Night Visions

Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.   In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up.   It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance.  A form was before my eyes (Job 4:12-16).

Sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?   What an eerie feeling it is to sense that something is in the room with you while you are sleeping.  It makes the hairs on your body stand up, indeed.

This night vision is not a work of fiction.  It is real.  It happened to a man name Eliphaz.  He was one of Job’s friends.  When he and two other friends found out about the calamities Job had gone through–losing his livestock, possessions, children and finally, his health, they went to see him.  They were so stunned when they saw the condition he was in–probably disfigured from the boils covering his body, they wept, and threw dust over their heads in deep mourning.  They sat with him in silence for a while until each of them began to speak to Job, assuming that he had brought his suffering upon himself because of sin.

Eliphaz shared the night vision he had.  It was used to illustrate his point that no innocent person has ever perished or the upright ever cut off, implying that Job was neither innocent nor upright.  However, we have read stories of the innocent and the upright being persecuted, martyred.  It was not up to Eliphaz to determine whether or not Job brought this suffering on himself.  Job didn’t need to hear these hurtful words.  He needed a friend.

Job’s whole experience shows us that God doesn’t do bad things to people–He allows it sometimes.  And we are not to judge others.  We can’t assume that they are suffering because of something they did. And that bad things happen to good people too.  And in the case of Eliphaz, people misunderstand who God is.  He believed that God was punishing Job when it was Satan who was responsible for these calamities.

Eliphaz believed that Job must have done something wrong and that for him to say that he was innocent, was like saying he was more righteous and pure than God.  Job was not attacking God’s character but was maintaining his innocence.  He knew that he hadn’t done anything to deserve what had happened to him.  The devil wanted Job to believe that God was punishing him and was trying to get him to curse him.  The spirit was either Satan himself or an evil spirit sent by him to distort a true picture of God and to destroy Job’s faith in Him.

The Bible advises us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Something else that stood out for me in the vision were the words, “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.”  This took place at night and it was in secret.  God’s doesn’t operate like this.  His truth is light and it is not secret.  We have to be discerning and test whatever new “light” we receive and see if it is in harmony with the Word of God.  

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Jesus is Coming Again

jesus_second_comingThe apostle, Peter wrote in his second letter, ‘First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.”

“They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will perish.

“But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:3-9)

Make no mistake. Jesus is coming again.  The Lord does not make idle promises.  We do not know the hour but we can be certain that He is coming back.  The world has changed.  We are seeing evidence that it is soon coming to an end.  We serve a merciful God who desires that none should perish.  He is being patient for our sake.  He is giving people time to turn from their sins—to turn from their wicked ways and seek Him.

Don’t be discouraged. Be patient.  The Lord will come soon.  Prepare your hearts and lives for that glorious day when He will appear in the clouds with His angels.

Don’t doubt or despair because He hasn’t come as yet. Instead, remember this promise Jesus made: “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

I Never Knew You

Matthew 7:21-23).

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It’s hard to believe but there are a lot of Christians who believe that the good works they are doing will get them into Heaven.  However, Jesus made it clear that this is not the case.  He specifically said that those who get into Heaven are those who do the Father’s will.  It doesn’t matter if you are ministering to the homeless, helping the poor, active in church or your community or distributing literature.  If you are not practising what the Bible teaches you are not right with God.  God wants people who are obedient and whose lives are in harmony with His Word.

Jesus said that those who claim to prophesy and cast out demons in His name also practice evil and that is why they will not enter the kingdom.  They are living in disobedience.  “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9).  Anyone who practices evil or lawlessness does not have the Spirit of Christ in him or her, therefore the Spirit cannot testify to their spirit that they are children of God (Verse 16).  As long as we walk in the flesh, we will not please God.  It doesn’t matter how often we go to church, are involved in ministries or how well we know the Bible, if we are not keeping ourselves unspotted from the world or walking by the Spirit, we will have no part with Christ.

Everyone thought I was living a godly life based on how I was so passionate about serving the Lord in church and in ministry but they never suspected that I was having relations with another church member.  We were both single.  No one knew what we were doing – name withheld

If I hadn’t gotten pregnant, no one would have suspected anything – name withheld

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples.  He went out with the others and preached that people should repent, cast out many demons, and anointed many who were sick with oil and healed them.  However, he turned out to be a thief and would be the one who betray Jesus.  Following Jesus didn’t make Judas a true disciple just as being in church doesn’t make a person a true Christian.  We may be able to fool others but we can’t fool the Lord.  He sees what is on the inside.  He knew the real Judas (John 6:70, 71; 13:11, 21, 26, 27).

Just as Jesus places more importance on right living than on good works, God ranks obedience above sacrifice. When Saul went ahead and made an unauthorized sacrifice to God, Samuel chided him saying, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  Today, we could ask a similar question.  “Has the Lord as great delight in prophesying, casting out demons and doing wonderful works?  As in turning away from evil and doing His will?  Behold, to obey is better than all of these things. ”

These people were trusting in their works.  They were asking, “Lord, didn’t we do all of these things in Your name?”  What is the point of doing all of these things and not living a godly life?  They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They give the appearance of being Christians, doing good works but in reality they are living in sin.  They are not practising what the Bible teaches.  God would rather have them bear fruit worthy of repentance than bearing fruit to make themselves look good.

This reminds me of when the Israelites asked God, “Why have we fasted and You do not see?  Why have we humbled ourselves and You take no notice?”(Isaiah 58:3, MEV).  Their fasting did not please God.  Why?  It wasn’t the fast He had chosen for them.  “Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family?” (verse 7, CEB).

Did Jesus ask these people to do all of these things in His name?  Wouldn’t He have preferred if they stopped practising evil and repented?  Instead of serving the Lord, examine your life and see if there are any areas where you haven’t brought yourself completely under His control.  If there is any sin or lifestyle you are holding on to, let it go and let Jesus give you the victory.  Don’t gamble with your eternity. The most terrible words anyone could ever hear are, “Depart from Me.  I never knew you” when they had the opportunity to change.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Hearing and Doing the Word

James 1:23, 24

man looks in mirrorWhen you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Do you stand there observing yourself?  Do you move closely to the mirror and examine yourself, to see if there are any blemishes, spots or marks that you need to fix? Or do you just take a quick glance and then turn away?

James wrote about a man looking at himself in the mirror.  This person represents a hearer of the Word.  He looks at himself, observes himself, goes away and forgets what he observed.  He is a forgetful hearer.  He hears the Word but does not do it.  So, the Word is not in him.

The person forgets what kind of person he was.  It is like the person observes himself, sees what he sees but does nothing about the changes that he needs to make.  It is like a person hearing the Word of God and does not make the changes that it brings to light.

Are you a hearer only or a doer as well?  When you study God’s Word and it points out something in your life that you need to change, do you act or do you simply turn a blind eye?  Do you refuse to see yourself as you really are?  James says that the man views his natural face.  There is nothing to cover up what is there in plain sight.  He sees his natural self with all of its flaws.  This is what the Word of God points out.  It shows us our true selves in all of our unattractiveness and imperfections and calls for us to do something to change this.

Today, take a closer look at your life and be honest with yourself.  See things as they really are.  Don’t deceive yourself.  That is like trying to cover up a blemish on your face.  It might not be visible but it’s still there and won’t go away until you apply to proper treatment.  Like the mirror, the Word is there to reveal things about ourselves that we need to address.  And once we start making the necessary changes, we will be transformed and we will like what we see when we look in the mirror.

The Proper Way

2 Samuel 6

levitescarryarkjpgThe ark was not carried the proper way the first time.  It was placed in a cart drawn by oxen.  Uzzah put out his hand to steady it when the oxen stumbled but God struck him dead in anger.  Why?  Numbers 4:15 explains that while the sons of Kohath could the furnishings of the sanctuary–the things in the Tabernacle of Meeting, but they could not touch any holy thing or they would die.  Uzzah died because he touched the ark.  He acted impulsively and it cost him his life.

Verse 13 says that there were those bearing the ark of the Lord.  Who bore the ark this time and in the proper way?  We read this in 1 Chronicles 15:12-15. David acknowledged that they did not consult God about the proper procedure for carrying the ark. The Levites were to bring up the ark.  They were to sanctify themselves and their brethren.  So, the Levites sanctified themselves so that they could bring up the ark of the Lord.  They bore the ark on their shoulders by its poles as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord (verse 15, Exodus 25:14).

God had told His people through Moses the proper way to carry the ark and had they done as instructed, Uzzah would not have been struck down.

We must always do things the way God tells us to do them instead of doing them our way.  Going against God’s wishes or failing to follow His instructions can have serious, even fatal repercussions as David learned.

Slow to Speak

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

person-listening-300x200James is saying that sometimes we need to listen more and speak less or say nothing.  King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

There are times when we speak instead of listening and later regret it because our words lead to bitter quarrels and fights.  Feelings can get hurt and relationships can be jeopardized or destroyed because of words spoken in a fit of anger.  There are times when we ought to just listen and other times when we ought to speak.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to do which.

Problems arise when we stop listening to God and to each other.  Whether in the home, at work, or in the church, arguments ensue when listening stops.  When that happens, talking begins to accelerate and anger builds.  This slippery slope of sinful communication, like the uncontrolled inward desires of James 1:14, 15, can never produce the righteousness of God.  That is why James juxtaposes God’s righteousness with human wrath.  As long as we rely on what bubbles up naturally from our sinful nature, the creative power of God’s Word is blocked, and our own unhelpful or even hurtful words arise instead (The Book of James Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 26)

Notice James advises us to be “swift to hear”.  We must be quick to hear what the other person has to say first before we have our say.  In doing so, we might learn something and diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.   How many times have we been quick to speak and slow to listen and gotten ourselves in trouble?  It takes wisdom to hold our tongue.  It takes maturity to listen. 

We have to be careful of what we say.  If we have nothing good or helpful to say in a situation , it is best to keep quiet.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.  When we respond to something someone says in a quiet, non-combative way, it will diffuse the situation or prevent it from getting worse.  Once when my husband, Dave made a request, he didn’t like the tone of his co-worker’s reply but he responded in an agreeable manner.  The co-worker, initially surprised, responded positively.  Dave chose a gentle answer instead of a harsh one and turned what could have led to a bad situation into a peaceful resolution.  Both men benefitted from Dave’s wise handling of the problem.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we should know how to speak and when to speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Paul encourages us to speak only words that will encourage and benefit others.  Our words must not be corrupt or harmful (Ephesians 4:29).  Our words should not be filthy, foolish or coarse.  They should be fitting and full of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).  Our words should always be filled with grace, seasoned with salt so that we know how to answer people appropriately (Colossians 4:6). 

Be a good listener.  Hear what the other person has to say.  The same rule applies to God.  Too often when we spend time with Him, we have our say but don’t wait to hear what He has to say.  Be still and listen for that small, still voice.

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3)

 

 

 

Abide in Jesus

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“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.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

First, what does abide mean?  According to Strong’s Concordance, it means not to depart; to be held, kept, continually.  Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, then whatever we ask it shall be done.  We cannot depart from Jesus or His words.  He mentioned earlier that He was the Vine and that we are the branches.  Without Him we cannot bear fruit.  We have to remain connected to Him and His word in order to bear fruit. This is the same as building our foundation.  We cannot build on anything else but Jesus.  He is the Rock.  When we abide in His word it is the same as the man who built his house on the rock instead of the sand so that when the rains came, his house stood.

If we want to continue to be fruitful we must continue to have a connection (relationship) with Jesus.  He sustains us.  We draw our sustenance from Him.

So, Jesus is the Vine.  God is the Vinedresser.  And we are the branches.  God casts away the branches that are bearing no fruit because they were not properly abiding in the Vine.  This reminds me of the seed that fell by the wayside; on the stony places; among the thorns.  The seed is the word of God and those who hear it but have the word taken out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved or those who believe for a while but fall away when faced with trials and temptations because they have no root or those who allow the cares of the world to get the better of them will not bear no fruit.  These are the branches that God will take away.  The branches which bear fruit are like the good soil on which the seed fell and yielded a good crop.  These are people who hear the word of God and  with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

Jesus wants us to be doers of the word not just hearers.  None of us want to hear Him say to us, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”  It is the same as those who claim to do all sorts of things in His name but He told them that He never knew them because they did not do the will of the Father.  Not everyone who calls Him Lord will inherit the kingdom.  These are they who are not abiding in Jesus.  In order to abide in Jesus you have to do the will of the Father.  We have to bear good fruit.  Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor [can] a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:18-20).  The branches that don’t bear good fruit will be cast into the fire (John 15:6).

Those who abide in Jesus and in His word will bear nothing but good fruit.  What fruit?  The fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  When we abide in Jesus, whatever we ask we will receive because we ask is in accordance with His will.  And when we bear good fruit, we bring glory and honor to God.  Jesus made it clear that our good works are for the purpose of glorifying God, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

And when we bear good fruits we show that we are Jesus’ disciples.  Our fruits show that we  enjoy a close and loving relationship with Jesus.  Our fruits are evidence that we follow the teachings of Jesus–we are hearers and doers of His sayings.  When people look at us they should see Christ reflected in us.  It is like when Jesus was here on earth.  When people saw Him, they saw the Father.  When people look at us they ought to see Christ in us.  If Jesus abides in us and we in Him and His word, our actions (lives) will reflect this.  We will have no trouble bearing good fruit or shining our light so that our Father in heaven will be glorified.

It is true.  Whoever abides in Jesus and Jesus in that person, he or she will bear much fruit. Look at the great things the disciples did after Jesus returned to His Father.  They preached the Gospel boldly in the face of persecution, imprisonment and death.  On the day Peter preached after receiving the Holy Spirit, those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  God added to the church as they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:47).  Churches were planted in different parts of the world.  Gentiles received Christ and were baptized into the faith.  Paul who once persecuted the followers of Christ, became a champion of the faith.  Once he abided in Christ and Christ abided in him, he became the bearer of good fruit.  And that is why he was able to say with faith and conviction, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

Today, make it your purpose to abide in Jesus.  Continue in His word.  Act upon His teachings.  Follow His example.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.  Allow God to trim away the areas in your life that are preventing you from bearing more fruit to His glory.  Cling to the Vine because without Him you can do nothing.

The Centurion’s Faith

The Bible gives us a definition of what faith is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This describes the kind of faith the centurion had.

Jesus was in Capernaum when news of His presence there reached a centurion whose beloved servant was sick to the point of dying. At first the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. The centurion was well liked and respected among the Jewish community because he for he loved their nation and built a synagogue for them. He was deserving of this favor.

Jesus went with them but He was not far from the house when the centurion sent his friends to Jesus with this message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

His faith was such that he hoped that Jesus would heal his servant so he sent word to Him but then he believed that Jesus did not have to be physically there to heal. All He had to do was say the word and the servant was healed. His faith was so strong that Jesus Himself was impressed. In fact He marveled at the man’s faith and He turned to the crowd and said to them, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

Those who were sent to speak to Jesus returned to the house and found the sick servant well. Perhaps they believed in Jesus from that moment.

Not only was the centurion’s faith remarkable but he was a model in humility. He said “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.”He did not think he was good enough to go in person to see Jesus or have Jesus come to him. He is like John the Baptist who did not feel that he was worthy to even loose the straps on Jesus’ sandals. He is like the tax collector who could not lift his head as he prayed to God because he did not feel worthy.

What is remarkable about this story is that the centurion who was a part of the group who oppressed the Jewish people sparking their hatred. The centurion was a Gentile whom the Jews considered to be unclean yet he displayed the kind of faith that they should have had in the One who came as “a light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

The centurion’s genuine faith put the religious leaders to shame. Their faith was dead because it was stagnant–dead, did not prove itself by works, did produce humility and dependence on God. They were proud, self-righteous, unbelieving and rigorous in their observance of the law yet they failed to see God’s acts of mercy in the miraculous healings of His Son. The centurion heard about Jesus and believed whereas the religious leaders saw the blind healed, the lame walk and the mute speak and other signs yet they did not believe.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus said to the crowd, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12). The Jews felt that their heritage guaranteed them entry into heaven but Jesus said that they are the ones who will be thrown out into the dark.

We must not make the same mistake as the Jews and assume that because we are Christians we are saved. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:23-29).

Like the centurion we must “seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And our faith should be such that we trust in the word of Jesus which has the power to heal and change lives.

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