Sunday, December 28, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Crete was a rough place to serve God, but the apostle Paul left Titus there anyway. However, Paul explained to Titus why he needed to stay where he was:
Tit 1:5 ¶ For this reason I left you in Crete,
1) because Crete needs you
Titus 1:5 that you should set in order the things that are lacking,
2) because Cretans need you
Tit 1:12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."13 This testimony is true
3) because someone has to teach them God's Word
Tit 2:1 ¶ But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound
4) because someone has to give them a good example
Tit 2:7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works
5) because God gave you enough grace to do the job
Tit 2:11-12 ¶ For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
6) because Jesus is working in you to get the job done
Tit 2:14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every
lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
If you're looking for an easy path to Christian leadership, you'll have to rely on backstabbing and politics. But if you want success, you'll have to pay a price.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Judges 3:2 (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it)
God left some of His enemies in the land of Israel so that He could force His people to learn war. Why? Israel went through lengthy periods of peace, but only after they won a war. The United States has never had forty continuous years of peace in its entire history, but the book of Judges describes various times of forty and even eighty years of peace in Israel AFTER they had won a war.
If you start accomplishing something in your Christian life, you're likely to have war. Jealous individuals start demanding leadership positions over successful Christian works, and Christians who are doing little or nothing for the Lord start criticizing those who are. It is inevitable that if God starts using you, you are going to have problems.
Over the years, I have seen several occasions in which a Christian would be successful at some work for the Lord, someone would start criticizing, and the Christian would quit. No bad testimony for anybody; but the work stopped. If you want to sicceed in God's work, you need to get tough. Endure the hardship, and continue with the Lord's work.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
19 Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.
20 Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant.
21 So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him.
22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
Davis was a giant-killer. The soldiers of King Saul, however, were not. But when David became the leader, other giant-killers emerged. Other mighty men also emerged. When soldiers associated with David, they learned how to be like him. Thus, they learned how to be valiant in battle and kill giants.
Don't waste your Christian life listening to critics and excuse-makers. Find someone who is being used by God and listen to him (or her).
Monday, October 13, 2008
Jonathan, son of King Saul, realized that Israel could not defeat the Philistines as they sent their armies through Israel. But if Jonathan could destroy the Philistine garrison at Michmash, the base of the invaders, he could win a great victory. The problem was, he couldn't defeat the garrison at Michmash.
Knowing that God can do a miracle with anyone, Jonathan challenged his armor-bearer to go up with him to attack the garrison. We don't know the armor-bearer's name, but everyone who has ever read the Old Testament knows what he did: he followed Jonathan, and that day they won a great victory.
We have seen that God blesses humility. We have also seen that one way to obtain humility is to submit to one another. By agreeing to obey Jonathan, the armor-bearer was used by God.
Do you want to be used by God? Find someone whom God is using and help him.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I want to send a message of comfort to my readers about the current economic crisis. I asked God why He didn't lead me to get out of the Stock Market last year, and I got an answer. I'm going to be all right, but how can I say that to someone whom God left behind when He told me to get out before the decline?
Most people in the world are too poor to own stocks, but most of my readers do. Stock market declines occur on a regular basis, and even the worst ones eventually end. Because bad news is more exciting, TV and radio like to broadcast bad news, even though there are many good things going on in the economy. The price of oil is dropping steadily, while the strength of the dollar is increasing steadily. Two months ago, $1,000 bought me 9,600 pesos. This morning it bought me 12,500 pesos.
Much of the decline was called for, but a lot of it is nothing but fear. Today (Friday, October 10) the Stock Market plunged 8% early in the day, then rallied 7% before the Market closed. Whatever else it means, it means this: much of the turmoil is due to panic and profit-taking, not to economics. Over the long term, the Market responds to economics more than to anything else.
I am re-assuring retired Christians here in Mexico that God has not abandoned them. We'll be okay, and so will you.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Humility involves admitting that something is wrong. It also involves submitting to other Christians. Here in the Gringo Zone of Mexico, we have a few retired Christians who really do want to reach Mexicans for Christ. They are usually meeting with little or no success. Meanwhile, two churches are running a Saturday morning Sunday School that desperately needs more drivers and vehicles; but these other Christians won't help.
Helping would involve working under someone else's direction. It would mean doing work that someone else would get credit for, because the helpers aren't the leaders. It would mean that the people doing the driving wouldn't get to set the direction that the Sunday School is going.
But it would also mean getting more results than the majority of missionaries are getting. Do you want to be a success for Christ? Find someone being blessed by God, and see if you can help that person.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
We have seen that a major first step in being used by God is to admit that something is wrong. Here we get more specific: if God isn't using you to bring people to Him, something is wrong.
When Christians successfully backstab their way into leadership positions, without being able to lead anyone to Christ, something is wrong. When churches have extensive committees to monitor and control everything, keeping their people busy without anyone being saved, something is wrong. When Christians proudly point out their loyalty to man-made rules and standards without anyone getting saved, something is wrong.
A major fist step in being used by God is to humble yourself by telling the truth: something is wrong.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I live in "The Gringo Zone" of Mexico, which is full of retired Americans. You would think that after being saved for decades, we would have a thriving Christian community here. Instead, we have a series of failed churches, with most Christians doing little with their lives. There are some genuinely Christian churches here, and they are beset by politics and back-stabbing by church members who believe that spiritual maturity is indicated by your ability to seize leadership positions in the church, even if they are not being used by God.
The Bible contains no such teaching; in fact, it teaches that God will hold leaders to account for their failures. A major step forward for many Christians would be: HUMBLE YOURSELF BY ADMITTING THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG.
If Christians are not growing, something is wrong. If no one is getting saved, something is wrong. If God's people are fighting each other, something is wrong. If you are in the same place spiritually that you were in years ago, something is wrong.
A good place to start growing in the Lord is with humility: admit that something is wrong.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Here in Mexico, we have missionaries arrive and leave without much success. We have Christians who successfully climb to the top of local churches, and then the churches fail. And then we have people who are reaching Mexicans for Christ, sometimes with poor training and even poor doctrine. Why?
If you want to succeed in Christian service, the Bible tells you how to be a success. I'll be posting about twice a week, and I hope that you'll stay with us.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
We have already seen that Joseph's ten brothers lacked the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of knowledge. Now, after years of receiving kindness from Joseph, they could not believe that he had forgiven them. Why not?
God works in the lives of His saints to love one another, but Joseph's brothers had successfully fought off that work of God. They "judged" Joseph, fearing that he would commit the same sin that they would have committed:revenge.
Don't follow people who like to fight. They don't know what they're doing, and they don't understand what God is doing.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Ps 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom
Pr 1:7 ¶ The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge
God works in His children to love one another. When a Christian successfully fights off God's work, he can become bitter at another Christian. It is important to remember that, lacking both wisdom and knowledge, that Christian is not qualified to lead, teach, or influence other Christians.
One Christian forum deals with Christians who have been hurt by churches. Most of the victims joined churches that would not fellowship with other Christian churches. Trying to keep their people spiritual, the incompetent leaders of those churches would hurt them instead.
Be careful about being influenced by "Christians" who are hostile to God's people. You'll save yourself a lot of grief that way.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
The explanation begins in Genesis 37:4 "...they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him." When Joseph taught his brothers the Word of God, the Bible says that they hated him even more.
Ps 119:74 describes the spiritual condition of the ten brothers: "Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, Because I have hoped in Your word." They didn't fear the Lord.
Over the years, I have avoided some spiritual disasters by remembering that "Christians" who despise other Christians do not fear the Lord. On a few occasions, I actually worked for them, but I knew better than to trust them.
These men did not fear the Lord. But why couldn't they recognize their brother? Because...
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Joseph had plainly told his brothers that they would someday bow down to him. His brothers knew that Joseph was in Egypt. They knew that they had sinned in selling Joseph as a slave. And they knew that God had promised great things to Joseph.
Yet when they went to Egypt, met a great leader, bowed down to him, and received punishment for their sins, it didn't even occur to them that this was their brother! They even spoke in Hebrew in his presence, assuming that he wouldn't understand them.
Joseph's ten older brothers had been taught properly. Yet, they lacked the wisdom and the knowledge to recognize their brother. Why?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
We just saw that Christians who obey Jesus have a different perspective of Him than Christians who do not obey him. And here we see that if you are an obedient Christian, you will be a soul-winner.
Many Christians believe that greatness is achieved in the Christian life by becoming a ruler. They seek Christian office without ever making the sacrifices that soul-winners make. They won't spread God's Word, do menial tasks, or take sides against wrong.
Soul-winners, on the other hand, have a special manifestation from God, and they see greatness in terms of SERVICE. The Gospel being spread, souls being saved, the Word being taught, etc., are marks of success to them. Some time ago, we saw that conflicts betwen these two groups of Christians are inevitable; now we see that the Christians who seek to rule often are lacking in spiritual maturity.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Unlike his brothers, Joseph obeyed his father. While Jacob favored him because he was the son of his old age, Joseph's conduct was a factor in continuing that love. The Christians who love Jesus the most aren't the ones who shout the most, arent't the ones who criticize the most, and aren't even the ones who read the Bible the most. The ones who OBEY are the ones who love Jesus the most.
Jesus continued in John 14:21 "And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." These Christians have a different viewpoint of Jesus than other Christians have. They place Him in a different position in their lives, and they re-act to Him differently, because they know more about Him.
This relationship with their father made Jacob's other ten sons jealous, and it sometimes makes Christians jealous as well.
Friday, August 22, 2008
If you remember the idea of this blog, I'm trying to help people who have been hurt by churches or other Christians. Joseph was definitely a man who had been hurt by God's people. Let's take a look at what happened and why.
First, Joseph, unlike Jacob, had lived a Godly life. He told the truth when God's people were doing wrong (bringing his father the truth about his brothers).
Second, Joseph's brothers could see that their Father loved Joseph more than them. In John 14:21, Jesus said "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
It was a self-feeding system: Joseph loved his father more than they did, and their father loved Joseph more than he loved them. You, personally, can get into a system like that, but you might have God's people turn hostile to you if you do.
To be continued...
Monday, August 18, 2008
Laban organized his brethren and pursued Jacob for seven days. He was the leader, and people who followed him might have received leadership positions in his "posse." But Laban, after all the bluster and effort, accomplished nothing.
He didn't get his daughters back. He didn't get his grandchildren back. Of all the blesings that God gave Jacob, Laban got none of it back. He didn't even get his household gods back, and God didn't even want Jacob to have them in the first place.
Brethren, DON'T follow leaders who aren't being blessed by God!
Friday, August 15, 2008
More people chose to follow Laban than to follow Jacob. But the ones who followed Laban got hurt, losing much of their wealth, while the ones who followed Jacob did well. Why?
There is more than one reason, but here's an important one: Jacob tried to undo the wrongs he had done. Laban never went back to Jacob to ask forgiveness for cheating him. But Jacob, although frightened, risked his life to ask Esau's forgiveness.
I have never heard of a church or a Christian school or Christian college going to someone they had wronged and asking forgiveness. Many "has-been" Christian institutions have been declining for decades, without ever trying to correct the wrongs they have done to former employees. And, in my opinion, it is better for Christians to stay away from those institutions.
But Jacob wasn't like that. He wasn't perfect, but he grew enough that he wanted to right his wrongs.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Laban was a leader who was not being used or blessed by God. Motivated by a desire to control the blessings tht God had given Jacob, Laban pursued Jacob. But with victory in sight, God forbad Laban to harm Jacob.
Laban was afraid to wrongly harm a servant of God. When I taught Christian school, I would see parents with money get teachers fired for making their children behave. The school would often wait until the end of the school year to tell the teacher he or she was not coming back next year, cutting the teacher off with no support.
And I saw three other things. In every case I know of, with no exceptions, the teachers did all right. And the Christian schools, for a variety of reasons, eventually shut down. And the church went through a downward spiral that lasted for years.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
23 Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead.
Laban was a leader. In his conflict with Jacob, Laban was able to get his brethren to take his side. Jacob, meanwhile, couldn't get any of his brethren (except for his wives and children) to side with him.
Yes, Laban was a leader. But God wasn't blessing him. His success as a leader was partly the result of his ability to inspire jealousy of Jacob and partly the result of his ability to exploit greed.
In fact, there is only one good thing that can be said about Laban as a leader...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Afraid to attack Jacob after God warned him not to, Laban could only rely on accusations. And although almost everything was Laban's fault, his accusations were fairly accurate. But all the accusations in the world could not change the fact that God was blessing Jacob, not Laban. Laban had a lot more sin that Jacob did, and he was jealous of Jacob.
It is normal for Christians who are being used by God to be accused by jealous Christians who are not being blessed. And while many of the accusations may be true, the accuser may well have a lot more sin than the accused.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Pr 11:30 ¶... he who wins souls is wise.
These two verses help explain the helpless anger that some Christians feel as they watch God bless their enemies. When Christians set out to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, Jesus works in their lives to make them fishers of men. They then go through trials, tests, temptations, and troubles that most Christians rarely experience. The result is a harvest of souls saved.
But Christians who do not have this spiritual growth don't understand what is going on. They see the results of Satan's attacks on the soul-winners, and they attribute these results to ungodliness on the part of the soul-winner. They don't understand that they, personally, do not undergo these same attacks because they are not spiritual enough to handle them.
Many Godly men, churches, and colleges have "Christian hatesites" dedicated to them. There, Christians who have failed to obey the Great Commission can blast away at the failings of those who are more successful then them.
The result? God keeps blessing His Godly servants, and the critics are bypassed for success.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.
That Jacob just couldn't get along with anyone! He had gotten his brother Esau so angry that he had to flee for his life. Now, his father-in-law (who was also his uncle) and his brothers-in-law (who were also his cousins) were angry at him.
It looks pretty bad for Jacob, until you realize some things. Jacob was the one being blessed. God was increasing Jacob's sheep, children, and even his brides (he had four of them).
Laban was a man who relied on lying and trickery to achieve his goals, and he was steadily declining. Around the internet, you can find various Christian hate sites that rip into men who are being used of God more than all their critics combined. Many of their criticisms are true, yet God continues to bless His servants rather than their critics.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from
them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
Although Barnabas is one of the most important men in the New Testament, you rarely hear about him. He trained Paul when Paul was a new Christian, and he got the other Christians to accept Paul. He went on some of Paul's journeys with him, and Paul mentions him in some of his epistles. Acts 14:14 tells us that Barnabas even became an apostle.
But then they had a conflict. Mark had deserted Paul and Barnabas under stress. Later, Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance, and he and Paul became so angry at each other that they ended their friendship. Verse 40 indicates that the Christians took Paul's side in the conflict. Even John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, blamed everything on Barnabas. And while Paul went on to write more Epistles and still had a major ministry, Barnabas is never mentioned again. So Paul won and Barnabas lost.
But Barnabas was right. He got Mark straightened out. Years later, from prison, Paul would write "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry." 2Ti 4:11 And the apostle Peter would refer to him as "Mark my son." 1Pe 5:13 And Mark would write one of the Four Gospels.
It is wrong for Christians to fight. And winning the fight does not prove that you did the right thing.
Friday, July 18, 2008
It's a dangerous thing for a Christian to go around threatening the wrath of God on another Christian. I can't prove this from Scripture, but my personal observation is that the accuser is usually more guilty that the person being accused.
God's Word teaches that He judges us by the standard we set. When we teach that the judgment of God on a Christian is a source of joy, and something to be rejoiced over publicly, we set a standard for God to use in dealing with us. Since none of us are what we ought to be, we are better off obeying the Scriptural commands to love one another, not to judge one another, and to forgive one another.
Monday, July 14, 2008
2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit...
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit...
8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
God "prunes" every branch that bears fruit. The Greek word refers to a gardener using a knife to trim dead, sick, and bad material off of a plant. The word refers to cleaning, cutting away, and carrying away. Jesus went on to explain that if we stay close to Him, we'll bear a lot of fruit. Why? Because He will work in that Christian to purge away anything that prevents fruit. And then in verse 8, Jesus explains that only those who bear much fruit are His dsciples.
The pastor of a large and successful church had gotten saved out of an evil life. Although a new Christian, he sometimes returned to the bars he had frequented, to play pool and gamble. One night, he had his week's pay in his pocket, when he startled gambling at pool games. He got involved with a pool shark, who won the man's entire paycheck at a single game. He told us that he promised God right then and there that he would never gamble again, and he went on to become a successful preacher and soul-winner.
Chastening is painful, but it produces fruit in a Christian's life.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Heb 12:5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Verse 5 says "when," not "if," you are rebuked by God.
Verse 6 says that God scourges "every" son whom He receives.
Verse 8 says that "all" Christians receive this chastening, and if you don't, you are not really saved.
But aren't Christians delivered from the wrath of God? Yes, they are. Verse 5 explains that God is talking to His sons, not His enemies. A good father will chasten his children FOR THEIR OWN GOOD. God does not pour out His wrath on those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour. But God, as a loving Father, does correct His children for their own good.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Comedy and tragedy sometimes combine when a Christian starts threatening the wrath of God on another Christian. As a Christian high school teacher, I had given a student a four-page writing assignment as punishment for talking in class. She lied to her parents about it, and her mother started hurling Scripture at me about the judgment of the wicked. She actually started shaking with joy at the thought of all the terrible things that were going to happen to me. Fortunately for me, I had been telling the truth, so none of those things happened to me.
Some people who had seized control of a good church actually called my wife on the telephone to warn her about the judgment of God on me for telling the truth. Several months later, they could be seen walking around town with enraged looks on their faces, after their fellow conspirators kicked them out of leadership.
But it is a common Christian error to believe that if something bad happens to a Christian, it proves that the Christian had sinned. Christians who are involved in a conflict, disobeying God's many commands for us to love one another, will often point to the misfortune of their opponent as proof that God is on their side.
DOES God choose sides by smiting one Christian, but not another? If something bad happens to you, is it God's way of punishing you for something? We'll be talking about this for the next few lessons.
Friday, July 4, 2008
It is almost inevitable that after Nicolaitans seize a church, the attendance goes down. They do not humble themselves by admitting that something is wrong, because they feel that since they are in power, things are going well. And they do not submit to authority; rather, they seize it. Since God is resisting them, their various plans and programs cannot reverse the decline of the church.
Soul-winners, on the other hand, cause church growth. Sometimes, they slow or even reverse the church's decline. But, inevitably, the soul-winners see that the Nicolaitans are cancelling them out. By submitting to authority, soul-winners receive the promise that God will exalt them at the proper time, which often means that they have to separate from a Nicolaitan church. The Nicolaitans then blame the soul-winners (instead of themselves) for the decline in attendance. When the soul-winners explain what happened, the Nicolaitans accuse them of bad-mouthing the church, and heap further blame on the soul-winners for the church's decline.
Soul-winners do not always get exalted to leadership positions. Instead, God elevates them to be better soul-winners. And since God cares about their new converts, He often leads them away from Nicolaitan churches.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Some months after I arrived in Mexico, I noticed something. Christians who were working for somebody else were getting results. Christians who "only answered to the Holy Spirit" weren't accomplishing anything. And Christians who concentrated on fighting their way into leadership were doing more harm that good.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Nicolaitans and soul-winners approach Christian service from opposite directions. Nicolaitans see Christian service as an opportunity to be leaders, while soul-winners see Christian service as an opportunity to be servants. Later, we often see Nicolaitans with unsuccessful ministries, while soul-winners are successful in theirs. The reason is that God blesses humility, but He resists pride.
2 Ch 7:14 tells us "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." WHY does this work? Because part of humbling yourself is admitting that something is wrong. But once a Nicolaitan has seized power, he feels that everything is as it should be.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Shortly out of Bible college, I was in a church that ran about 175 kids in Children's Church, and they put me in charge. Several of us worked hard on bus routes, and we got the attendance up to 300. Then the pastor's wife stepped in, attacking me, slandering me to her followers, and demanding that she be put in charge. Her husband gave it to her, and three years later, they had about ten kids in Children's Church.
In another church, Children's Church was a failure. The woman in charge did nothing, and a handful of high school kids took turns running it. Most of it was play time. I took over, got it going well, and then the woman in charge found out about it. She quickly fired me, put her brother in charge, and abandoned it again. When she left for the mission field a year later, her brother gladly dumped the whole mess on me, and several of us were able to build it into a success.
When I retired to Mexico, our church asked me to start a Children's Church for the four kids in the church. We had a high day of 27, but we averaged around ten or twelve. The entire time, a woman in the church fought me at every step. She went around slandering me, cancelled the Children's Church service a couple of times, started a rival Children's Church service in the front lobby, and urged people not to let their children attend. On one occasion, she put a new Christian in charge, with strict orders not to let me in. She wanted to set up a system in which she would rule over a group of women who would run the Children's Church for her. Later, when a church started by her husband failed, they left Mexico.
In all three cases, a Nicolaitan saw a successful work, and felt that she should rule the people who were doing all the work. In none of those cases did the Nicolaitan contribute to the success of the work. But in all three cases, the Nicolaitan had been involved in Christian service!
Ga 5:19 tells us: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:... hatred, contentions, jealousies...selfish ambitions, dissensions...envy...of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
How do soul-winners spot tares? We see them practicing the above sins when they attack us.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'
29 "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
In other parables, servants are the ones sent to gather guests for the wedding feast. In other words, servants are soul-winners in the parables. It is often taught that we can't be sure who the tares are, but the servants knew; they even offered to get rid of the tares.
But the owner explained (in the Greek) that the roots of the tares and the wheat are so intertwined that if they started pulling up the tares, they would pull up wheat with them.
Which brings up the question: How did the servants recognize the tares? Why didn't the pastors, or the bishops, or the elders, or the teachers recognize the tares? What did the soul-winners see that the others didn't see?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It's hard to believe that an unsaved person can be a soul-winner, but it is possible. A major problem today with soul-winners is "easy believism." Easy believism is the doctrine that if you say "Jesus please save me," and mean it, you are saved, whether or not you believe the Gospel.
The Greek word translated "believe" has no perfect English translation. It does NOT mean that you believe that Jesus exists. The word means "completely accept, completely rely on, completely trust." A person who asks Jesus to save him, but has no intention of allowing Jesus to be Lord of his life, has not completely accepted Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible was a person saved by repeating a prayer, but many people in the Bible got saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a person turns to Christ, he has to turn AWAY from something at the same time. "Repentance" describes that turning away from sin. Getting large numbers of people to pray for salvation takes hard work and a lot of ability. Getting people to repent and believe the Gospel takes the power of God.
People who preach and teach easy believism do get people saved, but most of their numbers are false professions. (But to be fair, they are usually getting more genuine conversions that their critics are). Scripture plainly teaches that those who accept Christ will have changed lives, the indwelling Holy Spirit, a new birth, etc., and a person who merely prays for Jesus to save him, without repenting, does not have these things.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Mr 1:17 Then Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
If there's one group of Christians that Nicolaitans don't like, it's soul-winners. It is possible to be a soul-winner without following Christ, as Judas did, but it is impossible to be following Christ if you're not a soul-winner or growing into one.
The phrase "soul-winner" does not appear in the Bible, and I am defining a soul-winner to be a person who fishes for converts. People who witness, who invite visitors, who drive people to church, who show Christian films in public places, who preach how to be saved, who hand out tracts, etc., are fishing for men.
Nicolaitans seek power that God doesn't want them to have. Soul-winners seek power that God does want them to have: the power to win people to Christ.
Friday, June 6, 2008
In the middle part of the twentieth century, unsaved men gained leadership positions in the Southern Baptist Convention. Preaching strongly that they needed to have unity, they urged genuine Christians to compromise and accept their sins.
Fortunately, genuine Christians within the Convention fought back and regained control, but some other denominations have not been so fortunate.
But Christian Nicolaitans have another unusual situation. While other Christians have their faults, God wants the church to correct their problems. But in Revelation 2, God says "15 "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
Folks, this is a mean thing to say, but it sounds like tolerating Nicolaitans in the church is wrong, and God wants us to expel them.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
I found a site on the internet for people who had been hurt by churches. I am only being fair when I state that in some cases, it appears to me that the church was trying to do the right thing. But in other cases, people told about joining a group that was extremely friendly. Later, if some of the family wanted to leave, the group would try to turn other family members against them. The groups taught disobedience to various Biblical commands for children to honor and obey their parents, and for husbands and wives to love and honor each other.
Some time ago, my wife and I left a good church that had been seized by a small group of people. A couple of weeks later, my wife was amazed to get a phone call from two of the leaders. They told her that God was going to judge me, and they wanted to warn her. Later, members of the church urged my wife to rebel against me and return to the church without my permission.
The problem here is that my wife is a Godly Christian. She was disgusted at their efforts, and she already knew that their seizure of the church was not part of God's will. We're currently engaged in helping to start a successful church, and both of us are active and blessed in our ministries there.
And the two leaders who called my wife? After the church had gone from 120 to 30 in one year, the other leaders kicked them out of leadership.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Modern Nicolaitans aren't allowed to practice bloodshed to build their power. They rely on lying and plotting, which God also hates. The only real persecution they can offer today is slander, keeping their opponents out of leadership positions, and driving people out of the church. They sometimes try to turn family members against each other in order to retaliate against Christians who oppose their sins.
And in Revelation 2:6, God praises the church at Ephesus because "... you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
Friday, May 23, 2008
In one Christian school that I taught at, an ambitious church secretary decided that she should teach the senior English class. She planned to use it as a launch pad to become a school administrator. She launched an active smear campaign on the teacher, got the class, and failed miserably.
The ministries of Nicolaitans are usually marked by failure, because they gain their positions without God's authority. They are rarely involved in leadership of successful, growing churches, unless the church is growing by stealing people from other churches. They attribute their failures to other causes, and sometimes are attracted to Calvinism, which blames God for their failures.
When I come across Christians who have been hurt by churches, I often find that the church was led by Nicolaitans; the rest of the time, it was usually the fault of the person who got hurt.
Monday, May 19, 2008
We have seen that God does call certain Christians to rule over us. They are servants, they are humble, they teach the Word of God, they live Godly lives, and they watch for our souls.
The Nicolaitans, on the other hand, engage in activities that God hates. So, what activities does God hate?
Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us: These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among
Notice that lying is listed twice, plotting is listed once, and sowing discord is listed once. "Nicolaitan Christians" refers to Christians who set out to rule over God's people, without being called by God to do so. While they will sometimes plot against each other, they are united in opposing (and fearing) soul-winners. Plotting, slander, judging, and criticizing are tools that they will use.
In talking to such Christians, I have actually had some tell me that soul-winners are immature Christians, and because they are mature Christians, they have the ability to "be in charge." I have also found that they often look down on Christians who spend a lot of time "serving." And I have often found that soul-winners are uninterested in being leaders; they are usually interested in being servants. And Jesus taught that those are the greatest Christians.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
A few times in the Bible, the apostles got into arguments about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus explained one time "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12
I need to explain that there is a gift of "governments," and there are many Godly Christians who serve as Sunday School superintendents, treasurers, kitchen managers, etc.
There are also many Godly Christians whom the Lord calls to be shepherds of His flock, and we are commanded in Hebrews 13:7 "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct." Notice that rulers called by God teach us the Word of God, and live lives that bring a reward.
Hebrews 12:17 adds "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." Here we see that the people whom God calls to rule over us watch for our souls, and it is profitable for us to obey them.
So God DOES call certain Christians to rule over us! They are servants,they are humble, they teach the Word of God, they live Godly lives, and they watch for our souls.
The Nicolaitans, on the other hand, engage in activities that God hates.
To be continued...
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
If there are two groups of Christians who really oppose each other, it's the Nicolaitans vs. the soul-winners. Some early Church authors claimed that the Nicolaitans encouraged immorality among the saints, but the truth is, no one knows for sure who they were or what they believed. But we know a few things about them from Scripture:
1) The word "Nicolaitan" means "Ruler of the People," or "I Will Rule People," or "Conqueror of the People." So, what kind of people were they?
2) They committed deeds that God hates, So, what kind of deeds did they commit?
3) God is pleased with us when we hate their deeds. So, what kind of deeds should Christians hate?
To be continued...
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Doubly redeemed Christians have tares. Troubled by their lives of sin, and perhaps influenced by Godly training in their youth, some people make a false profession of faith. Some of them can fit in well with the doubly redeemed, because they enjoy the rock music, lack of standards, and lack of condemnation of outward sin.
Conservative fundamentalists also get tares. As long as the tares cling to their man-made standards, the conservative fundamentalists believe that they are living holy lives. Colossians 2:23 talks about man-made rules, but it is almost impossible to understand in the King James Version. The New King James Version translates Col 2:23 "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."
When these two types of Christians insist on genuine Biblical holiness, they have an easier time spotting tares. And when you recognise tares, it is easier to avoid being hurt by them.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Why can't genuine Christians get along? Sometimes the problem is their backgrounds.
Some people go deeply into "outward" sin. They'll use drugs, get drunk, serve prison time, have a divorce or two, and then get saved. These Christians then have a greater tendency to go into outward sin. They sometimes have a harder time becoming successful pastors and teachers. They have difficulty with traditional music, and they have a problem with "standards." They also realize that they need a close walk with God, they appreciate what Jesus did for them, and they win spiritual victories over sin that most other Christians never have. They are "doubly redeemed": they are saved from sin and delivered from an evil lifestyle. They understand people better, and they do well at bringing unsaved people to church. And they have a real problem understanding "conservative fundamentalists."
Conservative fundamentalist Christians were usually better-behaved before getting saved. They understand the importance of holiness, and they are willing to obey man-made rules about music, clothing, and other standards because they fear getting trapped by sin. They have a harder time dealing with people, but their devotion to the Word of God helps them become better teachers and pastors. Unlike the Pharisees, they really do care about people, and this group produces many of Christianity's best soul-winners. They tend to confuse "numbers" with God's blessings, yet are hostile to other types of Christians whom God blesses with big numbers. They have difficulty realizing that God can bless Christians who do not act like them. They regard "doubly redeemed" Christians as "carnal" or "worldly," because they do not understand how much the first group has grown spiritually.
A lot of the hurts that Christians get are due to a lack of understanding between two groups of people who are actually trying to live Godly lives.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
The Assemblies of God is a charismatic religion that includes a lot of Godly Christians. The group is Godly enough that they have an unusually high number of non-charismatics who attend their churches because of the good preaching and Godly living that they teach, but these Godly people won't join because they disagree with charismatic doctrine. What happens if a person suddenly interrupts one of their services to "speak in tongues"?
Some Godly people will say that Christians are allowed to exercise their spiritual gifts in a charismatic church, while others will simply stop attending.
The Bible tells us that spiritual gifts are for the profit of all. If the speaker is driving people away from good preaching and teaching, that person is not using a spiritual gift. Likewise, when Christians do anything else that exalts themselves while hurting other Christians, they are not using spiritual gifts.
If you left a church because the leaders were hurting people, you probably did the right thing. But if you left because you disagreed with someone who was helping people, you probably did the wrong thing.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The context of this pasage shows that God is talking about spiritual gifts. Every single born again Christian has at least one spiritual gift. But these gifts are designed to benefit the rest of us. Often, Christians get hurt because they do not agree with the direction of the church. They will accuse the pastor of being a dictator. The church will accuse the Christian of being a rebel. Who is right?
If a domineering pastor has a church dying under his leadership, with Christians getting hurt and becoming bitter, is he using spiritual gifts in his ministry?
What if a strong pastor has a healthy, growing church, with people getting closer to God under strong preaching, but some Christians are upset at his leadership? Are those people using spiritual gifts when they attack him and his ministry?
In both cases, the answer lies in "results." The "result" of using spiritual gifts is that God's people benefit. "Feeling good" of "enjoying the sermon" are not necessarily the results of using spiritual gifts. Spiritual growth by the church is the result of using spiritual gifts.
Friday, April 18, 2008
When I taught Christian high school, I gained a lot of experience dealing with liars. There was nothing unusual about a student who did wrong being able to round up a handful of "eyewitnesses" who would lie that they had seen the whole thing. Parents would sometimes spread a false report given them by a student, and we teachers would sometimes find that several parents were angry at us because of false accusations spread by another parent.
In church work, you sometimes encounter leaders who have learned that lying can be an effective tool of their "ministry." On some Christian forums, people will write in under different names, claiming to have personally observed events that never occurred; this is also a tool for moving the forum higher up on Google and Yahoo.
But I have never met a soul-winner who does this. Jesus said "I am ...the truth..." in John 14:6. Jesus never led you, me, or anyone else to use lying as a tool of ministry. Some Christians get hurt by ministries because they tried to work with them after learning that the ministry used lying as a tool of ministry.
But if you are following after Jesus, you are not being led into lying. Do you want to succeed in your Christian life? Then get out from under any ministry that uses lying as a tool.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
A common belief among Christians is that it is possible for a person or organization to "destroy" you. I have seen (and sometimes experienced) expulsions, firings, divorces, smear campaigns, etc., that happened to Godly people. In some cases, they were innocent, sometimes they were guilty, and often the truth lay somewhere in between.
In Jesus' promise, two Greek words are used for "follow." One is "Come," and it is a strong form of the word. The other Greek word is "after" or "behind." What Jesus literally said was "Come behind Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Sometimes, a small group of rebels will seize power in a church. Jesus will have nothing to do with their sin, and if you follow after Him, you won't participate either. Sometimes you might feel that you should seize power for the greater good, but if you follow after Jesus, Who never rebelled against the authority of Rome, you won't do it.
One of the "dark secrets" of Christianity is that many Godly churches were started by people who had been cast out of other churches, or who had left other churches because of sin in the leadership. What you, personally, need to do is follow after Jesus, regardless of the consequences.
Were you run off from a church by people who were not fishers of men? Good for you. Now, study His Word diligently, so you'll know what He wants you to do, and then do it.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The Gospels tell of two "Christians" who betrayed Jesus. One wasn't saved, and eventually, Judas came to a bad end. The other was saved, and God restored Peter and used him.
If you have never been betrayed by a Christian, you aren't like Jesus. God works in Christians to conform them to the image of His Son, and so God might actually set you up for a betrayal. Then you have to learn
how to forgive, get back into church, and continue to serve the Lord.
The idea that we should quit going to church "because of what the Christians do" is unscriptural. The idea that you should devote yourself to "warning" everybody else about the person who betrayed you is unscriptural. And as painful as it is to realize, the idea that God cannot possibly use a church or Christian that has wronged you is unscriptural.
We need to forgive. And then we need to move forward.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
2 Chronicles 13 tells us that Amnon fell in love with his beautiful half-sister Tamar. He knew that their father, King David, would not allow him to do anything. It seems that Amnon was kept under careful watch because he was next in line to be king. But Amnon had a friend named Jonadab. The Bible says that Jonadab was a "very" subtle man. The Hebrew word for "very" refers to diligence; Jonadab was diligent in his efforts to be a successful sneak.
If God couldn't get Amnon what he wanted, Jonadab could. He came up with a clever plan for Amnon to rape Tamar. The plan succeeded, but now Absalom, Tamar's full brother, wanted revenge.
It took Absalom two years to win King David's trust, but David finally allowed Amnon to go to a feast that Absalom had. There, Absalom had Amnon killed.
But where was Amnon's old buddy Jonadab? It turned out that Jonadab knew about the plot, but he was busy winning King David's confidence, comforting him with assurance that only one of his sons had been killed.
So why hadn't Jonadab warned either Amnon or David about the plot? Well, he was a very subtle man, and he knew how to look after himself. After hurting Tamar, David, Amnon, and Absalom, Jonadab was safe and sound.
Folks, you'll meet people who are good at church plots. They can sometimes deliver leadership positions when God won't. They're skilled at backstabbing and lying. And like Jonadab, they'll usually wind up safe when the people who listened to them get hurt.
Friday, March 28, 2008
2 Ch 20:1-2 It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria..."
The Moabites, Ammonites, and Seirites were brethren of the Jews, and now they had united against a Godly man. Jehoshaphat wasn't perfect, but he had yielded himself to God, was being blessed by God, and now he had himself a large group of enemies.
2 Ch 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Jehoshaphat was afraid for a good reason: he was hopelessly outnumbered. But he set out to seek the Lord, perhaps remembering the promise that "If you seek Him, He will be found by you" (2 Chron. 15:2)
Gathering the people together, Jehoshaphat prayed, and was promised 2 Ch 20:17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you...
Heading towards their enemies, Jehoshaphat called on the people to trust the Lord and His Word. Then they advanced, singing and praising God.
2 Chron 20:23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
Do the people of God want to unite against you? Leave them alone, and they can unite against each other. You don't need to fight God's people; you need to serve the Lord.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Fleeing from King Saul, David took refuge with King Achish of the Philistines. In the Bible, Israel pictures an individual Christian, while the Philistines picture besetting sin (sin that won't go away). While serving Achish, David secretly raided Israel's enemies, while lying about his activities. Not knowing David's true motives, King Achish took David and his army with him when the Philistines went to battle agaisnt God's people. Fortunately, the other lords of the Philistines didn't trust David, and they successfully demanded that David be sent away.
Now, Brethren, EVERY commentary I can find says that David hadn't wanted to fight against King Saul, and that he lied to Achish when he pretended that he did. But there's another explanation:
David meant what he said. After years of trying to get along with God's annointed servant, David finally decided to fight him. It really is hard to believe that King Achish would take David to fight God's people without talking to him first. And Achish really did believe that David could be trusted to fight against King Saul.
In 2 Timothy, we are told "3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier."
David was a soldier, and it was God Who had made him into one. David fought often, and he fought successfully. After years of fighting God's enemies, he finally decided to use the skills God had given him to fight God's allies.
Unknown to David, while he was on his way to fight God's people, God's enemies raided his city and took the people captive. What had gone wrong? David had gone to fight the wrong people. If he had been fighting God's battles, he wouldn't have had time to fight for the Devil.
When Christians forsake soul-wining, witnessing, teaching God's Word, etc., they have time to serve as soldiers against other Christians. As a Christian, you might find other Christians attacking you. Hopefully, you'll be too busy serving God to fight back.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Heb 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
It's kind of tough to realize that we, as Christians, are to be ruled over by other Christians. It is definitely not "the American way." But we do get some leeway in deciding WHO will rule over us.
From these two verses, we see that we are to be ruled by people who teach us the Word of God, whose conduct will bring a good reward, and who watch for our souls. Elsewhere, the Bible establishes the local church as having authority from God. If the pastor of a local church does not meet the descriptions of a "ruler," you need to leave. But if he does meet those descriptions, he is meeting God's requirements to lead God's sheep, and you will grow spiritually if you follow his lead.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I'll sometimes meet Christians who bitterly complain about being expelled from a church. Some complain about being expelled from several churches. They usually tell the same story:
The church, pastor, elders, deacons, etc., wanted to go in a certain direction. The person wanted to go in a different direction. After failing to convince the leadership, the person began a secret campaign to change the direction of the church. One tactic is to seek an adult Sunday School class; there the person can teach his own doctrines and standards, contrary to what the church believes. The person openly admits (later, after getting caught) that he was trying to change the church into what he thought it should be. A few will actually defend being deceitful, because "God called me to do this, so I couldn't tell them what I was up to." How do you know whom to believe?
Ephesians 4:14 warns us not to be carried about by doctrines that are brought in deceitfully. The preceeding four verses explain that God calls church leaders to lead the church in spiritual growth. The people who plot against the church leaders are described as being deceitful and cunning. But what if the person doing the plotting is right, and the leaders are wrong?
Obviously, the person believes he is right. But if he is, he needs to either submit to the authority of God's ordained leaders, or he needs to leave quietly.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
James 4:6 tells us "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5 tells us "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
Humble people realize the awful truth: without God, we are nothing. Anything good that is in us came from God, not from ourselves. A person with a humble attitude is more likely to do things God's way, rather than his own way.
Since God resists the proud, how should we respond to them when they want to be leaders? Psalm 40:4 tells us "Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust, And does not respect the proud..." In other words, when people who are not already serving God desire positions of leadership, we should not allow it.
So the next question is: How do you get humility?
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Here, Paul tells us that "grace" is not useless ("in vain") because it made him work hard. He then explains that it wasn't really him; it was God's grace that made him work so hard.
If a person has grace, that person is ALREADY DOING GOD'S WORK. A person who is not already doing God's work lacks grace. What made Paul so successful? "By the grace of God I am what I am.." Churches often encounter people who announce that God has called them to leadership positions. But unless that person is already serving God, that person does not have the grace to be a leader.
I've been told things like "I don't go soul-winning because God hasn't told me to. He's told me to be in charge of..." Christian leader wannabees will post frequently on Christian websites, write blogs (whoops), practice church politics, etc., when they could be visiting the sick, serving meals, cleaning the church, helping with the children on Sunday, inviting the lost to church, and witnessing.
So the second thing you need to know is: If you are not already serving God, you don't have the grace to succeed as a leader.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
position of a bishop, he desires a good work." Here Paul devotes seven
verses to people who want to be leaders. Two different Greek words are translated "desires." Both of them indicate a strong desire, in which a person actually seeks the office of bishop. And both words are used for both good and evil desires.
Paul's response to this desire was not to hand the person the office of bishop. Instead, he devotes six verses of the Bible to telling the person the requirements he must meet. Paul explains that the person is desiring a good thing, but this good thing has requirements.
Across the internet, there are various sites dealing with victims of churches. Many of these people are the victims of ruthless leaders. Others got into conflicts when they did not want to obey people who had met the requirements God set for leaders. And others were hurt when they strove for leadership positions that the church felt they should not have.
The first thing you need to realize about leadership is that the desire to be a leader does not prove that God has called you to be a leader.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
When God called Moses to lead, Moses argued "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Moses not only didn't want the job; he clearly understood that he wasn't able to handle it. If you feel that you should be the person in charge of something, you're not acting like Moses "...who indeed was faithful in all His house..."
When God called Gideon to lead, Gideon couldn't believe it. Judges 6:36-40 tells how Gideon tested God twice before Gideon would believe that God had called him to deliver Israel. People who announce that God has called them to be leaders, and who then fight for the leadership, are not acting like Gideon. Something odd about Gideon, by the way; Judges 8:28 tells us that the country was quiet for forty years in his days, a feat that very few churches have ever accomplished. Gideon didn't cause discord and strife among God's people.
The point here, is this: the fact that you want to be a leader is not proof that God has called you to be a leader.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The wrong-doers will make the claim that the other side is guilty, so how do you know who to believe? Often, both sides claim that they are led of God in their actions, so how do you know who is led of God?
Many years ago, our church had about 175 kids in children's church. Many of us worked hard on church bus routes, and the children's church grew to 300. Led by the pastor's wife, an angry group of people in the church seized control of the children's church, and after a few years, they had brought it down to about ten children. The pastor's wife claimed that God had given her the ability to lead, and people like me were interfering with God's will for her life. But how did the people like me know, in advance, that God had not called her to lead the children's church? Or is it possible that God really did lead her to do it, and it failed for other reasons?
Over the years, I've seen several attempts by people to seize leadership positions in good, Godly, fundamental churches. They usually fail, but when they succeed, they fail anyway, as their new "ministries" die away under them.
How do you know if God has really called you to be a leader? If you say that you feel His call, others may say that they feel the opposite way. And that helps us to see the solution: you have to learn how to recognize God's call.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Do unsaved people have spiritual gifts?
1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another
discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
12 ¶ For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Verses 7 and 11 appear to teach that the Holy Sprit gives spiritual gifts to every person, including the lost. But verse 13 clearly shows that Paul is only talking to Christians. And 1 Corinthians 1:2 shows that the book of Corinthians is only talking to saints: 1Co 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
In verse 7, we see that these gifts are profitable for the Body of Christ. And verse 11 shows that the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as He thinks best, in order to help us. Now, what happens when a Christian has a good gift, and then the Christian falls away from God?
Romans 11:29 tells us "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
God does not take back His gifts or callings when a Christian turns away from the Lord. Not only is the Christian still saved, but he or she still has the abilities for Christian service that the Holy Spirit gave him.
So, if you deal with a Christian who has a lot of ability, but who is openly disobeying God's commands, it does not prove that the Christian is a spiritual giant. It only proves that God does not take back His gifts.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Romans 11:2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God
against Israel, saying,
3 "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"?
4 But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
1Ki 19:18 "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
1 Samuel tells what happened when King Saul and his son Jonathan went to battle against a superior Philistine army. 1Sa 13:6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits.
Then, it tells what happened when God gave victory to Jonathan and Saul:
1Sa 14:21-23 Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before
that time, who went up with them into the camp from the surrounding
country, they also joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of
Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, they also followed hard after them in the battle.
23 So the LORD saved Israel that day...
There is a tendency of people to avoid being on the losing side, even if the losing side is right. Many Christians will actually attribute this to wisdom. Others will claim that if you had not mishandled the situation, you would not have wound up being the loser. But if you win, those same people will want to identify with you.
I was saved in 1969, when I lived in Pennsylvania. Thirty eight years later, I have seen pastors in that area come and go. I have seen Christians who disagreed with a pastor be removed from authority, and years later, when the pastor was gone, the same Christian was a leader. Christians who stay in the same church over a period of decades will sometimes find themselves out of favor for years, and then suddenly be regarded as a fine spiritual leader. And do you know what else? When the Christian becomes a leader, all kinds of people who had never helped him want to be associated with him! Are these
people proof of God's blessing?
And here's a good thing to remember: Jesus entered Jerusalem on a Sunday, while the people cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Four days later,they cried out "We have no king but Caesar!" Your duty is to obey God, whether other Christians will back you or not.
Ac 18:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be
afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;
10 "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city."
Thursday, January 31, 2008
1Ti 6:9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
"Love of money" is one word in the Greek. It refers to covetousness,
usually, but not always, referring to money. The rest of the verse is difficult to translate into English. The Greek means that the love of money is a root that can produce every other kind of evil.
Verse 10 begins with the word "For": it is explaining the previous verse. The previous verse warns that desiring to be rich will cause you to fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.
When Christian leaders are living in mansions, drawing huge salaries and royalties, wearing expensive clothes, driving expensive cars, etc., this should be a warning. Notice that these "many foolish and hurtful lusts" don't have to be financial. Wealthy, high-living Christian leaders can and do get caught in sexual immorality that has nothing to do with their ministries.
Verse 10 also tells us that they have strayed from the faith. Christians who started out teaching God's Word can eventually begin teaching error after they have acquired wealth through their ministries.
While in prison, Jim Bakker realized that he had been teaching and
preaching a false message. He had taught that God wants His children to be wealthy. He also explained that most of the inmates in his medium-security prison were there for the "love of money." Hurting people had been a side effect of their deeds; their motivation had been to get more money. Bakker and other prosperity preachers had misused various verses, such as:
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. The Greek word for "life" is "zoe," which emphasizes spiritual life. Another Greek word, "bios," refers to life that is only physical. The abundant life that Jesus wants us to have is spiritual.
3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. The Greek word "prosper" refers to having a good journey. In Romans 1:10, Paul uses it to describe his journey to Rome. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul uses to describe financial prosperity that is to be tithed. God wants us to be prosperous in our spiritual journeys, as well as being financially provided for.
Deuteronomy 8:18 "then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'
18 "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives
you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He
swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
The Hebrew word for "wealth" usually refers to power, and is used for
armies, valiant people, influence, and money. The context (cp. verse 18) is that God was the One Who gave Israel their power and wealth; they weren't able to do it on their own.
Now look at 1 Timothy 6:5 "...useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself." When someone preaches that Godly living will produce financial wealth, he is acting like a person who has a corrupt mind and is destitute of truth. We are to separate from such people.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Matthew 4:4 tells how Jesus resisted Satan: But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
In the Greek, "word" is "pama": which means not only a word spoken,
but also thing, purpose, appointment, etc.; by implication, a matter or
topic. There is a tendency for Christians to fear certain difficult portions of Scripture, or to avoid teaching or preaching on certain subjects. Like the immature Corinthian Christians, we tend to listen only to Christian leaders within our own group. Genuine, successful Christians who come from a different direction than us can be a great help to us. The commentaries of Matthew Henry and John Wesley, the writings of John Bunyan, etc., can be a great blessing to different types of Christians.
Here in Mexico we have seen some successful works that occurred when
God's people, from different churches, worked together to get out the
Gospel. And we have also seen problems when certain Christians could not deal with the fact that God was blessing Christians from a different group. I do believe that correct doctrine is important, but I also believe that God works in different Christians according to their different needs and circumstances.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Notice that the fruit of the Spirit is described immediately after the works of the flesh. Notice also that "fruit" is singular. And notice that this is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the Christian. In other words, a genuine Christian will have ALL the virtues listed as the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is NOT fellowship with Christ. Luke 13:26-27
"then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.'
27 "But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.'
The fruit of the Spirit is NOT successful Christian work. Matthew 7:22-23
22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Christians are sometimes surprised to find that a preacher who did a great work for God has gotten into a major sin scandal. Jesus, however, taught that it would be possible for the lost to do great works for Him. The verses preceding this passage talk about identifying false prophets by their fruits. The verses immediately after this passage state that a person who hears Jesus' words but doesn't do them is not saved.
When we see that a person does not have the fruit of the Spirit, we can
safely state that that person is not saved. But someone might object that we are not to judge another person. However, Romans 2:1 describes the sin of judging: Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
Judging is seeing your own sin in someone else, whether or not it is really there. A person sins by judging the "things" that another person does. The fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as the deeds done by a person. Recognizing that a person lacks the fruit of the Spirit is not the same thing as judging a person's actions.
Monday, January 14, 2008
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 tells us:
1 ¶ And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive
it, and even now you are still not able;
3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
4 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal?
These immature Christians attend church and listen to the Bible, yet they are not considered spiritually mature.
Why are they immature?
1) They can't handle difficult doctrine.
2) They have internal strife
3) They act like mere men.
4) They are followers of men.
There is a teaching that when a person accepts Christ, he immediately
becomes an immature Christian. If he turns back or refuses to grow, he
becomes a carnal Christian. However, I cannot find any Biblical
justification for belief. 1 Corinthians 3:1 shows that a carnal Christian and a baby Christian are the same thing.
Unlike tares, immature Christians really are saved. In verse 4, Paul quotes some as saying "I am of Paul." The Greek for "I am" is "Ego eime," which is used as the Greek translation for the Old Testament Name of God "YHWH." Jesus used the phrase several times to refer to Himself. It shows emphasis on the person, and perhaps pride. Paul goes on to explain that God uses different people to do different tasks, and that anything good in either him or Apollos came from God. This would help explain their immaturity: they might have been rejecting the work of God if it came through someone they didn't like.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication,uncleanness, lewdness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Most of the sins of the flesh fall into three categories:
a) sexual immorality
b) Christian infighting (selfish ambition & strife)
c) wild living
Notice in verse 20 that "selfish ambitions" is a work of the flesh. The King James Version translates the same word as "strifes." Which is right? M. R. Vincent's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament shows that both translations are correct. He writes: "Strife (eritheia)
More correctly, factions. From erithos a hired servant. Erithia is, primarily, labor for hire(see Tobit. 2:11), and is applied to those who serve in official positions for hire or for other selfish purposes, and, in order to gain their ends, promote party spirit or faction."Strong's Greek dictionary states that the word is better translated "intrigue." The person referred to here is using church office to attain sinful goals. Those goals might be money, prestige, power, dominance, etc., but we are assured in the passage that these people will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
It includes the problems of dirty church politics, Christian backstabbing, and people who seize control of good churches. I hope it is helpful to you.
1) There MUST be tares.
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus told this parable:
24 ¶ Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
25 "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
26 "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
27 "So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'
28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'
29 "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
30 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
Tares were common in Palestine back then, even as they are now. They are a form of grass called "darnel." Darnel looks and acts like wheat. It thrives or fails in the same soil conditions, weather, and rainfall as wheat.
Even an expert cannot tell them apart, until they produce fruit. Darnel produces a poisonous grain. When accidentally threshed and mixed with wheat, the combined flour produces a bread that produces headaches and nausea.
After sowing the tares, SATAN LEAVES! He does not train them; we do. We, the people of God, train the tares in Scripture, church government, Christian service, etc. The tares look and act like wheat. They thrive and grow like wheat. They become deacons, teachers, committee leaders, and even pastors like wheat. They study the Bible, turn from sin, and even win souls like wheat.
A common misinterpretation of this parable is that we should not root out the tares, because we can't tell the difference between them and wheat. But if you read the story carefully, you'll see that the servants COULD tell the difference, but only after the fruit had been produced.
The problem was that the roots of the tares were so intertwined with the roots of the wheat that if you started accusing faithful church members of being tares, you would destroy genuine Christians who had been misled by them.
Another common misinterpretation is that the Owner is only talking to angels. But the word "servants" is often used in parables for soul-winners, and that's who the Owner is talking to. The Owner explains to the servants that at the harvest, He will have the "reapers" separate the two. He tells His servants not to uproot the tares, because that will do more harm than good.
We have to realize that we will have lost people in our churches who will sometimes rise to positions of leadership. Sometimes genuine Christians will be hurt by them. Remember that God didn't fail. He is Good, and His Word is good. It is Satan, waging war against God and His saints, who is to blame for what went wrong.
Satan doesn't train them; we do.
They look and behave like wheat.
They produce poisonous fruit.
Their roots are intertwined with the wheat.
You CAN tell the difference.
You can't uproot them.