Monday, April 16, 2018

Serving Up Golden Apples On A Silver Platter: Words of Knowledge and Wisdom

Paul taught that when we allow God to speak through us, we can remove depression through our encouraging words. Isaiah wrote that a well-taught disciple can sustain someone who is weary with a word. We are meant to strengthen, comfort and encourage one another. The way we speak to each other can be a powerful form of ministry when led by the Holy Spirit. But there are also those who practice a fake form of spirit-led, or prophetic ministry. In today's post, we will look at some Biblical principles of using our words to help others, and at ways of identifying fakers and advantage-takers. 

Proverbs 25:11 teaches:

A word spoken in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 

Another translation reads: A timely word well spoken is like golden apples served on a silver tray.

Think of the first bite of a delicious golden apple that is perfectly ripe with just the right amount of firmness and sweet to the taste, dipped in honey. If you've ever had the opportunity to enjoy this favorite Jewish treat, when you eat an apple dipped in golden honey, it immediately brightens your eyes and invigorates you. This might help us begin to understand how this verse is describing the feeling of receiving encouragement. It brightens and refreshes our souls. A couple of key ideas are lost in translation. First, the word for apple actually comes from the word for breathe or to be blown. Obviously, it refers to apples being blown out of trees by the wind, but in the Bible breath or wind represents the Holy Spirit. Also lost in translation is the idea of setting wheels in motion. It is the Spirit of God who is moving, like the wind, breathing out words of encouragement and setting things in motion. A word of wise advice, godly counsel or encouragement can get things moving in a positive direction and make a tremendous difference in a person's life.

Proverbs 15:23 reads: A person finds joy in giving an apt reply. How delightful is a timely word. Both the giver and the receiver of encouragement are blessed through the action. God pours into our lives so that we can pour into the lives of others. And these words we use to minister to each other with are powerful. Isaiah 50:4 declares: The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of  disciples to know how to sustain the weary with a word. 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit our Comforter. This word, paraklete in Greek, means to come alongside and is also translated as counselor, advocate, guide and helper. But in return for the comfort we receive, we are meant to comfort others.

He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction... (2 Corinthians 1:4)

1 Corinthians 12:7-8 teaches us that God chooses to speak to us and to speak through us into the lives of others through special words of knowledge and wisdom. 

A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good: to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge through the same Spirit. 

Isaiah 11:2 describes this Spirit: 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Strength, the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear (Reverence, awe, respect) of the Lord.

A Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit and has been taught God's word is 10 times more qualified to offer counseling and support than a Harvard Ph.D. who is an unbeliever. In fact, a highly educated person full of what the world calls wisdom could be very dangerous. 1 Corinthians 3:19 boldly declares: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God....the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile. In ancient Babylon, Daniel and his 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (aka: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) were indeed found to be 10 times better than the wisest, most highly trained and educated men in the world through the Spirit of God. It was this same Spirit that gave Solomon wisdom. And now, WE have this Spirit. 

1 Corinthians 14:3 teaches us how to minister to each other with the words we speak through the Holy Spirit, and more importantly it teaches us how to allow God to speak through us into the lives of others.

The one who prophesies speaks to people for their Upbuilding, Encouragement and Consolation

In this case, the word prophesy refers to Spirit-led ministry, speaking the words that God wants us to speak. That means being sensitive to God's leading, listening as He speaks to our hearts and obeying His guidance. Let's take a closer look at these 3 words:

UPBUILDING
This word, oikodome, describes strengthening and building someone up, promoting their Christian growth in wisdom, happiness, holiness. It is comes from combining 2 construction words that describes building a house. When we use our words to build others up, we are building and strengthening God's house, the church, and adding to His household. It can describe removing sluggishness to help get someone moving and doing work for the kingdom of God. It can also describe removing and relieving sadness or depression. When we show people a purpose for their lives, or help them discover God's purpose, it gives them something to live for and strengthens their hearts. 

ENCOURAGEMENT
The word for encouragement, paraklesis, comes from the same word that describes the Holy Spirit as our comforter, counselor, advocate, guide and friend. This word can describe encouraging someone or delivering an exhortation that calls for positive action. When someone has been knocked down, we can offer words of refreshing, while encouraging each other to get back up and get going about the work of building God's Kingdom.

CONSOLATION/COMFORT
We can calm, console and offer solace to those who have been let down and hurt by this world. We offer, paramuthia, comforting words of faith and hope for the future to those who are in grief. 


FAKE WORDS

In the same paragraph where words of wisdom and knowledge are introduced, the spiritual gift of Discernment, or discerning of spirits is mentioned. Remember that Satan knows the past but only God knows the future. I have seen prophetic events where the "prophet" at the center of attention on stage brought tears by revealing sensitive, deeply personal information about a person's past--usually revealing pain and hurt. They used this revelation to gain credibility and make it seem as if God had revealed it to them and the audience was sucked right in under their sway. But Satan knows those things too. It is true that Jesus revealed detailed supernatural knowledge of a person's past in the Bible and He did it to offer salvation to the woman at the well--but He did it PRIVATELY. The only other time I can recall anyone besides Jesus doing something like that was when the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that Ananias and Sapphira were lying about their past and they were killed. But the disciples never ministered prophetically by telling individuals about their past. No where is this taught as an evangelistic tool. When I see one who claims to be a prophet "reading someone's mail," so to speak, it looks like divination or soothsaying to me and I immediately wonder if they have a familiar demonic spirit revealing such things to them, or if they have cheated. 

Modern prophets are sometimes given the name of people to pray for before prophetic events. Well, you can learn an awful lot about a person from google, social media and other means--including demonic spirits. While it is true that God could reveal something about a person's past to us in order to minister to them and begin the healing process, we must remember that only God knows the future and He has forgiven our past and wants us to forgive others. He is interested in healing and comforting, not bringing up old pain and garnering fame for the man on stage. If a person's chief "ministry" is reading a person's past, I am always deeply skeptical. True prophetic ministry, or ministry though the Holy Spirit, is all about healing and moving forward. 

We need to be diligent about discerning whether the Holy Spirit is operating through someone, or if that person is under the influence of a deceitful spirit. Here are some ways that God DOES work through people. 

WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE, WORDS OF WISDOM
REAL Words of Knowledge or Words of Wisdom are ways that God speaks to us and through us and they will always be in complete agreement with the Bible. Sometimes the Lord helps us to understand a difficult passage of Scripture, urges us to share the gospel with someone, or helps us know what words will bring comfort to a person in crisis. He calls us to witness. He nudges us to minister to someone by providing food, clothing, shelter, transportation or giving us a burden to assist them in some way. He brings relevant passages of scripture to the forefront of our memory to help in various situations. He supernaturally helps us to understand the needs of a person and enables us to fill their need and minister to them. He gives us specific words of confirmation, encouragement and instruction for people. He uses us to call the gifts and talents of others into action. He can lay a person or situation on our heart to call us into prayer at any time day or night. He also guides us to know just how to pray for specific people and situations so that we know how he wants to heal and work in their lives, sometimes even revealing the root of a problem so that healing can occur and so that the hearers of the prayer are comforted. He gives us the wisdom and ability to guide people through hard times with wise counsel and advice. He enables us to teach others and show them the way through life's trials. He partners with us to comfort others in their sorrows, ease their troubled minds and provide them with solace.


CONCLUSION
When God gives us messages of knowledge and wisdom, He empowers us to be HIS messengers to draw others to salvation, to Himself. He is the one who does the healing. He allows us the privilege of giving others real and lasting hope, restoring their joy and helping them find freedom through Jesus. He gives us the grace gift of being helper, guide, advocate, counselor, comforter and friend to others, just as He has been those things to us. The word minister comes from the word diakonos, which is the word for serving tables. When we minister through the Holy Spirit, we should remember that we are serving others, thinking of our words as Golden Apples and we should serve them up graciously, as if on a beautiful silver platter. 













Sunday, April 8, 2018

Supper with Jesus

As a child, I loved Fellowship meals in church. We would pack a few hundred people into the "New" Fellowship hall for the most delicious potluck meals you could ever imagine. Every family would bring their best dishes and set them out to share. Someone always made that super-secret Baptist meatloaf recipe which was A-MAZ-ING. Us kids would walk by and stare at the legendary dessert table, and be reminded that we could not have any until our plates were cleaned. The whole church looked forward to those special times of fellowship. It's where people got to know each other, new members were made to feel welcome and old friends could sit down and share a meal. Those were incredibly special times of unity in the life of our church family. 

Then something strange happened, an unwelcome change in our church-wide dinners. There would be fewer of them and we were instructed to bring food just for our own family. It was awful. Some families brought a full Sunday dinner while others just brought sandwiches and chips. Some forgot all about it and ran to the grocery store across the tracks to get food, missing out on a good part of the event. Others did without entirely, or just drank a glass of tea or lemonade and tried to socialize. Instead of laughing and catching up on each other's lives while standing in line for the food table, everyone raced to the hall to reserve seating for just their own families. The Fellowship was broken. You couldn't invite someone new to sit with you. Everyone sat in their own little group and it was completely pointless. I can only imagine how awful it would have been to be single or a visitor that day. Some had plenty while others did without. Fellowship Dinners were ruined. 

Well, something like this happened in Corinth as well. We talked about this at church this morning in 1 Corinthians 11. Sometimes, New Testament churches observed a love feast or fellowship meal which concluded with the Lord's Supper. Some of the folks at Corinth were showing off and indulging in food and wine, while others went hungry. They used the meal as an occasion to shame the poor. Instead of drawing them closer together, the event was driving them further apart. God was so upset at the level of disrespect for His supper and the disregard the people were showing to each other, that some of them became sick and even died because of their sinful attitudes and behavior.

The Lord's Supper is meant to be a moment of reflection and remembrance, an opportunity for fellowship and a time of worship and thanksgiving. The night before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples: 

I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 

When we call the supper Communion, it reminds us of the special relationship Jesus desires with us. We love a relational God who is personally invested in our lives and who earnestly desires connection with us.

The Passover was a feast God ordained for remembering how He delivered the people of Israel from bondage and slavery in Egypt. They sacrificed a lamb, placed it's blood as a covering over their door to protect them as a destroying angel passed them by, or passed over them and then ate a meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The next day, they left Egypt. Jesus is OUR Passover lamb. He was sacrificed for us so that we can be delivered from bondage and slavery to sin. His blood is our covering and protection from death. Let's take a moment and reflect on the powerful symbolism Jesus introduced as He ate the Passover with His friends. Here are the 2 Elements of the Lord's Supper:

THE BREAD

At the dinner, Luke 21:14-20 records how Jesus presented His new Supper:

And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them and said This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. 

The bread of the Passover was unleavened, meaning that it did not have any yeast in it. There is a popular saying in the Bible:

Don't you know that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump of dough? -1 Corinthians 5:6

Paul uses yeast to describe the invasive way that sin spreads. When Jesus used unleavened bread as a symbol of his body, it teaches us 4 things.

1. Jesus Lived A Sinless Life
The unleavened bread reminds us that Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life and we will one day be conformed to His image. 

Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old leaven or with the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

2. Jesus' Suffering and Death Was Substitutionary
His body was given for us. He was the substitute for us, taking the punishment we deserved for our sins. While it is true that, in accordance with prophecy, none of Jesus' bones were fractured, just like the bread, His body was broken for us. He was beat up, beaten with rods, scourged, forced to carry his cross until his body could take it no more, brutally crucified, then pierced through with a sword to puncture vital organs and make sure He was dead. 

He was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities. The punishment for our peace was on him and by his stripes, we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

3. Jesus Rose from the Grave
Unlike a nice yeasty roll, unleavened bread does not mold. Unleavened Bread is the bread of haste. It is also much better to take with you on a journey because it won't go bad. 

Psalm 16:10, quoted again in Acts 13:35 declares: 

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol. You will not allow your Holy One to see decay. 

Because Jesus was sinless and perfect, he did not rot in the grave, but was raised to life. 

4. Jesus' Spirit Sustains Us
Jesus nourishes and refreshes our souls through His Spirit in our lives. In John 6:35:

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." 

THE CUP
In the same way, He also took the cup after supper and said: "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." 

If you were a young Jewish man in the 1st century and you wanted to gain a bride, you would go to her home and meet with the young lady and her father. After carefully making your intentions known and presenting a Covenant, or marriage agreement, you would pour a glass of wine. If the father approved of the Proposal, he would drink from the cup. If the prospective bride agreed, she would drink from the cup. If everyone drank from the cup, then you had an accord and the couple was betrothed. The bridegroom would then depart to go prepare a place for them to build their life together saying similar words to what Jesus said at the last supper:

I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am, you may be also. (John 14:3)

This morning in church we sang: "like a bride waiting for her groom, we'll be a church waiting for you." This is precisely the metaphor the Bible uses to describes Christ's relationship to the church. 

A young man would also leave a gift, a sign or promise of his true intentions toward the woman. In modern culture, an engagement ring is given. Jesus has also given us such a gift. In 2 Corinthians 1:22, we are told that God has:

...placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come. 

Other versions call the Spirit our Guarantee. Just like a bridegroom to a bride, Jesus has promised us a future home together in heaven and given us His Spirit as a token of his promise. 

He compares the fruit of the vine that we drink from the cup to his blood. The Bible says:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Leviticus 17:11)

When we take the cup, we remember that Jesus spilled his blood for us, making atonement for our sins and reconciling us to God. 

CONCLUSION
At the original Passover meal, they ate bitter herbs which were good medicine, able to cleanse, purify and detoxify the body. In the same way that the Hebrews were cleansed from the inside out physically, we need to be purified from the inside out--spiritually. We do not eat bitter herbs at the Lord's Supper because Jesus has already endured the bitterness of the cross and provided all that is necessary for our cleansing and atonement. We need HIM to clean us up. We don't sacrifice a lamb, because He IS our Passover Lamb and the last sacrifice ever needed. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we should remember the finished work of Christ on the cross and we should also remember that the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is ongoing.

When we accept Jesus, repent and are Baptized, we are JUSTIFIED in God's eyes. We are immediately put into a right standing and a repaired relationship with God---Forever. When we take the Lord's Supper, we are reminded that we are still being SANCTIFIED, or made Holy. We are being transformed to be more like Jesus. We experience Baptism once. We take communion over and over again. We receive the Holy Spirit once. He changes us and transforms us throughout our lives so that we look more and more like Jesus. I always think of sweet old Claude Cooper. As he and his wife Emma were in their 90's, I remember how loving and gentle he was toward her, helping her walk into church. This man had been becoming more like Jesus throughout his life and he was kind and beloved by our church. Think on these verses:

Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

The repeated taking of communion reminds us that God isn't finished with us yet. He's still working by His Spirit in us, throughout our lives. 

Taking the Lord's Supper is a serious and wonderful occasion. It is a MEMORIAL that helps us remember Jesus' sacrifice and teach others. It is a time of THANKSGIVING as we consider with gratitude what God has done for us. It is an opportunity for FELLOWSHIP with other believers. And it is also an act of WORSHIP where we connect with God and experience His Presence. Jesus and His disciples highlighted this aspect by singing a hymn together at the conclusion of the meal, but truly, the entire supper is an act of worship.

At the supper, Jesus emphasized the importance of His Spirit in our lives as our comforter, teacher and counselor and His very real Presence with us and within us. (John 14:15-27, 15:1-9, 26, 16:13) We should remember this in our own observance of communion. 

He shared these words for those who accept his invitation: 

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don't let your heart be troubled or afraid. 


Jesus said: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.



The invitation has been extended, will you eat supper with Jesus?













Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Psalm 22: The Song of the Cross

1,000 years before Jesus was crucified, David wrote Psalm 22 predicting the events of the cross with stunning accuracy and in vivid detail. As He hung on the cross, Jesus intentionally directed our attention to Psalm 22 by exclaiming it's first line: Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani, Which is translated as My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? Sabachthani means left me alone. The entire Psalm describes the experience of the cross, in both the physical world, and the supernatural one.

The original audience clearly understood that this first line was a cry for help. They thought He was calling for Elijah, whose name means "Yahweh is God," to come and help him. The next line asks Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? Let's read on to see if God was listening and how the Father responded.

My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.

Jesus had languished on the cross all day long and God had not yet acted to rescue Him. He had labored in prayer the night before to the point that he was sweating drops of blood, but did not receive a reprieve.

But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you. They trusted and they rescued them. They cried to you and were set free. They trusted in you and were not disgraced.

God is enthroned on the praises of His people. When we praise Him, He moves with power in our lives. Here, the original psalmist David, and by extension His descendant Jesus, touts the faithfulness of God. He praises the Father by recounting his good deeds toward the children of Israel. He expresses faith, hope and trust in God's character. God is trustworthy and deserving of praise and honor. 

But I am a worm and not a man.

Here, the song references a very special worm. Most of the time, worms in Scripture represent devourers and destroyers that cause decay. But this worm's body actually had special medicinal qualities and healing properties. Jesus is the Great Physician who heals our souls and will ultimately heal and glorify our bodies. The dried bodies of kermes worms were used to make red dye. Some of the priestly garments and cloths that were used in ceremonies for cleansing, healing and purification were colored with this red dye. Jesus was on that tree, providing everything that was necessary for our purification and cleansing. But the most special thing about this worm is the manner of its death. The Kermes worm would affix itself to a tree, sacrificing it's own life to protect and give life to its offspring. Jesus was affixed to a tree, sacrificing his life to give new birth and new life to His children. The worm's body provided covering and protection, Just as Jesus' blood covers all our sins. He gave His life on a tree so that we might live.

...scorned by mankind and despised by people. Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads. He relies on the Lord. Let Him save him. Let the Lord rescue him, since he takes pleasure in him.

Matthew 27:39-44 records the way Jesus was mocked on the cross, as the actions and words of evildoers appear exactly as prophesied in the Psalm above: And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads....The chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders were mocking Him....He trusts in God, Let Him deliver him now if he takes pleasure in Him. Luke 23:35-37 records And the people stood by, looking on and even the rulers were sneering at him...and the soldiers also mocked him. Even one thief on the cross was hurling abuse at him.

It was you who brought me out of the womb, making me secure at my mother's breast. I was given over to you at birth. You have been my God from my mother's womb. 

It was the Holy Spirit that made Mary pregnant. Jesus was consecrated at the temple as a baby. Even in the womb, Elizabeth told her cousin Mary that the child within her was blessed. 

Don't be far from me, because distress is near and there's no one to help.

First David, and now Jesus is asking God to be close to Him. He longs for the presence and comfort of the Father. 

Many bulls surround me. Strong ones of Bashan encircle me. They open their mouths against me--lions mauling and roaring. 

Any time I see lions used in a way that could be metaphorical in the Bible, I think of youth in rebellion, since the word for prodigal, na'ar, comes from the word for a young lion. Since the bull, like the wild auroch bull, was a symbol of ancient cult worship, I tend to think the bulls, called strong or mighty ones, are evil, demonic forces behind bad people, like a strong man (certain powerful religious leaders, a king and a governor come to mind). Since Bashan is the region West of the Jordan River where 1/2 the tribe of Manasseh chose to live, OUTSIDE of Israel. This can also represent people who have chosen to live outside of the presence of God. 

I am poured out like water. All my bones are disjointed. My heart is like wax, melting within me. 

Jesus poured himself out for us. Giving up the rights and privileges he could have claimed as God and dying for us instead. Philippians 2:6-7 describes Christ in this way: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant... Bones became disjointed during the intense pressure of a crucifixion. I believe Jesus heart was incredibly sad, He was truly a man of sorrows at this moment.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You put me into the dust of death.

John 19:28 corresponds to this: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty."

For dogs have surrounded me, a gang of evildoers has closed in on me

Dogs or wolves, is a common metaphor for pagan worshippers and evil doers on the prowl, ready to attack. In Matthew 7:15 Jesus compared false prophets to ravening wolves. Evil people surrounded Jesus and arrested him in the garden of Gethsemane. He was surrounded by gangs of evildoers all night long at his trials and all day long on the cross. Interestingly, the word for wolf in the New Testament describes a white wolf--one that easily disguises itself among sheep--a wolf in sheep's clothing. The religious leaders were secretly evil doers and not true believers. 

...they pierced my hands and feet.

As Acts 2:23 explains, Jesus' hands and feet were nailed to the cross. 
Though he was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.

I can count all my bones. People look and stare at me. They divided my garments among themselves and they cast lots for my clothing.

Victims of crucifixion were stripped naked and made into a public spectacle. John 19:23-24 records this event, concluding with this statement They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. This is another direct quotation from Psalm 22 above. Their intention was to humiliate the Son of God. Colossians 2:15 shows how he turned it around on them: 
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, HE made a public spectacle of THEM, triumphing over them by the cross. 


But you, LORD, don't be far away. My strength, come quickly to help me. Rescue my life from the sword, my only life from the power of these dogs. Save me from the lion's mouth, from the horns of the unicorns.

My favorite animal reference in the passage is in verse 21 when he says "save me from the horns of the unicorns." Some translations say wild oxen, but the word is always translated elsewhere in the KJV as unicorn--and it is singular. I believe this is an allusion to the one-horned beast from Daniel's prophecy which represents the spirit of anti-Christ--It represents either Satan himself, or his representative on earth--possibly a certain corrupt high priest or his father-in-law (Ananias and Caiaphas) who did not want to relinquish power. Jesus, again asks to be rescued from the evildoers who surround him. In the supernatural view, the lions, wolves and animals represent evil people, but the use of animals as a metaphor also  suggests that dark, demonic forces were in operation, tempting and influencing them.


The last half of the Psalm simultaneously prophesies and proclaims victory. 

YOU ANSWERED ME!!!
I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you in the assembly. You who fear the Lord, praise Him. All you descendants of Jacob, praise him. All you descendants of Jacob, honor him. All you descendants of Israel, revere him. 

At this point the song becomes instructive as to how we should honor God and praise His name. There is joyous, but also deep and reverent worship here. God heard Jesus' cry just as He had heard the cry of his forefather David.

For he has not despised or abhorred the torment of the oppressed. He did not hide his face from him but listened when he cried for help.

God did not turn his face away from Jesus. He did not deny Him the Presence He so longed for, but came and rescued Him from death and the grave.

I will give praise in the great assembly because of you. I will fulfill my vows before those who fear you. The humble will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise him. May your hearts live forevermore.

Because of Jesus' sacrifice and the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit together, we will eat our fill of spiritual food. We will be satisfied with his word and enjoy the benefits of God's presence and His spirit in our lives. He will give us renewed hearts and eternal life. 

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord. All the families of the nations will bow down before you.  For Kingship belongs to the Lord. He rules the nations. All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down. All those who go down to the dust will kneel before him--even the one who cannot preserve his life.

At the Great Commission, Jesus sent us into all the world to proclaim the gospel. Revelation 5:9 speaks of Jesus: Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Rev. 7:9 also affirms every tribe, language, people and nation will be represented among those who are saved. All things have been placed under Jesus' feet. (Eph 1:22) He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16) Even unbelievers who die will bow down before Jesus. Though Isaiah 65:12 teaches us that they will be bowing down to be slaughtered. 

Their descendants will serve him. It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has DONE IT.

This great work that Jesus accomplished has been taught for over 2000 years, generation after generation. On the cross, His last words were "Into thy hands I commit my Spirit" and "It is Finished." Knowing the words of this Psalm, Jesus expressed complete faith and trust in the Father. During His moment of greatest trial and suffering, we know that he was thinking about this Psalm. He sought comfort in the word of God. The Psalm concludes with the words He Has Done It. This corresponds with Jesus' shouting Teleo, which means It is finished, or It has been accomplished. The Psalm ends with a note of certainty about Christ's success. He had come to earth to take the punishment for our sins. He had come to provide a way for mankind to be restored into a right relationship with God. Every evil intention that hell and humans had for the cross, Jesus turned it around. He ended his earthly life by shouting a great cry of victory, TELEO--declaring that his mission was a success. He had provided all that was necessary for our salvation. In that moment, He declared victory over death, hell and the grave with complete faith, hope and trust in the Father to raise Him from the dead. And on the 3rd day, creation witnessed His Resurrection. 















Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ghost in the Graveyard: Is "Grave-Sucking" Charismatic Ceremony or Pagan Practice?

One of the most bizarre rituals being observed by people from Bethel Church in Redding California and others on the eccentric fringe of the Charismatic movement is the practice of Grave-Sucking. They go visit the graves of famous people of the Pentecostal persuasion in order to soak in their spirit and receive their anointing.  This practice is also called mantle-grabbing and grave soaking. I am including a link of them visiting the grave of Smith Wigglesworth so that you can see what I am talking about. The leader uses some slick Christianese language, but what he is doing is anything but Holy. Notice that they are "imparting" the anointing of a dead person. He is functioning like a medium to channel power from a dead person. Notice how they cackle like a coven of Salem witches in the middle of the prayer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=311&v=LrHPTs8cLls

I was always taught that a cemetery is a solemn place where you should behave respectfully and that you should never step on a grave, yet I see pictures of people sitting and lying down among the graves and on top of headstones. Benny Hinn claimed that an anointing came on him from visiting the graves of two women named Amy Semple MacPherson and Katherine Kuhlman.

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel teaches that claiming a spiritual inheritance from previous generations enables us to start our Christian life at spiritual levels that might normally have taken us years to reach. He goes on to say: There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left... Many of the pictures of grave-sucking are attributed to students from the school of supernatural ministry at Bethel. It seems that grave soaking is one of the ways which Bethel endorses of claiming these anointings and mantles. Cal Pierce, an Elder from Bethel is quoted as praying to receive the anointing from the bones of a man named John Lake and a visit to Lake's grave, led by Bill Johnson is reported to be the beginning of the practice. 

Isaiah 8:19-20 instructs:
When they say to you, "Inquire of the mediums and the spiritists who chirp and mutter," Shouldn't a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? Go to God's instruction (law) and testimony! (The Bible)

The word pray means to ask, or inquire. It is wrong to pray to anyone other than God. Why would anyone seek the Holy Spirit from a dead and rotting corpse, or being channeled through a medium when we have direct access because of the cross of Christ? This makes no sense. It is just a sneaky way for occult practices to enter the church and any "spirit" that is obtained this way will not be Holy. 

As usual, those who engage in the rite of grave-sucking have taken a verse of Scripture wildly out of context to support their strange ritual. In 2 Kings 2:13 we find out that when Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha picked up his cloak, or as the older translations say, his mantle. This was a visual representation of the fact that the anointing that had rested upon Elijah, would now rest on Elisha. In 2 Kings 13:20-21, we learn that Elisha had now died and was buried, long enough that the flesh had rotted from his skeleton. Some Moabite raiders were about to get caught and so they threw the corpse of one of their dead friends into Elisha's grave. When the man's lifeless body touched Elisha's bones, He revived and came back to life. The Moabite man did not receive Elisha's mantle or anointing, he just came back to life. Looking back, with New Testament eyes, we understand that the mantle or anointing Elisha had was the Holy Spirit. The point of the passage was to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit has resurrection power and to show that the power Elisha had was from the Spirit of God. It was a testimony to pagans about the power of God.


Since I have moved to Texas, I have also become aware that Christian members of the Mexican and other Latin-American communities go to graveyards to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead, in order to commune with their dead relatives, a day on which Ofrendos, ritual altars, are built to the dead and offerings are given to them. Absolutely pagan in every way. I realize it is also called all Saints day---still pagan. 


No where in the Bible are believers taught to engage in grave-sucking or any other such boneyard practice, in fact, it is forbidden.

Isaiah 65:3-4 describes such practices as provoking God's anger:

These people continually anger me to my face, sacrificing in gardens, burning incense on bricks, sitting among the graves, spending the night in the monuments.

Sitting among tombstones and hanging out in graveyards at night are forbidden activities for Christians. 

Mark 5 tells the story of the Gerasene demoniac. The man was possessed by evil spirits and lived among the tombstones. When Jesus cast out the demons, he returned to dwell among the living. The impulse to stay in the graveyard was an unnatural one. Once he was restored to his right mind, he was delivered and set free from this demonic desire.


Numbers 19:11 teaches that, under the Old Covenant, anyone who touched a dead body would be considered unclean for 7 days. Then they had to go through a special purification process.

Leviticus 21 and Ezekiel 44:25-27 teach that priests were not to make themselves unclean by going near the bodies of their dead relatives or near the body of any dead person, except members of their immediate family. And then, they would have needed to go through the purification process. They would not have been able to perform priestly duties or minister before the Lord for 7 days. 

Deuteronomy 18:10-11 teaches that no one should be found among God's people who is a medium or spiritist or who inquires of the dead. Leviticus 19:31 also says: Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God. Necromancer is also translated as spiritist, or one who consults with spirits of the dead. Leviticus 20:17 required the death penalty for anyone committing these sins. Any sort of contact with the spirits of dead people is strictly forbidden by God's word. Leviticus 20:6 describes these people as playing the harlot against God and declares that they will be cut off from His people. 


Under the New Covenant, because of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, we are made clean. We don't have to worry about becoming unclean by attending a funeral or sitting at the bedside holding the hand of a loved one as they depart from this life. We are free to place flowers on the graves of those who have passed and we can even respectfully visit the final resting places of important people in our faith and learn about our history.

What we can not do, is sin by participating in rituals, séances, ceremonies or interactions with dead people or their spirits. There is tremendous danger in seeking spiritual power or wisdom any other way than directly from God. Grave-Soaking is likely to open a person up to the influence of evil, demonic spirits. That is why Deuteronomy 18:10-11 forbids every possible method of seeking supernatural wisdom, knowledge, power or insight except for receiving it directly from God. 

It is true that in the medieval church, con-artists made great profits off of selling relics, or bones of saints. This is nothing but a form of pagan ancestor worship. By the way, the word pray, means to ask or inquire. So when a person prays to a Saint, they are inquiring of the dead and directly sinning against God. It is an insult to pray to or through another person when God's word forbids it AND He has given us direct access to the throne of God through Jesus Christ. 

I mentioned before that this practice of grave-sucking or grave-soaking is also called mantle-grabbing. A mantle is simply a robe or covering. Elisha's mantle was the power of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 61 promises us that God will take away a spirit of heaviness and give us Garments of praise. He tells us that God will clothe us with garments of salvation and cover us with robes of righteousness. Do you remember when Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high? Acts chapter 2 records His followers receiving their mantles, their powerful spiritual clothing from the Holy Spirit. We do not need to visit the graves of dead saints to receive a mantle, ALL Christians already have one. Anointing is the Old Testament word for being filled with the Holy Spirit. 1 John 2:20 assures us You have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you know the Truth. 

If you are a Born-again, Baptized follower of Jesus Christ, you already have the same anointing and the same mantle as Elisha. If you want to grow in that anointing and mature in your faith, then you need to get it directly from God through prayer, worship, fellowship with other believers (living ones) and reading God's word. Soak in that. 

In Luke 9:59-60, Jesus said to a man Follow me. Lord, he said, First let me go and bury my father. But he told him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim everywhere the Kingdom of God. 

There is nothing we can do to help the dead. But we can help the living. Jesus was teaching that there is an urgency about sharing the good news of salvation. There is no time to waste. Since he was still under the Old Covenant, this man would have needed to go through the 7 day-purification process if he stayed to bury his father. If the urgency was so serious that this man needed to depart immediately to follow Jesus before his own father's funeral, then surely those who call themselves by the name of Christian should not be wasting precious time messing around with ridiculous, sinful nonsense such as grave sucking, ancestor worship, and other pagan practices. If we have truly been clothed with power from the Holy Spirit, then we need to be about the Lord's business because we have already been given all that we need.