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Are You Smarter Than… A Babe?  Our Elementary Conceptions About God

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop
There’s a hit show on Fox Network television, called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, actually pits elementary-school kids against adults in a showdown of knowledge for a grand prize of a million dollars. Concerning the adults who excel on the show, Foxworthy says, “Even if you get it right, you’re answering questions eight-year-olds answer, so you can’t get too puffed up about that.”

Now, the success of this show speaks to a very real and vital truth in the Christian faith:

Our successful negotiation of the advanced levels of Christian growth and development depend heavily upon the retention of correct concepts (called ‘precepts’ or “first principles”) which we should have learned in our spiritual childhood.

As adult Christians, the way that we talk about God and the things of God, betray the way we actually serve God and think about Him. The words and phrases that we use in our spiritual vocabulary are indeed expressive of the manner of service that we give. It is a sad fact, our doctrine is unsound, and so is our speech. Paul said,

For the time will come when they will not endure SOUND doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

In the passage above, the word ‘SOUND’ means, arising out of and unto the truth. Some unsound doctrine arises from the word of false teachers, from a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive us. Some unsound doctrine, however, is simply carried over from our days as spiritual babes, when our understanding was still tender and immature. It is the latter that I will focus on here. We had many oversimplified concepts then, and should have grown to be able to handle the intricacies and complexities of the faith. As Paul also said,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:12-13

You see, getting saved is very simple. All you have to do is repent and believe. On the other hand, understanding the Christian faith is a very complex affair. Or, as one Christian poet once wrote,

The only thing you’ll ever need is the first thing you received.But, the last thing you will understand is the first thing you believed.

One apostle, Peter, once spoke about the writings of another apostle, Paul, in this way,

…our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable [TWIST], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.   2 Peter 3:15-16

So, when one full-fledged apostle refers to the writings of another apostle as “hard to be understood,” then what can we say in truth but, “We have a very complex religion on our hands.” Any other conclusion is unlearned, naive, misleading, and downright dishonest. And, not coming to a right understanding can do great damage to our souls. Even as Peter just said, it can even eventually lead us to ‘destruction’ (vs 16). So, by all means like they say, “DON’T GET IT TWISTED!!”

Please allow me then, to address some very common expressions that are a carryover from our spiritual infancy that are very problematic and need to be corrected. There are four spiritual concepts, which if not correctly understood, lend to errors in understanding and behavior. These concepts are nothing more than ways of representing the person, the power, the presence, the operation and the manifestation of Jehovah God.

“Jehovah” is the more widely used Latinized version of Yahweh. And, the name “Yahweh” is the personal, formal, specific, and proper Hebrew name of God. The name Yahweh does not appear in the Bible. Jehovah appears in the King James Version (KJV) about a half-dozen times. The concepts and terms at issue are:

  1. The Holy Ghost/Spirit is… Jehovah God wholly localized in the world.
  1. The Anointing is… Jehovah God present with power with a servant.

     3.  The Gifts of the Spirit are…           Jehovah God operating in a servant in characteristic and            supernatural ways.

  1. The Fruit of the Spirit are… Jehovah God manifest in a servant, by His attributes (identifying traits) evident in the human character.

We must cease talking about the Spirit/ Anointing/ Gifts/ Fruit as if they were tools or some kind of merit badges — things belonging to our flesh. They are not sacred objects or relics lent to us, nor are they prizes hung upon our person. These terms are simply ways in which we, using words from scripture, designate that the Father, Jehovah God, is present and operating within us.

Even though we say that God has taught us better, the Holy Spirit is still spoken of by us as if He were an ‘it’ — like an impersonal force that undergirds our work for the Lord. This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. It is sad and unfortunate that our doctrine is no more sound than that of a cult. The anointing is definitely spoken of as an ‘it’ that we can count on to “get the job done.”  Pitiful! The gifts of the Spirit are ‘they’ in our language — these ‘endowments’ that give us supernatural abilities. Wrong! And, the fruit of the Spirit are also ‘they’ in our daily usage — these earmarks that show that we are “making progress” in “our” spiritual growth and development. That is an erroneous and unfortunate understanding also. Ultimately, we disassemble and compartmentalize God, until He appears to be nothing more than objects we can manipulate to suit our own will and pleasure. Thereby, we also intercept the glory belonging to him.

If this is at all the way that you think of and speak about these, then my friend, you’ve been spiritually stunted, dwarfed, hoodwinked, and bamboozled. And, until you realize and profess the truth, you will be stalled in your spiritual growth and development.

We ought to understand once and for all that the term ‘Holy’ in “Holy Spirit” simply identifies the spirit in question as our Father, Jehovah God. And, that holiness denoted in the word ‘Holy’ differentiates, distinguishes, and separates God from every other spirit in the world. Holiness is God’s unique signature. It is the sum effect of all his other attributes combined. It entails and encompasses His love, mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, faithfulness, readiness to forgive, and His righteous judgment.

God alone is holy. In the book of Revelation, when they worship God they cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” They never cry out any other single attribute. For example, they never cry, “Love, love, love.” Nor do they ever say, “Mercy, mercy, mercy.” So, when you say ‘Holy,’ you’ve just identified Jehovah God, and you’ve said it all.  So, the holy in “Holy Spirit” is that special, great distinctive that sets Him apart from every creature in the world. And so, when that ‘Holy’ spirit shows up, Jehovah God has shown up. Calling Him the Holy Spirit is just another way of saying, “This spirit is none other than Jehovah God the Father himself.”

Likewise, with “the anointing” we should be clear what we are referring to, or rather it would be more proper to say, “WHOM we are referring to.” “The anointing” designates that God has wholly “come upon a servant,” and thus He himself guarantees that His purpose at work in that servant will succeed. God cannot possibly fail, nor can He fall short of fulfilling His own will. Thus, to say that someone is anointed, means that Jehovah God himself is using them and is fully active in them to accomplish His purpose and to do His work.

In the Old Testament, it was the custom of God to anoint his chosen leaders. For example, the judge Gideon and the prophet Zechariah were both anointed. Of Gideon the scripture says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Gideon…” Likewise, the scripture also says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Zechariah… (Judges 6:34; 2Chron 24:20, Jubilee Bible 2000). This is a faithful rendering. In other words, God assumed their identity. Or, it would be equally correct to say, God subsumed their personality, or God consumed their persona with His own. And thus, it is in all cases of anointing. Literally, God “clothes Himself” with us, and so uses us for His own indomitable will and purpose. In this way, we truly become living ‘images’ and ‘likenesses’ of God (Gen 1:26-27), and His work in us is guaranteed.

So too, it’s also true with the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. It is God making Himself known in the ways He characteristically and supernaturally operates in us through “spiritual gifts.”  And, it is God who manifests Himself by His own divine character traits in the “fruit of the Spirit” He produces in us. Christ is the Vine. We are but branches, Jesus said (John 15:1-5). But the heavenly Father, Jehovah God, is the One who is evidenced by the fruit that is produced. We can no more gloat, glory, nor take credit for what is being produced in us, any more than a branch can take credit for the fruit produced on it.

We must come to know that WE are the tools, being servants of God. We are the ones being used, not God. God is running the show — not us. He is the One showing up, producing the results, operating the servants, performing supernatural deeds, and manifesting divine character, unto His own glory. It’s all about Him. In fact, IT IS all Him. As the word declares,

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

Now we must come to terms with the idea of being God’s tools, and being used by Him. If God is the one handling and using us, then there is no shame in that, but only honor, and glory, and life. After all, do we not customarily say, “I want to be used by God”?

We must come to understand and speak of these designations for what they are — manifestations of God our Heavenly Father — not as things at our disposal that we use to “glorify God.” We got this whole thing inverted — backwards, upside down, and inside out.  No!  The cart is not pulling the horse!  And, God is not subject to our use of Him. We are the ones who are subject to His use of us.

He is the Lord. We are the servants. He is our Commander. We take orders from Him. He is the Head, the Worker, the Life, and the Power. We are only the subjects, the tools, the mediums, and the instruments. Don’t “GET IT TWISTED.”

He is the Godhead. We are the Godhood. The Lord explains Godhead-Godhood as being ‘One.’

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…”   John 17:21-23

We, who are in Christ, should no longer speak about anything having anything to do with our service to God as though it were a self-willed private enterprise. Because God is living in us — dwelling in our very bodies — in everything we do and experience, God is cohabitating. Because God is our wisdom, in every decision we make, God is deliberating. Because God is our head in all respects, in everything that concerns us, God is cooperating with us and we with Him. Cohabitating, deliberating, cooperating — with God as both our head and our very life, it is not only true that God is WITH us, but we are IN God. It is supremely true with us, that it is God proceeding and succeeding in us in all that we do. Glory to His name. Amen.

So, in terms of our language and understanding, this is the truth and should be the sum:

Christ is all, and in all.   (Col 3:11)

Our present understandings are very primitive and unworthy of God. They depersonalize God and diminish His glory. They lead to the perpetuation of much pride and prejudice, not to speak of the persistence of errors in doctrine.  In 1Cor 14:20 the word says,

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  Selah.

Now, do these things make sense to you? Are they even remotely relevant to your life and experience, or are you on the outside looking in? If these things sound foreign to you, and you can’t relate, then the bad news is, “My friend, you are not yet even born-again. You are yet outside the life, covenant, and promises of God.”  Now, the good news is, you can remedy this predicament by inviting Christ into your life right here and right now. And, if you are ready and willing to do that, then please pray the following suggested prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now and receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

9.16.2015

Speaking of Blessed Events !

birthday party

I’ve been sidetracked for few days in a very arduous, but worthy endeavor — burning the candle at both ends for a while. And with this story, I am going to have to give away a few clues to my real-life personal identity But, I knew I was going to have to own up to it one day soon anyway. I’ve been very busy helping to host a 90th birthday celebration for my dear, sweet mother. Yep, and it was a doozy.

 Because reaching one’s 90th birthday is such a significant and blessed event, I am going to take you into our grand celebration to experience a little bit of it with our family and friends. I prepared a written review of the celebration and activities, which was circulated as a public service to those who had attended, and for the benefit of those who could not attend. So, come on. Join us, as we commemorate this joyful occasion.  I’m only going to give asterisks in place of our names, to protect our identities until the  day of the ‘unveiling.’

___________________________________________

The Bible asks the searching question, “Who can find a virtuous woman?” (Prov 31:1).  Every time I hear that question, I feel like a kid in school, who wants to raise his hand and shout: “Uuh! Uuh! I can. I can. I’ve found one right here, my own dear mother, B***** *****.” Well folks, the verdict is in from many witnesses: “Well  *****, we all concur.  After much inspection and investigation, we find that B***** ***** is indeed a virtuous woman.” Shucks, even my dear departed Dad, ***** ***** has left for us a witness, which echoes from heaven throughout our times. He once said to my mother, B*****, you’re the best Christian I know.”

 On yesterday, Saturday, January 25, 2014 we held a 90th Birthday Celebration for her at the church fellowship hall. The theme for the occasion was “It’s all about the bling !” because my mother is known far and wide for dressing to the hilt, and adorning herself with the finest of sparkling jewelry. The party was well attended by a host of relatives from near and far, and by good friends. It was a joyous occasion. We all had a good time, giving our one big “group hug” to my mother. We also had a great ‘after party’ gathering at my mom’s house that was equally a joyous celebration. The house was filled with a great gathering, and full of joy and laughter. The whole affair was just phenomenal. I have to thank my sister, ***** *****, and my adoptive sister, K**** *****, for planning and coordinating the entire event. Below, to continue to celebrate Mom, and to further commemorate that joyful event, I share the prayer, which I do believe that the Lord himself did inspire for the occasion.

 Opening remarks:

(You know, when my sister asked me well in advance to give the prayer and grace for this occasion, I said, “No problem.”  I thought initially that I’d just do like we preachers always do; which is, I’d just step to the podium, breathe in a little Holy Spirit inspiration, and then exhale a fully anointed prayer. But the Lord tapped me on the shoulder early this morning and said, “Son, that just won’t do.” I said, “Why, Lord?” And he said, “Consider the style, the flash, the flamboyance, the glamour, the utter splendor of the one you are celebrating.” Then He said, “Son, this is no time to wing it. This is a time to BLING it!!!”

So, I must confess to you that the prayer that you are about to hear is from a little divine inspiration that has been PRE-RECORDED !”)

Mom’s 90th Birthday Celebration Prayer

O Lord God our Father, and precious Lord Jesus Christ, on you we now call, for you are One who, like David said, “Preserves his saints,” and “lifts up our heads above our enemies all around.” You are the One who is excellent in Majesty, who has robed yourself with light, as with a garment. You are the One, who as my grandfather, H**** *****, used to say, “Sits high and looks low,” and who like Mary said, “puts down the mighty from their seats, and exalts those of low degree.”

Lord, we come today to give thee thanks and praise for the long life of YOUR daughter, and our mother, sister, and friend, B***** *****. Lord, we acknowledge that she is a very great gift from you, and we say “Thank you, Lord.”  We thank you for gifting her to us and making her what her very own name implies. You named her ‘B*****,’ which means a “Sojourner through life.” For, you have caused her life to span from early in the 20th century until now, the time of what we call “The Joshua Generation.”  You named her ‘*****,’ which means, “A Tower” – a strong watchtower of virtue and wisdom. You named her ‘*****,’ which means, “Gaining a Divine Perspective.” And, you named her ‘*****,’ which means, “A Full Count of the Cost.”

And, you have brought her on this great sojourn, from the very lap of her freed-slave grandparents, W**** and *****, until this blessed time; an hour when even a Black man in America can, like President Obama said, live the “Dreams from [his] Father.” 

We give thanks, because You have made her a true and radiant Crown Jewel of thy goodness; and, as one brother said, “A Prolific Ambassador of Peace;” one who carries herself, conducts herself, and dresses herself in a manner fit for a king, even the King of Kings, which is you, O Lord Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Lord, we give thee thanks, because you have made her to be the real deal, a daughter who lives out the true calling of her faith. She is one who is the same in secret as in public, who rises early in the morning to pray and spend time alone with God, who visits the poor and needy and helps them, who shows love and kindness to all people without discrimination, who is a true nightingale to those who are sick and infirm, who rises up early, lives industriously, and is in every way, a virtuous woman: a mother to many and to all who would call Jesus their Lord and Savior – a true “Mother in Zion.”

Yes Lord, we thank you for having one like her in our midst. And, we thank you that we all could be here at this time to celebrate that she is ninety years young.

And now, O Lord, we give thee thanks also for this food which we are about to receive. We ask you to sanctify and bless it for the nourishment, enjoyment, and benefit of our bodies.   In Jesus’ name we pray. And, let us all say together, Amen.

 

Do you anticipate living 90 years like Mom? Are you ready to leave this world at any time if you don’t?  Suppose Saint Peter met you at the pearly gates, and asked you, “Why should I let you into my Lord’s Heaven?”  How would you answer him? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell him something like, “Come on, Peter. Outta my way! You know I’m a member of the royal family.”

If you haven’t already, then pray the following suggested prayer, and you will be just that — a member of the royal family of God and of His Majesty the King, Jesus Christ our Lord.  And, going home to heaven some day, will be a joyfully anticipated blessed event. It will be an occasion to celebrate too.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be. Amen.

 

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

 

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from my all sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

Aside

Do You Hear What I Hear? Part II

Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Diop

Yesterday, we showed how that the call to discipleship of Jesus Christ is exactly like the call issued by the armed services of the United States, especially the Marine Corps. There is a call to sonship, salvation, and glory, yes. But there’s equally a call in this mortal life to share in Jesus’ suffering. Don’t believe that? Let’s let the word speak for itself today. It says:

 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;  Having the same conflict…  Phil 1:29-30

 We must through much tribulation (that is, big troubles) enter into the kingdom of God.  Acts 14:22c

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.   2Tim 2:12

Remember, if we have the right expectations from the beginning, we are much more likely to get right results. But if we don’t have the right expectations, then in crunch time, we are almost certain to wither, and fall into disillusionment.  Listen well, and consider. Here are the words of Jesus Christ. This is his actual call to discipleship.

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me, For whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul” (Luke 9:23-26).   “Try hard [Strive; Exert yourself] to enter through the narrow door, because many people [I tell you] will try to enter there, but they will not be able”   (Luke 13:24 Expanded Bible).  “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned to them and said, ‘If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as their own lives, they CANNOT be my disciples.  So those who do not carry their crosses and follow me CANNOT be my disciples.’”   (Luke 14:25-27 God’s Word Translation)

Did you catch that Marine Corps recruiting move in that last verse. In Luke 14:25, it says, “Large crowds were traveling with him.” Did he rejoice, and say, “Come on along. The more the merrier.” No !!! He looked back and knew that whole crowd did not have what it takes. And he knew he had to thin out that crowd. So, he laid out to them just how high his bar of service and sacrifice actually was. He spelled out the requirements so clear and plain, so that the many people in that crowd would not waste their time and his. What he said in effect was, “Listen, guys. I’m only looking for a few good men.”

Now, those are the true words of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior, and King. Those are the actual recruitment requirements for our Most High and Holy Commander-in-Chief himself. Where are the words of privilege, self indulgence, social advantage, and easy believism? I tell you, they are nowhere on Jesus’ lips. Jesus calls us to a life of service, sacrifice, struggle, and suffering. And then afterwards comes the crown, the robe, the scepter, and the glory. As one great man of God, John Wimber, once said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go there the hard way. But, that’s the only way to get there.”

So now, what does this have to do with our original issue about hearing God’s voice? Everything, and then some. Because, the scripture says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Heb 4:7 NKJV)  “For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there because they never listened; never believed…”  (Heb 3:15-19, The Message Bible)

Now, why would anyone turn a deaf ear to God? People turn a dear, because they are holding something back from him? They set up a wall in their hearts. They set up boundaries in their hearts to protect their precious idols from the Lord. Anything that is more dear to you than God is an idol. Either a loved one, or money, or possessions, or a comfortable lifestyle, or a career, or a sense of self-preservation can cause people to set up a barrier in their heart.  And that is turning a deaf ear to God. It’s self-imposed deafness. And the heart IS the ear of the soul. And if that describes you, then you are not yet fit to hear from God.  Listen to the Lord’s indictment of men who behaved this way. From Ezekiel 14:1-9, we learn:

1Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and comes to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourns in Israel, which separates himself from me, and sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and comes to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: 8 And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

So, the very first thing that you must do to attain to abundant life, become a laser-guided missile in God’s hand, or to become a junior version of Jesus, and become a manifestation of “the word made flesh” is to get a change of heart. That’s what the Lord means byrepent.’  That’s the first step. And you don’t just decide to give up any old bad habit or vice that you choose. True repentance goes down to the root of your whole scheme of behavior and orientation to life. What you must change is  your determination to serve yourself and decide that you are going to serve God — you are going to do whatever He wants you to from day to day from that point onward. You’ve been your own boss up until now. Like the poem, Invictus, says. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Well, true repentance means that you are going to fire yourself, and get Christ at the helm. And, you are going to trust and obey him with everything in your life, holding nothing back. You are going to trust and obey Him, even if it means your death.   A spirit of SELF-PRESERVATION can be one of the most deadly and devastating idols that exist. You must get self off of the throne of your heart.

That’s how you can get the wax out of your ears. That’s how your deaf ears will hear again. So, if you are a believer, you have to come to a change of heart. Change your mind about holding out on God. Ask God to forgive you for holding things back from him, and ask him to give you a whole new start. You can pray a pray like this one:

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for holding [name that idol specifically to God] back from you. I open up my heart, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from my sin of idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again.  Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

And if you are presently not a believer, but want to be, then please pray the following prayer:

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be.   Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

This day, is the first day of a sweet but challenging journey. Your training in hearing from God starts today. If you complete the training, you will be one of few who do.  God bless you, and Godspeed on your journey.

 For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Part I

Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Diop

In our previews for today’s post, we asked the scintillating questions, “Do you know how to hear from the living God? Would you like to lay hold on the ‘abundant life?’ Would you like to become a ‘Spirit-filled’ believer? Would you like to be described as a ‘laser-guided missile’ in the hand of God?’ Or, how about learning how to attain to a life where you are classed as one who has become, like Jesus, ‘the word made flesh?’”

Are you fit to hear from the Lord? That is the question? You see, the voice of God is as free as the air we breathe. It comes as freely as the rain. It flows as easily as the waters of the rivers, and is as abundant as the sands of the sea. So, why are the masses of people not experiencing it that fully? Well, because they don’t have the spiritual fitness. They haven’t honed their spiritual faculties to be attuned to him as they might have, if they spent more time at it. A skill that is as rewarding as this, with the promises as great, and a potential payout as huge, does require a little time and effort. Don’t you think? Many physical fitness promotions that you see on TV, promise to help you reach your goal. They show you these great looking bodies, and tell you what its going to take.

One TV infomercial for a popular workout says, “I knew it would produce insane results in 60 days, but I wasn’t sure if anyone was brave enough to try it. Turns out…there are a lot of crazy people out there. Crazy enough to actually enjoy doing the world’s most insanely tough workout. To like the feeling of being drenched in sweat…of going balls-to-the-wall for a full 45 minutes of muscle-searing exercise. Is INSANITY hard? Oh, yeah. It really IS the hardest workout ever put on DVD. It’s totally crazy…but it’s going to get you crazy-good results.”

Oh, I love a man who tells the truth. He describes his workout as “insane,”  “world’s most tough workout,” “muscle-searing,” “hard,” “the hardest workput ever put on DVD,” and “crazy.” And he says, “but I wasn’t sure if anyone was brave enough to try it.” Now why would anyone want to get involved with anything so difficult as to be labeled upfront, “INSANITY?” They do if for the insanely fantastic, really amazing, richly rewarding, deeply satisfying, readily apparent RESULTS, of course — results they can show to the world.

Excuse me here, folks, but I’ve always felt that the modern Church has done a grave disservice to the world. We’ve pitched the world’s greatest life, the universe’s greatest God, and the world’s greatest payout (eternal life), as an all too cheap and come-easy affair. We’ve made it sound so easy that God would call it false and deceptive advertising. We’ve reduced the gospel of Jesus Christ down to nonsense that comes across like this: “Come to Jesus, and you can indulge yourself, deny your cross, and follow the dream in your heart.” And, “It’s just a name-it-and-claim-it affair.” We promise almost serendipitous results (as in, to experience good fortune by chance). The way we come across is like, in the words of that old, Hollywood ballad, “Well the first thing you know [you’ll be] a millionaire,,, Kin folk [will say]… Californie is the place you oughta be…[you’ll be loadin’ up your truck…and  you’ll move to]  Beverly…(Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars).”  (from The Beverly Hillbillies)

But, in reality, that fantastic ability to hear the voice of God is part and parcel of a total long-term, dedicated spiritual workout, spiritual fitness regimen, spiritual diet, and spiritual endurance training that does not come easy. Understand; the voice of God does come freely. But the personal ability to hear it perfectly, so as to be heir to a life that over the long haul, you can describe as the “abundant life,” and the “Spirit-filled life” does NOT come easy. And attaining to a life, where you can be described as a “laser-guided missile in the hand of God” takes some militarily-like training and dedication. And to get to where you can look and feel like another Christ-approved version of “the word made flesh” takes a whole lot of endurance. I ain’t pullin’ no punches or tellin’ no lies. Jesus said, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14 NKJV)

Personally, I think that the good old military recruiting slogans are much more apt for the call of the gospel and the Christian life. “Be all that you can be.” “It’s not a life. It’s an adventure.” And the Marine Corps flat got it right. Here are a few slogans I gleaned from various recruiting ads and commercials. Listen, and say ‘Amen.’

“Many will hear the calling. Few will earn the title. The transformation is forever.  Men who know the meaning of honor. There are those who dedicate themselves to a sense of honor.. And a life of courage… And to a commitment to something greater than themselves… If you complete the journey, you will be one of the few…”

Hallelujah! And, ‘Amen.’ Now that, my friends, represents the real spirit of the calling of Jesus Christ. If you start with right expectations, you can hope to achieve right results. But if you’ve been duped by thinking that the Christian life is going to be a flowery bed of ease, you’ll be offended, and deeply disappointed. You will say, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Perhaps, you will echo the words of a man whom I heard say one day, “Man, things have gotten so bad since I accepted Christ that I’m thinking about going back Satan’s way.” Oh, well. Let’s hope that’s not you.

…………………….

I’m going to break here, and pick up tomorrow. We’ll tie this in with what it takes to become highly skilled in hearing from God. If you’re not already a follower of Jesus Christ, then get a head start on tomorrow’s lesson by signing up today. Here is the prayer leading to salvation. And here’s the prayer of enlistment.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be. Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000.

You Talkin’ to Me?

Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Diop

It is widely believed that Old Testament belongs to the study of history, and so often we treat it as such. If we are to believe the words of Romans 15:4 and 1Corinthaians 10:6-11, then our thinking has to be dramatically reoriented. Listen:

4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for OUR learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.   Romans 15:4       And,

6Now these things were OUR EXAMPLES, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for OUR ADMONITION, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  1Corinthaians 10:6-11

The fact is that their experiences – those of Isreal and Judah of oldwere very real and very personal, but what is also just as true is that God was using them to speak directly and presently to us. Using historical characters as object lessons, He was teaching us and driving home points to us in a living and powerful way. There’s no other mode of teaching so real. So, yes; God was speaking to you and to me, through the scriptures of the Old Testament.

Therefore, we should no longer say things like, “This passage is speaking to Israel, and therefore has an application not directly bearing on us, but we can take something from this.” Instead, with new understanding and firm resolve, we should say, “The lessons in this passage are directed to us today, and we must either learn them, or face the same fate as the people whom we are studying.”  It is said, “Those who don’t learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

The Word records that God delivered the words of the Law (and all subsequent scripture too, for that matter) to His people, and that “…[they] received the living oracles to give unto us(Acts 7:38). Both Old Testament history, as well as the prophecies they contain, are meant for us in the church age. This truth is contained in the sermons of the apostles and their epistles. For example, consider this sermon Peter preached at the Temple when the lame man was healed.

24Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. Acts 3:24-26

Peter here says unequivocally that Samuel and all the prophets foretold of these days. Which days? These days—the days right now. These are the days of the apostles and onwards, the days since Pentecost, the days called the “church age.” Furthermore he says, “Ye are the children of the prophets.” Who? “Ye are.” Again, to whom is he speaking? Peter is addressing a generation of believers and potential disciples of Jesus Christ. We are believers and active disciples of Jesus Christ. Peter was talking to them and to all who would follow, until the end of time. And he tells us that we are “children of the prophets.” How so? We are their children, because like the prophets, we also believe in God. Like the prophets, we have the Holy Spirit. Like the prophets, we also are inheriting the kingdom of God. Like the prophets, we also are subject to persecution, because of our faith (Mt 5:11-12). And like the prophets, the words which they believe, “belong unto [us] and to our children” (Dt 29:29). When the prophets spoke about the children — God’s children — their words were spoken to us and about us. For we are God’s children — without differentiation, without distinction, and without prejudice. That’s why the scripture says:

27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.   Gal 3:27-27         It also says,

10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Col 3:10-11

This is true, because being children of Abraham is not about race, but about grace. It was never about flesh, but about faith. We are Abraham’s children, because we have the same believing, faithful spirit as Abraham. He was “the father of many nations” (Rom 4:17). Since the spirit is supreme, that makes us both children of Abraham and also of the prophets. Peter said,

39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:39

For sure, we are a generation “afar off,” but we too have been called through the gospel. So, as the apostle declared in his preaching, “the promise is unto [us] and to [our] children.” What promise? The promise of the gospel. And whatever promises were spoken to the prophets, or to the priests, or to bygone righteous souls, or to their kings, belong to us. The promise of the indwelling Holy Ghost, and every word that has proceeded out of the mouth of God from the beginning of the world until now, belong squarely to us.

Now then, we are faced with a great identity crisis in the church today. We are confused. We know that we are children of God. What we don’t know is that we are the selfsame children that the prophets were speaking to and speaking about in the Old Testament. We think somehow that we are a different group. The Jews are “God’s chosen people.” And we are not Jews, so we think. Well then, who are we? Let’s define ‘Jews’ the way Apostle Paul defined Jews.

28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Roman 2:28,29

So then, true Jewishness is not at all about the flesh, but about the spirit. Our old Gentile hearts were circumcised by faith in Christ Jesus (Col 2:11). When that happened, we became new creatures (2Cor 5:17), who are children of God. And the children of God are referred to as “God’s chosen people” — chosen through the election of grace (Rom 9:11). Listen to Peter again.

9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:  10Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.    1Peter 2:9-10  Hallelujah.  Amen.

So then, we now are “chosen. And we enjoy all the same privileges and promises of God as do all of his chosen people. There’s no segregation is God’s house. There’s no Jim Crow among his chosen. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. There is no “back of the bus” with regards to the covenants and promises of God. Neither does being a fully-enfranchised American make any difference or give any special privileges, where the things of God and His kingdom are concerned. You are either a saint, or you ain’t. It’s just that cut-and-dried. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And we ‘chosen’ are without distinction or racialism—no Jew and Gentile here. Therefore, we must stop thinking of ourselves as ‘Gentiles.’ For there are no Gentiles in Christ, the Word says. Neither are there Jews in Christ, ethnically speaking; for in Christ there is only “One New Man” (Eph 2:15). This is a vast subject, and all-encompassing. Let us bring here the all-encompassing knowledge of Apostle Paul to bear on the subject.

11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Eph 2:11-21

Let me recapitulate what the apostle has just said. We used to be called Gentiles, but no more. Now we are considered “fellow citizens with the saints” (vs 19b),1 and of the “commonwealth of Israel” (vs 14b), and of all who were before us, including all the prophets, priests, and kings. We are now genuine members of “the household of God” (vs 19c). And along with every believer who has ever lived, we are “built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit— [the Holy Spirit]” (vs 22). Jesus has ‘abolished’ (vs 15a) all former distinctions in his own body. The apostle says, Christ “hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (vs 14a). And now, we are one people—a very fortunate people— who “have obtained mercy” (1Pet 2:10c).

(1The letters a,b,c designate the relative positions of the phrases of the verses from Ephesians 2:11-21)

And Paul declared that this was a great mystery in times past, which he endeavored to expound with all the gifts and power of the Spirit of God working in and with him.

3How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  Eph 3:3-6

Now, children, we can begin anew to study and to learn from the books of the Old Testament. We can listen with fresh ears and fully attentive minds. Now, we will find the messages contained therein real, relevant, and crucial for our own days and times, because they are indeed aimed at our days and times. These messages are, in fact, speaking expressly to us. They are only using the experiences and lives of historical figures and times as a medium. Let me here reiterate the main point of this all by citing once again the main scripture.

4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for OUR learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.   Romans 15:4       And,

6Now these things were OUR EXAMPLES, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them… 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed… 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them… 11Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for OUR ADMONITION, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  1Corinthaians 10:6-11

We, the Church, the people of the New Testament – including all Jewish believers – ARE the people upon whom the ends of the world are come (1Cor 10:11). Essentially, this then is a great ‘Gotcha!’ moment. This is like Nathan the prophet, sent to finger David for his dastardly deed concerning Uriah the Hittite, using a story about a third party to illustrate the heinousness of the offence. Seeing that we have convicted the people of old for their habitual sin and rebellion, God is now saying to this generation, “Thou art the man!” Thou art that “disobedient and contrary people” (Rom 10:21 NKJV). Or, concerning the word that is good and the promise that is desirable, know now that when God says, “They… are my people” (Eze 34:30), the ‘they’ is US

Therefore, however and by whatever name God refers to or addresses his covenant people, we are included. As it is metaphorically explained to all gentiles in the New Testament, “You were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature  into a good olive tree… some of the branches [were] broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Romans 11:24, 17). So, we who were gentiles ethnically, have been grafted into God’s covenant people. And, God addresses us by a number of covenant names, including but not limited to: Israel, Judah, Zion, Jerusalem, children of Isreal, my people, daughter of Zion, Jacob, and etc. GOD is the God of Israel then, now, and always (Ex 3:15). And, if the Lord is now your God, it is only because you have now been “grafted into” his covenant people through Jesus Christ.

God’s Word remains unchanged throughout all ages. And now, with fresh mind and understanding, let us hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. For this generation – you and me today – are the target audience of all the scritptures are saying. So yes, children,    God is  talkin’ to us.