FIRST-TRUMP#top..........Sound the alarm in Zion..... ...........................

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. A Priest sounds the alarm on a shofar

 

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TREADMILL

Part 1

2Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:)


We have an expression that seems to fit our lives all too well at times. We say: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." I'm sure there's an equivalent to this adage that the more educated of us would use, but being uneducated myself, this one suits me just fine. We also like to say: "Life is like a treadmill. I work hard and yet I get nowhere fast." How true that is. Such colloquialisms as these are called "truisms." They're not actually true in and of themselves, but they express a truth that is difficult to describe without them.

In our day-by-day experiences it often appears as if we're making no headway whatever. One day is just like the one that has gone before it. We wake up, we put on our shoes (I'm supposing here. Maybe you don't) and we shuffle off to work, or to school, or wherever it is we spend each and every day. Like a treadmill, we hurry, but we get nowhere In the Army we had an expression that aptly described such a life. This expression is: "Hurry up and wait."

35And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. 36And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:)

Here we have 12 men, plus Jesus, in a small boat crossing a lake. A mighty storm arose, causing these men to struggle with all their might to try and keep from being food for the fishes that several of them had been fishing for most if not all their lives. These men were on a treadmill they had to continue treading until it stopped or else lose the battle. In the meantime there was one man among them who didn't seem to be bothered by this storm. Is there something we can learn from the treadmill on which these men found themselves? I think so. Let's see if there is, shall we?

Although these men were getting nowhere fast as the saying goes, they were accomplishing something. They were developing and discovering three things, three aspects of themselves, two of which might well have passed unnoticed had it not been for this storm that almost killed them. One benefit they derived from this experience is a physical one. They developed muscles they never knew they had, just as we do when we have to tackle a job more intense or different than what we have encountered before. This, by the way, is the purpose of a treadmill, that is to build up muscles, tone the body, and develop strength and stamina. A treadmill is not something that we use to get us anywhere. On a treadmill we expect to get nowhere. And get us nowhere is does, at least so it seems.

These twelve men also learned their Master had power over the elements beyond anything they had realized or imagined before this incident. They knew He could do many things beyond their ability. But they had no idea Jesus had dominion over the elements as well. They were in the process of learning the power of the spoken Word, when that Word is spoken by or through the will of God.

And they also learned, or at least they should have learned, that our peace, as did that of Jesus, comes from having power over our circumstances. Is this in fact true? Does our peace come from having power over our circumstances? Perhaps so, but it also comes from having confidence in the One who does have control when we do not have the control we desire. Those twelve men did not have any control whatsoever in their storm. They were perfectly capable of handling the ship they grew up on when circumstances were normal. But when our circumstances get out of hand, then what happens to our confidence? What these men learned is that there was someone with them who did have such control. They needed to learn to have faith, not in themselves or their own abilities, but in the One with the control.

We have two good examples of this very thing in the Old Testament. First we have Isaiah saying, not of himself but speaking the Words of God:


7For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still. (Isaiah 30:)

And David said:

10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 36:)


When we find ourselves in the middle of a stormy situation where we have no control is when our faith is tested. We can believe we have much faith, but like anything else, we can not know we truly have faith until we've had our faith tried in the fires of adversity.

You may have seen the commercials on TV where they run the car you're thinking of buying into a brick wall. Such a waste of good metal. But if there's going to be a flaw that needs to be corrected, we want that flaw discovered before we drive our car 60 miles an hour down a long mountain road in the dark with brakes or head lights that don't work. This is true of our lives as well. One time or another our faith is going to be tested. It's far better to have our faith tested in small, ever-increasing pieces then it is to have it tested and found lacking as we stand before the Throne of Judgement. Paul tells us:

4Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Heb 12:)

Did I hear someone say they were told there was no testing of the saints? Were you told the baptismal tank places you above such things? Perhaps you think the Apostles and the early Christians who were fed to the lions were not baptized properly. If you do believe this, I hope you're right. But when I look at Job, the Apostles, and my own life also, I don't find that belief to be valid. Paul says if a person isn't being tested, he or she is a what?

Look again at the passage presented here. Notice the word "All." In your dictionary, what does it say under the word "All." Is there an exclusion you can find that you can squeeze in to? If there is, please show it to me because I missed it. Besides the word "All," I find verses that say those who are not being tested, those who are not being chastised ("Tutored, educated, corrected, nurtured, disciplined") are not in fact the children of God.

27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1Cor 11:)

Read carefully what Paul is telling us here. These are not merely words spoken because he had nothing better to say. He goes on to tell us:


31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1Cor 11:)

These are heavy words that I fear have been strongly downplayed or hidden under a pulpit in the sermons and the attitudes of the Christian Church. They are words that have been relegated to those outside our own cliquish circle because we're "Too good," and "Too special" for God to be speaking to us in that manner. If you have such an attitude, be sure to read Luke 18:9-14 and see what Jesus has to say about you. Then I suggest you read again what Paul is saying here.


Returning to our twelve men who find themselves battling a storm, there was yet another person in the Old Testament who found himself in the middle of a storm:


4But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. 6So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. (Jonah 1:)

Doesn't this sound familiar? Now, we know perfectly well that Jonah did not have any control over the storm or his circumstances. Yet here he is fast asleep in the middle of a storm. How can that be? After all, Jonah was running from God, so he certainly wasn't in the will of God. So how could he sleep when it appears he was going to go down with the ship?


9And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. 10Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. 12And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. (Jonah 1:)

First of all we see that, in spite of his trying his best to avoid what God had commanded him to do, Jonah feared the Lord. Fear of the Lord is a lost art in the Church of today. But Solomon tells us:


8Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. 9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. 10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Prov 9:)

And Jesus confirms the words of Solomon with this:


28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mat 10:)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If we don't have enough sense to fear God, then anything else we might do is mere folly. How can we understand step ten if we refuse to accept step one?

Jonah was running from God, but he knew who was in control. We see how all the sailors were afraid, but we have no sense of fear from Jonah even when he says they should throw him overboard into the tempestuous sea. I have the feeling he knew God was going to have His way, and that His way included Jonah. Have you ever had that feeling before? And have you ever felt that God has a plan for you that you won't like to do, so you hide from God in one way of another as Adam hid from God when he did a no-no? I've had that feeling before.

Besides Jonah there are many others who God has apprehended in spite of resistance on the part of the apprehended:


10And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 13And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 14And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, (Ex 4:)

4Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. (Jer 1:)

12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:)

6I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:)

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus called His disciples He didn't ask them if they wanted to follow Him, He told them to follow Him? This was not always the case. Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to give everything away and come follow Him. But He also told the man with a legion of demons, who wanted to follow Jesus, to go back to his city and tell them what had happened to him. Yet at other times Jesus told the one healed to tell no one what He had done. We can't assume that because Jesus tells one person to do something it means we are to do the same thing. Jesus told Peter to follow Him. Peter, turning his attention from what Jesus had told him to do wanted to know what John was going to do (John 21:22). We always think others should be doing as we do. Even if we hear a call, that doesn't mean others have heard the same call. They might hear the call given to us, or they might hear another call altogether, and that call might be heard later in their life. It will be in God's time and not ours. We try to hasten God's plan, force Him to do as we believe He said He will do. The followers of Jesus tried to force him into His Kingdom, and I suspect that was Judas' motive (the one he used to justify his actions) as well, (John 6:15; Mat 11:12). Romans 14:4 tells us we're not to judge another man's servant. That's the Master's job. Besides this, the one we criticize for being off base on step one today may well be firmly on a step far ahead of us tomorrow. Then who will be in a position to judge whom?


14Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: 15And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. (Amos 7:)

We never know what we'll be doing when the Lord calls us. Paul was fighting the Lord when he was called. And although Paul could perform miracles, he did not have control over the elements as did Jesus, or at least not that we know of he didn't:


18And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; 19And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. 20And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. (Acts 27:)

If you read the story you'll see that Paul was not concerned with the storm. The Lord had said Paul was to go to Rome. And a storm passing by was not going to hinder that command. Jesus had told the Apostles they were going to the other side of the lake. Unlike Paul and apparently Jonah, the Apostles did not have faith in those words.

If God gives us a command, if He sets us on a course, He will not only provide the means for us to get there, but He will instill in us a desire to do nothing else but what it is He desires of us. I often wonder how the Lord has taken this empty shell of a human being and did what He's doing with him. I find I'm just the opposite of how I was but a very few years ago. It wasn't my doing that caused this change, nor was it my goal in life or by any of my ability that the changes were made. And as far as anyone else is concerned, they may very well not like or appreciate the change in me. But I do, and I'm thankful for the change. I'm even thankful for the bramble bushes He had to drag me through to get here. Lots of scars to show for the trip. But the destination makes it worth the everything it took (is taking, the trips not over yet) to get me here.

You're being trained to do one job in the body of Christ, and I another. It would be foolish of me to assume you are on the wrong track because you aren't doing what I'm doing. Jesus trained twelve men to be leaders in the building of His Church. Jesus ended one segment of the Church and began a new segment. He was the "Cross" roads of the Church. He trained 12 men, and He lost one of those men. Yet a man, Paul, who never followed Jesus one step is the one Jesus used to be the most influential in building the Church and spreading the Gospel. The Apostles rejected and suspected Paul in the beginning, and for good reason. But in spite of their suspicion and repression, Paul flew far beyond the eleven in influence and understanding of the Word. One man's treadmill is another man's Rock.

We are not to judge. Proper judgement is not in our ability, nor is it in our power.


We've looked at people who God called against their will. But these are not the only ones who were chosen for a particular job. And many who were called, like Jeremiah, were called before they were even born. Consider Samuel, John the Baptist, Jacob and Esau, Isaac, Joseph, and Jesus. No one asked them if they wanted the job they were destined for. There was a treadmill specially made just for them. And they had no choice but to run their race on that treadmill.


45And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. 46And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 47And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. 48And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. 49But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: 50For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. 51And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. 52For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. (Mark 6:)

28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (Mat 14:)

We see several things happening in this episode. One, we see the disciples once again exercising their muscles rowing against a storm. It must seem to them that being a disciple of Jesus, especially a disciple close to Jesus, was one storm after another. We also see these men in fear. It seems as if every time we turn around these fearless men, who have the Son of God, their Messiah as their leader, scared to death. And these are the ones the Messiah is going to use as leaders in His army? David had within his army the bravest and the most fearless, albeit criminals and riffraff, the social outcast, of men. Jesus seems to have picked the ones who are not only bouncing off the bottom of the barrel of the social spectrum, but also the most cowardly of men for His companions and warriors. And to tell you the truth I'm very glad He does scrape the bottom of the barrel. If He didn't, I would still be wallowing in my foolhardiness thinking I was something special when I was scum.

Have you noticed how many times Jesus has to reprimand these men for their lack of faith? These men have cast out demons, healed the unhealable, and yet they have so little faith. Why is that? Isn't faith needed if we're going to perform miracles? Yes, it is. But it isn't necessarily our faith that's going to make the difference. It's Jesus' faith that makes things happen. That's why we have to call on His name if we expect to do what He has sent us to do.

Another thing you might notice is the number of times these twelve men forget the miracles Jesus has performed.


7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? (Mat 16)

I have a lousy memory. But I should think I would remember such miracles as these. This brings to mind an incident in the wilderness:


7And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not? (Ex 17:)

Is God with them? These people who have just crossed the Red Sea, who have watched all the Egyptian army and their Pharaoh drown, who have the Lord over them as a cloud by day and fire by night, who are given manna from heaven by morning and quail in the evening: These people ask if God is with them or not? The disciples were blind to their circumstances and to the One who was with, and Who was training them. Is it a characteristic of the Jews to be so Spiritually blind and rebellious do you suppose? Or is it a characteristic of us humans to be blind and rebellious?

Why did God lead these people through the wilderness, cause them to thirst, feed them in such a strange way? Was it to punish them? They certainly felt as if they were being punished. And don't we feel abandoned and punished when things come down hard on us? This is what God told Moses:


4Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. (Ex 16:)

God provides a treadmill for our testing. We're led through a wilderness to see if we are suitable material for Heaven. We think there is no testing, that God is going to take us in just the way we are. We think it's God's responsibility to make us into what He wants us to be, to clothe us in white linen of righteousness. Yes, God will make us into worthy inhabitants of Heaven, of being in His presence. But it won't be by way of the sofa or by showering us with blessings. He offers us a treadmill, a Valley of the Shadow of Death. Then it's for us to decide if we're going to make use of the treadmill, to pass through the valley. It's for us to refrain from murmuring and complaining as did the Hebrew children who died in their field of testing. And it's up to us to decide if we're going to dawdle on our treadmill of if we're going to push it to the limits of our ability.

The Disciples were merely along for the ride. They knew they were supposed to be with this man, their leader, but they had no idea what lay ahead for them, or what they were being trained for. They thought being a disciple of the Messiah would bring them thrones of glory with little work involved on their part. They would have made the perfect modern day Christian. But they learned, as should we, that the life of a Christian is a fast running treadmill that envelopes our entire life, not one to let stand idle in the corner of the room.

Once Jesus said to Philip:


9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. (John 14:)

"Believe for the very work's sake." These closest to Jesus still can't see who Jesus is, even though they say they do. Because of this unbelief they have to rely on the very same signs that the unbelievers have to rely on. And yet, as close as they are to the miracles, even to performing miracles themselves, they continually forget the miracles.

The second thing of interest about this episode, that of being on a boat in a storm, is Peter walking on water. A lot of sermons have been written about this event, but what they speak of is not my concern at this time. I want you to notice these words: "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Jesus gave Peter credit for having a little faith. The treadmill Jesus had these men running on has produced a little faith. That's a big step up from where Peter had been previously. Maybe there's hope for these men yet. And if there's hope for them, then perhaps there's hope for me, and hope for you. That is, there's hope if we keep on that treadmill the Lord has set before us.


We all think we have faith. Ask anyone in any church if they have saving faith. Try to find a one who will admit they are lacking in faith. Ask the person who has just entered the door of your church and taken the pledge if they have saving faith. What do you suppose they will say? What do you suppose his or her pastor will say of their faith? Faith is not questioned, neither by our church, nor by ourselves. Yet if you were to ask any of these people, including the pastor, if they have faith to walk on water or jump out of an airplane with an untried parachute, what response would you expect to receive? I think of this man and his response:

23Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:)

Recognizing and admitting what we lack is the beginning of overcoming that lack. When we say we have faith, that we believe, then we will not seek to have that statement tested. And we will resent anyone questioning our statement of faith. But question it we must if we're to gain the faith we so confidently acclaim.

Just a very few verses later we read this of the Apostles, those mighty men of valor who seem to think they know it all, but never seem to listen or hear:

30And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. 33And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. (Mark 9:)

Jesus had just told His faithful disciples that He was going to die soon. He had told them of this many times before, yet they still never got the picture. Their confusion is understandable since what Jesus told them went against everything they had heard or believed of the Messiah they believed Jesus to be. However, we see here that they not only lacked understanding, but they were again afraid to ask what most needed to be asked, as do we today. If we know we know, we won't ask. And if we don't ask, we won't know. Because they were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant, instead of hearing the sermons Jesus gave repeatedly, and the warnings to the Pharisees because of their arrogance, the disciples disputed amongst themselves who would be the greatest. They apparently hadn't heard a word Jesus had said about the absolute need for humility, nor did they see in their own Torah the demand for humility. Humility goes against our nature. But it's the going against our nature that causes us to be a true child of God. The man who wanted his belief strengthened is well on the way to developing faith. I ask again, what would you answer if you were to be asked about your faith?


23Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:)

Many doctrines, philosophies, and even churches have been built up and propagated through the application of this one simple statement. I'm certain those churches that do base their doctrine on this passage have torn the page out of their Bible that contains the words of James (James 4:3). In fact it seems to me there's been a lot of page tearing lately, and the number of pages, and churches doing the tearing is growing by leaps and bounds.

How much faith, do you suppose, is needed to perform the "anything" Jesus speaks of here?


20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Mat 17:)

Move a mountain? With faith the size of a mustard seed? Have you seen how small a mustard seed is? I've cracked a few mirrors and broken a few cameras just by looking at them, but it wasn't my faith that accomplished this feat. I'm afraid my faith falls far short of that required to move a mountain. In fact I can't move a mustard seed without using my hands. I guess I'll have to spend more time on that treadmill of faithfulness:


32And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:)

Take a close look at the list of things men (and women) of faith accomplished. Not one of them moved a mountain, but they all were counted as people of faith. I see people who suffered persecution, wandered in deserts, were afflicted, in poverty, and other such things we do not seek for ourselves as natural brute beasts. This tells me that my test of faith may not be that of casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, or thrusting mountains into the sea. In fact I read this:


15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: (Mat 7:)

Did you notice the many wonderful works this person has performed in the name of Jesus? Yet this person is not saved. Who then, as the disciples asked Jesus, can be saved? Aren't we going to be judged by our works? How can my works exceed this person's? How then can I expect to be saved if this person can't make it to the pearly gates?

Jesus said: " I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Why didn't Jesus know this person? If we read what Jesus said before this parable, and after this parable, we see that He speaks about not only hearing the Words of God, but doing what the Words say. That means staying on the treadmill we're so inclined to jump off of at the slightest provocation. It's through listening to the Lord, and stepping into the next pothole of faith that causes us to become better and better acquainted with our Lord. As we follow Him, we produce more and more fruit through Him. What is the fruit we are to produce? It obviously is not casting out demons and raising the dead. Consider the seed that was planted in us. What was that seed? That seed is what the fruit should look like when it matures. Consider Jesus. Jesus was a completed product of that seed. Whatever Jesus is, is what we are to be, nothing less.

We are to have communication with our Lord. Yet we can not have communication when the line of communication is broken. What breaks that line of communication? We know what breaks communication with God. It's the very same thing that broke communication with Adam, and with Israel, and with the churches of today. It's sin and disobedience. One very small unrepented sin leads to another sin. And the more these little sins gather the more static is found on that communication line. And the more static that exists, the more inclined we are to justify our sins, causing them to grow. What we feed and water is what will grow. If we feed and nurture holiness, we will become holy. If we nurture our flesh, our holiness will wither and die and our flesh will blossom like a prickly rose, or better still, a poisonous weed.

Communication is a two way street. We want God to listen to us, but we don't want to listen to Him. Our ears are such that they will listen to, and be tuned to some thing or to some one. We are like a radio that is always on. It will be tuned to one channel or another, or it will produce nothing but noisome static. If we're not tuned to God's wavelength, we will listen to a man, or a machine, or even ourselves. And very likely we will believe all the world that we are hearing God's voice, and we will obey what we hear, especially if what we hear is what we want to hear.


11And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; (Rev 13:)

Jesus said:


22For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. (Mark 13:)

Are you part of the "very elect"? Of course you are. If you go to church, you're part of the elect, right? Do you really think so? Or maybe you think you'll be up on a cloud when the Tribulation takes place. But what if you're not? Might you be deceived? Jesus seems to think so. He also said:


38And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41I receive not honour from men. 42But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:)

It would seem to me that if we love the Lord, if we love the Father, then we would also love His word. We would want to learn all we can about Him, and check to see if we're doing all He desires of us. Isn't that what you would do with a sweetheart? Sure it is.

If we're not fully acquainted with the Lord, then when this false Messiah comes into the picture we will surely follow him.


There's another truism worth repeating and exploring. That Truism goes something like this: "The more you know, the more you know, the less you know." A person who knows very little thinks they know it all. Ask any teenager. As we learn a certain craft or skill, we discover there is a great deal we don't know. It's as if the farther we go, the faster we try to learn, the farther that carrot of full knowledge is moved ahead of us. Solomon was given great wisdom. He valued wisdom above everything. His writings praised wisdom to the sky. But after he had made just about every error humanly possible in his quest for pleasure and wisdom, in his old age he discovered that all wisdom and pleasure is nothing but folly. Wisdom is merely a step, it is not a complete entity in and of itself. We read:


28And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:)

These words mirror the Words of Jesus. It's not in possessing a great wealth of words that wisdom is to be had. The Pharisees were living proof of this as was Solomon. Solomon requested wisdom in order that he might rule God's people more effectively. Because of this unselfish request, God not only gave Solomon wisdom beyond any man's, but wealth untold as well. But instead of using that wisdom, and that wealth to better the people, he used it entirely on himself at the expense of the people he was suppose to serve. This is true of the Pharisees and the Scribes as well, as it also was of the priests. They had much learning, but they used that learning for their own self-glorification instead of for helping the nation of Israel and the people. It is no different today. People are people, and people tend to be self-serving. That attitude is implanted in me, in you, and yes, in your pastor as well. It's our job to rid ourselves of this nature, and not to judge others and their progress or lack thereof in our effort to become ego free.

Wisdom can be seen as something to impress man. Everyone came to Solomon for words of wisdom. And they heard what they had come for. But if we look at the life of Solomon we see utter failure, extravagance and folly. God told Samuel the prophet:


5And [the people] said unto him [Samuel], Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. (1Sam 8:)

We find here that the people wanted to be like the other nations. That was their first, and a continuing downfall. Having a king is just the part of wanting to be like the rest of the world around them. Little by little they continued to break communication with their God and became more and more like the world. We certainly see this today. We allow everything the world has to offer, not only in the homes and the lives of the Christian, but in the churches as well. Separation means criticize those of another belief rather than being different than the world we're to be separate from.

God told Samuel to show the people what a king will be like to them. The things God listed not only came true in the time of Saul, but became even more so with Solomon. Solomon placed great burdens on the people in order to add to his own grandeur and wealth. God said the king would take a tenth of the proceeds to himself. Solomon took far more than that. And if we consider how much we pay in taxes, a tenth looks like a paltry sum.

Solomon's son who became king after Solomon's death proved he hadn't learned a thing about wisdom from his father and his grandfather, the greatest and wisest men who ever lived. When the people requested the burden Solomon had placed on them be lifted, this was his reply:


13And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; 14And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. (1Kings 12:)

This was the beginning of the end of the nation of Israel.


28And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:)

I bring you back to the words of Job. Job says that it's the fear of the Lord that is wisdom. Solomon if you recall told us the same thing. And Jesus confirmed this. If we lack fear of the Lord, then we certainly lack understanding of God and His will for us. But let's say we do fear the Lord, how then do we gain understanding? The disciples were always being reprimanded for their lack of faith and understanding. How do we in this day and age achieve what they were failing to achieve?


26And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Mat 7:)

James further explains:

21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:)

As we do what we're instructed to do we find we gain understanding as to why we are told to do something in a particular way. Before we begin a project we imagine that it will be a very simple process. In our ignorance we're a know-it-all. Then as we make more and more failed attempts, we discover that we have no idea what we're doing, and this understanding causes us to search out the instruction manual, hoping the trash we threw them in hasn't been taken out yet. Attempts create questions. Lack of attempts cause us to not question, therefore we have a false notion that we are wise and in possession of understanding. Wrong roads lead to right roads. That is why many of the greatest of Christians have come through the prison system. They know their failures, and they know why the right road is important. The Prodigal Son is very likely to be a better Christian than the son that never went astray because he knows why he doesn't want to try that again. Those who have not been on the "Green pastures" beyond the fence will always wonder what it's like over there. That is a dangerous position. Joseph had his prison experience. Paul did some of his greatest ministry from prison. Your prison might not be one with bars. Your prison might have open walls with a treadmill in the center of the room. But whatever your prison experience, keep in mind that it's there to strengthen and condition you, not to ultimately do you harm.

Job tells us that understanding comes from freeing ourself of iniquity. These words mean little to nothing today because we're told that Jesus died to take away our inequity. Examine yourself. Are you free of iniquity? Are you perfect? If so then Jesus didn't die for you because He said He came after sinners and the sick.

For my part, this understanding was the beginning of my freedom. All my life I felt worthless. This drove my ego into the ground. Then as I sat in a jail cell I felt I had the final nail driven into the proof of my worthlessness. This is when I began to read the Bible. I discovered that Jesus came to save the worthless and not the worthy. I then sang "Hallelujah, I'm so glad I'm worthless." I then became aware of just how useless those who thought themselves so worthy are. And I noticed how far from understanding the Word of God those who knew it all were. In order to understand God's Word we must first keep in mind that we are nothing, and that we know nothing. The lack of this awareness is what caused the disciples to not understand the position they were in, nor what the Lord was telling them. And this holds true of the Hebrew children in the wilderness, and in the churches today, which accounts for the thousands of varying interpretations of the Bible.


13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mat 10:)

I know the word repentance is a nasty word these days, both in the world and in the churches. I expect that very soon words like repentance, sin, and other such words, even the name of Jesus, will be forced right out of the Bible and the churches, those few that haven't already discarded those "Black lids of death." But in the meantime those words still remain. And even after they're gone, the result of ignoring the Words will remain in effect. I suggest you set the Word to memory now because:


11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:)

Be forewarned. I told you so. But if you're acquainted at all with the Bible or with current events, you already know this to be true.

So if you're well, healthy and have everything you need, whether it be in Christ or not, you might want to read 1John 1:10 and Rev 3:14-22.

As we rid ourself of sin, a continuous and frustrating process, we gain wisdom as well as a clearer understanding of God and His purposes for us. It's an effort well worth making. But the only way we will ever know this to be true is if we take that first step on the treadmill and dedicate ourself toward reaching the perfection that God demands of us.


1Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:)

In times of war, and while on the battle field, the leader of a group of men will take off his insignias because snipers, the enemy that hides in a tree or wherever with the intent of shooting the leader, won't be able to identify his target. The only way a soldier under that commander knows what he is to do is by voice command. If that soldier has not been listening to, thereby learning to recognize the voice of his commander, he might very easily miss a command, or he might listen to the wrong person telling him what to do. If that soldier had been listening to another soldier who claimed to have been relaying the commander's message to him, even though he might have heard the message properly, he would only know the voice of the one who he had been hearing the message from. He still would not be able to recognize his own commander. If we are not in tune with God, then we are apt to tune in to the enemy. The better we know our commander, the closer we stay to him and listen to him, the more likely we are to remain in the right camp and follow the right commands.

Continued on part 2


 

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