Rent-in-Two to Knocking

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As I was doing my daily Bible reading in the book of Leviticus and the gospel of Mark, something jumped out at me that never did before. It was when the high priest Caiaphas tore his clothing. What jumped out was the fact that the high priest was never supposed to tear his clothing under any circumstance because of what he represented. So I started to do an investigation and I gleaned material from all over and it surprised me to see that some Biblical Scholars twisted scripture and said that Caiaphas did not break the Law nor did he sin. What follows, as far as truth is concerned regarding the Word of God, is what I have gleaned.

Let’s start with what the tearing of one’s clothes is all about. The tearing of one’s clothes is an ancient tradition among the Jews, and it is associated with mourning, grief, and loss. The first mention of someone tearing his garments is in Genesis. “When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes” (Genesis 37:29). A short time later, “Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34) when he thought that Joseph had been killed.

Other biblical examples of men who tore their clothes to express pain and sorrow include David, when Saul and Jonathan were killed (2 Samuel 1:11–12); Elisha, when Elijah was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11–12); Job, when he was bereft of all he possessed (Job 1:20); Jephthah, when he learned the result of his rash vow (Judges 11:34–35); Mordecai, when he learned of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews (Esther 4:1); Ahab, when Elijah pronounced a judgment against him (1 Kings 21:27); Ezra, because of the polluted marriages (Ezra 9:3); and Paul and Barnabas, when the people of Lystra began to worship them (Acts 14:14).

Sometimes, the tearing of one’s clothes was accompanied by other signs of humility and grief, such as shaving one’s head (Job 1:20), throwing dust on oneself (Job 2:12), and wearing sackcloth (2 Samuel 3:31).

There were times when people should have torn their garments but did not. The prophet Jeremiah received the Word of God concerning a soon-coming judgment on Judah. Jeremiah faithfully wrote the prophecy in a scroll and delivered it to King Jehoiakim. The king listened to the first part of the prophecy, but then he took a knife, cut the scroll in pieces, and burned it in a brazier (Jeremiah 36:23). This impious act was met with chilling stoicism from his aides: “The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes” (verse 24). If ever there was a time to tear one’s clothes, this was it; but these men had no fear of God, no remorse, no conviction of sin.

Even though tearing one’s clothes was a public and powerful expression of grief in ancient times, it is interesting that the high priest was not allowed to tear his clothes under any circumstance once the anointing oil was poured upon him. The special nature of the high priestly office dictated a separation from some of the common customs, including that of grief.

“The high priest has the highest rank of all the priests. The anointing oil has been poured on his head, and he has been ordained to wear the priestly garments. He must never leave his hair uncombed or tear his clothing. He must not defile himself by going near a dead body. He may not make himself ceremonially unclean even for his father or mother. He must not defile the sanctuary of his God by leaving it to attend to a dead person, for he has been made holy by the anointing oil of his God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 21:10‭-‬12 NLT)

The interesting thing about this requirement is that it had also been given earlier as part of the instructions to the priests after God had killed Nadab and Abihu while they offered strange fire on the altar. After God judges them, Moses reminds the others that God will be glorified and those near Him must be set apart. The idea is that God must be worshiped specifically as He prescribes. Moses then instructs Aaron and his sons with the following words:

Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation.” (Leviticus 10:6 ESV)

God had a deep concern that the high priest’s garments when he was working in the Temple would not be tattered or torn because the high priest and his garments were a symbol of God’s holiness and glory. So God instituted a precaution against inadvertent tearing:

“You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear.” (Exodus 28:31-32 ESV)

We are not told what Caiaphas was wearing when Jesus stood before him. But this is irrelevant to the fact the high priest was not permitted under the Law to tear any of his clothing under any circumstance, but he did anyway because of his comtempt for Jesus:

But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. (Matthew 26:60‭-‬65 NLT)

Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’” But even then they didn’t get their stories straight! Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” (Mark 14:55‭-‬64 NLT)

There is no other time recorded in the Bible that the High Priest tore his clothing except when Caiaphas tore his garments in anger and hardness for the God who created him that was standing before him. (Note: Ezra, who tore his clothes, as recorded in Ezra 9:3, was a priest and scribe, but he was not the high priest. Joshua, son of Jehozadak, was the High Priest at the time.)

Now what makes it really interesting is the fact that the robe of Jesus, the true high priest, is not torn. As John records regarding the soldiers who crucified Jesus, “They said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture (Psalm 22:18) which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”” (John 19:24 ESV)

The allusions to the psalm here is certainly intended to indicate that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic promise but interestingly, this detail also confirms Christ’s perfection with regard to this aspect of the priestly holiness code. In contrast, Caiaphas violates the requirements of his office by rejecting the revelation of God in His Law as well as in rejecting the claims of the Messiah Himself. We therefore see his arrogance as he presumes to be in a position to pass judgment on behalf of God and stand in evaluation over the very Messiah to which his office was to point.

Many have pointed out that the trial of Jesus was illegitimate and was itself a violation of the Jewish Law on a number of points. Jesus was tried at night and during Passover, which are both violations of the Law. The testimony of the witnesses does not meet the normal criteria and the sentence itself is not in accordance with the Law of Moses. Perhaps the detail about the tearing of the robe is another indication of the hypocrisy and illegitimacy of the whole event. Or perhaps it is a subtle indication by Matthew and Mark that the priesthood itself was no longer legitimate because the perfect High Priest was now making the perfect sacrifice. The culmination of the temple cult and its priests in Christ is certainly a major theme of the author to the Hebrews and all of the synoptic writers record another similar symbol along these lines in the tearing of the temple curtain from top to bottom (Mt. 27:51, Mk. 15:38, Lk. 23:45)

There you have it! Not only is the temple curtain rent-in-two, but so are the high priest’s garments. The law has been fulfilled! Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice and in so being is the ultimate high priest. The old ways are done away with. Do not fret! Jesus does not come at us, ripping things in two, as He did fulfilling the old covenant. Jesus now comes gently knocking on our doors. Not only the doors of churches, but the doors of our hearts. It is up to us to let Him in, because there are no handles on the outside of the door only on the inside:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

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Ultimate Examination

I don’t know about you but I have always hated any kind of exam, whether as a kid or now in my senior years. But King David brings to our attention the only exam that matters in the light of eternity. When we turn to the Old Testament we can read what King David said when he beckoned to be examined:

“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.” (Psalms 26:2 NKJV)

Then as we turn to the very last book of the Bible, we learn how the Apostle John encounters Jesus as He examines the seven churches of Asia Minor. From this there is so much that we can learn as Jesus examines these seven churches as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3. First, these were real churches that existed at the time with real attributes. Second, these churches represent seven different time periods in the church age. Third, we can apply it to ourselves when we look in the mirror and examine ourselves of how we lineup with the attributes of these churches, both good and bad. Fourth, we can look at any individual church and see how it lines up. And fifth, we can look at any domination and see how it lines up.

While studying Revelation 2 and 3, my attention is first drawn to two of the churches in particular. They are Ephesus and Thyatira:

“I know all the things you (Ephesus) do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.” (Revelation 2:2‭-‬4 NLT‭)

“I know all the things you (Thyatira) do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.” (Revelation 2:‬19‭-‬20 NLT)

Notice with Ephesus that they were commended for their adherence to doctrine, but were not loving the way they should. Whereas Thyatira was commended for their love, but strayed from doctrine. Wow, imagine combining the good traits from both—being not only loving but also true to the Bible both as a church and as an individual!

Next my attention is drawn to the church of Laodicea:

“I know all the things you (Laodicea) do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15‭-‬16 NLT)

Jesus wished His people of Laodicea were hot (like the therapeutic hot spring waters of nearby Hierapolis) or cold (like the refreshing cold spring waters of nearby Colossae). Lukewarm is not some spiritual condition in between hot and cold at all. Lukewarm stands in opposition to both hot and cold. So, for Jesus, hot and cold were both genuinely good conditions, and only lukewarm was a bad condition. In other words, in these verses, hot and cold are used as synonyms to refer to strong, passionate, remarkable faith. Lukewarm refers to unremarkable faith.

Wow, between Ephesus, Thyatira, and Laodicea we learn straight from Jesus that we must not only love and be true to the Bible and doctrine, but we must live a strong and passionate faith.

Now let’s turn to and observe what John says about Jesus’ eyes especially:

“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14 NKJV)

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Jesus’ eyes cut through everything, past all the facades and disguises. He examines us as we truly are. There will be no fooling Him on Judgment Day. Before it is too late, our prayer must be the same as King David, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart!”

It doesn’t stop at the individual level. So many churches and ministries need to do the same. They have gone astray. Legalism, mysticism, compromise, blurring the lines, twisting scripture, greed, and false promises have invaded them. But Jesus warns:

“Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” (Revelation 2:5 NLT)

I am extremely careful of what I listen to and what I read. It must line up with the Word of God. There are no new revelations. Discernment must be exercised. Paul makes it clear not to elevate any minister or ministry:

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. (1 Corinthians 3:4‭-‬5‭, ‬7 NLT)

No minister or ministry is perfect in all their teachings, nor are their lives perfect. But I have found a few who have been faithful and relatively sound over the years. They have challenged me to higher ground and most of their teachings are sound enough to be blessed by. They range from Baptist, to Methodist, to Presbyterian, to Christian and Missionary Alliance, to Calvary Chapel, and to Pentecostal backgrounds:

David Jeremiah
David Guzik
Paul Washer
Leonard Ravenhill
David Wilkerson
Gary Wilkerson
Carter Conlon
Jim Cymbala
Nicky Cruz
Franklin Graham
Dwight L Moody
Charles Spurgeon
Smith Wigglesworth
Ravi Zacharias
Charles Swindoll
Charles Stanley
John Wesley
Oswald Chambers
Alistair Begg
Joe Focht

Paul gives us the best advice he possibly could concerning the list of who we listen to or read from:

“Do not quench the Spirit. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19‭, ‬21 NKJV)

Anyone who believes everything that is preached from a pulpit without going home and checking it out is setting themself up to be a victim of deception or false doctrine. This is regardless of whether it is someone over an international ministry or whether it is someone in your local church.

Let me make something perfectly clear. Just as it is a blessing to be taught biblical knowledge by an international teacher, we must also be tuned into the anointed preaching and teaching of our own local church. This is how the Holy Spirit addresses the specific needs through specific messages to the local body.

I will finish by reiterating what I brought out in this article about three of the churches from Revelation 2 and 3: We must be loving, we must be true to the Bible and doctrine, and we must live a strong and passionate faith that is willing to be persecuted and martyred if need be. But, regardless of where you stand, are you ready to be examined by the fiery eyes of Jesus?

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From Law to Grace to Wrath

The Bible is very clear about the unchanging nature of God. James declares that every good gift comes down from the Father of lights, “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If this is true, it follows that there has not been, nor could there ever be, any shift in God’s character.

We are also told to rightly divide and explain the Bible, the Word of Truth, in 2 Timothy 2:15.

The best way to explain to so many people who claim that “God is different between the Old and New Testaments” the reason why He isn’t, is by using a judge in a court of law as an example. Whenever two people with a disagreement come before a judge, the one will walk away with a favorable view of the judge and the other will walk away with a dis-favorable view. It all depends of which way the judgment went. But in reality the judge is the same person before the judgement as what he is after the judgment. It is just the views of the individuals that have changed. In the same way we have to make sure that we don’t get caught up in our view of God because of a distorted view of the Old and New Testament in the Bible.

Just like a coin has two sides, we must take a look at both sides of God. God is both ‘love that is full of grace and patience’ and a ‘holy and righteous consuming fire’:

But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. (1 John 4:8‭-‬9)

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28‭-‬29)

God has always called His people to be a holy and loving people:

You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own. (Leviticus 20:26)

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:7‭-‬8)

We must face the fact that God created us without sin. But we fell into sin and death by choice. Because God loved us so much, sin had to be dealt with. In the Old Testament we are given the law and the prophets as a temporary antidote to cover sin. It was a harsh way as we see in the Old Testament. Not until the New Testament do we see the better way which took the sacrifice of God’s only Son Jesus who shed His blood for us to once and for all be a method to cleanse us from our sins.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, He said: “The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to My covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means He has made the first one obsolete. (Hebrews 8:7‭-‬10‭, ‬13)

In simple words we have gone from the ‘Law’ to ‘Grace’. Or even simpler, we have gone from what some deem ‘harshness’ in the Old Testament to the abundance of ‘undeserved favor’ in the New Testament. God has not changed at all. What has changed is the accomplishment of what Jesus Christ did on the cross.

Now that brings us to the last book of the Bible known as ‘Revelation’. This is the time of God’s ‘Wrath’. Now you can see why I titled this article ‘From Law to Grace to Wrath’.

Sin is sin and must be righteously dealt with because God has always been and always will be a holy righteous God Who cannot have sin that is undealt with in His presence.

Putting it into perspective, sin in the Old Testament only had animal blood to cover sin. Sin in the New Testament has the blood of Jesus that permanently removes sin, even its stains. But what about all those living under this period of grace that do not have their sins washed in the blood of Jesus? Now comes the Book of Revelation that tells of the very soon unleashing of God’s wrath on undealt with sin.

Keep in mind that the last book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, contains more references to the Old Testament than any other New Testament book. Check out the following PDF:

 OT References of Revelation

In order to give a proper perspective of God’s wrath on sin I want to turn the attention to the beloved Apostle John who wrote down the Book of Revelation. You can safely say that John was Jesus’ closest friend when He walked this earth. John came to know Jesus first in His disrobed state. The following verses tell the story:

Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6‭-‬11 NLT)

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. (Isaiah 53:2‭-‬3 NLT)

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed Him. A little farther up the shore He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And He called them to come, too. They immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (Matthew 4:18‭-‬22 NLT)

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples (John), whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23 NKJV)

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (John and James), and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:36‭-‬38 NKJV)

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved (John) standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25‭-‬27 NKJV)

But many were amazed when they saw Him. His face was so disfigured He seemed hardly human, and from His appearance, one would scarcely know He was a man. (Isaiah 52:14 NLT)

So they both ran together, and the other disciple (John) outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. (John 20:4‭-‬5 NKJV)

After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved (John) said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:1‭, ‬3‭-‬4‭, ‬7a NKJV)

John really only came to know Jesus as a man who became his best friend, even though he knew Jesus was literally God in the flesh. John was only shown a glimpse of Jesus’ glory during the course of His walking on this earth:

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:1‭-‬2 NKJV)

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When we go to the book of Revelation, John describes his encounter with the Glorified Christ in a whole other aspect. Jesus was no longer the Jesus John leaned on at the Last Supper. Jesus was now in His full Glory as God:

When I (John) turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (Revelation 1:12‭-‬18 NLT)

To begin summing things up, we must never try to take advantage of the grace God freely offers. Yes, God is loving, gracious, merciful, and patient but it is without relinquishing the fact that He is also righteous, just, holy, and a consuming fire. Jesus came the first time lowly and riding on a donkey:

Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written (Zechariah 9:9): “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:14‭-‬16 NKJV)

The second coming will see Him riding on a white horse with complete power:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND Lord OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11‭-‬16 NKJV)

God gave Ananias and Sapphira as a strong example that He is still a consuming fire when He struck them dead at the beginning of the Church Age of grace. So don’t forget! The time of grace is slowly running out. When it does, the earth will enter the time of God’s unleashed wrath:

Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. Then another angel came from the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, “Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe.” So the one sitting on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested. After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 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 14:14‭-‬20 NLT)

The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13‭-‬15 NKJV)

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Being a Duck Christian

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Ducks have a special gland positioned near their tails, called the preen gland. This gland produces an oil, which ducks rub over their feathers with their beaks (preening) to maintain their waterproof effect. This oil creates a protective barrier that stops feathers from becoming waterlogged.

In studying to apply this habit of ducks to the Christian walk, I came across the following three paragraphs of information concerning the anointing. You will see how it runs parallel with preening.

Anointing was derived from a practice of shepherds. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep. So, shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ears because the insects would slide off.

From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment. The New Testament Greek words for ‘anoint’ are chrio, which means ‘to smear or rub with oil’ and, by implication, ‘to consecrate for office or religious service’; and aleipho, which means ‘to anoint’. In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8; James 5:14). A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc. There is nothing wrong with anointing a person with oil today. We just have to make sure that the purpose of anointing is in agreement with Scripture. Anointing should not be viewed as a ‘magic potion’. The oil itself does not have any power. It is only God who can anoint a person for a specific purpose. If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what God is doing.

After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God’s Kingdom (1 John 2:20). “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

The reason I wanted to use the duck and it’s preening attributes is because of the expression “Like water off a duck’s back!” Let me explain. Our church has really been digging into the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowshipping and evangelizing since we entered 2018. I have really taken it to heart and determined that I have to give it an all out effort. But I have noticed that the little things in life that did not bother me before have started to bother me. I recognize it as an attack from the enemy. I have found myself praying and asking the Lord to make me like a duck so that the annoyances of life can run off my back just like water off of a duck’s back. In other words I don’t want the little things (or big things for that matter) in life to steal from me. The first part of any victory is to recognize the problem and from there apply the proper solution. Avoidance and restraint have become my keys. It’s not always easy. Where avoidance is not practical, restraint kicks in. I like the advice that the Lord gave to Cain:

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NLT)

Sometimes as Christians, we do not want to accept the fact that in life, hard work is required from time to time. It’s not always a downhill ride. We can quote positive scripture verses all we want to, but the fact still remains that we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. Paul does not make no bones about it when he writes:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life…..but God delivered us…..and He will keep delivering us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8, 10)

So, what advice can I give you? Be a duck. But don’t just be any duck. Be a duck that allows yourself to be preened with the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit, fit for the work the Lord lays before you. And don’t stop there. Be a duck that is kind to everyone you come in contact with!

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over.” (Psalms 23:1‭, ‬5)

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (attributed to Socrates)

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Wanting The Giver More Than The Giving

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“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)

What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? Lately I have found myself with this thought: “I want the Giver more than the giving.” There is a song by Natalie Grant entitled ‘More Than Anything’ with the key verses as follows:

Help me want the Healer
more than the healing.
Help me want the Savior
more than the saving.
Help me want the Giver
more than the giving.
Oh help me want you Jesus
more than anything.

You can listen to the song by clicking:
More Than Anything

To coincide with this, I found that Gary Wilkerson wrote a very convicting pamphlet entitled ‘Ultimate Favor’ of which the following is a part of:

Those who love God know the great difference between his unlimited favor and his ultimate favor. Today, when a lot of pastors preach on favor, their definition is limited to possessions, positions and acquisitions—better homes, cars and jobs, a happier family and a growing income. I do believe God favors his people this way. But there’s a danger when we live for this kind of favor at the risk of losing something much higher. We short-change ourselves when we live for anything but ultimate favor. Let me explain.

The original Promised Land was a gift God gave to ancient Israel—a literal place called Canaan, a fertile land bursting with oversized fruits and flowing rivers. It was the stuff of dreams for the Israelites. They’d been beaten down and exiled for generations. Yet when they arrived at Canaan’s border—a land of plenty in every sense—God made an unusual statement to Moses: “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3, ESV).

But Moses’ faith was different. He knew the goodness of God, as demonstrated in all his supernatural works for Israel. In fact, the Lord’s favor toward his people seemed bottomless, never ending, unlimited. No matter what obstacle they faced or how impossible it seemed, God brought them through every time. Moses marveled at the character of a God who mercifully performed all these things on their behalf. So when the Lord said he wouldn’t go with them into the Promised Land, Moses answered, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (33:15). In other words: “Lord, if you won’t be there, then I’m not going.”

To mature in faith, every Christian ultimately chooses between seeking God’s unlimited favor and his ultimate favor.

Moses knew how important God’s blessings were to Israel. His supernatural works had saved their lives. He sent manna from heaven when the people faced starvation. He brought water from a rock when their bodies were parched beyond their limits. Yet Moses recognized that even those vital blessings weren’t the point of these experiences. Rather, it was to know and trust the compassionate, loving God who bestowed them.

Moses’ next statement comes as no surprise: “Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight” (33:13). Moses knew that, ultimately, God’s favor wasn’t found in the blessings he provided; they were found in knowing the Lord himself.

I thank God for all his earthly blessings. As a pastor, I get to see his amazing work in people’s lives all the time. All of these things speak of God’s unlimited favor—his ability to breathe life into any desert wilderness. We all experience his favor in ways too great to measure: our relationships, our health, our work, our school. When we struggle in any area of life, or our circumstances get too difficult, he sustains us with his soothing presence. God has done things in our lives we never could imagine happening. His unlimited favor knows no boundaries.

Yet beyond God’s unlimited favor is his ultimate favor.

Like Moses, we’re able to know something of God that exceeds even his supernatural blessings.

This sort of favor isn’t found in the things God does—it’s found in the Lord himself. As Moses said, in so many words, “Lord, what good are grapes and milk and honey—all the blessings of life—if you’re not present?”

A famous Christian writer posed a similar question. He asked, in essence, “What if heaven was a place where you could have everything you wanted—where all your dreams come true, every aspiration and desire is made a reality—but God isn’t there? Would you want to go?”

It’s a legitimate question for any Christian. Do we desire God’s blessings apart from knowing him, the Giver of all good things? Or, like Moses, would we prefer to have every blessing stripped away rather than lose God’s presence?

I don’t take God’s blessings lightly. And neither does his Word. There’s hardly a book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God’s concern for the poor. But for those of us who know God’s abundant blessings, Moses conveys something important: Even daily bread pales compared to knowing God. Moses’ example calls us to experience a higher kind of favor.

It’s not that Christians today aren’t grateful for God’s blessings. Our problem is we stop there. We say, “Lord, your unlimited favor is enough for me.” But according to this passage, it isn’t enough. Are we willing to declare with Moses, “Lord, if you’re not there, I won’t go”? If we do, God will answer us the way he did Moses: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (33:14).

The Lord wanted to enter Canaan with Israel, but he couldn’t abide their idolatry. Even after the Lord blessed them so powerfully, the Israelites turned to idols. When you pursue God’s blessings without seeking God himself, you end up in idolatry—because the focus of your pursuit is something earthen. As Paul says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV).

Thankfully, today most of us don’t have to plead for water or bread. But we have golden idols of our own, things we seek apart from God: job success, financial security, material comfort. Those aren’t bad things; they’re great blessings. But if we want them more than we want God—if they become the focus of our life’s pursuit—we’ve built an idol. And God will say to us, “Go ahead, pursue that. Enjoy it. But you won’t find me present in any of it.”

I love Moses’ response: “God, kill me in the desert before you lead me to someplace that you aren’t.” I pray this becomes the church’s cry as well: “Lord, my life has been so blessed that I’ve let myself get misdirected. My eyes have been on your unlimited favor, the blessings you give. I want something different. Let my life be defined by your ultimate favor—to know you for who you are. That’s what I want for my life!”

I want to ask you: Is God enough for you? Does knowing him satisfy you? Or is there anything that keeps you from that, an idol you’ve put before him? His first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, ESV).

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So, in summary, it comes down to this: “Do you want God’s ultimate favor in your life or do you only want His unlimited  favors?” Simply put, “Does your faith only run as deep as what you can receive from God, who has become your magical genie, or are you willing to desperately seek and follow Him even when His favors and blessings run dry?”

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:66 NKJV)

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Precious Are God’s Thoughts About You

The following verse is not just a promise if you are in Christ Jesus, but a fact. Please let it sink into your inner most being:

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalms 139:17 NLT)

Wow! God not only loves you, but He thinks about you!

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This website attests to the fact that I have a passion to study the Bible deeply, and in so doing, fill my head with theology. But lately, the Holy Spirit has been turning my head back to the simplistic bedrock facts rather than the deep intellectual aspects. Let me illustrate. I try to walk at least 3-6 miles every day on the peaceful country roads where I live. It is a great time for praying and singing to my LORD. Since the first day of the New Year, I find myself starting off my walks by singing this simple childhood song I used to sing to my children as they were growing up:

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

It doesn’t stop there. My whole being is being reshaped at almost 61 years of age, having been a Spirit-Filled Christian for most of it. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE is what it is all about.

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37‭-‬39 NLT)

“We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NKJV)

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 NKJV)

If I ever want to have an impact for Jesus, the rock-solid truth that ‘I am loved and must love in return’ has to be at the very center! But this is the one truth that we Christians have a harder time grasping than any other. We think we grasp it, but many of us are only fooling ourselves.

The core of the New Testament is that God Loves You! Problem is that most of us only grasp that in our head and it never sinks down into our heart. But it must be grasped in the inner most depth of our heart. How do we know when it is taken seat in our heart? John, the Apostle of Love, tells us:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

As the limitless riches of God’s love sinks into my heart day after day, there is no room for fear, anger, regret, jealousy, pride, unforgiveness, hate, anxiety, depression, bitterness, etc. All these nasty things that the devil wants to fill me with are driven out. My thoughts are literally revolutionized. My actions follow.

I would like to quote Gary Wilkerson:

“I want that kind of life—-one that loves God and loves people. Not one that keeps a list of to-do’s from the Bible, or chases theological mysteries, or talks about the Father’s love only to other Christians.”

I would like to leave you with the following music video by Jason Gray that not only reminds me, but all of us, of who we really are to Jesus Christ. May it touch you the same as it touched me. There is a whole world out there needing LOVE. Let’s get moving!

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Obstacles to a Christian’s Progress

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It is very easy to get caught up with the demands of everyday life as a Christian. Call it a ‘rut’ or what you will. In so doing, we tend to look at the distractions from life we engage in as either being sinful or not being sinful. We try to live our life accordingly in order to maintain our Christianity. For example, drinking alcohol. Scripture is quite clear when the Word of God is rightly divided, that drinking a beer or glass of wine after a hard day at work is not sinful. At the same time, we can all agree that drinking too much and getting drunk is sinful. But this article is not about drinking alcohol per se. What I want to do is show you the subject of ‘obstacles to a closer walk with Jesus’ in a whole new light. Read carefully the scripture below:

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1b KJV)

Look at the word ‘weight’. I am not looking to cover the subject of what is sinful (Holy Spirit conviction should take care of that). Instead, I want to look at the weights that so easily beset us. You can call these weights what you will: distractions, hindrances, obstacles, road blocks, etc. These weights, even though they might not be sinful, can be just as disrupting to having a close communion with the LORD. Anything that keeps us from having a closer walk with Jesus should flash a warning in our spirit, but oh how often it is ignored.

I am sure that if I was to ask you, “Do you want to walk closer and closer with Jesus as each day goes by?”, you would answer yes. Look carefully at the verse below:

Treat her (your wife) as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7b NLT)

Look at the word ‘hindered’ in the verse. Wow! The Bible reconfirms that there are things that can hinder our walk and talk with the LORD. Nobody but yourself can judge and take action on these hindrances.

Did you ever wonder about the following verse and how you can live it out?:

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV)

I will share with you how I wasted many years until I finally learned how to do it. I lived as a righteous Christian, but I always felt I could be closer with the LORD. I do not like sweet drinks, so I liked to have a beer or wine with my meal. I was not convicted that it was sin, but I felt  that I was not living to my full potential. Not until I gave it up along with a few other odds and ends, that I felt myself catapulted into another realm. I finally had the freedom to truly learn what it means to ‘pray without ceasing’. Every waking minute is an exchange with the LORD of my life.

I remember when I used to run professionally for a major shoe company many years ago. I was so obsessed with having the lightest weight on my feet so I could turn in the fastest times that I got caught wearing a competitor’s shoes in a race that I won and had to do some explaining for my actions. Shouldn’t I have the same zeal while in the spiritual race I am in?

I hope this challenges you to truly examine what is in your life that is weighing you down and I pray for you to have the strength to cast it off in order to run unhindered!

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