2018! A Word from the Spirit.


Before the beginning of a new year, I always ask the Lord for some insight into what He wants me to believe for as the new year begins. When I pray for this insight, I always double check myself to be sure that what I’m hearing is from the Holy Spirit and not some type of emotional foreboding or hope on my part. As I prayed and sought the Lord for 2018, this is the scripture the Lord led me to:

You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. Psalm 65:11

As the month of January has progressed, I’ve continued to have unsolicited confirmations of this word. I believe that we have entered a season in which God will answer some prayers that have been before Him for a long time. Faithfulness in prayer and Spirit led living is going to be rewarded during this season. To the faithful: Get ready! God is up to something good!

2018 has been ordained and anointed with God’s goodness and for those who follow His pathways, you will find His exceeding, abundantly “above” materializing in your walk!

Be faithful and “cheer up!” God has heard your cries! This is a season of response!

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Overlooked Aspects of Fasting


It’s time for our church-wide fast!

We don’t study a lot about fasting anymore because it is not something we do very often. I think one of the reasons we don’t fast is because we don’t understand fasting. There have been several good books written on fasting and I’m not pretending to know more than those authors. But, I would love to talk about some of the overlooked aspects of fasting.

When speaking of a fast, Pastor Bob used to say, “I don’t know why they call it a fast because it sure does go slow!”

That was always my view! Fasting was always very hard for me as a believer. Primarily for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t understand why we fasted.
  2. During the fast, my focus was on how much I was suffering.

Think of it this way:

If I were to ask you what is the most powerful carnal drive we have, what would you say?

How about food?

From the moment we leave our mother’s womb, the drive to eat is present and powerful. If the truth be told, as we grow our appetite and diet is one of the most undisciplined areas of our lives.

Some may say, “Pastor, food is necessary for life!”

So are many things, some involuntary and some voluntary. We will not fast heartbeats and breathing. Although food is necessary for life, it is also one of the things that kills if it remains undisciplined!

Fasting allow us to get control of the appetite. Once we control the appetite, we control the strongest carnal desire we have. When you control the strongest carnal desire, you can control them all!

1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach, and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

There are a lot of physically healthy reasons to fast but I won’t go into those because that is a benefit but not my focus. Let’s go to Isaiah 58 to understand the spiritual aspect of fasting.

Verse 3 states that there is a fast which is performed to no spiritual benefit. Verse 5 states that God is not interested or moved when we afflict our bodies and act religiously. Verse 6 begins to tell us about the power of fasting.

The Power of Fasting

  1. To loose the bonds of wickedness.
  2. To undo heavy burdens.
  3. To let the oppressed go free.
  4. To break every yoke.

The implication here is to “violently” destroy these things whether they want to go or not. I was always on the defensive when I was fasting; trying to survive the fast! Fasting is an offensive weapon against the roots that hold us and others captive! Daniel fasted for himself (for revelation) and for Israel to be forgiven and freed.

Fasting is not an excuse for us to be pitiful. We are to wash our faces and comb our hair and go about business as normal because our warfare is not against flesh and blood – your flesh or others!

Matthew 6:16: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”.

When we fast, we don’t try to make it through by distracting ourselves with pleasures. Nor do we get angry because we are fasting and give everyone hell. There is ministry we do during our fast as well.

The Ministry of Fasting

  1. Share your food that you don’t eat during your fast with others.
  2. Take others into your home for ministry.
  3. Clothe those who need clothing.
  4. Minister to your family.

This is the overlooked aspect of fasting: That we are to minister to others as well as seek ministry for ourselves.

If we seek God humbly and on His terms, we can expect to experience the power of fasting.

The Product of Fasting

  1. Your light shall break forth like the morning – light of the lamp, light of the heavens, light of a clear sunshiny day, light of life, light of prosperity, light of instruction, light of the face.
  2. Your healing will speedily appear – complete recovery.
  3. Your righteousness shall go before you – shall be your leader.
  4. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard- God has your back, your weaknesses and your vulnerabilities.
  5. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer and say, “Here I am!”

 

The Wee Little Man


Today, I will end the series of blogs called, “Jesus’ Perspective on Giving” by taking a look at Zacchaeus.

Before we do, I want to remind you that this series came about through a prompting from the Holy Spirit. I feel that much is being taught regarding money and Christian life that is outside of biblical direction. I don’t have issues with anyone, just want to know the truth.

Now, on to the story.

Those who have been around the church since they were children know the story of Zacchaeus. We learned a song about Zacchaeus when we were children. You remember?

Our focus tonight is not on Zacchaeus’ height but upon his life.

Zacchaeus was a Jew and he was a chief tax collector. This made him extremely unpopular with his fellow Jews and the religious leaders. As a matter of fact, tax collectors were considered sinners. They were hated for two primary reasons:

  1. They taxed Jewish people to give money to their Roman oppressors.
  2. They often took more than they were supposed to for personal gain.

Zacchaeus must have taken more than what he was supposed to because of his response to Jesus’ visit. Upon meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus responded by saying:

If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.

It might have been more accurate if Zacchaeus would have said, “What I have taken…..” I don’t know why he would have said he would restore if he had not taken/stolen.

We are all so moved by his true repentance followed by a desire to restore what was stolen to his fellow man. But, his repentance was also accompanied by a conviction to change his lifestyle. The Bible tells us that Zacchaeus was rich. Now, restoration of stolen goods is one thing that reflected his true repentance. But, there was another aspect reflected in his true repentance:

A lifestyle change.

Zacchaeus said:

I give half of my goods to the poor.

So, two things happened that day which reflected Zacchaeus’ change: he restored what he had stolen and he changed his lifestyle.

Notice what Jesus said and didn’t say. He didn’t say: “Zacchaeus, there is no need to give half your goods to the poor. You have already restored what was not yours.”

You see, Zacchaeus had a revelation that everything he had was not his. How many of us have truly had such a revelation?

Upon hearing Zacchaeus’ words, Jesus says:

“Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.”

I have heard some teach that Abraham is our father in the faith. I agree. I have heard them say that we are to follow Abraham’s example of faith. I agree. I have heard them say that we are heir to the blessings of Abraham. I agree.

But, if riches were an indicator of the blessing of Abraham, then why didn’t Jesus tell Zacchaeus not to give away his wealth? Jesus said that Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham. So are you and I in the Spirit.

Zacchaeus’ deliverance was evidenced by his willingness to change his lifestyle to match that mirrored by the heart of God.

To wrap this up:

Some might ask me: What do I do with my money to live a lifestyle pleasing to God?

I would say that the steps are:

  1. Realize that everything you have is God’s: you are a steward.
  2. Realize that riches are not an evidence of God’s favor.
  3. Realize that poverty is not an evidence of godliness.
  4. Resist the “deceitful voice” of money.
  5. Ask God to reveal to you what a biblical lifestyle looks like for you.
  6. Be ready to share anytime God tells you.
  7. Realize your decrease makes room for God’s supply.

 

Lazarus and the Rich Man


Today, I will continue writing about what I’m calling, “Jesus’ Perspective on Giving”. This series might better have been called, “Jesus’ Perspective on Living” because the focus is more on how we live.

In this series, we have looked at the story of the widow’s mite and the story of the Rich Young Ruler. This time, we will look at a parable. The parable is found in Luke, chapter 16.

This entire chapter centers around giving and managing resources. The chapter begins with the parable of the unjust steward. While not commending the actions of a wasteful steward, Jesus condemns the actions of the children of light by saying:

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you (it) fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.

This unjust steward had the sense to think ahead. Jesus commends this in him and says that His people are not always as good about thinking ahead as the children of darkness. To be generous with resources is a key to laying up treasures in heaven. God’s children should look ahead as the unjust steward did.

How we handle money and resources is an indicator of how we will handle spiritual responsibility.

He who is faithful in what is least (money) is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The Pharisees loved money and derided Jesus over these teachings. How do you feel about them?
What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The parable of Lazarus, the beggar is set up by what we have just reviewed. 

This parable is pretty explicit in condemning greed and selfishness. We aren’t told much about the rich man; whether he went to synagogue or not. The lack of details are purposeful so that we will hone in on what we do know.

The rich man felt as if he was entitled to enjoy his wealth. After all, he earned it or maybe he said, “I’ve been blessed!” It is very interesting to me that the eternal destinies of the two men: the rich man and Lazarus are tied together. The only reason we are given by Jesus that the rich man went to hell is because he didn’t share his wealth.

Lazarus was in the rich man’s orbit. Lazarus’ predicament was obvious. He was sick due to malnutrition and exposure. We are not told anything about Lazarus’ spiritual condition. I believe that is purposeful. It is not our job to decide if the “Lazarus’” in our lives are worthy of help or not.

Just going out to speak to Lazarus about his soul and heaven was not enough. The rich man was expected to go and share practical expressions of love with Lazarus.

How can the love and care of God for the future be believed if it is not shared now in the face of real need?

Upon realizing his fate, the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to speak to them about a change in lifestyle. Could I be the “Lazarus” sent to speak to you?

Abraham said:

They have the Word of God. Let them hear it and obey.

The sobering reality is that the rich man went to hell for doing nothing more (that we know of) than being selfish and greedy with his money and resources.

If this doesn’t shake us out of our complacency and deception, I don’t know what will!

Notice what the book of James has to say about this same issue:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

After a warning against unjust, greedy dealings, James goes on to say:

You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.

This is a direct condemnation of greedy hoarding.

If these passages are to be believed, then the hoarded riches we leave behind upon our death will actually be a witness against our love and liberality, not evidence of our spirituality!

Beware of those who teach contrary to the full counsel of God.

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Is Lazarus sitting outside your gate? Find him and minister to him!

 

Myths About Money


Last time we were together, I wrote about “Jesus’ Perspective on Giving”. I want to continue for a few more blogs in an attempt to bring biblical balance to what is often taught regarding a Christian way of living and a Christian way of giving. This time, I want to look at “The Rich Young Ruler”.

This account is recorded in all three synoptic gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Luke’s gospel is the only one in which this man is identified as a “ruler”.

Let’s go through this interaction between Jesus, the rich man, and Jesus’ disciples to see if we can learn more about Jesus’ perspective on giving and living.

Notice some things about this interaction.

First, the rich ruler wanted assurance of his salvation. The ruler’s approach to salvation was all wrong but that’s for another blog. When he asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus response was: Keep the commandments.

The rich ruler’s response to Jesus’ direction was simple:

I have kept all these things from my youth.

Now, Jesus didn’t rebuke the ruler as a hypocrite. He didn’t tell him that he was a law breaker, did He?

So, maybe we are dealing with a man who kept the commandments of God. We would call him a true Christian!

While Jesus did not rebuke him for hypocrisy, He did say to him:

One thing you lack…

Now, if salvation was a “balancing act” and life was a test to do more good than evil, this man would have been ok. But, Jesus saw idolatry in his heart – yes, the heart of an otherwise good man!

What did Jesus see?

The deceitfulness of riches!

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22

What is the deceitfulness of wealth?

Good question, and if we are going to be free from its clutches, we must dispel some myths about money.

  1. Money is neither good nor bad; it is neutral: it all depends upon how it is used.

If this is true, why did Jesus use the term, “unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9)? I didn’t pull the term, “deceitfulness of wealth” out of the air; Jesus coined that term!

When teaching upon this subject, Warren Wiersbe in his book, The Integrity Crisis said:

Jesus seems to be saying that wealth is defiling and deceitful of itself, and that only God can sanctify it for noble use.

Could this be another reason for the tithe? The tithe didn’t just belong to God but it sanctified the rest of what the Israelite possessed. So, if the rich ruler kept all the commandments, he must have also kept the one to tithe as well. But, money has a “voice”. Have you ever heard it tell you, “Hold on to me! Don’t let me go!” Most people have heard money speak.

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10.

Here’s where the second myth about money comes in:

  1. Money can’t satisfy you or make you happy.

The truth is that millions of people are happy and satisfied because of what money can do. Some aren’t wealthy by American standards but they’re comfortable and enjoying life. The problem with money is not that it doesn’t satisfy but that it does.

We must never allow God’s gifts to take the place of God!

The rich ruler apparently had done that, even if he was unaware! Jesus’ remedy was simple:

Sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.

Notice in this instance, Jesus said to take up THE cross, not YOUR cross. The taking up of Jesus’ cross includes giving up all idols and the understanding that everything we have is His.

Remember Jesus’ commentary to the disciples about what happened with the rich ruler:

How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!

Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

The disciples were greatly astonished at this teaching! Are you greatly astonished at it?

Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all to follow You”.

Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the GOSPELS, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Have you left the love of money for the love of the gospel? Have you taken up THE CROSS and followed Christ? Are you using what God has given you to advance the gospel and minister to those in need?

 

 

Jesus’ Perspective on Giving


Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which makes a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:41-44

I have had something stirring in me regarding lifestyle and giving for quite a while. Just recently, as I read the book of Mark, the Lord used the passages above to elaborate to me about what was stirring in my heart about lifestyles and giving……or you might say, the Holy Spirit began to fill in the gaps for me.

Now, there will be some who don’t agree with this teaching. It will fly in the face of much of what is taught today regarding finances, giving, and lifestyle, but I believe that I must release this to you. So, here we go.

Jesus is watching the giving. That is a lesson in itself. Many try to divorce giving from their walk with God calling it “legalism” to talk about giving in relation to your relationship with God. I believe that this very story – just one in a great cache of scriptures; both OT and NT regarding giving and finances makes that argument obsolete.

If how or what we give is divorced from our relationship with God, why would Jesus even bother to watch how people gave? It wouldn’t matter at all. But, here He is watching the people give.

Here’s what I think that we need to ask ourselves about what happened in this instance:

Why was the widow’s giving viewed differently than others who gave that day? And, why was it affirmed as a greater gift when obviously it was smaller in amount?

Many might answer that question by saying, “The widow’s gift was affirmed as greater because she gave all she had to live on.”

Maybe that is true. So, is the answer to affirmation from Jesus in the area of giving to give all we have every time we have the opportunity?

If that is what Jesus is saying, then the same type of lifestyle that was in the very early church must be adopted.

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Acts 2:44-45

Was this an early phenomenon particular to that time and place? Is this supposed to be the pattern for all?

While this type of living when done biblically might not be wrong, it appears when taking into account Jesus’ and the disciples teachings about finances and lifestyle that commonality of purse was not the stated goal. Jesus said that He didn’t come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. The law of Moses stated that a tithe was to be given, not everything. Jesus stated that we would always have the poor with us. Is the answer to such a problem – commonality of purse?

While giving does matter to Jesus, so does the motive. If we know anything about the NT, it is that relationship/love is to be the motive behind everything we do. A forced commonality of purse would take away the free exercise of love. Notice what the apostles said to Ananias and Sapphira:

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Acts 5:1-4

Lying was condemned that day, not greed. Peter is saying that they had the right to do with the money what they wanted. I’m not saying  there was no greed in Ananias and Sapphira but that was not what was judged. Paul said it best:

But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 2 Cor. 8:7-8

Notice: not by commandment but by grace and love.

Where there is love, you don’t need to enforce commandments.

Ok, so what is Jesus saying about the widow?

The great gift she gave was not calculated by the amount she gave but by the amount of the gap she closed between her life and her gift.

While the Bible commends inheritances, it condemns hoarding. Many don’t just leave a start for their children but a finish as well. What message do we send when we do such a thing? Why didn’t we give the excess above our needs to those without? What does that say to our children? Will they follow our words or our actions?

Rich people can often be as fearful as poor people. When one becomes rich, the goal often moves from using what they have for the betterment of others to never returning to the place that they have to live by faith again!

As a matter of fact, this is what Jesus commended about the poor widow’s gift:

She lived and gave without fear.

I can’t judge whether she should or shouldn’t have given what she had to live on. But, she was not afraid to close the gap!

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” 2 Cor. 8:13-15

 

Recognizing a False Teaching


Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 7:15 to beware of false prophets. I wrote about the characteristics of a false prophet.

This time, I want to look at the characteristics of a false message.

The motive of the false prophet determines the message of the false prophet. In other words, the message is tailored to the motive.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21 NIV

False prophets will use Scripture to validate their message. If they didn’t, they would be at risk of losing your interest since you are wanting to hear a word from God.

But, the message of the false prophet will have to contradict scriptural truths at some point. It is at this point, that the message is revealed as false.

It is at the point of contradiction that the motive of the false prophet is revealed. Therefore, true prophecy and true teaching will not contradict Scripture at any point.

The books of Second Peter and Jude are two of the most extensive in speaking of false prophets and false prophecy or false teaching.

Jude gives us a view into the message of the false prophet:

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 3-4 NIV

Then, Jude went on to say this:

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. Vs. 11-12

From verses 11 and 12, we can deduce some things about a false teaching or prophecy.

A false prophecy or false teaching will:

  1. Promote God’s blessings without true repentance.

Have you ever noticed that many teachings that are out there are what I call “blanket blessings”? In other words, they tell you to do certain things and you will receive God’s blessing, but they never focus on where the heart of the individual is! “Just do this and you will receive this”!

This is the way of Cain.

Cain brought to God a sacrifice of His goods. The Bible tells us that Cain brought “some” of his fruits as an offering, while it tells us that Abel brought the fat and the first as an offering.

Without repentance, we can bring “some” of what we have as an offering but God wants all of our heart. He wants the “fat” and “first” of our lives.

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Genesis 4:4-5

The Lord replied to Cain’s anger this way:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7

A message that is a “blanket blessing” – which does not honor God through preaching true repentance and lordship as a condition of favor is a false message.

  1. Teaches that money is a sign of God’s favor or that it can buy God’s favor.

Money is necessary in this life. Following God’s principles of good stewardship and faithful sowing create a pathway to increase. Debt free living brings increase. Faithful work habits bring favor with employers which brings opportunity for promotion financially. Good service and integrity as a business owner brings new customers which creates a pathway for more finances to come in. Wise investments can also bring increase in finances.

Now, many messages don’t touch on these things at all. They simply say, “Give and you will receive”. You must receive to increase but: receiving doesn’t necessarily lead to increase  — good stewardship and integrity does!

You can make a million dollars this year and spend a million and a half. The result is still financial bondage.

Now that is out of the way, let me say this: beware of any message that teaches that riches or abundance is a sign of God’s love and favor. Finances may be a sign of God’s favor— or, it may not be at all! This is Balaam’s error.

All kinds of people are rich in this world: many wouldn’t know God is they ran into Him on the street! Consider these scriptures:

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:24-27

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:3-6

It is extremely difficult for an individual to keep God first when money is screaming “hold on to me” and when you believe that money is a sign that God is on your side. Put those two things together and you’ll respond like the rich young ruler if Jesus tells you to give it all away. Many who love God with all their hearts are not rich and many who are rich do not love God at all. And, you cannot purchase God’s move in your life with money. Acts chapter 8 tells us the story of Simon who thought he could purchase God’s move in his life with money. The apostles rebuked him for his folly.

  1. Promotes the teacher and his special revelations.

God gives great revelation. He deserves the glory for all we receive from Him. I cringe at our attempts to promote ourselves as having an inside into things that others don’t. Statements like this scare me: “You must buy these teachings because the revelations here will change your life”. The exaltation of Jesus will change your life and whatever revelation anyone has comes straight from the word of God which is available to you for the price of a Bible! Teachers and prophets received revelation freely so we should release it to you for free! Yes, cost of materials must be covered. But, promoting the “special nature of the teacher” is another thing altogether.

Special revelations – the exaltation of teachers: this is Korah’s rebellion.

When the children of Israel rose up against Moses and Aaron saying that all God’s people were spiritually gifted, Moses replied:

Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?” Numbers 16:11

Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.” Numbers 16:15

Moses did not exalt his position although he had one. You can see by his response that Moses did not make himself wealthy by taking things from those whom he led.

God will put up with a lot of stuff but one thing He won’t put up with forever is someone who takes His glory.

 Remember the words of the apostle Paul:

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 2:5-7

Therefore let no one boast in men. Vs. 21

I hope the last two blogs help you to recognize the authentic message of God.

How to Shake the Fake Anointing


The Bible teaches us in both testaments about the existence of false prophets and the dangers associated with their teachings. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to look into the characteristics of false prophets and their teachings.

First, let’s look at the characteristics of the false prophet.

Jesus tells us in Matthew, chapter seven to beware of false prophets.

Beware – properly, have towards, i.e. to give full attention; to set a course and keep to it.

The best way for us to identify false prophets and false prophecy is to give our full attention to the Word of the Lord.

To learn how to recognize a counterfeit, you are taught to recognize what is authentic.

False prophets look like sheep. They categorize themselves as being followers of the Lord, but Jesus said that truly, they are ravenous wolves.

What does a wolf do to a sheep? Feed on them. Why? Because, they are hungry.

What are they hungry for?

That’s the rub! To recognize a false prophet, you discern where their hunger takes them away from the truth of the word of God.

The prophet Jeremiah was surrounded by false prophets in his day. In chapter 23 of Jeremiah, he lists some characteristics of the false prophets of his day:

  1. They commit adultery and walk in lies

To understand this trait requires some biblical knowledge. We know that the commission of adultery is a specific act. But, scripturally we also know that adultery is committed spiritually against the Lord when we put things before Him.

Peter describes these individuals:

With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood! 2 Peter 2:14

Peter characterized them by saying that they:  follow the desire of corrupt flesh and despise authority. Verse 10

They profess to teach the truth but live a lie. A lie is a falsehood used to promote the desires of the speaker.

A false prophet will tailor the truth to justify the desires of his own flesh.

Their teachings will seek to justify the indulgence of the flesh and even use scripture to make those indulgences spiritual.

  1. They seek popular acclaim

False prophets want to be recognized. How do they do that? More often than not, they do this by preaching a message that supposedly leads to outcomes desirable to their listeners.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3

Inside the teachings of the false prophet resides a very dangerous component:

An unconditional pledge of immunity from disaster.

Repentance of sin is not usually a part of their pathway to God’s blessing. To have the widest appeal, they must tailor the message to include both sincere seekers and rebels, so they replace repentance with attitude adjustments, life coaching, and commands to “do something”.

  1. They fail to distinguish their own dreams from a word from God

Since their desires are corrupted, their words are usually corrupted by their own desires. They tell of dreams and encounters that bolster their goals and often, exalt these dreams and experiences to the level of biblical revelation.

Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart not from the mouth of the Lord. Jeremiah 23:16

Any teacher or prophet can miss God or have to clarify where a word is coming from. The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contains examples of that (1 Corinthians 7). With the anointing comes great responsibility for its presence. Dreams/visions/words are to be tested by God’s word. Any prophet who claims infallibility is to be rejected.

  1. They steal words from one another

False prophets will seek the “wow” factor. The anointing creates what they are looking for but if they are false, they will need another source. They often are voracious readers and listeners of others. In and of itself, this is not wrong. But, false prophets are looking for manipulative words and methods through which they can make people think they are speaking from the anointing when in reality, they are using motivational speech to bolster their goals. People who seek to motivate others are always looking for new buttons to push!

In closing, Jesus said that a false prophet may do wonders, give great words, and even appear to cast out demons, but you cannot fake doing the will of God, which is contained in the entirety of God’s Word. This is what marks the true prophet of God. They teach it and live it.

Next time, we’ll look at the message of the false prophet.

What is Holiness?


Holiness is a misunderstood concept. Since the church is confused about it, then the world has no idea what it is. 

1 Peter 1:15-16: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

What is this scripture telling us about holiness?

First, the scripture tells us to be holy in the same way that God is holy. How is God holy? God’s holiness is the essence of His character.

Many of us see holiness as a way that we dress or look. But, holiness is not real if it doesn’t first rule in the heart. The scripture instructs us, “Be holy for I am holy.”

It doesn’t say, “Do holy” but it says to “be holy as God is holy.” It will help to define what biblical holiness is.

Holy: Greek – hagios which means “different” or “unlike” or “otherness”

To fully describe how God is different from anything else we know would take pages and even then, I’m not sure that words can do His uniqueness justice.

One of the characteristics of God is that He is completely pure – without any hint of impurity in motive within Him. This type of purity is difficult for us to understand apart from a revelation of it from God. We are used to living with ourselves and others in the Body of Christ. At best, we still see times when motives are convoluted and responses are tainted by sin and selfishness. We get used to this being our “reality” and can forget that God is not like the best that we see around us.

Purity: freedom from adulteration or contamination.

God is the definition of purity. He is the plumb line to which we measure purity. In Him, the mixture that we see, even in believers is not present.

God could not be defined as pure if He allowed any impurity. He is the essence of purity and the force that confronts and destroys all that is impure.

The scripture tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy. So, since God is holy in character, we are called to be holy in character.

Let’s think about this a moment:

Thank God that He has covered us in the unchanging holiness of Jesus. It is the only way that we can be in a familial relationship with God. If it were not for Jesus, we couldn’t be used by God or be His friend because we would constantly be running up against His opposition to our impure, sinful nature.

But with that being said, God still calls us to possess a holy nature, not just hold a “trump card” to judgment.

That leads to point two: the scripture states that we are to be “holy in our conduct.” We don’t just go to confession, then go out and live like we want and claim that we are a new creation because of a label we carry. We are not just forgiven but changed!!

The evidence of this change is seen in conduct that increasingly reflects the character of God.

Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Holiness: Greek – hagiasmos which means “progressively transformed into God’s likeness.”

A Christian who is not becoming like Christ is a devil dressed in religious garb.

If you truly know the Lord, you will be unlike you were at the time before your salvation and you will be increasingly becoming more like the One who saved you.

2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Perfecting holiness means to progressively be cleansed from adulteration and contamination.

You cannot possess the Holy Spirit of God unless you are set apart to God and are exclusively His.

You are possessed by a Holy Spirit!

What does it mean to be possessed?

Possessed – to occupy with the intent to control.

Satan controls through fear and intimidation. God controls through revelation and partnered submission.

If your conduct is not under submission to Christ, then your heart is not either.

To be holy means that we are different and unlike that which is common. We are “otherworldly”; like God in heart and motive. If in any way it is revealed that we are not acting according to holy character, we quickly repent and make a conscious move toward the actions that make us like our God.

We live in two realities at once; both beautifully defined in Hebrews 10:14:

“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”

Thank God for the perfection of Jesus! If not for that, I would remain an enemy of God. But, it is by His death and through the perfection of His Spirit that I am being molded into His image through sanctification; the removal of all adulteration and contamination of flesh and spirit by the unchanging purity of His Presence!

Is your relationship with Jesus changing your behavior and attitudes?

 

 

Changing of the Guard


When we were in Israel, we went to the Temple Institute where work is proceeding on preparations for the building of the Third Temple. We saw the solid gold candlestick among other things that are prepared for use when the Temple is rebuilt. We also saw the priestly garments that are being prepared for the high priest. The prophet Jeremiah tells us about a day in which a new covenant will be instituted in place of the old one broken by the sin and rebellion of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

We know that this new covenant was instituted upon the birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant according to Hebrews 2:17:

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. NLT

When the covenant changes, there must also be a change of priesthood.

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood–and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood–why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 7:11-17

So, if there is a change in the priesthood to accommodate the change from one covenant of salvation to another, shouldn’t there be some type of “passing of the torch” or changing of the guard? Wouldn’t that make things much easier if we could see the transition take place between the Aaronic priesthood to the Messianic priesthood?

Who was high priest at the time of Jesus’ death?

Caiaphas, a corrupt priest who plotted the murder of Jesus. He could not have participated in any type of godly transition of authority. Remember the prophecy Malachi spoke before the close of the Old Testament canon:

Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 4:4-5

Before the coming of the Lord, there will be sent “Elijah” who will fulfill the requirements and stipulations of the Law of Moses. He will be instrumental in the “turning” of the tide.

The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13

Let’s take a look at John the Baptist again.

John’s father was a Levite, a priest of the division of Abijah who was a descendant of Aaron (1 Chronicles 24:10). John’s mother, Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. He was the only priest in history whose birth was announced by an angel in the Holy Place during the priestly ministry, making direct reference to the prophecy of Malachi and saying that John would fulfill it.

What was the ministry of the high priest?

To cleanse the people of their sins.

What was John doing in the waters of the Jordan River? Baptizing the people for the cleansing of their sins.

John fulfilled all Mosaic requirements for the high priesthood. He was a man who lived a godly lifestyle – unlike the wicked Caiaphas. It was John who was the true representation of the Aaronic priesthood. So now, get this picture:

In John 3, we see Jesus coming to John the Baptist at the Jordan River to be baptized by him. Jesus said to John:

“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

The two priests, standing in the waters of the Jordan River – the place of endings and beginnings; the two priesthoods, the priesthood of the old and the priesthood of the new.

As the two priesthoods stand face to face, the old bears witness to the new. John bears witness to Jesus’ priesthood and ministry and declares it greater than his own.

The torch is passed. The changing of the guard is complete.