• Greetings & Welcome

    Greetings & Welcome

The purpose for this website is to provide resources for the body of Christ to grow into all the fullness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and to see and treasure and more effectively proclaim the good news of His glorious person and kingdom.

Everything on these pages should be easy to copy and paste. Nothing is copyrighted, but attribution of authorship is appreciated. I hope something herein will encourage you and perhaps enlighten you re: Jesus’s person, kingdom purposes and ways. And if it does, I would be delighted if you could tell someone else about it or maybe use it in your ministry to others.

I’ve been studying the Bible for 40 years and attempting to practice and teach it to others, albeit with no where near the devotion and obedience of which He is worthy. Over the years I have compiled a wide variety of studies, sermons, articles, and such, that I intend over time to post herein. And of course I will be posting fresh writings most every week.

God bless you richly, and thanks for stopping by. And thanks to Zach & Danny for photos, and to Luke for helping to create and design and oversee this website.

Yours in Christ,


P.S. Re: sermons – when I preach, I do not read my sermons, so my spoken sermons always have twists and turns that my manuscripts do not. You can access some of my spoken sermons at www.thewelllosos.com

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INTRODUCTION – Last Sunday Joshua finished preaching through the first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. One of the unique things about those two chapters is how much Paul spoke of the work of the gospel, which simply stated is to help all the peoples of the world to know Christ and become His disciples.  This talk of the mission of the church up front is very unusual in Paul’s letters to the churches he ministered to. 

Often – such as in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and to the church in Rome, he spent the first half or more building a doctrinal foundation of who Christ is, what He did on the cross and His resurrection and how that affects them and the world – before he ever told them how they were to live in light of those truths. 

 Sometimes he had to deal with significant problems like with his letters to the church in Galatia or in Corinth, so that he was unable to really focus on the work or mission before them until he dealt with the problems.

In Philippians, talk of the work is up front and central. For instance: In ch. 1 vs. 3-5 Paul tells them that one of the main reasons he thanks God for them and prays for them so often is because of their “participation in the gospel” with him from the very first day of his acquaintance with them until the day of his writing some 10 years later.

In vs. 12-20 Paul wanted them to know how God had used his adverse circumstances of being in prison for the furtherance of the gospel.

In ch. 2 vs. 15 he exhorts them to blamelessly carry out their call as lights in the dark world God had placed them in.

And in the latter half of ch. 2, as Josh spoke of last week, Paul wanted them to know of the great sacrifice and selflessness of Timothy and Epaphroditus for the sake of the gospel – two men who had poured out their lives for the church in Philippi.

I think it is very possible that after communicating all of those thoughts, the apostle realized – unless they really focus in on their greatest calling or their highest priority in life – – their ability to truly contribute to the mission is going to be greatly limited – possibly even corrupted.

Chapter three is somewhat of a timeout!  It is a reminder of the dangers of getting so wrapped up in serving Jesus as Martha did, that we lose sight of savoring Jesus as Mary was able to do.   It is Paul sensing a check in his spirit via the Holy Spirit, and thus he lays aside discussion of the advance of the kingdom, for something of even greater importance and that is – affection for, and pursuit of the King of this kingdom.

The church in Philippi was more mature than most. But even they needed occasional course corrections and reminders of what was ultimately important, and what must come first.  

While I pray that those of us connected to The Well will be ever more fruitful in helping our neighbors and friends and co-workers and fellow students come to know Jesus, as well as supporting those who are doing this to the ends of the earth, …in that quest – we are always going to be in danger of losing our passion for the Savior Himself.

As we jump into chapter 3, we are going to look at three aspects or practices of our relationship with the King of this kingdom.  Three aspects or practices of our highest calling in life, two of which I hope to deal with today.  And here’s the first one. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to

Rejoice in the Lord alone  vs. 1-6 (read it)  three truths about this practice

First this practice is a safeguard for disciples of Jesus as we see in  vs. 1   And it is a safeguard for us corporately as a congregation.  As we here at The Well get more and more engaged in the work of the kingdom, our need to be focused on Christ is also ever greater.  As we learn to lay our lives down for the brethren and for those who do not yet know our Lord and Savior, there are many potential snares along the way. Diversions, dissensions, disappointments,……People that we have invested our time and energy in and prayers for, people whom we thought were tracking with the Lord, all of a sudden we discover aren’t tracking with Him at all.  Those of us in the older generation find ourselves more and more having to deal with health issues and the inevitable deterioration of our bodies.   Some of you in the younger generation are slugging it out in the marketplace trying to provide for your families without losing intimacy with your families.   Sometimes we pray for and reach out to individuals for many years who do not yet know our Lord and Savior, and years later they seem no closer than they were years ago.

Rejoicing in the Lord – learning to come to Him daily as our primary source of satisfaction and comfort and identity and solace; learning to stand on His truth and promises regardless of what our circumstances look like – – this practice will guard our hearts and minds and emotions – – and protect us from all the fiery darts of the evil one, and the people that the devil uses for his purposes. 

When we rejoice in the Lord, and especially the fact that He is Lord over all, and that He will faithfully deal with every injustice and every word of gossip or slander and every evil act toward us or towards His people, our spirit is released from the temptation to take some of these things into our own hands. When we rejoice in the Lord for His utter faithfulness to His promises including answering our prayers for those we long to come to know Him, we can persevere with faith – never doubting He is going to come through. When we rejoice in the Lord and His commitment to heal our sicknesses and injuries; and provide for our every need – we can calm down, and focus on the things He has given us to focus on.

 The second truth about this practice or spiritual discipline of rejoicing in the Lord is 

This practice requires avoidance of those seemingly in the kingdom who do not rejoice in the Lord – vs. 2  These people are usually very religious, persuasive, pushy, passionate, and deceptive; they may use Christian lingo, they may attend our worship services, they may pastor churches, but they do not truly love the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately they love themselves.  Paul describes them in three ways:

Dogs – obviously not a reference to service or comfort or companion dogs that many of us have enjoyed; but rather a reference to those who attack and devour like the packs of scavenger dogs that ran wild in those days.

evil workers – speaks to the fact that they can be found serving and working in the kingdom, but their motives are evil.

false circumcision – speaks of how they were obsessed with outward form, rather than Jesus’s call to cleansing of the heart.

I posted a study of all of these kinds of warning passages in the N.T. on my website recently if you are interested in studying this very real danger further. 

Paul doesn’t choose to explain these terms in vs. 2, but instead he goes on to paint the opposite picture. He tells us what true disciples of Jesus look and live like in verse 3.

This practice of Rejoicing in the Lord has three components – 

The first one is “worshipping in the Spirit of God” – – Disciples are worshippers!  Disciples are daily growing in the revelation of the glory and majesty of Jesus  –  and as our revelation grows and expands – so does our desire to worship such a great God and Savior. All of this is brought about in our hearts and minds by the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit as we learn to hear His voice and respond to His leading, revealing, convicting and sanctifying work. Joshua has often reminded us as a congregation of Jesus’s words that the Father is seeking worshippers whose focus is not a place or a form, but who worship Him in spirit and in truth – daily meditating on all that has been revealed to us about Jesus, and responding with hearts of worship and devotion.

The second one is “glorying in Christ Jesus” – this means we find our full identity in Him, not in our works or performance.  It means we are quick to exult in Him and boast only in Him. It means we never lose sight of the fact that it is solely by His grace that we are saved; and it is solely by His grace that we can be daily sanctified and conformed to His image; and it is solely by His grace that we will some day soon see Him as He is when this earthly life is over, and we will be forever in His glorious presence.

And finally in vs. 3, “putting no confidence in the flesh” –  means that we agree with Jesus that “apart from Him we can do nothing” of worth in His eyes as He said to His disciples when explaining the abiding in the Vine principle.  We readily agree with Paul as he stated in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;”           Only that which is birthed and breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives can be found pleasing to God. Only that righteousness which is imparted to us through Christ by faith is acceptable in God’s sight.

To hammer that truth home Paul now in vs. 4-6 uses his own religious attainments as an example.

Perhaps because the Judaizers had for so long and so loudly pushed their man made religion of performance and self righteousnessPaul now sees fit to remind everyone that if anyone could possibly attain the pleasure and righteousness of God through such – he would be that person.  Paul was the Lebron James or Steph Curry or Bill Gates of Judaism. He was a Jew of Jews;     few had ever reached the heights of Jewish and Pharisaaic stature that he had. 

So the first aspect or practice of our highest calling and highest priority in the kingdom is to rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The second one that the first and third rides on is that we ever more give ourselves to Knowing Jesus – vs. 7-11 (read it) 

Let’s dive in and see what we can learn from Paul’s example.  Here’s the first principle:

The things that were gain for me before Christ saved me must be laid at the cross for the sake or pursuit of knowing Christ – vs. 7   For Paul – one of the things this meant was never ever referring back to his religious attainments as a Pharisee for the purpose of impressing others or patting himself on the back. Paul never ever allowed himself to find any shred of identity or worth from those attainments.

The second principle goes a little deeper:

All things in life must be laid at the cross and must be counted as garbage if we want to know and gain Christ. – vs. 8

For Paul, everything – every relationship, every enjoyment, every comfort, every hobby, every schedule, every routine, every right and entitlement – even those other church leaders enjoyed and expected – – everything was on the table when it came to knowing Christ Jesus intimately and experientially. 

Perhaps the easiest way to identify what has been important in our lives, and what we may need to die to is what we find ourselves talking to people about when we are in any kind of conversation or social setting. Here’s a short list of the kinds of things we Americans tend to find our gain, identity or worth in: Usually they are our achievements in things like:

  • Education – 
  • the marketplace or our careers/jobs
  • our involvement in sports and/or perhaps our knowledge of collegiate and professional sports – scores, stats, trivia about star athletes, etc
  • our hobbies such as going on long hikes or trips to exotic places or photography or…
  • our service for the Lord, though if we talk about it all the time is it really for Him? Certainly wasn’t for the Pharisees as Paul could vouch for
  • our fitness, our looks, our dress, 
  • our knowledge of the latest in politics or of current social issues
  • our ability to keep a perfect house and landscaping around our house
  • our knowledge of what’s happening with everyone in our community via constant surveillance on facebook and our passion to let them know we are approving of their every move by our ever present“likes” 
  • our kids and grandkids’ attainments
  • our knowledge of the latest in technology re: our smart or I phones, or other techy things

So what was it that enabled Paul to totally die to all that his religious attainments had gained for him before he encountered Christ on the Damascus road, as well as everything else the Holy Spirit demanded?  According to vs. 8 it was his taste or experience of the “surpassing value of knowing Christ”.  Someone many years ago called this “the expulsive power of a new affection”.  

You see as you and I daily meditate in the scriptures – looking to the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us in greater and greater ways, and as we learn to obey His voice and His commandments in a relational daily way – our revelation of Him increases- -and His value as our Lord and Savior grows and increases;       and as that value grows and increases – all the things that used to give us a sense of identity or worth or acceptance or enjoyment in society no longer have their grip on us. In fact as the value of knowing and walking with Christ grows in our lives, these things become more and more distasteful and disgusting to us – – to Paul they became as garbage or dung (the greek word here translated rubbish in the New American Standard version can be taken either way). 

I want to read you this verse in the amplified Bible if I could: “Yes, furthermore I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege – the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth and supreme advantage – of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ, the Anointed One.”  Philippians 3:8

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the World, the Creator of everything seen and unseen in the Universe, has invited you and me to know Him in ever greater depth and intimacy.     

 But it comes with a price.  

When Paul says “so that I may gain Christ” he has learned that it is not a given. Many never attain to it.  To gain an intimate knowledge of Christ will require a focus and a death to self in ever increasing measure.  It will require a cleansing of all of our sin and the corruption and defilement it has caused in our innermost being in ever greater measure.  It will require absolute death to anything and everything that could possibly distract me from this pursuit. And distractions are rife in 21stcentury America – as you well know.

Now if that sounds daunting, even hopeless, you need to know – we have a Helper in this pursuit.  The Holy Spirit will faithfully and clearly help you and I know what has to go, so that we can gain Christ.  And He will tell us how to get rid of it; how to get loosed from it; how to get out from under it – whatever it is.  And He will help us see every step of the way – that the process, though painful at times – is way worth it!

OK – the third principle about the pursuit of knowing Christ from these verses is:

Our righteousness must be solely placed/grounded in Christ by faith – vs. 9  Our confidence in our right standing with God in terms of our initial salvation or justification; and our confidence that at any given moment we are pleasing in His sight must come through faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross and through His resurrection; and in what He is doing for us now by His blood and His Spirit, and in our participation and cooperation with what He is doing by the Holy Spirit’s power.  It must never be in our performance or self effort or generated by our own flesh or will power or human wisdom.  Paul’s growing passion was that wherever he was and whatever he was doing or experiencing that he would be found in Christ – -trusting in Christ, reveling in Christ, being fully satisfied in Christ; relying on Christ, looking to Christ, placing his hope in Christ; hanging on to every word of Christ, etc.  

Please note – two times faith comes up in this verse.          There are times and there will be times where you and I are going to be in intense battles of overcoming certain sin patterns, or just breaking out of seasons of funk that we don’t really understand. When we are in the midst of those battles, it is not our performance, but our faith that He is looking for. 

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him….”   With faith, standing on and clinging to every word, truth and every promise He has ever made – – we can’t help but please Him – – even if we are still struggling to break free of the said sin pattern or struggle.  I sometimes wonder if this was what Paul was speaking to, when he said to the Galatian church, “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.”  We know it is coming!  He has promised that He will complete what He has begun in us. And that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled or satisfied with it.

While meditating on this passage in Philippians 3 a few days ago, I sensed the Lord would have us observe communion together today.  We have an amazing Savior who has provided for us through His blood and resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, and our placement in His body –  everything we need to be restored to the image and likeness of God that He created us in before sin began to mar what God intended.  

One of the ways He has given for us to participate with Him in His restoring, healing, and sanctifying work in our lives is coming to His table and meditating on all that transpired on that old rugged cross.  

While Joshua and Will pass out the elements, I want to touch on the fourth principle found in verse 10, 11 and that is – Truly Knowing Jesus includes increasingly knowing and experiencing the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.  (repeat).  

Our triune God happens to be quite secure. He is happy to share His resurrection power with us. In fact Paul regularly prayed this for those he ministered to as can be seen in his recorded prayers in Ephesians 1:15-21 and Ephesians 3:14-19 and Colossians 1:9-12. Hear me brothers and sisters – – we need power; we were meant to walk and minister in power; and God is glad to give us power – – as long as we also long for the privilege of sharing in His sufferings and being conformed to his death.

What does it mean to share or fellowship in His sufferings?  A few things at least:

  1. It means to continue to grow in all the spiritual blessings that are available to me because Jesus the Son of God shed His blood on the cross for me – – things like forgiveness of sins, cleansing from sin, power to overcome sin, restoration of intimacy with Him & to my original purpose and destiny in Him, as well as restoration with others, etc.
  2. It means to embrace the way of suffering – – being willing every moment of every day to die to my own rights as Jesus did; being willing to be slandered and maligned and persecuted and lied about and unrighteously judged like Jesus experienced; being willing to do without – whether it be finances, or sleep, or a vacation, it means willingly going through periods of trial and testing, engaging in spiritual warfare, and sometimes seemingly standing alone in who He is calling you to be, and how He is calling you to live.
  3. And I think it means experiencing as He did the disappointment of people you have prayed for and invested in making bad decisions; people you have witnessed to rejecting Christ and even you; living and ministering in and amongst the world system that so hated Jesus and will hate us – the more we follow Him and proclaim Him and His will and way; 

And finally what does it mean to be conformed to His death?

Some commentators have stated that it means being martyred or willing to be martyred, and for sure it or the “fellowship of His sufferings” could include that. But since these things are necessary for us to know Him and attain to His highest good and will for us per vs. 11, I think He more likely has in mind the call to die to all of our rights and entitlements, to die to all of our old ways and thought patterns and dreams that were not of Him; I think it means embracing the way of the cross at every stage and season of life regardless of the cost – for the prize of knowing and experiencing oneness and intimacy with Christ. I believe it also means dying to every shred of the old man that still lies within us.

As we prepare to partake of communion together, I want to say to those of you who are new with us today that the primary requirement for you and I to come to this table is that we belong to Jesus. If you have never come to a place where you have stopped your busy life, and admitted that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior – now would be a wonderful time to do that. And if you do that, then you may partake with us.  

My sense in having us all partake of communion together today came from a strong conviction while preparing this sermon that we are all in this together. I would remind you that Phil. 1:6 was written to a church, not to an individual. One of the means of God’s perfecting in each of us of what He began is our practice of encouraging and supporting one another – bearing one another’s burdens.

Paul wrote in I Cor. 10:16,17 “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

Let’s eat of the bread together now. Could a couple of you thank the Lord for His body given for us?

Our oneness is a precious gift made possible only by the cleansing blood of Jesus. Before we drink of the cup, I want to direct your attention to the people of Israel. When they were captives in the powerful nation of Babylon, God spoke these words to them,

“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I [a]have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your [b]fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’     Jeremiah 29:10-14

Please note that God is the initiator of our relationship with Him. He is the sustainer of our relationship with Him. And He is the finisher of our relationship with Him. He like Paul was very clear that it is not an easy road to knowing Him. But the emphasis in this passage and I believe in scripture is that our hope must lie in His commitment and faithfulness to the development of our relationship with Him, and not in our performance.  All the “I will’s” in this passage are given for that purpose.

OK. Let’s drink together. Would a couple of you now thank the Lord for His precious blood that enables us to walk in intimacy with Him?

God bless you all!

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 Few if any people in my first 20 years had the impact on me that Preach did.

Some time around my eighth or ninth grade of school Dick “Preach” Allison became the new pastor of our Southern Baptist church.  One of my first of many memories of this godly man was a youth retreat that Preach and our associate Pastor facilitated soon after he became our pastor.  Being the unhinged youth that many of us were by that time, there were some late night shenanigans, and while one or more of those in charge reacted a bit harshly, Preach remained calm and took our foolishness in stride.

Preach became a spiritual father and mentor to me by the grace of God.  Our relationship through my high school years and early college years had a lasting impact on my life and ministry. He had an open door policy with me, which meant (once I was turned 16 and began to drive) that I could show up unannounced, and most every time he invited me right into his office.

At some point in my late high school years or perhaps early college years Preach invited me to go with him to the YMCA once a week, where he would swim and I would play basketball, and then we would go out to lunch somewhere.  

I’ll never forget when he took me one evening on a pastoral visit to a family up on a mountain who had no electricity, and still heated their small home with a coal furnace. Preach took them food and shared the gospel with them.

I’ll never forget when he took me with him to the jail to visit the man who burned our church buildings down. Not sure I on my own would have visited such a man.

Preach loved children and young people. And at one point probably either before Steve Bolt joined the staff, or perhaps after he left, Preach led our high school youth through a study on “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey. In the Jesus movement, that book seemingly held a status close to the Bible.  Preach did not criticize it. But said at the end he just couldn’t honestly see the Pre Trib rapture position in the scriptures, but he respected those who did.  Oh that all theological differences in the body of Christ were handled like that!

The Jesus movement swept through Knoxville in my late high school/early college days. We started having large meetings of mostly high school and college aged kids at “the Barn” in South Knoxville, and at our church on Sunday evenings.  People from a variety of congregations and some not a part of a congregation attended these meetings. And Preach fully embraced and blessed them. If he ever had a territorial bone in his body, I never observed it. And I’m sure that is why Para church leaders in Knoxville felt comfortable and safe around him.

Preach led a men’s prayer meeting on Friday mornings at 7:00 if I remember correctly.  Mostly men in their 50’s or older attended. But they allowed myself, and I Peter Stillman (both in high school) to attend as well. Those were precious times with precious men.

I happened to be in our high school office during my senior year when there was a discussion about a speaker for our high school commencement. I suggested my pastor – Dick Alison.  To my shock, they invited him. Not to my shock, he did an amazing job in that public school environment.

Dick had a handful of staff and a truck load of deacons to relate to and try to minister with. Some had obvious warts! He wasn’t blind to their weaknesses, but he always knew and practiced the truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment”.  

It may be that his mercy towards all of us is what impacted me more than all the rest of his wonderful qualities. For I was a young man who desperately needed God’s mercy.  Preach never failed to extend it to me, even at some of my lowest points.

My call to the ministry began and was nurtured in the presence of this merciful man. I’ve often wondered how it would have ever gotten off the ground without him.

Preach went to be with Jesus on Monday July 29th.  His love and affection for his wife (Jane) and son (Tim) was always obvious.  Thanks to you both for sharing him with those of us who had the privilege of walking with him for a time. 

May the Lord help all of us older members of the body of Christ have His heart for the children and youth around us – never doubting the eventual effect of the seeds we sow into their lives.

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One of the things we have come to realize around here is – Our perception of God greatly affects our pursuit of Him. For instance, if I think God is mean and grumpy and condemning and always in a bad mood, then I will not very likely want to know and fellowship with Him, and spend my discretionary time with Him.   

Well not only does our perception or knowledge of God affect our pursuit of Him, it also affects our modeling after Him or our becoming like Him.  It affects the way I embrace and live out my life in Him.     You see He created each of us in His image, expecting that we would increasingly become like Him as we walked with Him. The apostle Paul explained it like this, “ But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”            

But if our perception of His image, of who He is and what He is like is skewed, then there is little chance we will become like Him.  For instance if I deep down believe God is not fair, and that He is partial to some, then it is very unlikely that I will grow up to be an impartial person, because my ability to become like God (who is impartial) can only come out of a relationship with God where I see Him as He truly is, and He begins to rub off on me, and impart His impartiality to me.

I have known theologically since I was 20 years old that God delights in our knowing Him deeply and intimately.  But not until the last few years have I come to know Him in the way I’m going to try to describe to you this morning.  And while the transformation in my life has been substantial as a result of seeing this, sadly not seeing it for so many years kept me (along with other sins) from being the husband, father and leader God called me to be.

I submit to you that one of the primary reasons for the general depression and gloom that many on planet earth experience in life is because of the effect being around grumpy, scornful, uptight, rigid, snarky, critical, negative people has on all of us. And if we have become one of those kind of people, all the more reason why our glass is mostly half empty, and the joy of the Lord continues to be illusive to us.

The great majority of older men that I grew up around, whether they were men who lived in our neighborhood, or men in our church, or men who taught and coached in the schools I attended, were grumpy, scornful, uptight, snarky, critical men – especially when under stress or when under pressure.             

Now the problem I am trying to describe is not just relegated to men. I could say the same thing about many of the older women I grew up around. But because on the most part men lead churches and schools and governments and businesses, and thus their demeanor and character have great influence on the general psyche of those under their influence – I’m focusing my analysis on the male gender this morning.

You see, somewhere along the line, the men I grew up around had learned that their job in life (when not busy performing their real job) was to analyze and criticize pretty much everything their lives touched, all the while ignoring the gaping holes in their own lives.   So that whether it was in the foyer of the church before or after church, or the men’s restroom, or in a break room at work, or in the T.V. room where all the men in our clan gathered while the women cooked the big Holiday meals (and then cleaned up afterwards) – – the said men gave themselves to analyzing and criticizing our government leaders, our church leaders, our coaches and athletes, our bosses, etc., etc.  The fact that these conversations were laced with pride and arrogance and scorn and a significant lack of the knowledge of God was not at all on their radar.  This was just what men did, and I suppose it made them feel more “manful or manly” as they did it.

So whereas God always intended from the foundations of the earth that men would walk with Him and know Him and thus become like Him, and thus their attitudes and conversations would emit His fragrance and His peace, His calm and gentleness, and His righteousness and His mercy, etc., and thus the wives and the children of such men would always know that all is well, and God must be good, because of the way their husbands and fathers and uncles and grandfathers handled life and treated them,….because these men did not walk with God and pursue an intimate knowledge of Him and His attributes and His ways – – they never learned the value of biblical, God like traits like: gentleness, kindness, patience, forbearance, graciousness, honoring instead of objectifying or scorning women, etc.,.. and thus their wives and children and grandchildren reaped the pain of a  life without a knowledge of God among those who were supposed to love and lead and cherish and protect them.

So that brings me back to June 5th2017. This beloved congregation recognized that their pastor of 21 and a half years at that point was spent, and running on empty due to a variety of factors – some out of his control; some of his own making; they also recognized God had raised up my son for such a time as this; and they by faith appointed Joshua as our new lead pastor; and then sent Anne and I on a three month Sabbatical.  So on June 5thAnne and I headed out on a five and a half week road trip, wherein we first made a beeline for Bethel church in Redding, CA.  We stayed in a hotel nearby and availed ourselves of their Friday night service, their Saturday morning healing rooms, their 24/7 prayer chapel at several different times during the weekend, and finally their Sunday morning service. Throughout that weekend at Bethel, which was mostly renewing and refreshing, I heard repeatedly this curious phrase spoken by various people in leadership, “God is in a good mood.”  

The more I heard it, the more I squirmed; as passages that I had memorized or at least was very familiar with begged to differ, such as: Psalm 7:11, “God is a righteous judge; and a God who has indignation every day.”  Or Hebrews 10:26,27, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”  Followed later by vs. 31, which says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Well God let me squirm with this phrase “God is in a good mood”, and while I didn’t totally throw it out, I did not warmly embrace it.  

Fast forward to January 2016. For the first time in my 22 years of ministry at that point here at The Well, I started teaching the World Changers class of elementary children once a month, and my new boss was Alisa Sharp, whom God raised up for a time to lead our children’s ministry.  

My precious wife had wonderfully led our children’s ministry up to the time of our Sabbatical. But it was time for new wine and new wineskins, and Alisa was clearly the woman for the job.

So around May of that year, Anne and I had our monthly meeting with Alisa; and she handed me a curriculum from Bethel church in Redding for the month of June that had this main idea: The most important thing we need to know about God is that “He is in a good mood.”

While I didn’t outwardly react, my insides were not in a good mood for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I am not one to follow someone else’s notes. In my 21 plus years of preaching sermons, I rarely ever preached someone else’s material.  And second as I read over this curriculum it had all kinds of activities and creative things to do with the kids around this idea, but minimal Biblical material to support this interesting contention that the most important thing anyone can know about God is that He is in a good mood.

So I am back in a significant inner wrestling match with the Holy Spirit re: this idea, and somehow during that next week He led me to I Timothy.  Now I am no stranger to this book. It is the first of three pastoral epistles in the New Testament that I have leaned on heavily over my 35 years or so in ministry – trying to make sure I was about the things God was about. Or that I led His church in the way He wanted it to be led.

Some scholars refer to I Timothy as the “handbook of church management”. It is a crucial book for church leaders to grapple with as it helps us understand the gospel message, the purpose of the law of God, how to handle those who come against this message and the law that supports it, the biblical roles of men and women in the church, the role of prayer in the church, qualifications for and the ministry of elders in the church, the personal life of the minister, etc., etc.

But in all my years of studying this book I had never once noticed or given attention to how the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to bookend this book with an attribute of God that only this book reveals.  Look with me at I Timothy 1:11, “according to the glorious gospel of the blessedGod, with which I have been entrusted.” Now listen to ch. 6:15, “He who is the blessedand only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” 

Bear with me as I talk about this word that only appears in the New Testament these two times when referring to God.  It is translated “blessed” from the greek word, “Makarios”, which is the same greek word that is translated “blessed” in the sermon on the mount – when speaking of the life of the kingdom that Jesus was introducing His disciples to: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”etc.

Now if you have studied the sermon on the mount, especially these beginning Beattitudes as they are often referred to, you probably know that scholars and commentators generally agree that the idea behind this word “blessed” is “happy”. Not giddy or silly happy. But happy as in “it is well with my soul and life is full and God is good” kind of happy.

Well when I discovered back in May of 2016 that the Holy Spirit wanted we church leaders to know – that as we studied and analyzed and dissected this “Handbook on Church Management” – that the Head of this church was a Happy God, and that we dare not try to shepherd His sheep and teach His truth without knowing and embracing Him as the Happy God that He is, ….well I was absolutely dumbfounded! How could I have missed this over all these years?!

You see if we leaders of the church only know our Triune God and the Head of the Church as the One who flooded the whole earth because of the rampant wickedness of mankind early on as described in Genesis; and who destroyed two whole cities after that because of the rampant wickedness that had already morally destroyed those two cities from within;  and if we only know Him as the One who will some day judge the living and the dead; if we only know Him as Holy, but do not know Him as Happy, we cannot and will not lead His church in a way that is pleasing to Him.

But if we are convinced that our God – the living God – the God of the Bible is intrinsically happy. If we are convinced that nothing can get under His skin. If we are convinced that He thoroughly enjoys life. And that as I told the children on that Sunday in June – – “while we may sometimes be sad because we said something we shouldn’t have said, or didn’t do something we should have done; or while we may be offended or discouraged because someone mistreated us or spoke ill of us – – God never says something He shouldn’t; He always does what He ought and should do. He never has a lapse in judgment. He has no regrets whatsoever. He doesn’t even have senior moments!!

He laughs when the nations and leaders of nations devise wicked plans against Him and His kingdom rule and reign according to Psalm 2. His emotions are not dimmed in the least when wicked men and women say wicked things about Him.  

He delights in His creation; and He delighted in the creating of His creation. He delights in exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness throughout the earth. He delights in answering the prayers of His sons and daughters.  And when He starts something, He finishes it and finishes it well. 

We all live in some level of confliction because even when we are on top of our game, we fall short, we are easily distracted, and while we can experience the blessing and happiness of God when we walk in poverty of spirit and when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, none of us consistently walks in these things. We tend to ebb and flow don’t we?

God never experiences this kind of confliction or inconsistency or flakiness.

Back when I believed it was part of my calling to daily stay on top of current events and social issues and politics, and try to help you have a Biblical worldview concerning these things, the things that I knew were displeasing to God and ultimately harmful to society ate my lunch.  Nothing ever eats God’s lunch.

I used to go to bed every night feeling like no matter how hard I worked and prayed and studied, I had merely spit in the wind at what needed to be done and at what I was called to do.

I used to leave pastors meetings and elder meetings mostly focused on the ground we hadn’t covered and the progress we hadn’t made.  When I prayed for our town, I focused mostly on all the people we hadn’t reached, instead of the people we had touched and influenced for the kingdom.

So you might be able to imagine what living with me was like, and especially as I became more aware of more needs over the years, and got involved in more ministries, and embraced more responsibilities – all the while knowing God only as a Holy God, not a Happy God.  

Now I’m certain there are people in the body of Christ that know God as a Happy God, but don’t really know Him as a Holy God.  We can talk about that another day.

But this morning I believe God wants to reveal Himself to those of us who have struggled to know Him as a Happy God, because while He is certainly Holy, He is also equally Happy. And it very well may be that one of the reasons some of us are not walking consistently in the joy of the Lord is because our perception of God is skewed in this regard.

Listen folks, the Jesus who cleansed the temple with significant anger and passion because of its religious corruption on two different occasions , is the same Jesus that turned a whole lot of water into a whole lot of excellent wine, knowing that many of the attendants at this wedding would probably drink to excess – – and this is the first miracle the Holy Spirit led John the apostle to record in his gospel. I’m just saying…..

“according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” 

God never meant to entrust His glorious gospel to men and women who did not know Him as the blessed or happy God that He is!

((By the way if you are here this morning and you are not absolutely sure that you are a child of God; that He has adopted you into His family and saved you from your sins; and justified and covered you by His blood – – – Jesus Christ – the Son of God died so that you could know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. He died as an acceptable sacrifice to God the Father, so that your sinful slate could be wiped clean. ))

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” 

Time of prayer and ministry 

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 “But if they (the prophets) had stood in My council, They they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way  And from the evil of their deeds.”  Jeremiah 23:22

In the Old Testament days, for every prophet that was willing to speak the truth and lay their lives down for the people of God to become clean and set apart for His purposes, there were hundreds seemingly that refused to admit the evil in their own hearts and the evil among the people. They chose the easier path of speaking what the people wanted to hear, which ultimately was out of self love, not love for God or for His sheep.

Jeremiah made it clear in this passage above what true prophets were called to do. Basically they were called to bring about repentance among the people from their sin and the evil in their hearts.

John the Baptist and Jesus followed suit by primarily preaching this timeless message wherever they went: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

So what about we ministers today?

Is evil a problem among those we minister to?   I recently meditated on this passage in Mark 7, where Jesus spoke to the roots of all the problems we deal with in the church and of course in the world, “….That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”  Mark 7:20-23

Jesus twice referred to the problem of evil lodged within the hearts of men in this short passage.

He referred to it many times elsewhere as can been seen by tracing the word “evil” through the four gospels.

Well if our job as ministers of the gospel is to help turn those we minister to “back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds”, how do we proceed?

I would suggest first by admitting to the reality of evil in our own hearts. Paul was not sheepish about this when he confessed, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” Romans 7:21  How wonderfully cleansing it would be to the body of Christ if its leaders were willing to admit this!

John Owen, one of the greatest theologians and godliest men ever to live in the church age, put it this way, “The man that understands the evil of his own heart, how vile it is, is the only useful, fruitful, and solid believing and obedient person. Others are fit only to delude themselves, to disquiet families, churches, and all relations….”  P. 29 in “The Nature, Power, Deceit and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers.”

Second, let’s make sure we are crystal clear that at the core of the depraved nature of man is the reality of evil. Note Romans 1:29, 30 in this regard.

Third, back to us ministers, let’s make sure on a daily basis we are not going so fast that we are ignoring little compromises in our character or minimizing the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding inner motives and attitudes. This by the way will require that we are growing daily in an ongoing revelation of everything God says about evil in the scriptures. Our society has so watered down the reality of evil, and instead relegated it to only the worst among us (e.g. rapists, murderers, etc), that we have become desensitized to its prevalence.  How easy it is to compare ourselves to such people (obvious sinners), and then deduct that we are sitting pretty well!   The apostle Paul says we are to “…abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9), which leads me to believe he is not so much speaking of what is evil “out there”, as he is what is evil “in here”. 

Fourth, let’s keep in mind that ranting and raving about evil is not the solution to the problem. Paul says instead we are not to “…be overcome by evil, but (to) overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21    We ministers are an interesting breed. For years we don’t see something (like evil). Then we begin to see it, and we immediately start spouting off about it, when we would be much better off getting more deeply in touch with its reality in our own hearts and then following what our Biblical writers tell us about how to deal with it, first in our own lives and then elsewhere. Going back to our original text, ““But if they (the prophets) had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way  And from the evil of their deeds.”  Standing in Hiscouncil rather than the council of others (even well known leaders in the church), and announcingHiswords to the people is crucial since He alone knows how to set the captives free. BTW just citing scriptures without the clear leading and anointing of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily “announcing (His) words”.  Remember the Pharisees and Satan himself could recite scriptures.

Someday I hope to post an extensive study or Biblical theology of evil from Genesis to Revelation, which I made a good start on some time ago, but then had to leave it for other things. I encourage you to do the same if you really want to see it for what it is, and be used by God to see it overcome, not only in your own life, but in the life of every person you have influence over.

Finally I commend you to Him, “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Galatians 1:4

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I’ve been sitting on this unfinished study for a while, and sensed this morning that it is too important to let it gather dust. And who knows when I will finish it, as I’m always having to dive into other studies, sermons, lessons, etc. It was striking as I began to gather these passages that almost every book in the New Testament has at least one. Ephesians is one of the few exceptions, which very possibly is because it was meant to be more of a circular letter than a specific one to specific problems.

May this study especially help the leaders of Christ’s church effectively shepherd and watch over the sheep entrusted to us.

Matthew 16:6,11, 12 “And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”    “How is that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Characteristics/Actions of: (false) “teaching” that “leavens” (spreads) and affects others negatively.

Our Responsibility: “Watch out”; “beware of the leaven”; “beware of the leaven”

Matthew 24:23,24 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”

 Characteristics/Actions of: “false” “mislead”                    

Our Responsibility: Don’t believe them

Mark 12:38-40 “In His teaching He was saying; “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

Characteristics/Actions of: live and minister to be seen, noticed, respected, admired; devour widows’ houses

God’s response: they will “receive greater condemnation”

Our/Their Responsibility: Beware of the scribes

Mark 13:5,6 “And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “mislead”

Our Responsibility: See to it that no one misleads us

Mark 13:21-23 “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “false”  “lead astray”

Our Responsibility: “do not believe him/them”; “take heed”;

John 13:21-27 Jesus telling the 12 that one of them will betray Him. No one knew who. But it could be said because they were not filled with the Spirit and mature yet. 

Characteristics/Actions of: “will betray Jesus”

Their Responsibility: n/a

Acts 20:28-30 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “savage”; “not sparing (or having mercy on); “speaking perverse things”; “draw away the disciples after them”

Their/Our Responsibility: “Be on guard for ourselves and our/His flock”; 

Romans 16:17,18 “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “cause dissensions and hindrances…”; “slaves of their own appetities”; “smooth and flattering speech”

Our Responsibility: “keep our eye on them”; “turn away from them”

I Corinthians 5:7, 11 “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed….. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “immoral, covetous, idolater, reviler, drunkard, swindler”

Our Responsibility: “clean out”; “not to associate with”; “not even to eat with such a one”

II Corinthians 11:12-15 “But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “…desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are/as their leaders”; “false” “deceitful” “disguising themselves  as apostles of Christ”;

Our Responsibility: n/a

Galatians 2:4 “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “false brethren”; “sneaked in….to spy…to bring us into bondage”

Our Responsibility: n/a

Galatians 4:17 “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “They..seek you…so that you will seek them”

Our Responsibility:   N/A                                                                 

Galatians 5:12 “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “troubling you”

Our Responsibility: n/a/

Galatians 6:12,13 “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.”

Characteristics/Actions of: They “..desire to make a good showing in the flesh”

Motivation: “so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ”;   “…so that they may boast in your flesh”

Our Responsibility: n/a

Philippians 3:2 “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;”

Characteristics/Actions of: “dogs, …evil workers…false circumcision”

Our Responsibility: “Beware”

Philippians 3:18, 19 “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “enemies of the cross of Christ”; their “god is their appetite”; their “glory is in their shame”; they “set their minds on earthly things”

Our Responsibility: n/a

Colossians 2:16-19 “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.”

Characteristics/Actions of: They “judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or new moon or Sabbath day”; they “defraud (believers)  of their prize by delighting in self abasement and the worship of the angels, taking (their) stand on visions (they) have seen; they are “inflated without cause by (their) fleshly minds”; they do not “hold fast to the head”; 

Our Responsibility: we are not to allow them to do these things to us (vs. 16)

II Thess. 3:2,6,14 “and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith…. Now we command you, brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”

Characteristics/Actions of: they are “perverse and evil men”; they do not “have faith”; they (“brother”)“lead unruly lives, not according to the tradition (laid down from the apostles)”;  

Our Responsibility: “keep away from these men” “brothers”

I Tim. 6:3-5 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

Characteristics/Actions of: They “advocate a different doctrine and do not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness”; They are “conceited and understand nothing”; They have “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

Our Responsibility: n/a

II Tim. 3:1-9   This description is clearly of lost men, who most likely are involved in cults or quasi religious groups or liberal churches. The command is to “avoid such men as these.” The promise is, “…their folly will be obvious to all.”

II Tim. 4:3,4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Characteristics/Actions of: “they will not endure sound doctrine”; they “want to have their ears tickled”; “they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires”; they “will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths”. 

Our Responsibility: n/a

II Tim. 4:10a, 14,15 “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica… Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.”

Characteristics/Actions of: Demas “loved this present world”; he “deserted (him)”; 

Alexander “did (Paul) much harm”; “vigorously opposed our teaching”

Our/Their Responsibility:  “Be on guard against him”

Titus 1:10-16            “For there are many rebellious men….”

Characteristics/Actions of: “rebellious”, “empty talkers”, “deceivers”, they “upset whole families”, they “teach things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain”, they “pay attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth”, “defiled”, “unbelieving”, “both their mind and their conscience are defiled”, “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him”, they are “destetable”, “disobedient”, “and worthless for any good deed”.

Our Responsibility: “they must be silenced”; “reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.”     

Titus 3:9-11 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

Characteristics/Actions of: They engage in “foolish controversies”, “genealogies”, “strife”, and “disputes about the Law”. They are “factious”, “perverted”, “sinning”, “self-condemned”. 

Our Responsibility: “Avoid” such conversations. “Reject” a “factious man after a first and second warning” – – (so we must provide the warnings first). 

II Peter 2:1-22 “But false prophets also arose among the people…”

Characteristics/Actions of:   “false”; “will secretly introduce destructive heresies”; will “deny the Master who bought them”; “in their greed they will exploit you with false words”; 

Results of: “bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”; “many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned”; 

Our Responsibility:   n/a

Promise of God’s Response: “their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep”; 

II Peter 3:3,4, 17

I John 2:4, 9, 11, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26                        

I John 3:7,8, 10          

I John 4:1-6, 20

II John 7, 9-11

III John 9, 10

Jude 4-16, 18-19,

Revelation 2:2, 14, 15, 20

Overall Observations:

Jesus affirmed/commended the church in Ephesus for how they heeded these warnings: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;” Revelation 2:2

Jesus rebuked the church in Pergamum because of the opposite: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there (in the church) some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some (in the church) who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Revelation 2:14,15

Jesus rebuked the church in Thyatira in a similar way: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” Revelation 2:20

Please note that in each instance where Jesus rebukes these churches He promises to deal with the problem Himself if they do not adequately and fully repent.

Why would church leaders not heed these warnings?

  1. We haven’t had eyes to see them.  We tend to focus on the more positive and encouraging passages in scripture.  Also lack of systematic reading through the Bible keeps us from seeing re-ocurring themes.
  2. We don’t want to be judgmental. Jesus and Paul often warn against unrighteously judging others (e.g. Matt. 7:1f & Rom. 14:4, etc.)

3.  In charismatic/pentecostal churches, the gifts of the Spirit are valued.  Thus when people appear to be anointed to prophesy or heal the sick, we tend to overlook unrighteousness or ungodliness in their lives.  (see Matt. 7:21-23; 24:24)

So how should we respond to these warnings:

  1. Pray for growth in discernment and loving others with God’s love and in God’s way. Phil. 1:9-11 (see also Proverbs 2:1-10)
  2. Pray for courage to speak the truth in love regardless of the initial consequences. Fear of man is a significant obstacle herein.
  3. Give time for the Lord to make things clear. Motives are hard to discern, and ultimately only God knows the heart.  ( I Sam. 16:7; Matt. 13:29,30; )

I Cor. 4:5 “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

I Cor. 11:19 “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.”   Sometimes when there is dissension and factions, God uses it to help us see who is truly with us and of us by the mature way we respond to these things.

  • Pray for the purity and cleansing of the church and that holiness will be pursued with more passion. The more holy she is, the more discerning she will be. 
  • Keep in mind the balance or overall perspective in each of the books that these warnings come in.  We must never lose sight of the power and glory and faithfulness of our God and of the church’s Head – Jesus Christ.
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INTRODUCTION – If you have ever wondered what God does in a given day, one place you could look is Jeremiah 9:23,24, where the prophet states, “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty many boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

The living God, who never sleeps or takes a vacation, is constantly throughout the earth exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness. And much of this work He chooses to do through people, and if possible – families. 

Ideally every family on the earth would not only be a place of support and training and provision for its own family members, but it also out of its relationship with the living God – would have an overflow of love and compassion and service for those in need around them.

Sadly in many cases that is not the case. In fact one of the reasons God has to exercise justice on the earth is because some families are so ridden with evil that instead of extending love, compassion and service to those around them, they actually extend hatred, violence, murder, and who knows what else to those within their reach.

One of those families actually shows up in the book of Esther, the family of Haman and Zeresh. And had God not acted through another family, mass destruction of Jews would have taken place over a very large region.

We know very little about Haman and Zeresh. Pretty much only what we’re told in the book of Esther – starting in ch. 3.  For reasons we are not told by the author of Esther, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman to a position similar to Vice President in our nation. It is very possible that one reason he was promoted was because of how he brown nosed the King throughout the six plus months of celebrations, they had just had.   From chapter one we know the King’s purpose for all these celebrations and lavish banquets was to display his glory and power. And it is possible Haman took every opportunity during those days to agree with the King that his majesty and glory was indeed stupendous and like none other.

What we know for sure is if he was promoted because of his character or leadership skills or sacrificial service, the author chose not to mention it.

So in chapter 3 we find Haman was not only promoted to this 2ndhighest position in the kingdom, but we also learn in vs. 2 of ch. 3 that the King had commanded that everyone in the kingdom should bow down and pay homage to Haman every time they were graced by his presence.  Everyone gladly obeyed, except Mordecai.  This refusal absolutely ate Haman’s lunch! vs. 5 tells us he was filled with rage, when he walked by Mordecai and unlike everyone else around him, Mordecai neither bowed nor payed homage. 

You know the story – Haman decides instead of just having Mordecai killed, why not have every Jew living in the 127 provinces from Ethiopia to India that King Ahasuerus ruled over killed?  He talks the King into a strategic plan for this to happen. And everything seems to be moving in that direction; and then one day after enjoying the first of two banquets Esther threw for him and the King, he walks by Mordecai again; and Mordecai – being a man of principle – again refused to bow and pay homage; Haman again was furious; and Haman goes home and summons his wife and friends and recounts to them “the glory of his riches” and the number (literally multitude) of his sons (not their names, but their total number, as so many notches in his belt), and an opportunity arises for his wife and friends to speak some sense into this maniac, but sadly the opposite happens. Zeresh and his friends, though Zeresh is mentioned first, which probably means she took the lead, and they followed her lead – – she (and they) totally enabled him to fulfill the evil in his heart, by encouraging him to build a gallows and hang Mordecai at the earliest opportunity. 

Family at its worst! I mean even Pilate’s wife warned him with great sobriety to not have anything to do with the mob efforts to crucify Jesus.  

Nothing sucks the life out of the God given destiny on every family to be an instrument in God’s hands than this prevalent practice of turning a blind eye to obvious sin and evil and unrighteousness in one’s family or extended family.  Sometimes wives do it in a marriage where their standing in the marriage and in the home is far from secure; Sometimes adult children try to keep peace with their parents (especially if there is an inheritance in the wings) even though they know what their parents are saying or doing or planning to do is wrong and unrighteous.

I’m working on a study on every thing Jesus ever said about family. He invented families and He is thus highly invested in them. But listen to these words about what is sometimes necessary in a family, “Matthew. 10:34-37 – “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

Mothers in the room, many of whom are also wives, …. The living God yearns to use you to see His very personal and specific destiny for your family and even extended family realized; but it has to be on His terms, and you will need to trust Him that if He tells you to speak truth, or to walk out the truth, He can handle the initial fallout from doing so, especially if you are in a family or clan where speaking truth is rarely practiced or not acceptable from the women in the family.

Well,… enough focus on hatred filled Haman and his enabling wife Zeresh. 

As you know if you have read the book of Esther or if you have been tracking with us in our preaching series through Esther, God used Esther and her older cousin Mordecai to avert the total destruction of every Jew living under King Ahasuerus’s reign.

God knew before the world began that wicked Haman as Esther called him would seek to wipe out the Jews. God could have just struck Haman with lightning to protect and defend His people, but instead He chose a family – of sorts to be His instrument.  

I say “family – of sorts” because this was not a model family.  Not a family that any of us would have on the front end chosen to be the family of the year.   Mordecai was evidently a widower or perhaps never married, which if that was the case would mean he had no experience whatsoever raising a child.  Esther never had the opportunity to be raised by a mother and father. Both died we are told in chapter 2. And if it was necessary for Mordecai to take upon himself the responsibility of raising her, she must have been young enough to not be able to be on her own.  Not only did she not have the identity and security that God meant for a set of parents to impart to their child as they layed their lives down for their child year after year, but she also probably had some trauma from losing her parents at such an early age, though again we do not know how old she was when they died.  Were they murdered, died in a fire, both died of pneumonia…???  We just don’t know.

Whether Mordecai had parenting experience – again we don’t know. But I find it interesting in ch. 2 that twice the author mentions that Mordecai took the initiative to raise her as his own. First in vs. 7, “….when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.”  And then in vs. 15, “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as hisdaughter…”   Mordecai took this responsibility very seriously, which can be seen by his practice of daily checking in on her status while she was in the king’s harem, vs. 11, “Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.”  

We don’t know for sure what Mordecai’s job or daily responsibilities were, but one thing we know – one way or another – he found a way and a time to check in on his adopted daughter. 

Now Esther was in the King’s harem with a whole bunch of other young virgins. My guess is most of them were ecstatic about the possibility of becoming the next queen. They also might have been glad to finally be free from the shackles of their parents and to be able to be doted on with lavish foods and all the make up they ever dreamed of.  They very likely had lots of conversations with their fellow virgins, and were more and more influenced by those relationships, than the fading memory of parents that they do not see anymore.

But even though Mordecai was not Esther’s parent, she highly respected him and gave great attention to his counsel and instruction. We see this first in vs. 10, where we are told she didn’t make her Jewish ethnicity known “for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.”  Then it is more significantly emphasized in vs. 20, “Esther had not yet made known her kindred or her people, even as Mordecai had commanded her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.”  Heeding his counsel was  a way of life for Esther. 

Both Esther and Mordecai were principled people; people who practiced respect and honor of each other whether they were in each other’s presence or not.

And it was that mutual respect and deep care for one another and commitment to truth that enabled them to work together to make the plot to assassinate the king known to him as seen at the end of chapter 2.  Mordecai after learning of this plot, easily could have decided, “Hey this guy’s an arrogant pervert. Have at him!! I’ll just pretend like I didn’t hear that.”  Or Esther after hearing of this plot from Mordecai could have concluded the same thing, and just kept it to herself. But both of them knew somehow that all authority is to be honored, and God is the one alone who holds the right to raise one up and put down another.

What I really want to emphasize about this family of two is this:  After Esther was crowned queen, and she had had some time to see how the King dealt with those who crossed him or dishonored him, she could have lessened her aspirations to simple self preservation and self preservation alone. But she had cultivated a lifestyle of respect and honor for Mordecai. She had seen God’s blessing time and time again on her life as a result of heeding Mordecai’s counsel, and as a result of choosing the way of truth and righteousness in the midst of the heat of battle and crisis.

I love the way Mordecai, who loved this young lady as his own daughter, picked up on this huge temptation of self love and self preservation that she was wrestling with when he was trying to help her see her destiny in chapter 4.  Esther as a young lady had overcome so much, and now God had clearly exalted her to be Queen over this vast empire, and now Mordecai is asking her to risk being executed to keep the Jews from mass destruction?  Easy for him to say!  But this wasn’t the first time they had to wrestle for truth and righteousness together, and when she pondered Mordecai’s famous words, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”   For such a crisis as this?  Esther knew she had to lay her life down for something far greater than her own security, hopes and dreams.

Listen folks, the families and clans in America are in desperate need of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even sons and daughters who will echo Jesus’s words, “ For what shall it profit a man (or a woman) if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?”   Or Jesus’s words where He said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

Who cares if your son daughter or grandchild makes straight A’s, and has a great job waiting for them upon graduation, and has this or that honor, and they are not daily bowing the knee to Jesus who gave them those abilities?

Who cares if your father or grandfather just earned another career notch in his belt and het he doesn’t bow the knee to Jesus?

You know what’s great about Mordecai?  Right after he exhorted Esther to die to her right to self preservation and risk it all for a greater cause, she then commanded him to  “Go assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. ….”  And how did he respond?  Vs. 17 “So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.”

Their relationship wasn’t a one way (my way or the highway) relationship.  They wrestled with the call to truth and righteousness and fulfilling one’s calling together and both were sharpened by the other’s insights and zeal and obedience.

So if we women are supposed to speak up more and not sweep things under the rug, what do we do with Peter’s command in I Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior….”

The key ladies/wives is that you make your priority your inner growth in holiness and purity. Jesus was very clear that the only way we can see clear to remove the splinter in another’s eye is that we give daily due attention to the massive beam in our own.  A husband knows if he is being respected by his wife or not.

I know of a couple who used to watch a movie most every Friday night in their living room together as a way to “relax” and get their work (mainly the husband’s) off their minds. Over time the wife began to feel more and more uncomfortable with some of the things that would crop up in some of the movies. Eventually she would put her hands over her eyes if it was too violent or too sensual. Finally she began at times to just walk up stairs and let her husband finish the movie. Eventually they quit watching movies all together.  Now she never told her husband while walking away that he was a loser (or worse) for watching some of those movies. But he got the message.

I know a family whose grown daughter loves and respects and consistently honors her Dad. She and her husband decided to get a puppy. Nothing wrong with that. Her father and mother had obtained a puppy from a local friend and litter when their children were young. And then a year after it died, they got another puppy from the Humane Society in their region. The first one was free and the next one was under $100.00. And thus should everyone in the kingdom of God obtain their puppies, this father subconsciously believed.    “So where and how are you getting this puppy?” the dad asked his daughter.  “From a breeder in Palm Springs.  And the price is ______. Which was way over $100.00. The dad’s eyes bulged. The daughter caught the bulge, and said, “Dad, don’t judge us!”  The Dad knew he was guilty as charged.  Should she have not said that?  I believe she had every right to.  Ultimately righteousness is more important than a man’s feelings.

I do think there are times where we need to be careful that we do not do the Holy Spirit’s work. This will become clear to us as we grow in “walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh.”

Closing time of intercession for the moms and ladies in the room.

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John Owen, one of the greatest theologians and godliest men ever to grace our planet says this about the condition of humanity, “Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves.”

In recent years, the Lord has graciously opened my eyes to some of my blindspots. And He has taught me to look to Him in prayer continuously for such.

I don’t know how old David was when he prayed, “Examine me O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.” (Psa. 26:2).   Or when he prayed,  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psa. 139:23,24). But I wish that I had started the practice of praying these kinds of prayers much earlier in life.  

Why are blindspots so prevalent in the body of Christ, even among those of us who have known Him and served Him for so many years?  

One conclusion we’ve come to is that in the American church culture (in general) personal examination is minimally practiced, and often is frowned upon. One of the reasons is because of a misinterpretation of some of Paul’s statements.

Paul’s writings have great influence over the body of Christ, so let’s see what Paul meant or purposed when he used the word “examine”.  As we jump into this, it is important to note that while the New American Standard Concordance informs us that there are six occurrences of the word “examine” and two occurrences of the word “examines” in Paul’s letters, if you look closely you will discover they do not all come from the same Greek word. 

Two of them are translated from the Greek word Anakrino. The others from the Greek word Dokimazo.  Anakrino has the basic meaning of “to sit in judgment of another” and is in its essence a legal term.

Anakrino – is used in the following two passages: 

I Corinthians 4:3,4, “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not evenexamine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” 

I Corinthians 9:3 “My defense to those who examine me is this:”

What Paul means is that none of us should assess ourselves based on man’s opinions or judgments. Many of the believers in Corinth were so immature and fleshly that they prided themselves on who they followed, and spoke critically of other leaders in the church, whom they chose not to follow. Paul was aware of what people were saying about him, and he did not allow those critical comments to have any effect on his sense of identity. Rather as he said in vs. 4 we should listen very closely to the Lord’s judgments of our lives. 

It is impossible to be involved with the King and His kingdom and not be engaged with people. And it is impossible to not be “anakrino’d” here and there by some of those people, especially if involved in leadership or service. Here then, is an opportunity to filter those voices by listening closely to the Holy Spirit as to our identity and fruitfulness. 

Are we encouraged in the New Testament to examine ourselves? And if so, where and how? The answer lies in the passages wherein dokimazo is used for the word examine.  Dokimazo means “to test, to approve, to prove” often with the expectation of approval. Its common usage was in dealing with metals.  It has more the sense of God revealing something to His kids that as they agree with His assessment and repent of whatever sin is involved, will make them more free, happy and pleasing to the Father. It’s usage does not have the idea of examining to condemn, but rather to cleanse and free.

I Cor. 11:27-32“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.”

Partaking of communion or the Lord’s supper is of far greater significance than most of us realize.  He has commanded and is highly invested in this practice, and thus our posture in this practice is critical. He invites us to come as often as we will, but not glibly or casually. Rather we are to sit in His presence and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to whatever concerns Him about our life, attitudes, motives, etc.  Sadly often when the Lord’s supper is administered, this kind of examination of our hearts by the Lord is not encouraged or facilitated or modeled by our leaders.

Here’s the next two occurrences of dokimazo translated examine:

II Corinthians 13:5  “ Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless you fail the test?”

Galatians 6:4  “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”

To Dokimazo ourselves, emphasizesthe need to look to the Holy Spirit for help in seeing what we need to see about ourselves and then repenting of whatever He reveals to us. 

God who sees, hears and knows all, and who sent His Son to set us free from all sin, is regularly examining the state of our heart, and regularly seeking to reveal to us what He sees. Paul was very aware of this as can be seen in passages such as I Thessalonians 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines (Dokimazo) our hearts.” 

Hopefully now we see the call to self examination in response to the Lord’s illumination as righteous and biblical and necessary. 

Your prayers are always appreciated that Anne and I will regularly give ourselves to listening to and responding to the Lord’s examination of our hearts.  

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The Psalms were a huge part of the early church’s life and worship together. They were meant to be a huge part of our church life and worship as well. This is made clear by at least three of the apostle Paul’s directives: First in I Corinthians 14:26, in the general context of the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit when we gather together corporately, he explained, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Next in Ephesians 5:18-21, again in the context of gathering for corporate worship with other believers, Paul commands, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;….”. Finally in Colossians 3:14-17, again in the context of body life, Paul commands, “……Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God…”. Please note the psalms are always mentioned first. And when you get a chance, note how many times Paul quotes the Psalms in his epistles. They obviously were a significant part of his life and ministry. May they ever be more a part of ours!

The Blessing of Forgiveness and Cleansing of Sin & God’s mercy toward we sinners:     

                       Psalm 32:1,2 “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!”                                                                                      

Psa. 86:5 “ For You Lord are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”                                                                    

Psalm 103:3 “Who pardons all your iniquities…”                                                                     

Psa. 103:10 “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”                                                                                                     

Psa. 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Our posture towards God and sin:                                                                                    

Psa. 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”                                                                                                                       

Psa. 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Prayers for forgiveness, cleansing, healing, mercy re: our sin:                                    

Psa. 25:7 “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.”                               

Psa. 25:18 “Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.”                  

Psa. 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Psa. 39:8 “Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish.”                                                                                                                               

Psa. 41:4b “As for me, I said, “Oh Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”                                                                                                            

Psa. 51:1 “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.”                                    

Psa. 51:2 “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity  And cleanse me from my sin.”     

Psa. 51:7 “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”                                                                                                                   

Psa. 51:8 “Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.”                                                                                                                                 

Psa. 51:9 “Hide your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.”                         

Psa. 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”                                                                                                                      

Psalm 51:11 “Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”                                                                                                                

Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.”                                                                                                                              

Psalm 51:14 “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.”                                             

Psalm 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips That my mouth may declare Your praise.”    

Psalm 79:8 “Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low.”            

Psalm 79:9 “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.”

Prayers for illumination/revelation of sin & blind spots:                                                             

Psa. 19:12 “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.”                               

Psa. 19:13 “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”

Psa. 26:2 “Examine me O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.”                   

Psa. 139:23,24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”

God & our sin:                                                                                                                      

Psa. 14:1-3 “The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”  (cf. Psa. 53:1-3)   

Psa. 65:3 “Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You forgive them.”                     

Psa. 65:5 “O God, it is You who knows my folly, And my wrongs are not hidden from You.”                                                                                                                                  

Psa. 90:8 “You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.”                                                                                                            

Psa. 103:10 “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”                                                                                                  

Psa. 130:3,4 “If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.”                                                   

Psa. 130:8 “And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.”                                      

Psa. 143:2 “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous.”

Intimacy with God and call to Holiness:                                                                          

Psa. 15:1-5 “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?…”

Guarding Against Sin:                                                                                                       

Psa. 39:1 “I said, “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.”                  

Psa. 119:11 “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

Sin’s Consequences:                                                                                                                     

Psa. 31:10 “For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, And my body has wasted away.”                               

Psa. 32:3,4 “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away  Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”                                                        

Psa. 38:3-10 “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my heard; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly……..”                                                                                   

Psa. 38:18 “For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.”              

Psa. 40:12 “For evils beyond number have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; They are more numerous than the hairs of my head.”                                                                                                                          

Psa. 41:4 “As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”                                                                                                                         

Psa. 65:3 “Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You forgive them.”

Psa. 66:18 “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;”               

Psa. 107:17 “Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.”

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In preparation for our Good Friday service, I sensed the need to put on one sheet as many of the purpose statements as I could find of why Jesus had to die on the cross. Like so many other things in the kingdom, we tend to think we know this, and tend to be a bit simplistic in talking about it to others. May meditation on these purpose statements result in greater devotion to Him, and greater effectiveness in speaking of the cross to others.


Romans 8:3,4 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 

Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

II Corinthians 5:15 “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

II Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Galatians 1:4 “Who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever more. Amen.”

Galatians 4:4,5 “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Ephesians 2:15,16 “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”

I Thessalonians 5:9,10 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”

I Timothy 2:5,6 “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

Hebrews 2:9 “But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Hebrews 9:26 “Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.”

I Peter 2:24 “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

I Peter 3:18 “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;”

I John 3:5 “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”

I John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

I John 4:14 “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

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In preparation for Holy Week, I sensed the need for a tool to help us in our meditations on the greatness of our sin that required and led to the greatness of His sacrifice. Very easy to overlook or take for granted the greatness of His salvation and deliverance from the greatness of our sin and lostness.  Thus the notes that follow: (btw – I’ve had great difficulty of late trying to figure out the new wrinkles to this software. Thus the strange outline) 🙂

I. With respect to the understanding

A. Blindness

  1. We were spiritually blind a. Isa. 42:6,7 “a light….. to open blind eyes” b. Rev. 3:17 “…and you do not know that you are …blind…” c. II Cor. 4:4 “..the god of this world has blinded the minds…”

2. We were in darkness a. Prov. 4:19 “the way of the wicked is like darkness….”

b. Eph. 4:18 “being darkened in their understanding”

c. Col. 1:13 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness…”

B. Defilement and futility

  1. We were defiled (Titus 1:15) “..their mind and conscience are defiled.”

2. We were futile  (Romans 1:21) “…they became futile in their speculations..” Eph. 4:17 “..in the futility of their mind,

II. With respect to our flesh

A. Indulging without restraint

  1. The lusts of our flesh was our life

a. Eph. 2:3 “..lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the…”

b. Eph. 4:19 “..over to sensuality..of every kind of impurity..”

III. With respect to our wills

A. Enmity with God

  1. Rom. 8:7 “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God…”

2. Jas. 4:4 “..friendship with the world is hostility toward God..”

3. Jude 1:11 “…and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

B. Hatred of God

  1. Rom. 1:30 “haters of God”

2. John 7:7 “..but it hates Me because I testify of it that its deeds…”

3. John 15:18,23,24 “..you know that it has hated Me….”

C. Hardness of heart

  1. Matt. 19:8 “Because of your hardness of heart Moses….”

2. Eph. 4:18 “ because of the hardness of their heart;”

D. Aversion/Reluctance/Obstinance

  1. John 5:40 “and you were unwilling to come to Me so that you..”

2. Rev. 2:21 “…she does not want to repent of her immorality.”

3. Deut. 31:27 “For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck”

4. Acts 7:51 “You men who are stiff-necked….”

5. Rom. 10:21 “..Stretched out My hand to a ..obstinate people”

6. Titus 1:16 “..being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed”

E. Bondage

  1. Jer. 13:23 “….who are accustomed to doing evil”

2. John 8:34 “..everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin”


If the evil one brings up your sins, it is to condemn you (Rom. 8:1)

If the Holy Spirit brings up your sins, it is to cleanse and free you (I Jn. 1:9; Gal. 5:1)

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Some months ago our teaching team made up of Joshua, myself, Elizabeth and Mark decided that we should preach through the book of Esther.       In the 25 plus years I have been here, no one has ever preached even one chapter from the book of Esther that I can remember. No one has ever led a Bible study on Esther that I can remember either.

We knew jumping into it – this series would come with some unusual challenges re: interpretation and application. But because Paul says in Romans 15:4, “For whateverwas written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And then later in II Tim. 3:16, “Allscripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” We knew God would make it worthwhile, and that He had sovereign reasons for leading us to wade through it. 

It may be that one of the reasons we needed to wade through this book together is the Holy Spirit wanted to highlight the dangers of undue veneration and undue minimizing. Let me try to explain: 

In the body of Christ – some of us have had a tendency to venerate both Esther as an individual and the book of Esther. This veneration is a result of many influences. One for sure is a movie a fairly well known itinerant preacher and author helped produce some ten or more years ago that unduly romanticized the story of Esther. Other influencers have been books written or sermons given that have put Esther and Mordecai on pedestals they were never meant to be on, and that made much of things like Esther’s relationship with King Ahasuerus that was never meant to made much out of.

So what does it mean to venerate someone? Well the dictionary defines it like this:

To regard with great respect; revere. Synonyms: reverence, worship, adulate, hallow, deify, idolize, hold sacred, exalt, etc


New Testament writers often refer to certain Old testament men and women as models to us of godliness or faith or righteousness. None of them ever refer to the characters in Esther. In Hebrews 11, not so godly folk like Gideon, Samson and Rahab the harlot are held up as examples to us for their faith. No mention of Mordecai or Esther in that long chapter. 

It is my conviction that God chose Esther and Mordecai primarily because they were available and useable in a time of history where the bar of spiritual vitality among the Jews was very low, but the stakes for their survival was very very high. 

Now I’m certain Esther and Mordecai are heroes to the Jews, as are many others down through their long history who have risked their lives for the survival and protection of their people.  That’s all well and good.   

The primary hero of Esther is God.      Even though never mentioned, He is the one orchestrating the various turns of events for the protection of His people, whom He has never forgotten, and whom He will never forsake.

That being said, and back to the Teaching Team – the apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth in his second letter, chp. 2, vs. 17, “For we are not like many, peddling (or corrupting) the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”  Paul’s preaching and teaching was not merely a product of sound communication, great education and Bible exposition skills. He never had ulterior or unclean motives for what he taught or preached.  He feared God, and was very aware that Jesus the Head was listening to every word that came out of his mouth.

Our teaching team covets your prayers as we try to follow his example. So why don’t we pray right now before we jump into chapter 5 of Esther. (pray)

While it is unclear to what degree Mordecai and Esther loved God with their whole hearts, souls, strength and minds,  they did show some level of faith and desperate dependence upon God in chapter four. Once Mordecai learned of Haman’s edict to destroy all the Jews in all the king’s provinces he, instead of trying to organize some kind of resistance or perhaps trying to flee and hide – Mordecai humbled himself before God and man with sackcloth and ashes.  Once Esther learned from Mordecai of this horrible edict to destroy all the Jews, and after wrestling with his exhortation to her to consider her providential placement as queen at this pivotal time in history, she also turned to fasting for three days and ordered that her maidens and all the Jews do the same – after which she promised she would approach the King regardless of whether that resulted in favor or her death.

Yes it is true God was never mentioned in chapter four as the object of their fasting. But why else would they fast for three days?  Who but God could or would respond to their fasting and mourning? Who but God could turn this dire situation around?  The very purpose of fasting down through the ages is to demonstrate our weakness and our desperation for God to do what only God can do. 

Well one of the things that often results from times of sincere fasting and waiting upon God is revelation, hearing God’s voice or at least receiving a strong sense of guidance. Joshua spoke to that last Sunday when he pointed to Mordecai’s insight after he had humbled himself with sackcloth and ashes in ch. 4.  into why Esther was appointed as King Ahasuerus’s Queen at this specific time.

Now after everyone’s three days of fasting, Esther has a plan – perhaps also from revelation from God.  Let’s read about it in ch. 5, starting with vs. 1. (read vs. 1)

Before this three day fast started – Queen Esther was focused on the fact that King Ahasuerus could have her immediately executed if she dared enter his court without invitation. I mean after all this is a King known for his extreme behavior as a result of his drunken binges. He was known for his arrogance. And when Haman suggested he make an edict to authorize destroying every Jewish man, woman, young person and child in his whole kingdom, many of whom probably contributed greatly to his kingdom’s prosperity, the King said yes without batting an eyelash!    He was given to impulsive actions – giving no consideration to the consequences of such actions.  So before fasting, the last thing in the world Esther dared to do was enter the King’s courts uninvited.

So the author of Esther by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit brings our attention to the third day of this three day fast in vs. 1.  Something has changed in Esther’s spirit. Now she puts on her royal attire and walks right in to the inner court of the King and stands there courageously.  The King is the same king I’ve just described. But she is different.

And now all of a sudden she receives one of the most precious gifts any of us can obtain in this earthly life. Let’s see what it is in vs. 2 (read it)

Favor – especially from a King or someone in significant authority over us when a crisis is looming is a wonderful thing.  Proverbs 16:15 speaks to this, “In the light of a king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.”  Proverbs 19:12 says, The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass.”

In arid lands like where much of the Old Testament is played out, clouds that bring much needed rain and dew on the grass when the rains have stopped are precious indeed.  Favor is like that.  Favor can literally turn one’s life and destiny around and open doors that would have never opened without it.

This is not the first time we have seen Esther receive favor. In chapter 2, after Queen Vashti was banished and all the virgins in King Ahasuerus’s kingdom began to be rounded up to select a replacement for Vashti, vs. 8 tells us that Esther was among those brought to the palace of the King and placed under the care of a eunuch called Hegai. After being under his care for a while, vs. 9 tells us, “Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him.”  A little while later we are told in vs. 15 that her favor was expanding, “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised.; And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.”  Then in vs. 17, we see she even found favor with the King, “The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”  In chapter four,  Mordecai instructed Hathach – one of the king’s eunuchs to go back and instruct Esther to “go in to the king to implore his favorand to plead with him for her people.”

Now in chapter five we see that favor being granted to Esther. After this initial favor was granted to Esther, we are going to find her several times reminding the King of this favor and basing her requests of him on that favor. Let’s look at the first instance of this in the next six verses (read vs. 3-8).

Basically what we are seeing in this book is the very destiny of the Jews in Ahasuerus’s kingdom depended upon whether favor would be granted to a young woman named Esther. If favor was granted to her, the Jews would live. If not, they would be slaughtered. So while we do not want to unduly venerate Esther, let’s be careful that we do not minimize her value and contribution either.

Favor truly is a wonderful thing. Most of us in this room do not need it from a King or President or even a Governor. But we need it in the marketplace; we need it in our neighborhoods; we need it with the merchants we deal with; we need it with the IRS; we need it with financial institutions; we need it with strained relationships with members of our families or extended families; we need it in the midst of overwhelming responsibilities that seem almost unbearable at times, etc.

So what was it about Esther that marked her as one whom so many people in King Ahasuerus’s kingdom including the King himself granted favor?

Well the only thing that is really emphasized about her character in these first five chapters is her submission to or respect for the authorities in her life. First and foremost we see it with Mordecai, and I think it is important to realize that if she had not submitted to and respected Mordecai’s authority over her, she probably would not have succeeded in bringing about a change in the king’s edict. 

Let’s look at a couple of passages that bear that out:

First in ch. 2 vs. 10, “Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. “  Now once Esther had been in the palace and began to feel secure with Hegai the eunuch over her, she easily could have let down her guard, and in the right (or wrong) moment revealed her ancestry and ethnicity. I mean everyone likes to be understood and appreciated for who they are. But she chose to honor Mordecai’s instruction and keep it a secret.

Vs. 15 – “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised.”  Now she is under the authority of another and she seemingly gladly and fully follows his instruction or advice.

Now let’s look at vs. 20 of ch. 2.  “Esther had not yet made known her kindred or her people, even as Mordecai had commanded her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” Esther evidently for all of her growing up years lived under Mordecai’s roof and care. He was not her real father, but she respected and submitted to him as if he was. And the author in this verse emphasizes her obedience to Mordecai’s orders.

In vs. 22 of ch. 2, it could be implied that when Mordecai learned of the plot to assassinate the King, and told Esther, he also told her to tell the King, which we know she did.

So while Esther is never held up to us in the New Testament or anywhere else in the Old Testament as a model to emulate, in this regard, she is in the same company as young Joseph in Egypt or young Daniel in Babylon, both of whom God granted favor due to their godly character, and their unwillingness to be corrupted by the godlessness around them. 

Easily once Esther got out from under Mordecai’s roof, and was daily around all of those other young ladies in the King’s harem, she could have longed for their approval more than Mordecai’s. She could have listened to their opinions, more than Mordecai’s or Hegai’s.  But she appears to have withstood the peer pressure that I’m sure was thick in that harem. 

Only people who have learned to submit to authority can be trusted to exert authority over others. 

I find it very interesting that even with Jesus as a young boy, Luke tells us in Luke 2:51 that after his parents found him in the temple, he gladly returned home with them, “and He continued in subjection to them;”  and then in vs. 52 Luke adds, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Jesus, though fully God, was also fully human, and thus in need of favor from God to accomplish His mission and fulfill God’s purposes for Him.  In His early years, it was His willing subjection to His parents among other things that opened a door for the favor of God to be poured out on Him.

One thing I know from tracing the theme of favor in the scriptures this past week, is God wants to pour out favor on His people. There are huge problems in our society to solve; huge needs to meet; huge chasms or divides to bridge; and God’s favor in many cases will be the deciding factor on whether we see breakthrough in these areas or not. 

Do you ever ask for favor? Hosea ch. 12 says Jacob wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord for it.      Moses in Exodus 33 & 34 and Numbers 11 prayed for it.   Moses in Psalm 90 prayed for it.

Paul in II Corinthians 1:10, 11 says this, “And He (God) will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” 

(waiting on God for words, prayers, testimonies)  

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March 10th, 2019 – – This is the gist of a sermon I gave today on the first three chapters of Esther.

INTRODUCTION – One of the great challenges we face in the church in America is the lack of true intimacy with our God.  He has called us to that. He wired us for that.  But for a variety of reasons, we find it illusive at best.

One of the reasons I believe we find it illusive is we have not understood the cumulative effect sin has on we believers.

The apostle Paul in Galatians 6, writing to believers, explains it like this, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Galatians 6:7,8

While I am very thankful for the encouragement and healing that has come from all of the emphasis on our position in Christ in the church in America over the last however many years, I fear that we have misconstrued some things that have set us back, and actually prevented our healing. One of those things is the belief that once a man or woman or young person is born again, all of that corruption of our former life is forever gone.  I wish that were true.   

When the Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”   – wonderful, supernatural, instantaneous things happen when you or I finally admit we are a sinner – much in need of a Savior, and Jesus Christ is that one and only Savior, and we ask Him to be our personal Savior and Lord.   

Immediately upon that faith response to Him, He with resurrection power breaks the power of sin over our lives and gives us a new capacity to know and love Him and hear His voice and serve Him.  New creatures indeed!  Praise God!!

But the corruption we have sown still lingers until it is incrementally cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  That’s why Paul instructed the believers in Corinth in the first verse of chapter 7 – just a little more than a chapter after He proclaimed our newness in Christ – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”   This is an ongoing work – largely dealing with the fleshly or carnal thought patterns, attitudes and motives that we have often unconsciously developed –  that we believers are to aggressively pursue by the power of the Spirit and by the precious blood of Christ until all of that corruption or defilement is cleaned up, and we are increasingly holy as He is holy. 

One of the aspects of corruption or defilement that I believe is very prevalent in the church – especially among those of us who have known the Lord for a long time, and yet have failed Him many times and not “perfected holiness in the fear of God” like we should have is that of performance mentality.  We know we have not walked with God as we should have. Deep down, though intellectually we know He loves us, we are convinced He is angry at us. And thus we just have to work harder or sacrifice more to get Him to ease up on His anger and overlook our many failures. In this vicious cycle shame and regret get a stranglehold on us; and the thought that the living God of the universe who never knew sin, and who is holy and pure through and through – could love us unconditionally and long for intimacy with us and enjoy our fellowship– well it’s just beyond our comprehension.

So what in the world does that have to do with the book of Esther?    Ahhh, Esther.  

Though Esther never mentions the words –  God, prayer, lovingkindness, mercy or grace; though the book of Esther never gives us a prophetic portrait of the coming Messiah like the Psalms and so many of the prophets do – – some of them like Isaiah – multiple times;……….  Esther – through the power of story – if we have eyes to see – gives us a wonderful example of the mystery of God’s sovereign choosing of someone (in this case a people – namely the Jews), and thus (because He chose them) we see His undying, unbreakable, covenant love toward that people, even when they foolishly rebel against Him, and worship idols, and make friends with the world that has so brazenly rejected Him.               

Does He discipline and chasten them for their sin?  Absolutely. Does He sometimes severely judge them for their rebellion and idolatry? Absolutely.  But never once did He stop loving and pursuing them, as evidenced by many passages throughout the Old Testament and by Romans chps 9-11 in the New Testament. Listen to His words to His people in Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”  Isaiah 49:15 And then His words through the prophet Jeremiah, “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

While the book of Esther does not have one occurrence of the wonderful word, “lovingkindness”, that shows up 176 times elsewhere in the Old Testament and is translated from that rich Hebrew word, Hesed, which has the idea of covenant, unbreakable, undying, everlasting love, that can only be found in God,…. While Hesed doesn’t’ once appear in Esther, it is God’s lovingkindness that is operative behind the scenes in this great book.  It is God’s covenant love for a people that He chose and formed and destined to be a demonstration of His love to the world around Him, that is lurking behind the many turns of events in the book of Esther.

With that introduction, let’s dive into the book of Esther together. My assignment is the first three chapters, which I would at least like to read with you.

Vs. 1 – 4 – – King Ahasuerus’s Reign and Grand Celebration – –   Some translations like the NIV call this King Xerxes. They are one and the same. He ruled over a vast territory as described here – from the years 486-465 B.C.  

Some scholars believe that King Xerxes was using this banquet as a means of preparing his military leaders for an eventual invasion of Greece, which we know happened about four years later, though it was a failed invasion.

Vs. 5 – 8 – The banquet for the common folk – –  .  This 7 day banquet is a separate banquet for the common folk in which wine flowed in abundance and the King’s glory and splendor were again on display.

Vs. 9 – Queen Vashti’s banquet – – .  Separate banquets for the women were not unusual for that culture. 

Vs. 10-12 – – Vashti’s response to King Ahasuerus’s Command – –     “merry with wine” is another way of saying King Ahasuerus was sloshed, and not operating in good judgment.    Perhaps it was his example and perhaps the example of other foolish Kings with their lack of restraint because of their alcohol that caused King Lemuel’s mother to exhort him with these words as recorded in Proverbs 31:1-5 “The words of King Lemuel. The oracle which his mother taught him: What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb?  And what, O son of my vows?  Do not give you strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink,   For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”  

Vs. 11 – God wired husbands to rave over their wives’ beauty. But it was never meant for anyone else to gaze upon or enjoy.  It was never meant to be used as a trophy to parade in front of others.  

Vs. 12 – Vashti’s refusal sent the King into a fit of rage, I’m sure helped by his drunkenness.

Vs. 13 – 15 – King Ahasuerus turns to his counselors for advice.

Vs. 16 – 20  – His counselors advice  

Vs. 21,22 – The King’s response to their advice (read it)    He ok’d this plan, and evidently added to this announcement was that all men/husbands should be the master in their homes.

Chapter 2

Vs. 1- 4 The Search Begins;  Some time later when the King had calmed down and was reflecting on what had happened with Vashti, his attendants and counselors encouraged him to get on with the search for her replacement, which he then authorized. 

Vs. 5-7 – Introduction of Mordecai and Esther  

Vs. 8-10 – Esther’s placement into Ahasurus’s harem   

Vs. 11 – Mordecai’s monitoring of her welfare

Vs. 12-14 – the process of coming before the King for these virgins  

Vs. 15-16 – Esther’s turn to be with the King     Can you imagine what that trek into the King’s bedroom must have been like for Esther?

Vs. 17-18 – The King’s response to Esther  

Vs. 19-20 – Re-entry of Mordecai’s influence on Esther to the story  

Vs. 21-23 – Mordecai’s exposing of the plot on the King’s life    

Chapter 3

Vs. 1-2 – Haman’s promotion and Mordecai’s refusal to bow before him  

Vs. 3-4 – The King’s servants’ response to his refusal  

Vs. 5-6 – Haman’s response to his refusal   

Vs. 7-11 – Haman’s appeal to the King to wipe out the Jews   

Vs. 12-15 – The decree is declared in all the provinces    

CONCLUSION – God promised His people through the prophet Jeremiah that their Babylonian captivity would only need to last 70 years, and then they would/should return to their homeland. Listen to His words, “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. “  Jeremiah 29:10

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel and Judah to return to their homeland as can be seen in passages like Isaiah 48:20 and Jeremiah 50:8 and 51:6. Some obviously did which you can read about in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. But many didn’t -like Mordecai and Esther. 

Perhaps they got comfortable in the greater Persian empire; raised their families there; made some friends; established themselves in the marketplace.           Some scholars believe the reason the author of Esther never mentioned God or prayer or some of the other missing words I spoke of earlier in my sermon, is because the spiritual life of the Jews in this empire that Ahasuerus ruled over was at an all time low.  

But regardless of all of this, as you will see as we continue the study of Esther, God never lost sight of His people.  

Nor has He lost sight of you.  (Spontaneous bringing the message home).

May the Lord use the reading of this book in these next weeks to bring that home to you in a fresh way. 

Prayer and ministry time. 

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  1. Acts 2:37-41 – Peter ministering to the Jews 

What is it they heard? Vs. 37

How did they respond? Vs. 37

What is the first thing Peter commanded them to do? Vs. 38

2ndthing? Vs. 38

What is Peter’s promise if they respond appropriately?  Vs. 38

Note also his ongoing exhortation?  Vs. 40

Who were the ones who got baptized according to vs. 41?

What was the setting of this event?

As far as we know from this passage, what is true of every person who was baptized?

2. Acts 8:12,13 Phillip ministering to the Samaritans & Simon

What was Phillip proclaiming to the Samaritans? Vs. 5

Who was being baptized according to vs. 12?

What do we know about any response they might have made before they were baptized? Vs. 12

Who else got baptized there in Samaria?  Vs. 13

What did he do before he was baptized – or what preceded that? Vs. 13

3. Acts 8:26-39 – Phillip ministering to the Ethiopian Eunuch

Setting – Eth. Eunuch riding in his chariot back home from Jerusalem, where he had gone to worship, reading the book of Isaiah (ch. 53) outloud.

What did the Holy Spirit tell Phillip to do? Vs. 29

Did the Eth. Eunuch understand what he was reading?  Vs. 30,31

What was the Eth. Eunuch’s confusion re: Isa. 53?  Vs. 34

What did Phillip talk to this guy about? Vs. 35

How long might this conv. Have taken?  Vs. 35,36

Whose idea was it for the eunuch to get baptized?  Vs. 36

What came first baptism or belief?

What result did this experience have on the Eunuch? Vs. 39

4. Acts 9:17,18 – Ananias ministering to Saul/Paul (cf. 22:12-16)

How did Ananias address Paul?

What was his initial concern for Paul? 9:17; 22:14,15

How did Ananias feel about Paul potentially delaying baptism?  22:16

What things does Ananias command Paul to do in 22:16?

5. Acts 10:44-48 – Peter ministering to Cornelius and Gang

What is true of Cornelius and his comrades according to vs. 47?

How did Peter communicate to them that they should be baptized? Vs. 48 suggest?

6. Acts 16:14,15 – Paul, Luke, Timothy ministering to Lydia & family

What do we know about this lady Lydia from vs. 14?

Did she respond to the gospel?

Who all got baptized?

This is the first mention in the book of Acts of children possibly being baptized.

7. Acts 16:23-34 – Paul & Silas ministering to the Philippian Jailer & his family

What did Paul and Silas say was necessary to be saved?  Vs. 31

What did they do after this? Vs. 32

What did they do after this? Vs. 33

How did the jailer feel after all this?  Vs. 34

8. Acts 18:7,8    – Paul ministering to Crispus & family & other Corinthians

Who is he in vs. 7?

For he, his family and the other Corinthians there, what two things did they do starting with the letter b? vs. 8

Which came first?

2ndinstance of a whole family getting baptized.

      9. Acts 19:1-7 – Paul ministering to “disciples” at Ephesus

      Who is Paul talking to in vs. 2?  “some disciples”

       What did Paul do after they were baptized?  Vs. 6

       Why we do what we do.

Baptism and cleansing or washing:

Acts 15:9 “and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” (see vs. 11 for statement of how one is saved)

Acts 22:16 “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

Eph. 5:26 “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,”

Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

I Peter 3:21 “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..”

It appears from these verses that baptism has a cleansing effect of some kind. Though we know from other passages including the first one above that our cleansing from sin takes place as we place our faith in Christ’s sacrifice. Ultimately it is His blood that cleanses us from the deep rooted stains of sin. Perhaps one of the ways baptism cleanses us is by breaking our fear of man – especially when done in public for all to see.

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“Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves.”  John Owen – great Puritan theologian and non conformist and one of the greatest Protestant theologians of all time.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  Matthew 7:3

This penetrating question of our Savior comes towards the end of what was probably at least a 45 minute sermon, (normally referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”), given to a crowd of disciples, who presumably wanted to follow Jesus.  If you are reading this blog, I’m presuming you also want to follow Jesus. 

Since you want to follow Jesus, I hope you will not be offended when I say you are more than likely walking in some degree of spiritual blindness. This is especially true if you are a member of the church in America.  The way to know for sure is by answering some questions like these: 

  • Whose sins or problems or weaknesses do you give more attention to in a given day or week – yours or someone else’s?  
  • When you left the last worship gathering/service of fellow believers, and began your trek home, whose sins or need to change was most in your mind and perhaps reflected in your words – yours or someone else’s?   
  • When you read or listen to the news these days, do you walk away in any way aware of your own sins, or do you get caught up in the greatest American pastime –  focusing on our government leaders’ sins?   

Most Americans even most American Christians in most conversations talk about anything but their own sins.

We leaders of the church have created a church culture that basically says if you as a Christian and member of our churches are busy with church attendance and church activities, be they Bible studies or benevolence ministries or children’s or youth ministries or whatever, then you are a good Christian. And the busier you are in these things, the gooder you are!

Often in the church culture, the very things (programs and activities) that have been designed to help people become godly and holy Christians end up keeping them from it because their participation in them give them/us a false sense of accomplishment and standing with the Lord, and keep us so busy we have no time to listen to the Holy Spirit regarding sin areas in our lives He wants to clean up.

The Laodicean church was well off financially (and presumably had many other “good church” things in place)– which led them to believe that they must have been pleasing to God – yet Jesus said – “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, …” Revelation 3:17  

Jesus was speaking to the church in Laodicea whom He has just rebuked for being lukewarm in vs. 15,16.  Central to lukewarmness is that of being oblivious to one’s real spiritual need.  We in the West especially are easily fooled into thinking we are doing ok spiritually because we are doing ok materially/financially, and there is no apparent crisis going on in our lives or relationships, and we are busy serving the Lord in one way or another. Please note the stark difference in the way these believers thought of themselves in vs. 17 and how Jesus assessed them.  

One of the major lessons from Jesus’s letters to those seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is there are things the church in all its busyness is blind to.  We may be seeing some things correctly. We may be doing some things that please Him. But there are often issues of the heart, attitudes or thought patterns that He is not pleased with, and that we need to repent of. And unless we learn to hear His voice re: these things and unless we come to a place in our walk with Him where we long to see these things, we will continue in spiritual blindness to one degree or another.

So what are some steps towards overcoming spiritual blindness?

Well here are a few things that have helped me (Randy) over the last year and a half wherein God has opened my eyes to much spiritual blindness and lukewarmness.

First, ask God to open your eyes on a daily basis for the rest of your life!  You might try praying some of the pertinent biblical prayers like:

“How many are my iniquities and sins? Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.” Job 13:23    (Now Job might have prayed this with a bit of an edge or with some cynicism or challenging God. But he prayed it and God did eventually answer it.)

“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgressions.” Psalm 19:12,13   (Implied answer to this opening question – No One! Thus he turns to God to open his eyes and make him aware of what he himself was blind to.)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23,24    (Clearly what David is after here is for God to reveal to him anything in his life that was harmful or displeasing to God that he was blind to).

“I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me O Lord, but with justice; Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing.” Jeremiah 10:23,24   (Jeremiah was very aware of his limitations and blind spots. And He knew God would be faithful to point them out if he cried out to Him to do so).

What was Jesus’s prescription after informing the church in Laodicea of how blind to their own desperate need they were? “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes to that you may see.”  Revelation 3:18   Only by coming to Him repeatedly for the cleansing and illumination and revelation and discernment we need, can we escape this scourge of spiritual blindness.

Second, if you are a husband, give much more attention to living with your wife in an understanding way and honoring her so that your prayers will not be hindered. (see I Peter 3:7).  If prayer is key to overcoming spiritual blindness, we want our prayers to count! And often for husbands our prayers don’t count because of the way we are treating our wives. I was blind to this for years for many reasons. But one reason is because I was always around people whose marriages were seemingly worse than mine.  So it was easy to justify my lack of really pursuing and cherishing and honoring my wife by contrasting my marriage with theirs.

Third, ask God for the courage and obedience to confess your sins to other brothers or sisters. I John 1:5-10 is a crucial passage for the church to grapple with if we are ever going to get some traction in pursuing and attaining holiness and purity. 

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.                                                                                       If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;                                                                                                          but if we walk in the Light as he Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.                                  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.                                                                                       If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

Fellowship with God and with one another is dependent upon our ability to quit living secret lives, and to quit pretending like we do not struggle with sin, and to thus (when appropriate and not with just anyone) bring our darkness into the light and allow the blood of Jesus to bring not only forgiveness, but much needed cleansing. (See also James 5:14-16 regarding the role confession of our sins plays in our pursuit of healing).  

Well may the Holy Spirit give you very practical and tangible help with this journey into the light and freedom of the kingdom of God. Prayers for ourspiritual purity and holiness are always appreciated.

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Knowing Jesus as King in the now and experiencing the glories of His kingdom in the now is the privilege of every son and daughter of God. If this is true, then we can count on spiritual opposition to this truth in many forms, even through well meaning teachers in the Church. I present this simple and incomplete study for those who want to know for sure what the scriptures teach re: this all important question.

I. Old Testament prophecies re: the Messiah/King

In Psalm 2:1-6 we see the first (I think) prophetic portrait of Jesus as King.  God the Father in vs. 6 says He has installed (past tense) “My King”. The emphasis or relevance of His kingship in this passage is His rule over other kings/government leaders.

In Isaiah 9:6,7 we see the establishment of Christ’s government. Note in vs. 7 the timing, “From then on and forevermore”.  Isn’t the timing of -“…the government will rest (literally “be”) on His shoulders” and “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,…Prince of Peace” the same?  Should we stop calling Him the Prince of Peace on Christmas cards until the Millennium or until His return? 

In Isaiah 11:1-5 do we not see references to the earthly ministry of Christ? Granted vs. 6 seems to speak of the Milennium or the New Heavens and New Earth. But it is not unlike Isaiah to flip around like that.

In Isaiah 42:1,3,4 we see no reference to a future more perfect state; most believe this speaks of His earthly and present ministry on the earth.

In Zechariah 9:9 when he speaks of Israel’s king coming to them in the third line, does he (Zechariah) not describe how he will come in the fourth line (humble, and mounted on a donkey)?  Just because Israel as a whole rejected him (there were wonderful exceptions to this), His Kingship was not affected.

II. The wise men, Herod the king, and the “King of the Jews”

In Matthew 2 there is a wonderful contrast developed between Herod the king (little k) and Jesus the King (big K). These wise men wanted to know where is the one who “has been born Kingof the Jews”.   Does not Jesus Himself affirm this when he says to Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born(my emphasis), and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth…” John 18:37

III. Jesus Himself

In Matthew 18:23f when Jesus helps Peter and the disciples better understand why we must forgive as a lifestyle, does He not imply in speaking of a king of a kingdom that He Himself is one and the same?

In Matthew 22:1-14 was not the intended import of this parable the fact that Jesus Himself was a King of a kingdom, who was actively inviting folk to enter His kingdom, and who would deal severely with those who rejected this gracious invitation or who tried to enter His kingdom through some other way than the way He made available?

In Matthew 25: 31 and following certainly there is a final and complete inheritance (vs. 34) of His kingdom that those of us in His kingdom and who have as a lifestyle sought first His kingdom (Matt. 6:33) will receive, but our reception of it is based on how we operated in His kingdom in the now/in our lifetime.

See discussion above re: Jesus’s own words to Pilate in John 18:37

IV. Jesus’s Critics re: What Jesus Claimed of Himself in the Now

In Luke 23:2, please note Jesus’s critics’ accusation, “And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

In John 19:12 we see a similar account, “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a kingopposes Caesar.”

V. Those who knew and followed Him

Nathanael – “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the Kingof Israel.” John 1:49

The whole crowd of disciples – “…..the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (this quote as referenced in capital letters above is from Psalm 118:26

In Acts 17:5-7 the critics of the early church/apostles accused them based on what they knew they proclaimed about Jesus – “….saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

Paul’s proclamations to Timothy & those who would read his letters

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and

glory forever and ever. Amen.” I Timothy 1:17

“which He will bring about at the proper time – He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” I Timothy 6:15

Clearly Paul proclaimed Christ as King in the now, not merely in the future. 

     VI.          John’s proclamation in The Revelation

Revelation 1:5 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth….” (this is not speaking of future eschatological events or times, and while he does not use the word “king” here, “ruler” has the same idea).  

The Holy Spirit, who inspired “The Revelation of John”, which is ultimately “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1), and who through this coveted book has sought to prepare His church for all that is to come before He returns, wants us to know the Son as the King, so we can trust Him when we see all the upheavals and godlessness and idolatry and rebellion in our human governments and among the other rulers of the nations. Sadly we have given more attention to timelines, than we have to the One who is “the beginning and the end.”

The resurrected martyrs of the Great Tribulation certainly knew Him and sang of Him as such as seen in Rev. 15:3.

The angel reassured the apostle John (and thus all His saints) that despite great attacks and evil schemes from rulers of the earth against the saints (17:6) and even against Jesus Himself (17:14), the Lamb would win “….because He is Lord of lords and King of kings,…”.

Clearly He wants us all to know Him as such since this name and title is on His robe and thigh for all to see, “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  Rev. 19:16

VII. The Present Reality of His kingdom

Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus preached this simple message wherever He went. The whole basis and motivation to repent or reason to repent is the King and His Kingdom had invaded their time and space and reality, and thus their sins and darkness were exposed, and thus they needed to bow to King and be delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God (see Col. 1:13 below).

Matthew 12:28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Luke 17:20, 21 “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Colossians 1:13 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

CONCLUSION: So much more could be said about our glorious King and His kingdom especially from the book of Matthew wherein we see His kingship and Kingdom revealed more than in any other book. But hopefully this short study will make clear that we have the privilege of knowing Him as King and experiencing the joys and blessings of His kingdom in the now,  not just in the future, though granted our experience of Him and His kingdom will be far greater once Satan, sin, the flesh and the world are forever done away with. Come Lord Jesus, come!

      * Italics of the word “king” or “King” are my emphasis

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We are doing a six week or so sermon series on the Holy Spirit here at The Well – Los Osos, so I thought it might be helpful to see what leaders of the church down through the ages have said about the Holy Spirit. Enjoy!

“Without the Spirit we can neither love God nor keep His commandments.” – Augustine

“It is the Spirit that sheds the love of God abroad in their hearts, and the love of all mankind; thereby purifying their hearts from the love of the world, from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. It is by Him they are delivered from anger and pride, from all vile and inordinate affections.” – John Wesley

“The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.” – Billy Graham

“The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.” – Francis Chan

“The Christian’s life in all its aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.” – J. I. Packer

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“Children of God should not make a general confession by acknowledging their innumerable sins in a vague manner, because such confession does not provide conscience opportunity to do its perfect work. They ought to allow the Holy Spirit through their conscience to point out their sins one by one. Christians must accept its reproach and be willing, according to the mind of the Spirit, to eliminate everything which is contrary to God.” – Watchman Nee

“We need, men so possessed by the Spirit of God that God can think His thoughts through our minds, that He can plan His will through our actions, that He can direct His strategy of world evangelization through His Church.” – Alan Redpath

“To the individual believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.” – G. Campbell Morgan

“The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” – A. W. Tozer

“Christians ought to eliminate their folly. They ought to adopt God’s view of the absolute impossibility for their natural walk to please Him. They must dare to allow the Holy Spirit to point out to them every corruption of the soul life. They must exercise faith in believing God’s estimation of their natural life and must wait patiently for the Holy Spirit to reveal in them what the Bible says of them. Only in this manner will they be led in the way of deliverance.” – Watchman Nee

“If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.” – Charles Spurgeon

“Confusion and impotence are the inevitable results when the wisdom and resources of the world are substituted for the presence and power of the Spirit.” – Samuel Chadwick

“We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.” – Charles Spurgeon

“The root-trouble of the present distress is that the Church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power.” – Samuel Chadwick

“Read whatever chapter of scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it – yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon him.” – William Law

“I can say, through the power of the Spirit that wherever God can get a people that will come together in one accord and one mind in the Word of God, the baptism of the Holy Ghost will fall upon them, like as at Cornelius’ house.” – William J. Seymour

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference” – A. W. Tozer

“Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.” – Richard J. Foster

  • “Since the days of Pentecost, has the whole church ever put aside every other work and waited upon Him for ten days, that the Spirit’s power might be manifested? We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power.” – Hudson Taylor

“Oh! yes, (the prayer meeting) is the place to meet with the Holy Ghost, and this is the way to get His mighty power. If we would have Him, we must meet in greater numbers; we must pray with greater fervency, we must watch with greater earnestness, and believe with firmer steadfastness. The prayer meeting…is the appointed place for the reception of power.” – Charles Spurgeon

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer.” – E.M. Bounds

“The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Power helpeth our infirmity in prayer. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Life ends our deadness in prayer. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Wisdom delivers us from ignorance in this holy art of prayer. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Fire delivers us from coldness in prayer. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Might comes to our aid in our weakness as we pray.” – Leonard Ravenhill

“Breath in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.” – Augustine

Men ought to seek with their whole hearts to be filled with the Spirit of God. Without being filled with the Spirit, it is utterly impossible that an individual Christian or a church can ever live or work as God desires.” – Andrew Murray

“If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, ‘It is not by might, but by My Spirit.'” – Jonathan Goforth

“The Holy Spirit cannot conquer the world with unbelief, nor can He save the world with a worldly Church. He calls for a crusade, a campaign, and an adventure of saving passion. For this enterprise He wants a separated, sanctified and sacrificial people.” – Samuel Chadwick

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” – Augustine

“Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God.” – Samuel Chadwick

“The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God, give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost!” – A. B. Simpson

“Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum. If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh….Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them.” – A. W. Tozer

“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being filled with the Spirit.” – Smith Wigglesworth

“The church that is man-managed instead of God-governed is doomed to failure. A ministry that is college-trained but not Spirit-filled works no miracles.” – Samuel Chadwick

Much of today’s church relies more on a book the early church didn’t have, than the Holy Spirit they did. – Bill Johnson

If you engage with the Holy spirit because you want to merely be effective in ministry, then you’re developing professional intimacy and what do we call people who are intimate as a profession? – Bill Johnson

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My objective below was to try to find as many scriptures as I could that speak to the authority and reliability of scripture. Like many of my surveys from Genesis to Revelation, this is not exhaustive. And I’m sure I will add to it over time. But hopefully there is enough below to help one see that you can bank your life and eternity on the scriptures.

Old Testament:

 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.  Deut. 12:32

The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.  Psalm 12:6

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  Psa. 19:7-11

“Your testimonies are fully confirmed…..” Psalm 93:5a

“….All His precepts are sure.” Psalm 111:7

 “All Your commandments are faithful;…” Psalm 119:86

 “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89

“…Your commandment is exceedingly broad.” Psalm 119:96

“…..that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.” Psalm 119:106

“My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation  And for Your righteous word.” Psalm 119:123

“Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:128

“Righteous are You, O Lord, And upright are Your judgments.”  Psalm 119:137

“You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness And exceeding faithfulness.” Psalm 119:138

“Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.” Psalm 119:140

“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.” Psalm 119:142

“Your testimonies are righteous forever;….” Psalm 119:144

“You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth.”  Psalm 119:151

“Of old I have known from Your testimonies  That You have founded them forever.”  Psalm 119:152

“The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”  Psalm 119:160

“Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances.”  Psalm 119:164

“Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. Prov. 30:5,6

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isa. 40:8

New Testament:

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35

But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Matthew 26:56

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  John 5:39

If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— John 10:35

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, II Tim. 3:16

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Heb. 4:12

The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. I Peter 1:25

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:21

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INTRODUCTION – Over 40 years ago Billy Graham wrote an article called  “Challenge for a Floundering Church”. He cites about seven or so major changes he believed needed to happen in the floundering church in America. These observations came from all of his travels and interactions with church leaders throughout our nation over many years. Here’s his third suggestion for change:

“Third, I would teach the necessity of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were nothing before Pentecost. They were everything after it. When we read about famous Christians down through the centuries, we cannot escape the tremendous emphasis of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The church today has all the tools for conquest—money, edifices, organizations, education and methods. But we lack the God-given spark to ignite these things into a spiritual fire that could sweep the world and help bring peace to our desperate world. That spark is the personal infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, without which the church has no spiritual power.”

A.W. Tozer impacted the church in America like few others in the first half of the 20thcentury. He pastored in Chicago for 30 years and then in Toronoto until he somewhat retired. He wrote 40 books including the classics “The Pursuit of God” and “The knowledge of the Holy”. Some called him a modern day prophet. He said re: the church and the Holy Spirit, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference”

Samuel Chadwick, one of the greatest ever Methodist preachers and a champion for revival in the late 1800’s said re: the church and the Holy Spirit, – “The root-trouble of the present distress is that the Church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power.”

Francis Chan in an interview in March of 2018 said, – – “There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today. In many modern churches, you would be stunned by the apparent absence of the Spirit in any manifest way. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problem.”

So that’s a bit about our problem. But here’s the thing. If the lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power is our problem; then His realized or manifest presence and power is our solution!  Throughout church history there have been times where the problem seemed insurmountable, but a remnant of sons and daughters of the king didn’t give up, and kept crying out for more of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father granted them their request. 

Isn’t that what we see in the book of Acts?  Thousands of people had been following Jesus – absolutely awed by His miracles and His teachings as seen in the four gospel accounts. But when He was unlawfully arrested and then ruthlessly crucified, the movement He had started seemed all but over. But the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead after three days the scriptures tell us. And He appeared over a forty day period to about 500 people helping them all understand that it was always part of God’s plan for Him to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead to continue to lead His disciples forward. Before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven He gave final instructions to His closest band of disciples – the 12 minus Judas and some women who often traveled with them and some other disciples. He instructed them to gather in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which they obediently and somewhat fearfully did for days before the Holy Spirit invaded their room and supernaturally enabled all of them to speak in foreign languages they had never learned, which drew a huge crowd, which caused formerly fearful and timid Peter to stand up and preach a sermon so bold and so powerful that 3,000 people repented of their sins, and embraced the risen Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, followed by baptism.

If you’ve read the book of Acts you know almost every page speaks of the mighty works of the Holy Spirit through a group of people who used to argue among themselves about who was the greatest,  and who dissed children and who dissed women and who dissed emotional displays of worship and who fell asleep when they were asked by Jesus to pray, etc.   It is an amazing and thrilling story of what the Holy Spirit can do in and through His people, and probably the primary reason why these leaders I quoted to you earlier said the things they said. 

My contention this morning is the Holy Spirit is yearning to do even greater works than these in and through you and me.     So to pave the way for that I would like to review with you who He is and what He is like.  Because as Joshua taught us last week, the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force or a vibe or an energy field, or a cosmic genie; rather He is a person; a person that Jesus Christ went to great lengths to reveal to His disciples in those last hours He had with them.

We are going to look at four aspects of His person this morning rather quickly, because I want us to spend some time in prayer afterwards. And the first one is this:

He is fully God – The Holy Spirit is equal in deity with God the Father and God the Son – 

Jesus said these words to His disciples, after He had risen from the dead and right before He ascended to heaven,   “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20

Clearly new believers in Jesus were meant to know God as the triune God that He is. Clearly their new identity as disciples was to be grounded in the knowledge and experience of God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit.

When Peter rebuked Annanias and Sapphira for lying and pretending to be someone they were not in the early church in Jerusalem, he said these words, “…Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spiritand to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God?”  Acts 5:3,4; 

In Peter’s mind, the Holy Spirit and God were one and the same.

So this means that when the Bible says “Nothing is too difficult for You” this is true of the Holy Spirit; and when the Bible says “Nothing will be impossible with God” – this is true of the Holy Spirit; and thus when the Bible says He will convict the world of sin and judgment and righteousness, no amount of post modernism or central coastianity or new age fluff or any other ism will prevent Him from accomplishing His convicting work.  Or When the Bible speaks of His sanctifying work in the lives of we believers, no amount of sin or corruption or defilement in our past will keep Him from accomplishing this precious sanctifying work – making us more and more like Jesus.

Well not only is He fully God; He is also HOLY.

The Spirit of God has a number of names or titles in the scriptures, but by far the most prevalent one in the New Testament is He is the Holy Spirit. 92 x’s He is referred to as such in the New Testament.

So what does it mean when the scriptures say He is the HOLY Spirit?

Well the greek word translated Holy has the idea of “distinction” or “apartness”.  One theologian spoke of Him as “Wholly other”.  Another scholar put it this way: “God the Holy Spirit is apart and distinct from all that is impotent and impure. He is distinct and separate from all created beings and false gods; there is no one like Him in any way or in any place.  The evidence for this is found in His righteousness and His power; He is not sinful and impure as man or gods, neither is He impotent as man or gods.”  

Thomas Watson, the prolific Puritan writer of a few centuries ago spoke of the holiness of God as follows: “Holiness is the glory of the Godhead. It is primarily and originally in God as light is in the sun; you may as well separate weight from lead, or heat from fire, as holiness from the divine nature; God’s holiness is that whereby His heart rises against any sin, as being most diametrically opposite to His essence, “You are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” Hab. 1:13  

Thus when the apostle Paul commanded the Corinthian believers to “Flee immorality” in I Cor. Ch. 6,  He supported that command with two reasons. First we should flee all forms of sexual immorality because of the destructive effects this sin has on one’s body.  And second because of the reality that the Spirit who dwells within us is the HOLY Spirit, and our body belongs to Him now.

“Flee immorality.  Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” I Cor. 6:18, 19

Were the Holy Spirit merely a force or energy –  what you do with your body probably wouldn’t matter. But because he is a person who is holy through and through, and because He lives inside of you, what you do, what you think, what you say matters greatly.

I’ve had to come to grips with the reality in recent years that a major reason we believers struggle to experience the power and vibrancy and reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives is because we are blind to His holiness, and thus very weak in our own holiness.  This was certainly true in my own life.

And I think one of the reasons we so struggle with this is because we see the Holy Spirit use unholy people – even ourselves, and we therefore conclude their lack of holiness  (or ours) is no big deal.  One of the things I used to justify my own lack of holiness was the fact that God was using me in people’s lives. Therefore He must have been pleased with me. 

One of the men God used in a powerful way in my life 30 or more years ago when I began to get acquainted with the Holy Spirit was John Wimber – the founder of the Vineyard movement. God used the Vineyard in a huge way in our nation in the late 70’s and 80’s and early 90’s to help the evangelical non charismatic arm of the church in the West rediscover the gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues, and rediscover that our God is a supernatural God who has always performed signs and wonders and always will. But He could have used them in far greater ways if they had known the Holy Spirit as the HOLY Spirit.

Listen to John’s own words, “…If the time of the Lord’s return is close (and he believed it was), doesn’t He expect us to prepare ourselves with righteous acts, so that we might be a bride fit for the wedding with the Lamb of God (Rev. 19:7-9)? If His return inaugurates our being in His presence forever, shouldn’t our highest priority today be seeking God’s face?

Perhaps this is why I have sensed God saying, “Get ready; Get ready; Get ready.” Call the people to account. Prepare them! They must be clean. They must be holy.” I’ve never known such urgent leading from the Lord.

I’m particularly sensitive to the call to righteousness, because for years I have been aware that few people in the Vineyard are truly holy. Very few lives are set apart – set apart from sin and impurity, and set apart to God.

When the Holy Spirit first came on the Vineyard I shook my head and said, “Wait a minute. I’ve been taught all my Christian life that God doesn’t use an unclean vessel, yet look at this thing: it’s unclean.” I knew our church was unclean, because I was pastoring it. I couldn’t’ understand how the favor of the Lord could be on a people like us.

In the early years of the Vineyard (and this was after it was known nationwide for miracles of healing and other miracles taking place) people asked me, “Do you and your people have a strong prayer ministry in your church?” “No,” I’d say, “only a few people pray. Very few.”

Then they’d ask, Surely your people endeavor to be holy, don’t they?” 

“Well only a few are. Many of them could care less. They’re more interested in the cares of the world than in God’s affairs.”

Oh we responded to the Lord and had some great meetings. But there was very little consecration on the part of the people. During this time a brother in the church prophesied, “We’re riding on someone else’s credit card.” Looking back, I believe that’s accurate; …” I assume someone else prayed for us….. And we received the blessings.” (end of quote)

One of the Holy Spirit’s passions is to prepare the bride of Christ to meet her groom without spot or wrinkle.  The great revivalist – Leonard Ravenhill said it best, when he exclaimed, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back in to that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”  I firmly believe He is going to do that increasingly with our congregation, and with His church in this region as we get to know Him as He truly is!

He is God; He is the Holy Spirit; and thirdly He is Spirit.

Jesus said of God and thus the Holy Spirit, – “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

The Holy Spirit is not confined or limited to a body like Jesus was while He walked and ministered on the earth. Thus He can minister to millions of people at the same time. Thus when Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:7, 8 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;”  The advantage the Holy Spirit had and has is He is Spirit. He can be everywhere at once. He has no time or space limitations.

Finally He is the Spirit of Truth

Jesus said to His disciples, “ I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16,17

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spiritof truthwho proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” John 15:26

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”  John 16:13

The apostle John goes even farther in his first epistle and states, “…..It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” I John 5:6

Do you want to be intimate with the Holy Spirit?  Do you want to filled with all His fullness?  Do you want to be the kind of vessel or temple or instrument that the Holy Spirit can do those greater works through that Jesus promised?

Then we are going to have to allow Him to purge and cleanse us from all the rationalization, and minimizing and embellishing and stretching the truth and falsehood that we have walked in for most of our lives.  I don’t know about you but I learned to lie and stretch the truth and beat around the bush and divert attention from my sins as a child and really got pretty good at it. It sadly became a way of life for me.

But even David knew as he prayed in Psalm 51;6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,….” Perhaps that’s why a little later in that passionate prayer he pleaded, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”  

Now thankfully in this New Covenant relationship we believers have with and through Jesus Christ and through what He has done for us on the cross, we do not have to plead with Him not to be taken from us.  But we should be pleading for Him to purify us of all of our corruption and defilement and falsehood so He can fulfill His highest purposes in and through your life and mine.

Being a temple of the Holy Spirit and a temple of the Spirit of truth is a great privilege and honor. It means each of us has the potential to be used by Him beyond our wildest dreams. But that doesn’t happen automatically. 

Perhaps that’s why the great church father Augustine, prayed prayers like this re: the Holy Spirit – “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.”

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.”

Jesus’s promise for His church is this: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”    Let’s ask Him now!

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Jesus Christ is celebrated for a variety of reasons this time of the year. One of the primary reasons should be because He is Light. John says of Him in his gospel, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4,5)

Our hope and sense in these days is that the church in the West will increasingly know and love and worship Him for being the Light. This will happen as we His people welcome and seek His light to break through and expose our spiritual blindness. 

Spiritual blindness is a bigger problem in the church than most realize. Our objective in this blog is to speak to that reality from the Proverbs. 

King Solomon spoke to this reality often in the latter half of The Proverbs. For instance, he states in chapter 16:

1.  “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the Lord weighs the motives.”  Proverbs 16:2

Because we all tend to compare ourselves with others, and because usually there is at least one person in our acquaintance who is seemingly far less moral or righteous than we are, we have learned to justify ourselves. After all “I have never done that”; “I’ve never gone to that place”, “I’ve never watched that movie”, “I’ve never been addicted to that”, etc.

2.  “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthyman?” Proverbs 20:6

What we claim about ourselves, and what is true about us is often two different things. We often feel about ourselves what we would want people to think about us. But “trustworthiness” according to King Solomon is rare indeed. Crucial to a man or woman being truly trustworthy is that they are the same person in private (when no one is watching) that they are in public.

3. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’? Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord.” Proverbs 20:9,10

Most of us in so many words speak of ourselves to others as being clean and pure. But often the measuring stick for our cleanness and purity is contrasting ourselves with others or with obvious and known wickedness in our society. One of the things we learn early on in life is how to find someone, who contrasted to us, makes us look good. Men and women do this all the time. But God hates this measuring stick. The best of humanity is still a rotten standard in His eyes. 

4. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.”  Proverbs 21:2

Again our tendency is to justify ourselves (almost always by contrasting ourselves with someone we deem obviously worse in word and deed).  But while we might not do the things they do or say the things they say, God looks at our hearts, our motives, our inner attitudes, and our inner conversations.  His weighing standard is of course Himself!

5. “There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness.” Proverbs 30:12

It is normal for people on this planet to literally consider ourselves as “pure” when in fact we are filthy internally.  Our personal assessment about ourselves can rarely be trusted unless it is based on the righteous standard of the holiness of God.

Thankfully Jesus is Light! He is going to open our eyes and remove our blindness. He came to wash us thoroughly and completely from all of our sins, and the corruption our sins have produced.  May we all learn to cling to Him for His much needed Light, and His precious blood that washes us white as snow.

“who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:14

“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14

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INTRODUCTION – We are jumping into chapter two of Paul’s letter to Titus this morning if you would like to turn there in your Bibles.     As Elizabeth taught us last week – this letter is considered to be one of the pastoral epistles – which are epistles or letters that were more specifically written to help the church know how to how to be the church in the midst of the darkness and perversion all around her. 

While this letter to Titus is one of the three pastoral epistles, I do not believe Titus himself should be seen as a pastor. Pastors or elders or overseers are called to shepherd the sheep in a given location. They are to dig their heels in a particular city or region and do their part to see the saints equipped, and the sheep in that given city or region shepherded, and the lost saved. They are to lay their lives down to see Christ’s kingdom come and His will done in their region until Christ clearly leads them elsewhere, if He ever does.  

An apostle on the other hand, tends to not be confined to one locale or one congregation.  An apostle typically oversees a number of churches and/or ministries and is given more to travel and to equipping equippers – and pastoring pastors. 

While Titus is never called an apostle in scripture, he functioned more like an apostle than a pastor. Paul calls him his “partner and fellow worker” in II Corinthians ch. 8. Titus ministered in Corinth for some period of time. He traveled with Paul to Jerusalem at one point in Paul’s journeys.  He traveled to Dalmatia for ministry at one point.  And now we see him appointing elders in every city in the island state of Crete.

Now,  one of the aspects of church life that is designed and intended to give God glory in every place where the church has been established is that its members look more and more like their Savior.

For young churches like these newly planted churches in Crete, there were not many – if any seasoned, mature believers to learn from and to model after; so Paul gave Titus in this letter some specific character targets to shoot for in the various age groups and stations of life.

He starts off as he should with Titus himself.  vs. 1 & vs. 15

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” Vs. 1

“These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Vs. 15

Please note the intended contrast in vs. 1 with the divisive men in 1:10,11 that the phrase, “But as for you” tips us off to.  Paul warns Titus in that passage, “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.”

Titus, on the other hand is to teach these new believers and try to ground them in sound doctrine.  His every word in any context – official meeting or casual conversation – should help establish whomever he is talking to in sound doctrine, sound thinking, and thus sound behavior all centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to do it faithfully and firmly, knowing it is crucial for the health and well being of Christ’s church, regardless of opposition or resistance.

One of the greatest responsibilities any apostle then or today has over any church is that it be grounded in sound doctrine.  That’s why Paul brings up doctrine four times in this short letter. And he also speaks of it in the other two pastoral epistles – I & II Timothy.

What is doctrine? Well doctrine is basically the body of truth given to us in the scriptures.  It is everything the King would ever want you to know about His kingdom, again as communicated in the Scriptures.  

One of the many expressions of God’s goodness to mankind is that He hasn’t left anything to chance or doubt.  He could have just given us one book instead of 66. But He loves to share His secrets with His people. He loves to tell us about Himself.  He loves to reveal His ways and His deeds or works.  He wants us to know how He has dealt with mankind since the very beginning. And He wants us to know what can be expected of and from Him in the now; and He wants us to know how things are going to end up (generally speaking) in the future.

Sound, Christ like, and God pleasing behavior rides on the back of sound, Christ centered doctrine. Sound doctrine protects Christ’s church from confusion and deception. It helps her rightly examine the more subjective aspects of kingdom life like prophetic words, dreams, visions, trances, etc.  It provides guard rails for the life of the Spirit.

Satan knows this better than we do sometimes I’m afraid. And that is why one of his main weapons against the church is raising up false teachers, false prophets and false apostles, who like him seek to deceive and spread false doctrine, but who are very cunning and seemingly religious or spiritual in the way they do it. 

How we are to be grounded in sound doctrine in the church is a whole other discussion that our teaching team is beginning to grapple with. One thing we know for sure is it was never meant to be confined to one man doing all the talking and teaching. All of us can and should play a role in the building and preserving of sound doctrine. I find it interesting that the believers in Berea – even after hearing the teaching of the greatest theologian (other than Jesus) ever to live, still “examined the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”;  and the Holy Spirit through Luke calls them noble minded as contrasted with the believers in Thessalonica. You can read about that in Acts chapter 17.  But again – more on that perhaps in the near future.

After giving Titus specific instructions for his life and ministry there in Crete, Paul now turns to the older men there in the church. vs. 2   “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.”

I want to make a few comments on this characteristic of being Sensible. We were told in ch. 1 that elders are to be sensible; as are old men in vs. 2, young women in vs. 5, young men in vs. 6, and then all of us as seen in vs. 12.  This characteristic is obviously of great concern to the apostle Paul.

Translated “sensible” in the New American Standard version; the NIV & NLT = self controlled;  It has the idea of being in control at all times of our passions and drives or lusts.  

Why is this quality necessary for older men in the church?  Well possibly because older men tend to think they’ve put in their time; they’ve worked hard all their life; so now they are entitled to sit back in their easy chair and enjoy their favorite shows or sports or both on their wide screen T.V.’s ; while enjoying a big bowl of ice cream to boot – every night!                 Now I’m not saying thou shalt never as an old man watch t.v. or eat ice cream.  But if you as an older man are going to be sensible or self controlled, which is a fruit of the Spirit by the way, then entitlement to the American way has to go. Older men if they are born again and thus baptized or placed into the church by the Holy Spirit; are therefore temples of the Holy Spirit; and therefore He the Holy Spirit would prefer to make the judgment or determination on how His temple spends their time, and what they eat or drink, or how much they eat or drink, and what they watch, etc.

The lie of the evil one, besides this entitlement lie, is that older men are washed up and cannot bear any significant fruit in their old age.  The good news of the kingdom of God is that our fruit will only get riper in old age as we learn to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Psalm 92:12-15 has been a guiding light for me as people sometimes ask me these days if I have retired, or if I am soon planning on retiring:

“The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”   This is normal kingdom life and expectation for older men (and women).

Speaking of older women, let’s read Paul’s instructions for them – vs. 3,4a 

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women….”

Older women likewise are notto see themselves as “retired” or having earned a life of ease and pleasure after years of hard work raising children, and perhaps grandchildren, and/or working in the workforce. Nor should the church see them as such. Older women in the kingdom of God are the key to seeing younger women thrive.

As long as there are younger women around, older women can bear fruit by imparting to them the life of Christ and the life of the Spirit that they have learned over the years, and are still learning hopefully.

Please note the first of four “So that” purpose clauses in this chapter that shows up in vs. 4       “so that they may encourage the young women….”

In the kingdom of God, this is what older women were designed to do.  But as some of you older women (and men) might have learned – this doesn’t just automatically happen does it?  

Older women and we older men have to cultivate the kind of spiritual life and character that causes younger women (or younger men) to feel safe with us and therefore dare to open their lives to us.

And that first of all requires that we learn to listen and not react, not unrighteously judge, and not preach.  

The more an older woman gives herself to becoming the kind of godly woman vs. 3 describes, the more she will see doors open to impart this life to younger women.

Sometimes there is a tendency in older women (or men) in the church to want a platform to teach the younger women (or men), rather than taking the time to cultivate the piety that ultimately opens more doors than any platform ever could.  Piety ultimately bears far more fruit in terms of generational transfer than platforms (even organized men’s and women’s ministries) ever will.

OK. What about younger women? – vs. 4b, 5

“…to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Here is the second “so that” purpose clause in this passage: “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  When younger women are known to be Christians, but are not known to be Christlike, God’s word is mocked, and the lost who know them chalk this up as one more hypocrite to add to the long list.  But of course the converse of this is when younger women walk in this kind of godly character, the word of God is honored and respected even among the lost.

Titus has a few words for younger men – vs. 6-8

“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”

Here’s the third “so that” purpose clause: “so that the opponent will be put to shame…”  godly young men can actually cause the opponents of the church to shut their mouths.

What about Bondslaves? – vs. 9,10

“Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

Here’s the fourth purpose clause:  “so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect”.  Doctrine can actually be adorned or beautified and magnified by the behavior of slaves.

Why should older men and older women and younger men and women and slaves give themselves to the pursuit of godliness and holiness? Because when they do – 

  • younger women will receive the encouragement from older women they so desperately need
  • the word of God will not be dishonored in Christian marriages
  • the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about the church
  • the doctrine of God our Savior will be adorned and wonderfully displayed

All of this of course is only possible by the empowering grace of God

Paul wants to make sure we know that, so he is now going to speak of four wonderful things the grace of God does in the world and in the church in vs. 11-14.

First of all it brings salvation to all men – vs. 11 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,”

God has always been a God of grace.  A God who gives lavishly to men what they could never deserve or earn.  Jesus Christ, as John the apostle tells us in his gospel – – walked on our planet in plain view as one “full of grace and truth”.  Those who met Him and knew Him John says received “grace upon grace”.  Grace exploded on planet earth in and through the Savior Jesus Christ, and it is extended or freely offered to every man, woman, young person and child – regardless of ethnicity, or privilege or economic status, etc.

Second, the grace of God instructs those of us who have been born again by the Spirit of God to deny ungodliness and worldly desires – vs. 12a 

“instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires…”

When we begin to see how unworthy (not worthless) we are; when our eyes are opened to how utterly sinful in our flesh we are; and when we see how great His grace is towards us – – when we see and begin to taste how great His love and unconditional acceptance is; when we begin to experience His favor and power poured out on us all because of the goodness of His heart – – we gladly deny all matters of ungodliness and worldly desires.  They lose their grip on us. Praise God!!

Third the grace of God instructs we believers to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age – vs. 12b 

“instructing us to ……live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

   The grace of God, defined by some as unmerited favor and blessing, but also defined as enabling power to please God and become like Him – – this amazing grace teaches us how and motivates us to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the midst of the perversion and corruption that surrounds us.

Finally the grace of God instructs us to look for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus – vs. 13 

“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

  The grace of God as we begin to taste it and experience it, enables us to break all illicit ties with this world, and look forward to and anticipate the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Death is no longer feared, but rather embraced as our pathway to unhindered intimacy and fellowship with our great Savior.

What is so “great” about Him?

Well first of all He gave Himself for us. vs. 14 a

“who gave Himself for us….”

He willingly walked back into Jerusalem on that fateful day, knowing the Jewish religious leaders were going to capture Him and unlawfully arrest Him and unlawfully try Him; and unlawfully and brutally beat Him, and finally crucify Him on a criminal’s cross. He did that for you and me. And He did that to accomplish a number of things, two of which Paul emphasizes in this passage: – 

First to redeem us from every lawless deed – vs. 14b 

“who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed,….”

 Before Jesus invaded our lives and saved us from our sins and made us new creatures, we were slaves to sin and lawlessness. By that I don’t mean we necessarily broke major laws of our land; but we broke God’s laws – on a daily basis – – the greatest one being to love Him with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind.  Jesus died to set us free from this awful bondage to sin – – a bondage that was more awful than most of us realize.

The second reason Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood was to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds – vs. 14c 

“who gave Himself for us ….to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

The most wonderful  purifying and cleansing agent in the universe is the blood of Jesus.  There is no sin, no bondage, no addiction, no generational long time sin pattern that it can’t cleanse.  The blood of Jesus can take a Corinthian church and turn it into a Philippian church. 

You know, God’s strategy for reaching the whole world with the wonderful news of His saving grace has never really changed. He has always been about forming a people among whom He could dwell and manifest Himself, so that His manifested presence in our midst first purifies us of all defilement, and then spills out on all those within reach with God appointed and Spirit directed good deeds. 

Do you sense Him calling you out of the world, or rather calling the world out of you in these days brethren? 

I know some of you do. Oh the joys that are ahead of The Well – Los Osos  – – when we get serious about breaking our friendship with the world.  Oh the zeal for doing every good deed that is going to be increasingly ours – – as we finally begin to hate the things He hates and love the things He loves, and therefore find ourselves free from all the things that used to trip us up.

Jesus said in the sermon on the mount to a crowd of disciples, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they (plural) shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8).  There is no greater happiness in this earthly life than allowing our great Redeemer and Savior to clean us up from the inside as a people so we can see Him as He is, and experience Him in our midst, and thus have His intended impact on the outside watching world.

Can we pray into this some as His people this morning?  

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I started out my Fathering blog with this quote from “Transformation of the Inner Man” – “ If the father has truly lived the Way in Christ; it is easy for a son to do the same; if the father has not, our Lord will first have to overcome and bring to death in the son what the father was.” This is a necessary work of Christ to release the negative effects that our fathers had on us. One of the things Anne and I were contending for in that blog was that in our quest for holiness and cleansing and sanctification, the Holy Spirit will at times have us revisit the way we were fathered, and especially the negative effects from the way we were fathered. Continue reading Fathering Blog Follow Up

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King David is the only person in scripture deemed as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). I suppose there are a number of reasons why God esteems him as such. But surely one of them is because of how much David loved and cherished the people of God. David felt about God’s people like God did, and therefore he longed for the next opportunity to worship and seek God with them.

The following scriptures serve to highlight this, and hopefully will stir us up to a greater love for and desire to worship with God’s people. Continue reading David’s Delight in the Gathered People of God, and Commitment to Corporate Worship

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“The word of the Lord” appears in the New Testament – 16x’s in 12 verses. The purpose of this study is to help clarify the difference between the phrase, “The word of the Lord” and phrases such as “the word of God” and terms like “the scriptures”. At first appearance, they may seem to all refer to the same, but further investigation proves otherwise.

Scripture: Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” Tou logou tou Kuriou (from logos)

Comments: Something specific and personal and prophetic Jesus spoke to Peter.

Scripture: Acts 8:25 “So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.” Ton logon tou Kuriou

Comments: Is “the word of the Lord” herein the specific and personal rebuke that Peter spoke to Simon? And thus different from the gospel mentioned in the latter part of the verse? Appears to be so.

Scripture: Acts 11:16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” tou rhematos tou kuriou

Comments: Here Peter is referring to a specific prophetic declaration of Jesus made apparently more than once to His disciples re: the soon coming baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture: Acts 12:24 “But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.” Logos tou Theou

Comments: Wouldn’t this refer to the preaching/proclamation of the gospel and the teaching of Christian doctrine (e.g. teachings of Jesus and prophetic O.T. passages re: Jesus) by the apostles and other disciples, as well as any specific, personal and prophetic words added in?

Scripture: Acts 13:44, 48-49 “The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. … “ ton logon tou kuriou 48 “When the Gentiles heard this, they [began] rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Ton logon tou kuriou 49 “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.” O logos tou kuriou

Comments: Proclamation of Christ and His kingdom? What God is saying through His servants. Certainly would have been based or grounded in whatever scriptures they had available to them.

Scripture: Acts 15:35-36 “But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.” Ton logon tou kuriou 36 “After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, [and see] how they are.” Ton logon tou kuriou

Comments: The “word of the Lord” was taught, preached, and proclaimed by Paul, Barnabus and the “others”. Much of this ministry appeared to be to believers. The “word of the Lord” thus consisted of whatever the Holy Spirit led them to convey to these believers, again grounded and based in the scriptures available to them, but personal and specific to the audience.

Scripture: Acts 16:32 “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.” Ton logon tou kuriou

Comments: “him” refers to the Philippian Jailer, who started to kill himself, presuming the prisoners had escaped. Paul intervened; he then wanted to be saved from his sins; and thus Paul began to minister “the word of the Lord” to him, which obviously had to be the gospel or good news re: Christ and His kingdom and how to enter it.

Scripture: Acts 19:10, 20 “This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. …” ton logon tou kuriou 20 “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” Tou kuriou o logos

Comments: The good news about Christ and His kingdom?

Scripture: 1 Thess. 1:8 “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” O logos tou kuriou

Comments: The good news about Christ and His kingdom?

Scripture: 1 Thess. 4:15 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” En logo kuriou

Comments: Paul appears to be claiming that what he and his co-workers were teaching the Thessalonians about the return of the Lord came straight from the Lord (for Paul at least through special revelation).

Scripture: 2 Thess. 3:1 “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as [it did] also with you;” “o logos tou kuriou”

Comments: The good news about Christ and His kingdom?

Scripture: 1Pet 1:25 “BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you. “ to de rhema kuriou

Comments: Taking into account vs. 23 wherein we learn we are born again “through the living and enduring word of God”, and then the latter part of vs. 25 that should literally read “And this is the word which was preached as good news to you”, we know first of all that “the word of the Lord” is this “word which was preached as good news to you.” We know that the apostles preached Christ/the good news in at least 3 ways: 1. Old testament scriptures pertaining to Him; 2. The actual words and teachings of Christ; 3. Revelations of Christ such as Paul received and spoke of in II Cor. 12.

“word” in vs. 23 in greek is logou from logos; “word” in vs. 24 both times in greek is rhema.

Questions: 1. How does “the word of the Lord” differ from “the gospel of the kingdom”?

2. What is the significance of rhema in Acts 11:16 & I Peter 1:25 as contrasted with the use of Logos in all the other passages?

3. While “the word of the Lord” clearly does not always refer to scripture, does it not include it in some of these references such as Acts 12:24, Acts 13:44, 48-49, I Peter 1:25, etc.? ?

Possible Definitions: The word of the Lord is the message conveyed through one of God’s servants that proclaims Christ and His kingdom in a specific and personal way to the audience grounded in or based in the scriptures.

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INTRODUCTION – The author of www.evilbible.com says this re: the Bible and the scourge of slavery: “Except for murder, slavery has got to be one of the most immoral things a person can do. Yet slavery is rampant throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible clearly approves of slavery in many passages, and it goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.”

Psalm 145:8,9 says this about the God of the Old and New testaments – the same God who wrote the Old and New testaments through the minds and pens of men: “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” Later in vs. 17 it says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.”

So who should we believe? Well one of the passages evilbible.com uses to make its argument just so happens to be the one we are going to look at today in our ongoing series through I Timothy. So please turn in your Bibles if you will to I Timothy 6:1,2 Continue reading Slavery & The Kingdom of God – I Tim. 6:1,2

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“If the father has truly lived the Way in Christ; it is easy for a son to do the same; if the father has not, our Lord will first have to overcome and bring to death in the son what the father was.” John & Paula Sanford, p.99, “Restoring the Christian Family”

God has always been about producing a people among whom He could dwell, and through whom His will and ways and person could be manifested. His intentions began to be revealed in a known and clear way first to Abraham, as seen initially in Genesis chapter 12.

While there were a handful of things that God promised to do for and through Abraham, it all started with making him into “a great nation” (vs. 2). This idea of a nation in God’s mind was not a political entity as much as it was a relational entity. A relational entity or a people through whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (vs. 3). Continue reading Restoring The Truth About Fathering

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