Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Virtue of Purity

The biblical symbol of the narrow road has come to mind again this week. Yesterday's thread about how the church should respond to professing believers living together outside of marriage brought it home. One facebook friend took offense at the thought that anyone would think of confronting those in the church 'living in sin.' And another suggested that each instance has to be assessed as there may be mitigating circumstances that justify fornication. Another compared the sin of fornication to lying. 

Yet, sins of sexual impurity for the Spirit-filled believer is more grievous to the Holy Spirit living within us because that sin directly impacts His presence. 

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” - 1 Cor 6:16-20

The narrow path lies somewhere between license and liberty. On one hand, legalism creeps into the church and it is a very cruel task master. I've seen some funnymentalist churches that enforce strict dress codes and shepherding groups that govern over people's personal lives. Today's most popular churches though are the opposite error: culture clubs where anything goes and all are welcome, same-sex couples too, in the name of freedom and emergent liberty. Again, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Getting back into balance is where truth and love come together.
As sheep scattered all over the planet, living together in harmony and mutual accountability is not even possible. There is no physical community of believers in cyberspace. Loneliness is a real issue for scattered sheep. We can't even break bread together and share the LORD's supper.

Jesus' words have really hit home with me lately when He said, "He who does not gather with Me scatters." I'm praying about ways we can gather - at least once a year and meet each other. Please keep me in prayer on this. The sheep of God's hands need to assemble all the more as we see the Day approaching.

Keep on the lookout!

"Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. " - 1 John 3:7-11

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 John 1:8

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Led By the Spirit

Do some apologists tie the hands of God? I'm reading a lot of online literature recently, mostly from the Reformed side of the church, that the Bible, humanly understood and exegeted, is how we come to the truth with no divine assistance needed. In other words, God has done all He is going to do since the canon was closed two millennium ago.

I think this is an extreme reaction to charismaniacs who claim that God is doing a new thing and manifesting in their meetings by way of glory clouds, gold dust, angel gems, oil dripping from ceiling, fire anointings, slaying people in the spirit, etc. 

But kicking the Holy Spirit out of the church is not the solution to such lunacy. When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He wasn't addressing merely the first century church, but the church throughout the generations until His coming for us.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." - John 14:16-17

Those who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and nourished daily by the Word of God are immunized from following the voice of a stranger or mesmerized by the devil's tricks and sleight of hand. They are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are not citizens of this earth or under the rule of the god of this age. We are sealed, not soaked.

We know Jesus and recognize the attributes of God versus the carnal manifestations of the antichrist who seduces those in this wicked generation who are seeking after signs. When something is claimed to be supernatural, we can test those things to see if they line up with His nature and purpose. We discern by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who quickens our spirits and brings the living Word alive to us. 

By making this biblical claim, those who only have head knowledge will call us mystics. That is a wrong definition of the word. A mystic uses spiritual disciplines to yoke up witih the divine. A Spirit-filled believer is a child of God and hears His voice. Those who are not attuned to His voice now sure won't be when they are dead:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." - John 5:25

Don't let anyone quench the Spirit in your life. And don't be deceived by the devil's tricky counterfeits. This is the fine line of the narrow way -- stick with it and avoid decoys.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - Heb.4:12

"Then He said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.'" - Luke 21:10-15

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Day of the LORD

The question a song asks is "How great is our God?" 

We can get a clue by the size of the universe. In fact, we have a better grasp of His creation today than they did in Bible times. We have Hubble and other modern-day telescopes. Astronomers today say, "While estimates among different experts vary, an acceptable range is between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies"

Quoting the wisest man that ever lived, "But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him?" 2Chr 2:6

So our God is bigger than the Universe -- that is a humbling picture when our entire planet is the speck, and its inhabitants don't show up on any picture of the universe. 

Knowing how great our God is should bring us to our knees before Him, considering that His judgment upon sin is nearer than when we first believed, as is our redemption. For some professing Christians, even some obsessed with watching end times news, that Day will be darkness if they fool themselves by "sinning all the more that grace may abound."

"Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD,
For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you?
It will be darkness and not light;
...Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light,
Even gloom with no brightness in it?" - Amos 5:18,20

In the same context looking at the approach of the Day of the LORD, as God looks down upon all the gatherings today, could this be what He thinks of most of them?

"I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps." - Amos 5:21,23

While we are on our knees today, a wise thing we could ask of God is, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." - Ps. 139:23-24

"For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified." - 2 Cor 13:4-6

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Heavy Heart

Sometimes it seems like Jesus is so far away. Looking around at the turmoil in the world and conflicts in life, the longing I have for His glorious return is tangible. I can't escape the sorrow that increases as I see the pain and suffering going on in the world around me. 

The biblical words, "Do not delay, O LORD" often pour from my heart to the Throne Room.

Positive Christians will rebuke such an attitude with platitudes: "There's joy in the Lord"; "Laughter is the best medicine"; "Put on a happy face." 

But it is hard to smile among so much suffering. A day does not go by without reading a prayer request for someone with cancer or some other fatal malady. Even Jesus wept.

Reading the Gospel of John this morning brought it all home for me.

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." - John 16:21-22

Birth pangs bring a lot of pain and sorrow along with them. We are watching the pangs increase daily and we suffer much at being rejected by non-believers and shunned by institutional church-goers. Yet the Bible describes Jesus as "a man of sorrows; acquainted with grief." 

We will ultimately share the victory over this world with our Master Jesus. But in the meantime, we're stuck in this Valley of Tears. The joy I can find in all of this is in knowing Bible prophecy; that we have so much to look forward to when Jesus returns and restores His creation. 

In the meantime, keep smiling!

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name...Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." - Rev. 3:8,10-11

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Contained Zeal

In our love and service for the LORD let us be gracious to one another and put up with each other -- long suffering and kind even when treated badly. We are ALL flawed specimens, are we not?

Sometimes in our zeal for Truth we can be impatient with others who are not as far along as we are in our discovery of revelation in Scripture. The newer believer has a lot of cobwebs from his/her past life that the LORD is still working on. It can become frustrating trying to talk biblical sense into such a person, but that's where patience comes in.

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions." - Rom 14:1

The Apostle Paul must have felt like he was trying to communicate with barbarians, yet he bore with them without putting them down for their inferior wisdom.

"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able" - 1 Cor 3:1-2

Knowledge certainly puffs up. The more we know the more we need to guard against pride. I've seen some very evolved Christians walk away from their daily study in the Word because they've read the Bible so many times they think they know it all. God's Word has been given to us not just to gain knowledge, but to know Him and in response to love and worship Him from our grateful hearts. Even Bible scholars apostatize:

"My people are bent on backsliding from Me.
Though they call to the Most High,
None at all exalt Him." - Hos. 11:7

As people of discernment we also have to guard against treating harshly brothers who have sinned publicly or have expressed ideas that we think are contrary to our understanding of the Bible. We must differentiate between errant brothers versus wolves in sheep's clothing. I have found some on facebook calling a minister a false teacher because he has missed it regarding Bible prophecy or has messed up in his private life.

All that means is that he is human and makes mistakes. We restore brothers -- yet we must expose heretics. When I criticize a public teacher for setting a bad example, for instance when I see compromise with those who air their services on wicked networks like TBN, that does not mean they are wolves. It means they are not wise in their choices. I may boycott their ministries, but I'm not saying they are outside the faith.

God's Word says we will be judged as we judge others. As Christians we are no longer under judgment. We who are in Christ have passed out of judgment into life. However, the standard we set is the standard that others will most certainly judge us by.

As the days get darker, we all need to return to our first Love. Let's lift Him up and exalt Him --- as we do, our love for Him and for others will increase.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." - 1 Cor. 13:1-2

"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” - 1 Pet 4:7-8