The love you had at first

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:1–5, ESV)

What is the love that the Ephesian church had at first that they have abandoned? Is it their Love for Jesus, or is it love for others, or could it be the love that we are to reflect from Christ to the world around us?

Jesus when asked the question, what is the greatest commandment, responded with Love God and love your neighbor. How does that look? What can we learn from the New Covenant writers, and the stern warning that is given to the churches at Ephesus?

In the book of John Jesus is teaching his apostles when Philip asks this question – “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”” (John 14:8, ESV)

It is from this point forward that Jesus unpacks some deep teaching on the coming of the Spirit and abiding in Him. Much of the language through this section is soaked in various forms of Love. Some of those ideas are – “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21–23, ESV)

Continuing in chapter 15, John continues to unpack this genuine Love in the form of abiding in the vine. The Greek root used for abide is “meno” and has the sense of to await or to stay in, also having a sense of an eschatological promise already in possession.[1] It is also of interest that a form of the Greek word for abide hypoménein is used in the Septuagint also with a sense of Waiting on or cleaving to God. The Theological dictionary of the New Testament abridged has this entry on the word…

… so that the idea is not that of standing against but waiting on. In this sense it is used for Hebrew terms expressing tense, steadfast, or patient expectation (cf. Job 3:9; Ps. 37:7; Job 32:4). The noun hypomonḗ similarly denotes either confidence or tense expectation. It is a mark of the righteous in the OT that they wait on God. In distress and opposition, they look to God for deliverance (cf. Ps. 37:9; Mic. 7:7). God is the almighty covenant God on whom they can rely (Is. 51:5; Zeph. 3:8). As the God of Israel (Jer. 14:8), he is also the God of Israelites (Ps. 39:7). Only the wicked abandon hope in him (Sir. 2:4). The final deliverance is eschatological (Hab 2:3). Those who endure to the end will be saved (Dan. 12:12). The focus here is neither on the hostile forces nor on inward strength but on the power and faithfulness of God. Yet this divinely oriented hypomonḗ confers courage (Ps. 27:14). This is the strength of cleaving to God or waiting for him (Is. 40:31). There need be no fear of weakening it by a link with hope. It focuses on hope and issues in it. What sustains the righteous is that God will establish justice (Ps. 140:12).[2]

It is a wonderous journey where we are fully dependent on the power and faithfulness of God, clinging with expectations to the time when the bridegroom returns for His bride. But, in that tense, steadfast, patient expectation there is a movement forward with the works that Jesus has prepared beforehand that we are to walk in them (Eph 2:8).

Did you catch that? The works that Jesus has prepared that we are to walk in. But how are we to do that? Paul gives us some clues…

We must first start with prayer– “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)

In prayer and through faith we seek to be strengthened through His Spirit in our inner being, grounded in the Love that Christ has shown us, together with the body of Christ the assembly of believers all filled with the fullness of God who then works through us more abundantly than anything we can ask or think according to His power within us.

Soak ourselves in The word of God – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2, ESV)

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the scriptures and a serious read through shows the many benefits of the Word in the people of God when they soak themselves in its richness.

The Lord asks the Ephesian church to repent and do the works they did at first. They had lost their first love. Were they no longer seeking His strength, seeking the things that are above or walking in the works that He had prepared for them?

Today, do we do similar things, racing ahead of the Spirit of God with our plans, then claiming they are from God? Prayer lives that barely give him a few minutes of their time in a single day then crash forward with their plans, maybe even feeling good about themselves for what they accomplished in their own strength.

Jesus took the time to seek the Father in prayer continuously. There are so many times we are given glimpses of this simple communion with God and yet it seems today seeking after God is lost in the busyness of life.

Jesus told the Ephesian church, most likely in a better place than many churches today, to repent and return to that first love – a passion for God that takes us deep into prayer, deep into His words, and moves us forward in His power to do the works that He has prepared that we should walk in them.

Why? Jesus gives us that simple answer…

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:7, ESV)


[1] [2] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 582). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Not Everyone who says – Part 1

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)

This verse should bring the fear of God into all our hearts. For Yeshua himself has declared that there are many who will be doing mighty works, prophesying, and casting out demons…All in HIS name! But he declares “I never knew you” and calls them workers of lawlessness.

This teaching comes near the end of Yeshua’s teaching called the sermon on the mount. Right after this declaration Yeshua declares that:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” (Matthew 7:24–27, ESV)

There are two questions we need to ask, what words is He talking about, and what is the will of the Father in heaven? To begin to unpack this, let us consider another passage that came earlier in the Sermon…

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–20, ESV)

From this place in the sermon, Yeshua begins to unpack details of the true requirements of the Torah. He tackles anger, lust, divorce, oaths, love for your enemies, giving, praying, fasting, the treasures of your heart, anxiety, judgment, God’s good gifts, and the fruit of good and bad trees.

It would be easy at this point to slip into an attitude of needing to obey every detail of the Torah to live a righteous life and to declare that to know the Lord means following these things as closely as possible. Is this really what is going on?

At this point in time, the details of all the Yeshua will do are still hidden from the people. Also remember, that the crowd is hearing this, but the teaching is being directed at the disciples, who will bring all these things to remembrance after the resurrection of the Lord.

After the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua, Luke records a very revealing event that I believe ties very closely to these teachings and more that He has revealed to His disciples.

The event is the encounter on the road to Emmaus. Two men were discussing all the events that had recently transpired in Jerusalem when Yeshua begins to walk with them but prevents them from recognizing him. Yeshua asks them what they are discussing, and acts puzzled when they mention the events in Jerusalem.

After he lets them explain the story, He says these things…

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25–27, ESV)

After Yeshua opens their eyes to see, he vanishes and they go back to Jerusalem and find the apostles. Yeshua stands among them and they are startled and frightened. He puts them at ease and then tells them these words…

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”” (Luke 24:44–49, ESV)

What a moment that must have been for these men, having it revealed that all the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms pointing to the Christ is now fulfilled in Him. The Greek word used for fulfilled is “plerothenai” which at its root can mean to fill completely, fulfil, to fill up, to complete, and bring to completion. The emphasis of the inflection “ai” as part of the root word “pleroo” is found only here in the New Covenant. Digging into the Septuagint, the only place I found this word used is in Jeremiah 25:12. The context of this passage is God’s judgment of Israel in which they will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. It then says this…

Then after seventy years are completed (plerothenai), I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.” (Jeremiah 25:12, ESV)

I am not an expert in Greek, but in the only use of this spelling it leads me to think that the idea is to bring to completion. I will continue to unpack this idea regarding Matt 7 in part 2 of this article.

Stand in awe

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:8–9, ESV)

What kind of images come to mind when we think of the words awe and fear? If God where to appear before you at this very moment, what would be your reaction?

The root of the word for fear in Psalm 33 is “yare” and can represent emotional fear, the anticipation of evil without the emotional element, and reverence and awe.

The first time this verbal form is used in the old testament is in Gen 20:8 when Abraham had journeyed to the Negeb and claimed to Abimelech the Sarah was his sister and he takes her. God would then appear to Abimelech in a dream and told him he was a dead man because he had taken a woman who was another man’s wife. Abimelech woke from his sleep and called his men and explained what had happened and it says they were very much “yare” (afraid).

The same verbal use is found in Ex 14:10 when the Egyptian army is marching on Israel and as Pharaoh drew near, the text says that the people “yare” (feared) greatly.

The psalms like to use parallelism where the second line repeats the thought of the first line but in different words.

So let’s take a look at the word “awe”. The first time this verbal form is used in scripture is in the book of Job. In Job 41:25 God is challenging Job and is speaking of the Leviathan and during this speech says:

When he raises himself up, the mighty are (“gur”) afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.” (Job 41:25–26, ESV)

“Gur” like “yare” can also mean to be afraid, feared, intimidated, terrified, anxious, and to revere or stand in awe.

In the context of Psalm 33, the complete idea ends with “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm”, where the writer in verses 6-7 boasts how the Lord made the heavens and by the breath of His mouth all their host.

To me, this seems to point towards great respect and reverence of the Lord in verses 8-9. The kind of awe that you get when you see some of the splendor of God’s creation in the mountains, the oceans, and the wonder of the heavens. I do think that there is still a small element of fear in the sense of knowing who God is and what he can do and that our lives are held in His hands.

Later in Psalm 33 it says:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18–19, ESV)

In this section “Yare” is coupled with “hesed” which is translated as steadfast love, and drives home that hope (mehahalim) which is to trust, to wait, and to be patient on the Lord to deliver our souls from death.

Currently with all that is going on around us, hope and trust in God’s steadfast love (hesed) can keep or eyes fixed on the end goal – Gods salvation in Jesus Christ, and not on the chaos that is going on all around us.

In 1 Peter 5, Peter writes these words for his readers, may we hold fast to them and stand firm:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6–11, ESV)

Let not your hearts be troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:1–7, ESV)

If we stop and consider the year 2020 what things come to mind, maybe it is the fires in Australia that killed three billion animals, or perhaps the flash floods that followed when the rains came. Out in the oceans there have been 26 tropical storms, 25 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In the pacific there have been 13 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. There have been 45,939 wildfires in the US with 8.3 million acres burned. 2020 is the 10th consecutive year that has seen 10 Billion dollar weather or climate disasters. In Africa and the middle east there where record setting locust invasions that in places devoured 90% of the crops. The great lakes, once at all time lows have overflowed and are taking out many homes along their coasts. There is political unrest in many countries and finally the great plague of covid-19.

There is so much we could worry or be fearful about, but Jesus told his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled but to believe in God and in him. Jesus told them that he is going away to prepare a place and that he will come again. Thomas does not understand, asks to know the way. Jesus responded with these words:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.

This statement is one of the many “I Am” statements that Jesus says. The Faithlife study bible puts it this way:

Jesus uses seven metaphorical “I am” statements to define His role as Savior and Messiah . These sayings also carry strong overtones of being claims to divinity. He identifies Himself as the bread of life (vv. 35, 48, 51), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way and the truth and the life (14:6), and the true vine (15:1).[1]

All these terms are very personal, revealing characteristics of our Lord that should drive us to a more intimate relationship with our savior. His desire for us it to be ready, to be focused on him and not all the things going on around us. My favorite “I am” saying is that Jesus IS THE TRUTH, he is the embodiment of all that God has revealed to us in the scriptures. Therefore, we should be spending time in the scriptures and in prayer, finding quality time with our savior, not just facts and doctrine, but to know the one who holds all things in His hands yet desires to be in our midst.

Martin Lloyd Jones once made this comment regarding the study of scripture:

“What foolish creatures we are! Many of us are not interested in doctrine at all; we are lazy Christians who do not read, do not think, and do not try to delve into the mysteries. We have had a certain experience and we desire no more. Others of us, deploring such an attitude, say that, because the Bible is full of doctrine, we must study it and grapple with it and possess it. So we become absorbed in our interest in doctrine and stop at that. The result is that, as regards this question of the love of Christ, we are no further on than the others because we have made doctrine an end and a terminus. In this way the devil trips and traps us and robs us of our heritage. If your knowledge of the Scriptures and of the doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not brought you to this knowledge of the love of Christ, you should be profoundly dissatisfied and disturbed. All biblical doctrine is about this blessed Person; and there is no greater snare in the Christian life than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concerning Him….We should never study the Bible or anything concerning biblical truth without realizing that we are in His presence, and that it is truth about Him. And it should always be done in an atmosphere of worship.2 

Today, so many of the people who call themselves Christian are just going through the rituals, yet God is far from their hearts. Jesus gave us a wonderful parable regarding how we should be waiting for His return:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)

Where are you today with your relationship to Jesus. Are your lamps ready to receive the bridegroom when he comes, or has the bridegrooms delay lulled you to sleep? Have you let the oil burn away so when he does come you will not be ready to enter the marriage feast? Oil in Scripture often represents the Holy Spirit and we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in abundance in our lives so that we will remain in tune with God so we are prepared when He returns. Yet we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit in our lives. Both of these are similar in their effects. They hinder a godly lifestyle. This happens when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, one of repentance and humility, one that takes us farther away from the world and sin. 

We must prepare and be ready, but not out of ritual but through relationship. The passage I started this blog with (John 14) was a very intimate time that Jesus was having with the disciples in the last two weeks of His life. Let these words ring deep in your heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also..

Jesus in the book or revelation warns the churches of the sins that have creeped into the body, the apostles warned of difficult times and great apostasy, but in the end the simple message to all of them was to repent. Let’s get on our knees and repent, not only as individuals but as the body of Christ.

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 6:35). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

2David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ—Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 3


The Torah of Yahweh (Part 2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5, LEB)

In the book of John we start with a beautiful expression of “the Word”. The faithlife study bible comments on it this way…

The “word of Yahweh” evokes associations with creation, divine revelation, personified wisdom, and the law of Moses. The “word of Yahweh” and the law had already been closely related in prophetic poetry (see Isa 2:3). The “word” is the agent of creation in Psa 33:6, but divine wisdom is personified and depicted in that role in Prov 8:22–31. In the deuterocanonical book Sirach 24:23, this personified divine wisdom is connected to the law of Moses, similarly given preexistent eternal status in Jewish tradition (see the rabbinic text Genesis Rabbah 1.1). Jesus is connected with divine wisdom also in 1 Cor 1:30. By choosing this language, John makes Jesus the very power and essence of God.[1]

John ends his opening thoughts with this statement…

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV)

Many Bibles insert the word “but” between Moses and grace. It is not there in the original text. Careful study of this verse reveals that instruction was given to Moses, how to live it correctly comes through Jesus. Put another way – the instruction is the Grace of God, revealing to us how we are to live, and Jesus is the one who demonstrates it to us and enables us to carry it out by His Spirit.

Recently I have been listening to some old sermons from the late Rev Billy Graham. The more I listened that more I realized that he provided solutions to many of our greatest problems through the word of God and the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. He literally lived out and preached 2 Tim 3:16 –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Do we believe what Paul wrote in this verse; I mean do we really believe it? The unfortunate thing today is that we have turned so many verses into short pithy quotes and out of context promises that we throw at people without first demonstrating the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed.

Scripture should be used, yes, but done so through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit who is the one who brings those words to life in us. It needs to be kept in the full context of what is written and not just popped out and used like a pill.

I think back on Psalm 1 and ask myself, do I delight in the Torah of Yahweh, if so, how do I show it? Do I spend quality time meditating on His words or do I fill my mind and life with unfruitful junk food.

Listen carefully to your prayer life, what is you main focus. A life filled with God’s word should be more upward focused, seeking His will and not our own. God already knows our needs and desires before we even ask. Is your prayer life guided and driven by His Word and the Spirit or do you find yourself continually praying a laundry list of what you want God to do? Try this exercise – allow scripture to guide your prayer life. Develop a discipline of spending a rich amount of time in God’s word and not filling your mind with junk. (Facebook, Netflix, games, social media, Instagram etc.) These are ok when we limit our time with them, but the greater amount of our time should be reading and praying in God’s Word.

[1]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Did God actually say…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”” (Genesis 3:1–3, ESV)

I did a search of churches in my area. There were not as many as I expected but still quite a few. A sadness overtook to me as I listened to the exerts of sermons from these churches and most of them did not start with God’s word. Many of them used a small verse as a point in their story just to tie it to God but then jumped into pithy stories, humor, dramatic statements, sociology, psychology, and motivational garble to tickle the ears of the audience.

Do not get me wrong, some of these are probably descent churches with pastors that really desire people to know God but are going down a path that is very dangerous.

John MacArthur, a person in our generation who has held up the word of God continually through his life made this comment in an interview:

“These people, like the liberals, deny the clear teaching of Scripture. And I’m convinced that the reason they deny it is not because it can’t be understood, not because it’s unclear, but because they don’t like what it clearly says. And that takes you back to John 3, “Men love darkness rather than light.” The light is there, they hate the light, they run from the light. The issue is not that Scripture is not clear, it is crystal clear.” (John MacArthur)

Many pastors today have succumbed to the lie, “did God actually say? Instead of listening and preaching the scriptures, we have replace the Bible with psychology and sociology and created the seeker friendly church where the message preached is designed to give people what they want to hear and hide the truth of God’s word behind smoke and mirrors.

But the whisper is not just happening in the pulpit, we cannot blame just our leaders for our biblical illiteracy, we also must take the blame. Yes, the serpent is still more crafty and uses many tools to distract us from the Lord and His word.

When the word of God is not our center, then what is the balance of our priorities in life? How much time do we spend watching television over reading and studying and memorizing God’s word? What about social networking (Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.) does it take more time than we spend reading God’s word? The list can go on, but the point is this – do you really consider the Word of God and spending time with the one who holds eternity in His hands important, or does the idols of this world draw you away? Dr. Kenneth Berding from Biola University made this observation in an article he wrote back in 2014…

Every time I teach a class called Biblical Interpretation & Spiritual Formation, I ask my students why it is that so few people in this generation are really zealous about the things of God. I can’t remember a time when I’ve asked that question when someone hasn’t mentioned distractions. Social networking, texting, television, video games and places dedicated to amusement (“amusement” parks, for example) pull our attention away from God’s Word. These fun and interesting activities occupy time that we could spend reading, studying and memorizing the Bible and they distract our thoughts during time we could spend meditating on God’s Word throughout the day. When we walk from one meeting to another, are our thoughts naturally moving to Scripture and prayer? As we leave a college class session, are we thinking on the things of God that we have learned from the Bible? Or do we immediately check to see whether someone has messaged us? (Berding, 1914)

I ask this simple question about our gathering together, and our personal time…what is the center of our attention, God’s Word or the world. In an article by Alex Dodson of the Watchman radio hour he notes:

The proclamation of the Word of God has taken a back seat in many evangelical churches today. The great pulpits of the past no longer exist. Even the large pulpit bibles that used to be on every pulpit don’t have a place in modern evangelical church sanctuaries. The pulpit has been put aside to make room for the worship team. When the preacher comes to speak, he usually has a small lectern that is put there for him to lay his Bible or notes on and then removed quickly as soon as he is finished to make room for the worship leaders. The great preaching of the Word of previous generations is missing from most modern day evangelical churches. So, people who tremble at the Word of God are scarce today. (Dodson, n.d.)

Is history repeating, are we like the ancient Israelites who worshiped God with their lips but had hearts that were far away?

May we pay heed to what the prophet Isaiah wrote to that generation…

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

I leave the reader with this excerpt from a sermon delivered  by CH Spurgeon on March 16th 1890 which are still relevant today:

The Psalmist, in this psalm (psalm 19), has compared the Word of God to the sun. The sun in the heavens is everything to the natural world; and the Word of God in the heart is everything in the spiritual world. The world would be dark, and dead, and fruitless, without the sun; and what would the mind of the Christian be without the illuminating influence of the Word of God? If thou despisest holy Scripture, thou art like to one that despises the sun. It would seem that thou art blind, and worse than blind; for even those without sight enjoy the warmth of the sun. How depraved art thou if thou canst perceive no heavenly lustre about the Book of God! The Word of the Lord makes our day, it makes our spring, it makes our summer, it prepares and ripens all our fruit. Without the Word of God we should be in the outer darkness of spiritual death. I have not time this morning to sum up the blessings which are showered upon us through the sun’s light, heat, and other influences. So is it with the perfect law of the Lord; when it comes in the power of the Spirit of God upon the soul, it brings unnumbered blessings: blessings more than we ourselves are able to discern.

References

Berding, D. K. (1914). The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy. Retrieved from magazine.biola.edu: http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/

Dodson, A. (n.d.). A Missing Element in Modern Evangelical Worship: People Who Tremble at the Word of God. Retrieved from http://www.oneplace.com: https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/watchman-radio-hour/read/articles/a-missing-element-in-modern-evangelical-worship-people-who-tremble-at-the-word-of-god-12289.html

Spurgeon, C. H. (1890). The Warnings and the Rewards of the Word of God. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 36, p. 157). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

Lack of Knowledge

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6, ESV)

Hosea is the last prophet sent to Northern Kingdom of Israel before they fell to Assyria. His ministry came on the heels of a golden age in their history where there was peace and prosperity of the likes not seen since the time of Solomon.

But there was a problem, the people where in moral decay, no longer seeking after God, and heavy into idolatry.

God instructs Hosea to marry a woman of whoredom whose unfaithfulness to her husband is an example of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Yet Hosea would remain faithful to his wife through all of this as an example of God’s love for His people.

The message is simple – return to God or judgment is coming. Today our message is no less complicated, return to God by believing in the name of our Lord and Savior Yeshua (Jesus) and you will be saved from God’s coming judgment.

Chapter 4 is where God brings an indictment to the people based on their violation of the covenant.

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.” (Hosea 4:1–3, ESV)

The word in this passage is the Hebrew word daat and is from the root word yada which has the implication of intimate relationship. If you do a search on the exact use of the verbal form of this word you will come across some 140 places that it is used. Here is a verse that I think captures the idea well considering the condition of the people in the time of Hosea.

“Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”” (1 Kings 8:56–61, ESV)

Look at the condition again of these people – swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery. Does that sound familiar – not with the world, but with God’s people! Is this not also a condition that Paul warns Timothy about regarding the last days before God’s return.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1–7, ESV)

History is repeating, God’s people in Hosea are destroyed for lack of knowledge, they rejected knowledge and forgot the instruction of God.

Paul in his encouragement to Timothy after this warning is about following Pauls example in all that he has taught Timothy and to hold steadfast through it all. He warned of trouble and persecution, of evil people and imposters. But to Timothy he gave simple instruction:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, ESV)

This brings me to the reason for writing this blog, we are in a time of decay in the body of Christ where people are not wanting to do the hard work of learning God’s instruction but are settling for pithy sayings, entertainment, and manipulation of the word to give them what they want to here. This is not always on purpose and it has subtly slipped into the body of Christ over time so that not even some very well intentioned leaders have noticed the issue and are caught up in the excitement of the shiny new and improved yet man created way of doing church.

Time permitted I hope to blog more on this subject in the weeks to come. May the encouragement Paul gave to Timothy ring true in our lives…“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3–5, ESV)

And these words…

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ESV)

I was reading through a course activity on the Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus and at the end of the session the author challenges his audience by asking a simple question. Do you practice this teaching? What does it look like?

The passage here is part of the Shema which is recited morning and evening as the centerpiece of a Jewish prayer service. In the world of the Christian church we also have part of this prayer as a central idea behind how we should live and that is this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV)

As I pondered this verse I had to stop and really think about what it was saying. Do I talk of them when I walk by the way, or when I lie down, or even when I rise? How much does the word of God permeate my life every day?

Some may argue, well, that is the Old Testament, that does not really apply today. But then you would have to consider the words Paul give to Timothy in the New Testament:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

What does this really mean for me as a follower of Jesus our Lord? In the end I believe that the Word of God should fill every part of our daily routines. We should be challenging each other with what we are learning from the scriptures and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Every day we should be encouraging one another with God’s words and allowing them to sink deep into our soul.

One thing that really made me think about this even more is that fact that this part of the Shema comes right after the section about loving the Lord with all your heart. To me this is important because it suggest that part of loving the Lord your God is tied to God’s word and its impact on our lives every day.

The challenge today is how to do this amid a distracted world, and with so many things pulling us in so many different directions? Paul understood this even in the early days of Christianity and gives these good words to Timothy which are still good for us to hear today:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:11–16, ESV)

The Lord is going to appear, he will return, and what will we be doing when he does? Will we be distracted by the desires of the world, or will we be fighting the good fight and holding fast to the eternal life in which we are called?

Quenching the Spirit – Part 1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–22, ESV)

Have you ever considered what it truly means to “quench the Spirit”? As I was reading through 1 Thessalonians, I came across this verse again and had to stop and think about it. What does it mean to quench the Spirit, or better what do we do to not quench the Spirit? If we do quench the Spirit how does that impact our lives in Christ?

To really answer this question, we must first look at how the Spirit works in the body of believers.

The testimony of the Scriptures shows us God’s spirit at work in the lives of His people, and with the resurrection of our Lord, the actions of the Spirit of God have been made new in the people that God is calling back to himself. What are those things that we see of the Spirit in Scripture?

First, as in Genesis, He gives life. Jesus expressed this in the passage that we quote so often – “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:3–8, ESV) Being born of the Spirit is considered the new life of every believer called by God.

Then what happens after that? The spirit (whom we are told is sent forth from the father and son – another expression for our benefit) will teach us (Jn 14:26), bear witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26), guide us in all truth (Jn 16:13), represent the power of God in the lives of his people (Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26, 15:13), bears witness to our spirit that we are His children (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6), instill in us the qualities of God’s character (Gal 5:22), and as it is in Genesis, the Spirit Speaks. (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 3:22)

A very important role of the Spirit in our lives is to give manifestations of Himself through the people of God. The Greek word for this word found in 1 Cor 12:7 is phanerosis and essentially means acts in which the Spirit manifests himself.[1] Paul speaking to the Corinthians discusses with them the Spiritual gifts of the body. There are all kinds of gifts given by the Holy Spirit which are to be used for that common good of the body. What I find interesting is that it says to each is given the manifestation, but if we are all given this, then why do we not see His power moving that well in the body today?

 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–11, ESV)

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12, ESV)

Are we living lives that allow the Spirit to manifest his presence through us, or are we doing things that hinders the Spirit in our lives?


[1] [2] [3] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 1245). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Dis-Unity

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11, ESV)

Where is the evidence that we are ONE body in Christ? In main stream Christianity we have over 40,000 denominations that have some sort of disagreement on doctrine. Then in the last many years we have had a large growth in what is termed Messianic groups, which when you go skimming through the material they are producing also seem to differ wildly on what they believe. Many groups like to focus on pointing out why they are right on some point while some other group is wrong and therefore they must not be following Yeshua. I don’t want to point to one group or another and say they are wrong, since I feel I can gain positive ideas from many of these groups. The problem is the dis-unity many groups continue to feed.

Let’s take the concept of the Trinity as an example. I have seen so many different articles bash the early church and even churches today because they were trying to understand and know God, and came up with the term the Trinity. The critics will say that the church believes in 3 separate persons, which if you look at the actual definition is simply not true. I heard one group say the trinity is wrong, you need to think of it like one tree with 3 branches. The problem with that idea is that branches are still individual but part of the tree. That is what the trinity says. It says that God represents himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, yet they are one God. If you look at Yeshua’s high priestly prayer you notice that he asks the Father that we be ONE as they are ONE. Yet, I am an individual, but I am part of the body of Christ as are my brothers and sisters which makes us one with the body.  Yeshua is praying to the father, he is a person that the apostles can talk to and touch, yet they could not touch the Father, so at that moment, Yeshua and the Father appear as if they are separated individuals, yet they are ONE. Earlier in the Gospel of John Yeshua says this:

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV)

The Father sends the Spirit in the Name of Yeshua, and it says that HE will teach you all things. So the Spirit is SENT by the Father in the NAME of the Son and has the ability to Teach? If I was wrestling with this, I might come to the conclusion that the Spirit (a manifestation of God) seems to act like an individual.In the end it seems that each group is describing the same coin in just a different way. Does that mean that they are both wrong or right, no, it just means that we in our flesh do not understand fully how to explain the many ways God has revealed him self to us. There are so many issues and positions like this, and most of the time we end up arguing over who is right.

So why do I bring all this up. Because or Lord and our God desire us to be in UNITY, one with one another just as He and the Father are one. But, what I see today is groups of unhappy people, who have been wounded, or feel that the people they are in fellowship with are not walking the way they should, so they find some problem they can latch hold of, take a righteous stand on it, then criticize the problems and then go form their own group that agrees with their position. To make themselves feel better they then attack all the things wrong with the other group. HOW IS THIS BEING ONE as the Father and Son are one.

Does that mean that I agree with what is being taught in many churches, NO. But, I do know that every church I have been too has believers that are seeking, but are not being grown in their faith, there is usually a CORE of believers that truly desire a deep relationship with Yeshua and the Father. Then there are those who are there to get their passport stamped and join a club and do the club things but never really desire to walk with the Lord. There are also people at many different points in their walk with the Lord and therefore do not fully understand things that someone who has been walking a longer time might. The unfortunate side of this is that many sermons are tailored to the least common denominator leaving many believers struggling to mature in their faith.

This is also why we still need to be good Bereans and search the scriptures to make sure what is being taught is true, but being a good Berean also means being a good student and understanding how to study and dig into the word. We also need to make greater efforts to disciple and teach younger believers how to walk a life of obedience.

None of the groups out there have all the right answers, even God has told us that every inclination of our hearts is evil. That includes me and you. So before we criticize, lets figure out how to lift each other up, encourage, equip, and edify the body. If someone does not agree with you, have productive discussions on the subject and pray for one another. Then maybe we can be ONE like the Father and Son Are One.