Prophecies of Jesus’s Birth

  • This morning I sat down to begin reading the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke so I could begin outlining our journey through the Christmas story and the quoted prophecies in Matthew chapters one and two caught my attention, so I started outlining the prophecies. As I turned to Luke I found that the work was already done for me. There is a chart of Prophecies of Jesus’s Birth in my He Reads Truth Bible, which I highly recommend and for the ladies, there is a She Reads Truth edition.Yesterday we looked at how the whole Bible is about Jesus. Today we are going to take a closer look at that truth through the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus birth.

    While there are thirteen prophecies on the chart in the Bible, we will only be looking at the three directly mentioned in Matthew. The first prophecy comes as Joseph is considering leaving Mary. Matthew 1:20-24 “But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus.”

    The prophecy quoted in verse twenty-three is from Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See the virgin shall conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” I love this. God with us! Jesus came to redeem us, to atone for our sins, and to bring us back into right relationship with God. God’s plan from the beginning was to redeem us and He had it prophesied in advance so that they would know it was coming and the New Testament quotes the Old Testament so we would know that redemption is true!

    In Matthew 2:6 the wise men sought Jesus because of a prophecy found in Micah 5:2 “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity from ancient times”.

    There are a few interesting things we learn from this prophecy. One major thing is that the teachers in Israel didn’t see Him as Messiah because Jesus is from Nazareth. Look at the providence of God at work, the king calls for a counting of the people requiring everyone to return to their hometowns. It just so happens that Mary was pregnant at the time and delivered Jesus while she was in Bethlehem! God watches over His Word and performs every last detail.

    Even though the wise men are in the nativity, they were not present at the birth of Jesus. The star stayed in the sky as a sign of where the Savior was. God does not hide himself from us, on the contrary, He searches us out. He calls us to himself. The Christmas story is filled with the grace and love of God at every turn. You may have noticed the prophecy ended with the words, “His origin is from antiquity from ancient times”. John tells us that in the beginning was the word and that the word became flesh. The birth, life, death and resurrection was the point of history from before time began. What an awesome God we serve.

    After the wise men didn’t return Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt fulfilling another prophecy found in Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I have called my son.” As they made it safely to Egypt King Herod ordered the murder of boys two years old and younger. Does this remind you of Pharaoh murdering Jewish boys? The devil tried to kill Moses, the deliverer of Israel and he tried to kill Jesus, the Savior of us all but the enemy cannot upend the plan of God.

    I pray that just looking at a few of these prophecies you have been encouraged. Encouraged in the love of God, in your trust in God’s Word and encouraged as you celebrate Jesus all month long. Read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 several times this month. Reflect on the birth of Jesus and all it means for you. The son of God stepped out of Heaven and entered this sin filled world to redeem you and I! It truly is a season of joy.

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The Message of the Bible

Isaiah 9:6 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

The whole Bible points to Jesus. From the fall in the garden God said the Son would strike the head of the enemy of our souls all the way to The Revelation of Jesus Christ and every page in between, the Bible is about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Every year at this time we come to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Many of our churches will be doing advent devotions, some of us will read a chapter of Luke each day. On this first day of December I want to remind us all that the Old Testament prophets spoke of His birth and that the Holy Spirit points us not to Himself but back to the person, work and teachings of Jesus.

During these next twenty-five days let’s make a commitment to get to know Jesus better. We all know the story of His birth but let’s study it deeply this month. Look at all the characters; from Zechariah to the wise men who came two years later. That’s something to think about isn’t it? The star that directed them was visible for two years, showing the way to the redeemer.

Join me for the next twenty-four days as we take an in depth look at the wonderful story of the birth of our Savior. I pray this time will be a blessing to you and that you have a wonderful Christmas season with family and friends.

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Thankful for Church & Spiritual Growth

The last few months I have been attending a small Baptist church. It has been such a refreshing experience. I have learned so much in this last year as the Holy Spirit lead me out of the Word of Faith and Prophetic Movements and the church has been a great place for me.

As I’ve been attending this church where there’s no great stage production with lights, huge video screens and the latest music, I have been refreshed by the hymns and older contemporary music from my childhood. The people are friendly and began treating me like part of the church family from the beginning. Both Sunday and Wednesday nights are dedicated to studying through a book of the Bible. Sunday School is great and so is men’s Bible study.

The last two Sunday’s I’ve so impacted by the Sunday School lessons and the songs we sang in church just magnified the lesson. The messages have been on thankfulness, and oh how thankful I am that I found First Baptist Church.

As I reflect back over this year and how much God stripped away from me, all things I thought were true, I began realizing how much wrong I overlooked as I embraced wrong teachings. I would rationalize things and say well, I don’t believe Jesus suffered in Hell, I’ll just pay attention to the faith and healing teachings. I don’t believe in the courts of heaven stuff but I’ll listen to the other things. It was hard for me to realize how these kind of things interconnected to the rest of the teachings.

This month I started a three year process of studying through the New Testament. I started in James and I am already learning so much. It is amazing how alive the Word becomes when you study it verse by verse. I’m also reading biographies and doctrine books that are helping me to continue to undo the false understandings I had. The grace of God is amazing to me. My way of thinking and go to responses are changing quickly and I am settled again in the simplicity of the gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture.

I’m looking forward to reading through the Bible next year with a new set of spiritual lenses. 2020 has been a great year of spiritual growth for me and I pray it has been for you as well. Enjoy Thanksgiving tomorrow and if your Thanksgiving looks different this year I pray the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit will surround you as you thank God for His goodness and grace in your life.

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Thankful for Family & Friends

The truth is sometimes our family annoys us. We can get it heated political and theological discussions (maybe that’s just me) and we disagree on what Christmas movie to watch. All families have ups and downs but at the end of the day I am so thankful for mine. They have watched me go through many theological twists and turns as I studied the Word to cement what I believe. My sister and I are always cracking up because she’s funny even though she says she’s not. My brother and I do one thing and that’s talk politics. I thank God we see things the same way or knowing us there would be a screaming debate every time we saw each other. My family is exactly what I need in all areas and I am thankful for them.

There have been friends that have come and gone in my life. Some of those people I thought would be around forever but God had a purpose in each friendship and how long it lasted. Two friends have really been a blessing to me this year. My friend Kyle and I have kept each other level headed all year throughout the election cycle. We are both big into politics and with all the made up scenarios we talk about we always point each other back to the Word and remind each other that God is in control.

Last year in the fall God began unraveling some long held beliefs and it was going good for a few months and then I got discouraged and went backwards. When 2020 showed up God was like, ok time to rip off the band aid. It has been a year of absolute deconstruction of the unbiblical teachings in the word of faith and prophetic movement and a reconstruction of the biblical truth I knew. Last month God brought an unexpected friend into my life via Instagram that has made this 2020 journey so much better. We have shared our stories of coming out of deception and we talk about and study the Word together. It is such a blessing to have a wonderful friend who is on the same journey I am.

Two friends, yep, just two. We can focus on some ‘need’ to surround ourselves with lots of people. Many times acquaintances we call friends, that there is not much depth with. We would all do well to ask God to bless us with the right friends instead of many friends.

I am thankful for all the people throughout the years God has had in my life for His purpose. 2020 has been a year where family has meant more, friends are few, really just two, but the two I needed this year. Take some time today and think about the people who have helped you through this year. Send them a text, maybe even a card and just say thank you.

Count your blessings this week and enjoy Thanksgiving.

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Thankful for Jesus

As much as I hate to admit it, even with praying and reading my Bible daily I can forget about Jesus. Of course I think about Him when I pray and read but I often forget to be thankful for His sacrifice on a daily basis. I mean at Christmas we focus on His birth and His death and resurrection at Easter but what about the other ten months of the year?

The last two Sunday School lessons really hit me hard. Two weeks ago we talked about Isaiah 53 and the sacrifice of Jesus and yesterday we talked about what pleases God from Isaiah 58. Those lessons coupled with the songs we sang and the messages on being thankful just made me realize how much I love Jesus. They made me realize how many times I just don’t think about, I don’t remember and I don’t worship Him for what He did. I don’t feel condemned and I don’t feel like God is mad at me, I feel convicted. Convicted to think more on His sacrifice throughout the year. Convicted to read a chapter from the gospels every day, not just on my Bible reading plan.

I am thankful that Jesus left the splendor of Heaven to die in my place. Jesus who knew no sin took on sin so that I, so that you could be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. This Thanksgiving week I pray that the Holy Spirit helps me to remember the sacrifice of Jesus all year, to remember what it means for Jesus to be made flesh. I am thankful for Christmas and Easter but I want to remember the majesty, the sacrifice and the triumph of Jesus all year long.

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Developing a Bible Reading Habit

Have you ever subscribed to a reading plan on your Bible app and not finished it?
Do you ever get frustrated reading the Old Testament and just put the Bible down?
Do you skip Leviticus every year?
Does the thought of reading the entire Bible overwhelm you?
Do you find yourself not wanting to read at all?

If you’re like me, you might be a little discouraged after answering those questions. But don’t quit reading, it’s about to get better. I want to answer two general questions; why do we struggle with reading the Bible and what can you do about it.

I have subscribed to several plans on my Bible app and have probably finished three. I always just said maybe it’s that I’m not big on technology when it comes to Bible reading and study. I’m sure you have been in conversations like I have where something like the following has been said. “I just can’t find the time to read the Bible”, “It’s boring”, “I don’t understand it” and probably many other reasons as to why many of us don’t read our Bibles.

Pastors have preached series on how to study the Bible, how to get the most out of reading your Bible and plenty of books, articles and blog posts have been written discussing the topic. I’m definitely not saying anything ground breaking today but I do want to ask a question many of us don’t want to ask ourselves, Why do I struggle with reading the Bible?

Many would say they don’t have time but the reality is all of us make time for things we don’t have time for, we’re all experts at rearranging our schedules. There are parts of the Bible we will never fully understand this side of heaven and there are other parts we can gain understanding of with a little more time put in.

Maybe the foundational issue with the struggle to read the Bible isn’t about a lack of time or not understanding the text. What if it’s as simple as we never trained ourselves? Think about this, depending on when you became a Christian you may have years of established routine behind you. Bible reading isn’t part of that routine and when you’re first trying to fit it in, you’re probably going to miss some days. Chances are, when that happened you got discouraged and started to feel guilty as time went on the habit of reading the Bible never took hold.

You may be thinking, duh, everyone knows you have to develop the habit. The problem is, most of us don’t take time to develop the habit and that’s what the rest of this post is about.

I know lots of people start with the Gospel of John or jump into reading the Bible through in a year but I think one of the most helpful ways to understand the Bible is by going through the book, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders. Spending fifteen minutes everyday going through this workbook will give you a really good overview of the Bible. When you have a good overview of the Bible it will help you when you take the next step of reading the Bible through in a year.

Now, in reading through the Bible in a year I encourage you to use a physical Bible that you can write in and take notes, maybe even leave your phone in the other room to help you focus on your reading.

The Christian Standard Bible has an edition called the He Reads Truth Bible that I just got and I think it would be a great resource in getting to know your Bible. It has wide margins, book introductions, key Scriptures, charts, maps and two Bible reading plans. One plan takes you through the Bible in a year and each book has its own week by week reading plan with a going deeper section. A friend of mine has the She Reads Truth Bible, instead of charts and maps it includes devotions and she really likes it and enjoys the space for notes. I definitely recommend them to help you get into the Word.

It’s also helpful to use multiple translations such as the Christian Standard Bible, English Standard Version and New Living Translation (for devotional reading and clarity).

After you have done the 30 day overview and read through the Bible in a year I suggest studying through the New Testament one book at a time. This takes about three years and a couple of months. The idea is to spend a month in each book (splitting larger books equally over several months) to help you go deeper into understanding Jesus and the Christian life. I actually just started the three year plan and will be making and updating it monthly with resources I’m using to study. I will also be adding things to my Instagram stories during my studies.

As simple as it sounds, developing a pattern of Bible reading is the key. Set aside a specific time each day and stick with it. Take thirty days and go through the workbook then read through the Bible in a year and then deep dive into the New Testament over the course of three years.

I know that sounds like a lot, just take it one day at a time. I hope this has helped encourage you to develop a daily habit of reading the Bible and that the suggestions given will be useful in your walk with the Lord.

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Ask the Hard Questions

Every now and then we need to take inventory of our spiritual lives. We need to evaluate if what we believe is still the Jesus of the Bible. I know that sounds strange but let’s look at two passages of Scripture to see how we could fall into following stuff instead of Jesus.

The first passage we will look at is found in John six. I encourage you to read chapters six and seven but I am going to introduce the setting and pick up at verse fifty three. Jesus had just fed a multitude out of five loaves and two fish. The next day the crowd wen’t looking for Him and they asked Him what sign He would perform for them to believe in Him.

Do you ever just stop and think what was wrong with them? The day before they were fed miraculously and now they are asking Him what sign would He perform to earn their belief. Here’s a hard question we need to ask ourselves, how many times does God do things for us, yet we still doubt His faithfulness?
So the events unfold and they say, our fathers ate Manna, where’s your sign? And Jesus said I am the bread come down from Heaven. I AM being a reference to The Name given to Moses, Jesus is showing His deity in the statement. They grumbled at His statement and we pick up the story in John 6:53.

John 6:53-69 “So Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your ancestors ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?” Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who did not believe and the one who would betray him.) He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

The bottom line is, they wanted what Jesus could do in the natural, they were concerned with temporal things. But Peter said, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

To whom will we go and you have the words of eternal life. So many times we come to Jesus in word but our desires are only for the temporal. In Jesus name I believe I receive my healing. In Jesus name, money cometh to me, now! As a tither I am believing the Lord for, jobs and better jobs, raises and bonuses, checks in the mail….

Now Scripture promises that God will take care of our needs, there’s no doubt about that. But are we believing for needs or selfish desires. Look at these words in James 4:3 “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your own pleasures”.

It’s time to ask another hard question. Is the teaching I’m listening to encouraging me to go to Jesus for selfish reasons? Do I just want stuff or do I want Him?

Ask another hard question, if my church turned off the colored lights, turned on the house lights, dropped the stage production. If my pastor went from being the cool, relevant topical preacher to someone who taught through books of the Bible and dropped ninety percent of his personal illustrations, would I still find value in my church?

In Matthew 11:16-24 Jesus rebuked the cities where most of His miracles were done because they saw “the stuff” but they didn’t repent, they didn’t forsake their sin and follow Christ. Power evangelism is very popular these days. Pray for someone to be healed, tell them God loves them and thinks they’re amazing.

Ask yourself the hard question, is that really the gospel? Are you amazing or is Jesus amazing?

It’s popular these days to focus on the miracles of Jesus. But I challenge you to read those stories in context. Take a day to read the Gospel of John in one sitting, take three more days and read Matthew, Luke and Mark in one sitting. Discover the purpose of the miracles but more importantly focus on the message of Jesus. His message was repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Sadly, that is not the message of the modern day power evangelist or the modern day prophet.

Take another day and read Acts in one sitting. Go through the Epistles. Take three years and study through the New Testament.

Ask yourself one final hard question, why is it that the people who say God always heals,why is it that the people that have the anointing aren’t doing the very things they teach? Why is it that the prophets got 2020 so wrong.

These aren’t easy questions to face. Believe me, I know. Last September all the Word of Faith prophetic stuff I held to was being unraveled. I returned to it at the beginning of 2020 because I couldn’t take how hard it was to come to grips wit the falsehoods. But God totally blew up all those beliefs with the events of 2020.

I understand that this is hard for many people to even consider. I was taught and many reading this were taught if you question something that is doubt and unbelief. Paul commended those who searched the Scripture to see if he was telling the truth.

I know it will be difficult but go back to the popular faith Scriptures, the popular confession Scriptures and read the chapter and see if it changes how you view theScripture. Take your Bible and a dictionary and do your own study. Ask the hard questions. Is what I’m being taught leading me to the person of Jesus or stuff I want from Him? Ask yourself how accurate are these prophets? Are they saying substantive things or is it fluff that is general enough that anyone could apply it in any circumstance.

Jesus wants us to walk in truth. John wrote in 2 John that he had no greater joy than to hear people are walking in truth.

I pray that everyone reading this will be willing to ask the hard questions. I pray you will read and search the Scriptures, that you will reject falsehood, no matter how hard it may be and hold to the truth. If you do find that you have embraced wrong understandings repent and ask for the truth to be revealed. Begin reading the Bible to see Jesus, not find the next key to your breakthrough.

I pray this post has been both a blessing and a challenge to you. If you have a question or comment you can leave it bellow and if you would like daily teaching, thoughts and reflections you can follow me on Instagram @caseydbell

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Why The Reformation Isn’t Over

There are those who say the reformation is over. They say everyone believes we’re saved by grace. They say revival is coming, we need to partner with God and do spiritual warfare. Like Luther, I respond grace alone and faith alone. We don’t need to gin up revival or do a bunch of stuff to get God to move, we simply need to trust Him and be obedient.

There are those who say the reformation is over. They say doctrine divides. I hear Christians say, I believe the Bible is sufficient but I need something more. I need to encounter God, I need a prophetic word. Scripture says we have a more sure Word and that Jesus Christ is the Spirit of prophecy. I believe in Christ alone and Scripture alone.

Scripture alone was a hard one for me to fully take hold of because even though I read and studied the Bible, I wanted to know the “prophetic direction” coming from the prophets, I didn’t want to miss conferences, even though I felt uncomfortable at times when I was there. It was hard for me to admit because after all, we didn’t believe prophecy was equal to Scripture and after all a prophet could “miss it” that’s why you test them. It took me a long time but I eventually realized how prophets and miracle meetings were taking my eyes and other people’s eyes off Scripture and off Jesus and putting them on to doctrines and preachers that never ended up where what they taught manifested. I’ve learned that Christ and Scripture truly are enough.

Lastly, we live for God’s glory alone. I don’t live chasing after glory or longing to see a manifestation of His glory. In Jesus dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily – that’s glory. I don’t need to see a glory cloud but if I did, I’m sure I’d be on my face in awe, not grabbing my phone to take a video.

I’ve learned so much since last September. Mainly that the reformation isn’t over. It was hard for me to realize that the charismatic/prophetic/faith movement that I walked away from was no different than the catholic church of Luther’s day, adding to Scripture and taking my eyes off the person of Jesus and the simplicity of Scripture.

The reformation isn’t over. As long as we need the next prophetic word, as long as we think doctrine divides and theology is dead. As long as we wait for the next manifestation of glory. As long as Christians chase after being commissioned by a prophet or recieving an impartation from their favorite speakers, the reformation isn’t over.

Sola Gratia – Grace Alone Sola Fide – Faith Alone Sola Cristus – Christ Alone Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone Sola Deo Gloria – God’s Glory Alone

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Charisma, Corona, Clarity

It’s been almost a year since my last post on the blog and prior to that, the last few posts were about how I was processing things going on in the charismatic movement. To do a quick recap, I wrote about my concerns about the Todd Bentley allegations. Since that time that process has been concluded and it ended with Todd exiting the process, Rick Joyner defending Todd and attacking the panel and ultimately the panel declaring Todd unfit for ministry. The issue with that is simply this, it proves there is little to no accountability in the prophetic movement.

I grew up listening to Word of Faith preachers. I never believed Jesus suffered in Hell, so I pushed that belief aside and just listened to the healing, faith and prosperity teaching. When I was young I didn’t understand the significance of that particular belief. I had heard people say that Kenneth Copeland taught the little gods doctrine, well, I didn’t believe I was a little God. Even when I heard him say, “when I read ‘I Am’ I just smile and say yes, I am too” I didn’t believe that either. When he me with the Pope several years ago and declared the reformation was over, I thought to myself, he doesn’t understand the reformation. So why in the world did I continue listening to him and others? That’s a good question. Honestly, the only answer is I was deceived.

For some reason we don’t realize that deception by its very nature means you don’t know you’re deceived. I was genuinely saved at nine years old. I spent time in the Word, I prayed read books, good and bad and followed lots of bad teaching. However, I knew God and the Holy Spirit from childhood all the way to my thirties let me know something was wrong with these things.

In one off my last posts I talked about watching American Gospel, watching Fighting for the Faith on YouTube and other things. It seemed like I had come out of false teaching completely. What happened? Proverbs 26:11 has the answer, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so also a fool repeats his foolishness”. I was so deep in the teachings, in the prophecies that’s how I functioned in my walk with God.

Ironically, yet not so much, because God is always watching out for His children, everything I learned from 2008-2012 wouldn’t leave me. During those years I wen’t to a charismatic Calvinist church that even though there was all the charismatic stuff it was more about teaching the Word. It was from Pastor Steve Solomon I first heard teaching on the sovereignty of God, the doctrines of grace and nine months teaching verse by verse through Romans chapter eight.

No matter how Word of Faith I was, the sovereignty of God continually exposed problems in my charismatic theology.
So last fall all the charismatic stuff began taking big hits because of the American Gospel Film, Chris Rosebrough, Justin Peters, Doreen Virtue and Melissa Doughrety. Yet there was still a pretty good chunk of the Charismatic defense wall Still standing.

Enter 2020 and all the grand prophecies…. Well that wen’t bust didn’t:t it. I don’t want to belabor this point so, to speak plainly, after all the rebuking, decreeing and declaring the virus is still here. Granted, it’s not as bad as certain people predicted but so many prophecies fell to the ground. The thing that bothered me the most was no one was taking responsibility for missing it. So with all this new inner turmoil I turned to Chris Rosebrough’s YouTube channel where he dealt with all these things. I ordered John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire and demanded that I take it seriously and research the Scriptures and be open to taking a hard look at Pentecostal and Charismatic history.

Everything came tumbling down. All this next level breakthrough, being in a new era – although it’s more like error. I realized the prophetic stuff was just like a dog chasing its tail. There’s no point. I started searching the Scriptures for the great end time outpouring and outside of Joel chapter two the only thing else I found was plenty of Scripture of false miracles, false prophets and not willing to endure sound doctrine in the last days.
Everything I was seeing in Scripture is completely opposed to the theology of Word of Faith and the manifestations and prophetic words of the prophetic movement. I saw that all the stuff that was “bringing me closer to God” was in reality leading me away from Him and to chase after experiences. Now the prophetic, signs and wonders guys will tell you we’re chasing after Jesus. But listen to them talk, it’s about them and their experiences.

I was saved at nine years old and began following plenty of wrong people. but in 2008 God planted the seed of His sovereignty in me and gave me a desire to study theology (which is a very negative thing in charismatic circles). This has been a long journey, that has worked out for my good. My prayer is that God will allow me to help others see how empty the prophetic words, conferences and the theology of the Word of Faith and Prophetic movement is. Jesus truly is beautiful and if you want to know Him, you won’t find Him in gold dust, hypnotic music, and great outpouring teaching. You will find Jesus in His Word with the help of the Holy Spirit who has already been poured out.

There’s no need to seek for more.
There really is no need for anything extra. That includes the Jewish roots. God loves the Jewish people and Israel is His land, that’s not what I’m talking about. I began noticing two types of Jewish roots teachings: one was heavily involved in prophetic end time stuff and the other got so into rabbinical teachings that Jesus seemed less and less central. I was gleaning from both of these. Why? Because I didn’t want to miss out on the move of God.

If you know Jesus, you’re not going to miss anything. If you’re caught up in all this, do yourself a favor, don’t ignore all those thoughts in the back of your mind that something isn’t right. Repent for chasing all this stuff. Turn back to Jesus, the Jesus who is found in the simplicity of Bible reading and study, a consistent prayer life, and fellowship in the local church.

I may share more from time to time on different aspects of leaving the Word of Faith and prophetic movements as well as looking at all the classic verses we ripped out of context. I pray these last few posts have helped you. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them just leave a comment below. If you would like to know more about the journey you can drop a comment below as well and follow me on Instagram or Facebook for the more day to day stuff.

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Timeless Truths

I recently finished two modern books that were based on ministers from the past. One book was based on a sermon from Jonathan Edwards and talked about the glory of God and the other was based from the writings and sermons of Charles Spurgeon during the Down-Grade Controversy.

Reading these books was an incredible experience simply because the messages were from centuries ago but they are still relevant to our time.

The first book by John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards is a two part book. The first part of the book tells Piper’s Introduction to Edwards, gives a biographical sketch and discusses his four most important works. The second part of the book is the complete text of Edwards’ sermon on The End for Which God Created the World.

The primary focus of the book is the glory of God. Living for His glory, preaching His glory, and understanding that everything is about and for the glory of God. We can get so caught up in our own lives, watching sports, taking care of things, even just checking church off the list that we forget about the glory of God. Piper’s story and Edwards’ sermon is a wakeup call to all of us to be reintroduced to the truth of the glory of God.

That brings me to the second book, Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Looks Like the World by John MacArthur. Now before you dismiss the book based on the recent dust up, don’t. This book is based from the life of Charles Spurgeon during the Down-Grade Controversy. What was the Down-Grade Controversy? It was during the later part of Spurgeon’s life when he stood basically alone against the shifting tide in the church of being more about plays and self help than solid Bible teaching. Spurgeon has much to teach us about what it means to live the Christian life and be part of a congregation that doesn’t water down or change the gospel. Regardless of your feelings toward John MacArthur, pick up the book and learn from the wisdom of the great prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

When reading MacArthur’s book, start with Appendix 1 to get a grasp on what the Down-Grade Controversy was about. I wrote this short post because like Spurgeon and Edwards, I am concerned about the Church in my day. We have become so “felt needs” focused, so concerned about having things that attract people in that by time we get them in we can’t keep them with the Gospel, it’s simply not trendy enough. In fact it is offensive to most of the hot button issues of our day. It’s supposed to be, Jesus said it would be. I’m encouraging you to read these two books because we need the wisdom and the sound doctrine of their time and we need to know that there are two “modern evangelicals” who preach the same thing Edwards and Spurgeon did and they are changing the world with a non-fluff gospel. It can be done. It was done by Edwards and Spurgeon and it can be done by us if we follow their example.

One More Thing

After you read those two books and will no doubt be inspired to read deeper, let me encourage you to do that. If you are inspired by Jonathan Edwards get the books Piper mentions and work through them. If you’re inspired by Spurgeon go to christianbook.com and type in Spurgeon on and insert a subject like prayer, Jesus, etc. and get a book or three by him.

C. S. Lewis said the following in God in the Dock. “There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is no more rampant than in theology…. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or the old, I would advise him to read the old… It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones…We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books….We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century….lies where we have never expected it….None of us can fully escape this blindness….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”(God’s Passion for His Glory, Piper, pg. 23).

The power of that quote will be demonstrated as you read MacArthur’s book and realize how much Spurgeon speaks to our day. If you choose to start down the path of old books, let me first recommend reading a biography of the minister. Iain Murray has written great biographies on many ministers of Old and is a good place to start. I would also recommend looking for devotionals by the minister.

If Spurgeon or Edwards don’t strike your interest read 131 Christians Everyone Should Know and you should be able to find someone to study from. You will also find helpful information in the Bible Study sidebar. The Christian Library has huge amounts of free documents, books and biographies. The Edwards, Spurgeon and Wesley Study Centers have sermons, books, letters and theological material of the perspective person that will be a great benefit if you choose to read and study their works.       

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Examining Beliefs and Avoiding Extremes

On August 30, 2019 I wrote a post on some troubling things happening in the Body of Christ and specifically some troubling things in charismatic circles. I made a statement towards the end of that post, make the determination now that Scripture is your standard. Regardless of what any of us have been taught, have grown up believing or hear in prophetic words, the Scripture must be our final authority.

Since writing that post I have continued in prayer and study over things. I have finished reading John Wesley’s sermons and have allowed myself some very honest questioning on some things I have grown up believing. I have always been a dive in type of person. That is good and bad. It’s important to allow yourself to question a teaching that doesn’t set right or a prophetic word that doesn’t come to pass, or one so broad that it doesn’t really say anything.

It is important to be a person of the Word and Spirit. The two extremes are; being so about the Spirit that we allow manifestations or revelation outside of the bounds of Scripture, the flipside is being so about the Word you shut yourself off to anything you can’t rationally explain.

As I have been praying and studying I found myself starting to drift to the extreme of almost letting go of what I know to be true from my Pentecostal heritage. 

As part of this journey I came across a film called American Gospel. While it has some good points on being gospel centered it went too far in being against prosperity teaching in general and not just the excesses. I came across Fighting for the Faith which has some great videos that helped me clear up some uneasiness I have had, yet, at the same time I disagreed with his critique of giving during the feasts.

As someone who enjoys studying theology and learns from a wide variety of people, the hardest thing I am continually learning is that you don’t have to fit a certain group. I enjoy listening to Dr. John MacArthur but I disagree with him on the gifts, the supernatural, and healing. I use what is helpful and I disregard the other. I listen to and have beliefs from the reformed camp, and I am Pentecostal and embrace the Jewish roots of the faith.

The key is, we must hold to the Word of God. When we are listening to someone who gets off in an area we need to acknowledge that. There are times when we will need to stop listening to people. Most of the time we just need to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

Believe in God’s will to prosper you but take authority over greed when it tries to come in. Pray for healing and miracles but if something does not happen the way you expect or in the timing you want, trust in God’s sovereignty and don’t allow the enemy to come in and create doubt. Be open to the move of the Spirit in unusual ways but test everything by the Word of God.   

*Please note that  this post is part of my journey in coming out of the Word of Faith and Prophetic Movement. The rest of my story continues in later posts.

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Thoughts on Recent Events

Two weeks ago The Lord instructed me to begin reading the sermons of John Wesley, so I pulled out the two double volumes and began with volume one, sermon one. Since that time there have been two high profile leaders renounce their faith and a international revivalist accused of some very dark stuff. I believe these events and as much as I hate to say it, others like them that will continue in the coming months, is part of the reason I am reading Wesley right now.

I have no desire to discuss these three situations. The truth is I didn’t follow their ministries or any of the ministries around them. In the charismatic/pentecostal part of the body I have grown up in there has always been lots of talk about a great end time revival. What we are seeing now is the beginning of a great end time apostasy.

My heart grieves for the Church right now, for victims, for those questioning their faith and I am praying for those involved. I am praying for people to have grace to repent and for leaders to have the courage to speak up and enact discipline.

HOW DID ALL THIS START

Granted I don’t and most of us don’t know specifics on things but speaking to the charismatic body of Christ I honestly believe these type of things have begun to take hold because we don’t have a strong theology. Pentecostal and charismatic believer’s are known for emphasizing revival, miracles and signs and wonders and that is our problem. Those things are supposed to be the result not the focus.

Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We all say that Jesus is the focus but if we are honest, much of the pentecostal/charismatic church quit focusing on Jesus a long time ago and started focusing on revival, crowd size and signs and wonders.

THE RESULT OF A SHIFTED FOCUS

Because there has been such an over emphasis on signs and wonders we have valued gifting over character and the spectacular over the steady. Do I believe in healing and miracles? Yes. Do I believe in restoration? Yes. Restoration to God, first and foremost.

My heart breaks right now because many members and leaders are taking the restore passage in Galatians six while totally dismissing the qualifications set for ministry in Timothy. This out of balance emphasis makes it seem like as long as your flowing in the gifts God winks at your sin. We have mistaken the mercy of God to give time to repent for his approval because signs and wonders are happening.

Hebrews 12:4-13 “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

WHAT DOES GOD VALUE

First and foremost, God values sons and daughters over their ministry. This is why Paul said I have turned such a one over to satan for the destruction of their flesh that they may be saved on the day of judgment. There are gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is more important. A tree is known by its fruit. Many have mistaken that to mean the fruit of ministry is signs and wonders. How can that be when Jesus said, many will come to me saying I prophesied in your name, I cast demons out in your name, yet I will say, depart from me I never knew you. Hebrews says without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Considering none of the qualifications of ministry list anything spectacular, I think if we are honest we would say as a whole the charismatic emphasis has missed the boat.

WHAT DO WE DO

The most important thing we can do is guard and examine our own hearts. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas in our own lives that are not pleasing to Him. In holding to standards of righteousness we must remember to do so in love and pray for those who have walked away or fallen to be restored to their relationship with Jesus.

As I have been praying for several days and reading different things, one thing seems to be clear concerning exposure of unrepented sin, this is just the beginning. Judgment begins in the house of God and we need to be ready for that. As believer’s we need to make sure our focus is on Jesus and not our favorite preacher, author, or singer.

As I said at the beginning, I have been reading John Wesley. He was known for preaching holiness and for teaching something called the middle road. Basically meaning, stay out of ditches. The pentecostal/charismatic world has fallen into a revival ditch full of signs and wonders. We need to quit looking for revival and look to the reviver. Our theological roots of holiness need to be revived. We need to put character over gifting and emphasize sanctification over supernatural manifestation. 

I am praying for the Church as things continue to unfold. I am praying for our faith to be rooted and grounded in the Word of God. I am praying each individuals faith will be able to stand the test that is coming as the idolatry of celebrity preachers, unbalanced teachings and more are exposed in the coming months. 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As things continue to be exposed in leadership and in your own life, make the determination now that Scripture is your standard. Unfortunately we have already begun to see people walk away from faith and this will continue. If ministries you support or your church puts someone’s gifting over their character, make the decision now that you will walk away. If you have to choose between holiness or healing at your church or in a ministry, choose holiness. I believe there are some emotional days ahead for many; keep your eyes on Jesus, meditate on the Scriptures, pray, walk in love and worship Jesus and you will make it through the house cleaning that has begun.

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Bible Study Tips

I just finished reading through the New Testament, which got me to thinking about Bible study. Bible study isn’t boring and knowing theology isn’t just for preachers. Granted pastors should go deeper and spend more time in study do to the fact that they are teaching a church, however study is for the believer. In this post I am going to share a few ways I study and a few things you can do to make your Bible study more meaningful.

Most of us have a Bible APP that gives us a verse of the day and that’s fine but we all know we need more than just one verse a day. The same kind of thing is true for studying the Bible. If you’re going to study verses, read the chapter. If you’re going to study a chapter, read the book. Context is key and honestly, I think we get more out of Scripture when we at times purposefully set aside an hour or two (the same amount of time as a movie) and read a book of the Bible in one sitting.

Most of us don’t know Hebrew and Greek but there are tools out there like the Strong’s Concordance that can give us the meaning of the original language. It’s not necessary to look up every word of a verse that you’re studying but there will be times when your interest is peaked and you’ll want to dive a little deeper into the meaning.

I probably should have started with this but pray before you read and ask Holy Spirit to teach you. That’s His role in our lives, so we need to ask Him for that help.

Always take notes on what you’re learning or thoughts you have while you’re reading. One thought can develop at a later time and become a great study.

Phones can be helpful when it comes to finding a verse but have a real, leather bound Bible you use to study out of. It cuts down on distraction, ( which reminds me, put your phone on silent). When we sit down to study we need to give that time and God the respect of our attention being on Him.

Use different translations. I recommend using a good “word-for-word” translation (NASB, ESV, NKJV, MEV) and a “thought-for-thought” or Paraphrase as well (NIV, NLT and The Message). When you study you should have at minimum two translations to look at. I also recommend the Amplified Classic Edition Bible and The Passion Translation. If you like to use a study Bible I would recommend the Spirit Filled Life Bible and the Life Application Study Bible.

Take your time when you study, you won’t always finish a study in one sitting. Allow time to meditate on what you are getting out of your study. Talk to friends about what you’re studying and see what they get as well.

You can take a look at the recommended reading page for Bible Study tools and other books. As you study the Bible, include a study of the history of the places you are reading about to get a more complete understanding of what is going on. Make a general study of church history and theology to help you better understand the text.

One last thing, have a spot that is designated for study, make it comfortable, have your stuff all in one place so you can get immersed in going through the Word, running references, looking up words and getting to know the people in the book. It may take a few times to really get into study but one day you’ll look up and realize you’ve been sitting there for three hours and only think it has been fifteen minutes.

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Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood

Go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations, these are probably some of the most familiar words to the Christian’s ears. We know these words under the banner of the great commission found in Matthew twenty eight. We know these words, we hear these words preached but what about the words of Acts 1:8?

Acts 1:8 NASB “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

I’ve been thinking about the Church lately and how we are able to reach the world in so many incredible ways. I’m not even talking about the big churches and ministries either, we all have an ability to have a wide reach through social media. Relatively unknown churches can have huge on line viewing numbers. As great as all this is, have we been so focused on all the world that many of us have forgotten our own neighborhoods? Have churches become so missions minded that we have forgotten our own cities and states?

I believe we should do everything we can to reach the entire world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us should support missions and ministries. That being said, each of us live in a neighborhood, attend church in a certain city and have several personal interactions on a daily basis at Starbucks, the grocery store, on your Target run or any other number of places. This is where we can be personally effective. When we build relationships it enables us to lead people to Jesus and most importantly disciple them.

The Church has been really good at making converts and church attendees but we haven’t majored in discipleship. We need to get to know people, invite them to church and cultivate a friendship with them. We need to grow together spiritually as local bodies of Christ.

I am so thankful for the emphasis on going into all the world. We need to keep doing that. Along with that though, maybe it’s time for a renewed focus on reaching the neighborhood we live in and the cities our churches are based in.  

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From Revival to Discipleship

The last few weeks the Lord has been talking to me about my desire and my prayer for this generation and the next. I have said the last several years that I am a person about revival, I want to pastor a people of revival. The Lord began to speak to me and say you are not a person of revival, you are a person of discipleship.

To be clear, I love revival, revival is necessary at times and revival is biblical. What the Lord showed me though was, revival without discipleship will not produce lasting fruit. Revival has the root of revive. Revive means to restore to life or consciousness, to give new strength or energy to, and to restore interest in or the popularity of.

Revival is necessary, but if we are constantly needing to be brought back to life or to be given new strength every week, or need our interest restored in the things of God we are missing it somewhere. this is when we need to go from revival to discipleship.

We can all hit dry times, miss some days of bible reading and things like that, but that is not fixed through revival it is fixed through discipleship.

To be a disciple or be discipled means that we are a follower of Jesus, one who follows His Word and lives how he lived. When we become a people of the Word, when we study the life of Jesus, when we study the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament we learn what we are to live as, we discover who we are in Christ and we discover the path to victory laid out in Scripture.

There are always needs and times of refreshing, but to try to live from a place of revival instead of the place of daily following Jesus, is to miss the beauty of the Christian life. Revival is wonderful but revival achieves its purpose when it leads to discipleship. A daily time of prayer, worship, reading and a deep study of the Word. Reading Scripture is great, we are changed when we study it and allow its truth to take deep root in our hearts and spirits.

Ephesians 4:21-24 NASB “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Romans 12:2 AMPC “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”

I love revival and moves of God. I love great worship services. Let passionate worship cause you to pursue the person of Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation the Word reveals Jesus because the Word is not a book it’s a person.

John 1:1-5 NLT “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

If you have been a person of passionate worship, don’t lose your worship ask Holy Spirit to add to worship and unending hunger for the Word of God. If you are passionate in prayer, begin praying passages of Scripture. If you long for signs, wonders and miracles, remember the foundation of those things I’d the Word of God.

I am a very passionate person, I love the passion my generation walks in. I am someone who is quick to follow where I see God moving. I’ve also learned I have to be careful. The river of God is made up of many streams and just because God is moving in amazing ways in one stream does not mean I am supposed to be over there. Unity in the body of Christ does not mean we all do everything. True unity is me operating in my call and gifting so and celebrating the guy next to me who is doing something completely different.

The disciples came to Jesus one day and said that a group of people were baptizing but they didn’t walk with them. Jesus’s response was let them baptize, if they aren’t against us, they are with us.

Regardless of what stream you are in. Whatever your passion and call is, make the Word the foundation of your life and what you do. When revival happens, praise God and flow in it but move into discipleship at the right time.

There have been many discussions and books written about why particular revivals died, stopped, or gradually dissipated over time. I believe the answer in a nutshell is that those revivals became about the revival and not about discipleship. Many revivals have in turn lead schools of revival, when really we need to lead schools of discipleship.

The Apostles didn’t go spread the fire of Pentecost, they spread the gospel and made disciples. Love the move of the Spirit and remember the Spirit was given to us to help make disciples.

If we put Mathew 28 and Mark 16 together, we make disciples through teaching and that leads to new tongues, laying hands on the sick, and casting out devils.

Today’s ask for a new desire for the Word of God and to hear the Word taught, ask for a hunger. Spend time in places like Psalm 119 and Proverbs three and four. Develop hunger by reading the portions of Scripture that talk about its power and promise.

I do pray that you are revived today if you need it and I pray that the reviving will lead you to the Word so that you can be sustained and begin to grow. Become a healthy believer with a steady diet of the Word.

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Theowhat?

I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a mocha and a water, staring at this screen with my heart full about what I want to write today but I cannot come up with a good opening to capture your attention. I’ve been a Charismatic Christian all my life. I believe God still speaks today, in healing, prophecy, even unusual feelings such as goosebumps, falling down, etc.

With this wonderful introduction I am just going to state what’s been on my mind the last few days concerning my tribe in the body of Christ. I think many in the charismatic, prophetic, healing and such streams have become focused on experience to the point we have a lesser focus on Scripture and making sure our experiences are theologically sound.

I am all about experiences, I believe in experiencing God but I have watched some services lately that have had little Bible teaching in them. There has been round about talk from Scripture but no direct teaching. On the other side of this coin there is much Scriptural teaching on all that God will give you but little emphasis on magnifying God in our hearts, daily worship of Him, and the importance of delighting in God for God Himself.

Charismatics tend to dismiss theology, saying just focus on Jesus. But if your understanding of Jesus is simply based from experiences at events and not firmly based in Scripture, the “Jesus theology” you have may not be biblical.

The New Testament warns us about false teaching, false prophets, and other wrong interpretations of Scripture. While we like to focus on our experience and experience is good our first priority must be the Word of God, the Bible.

Theology is good! Let me say it again, theology is good. A right and thorough study of Scripture is important, it is the thing that will keep us from false experiences. The devil comes as an angel of light to be able to deceive. That deception will be easy if your relationship with the text of Scripture is shallow.

We know that Jesus is the Word made flesh, that should mean the written Bible is of utmost importance to us. If you see theology as dead and dry it isn’t. Men like Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards reached thousands in one service in the days before technology and social media. Those men walked in power that our generation hasn’t touched. Charles Finney who is known for theology and lectures would walk by people and they would cry out in repentance. When was the last time one of us had that happen?

Reading theology, old books, and even old sermons have the ability to draw us closer to God unlike the books of our day. With all due respect to our generations, books of old carry more of a weight and honor of God than the vast majority of our books. The books of old and books today written in that same manner go to the deep places of the Bible.

Encouragement is important but so is challenging ourselves and searching out the deep things of Scripture. It is just on my heart this week to encourage us all to go deeper in our relationship with God. Go deeper in knowing the person of Jesus. Get a book of sermons by Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards. Ask Holy Spirit to take you to deeper places in the Word. An experience of feelings is wonderful but nothing compares to the deep study of the Word of God. Scripture can touch the believer deeper than any feeling in a worship experience.

Understand, I’m not against experience, we just need to be based in the Word not experience. When we have a solid Biblical foundation, alarm bells will go off when we read a book that doesn’t line up with the Bible. Jesus is first experienced in the depth of His Word. Take time today to read Psalm 119. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible and it’s all about the Bible. The Word of God is eternal and will change our lives. A deep understanding and study of the Word (theology) will lead to a fuller, deeper and more stable experience.

Challenge yourself this year to read a deep book, don’t go fast with it, read it slowly, study it, read it with your Bible. Go deeper in God by going deeper in His Word.

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Walking with Jesus

It’s a funny thing being a Christian. You get saved and you start this journey of living like Jesus. The Bible calls this being a disciple but it seems as time goes on we tend to forget Jesus. I know we would say that’s not true but if we’re honest at one time or another all of us would have to admit that we’ve fallen into the trap of just going through the motions. We do our checklist: go to church, pray, read the Bible and maybe a few other things.

Martin Luther once said “Everyday we need to be reminded of the gospel because everyday we forget it.”

Matthew 13:52 NLT “Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.“”

As Christians we can develop a mindset that the gospel is basic, it’s the beginning and once we grow a little that the birth, death and resurrection is just something we know. When it comes to our daily walk with Jesus, the life of Jesus and the major events of incarnation (the birth of Jesus), His death and resurrection need to continually be a source of meditation and comfort.

As we walk with Jesus we need to pray that we don’t just see black and red words on white paper but that the words we read become alive to us.

John 1:1-5, 14 NLT “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

When we grab a hold of the truth in that passage our Bible reading will never be the same. Our relationship with Jesus will never be the same.

God is so vast, Jesus is so vast that no matter how many years you have read and studied the Bible there is always more to learn. When we are firmly planted in Truth – God’s Word – our growth will never get off the right path. There are new things to learn and those new things will always line up with Scripture.

An everyday relationship with Jesus will connect things that we have been taught don’t go together. I have really been seeing that the last few days in my own walk with Jesus. We have to be willing to get out of our natural minds and see the unity in the spirit.

We all find ourselves at times going through the motions. We find ourselves reading and not getting anything out of it. We find ourselves praying and feeling like our prayers are hitting the ceiling.

Take a moment today and pray the two passages of Scripture I mentioned. Pray that how your relationship with God started will be connected to your present and that joy would rise in your heart. Pray that it would no longer be words on paper but you would receive life when you read the Bible.

One of the keys to getting out of a spiritual slump is to not give up. Go revisit the gospels and Paul’s letters again. Pray that as you read it would be life and encouragement. Ask and receive understanding and strength.

An everyday relationship with Jesus will have ups and downs. The important thing is we don’t give up in down times and in good times we still move forward with tenacity.

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The Lost Key of Personal Growth

In today’s society of microwave mentality and (the new and improved) 280 characters or less Twitter world, many of us have lost the ability to read anything longer than one page long. As much as we have access to in this digital age, if we are honest with ourselves we would say most have become lazy, lies on all sides of media, group think, and lives of running around like a chicken with our heads cut off have robbed us of personal growth.

I am a firm believer in reading books. Even though e-books have become popular I still believe it is more beneficial to hold the book in your hand and have a pen in the other to make annotations. It is necessary in our day to encourage us to become readers again and specifically readers of three types of books; books that encourage us, books that cause us to think deeply and biographies.  

Many people are able to read for pure enjoyment or as an escape of reality, there is nothing wrong with that but along with that, if we want to grow personally, if we want to learn, if we want to become better people we will read good books, books that make us better people.

Most of my reading as you can imagine centers around books on the Bible and theology. While I believe it is important for all believers to read these type of things, from time to time, if you are not a minister, things that make you think deeply may be a book written by someone who has a different political opinion that you, or a book on psychology. if you have an interest in science or another field of study read those kind of books to help stimulate your thinking.

Biographies are amazing, we can read the good and bad in peoples’ lives. Reading biographies of great leaders also fit within the bounds of encouraging reading. I have found biographies to be inspiring, challenging and some are even very entertaining. Start with a historical figure you admire, and then move on to a biography of someone in your field that has accomplished great things.

If you are not a reader start by reading a book a quarter and as you become accustomed to reading move that up to a book a month. Once you have done this for a while you will develop an appetite for reading. You may even find yourself reading multiple books at a time. Next year I will read one biography a month along with whatever other reading I find myself doing. As you get in the habit of reading, make a list of books you want to read and maybe even the order you would like to read them. it can also be beneficial to set aside an extended period of time just to read books on a certain subject.

Even when you read for information you can find it to be relaxing. Why don’t you make an early new year’s resolution, whatever fits you, to read, whether it be a book every two or three months, or a book a month. Do yourself a favor in 2018 become a better person, become a more knowledgeable person, become better informed on things that interest you by reading more books.

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Reformed and Always Reforming

October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of what’s known as the Protestant reformation. I thought about doing a series of posts on the history and the theology that developed from the reformation but I will leave that to Ligonier and Desiring God. Instead I want to focus on why the reformation still matters, my connection with the theology, how certain things from its beginning need to be corrected and how we can walk in the spirit of the reformation today.

WHY THE REFORMATION STILL MATTERS:

Martin Luther and his 95 Theses are known as the catalyst of the reformation. The interesting thing is Luther wasn’t looking to start a new church, just reform the Catholic Church. When that didn’t go as Luther planned things progressed from there. Luther ignited a Biblical resurgence that was later carried by John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and my personal favorite, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and many others. I know many probably don’t read thick theological books or listen to theologically oriented sermons but we cannot have the practical without doctrine being established first and that is why the reformation still matters. Even if your church is Arminian/Wesleyan you still owe gratitude to Luther because without him, we would all still be in a system which base is not the Word of God but man-made extras. Yes, we have gotten off in areas as well, which we will address latter. There is no denying that through that point in history and the resurgence of the new Calvinism we began seeing in the early 2000’s hasn’t helped realign the Church doctrinally. I know the Church of today is all about practicality but if you don’t know and understand doctrine you will not know how to practically apply the Bible. You may not dive deep into the thick books but there are easy reads out there to help any level of study.

MY INTRODUCTION TO AND JOURNEY IN REFORMED THEOLOGY

My journey in reformed theology also known as Calvinism began in 2008. It actually began a little before that but I didn’t know it at the time. I had been listening to a radio broadcast from Pastor Steve Solomon since probably around the age of twelve. When I started driving I would go to his service on Saturday night then my church on Sunday mornings. in 2008 he started a series called Romans 8 in 2008. By late February of that year Riverwalk Fellowship became my home church. As Pastor Steve taught through Romans eight he mentioned two books; God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper and The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards. I got both books from the church bookstore and that was the beginning of my discovery of Calvinism. This lead to reading more books by John Piper and Charles Spurgeon and listening to Mark Driscoll and Dr. James White. I began following The Gospel Coalition and its writers. Pastor Steve gave me Charles Hodge’s three volume Systematic Theology and for the three years I was at Riverwalk I dove head first into Calvinism. I left Riverwalk to move to Houston which lead me down a path of joining the Nazarene Church and studying Wesleyanism for three years. You may be wondering how I could go from a solid three years of Calvinism to the opposite view, my answer, the sovereign plan of God to expose me to both understandings. It is interesting that one of John Wesley’s closest ministry friends was a Calvinist. Jacob Arminius said Calvin had written the best Bible commentary. We can allow ourselves to become so easily divided. John Wesley said if it wasn’t for the belief in predestination he would be a Calvinist. There are parts of both theologies I agree with but when it comes to Christian beliefs I am Calvinist in theology and Word of Faith in practical application. These two things seem opposed to many but I have come to understand that the truth of God’s word is not relegated to one group. We all understand in part and we need each other. I got away from theology for more practical application in the last few years but recently the Lord called me back to refresh myself in my theological foundations so I am revisiting those first books recommended by Pastor Steve.

CORRECTING SOME ERRORS:

Martin Luther and some other reformers should be honored for how they helped move the Church forward but we should not celebrate them because they have also hurt the Church as much as helped it. Later in life Martin Luther became vehemently anti-Semitic which is a problem. We have a Bible because of the Jews, our savior is Jewish and while we are not called to be Jewish, Paul wrote in Romans nine through eleven that we should not forget we have been grafted in to a Jewish root and the root supports the branches. If you have read this blog for a period of time you know that I embrace a Hebrew understanding of the Bible and I love Israel. All of us can make mistakes in our beliefs, hating the Jewish people was one of Martin Luther’s and it spread throughout Church history but in our day we are seeing a number of believers begin to love Israel and the Jewish people again and for that I say praise God.

Many of  the early reformers were not known for embracing the move of the Spirit but what has been termed the “new Calvinism” has. Pastors and teachers such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms and Mark Driscoll have been able to open up many in Reformed churches to the gifts and ministry of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that as time goes on many who hold to Calvinist theology will also see the truth in Word of Faith teachings as well.

WALKING IN THE REFORMATION TODAY:

While the reformation did give rise to a specific theology it must be that and more to us today. The reformation happened because things in that day needed to come back into focus, just as things in our day and in the past have needed to become re-centered on Biblical Truth. We have a tendency in the Church world to disregard the last move with each new move, that’s why a reformation becomes necessary. As we continue to get new light on the teaching of Scripture let us remember we cannot build anew if we get rid of the foundation.            

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Love: A breakdown of 1 John 4:9 – 5:21

Instead of writing a full blown post on God’s love and us loving others, I decided to let a particular passage, 1 John 4:9 – 5:21 (NIV) speak for itself, with a few thoughts from me.

 This is how God showed his love among us:

A –  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

[Because of salvation we have the ability to live as Jesus did through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may mess up from time to time but forgiveness is there and strength to keep going].

B – 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

C – 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

D – 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

E – 19 We love because he first loved us.

F –20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command:

G – Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

H – This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

I – In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

J – This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

K – For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

L – We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

M – 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

N – 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

O –12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

P –13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Q –14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

R –15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

S – 16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

T – 18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.

U –19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

V – 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.

W -And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

X –21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

[anything we put before God is an idol. Whatever we put first, whatever we think most about, that is the god of our life. If we set aside devotional time or prayer time for something else, that thing is an idol].

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