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Archive for April, 2012

THE NEW CHURCH


(All verses from the KJV):

– Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build Me? … says the Lord: or what is the place of My rest? – Acts 7:49

– An altar of earth you shall make unto Me …. and if you will make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it. – Exodus 20:24-25

 – In all the places where I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribes of Israel whom I commanded to feed My people Israel, saying “Why haven’t you built Me a house of cedar?” – 2 Samuel 7:7

 – God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Neither is worshipped with men’s hands as though He needed anything … seeing He gives to all life, and breath to all things. – Acts 17:24-25

      The second any tree is cut for lumber, or any piece of stone is hewn to make a physical church or temple for God, the material is polluted because it has been touched by fallen man’s hands.   Unfortunately, I believe it is the mere existence of physical churches today that keeps more people away from God than they let in.  Why are there so many different denominations and names for churches (The Holy Brethren Fellowship of Divine Worshippers of East Podunk, for example) – when there is only one God?  Do churches really mean it when they say everyone is welcome? 

    Through the years I have met many people who have told me they’ve looked at impressive and expensive looking churches while driving down the road … and without ever setting foot inside .. have wondered what the message being preached inside was really about, … money or the Messiah?  Conviction or comfort?  They know they are lost and there is a void in their lives … but often their wonder about where the money from tithes and offerings on any given Sunday really goes (Malachi 3:8-10), keeps them on the outside looking in.

   God never commanded anyone in the Bible to build Him a physical church.  It was allowed, as when God let Solomon build the temple, … but that was because of a covenant He had made with David … Solomon’s father (2 Samuel 7:13-14).  The previous verse (2 Samuel 7:12), shows that God was actually more concerned with building David’s spiritual house for his descendants … than He was for anyone to build a physical dwelling for Him. 

     God cannot be isolated within the walls of any church or temple – even the highest heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chronicles 6:18).  The fellowship of believers is important (Hebrews 9:25), but merely attending church in a physical dwelling will not make anyone love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, and minds (Deuteronomy 6:5) any more than staying home.  Worship begins in the heart, not in a house.

    There is only one church on earth.  It is the Church of Jesus Christ.  He is the head and the body of it … so that in all things He might have preeminence (Ephesians 1:23, Colossians 1:18).  It does not have to be a physical dwelling. And, Christ’s church does not require promotion with bumper stickers and business cards, or product-like pitches and power-point presentations.  The best advertisement for His church is in the actions, words, and lifestyles of His believers.  Those who walk in all His ways, not just some (Colossians 2:6).  They will be the best ones to water the seeds planted in the hearts of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 3:6)  – the seed being His Word (Luke 8:11) … and God will add to the numbers of the Church of Jesus Christ daily, such as should be saved (Acts 2:47).

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– And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing and with harps, and with psalterties, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. – 1 Chronicles 13:8

((All verses from KJV – all from 1 Chronicles 13, except where noted))

     King David was having a party.  And why shouldn’t he?  It was a great occasion.  He had been in the process of consolidating military power, getting mighty armies to align with him … seeing who would side with him and who would not (13:2, 17-18).  Now was the perfect time … at least to David and his congregation, to bring back the Ark of God to its rightful home in Jerusalem (13:3).  What on earth could possibly go wrong?  But something did.  And it shows to me why we must obey God at all times, not just when it is convenient and does not interfere with our plans. 

      A brand new cart was sent up by David to the city of Kearjath-jearim in Judah, where the Ark was located (13:6-7).  Oxen pulled the cart along and two men drove it, Ahio and Uzza (13:7).  As the cart entered Jerusalem, disaster struck.  The oxen stumbled.  The Ark was most likely going to fall off the cart and hit the ground.  That could not be allowed, at least to Uzza.  He grabbed the Ark to keep it from falling.  And this kindled the anger of the Lord and He struck Uzza dead right then and there (13:9-10). 

     What?!  Why would God strike dead someone who was trying to protect His Ark?  What sensible reason could there be?  David obviously was displeased with all of this (13:11).  But … if we read the Scripture that follows, it seems that David was more concerned with the disruption of his party and how the Ark was going to continue on its journey, than the death of Uzza.  David never asked God why Uzza was struck down … but he did ask Him how the Ark was going to get home to him (13:12).

     So why did Uzza have to die?  After all, he was saving the holy Ark of God from falling off the cart and hitting the ground.  Nothing seemingly wrong with that, was there?  Well, we have to go all the way back to the book of Numbers to find out the answer.  You see, Uzza was one of the sons of Kohath.  The sons of Kohath were given specific, detailed orders on how to handle the most holy things, including the Ark.  This was their service from the age of 30 to 50 (Numbers 4:3).  Their duties included such tasks as removing ashes from the altar after a sacrifice, and covering the Ark and all the instruments of the ministry with cloths and animal skins (Numbers 4:9,12-13). 

     But ….. none of the sons of Kohath could touch the Ark or any holy thing.  This was their burden.  If they did, they would die (Numbers 4:15).   And Uzza touched the Ark during David’s party – and he had to die as a result of disobeying God … despite his best intentions.   God could not be who He is if Uzza had been allowed to live.

     There is a serious warning to all in this story, especially for believers.  Back in 2 Samuel 7, David wanted to build a house for the Ark.  It seemed like a great idea and his prophet Nathan approved of it – at first.  Nathan told David to go and do all that was in his heart for the Lord was with him.  Why wouldn’t it be a good idea?  But it wasn’t.  Later that night, Nathan was spoken to by God, who had never commanded anyone to build the Ark a permanent house (2  Samuel 7:1-7).   David could not build a temple for the Ark because he had been a man of war and had shed blood (1 Chronicles 22:8).

     In 1 Chronicles 13, David thought it was a grand idea to move the Ark back to Jerusalem.  What could be wrong with that?  David pitched the idea to the congregation without ever asking God and everyone approved, because the idea was right in their own eyes (1 Chronicles 13:4).  And those are the key words that appear more than once in the Bible.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6 and 21:25 and Deuteronomy 12:8  are just three).

     Only God knows what lies ahead.  He knew beforehand that Uzza would be one of the drivers of the cart carrying the Ark and that he would try to save it.  And God would have to kill Uzza for disobeying a commandment, no matter how long ago He had issued it.  Had David prayed about moving the Ark first and sought God’s instructions … and waited for them … instead of seeking the opinion of the congregation, things probably would have turned out differently and Uzza might have lived. 

     The most noble, honorable, moral, and godly ideas and plans we may have – the ones that seem so right in our eyes, may not turn out the way we think they are going to when we first set out implementing them.  How many Christian churches, colleges/universities, organizations, etc., have been started or planted with this mindset?  We can dangerously assume God is okay with our great ideas and will play along accordingly. 

     Proverbs 14:12 warns us “There is a way that seems right unto man, but the ways thereof are the ways of death” – just like what happened to David and Uzza.  David’s disobedience in doing what was right in his and the people’s eyes … instead of praying to God and seeking His guidance and wisdom … led to the disobedience of Uzza and his death.  Disobedience does not always affect just the person doing the disobeying.  It can have ripple effects we are not even aware of – even from generation to generation.  Jonah’s initial disobedience of God, who commanded Jonah to pronounce His judgement on Nineveh … almost caused the innocent sailors on the ship from Joppa to Tarshish to perish … while Jonah was fast asleep below deck (Jonah 1:1-6). 

     Just because something is on our hearts to do for God is not an indication He put it there.  Remember, these approximately 10-ounce organs beating within us are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked … who can understand them? (Jeremiah 17:9).   Getting a majority approval from fellow believers to do something for God does not necessarily mean He endorses it.  Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).  God will work and who will let it? (Isaiah 43:13). 

     Our Lord’s word will go out from His mouth and will not return to Him empty, but it will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11) – not our word and our purpose to accomplish what we want.  We must do what is right in God’s eyes by following all of His commandments, not just some (Deuteronomy 13:18).  Until this is realized, embraced, and practiced by all believers (that includes me), God may have to crash a few more parties to get finally get our undivided attention.  Hopefully, nobody loses their life as Uzza did because of it.

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– “I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling place.  Whenever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”” – (2 Samuel 7:7 -NIV – all other verses below from KJV)

     David was sitting in his house one night, enjoying a break from all his enemies.  Here he was in his fine house of cedar and the Ark of God was still dwelling in a tent.  He told the prophet Nathan that evening, “See here, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (2 Samuel 7:1-2). 

     Well, Nathan jumped the gun when he gave a presumed approval from the Lord for this idea.  Without ever seeking counsel from God first (sound familiar?), Nathan told David in the next verse “Go, do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee” (2 Samuel 7:3).  Why wouldn’t a fine house of cedar for the Ark of God be His desire?  No need to bother Him with a sure thing like that, right?   David’s motives were honorable and reasonable – what more could be required?

     But God wasn’t “with” David on it – it was not a good idea.. When God did speak to Nathan later that night, He wanted to know why David should build Him a house for the Ark, when up to then it had been moving around in a tent … and He had never asked anyone to build a house for it (2 Samuel 7:5-7).  When Solomon finally built the temple later, David told his son why God had not wanted him to build it – David had been a man of war and had shed blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). 

There’s an important lesson for all believers from this story: 

– Just because we have it in our hearts to do something for God like David did … and just because someone else thinks it’s a great idea (at first) like Nathan did, does not necessarily mean it has God’s endorsement and support.  Man’s approval is not God’s.  I’ve often wondered what would have happened if David had gone along with his plans because Nathan had basically told him a fib about God’s sanction of them to begin with.  Only God knows what lies ahead for us – believers and unbelievers.  Trying to get God to play along with our plans … when they weren’t His will to begin with … can lead to discouragement and frustration among believers and with God. 

     We must always remember that good ideas aren’t always God ideas. The counsel of God must be sought before the counsel of others … even respected pastors, elders, and brothers.  Without doing so can easily lead to men-pleasing and not God-pleasing.  In addition, He commands full obedience to Him first and foremost … before we go ahead with any venture in His name without it.

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– And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart greatly trembled .  And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. – (1 Samuel 27:6 – all verses from KJV)

     Saul was in trouble.  Big trouble.  The Philistine army was bearing down on Saul’s men and he didn’t know what to do.  So he went to the Lord and nothing happened.  No answer, no guidance – total silence. But Saul couldn’t wait – he needed help now. Sound familiar?  So, he went to a witch – the Witch at Endor (1 Samuel 27:7).  Saul wanted her to summon up the spirit of his former lifelong spiritual teacher and mentor, Samuel (1 Samuel 27:11).  Well, Samuel was summoned … and he was none too happy about it, saying “Why have you disquieted me to bring me up?” (1 Samuel 27:15).

     You see, Saul had continually and deliberately disobeyed the Lord over the years – to the point where God had withdrawn His mercy from Saul (2 Samuel 7:15).  Saul told the spirit of Samuel “I am so distressed for the Philistines make war against me and God is departed from me and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams (Job 34:14-18).  Therefore I called you, that you may make known unto me what I shall do” (1 Samuel 27:15.). But if God wasn’t going to help Saul, how was Samuel going to?  The spirit of Samuel told Saul next “Why do you ask me, seeing that the Lord is departed from you and become your enemy? (1 Samuel 27:16)

     There can be many reasons why God does not answer our prayers, especially when we are in trouble or when we think we “need” something.  One reason is simply that we are not to know.  God’s ways and thoughts are above ours (Isaiah 55:9).  We may never know why the answer was “No” until we meet Him.  The riches of God’s wisdom, knowledge, judgement and ways are deep, unsearchable, and unfathomable (Romans 11:33). If He answered all of our prayers the way we wanted Him to, we would never learn to trust Him and it would become very easy to miss His deity, holiness, and sovereignty.   

     Outside of this, another possible reason for unanswered prayers could be that God is trying our faith – a trying that works patience, that we may be found wanting nothing (James 1:3). Our patience in waiting, as Charles Stanley says, “helps purify our motives as to why we want prayer answered a certain way”.  Trying to “rush” God to do anything may often indicate our request is actually our will and not His. 

      Just because it’s on our hearts to have something or do something. does not mean God approves of it.  This happened to David when it was on his heart to build the temple for the Lord, and the Lord did not want him to (2 Samuel 7:1-13, 1 Chronicles 22:8-10).  Whatever we ask for in prayer, remember that God has His reasons for granting or not granting it, and He is never under any obligation at any time to tell us why or why not. 

     A third possible reason why God does not answer prayers is because we ask Him “amiss” as it says in James 4:3: “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss – that ye may consume it on your own lusts”.  Praying for a private swimming pool for your property is “asking amiss”.  Getting that new car you have been praying and praying for, and celebrating by driving past the church on Sunday to go to the beach – that is “asking amiss”. 

     However, a fourth possible reason for unanswered prayers is the most dangerous.  It could be that, just like Saul, we have deliberately and repeatedly disobeyed God so long that He has withdrawn His mercy from us on earth .  Our ends may be near; as it was with Saul.  For him, it was the very next day.  After Samuel’s spirit told Saul “Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord” in 1 Samuel 27:18, he told Saul “Moreover, the Lord will deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow shall you and your sons be with me” (1 Samuel 28:19).  In 1 Chronicles 10:13, we are given a clear reason why Saul had to die:

– So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one  that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it.

     God has limits.  Our Lord is longsuffering, not wishing anyone to perish .. and for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  But Saul repeatedly and deliberately disobeyed God over many, many years and God had enough – and withdrew His mercy from Saul once and for all (2 Samuel 7:15).  One warning to us today from Saul’s story is there was an instance where he actually thought he was obeying God when all he was doing was sacrificing.  Despite clear orders from above, Saul did not do what God told him to do – he did what he “thought” God wanted him to do … what would be more pleasing to Him. 

     As believers, we must always remember that obeying God and making a sacrifice for Him are two different things.  Our sacrifice was made at Calvary. As Samuel told Saul afterwards, “It is better to obey than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).  If we fear and obey Him as our whole duty (Ecclesiastes 12:13), God just might start answering some of those prayers …as long as what He gives us is used for His kingdom and not our own (1 Corinthians 12:7, Ecclesiastes 5:9).

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FAITH TIME


– So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. – Romans 10:17(KJV)

     As Christians, sharing our faith means sharing the Bible.  There is no other way to do it.  It means sharing Scripture with others.  Our testimonies and tales of faith are important, but without tying them back into God’s Word – they are just stories.  Someone told me last summer that they wished they had a certain person’s faith. I knew that other person to be a devout Bible reader and exactly where they gotthat faith.   On that note, let me share some faith:

– Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews11:1;
– Without faith, it is impossible to please the Lord. – Hebrews 11:6;
– By grace we are saved by faith and not of ourselves – it is a gift of God.  Not ofworks, lest any man should boast, – Ephesians 2:8-9;
– The just shall live by faith. – Habakkuk 2:4;
– We walk by faith and not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7;
– Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. – Hebrews 12:2;
– Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. – Ephesians 3:17;
– The trying of our faith works patience. – James 1:3;
– If faith has no works, it is dead. – James 2:17;
– We do faithfully whatever we do to brothers and strangers. – III John 5;
– Whatever is not of faith is a sin, – Romans 14:23; and

– If, for whatever reason, we should not believe or lose our faith in Him, God remains faithful to us through it all for He cannot deny Himself. – 2 Timothy 2:13

     By faith, we believe that Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  With the past weekend’s church services/sermons. Easter egg hunts, and family dinners over – have you remembered “He is risen” since?  Christmas marks the birth of Christ.  Easter marks the birth of Christianity.  Entire livelihoods depend on “He is risen”.  Christian pastors, students, authors, musicians, and counsellors (just to name a few) arise and go to school or work each day based on “He is risen”.  Otherwise, our Christian lives are most miserable, our entire faith is vain, and we remain yet in our sins (Romans 4:24-25, 1 Corinthians 15:14-17)

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ALGEBRA


– For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness … but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. – (1 Corinthians 1:18 – KJV)

   I spent some time drinking coffee out on the balcony this morning, thinking about algebra of all things.  I thought that if I had picked up an algebra book at age 10, it probably would have looked like a lot of Greek to me.  The trouble was is that it still looked like a foreign language in high school when it I had to take it as a class.  But it was still foolishness to me.  It didn’t make any sense.  If you’re reading this, I hope you see where this is going.

    I did not see any practical application for it, nor did I see how I was ever going to use it in the day-to-day world after graduation.  Unfortunately, I did not have a teacher who could explain it to me well enough so I could grasp it to the point of doing better than a C- average, no matter how hard I tried.  Despite it all, I knew deep down that my disbelief in algebra did not make it irrelevant, full of errors, inconsistent, or untrue – even though that’s what I expressed outwardly.  And every night I went home, it was still algebra. 

      Sadly, this is the approach many unbelievers … and even some new believers have towards the Bible.  For unbelievers, they may not know that the gospel is hidden to the lost (2 Corinthians 4:3 – KJV).  Many new believers can still wrestle with how hard it is to understand Scripture (2 Peter 3:16 – KJV),  They do not see any practical application for it, or how such ancient stories can have a day-to-day application in today’s world..  Without learned spiritual teachers to guide them (Romans 10:14, Hebrews 5:12-13 – KJV), it is easy for them to head back down a path of destruction once again (2 Peter 3:16). And they will go home scratching their heads about everything, … and yet it will still be the infallible Word of God – the Bible.

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– “Let these sayings sink down into your ears”. . . But they understood NOT this saying, and it was HID from them, and they perceived it NOT; and they feared to ask Him of that saying.”  (Luke 9:44-45 NIV)

– “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now”. – (John 16:12 – NIV)

     We are not supposed to “get” God.  How often have you heard someone say “I just don’t get God”.  But just because a person doesn’t “get” something or understand it does not make it false or erroneous.  I still don’t get a lot of things about math and science, but this does not make either field of study untrue.  Likewise, just because a person picks up the Bible and does not comprehend or understand – it does not mean it’s not the Word of God anymore and false (John 1:1, 2 Timothy 3:16 – KJV).  And through the Bible,(always the first place to go), are found many verses and passages from Scripture explaining why we will never fully “get it” and more importantly, why we are not supposed to.  The things I will never understand I accept – in that God’s ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9 – NIV).  And the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4 – KJV).  

    So, why don’t we get it?  Let’s start with unbelievers.  The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18 – NIV).  Unbelievers are perishing (Romans 3:23 – KJV).  The message and the meaning of Scripture is veiled to them.  The god of this world, Satan, has blinded many minds from seeing the glorious light of the Good News (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 – NLT).  This is why it’s usually easier for God to convict us with sorrow towards salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10 – KJV)  … before hearts get hardened by the things of this world (Ephesians 4:18, Proverbs 28:13-14, Matthew 13:14-15 – ESV).   Although it’s never too late … the thief on the cross went to be in Paradise.(Luke 23:43) … now is the accepted time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 – KJV).  For no man is sure of life (Job 34:23).

      The older a person gets, the more they are filled with things of this world … and through the mere passing of time, they continue to gain cursory knowledge of the Bible, even though they still have not been saved.    Are you like that?  I was.  Fully aware of verses about sin, hell, death, and the judgement from sources like Christian friends and family, the occasional trip to church, or picking up the Bible now and then.  In Romans 1:28-29 – KJV), it says that even in spite of all this, if a person decides not to retain God in their knowledge (they’ll retain other knowledge but not His), our Lord Himself will give them over to a reprobate (ordained to damnation) mind to do things that are not convenient.  Things such as debate, gossip, envy, and God-hating … to name just a few.

      Unbelievers struggle with Scripture, but so do many new believers.  The apostle Peter wrote, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things … in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do with other Scripture … unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16 – KJV).  This is why having older believers as teachers to new believers is critical.  But, if those older believers still need someone else to teach them things they already should know – still requiring milk as new believers do (Hebrews 5:12-14 – KJV), it’s very common to see the blind leading the blind in many churches. 

      But this is still not enough to “get” God, even for more mature believers.  Jesus told His disciples “You diligently study the Scripture because you think that by them you possess eternal life” (John 5:39 – KJV).  In the book of Acts, the Bereans, who were of a more noble character than the Thessalonians “received the message of the apostle Paul with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what he said was true” (Acts 17:11- NIV).  As a result, many of them believed (Acts 17:12 – KJV) … but belief is not the same as understanding.  Who can understand God?  Romans 11:33 (KJV) tells us “How unsearchable are God’s judgements and how inscrutable are His ways?”

     Where I think so many believers young and old come up short in experiencing a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 – KJV) after salvation is that they continue to try to understand and comprehend God from an external standpoint – from the outside in.  This is impossible, for both unbelievers and believers.  God is a spirit.  We try so hard to compare things we’ve learned or thought we understood in the physical world with spiritual matters.  This is where many stray and what I believe causes so many to say the Bible is incorrect, full or errors, and inconsistent.  Does the Bible speak to this?  Absolutely.  Read how Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 – KJV.

– Which things also we speak – not in the wisdom that man’s wisdom teaches – but which the Holy Ghost teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receives not the things of the Holy Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.  But He that is spiritual judges all things, yet He himself is judged by no man.  For who has known the mind of the Lord so that he may instruct Him?  But we have the mind of Christ.

     Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside the hearts of new believers.  It has to – and yet I saw a random survey of Christians last week where 49 percent of them do not believe this or accept it to be true.  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  No one has seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God abides in us and His love has been perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us the power of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 John 4:12-13 – NIV).  Psalm 25:1-15 (KJV) shows some ways in how the Holy Spirit can help us. 

     How can any of us live as Christians, and not believe in the Holy Spirit … calling on Him to be our Advocate and Comforter as Jesus told his disciples it would be in John 14:16 and John 14:26 (KJV)?  With the Holy Spirit, we have access to a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24 – KJV).  How can our hearts that are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – and that no one can understand (Jeremiah 17:9) possibly survive is this wanton world and become holy without calling on the power of the Holy Spirit? 

     Is a denial or unbelief of the Holy Spirit not blasphemy against it? (Matthew 12;32 – KJV)).  But … even with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the one that can empower miracles (Matthew 12:28, Romans 15:18-19 – KJV), we will never “get” God and the way of the Spirit while on earth (Ecclesiastes 11;5)  Why?  Jesus Christ gave the best answer during His brief time on this earth.

    Jesus spent 3 1/2 years with his hand-picked group of 12 disciples.  He had a betrayer, a doubter, and a despised tax collector among them.  Many believe that Jesus spoke to them in parables to make things more understandable and clearer.  But Christ was constantly asking them questions throughout the gospels about their lack of faith, their fear; and why they could not understand his parables … some examples are (all KJV) Matthew 13;34, Mark 4;34, 8:31, 9;32, and John 10:6.  In fact, in Mark 4;10-13, Christ asks them “If you do not know this one, how will you know all parables?”  Jesus knew – but He was trying to make a point with them about who He was.  And, He often explained a parable with what?  Another parable!. 

     The 12 disciples heard Jesus preach and instruct countless times.  They spent day after day with him, eating and praying, teaching and reaching out to people.  Despite all this, they did not understand – even though they may have thought they did.  Like us sometimes.  Shortly before Christ’s crucifixion, read what Luke says about this:

– Then he took unto Him the twelve and said unto them “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem and ALL THINGS that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished … and they understood none of these things, and this saying was HID from them, neither the things which were spoken” – Luke 18:31-34

     Christ was about to die and the disciples still did not “get” anything regarding His life, ministry, death, and resurrection.  But Jesus did give his disciples an indication of when – and only when – they would.  In John 16:25 (KJV), He tells them “These things have I spoken to you in proverbs … but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, that I shall show you plainly of the Father”.  And when was this?  When did the disciples finally understand Christ and Scripture?  Only after his death, his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven.  Jesus said this to them just before going to be with God:  “These are the words I spoke to you while I was yet with you – that all must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning Me.”  Then he “opened their understanding” that they may understand Scripture (Luke 24:44-45). 

      If the 12 people who spent more one-on-one real life time with God in all of history could not understand anything He taught them until His resurrection and ascension, how will we ever “get it” until our own? 
 

     
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– See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven? (Hebrews 12:25 – NIV)

     In the classic movie “The Godfather”, Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) is visited by his godson, the famous singer Johnny Fontane (played by Al Martino).  Fontane asks for Corleone’s help securing a film role to boost his fading career.  The head of the studio has previously refused to give Fontane the part.  So, Corleone tells Fontane, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”.  Many of you know what happened next and I won’t go into the gory details – but afterwards, Fontane (not surprisingly) got the part.

    Our Father God made an offer we can’t refuse on the Cross.  Well, we can – but there’s a price to pay just like the studio head in The Godfather.  I’m sure there would have been more pain and trouble – even death; if the studio head kept refusing Corleone’s offer.  It cost the studio head one thing – an expensive racehorse.  God’s offer cost Him everything – the brutal death of His only Son (Isaiah 52:14 – KJV). 

     God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9 – NIV) – He wants all to be saved and for all to come to the knowledge of His truth (1 Timothy 2:4 – NIV).  But His offer is a free gift  – it does not cost a thing (Romans 6:23 – NIV).  And if we are refusing it over and over  … then how are we going to escape death if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3 – NIV).  And this gift has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11 – NIV).  So why don’t more people repent?  That could be an entirely new message, but one primary cause is pride.  Read what the prideful Pharisee says about himself in Luke 18:11-14, or what Job says about himself in Job, Chapter 29. 

     David Jeremiah once said that each day we go on unrepentant to God, “we are messing with our salvation and playing games with eternity”.  And yet people still refuse the offer.   Some never will.   Tragically, this reminds me of the final lines to  “Vincent” by Don McLean when he sings: “”They would not listen, they’re not listening still, perhaps they never will”.

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