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Archive for September, 2012

MINISTERS OF LIGHT


(Scripture from the KJV)

– For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel – for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness – whose end shall be according to their works. – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Someone once said we should always be careful when we see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel – it might just be a freight train coming the other way. By the time we’re drawn into the light – it may be too late. Not every thing that is shiny in this life is good and beneficial to us. Adam and Eve fell for it in the Garden of Eden – and many have been falling for similar things ever since (Genesis 3:3-19). Satan and his ministers use the gods of this world to blind us – shining tempting things into our eyes daily. This prevents many from seeing the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ – who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

It’s a light that shines within our hearts and souls (Matthew 6:22, 2 Corinthians 4:6). It should never be hid (Luke 11:33). We are to be God’s ministers of light. Christians are to be lighthouses for all the lost and unbelieving who are being tossed about in the stormy seas of false and strange doctrine (Ephesians 4:14, Hebrews 3:19). Lighting their paths with the lamp of the Lord (Psalm 119:105). Guiding them home to the only safe harbor there is. Leading them to the immovable Rock of the Word (Deuteronomy 32:4) – before Satan sinks them – or they crash in the darkness on the removable rocks of this world (Jeremiah 23:29).

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WHAT IS TRUTH?


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– Pilate said unto Him, “What is truth?” – John 18:38

What is truth? Many people around the world today seem to be desperate for some sort of truth in their lives. However, Christ is the only truth there is – He is the only way and the only life (John 14:6). Jesus is the same – yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Still, many people seem reluctant to embrace this. Sadly, some of these may be believers. It’s nothing new to God. Even when His Son was walking upon earth, people did not believe the truth. Jesus Christ said, “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46).

When people demand “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” in our courtrooms – and don’t get it – some usually want to bring the offenders up on perjury charges later. However, when some “do” get the only truth there is from God and His Word – they often may feel like doing the same thing. That’s very dangerous – as our Father is going to judge the world with His righteousness – and His people with His truth (Psalm 96:13). Our Lord wants all men to be saved – and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

However, that truth must be in Christ and Christ alone – no man can come to the Father but through Jesus (John 14:6). The Bible is our only source for the perfect, just, and eternal truth of God (Deuteronomy 32:4). It’s where our faith has to come from (Romans 10:17). We cannot trust the temporal and often twisted truths of man – no matter how wise a person may seem – and combine them with those of God’s. That can make many develop itching ears and turn their ears from the truth – perverting the gospel as they mix worldly things in with the Word (2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 1:7, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Hebrews 4:2).

Any piecemeal or part-time approach to God and His Word – means there has to be a piecemeal and part-time approach to something else (1 Corinthians 10:21). We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Christians are to serve God in fear, sincerity, and in truth (Joshua 24:14). We are liars if we say we know God and do not keep His commandments – and His truth is not in us (1 John 2:4). That’s because all of His commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151). Without obeying them and walking in His ways at all times – there are eternal consequences for all.

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THE BLUSH OF SHAME


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No – they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush. Therefore, they shall fall among them that fall – at the time I visit them they shall be cast down”, says the Lord. Thus says the Lord, “Stand in the ways and ask for the old paths, where is the good way – and walk therein – and you shall find rest for your souls”. But they said “We will not walk therein”. – Jeremiah 6:15-16

Jerusalem was about to be placed under siege by King Nebuchadnezzar – and many of its inhabitants carried away to Babylon into captivity. There they would stay for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). The people of Jerusalem had become so disobedient and idolatrous that they weren’t even ashamed anymore over the transgressions and sins they were committing daily. It had gotten to the point where they couldn’t even blush over it. There was no guilt or shame – they utterly refused to seek out or walk in God’s ways (see above).

One definition of the word “blushing” in Merriam-Webster is “a reddening of the face, especially from shame”. “Shame” is defined as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt”. Are we in America becoming more and more like the people of Jerusalem just before they were led off into captivity? Are we becoming so de-sensitized and numb to sin in our society – that there is nothing more than lip-service expressions of shock in reaction to seeing or hearing about sins being committed?  Nor is there any soul-penetrating shame in ourselves when we transgress against the Lord? Does anybody blush anymore?

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THE SCAPEGOAT


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats – one lot for the Lord – and the other lot for the scapegoat. – Leviticus 16:8

Well, another weekend of the NFL is over and somebody’s favorite team lost … and it certainly wasn’t the result of a missed field goal, fumble, or a dropped pass, was it?. All of the players performed perfectly didn’t they? It was just those replacement refs that messed everything up. The finger of blame had to be pointed somewhere – someone had to be the scapegoat as to why any certain team eventually lost.

The word “scapegoat” comes to us directly from the Bible. On the Day of Atonement, the tabernacle was cleansed. Then the High Priest of Israel sacrificed the daily animal – usually a lamb or bull – for his own personal sins. This set the stage for two goats to be offered for the corporate sins of God’s people – Israel. The goats were chosen by lot. One was to be slain and offered as a blood sacrifice and sin offering to the Lord. The other goat would be allowed to “escape” into the wilderness as a symbol of their atonement (Leviticus 16:10).However, nobody was ever made perfect through these sacrifices. A remembrance of sins was still made every year. Despite offering up goats, lambs, bulls, and other animals to the Lord – they could not take away sin. If they had been able to – then they would have ceased to been offered. Something had to be reversed to change everything. God had to offer something to us – the life of His only Son – to be the final atoning sacrifice for man’s sins once and for all (Romans 5:16-19, Hebrews 10:1-10).

Through the blood of Jesus, God made His only Son the scapegoat for all sin. Christ carried them on His back to the Cross – and bore them on His body at Calvary (Isaiah 52:14). And yet, despite all of man’s continued failed and flawed performance on this field of life, some still want to blame God for everything. Somebody has to be blamed for all the troubles that certainly can’t be man’s fault. Some still despise Him – and esteem Him not (Isaiah 53:3). Prayerfully, they won’t be doing that when the final buzzer goes off. Somebody is going to lose.

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CRYING WOLF


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. And saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. – 2 Peter 3:3-4

The Bible is full of warning signs about the end times. Jesus told us all to be sober and vigilant about them – to always be watching and discerning – for He will return like a thief in the night; in the twinkling of an eye (Matthew 16:3, Mark 13:33-37, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Peter 4:7). However, many men over the centuries have misinterpreted these signs for themselves – to the point where they’ve declared the “end times” for all of mankind – and yet we are still here. Nobody knows the precise second when God will send Jesus Christ back to earth – except God alone (Mark 13:32).

We all know what happens when people cry wolf too many times – and the wolf never shows up. When the wolf really does appear on the scene – nobody is paying too much attention anymore when the warning is given. Until it’s too late – until the wolf has not spared the flock – until he has killed some sheep and scattered others (John 10:12, Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:29). Maybe this is why there will be some people in the actual last times who will be wondering if Jesus Christ is really ever coming back at all … there have just been too many false cries of “wolf!.”

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(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. – Proverbs 14:14

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that “a man’s heart devises his way – but the Lord directs his steps.” When these two clash as they often do – there can frequently be contention and confusion as a result – neither of which is ever God’s fault (Job 40:2, Ecclesiastes 6:10, 1 Corinthians 14:33). Life as a believer may seem to be a constant spiritual tug-of-war with God – or a never-ending roller coaster ride. Christian living can become the proverbial “one step forward, and two steps back”. However, we cannot yield to our own fleshly ways and the Spirit at the same time – if Christ is in us (Romans 8:1-10).

We can not always be what we want to be in this world – and be what God intended for us to become through His Word (Psalm 119:133, Isaiah 64:8). Our ways and wills – even within the church – might be the exact opposite of what our Father intended for us. It’s easy and even commonplace to naturally assume anything we are doing for God automatically has heavenly approval and sanction. And, that we will somehow receive an earthly blessing from above – sometimes of our own choosing beforehand – each and every time we do something in His name (Luke 17:7-10, Romans 4:4).

However, that may not always be the case – it may be right in our own eyes, but not His. It can have tragic results (1 Chronicles 13:4-10). Sometimes the resulting anger over how things did not turn out the way we expected can be directed at the Almighty (1 Chronicles 13:11-12). However, God commanded us to love Him, fear Him, serve Him, obey Him, and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31, Ecclesiastes 5:9, Ecclesiastes 12:13) – first and foremost before anything else. Our Father does not need our help – He will work and who of us will let it (Isaiah 43:13)?

Without the Holy Spirit in us, backsliding is inevitable – even perpetual backsliding (Jeremiah 8:4-7). It’s that two steps back after taking one step forward. We do not have the power to change ourselves from the inside out – only God does. Only He can understand our deceitful and wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The transformation of our minds and renewal of our inner man must be done daily by yielding to the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 4:16). All of the external and superficial changes many make in life – and may often believe will become permanent – don’t last. They are temporary and transitory.

This can be why many people seem to spend much of their lives changing their look, jobs, mates, residences … even churches. They are going their own way – orchestrating their own steps – futilely trying to find an inner peace, joy, and contentment through external means (1 Corinthians 2:14). What they do may seem to last for a while – sometimes a long time – but something always seems to come along that eventually destroys it. It is not within us to direct our own steps (Jeremiah 10:23). God numbers and counts every single one (Job 14:6, Job 31:4). However, any step towards Him is always a step in the right direction.

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PREFERRED STATUS


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon – she came to prove him with hard questions at Jerusalem. And when the queen had seen the wisdom of Solomon and the house he built, she said, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land of your acts and wisdom. How is it I did not believe their words until I came and my eyes had seen it. Behold, the one half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me – for you exceed the fame that I heard” (2 Chronicles 9:1,3,5-6)

Solomon was perhaps the wisest man known on earth during his time. The Queen of Sheba heard about his fame and made a long and arduous journey to Jerusalem to present Solomon with all of her “hard questions” about life. Yes, Solomon was wise and did many good things – but he got away from God very quickly (1 Kings 1:11). Whenever God leaves one of His houses (Colossians 1:18) – they become subject to destruction. Scripture warns us not to become wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). Solomon had achieved “preferred status” among a vast majority of people in the known world for his wisdom and acts.

A similar story from the Bible centers around Job. He was a tribal chieftain who was respected and admired by many – a wise man who did many wonderful things for people. They could not wait to hear him speak – almost as if they hung on his every word at times. However, Job had a huge “I” problem – between Job 29:6 and Job 29:18 – he used this pronoun 14 times to describe all the wonderful things he’d done in the name of God. People fell silent at Job’s counsel – read what he wrote about himself from Job 29:20-25:

– “My glory was fresh in me and my bow was renewed in my hands. Unto me men gave ear and waited – and kept silent at my counsel. After my words they spoke not again – and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as the rain – and they opened their mouth for the latter rain. I chose out their way and sat as their chief – and dwelt as a king in the army – as one that comforts the mourners.”

Job had achieved “preferred status” among many over God – and God knew it. Our Father had a very long list of unanswerable questions for Job when He appeared to him later out of the whirlwind (Job 38:1 – Job 40:2). It humbled Job – and it’s a good thing for any of us to read these questions whenever we feel a bit of pride coming on (Job 40:4-12).

As believers, we are to yield and listen to the Holy Spirit first (Romans 8:1-14, Romans 8:26-27) – before we listen and yield to what any Christian preacher or teacher is saying. Nobody declares for us – or gives us earthly things except God (John 3:27). This is nothing new to Him (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The apostle Paul had to urge the church leaders in Corinth not to let people’s preferences for certain ministers obscure their loyalty to God:

– “For it has been declared unto me of you my brothers – by them which are of the house of Chloe – that there are contentions among you. Now this I say that every one of you says – I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas (Peter) … and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

Paul reminded those church leaders in Corinth – and which should serve as reminder to all of us – that any person who preaches and teaches Christ and the gospel is nothing more than a minister by whom they first believed. God gives us all different spiritual gifts to spread His Word in different ways – but we must never forget who must have preeminence in all things (1 Corinthians 3:5-6, Colossians 1:18).

It seems many of today’s more popular Christian pastors and preachers may have attained “preferred status” among many who enjoy listening to them. Some hang on these teachers’ every word – much like people did with Job. They choose out people’s way instead of God. However, none of them were crucified or baptized for us. None of them can deliver us out of God’s hands when the time comes (Isaiah 43:13). There won’t be a single earthly reward or blessing received from above that we will be able to exchange for our eternal souls (Matthew 16:26).

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AT SOME LATER TIME


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, “The vision that he sees is for many days to come – and he prophecies of the times that are far off. – Ezekiel 12:27

It can often be easy to fall into complacency as Christians – and look at Biblical prophecies as visions that are far in the future. The people of Israel had this mindset back in the days of Ezekiel. However, everyone is a divine appointment. Everything has a divine purpose or plan – or God could not be God. All of Christianity falls apart if just one prophesy in the Bible fails to come to fruition through heavenly orchestration. Even though only God will truly know when each one is fulfilled – He gives us many signs and indicators of them throughout Scripture. All will culminate in the return of Jesus.

Only God will know when the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations (Matthew 24:14). Consequently, only God will know the day – and the precise second to send Christ back (Mark 13:32). Even though the Bible is full of warnings about the end times – many in the last days will be scoffers walking after their own lusts – saying “Where is this promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Christians are repeatedly told to “watch” in the New Testament – lest Christ come again and find us sleeping and not doing His work (Matthew 24:44-46, Mark 13:33-37, 1 Peter 4:7, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15). We must be careful that the cares of this life do not consume us – and have that day come upon us unawares (Luke 21;34). Christ will come like a thief in the night – in the twinkling of an eye – like labor pains that suddenly come upon a woman (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Corinthians 15:52). It will be too late for many – for there won’t be a “later time”.

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(Scripture from the KJV)

– For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse – Romans 1:20

The hope of eternal life was promised to us before this world began – and the grace of God that leads to man’s salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 1:2, Titus 2:11). Ever since we were children, we have known the holy Scriptures – which are able to make us wise unto that salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15). That salvation is of the Lord alone – and not any man (Jonah 2:9).

In the beginning was the Word – and the Word was with God – and the Word was God (John 1:1). We either believe God is who He says He is – or we don’t. There is no middle ground. We cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and the cup of the devil at the same time – nor can we eat at the Lord’s table and the devil’s table simultaneously (1 Corinthians 10:21).

Even though God is angry with the wicked daily – He is long suffering towards us. God does not want anyone to perish – but for all to come to repentance (Psalm 7:11, 2 Peter 3:9). However, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of ourselves to Him (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:12). It will be too late then to give our excuses as to why we rejected Him while we were on earth – and why we failed to thank Him, glorify Him, or retain Him in our knowledge (Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28).

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DO THE RIGHT THING


(Scripture from the NKJV and KJV)

– I am verily a man, which am a Jew.  Born in Tarsus, a city in Cilia – yet brought up in this city at the foot of Gamaliel  – and taught according to the perfect manner of the law.  And was zealous towards God – as ye all are this day.  And I persecuted this way unto the death – binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. – Acts 22:3-4

Imagine killing Christians because you thought it was the right thing to do?  What if you thought they were challenging everything you had been taught – and brought up believing? Early Christianity was considered to be a sect (Acts 24:5).  Early Christians were such a threat to the age-old Jewish religious ways of doing things under Mosaic law – that they had to be killed (Acts 6:11-14).  Someone had to it.  Who better than Saul of Tarsus?  He would round up Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment and imprisonment – and persecute many to their deaths.  Saul was present at the trial of St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr.  It was Saul who consented to Stephen’s death by stoning (Acts 7:1-60, Acts 8:1).

All because Saul and many Jewish leaders believed they were “doing the right thing” for God.  However, Saul would soon be struck down on the road to Damascus by the Lord – and shown the error of his ways (Acts 9:3-16).  Saul would go on to become the apostle Paul – and write nearly half of the New Testament.  Billy Graham once said that we can be sincere – and still be wrong.  As believers, we can all be very sincere and sometimes zealous in our Christianity towards God – just as Saul was sincere and zealous towards God in his dealing with early Christians – and all of us can be wrong.  It’s very easy to live up to our own consciences as believers – and do what we perceive is right for God in our own eyes and hearts – either personally or corporately.

God does not need our help (Isaiah 43:13).  Just because we are doing something for Him and in His name – does not mean it’s what He wants us to do.  Only God knows the outcome from the start – and He alone knows the motivations and intentions of our hearts (1 Chronicles 28:9, Hebrews 4:12-13).  The story of David and his congregation’s collective decision to bring back the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 13:4-10 – is a tragic Biblical example of what can happen when a group of well-meaning people did what was right in their own eyes – but not God’s.  An oxen cart driver named Uzza lost his life all because bringing the Ark back was perceived as “doing the right thing”.  What was supposed to be a time of festivity and celebration had been ruined.  And, David’s resulting anger was directed at God as if He was to blame (1 Chronicles 13:11-12).

We must do what is right in God’s eyes first and foremost – always (Deuteronomy 13:18).  What is that?  Throughout Scripture, He tells us all time and time again what He requires of us.  We must do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).  We must love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls – and love all of our neighbors as we do ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).  We must hearken and yield to His voice through the Holy Spirit – and led by the Spirit and not the flesh (Deuteronomy 13:18, Isaiah 30:21, Romans 8:1-14, Galatians 5:16-17).  Finally, we must fear Him and keep His commandments – for this is the whole duty of a man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  And, that’s the right thing to do.

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