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Two Different Welcomings

When Jesus first came ashore in the land of the Gerasenes or Gadarenes (Both Gerasa and Gadara were cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee, also know as the Sea of Gennesaret or Sea of Tiberias, and were part of the Decapolis or region of Ten Cities), He was treated very coldly by the inhabitants of the region. The Decapolis was a largely pagan league of Greek Hellenized cities. We can read about it in three of the four Gospels, each with a particular perspective, but each ending with the people begging Jesus to depart because of their great fear, except for one of the men who was delivered from the demons who begged just the opposite and wanted to stay with Jesus:

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:1‭-‬20 ESV)

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26‭-‬39 ESV)

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28‭-‬34 ESV)

Now let’s look at the next time Jesus returned to the Decapolis region where He received an entirely different welcome. The people were begging Jesus this time to minister to them. The evangelistic work of the Madman who was delivered had taken root:

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. (Mark 7:31‭-‬37 and 8:1‭-‬10 ESV)

Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. (Matthew 15:29‭-‬39 ESV)

What is also interesting is the fact that just before coming to shore to heal the Madman of Gadara, Jesus astonishingly calmed the sea and wind. Put yourself in any of the Apostles’ shoes. The awesome power Jesus exhibits is almost beyond their comprehension:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:22-25 ESV)

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27 ESV)

The reason I love to include the different Gospels telling the same story is that each approaches it with a different angle. For example, Matthew chapter 8 is the only one who mentions two demon possessed men. Apparently Luke and Mark only wanted to highlight the more prominent man because he was the one who evangelized the region so that Jesus was welcomed on His next visit. I like how GotQuestions explains how there are no contradictions. Please see https://www.gotquestions.org/one-two-demoniacs.html

In conclusion, the man who was delivered of demonic possession obeyed Jesus to return home and evangelize the region, even though his heart’s desire was to follow and be with Jesus. It is a great lesson for us on obedience and the mission field the Lord has for each of us. Some of us are called to preach the Gospel to a foreign land. Others are called to stay in their homeland. Remember, we will not be judged so much as to what we did for the Lord because of our desire, but we will be judged according to our obedience to what the Lord has called us to do. Think about the sad case of the rich man in Mark 10:17-22 who was asked by Jesus to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and follow Jesus, but he couldn’t do it and part from his riches!

“In every heart there is a throne and a cross: if self is on the throne, Jesus must be on the cross; if Jesus is on the throne, self must be on the cross.” (Tozer)

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Living In An Ever Increasing Evil World

What mental gymnastics we have to do for all the craziness we see unfolding around us. The confusion around sex and gender is a symptom of a civilization in total decline. Every civilization when they’re at the brink of collapse becomes obsessed with gender and sex. Look at ancient Greece and ancient Rome. It is the thing that people do when a society becomes stagnant. People look for conflict that doesn’t exist, and they find conflict in societal norms. ‘Wokeism’ has become the new religion. Gender has become the soul for secular people who are looking for something to replace the purpose and meaning that true religion used to provide. What we are seeing is fastly becoming the end of civilization. It is the end of belief in true religion. A recent survey confirms the decline of values like patriotism, true religion, and birthrates among Americans.

…For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God… (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NLT)

“…But when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8 NLT)

The question is: How Do We Live in an Ever Increasing Evil World? The following are eight insights from Scripture:

First, look up and rejoice, because we are living in a most fortunate generation that may never experience death:

“So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28 NLT)

Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17‭-‬18 NLT)

Second, the birth pains have most certainly already started. As with any birth, once it is started there is no stopping or going back. The pains will only become more and more intense and will come closer and closer together. For those in America, no elected official or political party will be able to reverse this tide. The world‘s ONLY hope is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and Him alone!

But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. (Matthew 24:8 NLT)

When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:3‭-‬4 NLT)

Third, we need to accept that The Last Days will be very difficult:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (2 Timothy 3:1‭-‬5 NLT)

Forth, we are instructed to stay away from the people described in the Scripture above, even those that have crept and wormed their way into the church. There is no doubt that a boastful and proud spirit has crept and wormed its way into the church of our day. Whatever happened to humility in much of church leadership of our day? Much of what is seen is cockiness:


I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4 NLT)

“The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings a deep repentance and a demolished and impoverished spirit.” (Smith Wigglesworth)

Fifth, be discerning not to cast your pearls to pigs:

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 NLT)

What does it mean to cast your pearls before swine? It means to give or offer something valuable to someone who does not understand its value.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:17‭-‬21 NLT)

Sixth, notice, our command in the Scripture above is to only TRY to live in peace as far as our part is concerned!

Seventh, in Biblical times, when leaving Gentile cities, pious Jews often shook the dust from their feet to show their separation from Gentile practices. If the disciples shook the dust of a Jewish town from their feet, it would show their separation from Jews who rejected their Messiah.

Even though it may seem harsh, we have to accept the fact that there will be times we will need to shake the dust from our feet. The following Scriptures are multiple examples for us today:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:5‭-‬7‭, ‬14‭-‬15 ESV)

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:7‭-‬11 ESV)

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:1‭-‬5 ESV)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (Luke 10:1‭, ‬8‭-‬12 ESV)

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:48‭-‬52 ESV)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Eighth, heed Paul’s advice which is more necessary today than ever before because of the evil deception that lurks at every corner in these most difficult of times:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

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Wisdom But Foolishness

I will let Scripture be most of the source for the story of Solomon who was the wisest man to ever live, yet he did not heed his own wisdom. This story starts with God’s commands and our expected obedience:

“When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again’ [Exodus 13:17 and 14:13; Numbers 14:3-4]. And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:14‭-‬20 ESV)

Notice in the two following portions of Scripture that Solomon, in spite of being the wisest man to ever live, broke both commands that the Lord had given in the portion of Scripture above:

And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price. Now a chariot that was imported from Egypt cost six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse one hundred and fifty; and thus, through their agents, they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria. (1 Kings 10:26‭-‬29 NKJV)

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:1‭-‬13 ESV)

Solomon had began his reign with the best of intentions:

And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. (1 Kings 3:3‭, 5‭, ‬9‭-‬12 NKJV)

Solomon’s wisdom did not keep him from playing the fool. To satisfy his curious mind, Solomon turned to worldly pleasures instead of the pursuit of God. He collected all sorts of treasures, and surrounded himself with luxury. In the case of non-Jewish wives and concubines, he let lust rule his heart instead of obedience to God. He also began to tax his subjects heavily, drafted them into his army, and placed them into slave-like labor for his building projects:

In those days also I [Nehemiah] saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:23‭-‬27 ESV)

Solomon lost the protection and favor of God that earlier had provided remarkable peace and prosperity when he was obedient to God. Solomon is a perfect example of when the actions of God’s people don’t always match up with what they profess. Fortunately for Solomon, he came to his senses at the end of his life and God’s mercy showed forth. Listen to Solomon’s final words that were recorded in the Bible:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:12‭-‬14 ESV)

The moral of this lesson is to make sure that you match up your actions and the way you live your life with what you know as truth, which is only found in the Word of God the Bible. The key is not to lose the fear of God:

He shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them. (Deuteronomy 17:19 ESV)

For continued reading please click on the following link:

Consequences Of Losing The Fear Of God

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What Is Inside Your Cup?

I received a daily devotion by email from World Challenge and it got my mind thinking. Thank you Gary Wilkerson for your insight. I want to share parts of it in the following.

One thing that every person wants is to be whole. We want to feel confident in who we are and the purpose for our lives. Christians and people of all ages ask the questions: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What am I called to?

It may seem strange, but part of the answers can be found in a very harsh statement Jesus made just before His death:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” (Matthew 23:25‭-‬26 NLT)

Many of us only live in the area of our mind, but there are things that are deep in our heart that need to be cleansed. We can quote scriptures that God loves and accepts us, and we’re forgiven and cleansed in the blood. We can believe these things in our minds, but our heart is telling us a different story.

If we don’t see God correctly or trust Him, we won’t allow Him into the deepest parts of our hearts that need healing and cleansing. Very simply, just like the above Scripture points to, we don’t let God clean the inside of our cup.

Someone who has allowed Jesus to start working on the inside of their cup can go through horrible external situations and still be unmoved in their faith because their identity is truly in God. Let’s start allowing Jesus to examine the inside of our cup. Let’s trust Him enough to allow Him to start lifting painful, broken things out of us and restoring us so that we have room for the peace and power He’s longing to put inside us. We all want that, right?

Let’s move on from the above message and look at how to pursue having the inside of our cup cleansed. It starts with looking at another unlikely portion of Scripture for the first part of the answer:

“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (Philippians 1:20‭-‬24 ESV)

This is the litmus test to see if you are truly a sincere Christian. We are all afraid of possibly dying a horrible, painful death. But that is not what this is about. The process of dying and death are two entirely different things. Can you honestly say, like Paul, that your desire is to depart from this world and be with Christ and what lies beyond dying is gain? Or are you so attached to this world and the temporary riches it offers? Paul left it in the Lord’s hands to determine if his work on earth was finished or not. He would glorify and honor Christ until it was determined by God.

If you passed that litmus test, it now comes down to prayer,fasting, and relinquishing YOUR WILL:

And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39‭, ‬42 ESV)

Is your cup being cleansed and healed with God’s peace and power?

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A good Christian friend of mine whose godly wife is suffering terribly just simply asked with brokenness, “Why?”.

How does one answer that since God is in complete control and not one thing takes place without Him knowing it?:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6‭-‬7 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 ESV)

This question from my friend triggered a quest to gather Scriptures to try and understand in our limited knowledge “Why?” What follows is what I have gleaned.

The first place I had to go was the Book of Job to see God’s interaction with an individual in the Old Testament:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. And 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, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.(Job 1:1‭, ‬8‭-‬11 and 2:6-7 ESV)

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:1‭-‬11 ESV)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:3‭-‬5 ESV)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1‭-‬6 ESV)

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. (Job 42:10‭, ‬12‭-‬13‭, ‬16‭-‬17 ESV)

Keep in mind that Job maintained his faith and never cursed God even though he was subjected to horrific suffering:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20‭-‬22 ESV)

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25‭-‬27 ESV)

Another individual in the Old Testament was Asaph who tried to understand:

So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. (Psalms 73:16‭-‬18 NLT)

Habakkuk tried to understand how God could allow a nation (Babylonia) more wicked than his nation punish his nation:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2‭-‬4 ESV)

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.” (Habakkuk 1:5‭-‬7 ESV)

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17‭-‬18 ESV)

GotQuestions tells us that there is an important distinction to be made between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but He can use sinful men to attain an objective. Romans 8:28 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ‘All things’ includes both good and bad things. God can use struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about His glory and our good. Such events, even though we don’t understand the reason for them, are part of His perfect, divine plan. If God could not control evil, He would not be God. His sovereignty demands that He be in control of everything, even ‘dreaded’ nations such as Babylon.

Daniel also sums it up quite well in the Old Testament:

Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to Whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. (Daniel 2:20‭-‬22 ESV)

In the New Testament, it is Paul who sums it up the best:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7‭-‬10 ESV)

Now to sum it all up, taking in consideration the whole Bible, we will never really know this side of heaven “Why?” to everything. It is faith that must carry us through:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

John reminds us that ‘God‘s Will’ is key to everything:

And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. (1 John 5:14 ESV)

We must rest assured that every tear and drop of blood is accounted for by God and justice will take place:

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood.” (Genesis 4:10‭-‬11 NLT)

Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. (Revelation 14:18‭-‬20 NLT)

Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalms 56:7‭-‬8 NLT)

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Christians, but Misfits

My wife and I are retired and we began looking back at our Christian walk. We both became Christians in our early life and have walked with the Lord for over 40 years each. We came to the conclusion that no matter where we went, we never really fit in. This caused us to truly examine our lives. We scoured the Internet by looking up ‘Christian Misfits’ and ‘Misfit Christians’ and were shocked with what we uncovered. Most people who consider themseves ‘Christian Misfits’ are not Christian at all. For example, Gays can consider themselves ‘Christians’ all they want to, but there is no such thing as ‘Homosexual Christians’:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9‭-‬11)

Notice in the Scripture above the word effeminate, whch means a man who acts like a woman. Then you have those who have mutilated their gender, identity, and sexual preferences but want to be accepted by the churches even though Jesus made it clear:

“But ‘God made them male and female’ [Gen 1:27] from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Mark 10:6‭-‬9 NLT)

The same goes for the militant females who have seized power in many churches. Not only do they consider themselves ‘Christians’, but they have taken on the title ‘Pastor/Elder’. They can consider themselves ‘Christians’ all they want to, but there is no such thing as ‘Female Pastor/Elders’. Scripture makes it clear that the ruling in the Bible is not cultural, nor is it advancement with women in modern society. It is a pre-law mandate going all the way back to the Garden of Eden:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:11‭-‬14 KJV)

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position.” So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. (1 Timothy 3:1‭-‬2a NLT)

Be assured that God loves a person the same whether they are a man or a woman. But love has nothing to do with church leadership. It is about obedience. Please do not be misled by those like Deborah, etc. They are extreme exceptions. God can use any instrument He wants to in order to achieve His purpose, just like the donkey He used to speak to Balaam. God using females in the Bible has nothing to do with the norm for church leadership in the New Testament. Remember also that when Deborah rose to power, it was an ungodly time in Israel’s history:

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25b ESV)

Probably what is most appalling are those who claim they are Christians, but support Abortion. Abortion is nothing less than murder and every drop of blood must be paid for (see Gen 4:10-11):

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NLT)

We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NLT)

Let’s get back to the reason my wife and I have felt like ‘misfits’, even in churches. We both have determined that the Bible is supreme in our life and it is the sole source of how we live our lives. Many churches have ‘agendas’, or as they would like to make it sound more spiritual, they have a ‘vision’. When the ‘vision’ or ‘agenda’ is a little worldly or it doesn’t completely agree with Scripture, there is discomfort and conviction on our part. We are then looked down upon as being nonconforming or even worse at times, divisive. In reality we are not. We are just plain ‘misfits’ with conviction. We take very seriously the following verse:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 ESV)

My wife and I may feel out of place on this earth, but when we read the following, we learn that we truly are ‘misfits’ to this world:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18‭-‬19 NKJV)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20 NKJV)

One last thing I need to cover that has me troubled about today’s Christianity in America. It is the fact that there is a real lack of true Holy Spirit power. There is a lot of talk about needing Holy Spirit power, but it stops with the talk. There is no walk. It is like a fisherman trying to get someone else interested in fishing who has never fished before. The fisherman can do a lot of talking about fishing and even show pictures of fish that he caught. The fisherman can even display all of his fishing poles and equipment. But the only way to truly show someone how to fish is to actually take them out and show them firsthand:

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17‭-‬18 NKJV)

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:6 NKJV)

When you try to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, there are the naysayers that stop you and tell you that the gifts are no longer in operation because we have the completed Bible or because of the wackos they have seen on TV or Internet that have left an extremely bad impression on them. I guess that they don’t take Paul’s words (who was taken up to the 3rd heaven and revealed unspeakable things) seriously when he said that even he looks at things darkly:

Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.(2 Corinthians 12:7 NLT)

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV)

Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. (1 Thessalonians 5:19‭-‬20 KJV)

I’m grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him. I enter into this as much or more than any of you. (1 Corinthians 14:18‭-‬19 MSG)

Paul says the only time we (including him even though he has been revealed things well beyond what has been revealed to us) will see clearly is when we all see our perfect Jesus face-to-face in eternity:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:9‭-‬10 ESV)

Please do not be found guilty of denying Holy Spirit Power:

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:5a NKJV)

Without going any further into detail, I have tried to share why my wife and I feel, even though we are completely normal with numerous friends from all walks of life, we feel like ‘misfits’. Maybe this will help you if you feel like a ‘misfit’. At least you will know that you are not alone. I could only imagine how John the Baptist felt at the end of his life.

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Working Hands

I can’t help thinking about the following verse:

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on the earth who have (persistent) faith?” (Luke 18:8 NLT)

This is my forth article in a series. In my three previous articles, I concentrated on the single greatest attribute of God and next on the attributes that devout Christians should possess, and then I turned to the attributes of what a devout church should possess. Now I want to concentrate on church leadership.

Note: This article and the PDF’s contained within it are not meant to throw the baby out with the dirty water. It is meant to take a healthy look at the example set forth in the New Testament of a healthy church and its leadership and see where we can go from there. A W Tozer had some wise words to share:

A New Kind Of Religious Leader Must Arise.PDF

A Christian church was not meant to be an organization, administration, or institution. It is not a building, campus, or structure. It is not meant to be a social club or a musical entourage. It is to be first and foremost a body of believers. A typical American church is backwards to what we see layed out in the New Testament. They put the cart before the horse. When young people come out of seminary, they are more worried about health benefits, retirement plans, compensation, and income than they are about serving the Lord. They are afraid of the word ‘work’, as referring to toil and manual labor. True servants of the Lord are not afraid to use their hands:

Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. (Acts 18:1‭-‬4 NLT)

“I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33‭-‬35 NLT)

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. (1 Thessalonians 4:11‭-‬12 NLT)

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10‭-‬12 NLT)

What an incredible example Stephen was. He was appointed by the Apostles to use his hands as a table server:

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6:2‭-‬5a ESV)

But the Lord didn’t limit Stephen to just serve tables with his hands. The Lord used him mightily to also do greater things:

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8 ESV)

The word ‘pastor’ is not found at all in the New Testament. It is found in the plural only once in Ephesians 4:11 where it should of been properly translated ‘shepherds’ as it was in all the other instances. It is the same word to describe those who came to see Jesus at His birth. But, we have so twisted, misused, and abused the word ‘Pastor’ as a title. Prestige within churches has so blinded people that the title ‘Pastor’ or ‘Reverend’ or ‘Father’ is off the charts. What was created was a professional class of Clergymen. I wonder what words Jesus would have for them, like He had for the Sadducees and Pharisees of His day?

He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:35 NLT)

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world Lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42‭-‬45 NLT)

I have put together two PDF’s that properly address the word ‘Pastor’ Biblically:

The Word ‘Pastor’

Using The Word ‘Pastor’

I want to begin finishing up by using the words and example of Jesus:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:11‭-‬13 NKJV)

As I stated at the beginning of this article that we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the dirty water, but every Christian needs to evaluate if they have over them hirelings or true leaders with a shepherd’s heart. My personal conviction is that if I support a hireling, the Lord will judge me for it because I become an enabler. The Word of God, which was expounded upon in this article is the answer. It cannot be stated any clearer than what Smith Wigglesworth said:

“It is absolute disloyalty and unbelief to pray about anything in the Word of God. Believe and receive the Word of God, and you will always be on sure ground. If you pray about the Word of God, the Devil will be behind the whole thing. Never pray about anything concerning which it can be said, ―Thus says the Lord―. You need to receive God‘s words so that they will build you on a new foundation of truth. The Word of God does not need to be prayed about: the Word of God needs to be received.”

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Chicken Soup of The Church

In my two previous articles, I concentrated on the single greatest attribute of God and next on the attributes that devout Christians should possess. Now I want to turn to the attributes of what a devout church should possess.

It is joked that chicken soup is the cure for the common cold. Modern research has actually shown that chicken soup, more than other hot liquid, increases mucus flow and helps the body rid itself of the cold virus. Chicken is rich in an amino acid called cysteine which helps loosen secretions. If that is true, shouldn’t a church be the chicken soup to the community around them.

I researched the Internet and I came across the following four lists of what a local church should be:

First, out of the Reformation flowed seven characteristics or identity markers of the Church:

1. The church is doxological, It’s oriented to the glory of God.

2. The church is Word-centered. It’s centered on the incarnate Word, who is Jesus Christ, and the inspired Word: Scripture.

3. The church is to be Spirit-activated. It’s created, gifted, united, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

4. The church is covenantal. It exists in new covenant relationship with God, and together, the members exist in a covenantal relationship with one another.

5. The church is confessional. Each member had a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Together the church confesses sound doctrine—what it believes about a triune God, Jesus Christ, the Son incarnate, and the Spirit.

6. The church is missional. It’s the body of divinely-called, divine ministers who proclaim the gospel throughout the world.

7. The church is here, but not here. It’s already, but not yet. We’re sojourners, we’re strangers. We’re pilgrims in this world. We enjoy walking with the Lord and doing his will now, but we look forward to something greater in the future.

Second, there are many amenities people look for in churches, but these are the most important qualities:

1. Are the Leaders Biblically Qualified and Mutually Accountable? – Church leadership in our day often seeks to reflect the charisma, drive, and vision which our culture looks for in leaders in business or politics. “Successful” Christian leaders (meaning those with large churches and ministries) write books on leadership which seem based more upon management and marketing techniques than upon Scripture. In these models, the leader is regarded as the key to success. The New Testament, however, makes it clear that the Head and Chief Shepherd (Senior Pastor) of the church is Christ (1 Peter 5:4; Ephesians 1:22; 5:23) and that leaders are under-shepherds.

2. Do the Leaders/Pastors Shepherd the Sheep? – Both Paul and Peter exhort church leaders to shepherd God’s flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). Church leaders are reminded that they will give an account to God for how they have tended the sheep he entrusted to their care (Hebrews 13:17). Some leaders are so driven to grow the church by attracting more people and resources that they don’t have time to actually get involved in helping the hurting sheep that are already part of the flock. Many pastors refuse to invest time in counseling individuals and families through conflicts and crises. Some don’t even believe that they are called to do so, but refer their members to outside “professional counselors” who may offer unbiblical advice. Are the leaders committed and equipped to minister God’s Word, not just publicly before a crowd, but also to individuals and families who need comfort and encouragement (Acts 20:20)?

3. Does this Church Equip Its Members to Serve God? – The church officers are not called to do all of the ministries, but rather they are called to equip each member to use his or her gifts to build up the church (1 Peter 4:10–11). Do the elders/ pastors at the church you are visiting encourage every member to serve? Are members free to use their gifts and even to start new ministries? Are the elders/pastors encouraging and training future leaders (2 Timothy 2:2)? Is this a church in which others will disciple you and you will have opportunity to disciple others? Is this a church where you will be able to flourish serving Christ and his people? Is this a church in which men and women are being encouraged and equipped to be godly husbands, wives, parents, employees, employers, and citizens (Ephesians 5:22–6:9; Romans 13:1–7)?

4. Does This Church Community Have a Culture of Grace, Love, and Peace? – God accepts us, not based upon outward appearance or even our works, but by his grace towards us in Christ. Are people accepted and welcomed into this church regardless of age, ethnicity, social background, spiritual weakness, or differences on secondary issues (such as educational choices for children, views on food and drink, the place of children and youth programs in the church, views of the end times/ rapture, etc.)? Because we are still sinners, you will never find a church in which there is no conflict. But is this church one in which members deal with their differences by showing grace toward one another (Proverbs 19:11; 1 Peter 4:8) and by pursuing peace (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14)? Do people seek to resolve their conflicts in a direct, biblical, and gentle way (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1), rather than participating in slander, gossip, and bullying?

5. Does This Church Have an Outward Focus—Missions, Evangelism, and Church Planting? – Some churches are such close families that it is hard for an outsider to break into them. Other churches are so concerned about precision in their doctrine and practice that they expend more energy keeping the wrong people out than in welcoming those from the outside. Jesus has given us the great commission to bring his gospel to the world so that disciples can be made to serve and worship him (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8). Sadly, many churches grow primarily by attracting sheep from other local flocks. Is this church seeking to grow through conversions? Are members of this church encouraged and equipped to practice personal evangelism?

Third, does the church resemble the first century church:

1. A church built on God’s Holy Word. “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). The believers were devoted to the teaching of God’s holy Word. This means that they loved hearing, receiving, and obeying the teaching of the Word as directed by the Apostles. The Word of God was one of the dominant guiding factors in what that church stood for.

2. A church energized by prayer and worship. “They devoted themselves…to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The believers were in constant prayer and worship, both individually and corporately, which in turn energized all they did. In fact, when the Apostles were threatened in Acts 4:18, their response under threat was to “raise their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:24). Acts 2:47 tells us that they were “praising God (daily) and enjoying the favor of all the people.” The church of Acts was energized by prayer and worship. When they prayed and worshiped, rooms were literally shaken, as seen in Acts 4:31 and Acts 16:25-26. As we, too, focus on more prayer and worship, individually and corporately, our churches would be energized to accomplish greater works for God. A praying and worshipping church brings glory to God.

3. A church powered by the Holy Spirit. “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles” (Acts 2:43). The church in Acts was powered by the Holy Spirit. As a result, signs, wonders, and miracles were a common occurrence and ‘everyone was filled with awe.’ According to the Dictionary, the meaning of the word ‘awe’ is defined as “A feeling of reverential respect mixed with…wonder.” It indicates something that cannot be explained naturally. We can therefore conclude that a lot of supernatural acts were being performed by the Apostles. This power at work through the Holy Spirit is further emphasized in Acts 4:33 where it says, “With great power the Apostles continued to testify to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus” and in Acts 5:12, which says, “The Apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.” At a time when the church of Jesus Christ and Christian families are under severe attack by the forces of darkness, let us pray for a fresh infusion of the Holy Spirit’s power among His people. May we experience that power whenever congregations come together to worship the Savior. Truly, the Lord will be glorified!

4. A church that evangelized daily. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). People being saved daily meant that the believers were sharing the Gospel daily. The Book of Acts shows us that regular evangelism was the clear pattern of their ministry. They refused to be stopped, even when threatened, beaten, or imprisoned. As they continued to evangelize, Acts 5:14 shows that “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Even when the church was scattered later under Saul’s vicious persecution, the Bible says “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). The heart for winning souls needs to be renewed within the Body of Christ today because every soul saved brings glory to God. As someone said, “We were not called to cultivate fish, but to catch fish!” Let’s keep sharing the Gospel whenever and wherever an opportunity arises.

Forth, The Eight Essential Qualities of a Healthy Church That Research has Revealed:

1. Empowering Leadership—Leders of healthy growing churches concentrate on empowering other Christians for ministry. They do not use lay workers as “helpers” in attaining their own goals and fulfilling their own visions. Rather, they invert the pyramid of authority so that the leader assists Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them. These pastors equip, support, motivate and mentor individuals, enabling them to become all that God wants them to be.

2. Gift-oriented ministry—The role of church leadership is to help its members to identify their gifts and integrate them into appropriate ministries. When Christians serve in their areas of gifting, they generally function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary.

3. Passionate spirituality—Are Christians in our church “on fire?” Do they live committed lives and practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm? A few weeks ago I waited in line for more than eight hours for the doors to open at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church facility in Pensacola, Florida. When the doors opened at 6 PM, there were too many people in line in front of me to get a seat in the main sanctuary. I ended up in the chapel next door, perched in front of a video screen. People were so hungry for God. At the end of evangelist Steve Hill’s sermon, hundreds of people literally ran to the altar to get right with God. Many of them were Generation Xers. The Lord is restoring passionate spirituality to His church.

4. Functional structures—There are those who believe “structure” and “life” are opposites. Both are needed. Biological research reveals that dead matter and living organisms are not distinguished by their substance, but by the structural relationship of the parts to each other. Whenever God breathes His Spirit into formless clay, both life and form spring forth. When God pours out His Spirit within the church today, He gives it structure and form. New cells are flexible structures for the new life He is bringing to our churches.

5. Inspiring worship service—Is the worship service in your church inspiring? Cell churches that minimize anointed worship services are shooting themselves in the foot. Paul taught publicly, and from house to house (Acts 20:20). We need both!

6. Holistic small groups—Christian Schwarz stated, “If we were to identify anyone principle as the most important, then without a doubt it would be the multiplication of small groups. They must be holistic small groups that go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying their message to daily life. In these groups, members are able to bring up those issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.”

7. Need-oriented evangelism—We are all called to use our gifts to fulfill the Great Commission. Each Christian must use his or her gifts to serve non-Christians with whom one has a personal relationship, to see to it that they hear the gospel, and to encourage contact with the local church.

8. Loving relationships—Growing churches possess a measurably higher “love quotient” than stagnant, declining ones. Healthy growing churches practice hospitality as believers invite others into their homes as a normal part of their Christian lives. People do not want to hear us talk about love, they want to experience how Christian love really works.

In Summary, there are a few traits of a church that repeat themselves in these lists. First prayer and studying the Word of God are the lifeblood. Second, Evangelism outside the church walls is vitally important. Third, mentoring prepares the church for the future. Fourth, recognizing individual gifts. Fifth, the church is to be Holy Spirit empowered. Sixth, love is to be the bond that holds the church together. Seventh, small groups are what allows the church to be more intimate. Eighth, there must be servant minded leadership. Ninth, protection against sin in their midst. Tenth, elevating our Lord and Savior through worship. Eleventh, the church is not to be a financial institution nor is to revolve around social events.

As a closing note, churches need to reconsider selling their soul to the US government by being 501c3 tax exempt:

501c3 Tax Exempt Facts

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Alphabet Soup for Christians

As I finished up my last article, which was about the absolute greatest attribute of God which is that He is Holy and that He has also called Christians to be holy (set-apart/sanctified), I started thinking about all the other attributes, qualities, and values that Christians are to possess and demonstrate along with the things that define us. I felt like I opened up a can of alphabet soup when I looked at everything before me.

God has called us to possess the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) as outlined in Galatians 5:22 that the Holy Spirit bestows for us to be known by (Matthew 7:15-20). Then there are the things all Christians should demonstrate such as Integrity, Discernment, Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, Forgiveness, Humility, Compassion, Generosity, Boldness, Approachability, Confidence, Courage, Respect, Fear of God, etc. The bar is raised for Christian Leaders to set an example by also being Blameless, Vigilant, Sober, Of Good Behavior, Given to Hospitality, Apt To Teach, Able to Raise Others Up To Teach, Above Reproach, Not Quarrelsome, Not Violent, Not a Lover Of Money, Not Greedy For Dishonest Gain, Not Given To Too Much Wine, and Able To Manage Their Family Well With Dignity. All Christians, whether in leadership or not, are to be obedient where obedience is due and we are to resist evil and hate sin.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Then there is the great ‘Love’ chapter (1 Corinthians 13), the great ‘Faith’ chapter (Hebrews 11), and the great ‘Works’ chapter (James 2).

We know that it is by ‘Faith’ that we are saved. 1 John 5:4 says,”And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” So why is it said that ‘Love’ is the greatest of all?

Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)

Could it be that even though ‘Faith’ is what gives us victory in this life, it is really all about God’s ‘Love’ and that it is God‘s ‘Love’ that gives us the ability to help others to have the victory in this life and it is what carries us all on into eternity?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NKJV)

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:8‭-‬10 NKJV)

Where does ‘Hope’ come in? Biblical ‘Hope’ is a reality and not a feeling. Even though we do not see with our eyes, we see in our spirit just as if it is there. Hope is the catalyst behind the resin of faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)

Just think, once we are ushered into eternity, we will no longer have to strive against the enemy to exhibit the traits of a Christian, living everyday life with its ups and downs and its tears and sorrows. We will be sealed in ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’, and most importantly ‘Love’. We will be living with the ‘Prince of Peace’ in the presence of a ‘Holy God’ forever and ever! Amen!

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3‭-‬5 NKJV)‬‬‬‬

So where does ‘Works’ come into the equation, since we know that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works? Simply put, works must be the visible results of our faith:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:21‭-‬22‭, ‬26 NKJV)

I don’t want to forget to mention the first eight chapters of Romans that are the great ‘Righteousness’ and ‘Justification’ chapters. Paul goes to great extent to explain how the blood of Jesus makes us ‘Righteous and ‘Justified’ before the Father.

Then there is the interesting words of Jesus of how we are to deal with the things of this world even though we are not of this world:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NKJV)

Probably my favorite and reassuring verse of the Bible that describes our ability to be steadfast Christians is:

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 NKJV)

I want to finish with two things. First, we always need to examine our self. Our faith must be unshakable and our hearts must be pure:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8 ESV)

Second, in order to be victorious as Christians in this life, the best advice I have found is in this short article by David Wilkerson:

Lack of Faith.PDF

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