In Deuteronomy chapter 8 we read why God led the Children of Israel the way He did to the Promised Land. He said, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

You see, even though we all have various sins and troubles throughout our lives, there is one thing I’m sure of and that is pride is at the bottom of it all. We all enter this world deceived. We all grow up thinking we are “independent” beings, we’re in charge of our own lives, and no one is going to tell us otherwise. So God led the Children of Israel in such a way in order for them to see the true state of their hearts. God is God you see; so He already knew it, but it took a bit of time for their eyes to be opened. Theoretically, if the Children of Israel were already humble, God could have gotten them into the Land much sooner.

The Promised Land is for mature believers. It’s not that they were to stop trusting God but the manna was going to stop, they were going to have to plant their own crops, care for their own homes and deal with any opposition they would face. When it comes to us, God wants us to grow up too. He wants us to move into the inheritance He has given us in Christ. You see His plan involves a whole nation of priests, a whole nation of people who have learned to walk in His Spirit in order to represent Him to the world.

God started from scratch with Israel. He fed them manna and kept their clothes from wearing out. He did this in order to teach them He was their true source of life. It was the discipline of God; His way of training them to walk in His ways. In other words, if we haven’t been through anything how would we ever know He can and will provide? The Children of Israel had to be tested before they could enter the Promised Land. They had to grow up a little and become responsible before God would let them live there.

The Apostle Paul gave Timothy a bit of similar advice when appointing leaders in the church. In 1 Timothy 3:6-7 Paul told Timothy an overseer shouldn’t be “a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” I thought this piece of advice given to Timothy for overseers was very revealing. The warning was about the “condemnation incurred by the devil”, and “the snare of the devil.”

To understand this we have to look back into Ezekiel chapter 28 where we learn “Satan” started out as an exalted being. He was blameless…until unrighteousness was found in him” (Ezekiel 28:15). Verse 17 tells us “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground…” So there it is! Pride was the root of Satan’s downfall. I wonder if this is because he was never tested. Could it be that he was created and placed in a high position from the very beginning? Could this be why the Apostle Paul said, “they shouldn’t be a new convert?”

I’m simply speculating but could this be why throughout the New Covenant we read things like, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2). What about “we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance…(Romans 5:3). In other words, maybe those that have walked through the most painful and trying times are the very ones God is preparing to walk into the Promised Land. Remember all but two of the Children of Israel who left Egypt died in the wilderness. Only two ever entered into what God had promised them years before. The very things the enemy throws at us wanting us to give up are the very things God looks at as our opportunity for faith. You see God knows how to promote one just as well as demote another. Either way the test is meant to humble us and show us what’s really in our hearts. We must learn the lesson of humility, and see our utter powerlessness apart from Jesus Christ. We are invited into rest but we must learn how to receive what God has for us with humility and if there’s to be any promotion we have to wait on Him.

Remember: A testimony requires a test. Without a test all you have is the moany’s.

Louie

We’ve been studying the life of Abraham in the small group at the jail; and there’s one thing I’ve picked up on, especially the Old Testament, is you have to pay close attention to the details. For instance in Genesis 15 God promises Abraham an heir that would come from his own body. Moving on into chapter 16 we discover ten years has passed. So we have no record of what took place in those ten years. We are simply told “After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.”

I have been as guilty as the next guy in thinking that my life somehow wasn’t measuring up because it didn’t seem God was interacting with me as often as He did the Old Testament saints. The problem is as you read through moving from one chapter to the next you actually may be covering many years in single verses. For instance in Exodus the story is told of how Moses killed an Egyptian defending a Hebrew. He goes on the run from fear of getting caught and it’s forty long years later when he comes across the burning bush. Then we read where God speaks to him about leading His people out of slavery. Wow, for forty years there is no record of God speaking to Moses. We wonder where He’s at as soon as something happens we don’t like and yet He let Moses herd sheep for forty years in the desert before speaking to him. I wonder if Moses thought God had left him forever. Do you think Moses might have felt as if God was simply through with him?

Looking back to the story of Abraham again we see in chapter 16 Sarah apparently became impatient after ten years of waiting on God’s promise of an heir so she devised a plan. She gave Abraham her handmaiden Hagar in order to produce the promised child. Most of you probably know the story so I won’t rehash it here but at the end of chapter 16 we read where Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.

Picking up immediately in chapter 17 Abraham is 99 years old. So from the last verse of chapter 16 to the first verse of 17 13 yrs. has passed. Once again we have no record of the events that took place during those 13 yrs. I guess what I’m attempting to say in a round about way is as a Christian we are going to have to learn how to wait. God lives outside of time and from our vantage point it may look or feel as if He isn’t paying attention at all but this is where that tiny word “faith” comes in. God loves nothing more than when His people trust Him. So I encourage you today to take a deep breath and quietly say to yourself “God’s got this.”

Let me just say, I don’t know where Tom Petty stands with Jesus Christ but apparently he does know this, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Louie

While the world loves for everything to be extreme, Christians aren’t one of them. You see while everyone wants a super-sized soft drink, a bacon wrapped, bacon sandwich on a bacon wrapped bun, a giant television screen, monster truck and so on. You’re being a bit much when you speak up about Jesus Christ and what He’s done. In other words, while the world clamors for the largest “Espresso, frappuccino, caffe mocha, caramel macchiato coffee drink” from Starbucks they can find. When it comes to Christianity they want you to go to church and do all that there but don’t bring it to work or talk about it in public.

Jesus told us as believers we are “the salt of the earth.” While the world wants to say “You’re too salty,” Jesus never addressed the salt being too salty rather He pointed out how it can become tasteless. His fear was that as Christians we would begin to listen to the world and its opinion rather than speaking out boldly for the truth.

As I thought about the idea of a Christian being too salty, I thought, well, John the Baptist would probably fit into that category. Jesus, talking about John, asked “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” You see, John the Baptist was pretty outspoken when it came to declaring the truth. The religious leaders of his day came to ask him who he was and by what authority was he preaching. John’s response was “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals…” John boldly proclaimed repentance and that Jesus Himself would do the rest. This sounds pretty “salty” to me.

While I understand not everyone is meant to walk in the same role as John the Baptist, what I want you to notice is Jesus made quite a claim about John a bit later in the story. Jesus said, “Among those born of woman there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

In the Old Covenant Elijah was a larger than life figure. He was a prophet who was predicted to return, so much so the Jews to this day reserve a spot for him at their table during Passover. When you look back at the prophet Elijah right away you see his boldness. He went straight up to King Ahab and declared “‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Did you catch how he said, “except by my word”? I think that sounds pretty salty doesn’t it?

In conclusion let me just say, The world doesn’t want a Christian to be salty because salt actually brings out the flavor in the food, right? Maybe as Christians the Spirit’s presence alone is enough to disturb others. I have noticed once someone learns what you’re about words might not be necessary any more. Just by our presence God’s Spirit brings out what’s truly in them, and they don’t like it, so they take it out on us. Maybe that’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of sharing in the “fellowship of His suffering’s.”

Side note: When someone speaks of too much salt what they tend to mean is someone is being pushy. Of course one must use wisdom; but what I’m talking about is not letting the world dictate to us when we can speak out about this one who came here to die for us and set us free for all eternity. While we can find all sorts of things to talk about, I can’t think of anything more important than Jesus!

Would someone please pass the salt.

Matthew 5:13 

Matthew 11:7b-8a 

Matthew 11:14 

Matthew 11:11 

1 Kings 17:1 

Louie

Can Christ really remove sin-consciousness? According to Hebrews 9&10, He can. In fact the Old Covenant sacrifices of the blood of bulls and goats actually were reminders of sins committed not a solution. Year after year worshipers had to go to the Temple and give a sacrifice. We know those sacrifices couldn’t perfect the worshiper, or take away the consciousness of sin, because if they could they would have stopped wouldn’t they? The good news is the one time sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the shedding of His blood does in fact perfect the worshiper (Hebrews 10:14).

As I began to really look at these verses in Hebrews it lead me to look up the word “conscience” in the Strong’s concordance to see if I could gain any insight. I was astounded, as usual at what I found. The word “conscience” as found throughout the New Covenant is always defined the same way. The Greek word is–(4893 suneidesis) defined: “co-perception, i.e. moral consciousness.” Then I looked into the root word–(4894 suneido) which means: “to see completely, understand or become aware, and to be conscious or informed of…be ware of.” Taking a look even deeper still, I discovered yet another root word–(4862 sun) which is defined: “denoting union, with or together i.e….including completeness.”

These definitions seemed to leap off the page at me. I began to think about how the Old Covenant and its sacrifices were a reminder of sins year after year. Naturally being “sun”, or in union with It, guarantees a sin-consciousness. Just as Paul told us in Romans 7 “Sin taking opportunity afforded by the commandment deceived me.” In other words, “Mr. Sin”, and his sin-consciousness, used to take advantage of the worshiper in the Old Covenant because those sacrifices couldn’t do anything to remove it in the first place. The blood of bulls and goats and ashes of a heifer could never take away a sin consciousness because it didn’t have the power to break our union with “Mr. Sin.” Jesus and His sacrifice, on the other hand, does have the power to break our union with the “spirit of error” and cleanse our conscience too.

So while we all have a conscience the question is what exactly are we conscious of? Are we living according to the “prince of the power of the air”, “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience”? Or are we living in union with the Holy Spirit who sets us free from sin and cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

“We have the mind of Christ” and in Hebrews 10:17 we read, “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.” You see God’s promise in the New Covenant is to “put His laws into our minds and write them in our hearts.” Once we receive Christ, and His once and for all sacrifice for sin, let His mind be in us and live according to His consciousness, we are set free from the accuser of the brethren. From now on we don’t have to listen to nagging reminders of past sins and his attempts to immobilize us with things even God himself chooses not to remember.

Louie

Sometimes our believing God is a progressive thing. While studying through the life of Abraham in Genesis, I have really enjoyed seeing Abraham’s character develop as he learns what it means to believe God.

God called Abraham to come out from his own people and go to a place He would show him. From the scriptures it seems Abraham, or should I say Abram, didn’t hesitate, he simply went. Abram took his father, nephew and wife Sarai along too. They made it as far as Haran and there Abram’s father died. After Abram’s father died they continued and eventually found themselves in Canaan.

Now that Abram was where God had directed, you would think things would start to work out for him or maybe not. A” famine came to the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to live there.” Here’s where we run into what I believe is Abram’s first real dilemma. He finds himself in the land of Canaan, which is where God wanted him to be, and yet things don’t look so good. Maybe Abram looked around at the lack of provision and thought, you know I’m the provider for this family, there’s nothing growing, maybe I should look elsewhere for food. This sounds reasonable enough doesn’t it? While there’s no specific mention of disobedience here, I think this is the very beginning of what turns into a great problem later. As most know disobedience is usually a slow slide rather than an abrupt fall and we do have to face the results that come from our decisions.

If you notice as Abram and Sarai are about to enter Egypt Abram tells Sarai to lie and say she’s his sister. Abram’s fear and need for self-preservation tells me God isn’t the one who told Abram to go into Egypt. In fact I think this is Abram making a decision without consulting God at all. One of the men in my small group Bible study at the jail said, “He should have been more patient.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. One lesson here for me was how if we are making a move independently of God we have to manipulate things to make it work. Could it be the famine was God’s way of teaching Abram to walk by faith rather than sight? Maybe God wanted Abram to seek Him about the famine. Either way Abram and Sarai went into Egypt and were subsequently ran out by the Pharaoh himself. You see the Pharoah was going to take Sarai as his own and found out she was indeed Abram’s wife. The good news is Pharaoh didn’t kill them rather Abram and Sarai actually left Egypt with gifts of sheep, oxen, donkey’s, camels and male and female servants. This, mind you, is where Hagar, Sarai’s handmaiden comes from, whose presence becomes a huge problem later.

After leaving Egypt, and having grown considerably in size, Abram and his nephew Lot’s herds were too large for the land to sustain them so they had to part ways. Here Abram shows his generous nature and gives Lot the first option to choose where he wanted to live. Abram told him, “If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; or if the right, then I will go to the left.”

Later in the story we read where Lot, not only chose to live near Sodom, he ended up living in Sodom. During this time several kings gathered together for war and Lot was taken as a prisoner. When the news reached Abram it seems he never hesitated. He gathered his meager group of about 318 trained men, of his own household, and went in to rescue Lot. Here again Abram is demonstrating God’s very own character. Even though Abram could have said to himself, “you know Lot chose that land and he got himself into that mess, maybe he should get himself out.” That isn’t what happened though. You see just like Adam, and we in him “got ourselves into the mess” we call the fall, God could have said, “let them get themselves out of it.” Of course we know we could never get ourselves “out of it” and thankfully God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us.

So here we see again how Christ was being formed in Abram. The very nature of Christ, which is self-for-others was on full display in the life of Abram and it’s at this point in the story the mysterious figure Melchizedek, king of Salem, shows up, but I think I’ll leave that for another time.

Louie

 

Since the fall of man, we have all falsely believed we are independent and able to live our lives as if we’re in charge. One of the greatest days of your life is when you finally see this to be the ultimate deception. At some point we must be confronted with the truth otherwise we remain in bondage to the “spirit of error.”

As soon as Adam and Eve fell, they ran to hide. When God came looking for them, quizzing them on their whereabouts, the loophole opened. God said to Adam, “Where are you?, and who told you were naked? Have you eaten of the Tree I told you not to eat?” Notice Adam immediately pointed at Eve. He said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” So, Adam really blamed God didn’t he? He told God, “The woman YOU gave me.” So begins humanity’s neverending search for justification for bad behavior.

Do you see how deception, the lie of independence, thinking we can be “LIKE” God, is the root of our self-justification? When we see something we want, we rationalize ourselves into partaking of it. Remember what Eve thought when gazing at the forbidden tree? The scripture tells us she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…” When we see something we want, and allow the selfish, fleshy mind of the enemy dictate our actions, trouble’s coming. This is where a moment of satisfaction can destroy a lifetime of commitment. Rather than being driven by the idea that we are in charge of our own lives, the solution is to look to the One who really is.

Jesus’ life modeled dedication to God and His word during His own time of temptation in the wilderness. Each time the enemy came to him, tempting Him to act independently of God, His response was:”It is written.” He never once talked of how it looked or felt to Him or tried to rationalize. He stuck to what God has said in order to overcome the enemy and avoid his snare.

The truth is God is Spirit and we are spirit. We are meant to be in union with Him, His Holy Spirit to our human spirit, but in the fall we, in Adam, decided to go our own way. Most think this means independence but in reality it means we inadvertently joined ourselves to another, namely “the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). In the end, what has really happened is the “spirit of error” has blinded us and taken us captive to do his will.

Jesus, speaking to the religious Jews of His day, those who had been duped by the enemy, said, “You are of your father the devil, and his lusts you do…” (John 8:44). So you see when we set ourselves up as God what really takes place is the “god of this age” ends up sitting on the throne of our lives. He then dictates to us from within but we think it’s merely our own thoughts and feelings so we go with it. We begin to do things that we know are contrary to God’s word but we justify them and even go as far as to look for loopholes in the Bible. It reminds me of how lawyers sometimes manipulate jury’s in order to get them to see their clients favorably. We become masters of manipulating even the the scriptures because we have an unbelievable craving for fleshly indulgences and we let those lusts override what we know to be true in our spirit. The end result is self-deception.

If we aren’t careful our loophole may become a noose. While all of this sounds so depressing, thankfully the Apostle Paul gave us the solution. Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, his young son in the faith: “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God might grant them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Louie

Below is my response to a friend who sent me these questions. How would you answer them? 

What is your view of two widowed people living together? 

Can it be done and not be in a sinful way? What is your view of Biblical marriage? 

Is the courthouse/state necessary?

Well, if you mean living as if married, when you say “living together” obviously God isn’t into that. If you mean living under the same roof as if brother and sister, I suppose that is another story, but if the said two people are “lovers” I believe marriage is necessary in God’s view.

When it comes to the courthouse/state thing, I think marriage needs to be recognized legally which means a marriage by someone recognized by the state in which they reside, whether it’s a minister or county clerk, etc. I think when it comes right down to it marriage is about a vow or covenant made between a man and woman and God, also known as “Holy” matrimony. To me this would include some sort of public display or recognition by the state, hence the wedding license and ring.

Ultimately marriage between a man and wife, them becoming one flesh, is meant by God to be a picture of our union with Him “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17). So, with that being said, marriage is a display of faithfulness, holiness, openness, truthfulness, sharing, self-sacrifice or simply put–love. The watching world should be able to look at marriage and see God’s character in full display between the two who have vowed to become one. This of course means we take the way of the cross for others. I’ll just leave it there for now. This may be more than you were asking for; but marriage is quite a topic.

Louie