Born Again?

I’ve basically been avoiding touching on this topic. It’s a thorny issue. But I’ve felt a prompting for too long, so I’ll attempt to approach this with grace. A person close to me shared a conversation they had with someone, and it just baffled me. They asked why did they vote for Donald Trump? The person responded, “Because he is a born again Christian.” They then asked me if I agreed with that statement. I did my best to show what I believed being born again means. I did not address his salvation. Only God knows that for sure. But I want to be clear. There is a difference between saying you are “saved” and saying you are “born again.”

Jesus addressed being born again with Nicodemus in John 3. A better term is being “born from above.” We come to a place where we have a concept of who Christ is and who we are in Him. Are we seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness? Is Christ’s character starting to show in you? Can we honestly say we are doing our best to submit to His will? If you are, eventually it will be seen. As it states in Ephesians 2, you become dead to trespasses and sins. Man, I’m still working on that. Things you walked after in this world that fulfilled lust and desires, according to the prince of the power of the air, start to lose their hold on you. If we are actually walking as one in Christ, we have become a new creation. The old things have passed away. All things become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This new walk of being born again in Christ is contingent on a repentant heart. Truly putting off our old ways. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Repentance basically is a change of mind that results in a change of action. True repentance is prompted by Godly sorrow for our ways that do not align with Him, and it leads us to the path of salvation. One of the most glaring and contrary statements I heard from Donald Trump was that he felt he had nothing to repent of. If anyone tells you that or in essence states they are without sin, turn and walk from them. This is evidence of the prince of lies having a well-established stronghold in that person.  There can be no new birth without repentance. And that will be evidenced by our actions. By who we’ve asked to take residence within us. Our very nature will manifest the evidence of His presence in us and our walk with Him. It’s akin to checking in luggage on a plane. There are certain requirements as to the allowed baggage and its contents. That which we once walked in that does not align with Christ must be discarded. If not, we become like rotten fruit that should have been discarded, but we carry it with us. We become known by this very fruit. Its end is death.

Some people have no fear in using the name of God or saying they believe in Jesus for their own gain. It’s similar to what happened in Acts 8 where Simon the sorcerer saw the works being done by the apostles and offered to buy the work of the Holy Spirit and was severely rebuked by Peter. Peter told him to perish with his money, for he had no part or portion in this work, as your heart is not right with God. Peter told him to “repent of your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see you that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” This is no different than those who so easily proclaim the name of Jesus for financial or political gain! It is no more than a means to an end. At least Simon the sorcerer had enough sense, and maybe holy fear, to ask that Peter would pray for him that these things would not come upon him. Not so with many today. You cannot use the name of Jesus in a political platform when none of the fruit is evident in your life. If you continue with wickedness, your sin will find you out. And those who follow you will face the same judgement, as they are complicit in their embracing that which should be rejected outright. I fear that just as Jeremiah said in chapter 7:28, “This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction.” We have been given all that pertains to life and goodness, yet follow that which in every part rejects Christ. And the Church is part and parcel to it. The words of Isaiah 47:10-11 say “For you have trusted in your wickedness; You say no one sees me; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you said in your heart, I am, and there is no one else besides me. Therefore, evil shall come upon you and you shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you and you will not be able to put it off.” I fear this is where we are. So much has been made evident, yet a large portion of this country and the Church continue to embrace a man who refuses to bend his knee to the Lord.  What was in you that caused you to follow that which is the antithesis of all that Jesus taught? Can we pay attention to what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. I think many are past that, and I just pray for His mercy and a spirit of repentance for this land. We need to hear the words in Proverbs 28 where we are warned that if we turn from hearing what is right, even our prayer is an abomination. But if we confess and forsake our wrong ways, we will have mercy.

We must walk as it says in Ephesians 4 as one worthy of which you were called to. Doing our best to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. No peace is possible when we walk contrary to His way. We cannot embrace being born from above and follow that which has no part in His kingdom. We cannot preach or use the name of Christ when selfish ambition is at the root. Put off all works of the enemy. Align yourself with Him alone. Walk in His love and truth. Avoid the unfruitful works of darkness and walk as children of light. Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word that will save your souls. As it says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” It then adds that if we say we have not sinned, if we have no need for repentance, then His word is not in us. We know that whoever is born of God, whoever is born from above, lives their life for Him. To not sin. And to repent when we do and that the change in us will be evident. Do not allow anyone to minimize or put to shame what He did for us that we can be born again in Christ Jesus. Our very souls depend on the grasping of this. Embrace Him alone. Keep yourselves from idols. Blessings.

Fog

Many years ago, I was driving from Hartford to my home in East Hampton, Ct. It had just turned dark and the most dense fog one could imagine rolled in. Visibility was basically zero. Had my lights on regular, as high beams just made things worse. At one point I opened the door and looked down hoping to see the line in the road showing I wasn’t running off the road. Not a smart move. I could not see well enough to pull to wherever the side of the road was and I realized that if I didn’t try to keep moving, I could be a sitting duck for someone to run into me. And yes, I prayed for protection for myself and my wife. It took a long time to get through the worst of the fog, and I made it home safely, but I never forgot that experience. In fact, we are all going through that now. Intense fog is not just atmospheric.

Fog forms when water vapor, or water in a gaseous form, condenses. During condensation, molecules of water vapor combine to make tiny liquid water droplets that hang in the air, thus creating fog. This, in turn, effects and impairs our vision so that it’s difficult to see beyond 3 feet in intense fog. This has nothing to do with an impairment of the eye, but arises from normal variations of perception in the brain. In aviation, it’s called “spatial disorientation” or the “Mandelbaum Effect.” This can create a situation where we become so disoriented that we cannot tell if we are right side up or upside down. Failure to pay attention to what can happen in these foggy conditions can result in injury or death. It’s common.

As I stated, fog is not just atmospheric. It can be spiritual or cause mental impairment. We are at a place spiritually in this country and in the world where too many cannot distinguish between light and darkness. Vision is cloudy. Thought processes are impaired. And we have many who proclaim to be visionaries for the Lord who consistently speak from what they have seen with high beams on. Their fog is just amplified, and they are sharing what they believe to see with those who follow them. If we are not grounded in the Word and consistently watching and listening, we too will crash or be led astray. This fog creates uncertainty, isolation, confusion, blurring of reality. The easy exit door proclaimed by some leads only to self-condemnation and even death. God is not the author of confusion but of peace. Yet so many continue speaking prophetically when the only thing it brings is more chaos. The Moffatt Translation says of 1 Corinthians 14:32-3, “Prophets can control their own prophetic spirits, for God is not a God of disorder but of harmony.” Yet many still speak from the fog as if from clarity.

We are in a time where indecision as to Truth, and the inability to discern what is or is not His word, has allowed a steady fog to cover our land, principles, tenets and faith. This will become like that darkness in Exodus 10 that was palpable. Spiritual fog lights are needed. That starts with our steadily being before Him in prayer and repentance. Standing for His truth and speaking that same Truth to what is false. It’s easy to be tempted to follow along when so many notable voices speak something, even if contrary to scripture. But God is faithful and will make a way of escape so you will not be tempted. It’s staying before Him. Who do you follow? This is no different than people being misled by witchcraft in Acts 8. People believed a false messenger had the great power of God. But Phillip spoke of things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and the people believed. What has caused us to stray from His truth? Just as Paul said to the Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth? As Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4, there will be a time when people refuse to hear sound doctrine, and they’ll accumulate teachers to suit themselves and be turned from truth. Is that not where we are and have been for a while? How has a political system of nationalism and so much of the body of Christ joined hands? The historian John Meacham said “Politicians are more often mirrors of who we are rather than makers.” We are to be mirrors of Him alone. If it doesn’t line up with Him, walk away.

In Matthew 22, Jesus said we are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and we are to love your neighbor as yourself. That should keep us pretty much occupied and seeing correctly if we manage to do that. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Even our vision. Planting seeds of division and confusion. Keeping us in a spiritual fog of his design. But the good shepherd has come that we would have life. More abundantly and with clarity. The steadfast in mind God will keep in perfect peace because you trust in Him. (Isaiah 26:3) So this all comes down to getting our directions from He who created everything. From He who gave His son for us that we would have abundant life. He has given us the ability to discern spiritually. He is our strength and our shield. Let our hearts trust in Him alone. Keep our spiritual eyes fixed on Him and see spiritual fog lift. Confusion will give way to spiritual and mental stability. I pray He lift any fog, any spiritual error from all who are caught up in this trap of uncertainty of thought, and that He set you on solid ground. Be assured that if you are in Him, you have the mind of Christ. Blessings.

Thorns

This seems to be an appropriate time to speak of thorns. It seems so much has become what we define as a “thorny issue.” People are seen as ones with a thorny personality. Easily provoked or perturbed. Seen as “prickly types.” So many topics cannot be rationally discussed. It’s as if we touch a thorn and it immediately draws blood. Anger ensues. Sometimes causing permanent rifts. But the primary purpose of a thorn is for protection. It keeps away herbivores. But now we have become like thorns and bristle at the approach of anything that does not line up with what we think or the precepts of those we may follow. Those same thorns that we protect ourselves with will also pierce us.

This is the time of year that we, as Christians, set aside as especially holy. Easter. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Taking our sins on His body that we might have life. And more. But I find our celebration of this as somewhat incongruous with how we comport ourselves. At no time in my life have I seen such rampant discord, strife and hate throughout this world and even among those who claim membership in the body of Christ. Divisions in the church so often based on politics, race, eroding of civil rights, following those who reject the basic tenets of what Christ taught, and the growing attempt to gain more power from a worldly view. These are the actions of double minded people. Unstable in all their ways. Loving the wages of unrighteousness. They promise you liberty in Jesus, when they themselves are slaves to corruption. They look to bring you into bondage with the error they follow.

In Matthew 27 and John 19, the Roman soldiers did the bidding of the people who wanted Jesus crucified. They made a crown of thorns and fashioned it into a mockery of the crown a king would wear. It symbolized that which would choke out the words of the Lord like stated in Matthew 13 with the parable of the sower. Rather than a crown that speaks to glory, wisdom and kingdom living, it speaks to materialism, cares of the world, anger, jealousy, and hatred. It mocked the authority of Jesus and looked to humiliate and dishonor Him. These thorns could be 3 inches long. They were twisted into His head. They then took a reed and hit Jesus on the head, further driving the thorns into Him. Even His head was pierced for us. For our thoughts. The evil machinations our minds can plot. To rid us of all sickness of the mind. Double mindedness. Anxiety. Fear. Bi-polar. Schizophrenia, Narcissism. Harboring revenge and hatred of our neighbor we were told to love. We need to apprehend that which He took for us. Or, will we be like Peter who said he would die for Jesus but only realized how far from Christ he was when his conscience was pricked by the thorn of regret when the rooster crowed?

Proverbs 20:5 states that “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” He has given us all that is necessary to discern right from wrong. Lies from truth. The word of the Lord from that which has been twisted and perverted like the thorns that pierced the head of Jesus. He kept His mind on that which was before Him. And we are to have the mind of Christ. If so, we are to put off the old man who once was fully now embracing Christ. As it says in Colossians 3, we must clothe ourselves with tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another. Forgiving. Put on love and let the peace of God rule in your heart. If we walk in these things, the lies and disagreements that fill the air will not penetrate our minds. We will cast down all arguments and thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. No tormenting spirit should have access to our thoughts. Those who spread a gospel of hate and division are of the world, and though the world hears them, they have no part in us. We are of God.

Do not think it strange that these evil thoughts and words have gained in intensity. Be extra serious and watchful in your prayers. Love one another. Be hospitable. Minister to one another. Avoid senseless arguments. Rightly discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Have no part in the lies which only seek to bring more division. Cast off all fear. That spirit cannot reside in us. Cast out fear by embracing His love. These are trying times but we are overcomers. Keep your mind fixed on Him. He was pierced by those thorns that we would be able to withstand every onslaught attacking our mind. And we have this promise, that if we persevere, we will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Not one of thorns to torment, but a crown of an everlasting kingdom and kinship with our Father. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And please open your hearts for extra prayer for Ukraine.  Blessings.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sic Semper Tyrannis. Thus always to tyrants. This has been said numerous times. Even when wrongly stated as by John Wilkes Booth. But this applies in full accuracy to Putin of Russia.

There have been many leaders from Russia who wielded great power intermingled with fear and cruelty. From Ivan the Terrible to Lenin, to Stalin and even the man called Stalin’s Himmler, Lavrentiy Beria. And now we have another force of evil in Vladimir Putin. But this tyranny has been the way throughout history and it seems that Russia has had a lion’s share. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There have always been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it always.” I pray the time is soon.

In Micah 2:1-2 it says,” Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning they practice it because it is in the power of their hand. They covet field and take them by violence, also houses and seize them. They oppress a man, his house and his inheritance.” But then Micah goes on to say that the Lord is devising disaster from which such as these cannot remove their necks. It seems that so many people like Putin go forth believing that their actions are without consequences. I’m referring to eternal consequences. As if they are not seen. In the Amplified Translation of Proverbs 6, the Lord says He hates “A proud look (the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others), a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood.” But men like Putin have no regard for God’s word. They are like brute beasts who speak evil of things they do not understand and they’ll utterly perish in their own corruption. They will leave a bloody stain on their place in history. And those who align themselves with this evil and make excuses for it will answer for their folly. As will those who condone those wrongly supporting this grievous sin.

In the meantime, it seems like people in Ukraine have to continue through this horror. And there are other nations that wonder if this terror awaits them by Putin. I’ve been in prayer for this for weeks now. It’s as if one can hear these people in Ukraine asking, “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? (Psalm 13:4) Yet, I feel the heartfelt words of David still apply here. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”(Psalm 27) “I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34) And, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the time of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”(Nahum 1:7) It’s easier to cite those verses when bombs are not falling on you, but we must make it a point to align our prayers and faith with those who are in the midst of this vicious onslaught.

A reckoning is coming. Sic semper Tyrannis. God is not mocked. What one sows, he will reap. The Lord says in Isaiah 13 that He will punish the wicked for their iniquity and that He would cause the arrogance of the proud to cease. He would also lay low the haughtiness of the terrible and the boasting of the violent and the ruthless. This warning addresses more than just Putin. What I feel applies to Putin was prophesied in Isaiah 14:9 saying, “Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming.” Those like Putin have no regard for God or His ways. They have no trouble crushing those who call on the Lord. I pray that the Lord confound Putin’s way so that he errs in his decisions and they backfire on him. I pray people rise up and stand against him. In Ukraine, Russia and throughout the world. But the ways of Putin I hate with a perfect hatred. I pray the words spoken in Jeremiah 15:21 over Ukraine. “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked. And I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.” Stay in prayer. Seek Him always. This darkness is not far from us and has crept into areas many pay no concern to. He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Put on your armor. Blessings.

We Have Loosed the Locusts

There is nothing new under the sun. We learn not from our mistakes and so willingly commit the same ones again. Though we sometimes try to put a new spin on them, hoping we can somehow put on a cloak of invisibility and go unnoticed by Heaven above. We have done our best to make God in our own image, thereby negating His decree to make man in His image. And so many look upon what they have unleashed and they call it good and they line up to defend sin to their own detriment.

“People what have you done? Locked Him in His golden cage, golden cage. Made Him bend to your religion, Him – resurrected from the grave, from the grave. He is the God of nothing if that’s all you can see. You are the God of everything. He’s inside you and me.” (Lyrics to My God by Jethro Tull) We do this very thing in allowing Him to be used to advance an agenda that is man- made and ego driven. No matter that so many purport to believe in Him, it has become common to see those who were once seemingly in a place of standing, just use His name as a stamp of approval for their agenda.

I look at so many ministries that have put God’s stamp of approval on whatever they set out to do. There is a frightening nationalism that has been fully embraced by a large percentage of the church. Many in the church believe that aligning with political interests will cement and strengthen their power. No matter the cost. To the degree, that in some circles, the word “evangelical” evokes one who will go to any extreme to gain strength. Warnings from the word about false teachers and prophets who cause many to take their eyes off the teachings of Christ go unheeded. The worship of that which has no place in Him goes forth without shame. Those once considered fringe or extreme elements are now emboldened, and now openly work hand in hand with those who say they follow Christ. Jeremiah 8:12 says “They are not ashamed, nor do they know how to blush. Therefore, they shall fall among those who fall; In their time of punishment, they shall be cast down, says the Lord.” Yet, still so many in the church have embraced a doctrine that shackles millions of people in order to get what they want enacted. They knowingly align with a growing autocracy that limits who can vote and how one can vote. Rights that were fought for and that people died for are now being dismantled. Especially among people of color. Racism and anti-Semitism is increasing at an alarming rate. Yet, we have divided ourselves as those who feel this is acceptable, no matter the evil being perpetrated, and those who stand against this injustice. Lies have become so pervasive, yet the church will not stand against this, even for righteousness sake. How can that be? Abolishing and negating civil rights and voting rights is akin to removing ancient landmarks. There are curses listed in Deuteronomy 28 for that sin. Blessings for justice, honesty, equity and integrity. Choose wisely.

Repercussions for disobeying God’s word are profound. Idolatry has always been at the forefront. And worship of a man, who is the antithesis of all Jesus stood and died for, leads only to judgement. Joel chapter 1:4 says “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust has left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust has left, the consuming locust has eaten.” These types of locusts speak to the different stages of the locust. From a pupa, a gnawer that cuts short, to a swarming locust that multiplies. Then a devouring stage, and finally that which totally consumes. As it says in James 1, we are tempted and are drawn after that which is not Christ and this births sins which when conceived, brings death. Coming judgement will be a direct result of our spiritual condition. Nahum 3:15 says “The fire will devour you, the sword will cut you off. It will eat you up like the locust.” Our idolatry has become a fire burning through the temple where we are to worship Him. I speak of our hearts. False doctrine and hatred have chewed and consumed us like the plague of locusts. Sheep are being devoured by ravenous wolves, many who claim to speak for God. And many who claim to know the truth are paralyzed by fear and refuse to stand up and be counted. They fear the threats of being ostracized and even killed. Only our adversary, satan, can be the author of this evil. Hopefully, our adversity will elicit cries for rescue and direction from the Lord. We are allowing the word to be stolen from our hearts by the continual gnawing of lies saying we’re still in His will. We are not. We refuse to attest to how this evil has increased and is now at the stage where it’s consuming us.

This is not just a prophetic allegory for 2022. Nor does this refer to Revelations Chapter 9. This is a warning for where we are now, and have been, and continue to be. We hold up our bibles to quote from the “good book” yet refuse to learn from the lessons it shows us. So many believe you can just call on the name of Jesus, as if you’re rubbing Buddha’s belly, and then all will be fine. All the while, the gnawing, devouring, and consuming locusts have taken up residence in your domain. We’ve not carefully tended the garden that represents our relationship with the Lord. We are responsible for the locusts being released. The locusts of greed, idolatry, hatred, racism, and walking contrary to Christ are gnawing away at our ability to discern truth. Jesus said in Luke 21 that tumultuous times and times of pestilence will come. The Greek word for pestilence is “Loimos.” It means pestilence, pest or plague. We are seeing that and will see more. We may see more than 1 million deaths from covid, yet how to deal with it has become a hot button issue, which many in the church seem to think is a political issue.We need to remember that the Lord has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him. We are to stand apart and be separate. We are to partake of His divine nature, thereby escaping the corruption that is in the world. That which tries to get us to take our eyes off Him will darken the skies, just as the locusts did in Exodus 10. Keep your eyes on Him. I pray His light shines in every dark place that may cause you to stumble. I pray that fervently for myself as well. Blessings.

Friendship

I spoke on the topic of friendship more than ten years ago at The Healing Rooms. I recently heard someone speak on an important point in my message.  I was bothered by that person’s view of the Jonathan and David relationship in 1 Samuel, so I decided to address the topic of friendship again. It’s sorely needed today.

A friend is a person attached by feelings of affection or personal regard. One who is on good terms. Not hostile. A supporter. One who gives assistance. One who is a companion, a helper, confidant, benevolent, trusting, faithful, trustworthy and seeks peace rather than discord. One cannot be trusting if they are not trustworthy. This sounds like an overview of Philippians 4. So, think on these things. We must all set an example, be it in our homes, workplace and especially our church.

Jesus said in John 15, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” He laid before His disciples a new pattern of friendship to follow. Trust and sharing. Giving of oneself, even knowing they would fail Him. And He went a step further in that He told His disciples “This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” This would even entail laying down one’s life for his friends. The friendship this love required is a friendship of spiritual purity. We are to imitate Him. In 1 John 4, we see we love God because He first loved us. If you cannot love your brother, if you cannot maintain a healthy friendship, then how can you love God who commanded us to show this love and friendship. And it must be demonstrated not just by words, but by our actions.

1 Peter 3 says we are to be of one mind, having compassion for one another and to be tenderhearted and courteous. Not reviling or overly critical or looking to pay evil for evil. By doing these things, no matter how tough it may seem, we inherit a blessing. We make the mistake of believing that by being part of a church, all will automatically be fine. But we are often walking into systems and schedules. Man-made hierarchies. Where do we fit in? Needs are not always met and we lose sight of the individuals. We cannot lose sight of doing our individual part in developing and maintaining friendships in the body of Christ. Jesus never lost sight of this. He didn’t get lost in the shuffle. He was a friend to all. The tax collector. The woman by the well. The leper. To all shunned by the church. They said He was a friend of the worst sort of sinners. Wisdom is shown to be right by what results from it.Christ showed that.

A foreshadowing of Jesus’ love for His disciples and the church was seen in the friendship of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel. Jonathan recognized the call of God on David’s life and made a covenant with him. By doing this, he was also relinquishing any assumed right to the throne from his father Saul. He willingly took off his robe, along with his armor, sword, bow and belt, and gave it to David. This not only showed his friendship, but it showed Jonathan laid himself bare before his friend. Nothing hidden. No envy or self-seeking. Only true friendship and sacrifice. He put his life on the line knowing his father Saul would disapprove and maybe kill him. He feared God more than man. So many in ministry today would rather hold onto their positions rather than equip the saints, especially if it might mean they will be ‘seen’ less. Lose the spotlight. No words were more telling of Jesus’ love for His disciples than David speaking of his love for Jonathan after Jonathan’s death. He said, “Your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.” There is a connection made with true friendship that is hard to properly articulate, but David managed to voice more than words.

Friendship does not shy from adversity. Jesus said in Luke 12:8, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of man also will confess before the angels of God.” He said this knowing that He would be betrayed. Peter said he’d die for Him. Our natural self speaks, but our inner spiritual self can only answer when put to the test. Many have emotional love. It touches our natural self. But it doesn’t penetrate the spirit of a person. Jesus’ love and friendship was manifested by His actions. Jesus said we can show no greater love than laying down our lives for our friends. It’s much easier to die than to lay down your life. Especially day in and day out. We do this when we take up our cross. Our natural desires cannot attain this level of love and friendship. It is based on a new life He creates in us. We become a new creation. Jesus is the blueprint for establishing and maintaining friendship and it’s devoid of selfish desires or our own reasoning. A friend loves at all times. In order to show God’s love to others and be a friend, we must be in right relationship with Him. The Message Bible says “God friendship is for God worshippers. They are the ones He confides in. Like with Abraham and Moses. God called them friends. I realize that’s a pretty high bar, but we must endeavor to establish all friendships based on His model. Oswald Chambers said, “We must never allow anything to damage our relationship with God, but if something does damage it, we must take the time to make it right again. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influences and qualities produced by that relationship.” We are representatives of Him wherever we go and in all we do. Our world today lacks so much of what is required of us in showing a Christlike character. So many are at odds and contention abounds. And sadly, we seem to easily follow and become entangled with things that just sow discord. In so doing, we also damage our personal walk with God. I refuse to hear certain nastiness said by some and believe they represent Christ. Especially from the pulpit. As I’ve said many times, walk away from them. We must pursue what is good for yourself and others. Be patient with one another. Pursue what is good. Serve one another. One too often takes what is a gift for granted with friendship. As seen in John 21 after Jesus’ resurrection, He appears to them while they are fishing. They have lost hope. He fixes them breakfast. Not one of the disciples said a word. They knew it was the Lord, but said nothing. Not forgive us, not I love you. Jesus had already said to Mary Magdalene to tell His disciples…and Peter that he would see them. Only forgiveness and love. So, Jesus reminds them to “Follow Him and to feed His sheep.” He’s saying those same words to us. Love one another as I loved you. I call you friend. We must grasp that true friendship is a rarity that must be treasured. Avoid contentions and division. Be kind to one another. Forgive one another just as Christ forgave you. Serve one another and have fervent love for one another. If we say we house the Holy Spirit, we must also walk in the Spirit. Do all things as unto Him.  By this, you will cultivate a garden that allows friendship to grow. Blessings.

Absalom

David asked the Lord in Psalm 19 to “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me, then I shall be blameless and I shall be innocent of great transgression.” What if Christian ministers, prophets, and teachers said that today? What if David’s son, Absalom, had prayed the same prayer as his father? But he didn’t, and a tragic story unfolds in 2 Samuel chapters 13-18.

Absalom was filled with pride and self-promotion. He was high minded and filled with rebellion. He had characteristics that would be seen as narcissistic and manipulative. He had a callous disregard for the resulting chaos, pain and even death that resulted from his actions. He was vengeful, a liar, and deceitful. The Lord says in Proverbs 8:13 that “He hates pride and arrogance. He calls it evil.” In Proverbs 16:5, the Lord also says “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces none will go unpunished.” That should cause so many to be more circumspect in their conduct.

Absalom incited rebellion and tore the kingdom of Israel apart. He went to war with his father, King David. He used lies and deceit to gain power. He had a critical spirit. He could judge and malign others, yet not see the plank in his own eye. Absalom viewed openness and Godly character as weakness to be exploited. So, he used deceptive means to undermine trust in him and plan insurrection. He was able to gather people to himself with false promises and flattery. In 2 Samuel 15:4-6, Absalom told people of the land that if he was judge over them, he would always give them justice. He would put out his hand to whomever came to him and he would embrace and kiss them. He stole the hearts of the men of Israel. They fell for these delusions of grandeur just like people do today.

Yet in the midst of this betrayal and intrigue displayed by Absalom, we see examples of both good and bad character displayed by men of Israel. We see a man like Hushai the Archite who put himself in a position of danger by going into the enemies’ camp to confuse the counsel of evil. He was faithful to King David. We see loyalty displayed from a man like Ittai who, though new to allegiance to King David, pledges fealty to him. Much like new Christians today who display greater belief in God’s ways than many longtime Christians who have fallen away. And we see a man like Ahithophel, a longtime counselor of King David, who chose to fall away and follow a lie. Ahithophel’s betrayal of King David led him to eventually realize his folly and kill himself. He died a traitor’s death much like Judas Iscariot. Sadly, I see Ahithophel as representative of so many Christian leaders described by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians, where he speaks to those who have fallen away from the truth. They have become enamored by lying signs and wonders from the works of Satan. And they have become subject to strong delusion sent by the Lord Himself because they did not believe the truth, but followed after lies and unrighteousness.  Jeremiah 9 speaks to those who are of a lying spirit and commit iniquity. In verse 6 it says, “Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me, says the Lord.”

People speak of an Absalom spirit. I don’t know if that is 100% correct as this spirit has been around since the time of Cain which pre-dated Absalom. But the same spirit that dwelled in the unrighteousness exhibited in Absalom is still alive and well today. From local churches to the highest levels of government, it is evident and breathing new lies, deception, chaos, rebellion and even death in our country and this world. This desire to gain that which is not authorized or ordained by God is witchcraft. Using any power to get what one wants, no matter how evil or destructive, is accepted and condoned. People rally around that, which at one time, would have been called out for its wickedness. Now, it’s business as usual and whatever is necessary to bring about a desired result. I am amazed at how many follow Christian leaders that operate in this spirit. I know so many who were once worthy of taking time to read what they wrote or go listen to them in person. Now, I’m saddened by the transformation I see in them. They follow that which has no part in what Christ taught. They prophesy from a lying spirit and lose no sleep after speaking false words or for doing their best to extort vast amounts of money from gullible followers. On a smaller level, we see that spirit cause church splits. People have no shame in falsely gaining alliances by false flattery, gossip and operating behind the scenes to gain leverage. They feed on the immaturity of those they seek to mislead and gather people around them by unscrupulous means and un-Godly ways. I’ve been part of church splits and have prophesied to church leaders that if certain things were not corrected, there would be a split, or in another case, just come to an end. But at no point did I ever go behind a leader’s back and speak ill of them. That’s gossip and divisive words that end in destruction. People like that are full of cursing and deceit and under their tongue is trouble and iniquity. (Psalm 10:7)

We must realize the source of all this that comes to rob, kill and destroy, and instead embrace that which is Christ, which brings abundant life. There is a price to pay for the deceit, lying and rebellion exhibited by Absalom and so many today. No matter what height you may attain using illicit means, the Lord says in Obadiah 1, “That though you ascend as high as an eagle, or nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down.” What a sobering thought. The Lord searches our hearts and tests our minds and will give to everyone according to their ways. We must take every thought that is contrary to God’s ways and cast it down. Demolish it. And remove our fascination with deceptive words and teachings from our minds just as we would a cancer from our body. Every stronghold of man, every high and lofty thing lifted up in our rebellious defiance, will be brought low. Loftiness and haughtiness of man, and every idol worshipped and followed, will come to an end. Our meager plans and even governments and kingdoms will be brought low. Now is the time to seek His face as never before. It is as Malachi said, that our errors and words have wearied God in that we think these evil ways are acceptable in His sight. They are not. Yet we continue to go on as if judgement will not touch us. You see, there are those who walk as Absalom did, who continue in their sin and yet pray to God as if all was in right order. They act as if speaking words of scripture will cover their sins. But God says their prayers are an abomination to Him. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. We need to examine our own works and see if we are walking in the way of Christ. Embrace Him. Hold fast to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil. Be kind and of the same mind toward one another. Overcome evil with good. Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Humble yourselves before Him. I pray the peace of God guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Blessings.

Presumption ~ Part 2

Webster’s defines presumption as assuming something to be true. Taking for granted some piece of evidence not fully established. Based on inference, which is the process of arriving at a conclusion not logically derived from the assumed premise, yet possesses some degree of probability to the premise. Often the conclusion we arrive at is wrong. In the Old Testament, presumption is not just presuming something as we see it, but it is often sin against God. Outright rebellion.

The worst part of the sin of rebellion is that you often feel you’re going forth in God’s word and power, when in actuality the whole premise is off, as you have not truly sought Him for direction. You go forth as if you have directions from the God you know, yet you’ve not sought His face or come to a place where you have attempted to empty yourself first that He would fill you. You’re filled with your own idea of this God you’ve read about or at one time followed, but have lost your way and still seek to lead.

A perfect example of going forth in what you presume to be right, but in actuality follows none of God’s innumerable laws, is David going to reclaim the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6. He was to bring the ark to the City of David, but there were specific rules. His assumption led to the death of Uzzah who touched the ark which could only be moved by the Kohathites using poles to carry the ark on their shoulders. But David, though fearful, finally sought the proper way to transport the ark.

Balaam is one who presumed to speak for God in Numbers chapters 22-24. Balak, a Moabite, hired Balaam to curse Israel, believing this would rid the land of Israel. God spoke to Balaam and told him he could not curse Israel for they are blessed. Balaam should have left right away, but his vanity was easily manipulated by Balak and by the lure of money he knew he shouldn’t take to curse Israel. So, he followed the princes of Moab sent by Balak, and God’s anger was aroused against Balaam. Were it not for Balaam’s donkey stopping and then speaking to Balaam in his own language, the Angel of the Lord would have killed Balaam. The Angel of the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see him and he told him were it not for the donkey recognizing God’s authority and stopping, he would have killed Balaam and allowed the donkey to live. Balaam eventually gave a prophetic word favorable to Israel that he saw in an open-eyed vision. He should have stopped there and repented for not walking away right from the start. His sorcery and lust for money eventually brought him into league with other enemies of Israel. In Numbers 31:8, we see Balaam died for presuming he could maintain his sinful ways without reprisal. I feel Balaam was called as a prophet, but the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life were too alluring to him. Spiritual insight, based on seeking God’s face, was myopic at best, and vision was clouded by self.

One of the hardest lessons seen as punishment for the sin of presumption occurs in Numbers 20 with Moses. He has been given a task in bringing Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land that seems impossible, but for God. Mighty miracles and the presence of God in a cloud by day and fire by night constantly before you. Yet Israel complains constantly. Moses is always standing before the living and the dead. Always interceding for the tribes of Israel and constantly being faulted for the trials they had to encounter. In Numbers 20, Moses appears fed up. The people again complain for lack of water and the Lord tells Moses to take his rod, and with Aaron, gather the people of Israel together. God tells Moses to speak to the rock before their eyes and it will yield water for them. Moses speaks to Israel in anger and says “Hear now you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Moses then struck the rock. He presumed he was following the command of the Lord but did so in his own strength and in anger. Earlier in Exodus 17, he was told to strike the rock to bring forth water. But here it was different. His assuming that his anger would not be seen as usurping authority from God, and acting as if his strength from an angered state would be overlooked, was a sin of assumption. This represented more than just obedience to the act of producing water for Israel, but to what God would do in always supplying their needs. This rock represented redemption. Christ. Yet Moses assumed his actions would be without consequences. They were not. Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. God allowed Moses to view the promised land from Mt. Nebo where he was buried by God. At his death, his eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.

This penalty for the sin of presumption – rebellion, by Moses, should cause anyone to take stock of their walk. I find this one of the saddest stories in the Old Testament. Yet even in this, all God’s judgements are true and righteous. Every word of God is true – He is a shield to those who trust in Him. I find that too many have an unrealistic grasp on the judgements of God. Yes, we are under grace, but the laws of the Lord are too often taken for granted. So many presume to speak for the Lord, not fully dissecting their own motives, and believing that His favor will somehow override the penalty for our disobedience. The gospels and the apostles speak of the penalties for disobedience. People that presume to speak for God and lead by their own compass must read what Peter said in 2 Peter 2. Corrupt people leading others on a wrong path. They have forsaken the right path and followed the way of Balaam who loved the wages of unrighteousness. People like these are like wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. This is new testament. If we listened before we spoke, if we weighed our intentions against what His word says, we could avoid so much trouble. For ourselves, and those we might lead astray. As I have spoken before, if someone speaks a doctrine that does not line up with Christ, reject it. We are responsible for knowing what is acceptable in His eyes. We all sin and fall short of His glory, but it is up to each one of us to be in right standing with Him. Come before Him and repent. Learn of Him. Seek Him in all things. And be like David who said in Psalm 19: 12-13, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.” Trust in Him and He will direct your path.  Blessings.

Presumption ~ Part 1

We, as a people from the beginning of time, seem to feel that what we presume to be right will be received by God as worthy as the intention was honorable. Adam and Eve had access to the Garden of Eden and all that was in it except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They took for granted the law God had set before them. And they paid the price of their disobedience. The children of Israel saw the miraculous powers of God to free them from captivity, yet somehow presumed their allegiance to Him was only when needed. At every time of trouble, God delivered for the Israelites, yet their memories were short and they complained to Moses when tested by even the slightest hardship. They presumed that it would be a short walk out of Egypt into the promised land. This thinking led to a most circuitous journey, eventually into a judgement of never entering the promised land.

In Numbers 16, we see Korah, a Levite, questioning the authority of Moses, and thereby questioning the authority of God. Korah had just recently witnessed the judgement of the Lord for Israel rebelling by crying and saying they had remained in Egypt, rather than face giants in the promised land and die there. They heard the judgement that “All the earth will be filled with God’s glory” (Numbers 14:21), but those of unbelief will not see it nor enter into the promised land. Korah saw the 10 spies, who went with Joshua and Caleb to spy out the land, die by plague for their unbelief and causing others to fear. He saw what happened to the Israelites who “presumed” they could win over the Lord and cause Him to change His mind by going up to fight the Canaanites and Amalekites and somehow erase their rebellion and unbelief. The Israelites who went to fight were driven back and were defeated, as the Lord was not with them. Their “sin of presumption” proved to be their undoing. Yet Korah and those who followed him still stood against Moses and Aaron. Korah knew the penalty for intentional sins. He and his followers, and all their families, and all their goods, were swallowed up by the earth opened by the Lord. Korah, and the Levites who followed him, had their censers (bronze vessels to carry incense) which were saved and made into hammered plates to be used as a covering for the altar. The censers were holy. They represent the office of the Levite. Korah and the Levites, who presumed an authority that was not theirs, were out of order. These censers were now before the eyes of all Israel, yet the very next day the congregation gathered against Moses and Aaron for killing Korah and his followers. The Lord told Moses to step away, as He would consume them. Moses told Aaron to take a censer and put fire from the altar and incense in it and take it before the congregation and make atonement for them, for “wrath has gone out from the Lord and the plague has begun.” (Numbers 16:46) Moses and Aaron ran into the midst of the assembly of people that the plague was touching and stood in the midst of them praying for them. They stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped. In addition to those of Korah and his followers who the earth swallowed up, 14,700 died from the plague.

These are tough verses and stories to comprehend at times. Can God’s wrath be so severe as to cause one to step back in horror? Is this the same God who David refers to in Psalm 27 saying, “When You said Seek My face, My heart said to You, Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Or is this the God who said in Exodus 33 that no man shall see My face and live. No animal or person could touch God’s holy mountain in Exodus, yet Joshua always remained and you just felt he leaned against it in his quest to be close to God. All Israel was to have this close relationship with the Lord, yet they feared even the glory that shone on Moses’ face. I have been meditating on these chapters in Numbers for a while now. How many realize we must be standing between those who are in sins of presumption and the judgement of the Lord? I cannot stress how serious this is and how necessary it is for intercessors to be on their face before the Lord. How many, if they saw His face, would be making images of what they saw and worshipping them? It would be contrary to His law. We are at a place where we must embrace both the Lord’s love and grace and His judgements. Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out.” The Passion translation says of this verse, “Who could ever explain the wonder of His decisions or search out the mysterious way He carries out His plans?” I have stated before that I pray daily that the Lord cover this land with His truth and His mercy. We, in our obstinate and presumptuous ways, hinder His truth and mercy from covering our land. We follow a God of our own making. The words of Christ are just that….words. The Sermon on the Mount is just a nice story rather than words to live by. We cannot remain this way and not expect to see things coming undone. Too many leaders teach a gospel that will lead you onto a path of destruction. Yet people wonder why it seems the Lord has covered Himself with a cloud that our prayers will not pass through. (Lamentations 3:44) Seek Him for yourself and pray without ceasing. We should daily pray, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Psalm 86:11) Do not walk in presumption. Walk in the fear of the Lord. His mercies are new each morning. He is good and a stronghold to them that trust in Him. Blessings.

Strange Fires

I’ve always been intrigued with the story of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. Reading through all the provisions for the Aaronic priesthood to do things in an orderly and holy fashion often seemed laborious, and I, at times, read through these rules not seeing the weight of their significance. Lately, the Lord has me paying greater attention to the holiness of these rules in ministering before Him in the Holy of Holies. I believe the grace of Jesus Christ and the Holiness before him has been taken for granted, and we need to see the parallels between the Old and New Testaments.

Nadab and Abihu are sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses. They were made aware of the importance of their responsibilities as priests before the Lord. So many of these rules were reiterated, so they should have taken notice of how to follow them. In Leviticus 10:1-3, Nadab and Abihu took it upon themselves to offer up to the Lord that which was considered profane. They offered up “strange fire.” They were immediately struck dead by the Lord. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “Those who come before Me must regard the Lord as holy and before all people the Lord must be glorified.” Normal mourning for Abihu and Nadab was not allowed. Further instructions for entering the tabernacle of meeting were given that “You may distinguish between holy and unholy and between clean and unclean and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” (Leviticus 10:10-11)

There is still discussion and disagreement as to what the exact sin of Abihu and Nadab was. It could have even been for getting the material to start a fire from a place not designated as holy. Exodus 30:9 speaks to this. Their actions might not have been unauthorized. They may have been prideful, as they were seen as part of a special priesthood and took lightly the obedience to God’s very specific laws. I spoke with a Rabbi on his interpretation of what happened to Abihu and Nadab and he said there were so many opinions. He likened it to a “midrash” where Jewish scholars get together and discuss the Torah and come up with an opinion. He even suggested it speaks to the capriciousness of God. I reject that statement.

People will say that the severity of these judgments were specific to the Old Testament. But there are significant parallels that can cause one to take special heed to. In Acts 5 of the New Testament, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sold their possessions to give to the apostles for the work of the Lord. They could have kept the proceeds. No one forced them to give the money away. But they were duplicitous. They put only a portion of what they said they were giving at the feet of the apostles. They held back a portion and lied in doing so. The apostle Peter said to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” Ananias, hearing those words, breathed his last and fell dead. The same fate befell his wife Sapphira when she was given the chance to speak. Great fear then came upon the camp when they heard of what happened. The Old Testament has many more examples of the Lord meting out harsh judgment.  But the similarities of the holiness and seriousness of God cannot be minimized just because we are under grace and not the law. He is still God. In Acts 13, Herod had the apostle James killed and was trying to do the same with Peter. He later spoke before the people of Tyre and Sidon near Galilee and was receiving adulation from the people saying that his was the voice of a god and not a man. Immediately, an angel of the Lord struck him because Herod did not give glory to the Lord and he was filled with and eaten by worms and died.

All these examples of rejecting God’s law has led to what I see as “strange fire” being offered up by so many who have set up their own kingdoms in the body of Christ and pay no heed to how careful one must be as a teacher or leader of His word. We have been given access into the Holy of Holies by what Jesus did for us. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil that separated us from entering into direct access to our Father was rent in two. When we accept Christ as our savior, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us. Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Anyone that defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple are you.” In all this, I am so thankful for the gift that is given to us in 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” I might be a charcoal briquette were it not for this grace! Yet so many take His love and grace for granted. Teachings abound that lift up the speaker and not the Lord. Money is a prime motivator. Pride is rampant. Love of His sheep is lacking. These leaders are clouds without water carried about by every wind of doctrine. They offer up great swelling words, but deliver nothing. We are warned by the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:8, “Beware that no one distracts you or intimidates you in their attempt to lead you away from Christ’s fullness by pretending to be full of wisdom when they’re filled with endless arguments of human logic. They operate with humanistic and clouded judgments based on the mindset of the world system, and not the anointed truth of the Anointed One.” (Passion Translation) Wrong doctrine, based on nationalism and a distorted gospel of Christ, is growing. Strange fire is offered up without regard to how it affects the body of Christ. If what you hear doesn’t line up with the teachings of Christ, reject it. For those who have been part of the prophetic and evangelical teachings who have followed idols, especially for the last 5 years, walk from them. For those who have offered strange fire in what they taught, and have not fully repented from ALL their sins, walk from them. Pray for them, but come out from among them and be separate. These are perilous times. We are responsible for knowing right from wrong. Holy fire from strange, profane fire. Judgment comes and is coming. I urge you to read “Seek My Face” by Jonathan Boegl, as he explains so much more. We must be aware that as 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of the Lord; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God.” Get before the Lord. Seek Him in all things. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks and praise always. Let the love of God be seen in our hearts. Love your brother, for you cannot love God and hate your brother. Be attentive and cast off all strange fire. I pray the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Blessings.