Wheat or Chaff?

Matthew 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

When John the Baptist used this reference in Matthew 3:12 he was referring to a very common practice that was used in the harvesting of the wheat to separate the wheat from the chaff.  When the grain was harvested it was tossed into the air with a winnowing fork and the chaff which was light would be carried by the wind but the kernels of grain which was heavier would drop much closer.  The grain could be then gathered into a small basked and the process could be taken to the next step of further refinement and separation.  This is what is referenced as thoroughly purging the floor or gathering all of the grain for storage.  When the grain had been gathered and safely stored then the chaff would be piled up and burned as it was of no further use.  While the grain was growing the chaff served the purpose of protecting the grain but once the grain was ripe it lost its use.

So now we come to our question, what is the illustration of winnowing pointing out?  John the Baptist pointed out that he was baptizing with water but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  Most of the time when we reference baptism it is in reference to water baptism which is the picturing of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is also a picture of the testimony of the new believer who has died to sin, been buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.

Now lets look at the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  There is some confusion on this with some Christians.  Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  Their understanding is that you get saved and then there is a second work of God that they identify as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is not sound doctrine as the Bible teaches that you receive the Holy Spirit when you believe or are saved.  It is further emphasized in Eph 4:5 where the Greek translates it as one placing into.  It is the same as the sealing of the Holy Spirit and  it is our earnest or down payment on His promise of eternal life.  This is to be differentiated from a filling of the Holy Spirit or being controlled by the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is sealed with our spirit in an irreversible act that will stand the test of time and fire.  The purpose is to free us from sin and to transform us into creatures of righteousness.  It is a process that continues until we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  As the grain is what is valuable in the harvest, so also is the believer who God will so equip with the Holy Spirit so as to enable us to stand the test of fire.  Our works will be burnt up but the work that the Lord has done on us to separate us from sin, just as the grain is separated from the chaff, is what is valuable to God.

The baptism of fire is another vivid illustration and can be understood as we look at the life of the believer.  Once he has become a Christian, the Lord goes to work in His transforming process.  He allows trials and tribulations and persecutions to come on the believer and is often accused of not caring for him.  These events, though hard to experience, are designed of God to teach us eternal truth.  He said that if they persecuted Him then they will persecute us. All our works will be burnt up but that which is eternal that has been built into us will endure and fire will have no effect on it.  Things like the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control) is being built into us and will remain through the fire.  It is all to change our thinking so that His ways become our ways and His thoughts become our thoughts.  Then we will understand.

What Is A Fool?

In answering this question we must take a look at it from several perspectives.  First, lets look at a fool from the perspective of their basic beliefs.  According to Proverbs 1:7, fools despise wisdom and instruction.   It reminds me of someone I heard saying, “I’m my own boss, no one is going to tell me. . . ”  They are wise in their own eyes and do not see their own limitations and needs.  They are blind to the rest of reality.  Proverbs 1:22 adds that they hate knowledge.  Conflicting facts are unimportant and easily dismissed.  Because of this they create blind spots that later surprise them with abrupt reality that often is painful.  In Proverbs 10:21 fools die for want of wisdom.  In other words, they are stubborned and are not easily turned or reasoned with.  A fool is so set in his way that it is an abomination for him to depart from evil. (Prov 13:19)  Pr 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.  Some synonyms for folly are:  stupidity, silliness, madness, craziness, lunacy, and ridiculousness.  Synonyms for deceit are:fraud, cheating, trickery, pretense, treachery, deception, cheat, fake, and misrepresentation or simply lying.  Their methodology is unfair and unreasonable and one sided.  It is a stacked deck against you so that you cannot win.  Ecclesiastes  7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.  Entertainment is the chief activity of the fool though it cost him dearly.

Now we need to look at the flaw of their basic beliefs.  Psalms 107:17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.  Transgression is a word that means to cross over the bounds, to infringe, overstepping, violation and defiance.  Literally, to rob or steal from another.  The fool has the philosophy that whats mine is mine and whats yours is mine.  He is a taker and not a giver.  The word, iniquities, means the twisting of the facts.  He sees every situation  in the light of what he can gain irrespective of the cost or pain.  The fool has no concern for others.

A third perspective to be considered is the end.  What is the final outcome of such a life?  Our verse above states that they are afflicted.  There is a cost to holding such a position in life and that is the affliction that comes with it.  The fool is short sighted and does not see his end nor the consequence that such a life will certainly bring.  Should you be persuaded to join them in their affairs, you will certainly share in its consequence, even though you may be otherwise minded on other issues.  Another consequence of a fools, folly is shame (Proverbs 3:35)  You will become the “bad example” for others to learn from.  Fools are blinded to real values (Matthew 23:17), and as a result cannot see and therefore do not believe in the eternal.  According to Proverbs 10:21 the fool dies for want of wisdom.  Again in Proverbs 13:20 a companion of fools shall be destroyed.  It is not a pretty end for the fool.  Any gain will be lost but even worse the soul will be destroyed.  Don’t be a fool.

Summer Time

Summer is a busy time for many people.  My daughter was on a mission trip to Greece and we spent 4 days in Oklahoma with the grand kids.  Then were off to Colorado for  10 days for our family reunion as well as my sister’s golden anniversary..  As soon as we got back on Saturday, we had our grand daughter and 4 of her friends here for 4 days.  I just had eyelid surgery yesterday and am making that adjustment.  Coming up on June 1st is our grand daughter’s graduation and on June 10-14 is the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.  It will be good to review with other co-laborers their work with the Lord.

Coming up in August is the Senior Adult Bible Conference.  This year it will begin on Sunday afternoon, August 5 and continue through the 8th.  There will be two speakers each morning, one at 10 AM and one at 11 AM.  I will be speaking on the 8th at the 10 AM slot.

It appears that the China mission trip for Oct-Nov is still moving forward in the planning, but cautiously as there are still some obstacles to overcome.  Please be one of our prayer partners that will under gird this effort.

The translations continue to move forward slowly but continuously.  Every time I hear of progress, I praise the Lord.  This is a work that He initiated and I am just an observer.  I am excited to see how He intends to use this work.

I am praying for each of you as you discover to amazing plan that God has for each of you.  I am seeing the Lord use you in some really amazing ways.  May the Lord Bless you in every way as you serve Him.

 

The Great Commission

The Christian community understands that the Great Commission refers to the charge of Jesus to evangelize the world.  The main Scripture that is associated with this commission is Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  It was also recorded in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, and referred to in several other scriptures.

A commission comes with certain implications.  First, it is a command and not a request.  It is not based on whether or not you feel like it or if it fits into your schedule.  It is your schedule.  Your life is to include this task as a main theme.  It is of prime importance and not to be regulated into a lesser importance.  People’s eternities are at stake and our love for our Lord as well as our love for others are our motivators.

Second, we are to go into all the world with the gospel message.  God’s message is for everyone and everyone is important to Him.  The Bible declares that it is not God’s will that any perish, but that all come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)  There is no specific plan as to priority of order of importance but ‘as you go’ or maybe ‘where ever you go’ or everywhere you go is the order of the day.  Further, it is an all inclusive plan to include all places.  From the early church it was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.  Your Jerusalem is where you begin and includes that environment.  Your Judea is the region just beyond your Jerusalem.  Your Samaria goes beyond your Judea to include the more difficult places for you to include your prejudices, or your enemies, or some other barrier you will need to cross such as distance or finances.  Your uttermost part of the earth extends to include all peoples in all places and all circumstances.

The third implication is that we are to go in His power and not our own.  It is so often said that I cannot afford to go on missions.  God will finance His missions.  I am not saying that it is a free ride and you have no responsibility in this.  What I am saying is that all resources belong to God, they are not ours.  The first place to go is to the Lord in prayer and seek His power to deal with this situation.  Don’t attempt to do it on your own for you are commissioned to look to Him for the resources to go and the power to do His will.  If you can accomplish the task without His power then it will frustrate the grace of God and you will get the glory.  God has commissioned us to the ministry of reconciliation for more purposes than you can guess.  It is partly for the ministry to others, but just as importantly, for us to grow in our own faith and love.  The struggle to reject our own efforts as the solution and to tap in to God’s power is equally important for us as it is to them.

The final implication that I will address is our witness.  The apostles said that they were witnesses to what they had seen and heard.  If you testify to that which you did not have first hand knowledge, then you become a false witness.  Instead of revealing the God of glory, you now obscure the view and work against the Lord.  You cannot give what you do not possess.  You have to be real and cannot go beyond your own personal revelation.  It is important to remember that you are in partnership with the Lord in this work and as you are being transformed into His image, He then uses you as His illustration of the message.  It is His work and you are a part of that plan.  The success of the word is not on you, but on Him.  You are a witness of that success.

Precious and Magnificent Promises

2 Peter 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If you read yesterday’s post of Great Expectations, you caught a glimpse of what God expects from us.  He doesn’t expect for us to succeed in our efforts to please Him because He knows that the old nature cannot please God.(Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)  It is God that enables us to live holy (separated) lives, but just to be able to do the right thing still comes short of God plan for our lives.  It is one thing to know what is right.  It is still another to do what is right.  It is still another to have your nature altered so that you do what is right naturally.  If it were possible to do what is right all the time, it would still leave you unprepared for eternity.

Doing what is right is great and I do not want to minimize it.  Being right is even better because it is not performance oriented.  When you nature is changed, doing what is right is what you do naturally and takes no effort at all because your sin nature is being put to death daily and you find less and less in common with it.  So how does this transformation take place?

Our scripture gives us the initial clue to how this takes place.  God gives us exceeding great and precious promises to use in this process of transformation.  It is by our standing on these promises and rejecting the old nature that we begin to take on the divine nature.  For example, after I accepted the Lord as my Savior, I noticed that I couldn’t hold the same views that I previously held.  I began to understand things in a different light and my attitude toward others began to change.

Here is a partial list of just some of the promises to get you started in claiming them for your own.

  1. Eternal Life
  2. Nothing shall be impossible with God
  3. God will NEVER leave you or forsake you
  4. Nothing shall ever separate you from the Love of God
  5. God Loves you
  6. God is for you
  7. All things work together for good, to them that are the called
  8. All the treasuries of God are available to you
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Grace
  11. Mercy
  12. Spiritual Gifts
  13. Love (agape)

God would have us to take on His characteristics (likeness and image and dominion) to enable us to interact with Him through out eternity.  We become partakers of His divine nature as we make these promises our own life.

 

Great Expectations

2Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Have you come to the point in your Christian walk that you have discovered that you just can’t reach that point where you don’t measure up to your own expectations, let alone the expectations of God?  Surprisingly enough, your expectations are probably higher than those of God.  I know this sounds wrong but lets examine it for a moment.

By now, you have read enough scripture to know that God’s standard is perfection.  The Bible says, be ye holy as I am holy.  Like you, I tried to be holy.  Time and again I said, this time I won’t be distracted or this time I will stay focused, etc.  Each time I failed and then felt guilty (which I was) and the disappointment in myself grew.  It was so frustrating.  I remembered other times that it seemed like heaven came down an nothing could move me from my love for Jesus.  I had do many questions.  What was the difference?  What was wrong with me?  Why did I fail so miserably?  . . .

The underlying problem wasn’t in my heart, my love for God was real.  I didn’t misunderstand God’s standard of perfection, either.  He never compromised His standard.  So what was the problem.  My dad used to say, You can’t fix it until you know what is broke. (See earlier post on Broken Rules)  The problem was in my perception of how to achieve that level of living.  I was trying to be holy when that is impossible and God was just letting me know that He has a better way.  He will enable me to be Holy.  What I can never achieve, He will empower me to become by bring us closer and closer to Him and learning His ways and what He is like.  This divine power is given as a gift and it enables us in every way to live the life of godliness.

I wasn’t trying to hard, I was trying to do it on my own without Him, to please Him.  The truth is that He is already pleased with me just as I am.  He doesn’t expect me to do it without His power, in fact He will block any and all efforts for me to move in that direction.  He will do the changing if He so desires.  Remember, we are His workmanship.  We don’t need to please Him, just obey Him.

Harvest Time

I know that it is different in other parts of the world but here is Texas it is already harvest time.  The temperature is in the 90’s and will get hotter.  About a week ago I picked the first picking of green beans.  My wife, Darla, cooked them in butter with a little garlic and they were delicious.  Yesterday I picked the first picking of peas and we will eat them this evening.  I also picked a few turnips, which I like to eat raw.  I also noticed that the tomatoes are setting on and I even found three that were the size of golf balls.  Not bad from my small garden in a subdivision.

I hope that you are drooling by now.  The farmer plants with the view of a harvest.  All of the work in preparing the ground, sowing, weeding, pruning, etc. is just part of the investment as you look forward to the harvest.  So it is with the Lord.  He also is looking forward to the harvest . . . of souls.

Revelation 14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

There is coming a day when He, too will harvest His garden (the earth) and there will be a time of celebration for those who allowed Him to change them from creatures of sin into the children of God by surrendering their sin and learned to walk by FAITH in Him.

We go through this world only once and we make the choice as to what we become.  Every day of our lives we make that choice over and over.  Either we choose righteousness or we choose to reject what is right and become even more self focused.

You have been invited to join the Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb but you must come dressed in your robe of righteousness.  It will be a time of rejoicing and a time of fulfillment.  All the investment of sacrifice and suffering will be worth it all.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Join the Prayer Team

I am writing to those of you who follow my blog or even drop in on occasion.  I am asking for your help in expanding my readership.  If you are willing to help me in this effort there are a few things that you can do.

  1. Pray for me and this ministry.  I am in the planning stage of making a mission trip to China this fall.  As you may know, China has stiffened their laws concerning religious activity and there is great danger in even going there.  My plan is not to go on a big religious campaign but only to obey the Lord.
  2. Enlist others who will join you in prayer for this journey and follow my blog.
  3. Make comments on the articles, both good and bad.  Healthy criticism is an act of love and I really do want to know how to be a blessing.
  4.  Let me know what your interest are.  If I am not hitting on your subject of interest, let me know and I will do my best to include it.
  5. Ask me questions concerning the Bible that you need help with.  This website is for the purpose of assisting you on your journey and to share with you what I have gleaned along the way, on my journey through these troubled times.
  6. Share with me things that may help others that you have collected, such as a short story, a poem, an insight, etc.

Thank you in advance for all you do to further the kingdom of God and to be a blessing to others

Brother Vernon

What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Matthew 21:15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were moved with indignation, 16 and said unto him, Hearest thou what these are saying? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea: did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?

It is a wonderful time when you spend time with family.  There are so many things to share and talk about and there are new experiences that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.  One such incident happened yesterday.  We have a great granddaughter who is just 4 years old and because we live a long ways apart, she hasn’t yet really gotten to know us.  To break the ice with her, I introduced her to finger man. He is simply two fingers imitating a man walking.  She was immediately intrigued with finger man and began to do the finger man walk toward me.  I reacted as though he was going to get me and the ice was broken.  From then on she kept repeatedly chased me with finger man until my finger man walked toward her finger man and asked if she would like to be friends.  She immediately said yes and from then on, her finger man wanted to play with my finger man.

This was great to get to know each other and she continued to watch us and engage us in her world.  Then as we gathered around the table to pray before we ate, she announced quite loudly that she wanted to lead the prayer.  We all agreed she could but then she decided that I should lead the prayer so I asked her if she would be my prayer partner while I led in prayer and she agreed.  Then as I led in prayer she held my hand tightly and bowed her head while I prayed.

That evening as we were preparing to eat and were proceeding to get our food, she gave us notice that we had not prayed yet.  She then took my hand and asked me to lead the prayer and as my prayer partner she bowed her head so that the prayer could begin.  My heart was filled to overflowing as I witnessed, once again, the fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Out of the mouth of babes. . .