Thursday, June 26, 2008
Moses was keeping the flock for Jethro, his father-in-law, and as he approached Horeb, called the mountain of God, the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush. “and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt” (Exodus 3:2,3).
There was both curiosity and fear in Moses as he saw the burning bush. More fear came when a voice revealed just who it really was there in the burning bush. “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6). Fear of God is necessary, and normal. A sign of the decadence of our society is -- “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). It was a mark of identification for God to reveal Himself this way. He was to be feared and respected as the God of Moses' ancestors. This was progressive revelation. He had revealed Himself to Abraham as Elohim, the true God who should be feared and obeyed, and as El Shaddai (Almighty God). Then upon the test of offering Isaac, Abraham, as well as Isaac understood God to be Jehovah Jireh (The Provider, or Jehovah Will Provide). “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14).
A GOD WHO SPEAKS
God spoke to Isaac several times in his life and was almost always called Jehovah (perhaps because Moses, the human writer of Genesis, was given the fuller revelation of Jehovah). (1) Then we have Jacob (later called Israel). God also met with him in a special way: “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:12-17). Jacob had the encounter with God at Bethel (House of God) and went on to be a prince of God named Israel. He had 12 sons. One of his sons was Levi. This became the line of the priesthood. Moses and Aaron came from that line. Remember Aaron became the high priest, while Moses became a prophet of God, and also the civil authority. At the bush God meets with Moses and reminds him of His history with these patriarchs.
A GOD WHO LEADS.
The experience at the burning bush was preparing Moses for later miracles when God would reveal Himself as the all sufficient I AM. Moses had no doubt been told that Horeb (Sinai) was the mount of God and that it was a place of awe. (2) God used this to rouse up Moses’ curiosity leading him to investigate Mount Horeb. But even more awesome was to see that bush-- that burned and yet was not consumed! Then God reminded Moses that the place was holy ground; holy only because God Himself was there. “And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, here am I. And he said, draw not nigh hither: put of thy shoes from of thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground”(Exodus 3:4-5). We go on to see that God had a task for Moses. God was going to use him to deliver His people. God uses men. He doesn't have to. He made the universe. He controls all things. He is before all things. He will be here after all things are gone. He is working out all things according to His purpose. Part of that purpose involves man. Here He was getting ready to use a man. Through the ages He has used many men (and women too at times), to work out His plan. God even became a man to finish the greatest part of His plan of redemption.
A GOD WHO CHOOSES WHO HE WILL USE
Moses was perhaps the greatest man in the Bible, with the exception of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Pretty remarkable when you consider that if God had not providentially rescued him from the bulrushes by the Nile River, he would not have survived. How God rescued him was more remarkable. Pharaoh’s daughter had mercy on him and took him and hid him and raised him as her own. It is even more remarkable that Moses’ sister (Miriam is the only sister of Moses ever mentioned – it was most likely her), was at the river when Pharaoh’s daughter saved the baby Moses (see Exodus 2:4,7).It is remarkable also, that she had the sister choose a Hebrew woman to nurse him, and it was Moses own mother, Jocebed. Remarkable too that Pharaoh’s daughter even paid her wages to care for “her” child. Remarkable that Moses obtained position and received the best education possible in the land of Egypt. Later it was remarkable that “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11: 24, 25). It is remarkable that he sided with the slaves rather than be their taskmaster. Remarkable today that three religions revere him as a prophet. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:1-2).Those words were written by Moses as the psalmist, many years after this first encounter. It is said that Moses spent 40 years in Egypt learning all of man's wisdom available at that time, 40 years on the backside of the desert unlearning all this worldly wisdom, and then 40 years with God learning divine wisdom. Then Moses was ready to be one of the psalmists, as well as a prophet and leader. More later-- D.V.
(1) The King James Version usually renders Jehovah as LORD, but transliterates Jehovah seven times. Later translations, starting with ASV, using Jehovah almost exclusively, then to later versions going back to LORD (e.g. ESV), and some simply Lord (e.g. AMP). It’s obvious that scholars are divided on what to call Him. Yahweh is accepted, even preferred by many. Of course the ancient Jews wouldn’t pronounce the sacred name. In Hebrew there are no vowels, so it comes out like YHWH or JHVH. It is said the scribes would use a pen to write it once, and then discard it. The point being that this God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that I AM was sending Moses. He said His name was I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14). That is good enough for me!
(2) These mountains are called Horeb, and sometimes Sinai. Some think that Horeb is the name of the whole range, and Sinai is the name of a particular mountain; others, that Sinai is the range, and Horeb is the particular mountain; while Stanley suggests that the distinction is one of usage, and that both names are applied to the same place. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
To publicly announce something is to recommend the product or service, and this should be done with an understanding of integrity and truthfulness. But we all know that businesses often play "sleight of hand" with their advertisements, tricking the public into buying things they otherwise would not. One common advertisement says, "Free Delivery" when you purchase appliances. But, such is not the case. You pay the delivery price when you purchase the appliances, then send in for a "rebate" on the delivery price. If it was honest advertisement, the advertisement would read "Delivery Price Rebated," but that is not as alluring as "Free Delivery." All of us have been "caught" in this business scheme at times. Especially the big stores love to trick and trap customers, all in the name of competition. And business should always be spelled "G-R-E-E-D."
(2) "BIBLE BELIEVING." This is easy to say, hard to practice. We almost laugh when we see this on numerous church signs. No one ever says, "Here, we DO NOT believe the Bible." That would be too blatant. We had rather craftily say that we do believe it. But, again, is not this false advertising? Does a church have to say that it believes the Bible? Come on. True church = Bible believing! Don't we prove this by what we teach and how we live? Ever seen any restaurant advertise that they had "Bad Food Here"? They may indeed have such, but they always advertise, "Good Food Here." The truthfulness of the statement is only in the eating! So it is with a church. Labels and names mean absolutely nothing. The proof is in the teaching, experience, and practice of the Christian people themselves, not in any thing they advertise. See I
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
(Note: although this article was written one year ago, it is still relevant today, so I publish it again with some minor changes).
Last month I watched a two hour ABC 20/20 news program on religious faith. As it turned out, that is mostly what it dealt with: religion. There is a great difference between religion in general, and true Bible faith; between religion and salvation; between Christendom and Christianity. It is the difference between Christ and Satan! It reminded me of an article I wrote in 1984 titled Millions Drugged On Religion. I have considered reprinting it, but much of the information in it is obsolete because of changes in the Soviet Union, and the Eastern European communist bloc. Yet today, as it was then, most of the world is religious.
The 20/20 segments revolved around various kinds of faith that people professed. There was a segment about a Hindu woman in India called Amma, who has become famous worldwide through a “ministry” of giving people a hug. Thousands at a time come to see her. She speaks a message, mostly her Hindu concepts of love, though she claims to be “of no particular religion”. Her main focus is hugging people. She gives a big motherly hug to each stranger that comes forward in a line to receive one. It is said to give emotional healing to those who come. I can see how it would, especially for someone who felt they were unloved, as many do in our day.
Another segment dealt with a completely paralyzed girl named Audrey Santo, who gives off some kind of healing aura to those who come to see her. Religious portraits and statues are said to “weep” oil. Several examples of oily icons were given. Her mother, who selflessly cared for her night and day, was seen as the biggest promoter of her daughter’s healing power. The daughter later died.
There was a segment with the “Rev” Peter Popoff, a religious charlatan that I knew about over 30 years ago. At that time this fraud was going around in his “healing meetings” and claiming to be the son of Haralan Popov, a Bulgarian pastor who was imprisoned for over 13 years for preaching the gospel. I worked with Brother Haralan at Door Of Hope ministries at that time. One of our representatives heard Peter Popoff make the claim that Haralan was his father in a public meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. Peter Popoff was exposed as a liar shortly thereafter when it was learned that his father was really George Popoff , another Bulgarian, and no relation to Haralan Popov (both spellings are used for this common Slavic name). For instance, there is a famous Russian clown named Oleg Popov. He is now 77 years old. As the ABC piece says, about that same time Peter Popoff was exposed as a religious fraud using the scam of being prompted beforehand about people he “prophesied” about, and allegedly healed. Now, in 2007, he is back, and his latest scam is selling “magical” waters purported to heal. As of January 2008, Peter Popoff has dropped the "Miracle Spring Water" and now is promoting his new "Miracle Manna Bread".
There were nuns and monks presented in cloisters, and they made their declarations that their faith was “fortified” by the disciplines of cloister hood. There was a priest in Connecticut reportedly casting out demons. They also presented those who had faith in “their own good thoughts” as promoting healing, business success, supposed spiritual growth, etc..
There was recently a man on Regis and Kelly who said his life was changed by faith in his “inner self”. He essentially said that he was his own “god”. Oprah Winfrey has been promoting a book, The Secret, which also supports some new concepts of faith. She recently has conducted internet seminars with Eckhart Tolle, a new age guru, and writer of A New Earth. Basically they are saying faith in anything is okay. Whatever "floats your boat". It is roughly the same old concept taught by earlier New Age teachers. Add in some “name it and claim it", and give it a new twist called “laws of attraction", and what do you get? A best seller book!
Now it’s June, and the presidential election is only five months away. Remember, the politicians running for president started earlier than ever this year. In earlier interviews, several of them were falling all over themselves to express how much “faith” they have. Yet some of them who talked about “their faith” believe it is alright to kill babies in the womb!
ALL DO NOT HAVE GENUINE FAITH
What are we to think about all these presentations of “faith” in light of the Bible? Are these genuine manifestations of the true faith? Do we have definite guidelines to help us discern the true and the false? We certainly do, and what we saw on these programs, for the most part, was not Bible faith. I will endeavor to show from the Bible what faith really is.
Many who have no real understanding think that all persons have faith, yet scripture says: “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith”( 2 Thessalonians 3:2). This verse shows that not everyone has true Bible faith. There are unreasonable men (and women), who do not have it. There are wicked persons who do not have it. They can’t reach into their “inner self” and find it -- they just “have not faith”.
I might add that everyone does have faith in something if you define the word as trust, or belief. You may trust yourself, based on your ability, to drive a car. You may believe that the airplane you ride on will land at its destination safely, based on your understanding of the aircraft, the pilot’s training, past statistics, etc.. But this is a natural faith. What we are defining is a supernatural faith.
GENUINE FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD
True faith is a gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). You can see by these verses that salvation is a gift of God, because both the grace and the faith that bring it are God’s gift. Again, it is “not of yourselves” as all persons do not have faith, nor do all have grace, it is the gift to God’s elect. “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God‘s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1). Do you not see that this is a special kind of faith? It brings to the acknowledging of the truth and brings one to seek godliness.
GENUINE FAITH HAS THE PERSON OF CHRIST AS ITS OBJECT
What is truth, as Pontius Pilate asked? We should say Who is truth? Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). True faith has an object and that object is Jesus Christ. As the Son of God , He is the only way to get to the Father. In the same context of John 14 Christ tells his disciple Philip: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father: and how sayest thou then. Show us the Father?” (John 14:9). The same Jesus Christ that told him (and us), is the person who told the unbelieving Jews “Before Abraham was, I Am” ( John 8:58). He was identifying Himself as God: “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” ( Exodus 3:13,14). There can be no doubt about what He meant. Those Jews in John chapter eight surely knew, for they tried to stone Him! The object of true faith is Christ who reveals the Father to us. He is God, as the Father is God. The other Person of the Triune Godhead is also involved in this leading us to true faith. The Holy Spirit sets us apart to Christ: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).
Remember the main texts in recent articles I published (available by scrolling down on this blog). First, in The Philippian Jailer: when the jailer cried to Paul and Silas “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30,31). Faith is a noun. Belief is a synonym of faith. Believe, or believing, are verbs. To believe is faith in action. Paul and Silas directed the jailer, who was convicted by the Holy Spirit, to believe on Jesus. Jesus Christ is the object of genuine faith.
Another example from A Miracle in Gaza. The evangelist Philip was asked the following question by the Ethiopian eunuch, after expounding Isaiah 53 to him, and preaching Christ to him: “See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36,37). Again we see the object of faith or belief is Jesus Christ.
GENUINE FAITH IS IN CHRIST AND IS THE ONLY TRUE FAITH
The Greek word, pistis, is many times translated faith in all English versions of the Bible, and is used not only as belief, but sometimes to represent the entire system of Gospel truth itself (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). Another example from an article I revised and reprinted , Looking Unto Jesus by Adolphe Monod. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)
Then in the epistle of Jude it is written: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude v. 3).
Establishing from God’s word that faith in Christ is the only true way of salvation, and the collective faith which He established called the church (the true Christian church that Jude, and all the New Testament teaches about), what about these who have these “acts of faith” that do not have Christ as their object? Jude even tells us about them, and where we are today, for he wrote concerning a future apostasy.
“But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” Jude v.17-21). This is the kind of faith we must have -- a most holy faith. The faith once delivered unto the saints. Beloved friends, you better make sure you don’t fall for some false teaching -- some false gospel. Your very soul is at stake though you may feel secure. Make your calling and election sure. Make sure your faith is in Jesus Christ, and no other! “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved“ (Acts 4:12). Paul warns us all “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another: but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).
Strong words. We better be careful what we hear and accept, and preachers, you had better be extremely careful what you preach, for preachers and teachers have the greatest responsibility of all! "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22).