This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

From the Archives - Epilogue

This post officially ends a series of my old sermons from years back, and these stretched over a period of 7 years approximately. It is my hope that you enjoyed my sharing them with you.

As you may have noticed, the previous messages reflected an evolution of sorts as I have grown and matured in my spirituality over the years. Some things I used to advocate from my earlier days I later have found to be in error and have now refuted, but that is all part of the growth process. Mind you, I have by no measure "arrived" spiritually, as I continue to grow and learn, but II Timothy 2:15 tells us to "study to show ourselves approved," and in the end I hope that anyone will be able to see that. However, I must also confess that I, in re-typing these old messages, have fallen into a common trap - often with theological orthodoxy can come spiritual stagnation, and I went through a 7-year period where I was so dormant that I had no spiritual activity whatsoever, save just going to church weekly and maintaining a daily devotional practice. That ensured my spiritual survival, but I didn't thrive as I once did. Although I later did re-establish my direction spiritually, and am now more spiritually in-tune than I have been in a long time, I fondly remember the zeal and passion I had back when I preached many of these messages, and do miss that. However, they have motivated me to seek to get back into God's will over the past couple of years, and this blog site is the fruit of that effort. The internet does provide more opportunities for a ministry like this, and I truly thank God for that every day.

I want to take a moment also to apologize for some things in those early messages that may have been a little off-base, and I have taken effort on some parts of these messages to insert editorial notes to rectify the issue, although the sermon manuscripts themselves are presented as they were given in their original forms. Spiritual growth can be painful at times, as often you have to re-evaluate some of your beliefs in lieu of Scripture and Holy Tradition of the Church, and sometimes we can be wrong. I myself take responsibility for those errors and assure the reader that those convictions are no longer something I personally espouse. For instance, years back, I was involved to a degree in a couple of Charismatic schools of thought, one being the Word/Faith teaching and the other being an association with the likes of Bishop Earl Paulk, a man I used to consider a mentor until I began to discover that a lot of what he and others I used to endorse were teaching was unscriptural, and also their personal lives ended up being less than exemplary for the spiritual leadership such people wielded. I also used to be involved in advocating the prophecies of a Greek Orthodox laywoman by the name of Vassoula Ryden back when I was in college, until I began reading her material more closely and finding out that much of this "revelation" she received was not of God. I realize I may have been responsible for introducing others to this stuff, and may God forgive me for any damage or harm done to them via that activity. It is my prayer that these folks may have also grown in discernment to understand error from truth, and I also pray that they have grown as vibrant Christians today and are in tune with the Holy Spirit rather than with the "vain and profane babblings" of others, regardless of intentions.

A second regret I have is that I could not share the manuscript of every message I presented, as I spoke in a lot of churches in those years - these covered 6 states, as well as representing a lot of different denominations and ethnic groups. A couple of them I wished I could have included were the messages I preached in California back in December 1995, one at St Nareg Armenian Church in Montebello, CA (pastored by my dear friend, the late Dr. Krikor Haleblian) and the other being the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Turlock, CA. That was a wonderful experience for me, and I also appeared then on KBES-FM Assyrian Radio in Modesto, CA, at the same time. Another church where I preached was in June 1990 at my Uncle Teak Turner's church in St. George, WV, the old Sycamore Grove Full Gospel Church (Rev. Pat Cassidy, pastor). Many in that particular congregation were actually my relatives, as that church is only a few minutes outside my hometown of Parsons. Another unique little church was one I spoke at in March 1991, located on a back road at the edge of a cotton field outside Ashford, AL. The name of the church was Faith Holiness Tabernacle, and it was pastored by an elderly lady then by the name of Sis. Edna Enfinger. The night I spoke there - on a Thursday - my audience was a full five people, and I remember receiving an offering there of $2.50. I did supplement my income preaching in those years as well, but then I was not as interested in money as I was in the opportunity to preach and share God's vision I believed he gave me to anyone who gave me opportunity to do so. I do really miss those days of itinerant ministry, as they were some of the best memories of my life and I got to meet and know a lot of wonderful people of many backgrounds and ethnicities. Many of them are still dear friends to this day.

If per chance God would allow me to itinerate again in the future, I know for sure I would do some things differently though. For one, I would make sure I recorded my messages on tape, and also would take the effort to take pictures of the churches I spoke in for projects like this, as I want you to see what the churches I have been in look like.   I feel that would help the reader share in the experience better.   My good friend Perry Stone talks about this a lot as well, as he mentions the essential task of preserving a spiritual legacy for others, and this is my legacy, flaws and all.  

After 1996, I entered the spiritually dormant period I talked of earlier until I took up a brief publishing venture with my magazine, The Present Truth Trumpet.   However, due to the financial strain, I was unable to keep it going, but as part of the whole legacy I will be presenting some of the best material from those old issues of my magazine on occasion.   More so than speaking, I love writing, and have found that my written messages have carried more impact than my preached ones!  And, at times, they have stirred up things too as I have had to make unpopular stands on issues in which my enemies have launched attacks against my faith, character, etc.   However, when the enemies of the message God has given you come against you, brush off their poison darts and move on, and that philosophy has kept me on course for many years.  

Starting this new "Sacramental Present Truths" blog, which I launched in December 2009, has proven to be my most fruitful endeavor yet, and it will continue to be published with both archived and fresh material for hopefully a long time to come.   It is also a very affordable ministry option, as the greatest investment is the research and data entry of the information I share here. 

God bless each of you who read this site regularly, and hope you will stay tuned for more interesting and enlightening articles that I pray benefit both spiritually and intellectually.

From the Archives - A Series; Part XII

This is the last in the series of my vintage messages from many years back, and this one dates to May 16,1996.  It was the homily I gave when our vicar, Fr. Baker, asked me to officiate at Morning Prayer that Sunday due to the fact he wasn't going to be there.  The parish was Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a new mission work then of the Anglican Church in America, a "Continuing"Anglican jurisdiction that uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and is in general more conservative than the apostatized Episcopal Church.   Unfortunately, the mission was short-lived due to some bad leadership and the fact it just wasn't meant to be there.

This message also marks my first as a liturgical/sacramental Christian, because by this point I was thoroughly ensconced in the Catholic faith, and from this point there would be no going back.   Of course, my viewpoint in this homily, as in several of the previous, was somewhat different than it is today because I have grown much since then.   That is especially true during the timeframe of this message, because then I was actually going through some bad trials, being I had just graduated from college and some other issues had come at us then, and this would be one of the last messages I spoke for a number of years due to the fact my ministry and spiritual life would lie dormant for almost 12 years after this.  Thank you again for being with me in this series, and stay tuned to the next blog post, which will serve as a conclusion/epilogue to the archived message series too.

Pride and Prejudice:  Our Sin

1.   Premise:   Pride and prejudice go together:  a person having a false sense of pride, rooted in insecurity, comforts himself by saying he is "better than those people."

2.   Luke 10:29-37:   The Parable of The Good Samaritan

A.  In the story, a Jewish man is robbed on a journey - make this Jewish man a white, successful Southern man who owns the small-town business and is making a business trip to Atlanta.   Please note three things in this scenario:

  1. The man is an evangelical Protestant Baptist who listens to Rush Limbaugh religiously
  2. The man is considered an American grassroots patriot who votes straight Republican in every election.
  3. This man is pro-life, NRA, and distrustful of Blacks.
B.  Let us say now that this man is walking in downtown Atlanta, probably near Peachtree Plaza Tower.  He is on gang territory, and is all of a sudden jumped and messed up pretty badly.

C.  As he is lying there, he is approached by three different individuals:

  1. The first is the pastor of the nearby Baptist church, a congregation of some five thousand with a syndicated TV program, etc.   He knows the businessman lying before him in the gutter very personally, but fails to recognize him due to the severity of the man's appearance after being subjected to all that violence.  Instead of helping matters, the prominent pastor mutters some comment about "sinful Southern white trash" lying around in the streets being a burden on good tax-paying citizens like himself.  You can really feel the love coming from this man of God, can you not??
  2. About ten minutes later, the next pedestrian is a well-known Bible scholar from the local theological seminary.  He is in a rush because his next class on the life of Christ starts in ten minutes.  Seeing the unfortunate man lying in the ditch, he says "Jesus loves even your kind," and tosses him a tract preaching hellfire and damnation to those who are "fond of the glass."  (Keep in mind that this poor guy has never touched alcohol in his life!)  With a quick "God bless you," the "Professor" heads off to class.
  3. At around a half an hour later, a soulful female voice is heard humming "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" a little ways down the street.   Upon coming into view, it is a young Black single mother of two, who lives with an abusive boyfriend and a meager monthly ration of foodstamps.   However, she has recently been born again in Christ, and is a new creature in Him.   Seeing the man, she sends her oldest child, who is approximately 5 years old, to get help from her elderly uncle, who works as a hotel porter at a prestigious downtown resort nearby.   While waiting, she takes some "Baby Wipes" out of the bag she is toting, and begins to clean the man's wounds with them.   She then reassures the man that everything is going to be all right, and pretty soon her uncle comes and gets the man, putting him up in a hotel room he paid for himself (This elderly Black man probably makes a quarter of the annual salary, it must be noted, that the unfortunate victim he is helping makes).   Getting the number of the businessman's wife, the elderly gentleman contacts her and she flies up to drive him home to recover.  Every year afterward, the grateful businessman sends the elderly Black porter a nice gift.
______________________________________________________________________________________

If this story shocks you, it should.   Take the word "Samaritan" out of the Biblical account and replace it with the "n" word, and you will get the point our Savior was trying to get across in the parable.   Prejudice often keeps us from being fully blessed, for we do not love one another in the love of Christ.   Jesus condemned this trait in the Jewish religious leadership of His day, and that same condemnation is held over the head of so-called "Christian America."   WE MUST BE CAREFUL OF THIS SIN, and as Christians, we must be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  

Acts 10

Peter had a similar enlightenment on this subject of prejudice.  You see, Peter was a rabid Jewish nationalist, and despised the "dagos" that had conquered and ruled his beloved home in Israel.   In other words, he would have been a bigot who prided himself in being a fantastic and devout Jewish religious man.  God  forbid, therefore, that he would defile himself by cavorting with an unclean Gentile;  I mean, for heaven's sake, they still had foreskins!  However, Peter was now an Apostle of the Church, and as a leader he needed to set a good example of Christlikeness.   Jesus was about to rock his world by using a Roman named Cornelius.

Cornelius was not the stereotypical, bullying Roman military officer:  On the contrary, he actually loved and respected the Jewish people and their God, and was probably more reverent in serving God than most who were self-professing religious Jews.   Jesus saw the faithfulness of Cornelius, and sought to reward it.   At the same time, He wanted to do a little work on Peter's attitude.   And, some work He was to do, but in the strangest way - through the gut!  Talk about your hit below the belt; do not mess with a man's grub!

Peter was at Simon of Joppa's house doing his morning prayer service on the roof.   However, God knew it was about lunchtime, and had planned on treating Peter to a nice little lunch.  So, He set a fine spread before Peter which probably included such delights as shrimp scampi, oysters Rockefeller, and roast loin of pork, among other things;  God is the best ten-star chef, you know!  Despite how good it all looked (not to mention how wonderful it must have smelled!) Peter had a slight problem;  his rabbi would have skinned him alive for just looking at such such non-kosher fare.  Peter therefore, ever the good Jewish boy, refused to partake, and God became a little insulted with him refusing His hospitality.  After all, Peter ended up refusing three times!  Peter, however, was in fear.  I mean, after all, first it was hanging around that weird Nazarene carpentere that proclaimed Himself the Son of God, and now this;  it didn't look good, that is for sure!   What next?

Well, if that wasn't enough, God commanded Peter to go visit a Roman!   That was the ultimate!  However, luckily he listened and went, and as a result, Cornelius and his whole household came to the Lord.  Now, Peter was eating crow, but in the end he learned a valuable lesson:  God is not a respector of persons, and Jesus died for all men and not just the Jews.   Talk about radical!

Conclusion.

The story of Peter and Cornelius makes a good point:  Jesus died for all sin, including racism.  In order to be an effective witness, we must convey the character of our Lord.  Bigotry and hatred are not part of that character.   Therefore, if they are not, then perhaps we should not have them to begin with.

Today, if you have this sin with you, God wants to deliver you from it.   Prejudice hinders, like any sin, the potential God has for His people.   It has no place in His kingdom, for it is of hell.   The very people we are prejudiced against may be the ones we are to be held accountable for someday.  We must ask ourselves if it is worth it to have their blood crying out from our hands, and if so, how will we answer for it?  In God's eyes, Black is beautiful, but so is white, red, yellow, olive or whatever - God created them all.  Because he loves them, we must love them too.  His death on the Cross was for them as well as us.




Friday, June 17, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part XI

The following message was given at the Prayer Mission Fellowship Foursquare Church, pastored by Rev. Gwen Williams, in Lakeland, FL, on October 23, 1994.  This little congregation, which shared a building with Bishop Cordell Allen's Pure Love United Faith Ministries over on Combee Road at the time, was pastored by a very dear friend of ours, an African-American lady minister who had a real heart for her people.   Gwen's little congregation was an interracial fellowship, and among her parishioners were a number of elderly and handicapped folks that she reached out to at local retirement centers and convalescent homes.  

Preaching at tiny churches like this were some of my best experiences doing itinerant ministry, and something I really miss today.  Hopefully the following message will edify your spirit.

Why No Revival?

Intorduction

Today we have seen a lot of interesting things happening in the church world.   People are experiencing revival in the most unexpected places:  Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican churches, etc.   As of now, a close 75% of all Southern Baptist foreign missionaries stationed overseas profess the gift of speaking in tongues, and even the head of the SBC Foreign Mission Board is a charismatic!  Not only this, but hte Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is a charismatic.   A very anointed Roman Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is now the official preacher to the Pope's house.   The Pope himself has issued a decree called The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity which calls for each individual Catholic to exercise his or her spiritual gifts, and to partake in biblical evangelism.  More?  A Greek lady from Switzerland, Vassoula Ryden, has recently published volumes of written prophecies she has received from the Lord Himself calling the Church to repentance and holiness (editor note:   Since giving this message many years ago, I have since then discovered that Vassoula was NOT operating in the Spirit of God, as much of what she wrote contradicted Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.  I apologize for my lack of knowledge of the fact at the time).  85% of Mennonite missionaries overseas are also professing Charismatics as well.   Finally nondenominational charismatic megachurches are exploding.  What is going on?

As this is what I feel are the last days, God is pouring out a mighty anointing of His Spirit upon all flesh, as Joel 2:28 states.   However, it is missing in one area, and that is where it started in the first place - the classical Pentecostal denominations.   As other dead churches stir to life, it seems like Pentecostals are withering on the vine.   I am concerned about this, for we as Pentecostals should be encouraging the outpouring.   Instead, we suppress and persecute it.   There are reasons behind all of this.   The Bible mentions beforehand both of them, and though for the sake of time I will not get into all of it, I do want to capitalize on a major point here.   Please open your Bibles and follow along.   May the most blessed Holy Spirit use this message to prick your hearts, and may the fires of renewal be kindled in you through it.

I.   A Great Falling Away

Let us turn to II Thessalonians 2:36:

For that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin may be revealed, the son of perdition.

Now let us turn to Romans 1:22:

Professing to be wise, they became fools

Finally, let us look at Exodus 33:3b:

For I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people.

The modern Pentecostal Church is in deep trouble, for it has abandoned its first love:  the Lord Jesus Christ.   I know this is a serious indictment but it is true.   I heard recently for instance that almost 40%
of Assemblies of God pastors do not even believe in tongues, and the same number have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit.   Instead, they have compromised their identity in order to seek prestige and respectability.   Granted, the unfortunate thing is that this seed of death has been reflected in the early legalistic attitudes about dress, TV, etc.:  therefore, the revival was bound to die sooner or later.   Today, it is with great boldness that I say the Baptists are probably more on fire than Pentecostals are, and are probably living more by the Spirit.   Says something!

Paul warned in Galatians about what legalism leads to, and he also talks about that in Romans 7.  Those that set up a rigid, ascetical spirituality devoid of the Holy Spirit end up falling on their faces.   In other words, they become spiritually dead, cold, and self-righteous.  II Thessalonians 2:36 talks of this as a "falling away," and collectively as a movement denominational Pentecostalism has done this.  Instead of proclaiming a full Gospel, many of our churches are full of gossip.   Fads sweep the Church like tides on a beach, and true revival is dead.   Many of the Pentecostal leadership, achieving respectability withing the Evangelical Protestant plethora, have died spiritually.   There are even some in Pentecostal colleges who deny teaching on the Second Coming.   In other words, as Romans 1:22 states, they profess wisdom but have become fools.

Are they willing to change?   No, but they try to ride on the coattails of past revivals, and seek to "whoop up" a rerun performance every Sunday.   They cannot be changed, and are as Exodus 3:33 states, a stiff-necked people.   As a result, the anointing of God's presence in the typical Pentecostal church is absent:   I think such places nauseate Him, to be personally frank about it.   Something needs to happen.

Is there true revival anticipated, or are we all fooling ourselves?   What if we miss it and die?   I believe the Holy Spirit wants to answer that for us, and here is what He says:   "Revival has come, but you have sought it in the wrong places.  Go to where the hunger is."   May we be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

II.  Renewal and Resurrection

Finally, we get to our passage in Ezekiel 37.  I am certain you all know the story here.   Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones, and is commanded by God to prophesy life into them.   He obeys, and the bones whip together, all the organs, muscles, skin fly into place, and as a result they live.   Though the context here is for national Israel, is there a lesson for the Church?   Absolutely, and here it is.

In recent years God has been restoring His apostles and prophets to the Churches, and in those that have been dead, people are being raised up, and a lot of dry bones in those places are now alive.   People are getting right with God, being baptized with the Holy Spirit, and I have even heard of some reports of people barking like dogs, laughing hysterically, while some others weep, crow like roosters, etc.  (editor note:   This is in reference to the so-called "Holy Laughter" phenomenon of the time, which I have long since disavowed as it has had a lot of unScriptural excesses and has produced bad fruit.   Many views of the past have matured in my personal convictions, and I ask you again to please excuse some of this from the time period)  "Where has this been going on?" you may be asking now.   In Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, and Orthodox churches!  How about the Assemblies of God and Foursquare?   To answer that, God moves where He is wanted, and where people sincerely cry out for Him, He is there.   What have we as Pentecostals done about this?  Rejoice and join with them, offering our encouragement and support?  HA, HA, HA!!  Are you kidding??   Instead, it is more like ridicule and sarcasm we hand them instead of support, because we in our infinite wisdom know how to REALLY be, and of course the Holy Spirit will not move any other way unless we dictate, and then of course He only moves within the four walls of the local Assembly of God church.   Since when does the Assemblies of God, Foursquare,  Church of God, or any other Pentecostal group have a monopoly on defining what the Holy Spirit moves like:  even the Apostles couldn't do that!   And, the Apostles wrote Holy Scripture as God's hands!  God help us in our vain self-righteousness.

Maybe our prophets need to be bold enough to prophesy to dead Assembly of God bones to live, eh?   Oooh, I am preaching now!!

Conclusion:  A Challenge

Please read vv. 12-14 of Ezekiel 37.

In verse 12, there is a word that comes forth that says we will come up out of our graves and live, and the implication here implies obedience.   We must desire renewal in order to get it.   We must seek after a restoration and a renewal.   As verse 13 says, we can only know God when we come alive to Him.   Then, as it says in verse 14, He will indeed indwell us with His Spirit, and place us in our own land.   Where is that?   "Our land" is the status spiritually where God originally created us for:   total restoration.   Do not let Pentecost die in you, for it is too wonderful.

I want to challenge you today.   First, I know that there is the possibility that some who are receiving this message are spiritually dead.   Maybe you have never received salvation, or at one time you knew God, but your Christian witness died and rotted.   If you desire to have new life in Christ today, and are willing to respond, the Holy Spirit through me as He did through Ezekiel, prophesies life to you, and I say, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, receive life!!   Now, also for those that desire it, there is a living person that can empower you, and He is God the Holy Spirit.   You need the Holy Spirit in thes last days in order to stand against the traps of the enemy, and I challenge you to receive it.   This will be something you will not forget once it happens to you.   If you wish to receive the Holy Spirit, and are willing, do it now.   Unexpected things may happen to you, but just let them, because they are Scriptural manifestations.   God loves you, and wants you to have the joy of a Spirit-filled life in Him.  It is much better than anything you may presently be involved in, and it will not only be the most important choice of your life, but will be the best.  God be with you as you seek Him today.  Amen.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part X

The following message was given by me at the Indian Pentecostal Church in Highland City, FL, on September 17, 1994, pastored then by Rev. Jacob Koshy.  This was one of my favorite congregations to visit for several reasons.  First and foremost, they were one of the warmest and friendliest groups of people I have ever encountered, and the sincerity and depth of their Christianity was without question.   Second, I have a personal interest in these people, as they are all from a St. Thomas (Mor Thoma) "Syrian" Christian background - most of these folks were originally from Kerala in southern India, an area with strong Apostolic roots as this is where the Apostle St. Thomas visited and established a vibrant Christian community which today boasts some 15 million people.  Later, they were taken under the wing of the Assyrian Christians and formally became part of their Church tradition.   A significant population of these folks though, the Khanayas, were also of Hebraic origin too.  There were a number of them in this particular congregation as well.

This particular congregation belongs to a denomination called the Indian Pentecostal Church of God, which predates a lot of the American Pentecostal denominations and was formed indigenously and independently of them.  The Holy Spirit has been at work in Kerala for many decades, when even in the late 1800's a Syrian Christian lay evangelist, Vidwan Kutty, led a revival that touched the lives of many of these people.   Even today, among all branches of the "Syrian" Christian churches there, a vibrant and deep spiritual legacy can still be found.

I also say, with both sorrow and rejoicing, that I lost a dear friend from this congregation a couple of years back, Mr. Philip Joseph.   Philip was an elder in the congregation, and he was a wonderful human being.  The night I preached this message, I had the privelege of visiting Philip's home and sharing a meal with him and his dear wife, and that was an added blessing.  I still think a lot of these folks and miss visiting with them, as they are still a wonderful church to this day.

Purification Produces Renewal

Introduction

In the Holy Scriptures, we see that God calls us unto Himself as a holy people.  He desires us to be complete in Him, for He has a lot in store for us.   However, there are those times when He needs to prepare us to receive from Him, and it is often at this point that we are caught unaware.

God is calling His Church to prepare for the great outpouring of His Spirit He tells us about in Joel 2:28.  Evne though the power of the Holy Spirit is good and to be desired, are we able to receive it?   Are we cleansed enough before God to receive those things He has for us?  This is something that every believer must ask of themselves.

I am going to propose a way for us to receive the power of God in its fullest capacity.   However, the preparation part of it is not so pleasant, yet it is the preparation that will eventually produce the fruit of great texture that will characterize the Spirit-filled life.   Therefore, let us listen to the voice of God as He speaks to His people, and calls us unto Him.

I.   The Fire of God:  A Purifying Flame (Deuteronomy 4:24)

For the LORD THY GOD is a CONSUMING FIRE, even a jealous God.

This verse in Deuteronomy describes a God that demands total obedience of His people to Him, and if we allow Him this total obedience, He will burn away anything that gets in the way of Him receiving it from us. 
God loathes competition, and does not want us to be fence-straddlers.   Instead, He expects total obedience from those of us who are of His kingdom.  

Sometimes the cleansing fire of God can sting, for we have a hard time prioritizing our allegiances to other things.   However, because God calls us to do it, we must allow for a purging of those impurities in our lives.  As a matter of fact, we should desire Him to do this work in us.   Our desire should always be to have closer communion with God, whatever the cost.   St. Isaac of Nineveh,  in his writings, says this in regard to seeking God:

Leave the things of no value that you may find precious things.

What is more precious than being at the feet of our Lord and Savior?  Nothing is as valuable as this.  May we have a desire to seek a closer walk with Him.

II.  Becoming Worthy (Isaiah 6:1-8)

In this passage we see Isaiah being ushered into the presence of the Lord, and he encounters a scene of the Holies;  beautiful liturgy, with much pomp and ceremony.   Many of my friends who are part of the Armenian, Assyrian, or of the Indian Mor Thoma traditions of the Church (out of which many of you hearing this have come) note the beauty and reverence of their liturgical worship.   The Der Vorgoormya of the Armenian Church, to name one example, basically says "oh Lord have mercy upon me a sinner!" This is but a small illustration of how the prophet Isaiah felt in the actual presence of God:  it was overwhelming for him.   One would gather from reading the passage that the furthest thing from Isaiah's mind was patting himself on the back because he felt so honored!  Let us read his reaction in the passage:

Woe is me!  For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips...

In other words Isaiah was not by any means on an ego trip!  The glory of God convicted him, a mere human, for he was not complete.   In our circles, we have a tendency to take spiritual experiences ever-so-lightly and in a flippant way:  we want the "warm fuzzies" but do not want to pay the price to receive a lasting change.  There is nothing at all wrong with spiritual experience; God can move in whatever way He chooses with His people.   However, there is a greater blessing in being able to fall before the throne of God, despite our unworthiness, and letting Him wrap His love and healing around us, cleansing unrighteousness, healing hurts, and releasing us from bondages.  When we are honest with ourselves and God, vv. 6-7 of the passage assure us of our cleansing.   Praise God for the cleansing coal of His Holy Spirit!  Isaiah was cleansed because he was open:  this should be an encouragement for us today who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.   Therefore, humility before God brings fulness to us.

III.   Accepting the Holy Mandate (Isaiah 6:8; Acts 2:3-4)

When we are purged by God, we are more ready to be used by Him.  As a result, He kindles a fire in us, the fire of a divine call.   God wants a person who is refined by His fire, in order that He may kindle a fire in them.   This is a high honor, to be a chosen vessel of the Most High God for His service.   As a result, we are now not only prepared, but also willing, as Isaiah was in 6:8.

Isaiah's call in this verse, as well as his affirmation of it, are powerful.   Do you ever notice that when the Holy Spirit genuinely touches us, we want to jump up and do something?   This is the zealous and blazing fire of service God has anointed us with.   For those of us in ministry, we know it well.   It is a feeling similar to a horse chomping at the bit to start the race.   However we have to wait for yet something else:  the anointing of the Holy Spirit.   Acts 2:3-4 says that the Church could not even organize until this ingredient was added.   The Pentecost experience described in this passage did not just happen, but preparation was a necessity.   When the wind of the Holy Spirit came upon those in the upper chamber, it filled them, and strange things began to happen.   Passers-by thought they were nuts!  The Apostle Peter however received the anointing and proclaimed in 2:16 that this is that spoken by the Prophet Joel (see 2:28).

Today, we see it happening also.   This is what is called the "latter rain," and indeed as more people submit to God, we will see a revival unprecedented in the history of Christendom.   Therefore, let us be the ones to set the example first.

Conclusion

In this short homily, we have learned several things:

  1. We are unclean vessels in and of ourselves, and must be cleansed by Christ if we are to be used of Him.
  2. When we submit ourselves to His purifying fire, we feel a call to serve the Kingdom of God.
  3. With that heartfelt zeal for God that consumes us comes an anointing for service that empowers us to do God's work.
I have a challenge for you today.   First, how many of you want to be renewed in spirit?   For you to do so, how many are willing to pay the price?  If you're serious about what you have asked for, be sure to understand the price.   God will prepare you, but it will not be the best feeling.   He will send a spirit of repentance on you that will wrench your innards.   Also, the devil will throw things at you to test your endurance.  However, if you submit yourselves to God and stand fast, you will receive something beyond your imagination.   If you want this today, now is the time to respond.

I challenge you, if you are serious about following the Lord, to submit yourself to Him.   There is so much more He has to offer you if you will only accept it.   And, it is all good!  So, I beseech you to respond today.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part IX

The following message was preached on July 24, 1994, at the Wauchula Revival Center Foursquare Gospel Church in Wauchula, FL. That week, I was filling in for a classmate of mine, Randy Leonard, who pastored the congregation then. I remember that well, as a preached to a grand total of 4 people, Barb included!



The Wauchula Revival Center was originally part of an independent fellowship of churches that was based in Lakeland founded by the late Rev. Charles Myers and his wife Novella. In 1993, Novella Myers, who pastored the Lakeland Revival Center church that was the "mother church" of these congregations, decided to bring her entire group into the Foursquare denomination, and this particular congregation was one of those churches. At the time I preached here, I was still in college, and was more or less preaching as part of my supplemental income that summer. Although we attended Cornerstone Christian Center Foursquare Church in Auburndale, FL, at this point, I itinerated all over the area as a part of my own ministry.

How To Be Grounded In Discernment
(II Timothy 2:15, 4:3-4)

Intruduction

Often, we as Christians tend to hear a lot about many things, and often it can confuse us.   Some have become so confused that they either turn their backs totally on the Church, or have sought unsuccessfully to find the truth in false cults.   With all the speculations and doctrines floating around, what are we to do?  How are we to know what is Scriptural and what's not?  It is a delicate issue to dissect, and must be dealt with the skill of a brain surgeon.

My purpose here is not to blast or polemicize doctrinal distinctions, but rather to see where we all fit, as individual Christians, into the corporate Body of Christ.  Therefore, please do not interpret this as a license to castigate our Catholic and other Christian brethren, for though they may differ with us on some distinctions, they as we are happen to be part of the greater Body of Christ.   Therefore, let us, as the following epithet says, practice this:

In  Essentials, Unity
In non-essentials, Liberty
in all things, Charity

In a nutshell, this message has a two-fold purpose:

  1. To warn against some excesses in our own Charismatic circles.
  2. To show that though there may be distinctives in opinion, we must be one in Christ.
I.   Warnings Against Excesses (II Timothy 4:3-4)

Often, in our own Charismatic/Pentecostal circles, we have a few eccentrics who, while well-meaning, take a solid Biblical truth to unscriptural excesses.   We must be careful not to necessarily label these individuals as "heretics" but instead realize the fact that they have a noticeable lack of structure in the system that leads them to such extremes.

We often tend to accuse such individuals as being false teachers without really examining them in the love of Christ.  Often, we tend to do the opposite - that is, we throw out a strong Biblical principle and reject it because of a little bit of extremism.  We often don't realize that some of the things we reject on that premise are usually things God wants to do in His Church.  In other words, to use the old cliche, we tend to "throw out the baby with the bathwater."  We need to be a bit more discerning and understanding with these well-intentioned but over-zealous people, and learn to rightly divide the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).   I personally feel that if the Church would learn this important principle, maybe we could perhaps re-define our definitions of "heresy."   Let us now examine II Timothy 4:3-4.

A.  They Will Not Endure Sound Doctrine.

In our modern American society, we have a tendency to be "cafeteria Christians," picking up a little of this and a little of that from this teacher and that teacher.  In and of itself, there is no harm done.  The problem is that in some cases we pick up the wrong things from the wrong teachers.

At times Biblical truth is presented in such a manner that it can get to us, and when it does, we like to find ways around it.   In other words, we cannot endure sound doctrine, and tend to seek something more pacifying.   This is characteristic of human nature.   And, God's ways can conflict with our human nature.
The direct result of this is that we tend to "water the Word" a little so that it might be a little more palatable to digest in our wonderful American "quick-fix" mindset.  To use the American colloquialism, what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us is that we are after a "cop-out."  The result is that with less Word, we get less blessing.

Let us consider a delicious bowl of South Indian curry.  It is best, as most of you who have eaten it will agree, when it cooks down to a hot spicy stock.   That is what gives it the character of its flavor.   Of course, to the unaccustomed American palate, it can be a little pungent, and therefore we make it more bearable by watering it down.  Yes, it may still have a reasonably good flavor, but it has lost its distinctiveness and is now little more than a watery soup.  Yuck!

Like good curry, the Gospel in its original undiluted form is the best.  However, to the untrained palate, it can sting in its purity, and therefore some tend to water it down to make it more "digestible."  However, a diluted Gospel loses its original power and therefore is unable to do what it was intended to do.  Look at our passage and you will see why.

The alternative to all this is simple:  why don't we, instead of watering the Gospel down, break it into smaller chunks?  This would be so much more effective, for the person is getting a pure Gospel this way but in digestible bites.   Try it pastors - it does work!

B.  According To Their Own Desires.

This part of the passage is telling us that some seek a "feel-good" message because they can't intellectually comprehend a "full Gospel" message.   That's too much - so they seek something easier.

However, our desires are not always healthy for us.   God wants us to desire what He desires for us:   that is, to be whole in Him through the principles of the whole Word of God, and not just the parts that make us feel good.   Sometimes, even the little digestible parts of God's Word are like cough syrup - very distasteful to our tongues, but therapeutic to our spirits.

The truth in God's Word is that it requires an action on our behalf, and possibly even some more sacrifice.   Unless we willingly take that action or make that sacrifice, we cannot receive the full spiritual blessings of His Word.  However, if we do them, we have liberty in Him.

C.  They Have Itching Ears.

Some Charismatics don't just want a "feel-good" Gospel, but they also want it to sound good.  The Word of God is both good and good for us, but it won't always appeal to our auditory faculties.  This is a fact we must accept sooner or later.

Please understand that our God is not just a God of "quick fixes," but is a PERMANENT FIX in our lives!  However, we must put some commitment behind this if we desire him to abide in us permanently.   Unfortunately, our human nature doesn't want to hear about commitment, but rather we desire to have our ears tickled because they are itching to hear about where and how to obtain the quick fix.   Many ministers need to realize that they have a three-fold task in this regard - to convict souls, edify the spirit, and ultimately to change lives.

D.   Heap Up For Themselves Teachers.

Almost every Christian ministry has good teaching to some degree or another , but a lot of Christians seem to indulge in setting up "fan clubs" and personality cults around certain teachers and evangelists.   The underlying problem here lies not with the minister in most cases but with the individual believer, and here is why.

Televangelism is a good thing, and many people's lives have been reached through it.   However, I tend to be disturbed by some of the brethren who won't touch a Bible but will sit in front of a television set and soak up everything they hear on it.   Some even think they can substitute the "electronic church" for the local church, and inevitably end up spiritually undernourished.

I will make it understod that I wholeheartedly support TVevangelism, for it has great potential as a ministry tool.   However, it should never replace the local church as a source of spiritual nourishment.   Also, it should never take the place of one's devotional life.   This doesn't mean it is wrong to watch TBN or whatever, but it does mean that we must be spiritually balanced.

E.  They Will Turn Their Ears Away From The Truth.

As we mentioned earlier, the truth of God's Word on occasion can be a hard pill to swallow.   Therefore, we tend to seek something more accomodating to the flesh.   As a result, we can turn away from the guidance of the Holy Scripture and the truth it teaches.

When one is exposed to subtropical climate like we have here in Florida, he would naturally desire cooler temperatures if he is a newcomer to the area.  So it is when we are faced with a new Scriptural truth that tends to make us uncomfortable.   Our human nature hates change, yet God's Word requires change for the better, which sometimes isn't easy.   As a result, we sometimes turn away to avoid the new experience.

As God has commanded us to perservere, however, we need to do our best to hang on.   The assurance that God won't put anything on us we are not able to handle should help us, and as a result, we can better face change.  The bottom line is that we need to trust God to give us the abiltity to accept change, and if we turn away, we're not looking to him for our help.   Then, we tend to end up in worried messes that we sometimes can't get out of.  So, isn't it easier in the long run to accept change?

F.  And Be Turned Aside To Fables

When we only hear what sounds good, water down the truth, or turn away our face from God to something more desireable, we are turning from the truth and heeding fables.  If you'll notice, those who turn from God have a tendency to give heed to some type of delusion, be it alcohol, sex sin, or following after some false prophet who is endowed with some "new revelation."  All of these fables have just one source - the devil himself.  He's a good storyteller; he convinces our flesh that something is what it is not.  We can be deluded into thinking that we can find true happiness by believing it, only later to realize that it will destroy us instead.
It's the same old trick in new wrapping.   Eve was its first sucker, and multitudes have followed her since, sometimes more than once.  However, we are told in James 4:7 to RESIST the devil and he will flee from us.  Perhaps we need to start doing this by resisting and rejecting the fables he snares us with.

God's Word, on the other hand, is eternal.   It is also realistic and won't deceive us with easy roads out.  God wants us to be free of bondage, and the Father has sent his Holy Spirit to help us obtain that freedom.  All it requires of us is obedience to His Word.  Though the water may be choppy, God is piloting the boat, and we don't need to rely on stupid fables to guide us when we have a real God on our side - we don't need them.

II. Conclusion

Now, we can summarize our premise.

First, Satan creates fables to divert our attention from the liberating truth of God's word so that he can put us in bondage to his tactics.  He makes these fables look appealing to our carnal nature, and as a result they can hook us.  Some people Satan uses are anointed men of God, who may actually be teaching the full truth of the Bible.  However, one little word can be twisted by the listener, or it can dilute its effectiveness, to where it becomes a snare to those who are caught off-guard.   The result is always disastrous, be it long-term or short-term.

Secondly, as a result we tend to "pass the buck," usually on the TV preacher, when the light of God's Word hits that thing in our lives.   As a result, we turn from God and follow a delusion, based usually on the way we misconstrue the right words into the wrong meaning. 

However, there are ways to either avoid the extreme in the first place, or even to overcome it after it happens.  Here it is.



  1. Be Grounded in God's Word - We should be studying it daily anyway.
  2. Unite Yourself With a Local Body of Believers - This is so we might draw strength from one another.
  3. BE DISCERNING!! - It is important to check out everything you hear out with the Scriptures, and not with what some popular minister who writes a book or has a TV program says.
Also, don't blame some TV preacher for your own lack of discernment.  You had the choice to turn him off if you didn't agree with him.   Therefore, you need to use your own God-given discernment.

Here's the bottom line:  God equips us for our own good, and it is up to you to put this to use.   If you are not sure how to go about using this gift, then all you have to do is seek an answer from God, for He will always be faithful to show you.  God has also ordained pastors to equip you for His coming kingdom, and they are supposed to be there for you as God's servants.   Overall however, it is imperative for each of us to be grounded in God's Word, and it is the prevailing standard against Satan's fables.  Therefore, we should be challenged to ground ourselves in it continually.   If we do this, we cannot fail.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part VIII

This message was given on July 7, 1994, at the Freedom in Christ Assembly of God in Lakeland, FL (Jesse McNeal, pastor).   Pastor McNeal was one of my professors for a term at Southeastern, and he always provided his students opportunities for ministry at his church.   He started the church when he was a student at Southeastern himself, after coming to the Lord out of a very violent past, and it was located in an area called "The Bottoms" just off of North Florida Avenue, a very low-income area.  In a short time, Pastor Jesse grew a small but vibrant interracial congregation, and they were a very warm and welcoming group the night I spoke to them. 

A Listening Ear Brings a Restful Spirit

Introduction

Many times we as believers come to a place where we are "burned out."   This happens to all of us at some point in our lives, and can be a hard fact to swallow if we are not prepared.   God desires for us to seek Him when we are in such a state.

"How?" you may ask.   First, you need to do as Psalm 119:11 says:  hide the Word in your hear, and make it a part of you so that it will keep you from falling into trouble.  Ephesians 6 also tells us to be armed with Biblical principles when we face such battles (principles such as salvation in Christ, the truth of His Word, His righteousness, His peace, and most importantly using His Word).

The bottom line is this:  we can trust in God through knowledge of His Word.  Therefore, when we are heavy-laden with the cares of this life, we need to seek the Lord through His Word.

I.  Coming To God Through Listening

Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  How do you listen to God?  Isaiah 55:2 gives us an idea, so let us turn there to see what it says.

The passage exhorts us to do three things:

A.  First, it tells us to listen to God.

Many Christians in our high-tech American society of microwaves, money, minivans, and more, more, more for me, me, me do not have the gumption, to use an old Appalachian colloquialism, to sit down and actually listen to the voice of God.  God wants us to spend time with him so that we can commune with Him personally;  He is a real person who, because He created and endows us, seeks to know us personally.  We need to motivate ourselves to take time out for Him, for He is always there.

B.  Second, it helps us to be open to the Holy Spirit

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that he is God.  If we are still, we are open to His Holy Spirit to minister to us, and will be in a better position to receive what He has for us.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and will not impose upon our distractions but expects more time for Him on our initiative.   Therefore, let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and invite Him to minister to us.

C.  Third, we must come to God.

God is already there for us, but we must come to Him in the right attitude and spirit.

It is difficult to do this sometimes when we are desperate for answers, and often we think we come to God when we really do not;  we are in reality demanding Him to come to us, on our terms, and do not have the openness to move ourselves because we are on a hamster wheel of confusion.  I speak this from experience.

What will happen if we do come to God in the right spirit?  St Isaac of Nineveh, in his Third Discourse on the Ascetical Life,  gives us an idea when he writes the following:

"To the soul endowed with reason (meaning God's Word) the words of God are sweet, like succulent food which fattens the body is to those which are healthy."

What does this mean?  He is saying that those who seek the face of God and listen to His words will receive spiritual nourishment.  In other words, when you seek the face of God in times of distress, you will be strengthened.  This is encouraging!

II.  God's Results He Will Give To Those That Come to Him.

We mentioned that God strengthens the soul, but what else does he do?   Let us examine Matthew 11:28 and 30.  In this passage, there are two things to be noted:
  1. In verse 28, God is exhorting those who are, to put it in modern vernacular, "burned out" to come to him.
  2. When we do come to God, He will give us a rest from those cumbersome burdens.
In verse 30, we note one thing further:
  1. In exchange for giving God these cumbersome burdens, He gives us a liberating burden as it were:  this means he calls us to be obedient to His Word, and in doing so we are delivered.  The spoken word of God we know of as the Holy Scriptures require of us something, but in return we will gain freedom.
Conclusion

God wants us to come to Him, and He desires to commune with each and every one of us on a personal basis.  It does take some discipline on our part, but it will rejuvenate our spirits if we will study the Word and meditate upon it for a regular basis.  That is the easy yoke of Matthew 11:20 - it is quite a task to seek the face of God, but it is also a privelege.

Think about it.  Would you rather give a part of your day to God in prayer and study of His Word to receive strength and peace, or would you rather go about the routine drudgery of a day without God and be loaded down with the pressures that Satan can use to destroy you?

This message is for you if you are under stress and bondage, and God desires to see you free from it.   Therefore, if you desire to be free, seek His face;  that is all you need to do.  James 5:16 says that the prayers of a righteous man avail much.   If you are in Christ, you are covered with His righteousness, and therefore the privelege is now yours.  Seek His face, and lay those things that have you bound at the foot of the Cross.

Perhaps you do not know Christ and wish to, yet feel you are unworthy to do so.  If this describes you, then you're carrying a bondage you need to lose fast!  God DOES think you are important, as He loved you enough to die for you.  He wants to have an intimate relationship with you and wants also to take those bondages and cast them away.   In Acts 2:21, it is assured that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, and Isaiah 40:31 states that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  If you need your strength renewed, God is there, so please accept what He has for you.   Do not carry this bondage around with you.   Instead, accept the easy youke of the righteousness of Christ, and indeed you will have "Freedom in Christ."  Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part VII

The following message I preached on June 12, 1994 at the Pure Love United Faith Ministries Church in Lakeland, FL, pastored then by Bishop Cordell Allen.   This was a very vibrant African-American Pentecostal church, and one of the most loving congregations I have had the privelege of ministering to.   Hope you enjoy it and it blesses you.

What Role Does Missions Play In the Church?

I.  Introduction

In recent years, there has been a new emphasis in Full Gospel circles on missionary evangelism, and as one called to missions myself, I am glad to see this.  However, there is much work to be done in this area, as we have many potentially called people in our churches that haven't the foggiest idea of what missions is - their image is of some preacher in African garb and a pith helmet showing boring slides once a year, thus making a good excuse to stay home for the Superbowl.  However, they fail to realize that missions is a very personal issue that should affect the entire Church;  therefore, it needs to be emphasized.

II.  Matthew 28:18-20
   
      A.  "All Authority Has Been Given Unto Me In Heaven and on Earth..."

            What do these introductory words of the oft-quoted Great Commission mean?
   
             1.  They state Christ's authority over evil forces of this world.
             2.  It gives Christ authority to delegate that authority to the Church.

             Ephesians 6 tells us that we battle against a lot of spiritual forces, but we are given power over
             them.   This power comes from the Lord Himself, as he has given to us the responsibility to
             establish His Church - we must be bold to take it.

      B.   "Go Therefore..."

              This is our command to take the above-mentioned authority, but what do we do with it?   Read on.

              1.  "Make disciples of all nations..."

                    This means that besides being won to Christ, the nations must be grounded in His Word.  That
                    is why God has raised in our midst teachers.

                    Also, let it be noted that God does not want all of His workers going to just Africa or India, but
                    into ALL NATIONS!  According to a book published by Wycliffe Bible Translators, there are
                    some 20,000 language groups worldwide, and of these some 11,000 or so tribes have no
                    Christian witness.  Therefore, it is not necessary to go on a trail already blazed, for God may
                    want you to be a trailblazer!

            2.     "Baptizing them..."

                    Though one does not have to be baptized for salvation, it should be the desire of every believer
                    to be baptized, as it is the sacrament of initiation into the Church Catholic.

                    I will not get into modes and methods for that is a completely different subject altogether that I
                    have my own clearly-defined views on.  However, though baptism is not salvific, it is very
                    important.   Therefore, if you know of a believer who is not baptized, encourage him or her to
                    partake of this sacrament of the Church as soon as possible.

           3.      "Teaching them to observe all those things that I have commanded you..."

                    Once new believers have been saved and initiated into the Church through Holy Baptism, they
                    must be instructed in the teachings of the faith so that they may fully understand their new life in
                    Christ.   This is important for two reasons:

                     a.  It guards against the development of heresy.
                     b.  It keeps the new believer strong in Christ, that he may not fall into sin.

 III.    Romans 12:4-8

          It is important for each believer to know where they fit into reaching the world, for some may feel confused and intimidated on the issue because of pressure to fall into a man-made mold.  Assure those who are like this to listen to God's Word first.

          A.  Many Members In One Body

                Though we are all part of the Body of Christ, this does not mean we are all alike.   In other words,
                God creates individuals, not clones.

         B.   All Members Do Not Have The Same Function

               Because we are individual members, God gifts us with talents and ministries in order to do that
               which He has called us to do.  We must not be in competition with another of differing calling, for
               ours is just as important.  The Holy Spirit will show us where we fit in.

        C.    One Body in Christ, members unto one another

               This means we are to compliment each other and use our ministries together in order to further the
               Kingdom of God. 

               Some are called into the five-fold charismatic ministries of Ephesians 4:11, while others of us may
               be called into the three-fold ministries of bishop, presbyter, or deacon.  Even the church janitor is a
               type of ministry, for it is a service to the Lord's house.   Therefore, do not be under the false
               impression that the pulpit is the only place of ministry in the Church, as there are a lot of others.

              We are each one ministers, and as such, we each have the duty and anointing to serve others in the
              love of the Lord.  This is also a mandate from God himself.  Therefore, we need to get busy, for the
              time is short.

      D.    Joel 2:28, Mark 16:15,17; Acts 1:8, II Timothy 2:15

              How can we do our function of ministry in the Body of Christ?  Well, I am glad you asked!

              We, of course, are not equipped of ourselves to carry out this mandate, for we are finite beings.
              We are limited in resource.   However, God has a plan for us.

              1.  Joel 2:28

                   God has promised to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last times.   We see this beginning
                   to happen in Acts on the day of Pentecost in the upper room.

                   I am not familiar with everyone's personal view on this issue, but it is quite obvious that there is
                   something going on in the Church today.   I personally feel that the Lord is coming back soon,
                   and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit Joel talks about is happening now.

             2.  Mark 16:15, 17

                  In this passage it talks about how the Holy Spirit will accomplish this task of filling believers to do
                  His work, and a number of signs are mentioned in relation to this.  Among them are mentioned
                  healings, raising dead men to life, tongues, casting out devils, and a number of miraculous works.
                  Those who attempt to relegate these things to the first-century Church exclusively need to
                  recognize a few facts:

                 a.  God does not change (Hebrews  13:8)
                 b.  God is restoring His truth, as documented in His Word, to the Church which by and large has
                      not had the fulness of His Word.

                 God is real, and His power is real.   So, let us be glad in the fact that we serve a mighty and
                 sovereign God, and let us seek after His will for us.
         
           3.   Acts 1:8

                 This is a very wonderful and powerful promise of the Holy Spirit being sent from the Father to us
                 through Christ.  What is the function of the Holy Spirit?   He empowers us to witness of course,
                 but where?   IN ALL THE EARTH!!  Therefore, the Holy Spirit is who empowers us to minister
                 to others, and He manefests this power through signs and wonders.   This is important, as humans
                 are by nature a "believe it when we see it" race.  Therefore, God provided these signs.
       

         4.    II Timothy 2:15

                We must seek diligently to prepare ourselves for the service God has called us to.  The approach
                with which we do this is to study His ways, and make application of them to our own lives. 
                However, we must do this within the boundaries of the Word of God.

                James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead.  In other words, we can sit and listen until we
                are blue in the face, but without the practical application of what we hear then we have not done
                anything.   James 1:22 likewise exhorts us to be doers as well as hearers.

                All we say and do, in other words, requires preparation.  Preparation comes from knowing God's
                Word, which produces spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).  However, it takes actual work to
                produce quality fruit, and this work aids in its maturing process.   Nevertheless, despite the
                hardships, we all must go through the process in order to endure;  if we do so, it will pay off
               handsomely in eternity.  Therefore, let those of us especially called into missions submit, prepare,
               and apply ourselves to strive for the high calling God has given us.

III.   Conclusion

The whole purpose of all this is to increase awareness of missions in the Church, and provide tools to help those of you who do feel the call of God to missions.  However, this is what it all boils down to.

God wants willing vessels.   He can equip someone who is submissive and patient to go through the learning process.   God wants all nations to come to know Him, and He expects those of us who do know Him already to introduce them to Him.  In order for us to do this however, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, grounded in the Word of God, and apply the things we learn in God's Word to our lives.   God can and will use anyone He chooses to use;  the question is will we allow ourselves to be used of Him?  He does not care about where we fall short so much as he desires us to develop what we have to serve Him.  If we consecrate ourselves to Him, He will take the little bit we have to offer and do a lot of things with it.  All we have to do is surrender it to Him to do just that.  You are special to the Lord, and He has just the right place in His service for you to fill that no one else can.   Therefore, if the Lord is dealing with you to serve His kingdom, please respond.   Time is too short, and you cannot afford to be discouraged about your weaknesses;  instead you must focus on your strengths so the Lord can use them.   Yield to God today, for He needs you to reach some lost nation somewhere for Him.  Amen.






























Thursday, June 9, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part VI

The following message was preached by me on December 22nd, 1991 at my home church, New Life Tabernacle Foursquare Church in Midland City, AL (Everett Rowe, then pastor).  It was one of two messages I gave at my own church that year, and with this one it was given just before I left BBI in Graceville, FL, for a short adventure in San Dimas, CA, where I was going to attend LIFE Bible College out there.  However, it didn't work, so I eventually headed back east.

Childlike vs. Childish

Introduction

Did you ever wonder about what it means to "enter heaven as a child?"  I, like many other Christians, have gotten misconceptions of this because of human ignorance.  However, how do we become little children in Christ?  The best explanation for this comes from the Holy Spirit himself:  so, let Him minister it to you as you study this subject.

I.  Background

On this particular day as Mark 10:13-16 recounts, Jesus was going about ministering unto people.   Mothers, especially, were present because of the way their little ones were attracted to Him.  It was comparable to sitting on Santa's lap at Christmas only much better because this was God incarnate.  He would take each child upon His lap and cuddle them a little, perhaps even teaching them little songs and prayers before He let them go.  However, the job of ministering, albeit rewarding, was strenuous, and the Apostles were starting to feel the effects of the long day in their cranky dispositions.  After all, their feet ached and their tummies were empty.   As a result, they began to let the crowd know that the party was over.  However, even though they were ready to call it a day, Jesus was not quite ready to close shop yet.  He was grieved in spirit with their attitudes, and told them in the vernacular of His day to "chill out."  It would not have been so hard on those boys had not Jesus drove His point to them in the way He did;  He called a little child to Him, and told them that they would have to be as obedient and as trusting as this little child in order to make it into the Kingdom.  Oh, what pride that broke in them!  Leaving them to chew on this a while He went on doing as before.

II  What Does It Mean To Be Childlike?

If any of you receiving this lesson have children, consider the traits of your earthly child.  What are they?  First of all, a child is noted for his trust.  Children will accept without a doubt what their parents tell them, and likewise this is the type of trust our heavenly Father wants us to have with him.  If the Lord shows us something, we must accept it as true, for he is a God of truth, and He only will advise us on what is good for us.  Children can sometimes get into trouble by accepting too much, however, and like an earthly child must accept the guidance of their parents, so also must we do likewise of our heavenly Father.  If we obey his voice and let him guide us, we will be able to steer clear of spiritual trouble.  However, like earthly children, how well do we pay attention?  We as Christians crawl into some impossible messes, and a lot of times only our God can get us out of them.  Unfortunately, unlike the earthly child who learns the first time, we sometimes get ourselves into the same old mess again.  We humans are an unruly bunch, are we not?

III.   What Does It Mean To Be Childish?

Children in the flesh are a challenge sometimes, so you can about imagine what God's spiritual children can be like!  Yes, we are disobedient quite often, and below are some common fixes we get ourselves into.

A.  Getting Ahead of God

      Sometimes we do things before our Father wants us to, and as a result we tie his hands.  Barbara, my fiancee (now wife) had an experience like this with her mother when she invited all her friends home for a birthday party several months before her actual birthday.  When we did this to God at several points in our own lives, we end up disappointed because we did it in our own strength, and the wrong way to boot.  Let us be ever cautious of doing this.

B.  Thinking You Can Get Away With Anything Because You Are Saved

      The children that are often "pets" of their parents usually hone the skill of wearing them down to get what they want to an art form.  The do exactly the opposite of what they are told because they feel they can get away with it.  That same concept is true in the spiritual realm as well, and especially among those who belie the heresy of "once saved always saved" or its twin, the gnostic-based "health and wealth gospel."  These are the people that you usually find coming in on Sunday morning with a hangover, or who cave in when real tests encounter them.  They are also the same people who say that because smoking is not mentioned in the Bible, they can "smoke unto the Lord," as our friend Dr. Gene Scott out in Los Angeles likes to teach.  The theological term for such warped thinking is Antinomianism.   God will let you get a way with it, go figure, but in the end you will also pay for it.  Therefore do not be deceived:  you are destroying yourself in the name of Christ, and He wants no part of such work contrary to His character.  It will also destroy your witness for Him.   Therefore, if you have fallen prey to either of these heresies, please repent, lest you be eternally secure someplace else.

C.  Thinking That God Owes You Something

      Did you know that you are being spiritually disobedient when you buy into this "name it and claim it" doctrine?   Yes, indeed!  The reason is because you treat God as some big "sugar daddy" who owes you sizeable reward because you supposedly serve Him better than anyone else.  For those of you that espouse this damnable doctrine, I have a couple of questions.  First, have any of you ever read Romans 3:23?   Second, do you not realize that Jesus already has given you the greatest thing He had, being His life, for we who do not deserve it?  You and I are nothing but sinners worthy of hell, but are saved by His grace.  Therefore, we really need to watch throwing around these ridiculous claims, thinking of God as some kind of genie.   Who are we to demand of God anything?

IV.   Conclusion

Using the Biblical mode described in Mark 10:13-17, I hope I have clarified to you the true meaning of this text, and it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit minister to your needs with it.   We are children of the King, and therefore must be obedient as such.  Unfortunately, too many in our ranks are spoiled brats that need a good slap upside the noggin in order to get the picture here, and instead of being childlike, they are childish.  The rest of us need to be careful so that this does not happen to us.

With the rise of child exploitation in America today, perhaps it must be understood that there is a spiritual parallel.  Satan is sending out an army of spiritual child molesters in order to ensnare the children of God.  He does this through false heresy in the Church, as well as through worldly values - Rush Limbaugh to name one - that are being sown in the church.  It is time that the saints of God stand up against this in a united voice, and may we be led back into the safe fold of God's Word, and follow its principles instead.   Like the children of the passage in Mark 10, Jesus wants us to sit upon His lap and receive His blessings.   Therefore, I invite you to draw near to Him today - you will be glad you did in the long run.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part V

This was my second Homiletics class sermon I persented in class when I was at Florida Baptist Theological College in Graceville, FL, on October 3, 1991.  My professor then was Dr. Jerry Windsor, who had just joined the faculty that year after spending several years as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Graceville.  I also have the privelege of this sermon being on video as well.

Marks of True Exhortation

Outline of Text:

1.  They are without error
2.  It is a work of faith, labored in love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 1:3)
3.  It is pure (I Thessalonians 2:3)
4.  It does not please men, but glorifies God (I Thessalonians 2:4)
5.  It does not use flattering words (2:5)
6.  It must be in truth, grounded in love (Ephesians 4:15)
     a.  If more truth than love, it becomes legalistic
     b.  If more love than truth, it becomes a shattered dream
7.  It must be without anger
8.  It must be grounded in the Word

The subject of exhortation is a major part of my personal ministry.   It is something that the Lord has been training me in for a long time.  The reason for this is simply that the Church has lost the value of exhortation, and we do not practice it out of fear that it might offend someone.  However, I will tell you right now that the modern Christian community has become lax and compromising, and as a result sin and compromise have invaded a lot of church sanctuaries.  The Full Gospel is not being taught.  If we as believers love the people we serve and want them saved from hell, we have to tell them like it is.  Like physical children so often need correction from their parents, so also do we need chastening from time to time from our Father in heaven; those of us in the ministry need it a lot!  Therefore, I can identify with this message personally.

I want to share with you eight traits of true exhortation, and as some of you may move in this gift, I encourage you to develop these.  The first trait of true exhortation is that it must be without error .  This means that when you exhort someone, you do not do it with the purpose of blanketing an ulterior motive that is vain and selfish.  This mistake is common of so teachers that the Bible describes as "having itching ears."  There are too many ear-ticklers out there today telling people what they want to hear rather than what they should hear;  therefore a lot of opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work in people's lives are lost.  This is why we, as ministers, must base anything we tell anyone on God's Word, or else it is false teaching, prophecy, etc.

The second trait is that exhortation is a work of faith, labored in love and patience.  Most exhortations are like a good dose of castor oil in that they are severely disagreeable going down, but do a cleansing on us inside.  It takes faith to deliver a true exhortation, and a person must really be in tune with God delivering it.  It is also a labor of love, for if you truly love your brother or sister in Christ, it will cause you to go to great lengths to do the right thing for them, even if it costs a friendship or marriage.  It is also a labor of patience, because in many cases an exhortation will knock its recipient off their high horse, and therefore the reaction may not be as favorable as it should be.   By using the formula in I Thessalonians 1:3, we can make life a lot easier for those we exhort, because eventually the person will understand what's going on, and God can then deal with the individual.


In the same verse above we find the third trait.  An exhortation does not come from deceit or uncleanliness, nor is it in guile.  Instead, it comes out straight, undiluted, and pure.  The words of a man or woman often reflect their spiritual condition.  Therefore, if we are used of God to exhort someone, we should perform a self-examination first, so that we do not do the Lord's work with sin or personal bias.  A word of God given in hypocrisy, despite the truth of it, will damage a personal testimony;  therefore, we must be extremely careful in the way we handle things.

Another extremely important trait is to be found in the next verse, and this concerns our tendency to give men what they want rather than what they need to hear.  Our duty is not to please men, but it is to please and glorify God who tests our hearts.  After all, was it a man that saved us by grace through faith?  Would that buddy at work or school have the power to save you?  Absolutely not!  Therefore, we are to do what the Father wants and not our own whims.

In verse 5 we have a related issue, which is far-fetched flattery.  Oh, how we love to have those pats on the back telling us how prosperous and successful we will be because God will bless us.  True enough, He will do that according to our needs, but how do we handle the trials and attacks of Satan?  Are we too afraid to share that this also is a promise?  God does indeed bless us, no doubt; however He will also test us, and those with a gift of prophecy cannot afford to be fortune-tellers for charity and neglect the rest of the story.  If we believe all the good things as truth, then we must also accept some of the bad, for some of those bad things work for God's good also.  Therefore, let us preach the whole Gospel and not just what sounds good.

In Ephesians 4"15 we find a very vital balance that we must achieve when we exhort one another in order that the end result may be edification.  To illustrate what happens when these are not in balance, one can look at the Pharisees and Saducees in the Bible.   The Pharisees had the truth, but did not have the love; the result of that was a rigid legalism that left no hope.   The Saducees had the concern for their fellow man, but failed to back it up with the Word of Divine Providence.   The result of that was a man-centered religious system that depended upon personality.  When the one being looked up to passed away, the idea died with him, thus solving no problems.  Through these two examples we must realize that truth and love are inseparable and must be used together to make things work.  The consequences are too great to neglect one and not the other.

The seventh of these traits is learning to discern between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of anger.  Too many times there are those in the Church who use their gifts as a defense mechanism, and as a result they hurt people because they minister with the wrong attitude.  I know, for I have made this error myself on one occasion involving a friend of mine.  Because I spoke out in anger to him in the Lord's name, I caused the guy to go into counseling for several days to heal the wound I inflicted upon him.  If you are upset with someone, do not use your spiritual gifts to take it out on them; this is what is knowm as "charismatic witchcraft" and we had better be careful of it.

Finally, all exhortation must be grounded in the truth of God's word, and must bear witness of Jesus Christ.  If it does not, then throw it out.   This point is directed at those who receive the word rather than those who give it, and it serves as a warning not to accept everything that is said until it is tested by God's Word first.  There are a lot of false ministers in the flock, and in order to expose them one has to be knowledgeable of the Holy Scripture.  I always advise everyone I teach or exhort that they are not to take my words to literal excess, but to check things out for themselves.  If something does not measure up, it needs to be disposed of. All ministers must do this for the sake of those they are charged to minister to.   If they do not, then I would suggest not giving them the time of day.  A minister should let his or her life be totally guided by the principles of the Scripture record, for if so, they will bear much fruit.

In closing, I would like you to be encouraged.   For those that know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, are you doing His work the way He showed you?   If not, then you need to spend a little time with Him, for if you don't, the blood of those you could have reached will come back to haunt you someday, and it won't be a pretty sight!  For those of you that do not know the Lord, you have two choices:  accept Him and receive peace and joy eternal, or reject Him and He will not know you, thus giving you first-class accomodations in Hotel Hades for indefinite eternity.   The choice is yours, and only you and not Mama, Daddy, or anyone else can make it for you.   While you still have time to make the choice, make the most of it.  There is not much time left.   The Lord could return at any moment, and if He did, you would be left to the mercy of the coming Antichrist, who has no mercy.   So come now, while there is still time, for it is the most important decision you will ever make.  Please listen to the Holy Spirit as He moves upon you today.  Amen.