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Archive for November, 2010

Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself? Why then do You not pardon my transgression, And take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust, And You will seek me diligently, But I will no longer be.” Job 7:20-21

Here’s the scene: a painfully tormented Job is sitting in the dust scraping at his crusty, worm-infested, oozing flesh with a piece of broken glass, while simultaneously mourning the loss of ten children, his wealth, and his business. Months have gone by and in come his three good friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to cheer him up.

Eliphaz speaks first and mercilessly charges him with unspecified offenses against God that brought about all his suffering. Somehow Job musters up a response, but then wisely (and still in the company of his three friends) turns to God in prayer. No sooner does the Amen cross his crackled lips, friend number two chimes in.

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “How long will you speak these things, And the words of your mouth be like a strong wind? Does God subvert judgment? Or does the Almighty pervert justice? Job 8:1-3

Job’s loving friend just called him a windbag. If that weren’t enough, Bildad would go on to tell Job that his sons and daughters were dead because they were sinners, that he (Bildad) always knew his empire was on the verge of collapse, and that when he (Job) was gone ‘nobody’ was going to miss him.

How does that expression go, “With friends like these who needs enemies?”

Defending God

To make matters worse, Bildad implied by way of his comments that God was on his side. The fact is the only thing Bildad got right is that God is just; everything else he got wrong. The reality is neither Bildad nor Job had a clue what was going on. In their darkness Job’s friends turned on him, but to his credit Job turned to God. Bildad, having heard Job’s prayer, erred in two ways in his response: supposing his need to defend God’s sovereignty, and disposing of an opportunity to exhibit mercy.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Matthew 9:13

There are only three times in the Bible that Jesus tells His disciples to go and learn something. In addition to the lesson of Matthew 9:13, He tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him in order that we may find our rest (Matthew 11:29) and to learn the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32), an admonishment to be cognizant of the times.

In that regard, Bildad struck out on three pitches—he was oblivious to what was going on around him, he had no serenity, and worst of all, he was merciless. Why–because he placed his entire weight upon justice; that is to say that he set mercy aside so he might insure the justice of God was intact (as if He needed us to do that).

Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter. 1 Samuel 6:19

Nowhere in the Bible is that better illustrated then in the account above. The Philistines had just returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel and the first thing they do is pop off the cover to see if the Ten Commandments are still inside. Did you catch that? The removed the ‘Mercy Seat’ to see if the Law was still intact.

Where does God choose to meet His people–at the seat of mercy, that’s where! Enter Jesus. Here’s the truth: those who bypass mercy and rely upon the law for their salvation, die–God used the death of fifty seven thousand Israeli men to emphasize that point very clearly.

Don’t misinterpret what’s being said, the Law has its place; it is the road sign that brings us to His mercy and grace. Know the Law, embrace the Law, use the Law to bring lost souls to a place of redemption, then swiftly allow it to be covered-over by the gracious blood of Christ Jesus at the Mercy Seat. Bildad forsook that opportunity and God forever made him an example of what not to do. Let us endeavor to bring every conversation back around to the loving embrace of our Lord and Savior.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21


 

These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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For now you are nothing, You see terror and are afraid. Did I ever say, ‘Bring something to me’? Or, ‘Offer a bribe for me from your wealth’? Or, ‘Deliver me from the enemy’s hand’? Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of oppressors’? “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. How forceful are right words! But what does your arguing prove? Job 6-21-25

The longer I walk with Jesus Christ, the more I recognize that some of our vilest foes can often be other Christians. For instance, I recently had an alleged Christian tell me that I was a lukewarm believer. Why? Because I openly confessed that my burning passion for Christ was not a bonfire one hundred percent of the time. Citing Revelation 3:16 he decreed that I was in danger of being spewed-out of my Saviors mouth.

Really?

This person (we’ll call him Tim because that was his name), had never spoken to me before and the comment I made was the first he had ever heard me say, but yet this Christian felt he knew God and me well enough to make such a pronouncement. I ended the discussion politely.

That incident caused me to ask of myself, “Why do other Christians say [and do] such mean, horrible things.” Well before I even prayed for an answer, the Holy Spirit convicted me, “Dave, you’ve done the same thing a million times before.”

Ouch

God was right, I am guilty of doing the same thing. So I rephrased my question, “Why do WE do these things to other Christians.”

The Lord provided a partial answer in today’s text. Job, in responding to Eliphaz’s dreadful chiding says to him, “For now you are nothing, You see terror and are afraid,” and thus gives Eliphaz a clue for the reason why he was so cruel—FEAR.

Job is essentially saying, that if what he said in his defense was true, ‘that his sin had not brought about these awful things,’ and that there was no reasonable explanation for them, then Eliphaz was fearful because his rationalization (that Job sinned and brought about God’s curse) was without merit, and therefore he was susceptible to them as well. In other words, Eliphaz was standing on his un-contextual doctrine because in it he felt safe and secure.

It’s the same thing as telling someone, “God didn’t cure you of cancer because you don’t have enough faith.” By definition, that is a fear-driven statement.

How do we change our behavior?

There are two ways to change and God is in both of them. The first way is the easiest way: read God’s word and learn from the mistakes others have made—this is one of the reasons all these blunders are included in the Bible! Like I said that’s the easy way, but sadly, most, including myself, rarely take the easy way.

The other method is to hold our doctrinal ground and allow the Lord to knock us off our high horses. What might that look like? Suddenly that so-called, faith-filled person gets cancer. On these occasions we (hopefully) realize that our ideologies are not applicable in every situation, especially when we don’t know anything about the other person(s) we supposedly ministering to.

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

So how do we know when to speak?

Certainly there are times the Holy Spirit moves us to be the voice of Christian reason. The question is how do we know when it’s God’s time for us to speak? The simple answer is God will tell us. How well we hear God is directly proportionate to how consistently we are in His Word and in prayer. Even then we should compare what we’re about to say (and how we intend to say it) against James 3:12-18. If our reproof does not line-up perfectly with this passage, then we need to retreat, revise, and maybe reject what we were going to say.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:12-18


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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…After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Job 42:7

What did Job’s friend Eliphaz say that got God so riled up?

Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error, How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before a moth? They are broken in pieces from morning till evening; They perish forever, with no one regarding. Does not their own excellence go away? They die, even without wisdom. Job 4:17-21

The above passage is only a snippet of a larger discourse, but in it we see how Eliphaz took a fundamental truth of God, added his own words, and then used the mixture to verbally assault Job. There is some legitimacy in his remarks; it had an appearance of godliness, but because he contaminated it with his own worldly doctrine, it was powerless. Being half right made him totally wrong and watering down God’s word was hurtful rather then helpful.

I do however find it intriguing that Eliphaz reminded us that we ‘dwell in houses of clay’ although I doubt if he recognized the relevance of his phraseology. The fact that the Lord formed man out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and that the Apostle Paul likens us to earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7) puts forward the notion that we are clay houses and not merely casual inhabitants of them. But that’s not the end of it—we are clay houses with a purpose!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

If we listen to the false teacher Eliphaz, we might believe that our brokenness is without function; that we live, we die, and we suffer in-between, and rarely, if ever does anyone care to take notice. While that is a gross exaggeration, there is a tiny morsel of truth within it. However, the world would be well served to remember that God does not exist for us, but rather we exist for Him and even in our suffering God can be glorified.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Colossian 1:16

Therefore, our wholeness and (as it pertains to this story) our brokenness serves a Greater purpose. Let’s go back to the earthen-vessel analogy for a moment. Do you remember the story in Judges of Gideon and his triumph over the Midianites? How he, by God’s direction, took an army of three hundred, armed with trumpets and earthen vessels, and went against a Midianite force of over one hundred and thirty thousand. Do you recall what happened next?

Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers–they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing–and they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. Judges 7:20-21

The light shone when the vessels were broken!

Therein lays our doctrine. In our brokenness the light of Jesus can shine! If we don’t understand the devise of brokenness or refuse to yield to the work God wants to do in it, we become troubled and miserable. But when by faith we chose to see the bigger picture, we are blessed—we recognize God’s divine plan and His purpose for it. We are refined, God is glorified, and non-believers are drawn to His light. For further examination let’s consider the Exodus story.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” Exodus 14:1-4

God purposely put His people between a rock and a hard place, or more precisely, between two mountains and the Red Sea. Why? Because in so doing His Divinity and supremacy became known to the Egyptians. Did it work? Yup. Were any of the Egyptians saved as a result? It wouldn’t seem so, but that’s not the issue—God revealed Himself to non-believers and gave them a choice to make—the fact that they chose unwisely isn’t germane to my point.

What if Israel protested; what if they said to Moses, “How dare God bring us to this place of brokenness. This is not fair!” Would that have changed their predicament one iota? No, they still would have had to endure it. Wasn’t it better to understand that in their brokenness God was doing a good work of some sort? Isn’t it a better testimony for us to bear our trials joyfully rather than mournfully?

Can we see God’s hand in our troubles? Is there a bigger picture that we’re not seeing in the loss of a job, the diagnosis, or the death of a loved one? We might never know why bad things happen, but we can find our hope, peace, and assurance in knowing that God’s ways are always righteous and true.


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” …In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:6 + 10

We’re all familiar with the story of Job; how God partially removed His hand of protection in order that satan could wreak havoc on his life. As a result Job loses almost everything: his wealth, his health, his livelihood, and his entire family, except of course for his wife (satan can be so cruel sometimes).

Behind all of Job’s misery we will get a foretaste of God’s purpose; beyond the misery we catch a glimpse of God’s blessing. The awesome reality is that every bit of the suffering, whether it is in Job’s life or our own, will make perfect sense when we get to Heaven.

And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” Revelation 16:7

Apparently Job understood the doctrine. All the garbage that comes our way serves a much greater and divine purpose. Understandably that purpose might not make any sense at all now, but when we see Jesus face-to-face, we will all proclaim, “Righteous and true are Your ways!” Therein lies our hope!

In the Meantime

In the meantime how should we handle adversity? How should we respond to the news we have lost our job, we have cancer, or a loved one has died tragically? Consider what Job did:

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. Job 1:20

Job was sorrowful, but in his sorrow he worshipped the Lord. In so doing Job blessed the Lord and was given the opportunity (by example) to be a great witness for the Lord. However, as the text picks up in chapter two, we see that satan is at it again—Job is afflicted with boils all over his body. What Job did next silenced satan for the remaining forty chapters of the book.

In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10

Not only didn’t Job curse God (or anyone else for that matter) he didn’t complain about his situation—he kept his mouth shut. That gives me great pause. Is that my testimony? When someone wrongs me or if things are not going my way, do I lash out at whoever I believe is responsible or do I remain silent? More importantly, which reaction is pleasing to God? Which one has the potential to silence satan?

Do all things without complaining and disputing… Philippians 2:14

I’m tempted to say that everyone complains; it is our nature, but that’s only half the truth—complaining isn’t our nature, it’s our sin-nature; when we complain we are in sin. I admit that complaining has a certain degree of satisfaction associated with it, but knowing that satan is silenced when I keep my silence is much more satisfying. Wouldn’t you agree?


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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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‘Access the Power Within You’ (Youtube) is the name of the video. I watched and I am glad I did. I’m glad because now I can tell you to not waste your time or energy. From a Christian perspective, it is a lie. For about two and a half minutes it presents Christian-like expressions over tranquil photographs, giving it a biblical appearance and therein lies the danger. 2 Timothy 3:5 tells us to turn away from people who have a form of godliness.

I went through the video line-by line, copied its verse here, and posted an appropriate biblical response to each.

‘Access the power within you to create your own reality’

That’s yoga, not Christianity. Psalm 62:11 says, “God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.”

‘I am a…Divine being’

God would disagree. He spoke directly through the prophet when He said in Isaiah 43:10, “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.

‘I have unlimited potential’

To the contrary, our singular potential is quite limited. While it is true we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), we discover in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” I would add that when God says we can do all things, the implication is ‘all the things HE empowers us to do,’ not the things we want to do on our own.

‘I am One with the Creator’

Galatians 3:28 does say, “For you are all one in Christ Jesus,” but I noted who the video capitalized the ‘O’ in the word one. In the context of the entire video he or she was implying equality and shared supremacy with the Lord. Deuteronomy 10:17, “The Lord your God is supreme over all gods and over all powers. He is great and mighty, and he is to be obeyed.”

‘Therefore I have the ability to create’

No you don’t. Man can be ‘creative’, but only God can create. At best , man can copy (poorly I might add) what God has already created. Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 is our reminder: “Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, the time for making love and the time for not making love, the time for kissing and the time for not kissing. He sets the time for finding and the time for losing, the time for saving and the time for throwing away, the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. He sets the time for love and the time for hate, the time for war and the time for peace. What do we gain from all our work?”

‘My thoughts are energy…they expand out into the universe to create dreams’

Look at what God has to say about our thoughts. Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And Isaiah 65:2 “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations”

‘I change my thoughts to transform my life’

Only God can transform us into anything worthwhile. Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” And we can add to that John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

‘I resonate in the energy of gratitude by counting my blessing everyday’

Again, this ‘sounds right’ but its suggesting that there is a work we can do that is eternally beneficial; that is just not the case—its ALL God’s grace. Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

‘I evaluate my emotions to bring awareness to thoughts that need to heal’

This is in error too—we do not know our own hearts (we think we do, but we lie to ourselves). Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”

‘I affirm and clear my energies with love, joyful, peaceful thoughts’

Once again, we haven’t the power to cleanse ourselves. Psalm 139:23-24 reminds to submit ourselves first to God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Then we submit ourselves to His cleansing power.” And 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

‘I take time to visualize to; manifest my dreams into reality’

I took note of the yoga position in this portion of the video—yoga has no place with Christianity. Bottom line here is that our will needs to align itself with God’s will (not the other way around)—following our own wills is likened to sin. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

‘I expect miracles everyday because I am a miracle’

Those who are saved by God’s grace are miracles. Everything about our composition and the universe in which we reside is a miracle. I thank God for these miracles and I pray that He continues providing them. I anticipate God’s miracles, but I will not suppose from God that I am due a single one. Romans 9:15-16, 20-21 “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy…But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Finally…

Their link is http://www.powerwithin.us so I checked it out. It opens with a quote from Lao Tzu who was a mystic philosopher of ancient China and the author of the Tao Te Ching. He is considered to be the founder of Taoism (aka: Daoism).

That site is affiliated with http://www.lifepathcenter.net who propagate workshops including: Natural Healing Practices, Meditation for Beginners, Yoga, Qigong, Connect With the Angels, Healing with Colors and Crystals, and Numerology.

Jesus Christ is not even given an honorable mention on either of these websites (and actually, I’m glad).

Here’s the video if you still want to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVhVC7f7-dE

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When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Esther 7:8

“Coincidence is God‘s way of remaining anonymous”

That quote is attributed to Albert Einstein in an essay titled ‘The World As I See It’ and I cite it [here] because it lends itself well to the entire Book of Esther. How so—because beginning in Ester 1:1 and ending in Ester 10:1 the volume makes absolutely no reference to God. Other words you won’t see in Esther include: prayer, pray, worship, and sacrifice. That amazes me. It amazes me because God is all over this book.

It Just So Happened

A skeptic might read Esther and expectedly conclude that there are a lot of coincidences in Esther’s story. They might add that not seeing God’s name mentioned gives their notion credibility. However the faithful contend that this book of coincidences is really a book of grace and Divine intervention. Just consider the interactions between evil Haman and Mordecai the good guy.

Haman loathed Mordecai because he wouldn’t bow in his presence; therefore he planned to hang him in the gallows the very next day. That night (as coincidence would have it), the king could not sleep, so he called for the records of the kingdom to be read aloud to him (surely this would put him to sleep). But it was there he heard about an attempt on his life and the man who thwarted it, none other than our hero Mordecai.

The king summoned Haman and tells him of a man he desires to bestow a great honor. Haman, the pompous fool that he was (believing it was him), gives the king an elaborate depiction of how this man should be praised. It wasn’t until later he realized that the man was Mordecai. His plot foiled, Haman discovered he was the one who would parade Mordecai through the streets praising him!

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him. Proverbs 26:27

Haman’s original evil plot was eventually revealed by Esther at a wine-filled banquet. The king is enraged when he discovers Haman’s wickedness and wisely walks away to gain his composure. A drunken Haman walks over to Esther and pleads for his life and in so doing falls on her. At that very moment (coincidently) the king reenters to room to find Haman seemingly assaulting his wife and was not pleased. Long story short, Haman was hung on the gallows he had constructed to kill Mordecai.

Coincidence? I think not.

God’s Love

There’s no doubt that Haman was evil and corrupt beyond redemption, but it would also be fair to say that Mordecai and Esther were in a spiritual slump, as were their Jewish brothers and sisters residing in the territory–the Godlessness of the text bears witness to that. For whatever the reasons, they had elected to stay where their ancestors had been held captive for seventy years and not return to Jerusalem–for the most part, those reasons were not good ones, and collectively they point to a backslidden condition.

I suppose the point I have taken so long to get to is realized in this one verse:

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

Is that not a wonderful promise? If you are backslidden, that should give you great hope—God does not abandon His children because they stumble or because they tend to stay down for awhile after they have fallen. Our Father in Heaven blesses us still because we are His, even if we have forgotten for a season to mention His name.

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us… Acts 17:26-27


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:11-14

Wednesdays are typically Asbury Park Train Station days. I pack up my guitar, drive the five miles or so to the station and settle into one of the pew-like benches. The mission: to share the Good News through song. Talking about Jesus in the train station is frowned upon, but singing about Him is apparently okay; regardless of how well or un-well you sing.

I always pray before I go and ask the Lord to open doors and such, but normally there’s not a whole lot of interaction. Occasionally someone will amble by and give an appreciative nod to the music and/or the Subject matter, but for the most part I’m just praying for some evangelical seeds to be planted. I’m not concerned—God is in control. Today was more interesting than most in that I had two visitors: Rob and Gene.

Rob

I could smell Rob before I could see him. As he sat down next to me it was clear he was inebriated; matted hair hung from beneath his faded cap, stains marked the back and sleeves of his winter coat, and the front of his pants were wet down one side to his knee.

“Music sounds good; mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“Thanks. Not at all.” I said.

He introduced himself as Rob and stuck out his hand. Rob wanted to talk and I wanted to listen, and like drunks do, he repeated the same comments and asked the identical questions over and over. When it was my turn we talked about Jesus.

I knew going in that was going to be a difficult road; talking to intoxicated people for the purpose of conveying a message (any message) is generally an act of futility. Nevertheless, there we were sitting on the same bench chatting away—I’m convinced God had orchestrated this meeting and it really wasn’t any of my business to figure out why He had.

I briefly shared my testimony and Rob was genuinely intrigued that God healed me of my addictions–He then confessed that he hated every aspect of his life. I told him God could heal him right then and there if he wanted Him too. Rob told me all about Jesus Christ and sin and salvation. I told him, “Satan knows Jesus too. The difference is that Christians follow Jesus.”

Sadly he chose not to follow Him this day. Rob got up to leave.

I gave him a tract and told him to put it in his pocket and to read it when he could see more clearly.

Gene

About an hour later Gene joined me on the bench. At first I thought Gene was a drunk too. He wasn’t. He wheeled his large, green plastic garbage can in front of him and sat down. A mop stuck out from beneath the bungeed lid and I spied a shiny toaster through the breach it created.

“Music sounds good; mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“Thanks. Not at all.” I said.

He told me his name was Gene and that he thought it was no accident that he chose to sit down next to me. “God wanted me to hear this music I guess.” He said.

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

He said that he was and threw in, “And I’ve been clean for four years August 26th.”

Praise the Lord,” I said. “What happened four years ago that set you straight.”

Gene told me his tragic story, one littered with success, drugs, alcohol, and one relapse after another. One night, about four years ago, he planned on killing himself.

“I had a rock about this big,” he said holding up his thumb and index finger to form a circle, “and I was going to smoke the whole thing. I put out nine candles all around me and sat under a blanket in the middle. I broke off a piece and fired it up. Instantly the room got dark and I felt a big black man leaning over me and pushing me down. I knew it was the devil and smashed the pipe against the cement.”

Gene acted out the scenes as he spoke.

“I’m kinda ashamed to tell you what happened next—I prayed for Jesus to save me and immediately the darkness lifted and I was able to fall asleep. But when I woke up, there was the pipe and the crack, so I did it again. And the same thing happened! So I hid under the blanket and told Jesus, ‘If I see the light coming through this window tomorrow morning, I will give my life to you’. The next morning the sun was shining through the window and that was about four years ago.”

Gene went on to tell me how his life is today and about his church and his pastor. The truth of the matter is Gene’s life is still very, very difficult. While he was talking an older teenager walked over; Gene stood up and gave him a hug. If I were to size him up, I’d say the guy was a drug dealer.

“That’s my nephew,” he said hanging his head a little lower, “I shouldn’t be hanging around guys like that, but he’s family. I share with him what I can and pray for him all the time. He’s in God’s hands now.”

The northbound train was announced; Gene said his goodbyes and walked towards the platform.

“I’m gonna pray for you Gene…how can I pray for you?” I asked.

“The whole thing,” he said, “you can just pray for the whole thing.”

Rob and Gene

I don’t know, my heart breaks for both these guys. By his own admission Rob is rarely sober enough to grasp the reality of his situation, let alone God’s grace and plan for his life. Gene on the other hand is saved and his eternal future is secure, but satan is persistently on his heals trying to drag him to an early death. In the middle there’s me trying to understand why the Lord blessed me with an almost effortless faith. It all doesn’t make much sense right now.

If you remember, would you pray for these guys.


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Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Have respect to the covenant; For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name. Psalm 74:19-21

He spoke first. “I’d love to do this,” he said, “but I’m on a fixed income.”

Jerry motioned to his wife silently, “You keep walking, I’ll catch up, I’m okay here a few minutes.” These two clearly knew each other very well; her unbroken stride and a quarter nod was her only acknowledgment.

Picking up the conversation I said, “Hey, that’s okay; the best thing you could do for us is pray.”

The us I was referring to was a ministry I used to serve with.

“Oh not me,” He said, “I’m not the guy for that.”

My spiritual ears went up. Getting to talk to lots of people about lots of things was one of the perks of the job and I sensed that I was on the verge of having one of those wonderful discussions. Perceiving that this old man was not a believer, I quickly prayed, “God, help me here please.”

“Why is that; why aren’t you the guy,” I asked. I extended my hand, introduced myself and asked, “What’s your name?”

He told me his name was Jerry and that he was eighty seven years old. “I’ve seen too much,” he said. “It was my job to get our prisoners back from Japan. What they had done to these guys was the worst thing I ever saw.” Then he added, “We were just as bad.”

“So you don’t believe in God?” I asked.

“Oh I used to, but that was before the war,” he said, but added, “There can’t be a God; God wouldn’t let this kind of stuff happen.”

I wanted to share a whole bunch, but I figured he had heard a sermon or two since those World War II days. I weighed in a little bit and apologized at least twice for sounding a little preachy. He assured me it was okay and that I was correct—many pastors and good intended Christians have talked to him through the years regarding his faithlessness.

“I just can’t get past the pain,” he would tell them and, “I just can’t get past the pain,” was what he told me.

Jerry continued, “We would put food out in the open to lure them in and then we would shoot them. We were ordered to shoot them in the belly so they wouldn’t die right away and the others would have to come and help them. Then we would shoot them too. I’m not proud of what I done.”

“Do you think that what you did was unforgivable?” I asked.

Jerry hung his head low and said, “Yes.”

I began to tell him otherwise, but he stopped me in my tracks, “Dave, like I said, I’ve heard this all a hundred times before.”

I tried a different tact. “So what you’re telling me Jerry is that you don’t believe in Heaven or hell; is that right?”

He nodded.

“What do you believe happens when you die,” I asked.

Jerry told me what one would expect to hear: you die, life is over, and your body rots in the ground, to which I replied replied, “Jerry, if you’re right that will be wonderful. If there is no Heaven and no hell, I can’t think of a better conclusion. We’re born, we live, we die, and that’s the end.”

I paused a few seconds waiting for his upper lip to reveal when he was going to speak. When it did I cut in, “But Jerry, what if you’re wrong–what if I’m right and you’re wrong?”

The expression on his face revealed that in all his eighty seven years he never pondered that question. He started to speak, but he had nothing, so I interrupted, “Jerry, by your own account, God has sent at least a hundred people to you with a message—do you think that’s He’s trying to get your attention?”

Jerry nodded.

“Jerry. You’re eighty seven years old. How many more messages do you think you’re going to get before you die?”

Jerry’s countenance changed somewhat. He seemed angered at my remark, but his speech failed him again.

“Jerry, do you want to sit and have a cup of coffee with me?” I asked.

“No, I can’t. The wife’s here, I gotta go,” he said.

“Okay Jerry,” I said, “it was such a pleasure talking to you. But will you please remember those four words I told you?”

He recited them back to me, “What if I’m wrong.”

“That’s right, ‘What if you’re wrong,’” I said.

“How could I forget,” he said and shook my hand.

On the ride home I beat myself pretty good. I could have said things better. I could have been more vigorous in my request to have coffee with him. I acknowledged before the Lord that I ignored His leading at least once during our conversation. Then the Lord reminded me that the encounter wasn’t about me. He assured me that I did my part and that Jerry’s salvation was His responsibility, not mine. I was also reminded that the best thing I could do was pray.

Where had I heard that before?

Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Have respect to the covenant; For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name. Psalm 74:19-21

Pray for the Jerrys of the world.

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And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Have you ever wondered why we do church the way we do? Well the truth of the matter is that church methodology had been prescribed thousands of years ago and is recorded in God’s Word the Bible. Believers know that all scripture is God-breathed, that it’s a beneficial doctrine for rebuke, refinement, and righteous teaching; that is if we desire to be Godly, complete, and thoroughly equipped for Christian service (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Let’s start in the New Testament.

The Early Church

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

I whole heartedly agree with this narrative, as it lays out for us an illustration of what an effective body of believers should look like. However, we can go deeper and consequently put more meat on this bone as we venture back into the Old Testament. While Acts 2 gives us a paragraph, the Book of Nehemiah devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Let’s go through some of those informative passages.

The Earlier Church

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Nehemiah 8:1-2

The faithful gathered and were of one mind. The Apostle Paul, an Old Testament scholar himself, would extend this concept to the believers at Philippi, writing, ‘if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2).

They went to a symbolic place–the Water Gate, where life giving water flowed and where everyone habitually gathered. They were out in the open where access could be easily gained and where secrets could not be contained. No one would be excluded as they happened upon the meeting.

They sought a knowledgeable person (Ezra) and a reliable source—God’s Word, The Book of the Law. I love the fact that it was the only resource utilized.

The assembly was orderly and only those who could hear with understanding were in attendance. Why? Because those without understanding, namely children, were a distraction—a good reason why children should be in Sunday school classes and not in church proper.

Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. Nehemiah 8:3-4

Ezra’s service was about six hours long this day. I submit to you that this was not the norm, but it was what the Lord ordained for this particular day. Understand that the people were eager, willing, and attentive. If the question was raised, “How long is church?” it sounds as if the answer would have likely been, “As long as it takes!” We note that the people were glad.

We see the use of a pulpit, but observe that the preacher stood atop it and not behind it. In other words, he stood upon a platform whereby he could be clearly seen and heard by everyone in attendance. And he wasn’t alone; Ezra had many knowledgeable men at his side.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. Nehemiah 8:5-8

Ezra opened The Book of the Law (a scroll actually) in front of the people making it clear that this was, a) God’s Word and, b) he wasn’t making this stuff up as he went along—he had thirteen men up there on stage with him to testify to that fact.

When the Word was opened, the people stood. We take note that nobody instructed them to stand–it was understood by all that God was in their midst. In honor to God they would stand and later in reverent worship they would kneel. Again, there was no direction to do so; their orderly response was an obedient gesture that was discerned by those who believed.

In addition to the men standing with Ezra on the pulpit, there were more educated men mingling about the crowd assisting those with questions about the text. In this manner, no one left the meeting without clarity. My friends, this is the need and purpose of the church today—for God’s word to be read clearly and with explanation so that the congregation can be equipped for Christian service.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12

At first we’re perplexed and wonder why the congregation wept and was mournful. Let us recall our Bible studies that remind us that the word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).

We can better understand their grief when we understand the text they were studying that day—The Law. The Law brings sorrow to those who understand the implications; i.e., that we fall way short in our compliance and that perfect adherence is impossible. The Law is merely the road sign that points us to our solution found in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:24).

And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” …And there was very great gladness. Nehemiah 8:14, 15, 17b

This passage demonstrates why there is need to go through the Bible cover-to-cover for fear that something be left out or forgotten. Too many churches today follow sermon lectionaries which stipulate particular passages to be highlighted and taught based solely on the church calendar. On the exterior it appears a nice method, but sadly it only minimally scratches the surface of what God would have us hear. Frankly, some topics are never discussed in this system. That ought not to be.

In Nehemiah’s case ultimately, and in due season, there was great gladness within the congregation because the people heard the Word–the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it were. If this does not sound like your church it might be time for a change; what that change looks like is between you and the Lord.


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. Nehemiah 3:1

The Gates of Jerusalem

In the story of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem to rebuild its fortification wall we see that there are ten gates incorporated within the structure. At first glance these gates might not seem very significant to us, after all they’re just gates. However, if we scrutinize the name of each gate and their placement within the story, we discover a kind of blueprint for our Christian walk. Are these names and their order in Nehemiah’s account some sort of coincidence? You be the judge—I’ve listed the gates in the exact order they appear in the Bible..

The Sheep Gate

The repairs to the wall had to start somewhere, right? I feel it is absolutely appropriate that our walk of faith starts here as well—for two reasons. First, we are likened to sheep who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6) who are exhorted to enter by the narrow gate (Luke 13:24). But more importantly, Who is it that we believe and follow?

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

The Fish Gate

Salvation is found in Christ Jesus alone; there is no work that we can do to earn our deliverance. Nevertheless, the born again believer is grateful and Christian duty is the common reaction to that sentiment. It is in fact our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

The Old Gate

Are you beginning to see a pattern emerge?

As we share our faith or as others witness our religious behavior, someone will inevitably start asking questions. That’s a glorious consequence because so many times I won’t have the precise answer they’re looking for. I’m drawn back to the Old Gate, the Bible and as a result we’re both blessed. Jesus Christ is both the Word (John 1:1) and the rejected stone which became the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work . 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Valley Gate

Trials and tribulations are a certainty when we walk with Jesus. Oh we’re not being singled out because of our faith for no one is exempt; believers and non-believers have problems to cope with. What we have is the opportunity to manage our problems differently. In our observance God is glorified.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

The Refuse Gate

I must defer to the King James Version because in it this opening in Jerusalem’s wall is referred to as the Dung Gate and as we all know, ‘dung happens.’ The reality is we’re all going to mess up and satan’s going to come along and remind us how dungy our walk is. The key here is to remember that our adversary isn’t pleased when we fall; he’s pleased when we don’t get up.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

The Fountain Gate

Our Savior is the fountain of life (Psalms 36:9), His law is a fountain of life (Proverbs 13:14), and the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). The worst we can do is to forsake the Source and hewn for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). After the valley and dung how refreshing it is to come back to the fountain. As we mature in the faith we soon learn that the fountain is portable.

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14

The Water Gate

In the typology we might think the Fountain Gate and the Water Gate refer to the same thing. Well (pun intended), to a certain degree they do. The fountain is the source and the water itself is that which we drink up, soak in, and share with others. It quenches our thirst and cleanses the soul.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word Ephesians 5:25-26

The Horse Gate

Now we’re getting into some exciting stuff, because when I think of horses, I think of Christ’s return. Will you be on one of these mighty steeds?

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints Jude 1:14

The East Gate

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:4) Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. (Ezekiel 43:1-2)

If you go to Israel today (so I am told) you will see that the East Gate is all bricked up. It’s been that way since the Seljuk Turks sealed it in about 1100 AD. I’m told that they had learned from the scriptures that Christ would be returning via the east Gate and this was their attempt to thwart His arrival. Silly Turks. Little did they know that they merely were fulfilling prophesy. Anybody think Jesus is going to turn away when He finds the East Gate closed? Me either.

Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. 2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. Ezekiel 44:1-2

The Miphkad Gate

Miphkad means command from the root word which means the appointed place and it speaks to judgment. Every believer should understand that there are two judgments; God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 3:17). The righteous will stand before the Lord and have their works judged; their salvation however is secure:

Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire1 Corinthians 3:13-15

And the wicked will also be judged. Their eternal future is secure too, however…

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.5 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

The Sheep Gate

Wait a minute; we started with the Sheep Gate. Correct! We have come full circle–the Sheep Gate is mentioned at the very beginning and very end of Nehemiah chapter 3. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). Our story begins with Jesus and ends with Jesus; that is of course if you want to call eternity in Heaven with Him a finale.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:11-12


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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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