Master, I Knew You To Be A Hard Man

Matthew 25:13-30

13 Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. 14 “For it is like a man, going into another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 In the same way, he also who got the two gained another two. 18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reconciled accounts with them. 20 He who received the five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Behold, I have gained another five talents besides them.’ 21 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 “He also who got the two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents. Behold, I have gained another two talents besides them.’ 23 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 24 “He also who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Master, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. 25 I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter. 27 You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. 28 Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn’t have, even that which he has will be taken away. 30 Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

While I was driving today the Lord brought to my mind the parable of the talents, specifically, the wicked and slothful servant who received his talent and buried it in the earth because he knew his master to be a hard man.

The Lord showed me that this man is the one who has withdrawn himself from the harvest and thinks to escape the judgments of God by hiding himself away in the world because he is afraid of God.  He thinks that he will simply guard what has been entrusted to him and return it to the Lord in-tact when He returns.

The Lord also showed me that this servant knows the judgments of God from afar off, but does not know Him; he has considered the severity of God, but not His goodness!  He sees that the world is a dark and wicked place and is paralyzed by fear that he himself might offend God if he goes out into it.  He also sees that to go out into the harvest would require much labor and great toil!  He knows that it would be back-breaking and bloody work, and he is afraid of such difficulties!  So he would much rather come home after work and stay at home, where it is comfortable, than go out and labor in His Father’s field!

KNOWING GOD

One of the things that the Lord showed me is that this servant does not really know Him.  Not really.  He has observed the severity of God from afar off, and God’s judgments seem harsh to him, but he never came near to God to learn of Him as a son or daughter of God!

As A.W. Tozer taught, God is not “in parts”, that is to say, God is not divisible into distinct and independent parts.  Everything God does is in agreement with everything that God is.  When we think of God, we must think rightly of Him!

God has never needed to diminish any of His divine nature in order to exercise another- every time God has exercised His goodness it has been in complete harmony and agreement with His severity, and, so also, every time God has exercised His judgment and wrath, it has been in complete harmony and agreement with His love!  Nothing God does is ever opposed to everything that He is; He is never constrained by “parts”, as we so often say, but acts wholly in unity with everything He is!

Because we are finite beings, God has shown Himself to us in ways that we can understand, but, in ways that are right.  Therefore, when we are admonished to“consider the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22), we’re expected to still think rightly of God, not as though His goodness were separate or opposed to His severity, but as they are in agreement together.  As much as the Father is one with the Son, so also is the goodness of God one with His severity!  And so we understand the Father through the Son.

But the wicked and slothful servant did not know God.  He thought to avoid the severity of God by hiding away in the security of home, but, he wrongly understood the severity of God because he did not know God!

Likewise, today, there are many Christians who wrongly understand God and will stand before the Lord on His return and be called a “wicked and slothful servant”!  Some because they were paralyzed by ungodly fear (Oh that we would be baptized with the true fear of God!)  while others because they were paralyzed by apathy because they thought wrongly of the goodness of God and trampled under foot the sacrifice of Christ!

WICKED AND SLOTHFUL

This person’s slothfulness is quite evident- he knew what he had been given, but was afraid of the hard labor and toil that it would take to make it increase!  And so it is hard labor and toil!  If you are going to work in your Father’s harvest, you will endure great trials in this life- you will endure sleeplessness, financial cost, ridicule, laughter, hatred, reviling, persecution, and even threat to safety.  You will because Jesus did, and we are not greater than He, are we?

Yet, notice that God did not say to the man, “you wicked and slothful servant, you didn’t return to me the same amount that the man with 5 times your gifting did!”  God did not judge him in comparison with his co-laborers!  This is one of great mistakes that we make today; we judge in comparison with others- “well he isn’t an evangelist like me” or, “he doesn’t preach”- we always want to compare ourselves among ourselves.  God didn’t do that!  He said, “I have sent your out as salt of the earth and a light atop the hill, why have you hid your light under a basket?”

Neither was the measure of the Lord’s gift to the servant burdensome or too great, for the Lord “gave to each one according to his ability”.  The Lord knew the servant well, better than the servant knew his master, apparently.  And gave to him what he knew he could handle!  The Lord never gives a gift in greater measure than we could possibly be faithful with!  The servant did not lack the skill to handle what he was given, he only lacked the heart to use it- and that because of his own slothfulness!

But, what about the man’s wickedness?  What did he do that was wicked?

First, the Lord entrusted his good things to him.  There is a measure of trust involved in this transaction, and the servant violated the Lord’s trust by hiding away the good that was given to him.

Likewise with us, when the Lord gives to us the many bountiful gifts that He entrusts to the Children of God, He gives these gifts to us with a measure of trust, expecting that we will use them properly in the service of His Kingdom.  Our wickedness is quite evident when we misuse these gifts in all manner of ways: some use their gifts to the glory of their own name, others to the hurt of their fellow servants, and others are too lazy and slothful to ever put them to use at all!  Here we are speaking of the Christian who has not put to use what Jesus has entrusted to him or her.  The neglect of the heavenly gifts given to us by Christ Jesus our Lord is one of the great acts of wickedness found in the Church!

Secondly, the faithful servants went immediately and put their Lord’s money to good use, but the slothful servant went away, like the man “who sets his hand to the plow and looks back”; He went away to hide.  He hides himself from the work he knows he should and could be doing.  He hides himself from the labor that he knows would bring increase to his Lord’s gift.  He hides himself from the toil he knows would profit his master.  He hides himself away from all the difficulty and darkness that would confront him if he were to go out into the harvest, as he should and could. He has all the ability and means to his work and increase his Lord’s gift, but he hides away!

So many times I hear people say “if I only had this gift, then I could do great things”, but so very rarely do I hear anyone offering thanksgiving to God for the gifts they do have and putting them to good use!  I wish it was the other way around, that it was rare to hear people making the excuse, and common to hear them thanking God for His gift and putting it to good use!

Thirdly, the wicked servant made excuse for his slothfulness and cast blame on God.  His response is very like Adam’s response in form in the garden of Eden when Adam gives an account of himself to God.  This wicked servant says, “I know you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter.  Therefore, I was afraid!”  He charged his slothfulness to his master’s account!

We know that our Father in Heaven provides our needs, yet, so often we offer up the excuse to God that He has not sufficiently provided for our needs, therefore, we cannot serve Him!  This is not only wrong, but it charges God with a great sin of not sufficiently providing for His own children!

The wicked servant did not care who he was slinging guilt at so long as he himself did not bare the blame, even if he had to cast guilt on his Lord.

A FAITHFUL SERVANT IN THE HARVEST

The Lord of this servant was gone for a long time.  He provided all that was necessary to his servants to go out and be profitable, even with little, and, likewise, the Lord our Savior and God, Jesus Christ, has made provision for us so that we will want for nothing to go out and make the increase.

Be careful that you do not betray the trust of the Lord by misusing what He has entrusted to you, nor hide yourself away from the trials and difficulties that you will face while on this earth.  And be careful that you do not make excuses for your slothfulness or begin to sling blame on others for why you are not being faithful with what has been entrusted to you.

Each one of us has been called as servants to work in the Lord’s harvest, therefore, see to it that you work while it is still called “Today”.  Some of us have been called as evangelists into the harvest, others are called as preachers, while others as those who give hospitality.  Every one of us under-girds the Lord’s call to the great commission and actively answers that call ourselves.  The faithful servant goes immediately to put to use what they have to make increase for the Kingdom of God.

Trust God to be faithful to keep you from stumbling as you go out into this dark and wicked world- set your hope firmly on Him to sustain you and keep you, and do not fear, as the wicked servant did, that you cannot go out to do His work, but look to your Shepherd who goes out before you, and follow Him!  Then you shall not stumble nor be overtaken by the wolves!

May you all be filled with every grace of God and be strengthened in the joy of the Lord to run the race set before you with perseverance and faithfulness, amen!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.  It’s my all-time favorite holiday.  I’ve written about it over the years quite a lot (here, here, here, here, here, and here).  I love that it’s a time for our souls to soak in humility, as we consider God’s abundant mercy, and it’s a time for our souls to be lifted up with joy, as we consider God’s infinite kindness.

I am reminded each year as I see or hear about families arguing with one another over thanksgiving dinner preparations that true thanksgiving does not come from the measure of abundance that we receive, but from the condition of our hearts to receive the blessings that we have!

I’m not going to write a long post here about Thanksgiving- the above posts still articulate what I have to say anyway- rather, I want to offer thanksgiving to God for His wonderful blessings!

MY THANKSGIVINGS

  1. Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Lord and King, my Shepherd, and my Friend!  I do not deserve You, I was nothing when You found me, I am no one today, but I am Yours- all that I am is Yours!
  2. The longsuffering kindness and mercy of God!  Without the exceeding greatness of Your mercy, I would be consumed in condemnation!  You bear with my weaknesses and infirmities, You forgive my failures, and You teach me to overcome!
  3. My Father’s discipline!  Without Your chastening I surely would have gone far astray and been lost in the outer darkness!  But You bring me in and teach me Your ways!
  4. New life!  The wonderful blessing of Naomi Elizabeth, our baby girl!  In a year with many troubles, God has given Mary and I a powerful blessing!
  5. A virtuous wife!  A treasured jewel, my wife is one of God’s most amazing blessings!  That He would send her to me just blows my mind!  She is patient, meek, sweet, kind, and understanding.  She is my wife!
  6. Reconciliation!  This year I’ve seen reconciliation worked in my life with brothers and sisters I did not think I would see reconciliation with again.  Again, the Lord has taught me the value of “gentleness” and “peace”, that now I see that anyone who does not yet have these has not yet matured in the mind of Christ.
  7. New Fellowship!  I rejoice as God has given us fellowship with new brothers and sisters in various places all over!  They are relationships I treasure deeply and am so thankful that God has shown me more of His family!
  8. Daily bread!  Our Father provides our daily bread, a miracle I do not understand, but I rejoice that He has not let us want for nourishment!
  9. Revelation!  A great joy to my soul is the revelation God has taught my heart.  Through infirmity, trial, the Word, and travel, God has taught me His will, and I thank Him!
  10. The future!  Because of Jesus Christ, my future is secure, and my hope safe!  I know not what tomorrow may bring, but I know, whatever it may bring, Jesus Christ is there to receive me and keep me safe.

~~~

Heb 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Hallowed

Usually I write about holiday’s like Halloween quite a bit in advance, but this month has been so busy with the baby coming, adjusting to being a father, and traveling to KC to visit family, that I haven’t had time to write about Halloween until now.

So, with Halloween just six days away, let’s give some thought to Halloween.

HALLOWEEN

Halloween derives its name from “All Hallowed Eve” and is a Catholic adulteration of the special Druid night called “Samhain”. The Druid priests believed this particular night was a night when the realm of the dead came closest to the realm of the living and the powers of darkness were heightened to their peak.  Halloween’s history, though quite extensive and very interesting, is readily available from other more authoritative sources than me, so it’s not my intention to investigate it any further.  I’ll assume that you understand the basic pagan roots and how it was brought in with and adulterating effect by the Catholic Church.

The part I want to focus on is Halloween’s “holiness”.  Halloween, when broken down to it’s basic elements, is all about “holiness”, but the question is “whose holiness?”  The founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LeVay, wrote that “the two holiest Satanic holidays after one’s [own] birthday are Walpurgisnacht (May 1st) and Halloween”.  It has been said that on Halloween “Christians around the world will join hands with satanists, pagans, occultists and the like in an attempt of one of the most insane, bizarre unions to ever hit the planet”.  Halloween is filled with the “idols of Halloween” (see section on “Ornaments of Halloween”), which many Christians buy at Wal-Mart and take into their homes (where they are supposed to be raising Godly offspring).

What is important to understand is that Halloween is viewed by Satan as his holy day.  Indeed, darkness is Halloween’s appeal and death is its rule.

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

I have two primary considerations to write about before I reveal the purpose and goal of writing this post.

My first consideration is regarding the holy name of God.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  ~Matthew 6:9 (NASB)

Jesus’ first and foremost concern in prayer was that the name of God would be hallowed.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray and ask God for this because the hallowing of God’s name is not accomplished by the power of man, it is God’s work:

But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, where they went. Therefore tell the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: I don’t do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, says the Lord Yahweh, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. ~Ezekiel 36:21-23 (WEB/ESV)

The people of God profaned His name among the nations by both observing the festivals, customs, and traditions of pagan religions and calling on the holy name of God.  Therefore, God’s mighty work is to vindicate the holiness of His great name by the demonstration of His power in and through His people to all nations.

Therefore, when we pray to ask God to “hallow His name”, we are asking Him to use us to vindicate His holy name from the common and profane!

The holy name of God is my first concern for Christians in respect to Halloween is for the holy name of God.  I am concerned when Christians call a night that is devoted to celebrating death, terror, hellish ghouls and demons, “a Hallowed eve”.  Likewise, I am concerned that the children of God, who do bear the holy name of God, would be seen celebrating with the world the same things that the world celebrates on Halloween.

CLOTHED IN CHRIST

I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh! My soul will be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation.  He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. ~Isaiah 61:10

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring[k] and heirs according to promise. ~Galatians 3:27-29

He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. ~Revelation 3:5

We are clothed with beautiful white raiments!  The filthy rags of our worldly wickedness have been taken off as we are conformed to the death of Christ and we have been clothed with the garments of Salvation as we receive newness of life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God has given us the Robe of Righteousness!  We have put on Christ!  Hallelujah, praise Jehovah!

This is why I am very concerned that Christians would dress themselves and their children in hellish figures.

I am looking to see, where is the joy in Yahweh our LORD at the great salvation that He has clothed us with?  “Life reigns through righteousness” (Romans 5:17), and we have been clothed in righteousness!  So I must ask, why do we then dress up in figures of sin and death, knowing that “death reigned through sin” (Romans 5:21).  How do we who have tasted of the life of God now take pleasure in death?

But you must be sure of better things in Christ: you have been given the name of God unto life, and in life clothed with righteousness.  You have put off the darkness that is celebrated on Halloween and been transferred into the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13).  Because of these things you have been set free into the joy of salvation and fellowship of the Almighty Father!

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO AN UNHALLOWED EVE

The goal of my writing this post is to urge my brothers and sisters in Christ to consider a different response to Halloween.

Many people ignore Halloween altogether or go into hiding while others try to sanitize it, but I would like to suggest the following alternative response: perhaps we should consider the souls that are in bondage to the darkness on this day and contend with the powers of darkness by the Light of Christ over their souls.  I would like to encourage my brethren to meet together as a body for prayer and evangelism.  Let us all intercede with God on behalf of our neighbors as the royal priesthood of God that we have been redeemed by Christ to be, and let us go out as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God!  Let us set loose the captives and proclaim the joyful salvation of God!

If a patrol of American soldiers were informed that there was an unarmed squadron of enemy combatants that were holding and torturing prisoners, but turned their backs and did not assault their location, what would we do to them?  Would they not be immediately court-marshaled?  Yet, Christ has “disarmed the principalities and powers” and given us His name which is above every name!  Why, then, do we not go forth and liberate the captives?

Let me encourage you to respond this Halloween by contending in prayer and evangelism for the lost souls who are celebrating the darkness.  The soul who does this in faith will prosper to the glory of God and vindication of His great name!  Amen!

Deception of Unrighteous Judgment

Unrighteous judgment can be so hard to spot because it is so often cloaked in righteousness.  So let’s look a little closer at unrighteous judgment:

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. ~Mark 14:3-6

We find out in the gospel of John (12:3-4) that it was Judas Iscariot who incited the other disciples to rise up against Mary with sharp criticism over her “shameless act of worship”.  Judas Iscariot appealed to their self-righteousness and led all the disciples into error.  It appeared to be a tremendous waste of valuable resources on such a “shameless” act of worship- how much good could’ve been accomplished with that money?  You could have fed many hungry children with the money from the alabaster flask that she just poured on Jesus’ feet!

Mary’s ministry to Jesus was condemned on appearances, but not with full knowledge.

Now, Jesus had just warned against unrighteous judgment:

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” ~John 7:24.

Mary had not committed an unrighteous act, but, the disciples judged her sharply according to their personal standard of righteousness.

We shouldn’t let it escape our attention that their unrighteous judgment was based on something righteous: it is good to give to the poor.  In fact, they had learned this benevolence from Jesus Himself, who commanded that the righteous should give to the poor (Matthew 19:21).  In other words, they had applied what we have now as Holy Scripture to the situation, but were still found in error!

Unrighteous judgment can conceal itself under righteous acts in order to deceive those who desire righteousness.  It can twist the Holy Scriptures to its own purposes, which is why it can be so hard to spot.

The heart of unrighteous judgment is gossip, hearsay, eavesdropping, and a critical eye.  It is not made in the light of truth and righteousness.  Unrighteous judgment will lead us to look down on and distance ourselves from people that we deem “below” us; perhaps they are “dirty”, “smelly”, or “dressed trashy”, so we perceive them as below us!

Its platform is pride.  That is why unrighteous judgment perceives only with its eyes, and not in truth, and often refuses to “associate with the lowly”, as the righteous are instructed to do (Romans 12:16).  And because pride is its platform, we will often experience an outburst of unrighteous judgment from someone whenever we touch someone’s pride with righteous judgment.

Unrighteous judgment is that response that we have when we grab-a-hunk-of-scripture and sling it as someone who has just confronted us about our personal misconduct.  It seems this is Satan’s favorite temptation to bring against the Lord’s disciples to prevent them from being corrected.

Jesus did not, however, condemn all forms of judgment; we’re actually instructed in righteous judgment, which waits for the light to make the deeds of darkness manifest and looks for the truth as it submits to the will of God and seeks for peace and righteousness.  The righteous judgment of Christ does not receive annoyance on the first offense but fills itself with all the righteous attributes of God’s divine nature.

It’s not hard to find everyday examples of unrighteous judgment.  Have you ever heard people rant and rave about what different Golden Globe’s attendants are wearing?  We’ve all heard the sharp criticisms that people make of each person’s fashion choices.  It’s cruel and loveless, it’s not made in the light of truth, nor has any regard for their soul, but is based only on appearance and delights in hurting others.  Sadly, these events only serve to further train our eyes and minds for unrighteous judgment.

Of course, I’m in no way condoning events like the Golden Globe’s, in fact I would discouraging even watching it.  My heart weeps because of the righteous judgment that will come upon the souls that take pleasure in, and love, such worldliness.   Their souls are so valuable, and their life is so precious, that I can’t stand watching them indulge in the very things that God says stores up His wrath for them in the day of judgment.

Yet, this brings us to the next point: unrighteous judgment is oftentimes gladly embraced in the world, while righteous judgment is usually despised.  A celebrity gossip publication will get millions of footprints a month, whereas, a prayer meeting will struggle to get 10 people a week.

Unrighteous judgment always appeals to our sense of self-justification and self-righteousness.  Now, we should understand “self-righteousness” correctly; it is the sense of righteousness as measured by our own self-standard.  It is not the sense of righteousness as revealed in the scripture and measured by Christ- that is righteousness itself.  It is our sense of what “we think” and “personal opinion” on how people should behave apart from the law of Christ.

CONCLUSION

Unrighteous judgment is easy to make.  It’s impulsive and seductive, but righteous judgment requires patience and knowledge of God’s will.  We should not be afraid to declare the righteous judgments of God, not matter how much the world hates His righteous judgments, but we should guard our hearts carefully against the seductive lips of unrighteous judgment as we remember that even the greatest of Jesus’ disciples were deceived by it.

May the peace of Christ guard your hearts and minds as you seek to understand the righteous judgments of God, amen!

Bible Study in N.W. Arkansas

The scripture says “so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), and that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith” (1 John 5:4).

Our faith overcomes this world, and that faith comes through hearing the Word. Our faith our answer that extinguishes those fiery arrows from Satan that bring our deepest struggles and temptations.

If you’re looking for spiritual fellowship in prayer and the word, please call me (David) at 479-202-8698.  

We can meet at Savoy Tea Shop in the Pinnacle hills mall (or Starbucks if you don’t like tea ;)).

Can’t Transcend Experience

We can’t transcend experience.

Please hear me out.  I’m talking about the grave mistake of thinking that because we have read something in scripture it is automatically now true of our life.  When we read the scripture our expectation should be that our reading it with faith should be followed by experiencing the reality of what we just read.

For example, there is a gospel being preached that seeks to “understand” the cross, but never picks it up and carries it.  This same gospel preaches that Christ died, but does not want to experience joining Christ in His death.

We may preach and sing about counting all this world as loss, but if we don’t want to experience dying with Christ, then we will never truly die to this world and it will remain very much alive and dear to us.

The scripture talks about knowing Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings, the conformation of His death, and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:7-11).  These are not abstract concepts that we talk about but never experience, they are the reality of the Kingdom of God that every Christian should walk in.

So let me exhort you, brothers, don’t seek to transcend experience through academic knowledge; embrace Christ in every way, both in knowledge, and wisdom, and experience, and walking in the light.  Amen!

Power of Preaching

For the last couple months my wife and I have been studying the gospel and seeking Christ that the Word might dwell richly in our hearts.  I am really sick of gospel preaching that is content with wrapping our heads around neatly packaged, but ultimately unrealized doctrines.  My hearts desire is that Christ would walk in the midst of our hearts and cause His word to flow like living waters within us so that our preaching would be out of the abundance of the heart.

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.   For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.   A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?   Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.   But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell.  And the ruin of that house was great.”

~Luke 6:43-49

THE REALITY OF CHRIST-INDWELLING

There is no power in preaching  unless Christ first indwells the heart of the preacher.  You may outline your sermon, “checking it twice”, and you may seek counsel from the greatest preachers in the world so that your sermons are doctrinally impeccable, but, if Christ be not dwelling in you, your words are dead and there is not power in your preaching.

My wife and I are realizing how inescapably real this is; the soundness of your doctrine is unmistakably necessary, but the life-giving power that anoints your preaching is Christ indwelling and the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.

We discover that nothing good dwells in the carnal man (Romans 7:18), but, being joined to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are washed of regeneration and renewing in the Holy Spirit.

If the preacher’s heart remains bad, having bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, and carnal lusts, though his doctrines remain technically right, his preaching is defiled by hypocrisy.  This kind of preaching does not receive God’s promised blessing to provide “rain for the seed” (Isaiah 30:23).

Equally terrifying is the possibility that although the preacher gives his life to preaching sound doctrine, and perhaps the Lord pours out His mercy and sends the rain that the souls listening might be saved, the end of such preaching is disqualification (1 Cor. 9:27).

Yet there will be no disappointment in the heart with whom Christ dwells!  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will surely lovingly teach such a soul to walk in soberness, righteousness, and godliness; this heart is guarded by the peace of Christ and from it will overflow every good thing that comes from Christ.

The heart in which Christ dwells is sure to have the blessings of the Lord proceeding from the mouth, and the preaching that comes from this source will be both sound and good.

THE POWER OF PREACHING

Preaching is God-appointed as the vehicle through which the miracle of salvation occurs: its purpose is to bring the hearing of the word which produces faith, and faith effects the work of God!

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The preacher is a a servant sent by God to proclaim His good news of salvation for all men.  Just as Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17), so the preacher is entrusted to deliver this teaching that those who hear from a sincere heart with faith might receive deliverance!

PREACHER, TRUST GOD

My final exhortation for my brethren and fellow preachers is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  It is not cunningly developed persuasion by which the everlasting faith given to us by Christ depends, but upon the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit; do not worry about the eloquence of your speech, the cleverness of your stories, or the well-laid plans of your mission, but depend wholly upon God to send the rain that your seed may increase!

Do not be discouraged when you labor and toil and see only hard hearts, for so they killed God’s messengers who were sent to invite His guests to the wedding feast (Matthew 22); submit yourself to God, and He surely will lift you up, preach the words that agree with godliness and the sound doctrines of the Lord Jesus Christ and so save yourself and those who listen to you (1 Tim 4:16).

May you go in peace and abound in grace.  Amen!

A Personal Update: Naomi Elizabeth

My wife and I just had our first baby, little Naomi Elizabeth! She is a beautiful 8 lb 7 oz, 20 inches baby girl!

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The Lord has richly blessed my wife and I with a beautiful, healthy, sweet little baby girl.  She loves to sleep (right now), and appears content to just hang out for the moment.  So far her favorite song seems to be Amazing Grace.

O LORD, fill this child with Your Holy Spirit and pour out grace upon her that Your praise my be perfected out of the mouth of babes!  Strengthen my wife with Your joy and peace, and may Your wisdom fill us both to raise up this child in godliness that You might receive the desire of Your heart; godly offspring.  In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ I pray, amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Terrible Thing

I’ve seen a terrible thing happening in the Church today; men and women can no longer be rebuked.  Neither the donkeys on the road, the preachers on the streets, nor dear brothers and sisters in the Church have a voice that is heard in our ear today.  Somehow, someway, we have come to a point where we would rather cut off communication with a brother than hear their rebuke.  Why do we so prefer to look for “spiritual self-justification” to seeking peace with our brothers in lowliness of mind?

This is a terrible tragedy, a frightful woe and a catastrophic affliction!  No worse affliction can befall a soul than the curse of a hard heart that will not receive rebuke!

May God have mercy on us all!  Amen!

WOE

Brethren, let us be hasty and check our own hearts lest there be any refusal to hear rebuke!  Even if all around us, even our nearest brethren, refuse to acknowledge correction, let us have the mind of Christ and humble ourselves willingly that we might receive the end reward of God’s discipline!

Acts 7:51-53 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”

How dangerous it is to believe that because we have received the Word of God, that we have therefore kept it in a pleasing manner before Him!  Having heard His command, do we obey?  We do not experience the reality of scripture because we hear with dead faith that does not produce obedience!

Truly I am at a loss for words to express how surprised I am that God’s ministers face isolation, disfellowship, and spite from the body if they deliver His rebukes.

The scripture tells us that God will give His grace that we may be “strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all patience and perseverance with joy” (Colossians 1:11), yet where is this patience and perseverance with joy in the Church today between the brethren when disagreements arise?

May God have mercy on us all, amen!

Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Jesus instructs us to leave the altar and be reconciled to our brethren if we remember that they have something against us.

However, if we severe fellowship with our brethren (except for Biblical reasons that have been given to us in God’s wisdom for our good) and refuse to ear with one another with long-suffering steadfastness for the purpose of seeking reconciliation and life, then we annul the altar of God and defile our offering!

This is what I am most troubled by in the body right now: I see such a willingness in the brethren to cut communication and go separate ways rather than resolve matters!  I can only diagnose this as the epitome of pride and kneel before God in reverence and fear to beg my Father in Heaven for forgiveness and ask that He would not allow such a fate to befall me!

We may not agree with our brothers on every matter, but the solution is not to divide, neither is it to “agree to disagree”.  The solution is to persevere in our pursuit of unity with love, seeking to be perfected together in the mind of Christ, always being quick to listen and bear with one another in love.  Matters do not have to be resolved over night, but we cannot offer our gifts to God upon the altar before God having not made every effort to be reconciled to our brothers!

Psalms 95:8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.”

Hebrews 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

The anguish in our Father’s heart revealed here should be sufficient to drive us with all patience and long-suffering back together for unity!

I do not read this with the tone of a heartless judge, stamping down the gavel demanding that we not harden our hearts, though He certainly could make such a demand, rather, I read this with the tone of our perfect heavenly Father beseeching His children not to harden their hearts!  With wisdom, knowing the end of such things, being fully aware of the righteous and just judgment that is surely to come, God is pleading with His people not to harden their hearts in the deceitfulness of sin!

2nd Chronicles 36:15-16 “And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”

And it is precisely because of the deceitfulness of sin that God sends His messengers to us early to warn of our sins.

Will we listen?

I have the earnest brotherly concern for my fellow ministers in this regard; I believe it is hardest for ministers in today’s world to receive rebukes because they receive so many unrighteous rebukes!  The flood of rebukes from people of darkened understanding whom Satan works in to counter the works of God is astonishing.

But, to my fellow ministers who struggle with this difficulty, let me offer the following word of support: Satan’s meddling that brings unrighteous rebukes to you always seeks to hinder your faithfulness to God, His will, and His word.  Such rebukes will attempt to hinder you from going where God has sent you, talking to someone that He is sending you to, or from submitting yourself to the will and work of God in your life.  You may receive rebuke for preaching the Truth, for uprooting your family and going where God has sent you, or even for rebuking a brother that is sinning.  But unrighteous rebukes will not oppose sin or unworthy conduct in your life.

The reason why this can be so hard, my fellow ministers, is because there are times when we are seeking to be faithful to God in some work of His and our conduct begins to become unworthy of Him (see Eph 3:17- 4:3; Phil 1:27, 2:14-16; Col 3:12:17); then, because our intent is to follow God, but our actions have become unworthy of His calling, it can be very hard to distinguish between rebuke that God sends against our (sometimes unseen) conduct and an unrighteous rebuke of Satan that tries to discourage us from sincere obedience to God.

Indeed, I remember such times in my life when Satan sent many people to rebuke me for following God, and it made it very difficult for me to hear the one person that God send to correct my behavior.

May God grant us all mercy, wisdom, and discernment for such matters, amen!

Proverbs 1:24-33 “Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.  Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.  Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies.  For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Whether God chooses to speak to us by the Holy Spirit, in a dream, through the Word, or through a brother or sister that He sends our way, we must always be diligent that our hearts not become hardened and unapproachable.

Indeed, I see dearly beloved brothers who once confided such struggles of unapproachableness that have yielded considerable ground to the enemy in becoming unteachable.

The consequences of fully hardening our hearts against the rebuke of the Lord are complete.  For the work of God is to remove our hearts of stone and give us a living heart (Ezekiel 36:26ff), yet, we must be careful lest we deceive ourselves into thinking that because the Word says this it is therefore perfectly true of us; we can harden our own hearts against God, otherwise He would not have told us not to, and it is possible to resist Him and turn away, even to the point described in Hebrews 6:4-6.

Beware slapping the right hand of God away!

May God have abundant mercy on us all, amen!

A TRAP & A SNARE

I’ve touched on this briefly already, but I find my heart wanting to expose this matter further.

Satan has laid a very successful snare for us; the snare causes us to create “spiritual self-justifications” by which we can reject the rebukes God sends our way.  Israel rejected Jesus with such “justification”.  They even searched the scriptures diligently (John 5:39), but produced only the more convincing lies by which they rejected the chief cornerstone!

This happens when first we hear the rebuke and then begin to stew.  We gather hearsay from others and then turn the most critical eye against the one that God sent to warn us.  Sometimes we even begin to manipulate those who are closest to us to try and obtain a good report from them to nullify the counsel God sent to us in compassion for our own good!

Yet, even if all the things our critical eye finds are true, it does not necessarily negate the rebuke that has been given to us.  Like the prophet rebuked by a donkey, will we turn our eye against God’s messenger and say “behold, he is just an ass! I will not listen to him/her!”

We’re not called to humility only when we’re wrong, brethren, but even “he who thinks himself to be wise and understanding, let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

I remember the testimony of John Wesley, an amazing man, who recounts his missionary trip to the Colony’s where he rigorously preached but was rejected.  He was rebuked for being harsh and unloving.  Those who heard him recounted how they did not disagree with what he was saying, but with his heart.  Wesley reflected on these rebukes and, later, they led to a change in him that was prerequisite of all the many great labors he would later accomplish.

CONCLUSION

In the end, we must never close the door to reconciliation.  I hope we can all determine within our innermost heart to persevere in the bond of unity; even when individual matters may take time to be fully resolved, let us make haste to resolve our hearts with love towards one another, proving the heavenly wisdom that speaks thus, “do not let the sun go down upon your anger”.

To my brothers who are leaders in the Church, remember that the Lord instructs us not to “lord it over” our flocks, nor to be “self-willed”, but that we must always be gentle in every manner.  Oh how desperately does the Church need men who are grounded in the truth with the wisdom of meekness and humility!

Resist the temptation to make a show of your authority by laying down commands and demands, always insisting on your own way.  This surely has the appearance of power, but it denies godliness entirely!

Brethren, I believe the Church has great need of two things: humility and holiness.  We are frayed at every corner because we lack these two virtues.  Our growth in knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love all rest on the foundation of “faith and virtue” (2nd Peter 1:5-7)!  With such wisdom, let “the fruits of righteousness be sown in peace by those who make peace”, and let the grace of God give the harvest!

May you all be blessed with the abundant forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who cried out on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and may this mercy be rich within us all, amen!

Faith that Exercises unto Godliness

There is a faith that exercises itself unto godliness.  It’s soul is purified through obedience to the truth and its mind has been conformed to the mind of Christ by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.  The faith that exercises itself unto godliness is not directed by cultural traditions, lore, and pithy sayings, but is directed by the voice of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.  But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. ~1 Timothy 4:6-7

 

The true words of faith that are found in agreement with godliness and the pure words of our Lord Jesus Christ give nourishment to the soul and make us strong for godliness.  Like an athlete who gives up sugary and contaminated junk foods to eat wholesome, nourishing food, so we’re instructed here to give up those pithy sayings that so often direct our faith and turn to the good words and doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote about “profane and old wives fables“.  This term is an epithet that expresses the wisdom that is retold and reinforced in us from childhood through adulthood in stories, catchy sayings, and cultural traditions.  The term “profane” here does not denote the sexually vulgar or disrespectful, but denotes sayings that are secular, rather than Biblical (Oxford American English Dictionary).  Very often such catchy sayings find widespread acceptance within the Church and marry the secular to the sacred in an especially adulterating manner.

The sayings we find ourselves repeating should be examined in light of the nourishing words of faith in scripture to make sure that we are not filling ourselves with cancer causing junk food.

EXERCISED UNTO GODLINESS

But the faith that is nourished on the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrines that agree with godliness is fit and ready for godliness.  We know that no one exercises themselves without first having eaten nourishing food; likewise, we also must have our faith nourished on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (not men), as it is written,

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.  ~1 Timothy 6:3-5

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s chosen ones, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who can’t lie, promised before time began; ~Titus 1:1-2

So He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, that he might teach you that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of Yahweh’s mouth. ~Deuteronomy 8:3, cf Matthew 4:4

 

This is the faith of Jesus Christ, the faith of the prophets, of Moses, and of the apostles; the faith that is nourished on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

With this nourishment our faith can be fit and ready for godliness.

As well, the faith that exercises itself unto godliness rejoices in godliness and does not restrain itself from any good, as it is written,

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. ~James 4:17

Likewise, this faith knows and thinks on those things that are of God, as it is write,

“Brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.  The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you..” ~Philippians 4:8-9

 A faith that is nourished on culture refrains itself from doing good out of cultural fears (isolation, ridicule, and offenses).  But this faith, one that has rejected all words except those which are good for its nourishment from the LORD, this faith is full of these things and acts on them.

CONCLUSION

We have a faith that is not shipwrecked, but  overcomes and rejoices in infirmity; it is a faith that is very full, dynamic, and diverse, yet always in perfect agreement with every form of godliness: this is the faith that was authored and perfected in Christ Jesus and given to us “from faith to faith”.

Rejoice that our faith is not dead, but bears good fruits according to the work of God, which is to believe on Christ!

May your faith be nourished on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God and be made fit for all godliness as you exercise yourself to that end.  Grace, mercy, and peace to all the faithful brethren, amen!

 

A ministry of faith