Facing The Problems and Dangers of Spiritual Leadership in The Church

[Second in the SERIES on the Book Of Malachi]

THE BIBLE PLACES HIGH STANDARDS ON THOSE WHO SERVE IN THE CHURCHES WITH A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP!

The Bible places high standards on those who serve as pastors, deacons and elders.  The Bible places high standards on those who serve in children’s ministry.  The Bible places high standards on who serves as Sunday school teachers.  We should expect those who work in the capacity of leadership to have high standards.  If leaders don’t lead the way they should lead then it has a detrimental effect upon the people.

What we have here is an entire chapter in the Bible that’s devoted to those who are supposed to be leaders.  So if you’re reading this blog and a leader in some capacity, then this chapter should speak to you where you are sitting.

You say I’m not a pastor, a deacon, a bible teacher, praise team member, or work in any capacity of the church.  Then you need to pay close attention to what’s coming next; the Chapter has something to say to you as well.  You see this chapter doesn’t only speak of leadership, but it also speaks to stewardship!  To have a chapter in the Bible devoted to speaking to those who are in leadership and also to speak to us about stewardship has to be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  As we look together at the next 17 verses, I can’t help but to see that Malachi is dealing with some problems.  So I want to look at the problems and what the Word of God has to say about them.

The first one to deal with is what might be called MINISTERIAL PROBLEMS.

Malachi 2:1 (NIV) –  “And now, you priests, this warning is for you…”

Somebody reading this says, “I’m glad you’re starting out with the preachers, the pastors first!”  But remember, all of us in the Faith are believer priests, in that we are to be about winning souls for Christ’s sake.

Here, Malachi is dealing with a group of spiritual leaders (“priests”), who are not living up to the standard God has laid down.  He says in verse 2,

In other words, He was saying, as a preacher, pastor, minister, you are to be living a life that would bring glory to My name and not yours.

Then He says if you don’t do it, the very things that are supposed to be a source of blessing will become a curse to you.

Now look at VERSE 3:

He says in verse 3, “I will corrupt (rebuke, punish, discipline) your seed.”  

Most commentaries that I’ve read say that this verse is referring to their children.  Many times it’s the children that suffer from the lapse of spiritual leadership in the church and in the home.  I’ve seen it more times than not, those who God has set aside for spiritual leadership become unfaithful in their responsibility and they pay the price in their children.

But you also find in verse 3, that God says, I’m going to remove you from your responsibility of leadership:  “…and you will be carried off”

In VERSE 5 and some other verses, He tells us what a true minister is to be about.

(5)  My covenant [on My part with Levi] was to give him life and peace, because [on his part] of the [reverent and worshipful] fear with which [the priests] would revere Me and stand in awe of My name.” (AMP)

God’s ministers are to be born again.  They are to speak the truths of the Bible.

We have the right to hear the TRUTH from the pulpit even if it sort of works against the grain in our lives.  Yes, you have the right to hear the truth from your pastor and all leaders from your church even if it rubs you the wrong way sometimes.  I’m sure that my pastor is concerned about what the church body thinks about his messages from the pulpit but not half as concerned as what God thinks about it!

When we get to VERSE 8, God says to those unfaithful leaders, He is going to judge their failures because they have caused many to stumble at the law or at their preaching and living out their faith.

Many people today are unfeeling toward God and a lot of it is because of the leadership they have in their churches. 

I want you to notice now that He is dealing not only with ministerial problems but also MARITAL PROBLEMS – VERSE 11 – (Mixed Religious Marriages)

Malachi 2:11 (ESV)

[11]  Judah has been faithless, an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem.  For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

The Bible doesn’t mix words and makes it clear that BELIEVERS are to marry other BELIEVERS [Bible Verses: Deut. 7:1-4; 1 Kings 11:4-6; 1 Cor. 5:9-12; 1 Cor. 7:15-16; 2 Cor. 6:14-17.].  

It’s no secret, we are in real trouble in our marriages in America today.  In 1920, one out of 7 marriages ended in divorce.  Today in America, 33% of marriages end up in divorce including the Christian community. (See Footnote [i].)

God’s plan for the marriage is one man and one woman for life!

One day a woman went to her pastor complaining because she wasn’t married.  He said you can’t improve on God’s plan for the marriage of one woman and one man.  She said, I’m not trying to improve on it, I just want to get in on it!

We’ve investigated together with the ministerial problems and the marital problems and finally we see that the Word of God deals with the MORAL PROBLEMS – Let’s look at Verse 17.

What I think the Bible is telling us here is that the people are out of the will of God.  They don’t get to the point, they don’t even have moral distinctions; they can’t tell what’s good and what’s evil.

What the people were saying in Malachi’s day is, God doesn’t care about right or wrong.  Saying that there’s no absolute right and wrong.  Doesn’t that speak to our world today?

There were others of that day, saying God is just too nice to judge sin.  You might be saying that people don’t be;lieve that in our day.  Well folks, if they don’t, they sure act like they do.

Now, what’s all this have to do with STEWARDSHIP?

I’ll try to make the point here.  Some reading this may be the only Christian in your surroundings (young or old)).  Then you have the stewardship of leadership–you ought to be the spiritual leader.

You may be the only Christian believer at work.  Then you have the stewardship of leadership–you ought to be the spiritual leader in your workplace.

I’m sure that many of you who are reading my words realize that God has given you a position of leadership in some capacity.  My question is, are you bringing GLORY to His name, or are you causing people to curse and blaspheme His name?

If you are lost, God is interested in you enough that He doesn’t want you to go to hell but to heaven.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS!

You can be saved from eternity lost and have the assurance that you are on your way to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.  If that’s where you are, will you in the faith receive Him today? 

If you just made that commitment to follow Jesus, I want you to leave your thoughts, your words, in the reply comments section at the bottom of the page.  Not because I say so, but because God’s Word says so.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] : The Good News About Marriage, by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Photo/Images:  Googlr Image Search.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or translations used in the images and so noted.

In the Words of Humpty Dumpty… “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean”

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF JUDGES…Chapters 17-18 –

The Following From “Through the Looking Glass”

Humpty Dumpty and Alice were having an in-depth conversation about birthday presents.  Because Humpty Dumpty’s physical appearance (no neck and no waist), Alice had made a remark about his beautiful belt and was promptly corrected to “a beautiful cravat.”  Evidently Humpty Dumpty was very angry though he said nothing for a minute or two.

Evidently Humpty Dumpty was very angry though he said nothing for a minute or two.  He informs Alice that his “cravat was a present from the White King and Queen.  “They gave it to me–for an un-birthday present.”

“I beg your pardon?”  Alice said with a puzzled air…I mean what is an ‘un-birthday present’?”  

“A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.”

Alice considered for awhile, “I like birthdays best.”  

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” cried Humpty Dumpty.  “How many days are there in a year?” 

“There are three hundred and sixty-five,” said Alice.

“And how many birthdays have you?” 

“One.”

“And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?”

“Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.”

Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful at Alice’s math.  “I’d rather see that on paper,” he said.  

Alice couldn’t help smiling as she took out her memorandum-book, and worked the sum for him.

365

-1

364

Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully.  “That seems to be done right.”

“You’re holding it upside down,” Alice interrupted.

“To be sure I was!”  Humpty Dumpty said as she turned it around for him.  “That surely shows that these are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents.”

“Certainly,” said Alice.

“And only ONE for birthday presents, you know.  There’s glory for you!”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled…”Of course, you don’t–till I tell you.  I meant there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”

[See Footnote [i] ]

It seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?  “When I use a word it means whatever I choose it to mean?”  What would life be like with no absolute, no certainties, nothing to measure oneself by.

The Bible tells us that there was a time just like that when people measured themselves…by themselves.  The Book of Judges points this out for us to meditate on:

Judges 17:6 (NIV) –  In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

Sound familiar?

SCRIPTURE FOUND IN JUDGES 17 –

 

Spiritual Anarchy Always Results In MORAL Collapse –

It follows this pattern:

  1. You have a person with no moral compass.
  2. They meet another person with no moral compass.
  3. They multiply their SIN and spiritually bankrupt themselves and a DANGER to others.

A Pathetic Story is unveiled.

Son of a wealthy family…looking for the easy way out.  MICAH didn’t want to wait for inheritance…didn’t want to work for anything…saw what he wanted…and with no moral compass…took it.

JUDGES 17:1o indicates that ten shekels of silver a year was an adequate wage.

[10]  And Micah said to him, “Dwell with me and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver each year, a suit of clothes, and your living…”  (AMP)

Therefore, 1,100 shekels was a great fortune (vs. 2).

But without the true belief in God, Micah fell prey to superstition, feared his mother’s curse and so confessed his sin.  

And it was easy to pick up on how this young man got there…A THIEF.  He learned it at his mother’s knee.  She stole 900 shekels from God.

I see one of the true tragedies of our times where so many parents who are steering through some sort of MORAL FOG of relativism…having no moral bearings or compass to pass on to their children.  So, their children get deeper and deeper into the FOG.

I see my own extended family…PARENTS abandoning the church, the Word, and the faith.  What is left…NO ABSOLUTES…just relativism.

And the grandchildren parents…the relativism doesn’t match the relativism of their friends, so they pick and choose.  There’s no king, no absolute or higher law…so they do what is right in their own sight.

Notice in the verses, how the mother didn’t even correct her son for stealing.  How could she–a THIEF herself!  Not only was she guilty of failing to do right by him…she was guilty of leading him to sin.  She was the one responsible for getting him into IDOLATRY.

EXODUS 20:4-5 (NIV)

[4] “You shall not make for yourself an idol; in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  [5] You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

This is what happens when you combine two hearts and minds, both wicked and neither having principles…The SIN is multiplied…IDOLATRY.  That’s the reason God wants us to have Christians friends, partners, and spouse.  Two persons without MORAL COMPASSES combine their SIN and then you become spiritually bankrupt, spiritually malnourished and starving.

God’s ANGER burned against Micah, his mother, and now Micah’s son.

That’s the Nature of Sin…it always takes you farther than you wanted and always keeps you longer than you wanted.  It always involves others.

MICAH consecrated one of his sons to be his Priest.  Sin because ONLY God can consecrate someone as a priest.  MICAH and his mother have now dragged Micah’s son into the quagmire.

But Micah wasn’t finished yet…his SIN would get much deeper, endangering many more people.

Here’s a 2nd Sad Case… we have a person who is a Levite but not a priest (not in the lineage of Aaron) but he is masquerading as a priest.  He’s dissatisfied with his position and his inheritance.

When Israel was divided among the 12 tribes…

The tribe of LEVI is the only one who didn’t receive a territory–they received 8 cities.  They received no land and were to be supported by the tithes of the other 11 tribes.  A LEVITE would never own land or have riches.

But the LEVITE wanted more and left Bethlehem (17:8).

He had determined that he would go whereever…do whatever and make a name and fortune.  He had lost his moral/spiritual compass, what’s right and wrong…resolutions, different from Micah.

MICAH never had a compass, but the Levite did.

The LEVITE and MICAH meet (17:9-13).

This was an accident waiting to happen meeting another accident waiting to happen!

THE RESULT: BIG BANG!

Micah wanted a proper Levitical priest (to get God’s favor) and the Levite wanted fortune and fame.  They were a perfect match…made in Hell!

The LEVITE was a member of the CLERGY…not a priest.

He wasn’t supposed to be a PRIEST…not from the priestly family.  In Numbers 16, God caused the ground to swallow a LEVITE that tried to be a priest.

BUT HE WAS HAPPY!

He had been dissatisfied with his position God had placed him in for his life, and now, he was determined to make his own plans and he was happy…at least for a while.

He was serving an IDOL, sacrificing to an IDOL, leading others in the process to do the same.  The Levite had moved beyond the sins of PRIDE and INGRATITUDE…was now in the big leagues…IDOLATRY.

Now he was spiritually destroyed and in danger to others around him.  But his sin had not reached its peak.

3rd Sad Story (Judges chapter 18)

 

Scripture tells us that the tribe of Dan was seeking an INHERITANCE  ” for themselves”  (verse 1).  They were not satisfied with God’s plan.  And God’s PLAN for them: He had given the land between Ephraim and Judah, stretching to the Mediterranean Sea.

It wasn’t as they claimed, that God had not given them a territory to possess, but rather that they chose NOT to possess it because that would cause them to have to defeat the Amorites living there.  Their FAITH in God’s promises was lacking.

They loved the junk-food of easy living.  

“GOD’S WAY IS TOO HARD…WE WANT AN EASIER WAY!”

That’s what Micah said…that was what the Levite said…now Dan says it.

And today it is the CRY of Society…God’s way is too hard, too demanding…we want a new God.

So the tribe of Dan left their homes in the Promised Land and sought a new, easier place to live.  They left their COMPASS of absolute right and wrong…lost in relativism.  That’s where they were when they met the LEVITE, another one without a COMPASS.

REMEMBER: they are guilty of disobedience, lack of faith, fear, and last but not least…LAZINESS.

They are looking for a god to stamp–validate their plans, and the Levite is looking to move up…BIG BANG!

They took the Levite to be THEIR Priest and the gods of Micah to be their own.

Look how steep the slope has become…

It started with a SINFUL MOTHER with no principles, no king, and she was in danger.

She led her son into IDOLATRY.

MICAH became spiritually bankrupt and dangerous to others.

Micah led the Levite into IDOLATRY.

The LEVITE became spiritually bankrupt, malnourished and dangerous to others.

The Levite led Dan into IDOLATRY.

The Story Is the Same…Only the Names Change Throughout History.

Eve lost her COMPASS…met the serpent with no compass, fell into SIN…danger to others.

Samson lost his COMPASS…met women with none…fell into SIN…danger to others.

David, Solomon, Jacob, the list goes on.

When you get to the point where you are no longer satisfied with God’s way because it’s too hard, it doesn’t give you what you want, it’s NOT fun…then you decide to choose your own way of doing things…you toss away the COMPASS…absolute right and wrong.

You’re bound to run into others like yourself.

Together, you will get more LOST, deeper into SIN.  You too will become morally/spiritually BANKRUPT.  You become a danger to others and you have NO COMPASS.

WHAT’S THE CURE?

You’ve got to hold on to the COMPASS, no matter what!

What is the COMPASS?

The Word…the Holy Spirit.

As long as you have the Word of God in your heart, Holy Spirit in the driver’s seat, and not deceived by the bogus teachings or promises of the world.

But it all starts right here…Satan’s first move is to get you off the straight and narrow; to give up the COMPASS…the ABSOLUTES.  

To accept RELATIVISM…” the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society…is not absolute” (Google dictionary).

  • All roads lead to God,
  • All religions are the same.
  • Each person must decide for self what is right and wrong,
  • Other religions have their bibles,
  • There are no ABSOLUTES.

With it, he has you!

No matter how good your reasoning and rationale might seem, if God calls it SIN…then it’s SIN.

We need to make sure that as Christians, we never slide into the category of “Doing what is right in our lives.”  

That we never define our actions with the attitude “Whenever I use a word it means whatever I choose it to mean,” said Humpty Dumpty scornfully.

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i] :  Alice in Wonderland – Wiki – Humpty Dumpty a novel by Lewis Carrol and Who Says It’s Right?  by Denn Guptill, Jan. 5, 2004.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – advanced SETTINGS.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

 

FIGHTING, WARING, “Contending” for the FAITH

HOW DID GOD DO THAT?

Exodus 14:16-31
Exodus 14:16-31

Most of you know of the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus of the Bible, or do you? Here’s a borrowed version of that story:

It seems Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt–and now had Pharaoh and his armies in hot pursuit.

At their backs, certain annihilation– and, in front of them the Red Sea.  They were trapped. So Moses called his generals and other tribal leaders together and made a review of their desperate circumstances in what they might do.

“DID ANYONE HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS?” Moses asked.

One of the engineering types suggested the possibility of constructing a pontoon bridge–but as some pointed out, there was no time for that!

All kinds of crazy ideas popped-up in discussion–but none had any merit.

Finally, Moses asked,  “What if I were to pray to Jehovah Jireh (God will provide) and ask Him to send a mighty wind to sweep back the waters of the Red Sea so that dry land would appear?  We could then cross over the dry land and…when safely on the other side, wind could cease and the waters would rush back, drowning the Egyptian army.  What do you think of that idea?”

At this point Moses’ publicity man jumped up enthusiastically:  “Moses Baby, if you can pull that one-off, I guarantee I can get you two full pages in the Bible!”

We believe in the biblical record even though we don’t always understand the implications 

The LORD delivers people from their bondage, yet sometimes, people seem to fall back into that same old bondage (1 Timothy 1:7; Acts 8:23).

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he writes “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him (Jesus), that the body of sin might be done away with and that we should no longer be in bondage to sin”  (ASV bible).

JUDE was the brother of James, who presided at the Jerusalem council and wrote the epistle of James, and he was a half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3).  The LETTER OF JUDE was addressed to Jewish Christians in Palestine and in verse 3, Jude indicates that he planned to write to them concerning their salvation but now changes his appeal in light of certain immoral men circulating among them who were perverting the TRUTH–the message of the gospel of Christ.

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend [“fight”, “war”] for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”  (Jude 3 – NIV bible).

Jude’s list of the “fallen backs”, now begins in verse 4 – People who left MORALITY behind.

[4] For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you…godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality…

And just in case you have forgotten–JUDE 5 (NRSV bible):

[5] Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed that the LORD, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

[READ Numbers, chapter 16]

The Pretenders and False Teachers –

Albert Barnes makes an excellent statement concerning men/women who come into churches and lead others astray:

“The apostle (Jude) gives a reason for defending the TRUTH for there were artful and wicked men who had crept into the church, pretending to be religious, but whose doctrines tended to sap the very foundations of TRUTH.”

The fact that false teachers were able to creep into a church setting, shows the pastor of the church and/or the people who let their guard down, they clearly were complacent and content as gate keepers and asleep on the job.

Churches today are rarely destroyed from the outside.  It is the Devil’s cunningest to send an uncalled man, poorly trained and equipped for the ministry.  These “hirelings”, having no calling from God, aspiring to the ministry as a profession, who are smooth talkers often well versed in modern psychology.  Ring a bell?

sugarTheir MESSAGE is weak and watery, containing no meat.  In order to hold the attendance numbers, they turn and rely on the music and emotion.  NOTE: I’m not against “contemporary music” and heartfelt “emotional responses.”  Just not the service’s whole emphasis.

Titus 1:9-11 (NIV):

[9] Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrines and refute those who oppose it.  [10] For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.  [11] They must be silenced because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

ANGELS WHO LEFT HOME BEHIND –

Just because we haven’t seen God or angels, doesn’t mean they aren’t real!

Augustine, an early Christian theologian and philosopher once said,  “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men angels.”

Someone changed that and said,  “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men acceptable before God.”

“Are not the angels all ministering spirits (servants) sent out in the service [of God for assistance] of those who are to inherit salvation?”  (Hebrews 1:14).

Apparently, God sends His angels to minister to us who are truly believing saints in life.

We may or may not know when this happens.  One writer put it this way:  “Angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him; though created higher than man.  Some (the good angels) have remained obedient to Him to carry out His will, while others (fallen angels), disobeyed, fell from their holy position and now stand in active opposition to the work and plan of God.”

Jude 1:6 (NRSV bible):

[6] And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day.

I think most of us realize the DEVIL is a fallen angel.  He was so filled with PRIDE and wanted to be god and God cast him out of heaven.  SATAN abandoned his position of Authority.

And guess what’s going to happen to him?

Revelation 20:10:

[10] Then the devil who had led them astray [deceiving and seducing them] was hurled into the fiery lake of burning brimstone, where the beast and false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (through the ages of the ages).

**NOTE: Were ALL the fallen angels bound eternally in chains for eventual judgment? The answer is another study.  [See Footnote [i] for a study choice.]

If angels who are higher than man in creation can sin and thrown in the lake of fire, what about man?

People who left MORALITY in the trash can (verse 7):

[7] In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire  (NIV bible).

What’s the deal with “Sodom and Gomorrah”?

[READ Genesis 19:1-5]

That sounded horrible after reading those verses.  And it was!  Sounds like today!

This Scripture (verse 7), makes things sound pretty dismal for some people and we should believe the Word of God.  The only HOPE for any SIN, sexual sin, sexual perversion, etc. is the LORD!

No one can be SAVED from eternal fire without the Lord’s grace!

In conclusion, MY STUDY’S REFLECTIONS –

Understand that APOSTASY is more than false teaching in the church today, it is FALSE LIVING.

It is the Christian form of HYPOCRISY–SAYING, YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN BUT IN TRUTH YOU ARE NOT.

Your ACTIONS, your ATTITUDES, are bearing the lies that come out of your mouth.

In VERSE 5:  I saw that the Lord delivers people out of their own EGYPTS, but sometimes people wander back into their sin and slavery.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!

JUDE says to us here in VERSE 5, that JESUS (more accurately translated LORD), SAVED a people out of the Land of Egypt.  That is, the Hebrew people, the future nation of Israel.

Later, He destroyed those who didn’t believe (Numbers 16:32-33).  DESTROY literally means to abolish, to destroy completely.

Understand that God didn’t destroy the nation but destroyed many–(250 in verse 35–14,700 later, in verse 49)–ALL because of their UNBELIEF and DISOBEDIENCE to God’s Word given through Moses.  It wasn’t because of occasional doubt and disobedience, but continually doubting, continually disobeying.

There was an OUTWARD CIRCUMCISION, but not an INWARD CIRCUMCISION of the heart.

4-x4-camo-camouflage-heart-gas-cap-bumper-sticker-decal-window-stickers-decals
Ref: https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/camouflaged-hearts/ ]
You can go through all the hoops of Churchianity to identify you with Jesus, but only one thing really matters is your HEART!

Yes, God DELIVERS people from their bondage, even laziness.  Whatever it might be, God can deliver us!

BUT…

But we must not turn back.

Turning back to our old sinful ways get us in trouble every time.  And for some, it could mean ETERNAL TROUBLE.

GOD SAVE US!

If I understand this passage in Scripture rightly, that type of living is APOSTASY and it is to be JUDGED by God… just like the Hebrew people in the wilderness, just like the angels who denied their rightful place, just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Is that you?

Is God calling you to repentance?

 

 


 

BLOG-STUDY CREDITS:

FOOTNOTE [i] –  Biblical Horizons Newsletter No. 1: Who Were the Angels of Jude 6? by James B. Jordan January, 1989.

Bible Translations used:  NRSV – New Revised Standard Version, NIV – New International Version; AMP – Amplified bible.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Google Images Search.

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘god-shaped’ Heart in Every Person

TEXT – Acts 14:11-17  (NIV Bible):

Statue of ZEUS
Statue of ZEUS

[11] When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language,  “The gods have come down to us in human form!”   [12] Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.  [13] The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.  [14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:  [15] “Men, why are you doing this?  We too are only men, human like you.  We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  [16] In the past, He let all nations go their own way.  [17] Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

LIVING IN AN ILLUSION:

wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/
wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/

There was a movie a few years ago, with the actor/comedian Jim Carey as the lead, The Truman Show.  The storyline was about a man named Truman Burbank who was adopted as a newborn by a large Corporation.

The corporation created an entire city on the movie set with 5000 cameras, then placing Truman in the artificial city without Truman knowing it was all a fake.

Of course Truman goes through life in Seahaven (the artificial city), thinking everything and everyone around him are real.  Truman was perfectly happy and content for 30 years, with a perfect sky, a computer controlled climate, and a wife and friend who are really actors, and so forth.  I think you get the picture.  It is the only REALITY Truman knows!

At least until a series of accidents start and Truman’s questioning of this “REALITY”, and he finally begins figuring it out for himself and walks off the set into the REAL WORLD.

“Is belief in God like Truman in The Truman Show?”  Some people think so.  Critics claim it’s all because… it is the only reality that “religious” people have been presented.

The movie set experience of “organized religion” has meticulously manufactured and manipulated circumstances, causing people to live in the ILLUSION of God.

These same critics point out, there’s no denying that people who say they BELIEVE IN GOD are real, are happy, and content…even as Truman was happy and content in his world.

However, behind the set, there are merely human directors who are pulling the strings, orchestrating all the right circumstances to make BELIEF in God appear real.  Whether that’s true or not, I’m only pointing out what some people are saying about Christianity.

TRUE LIBERATION…

True liberation comes as it did for Truman; to turn our back on our make-believe world and venture into the real world…a world without organized religion pulling the strings.

CHURCHES shouldn’t be an ORGANIZATION in the first place.  They should be considered an ORGANISM–a living, breathing, GOD creative entity.

The American Population Believes that God Exists!

At least 95% do (Gallup and Lindsay 25).  According to George Gallup’s 1999 poll, interest in God and spirituality is on the rise, not declining (10). Yet when we begin to ask what kind of God is that exists, people are less sure.

Some people envisions of God is impersonal, like the FORCE in the movie Star Wars.  Or view God as a benevolent Santa Claus, a God that has no higher goal than our happiness and success.

THE STRAIGHT TALK PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE’S TEACHING:

The Bile clearly teaches that knowing God is for real; that He’s NOT our fulfillment as an elaborate scheme orchestrated by people, like myself.

God’s Calling Cards (Acts 14:15-17):

LystraMap0302In the city of LYSTRA, which was basically an isolated, unimportant, backwoods area of the Roman Empire.  People living there were all illiterate, superstitious, and accustomed to a rural way of life.

When Paul and his friend Barnabas arrive, God enables Paul through the power of the Holy Spirit, to perform a MIRACLE, where a disabled man was suddenly able to walk.  People were so amazed, their superstition takes over and they try to WORSHIP Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods Zeus and Hermes.

Paul and Barnabas are only messengers…ordinary guys bringing the message of the GOOD NEWS (the Gospel) of God.

Now the citizens of Lystra weren’t JEWISH, they didn’t know the Old Testament story of God creating the heavens and earth, of God choosing Abraham in establishing the nation of Israel.

The Challenge…

Instead, they were PAGANS…worshipping the traditional Greek and Roman gods.

Paul’s challenge to the populace was to turn from their “worthless” superstitions, to the LIVING GOD.   In case you’re wondering, the word “worthless” here means: EMPTY, UNPROFITABLE, VAIN , AIMLESS , HOLLOW- the “absences of purpose or ground or failure to attain any true purpose.[See Footnotes [i]].

Their WORSHIP was empty, hollow, because it was just words– Zeus and Hermes and the other gods didn’t exist in reality.  BUT, the LIVING GOD is the God who is SELF-EXISTENT; the God who depends on no one!  All because He is the LIVING GOD; He created ALL life, whether it’s life in the air, life on earth, or the life in the sea.

Lystra, Turkey in today's setting
Lystra, Turkey in today’s setting

God had been working through the nation of Israel up to this point.  He allowed the rest of the nations to go their own way.  God was preparing the way of the birth of His Messiah, His Son, to bring God’s blessing to the rest of the nations.  But until then, God wasn’t directly reaching out to other nations.

Take Heart…God Hadn’t Abandoned the other Nations!

God left a WITNESS of Himself among ALL PEOPLE everywhere.  God had left the nations evidence, “CALLING CARDS” about His existence.

So how can we know GOD is for real?  Where is the EVIDENCE?

Because of His “calling cards” He left us to see.  God’s fingerprints are all over the world we live in…IF, we take the time to investigate.  No one clue is inclusive in itself.  It becomes the cumulative effect of these clues that builds a strong case that GOD IS FOR REAL!

If God made the EVIDENCE His existence so conclusive, every rational person had to BELIEVE.  But God wants people to BELIEVE in Him freely, out of LOVE, so He leaves enough evidence for the seeker to know He’s there.

The EVIDENCE Can be easily Overlooked…

If you’re not looking, not seeking and you don’t want to see it…the EVIDENCE can be easily overlooked.

GOD’S REVELATION:

“For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them.  For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made–His handiworks.  So [men] are without excuse–altogether without any defense or justification”  (Romans 1:19-20 AMP).

THE PEOPLE OF ROME:

In many ways the people of Rome were similar to the people of Lystra, except the people of Rome were educated, civilized pagans.

In the context, Paul is describing why God’s wrath against sin was being revealed against ALL PEOPLE everywhere, religious and irreligious alike.

In the verses above, Paul tells us that certain things about God can be known once for all.  Even though God’s WHOLENESS might not be known because human minds are limited and confined–a MYSTERY (Romans 16:25-27).

But there are certain things we can know about God; these things include God’s eternal POWER and the invisible characteristics that make God who He is!

God makes these things “PLAIN” TO ALL PEOPLE!

The word “plain” means obvious, evident, clear and well-known.  God’s attributes aren’t only for the “spiritually” endowed Christian, but according to Paul, they’re evident to everyone.

God is invisible and unknowable, yet God made Himself both visible and knowable through the created world.  [See Footnote [ii]]

Because of this, no one can say, “But I didn’t know.”  So this passage of Scripture in Romans 1:19-20, is taking us a step further than the previous verses given in Acts.

Paul’s not just saying the universe contains the EVIDENCE, but we can know God is real because He reveals Himself …THROUGH THE UNIVERSE. In other words, God is actively speaking through His creation, making His invisible attributes visible and clear.

HOW FOCUSING ON THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD:

The BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S POWER–

10676205_10152749633038426_3880646600123989561_nAll physicists today believe in the “BIG BANG”–that the universe spontaneously came into being by an enormous explosion.  Beyond the “big bang”, physicists are speechless, because that’s delving into an unknown world of MYSTERY.  Yet it makes perfect sense the big bang was generated by a God of ETERNAL POWER in the verses of Romans 1.

The COMPLEXITY OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S WISDOM–

The more we learn about the physical world around us, the more complex we realize it is.  One strand of DNA contains enough information to fill all the textbooks available.  But the COMPLEXITY is so finely tuned…perfectly designed for life to exist.

This REVEALS GOD’S WISDOM designing such a complex world in such a way, enabling LIFE to flourish.

Finally, THE MORAL ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S JUSTICE–

Our internal sense of right and wrong, that inner moral compass, reveals the fact that we live in a moral universe with the sense of right and wrong.  Growing up as a child, my parents would say “just follow your conscience Mel.”

Since some things are MORALLY right and some things are MORALLY wrong, it points to a LAWGIVER, a morally JUST Being who created right and wrong (Genesis 3).

Now the question immediately arose when I was doing my investigation, if God makes Himself clear that He is the Creator of the Universe, why are there atheists and agnostics everywhere I turn these days?

ATHEISM is a form of denial.  Just like alcoholics who become more and more blind to their problem the more they drink, we become more and more blind to God’s Light the more we sin against God.  Eventually, we reach the point we truly believe God’s not real just like the alcoholic reaches the point he truly believes he doesn’t have a drinking problem.

BEING A SEEKER (Acts 17:26-28):

“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that man would SEEK Him and perhaps REACH out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

Paul is saying to the Athenians, we ALL come from a common ancestor.

Now the Athenians were defensive and believed that their race was superior to all others.  They didn’t need another god–they already had plenty to bow down to as it was!

But Paul claims we all share an ancestry that God Himself was responsible in arranging the basic circumstances of our lives.  God did this so we would SEEK Him.

God’s PURPOSE in placing you and I in this time, and this place, this part of the world we reside, and as you are reading this blog-POST, was for you to SEEK HIM!

God designed us to not only SEEK, but to REACH for Him.  The word “REACH” describes the groping and fumbling of a blind person.  Left to our own resources, we are not equipped to actually find God.  But like blind people, we’re trying to hike an unknown mountain trail without a guide and we’ll get lost along the way.  So we if we SEEK without a guide, we are unable to find God.

But the good news is, God is never distant:  “We are His offspring.”

WE KNOW GOD IS REAL BECAUSE we were made to SEEK HIM–

There’s a “god-shaped vacuum” in the heart of every person.  God designed each and everyone to SEEK HIM.

Doing things your way…

IF GOD IS REAL, then the parallel to The Truman Show is correct, except it’s those who reject God’s existence that are living in a manufactured world.

It is those who are in REBELLION against God, who are avoiding Him because they want to live their lives, using a lyric from an old song…“My way” and where they are hiding in a make-believe world of DENIAL.

The Calling as a Church…?

Our calling isn’t to DEFEND God–He is perfectly able to do that Himself–we are to introduce people to a relationship with JESUS so they, like Truman Burbank, walk off their Seahaven set and venture into the REAL WORLD, the world God created and designed to live in.  GOD’S KINGDOM.

 

 

Footnotes:  

[i]  Strong’s Concordance #3152

Photos:

The Truman Show – Wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/

Photo MAPS – Bible History Maps/Lystra-Derbe @ biblehistory.com/Lystra

UNIVERSE – hublesite.org/telescope/

 

 

 

 

Living in a Moral Fog

Being in a FOG
Being in a FOG

One Helicopter Pilot’s Story:

A helicopter pilot was flying over Seattle and got lost in the dense fog that rolls in from Puget Sound.  He emerged from the fog and had no idea where he was.  He could see a tall building nearby with people working at their desks, hovered the aircraft near one of the windows holding up a sign asking “Where am I?”  One of the workers wrote a response then held up a sign that said,  “You are in a helicopter.”  The pilot nodded his thanks and flew straight to the airport runway.  One of the passengers quipped, “How could that sign ‘you’re in a helicopter’ help you know where you were?”  The pilot said,  “Simple.  The answer that guy gave me was technically correct, but completely useless, so I figured that must be the Microsoft Customer Relations Building, so I knew where I was!”

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How Can We Know Right from Wrong?

Most of the moral advice today is found in magazines or heard on talk-shows which leads to more confusion.  So how about this advice:

“Let your conscience be your guide”

No, that’s not in your Bible.  Can you guess (no Google-ling please) the original source of the saying?  I thought it came from my mother when growing up; and she no doubt coined the saying from the 1940 Disney movie “Pinocchio”.

In the movie, Jiminy Cricket sang a song to Pinocchio in which he said,  “Take the straight and narrow path; and if you start to slide–give a little whistle, give a little whistle and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Darn it.  I’ll have the tune embedded in my head while writing the rest of this post!

Can you let your conscience be your guide?

My answer?  YES and NO.

“YES” when you are really young, you should pay attention to your conscience, but as you grow older, we’re going to see dangerous things in letting your conscience be your guide.

Titus 1:15-16  (RSV):

[15] To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  [16] They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.

“To the pure all things are pure” – What does that mean?

Some people would like it to mean that one can engage in some sort of less than pure entertainment and not be adversely effected by it.  For example, some have said that they could view pornography with their own “purity” (?) that make their observations pure.  They suggest the only way one could be adversely effected by such must have a “dirty” heart (mind) to begin with.

So what is the apostle Paul trying to convey in this passage of Scripture?  Does it mean if I am “pure in heart” in every thing I do, will it be construed automatically as PURE?  Does it mean that a person’s lust, greed, immorality, cursing, cheating and lying are all “PURE” if the person committing them is pure within?  I think that anyone who is rational thinking and dedicated to pleasing the Lord knows better than that.

Spiritual Principles of a Pure Conscience:

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the English word “pure” in Titus 1:15 with the Greek word Katharos, “pure”, from the heart.  In the Greek, there are different words for PURE (“hagnos”); WINE mixed with water may be “hagnos” – pure, “not being contaminated”. But “katharos”, as used in verse 15, implies “when there is the admixture of any element even though the later is ‘pure’ in itself.”

Our English word “conscience” comes from two Latin words:  CON meaning “with” and SCIENCE meaning “to know”.  The New Testament word, sunelesis (Greek), means “to know together”.  Both words have the idea of “knowing with ourselves” or “knowing within ourselves”.

When it comes to MORAL DECISIONS, it means to “understand internally”.

Cain’s Conscience–

In Genesis 4, because of Cain’s outrageous anger, he kills his brother Abel.  Although this act was committed long before the Ten Commandments,  “You shall not murder”, Cain knew instinctively what he had done wrong.

Your conscience is to your soul what your nerves are to your body.  When your hand grabs hold of a hot pan’s handle on the stove, the nerves send a message to the brain: THAT’S HOT!  REMOVE YOUR HAND!

The same is true with CONSCIENCE.  Your conscience is like a warning light telling you what you are about to do is wrong…and if you do it, your conscience says, “See, I told you not to do that!”

Having a God-conscience:

People are born with a sense of right and wrong.  The Bible teaches God provided two solid proofs to point out His existence.

THE FIRST…an external witness of creation.

When you understand the amazing ans awesome order of the Universe around us, you are driven to admit to a higher intelligence that designed all this and created it!

THE OTHER WITNESS to the existence of God is an internal witness-conscience.  The fact that we are born with moral equipment called conscience.  It should prove there is Someone who determines the rightness and wrongness of our actions.  You don’t have to read a written law to know that stealing, killing, and lying are wrong; that’s something everyone instinctively knows.

Romans 2:14-15 says,

[14]  When Gentiles who have not the [divine] Law do instinctively what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, since they do not have the Law.  [15] They show that the essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts and are operating there, with which their consciences (sense of right and wrong) also bear witness; and their [moral] decisions (their arguments of reason, their condemning or approving thoughts) will accuse or perhaps defend and excuse [them].  (Amplified Bible).

Your CONSCIENCE doesn’t make you do right, or wrong, but lets you know when your about to do wrong; makes you suffer when you have done wrong.

Moral Guidance is Contorted–

Our conscience is like a piece of sharp metal within our soul.  It has sharp corners when you are considering doing something wrong; corners that can stab you on the inside.

Filing the Edges
Filing the Edges

However, every time you ignore or deny your conscience, it files down the sharp edges of the metal of steel.  The next time you are faced with the same opportunity to do wrong, conscience stabs you again, but this time, the jab isn’t as sharp.  Over time, as you continually resist the words your conscience brings to mind, sharp edges are worn down until you seldom feel them.

The Bible says, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed”  (Titus 1:15-16).  

Have you ever told a lie?  The first time you told a lie you probably felt badly.  But the next time you told it, it became a little easier.  People have convinced themselves that telling a “little white lie” is not actually bad–everyone does it.  Their conscience has become “dulled”.

SO HOW DO WE COME OUT OF THE “MORAL FOG”?

Your CONSCIENCE must be transformed by JESUS.  If you and I could spend our entire lives listening to and obeying our God-given consciences we would live a perfect life.  But God’s Word tells us,  ALL sinned and we fall short of the glory of God.

Have you ever told a lie?

Have you ever cheated or stolen?

Have you deliberately hurt someone?

That’s why ALL of us end up with a messed-up conscience.

Having a Guilty Conscience–

Samuel Langhorne Clemens–pen-name, Mark Twain struggled personally with his own guilty conscience.  In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his struggles with conscience came out of Huck’s mouth:

“If I had a yaller dog that didn’t know no more than a person’s conscience does, I would pison him.  It takes more room than all the rest of a person’s insides, and yet ain’t no good, no how.”

When you have a guilty conscience, seems like it’s hard to ignore–but that’s a good sign; shows your conscience hasn’t been completely deadened.

What Do You Do When You Have a Guilty Conscience?

Hebrews 10:22:

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”  (NIV).

The Bible teaches a guilty conscience is a dirty conscience.  It is like moral filth that you allow to accumulate and then. pollutes your soul.  And when your conscience becomes dirty, it always affects the way you look at yourself and others.

JESUS can do two important things for a “dirty conscience”:

#1.  Your CONSCIENCE must be cleaned by His blood.

When people have a “guilty conscience”, they do all kinds of things to get rid of their guilt.  Certain areas around the world people crawl on their hands and knees up steep mountains to reach a church altar.  Other people throw themselves into religious activities trying to get rid of their guilt.  But the Bible, God’s Word, teaches only one thing to clean a “dirty” conscience–the Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:14:

“How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God?”  (Amplified Bible)

I have an old Hymn Book I keep close to my computer out of nostalgia from long days past and for reference in writing my blogs.  In writing this past week on  addressing our CONSCIENCE ISSUES that in living, we need to ask ourselves the questions a Hymn writer by the name of Elisha Hoffman asks:

“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?  Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”  [from Are You Washed in the Blood].

#2.  Your CONSCIENCE must be corrected by His Word.

When you become a Christian,  “set your conscience to the Bible-Word of God”.

We READ in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that God’s Word ALWAYS points you to JESUS.  He becomes your standard of right and wrong:

[16] ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;  [17] That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”  (KJV).

When you become a “true believer”; a follower of Christ Jesus, born-again of the Spirit–your determination of right and wrong no longer depends on your CONSCIENCE because you can’t “let your conscience be your guide”.  You come out of LIVING IN A MORAL FOG.

You don’t decide what is right or wrong on how you feel, because you have learned that feelings can be unreliable.  Your standard for MORALITY is NOT what the “majority” in SOCIETY are thinking.

THE “DOINGS”, the “DEEDS” PROVE THE LIE (Verse 16):

“They profess to now God but they deny Him by their deeds”

It is rather easy to talk about God.  The phrase “Thank God!” is probably expressed several million times across the land each day.  What a grateful God-fearing nation we must be!

We notice how at the Academy Awards, so many thanked God for their award.  But the fact remains while one may verbally use the name of God, this doesn’t mean they really know Him.  In fact, it is a false claim to say one “knows God” if they are disobedient to His Word by their deeds. John, the disciple of Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit had much to say about this (1 John 1:6; 2:4-6).  

The Scripture passage in Titus 1:16 says those who say nice things about God but will not submit to Him are:

“liars”

“detestable”

“disobedient in nature”

“worthless for any good deed”

That’s pretty strong stuff!

The Pure in Christ Come Out of the Fog–

“…in ALL THINGS, show yourself to be an example of good deeds with PURITY in doctrine dignified”  (Titus 2:7).

The godly man or woman teaches the TRUTH and dignifies it with righteous living (1 Timothy 4:12).  

In front of everyone we come in contact with daily, with a clear (PURE) CONSCIENCE, the proof is in the “doing”.  It is because of the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus we’re motivated to take a stand with a “pure conscience”, even if it is unpopular:

“And everyone who has this HOPE [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (1 John 3:3 AMP).

Here’s my last question:  Has the fog lifted, can you see the landing lights on the airport runway– can you see God?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

–Matthew 5:8–