LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

OUR GOAL: ALWAYS PROVOCATIVE - ALWAYS BIBLICAL - ALWAYS EDIFYING. If you haven't already, please log on to our Kingdom Gospel Ministries website for a lot of info and a new drama each week - www.kingdomgospelministries.org

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Location: Phila Metro, Pennsylvania, United States

Tentmaking Evangelist (Architect). An Evangelist with the Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association (non-denominational). Co-Founder of Kingdom Gospel Ministries, a ministry now in its 31st year with a mission to reconcile people of different racial, ethnic, and economic situations, and the producer of two weekly radio programs - a Sunday morning verse-by-verse Bible Study on Radio Delaware Valley and a weekly radio drama on the Wilkins Radio network. He also has archived many, many programs on the Internet. John is also a PA/NJ Architect with his own practice in its 38th year working on a wide variety of projects. Acutely interested in politics since a teenager with many articles published over the last 50 years and served as a guest on a Talk Radio show discussing race relations and on It's Your Call TV show with Lynn Doyle dealing with the subject of interethnic marriage.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

AVOIDING DECEPTION BY AVOIDING COMPROMISE

I run a separate blog about political deception, so this post is not about politics.  However, as I know people who are enamored of specific different candidates who are amazingly deceived about key aspects of what they stand for.  They turn a blind eye to a small issue, then bigger and bigger issues, and finally they swallow the whole enchilada.

This piece is about SPIRITUAL DECEPTION, which works the same way, and I often see these operate in parallel.  After all, we are spiritual beings, and our brain is not compartmentalized to the degree we think it is.  We sort out all manner of information, and it is critical that the truth always be honored and clung to for dear life.

The main issue is that Satan never starts off with a big compromise. If you listen to our Kingdom Gospel Ministries drama, COMPROMISE CITY, some of those little compromises seemed like good ideas to keep the peace and accommodate diversity. Satan starts with something that seems almost innocuous. Perhaps the interpretation of the early portions of Genesis. He will quote you the thousand years as a day mantra and get someone who generally believes the Bible to compromise on what is plain as day - God made the world is six calendar days. In fact, God wrote it TWICE on the tablets for Moses as the entire basis for the Sabbath (though some folks would sure enjoy 1,000 years of rest and have made a great head start toward that goal!) The problem is, 1,000 year long days doesn't solve ANYTHING. The gulf between Genesis and naturalistic religion is not bridgeable without either side capitulating entirely.  An evolutionist once said that if there were a God, and he used evolution, he would not be a God worth serving. He is totally right. The children of darkness are sure often smarter than the children of light.

How about qualifications for leadership? The Bible is clear that an elder or deacon must be the husband of one wife. Yet, despite allowing for the most liberal interpretations of forgetting what occurred prior to salvation, churches are being led by pastors divorced as CHRISTIANS from other CHRISTIANS for unbiblical reasons!  In fact, it is rampant.  The fact is, God FORGIVES, but you cannot simply toss aside your children and need to have continuing contact with your ex, saved or not to be a proper parent.  Or how about temper?  Some Christians can be the maddest and meanest folks around – yet they are leading ministries and often abusing others.  Or how about the BIG one, the love of money? God’s leaders must not love money, yet to be a leader in the Word-Faith movement, you have to LOVE money – that is the very foundation!  When people mess with the Word of God, they sure do end up with a mess.

There are many others – ladies, you knew I could not forget you and simply pick on the men.  Satan will whisper to a woman - "No difference between male and female" and call her to be a pastor. Huh?  Don't they all say GOD called them?  They are lying. The Holy Spirit forbade it. The Holy Spirit changes not because God changes not and the Holy Spirit is God.  All manner of deception has occurred, and not just with the many cults started by women, but by women who subtly pervert the word of God.  They fight Paul, they fight the Holy Spirit, they fight the absolute clarity of the Word of God.  Women also use "Submit to one another" out of context. "The specific clarifies the general" is a cardinal rule in interpreting ANY text.  Right after it, it commands the woman to submit to her husband in EVERYTHING.   Yes, people in the church are to have a submissive spirit and regard each other.  In the home, mutual respect and love are critical, but the man is never called upon to submit to the spiritual authority of the woman.  And on it goes…and goes…and goes.

So often, these deceptions build on each other and in the end the Bible has no absolute authority in the person’s life.  Everything is open to interpretation, and the devil gladly supplies those.

To avoid all this mess, stick to the WORD OF GOD. Read it and study it daily. Ask God to interpret it to you through the author, the Holy Spirit.  He dwells in us to teach us. Who better to teach us than the author of THE BOOK?  We can ask the Lord about all our questions, but we can never take exception to even one jot or one tittle of the precious Word of God.  God takes no deception lightly and he is NEVER deceived, and we are to be holy as he is holy.  We are surrounded by deception, people functioning in rebellion to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and accepting the words of mere men as gospel rather than the Word of God.  It is hard to stay on the narrow road, but no matter how many people you see on the superhighway to hell, stay on the sometimes bumpy but always narrow road that leads to life eternal.  Few there be that find it.  Be one of those few!

Monday, June 11, 2012

BLIND SPOTS

I have been studying the book of Acts.  Reading the first six chapters, we can learn a whole lot.  Some of what I say many challenge your assumptions – but read all the way through, and if you have questions or comments, I truly welcome them.  I want to make four points in this post –

1)    The Apostles were doing amazing things. Pentecost brought a revolution of mammoth proportions into the life of those who desired to follow God.
2)    Even with all the miracles and sharing of possessions, there was a massive blind spot in terms of discrimination in the serving of food.
3)    The Power of the Holy Spirit is essential for EVERY ministry of the church.
4)    When we assign someone to a job and they do it well, they may end up doing OUR job better than we even did it!

First, some background on the amazing accounts in the Book of Acts. We know that both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by a medical doctor named Luke.  How appropriate for the Holy Spirit to speak through a medical doctor to document most of the healings in the Bible!   Luke also shares some information that could rock your world in terms of understanding Pentecost. 

Did you know that per Luke chapter 9, well before Pentecost, ALL the Apostles did acts of healing and drove out demons, INCLUDING Judas Iscariot?  There are many instances of divine health (to the Jews in the wilderness) and healing prior to the passion of Christ and prior to Pentecost.  While many now teach that physical healing is in the atonement, I believe differently – Moses healed through the brass serpent, Christ healed, and the Apostles healed all prior to the atonement. Why would God have stripes placed on his Son to bring about something that already occurred without that?  What kind of God would do that? I believe the context in all the Old AND New Testament scriptures is clear that Christ took those stripes for our spiritual healing.  Those stripes were essential in Christ taking the full wrath of God for sin on himself. Oh, how I love him for taking that beating for me! And suffering in so many ways both prior to the cross and on the cross.  Physical, emotional, and psychological suffering beyond our imagination. Amazing Love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me! 

Beyond that of course, it that the atonement is guaranteed to bring results. Those who come to God will NEVER be cast out.  Salvation is an ironclad guarantee.  While healing should be far more widespread that it is, and more the rule than the exception, it is a fact that not everyone gets healed and not every CHRISTIAN gets healed.  To link physical healing and salvation can lead to gross disillusionment – not only in the love of God, but in wondering about their salvation as well since a false linkage was established.  There are numerous examples in the New Testament of Godly people who were not healed.  That would not stop us from seeking that all be healed, but in my opinion we are dishonest if we guarantee anyone healing, which would in fact be mandated if physical healing were in the atonement.

Nonetheless, even AFTER the Apostles had done many miracles, Jesus told them to wait to be imbued with power.  You see, the apostles derived the healing and delivering power from Christ who dwelt among them.  There are no records of any apostolic miracles from the time Jesus left until Pentecost. Jesus said that he MUST leave in order that the Comforter could come.  Jesus ASCENDED and the Holy Spirit DESCENDED.  The Holy Spirit gave the apostles the same power Jesus had, except now as a Spirit, healing was multiplied worldwide!  In addition to the physical miracles were the spiritual fruits of the Spirit.  Thousands became believers and the growth levels were immense.  I firmly believe that many who  were filled with the Holy Spirit had experienced Christ in person, and responded to the message when they saw the power of the Holy Spirit accomplishing through the Apostles the works they saw Christ do.  In addition, there was a level of care for each other that had not happened under Christ’s ministry because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  The sharing of goods and joy and boldness were all marvelous fruits of the work of the Spirit.

Nonetheless, we come to the second point – DESPITE all these wonderful things – gathering daily, breaking bread together, and worshiping together both GREEKS and HEBREWS, people who had previously not had much use for each other, there was INJUSTICE going on. The Greek widows were not being treated the same as the Hebrew widows in terms of getting food.  Many would not want to hear the complaint, but thankfully the leaders in a time of great blessing did not dismiss this concern.

However, the Apostles did not appear to take this as seriously as needed.  They were preoccupied with teaching the word, and saw this as a simply practical matter of “waiting on tables” INSTEAD of understanding the central theme of reconciliation in the gospel. This was left for Paul to explain later.  They did not see the full importance of the issue. It sort of reminds me of a white preacher at a dinner for a mostly black Bible school graduating class. He was obviously on fire to preach and help people, but kept using derogatory racial remarks not heard in many a year. He seemed clueless he was offending just about everyone in the room.  A person can be used of God while still backwards in an area.

The PEOPLE, not the apostles made the choice.  They thankfully did not see it simply as an issue of waiting on tables. They chose seven men, first of all Stephen, “FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. One of the other six was from Antioch, bringing sorely needed diversity to the leadership.  Stephen and the others SOLVED the problem and we NEVER hear about it again.

That brings me to point three.  Stephen was picked for what the Apostles viewed as a menial task.  I have heard Deacons disrespected by leaders, and it appalls me.  Whether the preacher, the janitor, or an elder or a deacon, all work in the Kingdom is valuable. If you look at the qualifications for an Elder and a Deacon in either Timothy or Titus, the qualifications are very similar.   Stephen ran with it, and was SO effective he drew MORE attention than the Apostles and became public enemy number 1 to the Jewish leaders.

Fourth, Stephen preached a great sermon on the precipice of death with no notes and convicted the leaders to the very core of their being. He exceeded the apostles in preaching conviction.  As the first Christian martyr, he planted the seeds of absolute devotion to Christ in Saul who was standing there watching, and Saul became Paul and spent his life as a living sacrifice unto Stephen’s God.

So yes, there may be blind spots, but just see what God can do.  Do not be satisfied having the scriptures leap out of the pages of the Bible at you, or having a new tongue or a transfixing prophecy. Do not rest on your laurels the first time God uses you to bring salvation, restoration, healing or deliverance to someone.  Keep an open ear for issues you may have missed.  My late mother used to talk about great Southern Christians who were wonderful people who just had this issue about race.   Well, that issue has wreaked havoc in the church, with mostly segregated churches existing to this day.  At the church I was at Sunday, I was the only white person there.  The same is true in reverse many other places.   Be encouraged and know that when we take the hard issues by the horns, choose anointed people of God who are full of the Holy Spirit to solve them, we will see other spiritual blessings come just as they did through Stephen.   

Just be aware that if you tackle the hard places, the core areas of disobedience, you may well have rocks thrown at you as well.  But even if you do, Christ may well repeat for you the standing ovation he gave to Stephen.