Friday, October 26, 2012

An Unseen Presence

It doesn't take much faith to believe in the natural world we see all around us each day when we wake up and walk outside like I did this beautiful autumn morning.  The sun was shining and the air was crisp with just a hint of a breeze from the north.  What could a man require or want more than God's green earth?

The problem is ... it's not just the earth we need to be aware of.  There's an unseen presence that the average man finds hard to believe or accept, simply because he doesn't want to think about it.  What is it?  He's not alone.  There's something dark and evil lurking on this planet ... it's called the Spirit World.

John Wesley said ... "The Spirit World is dark unto us, but we lie open to it."

I have been a believer in the Spirit World ever since the age of four.  I was an unwilling believer.  At the tender young age of four, I had absolutely no defense against the fear and torment the demonic powers inflicted upon my young heart and mind after the death of my mother

Daytime wasn't a problem ... it was in the dark ... at night, after I was asleep.  There was nothing I could do except scream.  At the foot of my bed, something would climb up out of a hole just large enough for this ugly, hairy creature with long arms and fingers to grab me by my legs and start pulling me down into this hole from which he came.  He had an evil laugh, and I remember seeing and smelling the smoke and fire deep within.  I could feel the heat rising up and hear people crying and screaming in what sounded like torturous, agonizing suffering as I felt myself starting to be pulled downward into the underworld.  I somehow knew it was Hell.

Each time this happened to me, I wasn't pulled very far into this hole or tunnel, maybe only five or six feet downward ... when someone real strong reached down and grabbed hold of me and lifted me back out.  He always said to the creature that had me ... "No!  You can't have him, he's mine."  Then I would wake up in my bed screaming for my mother.  But she wasn't there.

I didn't learn until much later, years in fact, that my young soul was being attacked by demonic spirits trying to make me believe I had no choice ... that I was destined for Hell.  My mother was gone ... God took her ... and she was never coming back.  I would never see her again, I would never hear her warm comforting voice when I was afraid, or hear her laugh again at silly things I did.  When the devastation of death comes, especially to a child, he or she is left in a vulnerable position not only for emotional distress, but they are also left open for spiritual attacks by Satan.

I am writing about ... an unseen presence ... but what I saw and felt was just as real as my mother's death.  You can call it a dream if you like, but you would be wrong. 

There is a Spirit World and I found out just how real it is.

Six months or so went by with only a few more frightful nights of spiritual attacks.  I really can't remember how many there were.  During this time my father had met a very nice single Christian woman ... and as things progressed, dad had a new wife and I had a new mother.  I didn't know it at the time, but now I had a powerful new weapon that was soon to be loosed on that evil unseen presence.
With-in two weeks of her arrival in our home, the demonic powers were at it again ... trying to pull me down into hell.  Again I woke up screaming ... but this time ... the voice and arms of a Spirit filled believer were there to support and comfort my young heart and soul.  It didn't take her long to sense what was happening.  You see, a blood bought, Holy Spirit filled believer can feel and perceive when the power of darkness is around.

I don't know exactly how or what she did, other than go to prayer and take control of the situation by commanding these evil spirits, through the power that is in the name of Jesus to leave me alone, and never come back.  And they never did.  She brought with her the authority of Jesus' name and established it into our lives.

Dear ones ... there is a God, and there is a devil ... I know, for I have dealt with his demons before I was ready for them.  I don't have problems with them any more.  I learned from the Word of God this statement of fact ... "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  (1st John 4:4)

So ... what are demons and where did they come from?  Demons are disembodied spirits.  What is that?  Disembodied spirits are fallen angels who had their angelic bodies taken away from them by God, because they left the spiritual realm and tried to operate in the natural world as if they were man.  (Genesis 6:4)

Consider the following two verses ...

Jude 1:6 ... "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

2nd Peter 2:4 ... "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment ..."

The key to understanding what Jude and Peter spoke about are in the almost identical phrases they used ... "chains under darkness" and "chains of darkness."  Because of what these fallen angels did; when God took away their angelic bodies, it left them with only the ability to operate as a spirit being.  Hence the term ... a disembodied spirit.

The easiest way to explain why they are chained in darkness is simply because they no longer have a body, and no longer can reflect light.  It's like they are in the darkness of outer space.  The universe is dark except when solid objects like planets, moons, or man made satellites, etc. reflect the light from the various suns.  A spirit cannot reflect light because it is intangible; it lacks substance and has no physical presence, and is incapable of being touched or seen.

Being unable to operate and express themselves in this natural physical world as they used to, they need to gain control or take possession of some physical body made of flesh; preferably a human being, but even animals will do.  Remember the man called Legion in Luke 8:33 ... "Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine ..."

Because these disembodied spirits are still under Satan's control, they are ... demonic.

Many of the demons working their evil in the world today may be some of the very same ones Jesus had to deal with when He was on the earth.  He left Satan and his evil bunch here on earth when He went back to Heaven, but only after He destroyed Satan's power (Hebrews 2:14) and made him to be of no effect unto believers ...  "destroyed" meaning ... "to render entirely useless, make void, bring to nought."

Paul states in Colossians 2:15, that Jesus ... "spoiled principalities and powers" ... which refers to Satan and his evil worldly kingdom.

Should we fear evil spirits?  I love Martin Luther's answer to this very question.

He said he was awakened by a noise one night while sleeping in his bedroom.  When he turned over to see what the noise was, he said ... "the devil himself" ... was standing in his room.  Martin Luther said ... "Oh, it's you again" ... turned back over and went to sleep.

There was no fear in that bedroom.  And there isn't any fear in my bedroom anymore.  The unseen presence of demonic powers were broken by Jesus.  It's been sixty-four years since I was tormented as a four year old little boy who had lost his mother.  I was open to attack by a defeated foe because I was too young and heartbroken to know what was going on.

But now, because Jesus promised to never leave me or forsake me ... I know that I have another unseen presence with me at all times ... and there are times I believe I can hear the the Lion of the tribe of Judah, padding along side of me.

That Lion is named ... Jesus

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Attitude Adjustment

Do you ever think about what goes through your mind?  Do you control your thoughts or do you allow anything free entrance?  Do things invade your mind and take control of your thoughts, if only for very short periods of time?

Your physical brain is in your cranium, which we usually call the skull, the bony part enclosing your gray matter.  Most people would say that your mind is in your brain, meaning the area where thought or reason takes place.  But I'm not too sure that is right.

I will agree that things like math or science may take place there, (still speaking of the brain) which might even include logic as well as the lost art of using common sense which is in short supply now days.

But I'm really thinking about motivation, why you allow certain thoughts into your mind that you are willing to entertain and give attention or consideration to.  So where is this place or area of your mind if it's not in your brain?  It's spoken of in the Word of God as ... the heart of man.  Some prefer to call it your soul.  I have no problem with either descriptive term. 

I believe your soul is where good and evil do battle for the control of your "heart and mind" where the will of man resides.  You see ... the terms heart and mind in scripture are speaking of the same thing.

When scripture speaks of the heart, it is usually the Greek "kardia" (pronounced kar-dee'-ah) which means ... the thoughts and feelings.  Notice, thoughts are of the mind and feelings are from the center of your being, referred to as from the heart.

Whenever the word mind is used, it can be either of two separate Greek words very close in their meanings.  One is "nooce" (pronounced noose) meaning ... the intellect, the mind in thought, feeling or will.

The second word is "dianoia" (pronounced dee-an'-oy-ah) meaning ... deep thought, or disposition.

Would I be correct in saying a man's mental disposition might be controlled by his feelings or will?  If so ... both words, heart and mind are basically the same when speaking about the battle over control of our will.

Okay, then how do we make an attitude adjustment with our thinking?  May I  take a verse or two of scripture out of it's setting?  The Apostle Paul's instruction on this is found in ...

Romans 12:2 ... "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Paul says, if you want to transform your thinking, you have to ... renew your mind.  But you say, "I've gotta be me.  I am what I am."

Well, Proverbs 23:7 states ... "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."  This word, heart, is the Hebrew "nephesh" (pronounced neh'-fesh) meaning ... your human vitality, the appetites of the soul.

Is Solomon saying ... that way down in the center core of your being, what I will call your true heart and soul where the fleshly appetites dwell; the nature that only you and God really know about, the man you are when you think nobody can see ... that's the man you really are.

So then, how do we renew our minds; how will this transformation in our thinking come about?

Paul adds this in 2nd Corinthians 10:5 ... "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge  of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

After you gain control of your thinking by the power of Christ within your heart and mind, follow this following instruction each and every day.

Philippians 4:8 ... "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Notice that all the things listed, sound like the principles the heart and mind of God would have dwelling there.  So then ... shouldn't we?

 So what will this kind of thinking do for us?  It gives you control of your spirit and soul, or if you prefer ... the heart and mind.

This is where the battle is fought, in our mind, where the thoughts and imaginations "exalt" themselves over God's will.  Included in this warfare is our fleshly nature and our heart's will ... all doing battle within the soul.  Men everywhere have been given "free will" to choose for themselves.  Because man's soul has "free will" ... it must possess this power of choice.  What you choose is up to you.

Because it is free will,  and your choice alone, it is impossible to force it to choose sin.  Even Satan himself cannot do this; and before he can get it to sin, he must gain its consent.  This is the only reason for the battle within your soul ... to gain control of your "will."

God will not even violate the principle or spiritual law, nor will He allow Satan to take away your "choice" and remove ... "your" ... free will, otherwise it wouldn't be "yours."

What Satan is allowed to do though, is to ... solicit or persuade ... the "will" through the temptation of the flesh until it consents to sin.  The flesh falls first ... the heart and will follows later.  That's why it's important to renew your mind.

Nicholas Herman, a seventeenth century Carmelite monk from French Lorraine who I often quote, spoke of the invasion of thoughts ... well here are his own words. 

"At times a crowd of wandering thoughts would invade my mind and take possession of the place of God; when such happened, I proceeded straightway to expel them and return to my commune with God."

As I said earlier, you don't have to allow certain thoughts into your mind that you willing entertain and give attention or consideration to.  The old monk said ... "I proceeded straightway to expel them."  Get rid of them right away.

To become more like Jesus requires the renewing of your mind.  It's what I call ... "An Attitude Adjustment."

Comments welcome.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Water Baptism

After accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, should we follow the example of Jesus and be baptized in water?  What does it mean?  Is it important?

In John 3:3, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and says to him ... "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Jesus does not reply directly to the question of Nicodemus, but proceeds to give a more explicit statement concerning the new birth.

John 3:5 ... "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

John the Baptist, baptized both Jews and Gentiles as a sign of repentance and purification from past sins.  The Jews, long before John the Baptist, baptized Gentiles who converted over to Judaism.  Nicodemus would have certainly understood the expression, "born of water," as a reference to this rite of baptism.

When a non Jew was admitted to Judaism, through this baptism, he promised to renounce idolatry, to take the God of Israel for his God, and to have his life conformed to the precepts of the Law.  But the water of Jewish baptism was only an emblem of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was speaking about with Nicodemus.

Baptism in water only washed, cleansed, and refreshed the body.  The soul was still in a state of sin.  The soul to be purified from it's sin, needed to be born of the Spirit as Jesus said, meaning ... born again.

When John came baptizing with water, he told the Jews that water only would not suffice; they needed more, they needed the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, which they must all receive from Jesus Christ.

Later on the day of  Pentecost, the Apostle Peter declares in Acts 2:38 ...

"Repent, and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Peter is saying that "each one of you" ... everyone who repents of sin and is baptized, is showing through baptism in His name that you are making an open, public profession of Christ, and acknowledging yourself to be one of His followers.

Peter is saying exactly what Jesus said when He told Nicodemus ... you must be born of water and of the Spirit.  Repentance and remission of sins are the two main principles of our salvation; we repent and Jesus remits our sin.  Salvation is obtained by faith, and is confirmed or endorsed by us through water baptism.

We get baptized in water ... not for salvation ... but because of salvation.

Baptism is normally by immersion, which represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; which means others will see the commitment of faith you have taken.  Do you know what accepting Jesus as the Son of God and being baptized in public would mean to a Jew?  His whole world would be changed.  He would be considered a traitor and treated as a heathen.

Peter later called this public baptism ... demonstrating your faith in Jesus ... to the world.

1st Peter 3:20-21 ... "[The souls of those] who long before in the days of Noah had been disobedient, when God's patience waited during the building of the ark in which a few [people], actually eight in number, were saved through water.  And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now also save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by the removing of outward body filth [bathing], but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience (inward cleanness and peace) before God [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."  (Amplified Bible)

The ark, when Noah and his family were shut up in it by God, represented a type of baptism. The waters came up from the deep under them, the heavens opened and poured water upon them, and they were it seemed, immersed, covered with water ... as a figure of baptism.

Just as only those that were in the ark were saved from the flood; only those that are in Christ are saved from sin.  Not everyone that is baptized shall be saved, unless he also believes and is born again.  Mark 16:16 ... "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."  The blood of Jesus (like the ark) saves, not the water (the flood) you are dipped in. 

Some people just get wet.

Could the reason Jesus wanted the Jews to be born of water (baptized?) as well as of the Spirit have anything to do with a public confession of faith?  He was speaking to Jews, was He not?

Matthew 10:32-33 ... "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."

Look again at what Jesus said to Nicodemus ... "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

If this is true, and it must be because Jesus said it; then this raises a question ... what about the thief on the cross ... he wasn't baptized in water.

This statement is troubling to me and has always raised a question in my mind when I consider the fact that Jesus paid the full price for salvation.  Nothing more can be added.  Nothing more needs to be done.  So why did Jesus say this?

The Apostle Paul expresses water baptism as if it were a real death for us in ...

Romans 6:3-4 ... "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

John Gill (1697-1771) the old English Baptist biblical scholar and theologian comments on this ...

"The nature and end of baptism are here expressed; the nature of it is a burial and when the apostle so calls it, he refers to the only way of administering this ordinance, by immersion; when a person is covered, and as it were buried in water, (as a corpse is when laid in the earth, and covered with it) ... and it is a burial with Christ; it is a representation of the burial of Christ, and of our burial with him."

As baptism is designed to represent the resurrection of Christ ... so likewise baptism is designed to represent our new birth and our resurrection as a new creature in Christ.

1st John 5:6-8 ... "This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

Many students of the Word say that the water and the blood refer primarily to the water baptism at the beginning of His earthly ministry and to the blood which He shed at its close.  Okay ... I can be in agreement with this being "primarily" what they refer to.  But I think there might be more ...

Could not this water also be the same as the "living water" Jesus spoke about to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10-14?

What about Ephesians 5:26, where Paul says that Christ cleanses the Church with ... "the washing of water by the Word."  Jesus has the living water, and He is the Word of God made flesh.

And let me add that both "water and blood" came gushing forth from His side when the Roman spear was plunged into Jesus on the cross.  Water and blood both flowed from His side.  Two rites, both monumental institutions ... both of them witnesses ... testify of Him.

So ... what is my conclusion?

Honestly, I have none.  But I will say this ...

Water baptism, in and of itself ... does not save anyone, has no influence on, nor is it essential to salvation.  Christ only is the cause and author of salvation.

But, unlike the repentant thief on the cross ... if we have the time and opportunity to be baptized in water, as Jesus commanded, we should do so ... as a testimony of our faith in Him.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is God Hiding

I see a man spoken of as being perfect and upright, a man that hated evil and turned away from it.  There is also none like this man in all the earth.  He is a man that has lost everything, including his seven sons and three daughters.  I see this man as his wife eventually tells him to curse God and die.

God allowed Satan to trouble this man named Job with great misery and loss, perhaps like no other man.  But Job's testimony was ... "Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him." 

In all that happened to him, it is said of Job ... "In all this Job did not sin with his lips."

I wonder during Job's long trial if he ever thought God was hiding from him?  He did say this ...

Job 23:3 ... "Oh that I knew where I might find Him ..."

The language used by Job expresses the condition and feeling of this Godly man in his time of testing.  It's as if he is in darkness and cannot find God as he once could.  Job continues to speak about his futile attempt to reach out and find God who seems to be silent and hidden.

Job 23:8-9 ... "Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; I go backward but I cannot perceive Him ... I go to the left and to the right, but cannot behold Him ... He hideth Himself that I cannot see Him."

My interpretation is ... "I look in all directions but cannot find God because He is hiding from me and does not want me to find Him."

Job 23:13-14 ... "But He is of one mind and who can turn Him?  What His soul desireth, He does.  For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me."

I believe Job's meaning could be this ... "God has formed His plans for me and no one can divert Him from them."  The idea seems to be that God was now accomplishing a plan He formed for Job, which Job must submit to because, as a Sovereign God ... He does what He pleases and no one can resist His purpose or decree.

Job did not know the reason why this trial was appointed ... he only knew that it wasn't because of God's wrath, nor was it by chance.  There was a reason for it, even though we cannot see the reason anywhere in the Book of Job.

The question, "Is  God Hiding" did not originate with me.  It's also found in ...

Psalms 10:1 ... "Why standest thou afar off, O LORD?   Hidest thou in times of trouble?"

The Psalmist begins with the complaint, "Lord why are you standing afar off," which suggests the Lord was a spectator with an attitude of indifference and unconcern.  God is never far off from any of His children for He is everywhere ... but when He defers help and assistance to those asking for it, it feels as if He withdraws His presence and hides from them.

Psalms 13:1 ... "How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD?  For ever?  How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?"

David is literally asking God ... "I'm forgotten until when, forever?"   Like Job, David has had enough, feeling as though his trials will never end.  "How long" refers to both questions ... first that he seemed to be forgotten by God.  And second ... that God was hiding from him.

Another Psalmist also asks this same question of the Lord in ...

Psalms 89:46 ... "How long Lord, wilt thou hide thyself ... forever?"

He sounds a lot like I did in the past when seeking the Lord for an answer to a serious problem and nothing changed ... "Lord, how long is this going to continue?  Can it be that this will be forever this way?  Is there to be no change for the better?  Are the promises you made never to be fulfilled?"

I used to ask the Lord, why?  I don't ask anymore.  Do you know why?  Because He doesn't answer that question ... at least not to my satisfaction.

Isaiah 8:17 ... "I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth His face ... and I will look for Him."

Even though many times we may feel like God is hiding from us, be like Isaiah ... wait and look for Him. 

So the question might be raised ... if God is silent as if to be in hiding ... there must be a reason.  The following scripture speaks to possibly one reason ...

Isaiah 59:1-2 ... "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear."

The idea here is that sin separates "like a partition, a wall" and caused or made Him hide so that He withdraws, neglects our prayers and denies their answers until we repent.  But notice this scripture says, "your sins have hid His face from you."  God doesn't do it, we do

Could He today be angry or upset with His church?  What about an individual?  If so, how much longer will He allow things to go?  How long will He leave matters to take their own course?  If He doesn't show Himself soon, if He doesn't come back soon, will there be any faith left upon the earth?  I believe this is one of the questions Jesus Himself asked in Luke 18:8.

But all is not bad news.  Not to worry, because God said in ...

Ezekiel 39:29 ... "Neither will I hide my face any more from them ..." speaking of Israel, and I assume that means the believers in Jesus also.  That's you and me.

My conclusion then is this ... whenever we feel as though God is not paying attention, or He has backed away from us and has become just a spectator, or maybe the age old question ... "is God hiding" ... is brought back up, be assured, the problem is not with God.  We had better search our hearts to see if there be any sin or unbelief of any kind that fogs up our view of Jesus.

In fact the Apostle Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 13:5 ... "Examine yourselves ... prove your own selves.  Know ye not ... that Jesus Christ is in you ..."

Vincent's Word Studies states ... "'Yourselves' is emphatic.  Instead of putting Christ to the test, test yourselves.  To try yourself is better than examine.  Examination does not necessarily imply a practical test.  Trial implies a definite intent to ascertain spiritual condition."

Once again I turn to Nicholas Herman, the seventeenth century Carmelite monk from French Lorraine to sum up what we should do when we think God is hiding.  He says ... "He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere."

Comments welcome.