Christ Suffered – We Are Free

I found this video a little while ago on PJ’s site. The message is powerful and reminded me of our freedom – watch them dance! We are not in bondage!

There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood by Red Mountain

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Mary Did You Know

Song written by Mark Lowery, video provided by “revjoecool”

Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary (from Luke 1)

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him,she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The Song of Mary

46 And Mary said:

“ My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Glory in the Highest (Luke 2)

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

*****

No, Jesus was not born on December 25, but that most precious event has been remembered, celebrated and revered on that day for generations. We, who know the Lord know this day is not about getting “stuff”,  just as it is not about a tree or tinsel or even the tons of fudge we will consume. No, it is about the Messiah – God coming to His people in the form of a man – Immanuel- to save sinners to eternal life. For anyone who calls on the name of Christ will be saved. It is to Him we revere and honor on this day, to Him we bow.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Romans 10:8-10  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It is my prayer that you celebrate the birth of Christ and that the power and might of His love changes you forever. For He is mighty with the power to save. Blessed be His name Immanuel, and blessed be the day the Most High God visited His people in the flesh.

Merry Christmas

Spiritual Adultery, A Look at Worship by Mike Ratliff

This is another great article on worship from Possessing the Treasure, soon to be a series.

Spiritual Adultery

September 8, 2010 — Mike Ratliff

by Mike Ratliff

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)

Worship is that vital part of the relationship between God and His people that we see so often corrupted and wrongly focused in our time to the point that the end result is that even if people believe they are “worshiping” God they are actually guilty of spiritual adultery. The division line between what true worship is, that which glorifies and pleases God, and that which is no more than spiritual adultery is actually very easily drawn. Those on the side that is “friends of the world” and are, therefore, making themselves enemies of God, are part of “systems” whose values, loves, and deeds are wholly at odds with what pleases God (1 John 2:15-17). Carefully read James 4:4 (above). Those whom James was accusing were betraying Christ and following after the world by embracing the worldly way of treating people because they were being motivated by the things of this world in this rather than the mandates of Christ. One way that “churches” do this in our day is to seek to meet people’s felt needs first rather than preaching the truth of the Gospel. In these churches, the focus becomes all about the people in “worship” instead of about God and His glory. How can that be called “worship?”

The Greek word in the New Testament most often translated as “worship” is προσκυνέω or proskuneō. This verb describes the action of “kissing toward, kissing the hand, bowing down, or prostrating oneself.” While those are simply actions describing what people do in worship and are not holy in and of themselves, the New Testament writers chose to use this word to describe how believers are to bow down and worship God. There are no commands in the New Testament for us to physically worship God this way, but the idea of doing so in our hearts most certainly is. I try to have a one-on-one worship time with God every morning before breakfast. I’m sure most wouldn’t consider it to be very much, but that’s okay. I read some Greek, translate it,  and meditate on what it really means then I pray. I write down what I pray. This takes between 15 to 30 minutes. I take longer on weekends. In any case, I also read through the Bible every year, but in writing these posts I probably read through the New Testament several times a year. The focus of all of that is for God to be glorified in and through me no matter the cost. I am His δοῦλος.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

This is the disciple’s life. It is not one of doing something to get something from God. It is simply a life of obedience as a δοῦλος of Christ who lives for eternity. This life is simply that part of salvation that we call our sanctification. By the way, a δοῦλος is a slave or bondservant. This is a life that has a heart set on worship. None of us are perfect. We all sin and I am the first to confess to you all that I do not maintain this full spirit of being a δοῦλος through all circumstances, tests, and trials. I fail at times, but God is patient with me and as I grow in maturity, I learn to put to death those things in my life that distract me. I turn from evil as Job did. I become that living sacrifice who is being transformed through the renewal of my mind thereby knowing what the will of God is. Through this, I also pray for God to use me in His Kingdom and what I have discovered is that He uses me to open His Word and teach others in the Kingdom what is true and warn them of what pretends to be true, but isn’t and about those who claim to be His servants, but who are only wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Many churches today are built on meeting people’s felt needs. That is foreign to Sacred Scripture. That is commanded no where in Sacred Scripture. Instead, our thoughts should be set on worship of God. Here is a quick survey of the New Testament examples of how important God considers worship, that is, true worship His way.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2 ESV)

What was the wise men’s first concern when they came to visit Jesus? They came to worship Him.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10 ESV)

Never take for granted what an important spiritual battle this was! What was the central or core issue at stake here? It was worship.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:1-3 ESV)

What did Mary do here? What was here main focus? Here main desire was to worship our Lord Jesus Christ!

Go read John 4:1-45, which tells of our Lord’s encounter with Samaritan woman at the well. After dealing with her salvation, he immediately began discussing worship. In Paul’s brief ministry to the Athenians before departing for Corinth in Acts 17, the key issue he discussed with them was worship.

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– (Philippians 3:3 ESV)

Here we have Paul defining to the Philippians the characteristics of the true Christian, which is that they worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. In other words, true worship is spirit-filled and all about the glory of Christ Jesus and has nothing to do with the works of the flesh.

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:9-11 ESV)

If you are truly in Christ then you will be part of that eternal worship in Heaven. I yearn for this my brethren. What we have looked at in these verses is the opposite of Spiritual Adultery because its been all about Christ and His glory and not about us. We must be very careful how we worship. God will not tolerate the worship of a false god. God will not accept the worship Himself in the wrong way, such as worship that is “self-defined,” as illustrated by Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2) and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-9). God will not accept the worship of Himself with the wrong attitude, such as ritual, habit, and tradition (Mark 7:6; Amos 5:1, 21-23).

In the days to come I will nail down further what is true worship and what is counterfeit. I am sure that there will be some who will disagree, but when we boil it all down, it really isn’t about us at all my brethren. It’s about God and His glory. When that changes then Spiritual Adultery is already in process.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Feeling the Spirit?

The following article was written by Kent Philpott with Earthen Vessel Publishing. There has been so much focus around the importance of worship and so many false claims and misunderstandings related to worship and what can be accomplished through its practice. I am glad for this article as it pointed out things that I had questioned myself.

Feeling the Spirit?

palms blowing

by Kent Philpott

I was once a wild-eyed Pentecostal. Before that I was a rock ‘n roller, feeling the beat, the louder the better. Detractors–those non-spiritual Christians who surely did not even have the Spirit at all, warned that what the people experienced at the church I pastored was emotion-based and not the Holy Spirit. I would laugh at the sour grape nay sayers, the wannabes who would be dancing to the praise and worship band if only they had one. I felt sorry for them as I imagined their dead, cold services.

Somewhere, somehow I changed my mind. It may have been the day I woke up to the fact that I needed more and more music, swaying, waving of arms, and singing repetitiously the same chorus to get to that happy place where I could say, “The Holy Spirit has shown up.”

The church I now pastor has a few folks who have come from charismatic/Pentecostal churches. At times they have pressed me to get more excitement into the worship services. Despite my recounting my days as a Spirit-filled rocking pastor, I could see that my explanation was not working. They could not see anything wrong with feeling the Spirit–after all, didn’t God make our emotions, too? And this one really hurt: if I was really evangelistic as I claimed, it would not matter how we got the butts into the pew, just as long as we did.

And then, what was the harm of having some good feeling going on at church? Of course, I can get just as easily get worked up singing the Gloria Patri, even the old standard Doxology, but young people need more, the argument goes. The new generation is unlike any other, and they respond only to cutting edge techy media stuff.

There are going to be feelings and emotions, happiness and tears, and sometimes more than that in a worship service. These can not be avoided and neither should they be. But, and this is the point I want to make, to equate the Holy Spirit with feelings is dead wrong.

Looking at the early Church

Acts 2:42 provides a glimpse of the day by day practice of the early church. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” And this is presented in the same chapter as the Day of Pentecost events and Peter’s sermon. There is not a word about music, yet in that era there were musical instruments and choirs in abundance, since it was common practice in the Temple worship to have both. Let me be clear that I am not against choirs and music—we have both in the church I pastor; in fact, I play choruses each Sunday on my guitar and am accompanied by a bass guitar, piano, a mandolin, and a drum. But it fits into the worship service, during a short bit of time, and it is not done in such a way as to produce a sense that the Spirit has now arrived. None of it is designed to produce an emotionally charged environment that must occur as the “praise choruses” are sung on and on to a rock beat.

Of the five “pentecosts” in Acts–two in Jerusalem (Acts 2 and 4), one in Samaria (Acts 8), another in Caesarea (Acts 10), and yet another in Ephesus (Acts 19), there is not one mention of any form of music. No, the message of Jesus was proclaimed and the Holy Spirit came in power to save. In fact, nowhere in the book of Acts is there any mention of music, much less a praise band and swaying to any beat at all.

Paul mentions twice in his letters the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). For a Jewish man accustomed to Levitical worship his statements make perfect sense. This is a far cry from what goes on in the churches where the music dominates the worship and moves people into feeling, an emotion-centered activity that often morphs into what are thought to be charismatic gifts of the Spirit.

I spoke in tongues for years and introduced it to thousands of people in the 1970s. I have heard thousands speak in tongues in large meetings and in small prayer meetings. They were unintelligible, and no one thought they were hearing God being extolled as at the Pentecost of Acts 2. For many years I led people into prolonged singing of praise choruses until the singing in the spirit, the prophesying, and other more strange things, including wild dancing, began to take place. Always we thought it was soley due to the Spirit showing up. None of these things would occur during the preaching and teaching of the Bible and the Gospel,  events which were fairly mild and calm. The idea was generated that the Bible preaching and teaching was only a run-up to the real thing. This mistake led us to greater and greater error, until today we have the Bethel thing in Redding, California, the Kansas City prophets and International House of Prayer, along with Mike Bickel, Rick Joyner, Patricia King, and so on.

The appearance of evangelistic success

Filling up a place with people is not the same as God’s calling, justifying, and glorifying (see Romans 8:30). An influx of people into a church may or may not be the result of genuine conversions. During the Jesus People Movement, roughly 1967 to 1975, those who were being saved came as regular as clock work. But once that wonderful awakening was concluded by God’s sovereign hand, the conversions were slower, really few and far between. Not understanding how God works, we manufactured attraction, and it was primarily through music. To a degree, that worked, or appeared to work, but it was different. We had to get professional, practiced, and careful in the creation of a worshipful ambience—but it was planning and process. We became entertainers, we were meeting felt needs, and we created networks of people so that social bonding would take place. We developed small groups that were designed to connect people. More people came in and we called it evangelism.

There was, however, something else that took place, and even now I am shocked at the unbiblical nature of it: We assumed that everyone who would enter into the praise and worship with singing and speaking in the “Spirit” had to be born again, since we were convinced that it required the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in order to exercise such gifts. That became our evangelism. There was virtually no need to preach the message of the cross, all we needed was a good praise and worship team. Some of us at that time detected, to a degree, that something was wrong. Our efforts to move many of these people into Bible study groups was not successful. What people wanted was the music and the bliss of zoning out on it all.

Let me confess that it took me two decades to see my error. I wanted so badly to succeed and was always mindful of having a family that required an inflow of money. What was I to do but go along with the dominant model? Then about 1995 I began to change. This was most evident in the plain and simple Gospel messages I began to preach. While there were a few conversions, they did not make up for the numbers of people who went elsewhere. Many a time I considered going back to the old processes. With all I was reading and hearing, it seemed I was out of step, an old fogie, someone trapped in a time warp. In a way I cannot understand, and certainly my feelings had nothing to do with it, I was content with presenting the Word to those who would listen. In describing myself I began to say, “I am an old time Gospel preacher.”

An outrageous statement?

There is not one shred of truth to the idea that the Holy Spirit’s work is to make us feel good. To put it another way, having feelings in a worship service or some other venue is not the direct action of the Holy Spirit. The objective is to worship the God of our salvation; it is not to have an experience.

There is no supporting biblical evidence that the senses are to be gratified during worship.  Someone will say, what about joy? But joy is a state of mind, the sure knowledge that Jesus has rescued, forgiven, sealed, and indwelt the former dirty rotten sinner headed for hell. The Holy Spirit blesses us also, but there is no evidence that such a blessing is feeling-oriented. I am blessed whether I feel it or not.

My contention is that it is not the Holy Spirit who produces feelings. Feelings may be there, or not be there; in either case it has nothing to do with the Spirit of God.

Let me take it one step further. It is misrepresenting the Holy Spirit to equate His presence with feelings. Such may not fall into the category of blaspheming the Spirit, but it is error nevertheless.

Payback

Not that I think that there is anything like cosmic payback, but what I used to dish out to local pastors and churches—“we have the Spirit and you do not”—I am now receiving from young pastors of new church plants: Philpott? Well, all he does is teach the Bible. He needs the Spirit, but he doesn’t even have a band!

There is a catch phrase that goes something like this:
“Too much Word with too little Spirit, you dry up.
Too much Spirit with too little Word, you blow up.
With the right balance, we grow up.”

That may not be exactly it, but we used something similar during the 1970s to essentially say that we had the right balance and others did not. Too much Word meant that the Holy Spirit was being ignored. Not us, since we had praise and worship with spiritual gifting for at least a half hour at each service. Of course, we assumed that what we were doing was of God. There was no proof of it; there was nothing in Scripture that would validate what we experienced. We took it for granted we were safe, because we learned it from well known and recognized leaders in pentecostal circles. How could we be wrong?

“Right balance.” How would one know when a right balance was reached? Is there any biblical passage that would serve as a gauge? Upon further consideration this little piece of sophistry is nothing more than a boast—a sectarian, if not cultic, way of saying we have it and you don’t.

A possible response

Let me admit that as a pastor I am troubled by the emphasis on feeling the Spirit.  New churches continually show up in our county touting their music ministry and the power of the Spirit in their midst. For me it has the sense that there are wolves circling the sheep in the little flock under my oversight. In doing my job of protecting the flock I have lost a few battles.  To a generation raised on rock ‘n roll, the band sounds awfully good and the old hymns seem, humm, old and hard to understand with all the Bible doctrine intertwined therein.

What can I do? By His grace I hope to keep doing what I know is right to do and preach the Word and trust that the Spirit of God is with us, because we gather in the name of Jesus. Remember Jesus’ promise, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Finally, it is clear that what the mature believer wants is the meat of the Word and the joyful truth of the Gospel of grace. Faithful pastors and churches must not yield to what looks now to be successful and popular. We have learned that the desire to feel the Spirit becomes insatiable, just like the need for more and more miracles, and thus we are led farther and farther from the clear practice of the early Church.

Beware the feel of the beat and the flesh.

Song – Christ Our Life

Christ Our Life

This is an mp3 audio – It is a very beautiful song and I was so touched by it I wanted to share it with you. It came from an article a friend sent me. I don’t know who wrote it as I didn’t bother with the research. I just wanted to share it with you, pure and simple.

I hope you are as blessed as I was in hearing it.