“Angels Unawares”!

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13:2

Who are the “strangers” the Bible is referring to here? A Biblical stranger is any person – apart from yourself – who has a need. It could even be your next door neighbor. But primarily, here, it refers to people that we do not know or whom under normal circumstances we could hardly care about.

Our key scripture above refers, chiefly, to the account, in Genesis chapter 18, of how Abraham entertained total strangers who just happened to be the LORD Himself and two of His angels. Let us look at this account up close.

“1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.”

In this account, we can clearly see Abraham’s attitude to strangers in the way he treated the three men. Abraham had a heart of mercy. He lifts up his eyes and sees three men standing outside his tent “in the heat of the day”. This little detail – “in the heat of the day” – indicates that the men were tired, exhausted and hungry.

Abraham does not know they are angels. The LORD was not wearing a three-piece suit, nor did He roll up in a Jaguar. He came on foot and He looked tired and hungry.

Clearly, the men have come a long way and they probably have a long way to go. Abraham decides he cannot let them pass. He must do something for them! His heart trembles with mercy – and generosity.

But first, he must get their permission. Abraham has a servant’s heart. Just because he has something to give to these men, Abraham does not walk up to them with his hands stuck in his pockets and tell them, “I can see you are hungry. Now, sit down and let me see what I can do for you. And don’t make noise. I don’t like noise around my house.”

Bless the Lord, no. Abraham does not talk or behave like that. Instead, he tells them:

“3 My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.”

Abraham calls himself their servant and deliberately makes these strangers his lords. To which they replied,

So do, as thou hast said.”

Abraham springs into action. Abraham has a large heart. Without thinking, his heart knows exactly what it needs to do to refresh these exhausted men. The rest, as they say, is history. The “morsel of bread” that he sets out to prepare for them turns out to be a banquet!

It could be that Abraham did not prepare a good and tender calf for every stranger who passed by… or, it may well be that he did. After all, not many people passed through the dry plains of Mamre in those days and Abraham’s heart was able to take care of anyone who had a need. But, whatever he did or did not do, Abraham’s heart to strangers, or people in need, is clearly revealed in these scriptures.

That is unlike so many of us. Many of us have an ‘accountant’ mind where keeping an account of the things we own is of more importance to us than helping someone in need. To many people, a stranger – or a needy person – is an intrusion into their lives! But it was not so with Abraham.

Has anyone passed by your house or your place of work lately, whom you felt was not deserving of your attention? They probably did not meet your (worldly) criteria of someone you needed to do a favor to.

Most people will bend over backwards to extend their warmest welcome to people they know or to people who look important – or to people they want to help – but not to “other” people.

But God comes incognito. When the Lord decides to visit you in person He does not send a celebrity your way. Nor does He send your best friend around. On the contrary, He will send a type of person that you couldn’t care about – or the kind of person that you loathe. That will be your angel. God knows our hearts and He knows all the pride and selfishness in us. This is a test that He therefore sets before us. Being the God of heaven, He is not going to give us kindergarten stuff. God will give us something that will test us to the core, for He longs to mature us in the Spirit.

But this test comes with a blessing. According to His good purposes, God sometimes does bless us materially to the extent that we do the same to others. But it is not the material blessing which we are to seek after, and that is why it is not a law for God to bless us in that manner. It is the fruit of the Spirit that is God’s true blessing to us. The Bible, in Luke 6:38, says:

“30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Lk. 6:30-38)

That is God’s character. But, again, notice God’s many promises to us when we “entertain strangers”. And God is faithful, which means He will fulfill every promise of His.

It all hinges on the heart. Do we have a loving, tender heart? Or is our heart hard and selfish and judgemental?

I thank God for the many men and women of God the world over who have exactly this heart. I personally have had the honor of coming across some of them. They are not necessarily the people who can preach the cross very well. But they are brothers and sisters who can live it.

God will bless these people with a heavenly blessing.

 

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Of God’s Grace And Strangers

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13:2

God sets incredibly high standards for us as His children! But again, such stringent standards are almost nothing compared to the responsibilities that He has reserved for us in heaven. Amongst them, the Bible says, is that we will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). Now, we would hardly expect a person who will judge angels in heaven to be someone who does not care about the attitude of his or her heart – or his actions. That is why when such a person momentarily loses their faith and becomes careless in their actions, like Abraham did with Hagar, the repercussions reverberate far beyond anyone’s realm of sight. They are beyond catastrophic.

But, anyway, back to our subject.

Right at the outset, notice that this scripture is tied in with the exhortation to “Let brotherly love continue” (v.1).

A brother is someone whom you know, someone close to you. A stranger, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. He is just that… a stranger. He is someone you do not know. In today’s violence-prone atmosphere, we could even fear strangers. But scripture here firmly instructs us that, while our first priority is to uphold brotherly love, yet we have a responsibility to those who are outside our fold. That’s a Godly charge. As people who have God’s nature in us, we should not only minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to strangers. There are believers (and church communities) who live such insulated lives they spend all their energy on themselves and their close ones.

But the Bible here tells us to “be not forgetful” because you can become so inward-looking that other people become of little value to you. You become insensitive to people’s needs, people’s suffering.

Hebrews 13:2 refers specifically to Abraham, among others. Abraham was a man such as you and I, but he entertained angels unawares. Now, you would expect that when angels visited men they would come in all their glory, trumpets sounding and golden wings flashing. But these came to Abraham’s tent in the form of strangers. Flesh and blood, tired strangers. Abraham’s story is well-known.

Here is the account in full:

“1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” Gen. 18:1-8

It is clear from this account that Abraham did not know that these men were angels (and the LORD was among them!) Abraham just saw three men approaching his tent “in the heat of the day”.

Under such hot conditions the men must have appeared tired and worn out. Upon looking at their dust-covered feet Abraham knew they must have travelled far and that they were hungry. And Abraham pleaded with them to accept “a little” generosity from him. The “little water” and “morsel of bread” that Abraham prepared for them turned out to be probably the biggest feast of their lives, and the service they received from this dusty nomad and his wife far exceeded what any modern man would receive at the top Hyatt hotel on earth.

“A morsel of bread”! God’s people are incredibly humble!!

It was not like Abraham spent all his time seated outside his tent forcing any Tom, Dick and Harry into his house to eat and wash their feet. But he knew when a man was in trouble, and he spared no effort in making them feel welcome and comfortable in his house. The heart that Abraham carried was what mattered.

When we are taking up our cross and following Christ, we will do the same. A stranger is someone who in a sense is at our mercy. A stranger is a man or woman who has a need. And he does not have to come from our denomination. The Bible is actually talking about people who are not our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we have the heart of Christ, who died for us while we were yet strangers, all because of mercy.

Meeting such a person’s need, therefore, requires a heart of mercy. May we not harden our hearts. Some, the Bible tells us, have entertained angels unawares.

In the final analysis, I wonder what a full, contented angel would do by way of thanking us? No doubt, much more than we could ask or dream! Such was the blessing that befell Abraham.

[Abraham took a heifer “tender and good” – the best – from his herd and prepared it for total strangers]

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Faith and Obedience

9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Gen. 21:9-12

Long ago, we used to sing a song:

Trust and obey

For there is no other way

To be happy in Jesus

But to trust and obey.

There are many beautiful and spiritually satisfying songs that we used to sing in the old days.

But let’s get down to this post…

Abraham is called the father of faith. He is also called the friend of God. Let’s see how much of a friend Abraham was to God.

When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, His was a top-secret, highly classified military operation. He had no intention of informing anyone about His mission. But something made God to stop in His tracks, so to speak.

“And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (Gen. 18:17).

God came to a decision. He decided He could not hide from Abraham the thing He intended to do. Abraham pleased God so much that God decided to reveal His plans to him!

That was how much a friend of God Abraham was.

God is no respecter of men. He certainly wasn’t with Abraham. But somehow Abraham was able to please God through his faith, and they became intimate friends. That is an incredible feat.

We all love to think that we are pleasing to God. But we can only please God when we have faith, and faith goes with obedience, as we are about to see with Abraham.

We can see from the scripture above that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. One, Ishmael, was born by his slave, Hagar; the younger, Isaac, was born by his wife Sarah through a promise of God. As is normal with most men, the first born is always very dear to them, for he is the first-fruits of their strength. And so it was with Abraham. His heart lay with Ishmael, his firstborn son.

But we can also see that Abraham’s love for Ishmael clouded his spiritual sight. Now Abraham was seeing things in the natural. He was very happy for Ishmael. At 13 years old, Ishmael must have been a strapping, promising young man and Abraham’s pride most likely was fully vested in him.

But Sarah saw in the Spirit, and she saw Ishmael “mocking”.

Now, “mocking” is not a good word at all. The word “mocking” indicates a revulsive, worldly spirit. It speaks of contempt. It is a spirit that has no boundaries; it cannot define the sacred from the unholy. It is the spirit that we are increasingly seeing in the world today – an anti-God spirit.

That was not a good thing this boy was doing. In fact, it was downright evil. In Galatians 4:29 it says that Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac.

Sarah saw the evil in Ishmael. She decided the boy and her mother had to go. She spoke to Abraham about it and Abraham, poor man, was loathe to send them away. It appears that, left on his own, Abraham would have given his inheritance to Ishmael! We thank God for Godly women like Sarah who can put the brakes to the madness of their husbands. Sarah takes much credit here.

Abraham tried to defend his choice to remain with Ishmael, but God told him, “Listen to Sarah.” Listening to Sarah meant Ishmael and his mother had to go, and this was extremely painful to Abraham. But painful as it was, Abraham obeyed. He sent Ishamel and Hagar away.

That was faith! Through losing in the natural, Abraham proved his faith in God.

We have no idea where Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac would have led to. Probably Ishmael would have kept on bullying the younger boy until Isaac would have become a vegetative youth of no consequence. Or he probably would have killed him outright once he became strong enough.

In casting out both the slave and her son, Abraham suffered, but he obeyed God. He kept his faith.

And in that, God must have been very happy with him.

The word “happy” is not a word that we can easily apply to the relationship between God and the church today. It is no secret that today the church is too much in cahoots with the world. There is too much compromise with the world! So much so that “Isaac” is about to be buried under.

Particularly, these three things are there in the church today:

  • Sin
  • Worldly influences, especially celebrity worship/Christianity and political correctness
  • Law and principles. Far from having no power to enable God’s people to live a victorious life, law binds them even tighter in the bondage of sin.

But we must strive to please God. We must separate the spiritual from the worldly in the church. The church must walk under the full power of God’s grace.

In order to achieve what he did, Abraham walked in the revelation of the cross. There was total denial of self involved. Abraham took up his cross and followed Christ.

When we, too, walk in the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ we are able to cast off the old man of the flesh through crucifying it on the cross, and only through the cross can we hope for “Isaac” (the spiritual man) in us to be free to inherit.

If we do not cast out the flesh through crucifying it, we will see the influences of the flesh and of the world increasingly manifesting themselves in our lives, a scenario that is becoming more and more a reality in God’s people’s lives today.

[Below: Dar es Salaam: In the afternoon heat, passengers in city buses take time to snooze]

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Sharing In Abraham’s Reward Through Suffering

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Lk. 16:19-23

Notice that when Lazarus died he was carried by angels straight into Abraham’s bosom. That little piece of news has deep spiritual implications. It means, first, that Lazarus had the same faith that Abraham had. Secondly, it translates to the fact that, ultimately, Lazarus shared in Abraham’s spiritual promise.

But Lazarus must have paid a heavy price for his faith, and this is the essence of this post. His physical condition must have been the butt of his neighbors’ jokes. I actually give this rich man credit for allowing Lazarus to be laid at his gate. But, obviously, he would not allow himself to interact further with such a lowly species.

But, as he sat at his neighbor’s beautifully-emblazoned gate waiting for the crumbs, Lazarus must have shared his message of salvation to anyone who cared to listen. He preached! The rich man’s words in verse 27 indicate he was aware that Lazarus could deliver a message. He must have heard him share often of the hope that he had in him.

But I can imagine people shaking their heads as they passed by and saying to Lazarus, “If you have a God, where is He? How can you be in such a condition and claim to have this all-powerful God?”

They would have told him, “Look, man; you have a wonderful message, but we don’t see much of this great God you talk about!”

And Lazarus probably would have tried to explain to them that God is not found in outward conditions but in the things that have to do with our hearts. But people look on the outside. Few would have paid any attention to him. As far as they were concerned, he was not representative of an all-powerful God.

People of the world cannot see into God’s spiritual Kingdom. They cannot discern the deep inner work of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart, a work accomplished through suffering. Unfortunately, this worldly spirit has also crept into the church. God’s people no longer see in the Spirit. They look on the outside. They see God only in blessings. You will hear people say, “So-and-So is so blessed! He just bought a new car.”

Well, we thank God for cars for they can take you from point A to B much quicker than walking on foot or riding on a bicycle. But cars are hardly the blessing that God promised Abraham. When you die, the fact that you owned a car will not usher you into Abraham’s bosom.

In most churches today, if someone is poor, or if they are suffering in one way or another, it is automatically translated that they do not have faith. And yet, it is in this very crucible of suffering that God works on us to perfect us! Sometimes God will even allow a sickness to stick with us just so He can work in us through it.

And so, in the midst of his very difficult situation, Lazarus kept his faith. As people jeered and wondered aloud where his God was, Lazarus allowed God to perfect His work in him. He kept his faith.

When he died he was received in Abraham’s bosom. He shared in Abraham’s reward.

As children of God, we cannot allow outside circumstances to dictate to us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who also suffered in the flesh. Jesus suffered in His flesh, but He kept His faith. He is our example. We must be ready to identify our lives with His, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

[Below: On some routes in Tanzania, “bora ufike” (just as long as you arrive) is the key word. In this photo, to the left, in a space reserved for only one passenger, four more are crammed in. The lady on the near right side is seated directly on my lap]

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Grace – Part 1

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. Gen. 5:24

Sometimes the Lord reveals something and you wonder, how much is such a “leak” worth? And all of a sudden you realize that if all the money in the world, every last dime of it, and all the gold, and all the silver, and every kind of worldly treasure – if all of it were gathered together, it would count as nothing in the face of the tiniest bit of heavenly revelation that the Lord grants us to see in our hearts.

Today I would like us to consider the subject of grace a little bit more. There is so much the Lord wants us to know about this subject for He Himself is a God of grace. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to reveal a God of grace and truth.

Did you know, for example, that before the law came God dealt with His people through grace? For example, Abel walked in the grace of God. And so did Enoch, and Noah.

I mention these three people specifically because in their time the world was so evil, but the Lord set them apart. Not that today or in other times the world has been less evil, no. But these gentlemen had so much grace that in the midst of all the evil that surrounded them, they stood out the way a lighthouse stands out in the darkest of nights.

Just think, during Noah’s time there was so much evil on earth that only one man, this Noah, could find favor in the eyes of the Lord! That is incredible, to say the least.

And what was it with Cain and Abel? It was simply that Abel sacrificed to the Lord by grace, and Cain by law. Cain’s heart was hard and we can see it in the manner in which he sacrificed. The Bible goes to length to describe the quality of the things that Abel sacrificed. You can see the heart there.

It says nothing of the things that Cain sacrificed. When it came time to give to the Lord, Cain gave because he had to, and the Lord had not respect” for his sacrifice.

That should be an eye-opener. God has no respect for things we do or give to Him because we have to. He only respects or considers the things that we do for Him out of a heart of grace. Anything done out of a heart of law is rejected by God.

That brings us to the issue of tithing. The way tithing is done today is invariably by law. You cannot mention the tithe today outside of law.

But did you know that Abraham – through whom we first learn about the tithe – tithed to God by grace? Whether it was a revelation from God that Abraham should give Him a tenth of his spoils, or whether Abraham decided on his own account to give God that much is not stated in the Bible. But the fact is, Abraham gave to God out of a spirit of grace, and not because he had to. That would have been law, and Abraham did not walk with God through law. God called Abraham His friend. There is no way you can put law on a friend.

It could very well be that God instituted the tithe in the law that He gave to Moses simply in honor of Abraham, who freely decided to give to God a tenth of his spoils.

That is why we do not read that Isaac gave to God a tenth of whatever he got. He probably gave more – or less. For sure he did give. But one thing is clear, though. Isaac lived in a free environment with God.

When Jacob was on his way to Laban’s house, he was granted a vision of the heavens; and in his gratitude he prayed to God and promised to give to God a tenth of whatever the Lord would bless him with.

That does not make the tenth to be a law. No. Notice it was Jacob who promised to give to God the tenth. It was not God who said, “Thou shalt!” In fact, in all probability, it must have surprised God to have Jacob say and do the same thing that his grandfather Abraham did. A pleasant surprise.

In any case, whatever the reason that made Jacob to promise to give to God a tenth of his wealth, he would have been very surprised had you stood before him and used the word “must”. No, it was not a must. It was a pleasure. It was a freewill gift.

Now, today you have preachers reading out of the Law of Moses and concretizing God’s people in law. When it comes to giving and to the tithe in particular, there is nothing but law that is at work in today’s church. And God has no respect for such giving or such service. God has no respect for anything that is done through duress.

I don’t care whether you are reaping a hundredfold or not, but if you are giving because you have to, or because men are coercing you into giving, you are sinning against God.

We are called to give, yes, and God blesses us when we give, but it should always – always – be in a spirit of freedom, and grace.

In the second part we will consider Enoch.

Abraham – A Man of Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb. 11:8

I find it so appropriate that on this day, the 25th of December, Christmas day, I should feel in my heart to write about our father of faith, Abraham. Abraham is a man we should love with all our hearts. Not the emotional kind of love, of course, but the Godly love.

Why? The reason is because Abraham was a man who agreed to lose. But even more important than that is that in losing, Abraham obeyed God. There are some people who believe than it is when we are gaining, when we are prospering materially or holding onto the things of this world, that we please God. They claim that such people have faith. But no. The prosperity gospel people are the people who if they lose a needle in a haystack will suffocate there rummaging for it. They are the kind of people who will never allow themselves to lose anything, and they can never please God. They are the “rights” people. But Jesus talked about losing. He said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Actually, the most lovable person in the Spirit is the person who is losing his or her rights.

Did you notice what the scriptures say about Abraham: “… he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

“Not knowing whither he went”. That talks of losing. I can assure you that this scripture is not for the rationally- minded. This is not a scripture for the rationalizing Christian. That can only be for the person who has seen in the Spirit. Actually, the Kingdom of God is all about faith. It is about seeing into the things of the Spirit. That is why the human mind – whether acutely intelligent, average, or near-blank – has no place absolutely in God’s Kingdom. God deals with us through our hearts – and our brains are certainly not in our hearts, are they?

The Kingdom of God is not about rationalizing. It is about obedience. God says, “Go”, and you move out. That was what Abraham did. He did not stand there wringing his hands and looking at all the familiar life he was being asked to leave behind. No – the man just upped and went away. You just have to give a big “Hurrah!” to Abraham for that.

But notice that Abraham did not just walk away into the mist. The Bible says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed”.

Abraham agreed to lose in the natural because he saw in the Spirit.

When we are seeing in the Spirit we can see our inheritance. We therefore do things confidently. We are sure of what we are doing, even if no one else sees it the same way that we do.

In these scriptures the Bible is simply talking about losing in the natural to gain in the Spirit. Abraham saw in the Spirit and saw the glory to come. But he also saw the price tag. If you think losing in the natural is easy, the answer is no. It is never easy to lose in the natural. That is why Abraham is a great man. He agreed to lose and in losing he obeyed God, that’s why.

Let’s come down to us. Probably where you are right now God is telling you to do something. You can feel it down in your heart, for God speaks to us through our hearts. God can also speak to us through people, but there will always be a confirmation in our hearts.

Unfortunately, this line is what prosperity preachers use to rob people of their money. They will tell you God wants you to give all your money right now – and you do it without a confirmation in your heart, and (like poor Prince John in Disney’s “Robin Hood”), brother, you’ve just been robbed!

But if it is God speaking to you, whether people tell you or not, there will be a confirmation in your heart.

And God does speak to us, and He most likely is speaking to you right now. If you hear God’s voice in your heart, this is not a time to rationalize. It is a time to obey. Get up right away and do what God is telling you to do. His voice is right there in your heart. You can hear it clearly, if you are born again. And all God wants is for you to obey.

Notice that Abraham “obeyed”.

Probably God is telling you to forgive, to let go, or even to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness from someone.

Probably God is telling you even to give money somewhere or to someone. Giving money is not a bad thing, only make sure you are not being robbed.

I am sure that God is asking many things of us right now. If God is telling you to do something, the confirmation will be right there in your heart. Do not waste time rationalizing. Do as Abraham did. Up and go! Up and go! Do according to your heart, as God instructs your heart.

That is where the real blessing is. The heart that Abraham had was the same heart that our Lord Jesus had. It was the heart that true men and women of God have had throughout the generations. Not a rationalizing heart, but an obedient heart.

Lord, I pray, please give me an obedient heart. Amen!

[Below: Abraham just upped and went]

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Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Devils – Part 2

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 1 Tim. 4:1-6

Have you ever heard of cluster bombs? They are bombs that are released from a single ‘mother’ bomb (I suppose), and they scatter all over the place. They do much more damage than a single bomb would.

In the spirit, cluster bombs are what people of God come against when they depart from the faith. Notice in the scripture above that it is not people giving heed to a seducing spirit or to a doctrine of a devil, no. On the contrary, there is a multitude of demons out there, all with the singular purpose of dispersing many wrong doctrines, and spreading much deception.

And how do God’s people become ensnared by these demonic doctrines? It is when they depart from the truth. There is a departing from the truth. And the Bible says that a time will come when God’s people will depart from following the truth.

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Bible declares that we have loved the lie more than the truth. And you do not have to be demon-possessed to believe in demonically-inspired doctrines.

Today in Christendom, apart from those demonic doctrines that Paul mentions in the above scripture (forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats), there are many more that the devil has released from his arsenal.

In mainstream Pentecostalism, the prosperity gospel probably tops the list of suspect ‘faiths’. This gospel is more widely accepted than any other false teachings because it caters so well to the flesh. Who does not love the good life?

But you will not find this teaching in the New Testament, not an iota of it. All the Bible says is that if we have food and clothing, these things are sufficient for us and that true riches constitute being content with them (1 Tim. 6:5-10) as long as we are living Godly lives. That is as far as the Bible goes with material or worldly “prosperity”.

Material and financial riches are all right, if God chooses to bless us with them. But they do not form any part of the New Testament teachings. And they are certainly not the spiritual blessings that God promised Abraham, our father of faith. The Bible talks of our father Abraham, who was rich in worldly possessions, in this manner:

“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

If we were to agree with the proponents of the prosperity message, we would not be in league with the Old Testament partriarchs, the OT prophets, our Lord Jesus Himself, the Early Church, nor the apostles of Christ.

The minute the church leaves the central message of Jesus of denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ (Mat. 16:24), we throw ourselves wide open for the devil to attack and defeat us because we have given him the one weapon he needs to defeat us – our flesh.

The first man, Adam, had a problem. The Bible says,

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).

The flesh was alive in Eve and Adam, and sin found a foothold.

In the second Adam, Christ, the flesh has been crucified. At the cross Christ completely and utterly defeated Satan through defeating sin – by crucifying the body of sinful flesh..

“3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

The cross is the only place where we can crucify the flesh and defeat the devil. The truth of the Bible is the cross.

We have a choice. We could choose to ally ourselves with the victory that Christ got on the cross, by crucifying the deeds of our flesh; or we could ally ourselves with the flesh – and become susceptible to every new doctrine the devil brings in through his seducing spirits and devils.

And demonic doctrines play havoc with people’s lives. There is no questioning the fact that the doctrine of “forbidding to marry”, in particular, has wrought incredible destruction in the lives of men, women and children. Having been swept under the carpet through the centuries, today that damage is headline news even in the secular world.

Likewise, the prosperity gospel has wreaked havoc in the lives of men and women. This is especially so in Third World countries where poverty is rife. Unscrupulous preachers have used this gospel to enrich themselves at the expense of poor believers. The preachers tell their flock to bring in all their wealth, with the promise of “reaping a hundredfold”, and other false promises.

Moreover, today material and financial “gain” is touted as godliness in church. The wealthier one is “in Christ”, the more spiritual they are considered. But notice Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:5: “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself”.

“From such withdraw thyself”. Withdraw yourself from whom? From men who suppose that gain is godliness. Withdraw yourself from men who teach that the more prosperous you are materially, the closer you are to God. That is the spirit of the world. In the world, the closer you get to the center of power, the more affluent you become.

“From such withdraw thyself”. That’s the final nail in the prosperity gospel’s coffin.

There are many other virulent doctrines within the church today, but we do not have the opportunity to deal with them here.

The bottom line is that these doctrines do not deal with sin. They do nothing to transform men and women into the image of Jesus Christ. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is about a transformation. The message of a transformed life was the singular gospel that the Early Church heard and preached.

And tragedy of it all is that the minute we leave off following this message of transformation, as the scriptures so clearly warn us, we throw ourselves wide open to deception.

[Below: “Oh, happy day!”]

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