EAR SCRATCHERS

EAR SCRATCHERS

2Tim. 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

What amazes me about life is this, things are exactly the same today as they were in the time of the Apostle Paul. His teachings were twisted and exaggerated by false teachers until they led people into error. For example Paul said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Obviously false teachers were taking Paul’s teaching on grace and saying that Christians were covered from their sins and had no obligation to repent and confess their transgressions committed as Christians. This was an early doctrinal heresy that has arisen every time there is an awakening of the message of salvation by grace through faith. Today, it is a popular teaching called the “grace message” that has been used to allow for a carnal lifestyle in the church. Problem is, there is no difference from the lifestyle of the lost and the lifestyle of the so called Christian. Deception always leads to corruption and destruction. Here is how R T Kendall describes this message in his book Holy Fire.

“Hyper-grace, this is a phrase given to the teaching that the blood of Jesus covers all sin once we become Christians. So far, so good. That is where they hook you. But now for the unthinkable: once we are saved, we don’t need to confess sin if we sin. The sin has already been paid for on the cross. No need to confess, no need to repent. Never mind that Christians are told that “if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). You would show you don’t really believe in Jesus’s atonement if you confessed sin that isn’t there since He has washed them all away forever. Not only is this antinomianism (anti-law, lawlessness); there is no motivation for a Christian to obey the Word of God, to walk in the light, and prepare to face God at the judgment seat of Christ. Those who hold to this dangerous teaching dismiss the need for a Christian to acknowledge his or her sin. And yet if we say we have no sin, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).”

The true concept of grace is quite different from the corrupt version. Biblical grace not only covers our past sin but changes us in a profound way. Original sin had corrupted our view of God and our desire for pleasure and satisfaction. The amazing grace of God brings us into a sudden awareness of His beauty and love. We now find our pleasure in another source. We find that God Himself is the fountain of all pleasure. This revelation deals a blow to the power of sin in our lives. The power of sin was its promise of pleasure. The taste of a greater pleasure liberates my soul from the foolish pleasures of this world.

REHASHED GARBAGE

REHASHED GARBAGE

2Tim. 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity over the years of traveling and peaching His word all over the world. I have seen His Glory in His church, in the moving of His Spirit, and in His beautiful creativity displayed in creation. Who can describe the incredible blessing of being able to witness His glory in so many different places and in so many different ways? Along with this blessing comes the shocking and disturbing irony of watching the effects of man’s fall upon God’s world. In every nation you see the conflict of His glory in the midst of incredible poverty, crime, disease, and human depravity. One of those examples that I often think of was in Manila, Philippines. In 1995 we were part of an incredible move of the Holy Spirit in that nation. We saw God’s Glory come down and thousands were profoundly impacted by the move of God. It was also the place where we saw some of the worst displays of human misery. We saw thousands of homeless children living off of garbage they could forage from the dumps just to get by another day. It was quite disturbing. This picture of children living off of garbage is haunting. It reminds me of the garbage many Christians are attempting to live off of today. Many have moved away from the beautiful, precious doctrines of the Bible. These doctrines are our food. We have replaced them with repackaged garbage, the same filth that has been repackaged and rehashed over the history of the church.

One of these rehashed pieces of garbage is an old heresy Martin Luther termed antinomianism. This false teaching emphasizes Paul’s teaching on grace with the added flare that we are no longer expected to follow the moral law of God. Today it is being reserved in a hip, slick way termed the “the grace message”. Typically false teachers will take a precious truth and push the envelope way too far until the truth becomes error. Adam Clarke spoke of the dangers of this teaching way back in the 1700’s. Some things never change.

“We must beware of Antinomianism ; that is, of supposing that, because Christ has been obedient unto death, there is no necessity for our obedience to his righteous commandments. If this were so, the grace of Christ would tend to the destruction of the law, and not to its establishment. He only is saved from his sins who has the law of God written in his heart; and he alone has the law written in his heart who lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Wherever Christ lives he works: and his work of righteousness will appear to his servants, and its effect will be quietness and assurance for ever. The life of God in the soul of man is the principle which saves and preserves eternally.”

I love that, wherever Christ works, his work of righteousness will appear in His servants. Today, feed on heaven’s bread, the historic doctrines that are food for our souls.

REMEMBERING MY FRIEND DICK MILLS

REMEMBERING MY FRIEND DICK MILLS

2Tim. 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Dick Mills has gone on to his heavenly reward. He will be sorely missed. I was blessed to be introduced to Dick in 1976 in a service in Kerman, California. Our relationship continued as he has ministered in our church once or twice a year since our church began in 1978. I have considered him my mentor and friend throughout my entire ministry. From Brother Mills I learned to appreciate the written word. His hunger for the word of God was contagious, it influenced me greatly. From him I learned the importance of studying the scripture in the original languages. He taught me the importance of word studies and lexicons. I will never forget the night he stayed in my home about thirty years ago. About five in the morning he knocked at my door with a pot of coffee. I followed him to his room to find the floor covered with Bible translations and commentaries. He had obviously been up for several hours devouring God’s word. His hunger effected me profoundly.
I also learned to value and appreciate the anointing of the Holy Spirit from Dick. I remember being stunned in that first service in Kerman as he ministered prophetically by the Spirit. That was the first time I saw people falling out in the power of God. The experiences of that day made a permanent impression on me. Years later, early in 1995, Brother Dick called me from Toronto. He was in renewal services at the Toronto Airport Church. He was so excited as he told me about the fresh outpouring he was experiencing there. This was enormously encouraging to me in New Orleans. We also were experiencing the same strange outpouring of the Spirit, his embracing of that move was a huge encouragement to me.
A few weeks later Dick came to minister in our church. As soon as he came into the service he stopped in his tracks and turned to me and said, “This is the same thing I felt as a young man in Angeles Temple”. He said that the Azusa Street outpouring continued for about thirty years. He said it was the same as that new outpouring of the Spirit of God. He went on to say that those early Pentecostals were tired of being criticized. They backed off of the anointing and lost the manifest presence that had birthed their movement.
Yes, Dick Mills will be greatly missed. Thankfully, thousands have been effected by his ministry and will continue his legacy. The legacy that he left me was being Protestant and Pentecostal, for that I make no apologies. In the last year our church purchased the Dick Mills library. It is quite amazing with over 5000 volumes many of which have been out of print for many years. Every time I study in that library I will remember Dick and give thanks to the Lord for that special man of God.

ABSOLUTELY

ABSOLUTELY

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Ti.4:3,4

I keep finding myself returning to this passage of scripture again and again in the last several weeks. There is something quite disturbing to me in these verses, something that seems to be pointing to the very season we are currently living in. Have you noticed the rejection of authority in this current generation? I am not talking about teenage rebellion or adolescent growing pains, I am talking about the rejection of the very foundations of truth that our culture is built upon. We live in a world of no absolutes, everyone’s opinion is just as valid as the next person’s, even the Word of God has been open to “private interpretation”. John Piper spoke about the importance of the written Word of God in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory”. Check out this excerpt from this powerful book.

“Evangelical Christians, who believe God reveals himself primarily through a book, the Bible, should long to be the most able readers they can be. This means that we should want to become clear, penetrating, accurate, fair-minded thinkers, because all good reading involves asking questions and thinking. This is one reason why the Bible teaches us, “Do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20 RSV). It’s why Paul said to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s gift of understanding is through thinking, not instead of thinking.”

I believe it is time for us to search the scriptures for ourselves. Does this precious book have the very keys to life and the foundational truth for us to build our lives upon or is it just speculative, and not the final authority in all things? Is orthodox Christianity valid in our 21st century, relevant society, or are we going to cast ourselves adrift with the thousands of others who have lost their way in this life? There seems to be a swirl of activity in the world today, people taking another look at the endless stream of recirculated religious filth, the same lies that have been sold for hundreds of years, now being spun with a hip, relevant twist. Without an absolute authority in our lives, we are just treading water in an ocean of human philosophy. Only divine revelation found in the written word of God can provide the anchor for our souls in the midst of the raging storms of life.

RELEVANT, EMERGENT, OR JUST A SLOW FADE

RELEVANT, EMERGENT, OR JUST A SLOW FADE

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.
2 Tim.4:3

Success has been the litmus test for spirituality for many Christians, and sadly, for many pastors over the last two decades. If it is growing in numbers and in dollars, it must be God. Is that what we really believe, is that what you believe? The results of that position has taken the church down some interesting paths over the last few years. We have traveled from positive thinking to faith confession. We have been seeker sensitive, relevant, purpose driven, and emergent, but have we been biblical. Have all of our journeys been motivated by a hunger for God or just a lust after success and a desire to be accepted by the world? In our pursuit of accomplishment, have we lost sight of what is central to the christian faith, have we lost sight of God Himself? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his very soul?”
John Piper addressed some of these issues in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory”. Here is one of his observations about what is really important in the Christian life.

“If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then all true virtue among human beings must aim at bringing people to rejoice in the glory of God. No act is truly virtuous—that is, truly loving—that does not come from and aim at joy in the glory of God.”

That statement defines what has been missing in many churches. Piper talks about bringing people to a place in their life where they have their joy in their relationship with God and His Glory. Rather than trying to find identity and satisfaction from our accomplishments or personal identity, the goal of a Christian is to find his joy in the Lord. The pursuit for satisfaction in our accomplishments or possessions is just a sign of a cold heart. Maybe the trend over the recent past is nor really relevant, purpose driven, seeker sensitive, or emergent after all. Maybe it is just another version of the slow fade from the Glory of His Presence.

ITCHING EARS

ITCHING EARS

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2Tim.4:3,4

What a strange thing to say, Paul said that church people would have “itching ears”. He was describing some of the characteristics that would creep into the church in the end of days. Could he be talking about the time we live in now, if he is, what does “itching ears” refer to? Paul is talking about what happens when christians begin to lose their first love. They either want to hear something new and different or want to hear something that will justify the carnal lifestyle they have chosen to live.
The first category would fall into the area of new and unusual doctrine. Many times people who are bored want some new experience rather than solid teaching from the the written word of God. This could be an unhealthy emphasis on physical manifestations.Their focus could be things like gold dust, gold teeth, feathers, and various other physical manifestations. Don’t get me wrong, God can do anything but our focus is not on manifestations but on Christ. Paul warned us about these kinds of distractions, he said even if an angel from heaven preaches a doctrine more than what he had preached, let him be cursed.
In our modern, relevant world, we have been bombarded with a different kind of message. The itching ears of our generation wants to hear a message that makes allowances for all sorts of carnal behavior in the church. Martin Luther termed this type of teaching “antinomian”, meaning that salvation by grace liberates us from following the rules. It seems like the itching ears of this generation wants no absolutes, leaving us to be tossed too and fro by our own carnal desires. These teachers would emphasize only the mercy and love of God and ignore or make light of His holiness and justice. Our God is all merciful but He is also holy and requires justice.
For a true christian who has tasted of the sweetness of the grace of God, wearing the yoke of obedience becomes our pleasure and not a burden that we carry. We have been saved from the carnality of this dark world by His grace, His written Word has become our food, His Presence has become our living water that we drink. How can I remain uneffected by the “itching ears” doctrines of this age, by being satisfied with Christ and being saturated with His Word.

PAUL LOOKS BEYOND THE GRAVE

WARNINGS FROM THE EDGE OF ETERNITY

As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith. And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear.
2Tim.4:6-8 TEV

Sometimes, things appear differently to us when we are facing the end of our lives. That is how it was for Paul as he wrote his last letter, his second letter to his spiritual son Timothy. Paul was about to be executed in Rome. As he thought about his death, it seemed like he was gazing out into eternity. Some of the things he said to Timothy in this letter speak loud and clear to us as we face the end of the age.
What kinds of things did Paul warn Timothy about in this critical time? First, he warned him of people that had an outward form of religion, you might call it a veneer, but they reject the real power of God. He also warned Timothy of people who would be treacherous, treasonous people even within the church that Timothy pastored in Ephesus. He also cautioned Timothy to be aware of false teachers that would use Christianity for their own selfish purposes rather than advancing God’s kingdom. These characteristics have come full bloom in the modern church world.
How was Timothy to stay true to the Lord in those difficult times? Paul reminded Timothy of the first time he had prayed for him and how the Spirit had fallen upon him. “Stir up the gift”, Paul admonishd Timothy. Paul also encouraged Timothy to soak in the scriptures he had been taught from his childhood. These were the “God breathed words of life”, Timothy was to live in them and he was to preach them.
Today, we are all standing on the edge of eternity. These are the “difficult times” Paul spoke of that would come at the end of the age. We must pay close attention to what Paul told Timothy. Beware of “ministries” that have a form of godliness without His power, stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life, and immerse yourself daily in God’s Word. As we see the great day of the Lord drawing near, we must not allow ourselves to fall under pressure to live like everyone else. The Lord is returning and there is a crown reserved for those who love His appearing. As we see the end of the age approaching, if you take another look, you might find yourself gazing into eternity like Paul.