Tuesday, December 20, 2016

WallBuilders interview with George Barna

I listened to yesterday’s interview on WallBuilders Live with pollster George Barna. I didn't know until listening to that interview that Hillary Clinton said that nominating President Obama for the Supreme Court would be a good idea if she had won. What a disaster that would have been. President Obama has acted so many times in flagrant rebellion against United States Organic Law, especially the Constitution. The damage the Supreme Court has already done to the country and the authority they have already usurped would have been an even bigger disaster if it ever became a real possibility that Obama would have been on the Court, although Obama himself disregarded the suggestion on more than one occasion.

I obviously did not agree with the decision a lot of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ made to buy in to the whole binary choice, lesser of two evils argument in support for Trump (and I wouldn't change my mind if I had it do over), but this was interesting interview with George Barna about how support for Trump among self-identified Christians evolved during the campaign season. I also noticed Barna said that Ted Cruz "lost altitude" with conservatives after his campaign ended and he refused to endorse Trump at first. He didn't "lose altitude" with me until after he changed his mind and decided to support Trump.

Oh well. All this is hindsight, but I still find it interesting. George Barna does some great work and always has a handle on where the country is spiritually. The most important point made on this show was at the very end: "This certainly is an area where now Christians have to remain vigilant. We cannot sit at home and think, ‘You know what Trump’s there,’ and actually maybe because Trump is there we need to be even more engaged because he’s not someone that naturally inclined to lean the morally Biblical position. And so we’re praying that God puts great people around him. But as Christians we have to be vigilant and active and involved in this process and don’t check out now that Hillary is not there.” Our work as citizens is not over just because the election is over. The real work begins post-election. We can’t afford to be on the sidelines just because there’s not another national vote for two years in the 2018 midterm elections. The body of Christ cannot afford to be silent or inactive.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Foundations of Faith notes: Laying on of hands

Laying hands on someone for the purpose of becoming a conduit for the Holy Spirit to work through was a common practice in the New Testament and is carried on in much of Christianity to this day. In Old Testament, laying hands on someone was used when blessing someone or giving authority to them. Hands were often laid on someone who was going into a special ministry for God. When laying hands on someone and praying or prophesying over them, there is a transfer of spiritual power from one to another (Genesis 48:12-16; Numbers 8:10-11; 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9). The laying on of hands is more than a symbolic act, although there may be symbolism involved. It has a real, tangible act with a real benefit as seen in the life of Joshua after Moses laid hands on him.

In the New Testament, the laying on of hands was used for supernatural signs. Jesus used the laying on of hands as part of His healing ministry, whether it was for just a few people or for a large, crusade-like group that sought healing from Him (Mark 6:4-6; Luke 4:40; 13:10-13). We know this was not confined to Jesus and that His followers were to do the same thing because He told them so before His ascension to Heaven. Jesus listed for His disciples some of the signs and proofs in a believer’s life that would follow them as they did their work for Him. One of the things He said was they would lay hands on the sick and they would recover and be healed (Mark 16:18). The one laying hands on the sick person transfers healing power from the Holy Spirit to that sick person’s body. It is an act of faith and obedience to God and His Word that Oral Roberts called a point of contact. It is important to know that not all healing happens instantaneously although sometimes it does (Mark 8:22-25). Faith must be maintained throughout the entire healing process to avoid becoming like those in Jesus’ hometown where He could not perform many miracles because of their lack of faith. I must confess that while I acknowledge that truth, this and other things in my life have been a hindrance to my own healing in different areas of my life,

Just as the Gospels show examples of Jesus using the laying on of hands for spiritual blessing, to heal, and for other supernatural signs and wonders, the rest of the New Testament--and the book of Acts in particular-- shows how Jesus’ disciples healed many in the same way (Acts 5:12; 9:17-18; 14:1-3; 28:7-9). In other instances, people took handkerchiefs, hand towels, face cloths, clothes, and work aprons that touched Paul and then laid those things on people to heal them or cast out evil spirits (Acts 19:11-12). That practice is still done in some Christian gatherings to this day.

Sometimes, although not every time, people were baptized in the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18; 9:17; 19:1-6). There are also examples of people receiving spiritual gifts this way (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).

The laying of hands was used to empower Timothy to fulfill God’s plan for his life. Anyone who has been prepared to serve God in some special way should go through this laying on of hands experience accompanied by prayer in order to receive the anointing from the Holy Spirit to do whatever God has called them to do (Acts 13:1-3). This was the case for the first deacons in the book of Acts (Acts 6:1-6). The first apostles laid hands on the first deacons as a way as endorsing them as qualified to hold the office they now held. By laying hands on them, they were being committed to God and given special empowerment to accomplish what God had for them to do. Jesus even did the laying on of hands to bless children despite his disciples’ initial objections (Mark 10:13-16). While it is not biblical to baptize infants, it is biblical to dedicate them to the Lord.

Laying hands on someone to endorse them or empower them for spiritual service should not be done quickly or flippantly (1 Timothy 5:22). Only people who have turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for forgiveness of their sins should lay hands on others to bless them for spiritual service or dedication (Mark 16:17-18). Only mature believers should be appointed to special positions of service for God.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Breaking the language barrier and what it could mean for the future

Waverly Labs in New York has created an in-ear device that translates languages in real time. “The Pilot is a wearable device for two people that translates in real time as they speak, right into each person’s ear. A smart earpiece language translator connects to an app for downloading and toggling languages. Waverly Labs says the earpieces will work overseas and offline, huge advantages for travelers who need to communicate in areas lacking internet access. The Pilot is expected to retail for around $300 when it hits the market around spring 2017.”

This reminds me of the universal translator on “Star Trek” that “deciphered and interpreted alien languages into the native language of the user,” although I am pretty sure the Pilot will not allow us to be able to translate any fictional alien races that may be floating around out there.

By the time of Genesis 11:1-9 in 2242 B.C., 106 years after the Flood in 2348 B.C., the world will still speaking one language. The people migrated on a journey eastward and settle in the plain or valley of Shinar, also called Babylonia (Genesis 11:2). Since they migrated as one, this was a violation of God’s command to disperse throughout the earth. Thus, the people were operating in opposition to God. They continued in their opposition to God in Genesis 11:4 when they started building a city and a tower for themselves whose top they intended t reach into the heavens. The motivation given is so that they could make a famous name and reputation for themselves so that they would not be scattered into separate groups and dispersed over the surface of the entire earth as the Lord instructed. So the people weren’t just ignoring the command of God originally given to Noah after the Flood (Genesis 9:1, 7). They were wilfully sinning against the Creator. So the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people had built and said they were one unified, united people all speaking the same nne language. God’s conclusion was that the city and the tower were just the beginning of what the people would do in rebellion against Him and no evil thing they imagined would be impossible for them (Genesis 11:5-6). God’s solution was to scatter them abroad over all the surface of the earth which meant they stopped building the unholy city and Tower of Babel. Babel is a word similar to the Hebrew word “balal” meaning “confuse.” It was named that because it was there that the LORD confused the language of the earth and caused them to spread out in groups based on language over the whole earth (Genesis 11:8-9). To this day, we are all separated by different languages.

Philologist Max Mueller speaks about the common origin of all languages when he said, “We have examined all possible forms which language can assume, and now we ask, ‘Can we reconcile with these three distinct forms, the radical, the terminational, the inflectional, the admission of one common origin of human speech?’ I answer decidedly, ‘Yes.’”

This is not to say that it is evil for people to speak with only one language. If it were, God would have created different languages much earlier on. Acts 17:26 says that God started with one man (Adam) and from that common origin of one source and one blood made all the nations of people that live on the earth. The word for “nations” in Acts 17:26 is the word “ethnos.” Today, we would call the “nations” referred to here ethnic groups. God only divided the people and the languages after the people used their united efforts to disobey God and try to make themselves superior. So according to the account of the Tower of Babel and Acts 17:26, all ethnic groups that exist today came from this common origin in order to stop them from uniting to accomplish evil ungodliness.

In the future during the Tribulation before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Antichrist will institute a one world government with himself as the head of it (Daniel 2:41-42; 7:16-24; Revelation 13). He will establish a one world currency (Revelation 13:16-18) and a one world religion (Revelation 17). I know of no Scripture that prophesies that there will be only one language during that time, but with The Pilot technology or something like it, perhaps even more advanced, uniting the world under one language would not be necessary. Being able to break down the language barriers would make global governance and communication easier for re-creating the evil and ungodly environment that led to the events in Genesis 11:1-9.

Again, this does not mean that The Pilot technology that will be marketed by Waverly Labs is evil in and of itself any more than being financial transactions easier through technology would be. Progress is not evil. It is when that progress is humanistic (leaving out God or in direct opposition to God) that it becomes evil. So we should all look forward to what this new technology could do for the world. At the same time, Christians should be aware of what this might mean for the future as it relates to the timetable for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Monday, June 27, 2016

When praying for healing

When we come to God to pray for healing or anything else, it is important that we remember that we do not come out of any righteousness of our own because we have none. God’s Word says in Philippians 3:9 that we are right with God not because we followed the Law, but because of His faithfulness and the faith we have in Him. It can be very tempting to focus more on the problem than God, who is the only One with all power to solve the problem, but we have to remember that our hope comes not from anything we have, but rather His promises and His power. Quoting Jeremiah 17:14: When the LORD heals us, we will be truly healed. When the LORD rescues us, we are truly rescued, for He is the one we praise. God promises later in Jeremiah 30:17 that He will bring back our health and heal our injuries.

Jesus gave His first disciples the power to heal physical ailments and cast out anything that interferes with the proper functioning of the body. In Matthew 10:1, Jesus called His 12 disciples together and gave them authority to force out evil, defiling, unclean spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. It is that power from the Lord that we call on and depend on when we need it.

It may feel like healing is not deserved because of being an unfaithful servant or feeling in some way like we just don’t measure up or are not important enough.. The truth is that we deserve nothing good from God because of our sinfulness. Every good gift we get from Him is a gift totally based on His mercy and grace, and nothing within ourselves except for the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us if we have trusted in Christ for salvation. You are God’s creation, but you are not God’s child until you receive Christ for yourself. John 1:12 promises that all who believe in and receive Christ have the power and authority to become children of God. God is holy and perfect. None of us except Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has lived a perfect, sinless life from beginning to end. So if you feel like you are undeserving based solely on your own merit, you’re right. It is not based on what you deserve, it is based on His faithfulness and His goodness.

If you need anything from the Lord, ask in faith for His power to invade your life in such a mighty way and deal with whatever problem you are having so that there is no question where the answer comes from when it comes. Call on that same power that Jesus gave His first disciples to force out any evil, defiling, unclean spirits that may be causing your ailment or other problem. Those spirits have no right or authority in the life of a Christ follower. If anything ungodly in your life could have opened a door for that spirit to take hold, renounce it and any ungodly works that may have been done that could have allowed an opening for you to come in and harm you. Again, those spirits have no authority, power, or place in the life of a true child of God that follows Christ.

So then what do we do if we have done all of that and complete wholeness still hasn’t manifested. The Apostle Paul could have faced this exact difficulty. He speaks about in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul says he begged and pleaded with the Lord three times to take a particular problem brought by a messenger of Satan and make it leave, but God told Paul that His grace was enough for Paul, that His grace was sufficient for all that was needed. Paul goes on to write that when we are weak, God’s power is made perfect in us. He not only accepted God’s answer, but he said he was very happy to brag about his weaknesses so Christ’s power could live in him because when he was weak, then he was truly strong. The follower of Christ who can keep that attitude of faith and thankfulness no matter what may come can never be defeated.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hating sin and loving God

"If you will fear the Lord, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king that reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then will the hand of the Lord be against you" (1 Samuel 12:14-15). How many of us really understand the grievous nature of sin? It so saturates our culture and our lives that we have lost the true grasp of how serious it is to our loving, but righteous, just, and holy God.

Adam and Eve were banished from paradise for one disobedient act of eating fruit from a tree they were commanded not to eat from. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God said, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden. God has said, You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die.’  Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasing to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:1-6).

The sin of eating one piece of fruit they were told not to eat may seem insignificant and harmless on the surface, but sin is not insignificant to God. Satan might have convinced Adam and Eve that it was no big deal and nothing to be concerned about, but it ended up being the biggest event throughout the entire history of the human race until Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of humanity.

"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! But I did not know sin, except through the law. I would not have known coveting if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law sin is dead. I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was intended for life, proved to be death in me. For sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and killed me through it. So then, the law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore has that which is good become death unto me? God forbid! Rather, sin, that it might be shown to be sin, was working death in me through that which is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Romans 7:7-13). God's Law is perfectly good, but when we disobey it, it shows us our wrongdoing. God's Law does not make sin to be sin. To say it another way, God's Law does not make bad things wrong. God's law shows us what is good and convicts us when we violate that good so we will run toward the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ. When we accept His pardon by turning from our sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness, we can be made right with God and given a new nature. That new nature enables us to please God with our thoughts, words, and actions because it is infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. Sin is not trivial just because it is widespread. Each of us will give account for our lives. Trust in Jesus and live for Him. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tithes and offerings

The word “tithe” means tenth. To tithe means to give a tenth of your earnings to God. This is the minimum amount of giving required by God from believers. The Bible has much to say on the subject of tithing. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain and your vats will overflow with good wine.”

When the Israelites were stealing from God, He called them on it. Malachi 3:8-12 says, “‘Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!’ But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ ‘You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

One of the longest passages on tithing is in Hebrews 7:1-10 in the New Testament, but it refers back to the Old Testament roots of tithing for its example. “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him.  Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means ‘king of justice,’ and king of Salem means ‘king of peace.’ There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God. Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel, who are also descendants of Abraham. But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed. The priests who collect tithes are men who die, so Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on. In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.”

The Bible even tells us when we should give all of this. The Apostle Paul was writing to the believers at Corinth when he had this to say about their giving in 1 Corinthians 16:2. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” The first day of the week is Sunday, the day Christians gathered together for worship and teaching to commemorate the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.

Offerings differ from tithes in that offerings are generous gifts given in addition to tithes. They are anything given above the 10% required in tithing. For those who might think God is expecting too much, I would point you to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” If we are commanded to give our bodies, our very physical lives, in sacrifice to God, surely portions of our income are not too much to ask by comparison and would even be included in the command.

God doesn’t just take however. He generously gives back proportionately to how we give to Him and others. We have this promise from Jesus in Luke 6:38. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 shares the same principle as Luke 6:38. In this passage, Paul compares the giver to the farmer who plants seed and later harvests according to what he plants. “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

There are a couple of important things to remember here. First is that having more is not bad or sinful. If it were, God would not promise to give us more when we give to Him and His work. Second, the primary reason for giving is not to be blessed (even though He promises we will be) but so that we can be a blessing to others. Then when we give to bless others, we are blessed even more in return. So it is a cycle that continues if we are faithful and faith-filled. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”

We are not rolling the dice when we give to God. We are making an investment in His work that will matter in all eternity. Thus, we are storing up for ourselves treasures in Heaven that will last forever. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

We are also commanded to give to the poor in many places throughout Scripture. Perhaps the best passage for this command can be found from the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1-4. “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

When we keep a giving spirit and allow that to rule our attitude, we are opening ourselves up for the life God wants us to have. He does not want us to live selfish, greedy lives, but He wants us to be reservoirs of blessing to bless those around us. When we allow God to use us in that way, He promises to take care of us. So we don’t need to worry about ourselves because He has us covered when we live His way. The Apostle Paul--who wrote half of the New Testament--said in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

God's authority and wisdom

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 American Standard Version). God’s creating of the universe speaks to His authority over His creation. Here in America in particular we are fond of the message of freedom. It is the cornerstone of why we separated from Great Britain and the chorus of the song of our society. Indeed, God Himself gave every human being on Earth free will whether human governments recognize it or not. We are free to accept His rule or to reject it, but it does not change the fact that He does indeed rule and will judge every individual that has lived or will live by His perfect wisdom and unchanging standard. Our lives are a lot better when we recognize our finite limitations and bow the knee to His glorious standard. When we don’t, we set ourselves up for failure and trouble.

The same wisdom God offers to govern our lives is the same wisdom God possessed at the creation. “The Lord formed and brought me [Wisdom] forth at the beginning of His way, before His acts of old. I [Wisdom] was inaugurated and ordained from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth existed. When there were no deeps, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains laden with water” (Proverbs 8:22-24 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition). God’s Wisdom can be seen even in our fallen universe just by the fine tuned functionality of the universe and everything in it from the complexity of the solar systems of outer space to that of one tiny cell. God is truly all-wise and all-powerful.

Sometimes God’s Wisdom does not make sense to us, but that makes Him no less wise. A question I have not struggled with personally, but that a lot of people have is why God allows evil to exist in the world. I don’t really struggle with the question because, while I can’t see the big picture, I understand the concept of the big picture well enough to know that God can see the reason for everything He allows people’s free will choices to create. We might not always like the reasons and a lot of times they might make no sense at all, especially while they are happening. Yet we are assured that “The Lord has a reason for everything he does and he lets evil people live only to be punished” (Proverbs 16:4 Contemporary English Version). Unfortunately, we have not seen the worst of how bad things can get on the earth. The Bible prophesies that the world will get worse before it gets better. Speaking of the final seven years before the Glorious Appearing of Christ to set up His Kingdom on Earth Jesus said in Mark 13:19 CEV, “This will be the worst time of suffering since God created the world.” He did offer a glimmer of hope though when He finished that sentence by saying, “Nothing this terrible will ever happen again.”

For the genuine born again follower of Christ, we know the toughest days ever are ahead, but we can also take comfort in the fact that they will be followed by the best days since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. So let us not be fearful or sad, but joyful and hopeful, for we know who wins in the end. Our Lord has existed since before the beginning. “‘Before anything else existed, there was Christ,’ with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make” (John 1:1-3 The Living Bible).

Jesus  is eternal and has an eternal perspective. We can trust His unfailing words about what seems to us to be an uncertain future because He is eternal. “And again to the Son, ‘You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations, then crafted the stars in the sky” (Hebrews 1:10 The Message). The apostles and over 500 people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection at different times before He ascended into Heaven. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have touched, concerning the Word of life…” (1 John 1:1 Modern English Version). For believers, let us not get wrapped up in the temporary worries and concerns of this age, but let us look forward to the day when we can say the same thing...that we have heard Him, seen Him, looked upon Him, and touched Him with our hands. He is real and He is alive!

Friday, June 10, 2016

My thoughts on the passing of Jan Crouch

Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) co-founder Jan Crouch went to be with the Lord on May 31 after suffering an unexpected stroke earlier that week. Her biography on www.janicewendellcrouch.com/bio says that she was born on March 14, 1938 in New Brockton, Alabama and grew up in Columbus, Georgia. After graduating high school, Jan went to Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri. She met her future husband Paul Crouch during that time while he was attending Central Bible Institute. They were united in marriage in 1957.

Jan Crouch was TBN’s Vice President and Director of Network Programming. One of the projects she is most known for and which Paul frequently gave her a lot of the credit for are the Smile of a Child network (TBN’s 24/7 kids channel) and a humanitarian relief foundation for children under the same Smile of a Child name. The Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Florida was also something that she personally oversaw after they purchased the park and revamped it. I have been there a couple of times and was blessed to go with my wife several years ago while the beautiful Church of All Nations auditorium was still being constructed there at the time. We would like to go back and see it all again whenever the chance comes along.

I have been meaning to do a blog post about the passing of Jan Crouch for a while even though I am just now getting to it a week later. I remember how it felt when I first heard about Paul’s passing a few years ago. It was like losing someone you know. Then again, Paul and Jan lived a good portion of their earthly lives for the whole world to see. As a result, they gave us a chance to get to know them and to share in the global vision God gave them to fulfill the Great Commission through television and eventually internet. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). If any two people took those words to heart and lived them out through actions, it was Paul and Jan Crouch. I am sure many of the TBN viewers are still feeling that same loss now even though we rejoice that they are together again in the presence of God.

I have told some of you my testimony before about how I did not have any kind of spiritual knowledge or foundation as a child. I eventually came to know the truth about Jesus through the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which is also where I get my love for studying prophecy. 28% of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written so to ignore prophecy is to ignore almost one-third of God’s Word. The influence of those books on me cannot be stated strongly enough but because of that, what I sometimes forget to mention is that I didn’t actually pray a prayer of salvation immediately after reading the first book. I did that shortly after finishing the first book at the conclusion of an episode of Hal Lindsey’s program on TBN. It used to be called  the “International Intelligence Briefing.” Now it is just called the “Hal Lindsey Report.” So it would be right to say that TBN, and thus Paul and Jan themselves, played a part in my coming to Christ. Countless others could say the same over the past 43 years since the network’s birth on May 28, 1973. The value of their ministry and the impact it has had on me personally is tremendous even though I never got the pleasure of meeting them this side of Heaven.

All glory goes to God for what He has been able to do through Paul and Jan Crouch. I am thankful for their faith and obedience throughout their lives and will never forget what their obedience to start TBN and faithfulness to keep it going has done in my life and so many others. I can only imagine how happy both of them are right now and I can't wait to meet them personally one day when all of the brothers and sisters of the body of Christ are united with Him forever.

(You can see a short video tribute to Jan done by TBN here and the first interview with Paul and Jan’s son Matthew and their daughter-in-law Laurie with the 700 Club’s Gordon Robertson here)

Friday, May 27, 2016

What should a servant expect?

The Bible calls us “servants” or “slaves” of Jesus. Slave has become a negative word in contemporary American society and rightly so after the sin of slavery in America’s past that was based on race and force rather than punishment for a crime or in the case of following Jesus, willing servitude. Yet the Bible, particularly the New Testament, describes how our attitude should be when obeying Jesus in this manner. One of my favorite examples of this is found in Luke 17:7-10. In this parable, Jesus demonstrates how we are to be good stewards in the Kingdom of God when serving our Lord Jesus. “Suppose one of you has a servant [slave] who has been plowing the ground or caring for the sheep. When the servant comes in from working in the field, would you say, ‘Come in and ·sit down to eat [recline;  the posture for a banquet or formal meal]’? No, ·you [he] would say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Then get yourself ready [or put on your apron; gird yourself] and serve [wait on] me. After I finish eating and drinking, you can eat and drink.’ The servant does not get any special thanks [Does he thank the servant…?] for doing what his master commanded. It is the same with you. When you have done everything you are told to do, you should say, ‘We are ·unworthy [undeserving; worthless] servants; we have only done the work we should do [our duty; our obligation]’” (Expanded Bible).

Plowing the ground and caring for sheep is far from easy work. Yet what is the reward for this servant who has spent all day working so hard doing what his master commanded? Does he get to come in and relax. No, his day is just beginning. He still has to serve his master’s meal before he can sit down and eat. He gets no special thanks or praise because the servant just did what was expected of him. That should be our attitude. We should do everything that God expects of us at all times, but how many of us really do that? Then when we have done that, rather than thinking we should get some big pat on the back, we should have the humility to realize that we are just fulfilling what we are called to do.

Again, this may seem a little harsh given the attitude most Americans have when it comes to “our rights” or “what we deserve.” But when we really stop to think about it, what do we deserve? All of us deserve Hell, judgment, eternal condemnation for the evil deeds we have done. It is by God’s gracious mercy and lovingkindness that we are even offered Heaven and eternal life, not by any supposed good works we have done. This sense of entitlement a lot of us have even after we have worked hard does not come from the Word of God. it comes from the world’s standards and expectations. The Apostle Paul all but said the same thing in Romans 12:1. “So [Therefore] brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg [urge; appeal to] you to offer your lives [selves; bodies] as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God [holy] and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual [or authentic; true; or appropriate; fitting; or rational; reasonable] way for you to worship” (Expanded Bible). Giving one’s whole life and body in service to God is merely a reasonable, rational service given the mercy He has bestowed on us.

Now just because I say we should not expect any rewards based on our own goodness, does that mean we will not get any? Of course not, because the Bible makes it clear in several different places that believers will receive rewards or loss of rewards based on what we do for God in this life. ““Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. But store your [for yourselves] treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is” (Matthew 6:19-21 Expanded Bible). “Behold, I (Jesus) am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to the merit of his deeds (earthly works, faithfulness)” (Revelation 22:12 Amplified Bible). “[For] God is fair [L not unjust]; he will not forget the work you did and the love you showed for him [ in his name] by helping[serving] his people [holy people;  saints]. And he will remember that you are still helping [serving] them” (Hebrews 6:10 Expanded Bible). “The foundation that has already been laid is Jesus Christ, and no one can lay down any other foundation. But if people [anyone; someone] build on that foundation, using gold, silver, jewels [precious stones], wood, grass [or hay], or straw, their work will be clearly seen [or shown for what it is], because the day of judgment [day] will make it visible [clear; obvious]. That day will appear [or reveal it; expose it] with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work to show what sort of work it was. If the building that has been put on the foundation [work] still stands, the builder will get a reward [or wages] But if the building [work] is burned up, the builder will suffer loss [or be fined; or be punished]. The builder will be saved, but it will be as one who escaped from a fire [ through fire]” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Expanded Bible). “So each of us will have to answer [give an account of ourselves] to God” (Romans 14:12 Expanded Bible). The point is to realize that our attitude about the rewards believers will get from God should be one of even greater awe, amazement, and thankfulness rather than thinking we deserve anything or are entitled to it,

Friday, May 20, 2016

Keeping perspective and thriving under persecution

I was watching a sermon by Joyce Meyer earlier called “Building a Fortress of Faith.” As is the case with all of her messages, it had an application both on a personal level, but it also had an application for Christians in America I think. One of the points she made is in God’s school you never flunk. You just keep taking the same test over and over again. The best example of this that I know of in the Bible is the Israelites after God set them free from Egypt. “It is [only] eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea [on Canaan’s border; yet Israel took forty years to get beyond it]” (Deuteronomy 1:2 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition). So a trip that should have taken them less than two weeks ended up taking them 40 years. It took a very short time to get Israel out of Egypt, but it only took 40 years to get Egypt out of them.

Christians in America are getting ready to go through some tests. How we react to those trials is what is important. That is not to say everything is wonderful now, but it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The seeds of persecution have been planted in America with how Christian influence has slowly but surely been drained from the culture at large due to our own lack of faithfulness to God and our withdrawal from the culture. While things may be getting worse though, I think we need to keep things in perspective. While the seeds of persecution have been planted in America, church history has seen much worse. Even today in other parts of the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ are being captured, enslaved, driven from their homes, and even beheaded. While fighting against what we see happening in our country, we need to remember to have an attitude of thankfulness for what we still have and what we are still able to do if we will just use the freedoms we still have.

Then if and when the persecution increases to levels that we are currently seeing in other parts of the world right now, we still need not lose heart. The second point I got from the message I saw earlier that really applies to what I am talking is that increased persecution usually leads to growth in the church and personal growth among people in the church. “Persecution is inevitable for those who are determined to live really Christian lives, while wicked and deceitful men will go from bad to worse, deluding others and deluding themselves” (2 Timothy 3:12-13 J.B. Phillips New Testament).

For evidence of this, let’s just look at what has happened in Cuba that is having church growth comparable to the book of Acts.. Heather Sells wrote for the Christian Broadcasting Network on March 6: “Many believe the hardships and suffering have paved the way for an explosion of church planting. On a typical Sunday morning in Cuba, you can find churches across the island overflowing with worshippers. Many meet in homes and others meet in churches that look more North American but operate in a political climate that is very different. Space is the biggest challenge for many churches. Under current government rules they typically cannot buy land or expand. One church CBN News visited responded to the rules by building several stories up. Others cram into homes and multiply when they become too big...In the past 20 years, more than 16,000 evangelical churches have opened their doors...The growth of the church in Cuba is even more miraculous given the country's poverty. The average monthly government salary is $20 and professionals typically make less than $50...Still, Cuban churches are known for their generosity and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel...Still, most churches cannot expand or buy land. They cannot produce Christian radio or television shows.”

Cuba is no paradise, nor is their persecution a goal to aspire to, but one cannot deny that when the squeeze is on the body of Christ, the results are usually difficult but positive. One thing persecution does is separate the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false, the counterfeit from the genuine. That does not mean God causes or desires persecution for His children, but as His Word says in Romans 8:28, “God works everything together for the good of those who love Him.” Regardless of what happens in the future, what decisions leaders make, or how much more apostate the church becomes, we have this promise from our Lord Jesus: “God will bless you when people mock, abuse, revile, hurt, and persecute you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things against you because you follow me. Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My thoughts on Ted Cruz dropping out

Obviously I am extremely disappointed that Ted Cruz dropped out of the race after losing the Indiana primary to Donald Trump, effectively making Donald Trump the 2016 Republican nominee for President of the United States. The scenario of a Trump vs. Clinton election iin November is a nightmare scenario, speaking personally. I am sure there are millions of Cruz supporters and other Christian patriots who feel the same way. Nonetheless, this is the reality we are faced with.

I saw a sermon by Joyce Meyer yesterday. A lot of applies to what is happening in America right now. In it she talked about how people are always saying, “They need to do something.” “They need to do this.” “They need to do that.” Americans in general and Christians specifically need to realize that we are “they.” Nothing is going to happen unless we make it happen. We had our chance to stop it, but not enough of us could get in agreement. But we still have a responsibility, to our country and most importantly to our Creator. She rightly brings up the point that Christians have become passive. "If one carries in the skirt of his garment flesh that is holy [because it has been offered in sacrifice to God], and with his skirt or the flaps of his garment he touches bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any kind of food, does what he touches become holy [dedicated to God’s service exclusively]? And the priests answered, No! [Holiness is not infectious.] Then said Haggai, If one who is [ceremonially] unclean because he has come in contact with a dead body should touch any of these articles of food, shall it be [ceremonially] unclean? And the priests answered, It shall be unclean. [Unholiness is infectious.]" (Haggai 2:12-13 Amplified Bible Classic Edition). You cannot know what’s right, purposely do what’s wrong, and expect protection from the consequences.

I don't know how America comes back from the last eight years plus the next four regardless of which of those two--people win the presidency. I know America in some measure deserves this. You can't kick God out of so much of American life and not expect consequences. So anything that happens, the country as a whole has asked for it. But knowing our history and where we've been versus where we will end up, it is literally heartbreaking, especially when it could have all been avoided. Either way, the answer for each of us as individuals and for the faithful remnant in the body of Christ remains the same. "Jesus must become more important, while I become less important" (John 3:30 Contemporary English Version). That is our responsibility if we are followers of Christ no matter who our leaders are or what circumstances we may face in the future. God’s standards don’t lower just because things get tougher. He doesn’t grade on the curve. So in the immediate, what does that mean for the election in November? To use a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I saw shared on Facebook earlier: “Of two evils, choose neither.”

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Holy Spirit: Part 1

When is the last time the Church as a whole really gave the Holy Spirit the credit he deserves? We usually talk about our relationship with Jesus and having Jesus in our heart. I am not saying we should ignore Jesus or that his relationship with him is not the most important thing in our lives as believers. But sometimes we do not acknowledge the Holy Spirit as much as we should. It is important that we remember that our power to live for God does not come from some inner willpower. It comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth” (Amplified Bible). The other extreme is also present in some circles in the Church.

The true evidence for Holy Spirit baptism is a changed life. One of the best examples of this is the Apostle Peter. Peter denied Christ three times during the darkest time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. “Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant woman came and said to him, ‘You were also with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it in front of all of them, saying, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ When he went over to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ With a solemn pledge, he denied it again, saying, ‘I don’t know the man.’ A short time later those standing there came and said to Peter, ‘You must be one of them. The way you talk gives you away.’ Then he cursed and swore, ‘I don’t know the man!’ At that very moment the rooster crowed. Peter remembered Jesus’ words, ‘Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.’ And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably” (Matthew 26:69-75 Contemporary English Bible).

Peter later became a preacher of the Gospel filled with the Holy Spirit who converted thousands during the first ever evangelism meeting and wrote two books of the New Testament. “So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people” (Acts 2:41 Complete Jewish Bible).

He was so committed to God that he was crucified upside down for being a follower of Christ who was unwilling to deny him ever again. Fox’s Book of Martyrs writes of the Apostle Peter, “Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, ‘Lord, whither dost Thou go?’ To whom He answered and said, ‘I am come again to be crucified.’ By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.”

Tim LaHaye writes in his book Finding the Will of God in a Crazy Mixed-Up World “When you were born again, God’s Holy Spirit came into your life. God’s Spirit wants to fill you or control you...Just as a drunk person is controlled by wine or alcohol, so the child of God should be controlled by the Holy Spirit. How do we let the Spirit control us? The answer...is to be filled with the Word of God. it’s impossible to be filled with the Spirit on a lasting basis without being filled with the Word of God.”

Pentecostals and charismatics express the baptism of the Holy Spirit differently with more of an emphasis on the outward expression related to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Dennis and Rita Bennett write in their book The Holy Spirit and You, “Speaking in tongues is not the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is what happens when and as you are baptized in the Spirit and it becomes an important resource to help you continue, as Paul says, to . . . “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).”

So mainline denominations and the charismatic movement emphasize different manifestations of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What there is complete agreement on though is the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives to give us the power to live the way he wants us to live. The first instance of baptism of the Holy Spirit is when the disciples spoke in other known languages in Acts 2:1-8. “On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak. Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem. And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages. They were excited and amazed, and said: ‘Don’t all these who are speaking come from Galilee? Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages’” (Contemporary English Version)?

The Holy Spirit was with certain people in the Old Testament. He was present during the creation of the heavens and the earth. It is an entirely different thing to have the Holy Spirit with you versus having the Holy Spirit in you however. Having the Holy Spirit in us makes the gifts of the Holy Spirit available to us. “And He Himself gave some as apostles, and others as prophets, and others as evangelists, and others as shepherds and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building-up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, being tossed-about and carried-around by every wind of teaching, by the trickery of people, by craftiness with-regard-to the scheme of error, but that while speaking-the-truth in love, we may grow as to all things into Him Who is the head— Christ, from Whom the whole body, being fitted-together and held-together by every joint of supply according to the working in measure of each individual part, is producing the growth of the body for the building-up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16 Disciples’ Literal New Testament).

The evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in someone aside from the spiritual gifts talked about above is what the Bible calls the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things” (Easy-To-Read Version). We will change the world and stop looking like the lost when we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out rather than trying to change ourselves through our own willpower from the outside in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My reaction to the movie "Nikki and the Perfect Stranger"

This is not really my review of the movie “Nikki and the Perfect Stranger” as much as it is my response to it. The movie had a big impact on me as all of the movies in that series have in their own way. It is what will probably be the final in a series of movies starring Jefferson Moore. The plot of each story in the series centers around what would happen if Jesus Christ encountered people in 21st century America. What would he say about the differing challenges people face today? Is he really saying anything different to us now than he did during his earthly ministry that ended when he ascended to Heaven approximately 2,000 years ago?

Do not worry. There are no spoilers here. I am merely giving my reaction and how I reacted to the film. I can think of many times since I made my initial profession of faith where I felt just as disconnected from God as I did before I ever knew anything about him. There are times when I take my focus off of him and still feel that way. I am sure I am not the only one that has ever felt that before so I am praying this helps someone else too. A believer can feel disconnected from God when we take our eyes off of Jesus and start focusing solely on our outward actions and our inner world that produces those actions. That is not to say that we should ignore the command given in Second Corinthians 13:5. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” We can short-circuit our faith by focusing on ourselves and not enough on Jesus however. God has forgiven your sins if you have turned from those sins and trusted in his sacrifice on the cross as payment for the penalty of those sins. I urge you to do that right now if you have not.

All of us, including myself, can easily get caught up in the trap of measuring ourselves by how well we perform on a day-to-day basis or by comparing ourselves to other people. Our outward obedience would take care of itself if we would just become so immersed in Jesus that we stop endlessly dwelling on it. Nothing I do or do not do will affect how much God loves me. Our status before God can change based on whether or not we become true born again followers of Christ or not. His love for all the people he has created never changes though. That is why Judgment Day will be so hard for him--more so for him than anyone else. He will have to look at most of the people that have ever lived and say with the most anguish any heart could ever feel: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23)!

First John 4:8 says that God is love. Love is not just an attribute of his. He is love. We were created in his image as objects of his love as the movie so wonderfully points out. He desires nothing more than to pour out his love on us if we will just get ourselves out of the way and let him. Most people do not allow him that opportunity and they rob themselves of the greatest blessings and discovering what they were created for in the process. We are actually falling from grace when we look at all the ways we fail to measure up rather than living in thankfulness for what he has done for us on the cross. That is actually what it means to fall from grace. Some churches and even whole denominations have taken falling from grace to mean sinning to the point that one loses their salvation. Galatians 5:4 actually says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” The Lord sacrificed himself on the cross for nothing if we had any hope at all of being justified by what we do. What we do is a reflection of what we really believe but our salvation never has been and never will be a result of works! As the movie also pointed out very well, you cannot dwell on your failures and walk in faith at the same time. Confess your sins to God and repent of them if you have any that are unconfessed. Let it go and move on once you have done that though. God is still there and he still loves you.