Tag Archive: The Word



“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8

"Christ on the Sea of Galilee," by Tintoretto. oil on canvas, c. 1575-1580

As I have mentioned before, and indeed will probably mention again, Hebrews remains one of my favorite Books in the Bible. Chapter 12 especially was instrumental at leading me to the Lord. This particular verse I didn’t stumble upon until later, after the initial encounter, but it certainly added to my realization that God was real and not some made up thing, though I honestly thought for a while if I was putting it all in my head myself and I struggled with this, but when resolution came it pushed all doubts out of my mind. This verse is beautiful in form, in simplicity, and in meaning. I will tell briefly about some of my testimony and why this verse is so important to me.

For a time, during a particularly dark period in my life, I cried out to God for deliverance. He answered me not in just resolving my troubles, but He also spoke to me. As much as I would like to hear from Him again in like manner, to this day He hasn’t spoke to me the way He did in those dark days. I don’t know why, though I am sure He still does, but not in the same “hearing” sense.

Let me explain a little what I mean by “hearing.” When the Lord speaks to you in words its usually not a booming voice that comes out of the sky. It is a booming voice in your heart, mind a spirit. In fact, looking back I am not so sure that it wasn’t audible, but it was powerful. At the risk of sounding like I am some esoteric mystic, its really hard to describe unless it has happened to you. At any rate, in one word spoken from God I felt that I would be delivered, and I truly was by His grace. What was spoken and in what context I will save for another time, but I will say it was directly linked with Hebrews chapter 12.

The second time the Lord spoke to me was a time when I finally understood what Christ has done. It humbles one to a Godly sorrow, and it was in the midst of this sorrow, and me asking why, stating that I wasn’t worth the torture He suffered and it should have been me  instead, something only a Christian can understand (it is commonplace within the faith), that He answered: “I would do it yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

"Christ on The Cross," detail from the center panel of the Isenheim Alterpeice, by Matthias Grunewald. oil on panel, c. 1512-1515

At this time I was far from being a biblical scholar, and still am, but the Word was absolutely foreign to me, which is my shame because I did go to a Christian school, but my conversion was long after. When I eventually did come across this verse sometime later, I almost fell out of my chair, for the Scripture and what God spoke to me (I made sure to write it down) are in essence, identical. As far as I knew then and know now, I had no previous knowledge of this verse, I was never the sort to engage in any sort of memorization except the best places to go party.

There are a couple other times God spoke to me, but the last time He did, it was a little less positive. He indicated that due to a situation I was willingly walking into that, if I continued, I would, “suffer.” Indeed I did, and backslid heavily. Yet, the Lord by His grace has called me to Him once more. Looking back, its seems so amazing that I am tempted to think perhaps I was nuts, or somehow arranging past circumstances, either consciously or subconsciously in a way to make it appear I was in touch with some hard to reach mystical realm. However, my volumes of journals testify to the reality of the occurrences, the words given to me, and there are even witnesses that can testify to it as well. In full disclosure to the reader, I am actually quite hesitant about sharing all of that and posting it to complete strangers. In fact, I feel a little sick to my stomach due to the influence of my old friend cowardice.

With that foreknowledge, let’s turn to the verse. In life everything can at times feel like it is out to get us. The trust we place on people and possessions is so powerful that when we are let down, when we find our bank accounts lacking, and when people we thought would be there aren’t, our hearts get hardened, so that the resulting pain may never be felt again. We feel in essence that a hardened heart will act like a giant Tylenol that will elevate the pain in our lives and spirit. It doesn’t, for out of that only comes self-destruction and despair.

Christ went through the most ghastly experience, by being tortured and mercilessly put to death on the cross, but even in His suffering He did not harden His heart against man, nor does He even regret what He went through! In fact, He would do it tomorrow if it were required, but as He said, “it is finished.”


Christ is a truth we can rely on when others fail us. This doesn’t mean that we will always get what we want or that we will be spared pain, rather realize that because of what Christ has done pain isn’t eternal for those who believe upon Him and we will someday receive a gift that is beyond description and beyond what we could even dream to want, salvation in eternity with our Lord and all those who we know in Jesus Christ.

The banks may fail, but we can always bank on Christ. His blood is still flowing over us, cleansing us of the tarnish of sin and iniquity, just as it was decreed at the beginning and as it will last forever. We won’t have absolute happiness until we get there friends and cross the finish line, but in our silly “little” suffering, we can take heart that the Lord is there to comfort and guide us. We have a God that cares for us, is interested in the little things we go through day after day, and is eager to hear from us. Such a Lord no other can boast, but we can boast in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and who would do it all over again yesterday, today and tomorrow.

"Christ on The Cross," by Albrecht Altdorfer. c. 1520

Advertisements

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” -Matthew 7:16

PhotobucketAs we travel along the busy thoroughfare we call life, we form many ideas and opinions of those we encounter along the way. A popular response from people when they suspect our opinion, or when we offer a rebuke of their sin is, “Don’t you judge me!” Usually, this is not so much to do with those who offer the conviction, as it has to do with the person who feels they are being judged. When we rebuke someone due to their lifestyle or actions in accordance with the Lord’s urging, it’s never comfortable. We should know this from experience.

Now the scriptures also tell us that we should not judge, so the reconciliation between what is proper and what isn’t takes some discernment through a relationship with the Lord. For instance, we shouldn’t judge on an issue we ourselves are indulging in, lest we become hypocrites. The word hypocrite I feel is immensely overused. Understand that we can convict and hold each other accountable while still struggling, for we all are sinners and in such contexts not only should the truth be shared, but also our own shortcomings in a particular area, whatever that may be. These urgings, through the Lord produce accountability and victory. If we gain a victory through Christ, convict others, and later stumble, this isn’t hypocrisy, though we by sinning are certainly in error. Hypocrisy is when one willfully engages in their iniquity, not holding themselves to a particular standard, but at the same time, holding others to it and judging them due to that same error evident in their own life.

Photobucket
Of course we need to judge, for if we didn’t how would we know a good situation from a bad one, or a person that will forward our lives and faith in Christ as opposed to hindering it? It’s apparent that when applied as an absolute, even our judicial system would collapse in that we couldn’t hold each other responsible for their actions, nor would there be such a thing as guilty or innocent in a court of law. We need that discernment, to know when it is appropriate, lest we fall more often and find ourselves in a place where we could very justly be cut down and thrown into the fire, or even lead others to such a place.

Photobucket
Although this verse talks explicitly about false prophets, we can implicitly find plenty of truth concerning how we must view others in general, in order that our walk with the Lord may be protected. Men, and women, are masters of deception. It’s unfortunate, and although we want to sometimes trust everyone, especially when a person evokes the name of Christ, the previous verse, Matthew 7:15, makes it abundantly clear that all that claim Christ, don’t necessarily belong to Him.

Photobucket

False Prophet Manasseh Jordan, who along with his father, E. Bernard Jordan, not only claim him to be a prophet of God, but God Himself.

How do we recognize them and protect ourselves? Jesus tells us that we should look to the fruit that people produce. Not just those wolves who claim the name of Christ, or even have a lofty position in the Body of Christ, but this can apply to anyone.

Photobucket
Sunday and Monday, I didn’t post due to a exciting day I had at church and a couple days in which I was in close fellowship with great friends and those in Christ. I wrote the first part of this article and attended afterward, for a time, a conference at a local church. I also got hands laid on me and got a few prophecies revealed to me as to the direction my life is going in Christ. Yet, as exciting as it was, I also found myself somewhat skeptical of the abilities in the Spirit, which some professed, by mere action, to have been granted.

Photobucket
I was plagued by the question of whether or not I was in the right by being skeptical of such things? Was I being too judgmental. In all honesty and simplicity, I trust in the Lord, but I don’t trust in man. Now, as I begin to finish this article, and I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me at the time of these prophetic occurrences, I realized that just a half-hour prior that the Lord had already answered the question I would later pose to myself. I was informed by a person very dear in my life that supposedly this happens quite a lot to me, and I, of course, praise the Lord for his timely response concerning my constant questioning.

Photobucket

By the verse, and indeed those surrounding it, in correlation with the questions that were raised in my heart, it is apparent that skepticism concerning the gifts of the Spirit and those who profess to have acquired them, is both a good thing and a bad thing. In one sense it protects us, and in another it may hinder us. Personally, I believe that within my life time I have had the skepticism affect me in both aforementioned ways and I have stumbled and engaged both extremes of the spectrum.

PhotobucketOften times our skepticism is due to our lack of experience in experiencing something someone else testifies to encountering. Even if we witness it and we haven’t experienced those particular manifestations, those who have, or those it is evident in, can seem strange or to an extent, crazy. Therefore, we may come to the false conclusion that it is faulty or feigned. Though such a conclusion can sometimes be correct, other times it can seriously detain us from learning or experiencing something, especially when concerning our walk with the Lord. In fact, we see many who are so skeptical that the mere idea of God and experiencing Him, is so silly that they consider it some form of mental illness. The fact is, perfectly sane and brilliant people experience God all the time, but due to the skeptics unwillingness to accept God, it’s improbable they will experience God in a life changing way, for they are already surrounded by Him, but fail to recognize because of the hardening of their hearts and skepticism (among other things).

Photobucket
Yet, on the other hand, those who are completely non-skeptical run the danger of being led astray by falsehood in the name of Christ. This, too, I have experienced. In my example, God and His interaction with us, and even my salvation, was determined by an emotional response. That is, when one has an emotional response to God, this alone determines God’s presence, His power, and to what degree we experience Him. Some will also say without such a response, one ceases to be saved. Not only do some say this, but you begin to say it in yourself, and you equate God and your salvation with that emotional response. Having an emotional response concerning the truth of the Lord and His sacrifice is blessed, but seeking an emotional response in and of itself to experience God is not, for though we may fool ourselves, it is not based on God.

We are emotional creatures, but our relationship with God isn’t determined by emotion. There are times your heart swells and there are times where you feel God is absent, but the latter is never the case. God is always there, through all emotions or none at all. I myself have yelled at God, cried to Him, and laughed in His company. Yet, there have been times where I didn’t “feel” anything. When I was ensnared by this particular brand of  falsehood, I produced the emotional response of my own accord and spoke for the Lord without His urging, but fooled myself that it was indeed from Him. There lies the danger.
Photobucket

If one has fooled themselves or been fooled that a relationship with God is a strict emotional one, then they will chase after that emotion, looking to that emotion rather than the Lord Himself. To worship an emotion is idolatry, and before you know it, your worship may forgo the Lord altogether. Don’t misunderstand, there are times when emotion is included, absolutely! Yet, there are also times the Lord tests us by pulling away. Is faith really faith if you need that emotional response? It’s much easier to be obedient in emotion, but can you follow the Lord without it? This is a test we are all put through at times. As our relationship with our earthly parents attests, we eventually need to go out from under their wing and live according to our own devices to make it in the world. In the same way our Heavenly Father may pull back in order to see how we do, and if our faith can withstand the test, that we may be ambassadors for the Kingdom.

Photobucket
When one relies on emotion, it is more based in self than God. Emotion can fool you, and we have the ability to fool ourselves into an emotion. I pray, dear reader, that the Lord may utilize it for His glory in you, but keep it too from ensnaring you. This all being said, how do we know if we are in danger? This answer isn’t a simple one and requires God’s urging and truth to be given unto our hearts.

Do not be fooled by the self, for even the positive good intentions in your life can have a negative effect and hinder you. Be wary of this always. Look to motive in yourself and in others for insight on whether your or others are in danger. Do not let your skepticism steal your joy in the Lord. God does amazing things everyday and such things He wants us to rejoice in. So, keep in The Word that you may be discerning when falsehood is manifest in someone. If it doesn’t follow The Word, then it cannot be of God, because God cannot contradict Himself.
Photobucket
In order to determine the fruit one bears, one must have fellowship. We can see a gorgeous piece of fruit from afar, but looks can be deceiving. We have no way of knowing whether or not, by viewing at a distance, if that fruit, say, contains a worm, or is sour or bitter. Thus, it comes down to a discernment through God, Prayer, the Word, and an intimate knowledge, through relationships, of those who claim and are in Christ. There are those who have been tragically led astray that will come upon your doorstep one day and make it seem as if you are of like spiritual faith, but that’s a means to ensnare. If you were to  get to know them you’d find their Christ and yours to not be one in the same. One should not assume on mere superficial appearances, but get to know one another. We have been called to develop relationships, so let us do so that we may gain trust in one another in like faith, mutually encourage each other, and protect one another from the skepticism that steals joy and promotes falsehood.

Photobucket
Again, do not let your skepticism steal your joy, for whoever you encounter and however the Lord is present in them, realize that they are mere men. Yet, God manifests himself in a variety of ways. Be open to this as well and never let your skepticism hinder you from growing with the Lord, or leading someone to Christ. We all have our comfort zone. Understand that discomfort can come both from the enemy and your preconceived notions. We all like the churches we feel most comfortable in, but this may only hinder you from doing God’s work and growing in the Lord. Don’t put limits on God. Be skeptical of man, but never in God. Look to the scriptures, pray, and get to know your brothers and sister in Christ, that you may know to a full degree the fruits of their Christian labors.

A friend of mine told me that skepticism is based in fear. He can’t be more right. Yet, at times, fear can keep us from being caught up in something that may be ungodly, despite its appearance. If there is good fruit, if by friendship and communion, you find them to be trustworthy, if they follow the same Word, then do not let your doubt steal your joy, for gifts are presented to some, but not to others. Never through your skepticism come to the point that just because it’s different or uncomfortable, on that alone, draw the conclusion that it isn’t from God. Again, never be skeptical of God, but be wary of man, who even in the name of God can distort His eternal Name.

Photobucket


“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” -Matthew 5:37

While giving His Sermon on The Mount, Jesus tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Like most of the words of Christ, and indeed all God breathed scripture, there is deep meaning here that must be explored.

A vow to God is no small thing, as is evident in the story of Jephthah and his daughter in the book of Judges (Chapter 11). Jephthah made the vow that if he was victorious in battle against the Ammonites, then he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his door when he arrived back at home.

I don’t know what in the world he was thinking, for it seems odd that he didn’t consider the possibility of any of his family walking out to greet him when he came home, but be that as it may, his daughter was the first thing to walk out of the door. The scriptures tell of Jephthah and his daughters mourning concerning what was to come to pass, and although the scriptures don’t go into detail concerning the sacrifice, it can be concluded that it did in fact occur.

This admittedly horrific tale is often used by non-believers to throw a wrench in our faith in a perfect loving God, but we have to remember that nowhere in this tale is it said that God approved of Jephthah’s actions. Rather, when we look at the scriptures, this event must have been extremely displeasing to the Lord, for time and time again, the word tells us God discourages human sacrifice. The Pagan’s often did it by tragically throwing children into a fiery pit to worship Molech, but God tells us He wants no part of such offerings. In fact, the Ammonites were worshippers of Molech making a veiled connection between both the Judges account and the commands in Leviticus, which could very well suggest God’s distaste for the act (See my note on Leviticus 20:3, “On Molech’s Taste For Human Sacrifice and God’s Distaste”).

So why is it included in scripture then? Simply, it is intended as a warning to those that make a vow before God, how much that promise, or vow, must be honored by the person making it. Jephthah was an example that showed the degree of seriousness a vow to God is.

Again, Christ tells us to make no oaths, for beyond that comes from evil. Why evil? Let us take a look at the nature of oaths and vows. When someone says, “I promise,” what is it they mean? They mean that no matter what circumstance might arise to keep them from accomplishing and fulfilling that vow, that they will follow through. There becomes a few issues with this point alone.

When making a vow, the outside situations that may arise while in pursuit of fulfilling that vow are unknown to us. We have no idea of knowing, for instance, if some disaster or misfortune will hinder our obedience in completing that promise. As is mentioned earlier, this doesn’t excuse the vow being broken, rather we need to realize it is still binding no matter what issues may arise. This being said, it reaches no absurdity to conclude that with God’s infinite wisdom, though He makes vows, no contradiction or hypocrisy exists, for He has an omniscience that is not present in man.

Furthermore, one should reflect on who it is that makes vows and promises. Though not an absolute, I would suggest that the more promises a person makes, the more untrustworthy they are. For such people it is intended to add to their “yes” the extra confidence that their vow will be followed through with and accomplished. This, of course, suggests that the person making the vow has been less then trustworthy in the past, or their word alone would have been taken with complete confidence to begin with. Yet, people should have confidence in a person anyway that their yes will mean yes, and their no mean no, without any added attribution.

A person who doesn’t do what they say is untrustworthy and an untrustworthy person is under the influence of evil, for evil begets lies and deceit. Indeed, essentially, a broken vow is the same as a lie. Be trustworthy. Do not behave in such a way that you need to make vows just for people to believe you, but live in a way that people can rely on you just by what you say. That in their darkest days they may ask you to help carry their burdens like our Lord Jesus commands (See my note on Galatians 6:2, “On The Greatest Burden and The Greatest Love”).


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1

Verse one begins one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture, Hebrews Chapter 12. Despite the subject matter of discipline and judgement, which can have the tendency to make people cringe, especially while they live in sin, it is one of the most beautiful passages in all the bible. Of course, that’s a personal conclusion and not made from any independent study. It could have something to do with the fact that this chapter is the one that led me to the Lord. Thus, it has a deep personal significance for me.

Nobody knows without a doubt who wrote Hebrews, for the writer does not identify himself. Though it was accredited to Paul in the past, he seems an unlikely candidate, due to the style of writing differing from his. For instance, Paul identifies himself in his letters, but Hebrews is void of any such attribution. Yet, there are a couple candidates, and it appears that whoever the writer of Hebrews was, was indeed a close friend of Paul’s. Verse one suggests this by presenting the allegory of an athlete, which Paul was a frequent user of. Paul’s metaphors found in his other books and the allegory used by Hebrews’ author are so similar, it seems logical that the writer knew Paul intimately. Scholars have narrowed authorship down to two possibilities, Apollos or Barnabas. Whoever it was, they wrote a book equal to that of Paul and of vast importance for any Christian. Not only does Chapter 12 remain one of my favorite sections of scripture, Hebrews remains my favorite book outside the gospels. I recommend it to anyone engaged in an in depth bible study.

"St. Jerome in His Study," by Albrecht Duerer. engraving c. 1514

Verse one brings to mind the familiar image of an athlete. The cloud of witnesses, refers to great holy men of the past who gave all for their love of the Lord. Their faith led them to obedience and by that obedience, the Lord’s will became known on earth. These witnesses prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ so that by and through Him we may be reconciled unto God.

Sir Isaac Newton and earlier John of Salisbury brought into the common lexicon the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” What is meant by this is that progress is made by carrying on those things pioneered by what and who has came before. It is no different in Christianity. The Kingdom of God is not meant to be stagnant, but rather to be forwarded by those who belong to Christ Jesus. Thus, because we are made aware of this by the Spirit and the Word, we are called to remove those hindrances and stumbling blocks that prevent us from doing our part in moving the Kingdom forward.

Sir Isaac Newton

Christ opened up the Kingdom to and for us that we may be admitted by faith rather than by works and He being human for a season, can readily identify with man, for He was tempted by sin as we all are, yet remained in perfect obedience to the Father. In fact, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say He must have been tempted beyond all men, due to Satan’s awareness of His true nature.

We have a merciful God who doesn’t just reside in the heavens, but became man, and experienced all the grotesqueness of sin. At the same time He underwent the struggle we all encounter, but was victorious. Amazing as it is, we have a God who knows what it’s like to fight against sin and thus verses that hint at how easily sin overtakes us are not infrequent in the scripture. This should give us hope and we should praise God for this, that He can identify with even the most lowly of us.

Again, the athlete allegory is mentioned at the close of the verse. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Christians aren’t called to just skate by going to church just on Sunday’s and Easter, but to take an active role in the mission God has set out for them. This requires effort and perseverance, for it will not always be easy, for sometimes we will be ahead and other times behind. Yet, we are called to keep our eyes on the goal, and the prize that we will receive when we cross that finish line.

In life, we often convince ourselves that we have to run from something, like a bad circumstance or sin, but we rarely tell ourselves that we need to run towards something. In life, you are always running towards something. Don’t focus on what you are running from, for when running a race, a participant is discouraged from looking back, lest they slow down and stumble. Keep you eyes forward along the track that the Lord has set out for you and the magnificent finish line that marks the end, for it is there we will gather with Christ and all the other racers in the glorious winners circle that is promised to those who run and finish the race.

%d bloggers like this: