A Sidekick's Blog

No Regrets

November 11, 2017
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via Doing the Right Thing Hurts Sometimes

Monday I will “fly solo” on my new route for the first time.  This is actually the first time in three years at FedEx that I have actually been trained for a FedEx route instead of just thrown into the deep water to sink or swim.  So there’s a lot less dread and terror this time, even though this is a Ground route instead of Home Delivery, and the tools that HD drivers enjoy (turn-by-turn directions, detailed maps, even GPS route downloads if you wish) are unavailable to me on the new route.

Training makes all the difference, and I wish every FedEx contractor could see that.  If you want to retain good drivers, for goodnessakes, TRAIN THEM properly!

No regrets.

 

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Two Wills of God?

August 12, 2014
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It’s God’s will for EVERYONE to be saved, is it not? Absolutely. He requires all men in all times and all places to repent and believe the gospel (John 3:18), and thus to be saved from His wrath.

But of course, not everyone believes the gospel, and most of humanity is not saved. Does this mean that God’s will is thwarted by men? How can it be His will for everyone to be saved, yet also His will for so many to perish? Does He have “two wills” that conflict with each other? Not at all. Here is why:

Both the righteous and the wicked exist for God’s glory: The righteous to the praise of His mercy and love; and the wicked to the glory of His holiness and justice. BOTH glorify their Creator!

But the question of whether God truly “wants” every person to be saved or not is like the plan of God itself:

this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men… (Acts 2:23)

On one hand, murder is not God’s will! He says, “You shall not kill!” It is not His moral will that anyone should be murdered. And yet even before He created the world He had planned the murder of His only begotten Son, and it occurred exactly as God had determined and planned ages before the fact. His will was not thwarted, but rather carried out “by the hands of godless men,” for a fantastic display of God’s mercy towards undeserving sinners like me!

So while murder is “against God’s will,” we also see that the murder of His Son was God’s will. Is there a conflict between His “moral will” and His “decreative will?” On the surface it looks like it, but His decree – before creation – that the Son would be murdered to purchase a people for Himself from the fallen race of Adam, was in fact, God’s will.

Two “wills” of God?

No. One standard of morality, and one plan to redeem a people. The standard is holiness! The one single attribute of God that is repeated three times by the heavenly beings, in Isaiah and Revelation, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…” – we never see “Loving, loving, loving” or “merciful, merciful, merciful,” but always, in both Testaments, “Holy, holy, holy.” His “moral will” is His standard. It requires perfection, purity, absolute righteousness from all living beings, period. The plan was and is to have rebellious, fallen men to demonstrate the awesomeness of God’s holiness and purity in the treatment they shall receive at His hands, whether He shows them mercy by granting them repentance and faith, or whether He shows them justice in the everlasting lake of fire.

So is it His “will” for everyone to be saved? That is the standard He holds all men to. He requires faith in Christ of all men (John 3:18). But His plan was to demonstrate BOTH His justice AND His love. The wicked demonstrate His justice, and the redeemed His mercy and love. There is no contradiction between God’s standard and His plan. They are consistent both with who He is and with how He has revealed Himself in His written word.

 


Reformed Blindness?

July 31, 2014
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I just wordlessly quit a Reformed forum that I deeply respected until recent days, when a mystifying blindness to the obvious truth about the present conflict in Gaza became all too obvious.

I am not a Dispensationalist. I don’t believe that the little nation of Israel has a future role in bible prophecy and I’m not looking for a rebuilt Temple there, nor for Jerusalem to become the capitol city of Planet Earth. I do not support Israel out of any heterodox belief that they remain “God’s chosen people.” In fact, no one – Jew or Gentile – comes to the Father except through Christ alone. And no one without Christ can be counted among God’s “chosen people.”

But my theological beliefs about Israel and the Jewish race do not blind me to the simple, proven, obvious FACTS about the present conflicts involving the tiny democracy that has been the only true ally of the United States (my home country) in the Middle East since its birth:

There is only one nation in all of the Middle East where it’s Palestinian citizens enjoy

  • the right to vote
  • the right to own land
  • the right to run for public office

It’s Israel! NONE of the surrounding “Arab” nations treat their Palestinian citizens with such consideration. To them, Palestinians are trash. They are regarded as gypsies, vagabonds, undesirables. Even if they join in the “Death to Israel” chants with their Arab “brethren.”

Israel defends it’s citizens – all of it’s citizens – with state-of-the-art weapons of war. Hamas, by contrast, defends it’s offensive rockets using it’s citizens as human shields. Women and little children are favored for use as human shields because of their value as media pawns, being used to make it appear as though Israel is targeting them. Those tunnels that Israel is destroying were built by captive little boys under threat of rape by their Hamas masters. These are FACTS, overwhelmingly well documented. Hamas holds it’s own children hostage and does not seek peace at all, but the complete annihilation of Israel and of the Jewish race.

Yet in the so-called Reformed community, most obviously and recently in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) but in equal measure in the broader and supposedly more orthodox Reformed community, a baffling blindness to these facts is shown in discussions and decisions, like the one in which the PCUSA voted to divest itself of companies and churches doing business with Israel in the “disputed territory.”

Even in the forum I just quietly abandoned (although I did click the “delete my account” link), respected Reformed folk urge “tolerance” for Islam, which plainly teaches that all non-Muslims should be forced to convert or be enslaved, taxed into indentured servitude, or outright slaughtered. Throughout it’s bloody history, Islam has been spread chiefly by the sword and by terror rather than by anything similar to Christian evangelism. Tolerating Islam today is akin to tolerating and appeasing Nazism in the 1930s.

What I honestly wish to know is WHY such overwhelmingly obvious, daily observable facts are deliberately ignored and even refuted by so many in Christendom. I can think of only one reason (plain ol’ anti-Semitism), but surely there must be some reasonable explanation for such willful blindness to the plainly obvious.

There can be absolutely no biblical, Christian basis for repeating history yet again by standing still and mute in the face of terror and tyranny as has been the case every other single time in history that tyrants have enslaved and slaughtered thousands and millions of peaceful people. This willful ignorance is every bit as mystifying to me as the liberal American bias in favor of Islamic jihadists – the very same people who would use Sharia law to outlaw every beloved liberal cause, from gay “rights” to the right of women to vote. If their jihadist friends get their way, liberals will be the first to die in defense of their favorite causes. When Christians oppose homosexuality, we are “homophobes.” Yet when Islamic jihadists do the same, it is somehow noble and good. This is beyond willful ignorance, it’s outright suicidal stupidity.

When I similar baseless calls among Christians for “tolerance” of tyranny, false religion, child rape, and calls for genocide, I am more than merely baffled. My disdain is beyond disappointment, it’s outright disgust.


By the Book

July 9, 2014
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We Sidekicks are not at liberty to decide how best to serve our Hero. My Hero has written a Book that He expects me to understand and put into practice.  Most Sidekicks have supervisor/mentors that have been in the service of the Hero for many years before, and who have learned to know His will and apply His teachings. They are commonly called Pastors. But once in a while a Pastor becomes enamored with all the “feel-good” fluff and excitement of being in the service of our Hero, Jesus Christ. That’s easy to do, of course. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes. But when that “feel-good” stuff becomes an end in itself, or a higher priority than faithfulness to the Hero’s Book, it’s big big trouble.

A former pastor rebuked me thusly after the umpteenth time I brought him a bunch of questions about the Book:

 

Oh, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine! You and that doctrinal stuff, Robin. Enough already! Can’t you just love the Lord?

Oh. Wow. I was stunned! Had I missed the whole point of all that bible study? Was I too concerned with my Hero’s teachings so that I missed out on just enjoying my role of serving at His side? Maybe… so I really worked hard at trying to “just love the Lord” and not being so concerned about “minutia,” as my pastor had called it. But I discovered something in the process of “trying to love the Lord” that really freaked me out:

1. – If you love the Lord, you’ll do what He says (John 14:15).
2. – You can’t do what He says if you don’t know what He says and what it means.
3. – Knowing what He says and what it means is – omygosh… DOCTRINE!

Uh-oh, how did this happen? But as it turns out, there’s no way to “just love the Lord” without studying doctrine! Dr. John Gerstner says this better than I can. Clicky here: Everyman Must be a Theologian Excerpt:

If a theologian is a person who knows God, then by reverse reasoning a person who is not a theologian does not know God. There is no shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know carpentry, or plumbing, or medicine, or law, or teaching, or the ways of a housewife; but there surely is the greatest of shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know God. Furthermore, there is more than shame; there is very great danger. The Scripture says that to live apart from God is death. And just as the text quoted says it is life eternal to know God and Christ, another passage in the same book says that they who do not believe in Jesus shall not see life and, furthermore, the wrath of God abides upon them: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

I was even more confused after I went back to my pastor to seek an answer to this riddle:

Robin: Pastor, how can I love the Lord without doctrine? Can you tell me about Him without referring to doctrine?
Pastor: Oh, you again… you and your book. Um, sure. Tell you about Jesus without doctrine? Well lemme see… well, He loves us, so…
Robin (interrupting): Wait, pastor, that’s doctrine! “He loves us” is doctrine! Try again, please, I really need to know.
Pastor: Oh, yeah, well, okay. Um, okay. He is building His kingdom here, and…”
Robin (interrupting again): Doctrine. Please try again? I really want to just love the Lord!
Pastor: Love is a feeling, Robin! Can’t you just feel His love and be satisfied?
Robin: Not if I truly love Him back. See here where He said… (turning to John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” – you gotta know what they are!)
Pastor (interrupting): Put that book down! It’s not a matter of doctrine! It’s a feeling! Feel the love! Let go and let God be God!

Was it just that I didn’t get it, or had my pastor just told me to put the Hero’s book aside for a good feeling? I actually got scared. I wondered if I didn’t really love the Lord. I wondered if I was guilty of being one of those “head knowledge only” Christians that were so scorned in our church.

Only one thing to do: Go straight to the Hero for His advice.  He sent me to a new mentor, and shortly thereafter He removed my former mentor from his position. Wow. Y’see? My Hero takes good care of me!


The Gift of Tongues

April 19, 2014
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While still active in the charismatic movement, I became disillusioned with the obvious disparity between the bible descriptions and accounts of the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. If it is supposed to be “a sign – not to believers, but to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22), why had I never heard an unbeliever interpret a message in tongues at church? If it is a “prayer language,” then why did we use it so extensively as part of our corporate worship when 1 Corinthians 14 tells us not to? I was overwhelmed with questions and suspicious of even my own experience. So I began a study of the bible and of early church history in order to determine the true biblical nature and purpose of the charismatic gifts. I was not seeking to prove or disprove anything, only to discover the true nature and purpose of the gifts. Here are the results of that study:

The Truth About

The Gift of Tongues

©1999 by Robin Arnaud
used by permission of the author – me!

While still active in the charismatic movement, I became disillusioned with the obvious disparity between the bible descriptions and accounts of the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. If it is supposed to be “a sign – not to believers, but to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22), why had I never heard an unbeliever interpret a message in tongues at church? If it is a “prayer language,” then why did we use it so extensively as part of our corporate worship when 1 Corinthians 14 tells us not to? I was overwhelmed with questions and suspicious of even my own experience. So I began a study of the bible and of early church history in order to determine the true biblical nature and purpose of the charismatic gifts. I was not seeking to prove or disprove anything, only to discover the true nature and purpose of the gifts. Here are the results of that study:

=================================

The PURPOSE of Tongues

God is a God of order and design (1 Cor 14:33). When He does something, He does so with a plan and purpose. The Lord did not speak in parables, for instance, just to be clever or to appear profound. Scripture teaches that He used parables with the express intent of hiding the truth from the non-elect (Mark 4:11,12) and revealing it to the lowly (1 Cor 1:26-29). Likewise, miracles and gifts are to be understood as having a particular purpose. They served as signs validating the message which they accompanied (John 20:30,31; Acts 2:43, 4:16; 2 Cor 12:12; Gal 3:5; Rom 15:17-19). The purpose of the impartation of gifts by the Apostles (both scripture and subsequent church history demonstrate that the gifts were bestowed only by the Apostles and no one else – ever) was to validate the Apostles’ teachings.

Why do some bible teachers claim that tongues is Satanic?

Paul warned Timothy that in latter times many would fall away from the faith, giving heed to “seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.” Since Christ rendered Satan and all his demons powerless by His death and resurrection, the only power demons now have is the power of deceit. Demons are deceiving angels. They get people to listen to their lies by making their lies attractive and alluring. Paul called them “seducing spirits” (1 Tim 4:1). A major reason so many folks believe it is Satanic is because there are so many “gifts” which do not validate the Apostles‘ teaching. Remember the slave girl with “a spirit of divination” who followed the Apostle Paul crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!” (Acts 16:16-18). It turned out that her “prophesyings” were the work of a demon in spite of her message! Paul cast the demon from her and she stopped prophesying. How could Paul tell that the servant girl’s “gift” was demonic? Two reasons:

1. No Apostle had imparted the gift to her, and

  1. Her prophesyings used Paul’s ministry to validate HER message instead of the other way around! They served a purpose directly opposed to the one intended for genuine gifts of the Spirit.

Charismatic gifts today are often used to “validate” someone else’s ministry or teaching – someone whose teachings are NOT those of the apostles. They use the Apostles’ writings and borrow their words, but they use them to give credibility to their OWN ministry. A demon did exactly that in Acts 16! So it stands to reason that a seducing spirit would use that same tactic today – not to confirm the apostles’ doctrine, but the doctrines of a modern-day messenger who teaches something much different.

-The Bible’s Description of Tongues-

I. The FORM of Tongues in Scripture: Whenever we see tongues mentioned in the bible, it ALWAYS takes the form of a structured foreign language – never “ecstatic gibberish.” One common and persistent peculiarity of many Charismatics is the teaching that tongues-speaking is “of men and angels” – even the language of Heaven itself! This idea is lifted from 1 Corinthians 13:1 where Paul writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels…” Even a casual reading of this passage demonstrates Paul’s use of hyperbole as a literary device. “Even if I could” rather than “because I can.” Looking at the verse further: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love…” Paul was not asserting that he could speak in the language of the angels any more than he was asserting that he had no love! 1 Cor 13:1 is no justification for claims that tongues can be “the language of the angels.” And even if it were so, how could an unbeliever interpret it (14:22)?

A) In Acts 2, many people from many places heard the gospel preached In their own dialects. Peter told the crowd that that event was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28ff), which makes absolutely no mention of tongues at all but speaks of prophecy, dreams, visions, and signs. Paul later wrote that tongues are “for a SIGN… to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22).

B) In every event subsequent to the one in Acts 2 where tongues was present, “the Holy Spirit fell on them… “Just as He did on us at the beginning (Acts 11:15-17),” which must mean that tongues on those occasions were like the tongues in Acts 2 – a verifiable foreign language, a sign to unbelievers.

C) The Pentecost form of tongues is the same as for all later forms of tongues-speaking. Every reference in the bible to tongues speaking employs the same basic terminology, implying similarity of form.

D) The Corinthian episodes are defined in terms fully compatible with those in Acts. Paul writes, “no language is without meaning” (1 Cor 14:10). He compares tongues to worldly languages and asserts that all of them have coherent meaning. Tongues, biblically, is certainly not the incoherent babbling gibberish that I witnessed in my charismatic and Pentecostal churches.

 

II. The CONTENT of Tongues in Scripture: Tongues was a revelational gift – a vehicle of revelation from God to man. Tongues brought revelation from God as surely as the gift of prophecy brought revelation from God to the prophets and apostles of old. Thus, tongues must be understood in scripture to have brought inspired, inerrant, and authoritative communication from God to man:

A) The first occurrence of tongues is defined as prophetic by Peter (Acts 2:11-18).

B) Tongues are almost always related to other revelational gifts in scripture (Acts 2, 19, 1 Cor 13 and 14). In Acts 19 they “spoke with tongues and prophesied.” In 1 Corinthians tongues are dealt with at great length in association with prophecy. The difference was that prophecy was the ability to speak infallibly the will of God in one’s own language, while tongues was the ability to speak infallibly the will of God in a language one had never learned. In both cases it could interpreted by UNBELIVERS.

C) Tongues are specifically said to be a speaking of mysteries (1 Cor 14:2). When the word mystery is used in scripture it is always in terms of revelation. A mystery spoken becomes a revelation.

The content of tongues, then, is seen to be infallible, inerrant, inspired revelation of God’s mysteries to man. The tongues we see today among Charismatics and Pentecostals surely does not measure up to this lofty biblical standard. In fact in every service I ever attended in twenty years as a charismatic where tongues was used, it never took the form of a discernable foreign language, and its “interpretation” was never treated as an infallible revelation from God. It used to trouble me very deeply that a direct word from Heaven could be treated so lightly by the hearers – instead of writing it down and being careful to obey it and publish it, the people would nod and say, “Thanks, Lord, for that good word,” treating it more like a divine Hallmark card greeting from Heaven than a revelation from the Sovereign Master of the universe. The Almighty is not sitting on His throne blowing kisses to people on the earth – His word should be treated with the utmost care and held with extreme reverence – just as we claim to treat the bible. But tongues are not treated that way today.

III. The Purpose of Tongues in scripture: As I mentioned at the beginning, God is a God of order and design and when He acts, He does so with a purpose and plan. We see that parables had a specific purpose (Mark 4:11,12); that miracles have a particular purpose (Jn 20:30-31, Acts 2:43 and 4:16, Rom 15:17-19, 2 Cor 12:12), and likewise that the gift of tongues served a very specific purpose: They validated the Apostles’ message, and they were an anticipated sign of covenant curse upon unbelieving Israel.

A) Tongues were a sign to validate the message of the apostles (Mark 16:17), and Paul’s in particular (Acts 10:44-46, 19:6). ONLY the Apostles had the authority and ability to impart the gifts to others through the laying on of hands or prayer. None of the people they laid hands on could pass he Holy Spirit or the gifts on to others. There is not a single instance in scripture nor in subsequent church history to support the contention that anyone other than the Apostles could “impart” the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Those who received these sign-gifts at the hands of the Apostles were not able to pass them along to others. If they were, then it would not have been necessary to send Apostles to Samaria in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit (and other examples). The example of Ananias (Acts 9:10-19) is often used to attempt to refute that argument, but the text does not say that Saul spoke in tongues or prophesied. It says only that his eyesight was restored and he was baptized in water. We don’t hear any more about Saul until way up there in chapter 13, where the Apostles laid hands on him and Barnabus. The fact that Paul passed the charismata to others was one of the proofs that he was to be counted among the Apostles (Acts 19, 2 Cor 12:12, Eph 3:7ff). It was extremely important to establish Paul’s apostleship with “the signs of an Apostle (2 Cor 12:12),” because God’s inclusion of the Gentiles was such a radical departure from the old covenant. It was also important that Paul be counted as an Apostle because Paul wrote most of the New Testament. That is why many of his letters to the churches open with the phrase, “Paul, an apostle by the will of God…”

B) Tongues were a sign of covenant curse upon unbelieving Israel.Since this is probably the most neglected and most misunderstood purpose of tongues, it bears a lot more explaining, so be sure to examine these scriptures closely and in context: Paul explains this use of the sign in 1 Cor 14:21-22:

In the Law it is written, ‘by men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then, tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign not to unbelievers, but to those who believe” (NASB).

Bear with a lengthy explanation now:

1) The Old Testament teaches that Israel was a special people to God. He was bound in a special covenantal love to Israel alone among the nations of the earth (Deut 7:6-8, Amos 3:2), thus only they received His law (Deut 4:10-13, Psalm 147:19-20), His oracles (Rom 3:2), the covenantal sign of circumcision (Rom 3:1) – indeed, all the promises and means of covenant life (Rom 9:4-5, Eph 2:12).

2) This covenant with Israel was a two-edged sword. Covenant life was one of both privilege and responsibility. Obedience brought both spiritual and material blessings, and disobedience brought spiritual and material curses (see Deut 28:1-68 which describes alternate covenant blessings and covenant curses).

3) Israel was a nation of people accustomed to signs (Matt 12:38, 1 Cor 1:20-22). Within the covenant contract they were given warning signs which would serve to indicate that the calamities which would befall them were indeed the judgments of God on them. One of the most often-seen signs was the loss of national freedom and self-rule (Deut 28:49). It is also referred to in similar context in Jer 5:15 and Isa 28:11. In scripture after scripture, foreign tongues was a sign of covenant curse on Israel.

Most often it was the language of the foreign occupiers of Israel, but at the dawn of the New Covenant it becomes especially poignant. All of this becomes relevant to the gift of tongues in the New Testament by the fact that Paul applies the sign of covenantal curse (Isa 28:11) to his explanation of the gift of tongues in 1 Cor 14:21-22. The fact that Paul lifted this scripture out of a passage dealing with covenantal curse is extremely significant! To grasp it’s impact you need to look at the reference Paul is quoting in his 1 Cor 14 discourse – Isa 28. In the very heart of God’s rebuke against Israel is the verse Paul quotes… the one that gives the sign of the curse (verse 11). Of course the Isaiah passage referred to the impending Assyrian invasion of Israel, but the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies it further to the future and climactic judgment upon Israel subsequent to their rejection of Christ.

4) Christ, the “Messenger of the Covenant,” (Mal 3:1) and “Ratifier of the New Covenant” (Luke 22:20), came to, lovingly courted, and taught Israel. Yet Israel refused His overtures (Matt 23:37, Acts 28:17-31, Rom 9:31-32 and 10:3). The generation to which Christ ministered was rapidly filling up the measure of the guilt of their forefathers (Matt 23:32). Jesus even went to far as to tell them that that single generation would bear the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth – from Abel to Zecharaiah (verses 35 and 36). It is a judgment they themselves repeated at His trial: “His blood be upon us and our children! (Matthew 27:25)” Therefore, that generation (Matt 23:36 and 24:43) was to receive the fullness of God’s covenantal curse: God would send Roman armies (Luke 21:20) to raze the temple (Matt 24:2) which the Lord left desolate (Matt 23:38). Thus the sign of judgment (foreign tongues) was given to Israel for a period of 40 years between Christ’s ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. God was turning from Israel to the Gentiles (Matt 23:37-38; Rom 9:24-29 and 10:19-21)!

5) Tongues had a particular application with regard to Jewish unbelief in light of the New Covenant. In Acts 2 the Jews in particular were called to attention (verse 12), after which they were charged with having slain the Lord of Glory (v 22-24). The double-edged sword of covenant curse fell hard upon then, with the result that many were cut to the heart and repented (Acts 2:37) to follow Christ.

6) The Corinthian church itself is further glaring evidence that tongues was a sign of covenantal curse on Israel! Acts 18 records that Paul’s 18-month-lomg ministry at Corinth (verse 11) was characterized by extremely heated opposition from the Jews. While teaching at the Corinthian synagogue, Jewish opponents resisted the gospel to the point of blasphemy, causing Paul to call down a curse upon them (verse 6). Resistance to the gospel was so violent in Corinth that the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, promising special protection from harm (verses 12 and 13). In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul makes reference in the opening verses to the Jews and their desire for signs (1 Cor 1:22). Paul’s citation of Isaiah 28 should be decisive proof. In chapter 10 Paul dealt at length with “our fathers” and their disobedience and judgment, and warned the Corinthians of the same predicament if they weren’t careful (10:1-12).

Tongues then, were “for a sign” – a sign to unbelieving, Christ-rejecting Israel – and in particular, the generation that had murdered Christ. Tongues was God’s prophesied and anticipated sign of covenantal curse.

IV. The transience of Tongues in Scripture: Because scripture demonstrates what the PURPOSE of tongues was – to validate the APOSTLES’ ministry and to serve as the covenantal sign to Israel, it necessarily follows that once those purposes were achieved, the sign would cease. Even those who believe in modern-day tongues speaking agree that the canon is complete – thus they cannot possibly use the gift today in the same sense that it was used throughout the New Testament – inerrant, infallible oracles of God to man.

Modern-day manifestations of charismatic gifts defy the biblical and historical form, content, and purpose described in scripture, and thus it is clear that today’s form of tongues is an unbiblical counterfeit.

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Copyright 1999 Robin Arnaud.


Holy Spirit Baptism: Part Four

April 19, 2014
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This is Part Four, the last of a series on Holy Spirit baptism. Until now it has only touched on a couple of the doctrinal issues which are ordinarily raised in any discussion of the topic, or of the related topics of spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, and/or the offices of prophet and apostle beyond the first century AD. Be sure to read the previous parts to get a full sense of the topic and why I write as I do about it.

Part Three left off at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, where very few kids were left in the youth group after the mass departure of our former youth pastor and the majority of the kids and young adults who followed him to “the church in Fort Lauderdale.” A few of them returned within a year or so, broken and confused; and many more appeared to leave the Christian community entirely. The fruit of the Shepherding / Discipleship movement was horrific and damaging to those who got caught up in it, and many strayed far from the Lord after a period of exuberance followed by massive, cultish exploitation.

But we were not entirely safe from exploitation even in a somewhat accountable Southern Baptist church that strayed far from the word of God to embrace ear-tickling charismatic fables. Following the exodus of many members to the new “church in Fort Lauderdale,” West Lauderdale was left at less than half its former size and still dealing with spillover from the excessive of charismania in the larger movement. There was, for example, a “prophecy” given by “a reliable, proven prophetess” that a great tsunami would wipe out South Florida in the following year, as God’s judgment against the cities for the explosive growth of homosexuality there. Her prophecy was published in a couple of charismatic magazines and caused quite a stir. The only defense our new youth minister could come up with was God’s promise following Noah’s flood never to destroy the earth with water again. Really? There have been countless tsunamis and floods since that was written, so that verse was little comfort to us. What did provide some comfort, though, was a “vision from God” that our pastor shared with the congregation:

“God has shown me what the future holds for West Lauderdale Baptist Church,” the pastor said. “Five buildings will occupy these grounds and the surrounding property. At the center will be a huge sanctuary and administrative offices to oversee ministries in the other four buildings: A Christian school, a home for unwed mothers, a theological school like Samuel’s ‘school of prophets,’ and a music ministry school for psalmists” that would produce a great wealth of new songs, hymns, and spiritual songs for the Church. So at the very same time that some were fleeing the city to escape a prophesied tsunami, our church was fund-raising like crazy and buying up homes and real estate for about a square mile around the church. The year was 1973. Forty years later, this is what West Lauderdale Baptist Church looks like:

The property surrounding the church was purchased and either demolished or used for meetings or whatever, and then abandoned. The entire neighborhood was ruined. And the original sanctuary on Davie Boulevard still stands. The grand vision never became a reality. But like most groundless “visions from God,” this one wasted thousands of dollars and destroyed the credibility of the church.

I graduated from high school at 17 and got the heck out of there as fast as I could. Too small and delicately built (at the time) to qualify for the military, I determined to take the first job that offered room and board, preferably in another city. That job was on a sailing ship – a three-masted schooner – as a member of the crew, and the only kid aboard with a bunch of 30-something guys who couldn’t make it in “real” jobs. Another perfect setup for another tragedy. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Following that whole mess I attempted college, and when the money ran out I found a job with an ambulance company back in Fort Lauderdale again, which was still there. No tsunami had destroyed it and nothing was ever said about the “prophetess” whose “vision” must have been at least as damaging to others in South Florida as my pastor’s “vision” had been to his church and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s curious in the extreme that when prophecies fail to come true, especially with all the damage that they often cause, that nothing is said; and if you say anything then you’re “being judgmental and condemning.” What?! In bible times, these false prophets would have been put to the sword (see Deuteronomy 18:20)! And I’m judgmental and harsh if I simply ask about false prophecies? Yet for all that, I still didn’t open my bible much, except in church, or when I wanted to impress someone with how spiritual and knowledgeable I was.

I had prided myself on instructing others in seeking Holy Spirit baptism, and even in my backslidden condition I continued to do so, and when someone told me had “the gift of discernment” because I hadn’t followed Andy and dared to ask questions about failed prophecies, I fed off of that little bit of affirmation and taught whoever would listen. I had passed my state tests and got certified as a firefighter and began what would become a 30-year career. I met a Pentecostal girl and “converted” her to my charismatic beliefs, and we got married at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, attending there until the fruit of the pastor’s failed “vision” gave us cause to move to a new Charismatic (Presbyterian) church in Pompano, just North of Fort Lauderdale.

In the lessons I taught on Holy Spirit baptism, I liked to use examples from the Old Testament as well as the New. Saul, for example, became “a Charismatic” when Samuel anointed him as king of Israel, and received the gift of prophecy (1st Samuel 10:1-12). Verse 6 is pivotal:

Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophecy with them and be changed into another man.

I simply failed to mention that Saul’s appointment as king was an act of judgment against Israel for rejecting God and desiring a king like the other nations (see verse 19 of the chapter), and that the prophesying was a sign of that coming judgment. When Samuel anointed David as king in Saul’s place, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13),” and “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him (verse 14).” It looks like Holy Spirit baptism was revocable in those days, doesn’t it? But in neither of these examples is the term “baptized in or with the Spirit” employed to describe the Lord’s anointing on them. I simply misapplied the term to those Old Testament examples. I did the same with Elijah and Elisha in 2nd Kings chapter 2. The other prophets witnessing the sign said, “the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (verse 15).” This was God’s anointing for a specific office for a specific time. The ministries of Elijah and Elisha also represented God’s judgment upon those in rebellion against Him.

“Jesus had the anointing in His day,” I taught. “Just as Elijah threw the mantle on Elisha, so Jesus, ascending to heaven, ‘threw His mantle on the Church!’ See it fall upon them in the second chapter of Acts!”

Now doesn’t that sound all scholarly and feel all “anointed?” In truth, though, only the examples in Acts 2 and Acts 11:16 are described as “baptism in/with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5).” Subsequently there were many “fillings” with the Spirit (4: 8 and 31, 7:55, etc)) and people described as “full of the Spirit,” like Stephen (Acts 6:3). But for Charismatics, Acts 8:14-17 is among the proofs that “receiving the Holy Spirit” is a separate and distinct experience from conversion to Christ.

For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:16-17).

The text doesn’t say for sure that these people were genuine converts to Christ, but it is a safe assumption because “they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” The text also specifically states that “He had not yet fallen upon any of them,” so one might rightfully assume that these baptized converts to Christ did not, in fact, have Holy Spirit baptism as in Acts 2. But since regeneration precedes faith (John 3:3-8, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12:3, Eph 2:4-5), it is safe to say that they were born of the Spirit and thus “had” the Holy Spirit living within. What was “missing” was the peculiar powers conveyed by the Holy Spirit which were available only through the laying on of hands by an Apostle. Otherwise Philip the evangelist would have done so himself, having brought the gospel to Samaria and harvested many souls there. None of the Samaritan converts had given evidence of the gift of tongues, which most frequently (but not always) accompanied the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (see 10:45-46). This “impartation,” or anointing, was only at the hands of the Apostles; and only they had authority from God to do so. Acts 19 demonstrated Paul’s Apostolic authority when the Ephesian converts received the sign-gifts of tongues and prophecy by the laying on of Paul’s hands. It was distinctly a sign of apostleship (2 Cor 12:12) and did not continue after the Apostles died.

As in the Old Testament examples I used above, these special powers were conveyed to a limited number of people for a limited amount of time and for a specific purpose. In Acts we see Spirit baptism among non-Jewish converts as a sign to the Church that God was making no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:47, 11:15-18, and 15:9), and the gift of tongues as a sign to the single generation of unbelieving Jews (1st Corinthians 14:21-22) that had betrayed and murdered their Messiah.

All believers have the Holy Spirit, dwelling in their hearts by faith (2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 3:17). Indeed it is not even possible to become a Christian unless one is born of the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, with accompanying signs and gifts, was a strictly first-century phenomenon with a strictly first century purpose. It was a sign of the end of the Old Covenant, superseded by the New. It was a sign of apostolic authority; and the oft-accompanying covenant sign of tongues portended the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Jewish sacrificial covenant. These were prophetic signs, warning of events that occurred in 70 AD. There was no reason for the warnings to persist after the judgment they warned about had come to pass!

When I see “signs and wonders” performed by such hucksters as Benny Hinn, Jesus’ tragic words, recorded in Matthew 7 come instantly to my mind:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness (Matt 7:21-23).”


Holy Spirit Baptism – Part Two

April 12, 2014
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Be sure to read Part One before you read on. This is Part Two.

In Part One I described conversion to Christ, the longing of a 12-year-old to be like some of the older kids in the youth group who were “on fire for God,” and the secret they kept that got us all thrown out of our church when it was exposed. Then followed a search for a new church and the introduction of a radical idea: The church in the city, just being birthed in my hometown by three charismatic teachers.

There were a few Charismatic churches in town that I was to learn about in my 8th grade year, but I just had to visit the one where a girl I had a crush on went. Her father was the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. Pastor Arnold was instrumental in introducing the new bible teachers to Fort Lauderdale. I wasn’t allowed to go to church on Sundays, but I was able to get rides to Bob Mumford’s Monday night teaching sessions at Memorial Baptist Church. He taught there until the crowds grew too large and the meetings moved to the Governor’s Club Hotel downtown. I used to literally sit at Bob Mumford’s feet for lack of any other seating. And besides, all the kids sat on the floor up front and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Bob Mumford was entertaining and wonderful, and had a special way of making mysterious teachings sound perfectly sensible.

The Monday night meetings were captivating! The entire crowd, gathered from a half-dozen Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the area, would sing with abandon to the glory of God. No one really led the song service beyond the first song or two. After that all of the worship was spontaneous, and seemed to be choreographed by the Holy Spirit Himself. As if on cue it might suddenly get quiet, then spontaneously erupt in made-up melodies with unintelligible lyrics. It was angelic-sounding, robust yet subdued, sweet and intimate. Hands in the air, eyes closed, just “letting the Spirit overflow.” I had never seen such heartfelt worship from so many people before, so completely absorbed in rapturous ecstasy. I had seen the super-spiritual kids from my old youth group do it, but this was hundreds of people! I yearned for the intimacy with God that they seemed to have. And I was sure that “Holy Spirit baptism” was the missing ingredient in my life.

There were plenty of people around to help me get “baptized in the Spirit,” including one very attentive “prophet” who told me, “God has called you to the ministry even from the womb, and I am to be your guide.” He even tried to take me from my home to go live with him and I would have gone happily. Until I learned from an older kid that this so-called “prophet” was a pedophile who was especially attracted to vulnerable, frail-looking pre-teen boys.

Oh well. There were others to help me get this “Spirit baptism,” and I wanted it desperately. There seemed to be differences of opinion among my mentors about “how to get baptized in the Spirit,” but some of the things they all had in common were:

  • Be completely pure in heart, “sold out” to God,
  • Confess every last known sin,
  • Pray unceasingly seeking the baptism,
  • Put aside absolutely every other interest,
  • Make peace with every enemy … in short,
  • “Be ye perfect, even as He is perfect.”

I was far from that. I thought I needed the power of the Spirit to achieve such purity and holiness, yet my teachers pressed this spiritual perfection as a prerequisite for receiving the Spirit’s power. Had I not lost sight of the truth, that salvation of imperfect, corrupt, depraved sinners is by grace alone, I might have asked:

If it is possible to achieve such spiritual perfection without Holy Spirit baptism, then what do I need Spirit baptism for?

But alas, as in the years of darkness in the Church before the Reformation, the gospel had become obscured behind mystery, superstition, and gnostic-like seeking after “deeper experiences of God.” Years before, I had been taught that every Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. And if I had kept my bible open and my mouth shut, I might have apprehended the meaning of “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)” and “in Him you have been made complete (2:10),” “made alive with Him (verse 13).” No, it is not possible to “qualify” for God’s grace. No one can earn the Holy Spirit by their own efforts. The best we can offer is like filthy rags to Him! Spirit baptism and having a “prayer language” were treated like some sort of merit badge for advanced Christianity. No “head-knowledge-only” Christian could possibly understand the rewards of being “Spirit-filled.”

It took nearly a year of radical, desperate prayer and pleading and seeking and crying and begging and imploring God to pleeeeeeease immerse me in His Spirit and give me my prayer language so I could truly live for Him and have the power to be like these others; effortlessly soaring far above the “ordinary” Christian who had only doctrine and catechism and orthodoxy to guide him. But then, riding my bicycle home from Rogers Middle School, I was westbound on Davie Boulevard at the intersection of SW 9th Avenue when it happened. I still remember every detail of that magical moment when my “prayer language” spilled out out my mouth through tears of joy. I jumped off my bike and danced and jumped around, singing and crying and babbling away in ecstasy for 15 minutes or more right there on the side of the busy four-lane boulevard. Looking back, I can imagine that if it had happened today, several people might have called 9-1-1 to report “an obviously mentally disturbed kid having some sort of attack or seizure or something.” Thankfully, cell phones were not in common use in 1971.

Now, at last, I thought I would never wander away from God or fail Him again. Now I had POWER, and even the devil himself couldn’t interfere with my perfect prayers, because they would by-pass my mind and go directly from my pure spirit to God’s throne (conspicuously absent from my thinking was the clear biblical teaching of prayer directed to the Father through the Son, by the Spirit), free from the interference of any evil thought that the devil might put in my head. I could be His real true faithful sidekick now that I had been baptized in the Spirit!

And speaking in tongues was to be just the beginning. Bob Mumford described it this way:

Tongues is like the ABCs. You learn them in kindergarten. But even when you’re writing you doctoral thesis in astrophysics, you still use the ABCs! It’s only that you have grown in maturity to a point where you can use them to edify others.

I knew I was on my way to something wonderful. Maybe prophecy or healing or miracle-working faith! Or maybe special knowledge from God like Pat Robertson had: “Someone named Sally has just been healed of cancer! You know who you are, because you just felt the pain go away, just now.” Or maybe I would even have the gift of discerning spirits! Then I would know the next time some false prophet was hoping to molest me, or if someone had the wrong interpretation of a message delivered in tongues. What an adventure I was starting! I had lost touch with all the super-spiritual kids from the little church I started at, but if only they could see me now! And if only that little “head-knowledge-only” church could open up to the experience of God instead of just knowing about Him!

How little I knew what was coming. How unaware I was of how far I had already strayed from the truth. If Calvary Presbyterian Church had cared enough to take us kids to the scriptures instead of just tossing us out of the church, I might have been spared from 20 years of “wilderness wandering.” But God had an even bigger plan than I could have imagined.

The great Fort Lauderdale Experiment was ready to start, and “shepherds” were already being selected and trained. For a sneak peek at the next exciting episode, click HERE!

Until then,
Robin

 


ExCharisma: Praying in the Spirit

April 6, 2014
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Today I heard what is probably the best sermon of my life on the subject of praying in the Spirit. It turns out that genuine Spirit-initiated, Spirit-ignited, Spirit led, effectual prayer in the Spirit is much harder and far more effort than “turning my mind off” and letting the Spirit “pray through me” in a language I never learned. I’m very well acquainted with the Charismatic meaning and practice of “praying in the Spirit.” For over 20 years I did it throughout the day, believing that my prayers were knocking down enemy strongholds, binding evil spirits, and lending strength to angels battling in the heavenlies. It was “perfect” prayer, immune from interference from the devil tossing bad thoughts into my mind to mess up my prayers. Bypassing the mind made it invulnerable to such attack, and because it was the Spirit praying through me, it was perfect in every way.

But praying in tongues was an easy substitute for “putting to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13)” and being led by the Spirit (verse 14), subject to His infallibly inspired word. How easily I separated the Spirit from the written Word which He inspired! But to truly walk by the Spirit and pray in the Spirit, one must pray according to the bible!

In my new church, I’m told, there are others like me. Coming from the confusion and misleading teachings of the Charismatic movement or Pentecostalism. It truly is remarkable that so many of us, truly seeking God and digging through His unchanging word, have found our way back to the Reformation! My years in the Charismatic movement and my journey out of its superstition, manipulation, empty promises and pretense led me to seek out other who were fed up and making the same journey as I was: Back to basics, back to the bible, putting down deep roots in the solid ground of His unchanging word instead of the incessantly shifting, windblown sand and rubble of Pentecostalism. I called our little group ExCharisma. And it quickly grew over the next couple of years, from a dozen or so of us “questioning Charismatics,” into an international community of hundreds. Almost without exception, those who shared my journey ended up in the same place that I have: The Reformation! Let me tell you why I think that is so remarkable:

In the years prior to the Reformation, the gospel had been almost entirely lost to the ordinary churchgoer. Obscured behind superstition, corruption, ritual and rite, and in the absence of the bible in print for “the common man,” the gospel virtually disappeared but for some unknown (to us) remnant.

Never had there been a greater need for the recovery of the gospel to the Church, and God in His mercy finally did so, through Martin Luther and several others, 500 years ago. When the gospel was clearly preached, the true Church flourished and changed the whole world – just as much as it had done in the First Century! Fast-forward 500 years and what do we find? Again, the gospel in obscurity, barely peeking out from behind the megaministries preaching a gospel of greed (the “prosperity gospel”), self-proclaimed “prophets” who still preach even after their predictions prove completely false – anyone remember when “the greatest prophet since Elijah,” Paul Cain, predicted that as president, Bill Clinton would lead America to the greatest spiritual revival in it’s history? Ooops. And yet those Kansas City “prophets” are still out there making millions of dollars in books, tapes, and other snake-oil sales. As it was in the days before the Reformation, so it is today. Corruption, superstition, greed, and as before a lack of interest and discipline in the study of the bible, have so obscured and covered the simple truth of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone, that we find ourselves in need of a second Reformation! Or, to be more accurate, a recovery of the earlier Reformation. A recovery of “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

Inspired by that and by the fact that my pastor has told me how I could really help other members of my church who are taking that journey out of “Charismania,” as I have come to call it, back to the Reformation – back to the Gospel, I will publish a few articles from the archives of ExCharisma here in the next few days. The first will take on the subject of the gift of tongues, so central to the Charismatic experience. If you can’t wait, you can catch a preview of it by clicking here.


Disaster Drill: Just like Old Times

April 3, 2014
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CF_Disaster CF_Ff

CF_LawEnforcementTriage

Law Enforcement escorts a “Walking Wounded” patient

CF_MedsCF_firefighter CF_Red

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I observed the Disaster Drill at College of Central Florida today. Every such drill I have ever taken part in always has one common issue: Noisy, clamoring “walking wounded” who get in the way; and the temptation to give them higher priority than more critically injured victims seems to win out. Several “Green-tagged” victims get transported off the scene before “Red and Yellow-tagged” ones do just to get them the heck out of the way. You have Law Enforcement people there, use them to corral these noisy people. Set up a little lemonade stand for them and for goodnessakes, don’t let them wander around talking to the Press! In Triage, you can’t let the “squeaky wheels” steal grease from those who need it far worse.

Multi-agency scenarios bring unique problems when everyone is wearing an orange vest, but what was the Staging officer doing at the west entrance bringing victims out of the building?

CF_StagingOfficer

His vest is marked, “Staging.” But he’s at the entrance to the building.

“Oh, I’m not the Staging officer,” he says.
“Where is the Staging officer? Where is the Staging area for that matter?”
“I dunno.”
“Okaaaaay…”

Someone tagged “Medical Supply Officer” wasn’t replenishing medical supplies or seeing to it. He was busy talking to observers – ?

Play the assigned role, don’t “help” the other guys out. If they need more resources, they know to ask for them. If you need them, ask! That’s what Command is for! To get resources to where they are needed. When rescuers start swapping personnel, duties, and supplies to meet immediate needs, the plan falls apart. Command isn’t just there to look pretty. Put those fancy-pants white shirts to work getting you what you need!

No designated rehab area? That’s far too common a mistake, but overworked rescuers quickly become victims themselves, especially in hot weather like today. Assign one Medical Rescue unit to nothing but Rehab and use a PASS (Personal Accountability System) to keep track of rescuers and make sure they don’t become a liability themselves. Like this firefighter:

CF_Firefighter_Down

The deceased need to be moved out of sight as soon as it’s practical. Don’t let the “walking wounded” and rescuers step over the deceased to get to the Treatment area for goodnessakes. Treat the deceased with dignity as much as possible. I didn’t see any area designated as a temporary morgue at all. Commandeer a refrigerated truck if you have to, but at least don’t let the deceased become a threat to the safety of other victims.

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The Press has telephoto lenses, y’know. And everyone in sight has a camera-equipped cellphone!

Perimeter security. Just thought I’d mention it.

What benchmarks were in use at the Command Post? Not a peep from Command about those… Rescuers were told to stay out of the building until it was safe to enter, but the announcement of that benchmark never actually happened. But there were plenty of rescuers in the building. Were they acting in defiance of orders? When was the Loss Stopped benchmark reached? I guarantee it was later than the rescuers thought.

Very nice job by a Law Enforcement student who had to deliver a baby herself for lack of an EMT in the area. Nicely done, whoever you are! Oh, and a half-dozen EMTs were less than 10 meters away having some kind of confab or something, sorry about that…

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This CJ Student was awesome. I’m sorry I didn’t get video of her performance when the “pregnant victim” was brought out in labor! This hearty soul took it all in stride.

These drills are always a tough learning experience, I know, and everyone worked very hard. But it need not be so confusing. And if it’s this bad at a drill, think about why this stuff matters. I’m talking to officers here (white shirts), not so much the rank-and-file blue shirts.

-Lieutenant Robin Arnaud (Retired),
Broward County Fire Rescue

 


The Morning Watch

February 21, 2014
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Originally written for my kids when they were teens, and published elsewhere on the web and in print, I wanted to share this with a few new readers of a Sidekick’s Blog, and any who might be having secret struggles with their “daily devotions” or “quiet time.”  It’s not some sort of religious duty for goodnessakes! It should be a wonderful, intimate time with one’s heavenly Father, however short or long, that guides the whole rest of the day!

The Morning Watch

There are two sorts of bible reading. There’s bible study, and then there’s the daily devotional reading that every follower of Christ needs and should strive for. In today’s post I just want to write about the daily devotional time in God’s word that we all need, along with the other daily discipline of prayer,

I call it “the morning watch” because that’s what the Bible calls it:

“O Jehovah, in the morning shalt thou hear my voice; In the morning will I order my prayer unto thee, and will keep watch.” (Psalm 5:3)

“But unto thee, O Jehovah, have I cried; And in the morning shall my prayer come before thee.” (Psalm 88:13)

“Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; For in thee do I trust: Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; For I lift up my soul unto thee.” (Psalm 143:8)

It is at the beginning of the day, first thing, before the business of work and school that we need to listen to the Lord and set our hearts upon Him and His purpose for the day. Not at the end of the day when we’re tired or when we have already made plans for the evening or at night when we’re too sleepy to do anything but collapse into slumber.

This is a little “how-to” for daily quiet time (or devotions, as a lot of people call it). Before we jump right in, let me emphasize two things:

First, daily devotional time is not the same thing as Bible study, nor is it a substitute for Bible study. But it is absolutely vital to spiritual health and practical godly living. It should be a daily thing, eagerly anticipated.

Second, daily quiet time is not a religious duty. If merely reading the Bible every day is a duty to be kept, then one has “done his duty” merely by reading it. But the Apostle James describes it as a lifestyle rather than a religious rite:

But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and having looked and gone on his way, immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, will be blessed in whatever he does (James 1:22-25).

It’s not as though God will be mad at me because I skipped my quiet time today. It’s about seeing myself as God sees me, in the mirror of His word, and using that knowledge to improve what I saw in the mirror this morning. We wouldn’t think of going off to work or school without stopping in front of the mirror first – if only for a few seconds – to make sure we look okay. We still have all our teeth and no big ol’ zits have erupted on our face overnight. We’re also concerned about what others will see when they look at us. It is exactly the same way in which we are to use God’s word as our spiritual mirror. But how do we make the most of our morning quiet time? Let’s have a look at the practical side of daily devotions:

Things you need to make the most of your morning quiet time:

Your Bible – God’s own infallible Word, interpreted foremost by a desire to do whatever it says, and illuminated in your heart and mind by the Holy Spirit.

A notebook – Use this for writing down the things that God seems to tell you through His Word, and for keeping a journal of prayer requests and answers to prayer; questions to ask God, and as a way to organize your reading.

Time – Allow at least enough time to pray through your list and read a paragraph or two. As time goes on, you’ll want to devote a lot more time to the morning watch.

But how do I decide what to read? How far to read? How to determine what it means?

Deciding what to read

I recommend taking the Bible the way it was written – a book at a time. That doesn’t mean you read an entire book of the Bible in a single sitting! It means only that you would read through one book instead of choosing randomly selected passages from any of the 66 books. If you’re new at this, start with the most straightforward of books, the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the Epistles (letters to the churches and individuals written by the Apostles).

In most Bibles, paragraphs are indicated by a symbol that looks like a backwards P “¶”, or by having the number of the first verse in a new paragraph in bold numbers. Understand that the original writers did not write in chapters, nor indicate paragraphs where our English translators and editors have placed them in your Bible. That is just where someone thinks they belong. You can make use of them or skip them if an idea doesn’t seem complete in the parameters they set. Read until you have a sense that one or two ideas have been expressed fully, then stop.

Putting Wheels on the Cart

Now if you had to come up with a title for the passage you just read, what would it be? Think of a title for the passage. In Bible study, you’ll consider not just the passage but the entire book, its author, all that author’s other books, and the context in which the passage you’re studying fits into the whole rest of the Bible. In daily devotions, though, you’re generally just considering the passage you’ve read by itself. Though very often it will remind you of another passage that expresses or contrasts the same idea. If it does, read the other passage and consider it along with the first one. Think of a title. That sort of forces your mind to focus on the “gist” of a passage.

Now choose one verse or one sentence from the passage that best supports the title you have chosen for that passage. This might be the verse you’ll carry around in your heart for that whole day. You might even memorize it.

Now think of how this title, the supporting verse, and the full idea might apply to your day and throughout your day. How will you put the idea to work? How can you bring it from the page and “put flesh on it” so to speak, to demonstrate it and prove the truth and value of it? Write down the passage, the title, the verse, and the application in your journal next to the date.

Journaling is Super Helpful!

My journal encourages me when I have completely failed, or fallen to temptation, or am otherwise feeling low and wondering if I should even bother following Christ any further, And yes, this sort of discouragement happens to lots of perfectly normal Christians, including some of the bible’s greatest heroes and history’s greatest preachers and evangelists.  The great Charles Spurgeon battled depression all his life.  The mighty prophet Elijiah prayed for death after his victory over the prophets of Baal.  Looking through the pages of my journal – with it’s record of answered prayers, joyfully received insights, and my loving Father’s discipline – proves that God hasn’t given up on me over the years, and encourages me to trust Him instead of “trying to be a great Christian” all on my own.

So why put the date on your journal entries? Because as you look back through that journal later on in the future (and you will, next time you’re reading the same book in your devotions), you’ll remember what was going on in your life at the time God was saying that particular thing through that passage. And you’ll be absolutely amazed at how that was just exactly what you needed, right then – and how different it might be from the way the passage seems to apply in your life now. Your previous journals are a compelling record of God’s faithfulness, comfort, wisdom, and providence. By chronicling your journey and keeping track of answers to prayer and lessons gleaned from God’s word, you will accumulate a vast treasure of precious pearls to share with others. Especially your own children someday!

Below is an example of how you might want to organize your own notebook. The format works for me, but you may choose to adapt your own to serve you better.  Enjoy these wonderful intimate times at the beginning of the day that help equip you for what your Father has planned.

___/___/___ (today’s date) I’m reading the Book of _________________.
Today’s passage: Chapter(s), verses – , which I have entitled, “_________________________________________.”
Best supporting verse is __:___ because

 


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