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Are You a Faithful Person?

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)

Faithfulness is a virtue that is vital in the kingdom of God.  Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?”  It was this virtue of faithfulness that Paul told Timothy to look for as he considered to whom he would pass on the torch for the next generation of believers.  What is faithfulness?  Faithfulness is the quality of unwavering commitment in duty regardless of who is watching and what the cost.  It is being true to responsibility.  Most men will proclaim their ability to do a job, but are not faithful on a daily basis.  Employers know how important it is to hire people who are faithful to show up each day on time and will do their job honestly and diligently even while the boss is away.  It is these faithful workers who will be candidates for promotion and will be kept when layoffs and cutbacks take place.  They are the ones who hold the standard high for any new employee.  The wise employer will keep his eyes open to find those who are faithful.  The same is true of God.  Psalm 101:6 says that God’s eye is upon the faithful of the land.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”   How do we find a faithful man?  He is not found by listening to what he says, but in what he is doing right now.  Look around and find those who are being faithful in areas of responsibility now.  Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”  When it comes to the kingdom of God, God is looking for those who are faithful right now in spiritual things:  those who are faithful in their walk with God, in their marriage, in their jobs, in their church attendance, in their tithes and offerings, and in their areas of service to others.  These are the ones who are passing the test of faithfulness.  These are the ones who are candidates for more influential areas of leadership.  Those who are faithful will one day hear their Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)  Are you a faithful person?  God is scanning the horizon now in search of those servants upon whom He can count.  Will you be one of those servants?

God is not the author of confusion

In a follow up phone call to a recent guest to our church, they eagerly described the service they attended here as one of the best they had ever attended. I might have expected them to say it was the worship or possibly the preaching, but their answer surprised me. In their words there was such reverence, peace, and organization. The service was free from chaos. They felt the presence of God and love of God's people like never before. They proceeded to tell me that their appreciation was based on their previous experience in another church that was unorganized and chaotic and lacked the peace, love, and joy they felt here. Now, I have been around long enough to understand that people can say lots of things. However, I believe there is a principle behind what this person was saying. Unfortunately some churches have adopted the idea that "organization" and "order" are dirty words to God and are code words for "stiff, dead, cold religion". They believe that "freedom of the Spirit" means that they must cast off all boundaries and adopt an "anything goes" mentality where "wilder and crazier" and getting spiritually "drunk" is evidence of God's glory. However, you cannot find this kind of practice and behavior sanctioned in the New Testament church. Paul (who spoke in tongues and would be considered Charismatic or Pentecostal by our definition today), rebuked the Corinthian church for allowing things to get out of hand in the church services. While he encouraged the exercise of spiritual gifts for personal edification outside the church gathering, when it came to the church meetings, everything had to be done decently and in order for the edification of the church. The reason is that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion and chaos are the result of spiritual disorder. Biblical order is necessary to insure that God is glorified and that the people who attend the church gathering are edified. True "freedom" in worship takes place when we worship God within the boundaries of His Word and in loving consideration for one another.

 

Those Who Cause Division and Offenses

Romans 16:17–20 (NKJV) "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."

 

Did you know that the Scripture tells us to avoid certain persons? Yes. We are to avoid those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned (i.e. the Word of God). Paul says that those who cause division and spread offenses are deceivers who do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly--their own agenda. In order for deceivers to draw away disciples unto themselves, they use the power of seduction. Deceivers know that they must first soften the heart of those who have heard the truth before they will be willing to embrace the lie. Through seduction--smooth words and flattering speech--deceivers lure the simple. Proverbs describes the "simple" as those who are without wisdom and understanding and who live their lives without clear boundaries. The simple do not have clear boundaries because they are not settled in the truth. Rather than bringing every thought, emotion, and opinion captive to the Word of God, their life is characterized by subjective impulses causing them to wander from one opinion to another. As a result, the simple are easily led astray through the work of seducers who charm their hearts to go astray. The Puritan minister and writer, Thomas Watson (1620-1685) said of these seducers, "They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on weak Christians. They possess a pretense of extraordinary piety, so others may admire them and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, to be divinely inspired and pretend to new revelations." [Glorifying God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), January 3]. In order to avoid falling victim to the work of deceivers, Paul says we must 1) Note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Word of God, and 2) Avoid them. Those who entertain serpents eventually get bit. If Adam and Eve had noted and avoided the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, they certainly would not have been seduced to believe the lie.

The Devil's Bad Attitudes

© E. Keith Hassell

Blessed are the proud,

For they shall be wise in their own eyes.

Blessed are the rebellious,

For they shall be called my children.

Blessed are the unforgiving,

For they shall never be forgiven.

Blessed are those who sow discord,

For they shall separate the brethren.

Blessed are those who bring division,

For they shall accomplish my vision.

Blessed are the easily offended,

For they shall never be established.

Blessed are the critics,

For they shall act as my judges.

Blessed are the unsubmitted,

For they shall be my slaves.

Blessed are the disobedient,

For they are obedient to me.

Blessed are those claim to be led by God to do their own will

For they are led by me.

Blessed are the unmerciful,

For they shall not receive mercy.

Blessed are the envious,

For they shall resent the advantage of others.

Blessed are the self-centered,

For they shall be the center of my attention.

Blessed are those who seek recognition,

For they shall be noticed by me.

Blessed are the easily offended,

For they shall become angry and quit.

Blessed are the self-righteous,

For they shall be self-justified.

Blessed are the fault-finders,

For they uncover a multitude of sins.

Blessed are the accusers,

For they are my prosecuting attorneys.

Blessed are the excuse makers,

For they shall never accept the blame.

Blessed are those who hate their brother,

For they have me as their father.

Blessed are the do-nothings,

For they shall wear out the diligent.

Blessed are the troublemakers,

For they shall oppress the saints.

Blessed are the ungrateful,

For they shall always feel they deserve more.

Blessed are the gossipers,

For they shall be called my messengers.

Blessed are the unfaithful,

For they are faithful to my cause.

Blessed are those who expect to be invited to their own church,

For they are important to me.

Blessed are those who will not serve others,

For they will always serve me.

Blessed are those who murmur and complain,

For they always hear my voice.

Blessed are those who persecute the righteous,

For they are soldiers in my army.

Blessed are those who do not pray,

For they shall become my prey.

 

Idols & False Prophets

Ezekiel 14:4–5 (NKJV) “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols."'"

Are you a prophecy junkie going from one prophetic conference to another seeking another "word from the Lord"? Are you drawn to prophets who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? When I first got involved in the Charismatic Movement, it wasn't this way. People were hungry for the Word of God. They would sit for hours with Bibles and notepads in hand feeding on God's Word. Most of the prophetic words given in meetings had a simplicity and innocence that was beautiful. Prophecy edified rather than controlled the meeting. Prophecies were generally given under accountability to church leadership and were lovingly judged and corrected when they contained error. There were no lines to receive "personal prophecies". However, over time came the rise of the prophetic movement that placed emphasis no only on prophecy but on prophets. While some of the emphasis has been biblically based and profitable, it also provided a platform for the rise of profaned prophetic ministry and outright false prophets.  As a result, false doctrine, covetous practices, questionable methods, moral issues, spiritual arrogance, and manipulative prophetic ministry has become commonplace. The abuse of prophecy and the prophetic office has unfortunately resulted in many shipwrecked lives and church splits. Often pastors who naively allowed this kind of ministry to enter the church unchecked find themselves in a battle to save the flock and even their own leadership. Why are so few pastors sounding the alarm and protecting the flock? I believe it is due to a lack of discernment coupled with a pressure to embrace what they are told is "cutting edge" prophetic ministry. No one wants to be left behind in the shadows, right? The pressure on pastors to embrace the prophetic movement is increasing as growing numbers of prophets and prophetesses affirm each others prophecies and to validate one another's ministries. Does large numbers validate the movement? No. Elijah stood as God's true prophet against 450 prophets of Baal. In fact, Ezekiel 22:25 called the alliance of false prophets in his day a "conspiracy" that he likened to a pride of roaring lions devouring their prey. Pastors who dare to question, much less confront, these self-proclaimed prophets are met with a ferocious warning, "Touch not the Lord's anointed!" However, pastors need not be afraid of false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:18-22). The apostle John admonishes us to test the spirits in order to deny false prophets access to the flock (1 John 4:1-6). In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended rather than rebuked the church in Ephesus for testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not. Brothers and sisters, it is time to wake up and wise up to the reality that not everyone who prophesies is a prophet of God and not every prophecy is true. If the body of Christ doesn't wake up soon, I believe the church in our generation may experience the great apostasy (falling away from the true faith) spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Don't misunderstand, I believe that there are true prophets. In fact, we need to ask God to raise up true prophets like Elijah who will confront the false prophets of our day! Remember, when the spell of false prophets was broken off of the people, revival was the result! False prophets are dangerous. They are masters of disguise (Matthew 7:15) and of seduction (Ezekiel 13:10). False prophets claim to have a word from God, but God has not spoken to them (Jeremiah 23:21-22). They prophesy out of the inspiration of their own heart (Ezekiel 13:2). Their spirit is corrupt and profane (Jeremiah 6:13). They are motivated by covetousness (Jeremiah 8:10). As a result, they lure the unsuspecting by telling them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4). They deliver a message of "Peace! Peace!" to those involved in idolatry, rebellion, sin, and disobedience (Ezekiel 13:10; Jeremiah 6:14). False prophets are dangerous because they affirm wicked desires and comfort the sinner. Once people embrace the ministry of false prophets, they rarely escape deception. In His wisdom, God has judged these individuals by causing them to believe the lying spirits operating in false prophets (Ezekiel 14:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). For a sobering example of how God did this with King Ahab, read 2 Chronicles 18:18-22! Friend, you and I are not immune from being deceived. If you don't believe that, then you are already deceived! How can we escape the seduction of lying spirits operating through false prophets? We must humble ourselves before God, confess our sin, repent of our idolatry and sin (Ezekiel 14:6), repent of our fascination with subjective supernatural experiences, and then develop an uncompromising love and obedience for the truth of God's Word (2 Thessalonians 2:10).Without an uncompromising love for the truth of God's Word and the humility to receive its correction, we will be unwilling and unable to escape the deception around us.


Sheep, Goats, and Wolves, Part 2

“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:32) 
 
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) 
 
As stated in Part 1, the Lord will one day separate between the sheep and the goats.  He will also judge the wolves. Each of us must ask ourselves the question:  Am I a sheep, goat, or wolf?  Only the Lord’s evaluation will matter one day. In the mean time, we can test ourselves where we stand.  Let us consider a few more comparisons between sheep, goats, and wolves:
 
  • Sheep seek the shepherd readily, goats seek the shepherd as a last resort, and wolves never seek the shepherd.
  • Sheep allow love to cover a multitude of sins, goats allow gossip to uncover a multitude of sins, and wolves lead others into a multitude of sins.
  • Sheep resist sin, goats yield to sin, and wolves justify their sin.
  • Sheep crucify their flesh, goats pacify their flesh, and wolves feed on flesh.
  • Sheep develop character, goats follow charisma, and wolves depend upon charisma to override character.
  • Sheep serve out of love, goats serve out of obligation, and wolves serve for personal gain.
  • Sheep seek reconciliation, goats avoid reconciliation, and wolves refuse reconciliation.
  • Sheep are humble, goats are selfish, and wolves are proud.
  • Sheep love all, goats love those who love them, and wolves love themselves.
  • Sheep seek to bring about change through humility, prayer, and godly appeal.  Goats bring about change through protest and complaint.  Wolves bring change through manipulation, intimidation and domination.
  • Sheep lift up the shepherd, goats wear down the shepherd, and wolves pull down the shepherd.
  • Sheep are merciful and forgiving, goats are calloused and unfeeling, and wolves are unmerciful and fierce.
  • Sheep promote unity, goats hinder unity, and wolves divide and scatter.
  • Sheep rejoice in the truth, goats tolerate mixture, and wolves sow lies.
  • Sheep rejoice to see the shepherd, goats resent the shepherd, and wolves resist the shepherd.
  • Sheep welcome the shepherd’s hand, goats butt the shepherd’s hand, and wolves bite the shepherd’s hand.
  • Sheep heed the shepherd’s voice, goats heed the shepherd’s staff, and wolves heed the shepherd’s rod.
  • Sheep are led, goats are managed, and wolves are driven out.
  • Sheep identify with the shepherd, goats identify with other goats, and wolves identify with other wolves.
  • Sheep have a flock mentality, goats have a herd mentality, and wolves have a pack mentality.
  • Sheep adapt to boundaries, goats test boundaries, and wolves reject boundaries.
  • Sheep focus on the shepherd, goats focus on themselves, and wolves focus on weak and struggling sheep.
  • Sheep reproduce sheep, goats reproduce goats, and wolves reproduce wolves.
  • Sheep do not heed the voice of a stranger, goats entertain the voice of a stranger, and wolves are the stranger.
  • Sheep are known by their fruit, goats are known by their fruit, and wolves are known by their fruit.
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Is that a "Ba-a-a-h", a "But", or a "Growl" I hear?

Sheep, Goats, and Wolves, Part 1

“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:32) 
 
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) 
 
The Lord Jesus will one day separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep will inherit the kingdom prepared for them while the goats will go into everlasting punishment. Matthew 25:31-46 reveals that the sheep did not realize what distinguished them as sheep and that the goats did not know what distinguished them as goats.  The question we must all consider is this:  Are we a sheep or a goat?  Worse still, are we a wolf?  We cannot “try” to be one or the other.  What we are is revealed by the nature of our relationship to the Shepherd. To help us distinguish one from the other, let us consider the following comparisons:
 
  • Sheep love the shepherd, goats tolerate the shepherd, and wolves hate the shepherd.
  • Sheep are easy to shepherd, goats are difficult to shepherd, and wolves are impossible to shepherd.
  • Sheep are peacemakers, goats are agitators, and wolves are predators.
  • Sheep rest in green pastures, goats roam to greener pastures, and wolves seek higher places.
  • Sheep trust the shepherd’s menu, goats find their own menu, and wolves see sheep as the menu.
  • Sheep are timid and trusting, goats are suspicious and questioning, and wolves are deceptive and cunning.
  • Sheep love shearing time (offering), goats moan at shearing time, and wolves growl at shearing time.
  • Sheep like to give, goats like to receive, and wolves like to steal.
  • Sheep love life, goats endure life, and wolves kill life.
  • Sheep seek reconciliation, goats seek justice, and wolves seek destruction.
  • Sheep are sheared, goats are milked, and wolves are driven away.
  • Sheep want a shepherd, goats need a shepherd, and wolves refuse a shepherd.
  • Sheep enjoy the flock, goats will conform to the flock out of self-interest, and wolves will not conform.
  • Sheep follow willingly, goats follow unwillingly, and wolves will not follow.
  • Sheep look to the shepherd, goats look to the field, and wolves look for the sheep.
  • Sheep love to serve, goats refuse to serve, and wolves serve themselves.
  • Sheep use authority to serve, goats use authority to get out of work, and wolves use authority to make slaves.
  • Sheep accept authority with responsibility, goats crave authority but begrudge responsibility, and wolves demand authority but reject responsibility.
  • Sheep want accountability, goats avoid accountability, and wolves reject accountability.
  • Sheep are transparent, goats are cloudy, and wolves are dark.
  • Sheep graze, goats nibble, and wolves devour.
  • Sheep are faithful, goats are unpredictable, and wolves are deceptive, sly and sneaky.
 
Is that a "Ba-a-a-h", "But...", or "Growl" I hear?

Preach the Word!

2 Timothy 4:1–4 (NKJV) “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
 
God has made it very clear that He called me to preach His Word, not my experiences, opinions, beliefs, or clever ear-tickling messages. I admit with great sorrow that there have been instances when I softened a difficult teaching in God’s Word in order to appease others or to gain consensus. I have lived to regret this and have asked God’s forgiveness. On the other hand, I have taken many difficult stands on specific teachings in God’s Word against considerable opposition. I have discovered that people who don’t like what the Bible says on a particular issue don’t like those who hold to that position either! However, when I stand before Christ, I will be judged by whether I preached the Word of God or something else. What would you be inclined to preach if you were in that position? Therefore Paul charged Timothy to “Preach the Word!” When is it time to preach the Word? At all times—in season and out of season. What are the objectives in preaching the Word? It is to convince the doubter, to rebuke the rebel, and to exhort the believer. How is the Word to be ministered? It is to be ministered with all longsuffering and with teaching. Why is it necessary to preach the Word? Because the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine but will seek out false ministers who will tell them that God wants them to have what the Bible forbids. Those who form a distaste for sound doctrine will inevitably develop an appetite for something else. If there has ever been a time for preachers to preach the Word, it is NOW. If there has ever been a time for Christians to flee out of the poisonous pastures of false ministers to graze in the green pastures of sound doctrine, it is NOW. Do I hear an Amen?  

Scripture or The Shack?

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NKJV) "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
 
A novel called The Shack written by Willaim P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007) has been a New York Times best seller. Christians from everywhere are reading the book. The Shack is a Christian fiction that tries to answer the questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, salvation, if Jesus is the only way to heaven, the question of God and evil, and what happens after we die. Obviously the book has touched a core hunger for answers in hurting people, especially in regard to the tragic loss of a loved one--what the book calls "The Great Sadness". Not only are millions reading the book, but many Christians are insisting that others read it. A common testimonial from those who read this book say it has forever changed their view of God. I am concerned. May I remind us all that this book is classified as Christian fiction. According to Young, the book was formed around his own personal conversations with God, family, and friends (p. 258-259). Young's quest in the book seems to be aimed at dismantling the historic and the Scriptural views of God in order to reconstruct another view of God that makes sense to him and that he hopes makes sense to others. Based on the number who have read the book, he has succeeded--at least for the moment. Although this book has brought comfort to many who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one, we must not settle for an illusion of hope that the truth of Scripture alone can bring: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NKJV) The concern I have with the book is that Young does not turn people to the Scriptures for hope or to Christian brothers and sisters for comfort, but encourages them to run to an isolated shack where they are introduced to subjective experiences (fictional experiences by the way) as the basis for discovering a new view of God. What makes this even more dangerous is that the characters used to communicate Young's often unorthodox ideas are God the Father who is presented as "a large beaming African-American woman", Jesus who appears to be "Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves," and the Holy Spirit, who is named Sarayu, "a small, distinct Asian woman" who together are called the Trinity. If you are a Christian who has read the book, may I challenge you to read a critical review of this book called "The Shack: Helpful or Heresy?" by a highly respected apologist (defender of the faith), Norman Geisler. I understand that questioning the legitimacy of The Shack will not be popular. I am also aware that Christians today are growing more intolerant of doctrine and those who challenge error and defend the faith. At the same time, if there has ever been a time when the church needed faithful watchmen on the walls who know the Scripture, who recognise and understand the danger of error, and who defend the Christian faith, it is now. Error is like a cancer that seeks to destroy the faith and scatter the flock. The danger of error is real and the cost for silence is too high. Before you run to The Shack for answers, take time to run to the Scriptures. 

Light and Darkness

Genesis 1:3–5 (NKJV) "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day."
 
Darkness, disorder, and emptiness existed prior to the first day of creation (Gen 1:2). Since God created the "lights in the firmament" (sun, moon, stars) on the fourth day, what kind of "light" did God create on the first day? By definition, light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye (Webster's). Light makes vision possible. Vision makes discernment between light and darkness possible. The Scripture says that God is light (1 Jn 1:5) and is the Source of light (Rev 21:23). However, unless there is the vision, a person can live in darkness while being surrounded by light. Those who are spiritually blind live in spiritual darkness while being surrounded by the glory of God (Is 6:3). Those who are blind and live in darkness stumble over things hidden in the darkness (1 Jn 2:11). But when light comes, it manifests what is hidden in darkness so that there is no more cause for stumbling (1 Jn 2:10). In fact, Paul defines "light" as whatever makes "manifest", i.e. the ability to be seen: "But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." (Eph 5:13). The apostle John declares that "he who loves his brother abides in the light" (1 Jn 2:10). Therefore, the "light" that God spoke into existence on the first day of creation is a limited revelation or "manifestation" of Himself through the beauty and order of creation (Rom 1:20). Unfortunately, sin brought blindness leading men to grope in spiritual darkness, worshiping God's creation rather than God the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). God brought more light into man's darkness by revealing Himself through the Scriptures (Ps 119:105; Pr 6:23), and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1-5). Christ offers to give the light of God to all who will hear His voice, awake from their spiritual slumber, and arise from their deadness toward God (Eph 5:14). Don't be proud and deny your blindness (Jn 9:41). Worse still, don't seek to be a blind leader of the blind! (Matt 15:14). Humble yourself like blind Bartimaeus who cried out for Jesus to give him sight. Jesus said to him, "Go your way, your faith has made you well." (Mk 10:52). Come to Jesus. He still opens blind eyes and gives people light!
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