Friday, October 30, 2015

The Smoking Oven and Burning Torch

The Smoking Oven and Burning Torch

“And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” - Genesis 15:17 & 18

I’ve been establishing the Holiness of the Lamb of God, His power and preeminence, so how does the smoking oven and the burning torch from Genesis 15 have anything to do with that topic? Because it is an image of God’s faithful commitment to His promises that cannot be overlooked. It establishes, in a powerful way that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith.

Genesis 15 is the covenant that God made with Abraham and the items that passed between the pieces that were laid out by Abraham are extremely symbolic, however, one must have an understanding of the historical context. In the time of Abraham, covenants were often sealed in the very same way. The parties to the covenant would divide an animal in half and then walk together between the two halves to signify what would happen to them if they were to break the covenant; basically, “let me be as this animal or these animals if I don’t keep my part of the covenant.”

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this passage, but an entire book would be required to contain them, for the moment, I want to focus on just one part. As I already mentioned the parties of the covenant would pass between the two halves making a promise to keep their end of the deal. I have no doubt that Abraham was expecting God to come to him and walk between the two halves along with him, because he spent the entire day chasing off the buzzards who were trying to get at the carcasses. However, God did something very different, which is not uncommon when dealing with God.

Instead of coming and walking between the halves with Abraham, God came in a symbolic way and passed between those two halves alone. He came as a smoking oven and a burning torch. The representation of Himself in that way is a representation of the divine trinity. God the father is represented in the oven or kiln from which all things were created and all provisions are given, the smoke is a representation of His Holy Spirit and the burning torch is a representation of the Light of the World or Jesus Christ, the son. The more important representation here, however, is the fact that ONLY God passed between the two halves.

By passing through the two halves alone, God is communicating to Abraham and even to you and I that regardless of whether or not we keep our end of the deal, He is going to provide the promises of the covenant. In other words, He will not only make the covenant, but He will also fulfill it, which is precisely what He has done through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

God, continuously promises to fulfill His covenant throughout the Old Testament including, in what is perhaps the most poignant of promises, this one from Ezekiel 36:26 & 27:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

In this promise, God is clearly establishing that HE will fulfill it, that HE will make that change in us. We won’t do it, we can’t do it and we have no power to do it. Therefore, God is going to do it for us. There is really no greater assurance for a Christian than this. It isn’t dependent upon us to fulfill this promise. Paul points this out in numerous places throughout his letters.

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” – Romans 9:16

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8 & 9.

“…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” – Philippians 1:6.

“… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2.

Over and over and over, throughout the scriptures, God has been calling His people to surrender themselves to allowing Him to be the author and finisher of the covenant. God has been trying to get us to stop believing that we have the power to save ourselves. God has been trying to get us to understand that He has provided all things for us, even to the point of sending His own son to be the ultimate sacrificial lamb in order to fulfill His covenant; even Jesus Christ.

We can have no boasting or glorying in ourselves for our salvation. We cannot rob God of this particular glory and this miracle of rebirth. It is His great work and His alone and I dare say that we will not witness the full power of that great work until we allow ourselves to let go of our own part in it and recognize that God not only made the promise, but also fulfilled it, even in our own lives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are Tolerance and Love the Same Thing?

Are Tolerance and Love the Same Thing?

“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” – 2 Corinthians 2:15 & 16

I started this blog promising to lift the fleece on the wolves, the false teachers and those that make Jesus Christ out to be something that He is not or to weaken His authority. In the previous two posts, I have been establishing His power and authority. In this post we want to look at how our command to love one another has become the source of a great deal of confusion.

Did Christ command us to love one another? He certainly did, but we cannot lose focus of the first priority of His love, which is to bring about our restoration with God and can only be done through confessing our sins and being forgiven and justified through Jesus Christ. We discussed this in the first two blogs to an extent, by pointing out that Jesus was resolutely focused on His purpose. Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

Confusing Tolerance for Love

This is really a two sided coin that is caused by our failure as believers to keep our own selves in order and a misunderstanding of what it means to love one another.

The church and believers are often under attack because our message often enters into a grey area. At times, when condemning sin, it sounds as if the church and believers are being hateful. At times, those observations from people outside the church and the family of believers are totally justified.

When we are frustrated, afraid, angry, confused, overwhelmed, etc., we often allow those emotions to guide us toward an “unrighteous” form of hatred. Don’t be confused, we are to have a “righteous” hatred of sin. When that hatred spills over into judgment of another person and hatred of another person, that’s when we cross the line into “unrighteous” hatred. When we don’t clean up our own act first, we invite that sort of hatred to spill over into what we say and how we say it, either face to face or on Facebook.

One of the fruits of the spirit, which is also a very strong part of speaking the truth with love, is self-control. In our vigorous condemnation of sin, we cannot lose sight of the fact that, we too, are sinners and desperately in need of the same salvation that is offered by our savior as anyone else. Let’s sidetrack for a moment in order to get a better picture of our position in the faith by comparing two passages of scripture that make up essential attitudes of our faith.

Take a moment to study these two passages of scripture side by side. In essence, I think you will find that walking in love and walking in the spirit are very close to the same thing. If we are to truly have our houses clean and in order, we must follow Christ in this way.

You’ll note than neither list includes, “is tolerant of sin.” In fact, let’s look at two attitudes that are included in the first column: “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” and “it always protects.”

To rejoice in the truth we must not only believe in the truth, but speak it as well. In addition, we must protect the Law of God and the Gospel from being watered down, misrepresented or perverted. We cannot wink at sin, we cannot tolerate it and we cannot turn a blind eye toward it and still truly love others. At the same time, look at the list of “nots:” envy, boast, proud, dishonor others, self-seeking, easily angered or keep record of wrongs.

Let me make a suggestion here. 

Speaking the truth with love, means declaring the Gospel, while walking according to the fruit of the spirit.

The confusion that seems to follow the church and believers comes from a mixed message that the church and believers haven’t clarified well. Speaking the truth, rejoicing in God’s law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and loving our neighbors does not include tolerance of sin and acceptance of it.

“If we say that we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us or all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8,9

On the other hand, it also does not include the angry, dishonoring judgment of those who sin.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Matthew 7:1 & 2.

When confronting the sins of the Pharisees in order to correct their perversions of God’s law, Jesus wasn’t often as gentle and meek as we often think of Him. On a few occasions, he was downright vicious (Matt. 23, Luke 11 or John 8 after forgiving the woman caught in adultery), but on other occasions, like when he spoke to Nicodemus (John 3), he was gentle. We looked at one of these in the previous post when Jesus declared who He was, “before Abraham was I AM.” Note that on every occasion, he was in control and he stayed on topic. His attack was upon the sin that was being committed and in every instance and He always called for repentance.
Consider this from Jeremiah Johnson as you weigh the difference between tolerance and love:

“And although we’ve been called to confront the world, we need to do it in a godly way. We’re not to proudly parade our purity by arrogantly confronting the lost world with our spiritual supremacy. God did not rescue us from our spiritual darkness so we could live like the Pharisees.

“In the constant conflict with the world, humility is paramount. We need to always remember that the world opposes us not because of our own inherent goodness or our spiritual savvy. As John MacArthur explains, the world hates us because of Christ.” – Inviting Persecution.

Here is one last bit of scripture to help focus yourself on speaking the truth with love and being that sweet aroma to those being saved, but the stench of death for those who are perishing.

“… we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ…” Ephesians 4:14 & 15

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Alpha and Omega

The Alpha and Omega

“Most assuredly, I say to you,before Abraham was, I AM.

Those who believe that Jesus was always meek and tolerant, Politically Correct, if you will, need to look no further than the eighth chapter of John in order to see a completely different side to the Son of God. If you take into account who Jesus is and what His primary mission is and was, as was discussed in the previous post, however, it isn’t that hard to get a handle on the fact that Jesus Christ is the one and only WORTHY heir to the kingdom of God; not just the worthy heir who came along about two thousand years ago, teaching and doing a few scattered miracles, but the heir who has been present since the beginning of time.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8

Throughout the book of Revelation, this sentence is repeated over and over again. Do you think that it might be important? Jesus wanted John to clearly understand that all that he was witnessing in his vision had been something that He, Jesus, had been a part of since the beginning. By the way, those of you whose Greek is a little sketchy, Alpha and Omega is like the phrase that English speakers use to say, “from A to Z.” Jesus doesn’t end by saying that he is the Alpha and Omega, He wants it to be very clear that He is “the Beginning and the End,” both capitalized. He is not “a beginning and an end,” He is THE, the ONLY one or, shall we say the “superior” or “preeminent” one. If that explanation hadn’t been enough, our Lord goes one step further and spells it out pretty clearly “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” It baffles me how after those three phrases linked together in a single statement anyone can deny the fact that Jesus Christ was with God from the beginning of time. The disciple John even testifies to this fact about Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” – John 1:1-3

Why am I harping on this, you might say? I am harping on this because it speaks directly to the power of Jesus Christ. He is present within creation from the beginning as the powerful means by which everything was created. How does John refer to Jesus Christ? He refers to Him as the very power of God’s creation. Is that strong enough for you? Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher who walked around doing good works, being sweet to everybody, tolerating everything and singing Kumbaya. He was God, who became man in order to dwell among us so that He might be the One Worthy Lamb who would fulfill the law of God and undo the curse of sin and death that was brought upon mankind when Adam failed in the very beginning of human existence. He is the “Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” as Hebrews 12:2 puts it.

So, how did I connect that Jesus was the power of God in creation? Very simple, consider how God created. What is the phrase right before every single act of creation? “And God said…” In other words, God spoke and things came into being. When John calls Jesus the Word, again uppercase (even as it is translated from the original writing), he is referring to the fact that He was the very power of God in creation. Jesus, Himself, testified to that very same thing in one of the most profound declarations of His power in the eighth chapter of John, which is what was used to open this post.

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” – John 8:58

To get the full understanding of just how bold this statement was, you really need to understand the context in which it was presented; a context not unlike what we, ourselves, might hear today whenever we declare the power and authority of Jesus Christ over all things. The discussion came when the leaders of the Jews came to question Jesus’ authority. In essence, Jesus had called them out on their false witness, even to the point of calling them liars and son’s of Satan. Talk about stirring up a hornet’s nest. They, of course, appealed to their authority as sons of Abraham. In a very simple, yet profound statement Jesus leapt to a position of authority well above Abraham by saying “before Abraham was, I AM.”

Understand that the word I AM was the name of God. It was the same name that God gave to Moses when Moses asked who he should say it was that was sending him to Egypt to free the Israelites. Here it is:

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13 & 14.

Before we go any further, look back at the phrase in Revelation… “Who is and who was and who is to come.” It’s the same verb, “to be”; a verb that communicates existence. The significance of I AM, however goes well beyond that, especially when Jesus declares Himself to be I AM, because that is the name of God, Yahweh, that was forbidden to be spoken by the Jews. As a Jew, you could refer to God using any number of His names, but you were never to use the name Yahweh, which directly translated into I AM.
You could be killed for just saying God’s name. Can you imagine how livid the Jewish leaders were when Jesus not only spoke the name of God, but said that He actually “is” Yahweh. You don’t have to imagine. John spells it out in the next verse, verse 59 of John chapter eight. “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

The Truth Pisses People Off

Is there any wonder that Christians, true Christians, are so often attacked for speaking the truth? The truth is not comfy and cozy. The truth requires that people understand that Jesus Christ is preeminent over EVERYTHING, because HE IS! Where do you think the power to be able to heal the sick, the lame, deaf, the mute, the blind and even the dead came from? Who else can fix something better and more efficiently than the ONE WHO MADE IT to begin with? The same One; the same I AM, the same Alpha and Omega, the same Beginning and End who has the power to forgive sins, conquer death and is THE ONLY ONE WORTHY to open the scroll that lays out His inheritance, as we examined in the previous post.

Friends, why do we cower in fear when it comes to speaking the truth? We are joint heir, even brothers to the GREAT I AM. I submit to you that we will have that truth tested, heavily tested over the next several years. We are not going to be Politically Correct. You can already see it coming. You can already see the attacks that have come toward Christians. I have felt their sting for just trying to speak the truth concerning how God views homosexuality and abortion over and over again. From what authority do I speak? How dare I go contrary to the accepted principles of the day, after all, Jesus told us to love everybody and accept everybody as they are. I must be some right-wing religious nutcase, because anyone who really believed in the teachings of Jesus would never condemn those things. I’m sure that whenever you’ve stood up and declared the truth, you’ve heard similar things. We’ll move on to a discussion of Jesus’ teachings of love in the next post; something that I touched on in my book A Christian Response to Troubled Times. However, before we leave this one, I want to drop just one more bit of scripture on you. This one coming out of Revelation 22:13, the end of the Book.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What is the Most Powerful Creature of All Time?

What is the Most Powerful Creature of All Time?

The answer will surprise you.

You’ve probably already started to think of several viable candidates like a wolf, a lion, a Kodiak bear or an elephant. Perhaps you’ve considered creatures of the sea like the great white shark or the orca or maybe you’ve leaned toward prehistoric creatures like the saber-toothed cat, the woolly mammoth or the T-Rex. Push that to the back of your mind for a moment while we wander off track for a few minutes. I promise that I’ll return to the question in a moment, but first let me tell you a quick story.

When I was in college, my older brother and I went to the same university in Texas and were only a couple of years apart, so he would occasionally come to visit myself and some of his other friends that lived in the same dorm as I did. On one occasion, he had gotten in a rather heated discussion with another person who was in the common room of the dorm and he had run out of patience and decided to leave. The moment he walked out the door, the guy he’d been having the discussion with began to say some derogatory things about him. What he didn’t realize was that I was standing right behind him when he said them.

Chewing Nails and Spitting Buck Shot.

Those of you that know my brothers understand that either one of them can take care of themselves, those of you that don’t, will just have to take my word for it. 99.9 % of the time, I am easy going, but if you say or do anything against one of my brothers, I’m ready to chew nails and spit buck shot as this poor guy soon discovered. He backed down pretty quickly and retreated from me. When things calmed down, he later apologized and told me that he’d been afraid that I was going to rip his throat out. I told him that I was about to. He said he wished he had a brother like that.

What does that have to do with the most powerful creature of all time? I’ll get to that in a minute, but for the moment, I want to explain that I get the same urge to chew nails and spit buck shot when I hear how weak and watered down the world has made Jesus Christ. Did He teach us to be loving, kind, gentle, forgiving and peaceful? Yes, He did, but was He, Himself weak, tolerant of everything, eager to have peace at all costs and everybody’s patsy? Not hardly. However, that is what our world, in some cases our churches, have made Him out to be. Christians are even lectured about needing to be more accepting of and sensitive to those who are blatantly continuing in sin and looking for justification for it. After all, Jesus would have been tolerant of those things. Folks that is nothing more than worldly people trying to use and shape our Lord to further their own cause and it makes me want to… you already guessed it.

Jesus Christ is far from weak.

Let’s assume for a moment that you and I had the power of God and were able to do whatever we commanded. If you and I were led into the Sanhedrin and put on trial before the Jewish leaders of the day, we might have used our superior knowledge of the scriptures and profound wisdom to argue our innocence and win our case. That’s not what Jesus did. If you had been led into that courtyard where the Roman soldiers pressed a crown of thorns on your head and then proceeded to mock you as they whipped you, you, having the power of God, might have snapped your fingers and they’d have all fallen away from you dead. If I had been dragging that cross up the hill with crowds of people on both sides of me calling out insults, I might have spoken a word and watched them all fall over dead. Even while hanging on the cross, if I had heard the challenge, “if you’re really the son of God, come down off the cross and we’ll worship you,” I would have hopped down and said, “how do you like them apples?” But Jesus didn’t do any of those things.

Jesus was singularly resolute in carrying out one purpose.

Jesus was singularly focused on His mission. Beyond His teachings, beyond His healing, beyond all of His great miracles and prophesies and fulfillment of prophesies, He was resolutely focused on giving His life to defeat sin and death. You see, Jesus didn’t use His power the way that you and I would have, because He had a much larger goal in mind. That goal was to defeat sin and death so that He could transform the lives of those who would be joint heirs with Him in the coming kingdom. Jesus gritted His teeth and held back the power of God because He was focused on transforming YOUR life. But He wasn’t and isn’t weak at all. In the next several weeks we’ll explore just how strong He really is. But first, we need to return to the question that I posed.

What is the most powerful creature of all time?

By now, you probably have formed your best answer. Well, I’ll bet that you didn’t come up with the one that I’m about to give you. In fact, if I gave you the answer right away, you’d think I had completely lost my marbles, so let me help support my answer with a few passages of scripture from the 5th chapter of Revelations.

John is standing before the throne of God in his vision and he is reporting what he sees there:

“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” – Revelation 5:1-3.

Understand that in John’s day, a scroll like John is describing was a contract of the greatest importance, thus, the reason for sealing it seven times. Contracts of this nature were usually wills or deeds. So, from what we understand of history, the image that John is describing for us is God holding out a will or a deed to pass along to whomever was worthy to open it. Let’s move forward a few verses.

Who is worthy?

“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” – Revelation 5:6 & 7

Are you ready to change your answer yet? It was sort of a trick question to begin with, but, as you might now understand, The Lamb is the most powerful creature of all time, though, technically, He’s not really a creature, but the Son of the Living God.

The Lamb of God is the most powerful creature of all time.

Friends, it is this same Lamb of God who will take that scroll and claim the world as His kingdom. That same Lamb of God who is also referred to as the Lion of Judah who will come riding on a white horse with a sword to reclaim His inheritance. This same Jesus Christ who was mocked, beaten and crucified has fulfilled that singular purpose for which He focused Himself and has defeated sin and death. Because He held back His power and did not use it to destroy those around Him, He made it possible for His Holy Spirit to come. When His Holy Spirit came, He came with the power to transform our lives and to make us new creations; even heirs along with Him in His coming kingdom. Folks, that is real power.

Sadly, however, we don’t really get it. We don’t really hold onto that power and see it move through our lives transforming us with the same power that is able to overcome not only sin and death, but to overcome and conquer the entire world. We wander about in weakness, fear, confusion and uncertainty, because we have a tendency to want to follow along behind the politically correct and weak Jesus that the world places before us. We “have a form of godliness, but we deny the power,” as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:5. We fail to see the miracle of our rebirth in Christ and we fail to understand that we are already conquerors.

Over the coming weeks, by the Grace of God, I earnestly pray that we will better understand who Jesus is and grasp hold of the true power of the Most Powerful Creature of All Time; the Worthy Lamb of God.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I awakened this morning with this thought weighing heavy on my mind. Initially, I was instantly aware of my own ungrateful attitude toward the 1000s of things that God provides on a regular basis. If that wasn't bad enough, there have been times when I've shown my ungratefulness to an even greater degree by expecting that I ought to be paid better for my work or that I deserve more than some of the idiots who are out there rolling in cash. 1 Timothy 6:6 says that "GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN." A statement that is buttressed by two others...

This one which precedes it... "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that GODLINESS IS A MEANS OF GAIN. From such withdraw yourself." - 1 Timothy 3:3-5.

And this one which follows... "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these WE SHALL BE CONTENT." - 1Timothy 6:7,8

None of us are ever ENTITLED to anything more than we are blessed to receive. As Paul warns Timothy of the false teacher who preaches that GODLINESS IS A MEANS OF GAIN, it is one of many very clear manifestations or indications of erroneous doctrine. Consider contrasting that with GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN and WE SHALL BE CONTENT.

To look on godliness as a means of gain and to take on the accompanying attitude of entitlement directly counter's God's truth. Worse yet, when we grumble against that which the Lord has provided, it is equal to slapping Him in the face. Ask yourself if God is deserving of that blow and be, not only grateful, but content with what He has provided.

Dear friends... I am prayerfully considering writing a blog that deals with more than 30 years worth of studying that I have done concerning the seeds of destruction that have led our world to the place where we now stand and the medium in which those seeds have taken root.

The problems of our world go well beyond the political realm and are found within the attitudes of individuals, even you and I. In fact, I want to get completely away from the political side of things (God help me) and focus on what is truly important. I feel like I'm being drawn in this direction and directed to begin steering clear of many of the things that I have been engaging in. I believe that it is a better use of my time edifying and building up my friends, family, neighbors and all who might come in contact with me than it is to continue to hammer away at the injustices.