Self-Initiated Faith

The Disciples followed Jesus with a sense of excitement and amazement.  They responded to Jesus’ leadership to the point of blind obedience.  There were things they did not understand, but they were willing to follow Him no matter what.  The three year course on Grace and its effect on human nature caused them to experience the valleys and mountains of emotional responses.  Their reactions to Jesus’ teachings and miracles were expressions of both bewilderment and joy.  Jesus witnessed their emotional responses to life and by His tough love He continued to teach them.  He would verbally chastise them for their lack of faith or their hardened hearts.  They would see a miracle, but within days they would forget its significance.  The Disciples took part in the feeding of the five thousand and witnessed a miracle, but within a short time, when confronted with four thousand hungry people, their memory bank had no recall of the previous miracle of the feeding of the multitudes.  Sometime later, Jesus rebuked them because of their hardened hearts, and sternly questioned their lack of understanding of His power to provide. (Mark 8:17-21)  As one studies the Scriptures, (that have not been underlined!) one will be brought into an awareness of the shallow faith of the Disciples.  Whenever they were with Jesus, they walked with the assurance that their faith was in full operating mode.  However, when they were not with Jesus, their reasoning overshadowed their faith.  In fact, even after His resurrection when He appeared to them in the Upper Room, He rebuked them because of their unbelief and hardness of heart. (Mark 16:14)  There is a tremendous similarity between the Disciples and Believers today.

When we are around other Believers, our Faith is manifested for all to see.  But when away from other Christians or spiritual surroundings, we display a different action that is built upon feelings instead of faith.  When the Disciples could not heal a young boy, they sought out Jesus and asked Him what they were doing wrong.  Jesus simply told them it was because of their unbelief.  It seems that these men were resting on the faith of Jesus and not their own faith.  When it came time to initiate their faith, they failed miserably.  What Jesus was telling them was that their verbal faith was active, but the root of their faith was almost non-existent.  Verbal faith talks about belief, but displays little or no results.  Jesus told them that if they had the least amount of faith (mustard seed) they would be exposed to unlimited possibilities.  They would be able to move obstacles from their paths.  I can just hear Jesus’ compassionate voice telling them that nothing was impossible to those who had true faith. (Matthew 17:20)  How many of us know all about Faith, but when we need to exercise that faith, we revert to feelings and emotions.  To counter that action, we get together with other Believers and “piggy back” on their faith.

When the Disciples failed to bring about healing to this young boy, the father sought out Jesus.  Jesus simply told him if he believed, all things were possible.  I can see Jesus looking at His men as he said this, hoping they were hearing what He was saying.  The man responded (with tears flowing down his face) that he, in fact, believed, but needed help with his unbelief. (Mark 9:24)  We have many Christians today that verbalize that they have faith, but when push comes to shove; their faith is useless to their “mountain” situations.  All Believers are given a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)  We then have the responsibility to develop that faith into an action of extraordinary power.  One way to grow that seed faith is through hearing the Word of God and then watering it with our obedience. (Romans 10:17)  The more we feed the faith seed, the more growth we experience, and the more potential for “mountain moving” results.  Eventually, when situations arise, we will be able to initiate our faith to the point of displaying God’s Word with assurance.  It is more than saying we have faith; it is displaying what we proclaim.  Self-initiating faith is not contingent on the faith of others, but it is based on our own initiative to face whatever situation presents itself.

 

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Plugging into the Word

One of the biggest problems with understanding the Word of God is that we read it with a reference to our past experiences.  Our lack of understanding is directly correlated to either how others have conceived the Word or by our own personal interpretation.  If someone else had a bad experience as a result of misinterpretation or misinformation, some tend to shy away from reentering the Biblical arena.  Maybe it was personal, and the Word seemed to have let them down.  No matter the reason, there are a growing number of spiritual discontents who do not want to expose themselves to another roller coaster ride of “churchianity.”  The Word has not lost its power, but it has been short circuited by misinformed individuals that have tried to plug into its power with their own comfort cord.  If the Word does not fit their “receiver,” it is ignored.

Spiritual principles are becoming scarcer in our Country, and the reason is that more and more Christians are neglecting to open their Bibles on a regular basis.  If we were to take a survey of Believers and ask them how much time they spend in the Word, we would be shocked at the response.  An alarming number of Christians are failing to let their “fingers do the walking through the white pages.”  One doesn’t even have to ask anyone about their interaction with the Word, for the evidence of non-compliance is openly displayed.

One of the complaints from anemic Bible readers is that they don’t understand it, or are confused by many translations.  Some Christians resist the Bible because of its convicting power.  To have their inconsistencies exposed by the Word is a challenge to their false sense of security.   A growing number of Believers claim they simply don’t have time to read the Word, let alone study it.  For those who want to justify their lack of daily reading, they claim it is not relevant to our ever changing society.  Mistrust of the Word has become almost an epidemic.  This usually happens when people try to fit the Scriptures into their self serving agenda.

The Apostle Paul stated that all Scripture is inspired by God.  God Divinely breathed His Word into holy men, by way of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible is not to be seen as a history book, but a tutotorial book to guide us through life.  The Bible instructs and informs (Doctrine).  The Bible brings conviction (Reproof).  God’s Word straightens our paths (Correction).  The Scriptures tutor even to the point of disciplinary action (Instruction in Righteousness).  (II Timothy 3:16, II Peter 1:21)

When we occupy ourselves in the timeless Word of God, we will find ourselves being perfected and “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:17)  Satan attempts to draw us away from the Word of life, while the Holy Spirit desires to draw us to the Living Word.  It is ironic, but Satan knows more of the Word than many Believers.  He knows how to twist and bend the Word in such a discreet way that unsuspecting Christians are drawn away from the Word, or question its validity.  In the Battle of the Wilderness, Satan tried to use Scripture in such a way that Jesus would respond in a self serving manner. (Matthew 4: 6)  This tactic is still used by Satan today.  The Devil wants people to interpret the Word so that it serves their comfort zone instead of the intended meaning.

We need to get back to the visible Word of God.  We need the “two-edged sword” to separate our comfort zone from the reality of the Word. (Hebrews 4:12)  It is time to reopen our Bibles on a daily basis.  During this time of spiritual conflict, we need the “Sword of the Lord” as never before.  Let us pull our sword out of the case and with the “Shield of Faith” let us march to the orders of our Commander and Chief. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

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PLAYING AT A CHURCH NEAR YOU

I have always enjoyed the theater and its live performances.  As one is drawn into the theatrics of role playing, there is transference of thoughts that transcends our spectator role into imagining our participation in the presentation.  When the play is over there is a lingering of our imagination as we exit the venue.  It is not easy to shed our emotions to the performance, for it has taken a very definite place in our minds.  With the play captivating our interests, we are sure to share our experience with others.   Personal promotion will quickly out perform money backed advertisements.  It is amazing how long our memory will continue to activate our remembrance of so many aspects of the play.  We will recall lines and acts of the play as if it were yesterday.

What about our experiences when we gather with other Believers for praise and worship?  How do we respond to the life-giving message from God’s representative?  Do we move from our tangible seats into involvement in the message?  Are we captivated by the roles the Biblical characters display?  Do we find ourselves participating in the events they depict?  When the Service is over, do we exit the assembly with a sense of spiritual fulfillment?  Has the message so captivated our attention that our memory bank is quickly making room for what we have heard?  Are we so blessed that we can hardly wait to tell others what we have experienced?  If we would truly attach ourselves to the great performance of the Biblical play, our homes, work places, social venues, and Country would be a beacon of light signaling all the way into the harbor of God’s Grace.

How is our memory bank paying out dividends from the message that was presented last week?  Sadly, the withdrawal slip from our memory bank comes back with “insufficient knowledge” stamped on our minds.  What this tells us is that we were more a spectator than a participant in the Service last week.  We paid for admission with tithes and offerings, but the Biblical presentation was anything but an incentive to illustrate its content.  Unfortunately, many believe it is their duty and obligation to attend church on a regular basis.  It should not be a requirement, but a desire to make a public example of one’s faith.  But it does not stop there; it is what one does with what was experienced.

Having a good seat is always a plus in witnessing a play.  The closer to the stage brings great engagement.  There is a parallel with church attendees in that one’s seating priority determines what degree of interaction will be displayed.  Occupying the first third of the seats depicts engagement.  The middle third fulfills obligatory participation, while the last third encourages a spectator status.

When is the last time we raved about our weekly worship experience?  When is the last time we recalled the message to the point of reciting its context during the week?  What about singing the songs that we proclaimed during the worship time?  Whom have we invited to the presentation of Biblical truths on Saturday/Sunday?  The Bible is the longest running production of God’s truth anywhere in the world and it is playing at a local church in every community.  If a church is not presenting the unaltered Word of God, it is time to find one that is, and then sit as close as possible to the front so as to be part of the experience.  When the assembly is dismissed, one will walk out with an excitement that will be contagious.  Tell somebody about what is playing and invite them to the next presentation!!

 

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THE ORGANIC WORD

During this time of the year people are preparing to awaken the earth’s soil to receive life giving seeds.    Hoes, rakes, shovels, as well as electric and gas running devices, are cleaned and oiled.  Additives, both organic and chemically enhanced, are spread on the nutrient-starved dirt.  Waiting for the weather to give a favorable nod, the anticipation mounts as people begin to visualize what will be the fruit of their labor.  Gardeners readily agree that it is more than just planting the seed, but a long and committed effort to assist the seeds with water and cultivation is needed.

For years, I have stressed the importance of not only reading the Word, but to give attention to its content.  Believers hold in their hands the most powerful set of “seeds” the world has ever offered.   Over forty seed distributors are listed in the Word of God.  There are 31,173 verses (KJV) that have the potential to produce a life filled with abundant harvest.  The catch to these miracle producing seeds is that you have to open the “package” and plant the seed in your environment.  There are people that have read through the Bible many times, but have only sparingly let the different seeds grow in their lives.  It is just like a gardener who has 100 bags of seeds, but never opens them.  He reads the contents on the package, but never plants the seeds.   Those who do not have a green thumb simply go to the store and buy whatever their taste bud desires.  Some Believers have a similar approach by going to their “spiritual grocery store” and receiving whatever is offered from the local distributor.   Sadly, what is offered from the elevated platform may not be what is needed for your specific need.  God knows what we need in our life and has the right seed for our planting, but we have to plant it.  We need to water and nurture it so it can develop into a harvest of successful intervention in our lives.

Many of the problems we face in life are brought about by our lack of having a “Biblical thumb.”  We tend to eat the harvest that others produce, but sadly it does not always satisfy our spiritual hunger.  A growing number of people are leaving their local distribution centers because their hunger pains are not going away.  Some will try different venues with a hope they will find a spiritual food that will fill them with purpose and direction in their lives.  There is no substitution for hands on planting of the Word in our lives.  God will open to us, through the Holy Spirit, the right seed to plant during our quest for Truth.  When a seed (verse) is revealed to us, plant it by obedience and then water it by faith.  The answer may not come in our timing, but through the cultivation of that seed, we will harvest the answer in due time.  God will oversee our Biblical attention and, by our response, the fruit of our labor will be manifested.  Always remember that God is never late, but will, according to our faith, produce the harvest in His perfect timing.

Gardeners realize that the enemies of their seeds are weeds, wrong soils, weather conditions and the neglecting of their planting.  Believers face similar challenges in their lives.  Some plant seeds in the hope that it will produce monetary and materialistic results.  Others allow the things of the world to interfere with their cultivating of the Word.  Some plant seeds as a last resort and hope for a miracle deliverance.  Others plant generic seeds with a false sense of hope that will harvest abundance.  Some try to gather the fruit prematurely and, as a result, their fruit is spoiled.

Let us open our Word packages and plant and cultivate its growth until we see our Faith tree full of ripe and abundant fruit.  Organic Word is pure and God breathed.  Processed Word has some good seeds, but we must be careful that the distributor knows the difference.

 

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Spiritual Democracy

 

Some times we make rash decisions based on incomplete facts.  Nowhere is this more evident then with label wearing Christians.  To take Scripture out of its context to support preconceived notions serves not only as a deterrent to spiritual growth, but also a hindrance to those outside of the Faith.  To base our lives around flawed interpretations of the Word will be a point of ridicule from those of the world.  The Scriptures, correctly displayed, will serve as an “oasis” in a troubled world, while erroneous interpretations of the Word will turn people from the truth.  If the Church is going to function as God intended, we need to read the Scripture in the context of what it is actually saying.  Believers have a tendency to read into or take away from the Word, in order to meet their self-centered objectives.  Why do we make it so complicated?  God said what He meant and meant what He said.  We need to stop looking for hidden meanings that are supposedly camouflaged in the Scriptures.  Why is it so easy to believe the newspapers and so difficult to believe the straight offered truth of God’s Word?  Diversification of Believers is based on different interpretations of the Scriptures.

We live in a time where spiritual democracy has continued to expand the divide between man and God.  It seems more and more Christians are seeking the freedom to interpret the Bible in a manner that is acceptable to their lifestyle.  If a Scripture makes one uncomfortable, there is a tendency to modify its intent to justify one’s inconsistencies.

There are certain travel clubs that help you get to your destination by furnishing maps and brochures that highlight your route, as well as informing you of interesting stops along the way.  The Bible, in the same way, directs us to the “promised land,” while also highlighting the wonderful journey before us.  Some travelers use GPS devices that tell and show them the most direct and time saving route to take.  Sadly, some of these devices have been incorrect in their charting and have caused serious problems for the travelers.  God’s Word will never direct us down the wrong road.  The Bible is our guide book, with the Holy Spirit our illuminator.  We will never get lost in life’s journey if we just follow the mapped out route God has for us.  When we try to alter His Word and take short cuts, we will find our trip will be filled with struggles and heartaches.

Spiritual democracy exercises the freedom to interpret Scripture to one’s own understanding.  More and more Christians are exercising their personal freedom to live their lives outside of Divine interpretation.  They have become almost a god to themselves.  Scripture is being altered to fuel their personal generator.  The number of independent churches and Biblical translations validate the crisis the Church is facing today.

When Jesus walked this earth, His greatest challenge was the organized religionist.  The Jewish leadership interpreted the Scripture to fit their personal life style.  One time, He told them they were not of God. (John 8:47)  Christians are people of the Book, but when we don’t display the true contents of the Word, we fall short of exhibiting the Kingdom.  The attacks against the Church are the result of Believers exhibiting a self-promoted interpretation of the Word.  The world laughs at Believers when it sees that their lives are no different than its own.  It would be better if Christians would take off their identity labels until they are ready to be a living example of God’s Word.  The Bible warns against being stumbling blocks to others; this applies not only to other Christians, but to non-Christians as well.

It is time to return the Church to a Theocracy instead of a Democracy.  It is not what man decides, but what God declares.

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THE EASTER CEASE FIRE

During this Easter time of the year, the Denominational and Independent churches lower their flags of separation and break out in the chorus, “We are one in the Lord.”  Their interpretations of Biblical truths are temporally stored away in their closets of biased interpretations.  The doors of their citadels are thrown open in the acknowledgement of Christian unity.   During these brief “outings,” the Resurrection of Jesus is displayed in open celebration.  I am sure that Heaven would be rejoicing at seeing the Bride of Christ adorned without rips and tears before the skeptical world.  From a fragmentized and humanized church, to a resolve of “To God Be the Glory,” the Christian movement presents the Truth behind its proclamation of Jesus is Lord.  The Church stands in harmony proclaiming the Resurrected Lord.  The gathering places of the Believers are packed with both dedicated and spectator Christians.  It is hard to find a place to sit.  Extra ushers are called into duty.  Bulletin orders are doubled.  Lilies keep the florist in business.  Choirs outgrow their assigned seats.  Plays, pageants, and cantatas take center stage.  Pastors bring out old messages with a freshness they hope will satisfy the congregants.  Not to seem too aloof, some incorporate Easter egg hunts into this Holy day of celebration.  However we look at it, the Church becomes the center stage of attention.

If only the Church would continue this unity the remaining fifty one weeks of the year.  But as quickly as the lilies fade away, the Christians retreat to their doctrinal fortresses, raise their flag of separation, and unlock their doors of biased teachings and beliefs once again.  Hoping to convert people to their doctrines, they leave the message “All are Welcome” on the outside sign.

No group of Believers has a monopoly on Truth.  Every Christian assembly has some truth; YES, even that Pentecostal.  What about the “Jesus Only” movement?  YES!  What about the Catholic?  YES!  Even the Denominational churches?  YES!  What about the Independents? YES!  Would it not be wonderful if we could all get together and share what we believe, and then together, search the Scripture to find what is Truth and what is fiction?  Sadly, it would have to be a Divine interaction to bring Christians into harmony.  So many churches have their own interpretation of the Word of God and to change would be nigh unto heresy.  It would be easier for the Palestinians and the Jewish people to strike an agreement than for the Believers to stay unified beyond Easter!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the divided church at Corinth to stop majoring on the things they disagreed with, but rather, to “…all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but ….be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  (I Corinthians 1:10)  Let us believe together for a unity that will reach beyond Easter, knowing that the more the Believers come together, the greater the opportunity for the world to know the power of God. (John 17:23)

 

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Marketplace

My life’s desire has been to walk in obedience to God’s Word.  I wish I could say that I have been successful in being a living example of His love and teachings, but sadly I share the same struggle that the Apostle Paul faced. (Romans 7:15)  Just when I think I have everything in the right perspective, I trip, stumble and fall into inconsistencies. The desire has been there, but to achieve the positive reality of my intent has been a great struggle.  The phrase, “How has life been treating you?” has been offered during infrequent exchanges with people whom we have not seen for some time.  Normally, one’s canned response is always affirmative, even though we may be hurting.  That question has caused me to ask myself, “How am I treating life?”  What kind of fruit am I producing for the Kingdom?  What contributions am I making to this life filled world?  Am I representing God to the best of my ability?  What is the fruit of my labor?  Is God pleased with my actions?  Am I a living, visible example of Jesus Christ?  When my life is entering the transition zone between Earth and Heaven, will I hear my Creator say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

During the harvest time of the year, many farmers and gardeners bring their produce into town to sell them.  They usually have a pre-selected site where they can set up their booths for the town’s people to observe and, hopefully, buy their fruits and vegetables.  I wonder what the Believer is producing that might draw people to their offerings?   When we accept Jesus Christ, our purpose in life is to please God.  This takes the form of every aspect of our triune man; our thoughts, words, and actions.  We should always strive to bring glory to our Heavenly Father.  We achieve that purpose by producing fruit through our actions.  The success of those endeavors is directly related to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  By abiding in Jesus, we will produce an abundance of fruit.  When we are not in continual fellowship with Him, we will be like the fig tree that had the appearance of fruit, but upon closer examination, there was no fruit. (Matthew 21:19)  To abide in Christ is to walk and talk with Him continually.  It is not a Sunday only contact, but every moment of our waking hours.  Jesus told His disciples that without Him they could do nothing. (John 15:1-8)  When will the Church realize that simple truth?   Outside of abiding in Christ, all our actions will be useless. (I Corinthians 3:10-15)  Any attempts to build God’s earthly Kingdom without Christ, will fail to hold up to the scrutiny of Heaven’s Superior Court.

Abiding in Christ is not only essential to producing fruit in God’s earthly Kingdom, but it is also necessary to living an abundant and full life.  Many of the carnal problems that happen in our lives are directly related to the degree of our interaction with Jesus.  When we realize that we are continually in contact with Jesus, it will be almost impossible to display any carnal action or attitude.  It is only when we take a sabbatical excursion that we allow our fleshly initiatives to dominate life’s challenges.

To abide means to stay, remain, and dwell.  One of the main causes of backsliding is being out of fellowship with Jesus.  It is reaching a state of mind in which one relies on his own ability and leadership.  To grasp the reality of this, one needs only to look in the rear view mirror and see how we have responded to the different challenges in life.  When we lost our temper and became angry and even emphasized the situation by the language of the world, where was Jesus as we exercised our frustration?  It is very difficult to react outside of the Christian guidelines when you are abiding in Christ.  I grew up in a very loving, but firm, family.  As long as I abided under their roof, there were requirements for me to follow.  I enjoyed being with my parents, for their love drew me into a reality of happiness and security.  But if I chose to do my own thing, there were consequences.  Frustration with life comes from not abiding with Christ.  Offering appetizing fruit is the result of abiding in Christ, and not outside of Him.  See you at the “Farmer’s” Market!

 

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THE MISUNDERSTOOD FOUR LETTER WORD

It is interesting how we throw about words with little or no understanding of what is the real meaning of these syllabic utterances.  One such word stands in the forefront of misunderstanding, and that is the word LOVE.  We use that word in a shotgun range that takes in everything from materialistic gratification to the expression of intense feelings.  We say we love our car, house, electronic gadgets, and any materialistic object that brings satisfaction.  We use it in response to invitations of engagement, such as shopping, trips, and socially offered experiences.  It is used to express physical intimacy.  We use the word to describe reactions to food that electrifies our taste buds.  This word is being prostituted to whoever is willing to pay the price of emotional satisfaction.  By the modern usage of this word, the true meaning of love has been lost.  The Bible is the only “reference” book that correctly defines the true meaning of love.  Sadly, the world is becoming less and less exposed to the Word of God.  When Christians do not display the Word, the Bible becomes an archaic book of literature to the non-believer.  When Believers do not illustrate the Truth, the world will continue to define what it believes is truth.

Believers know what the Bible says, but we tend to read it through filtered lenses.  Our acceptance of the Scripture is limited to experiential knowledge and what will fit into our comfort zone.  We know what is in the Bible, but applying those verses in our lives is another thing.  One case in point is this word LOVE.  We know that the Scriptures tells us that we are to love one another, but what does that mean and to what degree is that love to be shown?  To gain insight into this Word, let us eavesdrop on what Jesus was sharing with His disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of His betrayal. (John 15:9-14)  Jesus shared with them that He loved them as God loved Him. (v.9)  Jesus stressed the importance of abiding in His love, and that would be accomplished by doing the things He had taught them.  By abiding in His love, through obedience, they would experience the fullness of joy. (v.11)  As the Disciples were taking mental notes, Jesus gave them a reality check by commanding them to “…love one another, as I have loved you.” (v.12)  I imagine they felt they had already achieved that, at least through lip service.  But Jesus continued to elevate His teaching by saying that the true testing of love was by the laying down of one’s life for his friends. (v.13)  In less than 12 hours, Jesus would illustrate the validity of that statement.

The world manufactures a generic love that displays emotions based on self-centeredness and human gratification.  This type of love plays on feelings; it is keyed to the five senses.  It can be turned on and off at will.  This generic love is temporal and sporadic; whereas Divine love is God centered and is motivated by faith.  Cosmetic love is selfish; whereas real love desires the well being of others.  Worldly love centers on self edification and separation from God; whereas God’s love draws man to Himself.  Divine love creates human characteristics that are witnessed by the watchful eyes of the world. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)  To understand LOVE, we must stand in obedience to His Word.  As we act on the Word, it brings us into an abiding relationship with Him.  As we fellowship with Him, our joy will be full.

One of Paul’s companions, a man named Demas, transferred from Divine love to carnal love when he slipped away from the Lord by falling in love with the world. (II Timothy 4:10)  He fell for the counterfeit love which brought him temporary fulfillment.  Thankfully, Demas would be drawn back into the fellowship of Believers by God’s unfailing love; for Paul would write years later, that Demas was a “fellow laborer” once again. (Philemon v.24)  What is LOVE?  God is LOVE! (I John 4:8)  From where does LOVE come?  LOVE is of God!  (I John 4:7)  When we understand what LOVE is all about, our lives will focus on obedience and abiding with Him.  Our joy will be full and our desire will be to serve one another, even to the point of sacrificing our life!

 

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DIVIDED CHURCH, DIVIDED NATION

 

The thread of unity is woven throughout the tapestry of the Scripture.  Unity is the glue that builds the Body of Christ into a visible reality.  The unification of Believers is an essential part of the Gospel message, yet diversification continues to divide the Church.  Jesus emphasized that division will result in failure to exist. (Matthew 12:25)  The evidence of that statement is shown with the demise of nations, communities, homes, marriages, and every type of socially displayed institution.  Instead of pursuing a course of correction, Believers tend to ignore Biblical warnings in favor of acquiring Scriptural blessings.

Diversification of Believers is one of the greatest hindrances to the Gospel.  How to get Believers to unify is one of the most difficult tasks in the Christian movement.  As one studies the Epistles, one becomes immediately aware of the closeness of the followers of Christ.  Any differences were inconsequential, for their goal was to be the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for the unity of the Believers. (John 17:21)  In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he mentions ten people.  All of them were interconnected with such words as “our brother, dearly beloved, fellow laborer, fellow soldier, beloved, my son, and fellow prisoner.”  Romans 12:5 and Galatians 3:28 both stress the “oneness” in Christ.  There is a plethora of verses that exhort Believers to be of the same “mind,” but these Scriptures tend to be ignored in favor of individual blessings that solidify personal growth in the form of prosperity and its sub-headings.  Our Country illustrates the secular problem of achieving unity.  Instead of striving to unify the goals of addressing poverty, health care, homeland security, and the equality of the individual, the Nation continues to undress both the Statue of Liberty and the Constitution.  Partisan politics continue to rip the mantle of Democracy.  I believe as the Church goes, so goes our Nation.  If the Body of Christ continues to promote individualism, it is like crucifying Jesus again; only this time, it is putting to death all that Jesus came to do.  We use His name so freely, yet we obey His Word so selectively.  It is no wonder our Country is in disarray, for there is no unifying standard that acknowledges God as the source of man’s existence.

Spiritual and political partisanship has weakened both the Church and our Country.  From the religious community to the news media, speculations, innuendoes, and conjectures have dominated our interests.  “Fake News” has no borders.  Spiritual and secular facts have been interpreted to serve individual interests.  It is no longer what is good for the Church and the Country, but what can best serve one’s personal agenda.  At the Battle of Gethsemane, Jesus cried out, “…not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)  When will Christians stop pushing their interpretations of God’s Word and start hearing what the Scripture is really saying?  When will the politicians stop promoting what they want and start seeking what is best for our Country?  When will the Church start putting God first and their denomination or non-denomination last?  When will Believers stop pointing fingers and start offering the hand of fellowship to other Christians?  Instead of looking for the flaws in others, let us start with ourselves. (Matthew 7:5)  It is not about us, but about Him.  It is not self promotion, but an attitude of servitude.  It is not judging one another, but seeing Christ in each other.

The Country and the Church seem to be going down the same road.  “Change the Constitution to cater to the changing times!”  “Change the Bible to be more relevant to our times!”  Political parties illustrate separation.  Denominational groups define separation.  “Freedom exhibited without restraints!”  “Sin experienced without rebuke!”  For the Church to be content in contentious times is to give license for evil to expand its tsunami effect on our Country.  It is time for the Church to shed its choir robes and put on the armor of God and enter the battle, not only for the Church itself, but for our Country as well.

 

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What is the Holy Spirit’s Ministry?

The ministry of the Holy Spirit has been so distorted and misrepresented that the effectiveness of the Believer has been brought into question.  For some reason, the emphasis on the Holy Spirit has been on His Gifts instead of His personal interaction with the Believers.  Much of the teaching on the Holy Spirit today is out of line with the Scripture and, as a result, there has been an attempt to define His ministry as fulfilling the Christians self serving agenda.   Through Biblical illiteracy, doctrines of humanity have defined the Church.

God’s Biblical blueprint for the Church has been altered with so many upgrades and redesigns that the Church has lost its Biblical identity.  New churches pop up regularly with new blueprints that tend to redefine the Church in a more “relevant” manner.  God’s Word points out what man needs, while the neo- modern church offers what man wants.  To limit the Holy Spirit to our shallow understanding of the Scripture is to dwarf our ability to establish God’s visible Kingdom on earth.

When Jesus ascended into Heaven, the earthly Kingdom of God would be influenced by the Holy Spirit.  Instead of having the physical appearance of Jesus, the Holy Spirit would manifest Himself in the spirit of man.  Jesus’ ministry approached man from the physical, while the Holy Spirit’s ministry is from within the Believer.  Jesus showed the Kingdom while the Holy Spirit reveals the Kingdom.  Jesus laid the foundation while the Holy Spirit reaffirms and builds on that foundation.  Jesus shared the Word while the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word.

To understand the Holy Spirits role in the Believer one needs to study the upper room discourse between Jesus and His disciples. (John 14 through 17)  Here Jesus shared some of His greatest truths.  The questions of Thomas, Philip and Judas (not Iscariot) laid the framework for building on Christian character.  Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the only way to God was through Him.  Jesus was so transparent that God could be seen through Him.  Even though He was leaving them, He would still be with them (Hebrews 13:5), and that would be through the Holy Spirit.    In the introduction of this upper room experience, He told them not to be troubled with what was going to happen.  The reason was that the Holy Spirit, to be known as the Comforter (John 14:26), would change the negative into the positive.  The Holy Spirit would be their teacher and would go over the teachings Jesus had brought them. (John 14:26)  He would not speak of Himself, but would share with them what the Father wants them to know. (John 16:13)  Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would not only minister to the Believer, but would also admonish (convict and convince) the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (John 16: 8)  What would happen is that Jesus and the Holy Spirit would exchange ministries.  Jesus takes His seat at the right hand of God, while the Holy Spirit becomes God’s outreach to man.  Jesus gave His disciples “power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1, 2)   The Holy Spirit would equip future Believers to bring the Word with power.  These actions are manifested through what we know as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12: 8-10)

Jesus paid the price for our salvation, where as the Holy Spirit builds on that experience.  The Disciples were ordered not to leave Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4)  Jesus knew that without the empowering of the Believer, the effects of His ministry to the world would be severely limited.  Some Christians are so hung up with the Gifts of the Spirit that they fail to understand what His ministry is all about.  By attempting to follow Jesus’ teachings without the Holy Spirit, we will limit ourselves to our human initiatives instead of the “dunamis” of the Holy Spirit!  May God open our eyes that we may truly understand the Ministry of the Holy Spirit!

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