize to Lord Jesus.
Might become His disciple.
Every room has a door, some two or more.
Envision a spacious room with several doors, doors on all sides.
As Christ is the door into your room (“I am the door”), so is He the room itself (let’s call it “The Secret Place”). In this room all doors have an EXIT sign overhead…. except one, the main entrance. You might think that although the room is quite large it could not accommodate the steady stream of converts entering the room (Christ) through the entrance door (Christ). But no problem….
Although new arrivals are ecstatic when first entering The Room, they soon leave through one of the several exits, no not back outside where they came from (hopefully), but into various chambers, all much inferior. Those who had everything exchanged the best for best-divided-by-about-ten. Strange, thou thinkest?
Yes, strange. But strange is what we do.
The christian is majorly dissimilar to outsiders refusing to enter The Room through The Door. He is blood-washed, redeemed, adopted, sanctified, justified. But he does have some commonality with outsiders….
Both do strange regularly.
Strange is the non-believer choosing everlasting grief over forever well-being…. permanent hopelessness over perpetual security…. a forever of regret over fixed contentment…. condemnation over forgiveness.
But, too, strange is the evangelical (etcetera) exiting The Room and thereby forfeiting (much of) his protection, her peace, his freedom, her joy, his rewards, her purpose.
We have a tendency to go back, even if back there wasn’t a nice place. We visit old neighborhoods, look-up past friends, take up discarded habits. We were well bonded, and former ties beckon us.
The Room is not crowded. Most have departed to experiment tawdry locales, noisy and titillating haunts where friends and chatter and noise entertain.
The judgment seat awaits. Those dwelling in “the secret place” will be much wealthier than those not.
Those exit doors don’t have an inside lock. Father beckons prodigals to return. Lord Jesus welcomes His own back into The Room, into companionship, into Himself.
The blood, the blood, the precious blood!
Christianity has been called a bloody religion. Bloody, certainly. A religion, no. (True christianity is relationship.)
The night before His redemptive blood was poured out, our Redeemer “took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood.' ”
Tomorrow, that innocent, uncontaminated, priceless blood would be spilled, ushering in a new and better covenant. The High Priest officiating the offering of blood to the Father would be Jesus Himself; none other was worthy.
History since Adam's sin had been thoroughly painted with blood of lambs, goats, oxen, birds....
The covering God made for earth's first couple was made of animal skin, requiring shed blood.... Abel's sacrifices of blood were acceptable, while Cain's were not.... Noah sacrificed to the Lord on Ararat.... a ram was sacrificed in Isaac's stead.... in Goshen, the blood of thousands of lambs covered doorposts and lintels.... every year since, “as a memorial” of that day of deliverance, sacrifices were made.... Moses sprinkled the sacrificial altar and the people with animal blood.... Aaron and his sons were anointed in blood.... at the feasts of Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles, the Levite priests sacrificed various animals according to God's instructions.... the priest could enter “the holy place” only by a blood offering....
Sacrificial blood flowed through millennia, all foretelling “the blood of the Lamb”, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, our “great High Priest who has entered heaven”. All previous sacrificial blood – that, if collected, would fill many enormous vats - could not equal the power of one drop of blood from our precious Redeemer. That is why “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain”.
After Calvary, no more sacrifices were required or acceptable, no need for more blood. By His blood we are saved, forgiven, purified, accepted, justified and sanctified.
The blood, the blood, the precious blood!
Hail to the King!!!
Why should age work against us and not for us? Why doesn’t time benefit rather than harm? In short, why do the old get old?
Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be to you.”
It is now being done to you “according to your faith”. It has always worked that way. Doesn’t change with age.
Assuming you are growing day by day in faith, and your minds and bodies are being nourished and strengthened “according to your (growing?) faith”, you should expect to be healthier today than yesterday, should you not?
A nutritionist once explained the aging process….
Cells in our bodies are being replaced 300 million per minute. (Yes, 300,000,000 – that’s the population of the U.S.! - very complex cells substituted every 60 seconds! Oh, the wonder of evolution!) Those cells are being substituted by either stronger or weaker cells. If weaker, time is working against us. If stronger, time is our friend. Cells weaken or strengthen proportional to, mostly, the nutritional value of the food we insert into our bodies.
That’s quite believable, but there’s another important factor….
“According to your faith let it be to you.” The quality of faith is utmost important in all life’s issues. If your faith is a growing thing, shouldn’t you be healthier in maturity? And we all know faith, for most, increases with time, don’t we?
Well, don’t we?
Or are fading bodies indicative of fading faith?
Someone suggested that a christian is one of very few earth-creatures who dies smaller than when born. Is it possible the new convert has more faith than his elders?
Can faith shrink with time? Seniors have witnessed more unanswered prayers for the sick, attended more christian funerals, heard more stupid ‘senior jokes’, and been exposed to more infectious unbelief than fledglings.
Yet nothing excuses unbelief.
Solution: Repent, sincerely, of sordid unbelief, and stand hard against it. Meditate on promises, not problems and failures. Years will be your ally, and lively longevity a real possibility.
NOTE: George Malkmus. www.hacres.com
This article is being constructed on saturday.
Tomorrow it will happen all over again. Just like last sunday and thousands previous. Just like the following sunday and many after that.
Madness marches. Justice trampled. Lord Jesus slighted once again.
Savior Messiah, “the head of the church”, His church.
One might think His church would be managed His way. But no, His way doesn’t pay salaries. Isn’t encumbered with a mortgage. Doesn’t print a bulletin.
His way doesn’t divide those licensed from those not. His way is loyalty to His words, obedience to His Great Commission. His way is governance of His Holy Spirit. And….
And His way is financed by saints sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.
Tithers long ago lost that sensitivity, having given themselves over to another way.
This other way is financed another way. Enforcers reached over the other side of Calvary, grabbed a convenient Old Testament statute, dragged it over to our side, seriously reconstructed it and used pulpit power to impose it onto the New Covenant person.
So now we have an usher with his funny basket-with-a-long-stick. Now we have shiny trays floating hand to hand, row by row, under everyone’s chin. Now we have happy happies joyfully carrying their ‘tithes and offerings’ to a bucket at the front of the assemblage. This while singing praises to “the head of the church”!
The tither tithes because tithers are accepted and approved by the controllers, no loftier motive than that. Payment for services rendered is a donation to God. His check absolves him from the Great Commission.
If there were but one verse of New Testament precedent justifying the tithe every evangelical church would have it posted on flashing neon lights. But there is not.
Incredibly, this rotating sunday morning madness angers no one. Tomorrow the Great Commission will be robbed once again, with no Martin Luther to decry the enormous injustice. Writers will denounce much lesser evils. Political correction forbids cries of “Shame!” and “Foul!” from the christian media.
God is not too anything. But each of us, His ambassadors, is too everything.
God is not too big, too kind, too early or too late. He is not too hopeful or too talkative. Doesn’t get too angry or too sad. He is not even too perfect.
We misrepresent God. Just can’t help it. We are tilted, unbalanced, lopsided, disproportionate.
Lord Jesus was different. Seeing Jesus was seeing Father. Hearing Him was hearing Him. Jesus was Father’s impeccable ambassador. No evangelical would disagree the best way to know God is to study the life of His Son as portrayed in Scripture.
Yet even in this we disagree, some concluding a pansy God and others a harsh God. All preachers preach a somewhat lopsided God, the pure word becoming tainted while passing through tainted vessels.
Many, while at ease with a loving Jesus, find difficulty with a stern Jesus. And so they create for themselves a fanciful Jesus, ignoring passages reflecting His severity.
Fact is, our God is love, no saint or angel more loving. And God is stern, none more steely and unbending.
If you marked with a yellow highlighter all verses in the four gospels revealing our Christ’s tender/loving/sympathetic temperament, and also the other writings, your New Testament would indeed be streaked with yellow.
You might highlight, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And, “Peace be with you.” And on and on.
But if you did the same thing highlighting in green the words attributing a serious/stern/strict Jesus, your New Testament would also be streaked with green. Such words as, “O faithless generation.” And, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me.” And, “I will spew you out of My mouth.” And on and on.
If you were to fan all the pages, Matthew to Revelation, you would see a kaleidoscope of yellow-green-yellow-green-yellow-green. That kaleidoscope is your God.
Only the Christ-centered can complete their commission, finish “the race”. And….
And those who do live a Christ-centered christianity will complete their commission.
Only One finished His race who was not Christ-centered, and that was….
The Lord Jesus. Savior Messiah was not Me-centered, He was Father-centered.
We can better understand what it means for us to be Christ-centered by determining what it meant for Lord Jesus to be Father-centered. It does make an interesting study.
Christ’s speech reveals that He was mindful of (His mind full of) the Father. Like all, He habitually referenced the One who captivated Him. The red words in your Bible are peppered with “Father”, “My Father”, “the Father”, “your Father”. Our Lord did the Father’s will, revealed the Father’s love, spoke the Father’s words, accomplished the Father’s works.
Christ’s agenda was not His own. He was not self-serving or self-anything. He was someone else’s servant, living for Another. “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” “Zeal for Your house consumes me.”
It was much easier for “Him who knew no sin” to be Father-centered than for us, quite familiar with sin, to be Christ-centered. Those less than determined will never be.
It would be easier for you to be Christ-centered if your neighbors were so. But they are not. We are actually immersed in a christianity whereby Christ is seldom referenced. Evangelicals (etcetera) reference themselves more than Christ, perhaps ten or twenty (or more?) to one.
The me-centered cannot possibly be Christ-centered, nor the church-centered, the ministry-centered, the family-centered, and yes, the Bible-centered.
For most, to get from where they are to a place where they will wish they had attained - upon entering eternity - is a lengthy, arduous journey few will attempt. Those brave and wise few will find a gentle shepherd/healer eager to partner with them in the ongoing sanctification process whereby self-life becomes, in time, “To live is Christ”.
Only “To live is Christ” christians can one day confidently say, “I have finished the race”.
Christ’s brother, James, explains why unanswered prayers are unanswered:
Ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man (that doubter) suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.
Lord Jesus matter-of-factly told His disciples why they couldn’t heal a certain epileptic:
Because of your unbelief.
If their failure was due to unbelief (doubt), their success (“Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your Name.”) must be credited to belief.
So the disciples had both belief and unbelief. And so do we….
There’s a war going on inside, belief versus unbelief - lifetime enemies vying for lordship.
We have sufficient faith that when we pass into eternity the Lord Jesus will receive us unto Himself. But we are nervous about our job, our health, the kids, and many etceteras. That nervousness should tell us something.
Believers, while believing, are not nervous. Confidence is the reward of those standing firm in Christ. With confidence comes peace, spiritual power and success. On the other hand….
Unbelief brings discord, sorrow, sickness, anxiety and every bad thing. The Israelites “were not able to enter because of unbelief.” The folks in Nazareth missed out on miracle healings “because of their unbelief”.
Your faith, more commendable than some and less than others, is the result of life lived, choices made. Precisely, your life has been lived out “according to your faith”, and “according to your” unbelief.
For a better life, stand firm against unbelief. You must be, first, that tough bouncer in a raucous bar, and, second, that grim-faced border patroller guarding against re-entry.
Unbelief must be a hated enemy. It is robbing you. As your belief will result in eternal salvation for others, so some (many?) will be eternally lost because of unbelief.
It is a serious matter.
You’re not stuck. Your past choices have brought you this far, and future decisions can bring you further, much further.
Lord Jesus: He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also.
Did our Lord really mean that we could heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, multiply bread and fish, quiet storms, and preach with power, just like He did, if we simply believed in Him?
The Amplified: If anyone STEADFASTLY believes in Me…
Not frequently, not occasionally, and certainly not rarely. But steadfastly.
Again: He who believes in Me (not frequently, occasionally, or rarely, but steadfastly), the works that I do he will do also.
A passionate young convert is captivated by her newfound Jesus. No, her faith in Lord Jesus is not ‘steadfastly’, more like ‘frequently’. But the trip from frequently to steadfastly is certainly a possibility. If she had 'steadfastly' friends possible would become probable.
Anyhow, this passionate young convert, to appease insistent friends, went to church. A ‘Bible-believing’ church. Their hearts were right…. just wanted the new girl to be safe, just like them.
One year later:
In this new environment, things went askew. As passionate slipped to normal, frequently slipped to occasionally. She occasionally believes in Lord Jesus because, now, she only occasionally considers or communes with Him, being so wrapped up in her religion.
Two years later:
Occasionally has further degraded into rarely, believing prayer replaced by begging. The deeper she immersed into religion, the more shallow her relationship…. and more distant from fruit-bearing steadfastly.
Three years later:
Like the prodigal son who “came to himself” she came to herself (re-entered sanity), and sincerely repented of her betrayal. She determined to regain the high ground she had long ago surrendered.
Five years later:
She hasn’t arrived at steadfastly yet, but did pass occasionally and even regained frequently. Steadfastly, it must be said, is a real hard mountain to climb. That’s why few reach the peak.
Peter: We have left all and followed you.
Steadfastly, gateway into the miraculous and the effectual, costs “all”. Family, friends, religion, self-rule, self-everything…. all.
Self-ruled versus Christ-ruled.
Self-ruled: I want a prosperous husband who can make me laugh and feel safe, one I can trust to stick with me when life gets rocky. Looking for a man who loves children and wants to invest his entire life into our family. Perhaps I’ll enroll in Matchmaker Seminary. Mr. Right could be waiting for me.
Christ-ruled: Jesus, I ask you to choose a husband for me. You are, in truth and reality, my Lord. You know everything about everybody, and You know me better than I know myself. I surrender this grave matter unto You, trusting for grace to discern Your guidance.
Self-ruled: I think our house church should gather on thursday evenings. Thursdays seems to fit most of our schedules.
Self-ruled: I dunno. What’s wrong with sunday? Maybe sunday morning. Everyone is much fresher in the mornings than the end of the day.
Self-ruled: Sunday sounds church-y to me. Besides, sundays are family days, and a time for catching up on sleep.
Christ-ruled: Lord Jesus, what day and time do You want us to gather unto You? As a group we submit to Your will.
Self-ruled: I think we ought to support an evangelist.
Self-ruled: Maybe we should feed the street people.
Christ-ruled: I feel the Holy Spirit is saying….
Christ-ruled: I think the Lord Jesus would have us….
Self-ruled: Lord, I’m kinda stuck with the message I’m giving sunday morning. Seem to be repeating myself, having spoken so often. Need something fresh. Also, I pray a heavy anointing; the people could use a lift.
Christ-ruled: Lord Jesus, who do You choose to give the message this sunday?
Self-ruled: Gotta plan. Gotta build. Gotta go. Gotta do.
Christ-rule: Gotta pray.
Self-ruled: Think I’m gonna find another job, one that pays better and I don’t get kicked around.
Christ-ruled: “Not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Self-ruled: Lord, is this all that I earned?!
Christ-ruled: Oh Lord Jesus! Thank You for all these rewards You are bestowing on me!
NOTE: At “the judgment seat of Christ.”
Evangelicals, etcetera, simply must learn to “rightly divid the word of truth”. The prerequisite for right judgment is full reliance on “the Spirit of truth”.
One issue requiring “rightly dividing” is obedience. If this issue is fuzzy your christianty will be confusing and less than dynamic. Many have been messed up by improper prioritization whereby man, not Christ, is being submitted to. Let’s look at it.
Sprinkled throughout The Word is the simple command to obey God, for example….
Jn.14:15: Keep My commandments.
We don't obey indirectly, but directly. There is no mediator between Christ and believer except the “Spirit of Jesus Christ”. Only to those in serious spiritual bondage is there a human chain of command.
But what about…. ?
Hebr.13:17: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account.
This verse seems to empower and validate the salaried. But does it? Let’s look at, and learn from,….
Eph.5:24: As the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands.
Surely, for the wife, Eph.5:24 is weightier than Hebr.13:17. And since much of the church consists of wives, this takes a lot of oomph out of Hebr.13:17. However, of the two verses, Hebr.13:17, it seems, is emphasized much more than Eph.5:24, this the doing of the salaried.
And there are other verses that bring equilibrium to the overly emphasized Hebr.13:17, such as….
Eph.6:1: Children, obey your parents.
1P5:5: Younger people, submit yourselves to your elders (those older). And, Be submissive to one another.
One might argue since leaders referred to in Hebr.13:17 “must give an account” to Lord Jesus, this suggests obedience to them requires priority.
Really? Is the husband less accountable? Are parents less accountable?
Jn.14:15 is far above the other mentioned verses. Christ alone must be obeyed. Since no person has the authority to add to or take away from His words, obeying others must be understood in a very limited sense.
Ac.14:23: When they (Barnabas and Paul) had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord.
The pastor’s strange and self-serving take on this verse: “I get the pulpit, you get the pew.” Magnanimously he gives occasional permission (permission!) to the pew-people to give a short testimony or open/close in prayer.
Tit.1:5: Set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city.
The house church elder’s take: “That means I do the talkin’, you do the listenin”. Equally magnanimous, he gives occasional permission (permission!) to the chair-people to ask questions or share an insight.
Evangelical (etcetera), you can learn much about our Lord’s ways by what is written and by what is not.
It is written: How is it then brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.
It is not written: When you come together listen attentively as the pastor reads a psalm, gives a teaching,…
It is not written: Each of you read a psalm, give a teaching, etc. as the elder gives permission.
It is written: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
It is not written: Because the word dwells in the elder richly, let him teach and admonish you.
It is written: As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another.
It is not written: Let the reverends minister their gifts to you.
It is written: Exhort one another daily.
It is not written: Leave exhorting to the salaried. That’s what they get paid for.
It is written: The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
It is not written: Holy Spirit prefers to manifest through a select few.
Evangelical (etcetera), you allowed others to box, stifle, and use you. Talk it over with Jesus.
Babysitters and elders have some commonality….
Babysitters do not babysit teenagers. Elders do not oversee adults. As sitters are for those requiring sitters, elders are for those requiring elders, not those who do not. A two or three year old evangelical requiring supervision and guidance is added evidence of weakness of the evangelical way.
Both Sally the sitter and Ed the elder are accountable, Sally to parents, Ed to Jesus Christ. Neither is allowed to do his/her thing. Both have been given clear instructions and are expected to follow those guidelines. An elder encumbered by tradition will tend to emphasize those traditions, harming those he has been entrusted to oversee.
Sitters are not on salary. Parents are not obligated to Sally after service has been rendered, free to hire whosoever. Although an elder (or pastor, teacher, etc.) is certainly “worthy of his hire” there is no Bible precedent for being salaried. Such a practice puts everyone in an awkward and unsavory situation as the group becomes the employer and the elder the employee. They become lazy and he becomes obligated and accountable.
The house church that elevates an elder to official authority does so to their harm. That elder will be like grumpy grizzly protecting his turf…. like a well-armed prospector protecting his cabin from bad guys, real or imaginary, lurking in the woods, intent on plundering his gold…. like a snarling guard dog aching for an enemy to climb over the fence.
She is Sally the babysitter, not Babysitter Sally. He is Ed the elder, not Elder Ed, not Pastor Ed, not Reverend Ed.
And babysitters and elders have certain contrasts….
Sally enforces the rules, Ed does not. She has been given authority, he has not. She dictates, he influences.
Sally the sitter should constantly reference the parents, and never compete for the children’s affection. That would be ultimate betrayal of trust. Ed the elder should constantly reference Christ, and never compete for affection. That would be ultimate betrayal of trust.
Our christianity could be much augmented by a deeper understanding of the word ABIDE. Because….
Because, He who ABIDES in Me (Lord Jesus), and I in him, bears much fruit.
Because, If you ABIDE in Me (Lord Jesus), and My words ABIDE in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Because, He who ABIDES in the secret place of the Most High (Lord Jesus) is the beneficiary of the valuable promises of Ps.91 and others.
Certainly everyone on “the way that leads to life” abides, at least somewhat, in Christ; if not, they wouldn’t be there. Most assume they abide primarily in Christ…. but they do not; if they did the world would be reached.
We all have an address. That address is our abode, our home, our dwelling place. Sure, we leave once in a while, but we soon return.
Christ is often the cabin-on-the-lake, a retreat from pressures whereby we occasionally go to restore our strength. But for only a few is He one’s dwelling place, one’s permanent residence.
A resentful person abides, primarily, in those he resents. A religious person her religion. A sinful person his sin. A greedy woman her possessions.
Perhaps the abode of most is self. Seems most born-agains are still I-me-my people, so much so that consistently speaking I-me-my seems natural.
The angels are natural; we are unnatural. Angels speak of God because God is their life. For the I-me-my, self is principal.
We are afflicted to varying degrees. While some cannot resist inserting I-me-my into every conversation - you know, the friend who phones to see how you’re doing and then tells you how she’s doing - some manage to speak three or four consecutive sentences without mentioning themselves.
The rare christian abiding in Christ is different, much different, than the one abiding in whatever. Such doesn’t seek the group’s endorsement because he abides in Christ’s endorsement. Such lives fully. Such bears much fruit. Such anticipates a “crown of righteousness”.
Lord Jesus: I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
We abide, primarily, in the one we obey. That one has both our attention and loyalty. Evangelicals do not obey ‘Pastor’ Fred and abide in Pastor Jesus.
The heart of our precious Lord Jesus was full of “My Father and your Father…. My God and your God”. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” Can commitment go deeper than that? Anything less, and Calvary would never have happened.
It was the Son’s obedience that kept the bond between them unbreakable. By this rugged togetherness Calvary was accomplished, the sacrifice acceptable.
It is so easy to descend from being near to being good, from being intimate to being admirable. If being proper is our desire and intent, we have lost our way. The motive for obedience unto Jesus Christ must be enhanced companionship with Jesus Christ. That companionship is our richness, to be treasured, to be protected, to be nurtured.
In a circus act the spotlight is on the star performer, chasing him throughout his performance. For a few minutes he is fully aware that he has the crowd’s undivided attention. For a few minutes he abides in the light of their adulation.
The spotlight of Christ’s love shines, at this moment, upon you. That light follows you perpetually, yes, even when you do dumb. But it’s up to you to live in the awareness of that love, to diligently rebuff distractions. That awareness transforms and sanctifies and strengthens. It is the consciousness of our Lord’s constant love that keeps you relationally near.
Remember, obedience brings you near, and near is might.
Christ’s perfect obedience - from His entrance into humanity as a minuscule cell in a virgin’s womb, through a turbulent ministry, to a tortuous death - “has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”
The Father generously rewarded His Son’s obedience, and His Son will generously reward ours.
There is a perverse logic, an unreasonable thinking, that several centuries ago gained entrance and established a beachhead in Christ’s church, and since has caused havoc on millions of saints as it spread like the contagious infection it is throughout christianity.
The teaching (in truth, one of many “doctrines of demons”) goes something like this….
Sometimes sickness and tragedy are beneficial in breaking the stubborn will at odds with the preferences of a holy God. (Which is true.)
These troubles can actually be a motivation to receive Christ’s salvation. (True.)
And they can move the evangelical, etc. to go deeper in Christ. (True again.)
Therefore it is a safe assumption that God authors/allows, said woes. (Very not true.)
God is sovereign, so we can be assured that whatever happens, good and bad, is His will and design. (Un-unh.)
Can you see what a monster-God this reasoning creates? If the flu can be attributed to God as a means of sanctifying His kids, why not a plague? Yes, even the bubonic plague.
And if, say, a burglary is deemed the covert work of God, why not the invasion of a weaker country? And ensuing rapes and murders and even genocide?
But isn’t God in control? Isn’t He sovereign? Nothing happens unless He allows it?
The answers, hard answers for many, are: No, God isn’t in control (this mess isn’t His, it’s ours), His sovereignty doesn’t trespass man’s free will, and He allows what we allow. (“I give you the authority…. over all the power of the enemy.”)
The will of God is displayed in the life of His exact image, His Son Jesus Christ, as expressed in the gospels. Lord Jesus didn’t make people sick. Not once. (Didn’t humble the twelve or the seventy-two by inflicting leprosy.)
Our Christ is a healer, a fixer, a physician, a protector, a refuge, a friend, a good shepherd. He healed “all who were oppressed”, not by God but, “by the devil.”
That’s “oppressed by the devil.”
Did the Laodiceans realize their now infamous “church of the Laodiceans” were “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot”? And did the “church of Ephesus” realize they had “left first love”? And did the “bewitched” Galatians know they were bewitched?
And does today’s evangelical perceive the condition of today’s evangelicalism? Should evangelicalism be considered? Measured? Judged?
Most of Christ’s redeemed are affected/ruled by evangelicalism; does this mean it is too grand to scrutinize? Does a history of several centuries make evangelicalism immune from honest inspection? Or, adversely, is the evangelical responsible to examine? Isn’t it unreasonable to neglect perusal of that which so intensely affects one’s christianity?
Can evangelicalism be measured by fervency to our Christ of its adherents?
If so, would this fervency (or the lack thereof) be apparent to all? Would it not spill out of the evangelical’s living? Do you hear fervency for Christ in his speech? See it in her expressions? Discern it in their mannerism?
Is Facebook (etcetera), possibly employed more by evangelicals than non-evangelicals, a reliable indicator of the heart of evangelicalism? Can fervency be found there, in their communications with each other? Is this internet wonder used to magnify Christ and preach His wondrous gospel to unsaved friends and relatives?
Or is His name avoided? Are proclamations of appreciation for our priceless salvation withheld? Are praise reports unreported? Is evangelical fervency limited to twenty-two minutes of praise and worship previous to the collection of tithes?
Is lack of fervency a certain sign of spiritual impoverishment?
Stop being an evangelical.
One doesn’t have to be an evangelical to attend an evangelical gathering, should that be your preference.
Before Lord Jesus declare: From this moment onward I am no longer an evangelical. I am not a pentecostal/baptist/whatever. I attend but I’m not attached.
The Lord spoke through the psalmist (Ps.91:14): Because he has set his love upon Me….
The psalmist “set” his love. Love, then, is something that can be set. Love, then, is a choice. Love, then, is an act of the will.
If love is not set, it will wander. Here, there, wherever.
The guy that married the prettiest, smartest, most elegant gal will soon discover he didn’t. If his love is not set upon her, by an act of the will, it will stray when prettier and smarter and more elegant knocks on his door.
If she does not firmly set her love upon her Redeemer who she cannot hear and see, her love will roam to a lesser she can hear and see. Surely evidence of strayed love (“You have left your first love.”) is for all to see everywhere.
Almost everyone has, at one time or another, allowed an idol to slip in and cause havoc. Most maintain idols, to their great expense and injury. Idols would never have gained entry if love had been resolutely set on the Lord Jesus Christ. When unfettered love strays, idols intrude. Always.
If love is not set, it will wander. Here, there, wherever.
Ps.91:14: Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore... I will set him on high.
He sets on high those who set Him on high. He watches over the devoted. Those steadfastly true are steadfastly protected….
Ps.91:15,16: He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.
“First Love”, for most, becomes second love. And then third and fourth. The “wise man who built his house on the rock” of His noble words degrades into the “foolish man” who did not. Eternal “treasures in heaven” are less relevant than passing “treasures on earth”.
If love is not set, it will wander. Here, there, wherever.
Excuse me. Is this Super-Save Counseling Center?
Yep. You’re at the right place. Super-Save is the best deal in town. We’re trouncing all competitors.
My pastor sent me here. I recently received Christ and Pastor said I could use serious counseling.
Can’t we all.
So should I make an appointment?
Not necessary. At Super-Save clients just drop in and wait their turn. Helps keep the cost down.
Oh yes, the cost. What will an appointment cost me?
Most like package deals. Bigger the package, less the price per visit. Here’s our brochure.
There are four categories: ABUSED, ANXIOUS, DEPRESSED, and REJECTED. Which of these do you think best describes you?
Uhmm… not sure. Don’t think I’m DEPRESSED.
How about ABUSED?
Maybe. My parents once forgot my birthday. And they were sometimes late for my ball games.
Hmm. How about REJECTED? Everybody feels rejected at times.
That’s me. Hurts, you know?
I know. So why not sign up? REJECTED is actually on sale this month.
Are your counselors qualified?
Certainly. All have their A.B.C. and D.E.F. certificates which they acquired through Super-Save Counseling Academy.
Oh, you have your own school?
Oh yes. Tuition is free if they agree to work four years at a reduced rate. It’s win-win. They get a job and it helps keep the cost down which keeps customer’s…. I mean, clients…. coming through that door. They all have grade ten minimum.
The package of six seems a good bargain, but the twelve is even better. I wonder how many I will need.
Depends on you. Some clients have been here for years. Come for regular spiritual adjustments. Can’t get too much counseling.
Do you send me an invoice?
Nope. You pay up-front, right here. You can use debit, credit card or cash. No checks.
Interesting. I’ll think about all this.
Look, let’s close the deal. Sign up for the twelve and we will give you two free sessions.
I like free. Where do I sign?
Lord Jesus: As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
“Abide in My love.” Why did Lord Jesus say, “Abide in My love” since we have no other choice? Abide means to reside. Since God is omnipresent, so is His love. How can we do anything other than reside in the love of Jesus Christ?
Even non-believers cannot escape the love of Christ. (Tragic, isn’t it? The love of their Creator is fully upon them and they know it not.) So again, why did Lord Jesus instruct us, “Abide in My love”?
Could Teacher have meant, “Reside in the awareness of My love”? Or, “Never forget that you are loved by Me.” Or, “Be cognizant of My constant love for you.”
The christian abiding in the awareness of His love is a thoroughly different christian than the christian who is not. Yes, thoroughly. Abiding in the reality of Christ’s love sanctifies, transforms and heals.
She is busy with housework, glances out the window, notices the rain, and gets lost again in her chores. She knows it is raining, but does not abide in the knowledge of the rain. The rain is of little consequence.
Then she goes for her daily walk, steps into the rain, hears the rain drum on her umbrella, and sidesteps the puddles. Now she is abiding in the reality of the rain.
It’s not easy to “abide in” the awareness of Christ’s love for us. Forgetting is natural; remembering takes effort. The rich reality of His constant love gets lost in our distractions.
Distractions. Most of our distractions are unnecessary, cumbersome and harmful. Distractions may be people or things or pastimes or ambitions. All should be confronted and examined. Many (most?) should be expelled…. simply because distractions hinder us from abiding in His love.
Just as there are degrees of warmth, there are degrees of abiding. While perfect abiding is unreachable, increase is not. More is the goal. More is something to celebrate.
Lord Jesus gave a powerful and valuable promise: If you abide in Me and My words abide in you…
Most of the Lord’s promises have conditions. The promise of J15:7 is conditional on two ifs: IF you abide in Christ and IF Christ’s words abide in you.
And now the promise: you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
And again, WOW!!
Lord Jesus is actually promising your prayers will be answered if the two IFS are realized. Repeat, your prayers will be granted if you meet but two conditions.
And it would be no stretch of logic to conclude that unanswered prayers - yes, prayers in accord with God’s will - are unanswered because one or both of the IFS are lacking.
So many prayers don’t make it to the throne of grace…. prayers that, if answered, would make life successful, prayers that would alleviate much distress.
So let’s look at the second condition: and My words abide in you.
Question: Do Christ’s words abide in you? Answer: Yes.
Question: Do Christ’s words abide fully in you? Answer: No.
Your answered prayers are because His words do abide in you. And your unanswered prayers are because His words abide in you insufficiently.
Your life should be a journey from insufficient to sufficient. The more sufficiently His words abide in you, the more prayers are answered.
So how does one get from insufficient to sufficient?
Well, words you don’t know, or have forgotten, cannot be abiding in you. So you know what to do…. daily read and consider and memorize the words of Christ. Get them inside you.
But more than that. You must bow to those words, believe those words, endeavor to obey those words.
And more, other words must go.
If the words of your Savior-Messiah are not abiding in you, other words are. Traditional words, false conclusions, bad teachings, etc. Those words hinder answered prayer. They have brought much misfortune and will continue to bring more.
There are two conditions required, as stated previously, for answered prayer, as Lord Jesus Himself has taught: If you abide in Me AND My words abide in you.
Let’s focus on the word AND.
It is possible to have Christ’s words abide in us without us abiding in Christ. The word AND proves that. Those heavy into The Word but lacking in relationship would do well to consider AND, that tiny conjunction that links two necessities for answered prayer and, subsequently, links the petitioner to an improved life.
The religion of many born-agains is correctness. Being right is being noble. Learning is for the purpose of dazzling the less learned. Intellectualism within christianity is using the holy things of God to puff the ego and impress an audience. Remove the audience, be it many or one, and incentive to know The Word evaporates.
The pharisees knew The Word, but they didn’t know the The Word Giver. Their motive stunk. They knew the facts but could not recognize the Truth when He confronted them. They were frigidly accurate, and coldly used holy words to subjugate lessers.
Surely the pharisees are proof that it is possible to abide in The Word and yet be distant from Lord Jesus.
Many apply The Word for selfish purposes…. to get things, not eternal things but temporal things. Life is getting and when things are gotten, through tricky and constant application of The Word, to get more yet. And when more doesn’t satisfy (more never satisfies), The Word manipulators go for more more. For such, life is getting, getting is gain, and stuff is their trophy.
David: Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I MIGHT NOT SIN AGAINST YOU.
Pleasing the Lord was David’s motivation for his Bible study.
Those who make it their business to continually abide in Christ but do not have equal enthusiasm for His words would also do well to consider AND. You can only please Him by knowing what pleases Him.
“You don’t have to work so much” is a truism for most. “You ought to work more” is a truism for few.
When you read the New Testament, what do you ‘see’? What’s in those pages?
Many see, not what is there, but what is assumed to be there. We read with SONglasses, having the effect of keeping the Son out and the accepted in. Let us look into the issue of work (in reference to wages or profit) with the intention of letting the Light in, to rule and shepherd our lives.
Ps.1:2: In His law (or word) he meditates day and night.
The next verse tells us such a person: shall be like a tree… that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
Other than the watch guard, whose chief responsibility is to pack his authoritative uniform with himself and look around, most have occupations requiring full attention. It’s hard for the dentist to meditate on the sayings of Christ while extracting a tooth.
Time should be valued and wisely allocated. Stuffing time with excessive work makes one less productive in matters of relevance. It’s true that Paul reprimanded “busybodies”, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”But it’s also true that….
Anna “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Paul worked, but not excessively. Peter fished and then he didn’t. Lord Jesus laid down his hammer and saw.
John the baptist could do what he did, and become who he was, because of his simple life. Perhaps our solution is simplicity. Less stuff requires less money…. requiring less work…. allowing more time to pursue Christ.
Becoming more like Him takes plenty of gazing time. Sometimes work is essential, but more often it is a hiding place…. from God.
“So what should I do?”
Do what you are doing until the Holy Spirit directs otherwise. And then obey.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Alternative to life as is.
He is The Great Alternative to the unsaved. And…. He is The Great Alternative to the saved.
When you first embraced the Alternative, you passed from darkness into light, from death to life, from an evil kingdom into a righteous kingdom. Yet there’s more good news….
The Alternative who brought you from there to here is also the Alternative who can bring you from here to an upward place. To His, He offers a life better than what we now have, and that offer is always extended.
Perhaps thou thinkest: How can life get any better than this? I am saved, my name is written in the Book of Life, heaven awaits. Could there be more than this?
Oh yes, more and much more.
Your born-again experience was meant to be a genesis not a conclusion, a daybreak not a sunset. Christian life is supposed to be an unending climb into higher places.
So what’s my hindrance?
People around you are stuck in a rut of sameness. They walk in circles. As in your pre-Christ days, you are affected by the company you keep. Before, they held you back. Today, they hold you back.
We must take a hard look at what affects us….
Husband and wife are slowly entering into sameness. They vote the same, watch the same programs, express the same opinions, enjoy the same music. They are each becoming, in part, the outcome of the other.
The religious ‘way it is’ has affected you. You are its outcome. And because the way it is is not the way it should be, that outcome is partly (mostly?) adverse. But there’s good news….
There is, for you and all, an Alternative. Though you are wealthy you can be wealthier.
The Great Alternative who brought you this far can take you further. And then further yet. From glory to greater glory to greater glory.
When you have had enough, remember your Alternative.
When you first received Christ you were plopped onto a pathway, your very own path meandering throughout your entire christianity on earth.
Now this avenue of yours is actually a toll walkway. You go so far, and then you must drop in a token. The guardrail won’t lift until you do. (And don’t try to climb over!…. you will be confronted by very stern guard-rail-ian angels.)
This pathway slopes upward, toward Lord Jesus. Yes, you have Him and He has you, but this road leads into loftier intimacy. Life is good but it’s meant to get gooder. You can go as high as you are willing to pay.
And no further.
Well I’ll just drop in a token whenever I come to a collector. Lord Jesus, here I come!
That’s what they all say. Fact is, most soon come to a requirement they refuse to pay. They will give up this and this, but not that.
Soon you are stopped by the first guardrail. The required token is water baptism, the first commandment of every young convert, an opportunity to publicly declare your union with Christ.
Now wait a minute! Can’t I do this privately? I mean, what will my friends think?
After several months of balking you eventually yield, and this allows further upward travel unto intimacy and fruitfulness. You enjoy this higher ground and are determined to keep on ascending.
Oh-oh. Another guardrail.
Some days you live to please Lord Jesus; other times you are focused on procuring the acceptance of friends. Repentance of divided loyalty is the token requirement for more of Him.
Hey! I never did say I want to be a radical!
In your christianity you might encounter dozens of such guardrails, one at a time, in your quest for more of Him. Or you just might tire of paying the token, and go no further.
How far did you get? How much further could you have travelled? You will find out at the judgment seat of Christ.
Mature: Complete in natural growth and development.
Immature: Not mature. Emotionally undeveloped. Juvenile.
All of us could be categorized as immature because we never fully develop. And yet some are further down the road than others, having evolved into more than kids in stretched skin. These we consider mature. Now let's look at....
Spiritual maturity: Complete in spiritual growth and development.
Spiritual immaturity: Not mature. Spiritually undeveloped. Juvenile.
Same thing. No one fully develops spiritually, and yet some have progressed more than most. These we consider spiritually mature.
Now let's compare....
The immature say prayers; the mature touch God.
The prayers of one are measured in minutes, the other in hours.
One speaks religion, the other speaks Christ.
One is yoked with whoever; the other is yoked with Lord Jesus.
One follows christians; one follows Christ.
One says “May I?” to man, something the mature would never do.
The one calls Jesus “Lord, Lord” though He isn't. The other calls Him “Lord, Lord” because He is. (Jesus: “Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?”)
The immature are easily impressed by the gifted; the mature are impressed by the gift-giver.
The spiritual juvenile is laying up treasures on earth, the other in heaven.
One is easily distracted; the other disallows distractions.
One mostly considers the here and now, the other the there and later.
While one immerses in human perspectives, the other soaks in the Bible.
One is political, one isn't.
One grudgingly tithes; the other is directed by Jesus via the Holy Spirit.
Leonard the lemming never intended to jump into the frigid water and swim for that bountiful island within sight but beyond reach. No, Leonard the lemming was simply doing what lemmings do…. he followed the crowd.
Leonard was, before his premature death at sea, a meek and tenderhearted lemming, part of a huge extended family of, mostly, meek and tenderhearted lemmings. A faithful and promising student of 'the way it is' - all wayward independence and loose opinions having been scraped away by controllers unhindered by meekness and a tender heart - Leonard turned off his thinker, dethroned common sense, and willfully placed his trust and loyalty on said controllers, thus ensuring for himself the craved acceptance of the group.
Poor Leonard. Because he was stronger than most he had to witness the drowning of dear parents and siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles before his own demise. He heard their last cries and shared their confusion…... but they said!!….. but they promised!!…..
The controllers had assured the congregation a safe excursion to the promised land. Soon all would be nibbling on delicious vegetation. It was all just a short swim away, a piece of (vegetarian) cake.
Blinded by confidence in their discernment, they miscalculated. Common sense should have told them their promised land was simply too distant. Soon their lifeless bodies would be scattered on a beach, a banquet for ecstatic birds.
We will never know Leonard’s last thoughts. Did he finally realize that a group, even a large group, never made a secure sanctuary? That trust in controllers always proceeds bitter consequences?
Certainly not all leaders are controllers. True leaders lead by example, by humility, by service, by wisdom. Unlike controllers, whose need to manipulate equals their need to breathe, true leaders are not misguided by such compulsion.
Perhaps Leonard the foiled lemming thought his meek and tender heart would protect him from such a devastating demise. Perhaps Leonard the foiled lemming never heard, “Cursed is the lemming that trusts in lemmings.”
The Bible is entwined with numerical phenomena beyond human capability to produce, proving itself to be “given by inspiration of God”, though penned by men,
Both the hebrew and greek languages do not have a number system as we have; they do not have our 1, 2 , 3, 4 method of counting. These languages use their alphabet to represent numbers. Can you see that every word, phrase and sentence must therefore have a numerical value? Stay with me....
Suppose we did use our alphabet to represent number values, such as: a = 1, b = 2, c = 3, d = 4, and so on. The word big, for example, would have a numerical value of 18 (b = 2, i = 9, g = 7). 'A big dog' has a value of 45 (A = 1, big = 18, dog = 26). Well, we don't use our alphabet that way, but hebrew and greek languages do. Therefore every word and sentence in the Bible has a numerical value (sum).
In the Bible are many wondrous numerical arrangements. We will look at one number only, 7, a number that represents God....
The Bible's first sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Number of words (in hebrew, not english): 7.
Number of letters: 28, a multiple of 7 (4 x 7). Not a multiple of 6, 5, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, but 7.
Number value of the three nouns: 777 (111 x 7).
Value of the one verb: 203 (29 x 7).
Value of first and last letters of the 7 words: 1393 (199 x 7).
Value of first and last letters of first and last words: 497 (71 x 7).
Someone found 30 features of the number 7 in this one short sentence, and calculated the probability this happening by chance 30,000,000,000, 000 to 1.
The word seven is written 287 (41 x 7) times, the word seventh 98 (14 x 7) times, the word sevenfold 7 times. Abraham received 7 blessings, there are 7 miracles in John, 7 gifts in Romans, 7 characteristics of wisdom in James, 7 titles of Christ in Hebrews. And on and on and on.
Figuratively, God has signed His Name throughout the Bible, assuring us He is indeed the author.
Jesus: “The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Indeed they are.
Jesus: “I have given to them the words which You have given Me.” Indeed He did.
Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Indeed He is.
NOTE: To learn more of this subject, google Bible Numerology.
NOTE: The information in this article is from an article I had written many years ago, most of which did not come from personal study or observation.
John’s gospel reveals an oft-unrecognized but commendable man, a nameless spiritual dignitary in paltry raiment, whom Jesus approached, not once but twice.
Many pharisees no doubt inwardly sneered when passing this contemptible “who sat and begged”, certain his debilitating blindness was from being “completely born in sins”.
But the man blind from birth could see better than most. He discerned the cold and lifeless hearts of proud and mischievous controllers bundled in impressive religious garments, demanding subservience from inferior laymen.
Our Lord came to where he was, and soon the blind-from-birth had a testimony: “I was blind, now I see.”
Which frustrated the sightless controllers who demanded an immediate renouncement: “What do you say about Him?”
But a renouncement they didn’t get. This beggar, though a lowly beggar, didn’t fold, didn’t cower: “He is a prophet.”
A biting sting.
They demanded from his parents: “How then does he now see?”
They shrewdly ducked: “He is of age; ask him.”
Which they did. And the blind-from-birth hammered them again: “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples?”
Acid poured over their heads.
The pharisees did what pharisees do…. “They reviled him.”
But our friend didn’t cave: “Why this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners…. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
“And they cast him out.”
Lord Jesus “found him”, again, and introduced Himself as “the Son of God”.
His childlike response revealed depth of character only Lord Jesus had recognized: “Lord, I believe.”
Stock charts are fascinating things, measuring more than profit and loss. Those curves and dips and spikes on a line chart reveal the average combination of investors’ fear and greed and wisdom and folly, at any given moment.
More than practicality and intelligence, emotion determines the direction of the chart. Fear causes investors to abandon their stock when they ought to hold, and greed compels them to hold when they should get out.
Every day, even christmas and wedding days, serious traders are gripped by charts. Wall Street pays more attention to charts than christians do Christ. Make that much more.
Anything can be charted. Room temperature, work performance, snowfall, peace, anxiety…. anything.
You can be charted. Actually, perhaps you are being charted. (And perhaps not.) We do know that someone is keeping score; rewards received at the judgment seat of Christ will be true.
If you are not charted, you could be. The Holy Spirit could chart your emotions, failures, spiritual growth…. everything. Or He could chart everything together, the average of all those elements that make you you.
The value of relationship between you and your Lord Jesus Christ, which is more essential than anything, could be charted. It would be helpful to see a chart of all those years between today and when you were “born of the Spirit”. Because….
Because it would be clear how much you have grown…. or wilted. You could calculate where you will likely be at your last day on earth, heading into eternity. You’ll have a good idea what your rewards, if any, will be.
The Holy Spirit could do an annual chart, a monthly, weekly or daily.
You would only need be concerned with the daily chart. Do well in that every day and all charts will, in time, improve considerably.
Be content with a daily upward climb, a gradual betterment of relationship with He who loves you extremely. You will certainly hear those beautiful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Sound counsel to youngsters about to enter the daunting adventure of marriage: Commit!.... and.... Recommit!
Coach’s valuable admonition to the basketball team: Commit!.... and.... Recommit!
The aspiring salesman sternly lectures the fellow in the mirror: Commit!.... and.... Recommit!
Priceless advice to the novice christian: Commit!.... and.... Recommit!
The two youngsters at the marriage altar don’t realize what they’re getting into, and the severe challenges to their commitment to each other. Sure, they would each lay down one’s life for the other, but will he change a diaper when she is busy making supper? Will she get off the phone when he returns from work?
A dozen basketball players each bent on their own careers won’t win many games. Only the team committed to the team becomes a team.
If the salesman doesn’t commit to his goals, successive rejections will deflate him.
The christian’s christianity will only match the depth of her commitment to Lord Jesus.
Recommitment isn’t necessary if one’s original dedication is continually fortified. But a neglected commitment will soon cease to be a commitment. Which means….
Which means a failed marriage. A losing team. An impoverished salesman. A boring and fruitless christianity.
Christian, you have Christ’s loyalty…. does He have yours?
His commitment to you never fails…. is your commitment to Him stronger than when first made, or weaker?
Is it time to RE-commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? And will that recommitment be sincere, complete and robust?
Recommitment shouldn’t wait for their 25th wedding anniversary, but rather as often as necessary. When commitment to the other is weakened or replaced by commitment to self or commitment to whatever - resulting in a miserable marriage, resulting in a miserable life - recommitment is the only defense against devastation of the entire family.
It’s natural and usual for a marriage to weaken, a team to become dysfunctional, a salesman to lose heart and….
And a christian to slide backwards from his First Love.
Yes, natural and usual, but not unavoidable.
Let’s do some supposin’.
Suppose a relationship can be rated, like maybe on a scale of 1 to 100.
Now suppose your relationship with Lord Jesus is rated. Suppose further the value of that relationship is 30. (Don’t be slighted; 30 is probably higher than average.)
Now suppose your faith in God is also rated. Where on the scale of 1 to 100 do you suppose your faith is?
Do you suppose it would be lower than 30, higher, or the same? An argument could be made that if your relationship with Lord Jesus is 30, your faith in Lord Jesus is also 30.
While a 30-faith will be sufficient to overcome some of your problems, others require a more elevated faith.
Sadly, the relationship between Redeemer and redeemed is often dull and inadequate.
But nobody’s gonna admit a meager 30-relationship or 30-faith, simply because 30 and under are an embarrassment. So…. another explanation for unanswered prayer must be found. So….
Though the Bible’s Christ came to heal, the under-30’s Christ prefers not to. Their Jesus might even want to make you ill or cause other problems to toughen you up.
Under-30s far outnumber above-30s, and far, far outnumber above-60s or 70s.... and they oversee most of evangelicalism (etcetera). From pulpits and books they explain to the (mostly) under-30 congregations why they’re not healed and other prayers go unanswered.
30s can’t bring anyone higher than 30, and might resent the one determined to go beyond. The new convert, probably a 50 or 60, won’t be 50 or 60 long if he stations himself under their ministry (as most new converts will).
Do you want more of Christ? Your answer is the same answer to most problems…. repentance.
Apologize to your Lord for embracing men’s words above His. Recommit your entirety to the lordship of Jesus Christ and the governance of Holy Spirit.
Focus on relationship. Fixing that problem is fixing the insufficient-faith problem.
And then aim for 35. And then 40. And then….
Many false teachings assailing christianity are skillfully deflected by students of The Word who wisely give priority to the words in red print.
Some impress us with their knowledge of the Old Testament, having spent more time there than in the New. They see analogies and types most of us don’t. Perhaps wisdom would suggest such students of the OT compare their conclusions with those of Christ, for He, too, was a student of the Old.
When a child, Jesus was “filled with wisdom”. At twelve He was found “sitting in the midst of the teachers” who “were astounded at His understanding”. Lord Jesus foiled the pharisees (also students of the OT) by His keener insights into the same books. He quoted from memory many verses from various books, and used Scripture to authenticate Himself as the promised Messiah.
Surely it is folly to ignore this Galilean when trying to figure out the ways of God, be it study of the Old or New.
Though “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God”, and though Christ’s sayings are sometimes difficult to comprehend, the christian who gives more consideration to red words than black will be safer and wiser.
The man embracing a wrong teaching regarding his christianity will make a wrong turn. And a wrong turn results in waste and distress.
In determining the will and ways of God, students should also note that which Lord Jesus did not say, perhaps equally important. For example….
Our Lord said almost nothing about tithing, and never exhorted his disciples or anyone else to tithe. Yet evangelicalism is financed, mostly, by the tithe. The salaried are salaried, mostly, by the tithe. Buildings are built and maintained, mostly, by the tithe. Tithers tithe because they didn’t give sufficient attention to missing red words.
So what did The Teacher say about licenses, and salaries? Nothing.
And layman and clergy and denominations? Nothing.
And evangelicalism itself? Nothing.
What He said and didn’t say should most matter to His own.
The Bible teaches us we are sanctified and we are being sanctified.
But how can that be? How can we become what we already are?
Well, it’s like a son learning to be a son. It’s like a prince learning to be a prince. In a sense, a son is becoming what he already is. And the prince is likewise becoming what he already is.
Okay, if we are sanctified, how did we get that way?
Everything good in us can be ascribed to Lord Jesus and His Calvary. He did it all. The redeemed are redeemed thoroughly. (“We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.”)
What does it mean to be sanctified?
Sanctified means ‘set apart’. From God’s perspective we have been set apart from the world. We were at enmity with God; now we are embraced.
And sanctified means to be made holy. Holiness is a prerequisite for entry into the presence of God. Holiness is a gift. Our precious Jesus has, figuratively, cloaked us in holiness.
But I don’t feel holy.
We know we are holy because The Word says we are holy. Christianity isn’t about feelings, it’s about truth. What The Word says we are is what we are. There is nothing trustworthy about feelings.
We may not feel like a king or a priest, but we are both. (“Christ…. has made us kings and priests.”) And we don’t always feel like a saint, and we certainly aren’t always saintly, but we became saints the instant we became His, at rebirth.
How is self-sanctification accomplished?
The Holy Spirit within is drawing us into deeper intimacy with Christ, away from that which displeases God. At the same time, the evil one and “the lust of the flesh” are tugging in the opposite direction. It’s a lifetime tug-of-war. If Holy Spirit wins, we win. If He doesn’t, we don’t.
How is sanctification being accomplished in my life?
That’s the subject of the next 333 Words article.
Lord Jesus can only use us to the degree we are separated unto Him. Sanctification, then, is a serious matter.
How does God sanctify us?
There are two notable teachings floating around christianity, one true, one false. You decide which is which….
TEACHING # 1: How does God sanctify us?
Our “good shepherd” is sovereign, caring and fully capable to shepherd. Nothing happens to us outside His permission. We trust “all things work together for good”, including those inconveniences, even upsets - yes, including those major upsets - we all face. By the eye of faith we understand God is working out His plan for our lives through adversities. That’s why He doesn’t answer all prayers.
Have you noticed how distresses make us stronger? A pampered child will never become a responsible adult. An un-pruned tree produces inferior fruit.
The Potter has every right to do whatever with the clay. It is God’s intention to make us holy, enduring, complete. “What son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined…. you are illegitimate, and not true sons.”
All-powerful God could, but doesn’t, remove all pain.
TEACHING # 2: How does God sanctify us?
Jesus prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
Jesus didn’t pray: “Sanctify them by Your word AND by adversities.”
Jesus said to the apostles: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (‘Clean’ bespeaks ‘sanctified’.)
Jesus didn’t say: “I sanctified you by the traumas you endured because of Me.”
All five ministries of Ephesians 4:11 - apostles, prophets, etc. - minister The Word, and The Word brings us “to the fullness of Christ”. The Word, by itself, is sufficient to sanctify!
Bro, it seemed, wanted to convince all christianity that God was behind the scenes putting bad stuff on us to break-make us, to break our will and embrace His will. This notion infused his heart and soul and belly button, and friends were especially victimized by his preaching. Which included me.
So one day I told Bro an allegory that went something like this….
There was this fellow, let’s call him Brian, another overworked christian, who finally got a weekend off. He and wife loaded the car with stuff and kids, and headed for the cabin. He loved fishing, loved campfires, loved living primitively. Dusk found the family about an hour short of their destination, and Brian had a happy tingly in his tummy.
Now God, who sees all, really loves Brian, and decided this was just the right moment to bring adversity, to augment the break-make process. Soon Brian was on the roadside with a flat tire.
Bro was fully attentive, anticipating.
Brian emptied the trunk to get at the *!#*!# jack and the equally *!#*!# spare tire. Wife and kids had to get out of the car, feeling conspicuous before the passing traffic.
Because God really, really loved Brian, it started to rain.
When Brian lowered the car he realized the spare was also flat. “Now what do I do?!!”
Because God really, really, really loved Brian, no one stopped to help the distraught family. A couple of guys even honked in pleasure.
Now satan was also watching the scene with grave concern. All this adversity could make Brian go deeper in God. Can’t have that.
So he whispered to a nearby tow-truck driver to help out. The tow-truck guy pumped up the spare. Didn’t charge a cent. Brian was soon at the cabin, feeling really good again.
Bro was trying to figure out the meaning of the story when I let him have it….
satan was that christian’s deliverer!
Bro bristled. “Arrogance!!! Such arrogance!!! I have never seen such arrogance!!!....”
Who is responsible for the maintenance/health/healing of your earthsuit? And your soul?
It certainly couldn’t be Lord Jesus; you would be in much better shape if He were.
Must we wait till heaven to learn our bodies and souls are our ministry? That God has provided all that is necessary to keep the bodies He gave us under subjection?
So what’s the problem? Nobody has perfect health.
None have perfect health because none are perfect. And none should come under condemnation when illness scores. Every one of us could count at least five malfunctions in our body.
However, increase of health should come readily and naturally to Kingdom kids.
Increase may never come unless we acknowledge the obvious…. something is seriously wrong in the church of Jesus Christ. When christians die young, when the aged are infirmed, when healings are scarce, when signs and wonders don’t follow, surely…. surely!…. we must conclude somethin’ ain’t right.
Right won’t come until wrong is identified and forsaken. Evangelicals must be sufficiently courageous to examine the evangelical tree.
Lord Jesus identified the problem: “Because of your unbelief.”
Though unbelief envelopes us like polluted atmosphere, though unbelief has thoroughly penetrated the church, we can’t see it. Though unbelief spills out of most christians as they speak the overflow of their hearts, we can’t hear it.
Unbelief is so here and so there and so everywhere. It permeates christianity. Unbelief dribbles from pulpit-guys and writer-guys. Believers dumbing down on television and internet are bingeing on unbelief. Yes, typical evangelical definitely has faith, but it’s often out-muscled by his unbelief.
1J5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Idols, the real enemy and cause of most problems….
Idols always necessitate compromise. Compromise always weakens relationship with Lord Jesus. Lukewarmness always results in unbelief.
That iron-man with all the muscles and energy and that healthy complexion didn’t get them by wishing and hoping and good intentions. He set his will.
While we recline in the recliner, he's at the gym. We walk, he jogs. We eat delicious, he eats healthy. He's lord of his body, we aren't. Like the dog that gets silly when about to be taken for a walk, he seriously anticipates pumping iron (ugh!) and jogging uphill (ugh! again).
When 70, he will have the energy or our 50. He will stand erect. Instead of cheering from the sidelines, he will be playing the courts. He will drive safer, be more alert, make more money, have less medical appointments, live longer. Nonetheless....
Bodily exercise profits a little. (1Tim.4:8)
A little. Exercise profits lots, but “little” compared to spiritual exercise.
Spiritual exercise is exercising our spirits, feeding ourselves spiritual manna, daily consuming “the bread of life” (Jesus). Being flabby isn't good; being spiritually flabby is dreadful. When 70, we will regret all that junk food; at “the judgment seat of Christ” we will regret all that spiritual junk food.
Among us are spiritual giants, not many but a few. They never got that way by wishing and hoping and good intentions. They set their will.
While we slept, they worshipped. We read the newspaper, they the Bible. We binge on entertainment, they devour spiritual manna.They're lord of their souls, we aren't. These few will prosper both in the short here and the lengthy there.
Ps.1:2: They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.... they are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
“Bearing fruit each season.”
“Their leaves never wither.”
“They prosper in all they do.”
We each have the potential to be spiritual giants. But it will take more than wishing and hoping and good intentions. We must set our will.
There's plenty of deception in the church of Jesus Christ, always has been. Simply because....
Simply because there has always been a deceiver to afflict God's own. “The god of this world” competes with “the Spirit of truth” for our attention. Both are teachers - one false, One true. Both he and He work tirelessly to be our chief influence.
Unlike the flu that subdues many but never all, deception is a spiritual infirmity that afflicts everyone to varying degrees. In each of us are truths; in each are misconceptions. However....
However, if you believe there's better protection from fear, failure, sickness and accidents for the sheep (you are a sheep) walking close to “the good shepherd” - compared to those who distance themselves - can you also believe there's increased protection from deception?
Worshippers learn more, learn quicker, are deceived less. Those yoked with Jesus are better insulated from the many dozens of “wind of doctrine” having infiltrated the church. The fervent will learn the will, ways, and words of God more readily than the scholarly.
Caution: Both he and He speak, indirectly, from pulpits. Pulpit-people are spokesmen for both. If you balk at the suggestion pulpit-people often convey the enemy's misconceptions, consider....
Pulpit-people correct/criticize fellow pulpit-people frequently. Most endorse tithing (by which they are salaried). Most are credited by, and accountable to, a (non-Biblical) denomination. Who but pulpit-people are responsible for the dubious condition of the church? The point is....
Pulpit-people, as non-pulpit-people, cannot be trusted. The immature are charmed by the gifted and able, this to their harm. Our trust must be in Christ alone, and the Holy Spirit He has sent. They alone are infallible. They alone can protect us from deception.
If we are trusting in men we are not trusting in “the Man Christ Jesus”. If we do not trust Him to be our safety, He is not our safety. Lord Jesus, not pulpit-people, should be our fascination, our conversation, our teacher, our lord.
Hail to the King!
THEREFORE is a connector word that connects before to after, effort to results, seeds planted to harvest reaped.
The Lord Jesus had His THEREFORE between life on earth and life after His return to heaven….
Ph’p:2:5-8: “Jesus Christ… being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Life on earth was Christ’s season of seeding. Following this holy sojourn on earth was Christ’s THEREFORE….
And after THEREFORE comes the Lord’s harvest….
Ph’p2:9-11: “God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Father was not being generous to His Son; He was being just. Lord Jesus got what He deserved, nothing more. He was so heavily rewarded because He bowed so low, obeyed so fully.
Our THEREFORE, be it wondrous or terrible or somewhere between, is en route, linking our life on earth to our eternity in the New Jerusalem.
Our now will soon be our before, followed by our THEREFORE, followed by our eternal after. Today we seed, tomorrow we reap.
2C5:10: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
This judgment reveals our THEREFORE, the value of our eternity. Eternal rewards attained and eternal rewards lost will be exact because our Judge is just, perfectly so. As Lord Jesus, we will get what we deserve, nothing more, nothing less.
The wise christian, then, bows low before the Master and obeys fully.
There is a much better anti-depressant then antidepressants.
The word of God is medicinal without side effects. No nausea, no drowsiness, no agitation, no etceteras. The word of God does good, only good. A daily and sufficient consumption of The Word will eradicate need of antidepressants.
Pr.4:20-22: Give attention to My words… keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.
So if God’s words are anti-depressant, can’t we conclude that alternative words are depressant? The one consuming a continuous diet of the world’s words can no more expect to be emotionally buoyant than the one habitually eating junk food can expect to be energetic.
We are like a battery being drained by “the cares of this world”. We need constant “edification” (building up, replenishing). God’s words recharge the battery.
Words affect. We are what we consume. Television is an exciting, short-term stimulate, but after the high comes the low. Television saddens the soul. No other generation has heard and read so many words of violence and drama and pain. Christ’s precious possessions sit at the feet of the world’s entertainers wondering why they are depressed.
The world can heal a sprained knee, but not a sprained soul. Regarding the intangible, the world can’t, never could, never will be able. Can’t get along, can’t stop crime, can’t be content, can’t, can’t, can’t. Let them have their happy hour; we want more.
Chemicals are the world’s fix that doesn’t fix; The Word is God’s fix that does….
Ps.1:2,3: In His law (word) he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
Hmmm. A tree that brings forth fruit…. leaves that don’t wither…. prosperity. What antidepressant can do that?
Changing one’s spiritual diet isn’t easy. But there is an incentive…. a better life.
Talker and Listener have been coffee-ing regularly at the same place for years. Talker, as his name implies, loved to talk. And Listener, as his name implies, did most of the listening.
Not that Listener didn't like to talk – who doesn't? - but Talker, an accomplished talker since childhood, always out-worded him.
Talker, like most talkers, didn't know he was an incessant talker, didn't know Listener resented Talker dominating every conversation, but rather assumed Listener appreciated his superior insights into every subject.
But today Listener was about to exact sweet, sweet revenge.
“Talker, I have been invited to give my life's story before a class reunion, and I would like to practice on you. Is that okay?”
Terror swept over Talker, yet he managed a weak reply, “Well.... yes, Listener..... that would be.... okay.”
The trap was set.
Listener began his lengthy account, starting at birth and working his way to his present fiftieth year. When Listener got to twelve years of age, Talker was squirming. At twenty, Talker was rubbing a hand through his hair, and at thirty, both hands. For Talker, as all talkers, listening was agony.
At forty, Talker was limp in his chair, color drained from his face. At forty-five, other customers were staring at a man in obvious anguish, head slumped forward, fist pounding loudly on the table, emitting loud and woeful sobs.... while the fellow opposite chatted cheerfully!
At fifty, Listener finally finished his story. Vengeance meted out, Listener was satisfied and silent.
Talker, having barely survived the ordeal, immediately turned on his talking machine, and soon was spitting out words with the enthusiasm of a rat-tat-tat-tat machine gun. The medicinal sound of his own voice brought relief and strength to his damaged soul and body.
Jesus would have most of us talk less and listen more. If we halved our daily output of words we would still be talkative. Less talk means more listening. Listening is wisdom, listening is kindness, and listening is courtesy.
God bless you.
Isaiah prophesied of our Christ: “THE government will be upon His shoulders.”
WHAT government will be “upon His shoulders”?
But there's lots of governments.
True. There are numerous governments – civic, provincial, national. But Isaiah was referring to a SPIRITUAL government.
What's a spiritual government?
A spiritual government, like a secular government, is a system of rulership consisting of rulers and ruled.
There are thousands of spiritual governments.
So which of these thousands of spiritual governments was Isaiah referring to?
None. THE government existed long before others were invented. It's unthinkable that God would create a second spiritual government. “THE government” laid “upon His shoulders” is singular; Isaiah didn't say “governments” (plural) but “government” (singular).
How did these thousands of spiritual governments get started?
All but one were created out of the soul of man.
The soul of man is man's intellect, emotions, and will..... not his born-again spirit. Every spiritual government, other than THE government, was birthed from man's ability to reason, to do, to will.
Are some spiritual governments beneficial?
No. They each compete with THE government for the hearts of believers.
Even evangelical governments?
Every true believer should be ruled by THE government, the government of Jesus Christ. Sadly, that is not so. Most often evangelicals, and all christians, are attached to two. They are like a patient with an intravenous in each arm, being fed from two sources. Only one is attached to life, to truth, to Jesus.
And the other?
Let's not go there.
So nobody should go to church?
One can attend an IC (institutional church) and be benefitted without becoming institutionalized (without being fed through a second intravenous). But one must be cautious and wise and prayerful. The IC is a powerful vacuum sucking into itself all but those firmly attached to Lord Jesus.
Are house churches safer?
Only those that are not a government (no rulers, no ruled). Only those under THE government, the Person-to-persons governance of Holy Spirit.
The Main Issue: 16-page paper (newspaper-size) distributed throughout Kelowna and district twenty-plus years ago.
The Main Issue: 10 issues of various topics of interest to most - each topic used to point to Lord Jesus and His priceless salvation - distributed approximately every three months to more than 30,000 residences, since published on the internet and accessible at www.larryjones.ca.
The Main Issue: named after the main issue, the Lord Jesus Christ, our majestic King and God, life's main issue for both christians and non.
Issue # 1: Evolution vs. Creation
*** Dear Mr. and Mrs. Evolutionist
*** What Do the Fossils Say?
*** Noah's Ark
*** Missing Links?
Issue # 2: Jehovahs Witnesses: Christian or Cult?
*** The Founder
*** Christian Faith
*** JW Faith
*** Enter the Judge
*** Husbands Beware
*** Dear Mr and Mrs JW
Issue # 3: The Bible: Just Another Book?
*** Uniqueness of Bible
*** Letter To Editor
*** Letter From Editor
*** Reliability of Bible
*** Standing On the Word
*** Bible Highlights
*** Dead Sea Scrolls
*** Messianic Prophecies
*** Fulfilled Prophecies
*** Numerical Miracles
*** Dying For the Word
Issue # 4: Heaven and Hell
*** What Is Heaven?
*** What Is Hell?
*** Who Lives in Heaven/Hell?
*** Letter To Editor
*** Letter From Editor
*** A Real Scare
*** The Gambler
*** Fearful Trip
*** Four Errors
*** Visit To Hell
Issue # 5: Christ the Healer
*** God's Will To Heal
*** Christ Healed Everyone
*** John G. Lake
*** Faith Brings Healing
*** Sin and Sickness
*** Sickness and the Devil
*** Healing In the Atonement
*** What Is Truth?
*** Azusa Street
Issue # 6: Two Kingdoms
*** Showdown in Cow Town
*** Showdown in the Wilderness
*** Showdown in Eden
*** Showdown in Egypt
*** Showdown at Calvary
*** Valley of Decision
*** A Prayer
Issue # 7: Christianity vs. Religion
*** Christianity vs Masonry
*** Christianity vs Mormonism
*** New Age
*** Secular Humanism
*** Christian Science
Issue # 8: Heroes of the Faith
*** Dear Larry
*** Dear Catholic
*** Haralan Popov
*** Demos Shakarian
*** Samuel Morris
*** Arthur Blessitt
*** Joshua Blessitt
Issue # 9: You.... In Perspective
*** You Live On Planet Earth
*** A Creation of God
*** A Product
*** Someone Died For You
*** The Media
*** Last Days
*** You Have an Enemy
*** It's Your Decision
Issue # 10: Jesus Christ: Lord of Lords and King of Kings
*** Born of a Virgin
*** Lamb of God
*** Miracle Worker
*** Fulfilled Prophecies
*** Defeated Satan
*** He Is Coming Again
*** He Loves You
NOTE: You can access The Main Issue at www.larryjones.ca
Head drooped over the gate of his stall, Horse could see the heads of the other horses lined neatly in two opposite rows. Life in the stalls was looking around, though nothing interesting to see, perhaps staring longingly into their yesterdays.
Yesterday. The days when earth shook from the wild herd racing the wind to nowhere in particular, great manes flagging defiance to the elements. Days of devouring grasses of the wild, and drinking its waters. Finding their own shade and shelter. An abundance of fresh air and freedom and zest.
Yesterday. No steel bit in their mouths, no harness or rider, no squeaky wagons to pull. No smelly barn or cramped stall, no walking in their own manure.
Poor Horse. Didn't listen to that inner voice warning him to resist the yummy grain and apples the man had placed just inside the corral. Didn't notice that every day this feast was placed deeper into the corral, further from the wide-open gate. Too busy munching to detect the man sneaking to the gate. In an instant Horse lost his freedom and became another's subordinate.
Poor Horse. He panicked, kicked, cried and snorted. He could see the herd, his beloved family, so close yet unreachable. The herd must and did leave him, distancing themselves from Horse's distress and the man's cunning.
The man talked soothing words.... good boy.... nobody's gonna' hurt you.... everything's gonna be okay. Soon there was a noose around poor Horse, and under the spell of the man's calming words allowed himself to be led to the stable. In time, he was tamed and saddled and submissive.
One day the corral gate was ajar. The man's mistake was Horse's opportunity. He froze. The other horses froze. All stared at the gate, but only a few dared escape and rejoin the herd.
It was then that Horse realized his spirit had been irrevocably tamed. He was now a dependent, less than half what he once was.
NOTE: It must be said that not everyone attending an evangelical church is an evangelical.... though most are.
Before you – yes, just ahead – is a better life. And....
Before you – yes, just ahead – is a worse life.
The life you walk into doesn't depend on luck or charm or ability.... but rather relationship.
Having a rich relationship with the One who made you will lead to a better life. Much better.
Perhaps, thou thinkest, you have already reached bottom, so tomorrow must be better. And because life has to get better, could never get worse, maybe you think a carefully calculated life-change will improve your circumstances. That's what Carl Werner thought....
Because of the '30s depression Carl's working hours at Ford Motor Company were shortened. Life in Detroit became strenuous - not harsh, just difficult. When Ford offered employees an opportunity to work in Russia, Carl accepted.
Perhaps Carl thought, as most of us think, he was at his bottom with nowhere to go but up, up, up. But no, life also has downs, deeper bottoms. And it was down.... down into horrid living quarters, down into inferior meals and terrible working conditions, down into a society fearful and sad. Yet Carl, his wife and daughter, hadn't yet bottomed, nowhere close.
For no valid reason, Carl was arrested and imprisoned in Stalin's Gulag where millions died a cruel life in weather so cold “even fog would freeze”. With Carl's imprisonment, starvation became a lingering threat for the three. When daughter was likewise arrested they finally reached their bottom, and resided there many years.
Like Carl, many of us have tried improving our lives and walked into worse. Our bottom deepened because we refused to submit to the One we incorrectly referred to as “Lord”.... while steering our own lives.
But you don't have to walk into worse. Better is equally available. Today can be the beginning of increase. Lord Jesus will take hold of the hand outstretched to Him. Really.
Life doesn't have two solutions. To attain better, there really isn't an alternative. He alone can take you into a better life.
NOTE: Dancing Under the Red Star, authored by Karl Tobien. “The extraordinary story of Margaret Werner, the only American woman to survive Stalin's Gulag.”
Before you, just beyond your horizon, is a better life. That's better as much better. And....
Before you, just beyond your horizon, is a grimmer life. That's grimmer as much grimmer. And....
Before you, just beyond your horizon, is a similar life. That's similar as in boring.
If, in a couple of years, you are one of the few who attain better, even much better, you will face the same challenge....
Before you will be a better life. And....
Before you will be a grimmer life. And....
Before you will be a similar life.
Choices, choices, choices.
Similar will far outnumber better and grimmer combined. Most like 'the way it is' even if 'the way it is' is unfruitful. And guardians of 'the way it is' can be coercive.
Your christianity should get better and better and better. This year should be better than last, and next year should be better yet. It's glory to glory to glory. And then upward to more glory. But....
But better doesn't come cheap. A better future will cost life-as-is. Exchange is required. The surrender of life-as-you-know-it is the needful investment for that better life. You can't have both. To gain, you must let go.
That better life translates into better understanding, better protection, better fruit, better health, better.... everything. But be forewarned, better, though better, is certainly not painless.
Better means more of Christ, and more of Christ means.... uhm, what's the word?.... complications. You will be marginalized by those wanting Christ less than you.
All three – better, grimmer and similar - are, right now, heading in the same direction. Just over their horizon – visible only to the spiritual seeing – is “the judgment seat of Christ”. There, those who chose better will rejoice, grimmer will be sad, and similar disappointed.
Want a better life? You must know.... better is only attainable through a better relationship with He who said, “Without Me you can do nothing”. It must be Lord Jesus and you. Very together. A beautiful life.
NOTE: 'Grimmer' is living foolishly and dangerously, even risking his/her priceless salvation. Such may never have to be concerned with giving an account to Judge Jesus at “the judgment seat” (2Cor.5:10).
Some elder questions....
Did Peter and John “appoint elders”, as did Paul? Since The Word doesn't declare so, is it more likely they didn't than did?
Titus was instructed by Paul to “appoint elders in every city” in Crete. Isn't it a stretch to assume Paul had elders appointed in all cities?
Paul didn't mention elders in his letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Thessalonians; what conclusion should we draw? Were “the brethren”, collectively, the decision-makers?
Why didn't Lord Jesus mention/commend/criticize elders in His messages to the seven churches (in Revelation)?
Shouldn't every christian aspire to meet the Biblical qualifications of elders (as listed in Timothy)?
Do only elders have the responsibility/privilege to teach? Wasn't it all Hebrews who “ought to be teachers”? Doesn't Paul suggest whosoever could have “a teaching” or “a revelation” (1Cor.14:26)? Doesn't the entire fivefold ministry (Eph.4:11) involve teaching? (Can the evangelist evangelize without teaching? Isn't the prophet teaching?) And aren't all christians included in the fivefold ministry? Aren't parents responsible to teach their children?
Who makes an elder an elder, Lord Jesus or.... ? Today, who “appoint” elders?
When, exactly, does an elder become an elder?
If elders are to be defined as supervisors, doesn't The Word and church history prove them grossly unfaithful/incompetent?
Is the husband to give leadership to his wife and children.... or elders?
Which elder do we obey when they disagree with each other? Or with our understanding of The Word?
Did the need for elders seriously decrease with the availability of the Bible?
Are institutional church elders, whose chief function is to support the pastor, true elders? If so, why aren't they financially supported?
Have some house churches rejected the clergy-laity system while establishing an elder-laity system?
Is there a New Testament precedent for an elder directing the gathering of saints?
Are elders to lead “by example”.... only?
If Lord Jesus is “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” why the need for another overseer (elder)?
What is a balanced christian life?
To fly properly the wings of a bird must be equal to each other. This is proper balance. If one wing represents the Bible and the other the Holy Spirit, a balanced christian life requires two 'wings' equal to each other.
Does 'well-balanced' describe most christians?
Sadly, many of Christ's people are deficient of both Bible and Spirit, governed by neither. Picture an eagle with wings of a sparrow.... flying is impossible.
Some christians have a robust 'Word-wing' and a stunted 'Spirit-wing'. Or vice versa. If they manage to fly, they don't go far (don't accomplish much), but fly in circles.
Are evangelicals Word-heavy or Spirit-heavy?
Word-heavy churches outnumber their counterpart. Sadly, the two factions snipe at each other from pulpits and books.
Should evangelicals have less Bible and more Holy Spirit?
No. Typical evangelical should actually have more Word and much more Spirit. This is the eagle with two healthy wings.
It must be said, evangelicals do not 'have' the Word. They know the Bible, but do not have (live, submit to) the Bible. That's why they're evangelicals. (Lord Jesus never makes His own an evangelical.... or whatever.)
Evangelicals certainly have the Holy Spirit, but not as did Jesus.... or Paul and John and Peter. The Holy Spirit is not their governor, they are not led through life by Him. (They are led through life by evangelicalism.)
What's the consequence of an imbalanced christianity?
To finish one's course, to lay up an abundance of treasure in heaven, to positively and dramatically affect humanity, a balanced life is required.
The solution is a life in the Spirit. There is a life in the Spirit. Lord Jesus lived that life fully.
A life in the Spirit is a Person relating to a person. Two together. The Holy Spirit and you. He the governor, you the governed. He the teacher, you the student. You enter the Bible with Him.
The Word and the Spirit.... a holy combination.
Excerpts from the gospel of John....
“In the beginning was .”
“ was with God.”
“ was God.”
“ is the Son of God.”
“All things were made through .”
“ is above all.”
“ sandal strap are not worthy to unloose.”
“God so loved the world that He gave .”
“.... the gift of God.”
“ takes away the sins of the world.”
“.... the bread of life.”
“.... the way, the truth, and the life.”
“ is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
“The world did not recognize .”
“Everyone practicing evil hates .”
“He who does not believe is condemned.”
“Whoever believes in should not perish.”
“Whoever believes in .... eternal life.”
“He who does the truth comes to .”
“, give me this water, that I may not thirst.”
“ said to me, 'Take up your bed and walk'.”
“For this reason.... the Jews sought to kill .”
“The Jews arrested Jesus.”
“The officer.... struck Jesus with the palm of his hand.”
“Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.”
“Jesus.... the crown of thorns and the purple robe.”
“Crucify , crucify !”
“, bearing His cross, went out to.... Golgotha.”
“They crucified .”
“ said, 'It is finished'.”
“And bowing His head, gave up His spirit.”
“ must rise again from the dead.”
“.... the resurrection.”
“ will raise up at the last day.”
“ to prepare a place for you.”
“All should honor .”
“ must increase, but must decrease.”
“ speaks the words of God.”
“The Father.... has given all things into hands.”
“Abide in , and in you.”
“Abide in love.”
“If anyone loves , let him follow .”
“As the Father has sent , also send you.”
“If anyone serves , him the Father will honor.”
“He who abides in .... bears much fruit.”
“ chose you and appointed you.”
“If they persecuted , they will also persecute you.”
The Bible calls our Jesus a “door”, a “shepherd”, a “pearl”, “bread”, and many etceteras. Lord Jesus could also be called an alternative. Make that, The Alternative. Better yet, The Great Alternative.
For those tired of living life-minus-Jesus (the unsaved).... which is a life of death.... which is actually pretty good compared to the everlasting life (death) they are walking into.... there is always The Great Alternative. And we, once being where they now are, can see their alternative very clearly.
When someone preached to us the “pearl of great price” we made a decision to exchange our lowly life for this great treasure. Smart. We regret not choosing The Great Alternative much sooner. And now we ache for their salvation.
Few realize The Great Alternative is also an alternative for christians. That's you and me. That's him and her. That's them and us.
The Great Alternative did not cease being The Great Alternative when we became “born of the Spirit”. Oh no. Lord Jesus is always offering an alternative to the life we have, even those who have it pretty good.
We won't get far, won't do much, will never fulfill our calling, bear abundant fruit unless we embrace The Great Alternative again. And again. And again. And again.
There is always an again because there is always more. Lord Jesus will always take us deeper into Himself. What the Lord needs is our okay.
The Great Alternative isn't going anywhere. Jesus will always be there beckoning us into that higher life into who He is. But you must let go of the life you have.
A herd mentality will do you dirt. The 'herd' consistently slights The Great Alternative. Their lord is 'the way it is', and cannot (cannot!) be your “first love”.
Consider: You are, in this here-and-now, by the choices you make, determining your eternal wealth.
Will you make the exchange?
Will you add eternal riches to eternal riches?
Will you choose The Great Alternative once more?
Just as one hour a day at the gym will dramatically upgrade your life, one hour of prayer per day will dramatically upgrade your spiritual life.
But I don't have time to spend an hour in prayer.
But you do have time.
No, I don't.
Yes, you do.
No, I don't.
The guys who go to the gym are busy as most, but smarter than most. Their higher energy level means they do more in less time with better efficiency. They have less down time due to illnesses.... less appointments with doctors, etcetera. And their investment at the gym translates into extended lives.
Likewise, prayer is a good investment.
Spiritually, you won't get any further than your prayer life. And (please get this) you will go as far as your prayer life. Prayer time is never wasted time. Just as two dollars worth of gas will take you further than one, two hours with Lord Jesus will take you further than one hour. More prayer, more protection. More prayer, more “gold, silver, precious stones”. More prayer, less “wood, hay, straw”. More prayer, more of every good thing.
Our Lord accomplished so much because our Lord prayed much.
Every one of us are blessed by Paul's writings.... a result of his fervent prayer life. Prayer is a must for those wanting to be used much. Doing much with little prayer is as impossible as a long trip on half a tank. So.... go to bed earlier, get up earlier.
But I do my praying throughout the day, you know, when I'm doing my responsibilities.
Commendable. And yet.... if you had a prayer monitor (yet to be invented) you would see that those fifteen-to-twenty-second intervals talking to Jesus don't add up to much.
Please consider: You can actually affect the outcome of your life through an hour (or more) of prayer time.
Yes, but I lack self-discipline. I just can't do it.
Jesus: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
The Teacher often spoke in parables....
Matthew 13:44: The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Most understand this parable thus:
Jesus is the “treasure hidden in a field”, each of us is the “man” finding that treasure. The price of Christ is all we possess. We exchange our low life for a much loftier life in Christ.
But some suggest:
We are the “treasure” and Jesus is the “man” who discarded all of His riches in heaven, the cost of acquiring us.
Could it be?! Does Jesus consider 'me' a “treasure”?!
Well.... yes. We know our Savior abdicated His pure and safe and orderly residence to come to this impure and dangerous and disorderly planet. His love is further evidenced by three nails, a Roman scourge, a crown of thorns and much spittle.
Another parable from The Teacher....
Matthew 13:45-46: The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Most interpret this parable thus:
Lord Jesus is the “pearl of great price” and we are the “merchant” selling all we possess to obtain this priceless prize.
But some suggest:
We are the “pearl of great price”, and Jesus is the “merchant” who relinquished His all to pay for us.
Could it be?!
Both interpretations are credible.
To us, Jesus is a “treasure” of immense wealth. To Jesus, we are a “treasure” of immense wealth.
To us, Jesus is the “pearl of great price”. To Jesus, we are the “pearl of great price”.
Jesus treasures us more than we treasure Him. Much more. We are not able to value Jesus appropriately. But Jesus is able to thoroughly value us. And He does.
You've never thought of yourself as “a pearl of great price”, but you are.
A young mother must learn to prioritize her baby's need. Way up there is the need to nurture a relationship with her child. This firmly established, everything else will work out fine. If that love/trust bond gets broken, the child's future will be bleak.
Should this young mother discover Christ, she must likewise prioritize wisely. Way up there is the need to protect and enhance her relationship with her Rescuer. This firmly established, everything else will work out fine. If that love/trust bond gets broken, her future will be comparatively bleak.
It seems almost every christian has inverted priorities. Some put their church first, others doctrinal correctness, religious ambitions, fellow christians, family, pleasures, and on and on.
The Bible emphasizes, above everything else, relationship with our Rescuer....
Relationship: Abide in Me, and I in you.
Relationship: I am the vine, you are the branches.
Relationship: I will never leave you.
Relationship: Follow Me.
Relationship: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High....
Relationship: The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.
Relationship: It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Relationship: Lord, you know that I love You.
Relationship: Where I am, there My servant will be also.
Relationship: I have called you friends.
Relationship: I am with you always.
Relationship: To live is Christ.
Relationship: Men always ought to pray.
Relationship: Where I am there you may be also.
If not purposely maintained, your bond with Christ will be compromised. Which results in less of the life of Christ flowing into and through you. Which results in less fruit, much less. Which means less “gold, silver, precious stones” and more “wood, hay, straw”. Which means you will “suffer loss”.... eternally.
Throughout the New Testament (and Old), The Author emphasizes togetherness.... the redeemed securely fastened to The Redeemer. “First love” must be “first love”.
Humility is good, very good, and brings us good, much good. And pride is bad, very bad, and brings us bad, much bad.
Within most is humility and pride.... and both produce a bountiful crop. Wisdom dictates we grow the one and diminish the other.
Pride is plentiful in Christ's church. We can, and often do, take pride in our work, our possessions, our gifts, our character, our ministry, our.... everything.
We think it's okay to be proud of another - “I'm proud of my husband/wife.... our children are our pride and joy” - but it's not okay.
Father said; “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Father did not say: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am proud.”
Jesus referenced His Father often, but not once did He express pride. Not once did our Lord tell His twelve He was proud of them. Some of us will hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”; none will hear Jesus say, “Good job. I am proud of you.”
It was pride, sprouted in Lucifer's heart, that initiated the fall of man and numerous angels. Pride (etcetera) created that enormous chasm between the pharisee and his Redeemer. Pride (etcetera) keeps those on “the highway to hell” (NLT) on “the highway to hell”.
For the redeemed, pride ensures scant “gold, silver, precious stones”. Unchecked, it could put us back on “the highway to hell”. Who could measure the savagery of pride?
So how do we grow humility and diminish pride? Here's one way....
James 5:16: Confess your faults one to another.
Confessing pride (or whatever) requires humility. We do have humility, and humility is a choice. It will be painful, very. But admitting our defects could have the equivalent effect of a lengthy fast. (Think about that.)
So many christians could, but won't/don't, free themselves through humility. Some remain afflicted with pride for decades because they are too proud to admit spiritual pride. Sad.
“Help us, Lord Jesus!”
1Pet.5:5: Be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
“God resists the proud.” Better to be cowardly than proud. Better to be unfaithful than proud. Better to be immoral than proud.
“But gives grace to the humble.” Humility engenders grace. Because we need grace, we need humility. The more humility, the more grace. Father will never withhold grace from the meek. Therefore we can each obtain grace, even much grace.
Father could, and did, deposit much grace into Jesus because Jesus was “humble in heart”. As grace was needed for Him, grace is needed for us. To do what God has called us to do, we need lots. Insidious pride cannot be tolerated because it impedes the flow of grace.
Pride shrivels us as humility blossoms us.
There are several times in a year when we are slighted, insulted, misunderstood, ignored, maligned, betrayed or rejected. No one is immune. We all encounter these crucibles of heated agitation whereby the hidden impurities of our character are suddenly surfaced. We are hurt, angry, embarrassed. However....
However, these fiery darts are an opportunity to, as the expression goes, 'die to self'. To purify silver, it was heated “ in a furnace of earth” so unwanted dross would rise to the surface. Same with us. Our wounded ego is evidence of spiritual impurities. Dross has been surfaced and exposed.
Can you see the opportunity?
These are opportune times to ask Lord Jesus to scrape away the surfaced yuck, and replace that yuck with.... Himself. Lord Jesus will comply.
We must choose humility over resentment, self-pity, retaliation. Exercising humility will strengthen the bond between Jesus and 'me'.
Humility, sincerity, gratitude, perseverance.... if we lock these four in our heart they will surely take us in the right direction.
It must be understood, gaining Christ is a process - a lifelong process – of choosing Him over self (etcetera). Life down here will never be perfect, not even close, but it will be improved.
On June 24th, 2009, I published my “95 Theses” in two local newspapers, squeezing them into one page. Martin Luther was interested in church reformation; Lord Jesus is interested in individual reformation, reformation of the heart of every believer.
Excerpts from “Ninety-Five Theses”....
Theses is the plural of thesis. A thesis is a proposition or statement to be considered, discussed and possibly disputed.
T R U T H
2. Spiritual truth is available. God dispenses spiritual truth generously. We each have the amount of truth desired.
5. Withholding truth can be immoral.
S C R I P T U R E
9. The Bible declares itself to be God's written word, fully true.
10. Jesus often quoted the Old Testament; His quotations are His endorsement.
J E S U S C H R I S T
23. Jesus foretold most people would reject Him and His salvation.
25. Those embracing Jesus and His salvation have opportunity to further develop their relationship with Him.
R E L A T I O N S H I P
26. Relationally, christians have as much of Jesus as they want. A deeper, richer relationship is always available to the one determined to acquire it.
E V A N G E L I C A L I S M
32. Since evangelicalism seriously affects the relationship between Christ and evangelicals, evangelicals would be wise to evaluate evangelicalism.
37. The dividing of Christ's church into two groups, the clergy (or ministerial) and laity (laymen) is a harmful, non-Biblical practice.
L E A D E R S H I P
47. When one considers church leadership one should think of Jesus Christ and not any man or group of men.
M O N E Y M A T T E R S
75. Tithing is the only Old Testament regulation evangelicalism has adopted. Those most passionately defending the tithe are those relying on the tithe for a living.
77. The burden of church building maintenance and leadership salaries passes from one generation of believers to another to another.
A N A L T E R N A T I V E
78. A house church is a practical alternative to the evangelical institutional church.
82. The sole agenda of the group should be to enrich their relationship with Christ.
T H E N O N – C H R I S T I A N
88. The most feeble, slack christian is immeasurably wealthier than the most successful non-christian.
89. Failure of christians do not make Christ and His gospel less authentic.
Why not start a Preachers Club?
A Preachers Club.
What's a Preachers Club?
A group that preaches to each other.... regularly.
But I don't know any preachers.
Sure you do.
You are a preacher.... that is, you are called to preach.
By our precious Lord Jesus.
But I'm not licensed or certified.
Neither was Jesus.
Don't I need permission to preach?
You have it. Lord Jesus has called you to preach.
But, but, but....
If you prepare yourself to preach, Lord Jesus will open doors of opportunity. Remember, “the laborers are few”, not plenteous. Again, Lord Jesus has called you to preach.
Hmmmm. Prove it.... by the Bible.
Gladly. Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” You can't “make disciples” except by preaching.
I'm not convinced.
2Cor.5:18: “God.... has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” “Us” includes you. “The ministry of reconciliation” necessitates preaching.
Still not convinced.
2Cor.5:20: “We are ambassadors for Christ.” “We” is all-inclusive. It's simply not possible to be an effective ambassador for Christ without preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”.
Heb.5:12: “By this time you ought to be teachers .”
1Cor.11:1: “Imitate me , just as I also imitate Christ.” Paul was a preacher, and so was Christ. Are you persuaded yet?
Rm.15:14: “Admonish one another.”
Eph.5:19: “Speaking to one another.”
Col.3:16: “Teaching and admonishing one another.”
1Th.5:11: “Edify one another.”
Heb.3:13: “Exhort one another daily.”
Heb.10:24: “Consider one another.... to stir up love and good works.”
Hmmmm. I'm listening.
Moses preached, Joshua preached, the prophets preached, David preached, Solomon preached, the baptist preached, the twelve preached, the seventy preached, Paul preached, Barnabas preached, Philip preached, Mark and Luke preached, Timothy and Titus preached, James....
Okay, okay, I get it!
So what about it?
What about what?
What about starting a Preachers Club?
What's a Preachers Club?
A group that preaches to each other.... regularly.
More must be said about a Preachers Club.
Because it's a good idea.
Because a Preachers Club can improve your christianity dramatically, and others who participate.
First, you must establish what exactly is your primary goal.
Yes, determine what you really want. Or are you satisfied with your christianity?
No, not at all.
If an angel said, “Name the one thing you want the most”, what would that one thing be?
I know.... just kidding.
Funny. Seriously, what would that one thing be? Respect? Popularity? Early retirement?
No, no and no. I want more of Jesus.
Right on!! If only everyone wanted your want.
With that established, a Preachers Club makes sense. If you gathered with a small group of likeminded brothers and sisters you could help each other attain that goal.
By simply preaching Christ to each other.
But I hear lots of preaching.
I said preach Christ to each other.... “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. Most preaching isn't Christ-centered. Preaching Christ will make the group more like Christ. Fellowship with Lord Jesus will enhance steadily.
Simple but not easy. People of like mind are scarce.
Doesn't every christian want more of Jesus?
Perhaps. But few want more of Jesus Christ more than they want more of other things.
There are many idols (“beware of idols”) competing for “first love”. Our Lord spoke of “the deceitfulness of riches”. Hebrews speaks of “the deceitfulness of sin”. There is also the deceitfulness of religion (e.g., the organized church system).
Christ's messages to the seven churches and Paul's letter to “the churches of Galatia” (and simple observation of 'the way it is') suggest New Covenant converts are as prone to deviate from God as those of the Old.
So what's the answer?
Ask the Lord to connect you to a few christians wanting more of Jesus sufficiently. Together launch a Preachers Club. And then preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” to each other.... regularly.
Tithing... A to Z.
a) Tithe means tenth. Tithing, as understood by evangelicals, is giving a tenth of one's income to the work of the Lord.
b) The local church is often considered the equivalent of “the storehouse” where some OT tithes of agricultural produce were stored.
c) For centuries evangelicals (many, not all) have been taught withholding the tithe put them under God's curse. Since less than a third of evangelicals tithe regularly, two-thirds would be considered - by some denominations, pastors, etcetera – “cursed with a curse”.
d) Tithing is the only OT demand imposed upon evangelicals.
e) Some suggest that which comes before the Mosaic Law comes after the Law. Not true. Circumcision came before the Law but not after the Law.
f) There are only two examples of tithing before the Mosaic Law: Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils of war to the priest Melchizedek (a one-time, voluntary tithe, nothing to do with income), and Jacob volunteered to give God “a tenth” if God kept His promise to Jacob (and only after God kept His promise).
g) The Mosaic tithe was a tithe of agricultural produce only, crops and farm animals. Tithe of produce from land outside of Israel's borders were unacceptable. God's tithe concerned Israel only.
h) Lord Jesus, the carpenter, did not (could not!) tithe. Peter, the fisherman, did not (could not!) tithe.
i) Tithes were collected annually, not weekly.
j) There were three tithes, not one, totalling 23.33%. (One of the three tithes was collected every third year.) One tithe supported Levite priests, another financed God's feasts and festivals, the third went to widows, orphans and the poor.
k) Those “cursed with a curse” were Israelites withholding any of three tithes, not one.
l) The NT says very little about tithing. Jesus never instructed new covenant converts to tithe, nor did NT writers.
m) Luther, Calvin, Wycliffe, Bunyan, and Spurgeon opposed the tithe. Today, many Bible scholars (not the majority) decry the tithe.
n) Evangelicals are to be led through christianity by the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth”. This certainly includes finances.
NOTE: O to Z will be the next 333 WORDS.... Exactly article.
NOTE: This is a continuation of the 333 article sent last week.
o) Those most passionately advocating the tithe are those salaried by tithes.
p) Lord Jesus: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Collectors (those overseeing the collection of tithes) are redirecting the “heart” (loyalty) of tithers from Jesus to themselves.
q) Many collectors must realize tithing is contrary to Christ, but fear of 'breaking ranks' with other collectors keeps them silent.
r) Lord Jesus: “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” We should remind each other that we must give an account at the “judgment seat of Christ”.
s) Larry Jones: “The usher collects more than tithes and offerings each and every sunday. He collects allegiances. Something troublesome is happening in the heart of the tither with every passing collection plate. His tithe is anchoring him to another way. Allegiance is being transferred from God's way to man's way, and therefore from God to man.”
t) If collecting tithes really is non-Scriptural (and therefore contrary to Christ) many (most?) evangelicals are being shepherded by men either unfaithful or incompetent.
u) If collectors are mistaken regarding the collection of tithes, other evangelical traditions they promote should come under severe scrutiny.
v) No child of God has the right to suggest ten percent as a guideline, a minimum or a choice. Paul never suggested ten percent as a guideline, a minimum or a choice. Neither did other NT writers.
w) Many tithers tithe for no loftier motive than placating the collectors who misled them. Others just want to be a 'team player'.
x) Paul: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” Tithing is a “compulsion” (obligation).
y) Most tithes are swallowed up by salaries, mortgages/rent and maintenance. Finances intended for Christ's 'great commission' are redirected by collectors, resulting in multitudes (multitudes!) dying in their sins.
z) Some collectors collect tithes in ignorance. Some collectors collect tithes because of willful blindness to the obvious. Some collectors collect tithes because they are fraudulent.
NOTE: As quoted from a previous 333.
So.... any questions/concerns regarding a Preachers Club?
Where is the precedent? Nowhere does the Bible speak of a Preachers Club.
True. And nowhere does the Bible speak against a Preachers Club. Friends gathering to “stir up love and good works” by preaching Christ is certainly not displeasing to Christ.
And consider: Neither is there precedent for a microphone, a pulpit, gospel tracts, internet evangelism, radio/television ministry, dvd's, and many etceteras (including 333 Words....).
Doesn't Paul forbid women to preach?
Like 'eternal security' and other doctrines, a formidable argument can be presented for and against. But consider Anna, “a prophetess ” who “spoke of ” often. And the “four virgin daughters who prophesied ”. And the Samaritan harlot announcing the Messiah to her people. And also the prophetic words of Joel, “Your daughters shall prophesy”.
Is a Preachers Club really worth the investment?
“Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isa.26:3) Those determined to stay focussed on the Lord Jesus will be kept – think of it! - “in perfect peace”. “The Man Christ Jesus” promises, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”
To get to this place of continual abiding in Lord Jesus is a process, never fully realized. The goal of the group is continued improvement. You will help each other become better aligned with Jesus by simply preaching Jesus. The benefits are enormous.
It will take a determined effort to stay Christ-centered. It is so tempting to 'change the channel', to slip from Lord Jesus to lesser topics.
What does a Preachers Club look like?
Each Preachers Club determines its own mechanics. Together you decide a time limit (15 minutes?). Everyone has equal opportunity to express, though some may forego or speak less than the allotted time. Perhaps you will include interludes between preaching segments, a time of quiet reflection on the shared message.
A Preachers Club is worthy of prayerful consideration. Amen?
Hail to the King!
A Preachers Club, like every other activity, makes no sense if it fails to bring you relationally closer to your King and Lord and Savior and Creator if it does not strengthen the bond that binds you to Him.
But will a Preachers Club actually cause me to go deeper in Christ?
A Preachers Club can help a small group effectively obey all the “one another” mandates including “teaching and admonishing one another”, “exhorting one another”, “pray for one another”. You were created to express, commissioned to express, your love for Jesus compels you to express.
Jer.20:9: “His word burns in my heart like a fire. It's like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can't do it!” We all have a bit of Jeremiah in us, a Godly itch to preach what the Spirit has taught us.
You have been blessed sitting in a pew all those sundays.... and also damaged. You have assumed you lack the ability and calling to preach. Wrong!! A Preachers Club will gradually replace that fiendish notion with a Biblical perspective of your ability and duty. The ceiling controllers have placed over you will be shattered.
But preaching sounds scary.
As you learned to drive by driving, you learn to preach by preaching. You were scared when first driving, you will be scared when first preaching. Now you're a confident driver, soon you will be a confident preacher. Really.
Preaching regularly will compel everyone involved to go deeper into the Bible simply because you can't preach what you don't know.
Everyone's love for our Lord - please get this! – will grow as you exalt Him, as you talk about Him, as you preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. And those loving Lord Jesus much will love each other much. A healthy Preachers Club will evolve into a support group, a band of brethren taking their rightful place in God's army.
Hail to the King!
Everybody does it because everybody does it.
Regarding many traditional practices, there are no Scriptural grounds for evangelicals (etcetera) to do what they do. They do what they do because everybody does it. That's why they call the man 'Pastor'. That's why they tithe. That's why they sign up for membership. And that's why....
That's why they market.... the subject of this 333.
Like the plumber and carpenter selling their goods and services, pulpit-people sell their spiritual goods and spiritual services. That Paul and Peter and John never marketed is no deterrent. That Jesus instructed, “Freely you have received, freely give” matters little.
The following advertisement is imaginary and slightly exaggerative, but indicative....
Regular price for our 8-CD series, “Ten Shortcuts to Spiritual Maturity”, is $89.99, but if you ORDER TODAY your cost will be $69.99! That's right, a savings of $20.00 if you place your order today!
You can buy a SECOND COPY for a family member or friend for only $44.99!! That's right, a second copy for HALF PRICE the regular cost of $89.99! But only if you ORDER TODAY! So bless that special person in your life by ordering RIGHT NOW!!
If you ORDER TODAY, we will send the accompanying “Ten Shortcuts to Spiritual Maturity” study manual, a $19.99 value for only $9.99! That's HALF PRICE!!
First 100 people ordering this special combination offer will receive a special AUTOGRAPHED COPY of the manual!
Take advantage of this special offer! Bless yourself and bless a friend! Act now and save!
(Please don't forget to add $6.99 S&H.)
Selling spiritual wares is so acceptable because it is so done. Everybody does it because everybody does it. Because everybody does it, Biblical precedent is unnecessary. 'The way it is' trumps Scripture.... again.
Lord(?) Jesus: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Charging for spiritual goods and services is compromise. Compromise compromises the connection between Vine and branch. Which results in dwindling fruit.... perhaps not immediately.... but certainly.
(BTW, isn't being salaried another means of charging for spiritual ministration? Just asking.)
If you fell out of the boat you would be aware you were in the water. However, fish have no such awareness. Should a fish accidentally jump into your boat, it is suddenly aware of air. But you're not.
You know it's raining outside, but you are not aware of it until you go for a walk.... at which time you are walking in the awareness of rain.
The sister who knows God loves her is not nearly as blessed as the one living life in the awareness of God's love.
We know many things, but can only be cognizant of a few things at once.
What we know doesn't mold us nearly as much as that which we are aware. What has our attention has us. The proverb says, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” To give undue consideration to unworthy matters is more than wasteful; it is harmful. Therefore....
Therefore we should consider what we consider. Our mind will wander helter-skelter if unleashed. And holy things will be ignored.
The Blood is a holy thing....
Col.1:14: We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Jn.6:54: My blood has eternal life.
Heb.13:12: That He might sanctify the people through His own blood.
Rev.1:5: Washed us from our sins in His own blood.
Ac.20:28: The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Most of us know we are redeemed by The Blood, purchased by The Blood, saved by The Blood, forgiven by The Blood, sanctified by The Blood, cleansed by The Blood.... but rare is the brother/sister living life in the awareness of these precious truths.
The Blood is not in our conversation. The Blood is seldom preached or even referenced. If we are unaware of The Blood we are unappreciative of The Blood.
Jesus: This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in memory of Me.
Jesus would have us always remember The Blood.
What matters most should matter most. And yet to most, what matters most matters little.
We have been given precious promises on which to build our lives. But most don't not fully. If only we would live today like we wish we would have lived our yesterdays.
If only, if only, if only. If only what matters most mattered most.
Prosperity comes to those who build their lives on God's precious promises. There are harvests to reap, fruit to bear, multitudes to be saved, rewards earned, crowns won, a Savior to honor, a Father to please.
The Teacher defined wisdom and foolishness. Wisdom, said He, is hearing His words and building our lives on those words. Foolishness, said He, is hearing His words and building our lives on other words. Strange words. Traditional words. Religious words.
To accomplish much down here, those precious promises must root in our heart. They must have preeminence. No longer can men's words be lord of our christianity. To be prosperous, we need to renounce herd-mentality, and build our house on the rock of Christ's sayings.
Ps.1:2,3: In His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.... whatever he does shall prosper.
“Meditates”.... considers.... ponders.... muses. “Day and night”.... often.... daily.... repeatedly. “Shall prosper”.... be enriched.... benefit.... progress.
If only, if only, if only. If only what matters most mattered most.
It is imperative Christ's precious promises get from one container, the Bible, into another container, 'me'. This necessitates diligence. Yes, we may have to rearrange our lives.
As we get hold of the promises, the promises get hold of us. A change occurs. As we meditate on (consider, ponder,) the promises, we elevate from mere knowledge unto happy consciousness. The connection to “the Vine” strengthens. “The fruit of the Spirit” becomes more apparent. We bear more fruit.
If only, if only, if only. If only what matters most mattered most.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
NOTE: The “wise man” and the “foolish man”, Matthew, chapter 7, verses 24 to 27.
It is reasonable to be more cognizant of our forgiveness than our history of sin. More aware of the promises than our problems. More conscious of His presence than his/her/their presence. More thoughtful of the coming judgment seat of Christ then coming christmas/vacation/retirement.
In christianity there is the mundane, the non-essential, the petty. And in christianity there is the relevant, the priceless, the holy. Of these, what stirs/moves/motivates you?
1Jn.3:1: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.
We can each say, “Because of Jesus, I am an actual, legitimate, adopted child of the living God!!”
This awesome reality is worthy of ongoing consideration. To the degree we contemplate such truths, awareness and appreciation will grow.
Rm.8:17: And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
Excuse me?! Heir of God?! Co-heir with Jesus?! Me?! Can it be?!
Wisdom dictates we get these holy realities deep inside so our lives will be increasingly affected and transformed. Indeed, we will be captivated by these awesome truths if we simply give them continued consideration. If not, the mundane/non-essential/petty will claim right of residence to our minds and hearts. Our christianity will be devalued.
Jn.14:13: Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do.
This is an astounding promise, just one of many. (If every promise were listed, perhaps this 333 would be 3,333.) Such promises should be memorized, and placed in the forefront of our christianity. Many (most?) promises are of no benefit simply because the promises are not appropriated. Other words have preeminence. Sad.
Jn.20:21: As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.
You are a sent one.
It's a mistake to study others to determine what is, and isn't, healthy christianity. We are to consider the Bible, not 'the way it is'. Lord Jesus calls us to build upon His words, His promises, His truths, His instructions.
You can't suddenly get from where you are to where you want to be. But you can, today, inch in that direction.
Assuming you would rather be relationally closer, always closer, to the Lord Jesus, it is imperative to understand this is a slow process, and diligence is required. No matter how relationally rich or poor you may be, increase, though incremental, is quite attainable. Today.
Today. You don't have to wait until tomorrow, next week or next month.
Today you can humble yourself before your Lord.
Today you can confess any resistance to Christ's great invitation to “Abide in Me”.
Today you can ask the Lord Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit.
Today you can enter the Bible, and linger there.
Today you can offer Lord Jesus due praise.
Today you can remember His many blessings.
Today you can have your own communion service, just you and Lord Jesus. (“This do.... in remembrance of Me.”)
Today you can repent of destructive idols.
Today you can be thankful your name is in “the Book of Life”.
Today you can, more fully, set your love upon Him.
Today you can try to grasp the wonder of Calvary.
Yes, today you can draw a little closer. And 'a little closer' times 365 results in an awesome year.
If your ambition is something other than more of Jesus, life won't improve; it will devalue.
Spiritual prosperity is only possible through relationship. John and Paul, arguably the two most prosperous men in the history of Christ's church, owe their incredible accomplishments - have we not all profited by their inspired writings? - to relationship.
John was a fisherman, Paul a hardened pharisee. It was not finesse, charisma, intelligence or political adroitness that wrought such prosperity. No, it was relationship! It was love! It was humility! These two branches were irrevocably committed to the Vine.
Your love and faithfulness to Jesus may never match theirs, but all improvement is precious. And attainable. Today.
Hail to the King!
Christian Young, a young christian, was learning the ways and means of 'the way it is' within evangelicalism. Much of what he learned was good. And much not good, even harmful.
Much of the bad stuff was communicated to brother Young non-verbally. (Some suggest we learn more non-verbally than verbally.) He soon realized there was a list of unwritten rules to be honored. No problem, thinketh Christian Young, I have lived by rules my entire life. I can do this.
Faithfulness to rules will eventually bring from elder peers appreciation and acceptance, treasures Christian Young always craved. Unfaithfulness, he sensed, will certainly arouse suspicion and threaten those treasures. And so Christian's christianity became rules and more rules....
church service sunday 10:00 am, never miss.... wednesday evening Bible study.... 1st of the month men's groups.... volunteer for this and that and whatever.... be a team player....
10% of income to church (gross, not net).... smile, even when grumpy.... always address 'the man' as Pastor.... never challenge 'the way it is'.... keep the unity....
no independence.... submit to authority.... opinions are unwanted.... no spiritual ministry without Pastor's approval.... consider church your spiritual family....
pay taxes, every cent.... no dirty jokes.... work hard.... be honest in business.... no more R-rated movies.... and on and on.
Christian's confidence in church leadership grew large. When reflecting on the Bible, he managed to dodge seeming discrepancies between The Word and 'the way it is', and in time compromise came with ease. Perhaps one day he would be nominated for the board of elders.
Incrementally, there was a transfer of loyalty from Bible to church leadership, though never fully. Lordship of Christian Young was shared between Jesus and church.
In time, Christian swallowed the two-tiered (ministerial-laymen) system, church authority, and denominationalism. When he accepted church membership his self-esteem swelled, and was now fully accepted by licensed controllers (conditional, of course, on continued rule-keeping).
Another competent officer and ambassador for evangelicalism is being forged by competent officers and ambassadors of evangelicalism.
Put a juicy, yummy steak through a meat grinder and you get baloney. Put sacred Scripture through the evangelical grinder and you get baloney.
When you blend The Word with other words you get something other than The Word. While “The words of the Lord are pure words”, man's words are not. Never were and never will be. Christ's words mixed with man's words result in spiritual baloney.
Often the ways of man are conveyed non-verbally (simply because they cannot be reinforced with Scripture), or implied but not declared (for the same reason), and yet the ill effect is equally dramatic and damaging.
There are many examples within evangelicalism (and most certainly every religious group) whereby The Word differs significantly from traditional teaching....
BEFORE evangelical grinder....
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“With God all things are possible.”
“That the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
No hint of evangelical mediator between Christ and christian.
AFTER evangelical grinder....
Unity is strength. Alone you can't, together we can.
Us and we are emphasized, I and me understated.
“God shall supply all your need.”
“My grace is sufficient for you.”
“You” is Paul and “you” is me and “you” is you.
Need encouragement?.... fellowship?.... teaching?.... comforting?.... discipleship?.... come to us. We “shall supply all your need.”
“Abide in Me.”
“Believe also in Me.”
Abide in Christ and us.
Follow Christ and us.
Believe in Christ and us.
“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.”
“The Spirit told me to go with them.”
“The Spirit said to Philip.”
The Holy Spirit will lead you through us. The otherwise, obviously, is chaos.
“ gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”
Christ gave some to be reverends, some reverends, some reverends, and some reverends and reverends.
Few, it seems, build their christianity on undiluted BEFORE; most, it seems, build on adulterated AFTER.
Years ago during an evangelical service, there was an unusual, unmistakable stirring of the Holy Spirit. The senior pastor, sensing this unwelcome Presence, spoke of non-essential matters in a rapid-fire manner. Instantly, the Spirit lifted. Mission accomplished.
This leads to pertinent questions....
How can one man quench the omnipotent Holy Spirit?
As the Holy Spirit honors the individual's free will, He likewise honors the collective free will of a congregation. That pastor was in a place of authority by collective will; the congregation had chosen him as their agent. Thus, in every assembly, one man retains sufficient power to quench the Holy Spirit.
But why did that pastor suppress the Holy Spirit?
Suppressing the Holy Spirit is something we all have done, and most do. Only the “Spirit of Christ” can bring Jesus Christ, steadfastly, to the forefront of our thoughts, our hearts, our lives; the fact this is seldom accomplished is ample evidence most do stifle the Holy Spirit.
It should be so very, very obvious the Lord Jesus Christ is not lord of most christian gatherings. This is not to say the Lord Jesus is not influential; He certainly is. That divine influence varies from congregation to congregation (just as it varies from christian to christian).
Is that pastor accountable to Lord Jesus for quenching the Holy Spirit?
Certainly he is.... as is the congregation. Serious remorse is forthcoming.
Neither a pastor nor a congregation can serve two masters, Jesus and denominational lords.
Evidence of serving Christ is obedience to Scripture. Evidence of serving man is obedience to traditional policies contrary, or additional, to Scripture.
What would happen if a pastor bowed to the leadership of the Holy Spirit?
He would, after ample warning from superior controllers, be replaced. Breaking ranks seriously threatens 'the way it is' and is therefore not tolerated.
A pastor (or anyone) choosing the governance of the Holy Spirit is actually choosing the governance of Christ. While consequences will be challenging, benefits will be enormous and eternal.
NOTE: In over four decades of christianity, I have never been in an assembly whereby the saints were solely gathered unto Christ and governed by the Holy Spirit.
Though I may not know you, I know you. I know I know you because I know me, and you and I have much in common.
I know you're a saint. You were a sinner, but no longer. Sure, you mess up once in a while, sometimes real bad. But you don't practice sin. You hate sin, because it's repulsive to your new nature.
I know someone, a very special Someone, died for you. That Someone loves you beyond comprehension. Yes, you are a consistently and fervently loved person.
I know you have a loving, doting Father. Right now, His eyes are upon you. Your imperfections and peculiarities may turn off friends, but not so your Father.
And I know you are “the temple of the Holy Spirit”. This holy Person wants to enhance your christianity, to raise you to loftier heights in Christ.
I know you have unseen, friendly compatriots. “He shall give His angels charge over you.”
And I know you have unseen, thoroughly un-friendly enemies. As you are loved, so you are hated. Merciless tyrants of darkness want to bring you down.
I know you are Blood-washed, sanctified, redeemed, forgiven, justified. Your name is written in “the Book of Life of the Lamb slain.”
I know you have both understanding and confusion. Both truth and misconceptions. Faith and unbelief. Answered and unanswered prayers.
I know you do both smart and dumb. You bow both to Christ and to distractions. You're motivated by both “fear of the Lord” and “fear of man”. You sometimes remember Calvary and sometimes forget.
I know your life is unfolding “according to your faith”.
I know you love Lord Jesus.
I know every day you make choices affecting your eternity, and those whom you influence.
I know “the Judgment seat of Christ” awaits whereby you'll gain rewards and “suffer loss”.
I know New Jerusalem awaits. You'll be safe, eternally safe. Content, eternally content. Healthy and strong and vibrant, eternally so. You will be with Lord Jesus, eternally.
Recommended: God Tells the Man Who Cares
Author: A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
Tozer is still well-read. 4-5 decades of christianity produced several books and numerous articles, all solid, all challenging. The Pursuit of God is superior, as is The Attributes of God, That Incredible Christian, Born After Midnight and many other titles.
But God Tells the Man Who Cares was for me a major blessing.
My book, The Way It Is: Challenging Evangelical Traditions, was a hard and lonely task. Challenging evangelicalism' s right to rule and reign Christ's people proved a fearful journey.
Could so many esteemed 'reverends' really be wrong?.... are denominations really competing with Christ for the loyalty of His people?.... is evangelical christianity really deficient of Christ?.... is tithing really a convoluted sting?
Was I really commissioned to challenge what even the most renowned consider holy?
Can it be?
I was a quivering insurgent, a spent candle, a dry well. So I asked Lord Jesus to send encouragement, expecting that prayer to be satisfied via a consoling, backslapping brother. Instead He gave me a book.
Even the title, God Tells the Man Who Cares, is worthy of reflection. Page one: God has nothing to say to the frivolous man.
Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol....
Not Christ but custom is lord....
The tendency to make a mere front of religion is strongest among people engaged in professional Christian service....
A natural but carnal desire of a gifted minority to bring the less gifted majority to heel....
Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine....
It is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus....
We may easily grow backwards and become smaller and less fervent....
Lord Jesus sent the twelve “two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.” The twelve were successful, casting out many demons and healing many sick.
Obviously, the twelve had faith.
But not all was well. A dad brought his epileptic child to them “but they could not cure him”.
Obviously, the twelve had unbelief.
The twelve each retained both faith and unbelief. Understand what was in them is in us, faith and unbelief. We have, always had, and always will have both. Like that distressed dad we cry out, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief.”
Jesus said to two blind men, “According to your faith let it be to you.” Their faith (in Jesus) gave them sight. Faith was their ally.
Can you see their entire lives were unfolding “according to” their faith? And can you see your life is unfolding according to your faith (in Jesus)? And.... stay with me now....
Can you see your entire life is also unfolding “according to” your unbelief? And can you see as faith is your best friend unbelief is your worst enemy?
Unbelief, if allowed to master your christianity, will rob you of intimacy with Lord Jesus and “holy Father”, “fruit of the Spirit”, healing, and many etceteras. In time it will kill you.
Unbelief is everywhere, seemingly outweighing faith in most evangelicals. Unbelief attends sunday services.... nested in the choir, speaking from the pulpit, firmly rooted in pew people. Unbelief, like faith, is where christians are.
Fortunately, we can affect our degree of faith and our degree of unbelief. Increased faith is attainable. Unbelief can be trimmed.
But it will take determined effort. And persistence. And quality choices, day by day. And humility. And repentance. And prayer.
Understand.... your faith in Jesus will not go further than your relationship with Jesus. Unbelief will shrivel as you focus, as you appreciate, as you worship. Tell the Lord a thousand times you choose Him above all and every.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
NOTE: Jesus explained why they failed to heal the epileptic: “Because of your unbelief.” See Matthew 17.
There's a lot of tears spilling out of our Bible.
Jesus wept.... Then Jesus, again groaning within Himself, came to the tomb.... As He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.... In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death.... I will cry like a woman in labor.... My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death.... O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear.... When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion....
Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears.... Serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears.... For three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears....
They mourned and wept.... Peter went out and wept bitterly.... I wept much.... I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice....
A sword will pierce through your own soul also.... They wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck.... Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.... She began to wash His feet with her tears....
Do I, a last-day saint, weep as did early-day saints? Am I simply less passionate than they? Do tears refuse to flow because I care less? Do I care less because I love less?
Do I have the gratitude of Mary Magdalene? The faithfulness of Paul? The passion of Peter? Should I be embarrassed of tears or no tears? Are few tears here indication of many tears there, at the judgment seat of Christ?
Do we live in a time when frivolous is cool? When glib is admirable? Can the gibberish of Facebook be found in Scripture? (Can the passion of Scripture be found in Facebook?) Has the institutional church caused eyes to be dry? dried eyes moistened by the Holy Spirit?
Our precious Lord Jesus: Blessed are those who mourn.
How did evangelical traditions manage to trump several Biblical mandates? How did evangelicalism – dominate, powerful, far-reaching – become evangelicalism?
Evangelicalism is a fusion of catholicism, protestantism and its own unique peculiarities. We do know that evangelicalism is an alternative, one religion of many, to Scripture. Let's call it The Evangelical Alternative.
The Bible speaks:
Exhorting one another.... When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation.... Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what was said.... As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow.... God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
The Evangelical Alternative speaks:
An open pulpit simply will not work.... Someone is likely to say something divisive. Can't have that.... We need someone credentialed to teach Scripture, ensuring purity of the Word.
The Bible speaks:
Give as freely as you have received .... These hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs.... I was a burden to no one.... I have never coveted anyone's silver or gold or fine clothes.
The Evangelical Alternative speaks:
“Because I do it all, I must get paid.... and because I get paid, I must do it all.... and because I do it all, I must get paid.... and because....”
The Bible Speaks:
Give, and you will receive.... Decide in your heart how much to give.... I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.
The Evangelical Alternative speaks:
Ten percent! Nothing less! Salaries must be paid, buildings purchased and maintained!
Please understand: Lord Jesus blesses, not through any religious alternative to His ways and His words, but through christians within religions. While many on the inside should withdraw from evangelicalism, many on the outside should attend (attend, not join!). Holy Spirit guidance is required.
For all attendees, serious vigilance is seriously advised.
NOTE # 1: The New Living Translation is used in this 333. To locate any verse, enter a few words into Blue Letter Bible (or an equivalent).
NOTE # 2: Our Bible teaches “The labourer is worthy of his hire”, and “You must not muzzle an ox”. However, there is no New Testament precedent for a salary.
NOTE # 3: This is a quote from The Way It Is (available at larryjones.ca).
Dear most (not all, but most),
Regarding your preaching ministry, I will, with some trepidation, tell you how I see you. In turn, you tell me if I am right on, way off, or somewhere between. Please.
You consider yourself as less than what you are. Biblical truths regarding you, your potential, and your responsibility as a Blood-bought child of God have given way to contradictory suggestions.
You are, by calling and potential, a preacher. The Bible strongly suggests so. And yet, continuing on the same path, you'll never be what Lord Jesus has called you to be.... an expounder of His truths. You live your christianity within the expectations of others.
Religious officers have placed you in a pew. As years passed, a putrid pew-mindset – this is where you belong, this is where you live out your christianity - overwhelmed your soul. They – church people, spouse, friends, family – hold you captive. 'They' will withhold craved approval and acceptance should you dare to be a man/woman directly under God.
Sure, 'they' will allow you to care for the homeless, go on occasional missionary trips to build houses, etcetera. 'They' may even give permission to lead a Bible-study (using an approved study-guide). But mostly, you've been slotted into a supportive role, supporting the credentialed and salaried.
A preaching ministry, whereby you break The Word under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is far from your thoughts or intentions. “The fear of man a snare.”
Well.... am I cold, warm, or hot? Let me know. Please.
You see, I burn for you. Yes, I am so pleased you are saved, so pleased heaven impatiently awaits. But also, I so desire you become a man/woman under God. No mediator but Lord Jesus. No lord but the Lord. Christ's anointed sent-one.
333 is for you. 'They' haven't deterred me; have I cut a swath for you into higher and better?
I simply want to be either confirmed or corrected. Please.
Oh, the power of custom!
Rees Howells was a man of prayer. Three hours on his knees, usually after a shift in the mines, was his daily practice. When walking to work his communion with God was so sweet he was moved to remove his hat.
But only when sure he was unseen.
In that time, a man outside with an uncovered head was strictly forbidden, not by some judicial law but by the 'law' of custom. When in danger of being sighted, he immediately returned hat to head.
The Teacher was teaching Rees true abiding was a continuous attitude of prayer, not intermittent, and instructed him to keep his hat off. Ouch, ouch and ouch! Rees disobeyed, and the glory of God lifted.
Oh, the power of custom!
Going hatless in his small town was more vexing than prolonged fasting; however, he eventually submitted to the Lord. And then, groan, he was invited to London! His friend, meeting him at the train station, was horrified at the sight of hatless Rees, and thoroughly embarrassed to accompany him through London's streets.
Why did the Lord ask Rees to go hatless? Simple. Public opinion carried more weight with Rees than it ought.
It has always been so in Christ's church....
Centuries ago in the Church of England, custom forbade preaching outside church walls. Today in many churches, custom disallows private or family communion service. Custom forbids young parents to publicly dedicate their own children to the Lord. Christians cannot baptize their converts.
Most christians bow more fully to custom than Scripture, the consequences sometimes horrifying. Example....
Lord Jesus: As the Father has sent Me, I also send YOU.
Custom insinuates “you” doesn't include you. Custom tethers you to the pew, forbidding you to preach Christ's salvation to the nations. Feed the poor, yes. House the houseless, okay. But no preaching.
Oh, the power of custom!
It takes the courage of a rattlesnake hunter to break custom, but “with God all things are possible”. Amen?
NOTE: Suggested reading: Rees Howells, Intercessor, by Norman Grubb. What a blessing!
We can love others lots, but not too much. Loving another too much is loving another more than Jesus. We are to “love thy neighbour as thyself”, but we are to love Jesus Christ more than ourselves. Loving 'me' more than Him is detrimental to me. I bless me by loving Him more. And....
And I bless others by loving Jesus more than them. I bless my children by loving Him more. I bless my spouse by loving Him more. I bless the church by loving Jesus more than the church.
It was good, very good, that Adam loved Eve. But Adam damaged himself, and Eve, by loving Eve too much; again, too much is more than God.
I can love 'my' work, my business, my ministry, my pastimes.... but not overly.
There is only one who is impossible to love too much.... the Lord Jesus.
Evangelicals love Jesus.... we know this by the fruit they bear.... but not supremely.... we know this by the fruit they do not bear.
We know whom we love mostly by what we say. (C.T. Studd : “What moves the heart, wags the tongue.” ) And by whom we obey. (“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”) And by the company we keep. (“Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”)
Loving justice and righteousness and truth - more than spouse, more than family, more than church – is loving God supremely because God is justice and God is righteousness and God is truth.
That which we love more than Lord Jesus is an idol. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” An idol is a god. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” A spouse can be, and often is a god. Children and parents can be, and often are gods. Churchianity can be, and often is a god.
It is not sufficient to love Lord Jesus; we must love Him more than all. (“He is a jealous God.”) He must be “first love”. Not second, not fifth. First. Amen?
NOTE # 1. God said, “Don't eat.” Eve said, “Eat.” Adam obeyed the one he loved most.
NOTE # 2: As quoted by Norman Grubb in his The Law of Faith.
Sometimes it's easier to see the big picture by shrinking big into small. Let's shrink your assembly (church, house church, whatever) into one imaginary friend. Okay?
Prov.4:3: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
A friend has access to your heart. “The course of your life” is seriously affected by that one you hang with. Choose friends prayerfully.
A friend can be a blessing or detriment. Ideally, you want a friend who loves the Lord Jesus as much as, or more than, you do. Because he/she influences you. A friendship, then, is a big deal.
Do not befriend a controller. A controller wants commitment to himself, not Christ. Make a rule: Nobody (that is, nobody!) interferes with the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life.
It's folly to limit yourself to one friend, even one of superior spirituality. That person will be overly influential. You could become his dependent.
Pray for a friend strongly bonded to Lord Jesus.
Alone time with Jesus should surpass combined time with all friends.
Now the big picture....
Prov.4:3: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
An assembly has access to your heart. “The course of your life” is seriously affected by the group you hang with. Choose associations prayerfully.
A group of believers can be a blessing or detriment. Ideally, you want people who love Lord Jesus as much as, or more than, you. Because they influence you. An assembly, then, is a big deal.
Do not subject yourself to controllers. They want commitment to themselves, not Christ. Apply your rule: Nobody (that is, nobody!) interferes with the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life.
It's folly to limit yourself to one assemblage, even one of superior spirituality. They will be overly influential. You could become their dependent.
Pray for an assemblage of saints strongly bonded to Lord Jesus.
Alone time with Jesus should surpass time spent with all gatherings.
Let's talk about what most don't talk about (and a few talk about too much).... demons.
If the Bible is balanced, the one refusing to acknowledge demons isn't. Lord Jesus spoke of demons, but not too much. (He never did anything too much or too little.) Paul and John wrote of demons but didn't binge on the subject.
One should be more cognizant of the presence of angels than that of demons. Considering the dark world only can be scary and depressing. Nonetheless these serfs of satan shouldn't be ignored simply because they're not ignoring us.
Seemingly, the spiritually mature speak of demons more than the immature. Seasoned christians detect the enemy by its works. When most see a raving psycho they see a raving psycho; the discerning see a demon at work.
1Jn.3:8: The Son of God came to undo the works of the devil.
As the works of God are accomplished through angels, so “the works of the devil ” are accomplished through his demons. We can detect them by their fruit.
Since “the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, peace, patience,” etc., obviously the fruit of evil spirits is hate, sadness, distress, impatience, etcetera. At times we display the works of the Holy Spirit and other times, sadly, the works of our enemy.
As the Holy Spirit requires our permission to make inroads into our lives, the enemy likewise needs permission. That being true, it is possible we blame the enemy too much.
Lord Jesus often healed the sick by casting out a demon. Those demons are still around, though usually unrecognized. Many times an infirmity is an illegal squatter creating havoc. It must be cast out. However....
Only the Christ-centered should directly confront demons, and only by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Those not clothed in Christ could be compared to a kid poking a beehive with a stick. Not healthy. They could retaliate.
The answer to every problem and situation is faith in Lord Jesus. Amen?
A.W. Tozer: For better or for worse religious people follow leaders.
When most hear the word “leaders” they think of institutionalized leaders. An institutionalized leader is one who has been institutionalized by an institutional-church system. Institutionalized leaders are not true leaders; they have not been appointed by Christ but by the religious system that credentials them.
A true leader is an under-leader, a leader under Christ, one under the governance of the Holy Spirit. No one can be governed by two. Actually, the two (Lord Jesus and institutional-church systems) are at enmity with each other.
However, an institutionalized leader assumes himself to be a leader under Christ, and “religious people” (pew people) make the same assumption. So, if “religious people follow leaders” they will become similarly institutionalized.
Most reading this 333 are institutionalized christians, in part or fully, and this certainly includes evangelicals. An institutionalized christian is one governed by an institutional church. While this doesn't include all attendees – some are governed by the Holy Spirit - it does include most.
It's a real problem loaded with real consequences. “No one can serve two masters.” Loyalty to a religious system is disloyalty to Lord Jesus. His “judgment seat” awaits.
Mat.23:10(Amp.): You must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.
There are elders in Christ's church. In a sense – in a narrow, limited sense – they are leaders. And yet, “you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.” That's “one” as in one! In the same limited sense there are teachers, and yet....
Mat.23:8(Amp.): You have one Teacher.
A faithful leader (under-leader) will point you to Lord Jesus, your only Leader. An under-leader is not (not!) a replacement-leader. A faithful teacher likewise points to Christ, the “one Teacher”. Unfortunately, faithful under-shepherds are far outnumbered by those who “distort the truth in order to draw a following.”
To be safe, apply this rule: Nobody (that is, nobody!) interferes with the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life.
NOTE # 1: Quoted from God Tells the Man Who Cares.
NOTE # 2: Acts 20:30 NLT.
Evangelicals follow evangelicals for much the same reason catholics follow catholics, anglicans follow anglicans, mormons follow mormons. Likeminded shadow likeminded.
However, this doesn't equate evangelicalism with other religions; evangelicalism is far superior because it emphasizes salvation through Christ alone.
However, a follower of evangelicalism isn't a follower of Jesus Christ; one cannot follow two. (Just as a born-again follower of anglicanism isn't a follower of Christ; one cannot follow two.)
However, christians attending an evangelical church could be much advantaged over those not attending, this depending on the spiritual maturity (or lack thereof) of both the specific church and the specific christian.
However, it's advisable for some to forsake evangelicalism (and all religions). This seems to be a healthy, natural progression for those stabilized in Christ.
However, attending an evangelical service doesn't make one an evangelical.
However, attending evangelical services is how evangelicals become evangelicals. Caution is advised.
However, many seriously considering disengaging from evangelical gatherings might be wise to reconsider. One should change course only in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
However, many who should withdraw from evangelicalism won't, simply because the price is more than they're willing to pay. More of Jesus costs. Much more of Jesus costs much.
However, the benefits of obedience to the Holy Spirit are enormous. Who else can pick up their cross, fulfill their calling, bear much fruit? The culmination of each person's christianity will be fully realized at “the judgment seat of Christ”. There we will realize subjection to the promptings of “the Spirit of Christ” was actually subjection to Christ Himself.
However, typical evangelical is laying up “treasures in heaven”. He will receive rewards. He will have reason to rejoice.
However, his/her rejoicing will not compare to that of the comparatively few following Jesus Christ, who are motivated by, and responsive to, the urgings of the Holy Spirit.
However, all will rejoice in “the salvation of our God”. All will be eternally wealthy.
However, some will be wealthier than others, some much wealthier.
From the Bible's perspective, a non-believer is one who has not set his/her trust in Jesus Christ (that's Jesus alone) to rescue him/her. The story began a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time ago.....
In the beginning God and man were close. Like very together. Like relationally connected. And then something terrible happened....
Rom.5:12: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”
Adam's infamous betrayal caused a rift – an impassable chasm, actually – between him and God. That spiritual chasm is still there, still impassable. Because “everyone sinned” everyone suffered disconnection from God. A look around or a glance at the news verifies man is indeed God-less.... without God.
But we weren't built to be relationally disconnected from God. Without Him we are less than whole. Thankfully, God is merciful and He made a way to be united.
Imagine yourself on the edge of an enormous chasm. You see God way off on the other side.... looking at you looking at Him. Got it?
Now picture a single arching bridge spanning that enormous gorge, the only route to the other side. That bridge is Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way.”
Jesus is the ONLY way to God. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” No religion, no best intentions, no effort can save.
Those 'crossing the bridge' actually become “a new creation”, a new person. Same dimples, same knobby knees.... but different. They have been “born again” or “born from above”.
For every person crossing that bridge several do not. Some come close... gazing... considering.... wanting.... but won't let go of life as is. Sad. Very sad.
I crossed over to the other side many years ago. No regrets whatsoever. Nothing but a deep appreciation for my Christ. I am eternally secure.
The Bible teaches the greatest sin is not sexual perversion or fraud or even murder.... man's greatest sin is refusing Christ and His great salvation. Sad. Very sad.