Saturday, November 28, 2015

God Never Made A Calendar

God Never Made A Calendar

Did you know that the calendar that we follow has nothing to do with God’s original plan? God did not have names for the days of the week, nor did he have names for the months of the year. That’s why in the bible you see dates like this one from Genesis 7:11, which is only an example of the numerous dates that are given throughout the bible. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”

Additionally, are you aware that most of the days of the week and months of the year of our current calendar are either named after a pagan god or an emperor of Rome? God never intended for us to be ruled by a calendar. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m telling everyone to toss their calendars out, though sometimes I’d like to. Let’s take a look at how God, in His law, actually intended that our days, weeks, months and years were to be carried out.

Let’s begin by the marking of a day.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. – Genesis 1:14 & 15

In creating the sun, moon and stars, God developed his system of marking time and also a system of providing signs and seasons in the heavens. A day and a night were to pass in order to count a day. When seven days passed, the final day, the Sabbath was to be the end of a week and was to be the day of rest. Be careful with this one, because it was not only a stumbling block to the Jews, but is also a stumbling block to many Christians and False Religions. Let’s continue forward before we deal with this, because it will be easier to see how this stumbling block affects us today.

We’ve defined a day and a week, but how was a month to be counted? A month, which is obvious, was the full cycle of the moon from its first crescent to its final crescent. Pretty simple, right? Well, no exactly. This is where it becomes interesting. The first crescent might appear on the 29th day after the preceding one or it might appear on the 30th day after the preceding one. No one ever knew for sure. They had watchmen appointed to look for the appearance of the first crescent and it was so important that the sighting of the crescent had to be confirmed by a second witness who also saw it. Why was it so important? It was important, because the following morning after sighting the first crescent would be the first day of the week and the first day of the month. The Sabbath would then fall on the seventh day, the fourteenth day, the twenty-first day and the twenty eighth day.

A year, was, obviously, twelve cycles of the moon. There wasn’t a set number of days to a year, just a set number of months.

SO WHAT! Right? So, our calendar is way off from God’s calendar. What difference does that make? Only two really. The first difference is to destroy any idea that we, in the modern age, might have concerning our keeping of the Law of the Sabbath. Some want you to keep the law of the Sabbath on Sunday and others on Saturday, but the reality of the situation is that it is impossible for us to truly keep the Law of the Sabbath, because the true Sabbath, on God’s calendar could fall on any day of our modern week, because it would be based on the cycles of the moon, which often begin mid-week.

The second difference is to point out that God has been, is and will always be in control of the cycles of the sun and moon. 

We take for granted that tomorrow will come in exactly the same way that it did today; more than likely it will, but if you consider that the first sliver of the moon comes when God determines it, then you have a picture of what God truly intended for us.

In reality, just like with the people of Israel, our week, month and year begin and end as God determines. You see, God never intended to create the world and then just turn it loose to spin until time was up. Neither did He intend for us to be born, turned loose and allowed to live our days without His hand being right in the middle of the mix on a daily and weekly basis. The best example of this comes from Exodus 16.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” – Exodus 16:4 & 5

God not only wanted to test the faithfulness of the people of Israel, but He was also making it very clear to them that they would be provided for daily, if they would look toward God for their provision instead of trusting in themselves.

We now live in an age where something far greater than manna is being provided for us daily, and yet, we continue to lean on our own understanding and trust in our own wisdom and strength for daily living.

Jesus Christ is both the manna that feeds us and our Sabbath rest. He is the fulfillment of the law of the Sabbath as well as every other requirement given. Rather than finding any justification within ourselves, whether it is good things that we do or by keeping certain laws, we MUST find our justification in Christ and Christ alone.

Brothers and Sisters, the days before us are rapidly becoming less in number and we need to be finding ourselves in Jesus Christ in every single one of them. Our days, our weeks, our months and our years need to be marked by the light of His glory that shines day and night. Therefore, look to that which builds up your faith and encourage those things in your families and friends.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 & 24.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Posts

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled posts with a special post that has been weighing heavily on my mind for several months.

No one Knows the Day and the Hour

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:36 & 37

To the contemporaries of Jesus the words “no one knows the day and the hour,” had special significance to them. The first is related to the marriage traditions of Jesus’ day, which is extremely significant to Christians, due to the fact that we are the bride of Christ. The second is related to the Feast of Trumpets, which is the ultimate fulfillment of the Jewish Feasts which God commanded Israel to follow. Though the two events come in proximity, they are not the same where the fulfillment of the end of times is concerned. Let me explain each in turn.

In the Jewish marriage custom, a man became betrothed or engaged to a woman and made a formal announcement of his intension to marry her. That’s not particularly different from what we typically do today, however, there is a difference in the planning and timing of the actual wedding ceremony.

In our culture, after a couple announces their engagement, they usually set a date and, usually, the bride starts planning out where and how the wedding is going to carry out, what everybody is going to wear, what colors will be the theme, etc. Invitations are sent out for a specific day and everybody knows exactly what day and hour the ceremony is going to take place. Not so in Jewish custom of Jesus’ day. (Yes, I know, every day is Jesus’ day, but what I’m referring to is the contemporary time when He was walking among us in the flesh.)

In Jesus’ day, after the bridegroom made his engagement announcement, he returned to his father’s house to build an addition onto the house. It was to this addition on his father’s house where he would bring his new bride. Jesus uses this parallel when He is speaking to His disciples and consequently, His church, in John 14:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. – John 14:1-3

Returning to the rest of the parallel to the wedding, it is critical to understand that it is neither the bridegroom nor the bride who sets the day and hour of the wedding in Jewish custom, but the father. Basically, the father would inspect the addition on his house and make certain that it was ready before he gave his final approval. Once the father of the bridegroom gave his final approval, then the bridegroom would go out and blow his shofar (trumpet) and that would be the signal for the bride to come and meet him.

The two would meet somewhere between their respective houses and then go to the house of the bridegroom’s father for the ceremony. Because the father is the only one who can approve and announce when the proper time has come, consequently, “no one knows the day and the hour… except the father.”

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17

At what point in the final days this will take place is open to speculation, however, it is my belief that it will take place before the tribulation, but only for one reason, which is found in the 5th Chapter of Revelations:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ – Revelations 5:11 & 12

I don’t think this is a literal number of 100,000,000 plus 10,000, but instead the best exaggeration of the numbers that John could see in his vision. Basically, there is a massive number of people and angels, which tells me that the saints have already been caught up to heaven. Now this scene takes place before the opening of the seven seals of judgment, which is to touch off the tribulation.

There is another reason that I believe this to be true and that is because I believe that the prophesy of Daniel is specific to the people of Israel, thus the last week of years, the seventieth week, will apply only to the nation of Israel. Further discussion of this is not really necessary at this point, so, let’s shift gears for a moment and focus on Messiah and His fulfillment of the law of God where it relates to Israel.

Though we celebrate Jesus’ birth in December, it is much more likely that he was born in the first week of spring; the first month (known as Nissan) and likely the first day of God’s calendar year, which is in the spring. Now, before you start arguing for traditional Christmas, which was actually connected to pagan celebrations around the winter solstice by the Catholic Church, let’s look at several factors. The first and, to me, the most telling one is the fact that there were “shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.” – Luke 2:8. This is something they would not be doing in the middle of winter when the flocks were shut up in the stables at night.

Those of you who are familiar with lambing and calving season will probably understand this better than most. It was the time for lambing, which took place in the spring time, just like it does today. When this time comes, today’s ranchers, just like their ancient counterparts watch over their flocks and herds diligently, day and night. I know this, because I used to do this on my father’s ranch in Colorado.

Now, if you draw the parallel of Jesus being “the lamb of God,” this begins to make even more sense, however, that’s only the beginning. There are four more, very significant, parallels to this which coincide with aspects of the spring feasts which God commanded Israel to keep in Leviticus 24.

I’m going to run through these briefly, because I am working toward the second point of the second instance where Jesus’ contemporaries would have understood the phrase “no one knows the day and the hour,” rather than making a major exposition of this parallel. If you want a more detailed explanation, I would suggest that you watch the following video at the following link:

When you read the gospels, it is very obvious that Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension all took place in the time frame of the spring feasts that were laid out in Leviticus 23. Those are the first three of seven: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The next on the calendar occurs 50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath of the year. That feast is the Feast of Weeks, which coincides, precisely, with the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first came upon the church. I think that it is pretty easy to draw a parallel that the last, nearly 2000 years, we have been in the growing season and awaiting the time of the harvest. It’s not hard to connect that Jesus’ fulfillment of the last three feasts of God’s year which come in the fall: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Now, I’ve come to the second reference to “no one knows the day and hour.” The Feast of Trumpets had no definitive day, because the beginning of each month for the Jews occurred whenever the watchmen saw the first sliver of the new moon. That could be anywhere from the 28th day of the month up until the 30th day of the month. The Feast of Trumpets is unique, because its beginning is marked for that moment when that first sliver of light reflecting off of the moon is witnessed by those who were appointed to watch the sky and then blow their trumpets to signal the beginning, not only of the seventh month, but of the Feast of Trumpets. Therefore, Jesus was also making reference to that “no one knows the day and the hour.”

Essentially, Jesus’ fulfillment of the final three feasts with judgment, atonement and dwelling or tabernacling (or dwelling) with God will follow on the heels of that trumpet call. Reread Matthew 24 through the filter of what I’ve just shared with you, because it helps bring a better sense of order to both Daniel and John’s prophesies.

Allow me to toss out a few indicators that the time for both of those trumpet calls, whenever they occur, is drawing very near. The first, actually, comes from the 24th Chapter of Matthew that we have already been examining.

Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. – Matthew 24:32-34

Summer would be the season when the fig tree blossoms and begins to bear fruit for the coming harvest, right? It would follow along perfectly after the Feast of Weeks, when the first fruits of the early harvest were gathered in. Think of your summer garden as you reflect on this.

Understanding that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel, there ought to be little mystery to believers when they read this passage. The fig tree was restored in 1948, which is certainly significant. “This generation, which sees the restoration of the fig tree (paraphrasing), will not pass before all things take place.” Just using Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as an example, who was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv and fought in the Six Days War in 1965, which recouped all of the land that God had promised to Abraham, we begin to see how very near the final day of the Lord is. Netanyahu is symbolic of that generation who came at the same time that the fig tree was restored.

There are several other indicators that the day is drawing very near throughout the epistles:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to 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 creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3 & 4

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 2 Timothy 3:1-7

One can certainly argue that these things have existed throughout the intervening time since these words were written, however, in the past 30 to 50 years, we have seen a steady rise in the acceptance of the attitudes that Paul warns Timothy about. Television, movies, music and literature have steadily pushed back the boundaries of the accepted norms of morality to the point that those vices that are listed above, to mainstream society, really are thought to be bad or evil, but acceptable and cherished behaviors.

The headstrong attitude of non-believers (which sadly enough tends to trickle over into our churches), the mockery of Christ’s second coming and the fact that our leaders are crying out for peace and safety (and doing everything that they can to bring it about, even establishing and crying out for a one world government), are enough for us to begin to consider how seriously close our Lord’s second coming is. So, what are we to do? How are we to prepare ourselves for the Day of the Lord? In Luke’s parallel account of Matthew 24, he records Jesus’ words, which are to be our guide in these final days:

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” - Luke 21:34-36

Brothers and sisters, we as the Bride of Christ, ought to be preparing ourselves to be presented to our bridegroom. If you take a moment to consider the diligence with which a bride prepares herself for her wedding day, it ought to spur you into a different attitude concerning your own preparation. A bride doesn’t prepare on her wedding day in the same manner that she does on every other day. She is much more focused on looking and being her best for the moment when she is to be presented to her groom. Looking at the words of Jesus above, drawing a parallel to the preparation of a bride for her wedding and comparing those two things with your daily life, can you honestly say that you are truly prepared for that Day? Are you “watching and praying that you will stand worthy” or are you “weighed down with the cares of life?”

Whether you believe the rapture will come before the tribulation, during the tribulation or after, one thing is entirely certain, the cares of life and those things that weigh us down, are about to become of much less importance than we have previously given them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crazier Things Have Happened!

Crazier Things Have Happened.

Why are God’s people hiding in a hole? Why are God’s people trying so hard not to stand out? Our churches today tend to try to blend in with the community around them so that they aren’t noticed. Blending in is okay to an extent, but not whenever it comes to either watering down the truth or disregarding it altogether.

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” - Judges 6:11 & 12

God found Gideon hiding in a hole to thresh his wheat. He wasn’t exactly hero material and yet, God knows our hearts when He calls us. To be fair, we have to understand that God’s judgment had come upon Israel and He had allowed the Midianites to prevail over Israel as a means of punishment.

Consider this conversation between Gideon and God in Judges 6:14-18:

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

 And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”

 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.”

 And He said, “I will wait until you come back.”

When Gideon came back with the meal that he had prepared, he was directed to set it out on a rock and the Angel of the Lord reached out His staff and touched it and it was consumed by fire. The angel then directed him to tear down the altar of Baal and build an altar to God in its place. That, of course, didn’t set well with the leaders of the community and when they found out that Gideon had torn down the altar of Baal, they came to the house of Joash and demanded that Gideon be brought out and be put to death. Look at how Joash responds:

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” – Judges 6:31

If you’ve read the story of Gideon, you know that he went on to test whether what God was asking him to do was real or not by putting out fleeces each night and they were either dry or wet in contrast to the ground around them. Gideon then put together an army, reducing it over and over again until it was down to only 300 men. God directed him to divide the men into three companies and he gave each of them a trumpet, a torch and a clay pot. Gideon’s army surrounded the camp while they were sleeping. At the command, they blew their trumpets, called out “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” and then broke the clay pots so that the torches lit up the night. In the confusion of sleep, the Midianites slew each other.

God’s power can bring victory in some of the craziest ways, simply because God isn’t limited by the same things that limit us. At this point I want to turn back to the questions with which I opened this post.

Why are God’s people hiding in a hole? Why are God’s people trying so hard not to stand out?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by how shallow those carrying the label of Christian have become when I observed a discussion concerning whether or not it was okay for Christians to take part in Halloween celebrations. The discussion mostly focused around two issues, those opposed to it and those who were justifying their participation through freedom in Christ. What does that have to do with Gideon? A great deal actually, if you consider how Gideon destroying the altar of Baal upset the community around him. After all, that altar wasn’t hurting anybody. Those who were true Israelites still knew the law of God and they didn’t participate in the spiritual worship of Baal, they just went and hung out for the fun and community fellowship. What did it hurt anyway?

In most instances, one could argue that Halloween is harmless fun. I think that the real reason that some Christians try to justify participating in such celebrations is because they want to blend in and not be ridiculed by others in the community. However, I think that we are directed to something more important than entertaining ourselves or those in our community.

We must understand two things and do two things.

We are called to tear down the altars of Baal and we are called to drive the Midianites out of our land. To do that, I believe that we need to understand two things and then do two things. First we must understand that “we are mighty men and women of valor” who have the Lord with us. Second, we must understand that the things of this world have little value to us and have no power over us; “let them plead for themselves.” Once we understand these two things, what must we do in response to them?

First, like Gideon, we need to test things against the word of God. I’m not proposing laying out fleeces, literally, but I am proposing that we take God’s word and use it as a guide for discerning what things are good and edifying and what things are destructive to our growth and the growth of those around us.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

Pastor John MacArthur who leads a Christian ministry called Grace To You, created a blog series around 1 Corinthians 10:23 that is extremely helpful for giving us a set of 7 E’s that will help us to discern which activities we ought to participate in and which ones might not be beneficial to us. In brief, we ought to ask ourselves these questions:

Edification: Will this activity produce spiritual benefit?

Enslavement: Will this activity lead to spiritual bondage?

Exposure: Will this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?

Esteem: Will this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?

Evangelism: Will this activity further the cause of the gospel?

Ethics: Will this activity violate my conscience?

Exaltation: Will this activity bring glory to God?

– (John MacArthur, Glorify God In the Gray Areas)

Secondly, we need to trust that the glory and power that indwells us in Christ Jesus is more powerful than any other force in history. Just like in the case of Gideon’s army defeating the Midianites in what is, likely, the most peculiar battle in human history, we must not look to what WE think is the way to go about defeating our enemies, but let God do His work through us, because “the gates of hell shall not stand against us.” (Matthew 16:18)

Live today and everyday as mighty men and women of valor, trusting in the strength and power of our Lord, even when it goes against whatever those around you seem to think is right and even if what you’re directed to do seems crazy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Fools Might Do!

What Fools Might Do! 

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

The sickness of self-determination or self-justification reaches well beyond our modern times, but is an epidemic in our day. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that a person ought to give every bit of energy and talent that they possess to any endeavor. In many ways, hard work cleanses the soul and keeps us from most sins, however, it is the attitude of “I did it my way,” which becomes our downfall.

After God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, He brought them to the Promised Land. Numbers 14 gives the account of what happened the first time that they arrived in order to take possession of the land. All but two of the spies were terrified of entering into the land because, they reported, it was a land of giants and they believed that they would surely be destroyed by them. It was because of their rebellion and their refusal to trust in God, even after having seen how He had delivered them out of Egypt, that caused God to turn them back into the wilderness where they were to wander for forty years. Though God refused to allow that generation to enter the land, He remained faithful to His promise and after the forty years had passed, he brought them back for another try.

One of those two spies who had not been afraid of possessing the land was Joshua, who was later given command over Israel. You know the story related in Joshua, chapter 6.

And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” – Joshua 6:2-5

Consider how foolish this must have appeared to those who watched each day from atop the walls of Jericho. There is no doubt that as each of the six days passed, there was a great deal of taunting and ridicule taking place from atop the walls. No doubt, even within the ranks of those who marched, there was some reservations about whether what they were doing was actually going to deliver the city of Jericho into their hands. After all, how was marching around the city and blowing on trumpets going to win a battle?

Their mothers and fathers had witnessed how God had led them out of Egypt, some of those who marched around the wall might have been very small when that happened, but many of them would have never seen the mighty hand of God at work, though, of course, that hand fed them every day while they were in the wilderness. We’ll look at that story another time. However, they obediently carried out the order that had been given. The result?

So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. – Joshua 6:20 & 21

Great story, right? We love to hear those Sunday School stories, don’t we? But do we take them to heart? Do we truly get the message that God communicated through this battle or do we consider such things foolishness? Do we just look on this as a nice little story from another place and time that has little bearing upon the “here and now?”

I’m about to step on some toes, but rest assured that my own are being mashed right along with yours. The problem with Christians today is not that we don’t have a lack of fun and joy in Christ, but we do lack a sense of the battle that we are facing. We lack an understanding of the fact that the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the sin in our lives is readily available. We lack an understanding of the fact that through the power of the Jesus Christ, the gates of hell cannot stand against us. We lack focus for the battle. We lack ferocity for defending God’s Word. We lack diligence and discipline for gearing up for battle and stepping forward with the confidence to engage the enemy.

We have no problem focusing on the love and freedom that are found in Christ, but run away to hide from the sharp cutting truth of the other attributes that He asks of us: holiness, righteousness and discernment of truth. We tend to seek self-justification by appealing to Jesus’ attributes of love, but tend not to appeal quite so eagerly to His calls to repentance and turning away from error.

We have no problem when it comes to searching for ways to justify ourselves through the scriptures whenever we want to do things that tend to fall in those “grey areas”, but we’re hard pressed to grasp the concept that GOD is in command. Consequently, we tend to be more like the first generation of the Israelites who see the giants in the land, rather than those who were fed by the manna from heaven for forty years.

The time is very near when the frivolous things into which we put our greatest efforts will stand in very pale comparison against glorying in Christ and depending upon Him to provide the courage and strength to put one foot in front of the other, to stand, to crawl or to even lift up our heads. When that day is upon us and we are being tested to our very limits, where then will the concerns of today be? Upon whose power will we rely?

To the world around us, our faith is foolishness and we are not only going to be ridiculed for it, but we are likely going to lose our freedom, perhaps even our lives for defending it. Therefore, it is time that we answer with full faith the challenge which Joshua issued to the Israelites in Joshua 24.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14 & 15

Friday, November 6, 2015

I Ain’t Afeared a Nothin’

I Ain’t Afeared a Nothin’

Goliath had laid out his challenge to the armies of Israel. He’d stepped forward and taunted the army of God, making light of the fact that no one among the Israelites had the courage to step forward and face him. You’ve heard the story. It is even used as a metaphor for how the “little guy” or the “underdog” is able to take down the giant. Though this scene has lived through the ages and is common in every household, what’s really behind the story?

This scrawny, smart-mouthed kid who just came in off the ranch to bring his brothers some food and to find out what’s going on for the old man has no experience at making war. He hasn’t gone through any formal training. He doesn’t even have any armor. This boy, of whom God boasts, is a man after His own heart is completely ill equipped and unprepared to do battle with anyone, let alone Goliath. David, however, has something much more important.

David had Godly Courage.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”  Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” – 1 Samuel 17:34-37

David was incensed that anyone would challenge the army of God in that way. He saw the challenge as being against God Himself and he had no intention of letting Goliath get away with that. Notice, however, that he didn’t say, “I’ll go out there and do my best and maybe I’ll get in a lucky shot.” He was absolutely confident that God had his back.

Remember that God had already ordered Samuel to secretly anoint David as the next King of Israel back in 1 Samuel 16 when God had had it with Saul. “Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:12 & 13.

David had Godly Confidence.

When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you, you ought not to have fear of anything. David had no idea that God had sent him to the Valley of Elah for a special purpose that day. He was just doing as his father, Jesse, had asked him to do and was minding his own business, but his hackles stood up whenever he heard Goliath defying God. Folks, I get like this when I hear people, organizations, government leaders and enemies defying God too. Some of you do as well. But before we step into battle, we have to know where our true strength is coming from. Watch what Saul and his servants tried to do to prepare David for battle.

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. – 1 Samuel 17:38 & 39

What men think is appropriate for taking on a great battle is often times an encumbrance to serving God’s purpose. Saul was a big dude. He wasn’t Goliath size, but he certainly dwarfed David, so putting his armor on David really had the effect of just weighing him down and making him awkward. He probably even looked silly when he tried to walk in it. David had bourn their fussing over him with patience, but when it came right down to it, he knew that he couldn’t wear that armor.

At this point, most of us would have just gone home. We would have shrugged and said, “Well, I tried. I was ready to do it, but since I couldn’t wear the armor and couldn’t be prepared properly, then I guess God closed that door. Maybe He was just testing me to see if I would do it. But it’s obvious that I can’t, so that’s that.”

David had Godly Commitment.

David took his staff and his sling and stopped at the brook to pick out five smooth stones. Why select five stones? The number of stones, as far as I know, wasn’t significant other than it wasn’t one stone. By picking up five stones, David was committing himself to a battle. He didn’t have the mind-set that he might only get one shot and he had no idea how the battle was going to play out, but he was ready for a drawn-out affair. He got his five stones and headed out to face Goliath.

When Goliath saw David he was insulted. The boy was hardly worthy of doing battle with someone as great as he was. He said, in paraphrase, “You are coming to me with a stick like I’m a dog? Fine, bring it on, I’ll feed your carcass to the buzzards and the coyotes.” David’s response tells us that David’s commitment was a Godly one.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

You know how the story plays out. This is the coming out of Israel’s second greatest king. He had his ups and downs, however, David was God’s chosen one and it was from his lineage that He sent His greatest king. But David wasn’t boasting in his own skill with a slingshot, I don’t think anyone can boast in their skill with a sling shot. In my experience, one shot out of five, had David had to use all five stones, would have been a pretty good fete.

David’s boast was in the Lord.

I have purposely laid out this series of blog posts beginning with the power and preeminence of Jesus Christ, because I want everyone who reads these words to understand that my own confidence and my own boasting is not in myself, but in Jesus Christ. I have little more than an inaccurate slingshot. I have no credentials with which to impress and I have no particularly profound wisdom. I’m nothing more than a man who grew up on a ranch out in the mountains of Colorado. However, I, like David “ain’t afeared of nothin’,” because my courage, confidence and commitment aren’t to the things of the world, but come from the Spirit of the Living God, even in the Lamb of God who was slain.

Those who know Christ and have His Holy Spirit living in them have that same power and more if they will call upon it. As days of great testing and trouble come upon Christians; are already upon many, remember in whose army we really fight. Put your confidence in the Lord. Make your commitment to the Lord. Be found courageous in the Lord when your day of battle approaches.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Warrior or Lamb?

Warrior or Lamb?

Some of my greatest inspirations come from dreams. I will typically awaken from a dream or have a thought enter my head as the first thought of the day. After my morning study period, they either take root or get discarded. The idea to begin writing this blog has taken root several times and began in several stages, but let me tell you of two of the most decisive ones that truly got a hold of me.

Please understand that I don’t believe that these are great visions with any meaning to anyone outside of the Lord working inside of me, so please don’t read anything into these. I have awakened on several occasions with the image of a mother wolf, a mother bear or a mother lion in my dream right before awakening. Two of these, the wolf and the bear, are images that have been used to describe parts of my nature, I even wrote a novel called MacGregor’s Wolf: Lessons of Time, which is, in many ways, an allegory of my struggles. So, these images were there to specifically communicate to me something of my nature.

I am a warrior. It has always been a part of my personality and who I am. I was made without fear, or at least a lessoned sense of fear. Needless to say, when not kept in check, my fearlessness has gotten me into to trouble and caused a lot of problems in my life. Seeing the images of those animals, who are known for their ferocity in my dreams, initially, made me even bolder and more eager for the fight.

What I discovered, however, was that I was beginning to cast pearls before swine. What do I mean by that? Basically, I was attacking and enjoining battles that were a waste of my time and energy. Those battles were not only leaving me weary, but they were making me walk away harboring anger. That anger would lead me to rebellion and hardness. And then God started to open something up to me through His word, which began to bring me back under control again.

For thirty years, I have studied humanistic philosophies and the damage that they have been doing to our world for more than half a century. In reality, they have been doing damage since the beginning of time, however, since the 1960s they seemed to have begun to accelerate in intensity. Along with those studies, I have studied the scriptures and a very select few teachers who divide the entire word of God in a way that is consistent with the scriptures. So, I have been thoroughly prepared for battle. However, consider the following scripture:

“God hath chosen, not many noble, not many mighty in the world, but those who are weak, that he might make ashamed such as are strong.” - 1 Corinthians 1:25

Does a lion, a wolf or a bear fit into that passage? You’d have to manipulate things a great deal to force them to fit within it. Consider this passage as well, the one, which I used to begin this blog series:

“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… 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 5:1-3; 6 & 7

The first blog that I wrote was purposely focused on demonstrating how the slain Lamb of God is the most worthy and most powerful heir of God’s kingdom, because that has to be the beginning point of a warrior’s charge. You see, I am only a fool with a big mouth and lots of aggression apart from the power of the Holy Spirit of the slain Lamb of God. I’m just a noisy, snarling and snapping wolf, a grunting and growling bear or a roaring lion. But in those characteristics, I will only “be made ashamed.”

The key of the great warriors of the Old Testament, was not their own strength, but the strength of the Lord living and working within them, because ultimately, the battle belongs to the Lord. Hebrews 11:32-34 says:

“For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

Scripture also tells us that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." – Ephesians 6:12. In the context of this passage, we are told to put on the full armor of God in order to engage in this heavenly battle. We begin with knowing that the power to be the warrior that God wants us to be can only be found in the Lamb of God.

Moving forward for the next several weeks, we are going to have a look at the great warriors of the Old Testament, not as Sunday School Bible Stories, but in order to examine where the true power for those warriors to do battle had come from, how they allowed themselves to be used and, in some cases, how they failed to use the power given to them to do the Lord’s work. It is my sincere hope that these posts will strengthen us toward the great work that lies ahead and help us to focus our battle in the right direction and for the right reasons.