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Our Guard Rail

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe . . . Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 3:1; 4; 4 NKJV

Doesn’t it seem strange that a man unjustly in prison would be telling the church to rejoice? This is exactly what the Apostle Paul did. Paul’s attitude teaches us a powerful lesson: our inner attitudes don’t have to reflect our outward circumstance. It’s so easy to get discouraged about life’s circumstances and lose our joy—all because we’re not looking at life from the right perspective. The Word of God teaches us that God Himself is the source of our joy, and that joy is the natural state of the believer (John 15:11). Rejoicing in the Lord is imperative in believing, in living, in giving, in serving, and in suffering. Joy is our guard rail!

A guard rail is the edge of something that prevents people from falling off. For example, falling off the edge of the road while driving a car; falling off a deck or porch; falling out of a bunk bed, etc. Rejoicing in the Lord is our guard rail when faced with the adverse circumstance of life. Joy prevents us from derailing into anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. Joy is the cheerfulness, delight, gladness we have in the Lord; it is an inward force of the Spirit of God within us; it is a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and God is: love, joy, and peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).

Love is the grace that helps us fulfils the whole law; joy and peace is the normal state of the believer; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness is the grace to help us relate to others; and, temperance is self-control—controlling our appetites, desires, and passions. Joy is not happiness, which is a state of mind based on circumstances or happenings. Joy is the guard rail that remains unchanged regardless of the circumstances; our ground for rejoicing is in the Lord not circumstances.

Paul could write to the church about rejoicing in the Lord always because that’s exactly what he did, even while imprisoned in chains (Acts 26:2, 28-29). Joy was his guard rail that prevented him from anger, depression, and hopelessness. Notwithstanding, his unjust arrest and imprisonment, joy validated Paul’s witness before, during, and after his arrest (2 Tim. 4:6-8).  Because joy is also our guard rail let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12).  Rejoice always (Thess. 5:16). Joy is our guard rail!

You Worship What You Do Not Know

 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-24 NKJV

Whether a person calls himself a Christian, religious, spiritual, or a worshipper, you cannot assume that they truly know God; and when they do worship, don’t assume that the true God is the object of their worship. To worship God in spirit and truth, you must truly know Jesus and understand the importance of faith in Him. If God is not the object of your faith, your worship is in ignorance because you worship what you do not know. The Samaritan woman—at the Jacob’s well—worshipped what she didn’t know (Text), as do so many others.

For example, in Acts 17:22-25, when the Apostle Paul came to Mars Hill in Athens, he observed that the men of Athens were very religious—having various objects of worship (idols). He even found an altar with this inscription: “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”, and was moved to proclaim to them the true God that they were ignorant of—the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands; the God who gives all men life and breath and everything else.  He dispelled the big lie that “all religions are good and they all lead to heaven” (John 4:22; 14:6).

The Athenians believed in the existence of God, but they were ignorant of that God, because they didn’t have access to His revealed Word. No truth; no true worship! In ignorance, some who think that they are enlighten may still be  worshipping their church legacy, the church building, the preacher, the choir or praise team, the music, and even the worship itself. In ignorance, they worship what they do not know. People are spiritually destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6).  

True worship is the expression of reverence to God for who He is. It’s more than the music and the songs we sing; it’s deeper than a good feeling; it isn’t confined to a certain day and a certain place; it’s not just what we do but it is who we are. So, lose your religion and find true faith and offer God true worship. Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and worship what you know!


True Worship

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-25 NKJV

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Father seeks a certain kind of worshipper—a true worshipper. A true worshipper worships God in spirit and truth—whenever and in whatever—in a pandemic, in a storm of life, during unemployment, a family crisis, sickness, and even death of a loved one or friend. Circumstances don’t change a true worshiper’s reason to worship, because true worship isn’t about religion; it’s all about true faith in God.

Worship is commonly defined as the expression of reverence to God for who He is. It’s more than the start and the end of a song; it’s deeper than a feeling; it isn’t confined to a Sunday worship service. It must be our first response in any circumstance when walking by faith as a lifestyle. For me, worship isn’t not just what I do, but it is who I am. So what is true worship, and what does it require?

True worship, according to the Apostle Paul, necessitates worshipping with a renewed mind. He beseeched the Roman Christians, “by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [worship]. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1, 2).  Worshipping with a renewed mind involves engaging one’s body, soul, and spirit (Matt. 22:37), with the help of the Holy Spirit, according to the truth of God’s Word.

True worship requires an engagement of your human spirit. Why? Because man is the only earthly creature that God created with a spirit, in order to worship God (Gen. 2:7). It also requires worship in the Holy Spirit. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, heart-felt worship naturally flows to the Lord (Eph. 5: 18; Phil. 3:3). And, true worship must be centered in Jesus Christ who is the Truth (See John 8:32; 14:6; 17:17).       

True worship involves your mind, body, soul and spirit. It is a direct reflection of your spiritual connection and relationship with God. It is a sacrifice that is personal and connectional. So, lose your “religion” and find true faith and offer God true worship. Worship Him in spirit and in truth!


Lose the Religion and Find True Faith

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 NKJV

Living through a viral pandemic this past year, we’ve had to cope with stay-at-home orders, forsaking the assembly of ourselves in corporate worship, wearing face masks and social distancing; dealing with runs on food and supplies at stores; managing isolation and loneliness, fear and uncertainty, anxiety and stress; and, for some, grief and bereavement after death of a love one or friend. These global and personal challenges have left some weak and shaken, but others are strengthened in their faith. How could this be?

Well, being a believer is having a relationship with God, not with a religion. Consider, John 3:16, where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”—the word, “whoever” is a pronoun that connotes a personal relationship. A relationship with God is a spiritual connection that is personal and relational.    

Religion is man’s search for god and “his belief in that god or group of gods” (Merriam-Webster). Religion steals, but faith builds (John 10.10). The pandemic brought multiple stressful challenges and stressful conditions, e.g., tests, trials and temptations. Religion just isn’t reliable. Religion is like shifting and sinking sand that provide no solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27).

Religion requires external trappings like symbols, rituals, ceremonies, works and formalities, a building to worship in, etc. But with true worship, born out of a true relationship with God, the place is always secondary to the Person (Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:48). It’s not where you worship, it’s how you worship that counts.

True worship of the true God requires a true relationship with Him—a relationship that is personal and relational (See Matt. 4:19; John 10:27; 2 Tim. 1:12). Again, true faith in God is a spiritual connection, and without faith in Him and the relationship, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). So, lose the religion and find true faith!

The Litmus Test

And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ —  22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NKJV

False prophets have been around since the beginning, and they will be around until Jesus returns; but how shall we know them? They look like “sheep” and sound like “sheep” (Matt. 7:15). They all start or end their prophecies by saying, “thus says the Lord.” They all seem to have an agenda that is not God’s; and, they all seem to be motivated by money, fame, or power. But what is the litmus test?

A litmus test is a test used in Chemistry, used to determine acidity or alkalinity of a chemical substance. Acid turns litmus paper red and an alkaline compound turns it blue. With respect to prophecy, “it’s a test in which a single factor (an attitude, event or fact) is decisive” (Merriam-Webster). Scripturally, the 80/20 rule isn’t applied, but rather the One Strike rule: “if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (verse 22).

Should there be a litmus test for prophets? Absolutely! We should “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, [to see] whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1. Also see 1 Cor. 14:29). The test for Prophets isn’t their anointing or charisma (Rom. 11:29); it’s not their prestige or popularity; it’s not their personal prosperity, wealth or riches; it’s not their leadership in a mega-church or their large ministry; nor is it their political power. It is just one thing! (Verse 22).

Prophecies fail because of presumption (Deut. 18:20, 22). A false prophet will be driven by presumption that is born out of his/her pride and arrogance; thus their words fall to the ground (1 Sam. 3:19). As in the case of the prophet Samuel, God has always used prophets to politically speak truth to Power through out the Scriptures. Recently, over fifty national and international renowned ministers’ prophesized the re-election of Trump, but their words failed. Why?  God wasn’t in the words that they presumptuously spoke. Instead, did they comprise their ethics for a seat at the table? Did they decide to drape the Gospel in the American flag? Was it just about money, fame, or power? Or did they just speak out of their delusions and the imaginations of their mind? (Jer. 14:14; 23:26).

After applying the litmus test, what should we do? First, God says, don’t be afraid of them, i.e., don’t reverence them or stand in awe of them; second, we are instructed to watch and avoid them (Rom. 16:17); and, third, we should stay filled with the Word and the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:11; John 14:26).  Beware of false prophets!

The First False Prophet

And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ —  22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NKJV

False prophets and false prophecy began in the Garden of Eden when the Serpent “prophe-lied” to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:4, 5).Remember, the serpent was crafty and cunning, and said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” But Eve knew the Word of God’s commandment that she and Adam could eat fruit from all the trees in the garden, except the fruit from the tree that was in the middle of the garden lest they die. But the Serpent, being a false prophet, “prop-lied” and said, “You will not surely die.” The prophecy immediately failed and Adam and Eve were naked, disappointed and humiliated (Gen. 3:1-7).  

A false prophet is someone who intentionally prophesies with an agenda that is not God’s. The agenda of false prophets is usually money, fame, or power. In the Garden, the Serpent’s agenda was to lie to gain power over God’s creation—Adam and Eve.

To warn His listeners of false prophets, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the metaphor of sheep and wolves, and admonished them to beware of false prophets who come to you in “sheep clothing” (Matt. 7:15). So, how can you know if a prophet is false? False prophets look like sheep and sound like sheep, i.e., look the part and sound the part, but it is a mistake to judge them by an outward appearance only (1 Sam. 16:7). They may look like sheep but they attack like ravenous wolves; they are really dangerous predators, looking for prey to viciously attack with their lies. How can you really know? “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). You test the spirits of prophets by the Word (Acts 17:11) and by the discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10). Like the Serpent, a false prophet will not speak in line with Gods’ Word, neither minister with God’s Spirit.

A true prophet will speak “thus says the Lord” into a situation by proclaiming a true Word. A false prophet will also say “thus says the Lord” but speak lies rather than the truth to get you to put your trust in him/her rather than God. As God told Jeremiah, “Don’t let the false prophets and mediums who are there among you fool you. Don’t listen to the dreams that they invent, for they prophesy lies in my name. I have not sent them says the Lord” (Jer. 29:8-9 TLB).

The first false prophet was the Serpent who was motivated by power. He “prophe-lied” to Adam and Eve to draw them unto himself. After the prophecy failed, he introduced them into shameful confusion when his lies didn’t come to pass; and, in this day and time, the same spirit of the Serpent will cause the simple and unsuspecting to be led into the same deep deception (Rom. 16:18). Beware of false prophets!

Plastic Preachers and Charlatans

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ —  22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NKJV

A false prophet is someone who intentionally prophesies with an agenda that is not God’s agenda. The agenda of false prophets is usually money, fame, or power (Num. 22-23). Thus, false prophets are “plastic” preachers because their ministries are artificial, fake and insincere—they’re not real. Some are also charlatans because they use prophecy to lie, deceive, defraud and trick God’s people out of their money and possessions. Ergo, false prophets are plastic preachers and charlatans.

So, how can you know them? God instructs His people to apply the one strike rule: “when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken;the prophet has spoken it presumptuously” (Text). The rules of Prophecy aren’t like the rules of Baseball, where you are allowed three strikes and then you’re out! But you might ask: can a true prophet fail in prophecy? Absolutely! By misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and even being motivated by the flesh, a prophecy will fail. This is the reason that the Apostle Paul instructed the church to judge prophecies (1 Cor. 14:29). But a true prophet, after a failed presumptuous prophecy, will humble his or herself, take full responsibility and repent—not justify it, explain it away, or attempt to cover-up the failure.

To advance their agenda, a false prophet will prophesy healing or prosperity presumptuously, then out of their pride and arrogance blame your lack of faith or your insufficient prayer life when it doesn’t come to pass. God, said that you should not be afraid of them, i.e., you should not stand in awe of them, just judge their prophecies.  If they prophesy falsely to you in God’s name; God did not sent them (Jer. 29:9). Often, plastic preachers and charlatans are all about the “Benjamin’s” (an analogy for the $100 bill). They will prophesize lies and false visions out of the deceit of their hearts (Jer. 14:14), and say things like: “God said that “everyone in this service is to give $100 dollars.” They fleece the sheep rather than feed the sheep (Jer. 3:15; John 21:15; Acts 20:28).

Plastic preachers and charlatans serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own gain; and by false prophecies, smooth talk and giving good words, they deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18). Beware of false prophets!

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Spiritual Blood Type

[K]nowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:18-19 NKJV

Your blood type—whether type O, A, B, or AB—is a powerful genetic fingerprint that identifies you and your genetic profile (DNA). Your blood type is a blueprint of who you are and how you can live a more healthy life. This is the reason why a physician orders blood work to be done for his/her patient (Lev. 17:11). Not only do you have a physical blood type, but for those who believe in Christ, we have a spiritual blood type—blood type “P” which stands for precious blood.

Our spiritual blood type is the result of a spiritual blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is a medical procedure that replaces blood in your body after a sickness or injury in order to restore life or the quality of life (Spiritually, Eph. 2:1). On the night of the Passover, during the Lord’s Supper, Jesus symbolically and spiritually transfused His blood into His disciples when he invited them to drink His blood: “then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28).

There are measures and properties of health revealed in one’s blood. For example, at a recent annual physical examination, my physician ordered blood work to be drawn from me which revealed the status of my overall health—thank God everything was good! Similarly, your spiritual blood (precious blood) provides a like fingerprint and blueprint of our new identity in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ, the properties of His precious blood provides redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7); it cleanses and purify  from all sin (1 John 1:7); it gives justification and deliverance from punishment and damnation (Rom. 5:9); it gives us peace with God through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20); it purges the conscious from dead works (Heb. 9:14); and,  it gives us power over the devil by the blood of Jesus (Rev. 12:10-11).

Blood type “P” is the precious incorruptible blood of Jesus that He shed on the Cross to redeem man from the sickness of sin, transfused into the believer by faith.

The Manifest Presence

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” 18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” Genesis 28:16-22 NKJV

Is there a difference between believing that God is everywhere and believing that God is here? Jacob being the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac undoubtedly knew about God and His omnipresence; but he apparently didn’t show a conscious presence of God. In the mist of his fear, pain and struggle, instead of appealing to God, he ran for his life. He, without question, had a lot of emotional turmoil, distractions and pre-occupations after stealing Esau’s birthright and blessing; but then he slept one night, dreamed and realized the presence of the Lord.

A consciousness of the presence of God is a realization of God’s presence.  As we see in Jacob’s experience with God’s presence, there are at least five responses that one has after a realization of the manifest presence (Gen. 28:16).

First, Jacob responded with reverent fear (v.17). The manifest  presence of a holy God impresses you to feel that His presence is the house of God—a place where God dwells and it is also the gate to heaven—the door that opens to heaven (1 Tim. 3:15; John 10:9; 14:6). Second, Jacob responded with consecration and a commemoration (v.18) of the mercy God’s presence showed him (Num. 7:1; 2 Cor. 5:1; 6:19). Third, there is a separation (v.19). Realizing the manifest presence of God, makes you want to separate from the mindset of Luz (separation, from the old to the new) to have a consciousness of Bethel (house of God). 2 Cor. 6:17. Fourth, Jacob dedicated himself to the Lord (v.20). The preposition, “if” is better understood in this verse as “since.” Jacob was not bargaining or placing conditions on God; he was dedicating himself to God (Rom. 12:1). And, fifth, Jacob made a commitment (vow, pledge, promise) to honor God with the tithe. There is no greater commitment of the heart than honoring God with the first tenth of your income and increase (Ecc. 5:4; Matt. 6:21).

It’s time to awake from sleep and realize the manifest presence of God is here and now, and be ever conscious of the presence of God in our relationship with Him, and every redemptive promise He has made to us.