Posted in apostles, encouragement, jesus, nathanael, philip

Nathanael was looking for something good

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46a)

This verse is from chapter 1 of the Gospel of John. The context is that Jesus has begun calling His disciples, who would become the Apostles a year and a half later. In the previous verses, He had called Andrew and his brother Simon (who shall be called Peter). Now, Philip who was from Bethsaida, went to Cana where Nathanael was from, to tell him the news.

Source

Nathanael’s skepticism rested on the fact of Jesus’ origins, which were from Nazareth, a backwater. So Nathanael’s skepticism revolved around the location, not the Person. Though we often focus on the part of the verse that says “from Nazareth?!” let’s focus on the part before that. Note Nathanael said, “can anything GOOD…” This shows that Nathanael knew of the Messiah and was looking for Him. He knew His appearance would be GOOD. Nathanael believed.

Nathanael had a seeking heart because he truly studied the scriptures. As verse 45 shows, Philip and Nathanael studied the Law, Moses and the Prophets. As for Nathanael’s character, in verse 47 when Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, Jesus said there was no deceit in Nathanael and that he was a true Israelite.

Nathanael was a simple man, indeed from a not much bigger backwater than Nazareth (Cana), in a backwater district, in a time of apostasy. Not many people around him believed the truth. The Samaritans believed a blended religion, the Pharisees believed a works religion, the Sadducees didn’t believe in supernatural resurrection or angels and were against the Pharisees who did, and most regular people were either unknowing, hypocrites, or apathetic. As a matter of fact, Luke 4:33-34 records Jesus at Capernaum teaching at the synagogue. A demon-possessed man in the synagogue cried out when Jesus taught, because of His authority in His proclamation of the truth of God. Jesus cast him out, His first exorcism. Can you imagine a synagogue so devoid of truth that before Jesus’ arrival, the demon inside the man felt so secure he had never cried out before? Demons should never feel comfortable in church!

It was a time of apostasy, God hadn’t spoken in 400 years. He had sent no prophet (until John the Baptist). God had done no miracles. He had been silent.

Synagogues in the small towns had limped along, (with demons in them) the Temple in Jerusalem grew bloated with wares, graft, and hypocrisy thanks to the religious hierarchy.

And yet, among all this, there was faithful Simeon, and Anna, there was Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, and the men who would become the Apostles. And there was Nathanael, who was looking for something GOOD (just had a hard time believing it would come from Nazareth, lol).

In this current time of apostasy (when wasn’t the world apostasizing?!) we look at our leaders and sometimes we are greatly disappointed. Just as those regular people of Nathanael’s time were looking at the hypocritical Pharisees, the corrupt Annas or Caiaphas, the arrogant and zealous Saul (later, Paul), the ordinary people must have felt let down by those who were in charge of leading them in the truth just as we are let down by many of our leaders today. There has always been a shepherd problem.

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)

Jesus and Nathanael
WEIGEL, Johann Christoph 1695, Woodcut. Source

Yet there were simple people in small towns, laboring diligently during the week and on Sabbaths, attending synagogue to learn about the promised Messiah. Who was the first person Philip went to tell the good news that Messiah had been found, the priest in their local synagogue? No! Philip went immediately to tell his friend, Nathanael. These first century men and women persevered, they believed with a child-like faith, simple and in which there was no deceit. There were no layers of corruption to the faith that Nathanael evidenced, no arrogance. With seeking heart he and his friend Philip must have gone to hear John the Baptist, and when Jesus arrived, and said ‘Follow Me’ they did.

And we should do the same. We labor during the week, we worship on Sunday, we follow Jesus as He commanded. His word is in the Bible now, not spoken to us on a hillside at Bethsaida, but we believe. No matter what our leaders do, we trust the promises in His word just as Nathanael and Philip did in that long-ago apostate time. We follow, seek, trust. Nathanael was looking for something GOOD, and He came. We should also have seeking hearts.  Are you looking for He who was written of in Moses and the Prophets? Like Nathanael during a time of low worship and little truth, we are also looking forward to something GOOD. He will come again

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality…(1 Corinthians 15:52-53)

Posted in church, holy spirit, jesus, the body

Ladies, resolve not to over-extend yourself in ministry this year

If you resolved this year to be more submissive to Jesus, more useful to the Body, and/or employ the Spirit’s gifts for His glory, here is a bit of food for thought. Even if you didn’t resolve those things…here you go!

The New Testament teaches us that Christ is THE HEAD of the church and we are members in vital union with vital ministry to each other– 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16. But reading something in the Bible does not mean “experiencing” it. For the most part, churches today do not function as bodies in which all the members are connected to the Head and to one another in vital union and ministry. Frankly, I’m glad my own PHYSICAL body is not in the shape many churches are in— if it were: My mouth might start talking against my ears. My feet might stop listening to my head, My hands might run off and ‘join’ another body, etc! ~Pastor James Bell

How to maximize your Kingdom impact in 2016 

By Jack Graham
December 30, 2016 

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20. 

Several years ago, I got suckered into buying one of those pocket knives that has everything on it you could imagine. It has a can opener, about five different sized blades, tweezers, a toothpick, a nail file, and screwdriver heads. If there was something you could use a pocket knife for, this one claimed it could do the job. 

But here was the problem: none of the tools on the knife worked very well. The blades were dull, the tweezers and toothpick fell out and got lost, and the screwdriver heads were so small that I couldn’t use them to turn a screw. 

The tool was so versatile, but didn’t do anything well. And as I look at a lot of Christians today, they’re a lot like that knife. So many are multi-talented and well-rounded, but they rarely commit to doing one thing really well. They’re spread so thin that their impact is minimized. 

As you step into 2016 this week, put your focus on one thing you want to do well in the coming year. Resolve to make a deep impact in one place. Do what you do well, and you’ll make a tremendous difference for the Kingdom in the coming year! 

CONCENTRATE ON ONE AREA OF KINGDOM IMPACT IN THE COMING YEAR AND WATCH GOD WORK THROUGH YOU IN A POWERFUL WAY!

I have found that in loving Jesus, in loving the saints, and in gathering with the congregation, there exists a tendency to become “busy.” Sometimes we say “yes” to a task, or a ministry, and it is’t really for us, but we feel like we “need” to say yes. Or even if we aren’t asked, sometimes we women feel the need (silent pressure?) to jump in anyway so as to be seen “doing our part.”

Resist that pressure, whether it comes from leadership or your own self. Slow down and examine whether it is something that will glorify the Lord, or will take away from family, or will use your gifts…in other words, examine your motivations for stepping into a use within the body. I’m careful not to get spread too thin. When I do spread myself thin, my mood sours and it’s not pretty. I thrive when I am mindful of doing the things I truly feel the Lord is guiding me towards and doing the m well and 100% to my ability.

On the other hand, as Pastor Bell noted, doing nothing isn’t helping the Body either. The Spirit delivered gifts so as to maximize all the saints’ usefulness here on earth. He has stationed us here and there knowing what gift within which person will best serve the Lord’s church for it’s growth and Jesus’ glory. Since each of us has a gift or gifts, and each of us is called to use them, it stands to reason that doing nothing isn’t serving the Lord in any meaningful way, and is in fact an abuse of the Spirit’s patience and ministry.

A hand is a hand. It doesn’t try to be a foot. And it doesn’t lay dormant, either. Work, but work wisely.

EPrata photo

Posted in decisional regeneration, false, jesus, urbana15

Urbana15 and other large conferences are false Christian-making factories

At St. Louis Missouri, a large conference/Christian event is held the last week of December. It’s a student missions conference and the name matches the year it’s held, i.e., Urbana15. This past year, David Platt and Francis Chan were featured speakers, among other 180 men and women. You may know that Mr Platt was an American pastor at a church in Alabama, but gave that up to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, which is an office in which he currently serves as of this writing. He is also an author, noted especially for the NY Times bestselling book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

Francis Chan was a pastor of a church he founded but gave that up to become, well I don’t know what he does anymore exactly. Writes books and is an itinerant speaker I guess.

The Urbana15 promotional material listed reasons why students should attend, and one of them is to encourage students use the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day in a more sacred way. They offer seminars, speeches, workshops, counseling, exhibits, missions opportunities, etc, I’m all for that. The material also says the event is not specifically an evangelistic event, because the target demographic is Christians interested in international missions, who are between the ages of 17 and 29 (though there is no upper age limit). Their FAQ material answers the question,

IS URBANA 15 FOR NON-CHRISTIANS?
Urbana 15 is a missions conference and not specifically an evangelistic event. However, God has used Urbana to bring many people to faith in the past, and we anticipate that some non-Christians may attend Urbana 15, as well.

I am not a fan of conferences. One reason is the impersonal nature of them. Lots of people hide in plain sight at places where tens of thousands or more people gather. Pastors and teachers have a personal job in discipling and teaching in a personal way, which is impossible to do when speaking to hordes.

Also, the tendency for false doctrine and false professions of faith increase as the size increases. There is special danger in conferences aimed at women and youth. The Georgia Passion conferences aimed at youth, and conferences for women like IF:Gathering, Living Proof, Unwrap the Bible aimed at women, all host false teachers. The Bible states that youth and women have special vulnerabilities (1 Timothy 3:6, 2 Timothy 3:6, 1 Peter 3:7) so of course satan aims conferences at those demographics. At Passion, a gathering for 18-25 year olds held at three linked locations in Georgia in early January, several false teachers and singers are always on the lineup.

Worse, Passion rules forbid adults to attend, unless and only if you are a pastor accompanying the youth. Can you imagine, Paul traveling around Asia Minor, to the 7 churches, saying, ‘Send your youth to Damascus to a gathering where doctrines will be taught but you CANNOT do your job as a parent and accompany your child to see if it’s sound doctrine! And pay for the privilege!’ And then you find out that Hymenaeus and Philetus, in addition to Peter and John will be teaching in the arena. Do you think any teacher with discernment is going to stand on a stage with the false teachers in the first place? No.

Some conferences are good. Of course John MacArthur’s Shepherds Conference, the Inerrancy Conference, Strange Fire, G3 Conference, are all good. I can’t make a sweeping generality and say that ALL conferences are bad. However note that the aforementioned good conferences are aimed at men, not women or youth. They are sponsored by churches with strong doctrine. Their environment does not encourage false confessions of faith. And that is why I’m writing. The false professions.

The promo material states one of the reasons to attend Urbana15 is

… is more than its parts. Urbana is a chance to share five days with a diverse group of 16,000+ people who—like you—think carefully about their Christian faith and want to make the world a better place.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make the world a better place disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

See? Already there was a ‘going astray’ because missionaries and disciples are not called to make the world a better place. We don’t encourage Christians, especially youthful, impressionable potential missionaries, to go out and make the world a better place. The world will never be a better place until Jesus returns and restores it. Making the world a better place is not our mission on earth. That mission is stated above, in the Great Commission verse. It’s making disciples in the faith.

Knowing the event is not an evangelistic event yet the likelihood that non-Christians will be invited is a reality. If a person is really a Christian, they have a heart for the lost, and would want to invite a non-saved friend to the event. That is normal and not so much the problem. The problem is with the decisional regeneration rampant at large conferences. “Choosing to follow” or “deciding for Christ” or “inviting Jesus in” have become synonymous with the supernatural act of Godly justification. They’re not the same thing.

Let’s start with some photos from the Urbana15 event and tweets about it. At an admittedly non-evangelistic event, the Lord has caused 681 non-Christians to “make a decision of faith to follow Him”?

Is that how it works? At a light-show, non-evangelistic event, you giddily decide, follow, and commit in a horde doing the exact same thing?

Casting one’s self at the mercy of Christ upon having been given the faith to see one’s position in Christ as a hell-bound sinner is one thing. But at events like Urbana, this broken-hearted, eternity-changing regenerational moment is treated like an game at a toddler birthday party. “Here’s a glowstick, break it open if you want heaven when you die!”

I’d like to remind us all of the gravity of joining the faith. In Acts 5:12-13 we see the reality of what a large congregation of true Christians do: cause respect and fear.

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. 13But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.

Why did they hesitate to join them? As John MacArthur wrote, “These unbelievers had respect for the followers of Jesus, but feared the deadly potential of joining the church.” At Solomon’s portico, not a glowstick was in sight. But there were plenty of giddy joiner-uppers at Urbana15:

Or is it more like when Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he preached hell, sin, wrath, death, and the Good News. I was not present at Urbana15 but I have been present through audio at many, many modern-day conferences and sin, wrath, death, and hell are rarely preached. I doubt at Urbana did the speaker mention those necessary components of the Gospel, else the giddy throwing hat moment would have looked more like it did when confronted with our sin before a holy God as Isaiah was (“I am undone!”) and Peter (“depart from me, I am a sinful man!”) or as it did when Edwards preached, the scene recorded in Stephen Williams’ diary:

before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying went out through ye whole House…. ‘What shall I do to be saved,’ ‘Oh, I am going to Hell,’ ‘Oh, what shall I do for Christ,’ and so forth. So yet ye minister was obliged to desist, ye shrieks and cry were piercing and amazing.”

To demonstrate your status as a child of God in the new creation, don’t be so upset over your sin and final destination, just giddily throw your cap over a wall when you “decide”? Is that how it works? Hmmm.

Absent the gravitas, and absent (probably) the serious preaching on sin, death, hell and wrath, and absent the ability for a pastor who knows his congregation to meet with and disciple the new convert, or chooser-follower, worst of all is this. The chooser-follower, sans hat and clutching a broken glowstick, is pronounced a new Christian. See tweet:

THIS is why I am against conferences.

Given the number of false positives in the Bible, (Demas, Judas, Mrs Lot..) and given the numbers of those who believe they are saved but dreadfully discover they are not on His Day (Matthew 7:21-23), is it wise to immediately declare someone a Christian after one quick profession of faith allegedly cemented by a thrown hat and a broken glowstick? Especially since the Bible shows us it takes time for the proof, their fruit, to ripen. No. It is not wise. John 6:66 shows that many who “chose to follow” Jesus turned away when things got hard. As a matter of fact, most of them did.

But wait, evangelicalism today, as represented by the actions at conferences like Urbana15, gets worse. The gravity and solemnity of the Lord’s Table AKA communion should be utmost in people’s mind and hearts. One of two NT God-given ordinances, baptism being the other, it should only be undertaken by those who know they are saved, and have prepared their mind and heart, and have confessed of life’s daily sin, and repented, and are sure they have no stumbling block between a brother and…well you see the idea. There is a high benchmark given in the Bible to engage in this solemn occasion. But the Convention mentality of evangelicalism today makes a mockery of that by inviting one and all to partake en masse.

As for evangelicalism resulting in hordes storming the pearly gates, it is not so. Pentecost aside, it is a solitary thing. Here is John MacArthur:

You Must Enter the Narrow Gate Alone

That fact is implied in the text. The word “narrow” in verses 13‑14 gives the idea that the gate is very narrow. In fact, some Bible commentators say that the best contemporary expression of it would be to think of a turnstile. A person has to go through a turnstile alone; The passageway through a turnstile is very narrow; its metal arms don’t allow more than one person through at a time. Zoos, train stations, and airports have turnstiles. If a group of people are in a hurry to go in or out, they can’t go through together. They have to go through one at a time. That’s the way it is with the narrow gate. People don’t come into the Kingdom of Christ in groups. 

Here is my friend Pastor Phil Andrukaitis properly preparing his flock to engage in communion.

Good day my FB friends. 

As another new year is upon us, so is the first “Fellowship of the Lord’s Supper” for 2016 within the Christian community of faith. This sacred act of worship [commonly identified as “The Lord’s Supper,” “Communion,” “Breaking Bread,” “The Lord’s Table”] is a worshipful remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our sins. Moreover, Christians are told to continue on with this worshipful act until Jesus returns, implying that Jesus rose from the dead. 

For those individuals who have been “born-again” by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, they are experiencing a new relationship with God, as sinners “saved by the grace of God.” They are no longer estranged from God. 

Why? Here are four, glorious reasons: God has acted on behalf of sinners through Jesus first, by turning away His divine wrath from sinners and directed His wrath upon Jesus. Second, Jesus has paid our sin debt because we cannot; sinners like you and me are spiritually bankrupt. Third, God the Father has declared sinners “not guilty” because Jesus took upon Himself our guilt and shame as He was crucified on the cross. Finally, God the Father has reconciled sinners to Himself through His Son. Therefore, there is no other way for sinners to be saved. Faith in Christ’s atoning work and resurrection from the dead is the only way to be saved. 

Therefore, as the Christian community gathers to worship God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, may each local church family take the time [at least the day before celebrating Communion] to prepare their hearts. In other words, before the Lord’s Supper is administered, may the brethren of a Christian fellowship beg forgiveness of others for the wrongs they have committed. After all, “nobody who avoids this approach to his brother can go rightly prepared to the table of the Lord.” [Bonhoeffer] 

There is great joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner repents. Imagine the great joy in heaven when local fellowships whose relationships are fractured by sin and are on the verge of collapse, repent and cry out to God and others for forgiveness?
God intended for His Table to be an occasion of great joy for the Christian community, not another religious act tacked on at the end of a service. Oh that God’s people would truly seek to be reconciled with one another and with Him. Please, for the sake of God’s name, for the sake of the fellowship, and for the sake of your own soul, begin preparing your heart now. Do not wait until Sunday morning, especially while sitting in the worship service. Start now.

So that is why I do not like conferences especially aimed at women and youth. Since we are especially vulnerable we must be especially vigilant. If you are a woman or a youth or a parent of a youth, Christiany-sounding conferences might seem like a good idea on the surface. To cull from the herd the weaker members to bring them a place where there isn’t proper oversight and often is much false teaching, is counterintuitive to biblical commands. Large conferences are places where sound teaching is often absent, where the necessary solemn atmospheric mood cannot be adequately instilled, where professions are pronounced instantly genuine, where conversions cannot adequately nurtured in timeliness or in depth, where the solemnity of the ordinances are are not maintained, and where rather than reverence, silliness and giddiness prevails.

Avoid them. Take a small group ministry trip if you must, but thoroughly vet it before-hand. It is better to stay locked into your local fellowship where accountability and oversight are more rigorous. Weep and mourn the carnival atmosphere that surrounds Christianity and be an Ezra, weeping and pleading for the people:

O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt.” (Ezra 9:7a)

Posted in encouragement, jesus, prophecy, spiritual warfare

The names of Satan

Spiritual warfare is very real. Even pagans are in a constant state of war. To be a pagan is to be at war- against God. To be a Christian is to be at war- against the flesh, the world and the devil. Life on earth is a battle.

EPrata art

God did not leave us unequipped. He gave us armor.

Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”—Ephesians 6:17.

TO BE A CHRISTIAN is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, “This warns me of danger; this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition.” 

Difficulties meet us even in standing our ground; for the apostle, two or three times, bids us “Stand.” In the rush of the fight, men are apt to be carried off their legs. If they can keep their footing, they will be victorious; but if they are borne down by the rush of their adversaries, everything is lost. You are to put on the heavenly armor in order that you may stand; and you will need it to maintain the position in which your Captain has placed you. If even to stand requires all this care, judge ye what the warfare must be! 

~Charles Spurgeon, The Sword of the Spirit

By the words in the Bible, we are given to understand that our life is a fight. Here is the enemy:

He is a formidable enemy. Left to our own devices, warring against Satan would be as a mosquito to an atom bomb. However God’s power so far exceeds the atom bomb that when facing Him, this seemingly formidable enemy, the devil, becomes the mosquito! Our Holy Father is the all powerful God, and He has won the victory already. He has overcome the world. (John 16:33).

What we must do is put on our armor, pray always, and stir one another up to good works. Confessing our sin and repenting of it, we gain more strength in wielding the sword of the Lord which is His word, we have ample military support to stand against the world, the devil, and the flesh.

Our Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy:

He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 )

Posted in discernment, ihop, jesus, ronnie floyd

Have ye so little faith? SBC President Ronnie Floyd at IHOP; a discernment lesson

The President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last night appeared on the stage at the One Thing conference with one of Christianity’s biggest false prophets and the leader of a hugely growing cult, Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer Kansas City (IHOPKC). Why did Mr Floyd do this? He explained early in his speech, from what he can see of the world, the storm has come and it demands urgency of action.

“When it feels like the ship is sinking, everyone needs to grab a bucket.”—Ronnie Floyd President of the Southern Baptist Convention, explaining why he appeared at at IHOPKC (cult) One Thing conference on Dec 28, 2015.

We are to be urgent in Christian action, redeeming the time spent for our Lord in His work. But do the times demand blind panic, partnering with darkness, and other pragmatic man-made moves that display our urgency, misguided though it may be? Should ‘the times’ be the prompt for action instead of the Gospel? No.

I spent a good deal of ink in another blog post explaining the context of the situation. This essay which follows is what they call in writing class an ‘explode the moment’ or honing in to focus minutely on a particular aspect of the context. In this case, it’s the biblical scene on the boat when the disciples asked if Jesus cared or not that they might be perishing. Let’s use this for a discernment lesson. Sadly, it’s a reverse lesson, as Mr Floyd’s actions unwittingly teach us what NOT to do.

Peace Be Still, Arnold Friberg

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? (Mark 4:37-40)

Mr Floyd, have you so little faith? The boat is not sinking. (Mark 4:37-40, Matthew 14:31, Luke 8:25). Did the disciples grab a bucket? We know the answer.

carest thou not that we perish?—Unbelief and fear made them sadly forget their place, to speak so. Luke has it, “Lord, save us, we perish.” When those accustomed to fish upon that deep thus spake, the danger must have been imminent. They say nothing of what would become of Him, if they perished; nor think, whether, if He could not perish, it was likely He would let this happen to them; but they hardly knew what they said.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?—There is a natural apprehension under danger; but there was unbelief in their fear. It is worthy of notice how considerately the Lord defers this rebuke till He had first removed the danger, in the midst of which they would not have been in a state to listen to anything.

how is it that ye have no faith?—next to none, or none in present exercise. In Matthew (Mt 8:26) it is, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Faith they had, for they applied to Christ for relief: but little, for they were afraid, though Christ was in the ship. Faith dispels fear, but only in proportion to its strength. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)

These were seasoned fishermen. They knew when a storm as raging enough to swamp a ship. In their case, the waves actually were overtowering the ship, and they rightly knew conditions were the foundering sort. Paul knew when the ship was in peril, Jonah knew. I’ve been in a mighty storm on a small yacht. Seamen know when the storm imperils lives. We don’t blame the men for fearing.

But when fear comes, especially when it is a fear based on what man’s eyes can see, the proof in the pudding is how you deal with the situation.

I know of a small, rural SBC church that hired another pastor after their long-term pastor left. The new pastor made lots of exegetical mistakes in preaching. Some left. The new pastor had an unfortunate (and disqualifying) tendency to rough anger. More left. Sunday attendance numbers couldn’t be explained away any longer by “those who are sick with the flu going around” or “those who are traveling this holiday weekend”. Attendance was declining and it showed. So, events were held to grab more people and get them in. Evangelists were hired. Inflatables were inflated. Hot dogs were eaten. Those pragmatic approaches did not work. So more left. Panic set in. Tithes dipped below healthy levels, and the wild eyed panic turned to fear. The smell of desperation caused more to leave. Therefore, anger abounded and it was taken out on staff. Staff left. So more people left with the staff. Sermons now focused on tithing, or on rebuking those who stayed. So even more left.

You see the circle-the-drain pragmatic approach does not work. The disciples in the boat could have furiously bailed. They could have tossed one of them overboard like Jonah. They could have hove to or gone under bare poles. They could have prayed. Instead, they panicked.

Jesus rebuked the sea and then rebuked the men. But notice that the fear they had of the storm was replaced in spades by fear of what they had seen Jesus do. He has power over the weather and sea and waves, and instantly they obeyed Him. The men became exceedingly terrified. I’d imagine that if the IHOP people were ever to see a REAL miracle they would not only become terrified, they would drop dead of heart attacks on the spot.

Jesus IS the calm. Always rely on Him.

He knew a storm was coming. He knew. But He had no concern. It was the sleep of fearlessness. It was the sleep of trust. It was the sleep of sovereignty. It was the sleep of omnipotence. He knew He could awaken at any moment and stop the storm. (source)

When it feels like the ship is sinking, one does not run around in a panic, begging those with theological unorthodoxy to join in bailing the boat. That displays lack of faith and is an action motivated by fear.

And then once He stilled the storm, verse 25 says, He said to them, “Where’s your faith? “Where’s your faith? I’m sure they were hanging their heads. That was embarrassing. That was shameful. Oh, we saw Him raise the dead, we saw Him control the fish, we saw Him cast out demons, we saw Him heal all those people. This is embarrassing. Where’s your faith? Couldn’t you believe Me for this? (source)

Can’t we believe Jesus that He is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it? Is the ship foundering? No.

Yes, there is excess water in the ship because false teaching brings it. Yes there is excess baggage in the ship, weighing it down because the sin within false doctrine is heavy. (Psalm 38:4). Mr Floyd’s action to partner with those who weigh down the faith is counter-productive and a bad example of what to do in discernment situations. When the waves threaten to overpower, you don’t pragmatically look for hands to bail the ship, you look to the one who calms the storm. It is not a situation of “any port in a storm” but the One who creates the port. And the storm. And the calm.

When we see our church local or global seems to be faltering, as Mr Floyd did, he was seeing through man’s eyes. Jesus’ church is not foundering. But sometimes a local church does die. Or sometimes as a church is diminishing in numbers, Jesus makes a move through the members’ prayer. I know of another small, local SBC church where the members had died or drifted away. It was a long-term church, it had been existing a long time in that spot. But it was small now and it was dying. The leaders prayed. Along came a contingent of pastors and leaders who wanted to plant a new church, and felt led to ask the dying church to rent their space. It was the answer to prayer, and a new church was planted inside the old church. The old church hadn’t panicked. They hadn’t gone around to the Mormons and the Seventh Day Adventists and the Catholics, false ‘christians’ all, and asked to partner, giving the excuse that the times warranted drastic action. No, they kept their eyes on Jesus, were patient, and they prayed.

When the storm comes, discernment is all the more needed. Panic, fear, and distress will make a person want to make bad decisions. Even the fervency of a person like Mr Floyd who seems to love the faith enough to want revival and want people to pray, can perform wrong-headed actions if motivated by fear from seeing things through a man-made perspective.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Philippians 1:9-10 )

Posted in Immanuel, jesus, prophecy

God With Us

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23).

As I go forward in life, year by grinding year, waiting, learning, sinning, repenting, I learn more of the person and God Jesus and of His excellencies. Studying the Annunciation, and thinking of His name Immanuel, God with us, I think of God with Adam and Eve in the Garden right from the beginning- covering them in skins. With Hagar in the desert, wrestling with Jacob through the anxious night, with Abraham on Mt Moriah sacrificing Isaac, with Mary on the flight to Egypt, with Peter on the beach restoring him in love, with John on Patmos … He surely is a God with us!

As you face 2016, perhaps it is in fear, or anxiety, or loneliness … No matter how you feel, even if it is facing the new year in excitement, or wonder, or joy (because those are times we tend to not feel like we “need” God) – God is with you! He is W-I-T-H  U-S, Immanuel!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” (Isaiah 8:8)

Immanuel, equivalent to savior, a name given to Christ by Matthew, Matthew 1:23, after Isaiah 7:14. According to the orthodox interpretation the name denotes the same as θεανθρωπος, and has reference to the personal union of the human nature and the divine in Christ. (Strong’s on Isaiah 8:8)

He is with us, so who can be against us! You are in the hands of the Mighty Savior, He is with His people, and will not leave or forsake us.

Source
Posted in christmas, encouragement, jesus, shepherds

The Shepherds were watching their flocks by night…

EPrata photo

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:8-17)

Shepherds. Shepherds? Why them?

watch … by night—or, night watches, taking their turn of watching. From about passover time in April until autumn, the flocks pastured constantly in the open fields, the shepherds lodging there all that time. (From this it seems plain that the period of the year usually assigned to our Lord’s birth is too late). Were these shepherds chosen to have the first sight of the blessed Babe without any respect of their own state of mind? That, at least, is not God’s way.

“No doubt, like Simeon (Lu 2:25), they were among the waiters for the Consolation of Israel” [OLSHAUSEN];

and, if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Saviour, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. [Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible]

Let us go, &c.—lovely simplicity of devoutness and faith this! They are not taken up with the angels, the glory that invested them, and the lofty strains with which they filled the air. Nor do they say, Let us go and see if this be true—they have no misgivings. But “Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” Does not this confirm the view given on Lu 2:8 of the spirit of these humble men? [Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible]

Humble men, guiding and caring for the sheep of Israel. This is a well-known metaphor laced throughout the bible, starting with the first shepherd, Abel. (Genesis 4:4). The first human blood shed in the Bible was shepherd’s blood, performed by an angry, jealous one who rejected God.

Who were shepherds in the Bible? Abel, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Laban, Jacob’s twelve sons, Moses, David, Mesha– King of Moab (Jordan), Doeg, Amos, the shepherds who came to honor Jesus (source).

Source(s): Genesis 4:2
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.

Genesis 21:28
Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock,

Genesis 13:5
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.

Genesis 26:12
Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

Genesis 30:32
Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.

Genesis 29:9
While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.

Genesis 47:3
Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.”

Exodus 2:17
Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

1 Samuel 21:7
Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd.

2 Kings 3:4
Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with a hundred thousand lambs and with the wool of a hundred thousand rams.

Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

Luke 2:15
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Last Shepherd, the Best Shepherd

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

The shepherds in the field made “haste” to go. They did not hesitate to go and worship. Let us make haste to worship the Good Shepherd on this eve of His birth, He is deserving of all praise, glory and worship.

What Child Is This?

Posted in archaeology, jesus, miracle, prophecy

Major archaeological find at the Sea of Galilee

Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) reports a major find at the sea of Galilee. The archaeologist does a good job explaining why it’s such an unusual and exciting find.

Breitbart reports:

Evidence has been uncovered corroborating the site of one of Jesus’ most powerful and dramatic miracles: the casting out of demons into a herd of swine in the land of the Gadarenes (or Gerasenes).

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a 1,500-year-old marble slab with Hebrew inscriptions near Kursi, the spot traditionally associated with the miracle of Christ’s banishment of demons into a herd of swine.

Archaeologists believe the slab to be a commemoration tablet dating from around 500 AD. The inscription in Hebrew begins with the words “Remembered for good.”

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” 32And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

MacArthur says the pigs took a “swine dive” lol.

Jesus really performed miracles. He authorized his Apostles to perform miracles also (for a period of time, then the miracles ceased). Jesus is Lord of the earth, of time, of physical matter. He really lived and He really did the miracles. This record of the demons being sent into the pigs is but one of them. The Bible records actual history, which archaeology confirms again and again.

This fact has implications for the pagan, the atheist, the doubter. Jesus lived and taught and did miracles to confirm His Lordship over the earth. If He really lived, and really taught and did miracles, then it’s also true as the Bible states that He came to warn sinners to repent.

This is because He is also holy and is angry at sinners every day. He came to earth to bring peace to men, through reconciliation with God. One must recognize their sins are keeping them from peace with God, ask Jesus to forgive them, and turn from sin and pursue holy living according to the standards God has laid out. The swine begged to be sent into the pigs rather than the abyss, (Mark 5:12) a deep pit or jail from which they knew they would never be released and to which they are already destined (Mt 25:41).

How much more so is man to be punished for his sin and rebellion against God, as the demons are destined? Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. The Bible is true, and every word Jesus said and His prophets said and His apostles said is true. Repent during the Age of Grace and know that promised peace and freedom from sin’s bondage.

Breitbart

Posted in animation, chris powers, jesus, the word of the cross

The Word of the Cross: Spoken Word Animation by Chris Powers

Chris Powers is a seminary student, husband, and animator. His website is called Full of Eyes (FOE) and is at http://www.fullofeyes.com. His goal is to create free visual resources for the global Church.

He has an account at Patreon to which you can donate, to help him continue his free-for-anybody Gospel materials. He has created animations to music, study guides, and tracts, and in several languages, too. I support him at Patreon, and I am an admirer of his work.

Now, Chris has completed a new animation called The Word of the Cross. In this new work, Chris chose to use a speaking voice reading scripture overlaid on his animations and illustrations, rather than let the lyrics of a properly acquired song to do the work. Chris says,

As you guys know, this is the first of what I hope will eventually become the norm for FOE, that is, videos set to spoken word or scripture with instrumental backgrounds….I think this allows for more pointed communication of doctrines and concepts…..but, that being said, the next two animations planned are set to lyrical songs, so, I’m not making a “hard break” from the past 😉 May the Lord use this animation and its discussion guide to open eyes and minds and hearts and hands through the gospel of the glory of His Son!

Download a study guide which also contains the scripture references, to go along with the animation here.

Posted in birth, encouragement, jesus, melchers, nativity

Biblical Art: Gari Melchers’ Nativity

I love art. I love beauty. Despite having been blessed to view the world’s most famous art in the top museums, I was not saved during the years of my biggest travels when I viewed them. I wish dearly that I could see again the biblical art I saw then, when I didn’t appreciate them, but see them now  through my Christian perspective. Nevertheless, there is some biblical art I view online now that truly moves me.

We are all familiar with the  famous biblical art, such as Da Vinci’s Last Supper. There is so much to learn and appreciate by studying Da Vinci’s portrayal of the moments during the Last Supper when Jesus announces that one of the Apostles will betray Him. The drama of the scene compounds from left to right as one views the expressions on the faces of the Apostles. Da Vinci sought actual living models and painted actual emotional and psychological reactions to the news Jesus delivered of His coming betrayal on their faces quite vividly. In repose is Christ, and in shadow is Judas. There is more to the painting and you can read about it at the link above or here.

Not much thought of is the scene which is not recorded in the Bible but is assumed to have happened: Adam and Eve discovering the dead body of their son, Abel, whom Cain slew. It is the first recorded human death in the Bible. It pictures the death of the First Son, Jesus. The grief in the painting is palpable, as no doubt the first human parents learned that the wages of their sin certainly is death.The artist is William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a 19th century French painter of high traditionalist style. The painting is aptly called The First Mourning.

Hagar in the Wilderness by Camille Corot is another of the biblical art depictions I enjoy. Hagar’s grief, loneliness, yet salvation comes in the tender ministrations from The Angel of the Lord. Here, I’ll quote the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s synopsis of his painting:

This picture, shown at the Salon of 1835, is the earliest of four large ambitious biblical paintings that Corot exhibited in the 1830s and 1840s. Like the Museum’s Destruction of Sodom (1843–44; 29.100.18), it illustrates the story of the family of Abraham, the father of Israel. Hagar, the servant of Abraham’s wife Sarah, bore Abraham’s son Ishmael. Later, when Isaac was born to Sarah, she drove Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba. For this painting, Corot chose the moment of divine salvation of the mother and child (Genesis 21:15–17). Following an old pictorial tradition, Corot has included the angel from an earlier episode in which the pregnant Hagar, expelled by Sarah, was sent back to her by an angel (Genesis 16:7–9).

Now here is another piece of biblical art that I’ve discovered, thanks to Facebook. I’m so thrilled. Julius Gari Melchers’ The Nativity is beautiful and tender. It takes the scene from a different perspective and a different moment in time. We know that usually a nativity scene shows the babe being adored by his parents, the shepherds, animals and sometimes the Wise Men, though they didn’t arrive until a year or two later.

But Melchers, a painter of German descent, took the scene from the point of view of immediately after the birth of the Savior. In looking at Mary’s pose, one can almost feel her exhaustion, both emotional and physical. Joseph’s expression is one of concern and perturbation and near overwhelming responsibility. All among a dirty alley…and yet the Babe’s head is aglow with the promise of God having sent the Light into the world. What were Mary and Joseph thinking and feeling then? We can ask them when we get there, but meanwhile, please enjoy this representation of the glorious moment when all was quiet, before heaven shouted with joy and all hell broke loose…of the coming of Jesus Christ the Lamb.

The Nativity