September 20, 2009 ·

Sunshine and Shekels or Scars?
“I can remember before I was saved hearing that your life will be full of sunshine,rainbows etc when you gave your life to Christ.”

And there is the problem, we tell people that and even after they are the prosperity preachers pile on that lie and when it doesn’t pan out people get discouraged and quit. They are told they have no faith or they would be rich, joyful and healed so when those things don’t happen what is left to do but go back to the world?

Phil 1:29-30

29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. KJV

2 Thess 1:4-8

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: KJV

Do those passages sound like we are to have it made? Why put on the whole armor of God if there is not conflict or battle? Why take up your cross daily if there is no need to die to self or endure affliction? Why does James tell us to count it all joy when we fall in various temptations if we are just going to be sitting around drinking mint julpeps on summer afternoons?

The old song says, “It’s battlefield, Brother, not a recreation room, a fight and not a game. Run, if you want to. Run, if you will, but I came here to stay!”

It is a struggle as the war between good and evil has raged since lucifer and Adam fell and will the fight will be on until the end of the Millennium. The war was won at the Cross but the battles are not over. You are no hypocrite if your struggle in a battle and lose. You are a hypocrite if you are still a soldier for the enemy wearing the uniform of Christ while not really caring about you sins and frail flesh but painting rosy pictures of piety to exhalt yourself. A good soldier knows his strengths and weaknesses and works on those weaknesses and enlists comrades to help him so that he can be victorious though he may suffer wounds and scars.

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for SCARS!” – H. A. Ironsides

That being true, we have to expect the battles, the occasional retreats and the scars to truly have joy in our Christian life since we were called to follow Him and His path was not one of earthly prosperity for the treausre was to be eternal, not temporal. That treasure He sought was our souls redeemed and in Him. Glory to His name.

Struggles? Battles? Bring them on! We have won!


No Pain, No Comfort

January 17, 2018

No Pain, No Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

It is easy to praise Jesus and quote Hebrews 13:8 when everything is going well, but when things look like they are have gone to the Hell can you still quote this rejoicing? Was He good to you better than you deserved before the storm? Then nothing has changed in the storm. He is still good. He still loves you because He is not changed by the storm, but by the grace of God, the storm should change you.

It should make you run to Him not from Him. You may not understand much about your storm, but He understands it all. He promised peace, not as the world gives peace. The world gives peace when there is no storm. The world seeks to avoid storms, but storms in a sin sick and condemned world are going to come no matter who you are or what you do.

Be careful about listening to people who tell you that being a Christian means a life of prosperity and health. How can you comfort others if you have had no pain? If Christians never had any troubles like sickness, poverty or death everyone would be swarming into church to be Christians. Hence the “success” of prosperity preachers. God does not spare us from all trouble because people need to see how we go through the storm with Him.  Indeed, how can you receive comfort when you are comfortable?  How can you comfort others, if you have never suffered discomfort and pain?

All but one of the Apostles were executed and he was exiled. The governor asks Polycarp, a disciple of John, to deny Christ and promises that if he will, his life will be spared, but the faithful bishop answers, “Fourscore and six years have I served him, and he has never done me injury; how then can I now blaspheme my King and savior?” Persecution of Christians has been from the beginning and Paul said that all who live godly WILL suffer persecution. Not seeing that many pastors are preaching that.

John 14: 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

He promises His peace. His peace comes when you are sucked up in a tornado and spun around at a hundred miles an hour. When you look out of the tornado and see nothing but chaos, disaster and loss all around then peace comes to you from Him.

A missionary labored in a tribe for a long time with no interest in the Gospel or so it seemed. His wife contracted Black Water Fever and bled to death through her kidneys. They buried her in a hollow log praising God for her life at the grave site and praising Him is song. That night there was a cough at his door for they do not knock as we do. The man came and quickly received Christ. All night long it was cough after cough and salvation after salvation. At sunrise the Chief of the tribe came in and was saved. The shocked missionary asked why the sudden change of heart. The Chief replied, “We knew Jesus was good for living, but now we know He is good for dying.” Sometimes your storm is how others find the One who can calm theirs.

If you really know who God is, and that He is immutable, then you know that when all is unbalanced in your life He is stable. When you are surrounded by hate, you are in the middle of His love. When your life looks like the aftermath of a nuclear strike, He already sees your life restored and renewed. He IS the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

I wish to apply this verse.

Jesus Christ, the same before my storm, in my storm and after my storm.

When my son died in October that was a huge unexpected storm in my life. It was as if a tornado dropped out of the sky and turned my life into a scene of disaster. Watching my wife fall to the floor in tears was harder than the actual news of his death. Seeing how this is affecting her, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter is more difficult to cope with then his death.

God has given me great peace about my son. Does his death stink? Yes! Do I hate it? Yes! Having lost my father at seven, did I want my 5-year-old granddaughter to experience this? Absolutely, NO! Yet!! I am not mad at God. Indeed, as I said, I need Him through this. I know this peace is of Him. Without Him, I would have been somewhere drunk out of mind and in a complete breakdown. Indeed, I probably would have done something the devil suggested if I did not have this peace from God.

Barron is my only son. I say, is, not was because he is alive. I have lost his presence, but I have not lost him. I know where he is and I know he is well. Indeed, his favorite song is “It Is Well” and it is now more well with his soul then it has ever been.

He was not only my son, but also my friend after he matured into an awesome man. In later years, he became a mentor to me though I am the preacher. He had to help me out of the morass of legalism that I was stuck in for many years. He would always tell me with a smile, “Dad, God is in control” whenever I would get angry or upset about something. That is what I heard him say on the drive home from TN and that is part of what sustains me is that I know he would not want us to shut down or grieve for a long period. That is why I was in church at my post the Sunday after his death. He would never want his soldier dad to desert his post.

I believe that God has given me this peace because one, I am the weakest link. As I said, I would not be doing this well or able to preach this sermon without His peace. In addition, because I am the man and it is my role to comfort and provide for my wife and my son’s family. I do not know how much longer I will be here, but by God’s grace I will perform my duty of love to him and them.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”

Isn’t it great that He did not say to not sorrow at all? Many have meant well in trying to comfort my family, but the ones who are doing this best are the ones who hug and say they are praying for us. Some have meant well, but have not done so well. I was afraid I was going to have to be a bouncer and remove one person because they were only making things worse. They may have suffered a loss and went through grief counseling, but they were no counselor.

I have been given three explanations of why my son is in Glory. Some say it was time for him to be promoted for all the good he has done for the kingdom. Others say the devil killed him because he was a threat to satan. Thirdly, it was because of his genetic propensity to have an MI and the stress he was experiencing. To be honest, none of those reasons really matter because he is still out of our presence and it may be another reason. It could have been trying to live the American Dream that caused the stress and hypertension. Stress kills silently. Still, it does not matter. It is a why question we will not get on this side of life and when God puts that puzzle piece in place we will not much care then as we will be there with Him and Barron so it will not matter.

I am at peace because I know where he is and he died a godly man. His life affected five hundred people who were able to attend the celebration of his life as well as many who lived out of state or for other reasons could not attend. I have been in ministry over forty years and I can promise you not that many will attend mine. He was a fruitful servant without ordination, degree or pulpit. What more could a father ask from a son than that?

What could he have accomplished if he had lived longer? We will never know, but he accomplished in forty-three years more than many Christians who live to be ninety. Maybe he was at his peak and as Christ came in the fullness of time or the right time it may have been the right time for him to have as much or more impact by his death then he would have by a longer life. His death made many people rethink their life and we know some have made some life decisions because they knew his life and how his early death affected them. How much will the ripple effect of this advance the kingdom of heaven and bring destruction of satanic strongholds we do not know. Our prayer is that it will affect generations and spread very wide. Only eternity will tell.

God has provided for my daughter-in-law and the granddaughter and He will provide. Indeed, I made it through the death of my father and raised by a widow. Trinity is a thousand light years ahead of me because her mother and immediate family are Christians. She is in a good Christian school and the church family they have has surrounded them with love and support.

His leaving us left a large hole, but God will fill it. We will heal. We will live in a way pleasing to God and honor the life of my son because we have hope and He will provide all we need because He loves us and is full of grace and mercy

God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Sound theology is comforting and brings hope. Feelings will beat you senseless as they pound you between the ceiling and the floor. Cling to the One that can never change and will change you through the storm into one that has the peace He gives and you will be able to bring others into that place of peace with the comfort He gives you. Peace in your storm will help you minister to others as you lead them to call out to Jesus. Fair winds and calm seas are what we all want, but we need not fear the storms if we allow Him to come in and say, “Peace, be still!” Hallelujah! Maranatha!

May 17, 1980 A Paid Lover?

Do I praise only when the sun’s not under cover?
Do alleluias come only when the waves of blessing roll?
Oh God, am I just a well paid lover
Or do I love you from the depth of my soul?

The skies often grow black and life is so cold.
No beams of love I perceive.
Does then my Christian testimony remain bold
Or do I, alone, in bitter silence grieve?

The tender words of a well paid lover,
Is this what the Master truly desires?
No, not ones who around the paymaster hover,
But those whose hearts are raging fires!

Old Job, your love was certainly tried,
Your soul sifted and doom your only cover.
From the Bible’s pages, God hast cried,
“You’re not well paid, but truly my lover!”

Yes, God poured out gifts from above
And gave you more than you had at the start.
These were not wages. They were tokens of love
To the one who always loved God from his heart.

In my testings and trials that often abound,
When there is no sense of peace from above,
O, then in such a state let my heart be found
That when Satan screams, “Paid, Paid!”, I whisper, “Love.”

If the Left only knew how fortunate they are that I am a Christian and do try to refrain myself they would take me to lunch and then leave me alone. 😉 They have said so many things that my “old man” could have replied in ways that they would need therapy for years to recover.

There was a day that the only tact I knew was attack. I do still tend to be to the point without a lot of flowery adjectives, but compared to my past I am the epitome of diplomacy and genteelness,

In my early days of ministry, I was around folks that would symbolically take the Sword of the Lord and go straight for the jugular vein not realizing that the one who gets angry first in a debate loses. Backing up the dump truck of sarcasm and arrogance does not bode well for making a convincing argument to convert or appease your opponent.

You can deliver truth in a way that makes people reject it because you have made yourself odious, Sadly, from my childhood, the military and those who were my first ministry mentors I have a Doctorate in Sarcasm and a huge vocabulary of less than nice things to say about a given subject. That tends to make it hard to resist when someone opens such a large door of opportunity to display those skills.

I would suggest to both the Left and Right to learn from my mistakes and to take on a new tact or tactic. Sticking to facts and subduing emotions will go a long way. Overreacting and emotional embellishment of a situation or topic helps no one.  We must resist the old adage that says, “If you cannot dazzle them with dynamics then mystify them with manure.” Rather let us return to the days of Sgt, Joe Friday and stick to “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” Will the facts make peace between the factions? Not always, but then Luther said, “Peace, if possible, but truth at any rate,” Paul told us to speak the truth in love and if we do that the results are up to God and the hearer of the truth.

Lest some protest I freely admit that many in the Right need to heed this as well. We have devolved on both sides to bickering and fighting rather than seeking solutions. It is hard enough and nearly impossible when there is such a large gap between worldviews and policies acting like both sides do only make it a more difficult task.

Let us become a more kinder and gentler generation lest we devolve into anarchy, chaos and demise as a country.

Gal 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

We are devouring one another and unless we change we will be consumed from within allowing the wolves from without to finish the job. Maranatha!

Is Your Church Dead

January 9, 2018

Is Your Church Dead?

Rev 3:1  And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

There are many, many churches in this country that are dead. Growing up there was a phrase that said that someone or something was dead but too dumb to drop over. I am afraid this is the situation for many. They think they are alive because they have a name. That name may be a reputation of past glory. They once had so many members with so much money in the bank and they did such and such, but that was twenty to fifty years ago. Some just have a name on a sign and in the phone book. They have or had a name that seems to indicate life, but they are dead.

We see seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. They all have their problems, but Sardis had nothing going on for it except a few Christians that were the real deal. The church was dead and like not every cell dies at once when we die they had some things that may had them in denial thinking they were alive, but Jesus says those things were dying as well. He held open an opportunity to repent for He can raise the dead. We do know that there is no church in Sardis. Indeed, none of the places mentioned in the two chapters survived until this present day. All had their candlesticks removed.

1Sa 4:21  And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
22  And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

The ark of the covenant was where the presence of God manifested in the tabernacle. The ark had been captured by the enemy and the high priest broke his neck and his son were slain. So the priest’s grandson was named Ichabod to commemorate the departure of God’s glory from Israel. Here it was well known that the glory was gone, but oft times it is like Samson who woke up after Delilah’s haircut thinking all was well for he did not know that the Spirit had left him.

God no longer dwells in a tabernacle or temple despite us calling our churches the house of God. He dwells in His people. The church building is just a place where the Body of Christ meets to worship, fellowship and prepare for ministry. God moves in the assembly and changes lives and gifts for actions not just for rituals or to make people feel good.

Many church bodies that were once on fire for God somehow lost it. Something happened and God stopped working in their midst. Since man is a religious creature, it can happen and no one notices. They still have three or four services a week. They have three hymns, a special, an offering and a sermon. They still have fellowship dinners and support a few missionaries so all is well. There is money in the bank and the size of the church is comfortable so no one misses the power and presence of God. It is like a battery in them. They had their battery charged at some point and as long as the battery stays charged they will notice nothing until the battery gets close to death. Then they will try to recharge the battery through programs, revival speakers, and even strong preaching designed to initiate action through fear or guilt.

Unless they repent, they will lose their candlesticks because without the constant recharging of the Holy Spirit, their battery will die no matter what they do. Some will take longer than others, but they will get down to the last member or the last financial problem and gasp their last gasp.

You can read the book of Acts and see what a living church looks like. I will summarize by showing some signs of a dead church.

There is no outreach.

The first church was one that reached out in evangelism. They took the Great Commission seriously and were trying to win souls and edify saints wherever they went. A dying or dead church does not do this. Often because there are too few people and they are all geriatric patients, but not always. Coldness is worse than just being too old and there are many cold Christians.

There is no reproduction.

Because of the outreach souls were being saved. The Body of Christ grows just like any family. If you have not seen any spiritual births in your church in years there is something wrong. If your baptistery has been dry and the home of spiders for what seems like forever you are dying. If the only new members are sheep from other folds they do not count as reproduction or real spiritual growth. If all your members and your prospective members are over fifty, you are dying and will be dead in twenty years or less as the members die or transition to the nursing homes or wander out from you as they wandered in.

There is no zeal.

Church is just a habit that is performed as a duty. The Holy Spirit could never have control because tradition and the bulletin dictate the order, the form and type of worship allowed and no one dares suggest any changes. Songs are sung as dirges in soft voices so that one zealous person could drown out the whole congregation. The pastor begs and pleads for people to minister or give to no avail. You have to keep calling members so they will come to church. Attendance is sporadic, but much higher on Christmas, Easter, Mothers and Fathers Day. Friendly people and good fellowship can happen in a dead church, but it is really just a wake and they do not know it yet.

The early church met everyday in many places and we are told to be assembling even more as the day approaches. Yet, we meet less. Some do have doors open twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday night, but the high attendance is Sunday morning. A percentage will come back in the evening and a few die hards will actually show up Wednesday night. More often than not Sunday evening gets canceled. One church listed their Sunday AM attendance at 1150, Sunday night 150 and Wednesday 50. The core was fifty with 15o somewhat committed and 1000 regular visitors. You cannot grow a church or a Christian with such a small amount of teaching and exhortation. They did not have cell groups.

Sometimes your Sunday morning and membership do not really indicate how many zealous or committed Christians you have. One fellow interviewed me and they were looking for someone with experience in a church of 350. When I asked if that was their attendance, he said not right then. They had 350 before a split and now they were 175. He was thrilled to report their offerings had not decreased. I told him that was impossible to lose half the membership and keep the same budget. I told him he never really had a church of 350. He had a church of 175 with 175 visitors and I had experience with a church of 150. He did not like that and that was the end of me. Truth does not always generate a positive outcome and I suspect this message will not win me many accolades either, but it is truth.

There is no change.

While doctrine does not change, there are many things that can change so as to provide for the nourishment of saints and to lure the fish in your local lake. Some folks like hamburgers and fries, others roast beef and baked potato and still others like a meat loaf and mashed potatoes. It is still all meat and potatoes just offered in different formats. If every sermon must have three points and a poem and you must have three congregational songs you will not be long for the ministry world. Very few people eat the same meal every day.

Quit using the lures and methods that worked for catching trout if the stock tank now has bass, crappie or catfish in it. Technology can be used to replace the hymnal and maybe you can have five songs or two sometimes. The preacher may dump his suit to not look superior or dictatorial in some people’s eyes making them think he is unapproachable. Change can be awesome. Just because you have always done something does not make it profitable in 2018 and what you do in 2018 may not be as profitable in 2022.

The building is an income vacuum

I preached in view of call in a church that once held several hundred, but there were only 12 when I was there. They were all grateful that they had the $50K they needed to fix the roof and felt God had blessed them. They had a parsonage with marble stairs and might have looked a bit like Tara. If they still had several hundred people there $5oK might not have seemed like much, but since God cares more about people than money I don’t think He was blessing.

Other buildings I have been in were not as extravagant, but most of the money coming in went to maintain the building and utilities and maintenance was not doing well. There have been places I was afraid to sneeze and others I worried if I would fall through the floor. Some were still somewhat stately in an antique nostalgia sort of way, but were often damp and musty. Often their congregation complemented the building.

Some had a little money to pay a pastor while some had none. Thus it was the building and the pastor getting all the money. Nothing for missions or charity, except what they might get by passing the plate. One fellow told me he preached a revival and God told him on the last night to give his last ten dollars. When he was leaving the deacon handed him an envelope and when he opened it there was ten dollars in it. That was an object lesson, for sure.

I was at one church where they voted to have some building done. They posted their offerings on the wall. It was $350 for the general fund the week they voted. Next week it was $175 for general fund and $175 for the building fund. The church was dead.

There is a pastoral revolving door.

I have known churches that have had a new pastor every year for five or more years. Most dying churches think they need a lad with a ThD or PhD for a pastor and at one time they may have been able to support one of those, but now they cannot even afford minimum wage. A ThD paid a lot of money for those degrees so unless he is in his 70’s, he needs an income that will support him, his family and his school debt.

If you go through a pastor every year either the church body is hard to live with or they stink at discerning a good man or both. Some do not really want a pastor. They just want someone to marry and bury them and give an uplifting sermon every Sunday morning as well as a tax deduction. A man who is called to pastor will want to pastor, not just be a visiting lecturer or adjunct professor. That will cause friction and frustration until he resigns or they fire him. If that happens every year the church is dead and as I said too dumb to drop over.

After awhile the word will get out and no one will apply to be the pastor unless he just needs a year gig for more experience or to be occupied until a better situation opens. It takes three to five years for a community to really accept a new pastor and sadly in good times a pastor only gets three years which is a tad longer than the members who last 2.1 years at any church. A youth pastor might last 1.5 years. Thus the church will become a joke after awhile and be known as the church who changes pastors more than some people change their socks. Growth is dead at that point. The plug is pulled and they are just slowing dying unless reality speeds it up and the people move on.

I am sure that just as you can find many causes of death and symptoms of dying in humans you could name a few things as well. These are some of the obvious ones. What do you do if yours is dying?

Face reality.

If some or all of these things are present it your church do not deceive yourself that it will make a comeback. I once tried to get eight churches in the Dallas area to merge into four. Adding up all the members they could have merged into one and one of the buildings could have taken them all.

I paired them up by location. One pair had a church of 13 and another of 17. They were three miles apart and of the same denomination. Neither had a pastor or a budget to get one. They would need a bi-vocational man who would serve the church for free or for homemade pies and Sunday dinner. If a man can do that, that is fine, but few can do that.

I wrote letters to them with my proposal and only one replied that they were not going to merge with anyone. They had just hired a PT young man and they planned on growing. Stark reality was that most of the churches in that area of that denomination were in decline with just a few stagnated and even fewer growing and the growing ones were the ones that were larger and adapted to the fish in their stock tank.

The arrogant tone of the letter makes me think they burned that young man out and they are now closed. Hopefully, the pastor did not get discouraged and left the ministry or lost his wife. I have seen wives demand the pastor choose between them or the ministry. One lad had one semester left in college and his wife said quit or she was leaving. The stress of full college load, job, studying and trying to be a husband father can break the man, but often it breaks the woman. Fortunately, it happened before he took a church and those same pressures caused the breakdown.

When it has gotten too far, it is too far and it is not coming back. Just as medical science can do all it can for the body and then says there is nothing else and there is no hope churches can get to that state. It may be a slow agonizing death, but it will end in death.

I have a friend of a friend that posits that churches are like people. They are born, reach adolescence, teen years, young adulthood, middle-age, old-age and die. Like people, that may be after a hundred years, eighty, sixty, forty, twenty or even as a child. That makes sense. Many churches have come and gone over the centuries.

Pull the plug

If you are in leadership, seek out a church of like faith and propose a merger. As I told the ones that were three miles apart, figure out who has the best building and sell the other. Use the funds to remodel the remaining church, support the pastor as a member of the staff for a year or so or for life if appropriate. Give the money to a mission board or missionaries of your choice. One church that closed provided $10K to a Filipino pastor so he could buy land to build a church and he had the growth to do it.

Some of the membership will balk. They are lost in the 50’s or 60’s or even 80’s and remember the glory years. It will be your job as the leader to convince them that it is the most wise and godliest thing to do whether it is to close it down and the members disperse to the another church or merge with the one you have spoken to about it.

If you are a member, suggest a merger to the leadership. They may balk as well depending on their training and their personal attitudes. Some do think that once there is a building it must remain open until the last man falls. If that is the attitude and you see there is no way to get them behind it then for your own sake, leave and find a church that is alive and healthy. Not perfect, but alive and healthy. You will be amazed at how your life changes and your walk with God improves when you leave the pre-nursing home meetings or the weekly memorial services of the good old days.

Don’t start a big ruckus, but if you know some that see the same things in the church you can tell them what you are going to do and then leave. They may follow now or later. The key is for you to get free and find life more abundantly. If your church is dead, play taps and move on. Life is too short and God has too much for you to do than live in a cemetery. Only demoniacs live there until Jesus sets them free.

Ephesians 5:14  Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Luke 9:60  Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Saw this as I was finishing my article.   Could have been called 8 Signs Your Church Should Close Soon.

8 Signs Your Church Will Close Soon

Call Down The Right Fire

December 4, 2017

Luke 9:51  And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
52  And sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him.
53  And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
54  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55  But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
56  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

How do you handle rejection?  There was a time during my childhood that it would not have been good for me to have “if looks could kill” be a reality in my life because they would have had to dedicate an entire state to bury those to whom I gave the look.  I suffered a great deal of rejection as a child.  It stunk, but it prepared me for ministry even though at the time I had little interest in God or ministry.  There is a lot of rejection in ministry from unbelievers and believers alike so be prepared, but serve.

The Samaritan village didn’t want to receive or welcome Jesus because they knew He was on His way to Jerusalem and they hated the Jews as much as the Jews hated Samaritans.  They missed out on great spiritual blessings and maybe some healings because they could not get past their prejudice.  I am sure that they had heard of Him and what He was preaching and doing.  Yet, because they would be a rest stop on the way to the hated people they wanted nothing to do with Him.  If they had not known and thought He was going to stay in Samaria they might have received Him gladly even though He was a Jew for His reputation’s sake.

James and John did not take the rejection lightly.  Indeed, they felt they had righteous indignation and even holy precedence to just toast the entire village.  What happened though is that they took that passage out of context.  Elias brought down fire on soldiers who came to capture him and had no respect for him or God.  These villagers had the right to be hospitable or not even if their reasons were framed by prejudice.  That is quite a bit different from Elias’ circumstance.  Much error in the Church today is because of passages being taken out of context.  This leads to wrong interpretations and applications

I wish I could have heard Jesus’ tone and volume of voice when He rebuked those lads.  The Greek indicates a very straightforward rebuke.  Was it loud and stern or more of a disappointed and lower tone yet intense?  We often think of Jesus as being soft spoken and mellow, but He may have really got in their faces over this since they have missed the whole point of His mission and were acting like most humans with power ready to abuse it according to their own passions.

Notice He spoke to their spirit rather than the poor interpretation and application.  Sometimes sincere people will mess up a verse but not because it is in their spirit to do so.  False prophets continually mess up verses because it is in their spirit to do so and are helped by the evil spirits that guide and possess them.  James and John were thinking in their fallen spirit and not in the spirit of their Teacher whom they called Lord.  Too many times we think and do as men thinking we are thinking and doing in the mind of Christ because we found that one or two verses that seems to match what we think even if we have to stretch it enough to make Silly Putty(c) jealous.

We live in a evil world that is difficult to describe and we know that it will get extremely worse before the Millennium.  We truly “ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”  That is beyond our comprehension when we have seen so much in the last 50 years and yet times what we have seen by 1000 and maybe we have a small peek of what it is going to be like at the Second Coming.  If you are saved, you will miss much of the horror at the Rapture, but we will see plenty before that happens.

While I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available, I am glad calling down fire is not one mentioned in the epistles.  I know too many men and women that would be like James and John and few places or people would be safe.  The Lord might come back and find one person left, the one who called down fire on all the other ones who had the gift because they had some disagreement.  I get it.  There are plenty of places that would be on my list if I thought with my carnal mind and not His thoughts.

We are not to have a vengeful spirit.  God will avenge and all things will be handled one day and that is His right, not ours.  If He toasted His people every time they chose sin over Him, in essence an act of rejection, I would not be typing this and I don’t think there would be a believer to read it if I finished before I was toasted.

We are told many times that Jesus was despised and rejected and we are not going to be greater than our Lord and if that happened to Him we can expect it to happen to us.  The Apostles were all martyred as have many Christians since the 1st Century.  Many are martyred daily in our age.  In the last days we were told even family members would turn against us.  There are those who say they are Christians and are tares.  There are carnal and immature Christians.  There are Christians with some wrong beliefs who will come after you because they do not like it that you are right.  You convict them and no one likes to be convicted.

So if you look at it, you have a greater chance of being rejected than being accepted.  Don’t call down fire of vengeance and indignation. After all, there were probably many children and others in the village that had no knowledge of the rejection.  How big was the village?  The town leaders made the call so you are going to toast everyone?  If I called down fire on an area of great evil I would take care of the evil people in town, but I might also take out some saved people as well as people who will get saved today, tomorrow, next week or next year.  Do I condemn them to Hell because of my impatience that I translated as righteous indignation?  If God calls down fire like on Sodom then He has the right and the foreknowledge to know the state of the people and if they would ever repent and be saved.  Neither you or I know that.

If you want to call down fire then call the right fire.  Call for Holy Spirit fire to fall on the person or place.  Pray for salvation of souls and revival of the saints to be about their Father’s business instead of their business.  For two thousand years when God’s people have had the fire burning within them and moving in the Spirit’s power the worst sinner, entire families and entire towns were saved.  Countries turned around as the people and leaders were saved and followed God, not men in their practices and laws.  Demons have been cast out, the sick healed and even the dead raised.  That is the fire that needs to be called down on the Church and then spread out of our control like a Texas prairie fire.  It will look out of control but will be under full control of the Holy Spirit.

There are those who will reject, but be like Christ and the disciples.  Move on to the next village as you head for the New Jerusalem taking as many with you as possible.  Be of the right Spirit and call down the right fire.  The world and you need it.  Maranatha!

Committed, Faithful, Teachers

November 19, 2017

2Ti 2:2  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

As Paul told King Agrippa, “this thing was not done in a corner” there were many witnesses still alive that had seen Christ risen from the dead. There were many witnesses of Paul’s teaching who were changed by it and those who testified that Paul was called to teach and preach and even to verify his message. Thus Timothy was not getting some esoteric or special message like some claim to have have over the centuries. He was getting the real deal vetted by many including Peter and the elders of the Jerusalem Council.

From G3844 and G5087; to place alongside, that is, present (food, truth); by implication to deposit (as a trust or for protection): – allege, commend, commit (the keeping of), put forth, set before.

Timothy was receiving this training and message from Paul because Paul knew him to be a faithful man. He committed or deposited this message Timothy with the understanding that Timothy was to do the same.

Sometimes we train men, but we do not really commit the message to them. Some pastors and missionaries do not back off and let the men they trained go out and do the work without constant micro-management. This often disheartens the men and they give up. Often they feel very inadequate because the micro-management conveys a lack of trust in their understanding of the message or their gifting. Some quench the style or methods the men use as if the mentor’s way is the only way. The message never changes, but the delivery can change. While indeed you should not lay hands on no man suddenly there comes a time when you need to cut loose and truly commit the message to those you trained.

Sometimes that means you need to back off completely. There is a story told of a famous preacher that though he retired and became “Pastor Emeritus” he still sat on the podium. This became a problem for the new pastor. He said anytime he said something that was a new concept to the people he could see them lean to the left of the podium to see the famous man’s reaction. Eventually, that pastor left because the church was not fully committed to him by the former pastor or the congregation. They only partially committed it to him. The former pastor should have sat in the back roll, the balcony or maybe even in another church to show his full commitment to the new pastor.

Thus when you commit the message to the men commit it and let God use them. Be a resource, but not a micro-manager or you may see less than optimal results of your mentoring.

From G3982; objectively trustworthy; subjectively trustful: – believe (-ing, -r), faithful (-ly), sure, true.

There are various types of faithfulness. Sometimes we can find men faithful in many, many areas and we think they are excellent candidates to train to be trainers. Sometimes it does not work that way. They will attend all your classes faithfully. They will complete all assigned work in an excellent manner. They may be full of faith, but they never become trainers. They have a ton of knowledge, but they hoard it to themselves. Indeed, there are many Christians in our pews that may not have the gift of teaching as we think of it, but they really are apt or able to teach somewhere with the knowledge they have. They just do not have the zeal or confidence to do it.

I once interviewed at a church and the man on the board mentioned that there were no male teachers of any kind in the church, not even the deacons. I said I did not see how that could be since most of the men in the church were middle-aged and above having been saved for many years. Surely, they could teach in some capacity or level. Some thought they needed seminary training and yet none of their women teachers had that.

So no pastor of that church ever found faithful men that he could mentor to train others? They were faithful in many things, but not in spreading the Gospel and training others to do that. I am not sure who is at fault the previous pastors, the men or both, but the situation was very sad. That church folded, but some others restarted it years later. Last I heard they were doing well. Some faithful folks showed up, I reckon.

So picking faithful men requires they have a zeal and desire to teach, not just to learn. In the context, the passage is speaking of training pastors or evangelists, but there are many other ways to teach or mentor. After all, we are all called to give a reason of the home that lies within us so we are teachers as we journey through life if we understand our identity and why we are here. Yet, if we do not have those willing to faithfully learn and teach how will the Body learn to do what we are called to do; witness, win souls and teach all that Christ and the Apostles taught?

We must equip pastor-teachers, but we must also equip people to be able to obey the Great Commission. If we are, as someone said, the only Bible some will ever read then we need to know who we are, what we need to know, and how to teach it or we are giving people the wrong version of the Bible.

What about you? Are you someone faithful and teaching the Gospel you know and will you be willing to have more committed to you?

Greek definitions from Strong’s Concordance as distributed by E-Sword

Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Verse 23 is often use to argue against legalism saying Jesus yelled at them for tithing tiny leaves. That is not completely correct. Jesus did say they got the mint, anise and cummin right. They should tithe every one in every ten leaf of these plants. What His point was that they were so good on the easy stuff, but blew it when it came to the more important or rather weightier points of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.

If there were a gnat in the wine they would strain it out, but if a camel were in it they would just swallow it. As long as you tithed the leaves you could break the law elsewhere, not give justice to someone, be unmerciful and faithless and still be a good Jew.

They were too blind to see they were doing this and yet professing themselves to be guides they do not realize their blindness until they and those who follow them end up in a ditch.
Those groups and preachers that have a dirty dozen of things you must do and cannot do often fall into this category because they major on externals; touch not, taste not, handle not things, but seldom preach on the sins of the inner man like hypocrisy, pride, greed and lust.

Often they produce disciples that are haughty and judgmental justifying or downplaying their own sins of omission and commission while eviscerating those of other people. They are sickly, sallow and shallow Christians that need to spend more time in a mirror then pointing their callous fingers at the unbelievers and struggling Christians.

Don’t be a blind guide. Ask God to open your eyes. You may have some of the externals correct, but unless you have the inner man dedicated to Christ you are not a mature and fruitful Christian, if a Christian at all. Maranatha!

What is Life

October 17, 2017

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Just as Christ had no will of His own, but lived to fulfill the will of the Father we are to have no will or life of our own but to fulfill the will of Christ since we have His mind. Having His mind we should have His mindset.

Christ is everything and everything else is ancillary. If it is not of Christ’s mind we should avoid it. If it is something that is a part of this earthly life then we must keep it in proper perspective and priority.

Christ is life which means He is above family, career or personal desires and everything else including us. Yes, we technically should be at the bottom of the list and yet so often we are number one. Sometimes we have spiritual moments when we actually move to number two or three, but honestly we are number one far more than we should be or even imagine ourselves to be.

The WWJD deal started out well, but it has become trite and cheap jewelry because often when we think we are asking WWJD we are asking what would I do and how do I coat it in Scripture so it looks like WWJD and not WWID.

What would it look like in your life if you really got a good dose of radical 1st Century faith? Would your career change? Would your church life change? Would you downsize to get out of debt so you have more time and money for Kingdom work? Would you come out of retirement and go on short or long term missions? Would your pastor have a MI because you volunteered for something? Would you really put your spiritual gift to work? Would your spouse and kids wonder who you are? Would people come to Christ and hurt sheep be healed and come back to the fold?

It is great to quote Scripture, but putting it in practice is more difficult. What is life? It is Christ and Him alone. Are you living the real Christian life or just the standard American blah form of Christianity? It is like a sack lunch sometimes. It will keep you from starving to death, but not the best meal you could desire. God has a far better steak meal for us if we will but come and partake.

We want the fire of Pentecost, but we will not provide the fuel God uses and that is our bodies as a living sacrifice. If all who live godly will suffer persecution, what has your faith cost you lately? If everything is flowing just beautifully are you really living like Christ who suffered abuse even when doing good and they eventually crucified Him? The student is not greater than the Master so where are your scars? If you are looking for life’s “sweet spot” is Christ your life or an American mythical Christian life?

For you to live is _____?


Are You A Heretic?

October 3, 2017

Titus 3:10  A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 
11  Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. 

Right off the bat, I know everyone is going to say no to the title.  That is a natural because even a heretic does not think he is a heretic.  He feels he is right and others are the heretics.  Cults do not see themselves as the heretics.  Groups that have fallen into partial or complete apostasy do not see themselves as heretics.  The Pharisees and Sadducees each thought they were right and the other side were the heretics.  They saw Jesus and the Apostles as the heretics.

When thinking of heretics we normally think of those who teach false doctrine.  That is pretty much the main use of the word.  Those who deny the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, Virgin Birth and other key doctrines are heretics that teach damnable heresies because denying those doctrines will cost you your soul.  You definitely want to reject or have nothing to do with those type of heretics.

There are other doctrines that may not cause you to lose your salvation, but they may well hinder you walking in the fullness and abundant life God meant for you.  Some were born of persecution.  Being immersed during the Inquisition and similar times could cost you your life.  Thus people trying to find other ways to  fulfill the command to be baptized turned to pouring because the Spirit is poured out on us at salvation or by sprinkling since the blood was sprinkled on the doorpost.  Both practices were easier to perform and much safer, but the world baptize means to immerse so the proper mode is immersion and that is undeniable.  Wesley, Luther and Calvin taught immersion even though they taught infant baptism that is not found in Scripture.  Other modes will not send you to Hell and since there is no salvation, only obedience, in the act of baptism your soul is not in danger unless you trust the baptism for salvation.   Then it gets a bit more serious.

These and other doctrines divide the Body, which is the other definition or connotation of heresy.  A heretic or a heresy is that which causes disunion.  we are called to be one Body because we have one Spirit, one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God, one Father, one Savior and hence we should have one doctrine.  (Ephesians 4)  We are all to say the same thing and be of the same mind since we have the mind of Christ.  I am keeping the language simple so you can find the verses  that I am quoting from in this lesson.  His mind is not divided.  He is yea, yea and nay, nay not yea and nay.

Joh 16:12  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 
13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 
14  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Indeed, it would seem that all of us have not been listening to Him because if we did we would all be saying the same thing since the Holy Spirit speaks only the truth and only what He hears from Christ and the Father.  Again, they are not double-minded for Jesus and the Father are one and since we are all in His house, if we are saved, we are all under the same house rules and teachings.  We lack power because we have all gone off like the folks in Judges who did that which was right in their own eyes.

Sadly, we have learned to tolerate doctrinal heresy as well as things that have caused disunity in the Body.  We all have at least a touch of the heretic in us.  Indeed, when we split a church over something other than doctrine we are being heretics.  Too many churches have been planted by man and it shows because the seed is sickly, sallow and shallow.  We have way too many colleges because of split hairs or maybe pride because no one can teach it as well as we can and the rest have fallen by the way.  Then those colleges send out men to start churches in towns that have a good church, but not really because it is not of our tribe or they lack the wisdom and spirituality we have.  That is a spirit of heresy.

2 Cor 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 
15  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 
16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 
17  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 
18  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Some might try to use this verse for their split, but it is talking about unbelievers, not believers.  When both the original church and the church from the split have the same doctrinal statement it does not fit this passage unless you can prove one church or the other is filled with tares.  Splitting because things did nor go your way is carnal heresy, not what this verse is saying.  True, there may be occasion to leave a church that is dead and you cannot change it because the dead are in control.  That is not the norm for splits.  It is usually over something more of a personal or carnal nature.

Beware of places, where there is one or two doctrines that lock you into that group.  If they are doctrines of men and most likely they are then they are not there to preserve unity with the whole Body, but rather to keep control of the members.  Things like saying guitars are the devil’s instrument or some ritual or slant on a doctrine that only that group holds to are examples.  Indeed, it will take a massive revival to sort out the many traditions and rituals that are of men because we have gotten so used to them that we see them as fundamentals of the faith when they have no Scriptural basis at all or come from some twist on a verse or two.

Jud 1:18  How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 
19  These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

While this is obviously directed to unbelievers, there are those who will fall into Matt 7:21-25 that will have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof and create clear cults with crazy doctrines, but can also cause cults within an Evangelical/Conservative/Orthodox/Fundamental framework.  They build little kingdoms based on their need for power or control.  It may be wealth or fame.  They separate themselves by sensual means or the human baser nature because they do not have the Spirit.  They are not really separating because they are leaving the heretics or apostate though that may be the premise they use.  They cannot do that because they are not saved because they do not have the Spirit thus they cannot be led of the Spirit so they lack true discernment and wisdom.  They are religious and yet walking in the darkness of their minds.  Thus they separate themselves for their own ends, not God’s  If they gather enough people and exist long enough they can look like the norm thus generations may take on their beliefs damning generation after generation.  They indeed mock the truth while claiming to herald it.

Php 2:2  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 
3  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 

Even in a good church there can be a spirit of heresy or division not tied to a specific doctrine.  Note Paul’s exhortation to the church to be likeminded in love and one accord and again of one mind.  That does not mean we all have to wear suits or eat rice cakes.  It does mean that in our church life we have the same purpose and that is to glorify God, edify each other and win souls not promote our own agendas and seek our own followers.  We are to all be followers of Christ and His mind is to be ours.  His  opinion is the only one that matters and if our opinion does not match Scripture then we have a right to change our opinion or keep it, but no right to divide the Body and hamper its mission by pushing our opinion especially since it is wrong if it does not line up with God.

That does not mean you cannot challenge a teaching or even the pastor-teacher, but you better be right with the Lord and sound in your theology before you go that route.  It also needs to be done according to Matthew 18 and in a spirit of meekness seeking truth and reconciliation.

Php 4:2  I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 

Here are a couple of ladies with a bit of a conflict. I can picture Paul literally on his knees strongly pleading or exhorting these two to put their own interests aside and be focused and of the same mind in the Lord.  I have no idea what they were disputing. I am sure each felt they were right and in the will of God. They were both standing up for their rights or convictions. Neither must have been right or the issue so petty that Paul does not defend one or the other. He directs them both to a new attitude and thought pattern.

I find their names interesting. Euodias almost looks like part of a yodel or sounds like a yodel in phonetics. The name actually means fine travelling. Syntyche means an accident. Guess she was accident-prone or her parents had a little too much wine at a feast one night and she was unplanned. Indeed, if she grew up feeling unwanted she might have had a clashing personality from the bitterness she did not learn to release.

Another commentator says that Euodias means a pleasant scent and Syntyche means fortunate. Their conflict was a stink in the church and certainly a misfortune to both saved and lost that came into contact with it.  Neither were living up to their names if these are the correct meanings.  They were operating in a spirit of heresy because they were causing division and controversy in the Body.  Sadly, while women can be a pleasant scent in the Body they can also cause much trouble.  Find a church in deep trouble and you will often find it is because of strong-willed women and weak men.  It is good to be strong in the Lord, but trouble if the strong will is not controlled by the Spirit.  Strength should build not destroy; unite not divide.

1 Cor 11:18  For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 
11:19  For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 

Even in a church where all of the gifts of the Spirit are fully operational you will find heresy of doctrine or a heretical spirit that causes divisions and usually both are intertwined.  Someone had gotten some new twist or “revelation” on a passage and the person or persons must see things change to comply with this new wisdom or the one that received it now has to be the one the church heeds in all things.  The Corinthian church is proof that the devil will always be at work when the Spirit is at work so we must pray for discernment to know when it is the Spirit speaking or the enemy through a person who seems to have a particular gift.  In humans, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the spiritual world the enemy uses imitation as the sincerest form of deception and division.

Some might think that since Paul said that there must be heresies among us that we are tolerate them in love.  That is not what he is saying.  He says that they arise among that church so that the approved will be made manifest.  In other words, the heresies make the truth and the ones holding the truth to be revealed or in a sense shine brighter around the heretical darkness.

The Church has pretty much ceased to mark them that cause divisions be it by false doctrine or a divisive spirit in the name of tolerance or love.  There is no love without truth and we are to speak the truth in love.  You would not allow a loved one to take the wrong meds or eat brownies you found out were laced with pot or Ex-Lax so why would you allow someone you love to believe false doctrine or continue in a divisive spirit without sharing the truth in love?

Of course, part of the problem is that the average Christian just does not do their homework.  They will listen to a good jokester, motivational speaker that has charisma or maybe just down home demeanor without really checking on their doctrine.  They do not catch innuendos or that while familiar words are used the meanings are different from what they believe.  They do not study to show themselves approved and able to correctly interpret the Word.  Baptists especially take pride in being people of the Book and yet cults get more converts from Baptists than any other group.  That may be partly because there are more Baptists than many groups, but still the Book has not helped them or they would not be so easily corralled by a different shepherd.

Paul does tell us to call out, as he did, those who cause division by doctrine, pride, agenda or whatever.  We are to seek to correct them in love, but as the initial passage states after two admonitions we reject them.  We have nothing to do with them.  We do not tolerate them nor do we engage in endless debate with them on Facebook or some other forum.  That seems harsh, but it is healthy for the Church and it is best to let the Holy Spirit to work on them in isolation.  Our constant dialogue with them only tires us and emboldens them.

So, are you a heretic?  If we are honest, we have all been one at some point in our life.  I came out of a group that had many doctrines correct, but had a divisive spirit that kicked everyone into outer darkness or gave them labels that ostracized them unless you were one of them and they may kick you out if you have a dirty fifteen instead of a dirty dozen list.

While we must always be engaged in the life of the Body, we must be careful about maintaining unity.  Too often people think pew warming is a spiritual gift and though they are not involved with any ministry in the church they think the have the greatest gift of armchair quarterbacking, which is divisive if shared and harmful to the person even if they practice it in silence.  You can be as orthodox in theology as one can get, but if you become a divisive person in the Body you are as much of a heretic as any cult leader.

Php 2:2  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let’s give Paul something to rejoice over when we get there, but better yet, let’s fulfil the Lord’s joy by seeking His mind and being in His mind in all that we do in life be it while among the brethren or out in the world.

Psa 133:1  A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity
2  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 
3  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Let’s get our oil on and be as refreshing as the morning dew as we journey from the nasty now and now to the sweet by and by.  Unite in Him!  Want to fight?  Fight Hell!  Maranatha!

There is an old story about a Sunday School teacher that asked all her students to raise their hands if they wanted to go to Heaven.  All but Johnny raised their hands.  She asked Johnny why he did not want to go to Heaven.  He replied that he wanted to go, but thought she was planning to go right now.   It is true that Christians are thrilled they are saved and going to go to Heaven, but most want to catch the last seat on the last train leaving.

There is no ideal time to die.  If we say we want to be 100 when we get to 99 we may decide 11o is a better time to die.  We want to live to see our grandchildren grow up and then when we see that we want to see their children grow up.  Most of us want to die in our sleep and wake up in Glory.  Yet, Christians are routinely tortured and killed and have been since the times of Christ, Stephen being the first martyr.  Some die in accidents, fires, home burglaries or public shootings.  Some are raped and killed or die by horrible diseases after much pain and suffering.

Because of all that suffering some weep at a birth and rejoice at a death.  Some see miscarriages and still births as a blessing to the child since it will never know the pains and sorrows of life.  That is true, but not much comfort for a parent.  When is a good time to lose a child?  No parent wants to have their child die before them.  That is unnatural in our minds, but it is not uncommon.   For centuries, many children have been stillborn or died from SIDS even before we had a name for it.  Often throughout the centuries mothers died in childbirth.  Many children did not make it to adulthood because of many diseases.

Indeed, in American history we can see people marrying very young and while a woman marrying at 15 might have 8 or more children only 2 may make it to childhood.  Average life expectancy was 36 in the 1700’s so both the man and woman marrying shortly after puberty was not strange because at 17 they were middle-aged according to the average.  When does it hurt less to lose a child; before birth, at birth, at 6, 9. 17?  No way to really measure that because each age has it particular sorrow

We bemoan when someone dies at what we call too young.  We say they had so much potential.  They had their whole life ahead of them, but what kind of life would they have lived?   Would they cure cancer?  Would they be a serial killer?  Would they develop a disease that would be painful for years?  Would they be murdered or die in a horrible accident just a few more years later than they did die?  We do no know, but God does.  We always have God questions when people die sooner than we think or in some manner we deem unacceptable.

Psalm 116:15  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

God is present and aware of death.  After all, sin brought it into the world by Adam so He is aware of people dying.  The passage is not saying that He values death itself, but He is there for His saints.  One elderly woman who knew she was dying asked me, “What if I forget the way home?”  I told her that either Jesus Himself or an angel would be there to take her and they know the way home.  She died a couple of days later.  To see someone who you love and loves you come home is precious.  You value you that moment and I believe that is what is meant here.  God values the return of the soul He created and loved and loved Him as well.   When we are returning home to loved ones here we want the miles to shrink and the time to pass quickly, but going to our Heavenly home we want to turn a second into a year and a mile into a thousand miles.

Does God ever use an early death as a blessing?  Well, in Isaiah 38 we are told that God told Hezekiah to get his house in order because he was going to die.  Hezekiah made a very good plea by human standards.  He had been a good king that was young and had no heir.  God answered that prayer with 15 more years.  Would we want a warning like that and what was Hezekiah’s thoughts when he was in the fourteenth year?  Was God blessing him when He was going to take him home early?  I think so.  Had he died then, his legacy would have been spotless and glorious.  By living it was tarnished because of the son he had in that time turned out to be one of the worst kings Israel ever had.  Hezekiah would have done well to not trade in his ticket for another train.  Both he and the nation would have been blessed.

King David’s first son by Bathsheba died.  The Lord did it.  As a punishment to the parents?  It would seem so, but it was a blessing to the child.  He would have been hated by his half-brothers and if David would have tried to make him king the half-brothers would have killed him thinking that no child of whoredom should rule in their stead.  Indeed, they may have planned to kill him early on like Joseph’s brothers wanted to do.  It would have been a shame to the country as well so the child and the country were spared shame and turmoil.

King Jeroboam’s son was allowed to die to spare him the judgement that God was about to pour on Jeroboam’s house and Israel’s sin 1 Kings 14:13 says that the child would be buried with honor and the nation would grieve over him because God had found some good in him.  His was the last honorable death in the nation for a long time.  God blessed him.

Death is what we have in this world until the new Heaven and new earth.  Whether we die at the direct hand of God or just as the natural process we trust that a loving Father is with us as we die and is willing to comfort those behind if they will allow Him to do so instead blaming Him or denying His existence because He did not answer our prayer.  David prayed and fasted while his child was alive, but got up, bathed, ate and moved on after the child’s death.  He did not blaspheme God or turn away from Him, but acknowledged that though the child was no longer there he would one day be with the child.

Rev 14:13  And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. 

This was written about saints dying in the Tribulation.  Yet, can we not apply this to our death and others?  If a person is  saved and dies we know that he is absent from the body and present with the Lord as Paul told us so they are also resting from their labors.  Hence, we say RIP when we know someone dies.  Thus we should not fear to catch the next train, even the VIP seat, if we know the Lord.  Indeed, it is right to rejoice for those who catch the train before us no matter how young they were or how old or in what way they boarded it.  We are all going to board that train.  Some of us will catch a bullet train at the Rapture.

Be sure you catch the Gold train to Glory.  If you are not saved, it will be a Black train to Hell.  That seat you should fear having a ticket for and you should run and trade it in for one on the other train. Jesus paid the fare by His death and it was validated by His resurrection. so ask Him for forgiveness while you can.   Maranatha!