LET US GO TO THE LORD IN PRAYER

Father, I come before you in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Lord, you know all things. They are all before you like an open book. Who can hide their heart from your presence and your eye? The deeds of the most clever men are exposed before you. Your omniscience knows know bounds - and if it were not for grace, I would be of all men most terrified. But there is grace, abounding and glorious, poured out upon the weakest of men, and abounding to your glory.
Father, I praise you and I worship you; I thank you for all that you are and all that have done. There is no one like you in Heavens and on the Earth or under the earth. You are the King and there is no other. You are Savior and you share your glory with no one. Father, this day you know me and my great need of grace. Why am I here except that you called the weakest among men, the most ignoble among brothers, and that by your grace, often times, the lesser teaches the greater? That is always my case and I praise you. I worship you. Father, help us today, to the wind with eloquence, to hell with brilliant intellect, Father. Let the truth go forward. Let me be changed that the state of your church be more glorious. I pray for grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy for myself and for those who read my blog. Help us, Oh God, and we will be helped; and we will boast in that help in Jesus' Name. AMEN!!!

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Breastplate Of Righteousness

Further understanding of the role of righteousness is given in Ephesians 6. There it speaks about the armor of God that was given to us to fight the spiritual war:

Ephesians 6:13

  "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to withstand, and having done all to stand."

        I would like to point out two things in this verse. First, the armor is of GOD. It is NOT an armor that you constructed. Rather, it is an armor that has been constructed by GOD. Second, it is YOU that put on that armor. God will not put it on for you. God made it available. Now you have to put it on. These two things are important for correct understanding of the next verse. There it states:

Ephesians 6:14 

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."

           It is this second piece of the armor, the breastplate of righteousness, on which we will concentrate our attention here. The various parts of the armor, as they are described in verses 14-17, have not been given a name by chance. God has a reason for everything He says. So, we must ask ourselves what is the job that a breastplate is designed to do? I believe that most of us know the answer: in an armor the breastplate protects the breast. As you know, the heart, a vital instrument for our lives, is located in the left side of the breast. Therefore, one of the most important jobs of the breastplate is to protect the heart. Biblically, the word heart means the inner part of the mind; the inner being of a man. What is in our heart determines what we are. As Proverbs 4:23 tells us:

"Above all else guard your heart; for out of it are the issues of life"

           The Word of God calls us to guard our hearts more than anything else and when it says heart the actual reference is to the inner part of our minds. Indeed, what is in the inner part of our minds, what is in our heart, determines "the issues of life". No wonder therefore, that it is exactly this part at which Satan aims his darts. If his darts manage to pierce the heart i.e. the inner part of our being, then this is exactly what he wants. One of the weapons that Satan frequently uses to fire his darts into the heart of sincere and devoted Christians is none other than condemnation. Condemnation is one of his best weapons since it makes the heart, the inner part of our beings, ill. It is a powerful weapon of Satan to corrupt our fellowship with God. I John describes the effects of this disease which affects many Christians.

1 John 3:21 

"Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God."

         Pay careful attention to that "if". Note also that the reference is to the heart. Condemnation is a serious disease that affects the heart, the inner being of a man. When there is condemnation in our hearts then there is no confidence before God and if there is no confidence before God, then I really question of the fellowship that we are able to have with God. The will of God is to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). It is however impossible to rejoice in Him when you do not have confidence before Him. Nevertheless, Satan will not manage to bring condemnation into our lives IF (and only if) we use the armor of God for our defense. So the question is what is the piece of the armor of God that protects the heart? Ephesians 6:14 tells us:

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."

            This piece is the "breastplate of righteousness". But which righteousness is this? You see, we are accustomed to reading this verse using a preconceived idea of righteousness by works. Thus, we think that the righteousness referred to in that verse is our self-righteousness. We say "if I am good enough and do good works then I'll be righteous". However, we forget that the Bible says "therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20). The righteousness here is not our self-righteousness but the righteousness of God. The full armor has been made ready for us by God. It is the "armor of God". It is not an armor that we constructed. The Word does not say "Make up the armor". It says "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11). If the armor is of God, whose then is the breastplate of that armor? It is God's. Whose therefore is the righteousness that is the breastplate? Is it your self-righteousness gained through your good works? No! It is the righteousness of God, as indeed the whole armor is of God, and so therefore is each separate piece. You did not make up the armor. You just put it on. In the case of righteousness this means that you place deep in your mind, in your heart, that you are righteous before God BY GRACE ("righteousness of God") and thus you do not try to achieve a self-righteousness standing before Him. It means that you understand that before Him "no-one will be justified by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20) and that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:23-24). You must accept that grace is grace and works are works. You must understand that when the Bible says grace does not mean grace with some works. As the Scripture says: "And if by grace it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). Then, you will have "the breastplate of righteousness in place" (Ephesians 6:14). Otherwise, you will leave your heart unprotected and be vulnerable to the disease of condemnation. Satan will trap you through his cunningness because you are not wearing the full armor of God but something that you yourself made up. You are wearing the breastplate of self-righteousness instead of the breastplate of righteousness of God. However, the breastplate of self-righteousness has been declared faulty by the Word of God. No wonder therefore that if you put on that “breastplate” you will be vulnerable to the Satan-caused disease of self condemnation. On the other hand, when we protect our hearts with the true breastplate of the righteousness of God then that which the Scripture says in Romans 8:1 will be fulfilled in our lives:

Romans 8:1 

"THEREFORE THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS"  

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Prayer As A Weapon Against Temptation

        In fighting temptation, regardless of its type, prayer is a weapon that we cannot do without it. The purpose of temptation is to ensnare us and to draw us away from God. Prayer, fellowship with God, is the exact opposite: it keeps the channels of communication with our Father open. Oh what comfort and love comes from the Father and what support to those who resist the enemy find when they go to Him in prayer.

The night the Lord Jesus was captured, in the garden of Gethsemane, he told to his disciples:

Matthew 26:41

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Luke 22:40

“And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

And Luke 22:46

“And he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

       Temptation is described here as something the disciples could enter into and the proper response would be to pray. Thus prayer and temptation are put against each other:

      “Pray, lest you enter into temptation”, the Lord said. Obviously if they did not pray they would indeed enter into temptation. Prayer, fellowship with God, keeping the channels of communication open and receiving from Him through prayer the needed encouragement and support, is a shield of protection against temptation.

This does not necessarily mean that the temptation will not come. But what it for sure means, is that when/if it comes it will find us steadfast in the faith and not ready to fall into its trap.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Forms Of Temptation In The Parable Of The Sower

         Having seen in the article “the means and forms of temptation” the forms that temptation can take (especially the trials through affliction and persecution and the trap of obeying the desires of the old man, the flesh) we can also see these categories in action in the parable of the sower. There are two categories in the parable of the sower that though they heard and received the Word they did not bring forth the desired fruit. And the question is why?

1. Temptation in the second category of the parable of the sower

      Concerning the second category of the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:20-21 and Luke 8:13 tell us about it:

Matthew 13:20-21

  “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; “yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he is offended.”

Luke 8:13 

“But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”

         As we see, the people of this category heard the Word and they initially received it with joy! In other words they were very enthusiastic about the Word. But then the temptation, the trial, came, and its form was tribulation and persecution for the Word’s sake i.e. because of the Word these people were persecuted. And there they lost the game. Instead of persevering, holding on to the Word they had originally with so much joy received, they stepped back and fell away. If you are a young believer full of zeal for God: though it may seem that the devil is nowhere around you, this will not last forever. The temptation, the trial, will come. You will need to persevere, holding on to the faith and the Word which with so much joy you received. As the Word tells us:

Hebrews 10:35-39

  “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of patience, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

          Affliction may take various forms. I have seen people falling away, abandoning the faith, because their parents or relatives and friends confronted them and rejected them because of their faith. Of course persecution may take more severe forms too, like being thrown into a prison or being tortured for your faith. It can also result in death, like it happened for Stephan and James the brother of John. For you and all those who are tried the Word says:

Romans 16:19-20

“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. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”

and 1 Peter 5:8-10 

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are experienced in your brethren that are in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

          Hold on to the faith and do so till the end. Put your life and situation on the hands of God and be ready to go through whatever may come up, yes even ridicule and torture. God is with you. He will strengthen you. He will encourage you. Just like He did with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Just like He did with Paul in the prison, when he was persecuted by the Jews (Acts 23:11). As Paul said: “as we become partakers of the sufferings so also we become partakers of the comfort that comes from God” (2 Corinthians 2:1-7). The comfort that comes from Him outbalances whatever ridicule or torture a man may bring to us.

2.Temptation in the third category of the parable of the sower

        Concerning the third category of the parable of the sower, we read about it in Mark 4:18-19:

“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

And Luke 8:14

“Now the ones [that] fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”

          These men heard the Word, understood the Word yet became fruitless. Why? Because they left the door of their heart open to the thorns of “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19), which entering in, choked the Word. As we have already seen James saying:

James 1:13-15

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

and 1 Timothy 1:6-9 tells us

“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.”

            Something to note: The same effect as the temptation of riches and the lusts of other things have also the cares of this world. They also bring fruitlessness. Therefore if you want to be a Christian who brings forth fruit, i.e. a real Christian and not just a Christian by name, you should remove the thorns of the cares, riches and pleasures of life and prevent them from coming back again. You need to take action. You need to change, and God will help you in this if you really want it. The temptation in the third category of the parable of the sower does not come through persecution and affliction by the devil. Here the temptation takes more subtle forms, which however require again our resistance. Caring about what this world cares (“the cares of this world”), wanting riches or lusting after other things are very dangerous. They are thorns that have to be removed. As we saw Paul saying:

Romans 13:14

“put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to [fulfill its] lusts.”

“Make no provision for the flesh” means that we should not take care of the flesh and its desires. Instead we should feed ourselves with the pure milk of the Word so that we grow through it (1 Peter 2:2).  

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Tempter

 On the contrary to the tests coming from the Lord, the temptations, the trials with evil and traps whose purpose is to harm us, are thing whose originator is not God but His enemy and our enemy: the devil. Here is what the Word of God tells us concerning the one that is behind temptation:

 Matthew 4:1

 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

 Matthew 4:3

“And when the tempter came to him [Jesus], he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

 Mark 1:13

 “And he [Jesus] was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan.”

 Luke 4:2

 “Being tempted for forty days by the devil.”

 Luke 4:13

 “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him [Jesus] for a season.”

 1 Corinthians 7:5

“Do not deprive one another, except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

 1 Thessalonians 3:5

 “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”

 Revelation 2:10

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer: behold, the devil shall cast [some] of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

 As we said, many believe that the temptations and the trials with evil are coming from God i.e. that He brings evil in our life to make us better. This however is not true. The tempter, the one who tempts with evil, is not God but the devil and he does it either directly or indirectly. Let us now see the forms and the means that a temptation may take on the next article. Enjoy the reading    

The Means And Forms Of Temptation

 1. Temptations coming through people who oppose God and His Word

           Jesus and his disciples came many times face to face with this type of temptation and ill-thought trial:

 Matthew 16:1

 “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and tempting him asked that he would show them a sign from heaven.”

 Matthew 19:3

 “The Pharisees also came to him, tempting him, and saying to him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?””

 Matthew 22:18

 “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you tempt me, you hypocrites?”

 Matthew 22:35

 ”Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,”

 Mark 8:11

 “And the Pharisees came out, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.

 Mark 10:2

“And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce [his] wife?” tempting him.”

 Mark 12:13-15

 “And they send to him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch him in his words. When they had come, they said to him, Master, we know that you are true, and care about no one; for you do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, Why do you tempt me? Bring me a denarius, that I may see it.”

 Luke 11:15-16

 “But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.”

 John 8:3-6

“And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they said to him, Master, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what do you say? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”

 Acts 20:19

“Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations, which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews.”

 1 Peter 4:12-13

 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”   As we see from these passages, a way through which the devil tempts/tries the people of God is through other people and through persecution and affliction for the Word of God. We will examine how to deal with this type of temptation, later in this article. But first let’s see the other forms a temptation may take.

   2. Temptations coming through one’s own lusts

The lusts of the flesh is another way through which somebody can be tempted:

   James 1:13-14

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

 1 Timothy 6:9

 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

          In this category the source of temptation is a man’s own lusts i.e. desires of the old man that are followed through, as for example the desire to be rich. Notice the definite in the above passages: these passages do not say that when you are drawn away by your own lusts and enticed you will perhaps fall into temptation. No! What they say is that you will, definitely, be tempted. Similarly they do not say that if you desire to be rich you may, perhaps, fall into a snare. No! What they say is that you will, surely, fall into a snare, the same snare that drowns men in destruction and perdition! As Paul also tells us:

 Galatians 5:17

 “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

 Romans 8:7

 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

          The temptations of this category is something that we decide to enter, drawn away and enticed by our flesh, the old man. The result? Again let us keep the high volume of the Scripture: sin, destruction, perdition, death. Following through with the desires of the old men is a very serious matter with the most serious consequences. Let us not deceive ourselves, thinking perhaps that because we are saved by grace this means that we are now free to go ahead and follow the desires of the old man and somehow escape the consequences. Galatians 6:7-8 tells us:

 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

 What should we do then? The Word is again very clear:

 Romans 13:11-14

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to [fulfill its] lusts.”

 Ephesians 4:20-24

 “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”

 And Proverbs 4:23

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”

   In all these passages the main acting part is not God but us. It is us that are called to put off the old man and put on the new. It is us that are called to renew our mind and it is us that are called to guard our heart with all diligence. Yes without God’s help there is not much that we can do. But God’s help come to those who are willing to follow Him. Let us not deceive ourselves that somehow we will be fruitful Christians, while at the same time our hearts and minds go behind the lusts of the old man. This is not possible! It is indeed black and white. It is either the one (God) or the other (the world). A mixture will not work!

 3. Temptation coming directly from the devil

          In Matthew 4:1-11 we find the devil speaking directly to Jesus. But how did he do it? The answer is in the spirit, by “revelation”, so to speak. I would like to devote some time to this category, as, due to the ignorance that exists, we frequently see people attributing to God whatever comes from the spiritual ground. But it is not like this. I used to believe that since I’m a Christian the devil cannot speak to me. But he can – he did it in the case of Jesus. If we decide to ignore this possibility and consider everything that comes from the spiritual ground as coming from God, then we are opening a door to the devil to drive us astray by giving us false information, which we believe, because we think - since it so clearly comes from the spiritual ground – that it comes from God. Empirically I have observed this happening when people grave for something; they grave for something so much that when they pray about it they can hear only the answer they want. In other words, they are not neutral, wanting to do the will of God, whatever this will may be. In contrast, they just want to get a confirmation for what they so much desire. They are lusting for something, thus opening a door to the devil to give them false “spiritual” information, which when followed will lead them to great troubles. That’s why you have to judge what you receive as spiritual information with the Word. Does what you have supposedly heard from the spiritual ground align with the Word of God both in its content and in the way it flows? If not, you should reject it without question. Sadly many brothers do not check what they have supposedly heard from the spiritual ground to see whether it squares with the Word. For example, I have seen people who say that are Christians committing adultery, divorcing their Christian spouses and marrying others (who also say that are Christians), and, as if all these were not enough, they justify their actions by saying that allegedly God told them to do so! Could God ever tell them to do something like this? NO! How do we know it? Because such a guidance would be entirely opposite to the Word of God! What truly happened, and the Word very clearly and plainly explains it, is that they didn’t watch out and were drawn away by their own lust and enticed, thus opening the door to the devil. If really somebody told them to act like this, it was not God but the devil. The Word of God is therefore the measure against which any information that comes from the spiritual ground should be measured and evaluated. Jesus also did this when he used the Word of God to fight Satan and his temptations. His answers were all starting with “it is written”. 

        Concerning the superiority of God’s Word against any “revelation”, even if it comes in an extraordinary way, Paul was very clear:

 Galatians 1:8

 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

         Even if an angel from heaven - and obviously such an angel would be a fallen angel, an angel of darkness, as exactly Satan is – came down and started preaching to them a gospel different than the one Paul, through revelation of Jesus Christ, received and preached to them, this angel would be accursed. Getting information from the spiritual ground is not enough. This information has to also come from the right source of the spiritual ground. Else it is a temptation and an attack of devil. And to know to source of the information, you have to evaluate it against the only valid measure: the measure of the Word of God.  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Temptation: Does God Test Us With Evil?

Have You Ever In Any Way Of Your Life Been Tempted?

 I Samuel have been tempted severally and I lived to believe that God is the one tempting me until I recently  came to understand the Word of God on Temptations and I wanna share with you on the same, feel free to follow by mail this blog and every time I post you will get an email from me and also feel free to comment below every post and share with your friends.  Remember on your left there is  a place to vote, why don't you do the voting?  God bless you!!

          Starting with this article, I would like to deal with temptation, its sources and the way to face it. By temptation here I mean the traps and plots that have, in one way or another as purpose to uproot somebody from the faith or to render him “inactive”, fruitless. The trials therefore to which this article refers are plots against the faith. These are not tests done with good intentions, to check and improve the one that receives the test, like the tests the teachers give to their pupils and the parents to their children. In contrast, the temptations, the trials we are referring to in this article are traps whose purpose is the destruction of the one that falls in them.

           Why do I say the above? Because there are many that throw into the same bucket all (bad intentioned and good intentioned) trials and they attribute all of them, without any distinction, to God! Thus, according to this view: did somebody have a car accident? The Lord tries him! Is somebody persecuted for his faith? The Lord tries him. Did somebody fell into a trap because of his fleshly desires? Again the Lord tries him and put this in his way! This view is entirely unbiblical and therefore unacceptable. It has also resulted in defaming the One who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and in blaming Him for any trial and temptation that may come across our path. Who really wants to have a relationship with such a supposedly contradictory God, who, on the one hand, gives His Son for the people and on the other He tempts with various evil things the very same people whom He supposedly so much loves? But contradictory and bizarre are these views and not God, as He is revealed in the Bible, which very clearly tells us:

James 1:13

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”

How many does God tempt with evil? What does the Bible, His Word, tells us? NO ONE!

          Does God test His people? Yes but not with evil. Instead He tests us as a teacher tests his pupils and as a parent his children. See for example the following test of Jesus to Philip, one of the 12:

         “Then Jesus lifted up his eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.”

           Jesus didn’t ask Philip because he didn’t know the answer. Instead he asked him to test him through this question. The Greek word translated as “test” here is the same Greek word that almost everywhere else is translated as “tempt”. But obviously this was not a temptation as such. Instead it was a test like a teacher, as Jesus is, would give to his disciples. He would ask them something, not necessarily because he doesn’t know the answer but because he wants to find out whether they know it! It is a test that is done with good intentions and not a trial whose purpose is to harm. Such tests, parent to child and teacher to pupil type of tests are the tests that God gives to us. By the way, as it is obvious from the answers, Philip and Andrew didn’t pass the test.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

Honor Your Father And Mother

Exodus 20 gives us the Ten Commandments God gave to the people of Israel. The fifth (Exodus 20:12) is about parents:

Exodus 20:12

  “Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

        God commanded the people of Israel to HONOR their father and mother. What does “honor your father and mother” mean? Here is how one commentator defines it:

“This was a plain command of God, written with his own hand, and delivered by Moses to them; it was of a moral nature, and of eternal obligation: and to be understood, not merely of that high esteem parents are to be had in by their children, and of the respectful language and gesture to be used towards them, and of the cheerful obedience to be yielded to them; but also of honoring them with their substance, feeding, clothing, and supplying them with the necessaries of life, when they stand in need thereof; which is but their reasonable service, for all the care, expense, and trouble they have been at, in bringing them up in the world.” (John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Dr. John Gill 1690-1771)

         Honoring the parents involves high esteem, reverence and support. It means that you are there for them and you care for them with your service, support, money, visits etc.

Honoring your parents and promises associated with it.

         In contrast to the other commandments, where no specific promise is attached directly to them, God, in giving this command He also added a specific promise. As He said, “honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land that God gives you”. But He didn’t stop there. Deuteronomy 5:16 states the same commandment but with one additional promise attached to it:

Deuteronomy 5:16 

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you; that your days may be prolonged [promise 1], and that it may be well with you, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you [promise 2].”

Paul is repeating this commandment in Ephesians 6:2-3:

“Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

         Paul says that this is the “first commandment with promise”. The first commandment God gave and which contained a promise was the commandment of honoring our parents! And really what a promise! You will live long on the earth and it will be well with you! Do you want to live long on the earth? Do you want to be well with you? Well here it is for you: honor your parents and that’s what is going to happen!

Honoring the parents:the view of Jesus.

         As in the case of other commandments, so also with honoring the parents, God says what would happen if somebody did not keep this commandment. Jesus summarized in Mark 7 both the commandment and what, according to this commandment, would happen if it was not kept:

Mark 7:10 

"For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother'; and, He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." 

        The verb “curse” here is the Greek verb “kakologeo” which means “speak evil”. Whoever spoke evil against his father or mother was to be put to death.

To see an example of not honoring the parents, let’s continue in the above passage of Mark:

Mark 7:11-13

  "But you say, `If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"-' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

The word “Corban” is a Hebrew word that means a “gift offered to God”. It is this word that is used in Leviticus 1:2 for example, where it says:

Leviticus 1:2

  “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: `When any one of you brings an offering [Korban] to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock-of the herd and of the flock.”

          The word “offering” here is the word Korban that the Lord also used speaking of those Jews that didn’t honor their parents. In essence what these Jews were saying to their parents was “whatever you could benefit from me, my property, my income, is Corban i.e. dedicated to God and I cannot give it to you”. This was a vow they used to do to avoid giving to their parents. They made a vow dedicating everything to God, and therefore they could claim that they had nothing to support and therefore no obligation for such support towards their parents. As Barnes explains:

If he had once devoted his property once said it was “Corban,” or a gift to God - it could not be appropriated even to the support of a parent. If a parent was needy and poor, and if he should apply to a son for assistance, and the son should reply, though in anger, “It is devoted to God; this property which you need, and by which you might be profited by me, is “Corban” - I have given it to God;” the Jews said the property could not be recalled, and the son was not under obligation to aid a parent with it. He had done a more important thing in giving it to God. The son was free. He could not be required to do anything for his father after that. Thus, he might, in a moment, free himself from the obligation to obey his father or mother» (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes (1798-1870))

        Our Lord Jesus Christ condemned the use of the excuse of “Corban” – offering to God - to avoid helping the parents. Obviously for him honoring the parents was something very important, as important as it was for God when it listed it in the 10 commandments.

Honoring your father and mother: Conclusion.

          It is God’s command to honor our parents with all that this honor may include. The commandment of honoring our parents is the first commandment with promise and really what a promise: Live long on earth and be well with you! Most of the people wouldn’t want something more than this! Well, this is the promise. It is not unconditional though! It is conditional and it will be bestowed to those who honor their parents. The commandment of honoring our parents was so important that the one that would speak evil of his parents would die. Yes, today we live under the age of grace but the commandment of the Lord and His promise is there. And the challenge is there for us as well:

Ephesians 6:2-3

  “Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What To Do " If Your Brother Sins Against You"

We find this passage in Luke 17:3-4. There we read:

"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, "I repent", you shall forgive him"

        There are some "ifs" in this passage. Being in the computer industry I know very well what an if statement means in a program. It means that what follows the if statement applies only if what is included in the "if statement" is fulfilled. In the first sentence of the above precious words of our Lord, we have two if statements.  

IF your brother sin against you

THEN you rebuke him

IF (after you rebuke him) he repents 

THEN you forgive him

        This is the turn the Lord has set. Many people desire to be forgiven without repenting. Many others yet, do not forgive somebody for a sin for which however they have never rebuked him!
Thus they break the above simple order THE LORD HAS SET. Many still rebuke others for things that are not sins, thus sinning themselves against them! There are many with big mouths that can be critical about everything and everyone and if you fall into their mouth… poor you. They pretend to rebuke the others but there is no SIN!! I was rebuked more than once by some people because I was writing articles!! Should I repent? NO. This is what GOD has told me to do! Instead I need to rebuke the person that "rebuked" me or better "criticize" me and not be silent, and see then whether he will repent and ask for forgiveness. If I don’t rebuke what I know FROM THE WORD that is sin then the other will not get a chance to repent and then I will not have a chance to forgive him.Keeping it like this, will create me big problems the next time I meet this person, for my relationship with him will be affected by hurt, intimidation and unforgiveness. Many people think that they have to forgive the other without rebuking him and without him repenting and asking for forgiveness. This is not what the Lord commanded. It is much more difficult to forgive somebody when you have never told him the wrong and he has never repented and asked for forgiveness than to follow the simple order the Lord had set: rebuke, the other side repents, you forgive!

         And what happens you will ask if I rebuke the other person for something that is clearly a sin against me, and the other one does not repent and never asks for forgiveness? This case may unfortunately happen. Many people have so much pride that will never say a "sorry" to anybody. I have seen cases where people are very clearly rebuked, it is evident that they err, yet they bypass what they did like nothing happened, without saying "sorry for what happened"! Watchman Nee said somewhere "the humbler a person is the more often will say "sorry". Tell sorry to anybody even for the slightest thing that you THINK that you may have done wrongly. This is to be humble. This is to be Christian! Anything else is plain hypocrisy. It is having the words but to deny them when it is time to live them. Not asking for forgiveness will not harm only the person against whom the sin was committed but also the person that committed the sin. If for example a person has big critical mouth causing intimidation to others and if this is not confronted then he will certainly harm many but he himself will also be denied practically by the others! How to be open to a person that intimidates and has not repented for this? No wonder that this person will at the end be alone. But again the others as brothers and sisters, the church herself, what do they do? Have they confronted this person? The Word does not ask you to forgive somebody that has not repented! What He asks you and the church to do is TO REBUKE HIM!!! Have you done it? Has the church as the body of believers done it? And again here we don’t speak for whatever YOU may have in your mind as sin, but for what the WORD defines as sin.

 Here is what our Lord and captain of our faith said in Matthew 18:15-17

Matthew 18:15-17

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that "by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector"

           THIS IS THE ORDER OF GOD!!! THIS IS WHAT THE CAPTAIN OF OUR FAITH HAS SAID. THIS IS WHAT JESUS THE LORD, THE CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH HAS SET. Why do we try to do it differently? Why do we think that it is better that we are silent to the evil, the abuse, the sin that is done before our very eyes!! In our very churches! When will we hear the voice of the Lord instead of the voices of the world that says "everybody can do whatever he wants". For this is what our Lord has said (in the form of "program" language, for it is so precise!):

IF your brother sins 

Rebuke him,tell him his fault 

If he repents OK.

ELSE

Take with you two or three witness

IF he does not hear them THEN

 Tell it to the church

IF he does not hear the church THEN

 Let him be to you as a heathen and tax collector

 What we in our modern western churches do is the following:

IF your brother sins against you

 Don’t tell him anything!

Or

 If you are so brave (!!)to tell him, and he does not hear you

 There is no problem… just behave as nothing happens!

 Excuse me who has said this?? Please show me the page of the Bible where the Lord or his apostles commanded something like this? This may be what YOU think or what your pastor or society may have told you BUT certainly is NOT what God has said in the Bible. See here what Paul says:

I Corinthians 5:1-2

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles – that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be TAKEN AWAY from among you."

        "Taken away? Come on Paul. I’m so nice on my sit. Why should I do something? I’m paying my teethes. I’m coming on Sundays to my church. I’m doing my prayers. I’m ok. Why should I bother for this fellow? This is his business." And Paul, and God through Paul replies to you: "YOU ARE PUFFED UP! You had to MOURN instead of sitting coldly on your sit! This unrepented person should be taken away". And Paul continues:

I Corinthians 5:9-13

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexual immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexual immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you NOT TO KEEP COMPANY WITH ANYONE NAMED A BROTHER, WHO IS SEXUALLY IMMORAL, OR COVETOUS, OR AN IDOLATER, OR A REVILER, OR A DRUNKARD, OR AN EXTORTIONER – not even to eat with such person. For what I have to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. THEREFORE "PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON"

           There is judgment that must be done. Again I don’t speak about those big mouth folks that they THINK they are rebuking and the only they do is criticizing innocence. THEY HAVE TO BE REBUKED for this. Here the whole church knows that a named as brother is covetous, or sexual immoral or a reviler etc. This person has not repented. Then it falls to the last category of the Lord’s statement:

IF he does not hear the church THEN 

Let him be to you as a heathen and tax collector 

Or as Paul says "Put him away".
For by doing this you have one more chance to make him repent. But by accepting him you tell him "there is no problem. We don’t care enough about you anyway! Do as you wish!" God judges the outside. We are to judge the inside. "Do you not judge those who are inside?"

And again:

 II Thessalonians 3:14-15

"IF ANYONE DOES NOT OBEY OUR WORD IN THIS EPISTLE, NOTE THAT PERSON AND DO NOT KEEP COMPANY WITH HIM THAT HE MAY BE ASHAMED. YET DO NOT COUNT HIM AS AN ENEMY, BUT ADMONISH HIM AS A BROTHER"

         "Note this person and do not keep company with him". The purpose is NOT to reject that person but that he may be ashamed and thus repent! Instead in our modern churches WE are ashamed to tell this person to repent! He must be avoided so that HE may be ashamed and repent. Avoided does not mean rejected. The Word says in James 5:19-20

James 5:19-20

"Brethren if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover multitude of sins"

and again: 

Ezekiel 18:23

"Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord God, "and not that he should turn his ways and live"

         God does not desire the rejection BUT THE REPENTANCE of the person that sins. For without repentance the sin will NOT be forgiven. Now, for the repentance to occur, REBUKE is needed and if the person does not hear anybody then he should be taken away, noted and avoided. Yet he should still be advised so that he may return. The gates should always be open IF THE PERSON REPENTS. God does not desire the person to stay in his present state. He wants him to repent!

Closing let’s return to the words of our Lord in Matthew 18:18

Matthew 18:18

"Assurently, I say to you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven"

The above means responsibility, choice. It is in our hands to rebuke. It is in our hands to repent. It is in our hands to forgive. Will we follow the teaching of Word? It is absolutely clear and precise. And let me repeat it again:  

IF your brother sins 

Rebuke him,tell him his fault 

If he repents OK.

ELSE

Take with you two or three witness

IF he does not hear them THEN

 Tell it to the church

IF he does not hear the church THEN 

Let him be to you as a heathen and tax collector

      Jesus went to the heathen and to the tax collectors too! Once the person repents the sin is forgiven and the person is back to fellowship with God and the others. The doors should never be closed to a repented sinner and should never be open to somebody that has been rebuked in the way the Lord has set and yet he does not repent.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Way Of Balaam

We find the record of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Israel, being on the way to the promised land, camped in the “plains of Moab on the side of Jordan across from Jericho”
(Numbers 22:1).This made Balak, king of Moab, very afraid and he sent ambassadors to Pethor - a place in Mesopotamia, several hundred kilometers away – to bring Balaam. The assignment he had for him is given in Numbers 22: 5-6: 

Numbers 22:5-6 

“Look a people has come from Egypt. See they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed and he whom you curse is cursed” 

Balaam’s fame was that “him whom he blessed was blessed and him whom he cursed was cursed”
(Numbers 22:6).If one reads the whole record of Numbers 22-24 he will find out that Balaam initially had a godly attitude. When the servants of Balak approached him, he only promised to them that he would check their request with God. When God told him not to go with them, he obediently sent them away. This is what a man walking on the right path would do and that’s what Balaam did as well. He was obviously walking on that path. However, Balak insisted. After some days more princes, more honorable ones, arrived again at Balaam’s place promising him great honour and riches if he only went and cursed Israel. Somebody that had clearly settled the answer of God in his heart, would not wait: he would again send the princes away, as God had already made it clear that he was not to go with them. But Balaam didn’t do this. Instead he said that he would check with God again. Though this is still okay and certainly not as bad as going with them without checking with God at all, it indeed shows a crack, an instability, an intention to not send them away unsatisfied. You plea God again only for something that you still want, and you are not fine and settled with what He has told you the first time. And this is what happened here. Balaam wanted to go with them, the gifts too many and the honour too much for him to deny. On the other hand, he didn’t want to disobey God either! He would be happy if he went there, curse Israel, get the rewards and have it fine with God too – much the same with us sometimes: I want to do my will, so God please change yours, let me do mine and we will be fine! God seeing him at this stage, told him to go but only if the men came to call him again. Yet, in the morning we see him up on his donkey and ready for the long travel! He didn’t want to lose a second and didn’t wait for anybody to call him! As a result, God’s anger was aroused and He sent His angel to stand against him. Balaam’s ass saved his life for when she saw the angel she tried to avoid him. The angel told Balaam to go but to ONLY say the word that God would speak to him. Why did God have to say to him “ONLY the word that I will speak to you, that you will speak” (Numbers 22:35)? This was a warning to Balaam to not deviate from His word. As we will see, he didn’t pay attention to it fully. Balaam therefore went and met Balak. Despite that Balak took him to various places that would make it easier for him to curse Israel, Balaam kept attached to what God had told him and spoke only His word which was only blessings for Israel. Balak was very upset! Here is what he said to Balaam after a three-round blessing of Israel: “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor” (Numbers 24:10-11). 

Balaam: An example to be avoided

 It appears that Balaam took a stand for God. He only spoke His word and though he went with the princes of Balak he only said what God wanted him to say. He didn’t deviate from it. One could even ask why II Peter 2:15 as well as other passages that we will see later present him as an example to be avoided. Sure he wanted to go and may be he had his eyes on the gifts. Yet, it seems that he didn’t diverge from what God told him and finally he left the place empty handed. He obeyed God despite the fact that this meant the loss of the gifts and rewards promised to him. Or, was it not so?

           Balaam is mentioned as an example to be avoided in II Peter, Jude and Revelation. This may seem unjustified by the records we have seen up to now, but carrying on we will find the reason:

Numbers 25:1-5, 9

“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They [the women of Moab] invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel. So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor…… And those who died in the plague were twenty four thousand.”

How did it come that the women of Moab knew how to seduce the Israelites? How did it come that they came, made them to commit harlotry with them, invited them to their sacrifices and made them to bow down to their false gods? God was displeased, His anger was aroused and 24.000 Israelites lost their lives in the plague that followed. Who really devised these wicked plans that brought such a destruction to Israel? Numbers 31:15-16 and Revelation 2:14 give us the answer:

Numbers 31:15-16

  “and Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord””

        and Revelation 2:14 (the Lord Jesus is speaking to the angel of the church in Pergamos) “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.”

The teacher that taught Moab how to make Israel to stumble was Balaam. We already saw how inclined he was to gifts and honour. II Peter 2:15-16 tell us that he LOVED them:

II Peter 2:15 

“they have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, WHO LOVED THE WAGES OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.”

Up to the time of Numbers 24 Balaam was a prophet of God, a God’s spokesman. He was walking on the right way. BUT not up to the end. He eventually forsook it and went astray, because “he loved the wages of unrighteousness”. He started well but had an awful end. It is not only important to start on the right way. It is also very important to keep on it till the end. Balaam started well, but didn’t continue well. He was finally killed by the Israelites when they took over Midian1. In the record of his death (Joshua 13:22), he is no longer called “prophet” but “soothsayer”. He started as a prophet, a spokesman of God but ended as soothsayer, God’s enemy.

Balaam in II Peter and Jude

       Balaam turned from being a spokesman of God to a false teacher that made God’s people stumble (Revelation 2:14). He was on the right way but forsook it and went astray. This is probably the reason that he is mentioned three times by different writers in the New Testament as an example to be avoided. We have already seen the relevant record of Revelation and here are the other two from II Peter and Jude:

II Peter 2:16

  “THEY have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.”

and Jude 11 

“Woe to them! For THEY have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah”

Both II Peter and Jude refer to those who follow Balaam’s way. Who are these people? What have they done? Do they have any similarity with Balaam, and if yes what is it? How could this Old Testament figure relate to the today’s age of grace ? We will find the answer in the Scriptures. Starting from II Peter, the word “they” goes back to the first verse, where we read:

II Peter 2:1-3 

“but there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even deny the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”

We will go on with more information given about those false teachers. But let’s first make clear their origin. This becomes obvious from verses 1, 15 and 20-21. There we read:

II Peter 2:1 

“but there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even deny the Lord who bought them and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

II Peter 2:15 

“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray”

and II Peter 2:20-21

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

As it is obvious from the above:

• These people were people the Lord had bought.
• They were people who had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
• They had known the way of righteousness and the holy commandment was delivered unto them.
• They had forsaken the right way, which in turn means that they were once walking on it.

          The false teachers the Word of God is speaking about here are therefore not unbelievers but believers or to be precise they started as such. For what else are people who were bought by the Lord, have full knowledge of the Lord and to whom the holy commandment was delivered? As Balaam, they started on the right way but they forsook it and turned to false teachers, bringing in destructive heresies and exploiting God’s people by deceptive words! If we think that the matter of these false teachers is rather not to be given much attention, for after all we haven’t seen many openly “denying the Lord that bought them”, we are wrong. God devoted much of II Peter and almost the whole epistle of Jude speaking about these impostors. This is really a matter where the Word of God says:
“ATTENTION”. II Timothy 2:15 tells us:

II Timothy 2:15 

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

It is our job to rightly divide the word of truth and without a strong foundation on it, it will be impossible to be protected by the false teachers that go around. Returning to II Peter, verses 10-22 continue on these apostates:

II Peter 2:10-22 

“and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self willed. They are not afraid not to speak of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

      God devotes a large part of II Peter to describe these false teachers. Many of them are out there today and many have passed through the centuries, using God’s and Christ’s name for their own cause, for power, for money, for honour. It is not Christ whose example they follow but Balaam’s. II Peter leaves no doubt for their end. As we just read:

• They bring on themselves swift destruction (II Peter 2:1).
• For a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber (II Peter 2:3).
• “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter state has become worse for them that the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (II Peter 2:20-22, NKJV-RSV)

• For them is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (II Peter 2:17).

It is not salvation that is reserved for these people but “the blackness of darkness forever”. But “is not salvation a gift given by grace?”, some will say. Sure it is. It is a gift given by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). But as it is obvious, some people will deny the Lord - and therefore the faith - and will turn to be His enemies exploiting His people and bringing in destructive heresies. They are indeed similar to Balaam. He was also on the right way but he went astray and turned from being a true prophet to a false teacher that taught God’s enemies how to make His people stumble. For these people “is reserved the blackness of darkness forever”. According to II Peter “it would be better for them to not to have known the way of righteousness than having known to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them”.

Jude Balaam is also mentioned in Jude, almost in the same way and context as in II Peter. Jude starts his epistle with the following:

Jude 3 

“Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 

        Jude wanted through his epistle to exhort the believers to EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS.Obviously this faith was under attack. This faith IS under attack and the enemy, as long as he is around, he will never cease to attack it. We have to contend earnestly for this faith and Jude goes on to give the reasons in his one-chapter long epistle:

Jude 4-19

  “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, "to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”

It appears that these are the same kind of people, at least as far as fruit is concerned, with those we saw in II Peter. They are impostors who may even dare to call themselves Christians. Because of these false teachers – and there are many of them active today - Jude felt an earnest need to write to the believers to tell them to fight for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. We have to fight for the faith! It is the Scriptures - not doctrines, ordinances and traditions of men, whoever these are – the basis of our faith. Colossians 2:8 warns us:

Colossians 2:8 

 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

also II John 7-8 

“for many deceivers have gone into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and an antichrist.Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

Also Jude and Peter tell us: 

Jude 20-25 

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

II Peter 3:14-18

  “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

      “Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked”. All of us can be potentially “led away with the error of the wicked”. None is exempted from this warning. Balaam started on the right way but he eventually forsook it. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, Peter continues. “Beware” is one part of the action, growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is the other.

There are many impostors out there, and even within the body of Christ – that’s why Peter and Jude address believers - and the only way to be protected from their deceitful teachings is to incline to the pure milk of the Word. The only way to build our house so that it is not overtaken by anything that may come against it, is to build it on the rock, which Jesus Christ explained is to hear God’s Word and do it (Matthew 7:24-25). Balaam knew the word of God, he actually followed it up to a point but not after it crossed with his lust for honour and riches. Once this happened he went astray. In contrast to him, we must go the right way : the way of knowing and at all costs doing God’s Word. Starting, running and finishing the race, reaping complete and full the rewards God has for us.

Hebrews 12:1b-2 “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Attack In Ziglag: Lessons From David's Reaction

We will be looking mainly to the 30th chapter of I Samuel. As an introduction, David and his men, to avoid Saul’s persecution, went to Achish the king of the Philistines who accepted them and gave them the city of Ziklag. In the 29th chapter of I Samuel we find the Philistines gathering together all their armies in Jesreel to fight against Israel. It was this fight that cost the life to Saul and Jonathan. In order to avoid any plot by David and his men, the Philistines denied to them to be a part of their army and sent them back to Ziklag. I Samuel 30:1-6 tells us what they found there:

I Samuel 30:1-6

"Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."

I was in a church some weeks ago and God showed me this passage. It is a period where I think a lot about the subject of losing and recovering and I believe God wants us to hear the message of I Samuel 30. Many of us we can relate to the situation described in I Samuel. We don’t inhabit Ziklag nor we live in the days of Saul and David. But we may have something in common with David and his men: the enemy may have invaded our territory, at the time that we were out or "sleeping" and he may have stolen us things very valuable to us. Whatever this may be at the end may be translated to disappointment, loss of hope and orientation, loss of vision and enthusiasm. Brothers believe me: if the devil does not steal your hope and enthusiasm HE IS DEFEATED. He does not aim to simply steal you something. His end purpose is to steal your hope, your enthusiasm, your HEART. The aim of the devil is your heart and your hope. For he knows that only hopeful hearts are alive hearts. Our problem is not that we haven’t seen God. We have seen Him. The problem is that we have also seen the devil. The problem is that we expected that our Ziklag (whatever this may be) would never be stolen. We hoped that God would somehow protect it from any destruction. But things may have turned differently. Stuff may have happened in our lives that we never expected and we suddenly discovered that bad things may also happen to good people. "Cities" of good people may be invaded by the enemy of our souls. To face these arrows, many of us have chosen to anesthetize our hearts so that it does not feel pain any longer and we carry on to what we call "the road of faith". It may be a road full of service and works, WITHOUT however the enthusiasm and the warmness our relationship with God used to have. Many we feel OK with this situation and we deny to admit that there are things that have been lost and need to be recovered. Many feel OK to just survive, without hope and dreams, and call this "faith", instead of pursuing again for the lively relationship they once had with the Lord. I have discovered that God may leave us in this stage till we DECIDE WE WANT to change. Till we no longer compromise with the defeat nor we accept and hide the loss but we make the decision to pursue and recover all that was stolen. And let me remind you that what is stolen is mainly THE HOPE, THE ENTHUSIASM, THE HEART. Once we made this decision, God immediately becomes also very near to us. The message today is not that there will be no stealing. I don’t intent to give you the 10 steps that will ensure the devil will never touch you. I don’t have them! As long as there is a thief there will be stealing! BUT we can overcome it. The message today is ATTACK to recover all that the enemy has stolen from us: enthusiasm, faith, hope, joy and others. We can cry for as long as we want. We can say that life is tough. And it is! However, as David and his men did, so we have to make a decision: either we will cry for the losses, hiding probably our frustration by anesthesia, apathy and religious activity or we will deny to compromise, we will ENCOURAGE OURSELVES IN THE LORD and we will stand up to recover everything. It is really a very critical decision, a decision of spiritual life or death. Either we will live as spiritually wounded, or as spiritual heroes. What I want to emphatically say today is that if you are wounded, your wound will not be healed by accepting the defeat and the loss and forgetting the alive fellowship you used to have with God with the false idea that "it is impossible to go that far again". The wounds will be healed only if you stop crying and instead stand up to recover everything, to return at least where you used to be! GOD HASN’T CHANGED MY BROTHER. He is exactly the same God as when you first met Him. We may be wounded but we will not find healing in resignation but in "encouraging ourselves in the Lord" and standing up to recover everything. Not with religious works that many use to cover the emptiness of their true relationship with God. Do you want to find the level of your relationship with God? Don’t look at your activities! They will show distorted results! Instead imagine yourself without any activity. Could you live with God without any activity or is your faith "activity maintained"? Is your relationship with God at least as alive as it used to be when you first believed? Again deny to use works and logic to hide the truth! You need the truth! Paul tells us to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith! You don’t need to cry for any loss you might have. What you need to do instead is to STAND UP and encourage yourself in the Lord. STAND UP and you will recover everything. That’s what David chose to do:

I Samuel 30:6-8, 18

"Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, "Please bring the ephod here to me." And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?" And He answered him, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.…. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away"

The people were crying. David also did the same. Nobody reacts to the pain with gladness. The pain is pain and it brings cry. However after the first shock there were two reactions. All the others continued crying and they moved with anger against David (similarly, many being angry for their pain, pick up stones against the state, ministries, people, God and generally everybody they consider as responsible for what was stolen) but David encouraged himself in the Lord and asked Him what to do. The Lord then gave him the assurance that if he pursued after the Amalekites he would recover everything. See here the following:

Though there was a stealing, there was a way to recover everything. God didn’t obstruct the stealing. Also God didn’t tell David what to do before he stopped crying and turned to Him to ask Him.

Many of us spent our days, months and even years with the question "Why God?". Many we feel bitterness why God didn’t protect us since we know He could. I don’t know why He didn’t protect you or me but I know that when this goes further than a genuine expression of the heart as Job did, then it leads nowhere. My personal answer to life’s frustrations is that ALL things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28)! ALL, what we think as evil and what we may think as good. Your life is NOT in the hands of the devil BUT IN THE HANDS OF GOD. Even if the devil has wounded you there is a way to recover! The question my brother is not why God didn’t protect you. The critical question is whether you will stand UP, encourage yourself in the Lord, not accept to compromise with the loss, not accept anything less in your relationship with God than what at least you used to have. If you do this, if you stand up, THEN I KNOW 100% WHAT WILL HAPPEN: YOU WILL RECOVER. YOU WILL RECOVER EVERYTHING. That’s what happened also with David and his men. GOD HASN’T CHANGED. Remember the sweet times you had with Him, before the Ziklag was invaded. HE IS THE SAME. You can have the same relationship with Him, NOW. It is not a matter of eventual recovery. The recovery can be instant. If you only make the decision to not compromise and that you cannot live any longer with anything less in hope, faith and enthusiasm that what you used to have. The situation is turned upside down exactly at that moment. David and his men turned the situation upside down at the moment they decided not to accept an invaded Ziklag, with the enemy having their hopes, dreams and enthusiasm stolen, but they wanted a Ziklag as it used to be, a heart with the hope faith and enthusiasm that it once had. At that moment the enemy had lost the battle. For at that moment they stoped crying and they started fighting. And fighting, they recovered EVERYTHING!  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rest In The Lord And Wait For Him Patiently

It is easy to get distracted in our world. Busyness is a modern illness from which many of us suffer. Rest is its opposite and of the things the Lord came to offer. In Matthew 11:28-30 He said:

Matthew 11:28-30

"Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I’m gently and lowly in heart, AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light"

Jesus Christ is the only one that can give rest to our souls. If your soul is in turmoil, if your soul is tired, exhausted and heavy laden, then you are reading the right passage. JESUS came to give you rest! You will not get rest when your kids grow. Or when you get married. Or when your bank account becomes positive. YOU WILL GET REST ONLY IF YOU MEET JESUS. ONLY IF YOU PUT YOUR BURDENS IN HIS HANDS AND TAKE UPON YOU HIS EASY AND LIGHT YOKE, ONLY THEN YOU WILL FINDREST. As the Word says in Philippians:

Philippians 4:6-7

"BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING, BUT IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN TO GOD; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"

Be anxious for nothing!! YES for nothing!!! Your kids, your job, your health, your wounds, your finances, your other concerns are all here. There is NOTHING excluded from this statement. There is nothing that should make us anxious. And the verse goes one step further to tell us what to do instead of being anxious: "but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." PEACE!!! To get peace you don’t have to finish the so and so project or to receive the so and so blessing but to be anxious for nothing and cast everything to the Lord through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving! It is HIS job to CARE for you, while you rest in Him. And in resting in Him you have power! See what it says in Isaiah 30:15-18

Isaiah 30:15

"For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: IN RETURNING AND REST YOU SHALL BE SAVED; IN QUIETNESS AND CONFIDENCE SHALL BE YOUR STRENGTH."

Our strength is in RESTING in the Lord. In quietness and confidence! I call this the RRQC club: Return, Rest, be Quite and Confident to God. Taking quietness, for example we can see its importance in Jesus’ life: He would get up very early in the morning and go to the wilderness alone to pray (Mark 1:35)! He needed quite times with the Father. We need them too! We don’t need to fill our schedule with a hundred of activities to keep us going. We will not find strength in activities but only in quietness and confidence to God. It is at the times that our heart is quite and confident that the Lord can be heard by it.

Returning to Isaiah verse 16 gives us the answer of the people to the plea of God for return, rest, quietness and confidence, and the respective reply of the Lord:

Isaiah 30:16

"And you said, "No, for we will flee on horses" – Therefore you shall flee! And, "We will ride on swift horses" – Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, At the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill"

Those people had their plans on how to do it. You may have your own. You too may say "No, for….". You may try hard and care all the day. Do you know the price? Weakness, fear, anxiety, defeat. The more you trust in your "horsepower", the more weaker and dry you will get. The only way for strength and life and rest is to rest in the Lord. To be quite and confident in Him. To be anxious for nothing and cast all your cares upon Him. This is the ONLY way!

Jeremiah 6:16-17

Moving further on our subject, let’s go now to Jeremiah 6:16-17. In a similar tone with Isaiah, Jeremiah 6:16-17 tells us:

Jeremiah 6:16-17

"Thus says the Lord: Stand in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where the good way is and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, "We will not walk in it." Also I set watchmen over you saying, "Listen to the sound of the trumpet!" But they said, "We will not listen"

"The old paths. Return to the OLD PATHS. Walk in the old straight paths and you will find rest, our God says. Return, Rest, Be quite and Confident in God. Get today into the RRQC club. Jesus is the leader and He will give you REST and peace. To register costs nothing except your cares! You have to cast them all upon God and peace will be given to you. What do you prefer: Busyness and distraction, or rest and peace? Dryness and weakness or fruitfulness and strength? Death or life? Really it is that critical. The matter of the rest in the Lord is indeed a spiritual fight! A battle between fruitfulness and unfruitfulness. As Psalms 37:7 again tell us:

Psalms 37:7

"REST IN THE LORD AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM"

Let’s wait patiently in the Lord and rest in Him! Let’s NEVER leave any foreign seed to spring in our garden and make our tree barren.