First (and Last) Responder

Can you think of a more idyllic photo subject than a dad, a mom, their young daughter, and the family dog stopping by the roadside to pose for a group photo on a spring day against a lush backdrop of gorgeous south Texas wildflowers and other native flora?

But at the exact same instant that grandma snapped the family photo in 2016, there was something very wrong transpiring in the lower frame of this lovely tableau…

Sometimes, the most placid and seemingly innocuous environments can harbor things sinister and even deadly if we are not both aware and discerning of our surroundings. Imagine Eve in the garden of Eden!  Could there have been a more beautiful setting within the protective confines of this harmonious, sinless paradise than beneath the shade, foliage, and luscious fruit of the tree of knowledge? Right now, the world is learning how something as unseen and even submicroscopic as the coronavirus can have deadly consequences for human life.

Today, we speak often of “safe places”; places of quiet refuge where one need not be afraid of physical threats or harm. We may even think of “the church” as always being one of those safe places, at least in a spiritual sense. We know in reality and from scripture that in some cases this can be far, far from the truth. Satan, after all, can manifest himself as a “minister of righteousness” (II Cor. 11).

In particular, the old satanic lie, “you shall not surely die” was with us in the beginning (Genesis 3). It was there when Ahab and Jehoshaphat consulted with the “prophets of the Lord” about their disastrously doomed plan to join forces together in battle (I Kings 22 *Note: these were not Jezebel’s Baal prophets; Elijah had already dispatched those with the sword). The lie, or more accurately, the Laodicean lies, are tragically still demonic traps and spiritual stumbling blocks for many persons who, at least outwardly, profess Christ today. “You say you are rich, and have need of nothing…” (Revelation 3).

It is possible to sit even in a “Bible-based” church for an entire lifetime when you might just as well be ensconced somewhere in a spiritual mausoleum because God’s Word has never penetrated your conscience to the point that sin has become “utterly sinful” (Romans 7), or you have become hardened over years of no real heart change. Paul warned in his epistles about spiritual leaders who have all the right “words” but no “power” (I Cor. 4). Be on the alert then, whether in ornate or unadorned religious settings, where there is no real, life-altering conviction of sin, no crying out for God’s mercy, no sign of anything supernatural outside of human understanding or interpretation. Why? Because we already have everything!

“You shall not surely die…because we have collected scriptures with which we are able to comfort you in the knowledge that Paul’s warnings of apostasy written to the churches do not literally apply to us “true” saints [see Romans 11]; that when you were saved you were also baptized “by default” by the Holy Spirit, even though there has been an absence of any real, tangible evidence (maybe even love itself) in your life; and that the “sign of Jonah” was irrelevant to the understanding of our salvation because Jesus’ human soul [not His spirit] never actually descended as a prisoner of death into the depths of Sheol, only to be released, empowered, and reunited with His glorified body and His spirit [the Holy Spirit] at the thunderous, resurrecting voice of God. [see Psalm 18].”

My brother-in-law was the attending ER physician when the man mentioned in the first paragraph was first admitted to the hospital; obviously he heard the snakebite story firsthand and would later receive an unedited digital copy of the photo (he is not at liberty to share the original version with faces for publication without permission, but on the internet the curious can find the exact same photo with the family faces blacked out).

There is nothing photographically “flawed” about the picture other than the man looking downward instead of at the camera, but if you zoom in to the bottom of the picture, there is a rattlesnake in the act of striking, fangs visible, in the apparent direction of the wife, whose hand is directly above the serpent. Amazingly, the family dog somehow distracted and deflected the strike, but the woman’s husband was envenomated in the leg by one fang, oddly, at the same instant that the dog was stricken in the face by the other fang. The man would be treated and later transferred to an urban hospital. He recovered fully. The faithful dog did not survive.

According to Paul, God has much better things in mind for us than being sidetracked by Satan or shipwrecked in our faith! (Hebrews 6). It is through a love of the truth and the consistent faith exercise of God’s Word that we gain spiritual discernment into things that could otherwise be harmful to us and our families (Hebrews 5). God’s great love is able to keep us and protect us in every circumstance, but He expects us not only to “deflect” satanic attacks, but to defeat the enemy of our souls with the spiritual weapons of warfare He has given us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 6).

The Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is our first, and last, responder!

Bryan

Must reading for any believer desiring to enter into a deeper faith relationship with God and to learn more about miracles and answered prayer: G.C. Bevington biography / Kingsley Press (compiled in part during the 1918 “Spanish Flu” epidemic).

Birthing Babies

A hospital delivery room is not for the fainthearted. I blacked out when one of our five children was being born (not quintuplets; it would have been far worse!). I was seated and didn’t fall over or pass out, but for a few seconds it was like someone had turned out all the lights, like one of the times I donated blood. Many are those who will bear witness that these venues are regularly characterized by a lot of yelling, blood, and gore. Until the process is complete, “birthing babies” can be very stressful, in particular for the mom giving birth and sometimes for the dads in attendance, who have been known on occasion to literally pass out during this miraculous phenomenon.

Spiritual birth can also be a painful experience. It is true that there are those who come to Christ at an early age in life and never look back. But even these must have their own “mini-Gethsemane” in the act of surrendering their (perhaps pliable, yet) still independent wills to Jesus, and the process doesn’t stop there. But for a large percentage of us, getting to, upon (“I am crucified with Christ”), and beyond the Cross of Jesus Christ can be a real life-and-death struggle because our own wills have been in in the ascendancy for so long.

There is a very real danger in the church when well-meaning (or at times self-serving) clergy and others try to inject their own “epidural” into those struggling to find God by providing misguided and human-inspired words of comfort and enablement instead of interceding and trusting God to save them, no matter how difficult and painful the “delivery.” I sat in a church “stuck in the breach” for a full year knowing that I was in a lost spiritual condition, but was absolutely unable to do anything about it. There was a hindrance and I was helpless to do anything except to ask for prayer and to hold on to hope as if my life depended upon it, which it did.

You may lose your grip on faith for a time, but you can never, ever abandon hope!

People who give up all hope are the ones who take their own lives, or are overpowered by Satan and consciously reject the claims of Christ for eternity. I could have prayed a thousand “sinner’s prayers” during my time of crisis and nothing would have changed, because God had a perfect plan for redeeming my soul, and that plan would unfold only in His timing and through His means. But when it was fulfilled, it would be real. It would be, not by reason, but by revelation. My pitiable portion of faith would become alive.

Our flesh, even without Satan’s added prompting and deception, can be the biggest deterrent to a genuine salvation experience. There are many things that can hinder salvation and then being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is often said, “Jesus doesn’t clean His fish before He catches them.” Much more accurately, Jesus doesn’t catch His fish until they “come clean.” Jesus doesn’t deliberately go around looking for rocky ground to sow His seed. There may be many obstacles in my heart that prevent me from seeing the true Gospel. Perhaps it is a root of bitterness or unforgiveness against someone that I, in reality, have no intention of surrendering. Perhaps it is a private addiction or some other sin that I consciously try to conceal from the piercing, convicting laser-light of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I am expecting to come to Christ, but only as long as that doesn’t mean giving up any of my idols in the process.

As a friend of mine often says, “We need to let GOD save people!” That is not to say that God does not want to use us to sow, water, feed, and cultivate. That is a huge part of our mission during our stay here; to make disciples for Christ. But if a person doesn’t recognize they are lost and are in danger of eternal judgment, what are they going to be saved from? In the scriptures, repentance always precedes salvation. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to reveal our lost state, and then to bring us safely and methodically through the delivery process.

That process will inevitably involve a Gethsemane of our own will, but one of God’s making, with the loving objective of our eternal adoption as His children!

 “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.’” (Zechariah 4:6 NASB)

What Do YOU Have In The House?

2 Kings 4:1-2 NASB: “Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.’ Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.’” You know the story.

God’s glory and His power to perform spectacular miracles far exceeds anything we can wrap our finite little minds around, but He often prefers to choose very simple (and simple-minded) things to bring His Word and purposes into reality. Perhaps you are a “McGuyver” type who is very resourceful at repairing things or solving problems. That is a gift from God (although we’re sometimes guilty of taking credit for our gifts). God’s resourcefulness is – more often than not – manifested through subtle methods, using small, insignificant, common, and sometimes, unusual things. Think about some of them…

Isaiah puts a “fig newton” on Hezekiah’s boil and heals him. (Isaiah 38:21)

Elisha uses a stick to make an ax head float and throws some salt in a bad well to purify the water. (II Kings chapters 2 and 6).

Jesus tells Peter to use a fish hook to pay the taxes (Matthew 17:27).

A cup of water given in Jesus’ name has eternal significance (Matthew 10:42).

Spittle and clay is used to restore eyesight (Mark 8:22).

Elijah is fed by ravens, then preserves his life and others with a little flour and some oil (I Kings chapter 17).

Thousands are fed with a few loaves and some small fish (Mark chapter 8).

A (not so dumb) donkey speaks to a wayward prophet (Numbers chapter 22).

God has chosen the “weak and foolish things” to baffle the wise (I Corinthians 1:27).

The Son of God makes His earthly debut as a little baby (Luke chapter 1).

God delights in using what is available, and that includes YOU. He is not so much interested in your talents and abilities as he is in those areas in which you are lacking; those things for which you cannot possibly take the credit when God moves. God is much more concerned with availability than talent. There are often times when God is waiting for us to exhaust our own resources so that He can glorify Himself in our struggles and our crises.

As T. Austin Sparks said regarding Jesus’ dead friend Lazarus:

“…the Holy Spirit is very careful to stress and emphasize one thing, namely, that the Lord Jesus will not touch the thing until it is far, far removed from any human remedy. He will not come on to the scene, or into association with it, until from all human standpoints it is bankrupt, it is at zero”…”The glory of God is in resurrection, and therefore love demands that everything shall come to the place where only resurrection will meet the situation; no curing of things, no remedying of the old man.”

Jesus did not put on a show. He just cried out three simple words: “Lazarus, come forth!”

Help Me to Be A Good Neighbor!

My next-door neighbor’s little Yorkie died today. Seems it escaped from the backyard and was likely killed by a larger dog, according to animal control. I helped in the search for the pet and tried my best to comfort my brokenhearted neighbor, who has a young daughter and just lost her husband a few months ago. She moved in only recently.

I feel blessed to live in a culturally diverse area of the U.S. and I know virtually all of the neighbors on my street, at least on a first-name basis. We live at the very top and center of a long, steep, wooded cul-de-sac with a big sky and an open view, so I have a visual reminder of all of my neighbors on the block each time I go out the front door. Most of my immediate neighbors are white or hispanic, but there are many different ethnic groups represented locally.

It has occurred to me recently how even just my little neighborhood is such a microcosm of a hurting world

Three people on my block are caregivers for parents, spouses, or a mentally disabled child. One of them lost his disabled father just three weeks ago and continues to care for his aged mother. He also sends food support to impoverished family members in Venezuela, but only when they can obtain the gasoline to travel to the border to collect it. At least two of my neighbors suffer with depression. One of them was just laid off from his job and worries that his age is a disincentive to potential employers. Some of my neighbors subscribe to “alternative” lifestyles. ALL of my neighbors, like us, simply need Jesus. We would not have known that any of these things were going on around us if we had not taken the time to reach out to a perceived need, or at least, to introduce ourselves.

This post is just to ask for PRAYER that God will help me and my wife be TRUE neighbors and that our influence will go well beyond just delivering handmade chocolates at Christmas, giving out sweets and tracts to trick-or-treaters at Halloween, or taking food if someone dies. Please pray that our neighbors will see JESUS, and not us. It’s only when people see Jesus that miracles can happen, lives and hearts can be changed, and people can be introduced to the only true source of comfort, peace, and eternal life!

Matthew 22:37-40 NASB “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’ ”

You may well be the only person reading my posts, but I would write them anyway in the hope that they might be of some encouragement, if only to YOU, my neighbor!

God, T-Rex, and Black Holes

As I write this post, cosmologists, astronomers, astrophysicists…and just regular folks like me who would be hard-pressed to distinguish between quantum entanglement and a bad hair day…are in giddy anticipation of the imminent release of the first ever photographic “images” of a black hole. Of particular interest: the “supermassive” black hole believed to anchor the center of the vast, spinning Messier 87 Galaxy, about 55 million light years from earth! Well, of course you can’t actually see black holes because they’re invisible, but what you might expect to see based upon computer simulations is a boundary, a shadow, evidence of an event horizon defined by the shape of super-heated plasma swirling at near light speed around the periphery of many of these unimaginably dense objects (but only until that matter, including light, gets devoured by the inexorable force of gravity, never to be seen again…except in Hollywood).

If seeing a black hole is on your bucket list, the soon to be released images are probably about as close as you would ever want to get to one!

In principal, there is a rather unremarkable, “Jewish-looking” fellow (if kosher labeling is still permissible) sitting at the very back of the cosmology classroom, who would love to contribute to the discussion, but the professors simply never call on him. (Would it be different if his surname was something else, like Einstein, perhaps? Hmm).

John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word [gr., logos; aka, Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

Every new scientific discovery; every new innovation; every new breakthrough in medicine, physics, engineering, technology, and cosmology…not to mention the elegant toolbox of mathematics for their description and the capacity for their observation…all these things have already existed in the mind of God since before time was even initiated. For us, these increasingly rapid developments are just incremental insights and progressive revelations into the eternal nature and consciousness of an infinitely wise and powerful Creator!

Job 38:31-33 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth?

Like the expanding universe itself, God is forever filling all things with the knowledge of the glory of Himself, which Jesus also shared before time began.

John 17:1-5 “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Isaiah 9:7 “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”

Imagine two equally passionate paleontologists in this present life who both – upon being interviewed for a documentary science program about theropods – unashamedly “gush” over the fossil remains of, let’s say, the formidible, terrifying…and thankfully, extinct…Tyrannosaurus Rex. One “digger” cares nothing about the claims – either upon his soul or upon his bone pile – of some obscure Creator-God. His peer, on the other hand, has “eternity in his heart” and is growing to know his Redeemer intimately. The one will never experience anything pertaining to his passion beyond dead, dry bones. But the other might well be in for some surprises in the New Heaven and the New Earth, where things won’t be eating other things in order to survive, i.e., (formerly) predator and prey will coexist peacefully along with the (glorified) children of God:

Isaiah 11:6-9 “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea.

“You have a T-Rex?”

“We have a T-Rex!” (famous movie quotes).

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ”

Of course, only eternity will reveal the still hidden mysteries of God and our passion and our focus in heaven will not be upon the creation, but upon our “betrothed,” our precious Savior and Redeemer who was willing to pay the ultimate price, forfeiting His own life and blood in exchange for our salvation, to deliver us forever from the power of sin and death!

God gave mankind an innate curiosity about our amazing cosmos. There is nothing ignoble per se about the search for intelligent life on other planets and in other solar systems. But if the “spark” of life as we know it does indeed emanate exclusively from a (largely disavowed and discredited) deity commanding an invisible spiritual dimension that parallels our own, then there may be a very, very long wait, depending on God’s timetable. Could it be that a diminutive, watery blue marble hung in space, literally bursting with life in every conceivable form, is the singular oasis of bio-diversity in an incomprehensibly vast physical universe? Again, only eternity will “tell.”

Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

Even throughout eternity we, as glorified believers in heaven, will continue to grow and progress in our knowledge of the immeasurable depths of God in Christ Jesus. Why can we never completely “catch up” with God? Because He had a really, really big head start! How big?

As big as INFINITY!

In the gospel of Luke chapter 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of two deceased men who awaken to find their souls on opposite sides of eternity; one died rich and the other died poor; the one is forever receding from the glorious presence of God; the other is forever drawing closer to Him.

Which side of eternity will you be on?

-∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ (?) ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

(All scripture quotes NASB; some Bible verse punctuation and bold italics, mine).

Salvation and sexual reproduction? The new, revised 2019 paperback edition of my (ghost-written) book, Born of the Water Born of the Spirit, can be found at the following link. It is also available as a Kindle ebook download:

What Is “The Anointing?”

*In a previous post, I forewarned that I would be quoting from my favorite writers from time to time. This is one of those times; when someone else expresses thoughts and ideas from God’s Word so much better than I can! (Several paragraphs, but well worth the read).

“The Meaning of the Anointing” ~ excerpt, T. Austin Sparks, The School of Christ. (bold italics and some paragraph breaks, mine):

‘You shall see the heaven opened.’ ‘He saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending on him.‘ What is the meaning of the anointing of the Holy Spirit? It is nothing less and nothing other than the Holy Spirit taking His place as absolute Lord. The anointing carries with it the absolute lordship of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit as Lord. That means that all other lordships have been deposed and set aside; the lordship of our own lives; the lordship of our own minds, our own wills, our own desires; the lordship of others. The lordship of every interest and every influence is regarded as having given place to the undivided and unreserved lordship of the Holy Spirit, and the anointing can never be known, enjoyed, unless that has taken place.

That is why the Lord Jesus went down into Jordan’s waters, into death and burial, in type, taking the place of man in representation, from that moment not to be under the government of His own life in any respect as He worked out the will of God, but to be wholly and utterly subject to the Spirit of God in every detail. Jordan’s grave set forth the setting aside of every independent lordship, every other lordship, every other influence, and if you will read the spiritual life of Christ in the Gospels you will see that it was to that position that He was every moment adhering. Many and powerful were the influences which were brought to bear on Him to affect Him and govern His movements. Sometimes it was the full force of Satan’s open assault, to the effect that it was necessary that He should do certain things for His cause, or for His very continuance in life physically. Sometimes it was Satan clothing himself with the arguments and suasions [sic] of beloved associates, in their seeking to hold Him back from certain courses, or to influence Him to prolong His life by sparing Himself certain sufferings.

In various ways influences were brought to bear on Him from all directions, and many of the counsels were seemingly so wise and good. For example, with regard to His going up to the feast, it was urged, in effect: It is the thing that everybody is doing: if you do not go up you will prejudice your cause. If you really want to further this cause, you must fall into line with the accepted thing religiously, and you only stand to lose if you do not do that; you will curtail your influence, you will narrow your sphere of usefulness! And what an appeal that is if you have something very much at heart, some cause for God at heart, the success of which is of the greatest importance.

Such then were the influences that were beating on Him. But whether it be Satan coming in all the directness of his cunning, his wit, his insinuation, or whether it be through beloved and most intimate disciples and associates, whatever the kind of argument, that Man cannot be caused to deflect a hairsbreadth from His principle. ‘I am
under the anointing; I am committed to the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, and I cannot move, whatever it costs. Cost it my life, cost it my influence, cost it my reputation, cost it everything that I hold dear, I cannot move unless I know from the Holy Spirit that that is the Father’s mind and not another mind, the Father’s will and not another will, that this thing comes from the Father.’ Thus He put back everything until He knew in His spirit what the Spirit of God witnessed. He lived up to this law, this principle, of the absolute authority, government, lordship of the anointing, and it was for that that the anointing had come.

That is the meaning of the anointing. Do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Why do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Is the anointing something that you crave? To what end? That you may be used, may have power, may have influence, may be able to do a lot of wonderful things? The first and preeminent thing the anointing means is that we can do nothing but what the anointing teaches and leads to do. The anointing takes everything out of our hands. The anointing takes charge of the reputation. The anointing takes charge of the very purpose of God. The anointing takes complete control of everything and all is from that moment in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and we must remember that if we are going to learn Christ, that learning Christ is by the Holy Spirit’s dealing with us, and that means that we have to go exactly the same way as Christ went in principle and in law.

So we find we are not far into the Gospel of John, which is particularly the Gospel of the spiritual School of Christ, before we hear even such as He saying, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself”. ‘The words that I say to you I speak not from myself.’ ‘The works that I do are not Mine’; ‘the Father abiding in me does his works’.

‘The Son can do nothing out from himself.’ You see, there is the negative side of the anointing; while the positive side can be summed up in one word – the Father only. Perhaps that is a little different idea of the anointing from what we have had. Oh, to be anointed of the Holy Spirit! What wonders will follow; how wonderful that life will be! The first and the abiding thing about the anointing is that we are imprisoned into the lordship of the Spirit of God, so that there can be nothing if He does not do it. Nothing! That is not a pleasant experience, if the natural life is strong and in any way in the
ascendant. Therefore Jordan must be there before there can be an anointing. The putting aside of that natural strength and self-life is a necessity, for the anointing does carry with it essentially the absolute lordship of the Spirit.

You notice the issue of that in 2 Cor 3:16. ‘When it shall turn to the Lord’, when the Lord is the object in view, ‘the veil is taken away, and we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are transformed into the same image . . . even as from the Lord the Spirit‘, or ‘the Spirit which is the Lord’. You are in the School and you can see Christ and learn Christ; which is being transformed into the image of Christ under the lordship of the Spirit. ‘When it shall turn to the Lord’, when the Lord is our object in view! But with us, with us Christians, with us very devoted, very earnest Christians, what a long time it takes to get the Lord as the sole object. Is that saying a terrible thing? We say we love the Lord; yes, but we do love to have our own way as well, and we do not love to have our way thwarted.

Have any of us yet reached that point of spiritual attainment where we never have a bad time at all with the Lord? Oh no, we are still found at the place where we so often think it is in the interests of the Lord that our hearts go out in a certain direction, and the Lord does not let us do it, and we have a bad time; and that has betrayed us absolutely. Our hearts were in it. It was not easy, absolutely easy and simple for us to say, Very well, Lord, I am just as pleased as though you let me do it, I delight always to do Your will! We are disappointed the Lord does not let us do it; or if the Lord delays it, what a time we go through. Oh, if we could only get at it and do it! The time is finding us out. Is that not true of most of us? Yes, it is true. We do come into this picture, and that just does mean that, after all, the Lord is not as truly our object as we thought He was. We have another object alongside and associated with the Lord; that is, something that we want to be or to do, somewhere we want to go, something we want to have. It is all there, and the Holy Spirit knows all about it. In this School of Christ, where God’s objective is Christ, only Christ, utterly Christ, the very anointing means that it has to be Christ as Lord by the Spirit. The anointing takes that position. Well, so much for the moment for the meaning of the anointing. It was true in Him, and it has to be true in us.”

________________________________

MY NAME IS IN HIM

God is not so concerned about the escalating partisan hatefulness of America’s political and social dialogue; the once unthinkable level of bloodshed through mass murder and abortions; the insatiable appetite for new and sensual entertainments to a level of “idolatry”; the ever-expanding lgbtq-xyz acronym; the greed causing a growing scarcity of livable and affordable habitation for the less prosperous; the disturbing epidemic of substance addictions, pornography, and suicides; the declining respect for authority and family and human life in general…as He is about something else:

His Holy NAME.

Obviously, that is not to say that the heart of God is not broken over the terrible toll sin has taken on our nation and on the world, with all of its violence, poverty, and disease; that has always been the case. That is why Christ came! But God is more concerned about what has become of the “light” and the “salt” that His Son’s bride, the Church, was intended to be. Those aforementioned “effects” of sin in all societies are only symptoms.

Exodus 23:20-21 nasb “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you [Israel] to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My NAME is in him.”

I Corinthians 10:3-7 nasb “…They [Israel] were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”

The same “Rock” who preceded, guarded, and followed Israel is the exact same Rock who guides, protects, and nurtures true believers today. Our Rock is the eternal Source of spiritual light (life) and salt (preservative) meant to show hurting people the way to God! What is the world to think of a “church” that is daily rocked by reports of child sexual abuse, immorality, corruption, scandal, and an ever-growing compromise of God’s Word? In what circumstances does God refuse to “pardon” sin? Is it the degree or the category of sin. No! The answer is simple. Sin is not forgiven when it is not acknowledged and repented of. Israel crossed a “threshold” of committing bloodshed during the time of King Manasseh. Manasseh himself was punished by God but was later redeemed when he repented, but the people would go on to experience terrible judgments “for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive” (II Kings 24:4 nasb).Their leader turned from his own sin, but his subjects refused!

On two occasions many years ago I tried to reach out to a man who was married and had several children. This man had an often volatile temper and was a spouse abuser. Both times I visited him I found him alone and sitting in a dark room, fighting depression. The problem was, his family had been faithful members of a megachurch which specialized in “praise”, “prosperity” teaching, and claiming God’s “blessings”, but had never addressed or dealt with the sin problem in his life. Upon my invitation, this man attended two consecutive services at our church. At the end of the second service he went to the altar and confessed, “There is no fear of God in my church.” The man went back to his megachurch and we never saw him again. The last report I had of him was that he had abandoned his family, committed theft and assault, and sounded like a man “demon-possessed”, although he exuded a form of religion and spoke often and passionately of spiritual matters.

2 Corinthians 6:17 kjv “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

When the Church becomes all about entertainment, self-indulgence, and soothing the social conscience of mankind, we have completely lost sight of our standard:

The Cross of Jesus Christ!

A worthy quote:

“Regardless…of the conditions or difficulties you face in life, see in each one ‘a chance to die.’ For die, to yourself, you must if you would live unto God. Your wishes have been crossed? your likes and dislikes disregarded, your wisdom discredited, your sensibilities provoked, your opinions ridiculed? You have been falsely accused and your name has been cast out as evil? Take any or all of these up, as your cross, and see, in each of them, a chance to die to your vainglory and pride. You will learn little by little to be led as a lamb to the slaughter. Self-will and self-justification and self-defense are indeed your greatest foes. Someone says, ‘Welcome anything that calls you to your only true position, crucified with Christ.’ You will then experience the glorious truth, ‘Christ liveth in me’…The life that He imparts is a crucified life. It is a life centered upon God, fixed upon God, a life lived in the will of God. This Christ-life, mark you, is the life of Him who, on the eve of His passion and death, spoke for the first time in His earthly career of ‘My peace, My joy’; and in prayer for His own: ‘that my joy might be fulfilled in them.’ Christ’s joy in life’s darkest hour was in the will of His Father.” ~ L.E. Maxwell, Born Crucified.

Is Christ’s joy being fulfilled in you?

A Slippery Slope

A retired pastor, veterinarian, and good friend of mine was often quoted as saying (paraphrased):

~ “Some Christians treat Jesus like a man who marries a wife at the altar, kisses his new bride, and then leaves! But before he walks out of the church he turns around and says to her, ‘Oh, by the way, I’ll meet you back here next Sunday morning at 10:45!’”

~ “Put the blinders on after you get married, not before!”

~ [My friend quoting another medical professional friend; a prominent psychiatrist]: “If preachers would go back to preaching against sin, you could probably empty out half of the mental health institutions.”

~ “Your heart can become like a callous that gradually builds up on your hand after repeatedly using a shovel. Eventually it becomes so thick and hard you can stick a pin through it and feel nothing.”

Each time Israel tested God with their murmuring and complaining in the wilderness, their faith waned a little and their hearts – just like that of the Pharaoh who had enslaved them – became a little more hardened. It did not happen all at once. The same thing happened to King Saul. Over time, his initial humility and zeal for God turned to pride, self-will, and finally, outright rebellion…to the point that he could order the slaughter of scores of Levites and not even feel a pang of conscience!

The crossing of the Red Sea was an Old Covenant “type” of salvation and baptism for our generation under the New Covenant. But that first generation of Israelites (save two over the age of twenty) who came out of Egypt were destined (not predestined) to die in a parched, desolate wasteland. After their tenth documented rebellion and God’s declaration through Moses that the nation would not enter into Canaan for thirty-eighty more years, they finally “got it!” By then it was too late, and when a number of them presumptuously rose up the next morning and strapped on their swords to “take” the land of promise, they were soundly defeated and humiliated by their enemy. God had rejected that generation from crossing the Jordan river. Again, a type; this time of entering into a promised place of spiritual rest, blessing, and empowerment through Jesus Christ.

Oh, those poor, stubborn Jews! It’s a good thing I’m living under grace in my generation. That could never happen to me under the New Covenant. I could never possibly become God’s adversary, much less an enemy of the Cross!

1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

Consider a newly-married Christian couple…”Until death do us part.” Their relationship starts out on a solid footing. Their respective walks with Christ are also, at first, characterized by a degree of intimacy. But over time, they become more concerned with their own needs and interests than those of their spouse, not to mention those of Jesus. That small, quiet voice of conviction repeatedly says: “I know I really shouldn’t say that to my spouse”, but the words “slip” out of their mouth anyway, and there is a subtle, but prideful sense of gratification and empowerment in it. Little by little, day after day, month after month, there is a gradual, reciprocal escalation of selfishness and anger until, inevitably, the word “divorce” pops up in the conversation. From that point, it may be only a matter of time until bitterness has resulted in another broken marriage and family, and the name of Christ is once again dishonored.

Like it our not, my marriage is probably the best barometer of my relationship with Christ…OUCH!

Hebrews 4: 1-3 NASB “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,’ although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Remember, as the writer James took great pains to explain and clarify in his epistle, true faith, or believing, is inextricably and invariably linked to a conscious “action” response on our part whenever God’s Word is spoken or revealed to us. That response can only be ONE of two things; either (1) obedience OR, (2) disobedience.

A child can understand this basic principle, just like when Dad orders you to take out the trash (or when your boss tells you to stay late to meet a deadline).

The choice is OURS, just as it was with Israel!

That choice we make can, over time, become either a positive or a negative pattern of behavior, a good or a bad heart habit that can have not only temporal, but eternal consequences. Beware of teaching that tries to convince you that a Christian’s conscious, deliberate choice of obedience to a direct command from God (or from God’s Word) is equivalent to – or translates to – “works”, i.e., the same thing as charitable, or good “deeds” or “effort” (gr., ergon) and that therefore, as we all know, our “works” of obedience (by that out-of-context definition) “can have no bearing whatsoever on our salvation, as per Ephesians 2:8-9.” This is a very unscriptural leap of flawed logic and interpretation.

Hebrews 4:11-16 NASB “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Romans 15:13 NASB “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


The following is a Youtube link to the sermon that finally broke through my thick, pharisaical skull and opened my blinded eyes back in 1993; it became the catalyst for my own personal “Gethsemane” and my salvation experience. WARNING: It is not an “easy” message to listen to, but it was exactly what I desperately needed to hear from God. It may be what someone else (a serious seeker perhaps or someone who is spiritually “stuck in the breach”) needs in order to get a “breakthrough”…

🙂 Bryan

Meltdown at Mount Sinai

When God appeared to Israel on Mt. Sinai, the people quickly concluded that hearing God’s audible commandments directly from the source – the great thundering voice, the raging fire, the billowing smoke, the cloud and gloom, the blasting trumpet, the boulder-splitting earthquake – was far too terrifying for them to deal with. Trembling, they petitioned Moses that God would speak instead through him and not to them directly.

What was behind God’s purpose in taking Israel through such a difficult experience all those years in the wilderness?

You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deut. 8:2 nasb).

God was testing His people to humble them and to reveal what was in their hearts! But what was their response when they literally encountered God “face to face” at Sinai prior to going into Canaan?

…If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die (Deut. 5:25 nasb).

In contrast, Moses was not only greatly blessed to be allowed into God’s intimate presence and to communicate directly with Him, but because of his favor and friendship with God, he was given the amazing privilege of seeing God’s glory with his physical eyes (although – as you will recall – God could not fully reveal His actual countenance even to Moses). Moses also trembled at Sinai (Hebrews 12:21), but he was not “afraid” to approach God, because he had received a revelation of God’s great redemptive LOVE that had been demonstrated and proven time and again through the trials in the wilderness.

For a combined total of eighty days and nights Moses was before the God of Israel on Sinai, receiving the law and instructions God had outlined for His chosen people that would enable Him to bless them once they entered the promised land of Canaan. Moses was so enraptured and enveloped in that holy, sustaining presence that he required neither water nor food during his extended stays on the mountaintop, and thereafter his face would shine whenever he had approached God.

Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 nasb).

Do I have a desire to be more like Moses, or more specifically, more like Jesus, whom Moses foretold as the future incarnation of “a prophet like me” (Deut. 18:5), or am I content to remain more like the fearful, doubtful, and stubborn multitude that the faithful servant Moses struggled to intercede for, to shepherd, and to lead?

Do I have an ever-increasing passion to know God for myself and a growing desire to enter daily into His presence directly through the sacrificial blood of my great high priest, Jesus Christ? Or do I prefer, like Israel, to have God’s Word “filtered” through another human being, or perhaps through some compromised or even worldly context in a way that I find more “palatable”; a way that does not really call me into account when the Holy Spirit reveals something in my heart that needs to change.

Concerning the recorded narrative of Israel’s experience in the wilderness, the apostle Paul wrote:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11 nasb).

God admonished the people through Moses:

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell” (Numbers 33:55 esv).

The Old Testament still speaks to us. For those of us living today, those “inhabitants” represent our enemies of sin and unbelief; those residual areas of pride and self in the promised land of our hearts that still remain to be subjected to the lordship of Jesus.

“If God speaks to us, we will die.”

How prophetic those words were, because that is exactly the point! The Cross of Jesus Christ calls us to complete and unconditional identification with both His death and His resurrection; an ongoing, daily surrender to His life and His leading through a constant “dying out” to ourselves and a growing appetite to feed our spirits with a steady diet of His Word. The prophet Amos spoke of a time when there would be a “famine” for the “hearing” of God’s Word (Amos 8:11). We are clearly living in such a time, but Jesus is still looking for followers who will simply trust Him, persevere, and be available to make a difference in a dark world.

It’s all about Jesus!

And they overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11 nasb).

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*Recommended blogs:

https://123hallelujah.wordpress.com/  by Margaret

https://unshakablehope.com/  by Bill Sweeney

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Image attribution: By Mohammed Moussa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28338950

Birds Or Branches?

Apart from the Bible, the inspired, anointed, and eternal Word of God, I have a fairly short list of recommended reading…books that draw me back time and again because of their insights and wisdom. Of course, everyone’s list is different, but I thought I would share three which are at the very top of my own, books that I would categorize as “must-reads” if I were ever qualified to teach an “advanced” course in discipleship!

The three writers all have something in common. First of all, none are household names in the realm of Christian non-fiction literature. Second, each of these men had a depth in their knowledge of scripture and a passion in their pursuit of Jesus Christ that I can only aspire to. Finally, they are all deceased. Am I suggesting that some of the “old-time” (prior-generation) Bible preachers and teachers may have had a grasp of some spiritual truths and realities that have been lost to many of the modern church mentality?

Well, actually…yes!

But before I share my list, there is another distinction we should be reminded of.

Matthew chapter 13 begins with the well known parable of the sower, but goes on to include various similies pertaining to the kingdom of God on earth, including the tares and the wheat, the leaven and the flour, the nesting birds and the mustard tree, and the net filled with bad fish and good fish harvested at the end of the age. Most discerning teachers of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) agree that these particular images represent the mixture of evil and good that will coexist within the Church, i.e., the kingdom of heaven on earth, prior to its being separated out – like the sheep and the goats – upon the return of Christ and the Day of Judgment. (I once read a Bible commentator’s peculiar declaration that the “leaven” represents Jesus. A thousand times…NO! I also once heard a seminary-trained pastor state that “WE…are the birds of the air” [nesting among the branches of the mustard tree]. For his sake, I hope he was wrong! Branches, yes. The birds, or “fowl” of the air? Not in this passage!)

Jesus told us who the “birds of the air” represent in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:19). If we apply a standard of interpretation to a portion of the scripture, we must do so consistently. Imagery cannot logically be something “clean” in one verse, and something “unclean” in the next.

Like a cacophonous flock of grackles in a grocery store parking lot tree, the “birds” are the most attention-getting things about that tree. They may have completely taken over the tree, and invariably leave a mess on the ground below them. The same is true of the great tree, or Vine (Christ) that grew up from a tiny mustard seed (the Word), and puts out branches (born-again believers). The “birds” may be the noisiest, most visible thing about the tree; they may receive shelter, food, and protection from the tree; they may build their “nests” in the tree; they may even make their “living” from the tree (“Sow a faith-seed of $$$ to MY ministry so I can indulge my pet projects for God, fly my private jet, and live like a king on this earth”)…

The problem is, the birds are not part of the Tree!

(See a recent post related to this topic, “The Counterfeit Conception”).

The good news is, because God is merciful, there is hope for “tares.” I know. I spent many years in the Church as a tare, thinking that I was a child of God until Jesus mercifully opened my eyes through His Word (following a considerable period of personal and spiritual crisis) . It requires an absolute miracle for a tare to be transformed to wheat (or for a fowl to become “foliage”), but thankfully we serve a loving Savior who is in the miracle business! But there is a prerequisite: do I really want the truth, no matter the cost?

Oh, my recommended reading list…I will likely quote from these in the future:

1) The School of Christ ~ T. Austin-Sparks (re-printed by World Challenge)

2) Born Crucified ~ L.E. Maxwell (a Moody Classic)

3) Remarkable Incidents and Modern Miracles through Prayer and Faith ~ G.C. Bevington (Kingsley Press)


Psalm 119:105 KJV “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

*Recommended blogs:

https://123hallelujah.wordpress.com/  by Margaret

https://unshakablehope.com/  by Bill Sweeney