Monday, March 15, 2021

Front Line Leadership

One of the greatest need that is lacking in almost every area of every society is effective leadership. Whether governments, businesses, organizations, churches or families, the rise or fall of them lies upon the effectiveness of those who lead them. The life of the church today depends on leaders who fully depend upon the builder and leader of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Although this is meant for all believers, it should be the highest priority in the life of church leaders.

There are some things that we should take note of in this verse. First, the vine (Jesus) does not bear the fruit, nor does the Holy Spirit. The branches (believers) bear the fruit enabled by the Holy Spirit. Next, as a branch cannot survive without the vine, the vine needs the branch to bear the fruit. This speaks of an incredible oneness that believers have with Christ. With this in mind let's look at some of the characteristics that make a good leader.

"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Although the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is revealing the qualifications for an Elder in the church, the leadership (government) of the early church was first through Christ, then the Apostles and after that through Eldership (and deacon as the need arose). When talking of Elders I mean the leaders of the church. Those who are called by the Lord to oversee, lead, make decisions and build up the church. We can clearly see from the passage above that Elders must be qualified men before being accepted into leadership. God demands moral and spiritual qualifications to be met before a man can lead His people. As you can also see, being a church leader has nothing to do with vocation whether a physician, attorney, educator, being involved in public office, etc., because these vocations can be held by men without spiritual or moral integrity. Now let's look at the qualifications of an Elder (church leader) as shown above. (There are other qualification and much more scripture that I could share concerning church leaders but for the sake of space I will only share the contents of the above passage in a more exhaustive way)

A bishop (Elder) then must be blameless, have unquestionable integrity. He must be the husband of one wife. This does not necessarily mean he needs to be married, but if married it must be to one wife. He must be  temperate, that is disciplined, exercising self-control. He must be sober-minded,  having a sound mind. He must be of good behavior, have a respectable life-style. He must be hospitable, have a fondness and willingness to receive people into his house.  He must be able to teach, skilled in the Word of God both in word and action. He must not be given to wine, not addicted to alcoholic beverages or even allowing them to impair his  physiological functions in the slightest He must not be violent, lash out with the hand or mouth. He must not be greedy for money, work at acquiring money by any means. He must be gentle, patient, considerate have the ability to remain calm. He must not be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative or one who gets involved with fist fights. He must not be covetous; that is not controlled by the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh or the pride of life. He must be one who rules his own house well, he must preside over and manage his household in an excellent manner. His children must be in submission with all reverence, he must have his children under control showing respect. He must not be a novice, that is he must not be new to the faith but have wisdom, understanding and experience in the things of the Spirit and the Word of God. He must have a good testimony among those who are outside the church, neighbors, fellow employees, etc.

As you can see, God has set up qualifications for church leaders not only for the leader himself but for the protection of the believer. As it was in the early church we seem to be faced with the same lack in the church today, quality, spirit filled leaders called by God to lead His people. The apostle Paul said, "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers..." (1 Corinthians 4:15) A modern interpretation of this verse could be, "For though you might have ten thousand professional clergy, yet you do not have many who nourish, protect, uphold, and lead." Not one Bible college or seminary can produce qualified leaders. This does not imply that a formal education does not have its place or have any value, but it is God Himself who truly raises up and qualifies church leaders. (Acts 4:13). Church leaders must be men who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. They must be men of godly character, divine ability, and possess the wisdom of God "to lead His children in and out that they not be like sheep which have no shepherd." (Numbers 27: 17)

I believe that even now God is restoring true New Testament leadership to the church. The problem that the church faces is dealing with the many non-biblical concepts of leadership that have infiltrated the church. God will eliminate these concepts by changing the hearts of His people and preparing them to accept scriptural principles and patterns of true biblical leadership. How about you? Are you one of those who God is calling, raising up and qualifying to be a leader? If so, then keep looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and He will qualify you to lead the way.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Prevailing Through the Storms

 One of the many exciting stories recorded in the gospels of the life of Jesus is found in the three synoptic gospels. Although the following account is very similar in detail in all three gospels I will still share some parts from all three. 

"Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake." And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another,"Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!" (Luke 8:22-25)

There are many interesting aspects to this story. First, we notice "a windstorm came down on the lake." Naturally, windstorms do happen because storms are the result of the fall of man. However, I believe this particular windstorm had demonic origins. Why do I say this? Before the fall, Adam was given dominion not only over the creatures that were on the earth, but God made him to have dominion over all of the works of His hands. (Psalm 8:6) Also, prior to this incident Mark records, "Jesus healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God." But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:" (Mark 3:10-15)   Think about it, at this particular time all those on earth who either had direct authority or delegated authority over the forces of darkness were in this boat. The devil may have thought if he could take them out he would still have the authority that Adam forfeited to him. (Luke 4:6)

Although the storm was filling the boat with water to the point that they were in jeopardy, Jesus was still asleep. This is a very important key for believers to understand if we are to walk daily in victory over every circumstance in this life no matter how insurmountable they may seem. We must keep in mind that Satan is defeated (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14), that we have authority over all of the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19), that we also have been given the power of attorney to use the Name of Jesus which carries with it all authority (Matthew 28:18, Mark 16:17-18, Philippians 2:5-11), that we also have God's Word that is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and the we are God's Children (John 1:12, Romans 8:15-16)

We all of these mighty weapons of God available to us. By using them, we too can rest in the midst of the storm. However, do we apply to our lives what Solomon said, "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) You see, walking in victory comes down to whose words you are going to believe, the words of man, the words of the devil or the Word of God? (Matthew 16:13-23)  Naturally, we must believe God's Word over man's and Satan's words, but how can we cause God's Word to work in our lives?

We must first understand that although reading the Bible and confessing scripture is a great thing, if we are not acting upon it, then we are not really applying faith. Simply put, this is how true Bible faith works, we believe God's Word and then act upon it. James tells us, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves...But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 1:22, 2:18) So how can I be a doer of the Word? How can I show my faith by my works?

First, we we must be people who abide in God's Word (John 8:32-33) To abide in God's Word is to accept it wholeheartedly with exception, to believe it without doubting, to stand upon it without wavering. We must be convinced that what God has promised He is also able to perform (Romans 4:20-21). Now we find scripture that is directly related to the circumstance, confess it with our mouth, believe it in our heart and then thank Him for the answer even when there is not one shred of physical evidence. You see, by thanking God for the desired results (which must be according to His Will which is His Word 1 John 5:14-15) I am acting on His Word. I thank Him not because of a manifestation, but because I agree that His Word is true and it never fails. (Isaiah 55:11) Jesus said it this way, "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." (Mark 11:23-24)

Mark 11:23-24 is one of the most controversial passage of scripture to most in the church today. However, this is the epitome of true Bible faith. Doubt will always neutralize faith. Peter had faith to walk on the water, and he did, but doubt caused him to sink. The doubt was brought on by fear. Doubt neutralized his faith!!! (Matthew 14:28-31) Jesus tells us that we must believe that those things we say will be done. Finally, Jesus tells us that we must believe that we receive what we have asked for and you will have them. Believe that you receive, not receive and then believe. True Bible faith receives what God has already said. What God has already promised. What God has already work through Christ, even though there is no physical  evidence.  "Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

The apostle.Thomas did not exercise faith even though Jesus told His disciple that after His death He would rise. (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22) Nor did he believe even after many reported that in fact Jesus was risen. Not only did Thomas have to see the risen Lord, but he had to examine Him (the holes in His hands and feet, evidence seen) before he would believe. (John 24-29) This is the greatest struggle for most believers, believing that you have received without any physical evidence. Why? Because most believers have been taught to be skeptical of the supernatural. They have been trained to only accept things that their five senses can understand. This is exactly what Thomas did and Jesus rebuked him for it. He did not believe the Lord's Word concerning His resurrection. If he had, once he heard that Jesus was risen, he would have believed and acted upon it by rejoicing even though he himself had not seen the Lord. Instead, he had to see the Lord to believe that He was risen.

As the story winds down we see Jesus take control of the situation, He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. This should be the response of every believer when facing the difficulties of life. James tells us to count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2) In other words, do not let the trial have control, let joy rise up and then stand on God's Word remembering that God did not bring the trial (James 1:13) Also remember, believers are not called to fight the devil, Jesus defeated him. We are called to fight the good fight of faith. (1 Timothy 6:12) It is our faith in the integrity of God's Word that puts us over, not physical manifestations.

Think about this. If you are struggling with physical pain or some sort of sickness in your body, do not deny its existence, that would be lying. What you do, is deny its right to exist in your body which has been purchased by Jesus and is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Why do you take this position? Because God's Word says, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were (past tense) healed." (1 Peter 2:24 also see Isaiah 53:4-5)  You believe what Peter says, (it's God's Word) denying the right of the physical manifestation of pain or sickness to have place in your body. As Jesus rebuked the storm, you rebuke the devil and the symptoms that he is trying to put upon you or has manifested in your body.

Finally, Jesus confronts the disciples asking them, "Where is your faith?" The other accounts of this story say, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith." (Matthew 8:26) and "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" (Mark 4:40) In either case, it comes down to an issue of faith. Will we exercise faith in God's Word or will we let fear and or doubt have place? Will we believe only if we see a manifestation or will we believe because the Word of God says so? For most, this can be an arduous ordeal. Why? It is because church leaders continue to teach believers through a somewhat subliminal message to trust in their senses and not God's Word. The only way to reverse these faithless words of doubt, fear and unbelief that have filled the hearts of God's beloved children, is to renew the mind with God's Word. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23)  Renewing ones mind and dealing with these stronghold takes a process of time. It comes down to each individual and just how deep these strongholds have captured their mind.

But be of good cheer, because God has given you a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) Through reading, studying and most importantly meditating on God's Word your faith will grow. (Romans 10:17) So, if you find yourself in the midst of a storm, "Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." (Galatians 6:9) Don't lose heart. Don't give up "Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) God is faithful. His Word never fails. "It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) and always keeping in mind, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (that is, the Word of God) (Revelation 12:11)   

Monday, March 1, 2021

Let's Use Our Gifts

When most people think of gifts they tend to think of Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and showers to name a few. But for believers our first though should be the "Gifts of the Spirit." Why should this be? The apostle Paul tells us that, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." (1 Corinthians 12:7) The gifts of the Spirit although given by the Holy Spirit to each one individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11) are for the profit, gain, advantage or benefit of all believers. God does not give gifts to an individual for His benefit, but for the benefit of the church, His Body. Paul also tells us "to earnestly desire these gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1) for this very purpose. Paul further states, "Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel." (1 Corinthians 14:12) Well if these things are so, then why are the "Gifts of the Spirit" either down played or completely rejected in most congregation today? Why wouldn't church leaders encourage believers to desire them and use them if all believers benefit from them?

I believe that it comes down to the following. It is another diabolical scheme of Satan to increase the gap of division and disunity in the Body of Christ. His schemes have not changed in the history of man, yet man never seems to learn from history nor take serious the various warnings seen in the Bible, such as "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul also speaks of the apostasy that would happen to many in the church, "having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:5) and "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7) These things are so subtle and deceptive it seems as though church leaders would rather live with division and disunity rather than to admit our mistakes. Let's look at the inception of this malicious scheme of Satan into man's history.

The Bible records that Satan is cunning, crafty. (Genesis 3:1) His scheme in the Garden of Eden was to get the woman to reason away the truth by first challenging her with what God said, "Has God indeed said..." (Genesis 3:1) The command that came from God was, "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17).  Now look at the woman's response to Satan's questioning of God's Word, "...God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" (Genesis 3:3) First, notice the woman added to the Word of God, "nor shall you touch it." As soon as we add to the Word of God by using our reasoning faculties rather than exercising faith, we are heading towards the snare of the devil. This very thing was exposed by Jesus when talking with the religious leaders, "you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition..."And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:6, 9)

Next, we see Satan once again attacking God's Word, "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. (Genesis 3:4) Not only does Satan attack God's Word, but he also attacks God's character by insinuating that God is not being entirely honest with her,  "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5) The deception was now complete. The woman no longer trusted the Word of God but began to reason it away, "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, (lust of the flesh) that it was pleasant to the eyes, (lust of the eyes) and a tree desirable to make one wise, (the pride of life) she took of its fruit and ate..." (Genesis 3:6) She was not relying on her spirit to lead her, but permitted her soul (mind, will and emotions) to make her decision. The great deception behind this entire incident was that she was already like God, "Then God said,"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26)

This very scheme is the root that causes most of the division in the church today. God has given every believer a "measure of faith." (Romans 12:3) However, when believers fail to exercise faith in the integrity of God's Word, let our soul (reasoning faculties) make the decision, the result is always the same, doctrine contrary to God's Word which expands the gap of division in the Body of Christ, God's family. This issue is not new to the church. The apostle Paul dealt with it in the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) His conclusion to the church was, "you are still carnal...behaving like mere men." Jesus exposes this very deception shortly after Peter's revelation and confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) Jesus tells His disciple of the fate that awaited Him in Jerusalem, but Peter rebuked Him saying, "Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22) Notice Jesus' response, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."  (Matthew 16:23) Now we can understand Paul's response to the men in the church at Corinth. When believers reason away the Word of God they have permitted Satan's lies to manipulate their decisions causing them to be no longer "mindful of the things of God, but the things of men," acting like mere men.

So are the gifts of the Spirit for the church today? Well, think about this, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29). Although there is much more that the Bible reveals concerning the gifts of the Spirit, it should be obvious to us that yes the gifts of the Spirit are for the church today. There is not one verse of scripture the states verbatim that God revoked any gift that He has given to the church. The argument that the supernatural was only needed in the early church because today we have the canonized scriptures and have no need of them is strictly based upon human reasoning and not faith in the integrity of God's Word. If we really think about it and take a look at the world around us, we will have to admit that there is a far greater need for the supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit today than ever before.

The good news is not only will the world be evangelized but also, Jesus will not return, "...until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21) also takes place. I believe that the church is moving into a place through the Holy Spirit to where all the things that have become bricks in the wall of division in the church will come crumbling down. The name of Jesus will be magnified. The Word of God will prevail mightily not only in the church, but throughout the world and the love of God will emanate through believers making the church the desire of the world. So, as the apostle Paul said, "earnestly desire spiritual gifts." (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1)

Monday, February 22, 2021

Revelation Knowledge

 When God created man, "He created him in His own image according His likeness." (Genesis 1:27) This has nothing to do with mans body, for it was "formed from the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7) It wasn't until God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; that man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) The Holy Spirit reveals through the apostle Paul that man is composed of "spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and body." (1 Thessalonians 5:23) However, when we consider that man was made in Gods image and likeness, "God is Spirit..." (John 4:24) we then come to understand that the real man is a spirit, with a soul who lives in a physical body.

The body possesses the five senses, touch, taste, feel, hear and see and until one is "born again, born of the Spirit" (John 3:3-8) the senses are the educators and teachers of the brain. However, if the senses are impaired then the brain cannot assimilate knowledge properly. For instances, if a person is born without hearing, then trying to listen to an announcer at a baseball game is meaningless. If a person is born without sight then taking them to view the magnificence of the Grand Canyon will have very little benefit. In other words, the brain is totally dependent upon the five senses. Without them in full operation, not only is knowledge limited, but the body and soul are limited also.

Looking back at the Garden of Eden, Adam's act of treason brought death to all mankind resulting in condemnation (Romans 5:17-18) The moment Adam realized what he did, both he and his wife hid from God, "And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8) Naturally, they could not really hide from God. However, the instance that Adam fell, his spirit lost it dominion and he now had to rely on his senses. His spiritual prowess had now become enveloped by his flesh,"And the LORD said,"My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh..." (Genesis 6:3). Although Adam was created with the five senses, I believe that his senses did not play a very large part of his life prior to the fall as they did after. Prior to the fall his spirit dominated his body as well as his soul. His spirit governed his reasoning faculties and was the avenue in which his mind received knowledge. However, once he fell, he would be fully dependent on his senses to survive because he (his spirit) had lost contact with God, his body was now subject to death and all the knowledge that he would acquirer would come solely through his senses.

All the knowledge that one acquires through the senses is dwarfed when compared with the knowledge that comes through the spirit. Saul of Tarsus, who we know as the apostle Paul was a highly educated and intelligent religious leader, yet he said, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:7-8) The knowledge that he had received prior to his conversion was through his senses. However, now he boasts in the knowledge of Christ Jesus because it far exceeds sense knowledge, it is spiritual. It is revelation that comes by the Holy Spirit through the recreated (born again) spirit. Paul also tells us, "...We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up..." (1 Corinthians 8:1) He is saying that it is sense knowledge that causes people to become filled with pride. Now we can understand why the natural, sense knowledge person has trouble understanding the things of God, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

When people operate in sense knowledge only, their reaction to God (spiritual things) becomes much like Adam and his wife. In a sense (no pun intended) they hide from God. The sad thing is, many in the church today, especially church leaders, depend on their senses to obtain knowledge which directly opposes the kind of faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). If what they believe cannot be assimilated in their mind by what they have learned through their senses, then it must not be true, ego why we have the doctrines of man superseding the Word of God in the church today. However, their is some wonderful news.

First, for the non-believer, simply by "confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.' (Born Again) (Romans 10:9) The moment this takes place you become, "a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Your recreated spirit can now give revelation knowledge of spiritual things to your mind. Secondly, for the believer, the apostle Paul prayed, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;" (Ephesians 1:17-18) The believer can have revelation knowledge which supersedes sense knowledge. However, in either case revelation knowledge comes through a steady diet of reading, studying and most importantly, meditating on the Word of God. This in turn builds our faith (Romans 10:17) which will ultimately bring believers to the place where our spirit, the real you and me, dominates the soul and body as it did with Adam prior to the fall.

So, where are you? Are you living out your Christian life believing because your senses make it believable, like the apostle Thomas (John 20:24-29) or do you believe because the Word of God says so, period? The first will cause us to hide from God because we do not truly know His will, nature, character, purposes and plan, but the latter will cause us to walk on this earth as super people "walking by faith and not by sight"
(2 Corinthians 5:7) 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Moved By Compassion

Shortly after Jesus faced Satan in open combat (Matthew 4 and Luke 4) He began His earthly ministry. One of the first things that He did was to call to Himself followers, that is disciples and out of them He chose twelve that He called apostles (Matthew 4:18-22, 5: 1-11, Luke 6:12-16) Once this was completed He began to show His disciples the Father's will, nature, character, purposes and plan through His actions and Words, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them..." (Matthew 4:23-25, 5:1-2)

Jesus had approximately three and one half years to impart Kingdom principles into His disciples before His departure from earth to return to His father. During that time He Himself would lead them into life situations and circumstances that would require them to look to the Father's abilities and not their own. They observed Him preach and teach but moreover, they watched as the Father released the supernatural through Him. He cleansed leapers, cast out demons, healed paralytics, restore sight to the blind, restore speech to the mute, "Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." (Matthew 9:35) and He raised the dead (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43, Luke 7:11-15, John 11:1-44) But the disciples saw something else about Jesus. Apart from all the teaching, preaching and miracles, "When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

Many Christians are compassionate, but few have compassion. What is the difference? A person can be compassionate, feeling sympathy and concern for others, but do nothing about it. However, to have compassion is to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others and then do something about it. This is what the ministry of Jesus was about. It was revealing to humanity the true nature of the Father, compassion for humanity. Jesus had been sent by the Father (John 6:38) to do something about the fallen, oppressed state of human suffering under the tyrannical powers of darkness.  Next, we see that His compassion for humanity is revealed to His disciples, "Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38)

Interestingly enough many in the church today will pray this prayer because they are compassionate towards to state of humanity, but that is as far as they go. By praying for laborers, they expect God to answer their prayer by gathering others to go labor not thinking that they themselves are the laborers. Immediately after Jesus spoke to His disciples to pray in this manner, "He called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease."  (Matthew 10:1) He commissioned them to, "Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons..." (Matthew 10:6-8) The very prayer that Jesus had told His disciples to pray had now become an answered prayer through them. They were the very laborers that they were to pray for.

It is sad to here ministers tell believers that all they have to do is to pray this prayer and the congregation will grow because the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers. We don't know where these laborers are or where they come from, but somehow the Lord will bring in the harvest through these laborers. Jesus never meant this prayer to be a prayer of hope, but one of faith. Faith that "God is at work in the believer to both do His will and His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) That all believers, "are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) That all believers are to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded." (Matthew 28:19-20)

The church (all believers) is the only vessel on this planet that has the "Good News." The good news is not limited to being saved from sin (which is certainly enough) but that the moment one places faith in Christ, they become New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) They are declared righteous and have peace with God. (Romans 5:1-2) They become a child of God (John 1:12) God has given them unlimited rights and privileges as His heirs and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) (to name a few points concerning God's Good News to humanity) Let's remember, "That God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (John 3:16)

I do not believe that there is one believer that would want to see even the most vile sinner perish without Christ. So let us keep in mind God's incredible power to transform lives and then release upon that transformed life all the wonderful promises that He freely gives. Let us move on from praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers only and believe that we are the very laborers that God is calling to go forth and reap a harvest of souls through His power working in us, all for the Father's glory. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)   

Monday, February 8, 2021

God is Just to All

 The Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Many use Job as a lesson for believers from the position that when adversity comes no matter how horrific it may be, somehow God is behind it. Believers are taught that because God allowed Satan to do certain destructive things in Jobs life that it was God's will. The Bible tells us that Satan is the accuser (Revelation 12:10) so he made some accusation against God and Job, "Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land." (Job 1:8-10)

Notice first that God always speaks highly of His children. He protects His children and blesses His children. This is Gods true nature and it holds a very important key when it comes to fully understanding what is about to transpire in the life of Job. Next, we see Satan firing his accusations against God and Job. Due to his hatred towards God and man, Satan then puts a challenge to God, "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." (Job 1:11-12) Although Satan wanted God to do damage to Job, it was not God, it was Satan!

After all the havoc that Satan leashed on Jobs family and possessions it wasn't enough. Satan returns to God and continues his accusations, but once again we see the true nature of God revealed, "Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause." (Job2:3) This time Satan makes his accusations more personal towards Job, "So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job." (Job 2:4-7) Again, Satan wanted God to do damage to Job, and again it was not God, it was Satan!

We see clearly that Gods true nature is to bless not curse, but why would God allow Satan to bring such devastation upon Job? Does God use Satan to do His dirty work? Does God use destruction, disease and sickness to chastise His children? Is it because God is sovereign (and He most certainly is) and He gets to do whatever He wants? Before we see the real reason behind this satanic attack on Job, let's see another characteristic of God as reveal by a young man named Elihu, "Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity. For He repays man according to his work, And makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice." (Job 34:10-12) and "As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not afflict." (Job 37:23)

God is absolutely just. He does not do wicked things. He does not commit iniquity. He does not pervert justice. He is abundant in Justice. He does not afflict. Everything that God does is on absolute legal grounds. He does not pervert justice for anyone, including Satan. So why would God permit Satan to do the things to Job that he did? Job himself reveals exactly why, "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." (Job 3:25) The apostle Paul tells Timothy, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) If fear does not come from God, where does it come from? Fear is a product of the fall and is from Satan. Adams response to God immediately after the fall was, "...I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10)  The apostle Paul tells us, "do not give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27) Fear in Jobs life was legal ground for Satan to do what he did to Job, For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." Now we can clearly see why God permitted Satan to bring such devastation upon Job. Remember, God does not do wicked things. He does not commit iniquity. He does not pervert justice. He is abundant in Justice. He does not afflict!

The true nature and character of God is revealed throughout the Bible. For instance, He reveals His nature to Moses, "And the LORD passed before Moses and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7) We see again that He is just. Think about this from another perspective. God chose to redeem humanity in Christ "before the foundation of the world." (Ephesians 1:3-6) So God knew that Adam would commit treason before He created him. When the fall came, God immediately made known His plan of redemption for humanity. (Genesis 3:14-15) If God's will is for humanity to suffer at the hands of His enemy, Satan, then we have to ask ourselves why did God spare Cain's life and not kill him immediately after he murdered his brother Able? God tells us when He spoke to Cain before He murdered Able, "...sin (Satan) lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Genesis 4:7)

God gave Cain the solution to do what was right, but Cain's anger was stronger than Gods advice. His anger gave place to Satan and murder was the result. Jesus tells us that "Satan is a murderer" (John 8:44) not God! As a matter of fact, "...through death, Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:14) Luke tells us, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38) John tells us, "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8) Jesus Himself quotes a prophetic word spoken by Isaiah the prophet concerning Himself, "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19) Does any of this sound like a God whose will is to have disease, sickness, poverty or any other devastation to come upon His children? Absolutely and emphatically not!!!

If it is God's will to have humanity, especially His children suffer at the hand of His enemy, Satan, whether it be to chasten them or any other reason, then why would Jesus come to destroy the works of the devil?  As you can see, this thinking is complete ludicrous. If we say that the things that happened to Job is because God is sovereign (and He most certainly is) and He does whatever He wants due to His sovereignty, then we have to also believe that God operates outside of and or ignores His own Word. This thinking is also erroneous, "My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips." (Psalms 89:34), "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven." (Psalms 119:89), "I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name." (Psalm 138:2) By looking at the conclusion of the Book of Job, we see God's true nature in action.

From chapter 38 to chapter 41 God questions Job from the realm of creation and the realm of animals. He then tells Job to save himself, if he can. He compares the power of Job with that of the behemoth and that of a leviathan. Finally in chapter 42 Job confessed his lack of understanding and then repents. In response to Jobs confession and repentance, "the LORD restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before." (Job 42:10) "Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning." (Job 42:12) "After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days." (Job 42:16-17)  God's will and nature is to is bless and give life. It is Satan who steals, kills and destroys. As shown above, Job gave Satan a legal right to do the things that had come upon him, but once Job had confessed and repented to God, Satan lost all legal ground to Job and God could legally bless Job again.

For God to bring eternal redemption to humanity, He himself would take the liability for the fall of man. It was Jesus Christ the Son of God who suffered as a substitute for humanity, the just for the unjust. Satan used humanity to take the life of a sinless, innocent man which opened the door for God to redeem humanity on absolutely legal grounds. Now all who confess the Lordship of Jesus become a child of God. They are a New Creation. Satan is defeated and the believer has authority over him. However, we must be careful not to "Give place to the devil" but live by faith in the realm of the spirit with all the benefits that are legally ours provided by redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. It's all legal and it's all ours, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) PTL

Monday, February 1, 2021

Words, Words, Words

The words that we speak are very powerful. They are the building blocks on which every person builds their life upon. The Proverbs speak numerous times of the constructive and destructive power that our words have, "You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth." (Proverbs 6:2) and "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21) and "A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth..." (Proverbs 12:14) No matter how one speaks, they become a product of their words. Jesus said, "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." (Luke 6:45)

Many believer struggle with life problems because they speak the wrong things not realizing that the very thing(s) they struggle with are the consequences of the words they speak. Think about it from this perspective. In the first chapter of Genesis we see that "God said...and so it was." Notice that every time that "God said" creation took shape, it came to be. Without words, creation would have never happened. The writer of Hebrew says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." (Hebrews 11:3) Again, creation manifested as God spoke, but take note to something else in this verse that is very important for believers to see, "By faith we understand..." Faith is a catalyst that brings us to understand the power of our spoken words as well as the power released when speaking God's Word.

Every time we speak God's Word to our individual circumstances and situations, our faith increases, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17) and His Word becomes a reality in our lives. James tells us to "...receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21) Once God's Word is implanted into our spirit, that is, it becomes a part of us, it will produce results. "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) Jesus said it this way, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63) God's Word produces life.

One of the greatest examples that reveals the power of words is found in Mark 5:25-34. In short, this is the story of a woman with a persistent flow of blood for twelve years that had become worse even though she had seen many physicians concerning this condition. (This is not a teaching against doctors or medicine, but the power of the words that we speak) As the woman pressed through the crowd to get to Jesus, "she kept saying, if I only touch His garments, I shall be restored to health." (Mark 5:28 AMP) The woman had a goal. She hoped to be healed, if I only touch His garments. I am sure that her mind was saying things that totally contradicted what she was speaking. However, she turned human reasoning and hope into faith by confessing, I shall be restored to health. When she touched Jesus' clothes, her faith made a demand on the covenant of God as a daughter of Abraham releasing the anointing that was upon Jesus and her words became a living reality, "Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction." (Mark 5:29) 

The writer of Hebrews tells us, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) The woman's faith gave substance to the thing that she hoped for even though all the evidence in the natural was saying something different. Notice also that the woman was not denying or confessing that her condition did not exist, because that would not be true, it did exist. When a believer speaks God's Word, we also are not to deny that a condition does not exist, but we are to deny the conditions right to exist because we have been redeemed through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are the children of God. Sin and Satan have been defeated and we have been given the Name of Jesus to enforce what He did through His dead, burial and resurrection. Paul says this, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11) and "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) Jesus said it this way, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)   

When circumstances or situations arise, we must not make the mistake of calling the things that are contrary to God's Word, the way they are. For instance, if sickness has manifested in your body, although the sickness is real, it is contrary to God's Word, " His stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24) By agreeing with the sickness, our words are giving it the right to be in our body. But when we speak God's Word to the sickness, "by His stripes I am healed" we take authority over it because we are calling those things that are not as though the were. (Romans 4:17) We are agreeing that God's Word is true and the sickness has no right to be in our body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This may not be a one time process for you. Sometimes our faith is not at the level to deal with the situation at hand. However, do not give up or give in. You must continue to speak God's Word until His Word manifests. My challenge to you is to make it a daily practice of meditating on God's Word and speaking it to any problem that you may encounter. Declare His Word to be true until it is implanted in you and you walk in the victory that you have through Jesus Christ our Lord.