Thursday, April 29, 2010

But Have Not Love...

I speak with the tongues of men and angels.
I have the gift of prophecy.
I understand all mysteries and all knowledge.
I have all faith.
I bestow all my goods to feed the poor.
I give my body to be burned.

How can it be that one who can list all those amazing spiritual blessings can in fact be nothing? The answer is simple, you are already thinking it: if they have not love.

It's an amazing thing to think about...and frightful. We could wake up one day and find that all the things we took as proofs of our Christianity are meaningless as we face the judgement of God. We may find in that day that we say, "Lord, Lord...", and He replies, "I never knew you." How dreadfully somber a scenario to ponder.

It absolutely astounds me how easily my mind turns from contemplating God's love to focusing on doctrines. Whether discovering new truths or solidifying old ones, the truths themselves inevitably steal my concentration.

First of all, what I'm not saying is that it's a bad thing to search out new truths or reaffirm the foundational truths you already have. As with anything in this world, the negative comes when our eyes drift away from Christ and His love and onto whatever it is that's demanding our attention.

In essence, I am prone to making idols of the doctrines themselves. Quite a sobering thought.

Yet, how plainly the Scriptures lay out the all-important need for us to love. How plain it is to see that all of God's Word can be boiled down to two phrases: Love God, and Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. If this one principle of love were the only thing that was grasped in this life, it would surely be enough!

How often we see, hear and quote the famous "love chapter," yet are we missing the point entirely?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."

Too often we are so confident in ourselves because we suppose we understand all mysteries and all knowledge, or because we fancy ourselves to have all faith. But Paul says if we have not love we are nothing...nothing.

Lately I have felt a strong leading from God to dwell on love as an action. Namely, helping those in need: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those who are sick or in prison. Yet how blunt that passage is to me...reminding me that even if I do bestow all my goods to feed the poor and even give my very body to be burned, yet have not love, it profits me nothing! It is no good to me!

Christ was so, so clear...why is it so difficult for me to let His words take root in my mind? It's like I'm wearing a bullet-proof jacket around my heart!

Matthew 22:37-40, "Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

John 15:12, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

If we haven't come into line with what Jesus calls the first and great commandment, and the second like it, all our pursuit of doctrinal truth becomes folly and idolatry and pride. Let us all seek to first follow these first two, and greatest, commandments, upon which all the Law and the Prophets (or, the Scriptures) hang.

Do you want to know how to be sure that the motive for all your good works is love? Just ask yourself: Am I the same person behind closed doors with my spouse (or children, or siblings, or parents) as I am at church? If not, I'm just putting on a front, a mask.

Christianity starts inside you, in your heart. Then it works its way outward. Any effort to do good works in order to be a Christian is, as Paul puts it, nothing.

The first priority of a Christian should be to display the compassionate love of God to those of his or her own household.

I pray that God will give me ears sensitive to hearing the voice of His Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. I want to walk with God, listening to Him guiding me day by day, minute by minute.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit vs. Fruit of the Flesh

What is a Christian?

If you've ever wondered what the Christian life looks like, or what it consists of, look no more. God, through Paul, tells us point blank.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-26, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."

Let me digress for a moment, what is the spirit of the law? What is it that truly fulfills the law? Love. Just a few verses earlier Paul says "the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " (Gal 5:14)

Christ Himself said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)

Christ says that on those two principles, love for God and love for our neighbor, hang all the Law and the Prophets. The entire word of God can be summed up so purely with those two commands. It is the entirety of our existence.

If we have allowed Christ to come into our hearts, He brings His love with Him. God will place in our hearts a true love, a self-sacrificing love, for Himself and for His creation.

How Love Fulfills The Law

If we love God, we will have no other gods before Him, because He is the ultimate desire and love of our heart, we won't worship idols because our love is directed only at God, we won't take His name in vain because we love Him, and we will save time for Him and Him only, because we love to be near Him.

If we love His creation, our fellow man, we will honor our father and mother because we love them, we won't murder those we love, we will be faithful in body and thought to those we love, we will not steal from those we love, we will not lie to those we love, we will not covet from those we love.

If we truly have love for God in our heart, the first 4 commandments are no longer a burden, but a delight. If we truly have love for our fellow man, the last 6 commandments are not difficult, but as natural as breathing.

So, with one fell swoop, Paul takes care of the law, for the first, and foundational, fruit of the Spirit is love...agape.

The Rest of the Fruit

Joy...chara. Cheerfulness, i.e. Calm delight, gladness, exceedingly joyful. With the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts, there should come a calm delight, a gladness that we have found and serve our awesome Creator. Sometimes Christians don't seem like they have one bit of joy in their lives...sometimes Christians can be a little judgemental and haughty, sometimes Christians seem to concentrate on the negative instead of the positive. It shouldn't be so. Let's rejoice in our Creator and His creation. Let's look for the good in every situation, knowing that God is in control.

Peace...eirene. One, peace, quietness, rest, set at one again. How beautiful is that! "Set at one again." Indeed the Christian can and should feel a deep sense of peace because we know that in falling prostrate before God and repenting of our sins, He has been faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We have been truly "set at one again" with our Heavenly Father. Christ has made atonement, "at-one-ment." Let us again remember that our peace comes because we can trust God, that He is always in control, and "all things work together for good to those who love Him." (Rom 8:28)

Longsuffering...makrothumia. Patience, longanimity (good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence), i.e. forbearance or fortitude. This is a big one, and a tough one for some of us. Since Christians are followers of Christ, and He is our example in all things, we should be longsuffering, since God Himself is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9) We too should not be hasty or rash, but instead patient and kind, especially with other people. And always in a good-natured way.

Kindness...chrestotes. Usefulness, excellence in character or demeanor, kindness. What a blessing to let others see the kindness of Christ in you. I like that the definition includes, usefulness, for as James says, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:15-17) Therefore let us be useful to our fellow man. Let us be helpers, and "be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22) Let Christ's love compel us to help, as He helped.

Goodness...agathosune. Goodness, i.e. Virtue or beneficence (doing or producing good). This goes along with the previous fruit of the Spirit. If Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, His goodness should shine forth as the sun. "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18)

Faithfulness...pistis. Assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity. The indwelling Spirit of God will produce in us an assurance that we are Christ's, and He will save us. The word fidelity is an interesting one. These days it speaks of the "accuracy with which an electronic system reproduces the sound or image of its input signal". So too, Christians ought to be an accurate reproduction of the signal that is input into our hearts. We should faithfully reflect the Spirit of God that lives in us. As Paul puts it, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) So we see that if we live by faith, it is no longer us who lives, but Christ who lives in us. Amen!

Gentleness...praiotes. Meekness, humility. Since it is Christ who lives in us, we will no longer have a spirit of pride, harshness or compelling. Instead, we will have a meek spirit, a lowly spirit. For Jesus said, "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:12) and "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matt 20:27,28). So we too should not seek to be served, but to serve.

Self-control...egkrateia. Temperance (the trait of avoiding excesses). The Seventh-day Adventists have a motto about temperance that goes something like this: "Avoid those things which are harmful and use in moderation those things which are good." Indeed, the Christian should be careful to keep in check those carnal desires and not to overindulge in things like food, drink, spending, sex, or really...anything. The only thing that is acceptable, and profitable, to overindulge in, is God Himself. Let us be moderate in all things and be zealous in prayer and study of the Bible. The Christian should let God control his life, and not his base passions.


So this has been a quick little look at the fruit of the Spirit as found in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Let us spend time each day reflecting on these fruit and how we can incorporate them into our lives. For, to a Christian, they are not optional. I've recently heard it said that all other areas of religion can be counterfeited, but it takes a real vital connection with Christ to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Indeed, in maybe my favorite chapter of the Bible, Christ said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Let us seek to abide in Him, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

The Alternative: The Fruit of the Flesh

Many people perhaps do not realize that immediately preceding the fruit of the Spirit, Paul lists the fruit of the flesh.

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

Let that passage be a solemn warning to those who believe that we can die for Christ and still live like the world. Paul is very clear that those who produce the fruit of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. Let this passage also act as a mirror by which we may look and see ourselves in and say "Woe is me, for I see myself in so many of those things." Let it be a mirror, as the Ten Commandments are a mirror, showing us our desperate need of Christ as a Saviour.

Speaking of the idea of "carnal Christians", I recently found an article by a Baptist pastor about this very subject. Please check it out here. Or copy and paste this link:

So we have two lists contrasting the Christian and the worldling. One who bears fruit of the Spirit, one who bears fruit of the flesh. Even if I had no idea who Jesus is or what God is like, even if I had never heard of the Bible, I would certainly look at these two lists and wonder: who in their right mind would want the latter?

I don't know how to close this post, so I'll just close with a written prayer:

Our Father in heaven, please give us Your Holy Spirit and let Him dwell continually in our hearts. Crucify our flesh and make us into Your image that we may glorify You. Teach us to abide in Christ and make us bear fruit. In the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Message To My Church: Isaiah 58

This turned into a lot longer of a study than I originally intended, so I apologize ahead of time. I broke the study into two parts: one covering the entire chapter of Isaiah 58, and one covering additional scriptures.

Isaiah 58: A Message to My Church (part I)

1 Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.

Here verse one sets the tone for the rest of the chapter, placing it in context. God says this is a message to His people. "The house of Jacob" was a name for God's chosen people during Isaiah's time. Here we see God telling Isaiah to tell his own people their sins, not unbelievers, not heathen nations...but His church's sin. Just like in Christ's day. Were the Jewish people God's church? Weren't the Pharisees, also? Sure. But were their hearts far from God? Were they sinning unknowingly? Yes. That's why God says "tell my people", because they don't know! They don't realize it! Are we part of God's people today? Part of His church today? Perhaps we also have transgressions that we don't know about, or don't realize we have. Let's read on!

2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.

What does God say His people were doing? If I had you read only this verse you would think this passage was praising God's people. They seek God daily, they delight to know His ways, they do righteousness, and don't forsake the ordinance of God. They ask God for justice, they delight in approaching God! How beautiful they seem, don't they? Did the Pharisees also seem very religious on the outside? Didn't Jesus say they wash the outside of the cup...but that it was the inside that was filthy, the part no one could see. Let's read on and find out what God has to say about His people who look so religious on the outside.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “ In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.

Here we see their true motivation: to look good in front of God. They want to impress Him (and other people), to get noticed. But is that what God wants? Does He want us to go through the motions of religion to look good? Does He want us to follow His commands to get noticed by Him (or to be saved)? Or does He want us to obey Him because it's the right thing to do, because He knows what is best for His creation?

4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.

5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?

Here God shows their true motives. Selfish motives. Then He asks them a straight question: Is this the fast that I have chosen? Would you call this a fast? Would you call this an acceptable day to the Lord? Let's see what His answer is:

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Here we see what God is truly looking for. Here we understand the scripture, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." God is looking for His people to minister to others. To be a blessing. To do Christ's work. If we are the body of Christ, we should be doing His work. We should be His hands...His feet. He says to "share your bread with the hungry", notice it doesn't say to give the hungry your extra bread only if you have enough for yourself first. No, it says share your bread. This is practical ministry, to give the hungry bread...when is the last time you did that? To bring the poor to your house, to cover the naked. Not to hide your face from your own people, your own flesh, your brothers and sisters. Yet, how many times do we try to avoid contact with the homeless person we drive or walk on by?

8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “ If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

God says then, which means only after you have done what He has just specified. Namely: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, putting a roof over the head of the poor and cast out. When you minister to the needs of others instead of turning your head the other way, that's when your light will break forth like the morning and your healing shall spring forth and your righteousness will go before you and the Lord will protect you and God will answer your cries.

10 If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.

In case you missed it, God summarizes what He just said. That's how important God thinks this particular message to His church is! Minister to the hungry, minister to the afflicted souls, then your light will shine, then you will have no darkness in you.

11 The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

How beautiful, my friends. Does the Lord guide you continually? Do you listen to Him throughout your day? At work? At school? Behind closed doors with your family? He will bless and strengthen and nourish you. You'll be like a spring whose waters do not fail. Does that sound familiar? Jesus said the same thing to the woman at the well, pointing us back to this message.

Most of what Jesus said He quoted directly from the Old Testament and I think we'd do well to always go back and study the passages he repeated for our benefit. It seems like much of what Jesus taught was trying to remind us of what we should already know if we studied the Scriptures. After all, that's the Bible Jesus used, just the Old Testament.

12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

Here God shifts gears. He starts the chapter with what His people are doing, then He goes on to what His people should be doing, then He goes on to what will happen if they do what they're supposed to. Now He tells us about how we will make the switch from what we're currently doing to what we're supposed to be doing. Notice He says "those from among you". Now, we've already discovered this message is to His church, so God is saying people from within His church will build the old waste places, the places where our forefathers practiced their vain religion. They will raise up the foundations of many generations. What are the foundations of Christianity? What is the foundation of God's creation that has been fallen since Eden? Love, right? Love for our Creator and love for His creation. And they will be called "Repairers of the Breach", they will repair the break in the wall between God's love and our sinfulness. They will restore the true essence of Christianity: to minister to others.

13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,

Now this is a familiar scripture. This is one of the first verses I learned when I joined God's church. I used this verse to try to show my brother-in-law how God calls us to keep the Sabbath. Isn't this a verse that helps prove that we should keep the Sabbath holy? To convert those who don't keep the Sabbath? No, it's for those who already keep the Sabbath. Well, didn't the Jews keep the Sabbath in Isaiah's time? Certainly. Did the Pharisees keep the Sabbath in Jesus' time? Of course! In fact, they took pride in it. They used their strict observance of the Sabbath to prove how religious they were, to prove they were true followers of God. Does this sound familiar? Does our own church often feel this same way? Notice that this verse starts with the word "if", so if we do all these things, then what happens? Read on.

14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

If we observe the Sabbath the way God intended, if our religious experience is more than just church attendance and Bible study (if we're more than just hearers of the word), then we'll delight ourselves in the Lord and He'll abundantly bless us.

Wow. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Isaiah 58, a chapter I'd used to try to prove my theology, was actually a message for myself and the rest of God's people, or God's church.

Still Not Convicted? Matthew, James, Revelation and Deuteronomy (pt II)

Perhaps too much emphasis was placed on this one obscure message back in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, though. That would be a possibility, except that Jesus brings us right back to this message when He told us about the great White Throne Judgement when Christ separates the sheep from the goats, those who will receive eternal life from those who will receive everlasting punishment. Let's read Jesus' words:

Matthew 25:31-46, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand,

Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Amazing. He doesn't say come inherit the kingdom prepared for you because you kept my commandments, you observed my Sabbath, your doctrines were correct. No, He says those who inherit the kingdom will do so because they ministered to others. And those who will be cast into the everlasting fire will be cast out because they did not minister to others. Did the Pharisees keep the commandments? Better than you or I probably ever have. It was their compassion that was lacking. Their love for others.

Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? All the Jews passed their brother by, turned a blind eye to his need. It was the members of God's church that did not help their brother! It was a Samaritan, a "bitter enemy" of God's people, that stopped and had compassion on the Jew who had fallen into trouble.

From the end of Matthew chapter 25 we learn that what really separates the saved from the lost are the sins of omission. Not just the sins of commission.

James 4:17, "Therefore, to him that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."

If we did what we were supposed to do, we wouldn't have to worry about committing sins. If we spent our time ministering to others, we would have little opportunity to commit sins.

Okay well there's two passages, one from Christ's own lips, but how can we be sure this is so important? Well let's see what else James has to say about it:

James 1:27, "Pure and undefiled religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

James 2:15-17, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled." but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

It just doesn't get more simple than that. God tells us point-blank through the Apostle that pure and undefiled religion is to minister to the needs of others and to not partake in the sins of the world. It does no good to merely give lip service and to speak good words.

James 1:22, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

This is a call to action, beloved. A call to ministry. A call to true Christianity.

Still feel like this stuff doesn't apply to you? That you have your own place in the grand scheme of things, your own jobs to do? You don't have need of these things? Let's take a look at God's message specifically to His end-time Church:

Revelation 3:14-22, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. 

Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

Do we feel rich with knowledge, wealthy in doctrines, having no need for ministry to those in need? Perhaps instead we should obey God's command to "be zealous and repent" and to open the door to our hearts so that His Spirit will dwell within us. A Spirit of ministry. A Spirit of love.

Our example is Christ. What is the nature of Christ, the nature of God?

Deuteronomy 10:17-19, "For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

A pretty perfect summary of the Character of God, if you ask me. Helping the fatherless and the widow, giving food and clothing to the stranger. Does He want any less of us? He actually promises no less of us:

Matthew 5:48, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Bible seems to be clear that our Christian walk should be less about church attendance and giving Bible studies (though these things are indeed important) and more about loving our fellow man.

So the one question I have is this: When is the last time you ministered to someone in need? Now we all have a choice about what kind of Christians we're going to be. Are you a hearer...or are you a doer?

William Miller Studied

William Miller studied the Bible for 13 years before ever preaching his first message. Of those, 5 long years were spent studying the time prophecy found in the book of Daniel, attempting to discover if there was any error in his interpretation.

He said that during those 5 years, he thought of every argument that his critics would later use against him, and found satisfactory answers for all of them. Remarkably, he stated that he had thought of many more arguments that no one had ever brought up!

Brothers and sisters, can we learn from the experience of William Miller? Oh I truly believe so. Before we accept, and certainly before we teach, any new doctrine, we would do well to spend not hours, days or even months studying them...but perhaps years conducting a prayer-filled, exhaustive study of them in God's Word, the Bible.

Even with established doctrines we should strive earnestly to be well grounded in the Bible texts which relate to proving the doctrine beyond a shadow of a doubt, and also to be grounded in all the Bible texts which one could possibly present that would provide an argument against the doctrine.

It is in this way that we will become firmly established in the teachings of Scripture, as well as becoming well able to defend the teachings of Scripture with the Scripture itself and not our own logic.

An Examination of Isaiah 22:12-14 and Vegetarianism


This is the result of a Bible study I did when I was told that Isaiah 22:12-14 teaches that eating meat is a sin:

"Thank you so much for explaining to me a little more about SDARM (Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement). I appreciate it greatly as you can never quite get an accurate view of an organization by asking someone who opposes it. (e.g. you would not get a clear understanding of Adventist teaching if you asked an ex-Adventist, you would not get a clear understanding of JW teaching if you asked an ex-JW.) The best way to get a clear understanding of what a church teaches is by asking those that believe it.

Anyway, I'll stick to one point and that's the one about eating meat being a sin. I cannot accept that doctrine and these are the reasons:

Isaiah 22:12-14,
'And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts
Called for weeping and for mourning,
For baldness and for girding with sackcloth.
But instead, joy and gladness,
Slaying oxen and killing sheep,
Eating meat and drinking wine:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts,
“Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you,

Even to your death,” says the Lord GOD of hosts."'

This passage does not declare that eating meat is a sin. God said these people had committed iniquity...but the question is how?

The passage tells us of 6 things these people did: 1) were joyful, 2) had gladness, 3) slayed oxen, 4) killed sheep, 5) ate meat, and 6) drank wine.

If we conclude that it was their actions alone that were the iniquity, we must then believe it a sin to be joyful, have gladness, slay oxen, kill sheep, eat meat and drink wine.

We know that it is not a sin to be joyful, we know that is is not a sin to be glad...for the Bible tells us to be these things. "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24 (and 1 Thes 5:16, etc)

We know that slaying oxen and killing sheep is not a sin...for God commanded such things. "When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the LORD." Lev. 22:27, etc.

Since the Bible is clear that it was not their specific actions that were the iniquity...what was it?

The answer is found in the very first words of the passage...the very first verse... "And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts Called for weeping and for mourning, For baldness and for girding with sackcloth." - Isaiah 22:12

God had told the people that it was a time for repentance and sorrow...He "called" for it, and yet the people did not obey His voice.

In spite of what He had called for, they turned their backs and said, "Hey, since He is going to destroy us anyway, we might as well live it up and have fun while we still can!" And they did not repent.

"And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: 'Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.'" - Isaiah 22:13

If we look at what the Bible tells us...we see that these people turned their back on God, refusing to repent of their sins and choosing instead to indulge and party as long as they could until their punishment came. And this is why God then said...

"And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts." - Isaiah 22:14

They would not turn away from their sinfulness, would not repent and seek God, even 'til their death.

That is only a deeper look at the passage of Isaiah 22:12-14...but here is the true reason we cannot accept that eating meat is a sin:

If God declared in the days of Isaiah that eating meat is a sin...we must then conclude that Jesus Christ sinned by eating fish, and caused others to sin by giving them fish to eat.

"But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence." - Luke 24:41-43

"And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled." - Mark 6:41, 42

It is the little twists on Bible truths, even to teach a good thing like vegetarianism, that may seem harmless but have terrible consequences when brought to their logical conclusion. We have to be ever so careful when believing a "Bible doctrine" that it is truly what the Bible teaches, plain the clear, without any man's thoughts applied to the texts.

When we say that "The Bible teaches..." we are treading on holy ground, for the Bible is the word of God Himself and we dare not put words in God's mouth or declare that He teaches something that He truly does not.

Again, I want to thank you so much for what you've shared with me about SDARM has helped a great deal, and I have more studying to do on some of these things, in particular the Battle of Armageddon. God bless you!


Continued Discussion on Vegetarianism

The following is part of an email conversation I was having with a friend.

My Response:

It is very clear from those statements that God's people will not be eating meat...and again, I believe it. But I cannot come to a place where I say to eat meat is a sin because Christ ate meat. And I cannot say that Christ was anything less than perfect in any age. He is our example, our only perfect example, and we are to walk even as He walked, according to His Father's will. And I know that it is His will for His remnant people now to abstain from eating flesh...not because it is a sin in itself, but because it is now become altogether harmful to us to eat meat.

What I'm saying is that I think you are right...very very right. But I cannot call meat-eating a sin in itself, because I cannot say that Jesus did something sinful or that He allowed His people to do something sinful...

The reason we are not to eat meat now is not that the act is sinful, but because "Disease is accumulating rapidly. The curse of God is upon the earth, because man has cursed it. The habits and practices of men have brought the earth into such a condition that some other food than animal food must be substituted for the human family." {CD 384.5}

Because of how we have defiled the world the animals are no longer safe for us.


I've heard before that God's people will eventually stop eating meat sometime before the end. It was over a hundred years ago when we first heard that message and began saying, "Yes, eventually..."

If what we teach is true, then the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is close, even at the door. Yet we are still saying, "Yes, eventually..." I believe the time is now...give it up if you haven't already. What would stop you?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Christians Should Be Animal Lovers

Recently I saw one of those YouTube videos that exposes the unfathomable cruelty and torture we humans inflict on God's precious creatures. It is extremely difficult for someone like me to watch videos like that and I usually cannot bring myself to do it. It is a very painful and heart-breaking experience.

Anyway, in the comments to that video there was a passage from the pen of inspiration which spoke to my heart and which I will share below. Let it be a grave warning to those who would dare to bring such pain to the animals over which we have been given dominion.

"God, who created man, made the animals, also. They were to minister to man’s comfort and happiness, to serve him, and to be controlled by him. But this power was not to be used to cause pain by harsh punishment or cruel exaction.

Yet some are as reckless and unfeeling toward their faithful animals as though the poor brutes had not flesh and nerve that can quiver with pain. Many do not think that their cruelty will ever be known, because the poor dumb beasts cannot reveal it. But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were the eyes of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness to testify against them in the courts above. A record goes up to Heaven, and a day is coming when judgment will be pronounced against men who make themselves demons by their dealings with God’s creatures.

If animals could speak, what deeds of horror would be revealed—what tales of suffering, because of the perversity of man’s temper! How often those creatures of God’s care suffer pain, endure hunger and thirst, because they cannot make known their wants. And how often is it determined by the mercy or the caprice of man, whether they receive attention and kindness, or neglect and abuse.

Punishment given in passion to an animal is frequently excessive, and is then absolute cruelty. Animals have a kind of dignity and self-respect, akin to that possessed by human beings." - Signs of the Times, November 25, 1880.

Unless you think such a sentiment can not be found in the Bible...

"A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." - Proverbs 12:10

If you do not regard the life of your animals...God says you are not a righteous man.

"And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?" - Jonah 4:11

Can you see in that Scripture that God cares for animals?

"Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." - Genesis 1:26-31

"Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him." - Genesis 2:19, 20

Can you see in those Scriptures that God has placed His creatures into our care, just like He's placed His planet into our care? It is a divine privilege...and a divine responsibility.

"For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine." - Psalm 50:10, 11

Take a guess what the foundational principle is on which we build our doctrine of how we should relate to animals? Of

God is an animal lover, shouldn't we be?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Must Follow the Light We Have (Fanaticism)

Everywhere you look in the Adventist church you will find new ideas and theories springing up like weeds in the garden. Our sinful human nature has a craving to discover or be a part of some startling new truth, to be "in the know" and to feel somehow superior to those who have not yet received this "new light."

If you have been following any sort of Seventh-day Adventist blogs or FaceBook friends you will undoubtedly know the type of doctrines of which I am speaking. Most of them have a distinctly conspiratorial flavor to them, dealing with such issues as "the truth about the Godhead and the Omega apostasy," or "the hidden 2,520-day prophecy," or "Secret Societies controlling the world," or "the observance of the Feast Days," or "forensic justification."

Recently a comment was made by a man who stated that after coming out of the Catholic church for a time, he went to an Adventist church for a period of about 9 weeks, during which time he saw the sharp schisms which are dividing the church and concluded succinctly, "This isn't the right church." And upon leaving our church he went to study with the Jehovah's Witnesses for a short time and realized that they were completely unbiblical in their beliefs and so eventually went right back to where he started: the Catholic church.

It may be said that if that man is lost, his blood could conceivably be on the heads of those in the church which drove him away by their dissensions. It has been said by one I trust that "a premium is to be placed on the unity of believers." How very true.

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ... that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— " - Ephesians 4:1-3, 14, 15

It is absolutely astonishing to the utmost degree that we would die on these hills of disagreement while there are mountains to be stood upon as brothers and sisters united in Christ. But I digress.

There is a possibility that may prove true if we could see the hearts of men as God can. It is the possibility that those who claim to discover or follow or promote "new light" are not in reality following the light that has already been given, which is tantamount to building your house on the sand. As was pointed out by Pastor Stanton in a previous post: even if we are right about our theology, we become wrong if we are in the flesh. Please don't misunderstand, I am not saying that displaying the works of the flesh is merely a problem that we Christians ought to deal with, especially when presenting truth...I'm saying that if you are displaying the works of the flesh you are NOT a Christian.

Yet, it's not my thoughts but God's word, because the Bible says, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ... And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." - Galatians 5:19-21, 24.

If you are taking hold of some new doctrine and running with it while practicing the works of the flesh such as hatred, contentions, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions or dissensions...then, my friend, you are not only wrong, but have not crucified the flesh and thus are not Christ's.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." - Romans 8:1

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." - Galatians 5:25

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." - Galatians 5:22, 23

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." - 1 John 1:7

"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." - 1 John 2:6

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." - Galatians 5:16

How simple is this light? How pure? How true? Immeasurably so. Why then, if we have not first built such a basic foundation, would we endeavor to build some grand tower of doctrine? Isn't it obvious that any such tower will fall because it is not built on a firm foundation? And how great will be its fall!

"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." - Matthew 7:24-27

This is so fundamental, I cannot stress it enough. If we are not following the plain words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - God with us - then how great is our folly if we then attempt to weave some complex tapestry of doctrine?

Who is the Rock on which we're to build? Jesus Christ. (Gen. 49:24, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 118:22, 1 Cor. 10:4, and many other Scriptures)

Can you honestly say that you are walking in the Spirit, displaying the fruit of the Spirit faithfully and consistently? If you cannot, then please set aside any "wisdom" that you thought you had, because God tells us that "the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." - James 3:17

Is that a good description of your "wisdom?" Is it peaceable, gentle and willing to yield? If not, then God says it is not from above.

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James 1:26, 27

Can we still not see the foundation on which we are to build everything else? Love. Love comes first. "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13

and, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." - 1 John 4:8


For studies on fanaticism, I suggest the following:

"Walking in the Light: Rejecting Antichrists" by David Asscherick
"Stopping the Tidal Waves of Fanaticism, part 1 & 2" by Eugene Prewitt
"Legal Justification" by Eugene Prewitt (article)
"The 2520 Year Prophecy" by Eugene Prewitt (article)
"Commentary on the Methods of Pippenger" by Eugene Prewitt (article)
"2009 Evaluation of Jeff Pippenger" by Eugene Prewitt (article)
"An Evaluation of Tim Jennings" by Eugene Prewitt (article)
"Feasts for the 21st Century" by Eugene Prewitt (article)

...or go to AudioVerse for a number of sermons or BibleDoc for a number of articles.

Monday, April 12, 2010

That Stealthy Old Man

I heard a profound observation from pastor John Stanton today on an episode of House Calls. He related how this thought that he'd heard from a certain presenter really impacted him and caused him to think. It has certainly done the same for me and I hope it will do the same for you.

The idea was this: The time when the old man usually comes up is when we are right.

Meaning that we can be in the right, theologically, and be correct in our assessment of situations, ideas, or people in the church but can be completely unChristian in the way we handle the situation, displaying the fruit of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit.

When the old man comes up, we display the works of the flesh.

According to Galatians 5:19-21, the works of the flesh include hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions and dissensions.

How easy it is for us to manifest the works of the old man when we know that we are right! How easy it is, when we are right, to act contentious and hateful, to have outbursts of wrath and selfish ambitions and to create dissensions.

If such is the case, then, though we are right, we become wrong.

If the Spirit is abiding in us then His fruit will always be apparent, which according to Galatians 5:22 and 23 are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Let's close with Galatians 5:25 and 26, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Is God Responsible for Disasters and Calamities?

From a conversation I was having with a Facebook acquaintance:

"Mr. Hardy...consider Job. Who afflicted Job, God or Satan? Satan. Does Satan have power to afflict whomever he will on this planet? No. Who gives him permission...who decides what he can and cannot do? God. Job does not blame Satan for his affliction. Instead he comes to God and asks "Why?"

What amazing faith had Job...when his wife told him to curse God and die, what was his reply? "Shall we accept the good from the Lord and not the evil? In all this Job did not sin with his lips." (Job 2:10)

When Satan had slaughtered all of Job's sons and daughters...what did Job say?

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Was he wrong to say it was God who had taken away his family? The next verse says again, "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." (Job 1:22)

Job was right and still faithful, understanding that God is all powerful, a mighty God, and NOTHING can happen in this universe unless He allows it. NOTHING is out of His control.

But whatever happens, we always know we can trust God. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

In considering the character of God, we must not over-emphasize His mercy to the exclusion of His justice. The same God who hung on a cross to take the punishment for my sins is the same God who rained down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, the same God who destroyed the entire planet's population, excepting 8 souls, the same God who sent His angel of death to take the life of every firstborn child upon whose door was not the blood of the lamb.

Make no mistake...God is love, but He is also justice."

A Plea to a Spectrum of Adventists

A reply posted in response to an article carrying on about trivial matters!

"This issue is taking valuable focus away from God's true work of reformation of character and soul-winning!

We will give account for every misspent hour of bickering over this nonsense!

As if it even matters what the "majority are feeling at the local level"...the majority has never been a sign of truth. In fact, the opposite is nearly always true.

Israel was always plagued with unbelievers and wicked men, and so it is to this very day. God's people of today are likewise infested with worldliness, pride and arrogance...defying the plain 'Thus saith the LORD's we are given in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy! Instead we rely on our own wisdom and reasonings and sense of what is "right" and "true" and "just" in the culture in which we find ourselves. But this also is nonsense! We have, to a VERY large degree been found standing in stark opposition to the God of heaven and we will be held accountable...the judgment is coming, and quickly...and when it arrives it will not matter how eloquent our speeches or how sincere our hearts.

Repent now and turn from your wicked ways! For why will you die??

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brethren of Experience?

Those That I Recommend

There are those teachers whose concrete trust in God's Word and the word of His prophets coupled with their willingness to accept and practice every plain truth revealed in the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy, even when such a truth cuts decidedly against their own nature, and whose level-headedness being not bent toward fanaticism or undue excitement lends themselves toward being used by the Holy Spirit as a teacher.

But even the most powerful recommendation cannot be taken for truth, for we are admonished in 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

And further, by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:11 we are told of the Bereans: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

So, here are some teaching spirits to test:

Eugene Prewitt

Dave Fiedler

Randy Skeete

You would do very well to take the time to look through the sermons available by these gentlemen and having looked, to listen, and having listened, to see whether these things are so...for if what they teach is true, the state of our church is largely slumbering and in dire need of a great awakening. This especially effects the younger generation of Adventists who are being pulled very strongly to the side of unbelief by those in our faith who are found "having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" - 2 Timothy 3:5

Friday, April 2, 2010

If We'd Only Let Go (Sunday in Scripture)

But The Radio Preacher Said So!

The other day as I was driving to work listening to a radio preacher who was saying something like, "Now there are those people who say that if you go to church on Sunday, that's the beast's day. Have you ever heard these people? Now that's not right and we have the church meeting on Sunday in the Scripture." And on he went with his thoughts, believing the matter settled.

Not so in my mind. I began to think to myself how saddening it is that someone can take something that they've heard all their life or something that they've heard some preacher say and take that position as Bible truth without checking it out for themselves.

The First Day of the Week in Scripture

Yes...there are mentions of Christians gathered together on the first day of the week in the Bible (The Bible doesn't say "Sunday" but "first day of the week"). In fact, there are eight passages in which the first day of the week is mentioned in the New Testament, and I'm familiar with every single one (and you should be too, whether you follow God's Ten Commandments or whether you worship on Sunday). If you look at all of the texts, two things become very apparent: None of the instances were in any way alluding to a new commandment that Christians should worship on Sunday, and none of the instances were Jesus saying anything about Sunday.

Take a minute to go read all the verses which mention the first day of the week (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor 16:2), and you'll find the truth becomes clear: those who disregard God's 4th Commandment and choose to worship on Sunday have absolutely zero biblical support for their actions.

The Scenario

This made me think of a hypothetical scenario: If there were a man who had somehow grown to adulthood without ever hearing anything at all about the Bible or Jesus or Christianity, and someone gave this man a Bible and said, "Read, for this is the Word of God" and he believed those words and read the Bible front to back and received no input from anyone...what would he believe?

One thing is for certain: the idea of worshipping God on Sunday rather than Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath, would never have even crossed his mind as a possibility. Why? Because the Bible simply doesn't teach it!

What else would he believe? Go read your Bible and figure it out! ;-)

The Conclusion

Friends, we can have that type of pure, authentic, unadulterated and undiluted view of God's Holy Word...if we'd only let go of the traditions of men that pervade every corner of Christendom and resolve that for every doctrine we hold we must have a plain "Thus saith the LORD" from the Bible!