Friday, August 18, 2017

CLASS: “Authentic” Youth Ministry


Here is yet ANOTHER post NOT written by yours truly (why is it every time I say that, I keep hearing applause??)


This article is by Greg Reid
www.gregoryreid.com

I came from an unconventional background, and I lived an unconventional life and did unconventional ministry. I was an unconventional child, much to the concern of my very conventional parents. I tried to re-bury worms when it rained one day because they were coming out of the ground and I thought they would be cold. I cried for hours when I was 6 when I couldn’t find my neighbor friend, and my mom told me he had gone to Washington. She couldn’t figure out why I was so upset…till she figured out it was because I knew Washington was dead, and I thought she was trying to find a nice way to tell me what happened to my neighbor…

I remember my friend David had been brought in as an elder at our church and he kind of defined unconventional. He challenged “doing church as usual,” urged compassion for the less fortunate and irked people who felt inconvenienced by “problem people.” I heard about one meeting where the leadership was discussing whether to help “that family” again since they always seemed to be in need. 

David responded, “I know! Let’s just chain them to their beds so they can barely reach their food!”  I would have loved to have seen the shocked expressions…

At one point one of the other elders looked at David and said, “You don’t color between the lines, do you, David?” “There’s lines?” David asked in astonishment.

I get David. I get loops, cliffs, turnarounds, but lines? Not really.

I am allergic to “how to” things – especially “how to” youth ministry books. They’re kids. They don’t color well between the lines either, so I figured, let’s just get ‘em to color. If we get them to do Jesus colors, the lines will come.

Some years ago, God set me in the midst of a group of some of the most unconventional kids you could imagine: “barely saved,” as some would say – still smoking, sometimes going on drinking binges, often cussing, ripped jeans, pierced, tattooed and earringed, kids who often went home to abusive parents, occult families or just the streets. I wasn’t prepared for them – but I was completely prepared – to try to steer the  Jesus bus in the chaos and pain and crazy lives of my young passengers. I understood their hurt – the abuse, rejection, loneliness, crushing sin addictions.  
What I didn’t know was, how do I act around them? How should I talk, dress, behave? Do I become super-parent, taskmaster, schoolteacher or buddy, pal, “one of them?”
When in doubt, ask.

“So what’s the best advice that you can give me?” I asked one of our guys that was most honest and understood my heart.  He said, “Don’t blow your class.” I understood immediately. At that time, I was 33. I wasn’t 15 or 18. Or 40. Or 80 or whatever. I could look or act old or like a child but I was still 33.

Recently, we endured what I call the “Rob Bell glasses phenomena.” 


Note to readers from James - watch this video:
Rob Bell-Beware of this false teacher!

Video (15:08 min) by Todd Friel of Wretched





Rob Bell, the author and later off-the-reservation theological pariah, wrote a millennial-appealing book and did some DVD’s and soon became the de facto role model for a whole new generation of young youth pastors in the early part of the millenium. Soon, everyone was buying Rob Bell glasses, dressing neo-preppie college cool, speaking in short sentences punctuated with angst and profundity followed by long pauses, waiting for the heavy truth to wow the crowd. Short, round bar table to replace the dreaded and outdated pulpit,…iPad and/or MacBook replacing the Bible, which was found on the iPhone app… These guys were plugged in, wired up and ready to go…nowhere…which is where Bell went before plunging off of Heretic Cliff. It was all questions, relevance, the hip du jour trends…and eventually became Emergent Soup, leaving a lot of pretty sincere young youth leaders embarrassed by Bell’s betrayal and having to “rethink” coolness as calling and connecting. All of it was, in the end,  simply the sound of fashion, signifying nothing…

And I think we all go through this stage when we’re younger as we’re trying to find our identity. But really…seeing 70-year-old evangelists with a ‘fro…no.

The Impact of our ministry to youth is not the clothes we wear or the hipness we try to exude. It’s in the depth of our message and the realness of our love and care. If “imitating culture” was the trick, John the Baptist was a total failure. Wearing camel hair and chomping on locusts – definitely uncool.
On the other hand, we don’t want to alienate the culture either.  Missionary Amy Carmichael did the unprecedented when she began to wear the traditional woman’s Sari dress so as to better fit with the people she longed to reach for Jesus. western dress had tagged her as an imperialist privileged person. Wearing a Sari said, “I do care not to offend you. I do want to identify with you..”
It’s hard to find the balance. I think it is partly in Paul’s “I am all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 COR 9:22) and “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 COR 10:31).   It’s not to impress. It’s not to be cool. It’s not to be something else. It’s to do what God wants.

And that’s almost always just about matters of the heart. If you’re insecure, you might tend to act and dress to impress. If you were the uncool kid, you might act and dress to PROVE you’re cool. I pray God gives you the grace to avoid all of these things. Just be who God made you to be!
Here’s one key: Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” Simple, isn’t it? There’s no trying, no struggle, no regrets and no one-upmanship. I am just who He made me to be. Be imitators of Christ, not of the world, not of the culture, not of the newest hip worship leaders or motivational “preacher.” Be who God made YOU to be.

I don’t know who said it, but I’ve taught it to many, many of my youth over the years (if it’s you, let me know and I will credit you, because it’s just so great!) but here’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever heard on this:  “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”
A
s youth pastors, you may be expected to dress up for church events: when you preach, when it’s a special event like Christmas or Easter. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by showing up in ripped jeans and an old Iron Maiden t-shirt. “But I’m not a coat and tie guy!” You’re missing the point. You are all things to all people so you can by all means save some. Even church folks. Get it? It’s not about dress. It’s about the heart. You showing up in radical youth clothes on Sunday is a message: “ I don’t care what you think.” That’s a pretty good way to cut short your stay as a youth pastor.
Tattoos aren’t a great way to “relate” either. I know everyone is getting them. And I will leave the debate about whether it is scripturally allowed or not for another day. I do have a couple of thoughts, though. One, remember that when you get older, everything shrivels and sags and colors fade, and your radically awesome angel will eventually resemble a chunky midlife hippie with receding hair and mysterious lesions on his face…

And if you are getting it to impress others with your coolness, why? And if you’re getting it to impress kids in your youth group with your coolness, how does that model Jesus, bring them closer to Him? How does it model separation from the world? Just a thought for those honest enough to ask themselves these questions. Simply put, what is your real motive?

So how do you dress and still be yourself? Well…dress like you dress, unless (1) It’s offensive or (2) You’re asked to dress otherwise. Other than that, my best counsel is this: dress to minimize attention to YOURSELF. Don’t let anything distract from the message of Jesus. You’re a vessel for the glory, don’t TAKE the glory. It’s ok to look nice, or fun, even hip, but don’t dress to impress. Dress to decrease so He might increase. That means not being decked out in Armani everything and Ft Knox gold hangings that get more comments than whether your message changed anybody. And don’t dress like a slob either. It’s not grungy or classy that counts but what is in your heart’s motives, and whether you are working to become the backdrop to the real star of the show – Jesus.
In the end, kids won’t remember your cool tattoo much. (Unless if was a cheaply done lion head that now resembles a leaf…) They will remember some of your messages, many of your out of the pulpit words, some simple but profound words from God, but mostly, whether you really loved them, and were there for them in that crucial and painful time called adolescence. But most importantly, your prayer should be that they will remember Jesus.

Be who you is – uniquely, warts-and-all you – and avoid the traps of dressing or talking or acting like a kid to impress them with how well you can “relate.” They will see right through it. They’re not looking for someone LIKE them to party with them, but someone different from them to LEAD them. 

Don’t stoop to the world to find tricks to impress or clothes to draw attention to yourself. Help youth step up to the kingdom world where it’s not what you wear, but who you are in Jesus that is all that matters.

Don’t blow your class.
Gregory Reid
www.gregoryreid.com

For more on youth ministry according to Greg Reid, check out this article as well:

YOUTH PASTOR or YOUTH DIRECTOR?

Another note from James, for more about this, check out this article regarding who you are in Christ, your spiritual I.D. as it were:


IDENTITY INDELIBLY in CHRIST

Saturday, August 5, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: JESUS KNOWS ALL - JOHN 4:16-19

JOHN 4:16-19
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

The LORD Jesus is having a dialogue with the Samaritan woman. Thus far, He has asked her for a drink and she has become somewhat contentious, asking why He, a Jew, would have anything to do with her, a Samaritan - to say nothing of the social barriers that were in place between men and women.

He then mentions this "living water" that He offers to those who ask Him (vs. 10), to those who recognize Him for Who He is. She is still thinking in the natural however, considering the advantages of such water that would enable her to never "thirst again", but nevertheless is soliciting this from the LORD (vs. 15).

It is here that He beckons her to go and get her husband. Note that: the LORD is interested not only in this woman's salvation, but also that of her supposed husband. That is the heart of the LORD. The salvation of souls, as well as the redemption of entire families as each member places faith in Christ for themselves (ACTS 16:31), an institution that He Himself created (GEN 1:22) - and this institution is being dismantled today in the politically correct methods of perverting this sacred entity into forms that are both confusing and counter-productive if not to human proclivities, then to God's plans.

The woman then replies, indicating that she has no husband - and she isn't lying! As the LORD Himself reveals, she has had FIVE husbands, and has apparently given up trying to find the perfect man to marry, and is instead 'shacking up'. 
Again, this is the way of our modern society as well. For whatever reasons, more are living together, and by the biblical standard, committing fornication.

Sex is not dirty - it was created by God for man and woman, not only to instill a matrimonial union through intimacy, genuine love, caring and commitment to one another, but from that blessed union, create a family. Sex is not an amusement to be proliferated freely with just anyone, but with one and only that a person vows to remain committed to for life. This vow is ably fulfilled but only by those who possess the Spirit of God Who alone can enable us to fulfill it according to His approval. But I digress . . . 


Jesus knows her, knows all about her and her entire life, from birth to death and beyond (JER 1:5). This is the focus then of today's devotional instruction.
We as saints, true born again believers in Christ by grace and faith may on the one hand take profound comfort in this truth. At the same time, this truth should instill in us a sense of humility and reverence.

We derive comfort in knowing that no matter what trials, struggles, heart-ache, depression, loneliness, injustices, what have you - Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith knows all about it. In fact, long before we ever encounter these difficulties, long before God even created all things, He knew of every circumstance and situation we would ever face: and in His grace, mercy and almighty power and wisdom, provided an answer to these dilemmas. All He asks is that we trust Him, wait upon Him, and receive - in His time (whether that time is here on Earth or in eternity) - the answers.

We have comfort in knowing that the Almighty is All-loving towards His children (JOHN 1:12) and wholly trustworthy. Because of His Almighty power, we have confidence that He is able to do ALL things for us; because of His nature of love and holiness we know He has the purest and best motivation in His provisions for us, to the glory of God.

We should also have a deep sense of humility and reverence for the LORD because of His omniscience ("all-knowing") ability. He knows not only what we say and do, but what we think, perceiving even more deeply than we ourselves are able, the deepest intents, inclinations and motivations of our hearts. Consider Peter's denial that he knew the LORD, even when he vehemently denied beforehand that he would ever do such a thing!
He did deny the LORD, and Jesus knew he would (MATT 26:34-35).

He knows all that we do in ministry to the LORD, His church and this lost world. He knows our works (REV 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15) and will reward faithfulness (not necessarily success; see MATT 25:21,23) in such service that is according to His will and plan for our lives (JOHN 15:1-10).


We ought to examine ourselves (2 COR 13:5) and seek the LORD on issues of our hearts (HOS 10:12), allowing His holy light to shine into the deepest recesses (HEB 4:122 COR 4:5-6); and reveal that which brings offense to His Holy and tender heart, and implore Him to purge us of these things (2 TIM 2:21).
Jesus knows what we do in the dark, when no one is watching. The enemy whispers in our minds, "No one will ever know . . . "


And of course that is a bold faced lie - God knows and sees all! Even if no one else knows, the One Who is the MOST IMPORTANT will know, and this should inspire in us a kind of holy dread and fear of God (ISAIAH 66:2) as well as for the deplorable sinful nature of our fallen state (ROM 7:18).

I think it was John Wesley that said, "Give me 100 men that fear naught but God and sin, and I will overturn England!"


The lost souls of this world should rightly fear God in the deepest sense for His absolute and undeniable knowledge of all that they say, do and think. Unlike the saint of God, they have no refuge in which to hide from the judgment of God, but must face the Holy Law of God and be utterly condemned by it - no matter how moral or religious or righteous (in their own eyes or in the estimation of others) they may be.

A friend of mine told me he was sharing the Gospel with a stranger he met at a coffee shop and when he pointed out the demands of God's Law for sinless perfection, he asked what he would do once he faces God on Judgment Day. This stranger replied, "Oh, I'll just lie to Him."

Utterly blind!


There is only one refuge, one source of salvation, one means of a safe retreat from the incontestable, incontrovertible Judgment of God and that is the atonement for our sins through the act of grace by the LORD Jesus Christ on Calvary (ROM 5:1-16), Who bore not only all of humanities sins, but also God's Holy Wrath upon those sins (ROM 8:2-3)!! He willingly offered Himself (JOHN 10:17-18; PHIL 2:6-8) on our behalf, to suffer and die for our sins (which rightly would render to us eternal death and separation from the ONLY Life Source in all creation - God Himself). Yet not only did He pay the price for our sins, He then offers to us ETERNAL LIFE by His Spirit of Life. Our Blessed Redeemer!

By this paramountly priceless act, through His precious blood, He delivers to us this deliverance from sin, death and hell, transforming us from condemned sinners into consecrated saints! 


Are you saved or not? Jesus knows.
For those of you who are not yet saved, answer this call to repentance, for today is the day of salvation for you (2 COR 6:2)!

For those of us who are already saved, remember that in the very steps and course of your lives: all the blessings and burdens, from the heights of joy to the depths of sorrow, and every experience in between, Jesus knows!
Let us trust ourselves to and rest in the everlasting arms, and in those nail-pierced hands that created the universe with such omnipotent power and yet handles us with the tenderest of gentleness.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: LIVING vs. WELL WATER - JOHN 4:10-15

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.


JOHN 4:10-15
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

When we last visited Sychar, we were listening in to the conversation between this Samaritan woman and the LORD Jesus. He had just asked her for a drink of water, and she was amazed at this request. The LORD responds to her reaction here in vs. 10.

She doesn't know anything about who Jesus is, other than that He is a Jewish man; and because she doesn't really know who He is, she can't possibly know the gift that He bears: living water (JOHN 7:37).

She is of course clueless, not at all understanding what our LORD is expressing to her. She is thinking purely in physical terms, and wonders how He could draw any water from any well seeing He has no bucket to retrieve this "living water" with. The LORD encountered such 'clueless-ness' even among His own disciples (MATT 16:11; MARK 7:18-208:20-22; JOHN 4:31-34).
Yet the LORD draws His water from a source far, far deeper than the deepest well in all the world. He draws this spiritual nourishment from the depths of His own heart! The heart of God, so holy, so magnificent, so quintessentially awesome and wondrous that it will take the saints all of eternity to plumb its depths (and never reach bottom!!) and discover the glory and joy that is God Himself (2 COR 3:17-18; 4:6-7).

She then asks Him the obvious question - "Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well, and drank of it personally?"
Once again, she is expressing ignorance of Who it is that is sitting on that well, conversing with her.
The obvious answer is, "Yes!" He is God Incarnate, the very GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - but the LORD doesn't say this to her. Note that: He is leading her gently along, carefully guiding her to the truth.


How different is this approach than the one that He used with Nicodemus in the preceding chapter. With that man, the LORD gave him both barrels, full blast. And this is the way the Spirit leads us, utilizing different methods on different occasions with different people. The fisherman is well acquainted with what kind of bait to use for what kinds of fish. And the LORD is making us into evangelistic "fishers of men" (MARK 1:17), and teaching us various approaches in declaring the One, True Gospel.  

The LORD then begins to clarify the discussion, making a distinction between physical water and the living waters He is offering to this woman.
Interesting, don't you think, that He Who experienced physical thirst, Who is the Living Water Himself, is offering this woman who suffers spiritual thirst the means to quench it?


He states that any who drinks of Jacob's well will thirst again. In that statement is the spiritual truth regarding all of the things of this world. We may quench our various worldly thirsts - hunger, thirst, desires, questions, lusts, loneliness, ambitions, goals with food, water, carnal knowledge, philosophy, training, education, marriage, family, morality and other means and they may satisfy for a while, even a long while - but they cannot quench the thirst that lies deep within: a spiritual hunger, a gnawing emptiness or "vanity" (ROM 8:20-21) that is, as it's been described, a 'God-shaped hole' that can never be filled with anything* other than that which was intended to fill it - with the Spirit of God, the Living Waters, Himself!

*A review of the book of Ecclesiastes will reveal the burdensome of this fallen world and how it weighs upon our weary souls!

Yet those who partake of the Living Water - for them, the quest for satisfaction, the yearning to have that enigmatic emptiness filled comes to a startling end, because of the embracing of the Savior! He alone can satisfy - and as I have said it often before: "In a world of deceitful, empty mirages, amidst the barren bleak deserts of parched souls, there is an O.A.S.I.S! Only the Almighty Savior Immanuel Satisfies!"

There are those who have achieved all that their hearts could wish, be it fame or fortune, or both and more besides. Once achieved they think that life will be full and they shall know contentment. This is often why Hollywood is full of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity - because these 'stars' have got it all - except that "peace that passes all understanding":
PHIL 4:6-8
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

The Samaritan woman still doesn't understand - because while she does ask to receive these living waters from this Jewish man, the reason she gives is so that she will  "...thirst not, neither come hither to draw..." She's thinking that she could save a lot of time and effort by not constantly having to fetch water every day!

How patiently the LORD is with this woman, gently lead her on, until she comes to understand Who it is that speaks with her.

The world has many different opinions about who Jesus is; I'm convinced that if you ask 50 different people you'd easily get half as many answers. Yet like this woman, until they come to understand Who He is, they will never seek that which He offers: eternal life both now, infused into us by His Spirit via spiritual new birth, and a living, vital relationship with God, not merely as Creator and LORD, but also as Redeemer and Friend!



Selah - Wonderful Merciful Savior








Monday, May 29, 2017

CHURCH ETIQUETTE: HOW CHURCH SHOULD BE DONE

This is not intended to be a dogmatic check-list on how church must be done, based upon my own personal preferences, but rather, upon what honors God and His Word which reveals how things should be done: “… decently and in order …” (1 COR 14:40). 

As we consider all the aspects of the church gathering, and all that this entails, we quickly realize we must talk about how we greet one another, conduct in the sanctuary, the ministry of worshiping the LORD, the ministry of the Word at the pulpit, in Sunday School, youth ministry, etc. And many other things besides.
As we are living in the last days and the apostasy is growing exponentially, we are witnessing a diminishing respect for the Word of God, and even – dare I say – for God Himself. And sadly, it shows in our congregations today! Yet God exalts His Word even above His own Name (And His Name is utterly Holy! See PSALM 138:2)! If the LORD God esteems His Word that much, who are we to ignore or disrespect it?!

Let us then examine the issues, see what the Scriptures say on these matters, and submit to the LORD and His ways.

When we come into the house of God, as it is often called, we should come with our hearts prepared to meet with Him. A sense of humility as well as excitement should be evident (AMOS 4:12; ISAIAH 2:3; 66:2). We should come with our Bibles in hand: too often we see Christians coming into the sanctuary without their Bible. I always bring what I refer to as my ‘buddy Bible’ – that is, the one that I most frequently read.
Why is this important? Because I want to record what I’m learning in its margins: jot down cross references given in the teaching, write down key words and phrases that will remind me of what I’ve learned. 

Just as the Israelites bound passages of Scripture upon them in their phylacteries, in a sense we bind the truth of Scripture in notes as the teacher elaborates on verses out of the Bible (DEUT. 6:8; 11:8). Scribes of both the Old Testament and New, were constantly recording teachings about Scripture, passed down to them from various rabbis. How much more so should we record in writing the teachings of our ‘rabbi’s’ – our pastors and teachers, these gifts of God to the church (EPH 4:7-12).

If you use a pew Bible, or simply follow along on the overhead, you can’t do this. How many times through the years, when getting a brand, new Bible, because my buddy Bible has worn out, have I carefully, meticulously transferred all my precious notes from the old one into the new one!
Yet before the teaching even begins, there is customarily a time of worshiping the LORD, which absolutely prepares our hearts to receive from the LORD His Word. Yet how often I have seen Christians come regularly late into the sanctuary, missing out on part or even all of the time of worship! Somehow they see the worship time as something to occupy the people until the important part of the service: the teaching. This idea couldn't possibly be more wrong! There are cherubim whose entire existence revolves around worshiping God 24/7. How much more should worship be a priority for us!

PSALM 96:7-9
7 Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. 8 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. 9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

During the time of worship, our hearts, devotion and attention needs to be settled upon God. We are not engaged in a song-fest about God, we are actually, genuinely interacting spiritually with and addressing personally, the LORD of heaven who is seated upon His throne, hearing our voices and song, receiving the honor of our worship. Worship leaders need to lead the worship by worshiping God, and not by coaxing, coaching and directing the congregation to do so. If the worship team is genuinely worshiping, it’ll be contagious, and the saints will worship genuinely as well. 
It’s been said, “He who worships, prays twice.”

We should understand that when we pray, we are addressing our LORD and worship is nothing less than that! Again, right now, as you read this, there are myriads of angels, seraphim and cherubim – these mighty, well-nigh god-like beings who humble themselves, prostrating and worshiping the LORD with the greatest of reverence (ISAIAH 6:2-4). Should our conduct, we who have been bought by the blood of the Lamb, redeemed from our sin, be any less?

One of the most significant problems I have during times of worship, is when with my eyes closed, hands raised to heaven, my voice and heart engaged in extolling and praising God, and someone walks into the sanctuary and stand next to me and nudges me with their elbow or extends their hand and says, “How’re you doing brother?”

The LORD is utterly worthy of every second of our attention as we bring our offerings of praise. For someone to interrupt that devotion, in my mind, is robbing God by getting my focus off of Him and onto another; even if it’s only for a moment. 
There is time for greeting one another, usually at some point either during, before or after the service; I don’t believe our ministry in the worship of God, in the very act of our devotion, is that time.

So often when the priests of the Old Testament were ministering in the Temple, the presence of God was so potent, that they couldn’t even move (1 KINGS 8:11; 2 CHRON 5:14)! Such was the wondrous atmosphere of awesome holiness, that I’m sure that they didn’t want to move! 

And in medieval days, when the king was on his throne in his courtroom and his subjects were in attendance while he declared some royal pronouncements, no one dared to speak, even in a whisper, while the king spoke.

The apostle Peter declared in his epistle how they heard God’s voice from heaven – and the experience left them on their faces, trembling. Yet he then told his readers that “we have also a more sure word of prophecy”, referring to the Scriptures (2 PETER 1:18-21). I recall how one old time TV preacher would read the Holy Bible on his knees before his televised audience.

And yet while the Spirit of the LORD is guiding the saints in worship of the LORD, the King of heaven and He is speaking to us through the Word being taught, I have too, too often heard people chatting, giggling, or any number of things, causing distraction among God’s people, who are trying to focus their attention on the Word of the King. 

Where is the reverence, where is the holy fear and trembling? Would these people fall off their chairs and reverence the LORD if they actually heard Him speak audibly to their congregation? And yet the apostle states that it’s the written Word – “that more sure Word” – that even God esteems more than His own Name, which we should give our pious and humble attention to.

And I must admit, that I myself engaged in such foolishness, in my younger days. This shows a disregard not only for the pastor, and even more so, a careless attitude towards the LORD. Some might think my assessment rather harsh, but considering Who and what God is, I don’t think so.

Another distraction is children crying or making a fuss in the sanctuary during the ministry from the pulpit, either in worship or Word. Therefore, the institution of cry rooms came to be: to ensure a distraction free environment in which the saints may focus, unhindered on what the LORD would speak. Again, letting everything be done decently and in order (1 COR 14:40).
The Holy Spirit's ministry is to draw people to Jesus, to exalt Him and direct our attention, our hearts, our lives to the LORD in our devotion - when babies or small children are crying, screaming or causing a ruckus, our attention is distracted from the LORD and the Holy Spirit is quenched (1 THESS 5:19). Is this an extreme view? I don't believe so.

Even in home Bible studies, we would often take up a little collection to pay a babysitter (if no family members were available) to care after the little ones while elsewhere in the house, or the house next door, the Bible teacher could teach without distraction.

It’s also why children’s ministry came into being: sadly today, unruly, undisciplined children seem to be the norm. The old motto of “children should be seen and not heard” is unheard of today.
My spiritual mother in the faith told me that when she was a small child, she and her only somewhat older sister were silent in church, attending to the teaching as well as they were able to at their age, but never thought of raising their voices, much less throwing a tantrum and causing havoc.

For this reason children’s ministry is a practical necessity today: ministry is designed to address them and their needs at their level of comprehension and discipline. I have been involved with children’s ministry, and it was as much a blessing for me as for the children. And it was always very apparent which of them were being taught the Bible at home, and which were not.

Yet there are parents who are adamant about not allowing their children to attend such Sunday School classes, and permit them to create distractions, even though people near them are having difficulty concentrating on the teaching. 

The creation of youth ministry is perhaps another matter: most adults read at a comprehension level of a 6th or 7th grade student. I tend to wonder if it’s really necessary for these youth, who can sit in a school setting for 6 hours or more a day, to have a special place in the church setting, when for all practical purposes, they could easily remain with the adults and comprehend what is taught just as readily as their elders. Considering what passes for ‘youth ministry’ today I’d say our youth are better off. However, thankfully, there are those blessed exceptions where the pastor of youth truly has a heart for these young souls.

There are some teens today look like they’re about to die of boredom in today’s sanctuaries, and routinely pull out their smart phones and commence numerous rounds on their favorite video games to keep from falling asleep (which others do). 

Have they no spiritual appetite? Is their knowledge and love for the LORD not being cultivated by their parents? I know that there are parents who feel inadequate to teach their own children, abdicate that responsibility on their children’s or youth minister, and somehow hope that their child will grow up to “fear the LORD”. Certainly there are those parents who agonize in prayer over their unsaved teens and young children – and I stand with them in their intercessions! There is a need to disciple parents in the faith, so that they may in turn be equipped to disciple their own children.

From the article, Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith, we have the following quote:

"Our fervent prayer is that God will raise up Spirit-filled, Bible-preaching, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family-fragmenting churches," McManus adds. "Plus, the church needs to begin to equip Christian fathers to communicate the gospel to their families. Today, Christian parents are beginning to realize that they have not fulfilled their spiritual duties by simply dropping off their kiddos to Sunday school and youth group, allowing other parents to disciple their children by proxy.
"Let's not forget the powerful words spoken by Moses in: 

DEUT 6:4-7
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

"It is the parents' primary obligation to disciple their own children, impressing God's commandments upon them in the home on a daily basis."

Something else that I find entirely inappropriate are people getting up in the middle of the teaching to go get a drink of water, or to use the restroom (barring health issues that some people have that require more frequent bathroom visits, the average healthy individual is well able to control their bladder for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour), or even go outside to have a smoke or talk on their cell phone.  

Speaking of which, how often we have been listening to the pastor speak when suddenly we all hear a ring-tone, and wonder whose cell phone just rang – more distractions! More quenching of the Spirit of God!
There have even been a couple of occasions where a congregant’s phone went off, they answered it, and began a conversation for all to hear, including the pastor who’s trying to communicate with the flock of the Good Shepherd!

The ministry of the Word goes on an average somewhere between 30 to 60 minutes, typically around 40 to 45 minutes. I will usually go for a bathroom break right before I enter the sanctuary for the commencement of ministry, and that will hold me over until the conclusion of the service about 98% of the time. I check my cell phone to make sure it’s off or on vibrate mode. And I always discourage people from talking to me during the ministry in the sanctuary.

Yet we can’t seem to give God our undivided attention even for this short amount of time?! 

There should be no reason, in the main, for the congregation members to leave the sanctuary or engage in behavior that causes distractions when the Word of God is being taught. Yet I have witnessed church-goers as I sat at the back of the sanctuary looking like a host of jack-in-the-boxes, getting up, leaving, coming back in, only to see others do the same.

Then there are those who seek to stand out, to draw attention to themselves, who participate in bizarre behavior but claim that “it was the Spirit that led me”. That is not being Spirit-filled! If you want an accurate portrayal of what a Spirit-filled person looks like, you need look no further than the LORD Jesus Himself. Too much foolishness takes place in our fellowships and then the Holy Spirit gets blamed (remember “Holy Laughter, Toronto Blessing, and that false teacher Rodney Howard-Browne, who referred to himself as ‘God’s Bartender’ – getting people ‘drunk in the Spirit’?).


Or they will stand out by dressing immodestly – I am not at all exaggerating when I say I’ve seen people dressed for church like they are going out ‘clubbing’. Some of them were professing Christians for many, many years. I believe the admonition for modest apparel is applicable to men just as much as to women (1 TIM 2:9).

I’ve seen even ushers who are supposed to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in a ministry, who are to never draw attention to themselves but to the LORD; but some of them dress in provocative clothing, either flashy or too snug, which can cause others to be distracted.

There are some that maintain a belief that church fellowship is for saints only; sinners are not welcome because it’s inappropriate for them to congregate with the body of Christ. They insist that such should receive the Gospel and subsequent salvation, being them baptized into the body of Christ spiritually, and then permitted to join the congregation.
As I see it, while we the church are in this world, and the buildings (whether public or our homes) where we attend fellowship are likewise in this world, that we should expect the lost who are seeking, to find the Gospel inside or outside ‘the church’. 

The distinction between the saved and unsaved should be recognized, but that by no means should disallow the lost from our places of fellowship – unless they are in some way bringing harm to the body. Certainly, they should never be given a place of ministry or position, but if they are willing to attend, a place should be made for them. Otherwise, how could we even invite such a one into our homes, if our family is redeemed – is not that family considered part of the church, and if so, then by the same reasoning, shouldn’t we disallow them from entering under our roof?

Besides which, unless God were to grant us absolute discernment, how could we possibly get rid of ‘unbelievers’ if they are professing Christ, attending service, seem to maintain a godly life style, but in truth, are not genuinely saved? There is a difference between what is called the visible church and the invisible. The visible church are members of professing Christians, who may or may not be saved, and anyone may join (this comprises a mixed multitude) and the invisible church who are members of possessing Christians, who indeed are saved because of the indwelling Spirit of grace that they possess, and He them, and no one can join the body of Christ except through spiritual rebirth and faith in Christ and His gospel. Consider MATT 13:28-30

I hope everyone who reads this article takes it in the spirit in which it’s intended. I sincerely do not wish to be overly critical of people and fellowships, but pray that we may all – myself included – consider our conduct, and our attitudes while congregating before the LORD, Who is in our midst, His church and body.

For more about this issue, see the following articles (note: this author does not necessarily agree with and, or endorse everything that is stated in these writings):

7 Church Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Know

Church Etiquette by Elliot Ivey

Church Etiquette by Tom Wilson

Church Etiquette – Manners


Saturday, April 29, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: WANTING A DEBATE - JOHN 4:7-10,19-24

 The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

In our dealings with this terribly lost world of blind souls, who cannot recognize truth on their own, we are often confronted with arguments and barriers. It is job #1 for the enemy to keep them in a blinded state, so that the Light of the LORD will remain unseen by them (2 COR 4:4). It is job #1 for us saints, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb by the grace (unmerited favor) of God, to declare the gospel, prayerfully seeking God's touch upon them (2 COR 5:20-21), that they may perceive the love of God for them (1 JOHN 3:16).

JOHN 4:7-10
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

Samaritan. The very word was disdained by pure bred Jews who looked upon these 'half-breeds' with contempt. These were Jews who were abducted and brought as slaves to Assyria (approximately 720 B.C.E.), where they eventually intermarried with the natives. This affected them socially, culturally and religiously and when they returned to the land (Samaria) they maintained much of their ways - much to the hatred of their Jewish neighbors, who would travel far out of their way in journeying from Galilee to Judea (or vice-versa), just to avoid going through Samaria.

Not so with the LORD Jesus: ". . . He must needs go through Samaria." And not just any place in that land, but into the very city of Sychar, a place possibly named so by contempt of the Jews to allude to "drunkenness" and, or "falseness" because the Samaritans were given over (to what the Jews believed to be) idolatry. And Jesus "must needs go through" - because He was on a mission.

Yet when He comes to the well, wearied with His long journey and thirsty- this Man asks a Samaritan woman for some water. She came to the well as that hour (around noon) and not in the relative coolness of the morning, quite probably because she was something of an outcast, and not welcome to the well by other women, who (correctly) perceived her as a 'loose woman' (see vs. 17-18). 


Yet this woman carries with her the cultural barrier between Jews and Samaritans; she questions why Jesus is even speaking with her, much less wanting to receive water from her. Yet the LORD would not be put off by her rebuff. He speaks to her of "living water" - that is, of Himself (JOHN 7:37-38). He beckons her to go and get her husband, and when she confesses that she has no husband, the LORD commends her for her honesty, declaring that she had previously had five husbands, and the one she was with was 'shacking up' with her. This is when she says:
JOHN 4:19-24
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

The shift from cultural and social barriers now turns at the direction of this woman to a religious one. This was no doubt, a long standing controversy and generational contention between Jews and Samaritans. She challenges Jesus on the location for true worship: Mount Gerazim, where the Samaritans contend that Abraham offered up Isaac (GEN 22) or Jerusalem - the location of long held conviction and historical veracity of Jewish worship. It seems an 'either/or' answer is what this woman sought of Jesus; not unlike the answer which the Herodians asked of Him concerning paying taxes to Caesar (MARK 12:13-14). Yet the LORD was not about to get cornered by such a question.
His answer to this woman was the same kind as with the Herodians: Neither the option of Jerusalem or Mt. Gerazim (A or B) was chosen, but C: the truth!

The revelation of God's truth and plan of salvation came from the Word of God Himself (HEB 1:1-8); the written Word was then entrusted to the Jewish nation (ROM 3:2) - salvation indeed is "of the Jews (vs. 22)" in that sense, but like the Samaritans, the children of this world (EPH 2:2-3), the tares planted by Satan (MATT 13:26-28, 38-39), the deceivers and false teachers (2 PET 2:1; 2 TIM 3:13) today want to blend in just a bit of truth with their do-it-yourself-religion, and the latest incarnation of this is the Emergent Church Movement or Emergence Christianity. It is abomination in the sight of God! In another article FROM The MIND of FIRE, I wrote concerning the pollution of God's Truth and Way of salvation:
"In EXOD 20:25 it states:
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

"The LORD Jesus Christ is referred to as 'the ROCK' in scripture, as well as that 'stone cut without hands'. I find it interesting then, that if any sacrifice is made on an altar of stone, its not to be of hewn (cut) stone, but natural; in other words any changing of the rock's appearance through human effort would pollute it and any sacrifice offered upon it.

"God will not accept any human design, imagination, efforts in works or elaborate religious creations in regards to the justification He Himself provides for the salvation of mankind!" And might I add He will not tolerate those who would make 'another Jesus' (2 COR 11:4) seeking to change the true and living LORD.
"In NUM 25:1-11 There is an account where Israel committed whoredoms with the pagan nation of Moab (this seduction was performed by the counsels of Balaam, who advised Balak to have the Moabite women go into the camp of Israel and lure their men); in the throes of erotic passions, the Moabite women would bring out their idols, and they would pay homage to these false gods.

This wasn't even done under cover of darkness, nor behind the backs of Moses and Aaron; note vs. 6:
And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Because of this, a plague from the LORD broke out among the children of Israel, but it was suddenly stopped. How? Did they have an ecumenical meeting with Baalpeor and the leadership of that nation? Did they have a consensus and seek out common beliefs so that they could dialogue and come to a mutually agreeable belief system whereby they could join together and form a peaceful religious association so that they might better their world?
No! Read in vs. 7-8:
And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

Harsh action? Cruel punishment? An unjust deed?

Listen to what the LORD had to say about this!
NUM 25:10-13
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
Because one man had the zeal, the love for, and awesome reverence for the LORD and His Holy Name, he took it upon himself to stand up for righteousness and bring a stop to the whoredoms and spiritual adultery that had infested the camp of Israel! He slew those who were guilty of High Treason against the LORD GOD Almighty, Creator and Judge of all the Earth! For that, the plague ceased at the command of the LORD, and He blessed Phinehas!"

Getting back to Samaria now, let's see how the LORD deals with this situation:
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Spiritual worship must be in accordance with truth as found in God's Word; not according to experiential subjectivity or 'what feels right, or good' as is the case with New Age style worship or meditation or contemplative prayer.
There are so many that when confronted with biblical truth say, "Well I believe . . . " and go on and explain their belief system based on their own understanding, information and a hodge-podge smorgasbord of pseudo-spiritual suppositions and dogma. Yet what sort of foundation is this? It is based on self and not Scripture, on one's own thinking rather than the Mind of God as so revealed in the Holy Bible.

Even so-called Christians tend toward subjectivism and will believe this about the Bible, and that, but refuse to believe this or that about the Bible - and as it has been said before: If you pick and choose what you will believe and won't believe about the Bible, then it's not the Bible you truly believe, but yourself!

If truth is sacrificed, specifically the objective truth as found exclusively in the Holy Bible, then worship is vain (MARK 7:7; MATT 6:7) and any relationship with God is unobtainable (ISAIAH 59:1-3).

In our dealings with the lost, we must stay on point, not allow distractions or deflections; our chiefest desire is to lead them to the God of Truth, leading them in the Way of righteousness, and introduce them to the Author of Life (JOHN 14:6). We must not merely point them in the right direction and bid them 'go' but experience the Way, the Truth and the Life for ourselves, daily, and bid them 'come' and 'follow me as I follow Christ' (1 COR 11:1).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another Smoke Signal: ESCAPE FROM GRAY WORLD

GENESIS 1:1-4
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

The LORD God created all things, and made the Earth from its prior condition of formlessness and darkness. He began with the introduction of light, which in His eyes was good. Light is always good and useful, particularly where darkness reigns. It reveals, exposes, illuminates and dispels the unknown, the mysterious, the unfathomable and brings clarity and understanding. Light enables discernment.

God then divided the light from the darkness; these were distinct from one another, in complete contrast, without similarities or commonalities at all.

The same can be applied to the spiritual dimension as with the physical dimension. It is the light of God's Word that brings clarity (EPH 5:13), understanding and discernment (HEB 4:12; HEB 5:12,14). If any claim to have these things, but denies God's Word, they truly have no light in them whatsoever:

ISAIAH 8:19-20
19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them
.


We live in a GRAY WORLD, but truth be told, this condition of 'grayness' began ever since Satan challenged the plain and abundantly clear Word of God. God told Adam that the day that they ate of the forbidden fruit, in that day they would surely die.
Yet Satan opposed that directive from Deity and deceived them by saying "you shall NOT surely die."

He proved himself to be a menace by muddying up the crystal clear water of God's Word. The distinction between truth and lies has been obfuscated ever since those early days and today we can find little evidence in society of stark, bold, clean-cut and objective, absolute truth. Such things are frowned upon, considered "politically incorrect" and "objectionable".

Ecumenical and Emergent proponents view absolute and objective truth as a misnomer for aggressive and close-minded arrogance which is promoted by 'bibliolaters' or those who, they claim, place too high a regard on the Bible and revere this book to the point of worship.

Ecumenism has absorbed some form of Christianity (with just a trace of biblical truth, albeit twisted) to create a world without clarity, without absolutes or certainty, a world of polite, political correctness, where the objective is a kind of spiritual/religious uniformitarianism - a palatable blandness that is heavy on the experiential and light on objective truth.

And anyones experience is just as valid as any other - as are perspectives of such that hold to this uniformitarianism. Everyone is right and no one is wrong (except those who believe in absolutes); all is truth (except for THE Truth, JOHN 14:6) and nothing is wrong. Thus in this GRAY WORLD, it's impossible to make any mistakes, to say nothing of committing 'sin'.

By diluting the Word of God with more and more modern translations, and even more so, these perilous paraphrases of the Bible, people are being weaned from the truth of the Scriptures. And they are gleaning spiritual 'truths' from novels and films, rather than from the pages of Holy Writ!
By the Emergence Movement, people are being taught to question the authoritative, inspired Scripture and persuaded that truth is indeed relative. Thus this world is getting more and more gray all the time.


The Hegelian dialectic is a process being used by the forces of this world to take polar opposites (thesis and anti-thesis) and bringing them together and fusing them into a paren-thesis - from light and dark - to become gray.

The other factor being added into the mix is pantheism - the idea that "all is God, and God is all" and so we merely have to identify with the Deity already within us. Such a view is Eastern in its philosophy and religious persuasion, but it has found its way into the West via Yoga, TM, and more recently, contemplative spirituality. 


In this Gray World, there are no clear compass directions - "north" may not be north. "Can we really understand what it means to head south"? In this world, to be lost and asking questions with an air of blatant uncertainty is something to be admired. To express certitude to tantamount to blasphemy and something to be shunned; certainly disapproved of. 

Where truth is sacrificed, justice will soon be placed on the same altar of relativism.

Truth is not something to be possessed, but to be sought after as we 'spiritually evolve' to higher understanding of the vulgar expressions that the prophets of the Bible declared - these 'gray people' genuinely believe that they have greater and deeper understanding than any prophet or apostle - even the LORD Jesus Himself - because in this spiritual evolution which enables them to comprehend more than all previous generations. Yet in their eyes, this spiritual evolution will continue but never enable them to come to the full knowledge of anything remotely identifiable as absolute truth:

2 TIM 3:5-8
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

Such grayness will make truth that is meant to be seen and understood anemic, tepid, ineffectual at leading people to the Author of Truth - and rather, this 'anything goes' grayness will lead to, and in fact already has led to spiritual anarchy, iniquity, lawlessness:

2 THESS 2:7
7 For the mystery of iniquity [lawlessness] doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.


The only way to escape this GRAY WORLD is by cleaving tenaciously to the inspired Word of God, to know the truth it teaches, and most of all, its Author - the LORD Jesus Christ.

For more on this and closely related issues, I recommend this video entitled, The CHAIR (about 76 mins total time) by Frank Peretti, well known for his novels such as these two books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness:






Thursday, March 30, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: The ENCOUNTER with CHRIST - JOHN 4:1-6

 The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 4:1-6
1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

See now how the LORD is a meek and lowly LORD - though He is LORD of all, Creator God and the Word Incarnate - He conducts Himself in such humble fashion. He understood that because His fame was quickly outgrowing that of His predecessor, John the Baptist, He didn't capitalize on it. Instead, He left Judea and returned to Galilee, far away.

Yet no matter where He went, the LORD was always making disciples - and we dare not forget who we are: we are NOT disciples of a church, we are NOT disciples of our pastors, we are NOT disciples of elder saints who have known the LORD far longer than we . . .
We are disciples, followers, students of the LORD Jesus Christ.
We follow Him to His cross where we learn of His supreme sacrifice.

We follow Him where He leads us to our own crosses and learn to deny self.
We follow Him where He lays upon us His yoke which He bears Himself, and we learn of Him the King of Kings, the Supreme Servant, the I AM That I AM, the LORD and Redeemer.

The LORD's objective was never to acquire fame, or prestige. He was on a mission from the Father and was intent on fulfilling His will. We must always bear this in mind, should the LORD prosper our ministry and we begin to gain a following whose numbers begin to swell to an incalculable degree. Followers in those kinds of numbers can potentially sway us - intentionally or not - in directions that are not the Father's will. This is in essence the difference between those who please God and those who become people-pleasers.


And besides all of that potential drama that the LORD left behind, He had an appointment in Samaria.

This entire scenario is being staged beforehand by the LORD; He prepared the way for the encounter, first of all, with this Samaritan woman, and then with the entire village.


Long before we knew Christ our LORD, before we had any desire for Him or inclination towards repentance, He prepared the way for us, because He had foreknown us: there is nothing our Sovereign God does not know about us: every trait in us, every habit, every decision and choice, every path and tributary we take, every response and reaction.

He knows already who will receive Him, and who will not, based upon their response to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit of sinners to come unto Jesus for salvation.

He travels with inspired intent towards the city of Sychar - a place whose name many have identified as meaning, "abode of liars or idolaters and drunks".
See the Holy, sinless, spotless Lamb of God intentionally zeroing in on this city of Sychar. He would no doubt say to anyone who would be indignant at such a meeting, the same thing He said to the Pharisees who found fault with Him because He kept company with sinners:

MARK 2:17
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance
.


It was imperative for Jesus to get to Sychar - and meet with this people group that the Jews (His own people) despised - and that feeling was mutual among the Samaritans as well!
Yet the LORD was breaking down social and cultural barriers and doing the unthinkable - reaching out with His message to those that most Jews would never have bothered to give the time of day to!
There have been many that I have known personally who either live in their own 'Sychar' or worse, once tasted of the good things of the LORD, but then turned back to that sin-city. And I have prayed earnestly that the LORD "must needs" go to their 'Sychar' and have an encounter with them, bringing to them the "living water" that only He can provide!

And now the LORD is at the end of this long journey - He finally arrives and finds Himself weary with His travels. He sits down at the well that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph and rests. Here is God, weary in His humanity, needing rest and refreshment from that well. I can well imagine the noon-time sun beating down upon His sweat drenched brow - when a Samaritan woman approaches.

Divine appointments indeed! We shall continue this next time, and in the meanwhile, let us pray for some divine appointments of those loved ones who are still lost in this world of sin and in dire need of an encounter with the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, Whom God has made "...both LORD and Christ..."