Spiritual Deception of Not Supporting Israel

Almighty God, the creator of the universe, sovereign over the universe, Ruler – indeed (Genesis 14:19) the Possessor — of heaven and earth, and all that is in it chose the seed, the offspring of a man first called Abram, then Abraham, to be a special, the most special, nation of all the earth. That nation is Israel.

God explained that he found in Abram a most unusual quality – obedience (Genesis 12: 1-4). And as God required that obedience from Abram, he made a promise to Abram, in Genesis 12: 2-3I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you; and in you all families of the earth shall be blessed. With this promise in hand, Abram obeyed – as it says in Genesis 12:4So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him. . . .

And on this long journey made by Abram and his entourage of people, livestock and possessions, Abram encountered many new and powerful people and much opposition of Satan. God knew the fearful things confronting Abram and encouraged and strengthened Abram with this assurance in a vision, Genesis 15:1Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

What God found in Abram, his direct obedience, and his faith in God, so engaged our God in the life and lineage of Abram. In Genesis 15:6, in what to me is a breath-taking passage, Scripture simply records that Abram believed in the Lord and He accounted it to (Abram) as righteousness.

Righteousness counts for something in the kingdom of God, for there is no righteousness apart from God, citation. Jeremiah describes our Lord God as “Our Righteousness”, Jeremiah 23:6. In Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth, II Corinthians 5:21, Paul explains and encourages that Jesus became our sin . . . that we might become the righteousness of God in (Jesus). That is how much righteousness counts in the kingdom of God – it is the whole reason for Jesus, indeed the whole reason for mankind. God imparted righteousness to Abram, not through Jesus, but through the reality of Abram’s obedience to God and Abram’s faith in God. On that seed, the seed of obedience and faith, God chose, in his sovereignty, a special people to be, as recorded in Deuteronomy (32:10), Lamentations (2:16) and Zechariah (2:8), the apple of His eye. That is the nation of Israel, the apple of God’s eye!

And God made a promise to Abram of nation-building, a promise of many descendants (and this to a man who was childless) and the grant of land for all those people to live as a nation, which became known as Israel, in what is now called the Middle East.

First, God told Abram in this promise (Genesis 15:5. . . “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And (God) said to him, “So shall your inhabitants be.”

Second, God told Abram in this promise (Genesis 15: 13-21) that much land was appointed to the descendants of Abram: . . . “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years(Egyptian bondage). And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a burning oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. [“Pieces” refers to the animal sacrifices God requested and Abram provided in Genesis 15: 9-11.] On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying; “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates – the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” This is a great size of land, obviously, running from Egypt to the Euphrates and out into what is now Iraq, Jordan, Syria, etc.

God’s covenant with Abram – whom God called Abraham

when he was 99 years old, and established the covenant of male circumcision with Abraham at that time, based on this principle: Genesis 17: 1. . . I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. To be blameless is to be without sin and therefore to be righteous. From Abraham, we know that God recognized that Abraham’s obedience came from his trust in God, his faith in God: this was so important in God’s kingdom that He accounted it to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Other than the truth and reality of Jesus Christ, Himself, there is no other more important truth and reality for all the other nations of the earth than to understand that Israel is the apple of God’s eye, that Israel as a nation and as individual Jews was and is, were and are, the specially chosen by God, His chosen people (I Chronicles 16:13]. The nations that forget this truth, this divine reality, and the nations that know better, but don’t do better, are in for a heap of trouble, for God has covenanted to curse those who curse Israel. And He will bless those who bless Israel. There are few blessings more important to Israel than supporting her, standing with her, in her national defense as we prayerfully support her and her people, the chosen ones of God, the apple of His eye.

Recently, Pastor Horn and I have been emailing messages about the significance of the news, recently announced, that the United Nations Security Council last week was to discuss a plan to bring itself into agreement with President Obama and force Israel to give up land to create an enlarged and separate Palestinian State. The result would be a UN mandate for Israel to return to the pre-1967 War, the Six-Day War, boundaries, including giving up to the Palestiniams much of Jerusalem including the Wailing Wall. The UN Security Council has a dozen or so members, including the United States and each of its members has veto powers over the Security Council actions. Obviously, the United States has not acted to veto this agenda of the Security Council. The current President of the United States has spoken and only attributes the modern, 1948 re- establishment of Israel as a nation to the Holocaust, ignoring the Word, Covenants and Promises of God. [April 23, 2009 Speech at the U.S. Capitol.] Under the current administration of government in the United States, there is, therefore, seemingly no interest in the real protection, real support, of Israel, but rather an interest in parceling out Israel to the ownership and subjugation of its neighbors. One could surmise that the current president of the United States did not think he could get support from within the United States to dismantle the nation of Israel, so he has turned to the United Nations to have it do the dirty work desired by this administration and by Satan.

Today, I am called to share with you some of the discussions Pastor Horn and I have shared so you may grasp the principles, the spiritual principles, deeply at work as our nation ponders whether it will be a blessing or a curse to Israel in our generation. To put it another way, the question is whether God will, by our choices, extend His hand of blessing to us or withdraw His hand of blessing, and instead, shower us with His curse.

Please remember and consider that there is substantial proof in the early writings of the founders of this nation, America, that our nation was founded on the premise that we, like Israel, were created by God for an eternal purpose. God’s two most important eternal purposes are: (1) the fulfilling of the Covenants/Promises through the earthly kingdom/nation of Israel founded through the heritage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel; and (2) the fulfilling of His eternal Covenants/Promises through the eternal kingdom/nation of His True Church.

The founding of the United States of America was based on a remarkably clear understanding of having been called by God for salvation works for God’s eternal purposes. For example, consider:

  1. The founders described America as a “shining city on a hill” (not a Reagan phrase, but adopted by him). [The phrase comes from Jesus’ parable of Salt and Light, Matthew 5:13-14. According to Wikipedia, the phrase entered the American lexicon early in its history, in the Puritan John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity”. Still aboard the ship Arbella, Winthrop admonished the future Massachusetts Bay colonists that their new community would be a “city upon a hill”, watched by the world.[1] Winthrop’s sermon gave rise to the widespread belief in American folklore that the United States of America is God’s country because metaphorically it is a Shining City on a Hill. Wikipedia cites this as an early example of American exceptionalism; we see it as that, and more, that it is a founding recognition of the call in the establishment of America for God’s eternal purposes.]
  2. America has been and is a destiny example in the lives and histories of the nations of the world that could be, and has been, followed by other peoples and nations, historically.
  3. America has led the way in evangelism of the world, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, to every language, people and nation, to fulfill the Great Commission.
  4. Seemingly, every President since President Truman, who, in 1948 extended national recognition to the new nation of Israel, making America the first nation to do so, has made policy decisions based on an acute awareness that America has a God-given responsibility to nurture and protect the new nation of Israel, a continuation of the one that ended in 70 A.D.

Therefore, the news about the US abdication of power, of interest in nurturing and protecting Israel, is most disturbing. We know that God must be true to Himself and to His eternal Word. If, under the current administration, or any other administration, really withdraws its support, its nurturing, and its protection – its blessings – from Israel, then God will

remove His hand of support, nurturing, and protection – His blessings – from our nation, and shower us with His curse. That is the way He will be true to Himself.

The Great Commission is not yet fulfilled. Withdrawal of the hand of God’s protection over America may not get us close to Armageddon, but may well deliver America, and the world, into a chaos that only Satan and Mohammed could enjoy, as we consider that we may be no different than the Amorites, whose iniquity is not yet complete (Genesis 15:16). Joel 2 tells us about the Lord’s justice, as in Joel 2: 11, the Lord gives voice before His army and His day is great and very terrible, who can endure it? And just as Joel, the prophet, lamented and wondered, Joel 2: 14Who knows if (God) will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him – – . Joel describes the apostasy of the nation of Israel, brining forth the certain judgment hand of God, making the nation, Joel 2: 19a reproach among the nations. As the iniquity of America becomes compete, like the Amorites, will we be in less apostasy?

Today, I encourage you to support Israel and to encourage all whom you know, all whom you vote for, to support Israel. I encourage you to repent, for yourselves and

for America, that, Joel 2:17, and say to the Lord God, “Spare Your People, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach that the nations should rule over them.” This is a heart cry for Israel and America, that other nations – whether Palestine or the United Nations – would not rule over Israel or America.

This is a great era of spiritual deceptions – we will not have peace by carving up Israel and giving it up to the world. Peace will only come through our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that not necessarily soon. We at least should want to be on the right side, the good side, God’s side, of that war. If America allows Israel to be drawn and quartered, if America withdraws its hand of nurture, of protection, of support, then we can expect no better as our Lord, being true to Himself, must bring His curse upon us, upon America.

It is time, as in Joel 2:12, to hear the heart cry of our Lord, and to turn to Him will all of our heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning, and, II Chronicles 7:14, to humble ourselves and pray, and seek the face of our Lord, and to turn from all of our wicked ways in America and to ask the Ruler, Possessor and Lord of all heaven and earth to be zealous for His land and to pity His people. A word to the wise ….

The Roles of Women in God’s Plan for Society

Today, we celebrate Mothers Day 2011. It is a fitting and apt time to pause and recognize our mothers and the mothers among and around us, and say to each of them, “Thank you.” As a man, as a husband and father, it is difficult to imagine how much patience a mother, a wife, must have in order to remain at peace and to trust God’s leadership through her husband in the family order and structure. Yet, many women have developed such genuine faith in God, that they do trust Him in all circumstances, even as we husbands so regularly are imperfect in our decisions and leadership. Husbands, we must smile at God’s grace as, in making His face to shine upon us, He has so often brought our wives, the mothers of our children, to places of deep forgiveness, and quiet agreement with God’s plan for our families, so often a plan we do not know the end of from the beginning. No wonder it is called faith! Mothers, we thank you and collectively celebrate you and your place in the social structure which God has ordained. Thank you, again.

This morning, God wants to remind us of the roles of women in God’s plan for mankind. Scripture shows us that the roles of women are designed in four parts: A woman is created for the roles of (1) companion and helpmate to her husband; (2) as the mother of her husband’s children; (3) sharing in the economic function of the family to be self-sufficient; (4) evangelism and discipleship. Today, we are privileged to share the instruction of Holy Scripture about the mothers who brought us to this day, and those who continue to bear us up in this day.

FirstGenesis makes it so clear that God created Eve, He created woman, because He saw that it was not good for man, in his flesh on earth, to be alone. God saw that man needed a helpmate, and so he created Eve. In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge, articulates that Eve, the last of God’s creations, was the beautiful crown of God’s handiwork, actually finishing the very work of the creation of Adam, because Adam was incomplete without Eve, man is incomplete without his wife. Imagine Adam’s delight, when God presented Eve to Adam to be his companion and helpmate, to be his wife and the mother of his children.

In Genesis 2: 18, 21-24, it is written,

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him”. . . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

In the evaluation of mankind, God saw a need for human, for fleshly, relationships that, in His infinite wisdom, God designed and created women to fulfill. Women are the nerve center, the heart center, the outreach center, of stability in relationships in the family structure and in society. But women are not alone, for they cannot be in a relationship by themselves; men (husbands) are fulfilled and their loneliness resolved in a Godly marriage.

In our society, as true in most of the history of mankind, there is a great tension between God’s plan and the frequent un-Godly plans of mankind. People make choices, and God has so empowered us to make choices, and those choices are often not God’s choices. Popular figures from our culture often say, as it has been reported that the singer Carmen Diaz recently, in her wisdom, proclaimed, that marriage is a dying institution. She argued that marriage gets in the way of people’s lives and happiness, and she is completely wrong. Such women are in rebellion to God’s plan for women and for men.

We also see this tension between God’s plan and the plans of mankind in the sexualism of our culture outside of marriage. As we honor women today, as we honor mothers, we are reminded that God designed and intended sexual conduct to remain within the confines of marriage, and that a marriage, as with Adam and Eve, between a man and a woman.

God’s plan for life clearly mandates, like the old song, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” That is God’s highest and best for each one of us, and for our children. Don’t shortchange yourselves, your children or God. If you have made mistakes, and haven’t done so, repent, change your lifestyle, receive God’s forgiveness and rejoice in your decision to bring the relationship side of your life clearly into God’s plan, never forgetting (Proverbs 14:12) that “[t]here is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Marriage is not a dying institution and it is not in God’s plan that we let it die. So, in your time in life, nourish marriage – both men and women – for it is the wellspring of God’s plan for people’s lives and relationships.

Second, women were created to be the mothers of the children of the world, and that in the context of husband and wife, in a Godly marriage. Women have a unique role, not just in pregnancy and childbirth, but in child rearing and nurturing. To paraphrase God, it is not good for children to be alone, and God’s plan for that loneliness is motherhood. All the celebration of Mother’s Day centers around our appreciation of the fact that our mothers did not leave us alone. They didn’t birth us and leave us, they loved us and nurtured us and fed us and cleaned us, and taught us. The most important summary of what they should teach us, along with our fathers, is found in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Especially since the advent of progressivism and collectivism, after Karl Marx wrote in the 1800’s, our society has torn down the traditional work models of stay-at-home moms, and this has created an especially–difficult set of decisions for parents to make, in the area of child rearing, because, in two-parent working households (and in single-mom and single-dad households), especially with pre-school children, day care or an employee gets substituted for the stay-at-home mom, to care for the children. So, in making these difficult decisions about child- rearing, parents need to re-double their efforts at relationships with their children, relationships born and strengthened by the parents’ service of the children as a love example of what relatioships really are supposed to be. It is necessarily a bit of patchwork, but it can be done, as we have seen. Take care of that next generation, the ones to replace us!

Third, God has ordained that the role of the woman is to be part of the fundamental economic unit of society, the family. This obviously relates to the fact of two-parent working households, and to single-mom, or single-dad households with children, as well. This structure is so well noted in Proverbs 31: 10-31 (Read). The Proverbs 31 wife is virtuous, industrious, hard-working, kind, generous, well-prepared with storehouses of food and warm clothing for her family and others for difficult times, she contributes to the family’s economic self-sufficiency, she is blessed by her children and praised by her husband, and most importantly, she fears the Lord, which is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1: 7). The Proverbs 31 wife is GREAT – every man should have one and should measure up to her GREATNESS!

Fourth, God has a major role for women in the areas of evangelism and discipleship. We considered this role, briefly, above in the discussion of Point Two, concerning children and training them up in the way they should go. God is love; He is a God of relationships, and women are the makers of relationships and the sustainers of them, the makers of family memories and the keepers and sharers of them. Women are the heart of the family. They join with the fathers to be the first line of teaching the next generation, and there is no bigger nor more important service role in life than to teach Jesus Christ to the next generation of children. Evangelism and discipleship truly begin at home. The mandate of Matthew 28: 18-20 begins in the family home, in the family’s hometown. We see witness to this in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, II Timothy 1: 5, “. . . I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Those women taught genuine faith in Jesus Christ to the next generation in their household.

But this role of evangelism and discipleship for women goes elsewhere, too. In Titus 1 and 2, Paul, writing to Titus exhorts and encourages Titus in a way that he would teach the older women how to live their lives and to influence and teach younger women. Follow with me in Titus 2: 1-5 (Read). Paul is setting the Christian “normal life” for women, to be taught by the older women to the younger woman – daughters of the flesh and daughters in the Spirit – to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

I am thankful that my wife is a woman of God and that she is committed to our family on a Godly, Christian foundation. I say “thank you” again to all the mothers here today, and to all of our mothers (alive and gone). Thank you all for your roles in God’s plan for society, for being helpmates and companions to your husbands, for being so much the heart of the family in child rearing – to train up the next generation, for being part of the economic self-sufficiency of the family, for teaching other women, both daughters and sisters, in God’s standards and expectations of women and their role in establishing marriages and families in Godly order, and keeping them that way.

In closing, Lord, we bless each mother here today, each woman not yet a mother, and we ask you to seal in their spirits the deposit of genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and fear of you O’ God, and we ask you to grant them knowledge, understanding, discernment and wisdom in their lives as the crown of your creation as wives and mothers. Hallelujah! Lord, we praise your name. Amen.

Are You Smelling Good?

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, just before Passover, and just before His Last Supper, and just before His crucifixion, death as a man, and His resurrection by God the Father. What a huge remembrance we have today of the reception, in triumph, of Jesus by the people waving palm fronds, and laying their cloaks on the ground before him as he rode in on the donkey. What a huge remembrance of the triumph of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as they defeated Satan, who had arranged for the crucifixion of Jesus, and so publicly humiliated Satan and his evil team by the resurrection of Jesus. It is that remembrance of triumph that we celebrate today and it strengthens in us the hope in Jesus Christ that, ever more so because of the events of this week almost two thousand years ago, we know in faith will not disappoint us.

The principal text for our message today is one of those passages of Scripture that speaks about that triumph of Jesus, and also speaks about how God views us when we embrace the triumph of Jesus over Satan, join Team Jesus, and live our lives for Jesus instead of living lives of doubt, rebellion and even outright opposition to Jesus as an atheist, idolator or agnostic. This principal text for our message today is one of those challenging passages from Scripture that calls us out, that calls us to evaluate, truthfully and honestly, whether we are standing on the Rock of Jesus Christ, and how firmly we are anchored there, and whether we are living in His triumph, in the choices and decisions we have been making in the living of our lives. I don’t always like these challenging passages. I don’t always like to have to evaluate whether there is another layer of my flesh, of my sin or idolatry or rebellion (all pretty much the same), between me and that Rock of Jesus Christ. I don’t always like to have to hold up the searchlight, and the searching mirror, of the Holy Word of God, to look at myself in that mirror. I know that I don’t look too good in a regular mirror with just the bathroom light on, but it is always with some fear and uncertainty that I accept the challenge, again, of self-evaluation, of self-examination, in the brilliant light of the Holy Word of God. And so it is today, and in preparation of this message to all of us from the Holy Spirit.

This is not a time for me to judge you, or for us to judge each other. This is a time, here on Palm Sunday 2011, as we enter the holiest of holy weeks, for each to examine, evaluate and judge himself or herself.

Are you up for the task today? I am. So, if you are, let’s get started.

Our principal text for the message today is from II Corinthians 2: 14-16a, “Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 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.

This passages challenges us to evaluate two things in our lives: (1) Are we always allowing ourselves to be led in triumph in Christ? And (2) Do we stink, to God, or do we stink to those who are without Christ? If you stink to God, then you can bet that He is not leading you, or that you are unwilling to be led by Him, in perpetual, unceasing triumph in your life. So, the title of our message asks us, today, “Are You Smelling Good?”

Triumph

We are going to talk about “Triumph” first, and then we will discuss what our “Fragrance” is and who notices it.

Now, the concept of “Triumph” always engages us in thoughts about conflict and competition or battle. That always means that there has to be at least two sides, in order for there to be a conflict or a competition or a battle. In spiritual terms, the terms God most cares about, this concept of “Triumph” has to do with His conflict, and His competition, with Satan and his evil powers, for the allegiance of the hearts and souls of the men, women and children of this Earth.

And so, in spiritual terms, we understand that we are caught up in this supernatural battle, and that we are required to choose sides. God, Himself, requires us to choose sides, either to be on His side or to be on Satan’s side. It is like at the Alamo in 1836, when Lt. William Barret Travis drew the line in the sand, and the men there had to decide which side they were on. It is like the way that Joshua challenged the Israelites, in Joshua 24: 14-15Now, 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! 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.

You see, there really is no middle ground; you must choose one or the other. In God’s Grace, in each generation, in each life, God has often, but not always, afforded us a sort of holding ground, which has been really a holding time, as we make up our minds about which choice we are going to make. In God’s sovereignty, God limits that time and we never know how long our holding time will last. His patience is not unlimited, and the sooner we get the choice made, if it is for God, then the sooner we can get busy doing that for which He actually created us in the first place!

And when we have made that choice, so full of eternal consequences, we need to understand the nature of the battle, and that battle is so well-described in Ephesians 6: 12, “For 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.

In II Corinthians 10: 3, we find this same principle addressed in this language, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . . .

Even though this big wrestling match is all about supernatural warfare, there is an essential and somewhat tricky part to this big wrestling match. It is this: When we are in the match, we are in the flesh, and part of the resources we have to fight with, in that supernatural warfare, are our fleshly resources of body and soul (emotions, will and intellect). But we often have to fight against our own flesh to be good wrestlers in that big, supernatural wrestling match.

The tricky part of this flesh issue is captured in Romans 8: 8, “. . . those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now, why did Paul have to come to that conclusion? Paul laid out his reasoning in Romans 8: 2-7, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He (God) condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” That is why Paul concluded, in Verse 8, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul, again, in II Corinthians 1: 17, addressed the problem with the flesh issue this way, as he had just explained his intention to come to see the good people of Corinth, “Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes and No, No? But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.

In Jesus’ prayer at the end of the Last Supper, in John 17, at Verse 2, Jesus proclaimed His truth that God had given Jesus authority over all flesh, so that Jesus should give eternal life to as many as God had given Him. This “flesh” over which Jesus had been given such complete authority leads us right back to what I have called the tricky part of us that is essential to our human-ness, our “flesh”. But, according to Romans 8: 8, that flesh is so unpleasing to God when we are living “in the flesh”. And that is what makes it so tricky for us to participate in Jesus’ triumph, because our flesh is essential to our being but it is unpleasing to God. Yet, for God’s eternal purposes, He gave Jesus authority over all flesh. And who are numbered in that “as many” as, to whom, He should grant eternal life? It is all those in the scope of “all flesh” and that is all men, women and children. So, Jesus has that authority over all flesh, all people, and has the power to grant eternal life to all people.

How does Jesus evaluate people and exercise His authority over them, even unto the granting of eternal life? As Paul learned from Jesus, and wrote in Romans 3: 19-22a, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe . . . .” So, we see clearly that Jesus bases His evaluation of our faith in Him and, as in our message last week, He imparts to us, through our faith in Him, the righteousness of God, and in that righteousness of God, and not of the works of our flesh, we are granted eternal life in Christ! Hallelujah!!

Now, going on with life, like Paul, we have to take this principal (that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God”), that nothing of or from the flesh justifies us in God’s sight, as we consider the ways in which we plan our lives, and that is one reason this passage is so challenging to me, and I suspect, to you. So, here is your challenging question Number One for today: “Are you making your plans based on your flesh and its desires, or based on God’s purposes, calling, equipping, anointing and blessing?”

As we read in II Corinthians 2: 14, God always leads us in triumph in Christ. But what does that triumph look like? That is given to us in Colossians 2: 15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Guess what? We can’t accomplish that triumph over Satan and his evil forces, not in our flesh. Although we are required to choose sides and to participate, the battle itself, the conflict and competition of God with Satan, is not ours. When David went out to fight Goliath, David took a weapon, a slingshot and stones, and he used the weapon, and the rock struck the giant Philistine in the head and killed him. But, even so, God’s salvation for His people then came not from the use of the sword and the spear but from the effect God caused the weapon to have on Goliath, and the precise path of travel and momentum with which the rock struck Goliath in the forehead. See I Samuel 17: 47, where young David explained it publicly to Goliath, this way, “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.

Like us today, David was engaged in that battle. It was a battle in the flesh and also a supernatural battle, as are all battles. David understood, in his chronological youth but in his spiritual maturity, that day on the battlefield facing Goliath between the two armies, that same thing which, many years later, when he prayed blessings over the Lord, at the time of the assemblage of materials for the great temple that Solomon actually built, and said this, I Chronicles 29: 10 11, “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.” David knew in his youthful maturity that, even though it required of David a choice, a spiritual maturity, single-mindedness and courage to be in the battle on God’s side, that both the battle and the victory were the Lord’s! On that fateful day with Goliath, the Lord supernaturally won the battle, and in so doing, did what is described in Colossians 2: 15, he disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. David subordinated his flesh to the will of God, and put his own flesh at the risk of death to engage in the battle on God’s side, at God’s direction. Because David did so, God brought forth the triumph over the enemy, and He did the same thing from the grave after the crucifixion of Jesus, and, again, made a public spectacle of Satan and his gang.

Get your fleshly house in order. Understand that Jesus has authority over all flesh and that, as said in Acts 2: 17 (based on Joel 2: 28), “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I shall pour out of My Spirit on all flesh . . . .” God’s Spirit is here, now, for us, so that between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, if we get our flesh out of the way, and get on the right side of this supernatural war, and stay there with maturity and self-discipline and courage, we will participate in the daily and eternal triumph of Jesus Christ!

Fragrance

Now, it time to turn to this “Fragrance” thing. Our principal text for today, II Corinthians 2: 14-16a, says that “God always leads us in triumph in Christ” and then it says “and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 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.

God sees a direct connection between the “triumph in Christ” and the “fragrance of Christ” and this passage challenges us to figure out this direct connection. We have studied this morning the connection of our flesh, and its subordination, to God’s intent always to lead us in triumph in Christ. Now, let’s see how the “fragrance of Christ” is really another way of the same analysis, and of how that is the direct connection.

The passage itself makes clear that, to God, while He is leading us in triumph in Christ, he is at the same time through us diffusing – fancy word for “spreading” – the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ in every place. You know how, sometimes, when you learn something really cool, and when you are really cool (so you think) and hip, you might say, about the great revelation you just learned, this one word, “Sweeet!” Right, that word describes a fragrance, so what you are saying is that this revelation of knowledge smells good, it is Sweet!. And this Sweetness, this fragrance, of the knowledge of Christ is not just diffused around us but through us and in every place. So, because it is diffused through us, we are the sprayer, the perfume mister so to speak, and we actually smell Sweet! How Sweet is that?

And our Sweetness, our fragrance actually travels “in every place”. It is not body order, but spiritual odor, that God smells in us; He smells our spiritual fragrance, and He likes it because it is the spiritual fragrance of his beloved Son, Jesus, actually in us. To God, it changes the way our flesh smells and makes us, despite our flesh, pleasing to Him! Again, Hallelujah! And this spiritual odor is consistent – iy smells the same to all – or as this passage puts it, “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” The difference is in the interpretations of the smell: To God, to us, and to those who are being saved, it is “the aroma of life leading to life”. But to those who are perishing, and you can be sure to Satan and his gang also, it is interpreted as “the aroma of death, leading to death”.

So, here is that connection: if we choose faith in Jesus, if we, like David, subordinate our flesh to God’s will in Jesus, and make the choices and take the risks of our lives that way, then God will, like the Master Baker, sniff around and over us and say, “Sweeet!” Because He is smelling the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ that we have adopted by choice into our very core beings, so that our flesh is subordinated to and controlled by our faith in Christ, and our knowledge of Him and His truth. As Jesus prayed, that fateful hour in the Garden in Holy Week, Luke 22: 42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” If we have placed our faith in Jesus, and have grown in wisdom and maturity and stature in our faith, so that we, too, are willing to subordinate, to yield, our will to the will of the Godhead, then that Sweeetness diffuses out of us and all see us, including God, as Christians, as “Little Christs” as we were first called at Antioch (Acts 11: 26). And that Sweetness draws them into the kingdom, or not, depending on how they have chosen to accept or reject the convicting guidance (John 16: 13, 8) of the Holy Spirit.

So, the second, big, challenging question of today, which is really the same question, just put another way, as that first, big challenging question of today, is “Are you smelling good?”

Well, as you evaluate, examine and judge yourselves, in the light of the knowledge of Christ, take your time and see how your onion layers are doing, and whether you need to peel off some more layers of smelly onion to get to the Sweetness way down below those fleshly layers. Call in the Holy Spirit to guide you to a truthful answer for you, personally, in your life. Pay attention during and throughout this Holy Week. It is an especially apt time in which to look in God’s searching mirror, with the bright searchlight of His word and the convicting guidance of the Holy Spirit, and see what you find. Two Questions: (1) Are you making your plans, making the daily and hourly decisions of your life based on your flesh and its desires, or based on God’s purposes, calling, equipping, anointing and blessing? And, (2) Are you smelling good?

I leave you with those two questions – really it is one question: Are you prepared to come after, to follow, Christ and therefore to deny yourself, to deny your flesh, and to pick up your cross and follow Christ? (Mark 8: 34) This is a good week for you and me to study that big question.

God bless you and amen+

God’s Call to Holiness

Faith in God is trust in God. Even with that faith, with that trust in God, it still requires God’s grace – His unmerited favor – for salvation to be extended to us (Ephesians 2:8). Once we have realized the incredible, awesomeness of forgiveness by God of our sins, through the blood of Jesus shed for us, we as Christians normally begin to grow in maturity in the Lord, and that growth goes down several paths: our prayer lives, our study of God’s word, our relationship with the Holy Spirit. And all those are Godly things, if you will. But, normally, we begin to struggle against our sin nature, our sin habits and customs, and against the strongholds and scar tissue, emotionally, that accompanied our conversion. And that struggle is a good thing, because, II Corinthians 7: 1, we, as Christians, are called to “. . . cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Paul also wrote in I Thessalonians 4: 7, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

Peter wrote in I Peter 1: 13- 16, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (See Leviticus 11: 44.)

Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1: 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He (God) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love . . . .

This drive for maturity makes us confront our “unholiness”, or so it seems, in sharp contrast with the “holiness” of God. And many Christians, and often the Church have gotten confused and lost over the outward appearances of sinfulness, missing the critical point of God’s call to Holiness. And we Christians always find that this is so hard to accomplish – to get rid of all that filthiness of flesh and spirit. And, so, we see that many Christians find that they have such difficulty getting every spot of filthiness/sin out of themselves, and their hearts and their conduct in life that they get frustrated not only with themselves, but also with God’s mandate of “perfecting holiness”. As a result, many Christians get thwarted in their quest for sufficient “maturity” to join God in His holiness.

These Scriptures also make it clear that while God has called us to salvation – indeed, I Timothy 2: 3-4, God “. . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . .”, and while He has offered us forgiveness and eternal life in the New Jerusalem, He is more fundamentally calling all of us to something else: we are all called to be holy as Christ is holy, as God is holy. This means that God is calling all of us to be cleansed, in His sight, of all filthiness of flesh and spirit.

The Law made it clear that we could not, none of us, could ever attain that purity and blamelessness, that spotlessness, that would define holiness. No self-discipline of man is sufficient fully to accomplish that. But if we are so clearly called by God, from Old Testament to New Testament, to be holy as He is, how do we do it in our human weakness?

First, we don’t throw in the towel and say, I will just keep my sin nature, and sin habits and customs, and my strongholds and other “sin baggage” and just trust in God’s grace all the more. Paul warned us against this in Romans 6: 1 and ff.

Second, what we do is understand that God sees only one person who has walked the face of the earth as “holy”, and that person, is Jesus Christ. So, how do we become holy? The short answer is in Ephesians 1: 6-7, “ . . . of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Jesus). In Him we have redemption through His blood.” In other words, God is saying, “I receive them as holy, because they are in my holy son.”

But how are we “in” Jesus? Answer: We are part of His body. II Corinthians 12: 27, Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” We are made bone and flesh of the body of Christ, as well as spiritually. Paul said this similarly in Romans 12: 5, “. . . so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” In John 15: 5, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.

These principles are the foundation for the critical part of God’s plan. And this is the critical part of God’s plan of holiness and His call to us to be holy: Romans 11: 16b, “. . . and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” So, only as believers, only as we have faith (Hebrews 11:1), in Christ are we actually “in” Christ, as members of His body, and with Him are holy before God. His holiness moves through the vine, to us, His branches and we share His holiness before God. No amount of human will power or self-discipline can accomplish this – only our faith to abide in Christ, continuing in John 15: 5, “. . . He who abides in Me an I in him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.

God made this holiness thing clear when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3. Read aloud all of Exodus 3: 1-6. The bush was burning because God was present in it, but it was not consumed. This is a physical picture of the reality of spiritual holiness. And it makes clear that wherever God is, in whatever place, that place is holy, and so it is with us. If we are in Christ, in faith, we are holy. When Moses was approaching that burning bush, He was about to be called into the specific eternal purpose for which he had been created, to lead Israel, through God’s deliverance, out of Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. But, first, God had to teach Moses about the ground on which one profitably approaches God: to know that it is holy and one has to be properly prepared to be in a place of holiness. Why was Moses fearful and hiding his face? Because Moses got it, he caught the revelation of how awesome, how overwhelming, is that holy ground through which God must be approached.

Similarly, in the New Testament, Paul wrote, I Corinthians 1: 29, “. . . no flesh should glory in His presence.” So this principle was true in both Testaments. Moses was not called to deliver Israel from Egypt: he could never have accomplished that in his own strength and ability. He could accomplish the eternal purpose for which God had created him only by total reverent awe before God, by total trust and dependence in the Lord. What Moses was learning at the burning bush was an element of God’s nature that would help Moses trust God to bring God’s plan for, in and through Moses, to actually come about: that element of God’s nature is God’s holiness.

Every Christian needs to come to the burning bush and grasp the concept of God’s holiness. No plan for your life will succeed unless it is God’s plan. And you cannot accomplish God’s plan in your life in your own brain power, physical strength or emotional commitment. No, you can’t put eternal confidence in your own self, in your own flesh, because not flesh will stand or glory in His presence. God’s purposes are never accomplished by the resources you, personally, can bring to bear from your own self. God’s purposes are always accomplished by His holiness and His resources.

God was telling Moses, about his feet and shoes, that no amount of fleshly protection would protect Moses where God was sending Moses, that Moses would not survive without divine protection and divine deliverance. Not only woud there be the issues with Pharaoh and his army, and with the Egyptian people themselves (we have just recently seen how they can behave when they are unhappy), and with leading 3 million people out into the desert, with not grocery stores, no Wal*Marts, no clothing stores, not even large lakes of water for all those people and their livestock.

Yes, God had given Moses many important talents and resources, including a heart of passion, and courage, for the Israelites (remember when he killed the Egyptian soldier who had been abusing his authority) and the protection of them. Yet God was effectively saying to Moses, that all of his God-given resources and talents, and his zeal to protect the Israelites, would be worthless unless God sanctified them. And, God was saying, that to sanctify Moses and his talents, Moses was required, first, to recognize God’s holiness – His perfect character, motives, intentions, methods – as the under armor, so to speak, of God’s executory characteristics of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. Those three are like tools for the execution, the carrying out, of his holy purposes. God was asking Moses if he was willing to lay down that sword with which he had killed the Egyptian soldier and trust instead in God’s holiness and His word.

It is possible for some to come very close to perfection, to be cleansed of most all filthiness of flesh and spirit, of all impure lusts, of all evil desires. Yet such a person might still not be holy. One could be a “great guy” or “great lady”, a loving and honorable spouse, and honest worker, yet still not holy.

We all want victory over that one last, nagging area of sin in our lives. And sometimes we get trapped into thinking that if I could just conquer that one thing then I would be holy. So, we march off with our personal sword in hand to conquer that enemy in our hearts. It won’t work. We cannot succeed in holiness while standing on the ground of our own self – righteousness. When it says, prophetically, that at Judgment God will say to some, who labored in His Name, that He never knew them, what Scripture is saying, most importantly, that those people were never on the proper ground in the proper way. Those people don’t take their shoes off, so to speak; they never quit relying on their own fleshly protections; they never fully abided in faith in Jesus Christ.

That total faith in Jesus Christ is not just about His saving power, but also about His keeping power. We are specifically called to trust His Spirit to keep us and conform us to the likeness of Jesus. In I Corinthians 1: 30-31, Paul wrote, “But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” God will not bless any person’s works when that person glories himself or his own works. Go only glorifies His own works, including those He works through us when we have total faith in Christ and abide in His holiness.

Now, this is also important: There are no degrees of holiness. There is only one holiness. There are degrees of maturity, but not of holiness. You can be a new Christian and still be absolutely holy in Jesus before God. Don’t measure yourself against other people. We are measured only by the standard of the holiness of Christ and whether we are in Him.

Don’t look at some Christian leader, least of all your speaker, and say that you wish you were as holy as he is. You may not have the discipline of our beloved Senior Pastor, Gene Horn, or his prayer life. You may not have had the call or the courage to evangelize in far away and dangerous places over extended decades away from home. You may believe that you make too many sinful mistakes. But those leaders, those missionaries, are no more accepted by the Father than you are, in Christ. God, the Father, loves no one more than those who are holy in His Son.

At that Judgment, the questions God will be asking are going to be simple: Will He see his Son in me? Will I be holy in Christ?

Third, you need to claim, to seize hold (“harpazo”) your holiness, which is in Christ Jesus. You need to clam your birthright as a member of the body of Christ. You need to claim ownership of the foundational, and magnificent, spiritual principal that your Father in heaven sees you as holy because you are in His Son. Continue to receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regards to sin, righteousness and judgment, and His guidance in the way of all truth, and continue in repentance. But never, in any shame, release your hold on your holiness. It is what saves you and keeps you as you grow in maturity to the full measure of the stature of Jesus Christ. Your holiness is the most important thing for you to gain and have in your life. With that holiness in Christ, your God-given talents and resources will be sanctified and supernaturally empowered by His call, His omniscience, His omnipresence and His omnipotence, that you might bear much fruit (John 15: 5) from God’s call to holiness in your life!

God bless you and amen+

Truth and Political Correctness

Our message from the Holy Spirit today is about the relationship between truth and political correctness, as those two relate to the free expression of religious belief. The tension is the pressure for truth to yield its strong foundation to the whims of political correctness. The temptation for every believer is to yield to that pressure, that tension, so that everyone would feel better and, therefore, that the believer would think himself or herself to be safer or more comfortable. As the secular pressures arise, and they are rising, against our faith, in the public arenas of the schools, the governments, the workplaces, the economies, the geo- politics of the world, we are increasingly, and heavily, subjected to this pressure to give up, to walk away from, the truth and to conform to the demands of political correctness.

In America, at least on paper by the Constitution, we are assured of God-given “inalienable” rights of free speech, freedom of assembly – the foundation of religious liberty and therefore of liberty. Yet in America, (per Ephesians 6) the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, and their agents, are using people to advance an agenda to destroy those God-given, “inalienable” rights that are the foundation here of religious liberty and of liberty itself. God favored America in its creation, and as with all things in His creation, America has a purpose. Securing those God-given, “inalienable” rights here was God’s way of saying that “This is how it should be done, in terms of the organization of Man and the State and God”. Yet, are we too timid to seize hold, to “harpazo” that plan of God and defend it in prayer and perseverance and the politics, the urgings of political correctness, of our days, of our generation? I pray and hope that we are not too timid. Remember from Paul’s letter to Timothy that God did not create in us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. You see, God created us for just such a time and place as this, and we are His, for His purposes, and not ours alone. So, stand in the gaps on the wall and defend God’s truth, defend His Son Jesus, the Messiah, yeah even in this land of the free and the home of the brave. As we discussed before the message began from the wellspring of your heart release your courage into action. Remember, it takes courage to be brave, and it takes bravery to be free, so seize your live with courage and bravery and be free in the Name of the Lord Jesus!!

Scripture grants us much insight into this business of freely defending truth. In the Old Testatment, in Zephaniah 3: 13, the Word of the Lord came to His prophet Zephaniah, saying, “The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth, for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.” We, as Christian believers, are grafted into that “remnant of Israel” by the blood of Jesus, and we are similarly called to go about our work (“feed their flocks”) and live at peace (“lie down”), speaking no lies and fearing no man. We are called as God’s children to speak the truth, and in so doing to fear no man, no matter what his title or position is in the government, the schools, the military, the work place, the bank, and in that huge sea of people ebbing and flowing like the tides around us! Even back then, God said, to His people, to speak the truth without fear of the repercussions. God was saying to His people that His truth trumps all political correctness.

We find the same admonition in Proverbs 14: 5, “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies.

And in the New Testament, in Romans 1: 25, we are admonished not to be among those unbelievers “ . . . who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . . .

The Apostle John, in I John 2: 21-22a, writes to the believers who have followed him (see I John 2: 1, “My little children . . . .”), “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” John lays out the challenge of a strong Christian leader to his people (“My little children . . . .”) to stand on, and speak, the truth no matter what the circumstances are. I suspect that the phrase “political correctness” had not been invented when John lived, but he understood the concept and lived it himself.

In Paul’s letter to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who were in Colosse’, in Colossians 3: 8-10, he wrote, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him . . . .” The call to truth applies regardless of your emotions, no matter how mad you are, and no matter what your circumstances are, both in and out of the body of believers.

Then, in the Gospel of John, we find Jesus Himself challenged as a man to deny the truth, to deny even Himself, so he could get out of a jam. But Jesus, who is the truth (John 14: 6), refused to yield to the pressures and temptations of political correctness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas led the soldiers to Jesus, he asked them whom they sought and they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” (John 18: 4-5) and Jesus answered, “I am He.

And that was just the beginning of Jesus’ test of truth and political correctness, for he knew that the Jewish church leadership were out to get him, that they plotted and sought to kill him (John 11: 53-54). And the soldiers brought Jesus from the Garden into town, into Jerusalem, and they took Jesus to Annas, the father-in- law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, then they took Jesus right to Caiaphas, the high priest, and then they took Jesus to the Roman Praetorium (the seat of Roman government and power) where he met Pilate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.

This is where it got right down to the point, real specifically. In John 18: 33-40, this dialogue of Pilate, Jesus and the Jews and their leadership occurred: “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this or did others tell you this concerning me?’ Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’

The most telling things here are that Jesus was in deep worldly trouble, and from this dialogue he was scourged, scorned, humiliated and crucified. And he knew in advance that it was all going to happen. Yet he never once wavered, never once equivocated, never once tried a “little white lie”. No, our Jesus embraced the truth, He embraced the reality of Who He is, that He is the truth, and was not fearful of the Jews, nor of the Jewish leadership, nor of the Romans, nor of Pilate, the Roman governor.

Jesus followed the instruction of the Lord God (do you think He had a voice in that instruction?) to His prophet Zephaniah, to speak no lies and in speaking to have fear of no man. There were consequences because He was the truth would not abandon the truth.

It takes maturity in your faith to seize the truth like Jesus did, and not ever to abandon it in favor of your own comfort or safety. We in this generation are called to rise up and speak the truth in all circumstances, with no “little white lies” and no big ones, either. The battle of and for political correctness rages all around us. We, with some maturity in Christ, are on the front line every day. People are watching us. Our fidelity to the truth speaks more than volumes every day. Always speak the truth in love. People who know us, or who know of us, measure our reality as Christians by how we live and act, and by what we say and do. Don’t give Satan victories and leave part of Jesus’ harvest behind because of the testimony of your lives on the issue of truth. Seize the truth and hold on to it against all pressures and temptations to political correctness.

The time is at hand – and, in His earthly life, that day with Pilate Jesus had a time at hand – when we will be called out, when we will be tested, in the schools, in the workplaces, in and by the government, in and by the financial pressures on us, to find out if we will speak the truth or not, if we will say what is politically correct to make things seem better. Be prepared to choose which you will do. Realize that Satan, the father of all lies, is subtle at times, and you may need to parse your thoughts and words carefully so that you actually speak the truth you intend.

The great thing you have is Jesus. You are not like Pilate (who is like so many so-called Western thinkers and philosophers following in the Greek and Roman ways), who didn’t know the truth even when he was looking at it. Remember, John 18: 38, Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” You know truth, and Pilate did not, so you are way ahead in the battle here. Don’t lose the truth and don’t get tongue-tied when you are put on the spot for Jesus. As Christians, “little Christs” as we were first called in Antioch, a constant in our lives needs always to be “truth”. Don’t let the Political Correctionists wear you down, no matter how they try. Truth wins in the end. We have the assurance of Jesus’ Revelation through John at Patmos, in Revelation 2: 26, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations — . . . .” It is the nations who create “political correctness” and if we keep His truth until the ends of our lives, we will have power – the power of truth – over those nations. What could be better as an outcome?

God bless you and Amen+

What Do You Think About Jesus?

The World today looks like a disaster zone: Ring of Fire in the Middle East and North Africa + Libya + Japan + Afghanistan + Islam + world economy + note abstention of Russia and China and Germany from UN resolution on Libya (just a sign of alliances and of alliances to come, so says the Holy Spirit). Every where, almost, that we look we see evil, which is sin, and we see that sin manifest all around us!

What are we to do? How do we handle it? Do we go into hiding? Do we just climb in bed and pull the sheets over our heads? Do we retreat into communes of like-minded persons and endure til life passes around us? Do we go out and try to stop the tsunami tide of evil that sweeps over lives in the world today? Do we just ignore all this evil and just “eat, drink and be merry”? Do we trust God as we zealously work for our Lord’s harvest?

Our answer depends on our heart condition and attitude. It boils down to the answer to this question, “What do I think of Jesus?”

Not surprisingly, the Bible, i.e., Scripture, (II Timothy 3: 16- 17) offers much help, but we have to believe that Holy Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, that it has been “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” When we focus on this passage, we see that the Word of God is profitable for a particular class of people: the Word of God is profitable for “the man of God”. The clear suggestion is that there are other classes of people for whom the Word of God is not profitable. Why is that? Is it not because, John 16: 13, 8, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to guide people to truth, and to convict them, to draw them to a determination – not just a feeling or opinion – of the distinctions between sin and righteousness and an understanding of the judgment that exists to separate the boundary of sin from the boundary of righteousness, like a property line? So, when the Holy Spirit has brought you to that truth, who is Jesus Himself (John 14: 6), then you are ready for the Word of God to be profitable for you, and you find this wonderful synthesis, this wonderful unity, for that same Jesus Himself is also the Word of God, incarnate, rather than in written form (John 1: 1-14).

So, the first answer to the question of What Do You Think of Jesus? is this: He is who He says He is, that He is the “I Am”, and that, John 1: 12, for “. . . as many as received Him, in them He gave the right to become the children of God . . . .

And the second answer to that question is this: I am a Man of God, and God’s Word – incarnate in Jesus Christ, and written in the Holy Bible is profitable for me for doctrine (what I believe and therefore the principles on which I choose to live my life), and for reproof, correction and instruction, which are all elements of the same thing, that is the spiritual standards on which we determine our choices in life. So, as a Man of God, I cannot claim ignorance of the Word of God, because I know Jesus, the Word and the Truth, and I believe Him and in Him, and in addition to the unceasing work of the Holy Spirit in me, I have the reference work of God, the Holy Bible, for much of the history of mankind, and of God’s kind Grace, His unmerited favor, to mankind. So, even more so than those un-tutored in the reality of Jesus Christ, who (as Paul writes in Romans 1: 20), are without excuse, in that “ . . . since the creation of the world His (God’s) invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

Now that his foundation in us is assured, what are some of the clear suggestions in Scripture of how we face this World, how we shall choose to live in this World, so full of evil, which is sin? We have available to us, for our profit, some significant, but basic, principles from the examples of Scripture. Let’s take a look at them.

First, we are directed to the example of the old man, Simeon, of Jerusalem. We find his story in Luke 2, beginning in Verse 25. It reads, “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he (Simeon) took Him (Jesus) up in his (Simeon’s) arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel.’

In the testimony of Simeon, we find him as a Man of God, one of those mentioned in II Timothy 3: 16, for whom Scripture is profitable for doctrine and spiritual standards of life, a Man of God, who is “just and devout”. And we find Simeon with the Holy Spirit upon him, well before the Ascension of Jesus at the end of His earthly ministry, and that the Holy Spirit has not only been upon Simeon, but has informed Simeon of what the future holds, a prophetic insight into what is going to happen, not just in the arrival of a baby boy, Jesus, but the salvation that inheres in who Jesus Christ is, and that not only for the glory of God’s people, Israel, but also the revelation that inheres in who Jesus Christ is, for the Gentiles! Simeon knew all that was important, in a time when the Romans owned and occupied Israel and Jerusalem and much evil abounded. His priorities were built on the focus on Jesus and His salvation.

What did Simeon do when he encountered the parents with the baby Jesus? First of all, without fanfare and pronouncements and proclamations, Simeon knew, in his spirit, that of all the babies being brought forth in the temple according to the custom of the law, that this particular one, brought in by these un-named parents, was the One, the Holy One, and how did he get there at that precise time and place with that precise knowledge? He was led by the Holy Spirit!! Second of all, Simeon immediately recognized Jesus for who He is, the “I Am”, (Exodus 3: 14; John 10: 30) and Simeon embraced Jesus, taking Jesus up into his arms and, third of all, Simeon, blessed God and proclaimed the fulfillment of the prophetic revelation which the Holy Spirit had given to Simeon.

Why is this passage in Scripture? To show us how we get to Christ, like Simeon, through the Holy Spirit, and what we should do when we find Him! Amen! And to realize that Simeon was, in his heart, “just and devout” and waiting on the Lord to be revealed in his lifetime. He wasn’t running around trying to overthrow the Romans so the Israelites would be free, he was just waiting for the moment when, as he had been promised, this old devout Jew would meet Jesus as Savior! We could take a lesson from Simeon as we look at our World today.

Next, we are directed to the example of an old widow woman, Anna, a prophetess (not from the Levites, but from the tribe of Asher). She was a widow, after only seven years of marriage, of about 84 years, and she lived in the temple in Jerusalem, and was in the temple when Simeon met Jesus Christ. We found her story, also, in Luke 2, beginning in Verse 36, reading as follows: “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She lived to a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

By what so-called “co-incidence” did Anna arrive “in that instant” when Simeon was embracing, lifting up, and proclaiming the salvation, glory and revelation inherent in Jesus, that little baby? It was not merely co-incidence, but a divine appointment scheduled and promoted by the Holy Spirit! And, as Simeon was “just and devout”, Anna fasted and prayed, night and day, and she was a prophetess, in constant contact with God, and when she found that little baby, at that divine appointment, she knew what and whom she beheld and she proclaimed Him, Jesus, to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem – Jesus was and is that redemption!! Anna served God in a lifestyle of worship and loving attention, night and day – she was deeply in relationship with God – and she offers us another lesson as we look at the evil in the world around us.

Third, we are directed to the response of Jesus to His disciples, when they inquired as to the “End Times Signs”, Matthew 24, and we are not here today to say whether we are in those End Times are not – many generations before us have believed they were and they were not – but Jesus offered His disciples, and through Scripture, offers us a powerful admonition as we sort through the fog of battle in our lives, as we try to understand what is happening and as we strive to know what will happen in the future. In Matthew 24: 4, the very first thing that Jesus tells His disciples, in answer to their question (Verse 3, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”}, “. . . Take heed that no one deceives you.” Satan is the Grand Deceiver, Revelation 12: 9, for he “. . . deceives the whole world . . . .” Indeed, Jesus named Satan, John 8:44, as “the Father of Lies”.

So, with the turmoil and conflicting opinions, and the often uncertain facts around us, and the constant deceptions and lies of Satan, how do we keep from being deceived? Well, that gets back to basics, back to answering that question, “What do you think of Jesus?” If we know Jesus as the Truth, and if we understand his earthly ministry as the Word of God incarnate, and if we have chosen to be people of God, then we find the Holy Scriptures profitable for doctrine and for our spiritual standards of life. Remember, the caution and encouragement in Jesus’ rebuke of the devil, while in the wilderness experience, Luke 4: 4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” But, we need one more thing, and that is prophetic insight, and we have that available to us through the Holy Spirit, like Simeon and Anna. Do not forsake fasting and praying – be mindful of the testimony of Anna. The Holy Spirit will inform God’s people and His Prophets and Prophetesses.

With Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Scriptures, we have all the tools to grow into maturity, that we may be empowered to sort out the wheat from the chaff in our lives, to discern (Hebrews 5: 14) both good and evil. Thus empowered, we should not be deceived!!

And, if not deceived, we can handle all that is coming at us, but if we are deceived, we will be fearful, panic-stricken and impotent of our times of trouble, with the evil/sin in our World. Knowledge of the Truth, of Jesus, and of the Word of God, and the leading and revelation of the Holy Spirit, are the keys to power. (II Timothy 1: 7) “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Yes, our World is a mess, and not just in politics and economics, disasters of the elements of the earth and its physical properties, wars and rumors of wars, but it is a mess, morally, and spiritually. The divorce rate among evangelical Christians is virtually indistinguishable from non-believers, the Church, even as it evangelizes, does a poor job of discipling believers to maturity. And that is the challenge for every church and for every believer. We must decide that what we think about Jesus requires us to become believers and to become mature in that belief, so that we have not only the keys to heaven but also the keys to power on earth, in this World, based on knowledge, so we will know if, and when, we have done all we can do, Ephesians 6, but stand and pray. The World is a mess. God’s plan is not for world peace, in the short term, where we all “Cum-by-yah” come together and live without conflict or difficulty. It is not going to happen. We cannot defeat Satan without Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, and therefore such hopeful results, as the utopians seek, cannot be attained. And when such hopeful results are attained, they will be in God’s Plan A, “Resurrection”, and in the New Jerusalem, when the old heavens and the old earth have passed away. Now, you know what I think of Jesus. What do YOU think of Jesus!?

God bless you and amen+

Be of Good Cheer

Last week, the Holy Spirit gave us insight into the Ring of Fire in the Middle Eastern and North African Muslim countries surrounding Israel, God’s nation, into which we are en-grafted by faith in Jesus Christ, and of which we are spiritual citizens. And the Holy Spirit revealed the farce, the deception, of the clamor for democracy in the countries of that Ring of Fire: a farce because they clamor not for the liberty of democratic ideals, but for submission – Islam – to Sharia Law, and they clamor also for the opportunity, even more so, to be part of Jihad against Israel and its supporters; and a deception, because so many in the rest of the world are swept along in a euphoria of delight that “democracy” is finally coming to that region.

It is time for us to recall the voices, the wisdom, of our nation’s founding fathers, and of other philosophers of those times in the late 1700’s, clarifying that true freedom was found in the protection of the God-given, “inalienable” rights of man, extending to the minority, not just to the majority. Because, in its results, true and pure democracy does not protect the rights of the minority, but only the desires of the majority, and so democracy is, as the founding fathers and philosophers knew, just mob rule, or as they often put it, the “tyranny of the majority”. Thus, our government is set up as a republic, not a true and pure democracy, so that we have checks and balances, and a system of representation, to provide for protection of the God-given, unalienable, rights of individuals – of minorities, not just free rein and submission to the will of the majority. Many people confuse these important concepts and we need to be reminded of these important concepts in order to see more clearly what is happening in the Middle East and in North Africa, in the Ring of Fire, and to pierce and remove our own veils of deceptions about what is going on in that region, and in the applauding world. Truly, this push to democracy there is a farce and a deception, greatly increasing the risks to the security of Israel and of the United States and of the protection of the God-given, “unalienable” rights of individuals, minorities, such as freedom of religion, speck and assembly.

When we have such deception, we have confusion, because things are not as they seem to be, and when we have confusion, we are obviously double-minded, and therefore unstable in all of our ways (James 1: 5-8).

So, today, the Holy Spirit has spoken and said of these world circumstances in which we are all personally caught up, “Be of Good Cheer”, and that is the title of our message today, Be of Good Cheer.

Does that mean for us to adopt a simplistic, “What? Me worry?” (Mad Magazine, Alfred E Neuman) attitude and philosophy of life? No, it means that we need to get such focus, such a grasp, on the reality of the supernatural, spiritual, and spirit- filled lives that God has promised us, and makes available to us, that we are not again, in any way, deceived by the confusions of our times, and that, through it all, we know God and His word, and, through it all, we know and believe in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and, through it all, we are led, comforted and trained by the Holy Spirit.

If we get out of our habits and ruts of double-mindedness and confusion, and un-clear thinking and hoping, we will, through our faith, be empowered to join God in His clarity of knowledge and thought as He considers, Psalm 2, the vain schemes of nations against Him, and scoffs and laughs, knowing that those very nations – ours and those in the Ring of Fire and all across the globe – are now (Matthew 28: 18) given to the authority of Jesus Christ for (Psalm 2) His inheritance and possession, and that (Psalm 2) He shall break the offending nations to pieces like clay, and,Revelation 21, in the dialectical timing of God’s march through history, He will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth, and the old heaven and old earth, with all of its nations, will be no more.

So, like it says in Psalm 2: 10-12, “Now, therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” So, my fellow Christians, let’s be wise kings over our own, personal lives! Wise up!!

Part of wising up, or “getting wisdom” is to gain the understanding that, usually when there is a collision/a conflict, between belief and unbelief, between idolatry and obedience, then doubt, double-mindedness and instability create confusion in the minds of many people, if not of most people.

Let’s look at the experience Paul had, Acts 19, in Ephesus, where he had been preaching and teaching and ministering for over two years: Ephesus was the home of the Temple of Diana, a pagan goddess, and considered itself to be the “temple guardian” of the goddess Diana, and “of the image which fell down from Zeus”, another pagan god (Acts 19: 35). Some in the town tried to copy the supernatural healings and exorcisms that God had worked, by the authority of the Name of Jesus, through the hands of Paul (Verses 11-17), but it didn’t work out too well for them. Here is what happened (Verses 15-16), “And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them (seven sons of a Jewish chief priest, Verse 14), overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded.

This event made the news of that day, and became widely known to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus, and two really important things happened: fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, Verse 17. But then, the leader of the “workers union” that made silver idols/shrines of Diana and sold them throughout Asia for what is slyly termed “no small profit” (Verse 24), called his fellow craftsman together and said, Verses 25-27, “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. [See, Exodus 20: 1-5So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.” This union leader, leader of the silversmith craftsman’s association, or whatever it was, proclaimed that Paul’s teachings about God and Jesus would hurt the union members financially.

This produced a union full of wrath (Verse 28) and brought the entire city of Ephesus into “confusion” (Verse 29), and the “whole city” (Verse 29“rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized . . . Paul’s travel companions”Verse 32 confirms the continuing confusion: “Some therefore cried out one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” Well, the Jews pushed forward into this mob scene a Jewish fellow named Alexander, after Paul was persuaded by his disciples not to go into the mob at the theater, and Alexander persuaded the mob to break up and to pursue any remedies they might have in a court of law. So, the theater emptied.

In Ephesus, when genuine fear of God fell on people who believed, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, and the truth was preached, and the Lord God chose to move supernaturally with healings and exorcisms and the revelation of truth and knowledge, that focus on God and Jesus created a confrontation of genuine belief in God and Jesus with unbelief and idolatry (and those two always go together), and that confrontation produced a great confusion, accompanied by wrath and distrust and fear of circumstances.

We can look at the Ring of Fire in the Middle East and North Africa, and we can look at the looming financial crises in our American governments, unions, businesses and families. When we do this we see the ways in which the people of our country, our state, our county, and our towns, and others in similar places all over the world, have come to rely on and put our, and their, trust in governments of men, despite our public claim that it is “In God We Trust”.

When we see those things with a clear and focused eye, and with a genuine fear of God, and with a heart determined like flint to magnify the Name of the Lord Jesus, we see the wide-spread deceptions and farces, the wide-spread unbelief, the wide-spread wrong-belief, all of which our God names as idolatry, and in the collision of all of these we see the world’s confusion, and sometimes we have it ourselves, and are also confused.

Confusion, or what anarchists, progressives, socialists and Muslims call “chaos”, is what those people want, at least if you read their materials. All of those but the Muslims see confusion or chaos as a means, a hallway, to pass through to get to new world order of government; the Muslims believe that chaos is what they can trigger to bring the Twelfth Imam, Muhammed al-Mahdi.

But that is not what Jehovah God wants. He wants clarity between truth and lies. He has provided a way for us to see through the fog of our earthly lives and wars and conflicts and confusions. He has provided a way, that, if we will choose to believe it and to do it, we will know and see, clearly, that dramatic distinction between truth and lies. That way out of the fog of confusion, the way that God has provided us, is through the Holy Spirit, who, John 16: 13, is here to guide us in the way of all truth, and John 16: 8, to convict the world in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. That is a big step, even a giant step, forward for mankind, but it will clean up the confusion pretty well for us, if we will choose God’s plan. But, to get there, we have to get deeply renewed in the mind of Christ and focused on Him, our Lord Jesus, and our God Jehovah, and His Spirit.

So, where does this study and revelation from the Holy Spirit bring us; where are we? Are we, finally, like the people in Ephesus, Acts 19: 17, at that place where, after years of Paul’s “up close and personal” ministry, in which it became publicly known that witchcraft was unable to defeat evil spirits, and that Paul ministered supernaturally in the Name of Jesus, that two things happened in the body of believers: Fear fell on them all, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified! Have those two things happened to us? Have we gotten off of our personal agendas, and off of our irreverence, and off of our light-hearted focus on the fun in our lives, and off of our brooding heavy-hearted fears of the circumstances of our lives? Really??

Well, today the Holy Spirit is telling us clearly that we are not there yet. He is saying that it is time for us to renew our focus on our God, in such a profound focus that our fear of the Lord is renewed and refreshed, and that we do magnify His name.

How do we do that? A few reminders, and a little change in the spiritual (not the bio-) rhythms of our lives:

  1. Hebrews 4: 16, “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 intent of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Commentary: Get back in the Word, daily, even multiple times per day. Also, realize that you and your life are completely open to God and you must give Him an account of your life. Focus comes from realizing that you are going in for a job review every day. That will sharpen your focus! And that is what we need. And, also, rely on the Holy Spirit and His work in your life to sharply and powerfully cut away the confusions in your lives, so that you see all issues with clarity as between truth and lies and you trust God in all circumstances, even unto death (Revelation 12: 11).
  2. Psalm 46: 10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Commentary: Must of us are constantly multi- tasking or planning how we can do so. But only when we are “still”, and not otherwise “tasking” do we take that extra deep breath, and place that extra concentration, to focus on our awe, and reverent fear, of the Lord, and to magnify His name in our hearts. Be Still!! Meditate on Psalm 63, our call to worship today; and for a season, meditate on it daily or more.
  3. Psalm 66: 1-5, “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises in Your name.’ Selah. Come and see the works of God: He s awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.” Commentary: Praise and worship Him daily, constantly, for who He is and for His awesomeness in His doings towards us, the sons of men!
  4. John 16: 33, despite the confusions and deceptions, and competing self-interests, and farces being played out on the stage of the earth and our lives in it, trust our Lord Jesus, His Father our God and the Holy Spirit that They have sent to be with us, as Jesus said, here, “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.

Conclusion: If our God is for us, who can overcome; who can stand against us and Him? No one can and no one will! Regardless of the tribulations of this world, and we see them everywhere, from Jerusalem, to Cairo, to Tripoli, to the Somali pirates, to China, to Iran, to North Korea, to Washington and Wisconsin, and even in South Carolina, we have the tribulations of this world. Get Wise, Be Still before the Lord your God, Magnify His Name, shout your praises to Him and worship Him, and Know Him and His word intimately. And do not forget the wisdom of II Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, having (the promises of the things Jesus has told us), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” And, like the believers in Ephesus, take seriously and reverently the fear of the Lord, knowing that, even today in our lives, Proverbs 1: 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Be of good cheer in the promises of our Lord Jesus. God bless you and amen+

Growing Your Own Life (With a Little Bit of Help!)

The title of our message is “Growing Your Own Life (With a Little Bit of Help! )”. We take as the principal text of our message the Parable of the Sower, Mark 4: 2-10 and Jesus’ interpretation of it in Mark 4: 13-20 (Read them): “Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: ‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some a hundred.’” – – – – “And He said to them, ‘Do you understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and yet they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns, they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit; some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundred.’” [Notice, all four have heard the word – the issue is what did they do with it and about it.]

The Holy Spirit has shown me, in preparation for today’s message, a new insight, at least new for me, into this Parable of the Sower. My old insight has been that all of our seed-sowing has been understood, under this parable, as seed sown into the lives of others, through which we could see fruit born, either as good fruit or bad fruit, or even no fruit, depending on the ground into which those seeds were sown, which means depending on the hearts into which those seeds were sown. We have understood the principle of planting seeds, the seeds being watered, and the seeds being harvested as fruit into the kingdom of God. We have understood that sometimes we plant our seeds by the wayside or on stony ground or among thorns and, thank God, sometimes in good ground.

Today, the Holy Spirit says that we have, through our ability to choose – our freedom of will and choice – all of these kinds of ground in us and available to us, personally, and we have to choose what kind of ground in us we are going to nurture and sow in our own lives.

So, today, the Holy Spirit asks the question, “How are you growing your own life?” The Holy Spirit is asking us not just about the seeds we plant in the lives of other people, but about the seeds we are planting in our own lives. The Holy Spirit is asking us if we are investing the seed of our lives – the minutes of our time in this physical body – in good ground in our own lives or are we investing those minutes, those seeds, in the wayside of our lives, in the stony ground of our lives and in the thorny places of our lives – that is what He is asking each one of us today!

The Holy Spirit is revealing to us the importance of this Parable of the Sower in the lives of others and today, most particularly, in our own lives. The Holy Spirit is asking us if we have to some extent suspended our own growth because we have become so busy in planting seeds elsewhere, that we are not planting seeds in ourselves in this season. The Holy Spirit is asking us if our growth is incomplete, in our lives, because we have not planted enough seeds in good ground in our own lives.

How do we answer this question? I believe the answer for each one of us would be uniform in this respect: We would probably all agree that we need to be growing our own lives better! And I believe that for each one of us, there would be nuances of considerable difference in our individual lives. But the Holy Spirit has suggested to me that there is more common ground in our answers than might at first blush appear.

That common ground we all share can be found in the choices we make in our time priorities, our finances. This came to a peak of reality to me yesterday as I took a few, a very few, minutes, just to sit on the porch while the dogs were let out of the house for a relief break, and realized that I didn’t spend enough time alone to ponder my priorities. Rather, I tend to move from one agenda item to the next, in kind of an unrelenting motion. The Holy Spirit said to me yesterday that I had become focused on something important: that while my thought was about such “time- alone”, that He was not just interested in the matter of that kind of “alone-time”, but He was interested in the matter of how the priorities of time and money, which I set in my life, and to some considerable extent, in the lives of my family, are really seeds I am planting in my own life and am causing to be planted in the lives of my family – and perhaps in the lives of others. That has made me stop and think even more. [It is delightful to have a conversation with the Holy Spirit in which He is not pressed into doing all the listening while I do all the talking!]

At first, as I heard from the Holy Spirit yesterday, I was somewhat defensive and countered with James 2:26, that “. . . faith without works is also dead.” And that, therefore, I “had” to do all the things I do, moving relentlessly through “my” agenda. But the Holy Spirit countered and said, “Yes, but what about the works in the good ground in your own self?” And then the lights came on and I saw that I need to get busier with a review of my own priorities of time and money. And the Holy Spirit made it clear that this is also a message for the body of this church. So, the Holy Spirit is asking you, too, the question of how are you tending the garden of your own life.

In our society, time is money and money is time. Employees clock time and employers keep it. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. In other words if we don’t put in the time, we don’t get paid. So, there is this definitive relationship of time and money. The notion of an hourly wage or an hourly rate or a salary in exchange for a minimum number of hours – all confirm that time is money and money is time.

The Holy Spirit then addresses this issue of time and money by addressing the issue of debt and freedom from debt. And, obviously, these two are inter-related: Without debt, you don’t need as much money, and if you don’t need as much money, then you are free from having to work so much and are therefore freer to prioritize yourself to be more available, on standby even, for fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and to be available at His bidding to be sowing seeds on better ground within yourself and within others!

How you are growing yourself up has everything to do with shedding yourself of worldly holds on your time, money and energy, so that you are freed to be bound as a bondservant of Christ, and not bound as a bondservant of the world and its creditors upon your time and money and energy.

Increasingly, ever since the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me II Corinthians 7: 1, I have come to see this as the pivotal verse in illuminating our Christian walk, as that walk is summarized in Ephesians 4: 13, in our growing ourselves up, by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the faith and in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a complete mature person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

So, once again, we face II Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, (promises from the latter part of II Corinthians 6, that God will be our God and dwell in us and be our Father, as we separate ourselves from the unclean and worldly), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

This cleansing occurs as we sow seeds in the good ground in us and as we, therefore (because there is only so much time in our lives) avoid sowing the seeds – the minutes – of our lives in the wayside (where Satan comes immediately and takes away that seed – wastes it and converts it to evil), on stony ground (where there is a temporary embellishment of our faith and cleansing which does not endure in us in the face of tribulation or persecution – such as the persecution of temptation), or among thorns, where the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things (time and money again) choke off that seed and keep it from growing. No, not those unworthy places in us that clamor for the investment of our time and money – the seed minutes of our lives – but in the good ground, where we embrace and embody only the things directed by our Lord, and then we have fruit to the extent of 30-, or 60-, or 100-fold! That is where it is! God expects big things from us, a big return, more that 1:1, but as much as 1:100!!! That is where the calling is for us to get free from bondage to this world, so that our time, money and energy is constantly at God’s disposal and we are not holding back because we are otherwise obligated or otherwise desirous in our own hearts!

The Holy Spirit today is encouraging us to start working our way back to where He is calling us, back to Matthew 6: 32-33, “For after all these things the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things (food, shelter and clothing). But seek first the kingdom of God an His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Holy Spirit is calling His church, the Bride of Christ, to get her priorities corrected, in time, money and energy, to be available when he calls on us. Ready to go and do, and at all times ready to be, with Him! So, how are you growing your life? How are you investing, minute by minute, the seeds of your life in yourself. Are you cleansing yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in your lives? These are questions for you, for His church, and for me – serious questions. Think on these things and make time to sit down, on the porch or somewhere, and have a follow-up fellowship and conversation with the Holy Spirit. OH, and be sure you are mostly listening! Because you probably need a little help with growing your own life, and the Holy Spirit is your available help – to guide you in the way of all truth and to convict you of sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16: 13, 8).


God bless you+ and Amen.

You Are Never Alone

Despair in my life has mostly been revealed when I was unable to overcome my loneliness, when I was unable to find that friend to be with me in my pain, my uncertainty, my deprivation, my losses, and at times, my hopelessness. In the midst of those times, I was appreciative of my parents, and my then few good friends and relatives, who came alongside me and walked with me, and made provision for me, and prayed for and with me, and encouraged and inspired me, and revealed to me a future after those days of despair. Those human companions were most helpful to me, but they were not enough, and the more effective ones of those were the ones who, while wringing their hands with me, nudged me – even re-pushed me – back into the arms of Jesus Christ, in the Spirit. There, I found that I was, in fact, never alone, and never would be, and that I would have perfect companionship and leadership and assurance, no matter what were, or became, the circumstances of my life, no matter what brought my emotions to want to embrace despair.

My despair, in the past, broke through my pride and inspired me to seek the Word of God so that, like Isaiah told the king and people of Jerusalem (Isaiah 8: 16), I might “Bind up the testimony, (and) seal the law . . .” in my head and heart. And in so doing, that I might know the deeper reality of who Jesus is, and the deeper reality of His presence in my life, and the deeper reality of His call on my life, and the deeper reality of His companionship in my life – indeed, that I might know the deeper reality of His presence in such a way that I would never be alone. And I have not been.

My experience is that despair tends to give us tunnel vision, as we stare at what despairs us. But then out of the despair, we look around for relief, and I am ever thankful for those who re- pointed my vision to Jesus Christ for that relief, and helped me see that it was His miraculous intervention in my life that brought me through, over time, the circumstances and consequences of my decisions and despair.

I am ever thankful that I could see, and today, I want to be one of those who prepares you for times of despair that may be here now in some of you, and such times to come, one who points and re-points your vision to Jesus Christ for your assurance of His plans for you being accomplished in spite of your despair. Today, I encourage you to see, and to know in the fullness of your hearts, what King David knew, and what I came to know, and what so many of you have come to know, (Psalm 16: 7-11; Acts 2: 25-28; see also Psalm 139: 7-16), that “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices: my flesh will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

We find such comfort in this passage, and such instruction:

  1. That the Lord provides us counsel and is always available to be at our right hand – right there with us, sothat we are not alone.
  2. That we should emulate King David and always put theLord before us, in our priorities, where we can see Himin our mind’s eyes.
  3. That in embracing these concepts, our heart will alsoinstruct us in the night seasons, so that when we seemmost alone, we will be comforted by His presence.
  4. That, therefore, our heart will be glad and our glory will be rejoicing and that in His presence – in our everyday lives – we will everyday be blessed with a real “fullnessof joy”.
  5. That, therefore, our flesh will rest in hope that theLord’s presence – Emmanuel, God is with us – will transcend our flesh and transcend the consequences of sin, that we will not be left in Sheol, but will find the path of life.
  6. And that, therefore, we can be assured that even in His man form, Jesus’ body did not see corruption in His human death.
  7. His promises are forever, His presence is forever.
  8. So, if we receive the Lord’s counsel, and if we set Him before us at all times in our priorities, and if we receive and welcome Him at our right hand, then we wouldnever have need of despairing.

When Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus, Isaiah 7: 14, he called His name Immanuel, “God with us.” And in Matthew 1:21, upon the angel appearing to Joseph to explain the immaculate conception and the forthcoming virgin birth, the angel said “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. And in the next verses, Matthew 1: 22-23, it is written, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Isaiah), saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’’” In God’s plan, He knew that, for most of us, we could be saved only by His presence in our lives, His being with us, that only His presence would give us the confidence and the inspiration to accept His counsel and His promises forevermore – they are all based on His presence in our lives. And it was and is His plan that we all be saved in Christ and to come to the knowledge of the truth, I Timothy 2: 4. And so the actual presence of God was made available to us, and is available to us, in Christ, that we might be saved and by His counsel we might come to the knowledge of the truth!

We know from Scripture of the close relationship of Moses and God. We know that Moses sinned against God in such a way that God spoke and ordained the consequences: in Numbers 27:12-22, “Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes.’ (These are the waters of Meribah, at Ka-desh in the Wilderness of Zin.) Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand upon him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation and inaugurate him in their sight, and you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him – all the congregation.’ So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. And he laid his hands on him and inaugurated him, just as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.

We see here that there were consequences of Moses’ sin: He was forbidden to go into the Promised Land, though he could see it, and he lost some of his authority over the children of Israel. (And also notice how God raised up His choice, Joshua, for leadership in the congregation.)

Yet, nevertheless, God’s love of Moses never wavered, and God’s faithfulness to Moses never changed, and God’s presence with Moses was never withdrawn. Let’s readDeuteronomy 34: 1-10, “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea (the Mediterranean Sea), the South and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

And He (the Lord) buried him (Moses) in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor, but no one knows his grave to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended. Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

Yes, we see here that even though there were consequences to Moses’ sin, in his earthly life – he did not go into the earthly Promised Land, and he parted with some of his authority, to Joshua, God never left him. He remained healthy and vigorous until his death at 120 years (calling to mind God’s admonition that after Noah and his sons, men would not live past 120 years), and God personally showed him from the mountains the views of the earthly Promised Land, all the way from what is now the nation called Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea almost 100 miles away! And Moses was one man of whom Scripture says that he knew God face to face: that is how personal was God’s presence in Moses’ life.

Jesus assured us that when he ascended from His earthly life, we would still have the presence of God available to us, that He would send the Holy Spirit to us to be the presence of God dwelling in us and among us. (John 14: 16-17.) What Jesus was telling his disciples then, and it is true today, that though He left as one man, He would return to all as Holy Spirit. Paul writes in II Corinthians 3: 17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Yes, with the Holy Spirit with us, God with us, Emmanuel, we have liberty from our circumstances, no matter how bad they are and no matter how much despair those circumstances push upon us.

The Holy Spirit comes to us to bring conviction to all mankind for the purpose of convicting and convincing of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:8. But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, has not made the whole world his dwelling place. He dwells only in those who are born again, who are convinced and convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment, and who become new creatures in Christ! The Holy Spirit is not here as a passive influence in the lives of men and the life of mankind. The Holy Spirit is as real in the spirit as you are yourself in the body, in the flesh: He hears, sees, talks, listens, knows and acts.

What if today, on your way out of here, Jesus suddenly was with you in the flesh, as on the Road to Emmaus, and revealed Himself to you for who He is. What would you say to Him, what would you want to tell Him and ask Him? Would you disconnect from your personal agenda for the afternoon and share with Him the burdens of your heart? Would you tell Jesus who you have compassion for, and what resources you see are needed for and by that person or persons? Would you seek His help in powerful, personal help with problems and things that make you despair over things in your own life? You would do those things, right? You wouldn’t run away from Jesus, would you? But you would welcome and relish and enjoy that one-on-one time with Him, right? And that is what is constantly available to us in the Holy Spirit, that one-on-one time with Jesus in His Spirit form, a form as real as His fleshly form. Harpazo, seize the opportunity and move forcefully through, even abandoning your personal agenda, and seize the opportunity available to you every day to have the kingdom of heaven as your earthly domain.

Paul shares God’s wisdom, in the Spirit of Wisdom, I Corinthians 10: 12-14, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Paul is reminding us that God is with us in all temptations, even when despair tempts us to reject God and seek his replacement in idols, that God is always with us and He always provides a way of escape from such temptation.

Surely, Paul endured those temptations, temptations to abandon God who seemed not to be doing anything but forging the character of Christ in Paul as he endured many of the sufferings of Christ (as listed in II Corinthians 11: 23- 28). Yet Paul’s deepest concern remained concern for all the churches (verse 28). He, like King David, always kept the Lord before him and at his right hand. Paul, like David, and like Moses, lived with great vigor and passion and purpose because they found, and held onto in trying and desperate times, the liberty necessary to so live in vigor, passion and purpose, because in the Spirit of the Lord, and in the Lord Himself, they found that freedom, that free-ing from temptation to idolatry, that truest of liberties.

I submit to you that all those ways of escape that Paul knew of, learned of, and wrote about, lead from God and back to God, and God is with us, Immanuel, always. We need never despair, and give in by so doing, to bondage to sin and death. We should always seize, even violently, the liberty of the Spirit of Jesus. He dwells in us who believe in Him and, therefore, we are never alone. If God is for us, who can stand against us. If we are weak, God is strong: we are never without His love, faithfulness, mercy, grace, wisdom and strength. Most of all we are never without His presence.

Amen and God bless you+

Not My Will

A few weeks ago, we visited the Lord’s parable about the dinner a man gave for his friends, Luke 14, and we found it was a parable about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. And, if you remember, we found that the invited guests refused to come, Luke 14:8, citing various excuses of family concern, investments, work and business. Not uncommon for any of us today. As it says there, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses.”

The Holy Spirit is energetically moving around our world, our community, our families, saying, Luke 14:7, to all, “Come, for all things are ready.” Yet, most are of one accord of these legitimate concerns that are turned into excuses in which that invitation, that bidding, to do the Lord’s will, even after we have received it, is declined.

The obvious issue for each one of us is whether we are caught up in the way the world is turning in our lives, whether we are caught up in the activities of our independent urges and ambitions? Have we received an invitation, a calling, a purposeful request, from God in our lives and we have been putting it off, refusing to bring our selves into compliance with our Lord’s purposeful request in our lives?

Family is good. Business and labor are good. Investments are good. But they do take time, and God only allows us 24 hours a day. Do we choose to have time for the Lord and the calling He has on our lives.. And especially in these difficult times, where no pay check is assured, no client or customer payment is assured, we are tempted to choose to allow ourselves to be ensnared by the demands of this world, including a government with a vicious taxation, far beyond that even contemplated in God’s message to Saul, as set forth in I Samuel 8:15.

And you remember the Master’s response, in that dinner parable, Luke 14:21, 24, “Then the master of the house became angry, said to his servant . . . . ‘none of those men who were invited will taste my supper.’”

Jesus was blunt and concise. He was clear and direct, without equivocation or qualification – no excuses, not even good ones were acceptable to the master of the house: This parable is a warning to us, as we discussed in much more detail a few weeks ago, a warning against the temptation of falling in love with the world, or of being captured by fear of it.

The connecting bridge or dot is that issue of love: do our loves and fears keep us away from Jesus and His will? What was the question that Jesus asked Peter, in John 21:15-17, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these (the other disciples there)? He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He (Jesus) said to me a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love You.’ He (Jesus) said to him (Peter), “Feed My sheep.’ He (Jesus) to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He (Jesus) said to him (Peter) the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”

As Christians, we all would share the notion, “Hey, we do love Jesus” and so we would tend to focus on this instruction to feed the lambs of Jesus, with natural and spiritual food.

But Jesus, whom Peter knew, and we know, and believe, knows all things, already knows we love Him, and that Peter loved him, or so it appears. But if you consider this and in context, this was not as simple as it appeared. Jesus was not trying to get Peter to persuade Jesus that Peter loved Jesus: Jesus already knew what he needed to know about that, so what is not so apparent is that Jesus was trying to get Peter to evaluate his love for Jesus; that is why Jesus kept asking the same question of Peter, “Do you love Me?” That is the same question he continually asks of us, of each one of us, “Do you love Me?’

Now, you ask, what troubled Jesus about this man, Peter, this fisherman whom Jesus had called, and who had followed Jesus? Well, Jesus had already prophesied, out of foreknowledge, that Peter would deny him at the time of Jesus’ trial and scourging and leading to the Crucifixion, and Peter in fact did that out of fear of the governing authorities. But also, in this context here in John 21, at the breakfast, Jesus had seen it happen again.

The context here is that we are after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (indeed, Peter had been one to run to the empty tomb). Peter owned his own boat, a business, and he was the captain of that boat, and even though Jesus was back in the body of the Resurrection and had already shown himself to the disciples, Peter said I’m out of here – I’m going fishing! We can relate to that, right? See the beginning of John 21, and in Verse 3. And several other disciples were there with him and they went out night fishing with nets and caught nothing! (Verse 3). When morning came there was a man on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus, and Jesus (already knowing the answer) asked them if they had caught anything, and they said, “No.” So He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and that they would find some fish. And on that cast, they caught so many fish that they couldn’t pull them all in. Then John said to Peter, Hey, that man on the beach is the Lord, it is Jesus, and Peter dove in and swam to the shore to see Jesus. Peter met Jesus on the beach, the others brought in the boat and the heavy net, and Peter went to the edge of the sea and dragged the net in – pretty strong guy!

It is interesting here that Jesus still allowed Peter’s fishing trip, his business venture to be abundantly successful. Jesus favored Peter with success, even as he guided Peter in where to invest his nets and his energy.

Jesus had a campfire going on the beach and they cooked and ate some fresh fish and then Jesus interrogated Peter about his love for Jesus.

That was the context of the love interrogation. What Jesus was seeing was that Peter was distracted by the opportunities (or perceived opportunities) of his business, or even just by the love of fishing for fish, a worldly activity. We saw this in the love interrogation because in the very next verse, John 21:18, after the third question, “Do you love Me?”, Jesus continued with this: “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked about where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

Peter, in his relative immaturity, had remained caught up in his selfness, in his own plans and paths, in his own will and fears. He, even Peter, had one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the matters of the world. He was enamored of both! How about you?? Jesus was telling Peter that, as he matured as a follower of Christ, he would not be girding himself in clothing, belt, fishing knife, even sword and going about – big strong man and leader that he was – Jesus was telling Peter that as he matured someone else – Jesus – would gird up Peter – Put him in the armor of God (Ephesians 6), take him (“carry”) Peter to a place beyond and different from Peter’s will and wish. Jesus was saying to Peter, as Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane had said to God, that Peter would find himself in his maturity saying, “Not my will, but yours.” Indeed, tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down, with his arms outstretched, and John wrote this passage, according to the scholars, after the event of Peter’s death.

Some would interpret this as saying that in his older age, his maturity, Peter would be senile, helpless, blind and tended to my others. John gave us the correct and different meaning, explaining that Peter would need the armor of God and to be carried (like Stephen) through his death, indicating in John 21:19, the same passage we are studying today, “This He (Jesus) spoke, signifying by what death he (Peter ) would glorify God. That would be an occasion of martyrdom, in which to glorify God by not denying Him in one’s death, even by proclaiming, in God’s strength, His Name and His glory, to His glory!!

And there is confirmation in Scripture of this, II Peter 1:13, “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent (this body), to stir you up . . . .” Peter was at it for Jesus even into his old age! Not helpless and senile, but he needed Jesus’ armor and burden carrying for the martyrdom to come.

And the same sort of thing happened to Paul on the way to Damascus. Paul was certain that, in tormenting, chasing, capturing and killing Christians, he was doing God’s intended work and fulfilling the calling on his life. He had inaccurately figured out God’s calling on his life, and had completely misunderstood God and God’s plan for his life. Paul was rendered helpless and blind. He, too, had to be led around, as Peter would be carried, to places where their wills were set aside for the purpose of obedience to the will of the Lord.

As Pastor David Wilkinson has so succinctly stated, “True love for Jesus must result in the death of all independent self-will.” That is what Jesus was helping Peter to figure out, and what he got Paul to figure out. And it is what we need to figure out! Not my will, but thine, o Lord.

That is also what David said to the Lord, Psalm 139:5, “You (Lord) have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” And in Psalm 139:10, “. . . Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (“Hold” in the original Hebrew, means “grip”.)

We, too, are called to be in the grip of God, in His hold, apprehended as Brother Gene Lanier would say, boxed in before and behind, and led by Him. And we are called to seek that righteousness first in our lives (Matthew 6) so intently that it is His will that is manifest in the choices, decisions, and actions in our lives. Then, as Jesus prodded Peter, all will know – even the witnesses of our death –that our love of Jesus overcomes, by the purification of our hearts and the cleansing of our unrighteousness, in our maturing like Peter, Paul and David, our personal will, our personal fears and our love of ourselves and the world. We, too, would be a poured out drink offering – all poured out, all spent, for Jesus, as Paul described in II Timothy 4:6, when our time for departure is at hand!

Face, like Jesus made Peter do, the sobering reality of your double-mindedness, of the true extent of your heart of love for Jesus, instead of the things of this world and of you self, your family, your work, career, business and investments. Face up to them, know yourself, and take heed where heed is due, for you do not know the time of your departure, and not only do you want to be ready to go when you are supposed to go, when you are going, you want to have been in the fullness, not the halfheartedness, of your love for Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit: Not my will should be your mantra, your banner, your “go to” adage and reference point for evaluating your decisions and God’s call on your life. Don’t go fishing for fish when you are otherwise called by God!

God bless you and amen+