Category: God’s Word

The Best Gift

Earnestly desire to prophesy!

When was the last time you received a word of encouragement, one that consoled you during a time of loss or simply gave you a quick “nudge from behind” to keep moving in spite of your discouragement?

Reading the Scriptures, particularly the Apostle Paul’s teachings in I Corinthians, we see clearly that God desires to give us these kinds of messages through the ministry of fellow believers.  He does so by empowering believers through the Holy Spirit’s “spiritual gifts,” which are listed in the following passage:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (I Corinthians 12:7-11).

According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, these gifts were demonstrably manifested through the believers in the Early Church:

how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3-5)

Have the Gifts Ceased?

In recent years, comparatively at least, many dispensational Bible teachers and their disciples have taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer given after the age of the Apostles.  This teaching is primarily based on the following passage:

 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part;10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:8-12).

This seems clear enough according to a superficial reading:  based on Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts in this passage, therefore, it is believed by many in the Church today that the gifts are “childish,” not intended for mature believers, for they are “partial” and imperfect.  As Paul writes, “We see in a mirror dimly” (II Cor. 3:12).  It is believed instead that the “perfect” has come to the Church through the completion of the Holy Scriptures, so we no longer need the Holy Spirit’s gifts to teach us and lead us, and the “partial” has been done away with because the “perfect” Bible has been completed. 

However, we must read all of the Scriptures in their contexts, particularly those written by the apostle Paul.  Consider the following passage:

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.  But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [metamorphosized] into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:15-18)

It seems ironic, therefore, that the Apostles and Prophets of the Early Church who exercised these “childish” and “imperfect” spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit were also the very ones who thoroughly read the books of the Old Testament (“Moses is read”), and wrote the books of the New Testament.  I can only conclude that the dispensationalist interpretation of Paul’s message is incorrect and misleading. 

Looking Into the Mirror

Instead, the “mirror” references in these passages reveal that the  “perfect” that was predicted is not the New Testament itself, but instead is Jesus Christ when He comes again.  He is the “perfect” Who is coming, and when He appears, we all will be instantly transformed and metamorphosized into His image, for we will see Him in all of His glory.  When this happens, we will be “like Him”:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:1-3)

What is the Outcome, then?

We must not be like those sons of Israel who hardened their hearts and heard the reading of the old covenant (Moses) with a “veil” over their hearts.  We must turn to the Lord, who takes the veil away from our hearts, and He will give us liberty.  Read again Paul’s exhortation:

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:12-18).

Since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” Paul further exhorts us to be used by the Holy Spirit through the “gifts of the Spirit”:

So also you since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. (I Corinthians 14:12).

In the Book of Acts, Luke the author and disciple of the Apostle Paul writes this description of Peter’s message to the curious onlookers when on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the gathered believers:

 “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).

In context, therefore, the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us in the same way, for the promise is to “all who are far away, as many as the Lord calls.” When we are baptized in His Spirit, therefore, we will find that we will experience the gift of speaking in tongues, plus all the other gifts when needed, if we continue to follow Him (1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14). These are God’s gifts of power to enable us to accomplish the tasks to which we have been commissioned.

These gifts have been abused by many, unfortunately, even by some in the Early Church, according to the Apostle Paul’s admonitions in the “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13).  If the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not operated in love, Paul writes, we align with the following description:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

Nevertheless, we should not take lightly the Lord’s words to us provided in John’s Gospel.  Clearly, we need today the “rivers of living water” Jesus promised us:

…Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified). (John 7:37b-39)

Finally, the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to “earnestly” desire the best spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1). 

What are the “best” gifts?  They are those that are most in need at the moment.  We should be open to being used by the Holy Spirit at any time in any way He chooses.  And Paul particularly recommends that we desire to prophesy,

 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. (I Corinthians 14:1-4).

He makes this recommendation specifically because prophecy is a gift that we all need to experience, for spiritual encouragement.  

One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (v. 3)

In addition, the Apostle Paul also reveals another reason why prophecy is important in the Church:

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.  (I Corinthians 14:24-26)

I experienced just such a moment early in my ministry when, while leading a home group meeting, I was praying and a word of knowledge came to me.  I spoke the revelation with my eyes closed, and when I opened them, a young woman whom I had never seen before was standing in front of me weeping.  “How did you know those things about me?” she said.  I asked if she wanted to invite Jesus into her life to be her Lord and Savior, and she readily agreed, praying for salvation that night.  

We must understand, therefore, that the gift of prophecy is not intended to “predict the future,” as so many believe.  It should not be connected with occult astrology, fortune telling, or divination by any means.

Another Example

Just yesterday in a women’s Bible study and prayer group here in Hopkins, Belize, my wife Jan received a “word of knowledge” and spoke to a young mother who tended to be very shy in the group.  In effect, Jan said to her, “Do not be troubled about what you will say when you are led to speak to someone, for you love Jesus and you only need to let His light shine through you to others.”

The woman was so moved by this message that she began to weep joyfully, for she indeed had been encouraged, edified, and exhorted.  

Final Comments:

Please note that the Apostle Paul does not denigrate the gift of speaking in tongues, for he tells us that he speaks in tongues more than anyone else.  He does so because through the Holy Spirit he is able to pray “in mysteries” when his mind does not know how to pray.  Consequently, he is personally edified.  He only stipulates that this gift must be used properly and in love.  Paul also states that its use in the Church must not be forbidden:

 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. . . .39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (I Corinthians 14:4-5).

Wrangling, Part II

A Brief Follow-up

Shortly after posting my last article, titled “Wrangling About Words,” I had a dream.  

I was out fishing with some friends in a boat near where we are currently living in Belize.  One of the fishermen wanted to give a fish to one of his village friends, but he couldn’t remember which fish it was he had caught.  He said something like, “You know, the one that looks like a large trout!”

An argument arose, each man naming the fish by a different name.  After a very intense discussion, I finally held up the fish itself and said, “Surely, we can agree on what to call this fish!”

I was relieved that the argument was over when I awoke from the dream, even though we still hadn’t named the fish.  I lay there in the darkness thinking about the final message, and I was reminded of my recent blog article.  

First, I realized that the fish itself was more than a name, more than just a word.  Instead, it was a vital piece of food for someone in the Belizean village who needed subsistence.  Arguing about what it was called and even agreeing on a name wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of the recipient.

Second, I recalled that Jesus called some of his new followers to be  “fishers of men.”

18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”20Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20).

I realized that arguing over the name of a fish will not catch a fish, any more than arguing over Church doctrines will bring people into the Kingdom of God.  Instead, wrangling about biblical teachings only convinces non-believers that Christians are deceiving themselves into thinking that they truly know and understand the Scriptures that we claim to be the Word of God which we have personally received.

Let us all agree to cease arguing over doctrines and teachings.  Surely, we can agree on what to call Jesus: the Messiah and Savior, Who came into the world to redeem us from the bondage of sin.


Moving For Purpose, Part II (By Jan Jenkins)

Moving Ahead 

After visiting and sharing with Pastor Herdie, we walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.

John then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about all of the possibilities.

On Friday morning, we went out together for an early swim in the sea.  Our morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there in Belize since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana.

We then decided to do more exploring of the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize.  We picked a few small carvings that would fit into our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay, we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay Alex.

Finding a Lot on the Sea

We went to see John, the realtor, again to ask him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was in God’s will to happen, He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to move a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” Psalm119:105.

A Wave Hits

We talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace and we were determined that we would keep our eyes on Jesus.

In May, 2016, I began working on floor plans for a house in Belize.  I looked at a few samples and even measured the rooms in our house here so I could have an idea of room sizes.  This was fun, and I went through pages and pages of drafting paper coming up with various ideas, showing them to Charles for his input, and then making more changes.

By the end of May, I had a couple of rough drawings that I thought would work.  When we were in Belize, our Realtor had introduced us to Dennis, who was about six weeks into a build there.  He gave us a business card for his builder whom he highly recommended.  Additionally, we had heard of a builder who built square or rectangle houses and then moved the house to the property to set up and finish.

I spent a month sending rough plans to these two companies, getting feedback and making changes.  We decided to go with the builder who was building the house for Dennis and who would build the whole house on our lot rather than moving it in.  Communication with R. G. Home Builders was easy, and they always responded quickly.

I emailed Rolando Gonzalez, the owner and contractor of R. G. Home Builders, and told him we would like him to build our house and requested an estimate on my floor plan.  In a couple of days, he sent his estimate.  It was much more than we thought it would be. We felt like we had hit a big wave this time.  Our plan to sell our house here and downsize to something small to rent or buy might not work, we thought!  For one thing, we realized that the first listing price the realtor had suggested for our house here in Pennsylvania was probably too high, so we had lowered our asking price.

We didn’t believe the Lord wanted us to get into debt with this Belize property either, so I sent an email to Rolando asking about changes to bring the cost down.  We still felt peace, however, and we believed it would work out.  Reading I and II Thessalonians seemed so timely, and so many verses jumped out and ministered to us. One scripture became a prayer for Pastor Herdie and the church in Hopkins:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  (I Thessalonians 3:9-10)

For ourselves, we prayed the following prayer:

To this end also we pray… that our God will count [us] worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.  (II Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Rolando had a few suggestions and sent another estimate.  It was still too high. We had gotten some idea of building prices when we were in Belize, and these estimates seemed so much higher.  Our house hadn’t sold, we hadn’t even gotten an offer yet, but even if it sold, we wouldn’t have enough money to cover this last estimate, along with other associated costs, such as where we would live while home in Pennsylvania.  Charles, in faith, had even written about our calling to Belize in his online blog site.  We had felt sure about Rolando and now we urgently believed that we needed to keep “walking on the water” and keeping our eyes on Jesus.

I went back to my Bible, reading again in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In Chapter five I read, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thessalonians 5:24).

A couple of days later, I was looking again at the estimate.  I was stunned when I saw at the top of the column written in very small letters:  BZD,  (or “Belize Dollars”).  Rolando’s estimate was in Belize dollars, not US dollars!  That meant that the house would cost half as much as we thought it would.  I charged out of the house to find Charles and tell him what I had discovered.  We truly believe God sent us a huge blessing that day.

Calm Waters

Suddenly the waves were gone, and the water was calm.  It was easy to see that Jesus was with us.  There was a great deal of praise and happy dancing going on that day!  We emailed Rolando and gave him permission to have his architect look at our floor plan.  Working with the architect, Salim, we spent a few weeks exchanging ideas and came up with a final plan. We then received another estimate which we interpreted correctly and knew that with the sale of our house here we could pay for this home and remain debt free.  Now the build was contingent upon the completed purchase of the lot.

In June we made a decision to sell our camper/travel trailer.  It was only two years old, and we had taken good care of it, but we figured we would not use it enough to keep, and it would be nice to have the money for our move.  We found a large dealership in Bath, NY, that would sell it on consignment, so we took it up there and prayed it would sell quickly.  It didn’t sell quickly, but amazingly it did sell late in August.  By then we had begun to think about bringing it home since it was so late in the summer.  Who would buy the travel trailer when camping season was almost over?  Once again, God showed us who was in control!

On June 11th and 12th we had a huge moving sale at a friend’s house located on a busy road.  We sold a bed, sofa set, table, dressers, and many household items and tools.  It was exhausting, but it felt good to be rid of things we no longer needed.  With assurance, we told anyone who asked that we were scaling down to move part-time to Belize and live in a smaller house here.  We had the Salvation Army pick up everything we had left over.

A month later on July 11th, we received an offer to buy our house.  We were so grateful, and we felt encouraged in our faith journey.  Then, on July 18, we got a congratulatory message saying that the sale on the Belize lot was complete and we were the new owners of number 32, Sittee Point, Belize.  All we could do was thank the Lord for making our path clear.

The next day we contacted the surveyor our builder Rolando had recommended since we needed an up-to-date survey of the Belize lot.  We wired the money, and the surveyor emailed us a couple of days later  to write that he had finished surveying.  We then learned from Rolando that we needed to apply for a building permit.  Both Rolando and our Real Estate Agent in Belize, John Stewart, helped us through this process.  It would apparently take four to six weeks to be approved.

Another Wave Hits

Near the end of July, however, another large wave hit.  Our Real Estate Agent here in the U.S. phoned to say that the buyers had changed their minds and didn’t feel like they could continue with the purchase of our home.  We were too stunned to talk about it, but both of us prayed.  I went by myself into the bathroom and quietly told the Lord I wasn’t going to complain because our plan was His plan and He knew the timing.  This was not easy to do because my feelings of fear hit hard.

We had gone so far with our commitment in Belize, and we were so excited about God’s call!  Charles went outside to do some yard work which I understood was his place to be alone and pray.  There were so many parts to this puzzle, and they all had to be pieced together for this vision to be accomplished.

About four hours later the Real Estate agent phoned and said, “You must have been praying!”  I told her we certainly had been.  “Well, your buyers have changed their minds; they really want your house.”  Wow!  To say we were relieved is an understatement.  The sea had calmed.  We figured we would need to plan another trip to Belize after closing in September so we could meet the builder in person and make decisions about colors, countertops, and the placement of the house on the lot.

The buyers sent a home inspector to look at the house, and we began checking off the list of improvements he felt were necessary.  It was a little mind boggling at first since one of the improvements necessary was a whole new heating and air conditioning system.  We had no idea ours was so near collapse.  Again, though, we trusted that God would get us through this move debt free.  We needed to keep our eyes on Him and not on the waves.  We had already seen God meet our needs so many times when we trusted Him.

Surging Waves Hit

On August 5th the Real Estate agent phoned and said she had bad news again.  My heart felt like it dropped to the floor.  We had made arrangements with our daughter and son-in-law to rent a small house they owned on their property.  It hadn’t been lived in for several years, so we were there cleaning and repairing when we got the phone call.  “The buyers have changed their minds again and they won’t be purchasing your house.”   This was the biggest and hardest hitting wave yet.

Momentarily, we lost sight of Jesus in the midst of the huge wave crashing over us.  Charles and I gave each other a despairing look and again felt too shocked initially to talk much about it.  Our only communication was, “What do we do now?”  We held hands and said a quick prayer and then went back to our work on the house.  So far, we owned the lot in Belize, which had been surveyed, and we had applied for a building permit.  Our house had been scheduled to close around September 5th, and Rolando, our builder, had told us he could begin the build the first of October, providing he received the permit and first installment payment.

All the puzzle pieces had flown apart.  Both of us were praying and seeking God, although the temptation to sink in the water was great.  Many times we had to ask for His peace.  We both decided that if we had gotten it wrong, we would be willing to let go of the vision and be satisfied with having invested in a lot in Belize.  I emailed Rolando and told him to put the plans on hold until we notified him that we had sold our house.

He wrote back, “No worries.  I can do that.”  Yes, if we were truly walking with the Lord and keeping our eyes on Him, we shouldn’t have any worries.  It was a struggle to deal with relisting our house and starting over again, but we signed all the paperwork again, and the house went back on the market.

The Word says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  We needed to trust and not waver just because we didn’t understand what was happening.  In Matthew 8, Jesus needed to get away from the crowds, and He told His disciples they were going to the other side of the sea (V. 18).

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

I imagine the disciples didn’t understand why Jesus would have them get into a boat and experience a horrifying storm.  Jesus clearly reminded them that with faith they could be overcomers, no matter what they faced.  We only needed to ask Jesus to rebuke the “winds and sea” on our behalf.

After a few days, with humble hearts, Charles and I both felt that we needed to operate in faith again, so we could observe how Jesus was going to rescue this situation.  We notified Rolando that he could continue to plan on building the house in October.  We knew we had enough savings to make the first payment of the build and God would provide.  With this decision made, our spirits felt renewed, and we felt like we were back where we were supposed to be.  It was entirely up to Him to put all the puzzle pieces together.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).

In August Rolando sent us a picture of the lot to show us what the surveyor had done.  When we looked at it, it didn’t look right.  I sent the picture to our Real Estate agent, John, who immediately wrote back saying that this picture was not of our lot!  John went to our lot and notified us that it had not been surveyed.  We contacted Rolando and told him to have the surveyor stop by the Real Estate Office and have John show him the correct lot.

After going to the lot with John, the surveyor emailed an apology and told us he would survey our lot immediately.  On August 22, John sent us an email verifying that our lot had been surveyed.  God had truly protected us again.  With much relief, we thanked him for his help and then contacted Evan at Royale International, Belize, to tell him he could begin the excavating. Without even a deposit, this wonderful company began excavating around September 1st.

Another Trip to Belize

We decided after this experience that it would be a good idea to visit Belize again for a week, so we could meet face to face with Evan, the excavator, and Rolando, the contractor.  We left on September 8th; this time we had an uneventful flight to Belize City airport and then flew in the little Maya Cessna plane to Dangriga, Belize, where our friend Golden picked us up and drove us to Hopkins.  It was fun to see him and be greeted by someone we knew.  Golden’s huge smile is contagious.  In the car he pointed out where several places were and answered our questions about the church in Hopkins.  He was excited because he was getting a license to be able to take people on fishing excursions.

We stayed at a resort called Jaguar Reef, not far from our lot.   We were greeted Belizean style and given drinks upon our arrival and then shown to our little cabana with a palapa roof.  It was beautiful and comfortable, but we were excited to go see our lot.  We unpacked and each got a bicycle provided by the resort and took off.

The lot was only about a mile up the road, but we still had a little difficulty remembering where it was.  When we found it, we were astonished at how picturesque the property looked. The excavators had leveled the lot and removed the mangrove trees and gigantic roots down near the water.  We stepped into the warm Caribbean Sea, and it felt wonderful.  The sense of God’s blessing was so powerful, we were overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation.

We biked back and had a fish burrito dinner at a café near the resort.  Mostly expats were eating there since the café is located near the resorts at the south end of Hopkins Village.  We had Belize style burritos and fried plantain chips, which were fun to try, and we liked the taste.


Local Fishermen

The next morning we resumed the routine we had started during our last visit in April and took a morning swim in the sea.  As expected, it was warm and calm.    We were fascinated to watch as several men launched a very heavy looking canoe.  When they go out fishing in Hopkins Village, they must drag or push the boat from the sand out into the water and then jump in since there are no close docks in the village.  Upon returning, they head straight into the sand as fast as they can and then pull the boat up on the dry sand.  If there is a motor, one man lifts it up just as they get into the very shallow water, and the boat shoots up on the sand.

We made plans to meet Evan, our excavator, at the lot a little later in the day, so we bicycled down to the Real Estate office where John Stewart worked, which was also on the way to the lot.  We wanted to thank him in person for all the help he had given, and it was good to see him again, like meeting an old friend.  He invited us to meet him and his wife, Paragi, at a local café called Lucky Lobster for dinner that night.  After a nice visit, we bicycled down to meet with Evan. 


It was encouraging to meet and talk to Evan, our excavator, as we watched one of his crew leveling the lot and seeing how conscientiously they did their work.  We asked him about payment, and he said he would send us the bill when the work was completed in about two days, and we could pay him after we were back in the States.  “No worries!”  We were surprised at his trust in us!  Evan piled our bikes in the back of his truck and gave us a ride back to our resort.

We relaxed and cooled off a while in our room and then went for a bike ride around the village.  September is the month when many of the expats and locals who own resorts, cafes, and other businesses take off.  Several of the places where we liked to eat and visit were closed.  We stopped at Golden’s shop to visit a little. It was fun to see the Hopkins kids coming back to school after their noon lunch break.  We found a little bakery located next to a house and bought some cakes to take back to our cabana for lunch.

On Saturday, we biked to Pastor Herdie’s house.  He was not there because he had been invited to speak in Guatemala.  We had a short visit with one of his sons, though, who was very friendly and polite. Charles left one of his books for Pastor Herdie to read.

Riding back, we got pretty hot, so we took another swim in the sea and then had a relaxing afternoon and evening at the resort.  We looked forward to visiting the church again.

Sunday morning, as we were walking along the beach, three young Garifuna boys approached us asking if we wanted to donate money for their soccer team.  We told them we had already donated to the girls’ soccer team, but that didn’t dissuade them.  It’s hard not to support these kids, even though we don’t know if they really are on a soccer team because they have so little.

Unfortunately, because they spot us as tourists, we’re sometimes targets because they think we’re rich, but we do have so much more than they do.  We talked to them for a little while, asking them if they liked to play baseball.  They said they didn’t play because this sport isn’t as familiar to them as soccer.  We asked them if they’d like to play if they had baseball equipment.  One got a little excited and asked, “Can we have hats like that?” pointing at the cap Charles was wearing.  It seemed like they were more interested in caps than in having a ball, bat, or glove.  We would love to have had three caps to give them right then, but maybe we will be able to bring some with us when we go back.

One of the ideas we’ve had is to have a baseball camp where we could show the kids how to play baseball and then have Bible classes with them.  It would be wonderful to have groups come to Hopkins for periods of time to hold Christian baseball camps, too.  The village has a large level park where they could possibly play.

For lunch we ate at the Jaguar Reef Resort, where we were staying.  Part of the meal included yucca (pronounced “you-ka” by locals) fries.  They’re a little more solid in texture and chewy than potato fries, but so delicious.  The Yucca Giganta plant is native to Belize and Costa Rica.  It was fun to try something new.  Interestingly, much of the food there is a variation of Mexican food with which we are very familiar.

We decided to rent a golf cart at the resort to drive into the village for dinner before we went to church.  There weren’t too many places open, but at the north end of the village, we found a small place called Northside Kitchen with a few tables set up outside a house under a carport.  When we stopped, we were greeted warmly by the owner.  She didn’t have a menu, she explained, because she makes one dish and then sells it until it is gone!  Today was chicken.  It was moist and tender and yummy.

While we were eating, we talked to a couple of women who were there visiting the owner.  It was an enjoyable meal and another opportunity to meet a few of the locals.  It was surprising how many people came by for take-out while we sat there and ate.  When we finished, we said “good-bye” to everyone and told them we would be back in February when our house was built.

We wanted to go to the little grocery store to get some snacks, and on the way, we saw two women walking.  We asked them if they wanted a ride, and they were so happy.  They talked, giggled, and waved to friends as we drove to the grocery store.

Coming out of the store, we saw a little boy who looked familiar.  He asked if he could go for a ride on the golf cart. I asked him if he was one of the boys that sell cakes.  It turned out he was one of the boys who would come to our cabana every night when we had been in Hopkins last April.  He told us his name was Brayden.  We told him he could have a ride, but that we were going to church, so we asked if he would like to go to church with us.  He wanted to go, so we had him show us where he lived so I could check in with his parents.

It was a roundabout ride and then a walk through the brush for about a quarter of a block to his tiny house.  It probably wasn’t necessary to ask his parents since the Belizean kids seem to run comfortably around all over the village without supervision, but it was nice to meet Braydon’s mother.  She was a beautiful young woman nursing a newborn.  She told me Braydon could go to church, but he needed a bath.  I told her I thought he was fine, and we could take him “as is.”  I asked her if she wanted to go with us too, but she said she couldn’t because she had just had the baby, even though she liked going to church.

On the ride to the church, Charles asked Brayden if he knew Jesus.  He said yes, but Charles still explained to him that he could pray and ask Jesus into his heart. When we got to the church building, Brayden became bashful; he would sit with us only for a few minutes and then go outside and stand by the open side door near where we sat.

It was a joy to see Pastor Herdie.  It was a little early, so he was setting up the floor fans and some chairs.  After talking with him briefly, he began walking around silently praying like we had seen him doing last time.

As people began arriving, I saw Kendra and walked over to give her a hug.  She looked very pregnant now, but was feeling good.  I had a lollipop for her, and she giggled with delight to see it.  Kendra told me she was due in October.  I told her that the next time I saw her, I would be happy to see her baby.  She seemed pleased.  I told her I had been praying for her, and she thanked me and told me not to stop!

The singing began, and this time more songs were sung in Garifuna than before.  The music blessed us even though we didn’t understand the words.  Pastor Herdie is a songwriter, so I imagine they were singing some of his original music.  Once again, we were aware of the people’s total lack of self-consciousness and their ability to sing “from the heart” during the worship.  The lyrics were all known by the people, and there were no songbooks or projected lyrics.

The same “prayer warrior” came up, and again she again prayed right out of the Scriptures with amazing boldness and power.  What a blessing!  Two ministers from Guatemala were also visiting, and Pastor Herdie introduced them and had each one share a brief testimony in Garifuna.

Since Pastor Herdie had been out speaking during the week, he had a man speak in the service who was originally from the United States.  I think the man and his wife have been living there at Sittee River for around two years.  He shared an excellent Word-based message of faith.

We hadn’t seen Brayden for a while, and we hoped he was still outside or had gone home.  When the service ended, we talked with another couple who had moved to Dangriga from the US, and then briefly with the Pastor, who told us his wife was temporarily in Punta Gorda, Belize.  He looked very tired, so we said goodbye and hoped we’d get a chance to see him again before we left Belize.

When we went outside, we were relieved to see Brayden sitting in the golf cart waiting for us.  We took him home and then went back to the resort.  It was another enjoyable evening and we continued to feel blessed.

On Monday, after our morning swim and sharing time, we went for a bicycle ride to the village.  We had just passed the church when we saw Pastor Herdie along the road.  We stopped to say hi and asked him about his wife.  He invited us to go into the church building, and we sat down together.

He shared that two of his sons and his wife had temporarily moved to Punta Gorda, where she has relatives, and where their older boys could attend school.  They were occasionally able to visit during weekends, but it was a difficult situation.  He never complained, but repeatedly told us they were in God’s hands and He would take care of them in this transitory situation.

He additionally shared with us that his oldest daughter had died about six months before.  The story was heartbreaking, and it was hard to keep back the tears, but again Pastor Herdie was full of trust, for he had obviously received God’s peace and comfort.  While talking to him that day, we saw the hurt and pain evident after 30 years of serving as Pastor in Hopkins, but at the same time, he exudes a quiet joy and peace. 

He made us mindful of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We shared with him that our house had not yet sold, but God had led us to “get out of the boat” and trust Him.  We further explained that we had told the builder he could go ahead and begin in October.  Even though we were completely out of our comfort zone, we told him we felt we were being led of the Lord to Hopkins Village.

He seemed to understand perfectly our situation, and we had a wonderful prayer time together, praying for all of our various needs.  As we left, both Charles and I strongly felt a release and a God-given confidence.  The burden over our house was gone, and we felt renewed.

For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6)    

We met Rolando and Salim, our architect, in the large lobby of Jaguar Reef later that same Monday.  We immediately had a good first impression of them both, and the more we talked about the building project, the more we felt good about it.  Salim had pages and pages of house plan diagrams from all angles, including all the electrical outlets and plumbing.  We signed the contract to build and signed off on the floorplan.

Rolando then drove us to the property.  We decided where we wanted the house to be located on the lot.  It’s going to be built on nine-foot high cement pilings, and Rolando said he would contact someone who could put the pilings in, which would be the next step.  He assured us that the building permit was coming and that we could go ahead and have the pilings put in.

He then took us to see the house he had just about finished for Dennis.  It was very impressive and well-built.  We got back in his truck and began talking more about why we were moving to Belize. Charles told him a little about our calling to Hopkins, and immediately Rolando told us that he was a Christian.  He told us about his church, and again we felt so blessed.  God had definitely brought us together, and Rolando agreed.  When he dropped us off at the resort, we felt very content.

The rest of our time at Hopkins, we relaxed.  One day we took a drive in the golf cart to the harbor and river area south of Hopkins.  As we drove we suddenly saw about 20 coatimundis run across the road ahead of us. We learned that these cute mammals are part of the raccoon family.  When we were in Belize in 2006, one of the workers at the resort had shown us a coati that was her pet.  He crawled all over her, similar to a ferret.  

On Thursday morning Golden drove us to the Dangriga Airport to begin our trip home to the U.S.  On the way he shared his amazing testimony.  We were reminded how much God loves us and reaches out to those people whose hearts are searching for Him.

Charles with Golden

We took the Cessna plane again to Belize City and then flew home to Pennsylvania from there.  Of course, it was good to see our Pennsylvania family and our dog, Louie.  We took a day to adjust, get unpacked, and get caught up on the laundry, and Charles did some yard work.

Problems With Our Home Sale

We didn’t hear anything from our Real Estate agent for a week, so we discussed whether it might be time to drop the selling price of our house once more and trust that the Lord would continue to provide what we needed for the build in Belize, as well as our housing in the U.S.  Charles, however, felt that we should wait until the following Monday before we contacted the agent.  It wasn’t long after this decision that we received a message from the Real Estate agent saying that someone wanted to see the house on Saturday, September 25th.

On the following Monday, we had an offer!  We both felt it was a direct answer to our prayers with Pastor Herdie that day when we had felt that release.  We rejoiced and believed that this time, everything would work out.  The estate closing was scheduled for October 25th.

Moving Out of Our Home

Some friends had recently moved, and they told us that they had many boxes we could use for our move.  We went over and picked up what we thought would be enough and were grateful we wouldn’t have to look everywhere for boxes.  We had finished fixing up the little house where we would be living, so we began packing and separating things we no longer needed.

Even though we had had a huge moving sale, we were still finding so many accumulated things that we no longer needed since our little rental house had only one bedroom.  It felt good to “scale down.”  We found homes for our futon, large living room rug, stereo/TV cabinet, TV, sofa, dressers, and other items.  The smaller items we donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.  It kept us busy.

In October we moved a few things to the little house so we wouldn’t have to do it all at once.  Troy, our son-in-law, along with our daughter  Bethany and the grandsons, helped us one weekend by carrying all the heavy stuff.  The little house was starting to feel like home, and we loved it.


Meanwhile, we had to wire money to Belize to get an electric permit and then have an electrician put in an electrical pole so Rolando could begin his work.  He had moved a huge container, looking like a train car, onto the lot with all his equipment.  The nine-foot pilings were in, we learned; Rolando had the building permit, and was about ready to begin construction.

On October 7th, we made our application to the Belize Water Board to have water access for our property.  To process this application and get the water hook-up would take four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, the electrical post had been installed; now we had to purchase a permit so we could actually have electricity for the house and for its construction.  This, at least, was a little easier because BEL (Belize Electric Limited) is online and we could set up the account and make the payment directly online.  It wasn’t until October 27th that the electricity was connected and available.  At that time we were still waiting for the water hook-up.

Since we didn’t have much furniture left in our house, it was feeling pretty bare and cold.  With the help of Bethany and the grandsons, we got our heavy latex mattress moved to the little house.  We added a few personal items and moved in on October 8th.

After this, we gradually moved everything over and tried to unpack boxes as we brought them over.  Since Fall weather was beginning, I was able to put most of the summer clothes and small things we would take to Belize in plastic tubs that we stored in the garage below the house.  We enjoyed being in the little house and having the grandsons drop in now and then to see how we were doing.  Our furniture consisted of one sofa, two end tables, one cabinet, one dresser, along with our bed and two-night stands.  We felt so free!


Another Wave Hits

Everything during the escrow was going fairly smoothly until the day before closing.  On October 24th, around noon, our Real Estate agent telephoned to say we had a problem.  We could see the wave hitting again, and it was troubling, to say the least.  For some reason, the buyer’s bank had approved the loan for the house before receiving the appraisal.

Our agent told us that the appraisal had just been released, and it was $26,000 less than our selling price!  This news was astounding since our agent had agreed that our price was very marketable.  Did this mean the sale was off?  The Agent assured us she was going to find comparable sales herself to try to convince the buyers the price was reasonable.

(To Be Continued:  Part III in next Blog Post)

The Consequences of Hatred

Unfulfilled Desires 

Post-holiday depression is felt by many people, yet rarely has it been so prominent in our daily consciousness as in the present time.  Due primarily to the influence of today’s social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, people are freer than ever to convey their resentments without consequence.  Posts such as, “I hate my life!” or “I Can’t Do This Anymore!”  are common.

Other reasons for the visibility of depression are also probable, however, not just the ability to vent one’s emotions and feelings so freely without any repercussions, events that are extremely contagious in today’s “connected” society.

Since many people have believed the promises made to them in childhood, such as, “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” or “Your dreams can all come true!” they have grown discouraged and resentful when their life goals and desires do not seem to be coming true.  

This despair may lead to expressions and feelings of “hate,” including “hatred” towards others, such as public figures, including politicians and authority figures, whom they often see as the ultimate sources of their depression due to unfulfilled promises.

One reason hatred is increasing in the world today is that some are promoting hatred as a means of obtaining what they feel they deserve or has been promised.  Hatred is seen as the motivator, the “leverage,” that makes one make changes that promote success, fulfillment, and happiness.  Here is how one blog writer validates his hatred:

Finding that sweet spot, where I know what I hate, and why I need to challenge that hatred is central to my ability to succeed with my goals. That is what will spur me to act. Drive me away from pain. Towards pleasure. Ultimately, that is what it all boils down to. Reducing my pain. And increasing my pleasure.

So, the key is to hate the status quo with all our heart. Hate it so badly, that not acting will only take me down the hole even further.

This is also called the leverage. A point in my life where I cannot stand the pain any further. Where the misery of my painful existence is unbearable making my goal the only option to survive.

But for the leverage, I would never push myself to climb out of the pit of agony. . .I turn to my hatred towards the status quo [to] fuel my passion to succeed (Source).

A Story From Long Ago

King David of Israel committed a grievous sin, taking the life of Uriah the Hittite in order to claim the man’s wife for himself, Bathsheba.  Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, admonishing the king and foretelling the woes that would come to the royal family:

“Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight” (II Samuel 11:9-11).

Nathan’s prophecy began to be fulfilled through Amnon, King David’s oldest son.  Amnon was heir to the throne of Israel, one of the privileged few, intent on seeing all of his desires fulfilled, even those that were forbidden by the laws of Jehovah.  Under the Mosaic law, it was forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage, particularly with a relative. Amnon desired Tamar, his half-sister, with whom he believed he was in love.

Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her (II Samuel 13:1-2).

It was not only “hard” for Amnon to possess his half-sister, but also forbidden, yet Amnon is so lovesick that he listens to the advice of Jonadab, a counselor to the king.  Jonadab is described as a “shrewd man,” but his advice results in horrendous consequences. We later see this same man’s “shrewdness” brought into the story in the end when King David is faced with his own son’s treachery and Jonadab presumes to counsel the king.  Here is what Jonadab tells Amnon:

But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” (II Samuel 13:3-4).

Jonadab advised Amnon to pursue his sinful lusts by first pretending to be ill, then requesting that his Father King David send Tamar to him to minister to him, a request that Jonadab knew would be difficult for David to refuse.

Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat from her hand’” (II Samuel 13:5).

Amnon assents to Jonadab’s plan, and when King David came to see his supposedly ill son, Amnon asks his father to send Tamar to him so he could regain strength through the food that she prepared for him.

When Tamar arrives and prepares food for Amnon, however, he asks her to bring it to him where he is lying in his bed.  He takes hold of her, demanding that she lie with him.

Tamar refuses his request, saying,

“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:12-13).

Amnon is not moved by Tamar’s suggestion that they marry, and he easily overcomes Tamar’s opposition to his lusts: “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (II Samuel 13:14).

Once he has taken her virginity, Amnon’s guilt turns his love for Tamar to hatred:

 Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (II Samuel 13:15).

Ironically, Tamar does not feel so violated, for she finds solace in the Mosaic law commanding that a raped woman shall be able to marry the one who has violated her.  Thus, she refuses to leave Amnon. Her response relates to Deuteronomy 22:28 which states that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her.  

“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

In addition, Tamar realizes that no other man will marry her since she has been violated:

“But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!” (II Samuel 13:16).

Amnon calls his attendant, however, to take Tamar away and lock the door behind her so she cannot return.  Subsequently, Tamar goes into mourning; she “put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went” (II Samuel 13:19).  

Absalom’s Hatred

Tamar then stays and lives in the home of her brother Absalom, where she remains in extreme sorrow and distress.  She has no apparent future since Amnon has taken away her promise of a happy life.  

When King David hears what has happened, he is exceptionally angry at Amnon, but perhaps because David realizes how he himself may have opened the door to Amnon’s lust for Tamar by sending her to him, David chooses not to exact punishment on his son, the heir apparent to the throne.

Absalom, however, Amnon’s half-brother, decides to take revenge in spite of his advice to Tamar not to make Amnon’s rape known: 

Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house (II Samuel 13:20).

Nevertheless, we can only imagine the intense hatred Absalom has for Amnon, as he witnesses the sorrow and depression of his sister, Tamar:

But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:22).

After two years, Absalom hatred grows, until he plots Amnon’s death, enticing him away from King David’s protection through an elaborate plot:  inviting all of the king’s sons and servants to help with and celebrate his sheep shearing. 

When Amnon joins Absalom’s company, Absalom commands his servants to murder him:

Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant” (II Samuel 13:28).

Subsequently, King David is erroneously told that Absalom has murdered all of his sons:

Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn (II Samuel 13:30-31).

King David’s nephew, Joab, who is the commander of the king’s armies, intervenes as a peacemaker. He plots with a woman, asking her to pretend to be a widow whose two sons have quarreled, resulting in the death of one of the sons.  Asking for help, she relates to King David that now the rest of her family is calling for the death of her other son.  

David assures her that “not one hair of her son will fall to the ground” (II Samuel 14:11).  

Joab has contrived this pretense, however, to show David why he must forgive Absalom for killing Amnon.  When David sides with the widow, she responds according to Joab’s instructions:

“Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (II Samuel 14:13-14). 

Seeing the justice of his own judgment for the woman, David sees also that he must forgive Absalom. He calls Joab to seek out Absalom and to bring him home to Jerusalem.  The division between David and Absalom continues, however, for many years: “However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (II Samuel 14:24).

Ultimately, Absalom becomes the leader of a rebellion against his father’s reign:

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’” (II Samuel 15:10).

King David flees from Jerusalem as Absalom advances, leaving his house in the hands of his concubines.  Ultimately, in another fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy, Absalom commits his own sexual sins on the advice of Ahithophel, David’s advisor.

Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (II Samuel 16:21-22).


What a story!  The sins of one man, Amnon, led to the sins of many others, all resulting in even more sins and divisions in King David’s family, and finally the dissolution of David’s kingdom, resulting in warfare among the people:

Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured (II Samuel 18:6-8).

Finally, Absalom, famous for his beautiful, extremely long hair, is ensnared in the branches of an oak tree, where he hangs helplessly until Joab stabs him with three spears, and ten young men (who carry Joab’s armor) surround Absalom and kill him.  

When King David hears the news of Absalom’s death, he is stricken with grief:

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33).

Hatred is Contagious

Living a life of resentment, descending into depression, and hating one’s life, or having any kind of hatred, leads to more hatred, especially hatred for other people.  

When I was growing up, many years ago, I never heard the term “hate crime,” but this designation is increasingly heard and printed today. Clearly, the causes and consequences of hatred are growing in today’s world.   

In this story of Amnon and Tamar, we can also see how hatred is severely infectious. By pursuing sinful thoughts and lusts, Amnon only ends up hating Tamar, the woman he has supposedly once fervently loved. Even if they were to continue to live together and be married, she likely would only have reminded him continually of his evil plot to take her virginity through lies and deception.

It is also likely that Absalom blames his father King David for Tamar’s rape, for Absalom ends up plotting treason against his own father, attempting to overthrow King David to become king himself.

These stories, beginning with Amnon and Tamar, extending through Absalom’s murder of Amnon and his rebellion against King David, resulting in Absalom’s death and David’s grief, all exemplify why we must follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).  And we must not allow resentments over perceived injustices to lead us to hatred, a condition that only leads to more sin.

Love, Not Hatred

Of course, the ways of the world are the opposite of what the Word of God tells us.  The Apostle Paul wrote the following admonition in his letter to the Corinthian Church:  

“Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14).

Rather than hatred in any form, whether spoken or felt, love must be the source of our motivations in our lives.  And our all-knowing God is the provider of true love in our lives, for “God is love.”   


The Nature of Discipline

Our Heavenly Father Loves Us

Increasingly in today’s world, far too many people have not received proper discipline in their growing years; consequently, they personally acknowledge the need for more discipline in their lives, and it has become highly common for various “trainers,” “teachers,” or “experts,” often through expensive programs, seminars, or videos, to promote “self-discipline” through meditation, costly seminars, repetitive behaviors, deep breathing, rehabilitation programs, or sheer willpower to gain control over bad habits or destructive actions.  

As Christians, however, we have a heavenly Father who loves us so much that He guides our steps daily in life, while providing us with the power to be overcomers against the many challenges in our lives.  We also have a Father who loves us enough to discipline us as His own children!  

Read what the writer of the Book of Hebrews relates about discipline in the following passage from Chapter 12:

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:4-7)

Nothing is more disturbing than to see a child whose father or mother has not loved him enough to discipline that child.  We Christians, however, have the example of our Heavenly Father as the true disciplinarian: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (v. 6).  

Learning Discipline

I thank my heavenly Father that my earthly parents loved me enough to show me when I was not being polite, mannerly, or obedient, often in spite of their own grief or embarrassment and my own obstinance. As it is, many children cannot even sit quietly through a performance or meeting without disturbing others around them, most likely because they have rarely sat in church services.

While I didn’t especially appreciate my parents’ love and concern for me at the time, as the following verse describes, I now am most grateful for their loving discipline, for they were teaching me the discipline of God.

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

Notice that the word used in this passage is discipline, not punishment.  My earthly father never sent for the school bully to beat me up when I was disobedient!  Therefore, we need to reject the idea that our Heavenly Father, Who sent His own Son to the cross to redeem us from the hands of Satan, the enemy of our souls, would ever discipline or “scourge” us by sending Satan to attack us. Why would the Heavenly Father inflict upon us what He sent His son to bear for us vicariously on the cross? This was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, as Matthew declares: 

16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)

Who Is Our Teacher?

Jesus said to His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

Therefore, the Holy Spirit was sent by our Father to be our Teacher!

And the Holy Spirit, obviously, always acts according to the “fruit of the Spirit,” which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).  

Our Father does not want His children to be killed, maimed, destroyed, or beaten down by the enemy, so He certainly would not do Himself what He deplores!  Our Father sent His Word (Jesus Christ) and His teacher (the Holy Spirit) to teach and discipline us so that we might not fall again into the hands of the bully of this world, the one who only seeks our destruction, as Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  

God receives no glory or praise when His children fall into the snares and traps of the enemy, but it is a travesty even to suggest that our loving Father is the one who sends disease, sickness, death, earthquakes, fires, or other tragedies into our lives to “teach us something.”

And while our own lack of discipline, or bad decisions, may lead to such tragedies, the word to “chasten means to “lead toward virtue by correcting mistakes and putting barriers around passions.” And to “rebuke” means “to show a person his fault, or to bring a man’s sin to the light through conviction (which means “to convince of error or sinfulness”).  

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, relates that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7) 

Unfortunately, when Christians hear the word “fear,” as in the injunction to “fear the Lord,” too often we apply the definition for fear that we have learned in this world: “to be afraid or apprehensive, to be alarmed due to impending danger.”  We need not feel terror in God’s presence, but instead we should be filled with awe and reverence.

Therefore, we are not cautioned to be afraid of God, but rather to feel reverence for Him.  We are even told in Revelation 21:8 that the “cowardly” or “fearful”will have no place in God’s Kingdom.

Notice also that, generally, we are not assigned the task of convicting or rebuking others, even though the Father may use us as his spokespersons, at times. Instead, our Father is He who rebukes and brings conviction to our hearts through His Holy Spirit and through His written and spoken Word!  

God speaks to us personally through His Holy Spirit to reveal our errors or sins in order to bring about repentance and receive His forgiveness.  He does so with love and patience, not with anger and wrath. And with the Word comes the faith necessary to be obedient to His will (Romans 10:17).

  • Thus, the first step towards discipline, as Christ’s disciples, is to have reverence for the Lord and to open our ears to hear His Word, as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus said, “Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).  
  • Unless we are determined to be obstinately disobedient, we need not fear the Lord, as I feared the paddle my parents used.  

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
    His praise endures forever. (Psalms 111:10)

  • The final step, therefore, is to be continually obedient to the Word that we have received in Love from our Father. These commandments are not intended to be harmful or destructive, but instead are given for our welfare and good, just as my parents’ instruction to “Look both ways before crossing the street” was intended to ensure my safety. 

My Anchor Holds


While my wife and I have been on several enjoyable ship cruises, I have been on the ocean in a small boat only a few times.  My horrible seasickness during a fishing trip was enough to convince me that the ups and downs of the ocean were not very pleasant.

However, at one point, we even bought a small boat to use for fishing in the Pacific Ocean, but mainly we bought it to give the boat to my father-in-law, who was a particularly enthusiastic fisherman.  Trying to “fix” the boat to make it suitable for a gift, we learned quickly that a boat can indeed be a “hole in the water that you pour your money into.”

I confess that I am not an expert on boats or naval paraphernalia, including anchors. I have only owned one anchor used for a boat, but I rarely used it since we usually just tied up at the dock and didn’t try to stay stationary in the water to fish (to avoid sea sickness!).  

The use of an anchor in biblical New Testament times is clearly seen in the Bible, however, so understanding how anchors function helps us understand the Scriptural passages that include anchors.

The Apostle Paul’s Mediterranean Cruise

An understanding of anchors is particularly helpful when reading the 27th Chapter of Acts of the Apostles, a passage which includes the story of Paul’s journey to Rome while under arrest by Roman guards.  At one point during the journey, the following events take place as described by Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles:

Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:29-31)

In this story we gain insights even into the minds of experienced sailors as they attempted to escape the dangers of a terrible Mediterranean storm, while also avoiding the brutality of their Roman employers.  Notice also that the four anchors were released from the stern of the ship to keep it from being cast aground on the rocks of the coast.  

Luke’s next account reveals how the anchors were discarded when the boat’s crew mistakenly decided to head for the safety of the beach of a bay.  The boat indeed ran aground, leading to the breaking up of the ship.

When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. (Acts 27:39-41)

We see clearly from these accounts not only the value of ship’s anchors during storms but also their beneficial help in keeping the ship from becoming stuck fast and broken apart by the storm’s waves.

Most of us will never encounter such experiences in our lives, yet we all may experience the “storms of life,” perhaps even on a daily basis.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had anchors to hold us fast on the course the Lord has given us in our lives, as well as anchors to keep us from getting “stuck” and “immovable” when we are seeking to find peace and safety in this world?

In the Book of Hebrews, however, we find that we have indeed been given “anchors for our souls.”  The writer of Hebrews uses an example in the life of Abraham to demonstrate how this anchor keeps us steadfast, even in the worst storms and temptations in this life.

Seeing an anchor as being a beneficial help during a storm is somewhat of a mystery, for anchors are heavy and they usually are used to keep a ship from moving at all.    

Abraham’s Faith and Hope

After first warning Christians about the “perils of falling away,” the writer of the Book of Hebrews exhorts believers instead to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).

. . . so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

This passage is unclear unless we can determine what the “two unchangeable things” are.  God’s promise to Abram is the first unchangeable thing:

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he [Abraham] obtained the promise.

Abraham, therefore, received the promise of God first because of the reliability of God’s Word.  To show the “unchangeableness of His purpose,” God also made an oath, the second of the two “unchangeable things.”

For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:13-18).

These two unchangeable things mean that “it is impossible for God to lie.” Therefore, we may be assured that the promises of God are “sure and steadfast”:  

We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

Our ability to look forward to the future with hope is both sure and steadfast because the Word of God is sure and steadfast. Both of these words mean dependable, reliable, true, constant, and trustworthy.  

We must conclude, therefore, that since the Word of God is dependable and trustworthy, we who have received the promise of God may look forward to the future with joyful anticipation, knowing that the promises made to us will be fulfilled.  And this means we have hope, which is the “anchor for our soul.”  

This anchor, in turn, will keep us steadfast and true; in nautical terms, we will “stay the course,” and not depart from the will of the Lord or stray from His purpose for our lives.  The hope we have in the promises of God will keep us steadfast during the storms of life, especially because this hope we have “enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” 

This “veil” is the curtain in the temple was placed between the “Inner Sanctuary” and the “Holy of Holies” where God’s sacred presence was.  When Jesus was crucified, this temple veil was rent, or torn, from top to bottom, signifying that Jesus the Lamb of God was the perfect sacrifice which did away with sin.  And Jesus became our High Priest who as our forerunner became our mediator, the One who allows us also to come into God’s presence. Jesus became the great High Priest who intercedes for us continually before the Father. 

This passage in Hebrews 6 also implies also that we have a choice in whether we will take hold of God’s anchor for our soul, the hope we have in His promises:

. . . so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:16)

We have been given “strong encouragement” to take hold of the hope we have been given, but the choice is still ours.  The more we learn about the steadfastness of God’s Word, the easier it will be to receive the anchor we need to keep us on the course set before us and have peace in the midst of the storms of this life.  And hope is the anchor that keeps us firmly directed and safe in the many storms that arise in this world.

Hope Does Not Disappoint

Finally, the Apostle Paul summarizes our hope in the promises of God through Jesus Christ:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

Not only do we have peace during times of tribulation, therefore, but we may also exult, which means we may feel a lively and triumphant joy.  We may rejoice exceedingly and be highly elated or jubilant, all because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the gift of His Holy Spirit.  Praise His name!


Praying in the Name of . . .

  Burns is NOT God!

Not George Burns, and More Than, Like, an “Epithet”

This is how many people would pray the “Lord’s Prayer” today, especially in front of a large group or Church congregation:

OMG in Heaven, hallowed be your name, God.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, God, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day, God, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, God, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, God, but deliver us from evil.  For yours is the kingdom, God, and the power, God, and the glory forever, God.  Amen

I mean no disrespect to the Lord Jesus, who taught us how to pray, nor to our Father in Heaven, to whom Jesus addressed His prayer.  This is how Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:6-13):

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

I merely wish to point out the needless and meaningless repetition of the word “God” in so many prayers, as well as the fact that Jesus taught us to pray to our “Father who is in Heaven,” not some nameless God with whom we have no relationship.

Meaningless Repetition or “Filler Words”

Honestly, I’m surprised that words such as, “like,” or “Dude,” or “Hey!” are not heard in public prayers the way they are in ordinary conversation, especially among young adults.

Hey!  Our Dude who is in, like, Heaven. Hallowed be your name, God, and, like, your Kingdom come, your will be done, like, on earth as it is in Heaven. . .

Having been a professor of literature and writing for many years, I’ve grown accustomed to the ways that “filler words” have crept into the speech, and even the writing, of many young adults.  It’s so much easier to fill the gaps with popular expressions, rather than with meaningful words that are faith-filled and also make sense.

Finally, the expression “Oh, my God!” (and abbreviated as “OMG!”) has become so common that even many Christians use it constantly in social media or in conversation, in spite of its empty (or vain) meaning.  They do so in spite of the third commandment the Lord gave to Israel:  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7).

Father, Guard My Mouth, Lips, and Keyboard

Instead, I am writing this article merely to exhort every Christian, every follower of the Lord Jesus, to pray the following prayer:

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalms 141:3)

And may we have an abiding relationship with our Father in Heaven such that we do not address Him in the form of an “epithet,” but in accordance with the true relationship we have with Him, as our Father, just as Jesus did.  (See a definition of “epithet” below:

1. a characterizing word or phrase added to or used in place of the name of a person or thing.
2. a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt.

See more at this site:  Source.


Reading the Scriptures Honestly

Rightly Reading and Interpreting

God’s Word

One essential belief of most evangelical churches today is that the Word of God, the Scriptures, must be read, understood, and received “literally,” as in the following quotation:  

Do you approach all of the passages in the Bible from a consistently literal viewpoint, seeking to understand the language of the Bible in a natural and normal way, understanding the language in its obvious sense? May God help us to come to His Word in simple childlike faith and humbly take Him at His Word, letting the Bible say what it says, and not forcing it to say what we want it to say or think it should say!

In other words, we must not seek to read into the Scriptures what we want them to say according to our own beliefs, but instead to take from the Scriptures what they actually say, according to a “normal” reading, not a “solipsistic” (or extremely egocentric) reading.  

(See my recent Blog article that includes a discussion of Solipsism by clicking here).

Examples of Misreadings

Several passages from the Scriptures reveal the importance of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 2:15), such as what John wrote in the Book of Revelation:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

The Apostle Peter also makes a similar statement:

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.  (II Peter 1:20-21)

We must assume, therefore, that God’s Word is His Word, and He meant what He said, or what He communicated to His servants to write.  

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16)

Recently, I have found that some well-meaning Christians have tended not to interpret the Scriptures according to a normal, or obvious, interpretation.  Typically, they may faithfully adhere to their Church’s Statement of Faith/Belief, or merely repeat what they learned in seminary or read in a famous teacher’s book.  Plus, they may tend to disregard certain verses that may seem to contradict their preferred teachings.

See for example, the following passage:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:11-14).

I was using this passage in a teaching to show that the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers were given to the Church for a number of reasons, but the timeline is clearly stated: These ministries were given to protect Christians from false teachings until. . .” 1.) we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, 2.) to a mature man, 3.) to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (v. 13).  

A plain, normal understanding of this passage shows, therefore, that these ministry gifts are to be in operation until these conditions have been met, conditions which clearly do not exist in the Church today.  

It must be, therefore, that these ministries need to be fully functioning in the Church, not dismissed or negated, as some recent teachings, such as the following, have proclaimed:

Like the apostles, however, their office ceased with the completion of the New Testament, just as the Old Testament prophets disappeared when that testament was completed, some 400 years before Christ. The church was established “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Once the foundation was laid, the work of the apostles and prophets was finished. (First Corinthians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1984], pp. 322–24) (Source).

Here is the primary passage, again from the Apostle Paul, used to demonstrate that the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the “ministry gifts” (See I Corinthians 12:27-28 below) have passed away and are no longer functioning in the Church:

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

Paul continues in I Corinthians 13:8-11 to say,

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” 

This passage, in particular, has been interpreted to mean that the Church has become mature and no longer needs the kind of help a “child” needs, especially since the “perfect” has come, meaning the completed Scriptures, presumably even anachronistically including the rest of Paul’s letters and John’s Book of Revelation.

Since we have the Bible, it is assumed, we no longer need the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom and discernment, in spite of the demonic age in which we live.  We no longer need words of edification and exhortation (prophecy) or the gift of faith.

Frankly, however, having lived and grown in numerous Churches from infancy, I have yet to encounter any local Church that is “mature,” or  no longer needed the “childish things” that the Holy Spirit provides.  In fact, the Lord Jesus gave the following message to His disciples before His ascension:  

 “But before all these things [His Second Coming], they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. (Luke 21:12-15)

Jesus, therefore, promised that the words and wisdom we will need when we face persecution will be provided to us.  In fact, Jesus told His followers that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they would be His witnesses to the whole world before His coming again:

“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.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:8-11)

We might easily conclude, therefore, that the promise of the Holy Spirit was given not only to the early Church, but also to the Church of all ages until His coming again.  Jesus Himself is the “perfect” who is to come.

The term Apostle, according to the Greek language, means “one who is sent away” to deliver a message or messages.  In some ways, our term “missionary” very much conforms to this idea, and, significantly, this word is based on the Latin translation of the Greek word (Source).  

In a sense, therefore, we continue to have Apostles in the Church today.  Any person who declares that He is an apostle, however, is probably not an apostle, given the abuses such a person usually inflicts on Believers for his own gain.  It is no wonder, therefore, why so many churches have taught that this particular ministry gift is no longer viable today, even in spite of the Scriptural mandates for these ministries.  

The ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to ensure that we believers mature and not be led astray by false teachings.  Not surprisingly, the Church today is weakened constantly by such teachings which declare that ministry gifts such as apostles and prophets are no longer valid in the Church, leading to divisions and strife, as well as a lack of maturity in the Body of Christ.  

Another Example

The following verses from the Book of Hebrews contain a warning, one which would not have been written were it not significantly important.  See if you recognize the warning:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. (Hebrews 6:1-8)

Understood according to the strictures of literal interpretation, this passage may nevertheless be disturbing to those who have accepted the “once saved always saved” teaching so common among evangelicals today.  Also termed “The Security of the Believer,” this teaching contains an important promise and blessing most Christians accept, providing as it does the assurance that the love of God is “unconditional,” as the Apostle Paul teaches in I Corinthians 13:4-7:

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

This security is for the believer, however, not the unbeliever. Therefore, the passage in Hebrews serves as a warning to the complacent and those who at some point in their lives may not decide to continue to make Jesus Lord of their lives.  The passage in Hebrews makes clear that those being warned are true believers, for they have done the following:  They have 1.) been enlightened, 2.) tasted of the Heavenly gift, 3.) have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 4.) and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.

These conditions refute the proposal that those who “fall away” were never truly born-again believers in the first place, so they were never truly saved from their sins by the blood and Lordship of Jesus.  Therefore, it is said, they have fallen away from what was never theirs.  

Unfortunately, however, this theory does not adhere to the plain language of the passage in Hebrews.  The warning is clear to all who proclaim that Jesus is their Lord:  Do not fall away, or it may be impossible to renew you to repentance, having again crucified again the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  

Although this may be an extreme example, the warning still pertains to all Christians.  In particular, it does not allow for opportunities to engage in sinful behaviors without reaping the resulting consequences.  These sinful behaviors are prohibited precisely because they result in harmful effects in the lives of those who engage in them.  Adultery, for example, devastates the lives of those who choose it, as well as the lives of the innocent children. Fornication and other sexual sins are equally harmful, and true followers of Jesus cannot remain faithful to their promises to Him while engaging in these sins.  

Unfortunately, the “once saved, always saved” teaching, while providing assurance of God’s faithfulness to the Believer, nevertheless tends to imply the idea that sinful lives are acceptable to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom of God, Part VIII

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The End of All Things:  Revelation 21-22

Chapter 21 in Revelation begins with a vision of the new heaven and the new earth John sees after the final judgment described in the previous chapter, when death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)

Again, like other images in Revelation, this detail about the sea’s not existing should not be taken literally, although in a new Heaven and a new Earth there may indeed be no more water, as some teachers of Revelation have suggested, even though there is a “River of Life” flowing through the city.

I believe that the sea in verse one refers symbolically to humanity, which no longer exists on the earth, for all of the unredeemed rebellious people have been sent to the lake of fire, and all of the redeemed are seen as the “New Jerusalem.”  

The sea also symbolizes humanity in Chapter 13 of Revelation, where we see two “beasts,” one rising out of the sea and the other rising out of the earth.  The first is described specifically as devoted to speaking blasphemies against God and persecuting the Church.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in thebook of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:6-8)

The city called the “New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 is also depicted as the bride in the following passage:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

The speaker in the next few verses is clearly Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, or the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End!

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5-8)

This symbolic connection between the New Jerusalem and the Bride of Christ is emphasized further in the next passage, for “one of the angels says to John, Come and see the Bride” (21:9), yet the vision John then sees is the holy city, the New Jerusalem:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. (Revelation 21:10-11)


What follows is an extensive and elaborate description of this magnificent city, including the dimensions, descriptions of the city gates, and the ornate composition of the walls and streets.

We need to be certain not to interpret these details literally, as though they describe a physical city, however.  Instead, the details are all symbolic, beginning with the picture of the “Lamb” and the temple.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)

Even the word “Lamb” is a symbol representing Jesus Christ who is described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), a description which links Jesus to the lambs of the temple sacrifices of the Old Covenant that were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  Even these lambs were a pre-figured representation of the ultimate sacrifice for sin that Christ completed on the cross of His crucifixion, as described by Peter:

  • He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (I Peter 2:24)
  • For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, (I Peter 3:18-19)

In addition, unlike what I was taught as a teenager, the New Jerusalem is not a physical place where all the saints will live, but instead consists of all of Christ’s saints, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and are built up as “living stones,” as the Apostle Peter relates:

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, aprecious corner stoneAnd he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (I Peter 2:4-6)

Further, John writes this about the Temple that is in the midst of the New Jerusalem, indicating that the Temple is an overall representation of the Church of Christ:

And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only thosewhose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

The Water and the Tree of Life

What follows in the next chapter, Revelation 22, is a description of the river of the water of life and the tree of life in the middle of the New Jerusalem, once again the symbolic representation of the Church, the Bride of Christ:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
This passage alludes back to the story of the fall of humankind in the Book of Genesis, where the tree of life first appears in the Scriptures.  If you will recall, God told Adam that the Earth was cursed because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and the couple was banished so they would no longer have access to the Tree of Life.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Geness 3:22-24)
Thus, as the passage relates, there will no longer be a curse on the land, and the light will appear not from the sun, moon, and stars, but from the Lord God.

The Final Messages in Revelation

Finally, in Revelation 22:6-21, we read the final messages at the end of John’s visions:

  •  “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7)
  • “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. (22:10)
  • Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” (22:11)
  • “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (22:12)
  • I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (22:13)
  • “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (22:16)
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (22:17)
  • He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (22:20)

Some of these messages seem confounding and confusing, for they seem to be saying that the Lord is coming soon and Christ’s coming is near, in spite of the clear fact Jesus did not come soon.  Even the early apostles and the Apostle Paul implied that Christ’s coming was near.  

However, either His appearing has been delayed for two-thousand years or the Lord’s purposes have a deeper intent than we might suppose and understand.

Perhaps both interpretations may be correct, however, for the Apostle Peter addresses both possibilities about the delay in the Lord’s coming.  Considering that God is timeless, above the restrictions of the linear nature of time’s progress, only two days have passed!

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (II Peter 3:8)

In addition, the Lord will delay His coming until every stone has been added to the Temple, every person has been added to the Body of Christ:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)

And finally, Peter says, the Lord will appear suddenly, without warning, much the same way a thief might secretly break into a home when least expected.  

Christ is not a thief, of course, but Peter’s analogy is significant.  As in the parable of the Ten Virgins, we need to be ready, no matter how long it takes, for He could appear at any moment:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (II Peter 3:10)

A Word of Warning

John  adds a final note of his own to his book, warning that some may try to add or take away from the words, and perhaps even the meanings, of the signs and symbols of these marvelously revealed visions.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Unfortunately, some of the most dedicated teachers of Revelation have made the errors John mentions, either by adding their own interpretations to the visions or taking away parts of the visions. 

I heard recently a description of these kinds of interpretations as follows:

It’s like looking into a well and seeing one’s own reflection.  

Thus, some well-meaning teachers only see from their own solipsistic perspectives, rather than finding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of Revelation.  This means, for example, that the locusts in the Book of Revelation are not helicopters with guided missiles, and the 144,000 saints are not members of a religious cult that only appeared in the twentieth century.

The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part V

The Fifth Vision: 14-16

All In Seven Years?

One of the most persistent ideas about the End Times in the Church today is that many Revelation Bible teachers believe that the different outpourings of God’s wrath are successive, rather than describing the same events in different ways or from various perspectives.

I trust that you have seen in these articles so far that this is not the case.  Each cycle covers portions of the period between Christ’s birth and resurrection, followed by periods of tribulation as a result of persecution, culminating in the return of Christ to bring His Church/Bride home to heaven, along with the end of the world.

Although we are currently looking at John’s Fifth Vision, one other problem needs to be addressed.  

Many End-Time Bible teachers believe that a seven-year period of time, usually labeled the “Great Tribulation,” is predicted in Daniel Chapter 9.  And this period of seven years is the same amount of time all of the plagues, wars, beasts, judgments and horrible events in the Book of Revelation will supposedly appear and occur.

This teaching is based on a false interpretation of the prophecy found in Daniel, where the Angel Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel’s prayer of repentance for the people of Israel.  Here is Gabriel’s message:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)

What follows, then, is a description of how and when these events will take place:

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. (Daniel 9:25)

These two verses show that from the issuing of the decree by Cyrus, the Prince of Persia (the successor to Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon) to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem there would be 69 weeks of years, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,”or 483 years (69 x 7 = 483).

Thus, 483 years after the decree is issued, the Messiah will appear and then be “cut off”:

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

This means that after the 483 years, the Messiah will begin His ministry on earth.  The Messiah will then be “cut off and have nothing,” sometime during the final seven-year period, or the 70th week.  This happened when Jesus was crucified after about three and a half years.

Then, the “prince who is to come” will bring about the destruction of Jerusalem once again, along with the Temple.

Not only Daniel, but also Jesus predicted during His earthly ministry that the Temple would again be destroyed.   

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:5-6)

Consequently, Jesus implied also that all sacrifices and grain offerings in the Temple would cease, for the Temple would be destroyed, for He was the Messiah who would cause sacrifices to cease.

This is how Gabriel’s message to Daniel is stated: 

And he [i.e. Jesus] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week [i.e. 3 1/2 years]  he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)

Therefore, Jesus the Messiah was indeed “cut off” in the middle of the final “week,” or seven years, for He was crucified after three and a half years.  Then after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus the sinless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for sin, caused all sacrifices to cease.

The common understanding is that there needs to be a new temple built and sacrifices resumed in order for the “prince who is to come” can cut off sacrifices and grain offerings, a condition that denigrates Christ’s ultimate sacrifice as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  

The Apostle Paul raged against this kind of teaching, opposing those who wanted Christians to continue to follow the laws of Moses, which would include sacrifices.  

In the sixth century B.C. during the Babylonian captivity, the sacrifices ceased until the Temple was rebuilt about seventy years later. The sacrifices continued until AD 70 when Titus and the Roman army sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Since then, the sacrifices have not been offered because the temple has not been rebuilt.

This means that there is no 2,000-year gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Gabriel’s message to Daniel, and no other prophecy predicts a mere seven-week tribulation period.  Instead, Jesus told His disciples that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).  

This is how the Apostle Paul describes the tribulation to the Church in Rome:

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:5-11)

I have written two articles on this problem, posted September 1, 2014, but if you would like to see them again, click here and copy/paste to your web browser: 



The Bowls of Wrath

The Fifth Vision John sees focuses directly on the judgments of God against those on Earth who have refused to turn to the Lord of Mercy in repentance.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. (15:1)

John then sees a picture in Heaven of those who have been victorious on Earth as they have taken their stand against the temptations of sin:

And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)

John then sees this gathering of victorious people with harps in their hands, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. John sees seven angels carrying golden bowls filled with the wrath of God:

After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. (Revelation 15:5-8)

The Bowls of Wrath

Chapter 16 begins, therefore, with the seven angels holding Bowls of Wrath. They are told by a loud voice from Heaven this message:

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God. (Revelation 16:1)

The rest of this chapter continues with the descriptions of the bowls of wrath being poured out upon the Earth.  The first six bowls are poured, including the following plagues:

  • The first angel pours his bowl and it brings a loathsome and malignant sore upon the people who worship the beast and carry his image on their foreheads.
  • The next angel pours the second bowl, and the sea becomes blood.
  • Then the third angel pours out blood into the rivers and springs of water and cries out that God is righteous, “for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it” (16:6).
  • The fourth angel pours his bowl onto the sun, and it began to scorch the sons of men until they cried out blasphemies, yet still would not repent.
  • The fifth angel pours his bowl of wrath on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom becomes darkened. They cried out in pain because of their sores, and though they blasphemed God, they would not repent.
  • The sixth angel pours out his bowl on the River Euphrates, yet it became dry, leaving a clear path for the armies of the kings of the east.

Now there is a brief pause between the sixth and the seventh bowls to reveal the gathering of the nations in a place called Armageddon, or Har-Magedon in Hebrew.


John sees three unclean spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet that are like frogs.  These spirits go out to the kings of the earth to gather them together for “the Great Day of God,” the final judgement of God against those who refuse to repent:

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe. (Revelation 16:17-20)

Thus, the question is not, “What is Babylon?” or “Who is the Beast?” Instead, what should concern us and the Church of all ages is what these terms represent.  

So many have labeled them in twenty-first-century people or places, but they have been represented throughout history in countless different ways.  


How Do We Interpret Such Mysteries?

Imagine living in the time of the Apostle John in the first century after the Book of Revelation was written. Whom do you believe is the “Beast: or the “Harlot”?  What does “Babylon” represent?  

Or perhaps you are living during the reign of Nero in Rome, or even Hitler in Germany in the 1940s.  

Is Barrack Obama the Antichrist? Some have declared him to be the one John wrote about in Revelation. Should we try to fit these historical figures into John’s apocalyptic visions, only to be wrong when years pass?  

Today, one site ( declares that Alexander the Great is the Antichrist who will supposedly rise from the dead. Other sites say the Pope is the Antichrist. Wait, I thought Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist!  Oh, no!  

Today, we are told that the “Mystery  of Babylon” (which we will study next in Revelation 17) is Rome, or Jerusalem, or even America, depending on the interpretations of the various Bible teachers. And these places are interpreted literally, not as representations of spiritual significance applicable to all Christians.

Shouldn’t these teachings be modified in case the link doesn’t work out in the light of history, as has happened so often in the past?  

Again, this is the danger of trying to be too specific in terms of identifying the actual persons or places in Revelation and linking them with present-day people or cities.  

On the other hand, if I were alive in the first or second centuries hearing that the Beast arising out of the sea is an evil person living in the 21st century, I’m not sure I would take the warnings of repentance and the consequences of not doing so too seriously.  

Thus, we need to focus our spiritual attention on the meanings of these visions, not trying to take them literally or applying them to specific contemporary people or places. If we are wrong, we will only bring reproach on the Church and Christ Jesus.

Nor should we be focusing on the “signs of the times” to declare that the European Common Market is the Beast with seven heads and ten horns found in Revelation 13 and 17.  It’s been years since I have even heard that term “Common Market” used, but when I was a teenager that was what we were told was the prime indicator of the Antichrist’s coming kingdom.

In the next article, we will consider John’s Sixth Vision beginning in Revelation Chapter 17.


The Kingdom of God: Revelation Part II

The Second Vision: Chapters 4-7

 The beginning of John’s Second Vision in Revelation is indicated by the following statement:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (Revelation 4:1-2)

     In his vision John sees Heaven.  The pattern for Heaven was seen by Moses in the Book of Exodus, when he was told to follow the pattern when building the Tabernacle the Jews used in the wilderness.

     This is a part of what John saw:

Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. (Revelation 4:5-6)

     The following scenes depict all that has unfolded since Christ’s first appearance on Earth as the human Son of God, His birth, resurrection, and ascension.  John sees a re-enactment of the scene when Christ appeared before God’s Throne in Heaven after His resurrection:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:18-23)

     John looks and sees a book with seven seals.  This book is not a prediction of the extreme tortures and judgments that will occur some day in the supposed seven-year tribulation period. Instead, John weeps greatly because no one is found who is worthy to open the book and break its seals (5:2), to bring to pass what God reveals as His solution to the problems of sinful captivity.  

     The book John sees, therefore, represents the unfolding of God’s will in redeeming humankind and the Earth from their bondage to Satan.  Only the perfectly sinless Son of God, a human without sin like a sacrificial lamb, could bring about this redemption.

     However, one of the elders around the throne of God tells John, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”  

     This passage alludes to the Word of the Lord given through Nathan the prophet in the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the King from the line of David, whose kingdom will have no end.  Speaking to King David, Nathan says,

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  (II Samuel 7:12)

This descendant was Jesus.  Instead of a lion, therefore, John sees a Lamb “as if slain”:

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

     Thus, the figure of the Lamb is clearly a depiction of the risen Jesus Christ, revealed as the antitype of the lamb of sacrifice in the Old Covenant.  

     The rest of the Second Vision concerns the breaking of the seals, for Jesus Christ is celebrated as the One who is found to be worthy.

     Unlike the picture posted at the beginning of this article, the book John saw was the kind of scroll that could only be read as it was unwound:

Unwinding was impossible, however, until each part of the scroll was loosed from the bondage of the previous seals in their order.  

     Also, to understand their significance, we must not look for future political events or historical figures, but patterns of what always happens when the Good News of the Kingdom goes forth into the world.

     Nor are the seals representative of future events necessarily, for they do not depict single events during the “Great Tribulation.” Instead, the Book of Revelation is meant to be a blessing to anyone who reads it, so the principles apply to the Church in every age, not just the Church of the End Times.  I doubt very much that those living in the Early Church period were overly concerned with what might happen in two thousand years, or might have been delighted to learn the name of the supposed Antichrist.

     What follows, then, are descriptions of what happens when Jesus Christ opens the seals, not just once for a specific time at the end of the age, but for all times during the Church Age until His second coming.

The First Seal:  

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.  (Revelation 6:1-2)

The rider on a white horse is not a false messiah, or the Antichrist, as some have suggested.  Instead, the rider has a crown who goes forth to conquer.  This is a picture of Jesus the King who, with His Church, goes forth into the world to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  

     To understand this image, we need to see that the white horse should be consistent with the white horse in the 19th Chapter:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. (6:1-2)

Thus, the white horse represents the proclamation of the Gospel, the going forth of the message Jesus has commanded.  The Lamb, Jesus Christ, has been crowned, and He is going forth to conquer and make manifest the fact that all power is given to Him in Heaven and on Earth.  And we in the Church are part of His campaign, for He told us that since all power has been given to Him, we are to go forth into all the world in His name and spread the good news of His Kingdom (see Matthew 28:19-20).  We are not to conquer territory, for His Kingdom is not of this world.  

The Second Seal:

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. (Revelation 6:3-4)

    This passage is reminiscent of the passage in the first chapter of Zechariah, another story of a rider on the red horse, written in a similar apocalyptic style:  

I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him. Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “I will show you what these are.” And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, “These are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.” So they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, “We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.”

Clearly, this passage is figurative, not literal, but its emphasis is slightly different from the red horse in Revelation, for in that passage power is given to the rider to take peace from the Earth, and men begin slaying one another. Instead, the passage in Revelation depicts what happens when the Gospel is preached.  Immediately, the enemy responds with persecution, depicted as the rider on the red horse just as Jesus declared that in the world we will have persecution.

The Third Seal:  

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:5-6)

     This seal does not depict famine, necessarily, for there is plenty of food.  Only those who are able to purchase it may buy, however. This vision, therefore, depicts another form of persecution, for oil and wine are available if believers will only bow to the emperor or follow the dictates of the secular or state powers.  If not, they will lose their jobs or not be allowed to join the workers union. Thus, if they cannot work, they will have no money and no food.

The Fourth Seal:  

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:7-8)

     Death and Hades are named in this passage, written on an ashen-colored horses.  These names describe the continued persecution against the Church through martyrdom, as well as natural disasters, leading to death, all of which Christians must endure. 

The Fifth Seal:  

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.  (Revelation 6:9-11)

     The opening of this seal depicts the martyrs of the saints seen under the altar.  They cry out saying, “How long, Oh Lord, will you refrain from judgment?” (6:10). The response to their cry is that they must wait until their number is complete.  Thus, God withholds judgment because of His mercy.  God is good if He punishes sin, but He is also longsuffering, withholding judgment until “whosoever will” may come.  

The Sixth Seal:

The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)

     The opening of this seal reveals a terrible picture of rebellion against God and the punishments that fall upon the Earth as a result.  In the midst of the earthquakes and terror, men do not repent of their rebellion but only try to hide from God’s presence.  


A Pause

     What follows before the opening of the Sventh Seal is a pause, or interlude, that depicts the Church of Jesus Christ in glory, all of its members clothed in white robes and sealed as bondservants of the Lord. The Church is described using two pictures, or representations:

The 144,000

     Before the final judgment, four angels holding back the wrath say, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” (v. 3)

     Therefore, the first picture of the Church appears as those who have been “sealed,” the 144,000, a symbolic number made up of other symbolic numbers (3 x 4 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10) and described in terms of the “tribes” of Israel.  

     These are not exactly the same tribes usually used to describe the Nation of Israel precisely, but instead the numbers come from, and represent, the True Israel made up of both Jews and Gentiles. See these past articles:

The New Covenant with Israel

The New Covenant with Israel

     To show that these are not simply the Tribes of Israel that are described under the Old Covenant, the tribes are mixed in order, and some are even deleted from the Old Testament record.  Thus, Reuben, Abraham’s firstborn, is not listed first, as was usual, but Judah is listed first instead, and Reuben is listed second.  Manasseh is listed, but his tribe does not appear in Genesis the 49th Chapter, where the other tribes are listed, while Ephraim was also a child of Joseph, but he is not listed. 

Therefore, this listing represents the True Israel (the perfect Church), consisting of those who have been sealed.

The Great Multitude:

     The next depiction of the True Church begins in Chapter 7, where John sees a “great multitude” that is uncountable, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues (v. 9).

     At this point, no better description of the True Church exists in Scripture, I believe, as long as the term “great tribulation” is not misinterpreted and described only in terms of seven years:

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”  (Revelation 7:13-17)

     Jesus said before His death and resurrection, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  

     The idea that the great tribulation only lasts seven years is based on a misreading of Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, which I have discussed in a previous article which disproves this teaching. (Click here to read:  Imposed Meanings)

The Seventh Seal: 

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. (Revelation 8:1-2)

     John’s Second Vision in Revelation ends, appropriately enough, with the statement that there was “silence in Heaven.” This pause of a half an hour signals the beginning of John’s Third Vision.

Next Time:  

In the next article, we will continue to see how the Kingdom of God and His Christ are revealed in the Apocalypse, or Revelation, of John. 


The Kingdom of God: Revelation Part I


The Book of Revelation, written down by the Apostle John, has much to say about the Kingdom of God, but it is primarily this book, unfortunately, that is the basis of the teaching that the reign of Christ will only begin after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This teaching says that Christ will be crowned to set up His throne in Jerusalem, where He will rule on Earth for one thousand years.

     The Book of Revelation was written to the whole Church, however, not just the Church that exists in what is termed “the later days.” What is written must make sense and pertain to the Church of all ages, for as John wrote,

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)

The book belongs to all who read it, for the time is near to them also, as Jesus said in John’s vision, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book. . . .Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:7, 10).     

     In addition, Revelation belongs to a particular genre, or “kind” of writing called apocalyptic literature.  Thus, the book as a whole contains content much like parts of the books of Daniel and Ezekiel that include such strange images, as in the following passage:

Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. (Ezekiel 1:5-7)

Therefore, Revelation is a book that was not intended to be taken literally, for it was “signified” to John, as the word “communicated” is best translated in the Authorized Version, “He sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1 KJV).  Thus, the visions John saw on the Island called Patmos were revealed to him in the form of signs and symbols, a waking vision.  

     For example, in the first chapter, Jesus is depicted as having a sword coming out of His mouth (Revelation 1:16).  We must not make the mistake of seeing this as a literal sword, however. Instead, it is a picture or representation of the “sword of the spirit,” the “Word of God” described by the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:17) and by the writer of the Book of Hebrews (4:12) 

     This example of the sword reveals that the mysteries in Revelation, the many images and symbols in the Book of Revelation, may be discovered and understood in the context of other parts of the Scriptures.

     In addition, this book must not be read and understood chronologically or linearly.  It is not a “history” of the Church through two thousand years and beyond, but instead it portrays a series of visions that show patterns that are relevant to the Church of all ages.  

     Again, John shows this relevance to the whole Church clearly in the final chapter of the book, where he says of the angelic messenger:

And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:6-7)

     Therefore, John’s visions are comprehensible only to those believers who have been given the Keys to the Kingdom of God, not to those who are “outside” trying to see inside.  

     The message of Revelation was also important in the Early Church period, for example, so that early Christians did not invite more persecution by revealing what some of the meanings were in difficult times.  Can you imagine what the Emperor Diocletian might have thought of John’s book if he had known its true and unveiled content?  

     Therefore, it is clear that the Scriptures as a whole are the keys that unlock the mysteries of the visions John saw.  We have been given the Bible as a kind of code book which holds the keys to unlocking the enigmas and obscure meanings of the text. These are mysteries that God wants to reveal to His people.

     Finally, the book of Revelation focuses on a revelation, or a “revealing,” of Jesus Himself and His Body, the Church, not just the horrors of a supposed tribulation and His second coming. Based on what this book describes, Christ’s work has been finished, just as He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Thus, there is nothing more to do except to finish, or complete, what has already been decreed.



An Outline of Revelation

     The book consists generally of seven visions in which the overall plan of God is revealed from seven different perspectives.  In varying degrees of specificity, we see both the entire picture, as well as different details, not necessarily with the same degree of specificity or in the same language.

Also, John sees his visions “in the Spirit,” not with the eyes of the flesh. Even what we see with our own eyes may be difficult to recall and write, but John is charged with writing what he sees in a spiritual vision, no easy task:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (Revelation 4:1-2)

     Each one of the seven visions portrays in different ways the story of the coming of Christ Jesus to redeem us from the Kingdom of Darkness, ruled over by Satan, followed by Christ’s victory over Satan, followed further by the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Christ’s reign on earth is then depicted and the final defeat of Satan is accomplished as the Gospel goes forth to the world and the Church is called to Heaven as the Bride of Christ.

     All of the visions John sees are also begun in different ways that show a transition to a new perspective.  Here are some examples:

  • First Vision (1-3): I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see. . .”
  • Second Vision (4-7): After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.
  • Third Vision (8-11):  When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
  • Fourth Vision (12-14): A great sign appeared in heaven. . .
  • Fifth Vision (15-16): Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues.
  • Sixth Vision (17-19):  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot. . .” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness.
  • Seventh Vision (20-22): Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 

     Here, then, are descriptions of these seven visions with appropriate interpretations and explanations. These understandings are not my own entirely, but they are compilations of the teachings of many Bible scholars and teachers.  The teachings of Malcom Smith have been particularly enlightening and helpful.


First Vision: Chapters 1-3

     John’s first vision should not be read or understood literally, for it sets the parameters for the rest of the visions in the book.  First, the vision was communicated, or “signified,” through Christ’s messenger (1:1), and for our purposes in this study, John clearly states that we, the recipients, have been made to be a “Kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1:6)

     What are we looking for?  Significantly, when He appears, every eye will see Him, for He is not a thief, as some have portrayed Him, coming secretly to rescue His followers.  The word “thief” in Jesus’ teaching refers only to the suddenness of His coming, not to the idea that He will not be seen.

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.  (Revelation 1:7)


John’s Visions Should Not Be Interpreted Literally

     Two images immediately appear in the vision, the sharp sword out of Christ’s mouth (1:16) and the “Seven lampstands.”  These images are immediately interpreted by John for us as the seven churches addressed. Are these churches symbolic? 

     For example, do the seven churches represent the different “ages” of the church throughout history, as some have suggested?  Some have taught that the universal “Church” of today is represented by the final church addressed in Revelation, the church in Laodicea: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (3:16).

     I do not believe that this teaching is correct, for these churches represent the different kinds of churches that have existed at any time in the church age since the ascension of Christ.  John makes clear, however, that those people Christ has redeemed with His blood are all part of the Kingdom of God 

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (Revelation 1:4-6)

And John’s vision also provides for us interpretations of what some of the symbols or images represent.  

He who overcomes, I will make him apillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.  (Revelation 3:120

     We understand, therefore, that the true spiritual Church is portrayed in Revelation not only as parts of a building, the Temple of God, but also as citizens of a city, the “New Jerusalem.”  Thus, our destiny is not to live in geographical Palestine but in a Heavenly city, a spiritual city not made with hands.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”


Next Time: The next article in this series will focus on John’s second vision and the breaking of the Seven Seals.

The Rhema and the Logos: God’s Word

Getting Started

My Prophetic Dream

This is a picture from our wedding day.  One year later, my wife Jan and I had a baby, a beautiful girl.  In spite of the surprise, the Lord miraculously provided for her birth:  I found out that even after leaving my job as a grocery clerk to continue my education, I still had “extended coverage” for my insurance, enough to cover the hospital and doctor bills!

We were surprised she came so quickly, only one year and one month after our wedding, but four years later, we couldn’t seem to conceive our second child for a lengthy time.

One night in a dream, Jesus came towards me holding out both hands open towards me.  Lying across his forearms was an infant child.  With great clarity Jesus said, “Take this child to raise as your own.”  

I immediately woke up and recalled what Jesus had said to me so clearly.  In the morning I told my wife that we were going to have a baby!

When we received the confirmation about the conception about a month later, we were ecstatic, for we knew that our second baby , as was our first, was truly a gift from the Lord.


Trusting God

We had only recently moved into a full-time Bible teaching ministry, having opened a non-profit Evangelistic Association called “The Abiding Word.”  This was an exciting step for us since I believed I was no longer unemployed!  

Since I hadn’t gone to seminary, my path was very different from most ministers, although I did have secondary teaching certification.  Therefore, we often encountered many opportunities to look for a steady income, but the Lord kept telling me that I worked for Him, and no matter how long I looked, I wouldn’t find a job!

Seeing the weekly miracles of God’s provision appear, however, just in time to pay our rent or buy gasoline and groceries, was both challenging and exciting. One reason was the guidelines the Holy Spirit had strongly impressed upon me that I needed to follow as I set out to teach His Word.

First, I was never to take an offering, and second I was never to ask anyone for money or any kind of sustenance such as food or gasoline.  I had to rely only on God for our needs.

The Holy Spirit even chastised me once when I was looking into our Post Office box.  When I confessed to seeing if someone had written us a check, I heard the Lord’s voice saying to me in my spirit, “I am the source of your supply, not the Post Office.”

The Lord has only rarely spoken to me verbally in my life, and my dream was one of them.  The other was when He called me to use His Spiritual Weapons.

Usually I heard His voice in my thoughts, and not necessarily in English.  Once I was praying, “Lord we need some money because we need a new tire for our car.”  

His reply was filled with wisdom:  “When you pray, don’t pray for money for what you need.  Pray for this tire, not the money.”  So I changed my prayer.

A few days later, one of my friends said to me, “Do you need tires for your car? I got four from my uncle, but I only need two.”

Even though I only desperately needed one at the time, I rejoiced and had both put on the car.

I stumbled a few times as we learned how to trust the Lord, but we were learning.


Our Biggest Challenge

Knowing how the Lord was going to provide for the birth of our baby was the focus of much of our faith and prayers for nine months.  We had no insurance, so we needed to pay the doctor and the hospital both, totaling at the time about one thousand dollars. Plus, we had our regular monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, and food.

We came right up to the time when Jan’s labor began, and we still had no money for the doctor or hospital expenses.  I kept remembering how in my dream the Lord gave us the baby, so I kept thinking, “God would not give us such a precious gift and then not provide what we need to pay the medical expenses also.”

I had to speak to the woman in the Hospital’s office when we checked in, and she told me how much I would need to pay.  Plus, the doctor was very firm with me later , saying that we should have paid him already.  Meanwhile, I was very nervous about the money, but even more nervous for my wife.  She was in great pain, and all I could do was rub her back and take antacids.


A New Life

Jan was in labor for nine hours, and I was almost as exhausted as she was when we finally held our child.  I realize, of course, that there is no way to compare both of our experiences!

Leaving the hospital, the young couple that we had asked to take care of our other daughter gave us a check, a love gift, which covered much of the cost of the hospital, so I was greatly encouraged that the Lord’s had begun to answer our prayers and the fulfillment of His message in my dream had begun to come to pass.  

When we got home, we were visited the very next day by a couple we had been teaching in our home group.  They had just sold their home, and it had cleared escrow that morning, so they said they had a gift for us.  

Sure enough, the amount was enough to cover both the doctor’s and the hospital bills, plus the money we needed to pay our rent, which was also due.

Ultimately, we had fifty dollars left, giving us enough for gasoline and groceries.  We were then ready to start believing God again for a new month!

Overall, we truly believed the Lord’s promises to us about supplying all of our needs, especially when one of those needs concerned His gift to us of a baby girl.

This miracle of God’s provision has steadied me throughout our lives as a family, and we have always seen our needs met, sometimes just as miraculously as in those early days.

One time, for example, we were in the grocery store with very little money to buy enough for our dinner.  Somehow, a neighbor we barely knew who lived a few blocks away, came up to us and gave us a ten dollar bill.  It was enough to pay for the food we needed, which came to within a few cents of ten dollars at the checkout. We thanked him profusely for his gift, but in our hearts we also thanked the Lord for his goodness to us.


Learning How to Receive the Faith We Needed

After hearing messages from a number of Bible teachers who have soundly rebuked those who try to believe God in the ways we did, I have often asked the Lord to show me about being guided by His wisdom and truth so that we would not be presumptuous or ignorant. Yet time and time again, He has shown us that He is our Father who cares for us enough to meet our needs like the loving Father He is.

I wanted to know, though, how to allow Him to live, move, and have His being in our lives more fully.  Consequently, the Holy Spirit began to teach me about the power of the Word of God, both the Logos and the Rhema, the terms used extensively in the New Testament Scriptures.

Both terms are translated “Word,” depending on their contexts, although the words are not strictly used interchangeably; thus, they are not synonyms in the strictest sense.  Therefore, a few of those passages will help to clarify the differences and similarities between the two.  




Today, as in the past, even the term “logo” commonly means a graphic mark or symbol used to represent a company, organization, or even a person.  We are all probably familiar with the Nike “swoosh” or the NBC “peacock.”  This term is also derived from the Greek word.

The most significant uses of the Greek word Logos in the New Testament, however, are found in two places in the first chapter in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos]was with God, and the Word [logos] was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  (John 1:1-5)

And the Word [logosbecame flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The first five verses reveal how the Logos, or Word, essentially means the totality of God’s will and revelation, revealing the very essence and nature of the acts and attributes of God.  Nothing would, or could, exist in this world apart from the Logos

Also, the second passage clearly reveals that the Logos is Jesus, who became flesh and dwelt among us, revealing the love and full glory of God to us.  Thus, the Logos is the sum total of God’s will, power, glory, and truth, ultimately personified in Jesus the Messiah

Traditionally in the Church, the Logos represents the written Scriptures, but in the original Greek the Logos also represents what is thought, not necessarily spoken.  This is the view seen in Hebrews, where the Logos is portrayed as a sharp sword:

For the word [logosof God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.  (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Thus, even the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is a personification of Jesus Christ.  

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul also writes a statement that reveals why Jesus is the Logos.  Paul prays for those he has not yet met in person, praying

That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  (Colossians 2:2-3)

Therefore, all of the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge are within Christ Jesus, who is named the Logos in John’s Gospel.  And within the chapters in this book we shall see that the “mysteries” of the Kingdom are similarly portrayed.  



Another Greek word used in the New Testament is Rhema, which is translated in similar ways as Logos.  Howeverthe English words in the translations, though spelled the same, do not have precisely the same meanings in context.  

Here are some scriptural examples that will highlight the use of the word Rhema.

The following verse seems to align almost exactly with the use of the word Logos in John 1:1.  For example, the writer to the Hebrews says the following about the creation:

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word [rhemati] of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Several passages using this word Rhema either quote or make reference to the Scriptures in the Old Testament, including the following verses:

When Satan tempted Jesus, telling Him to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word [rhemati] that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, see also Luke 4:4)

However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word [rhematos]  of Christ.  But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth,  And their words [rhemata]  to the ends of the world.”  (Romans 10:16-18)

“But the word [rhema] of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word [rhema] which was preached to you.  (I Peter 1:25)

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words [rhematon] spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. (II Peter 3:1-2)

At times the word Rhema refers to specific messages from a person or an angel, for example:

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word [rhema] ” (Luke 1:38).

And likewise Peter remembered the word [rhematos] which Jesus had said,

“Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 24:75, see also Mark 14:72)

Peter also relates to the Christians in Jerusalem the incident when he first shared the Gospel with the gentiles:

Arriving from Joppa, Peter heard from a man who relayed what the angel had told him in a vision, “Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words [rhemata] to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”  (Acts 11:13-14)

Peter then continues to tell his story to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem,

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word [rhematos] of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 11:15-16)

One passage in particular reveals a context that shows how the word Rhema is not necessarily used exclusively for literal renderings, for Paul says he heard words that are ineffable, that cannot be articulated or explained in terms of human language.

Speaking about the revelations he received, Paul speaks in the third person, relating his story:

And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words [rhemata], which a man is not permitted to speak. (II Corinthians 12:4)

Finally, although some Bible teachers oppose this application in the lives of Christians today, the word Rhema is used to reveal the reception of a personal word or message given by God.

If you abide in Me, and My words [rhemata] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

But what does it say? “The word [rhema] is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [rhemaof faith which we are preaching” (Romans 10:8).

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God.”  (Ephesians 6:17)


The Reason for Our Faith

As a result, therefore, of hearing a message in a vision and receiving that message in our hearts, not only were my wife and I given the gift of a child that we had been seeking, but also we were assured that the child would be truly the Lord’s and He would use her in powerful ways.  Plus, all the means for bringing her into this world, the home and the funds, would be provided for her.  This is why we were able to believe so strongly for the miracle of provision we experienced that day in the Hospital.

The Apostle Paul tells believers how to live their lives: 

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.  (I Thessalonians 5:17-22)

One assumption is that we will listen to the voice of the Lord in our hearts, in the inner man.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”  (John 10:27).  It is not memorization of the Scriptures that allows us to hear the voice of the Lord, for even a parrot can repeat words and phrases.  

The difference is found in allowing the Logos of the Lord to become a Rhema in our hearts.  We allow the Lord to speak to us by meditating on his Logos day and night and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Then we will find that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word [rhematos] of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

We will then have the word abiding in our hearts, along with the faith to bring His will to pass in our lives: “If you abide in Me, and My words [rhemata] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).


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