Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When Love is Love. (Or not)

George Rolph

As I travel the narrow road to life in Christ, I constantly hear from others around me that God is Love and we should love all men and, to a point, they are right to shout this shout. However, God is not only Love. Pulling a verse out of John's letters that says, God is Love and assuming that is all that God is, is a big mistake. Worse, it often shows in those that shout this shout that they do not know God as well as they think. For the God I worship is much more than just Love.

God is also vengeful and angry. God is also merciful and wise. God is also perfect justice and perfect peace. God is also jealous and God is holy and these attributes come from who He is as God. If we are to know God as God then we must study what God has revealed about Himself throughout the bible and not just in one or two verses.

The bible tells us that God has shed abroad His Love in our hearts. So, what form does that love take in our day to day life? Assuming that is, that we are truly walking with God, because many who call themselves Christians are not Christians at all.

Does receiving this Love mean we walk about all day with a grin on our faces offering platitudes to passers by and patting poor people on the head on our way to Church? Does it mean that we tell Jesus fifty times a day how much we love Him while we strive in the world to make as much money as possible to pay off the debt that He says we should not have, on our home and car/s? Does it mean that we eat in fancy restaurants and close our eyes and ears to the poor man sleeping in the alley at the back of it and who has not had a square, hot meal, for so long he cannot remember the last time? While we eat this expensive meal, should we also praise God for His Love that enables us all to be selfish little pigs eating at the trough he called us out of? Or, are we perverting the Love of God to mean something it does not?

Even more serious, does the watching world see our hypocrisy and hate us (and therefore, Jesus) for it?

If you sold your car/s how many poor people could you feed? Just for an example. Or, do you think that God must have blessed you because you own a top of the range Bang & Olufsen stereo and it sits in your £200.000 house, on your £800 carpet and behind your £2500 double glazed, security windows.

"Ah," I hear some cry. "He is just envious." Well, those that cry that cry have a cloak for their sin that God see's straight through.

"God is Love," does not mean God does not get angry. It means that He is patient and kind to the unthankful and the evil…., for a while. Then comes judgement.

Neither does God is Love mean that He wants us to be "tolerant" of others who have "different lifestyles" and "sexual biases" or "faiths." God is Love, does not mean that God -- who is also perfectly just and capable of great wrath -- does not hate sin and those who promote it. Even within the Church. Why is that? Well, those who promote and encourage sins in others, because they are fearful and will not speak the truth to them for fear of persecution, are despising the terrible and anguished sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross and, denying the one who bought them by His blood. Just as the devil does! "God is Love," will ring hollow one day to those who do these things.

The Jews thought that they could pervert the truth also. Our loving God cursed them and their temple and when it was destroyed in 70 AD roughly a million of them died. Does that ring any alarm bells dear reader? Does it say that Jesus is more than the Lamb of God, that He is also the Lion of Judah and that Love is only one of His attributes? It should ring loud bells because judgment begins at the house of the Lord, the bible says and it looks like that judgement has begun already.

False prophets, false teachers and pastors and apostles are swarming all over the Church like maggots on a dead body. The Church has once again become a market place, buying and selling the truth. Demons are unafraid to turn up on a Sunday morning to another over-controlled "worship" service, where the truth is buried under pleasant sounding, ear tickling sermons and where lies about tithing rob the people of their money to pay debts incurred by the "leaders". Where everyone stands up when they are told. Sits down when they are told. Sings when they are told. What they are told. Are rarely allowed to pray their own prayers and where the guy (or these days, feminist woman/man who may or may not be, as gay as a Christmas tree) stands at the front, lording it over them like a king (or queen), instead of serving them meekly, as a Christian. A place where the Holy Spirit is actively prevented from ministering. So, why would the demon be afraid? There is no power in a Church that looks like this! They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Instead of putting the flesh to death and walking in the Spirit and in obedience to the words of Jesus, they walk in the power of the flesh in obedience to their own lusts.

So, is this the Love that everyone shouts about? Are we supposed to love the sinners and their sins?

No! The true Love of God is reflected in those that care for the sick, feed the poor, give up all the things of this world for the kingdom of God. They speak the gospel wherever they go, without fear (and the gifted ones preach it). They visit those in prison and hospital. They turn the other cheek when they are struck. They bless those who curse them and pray for those who despitefully use them. When they lend they hope for nothing back. When they have their goods stolen they offer more to the thief. They have searched their own hearts everyday to remove, by prayer, the evil that is in them and to walk in holiness by the Spirit, to serve the Lord.

However, these meek souls can become lions when Satan or his demons come. They are then transformed into warriors of the Lord. Ready always, to fight the good fight and drive back the enemy of the Church and mankind. By doing this, they are a true reflection of Jesus; who does the same for mankind and appears in the Gospels as both Lion and Lamb. There is more to God than just His Love and when he roars the demons and the devil himself trembles. Sometimes He roars through the mouths, hearts and pens of the few willing to serve Him on the narrow road.

How then are we to minister this Love that God has given us to the lost and the sick and the prisoner? In faith, of course! Not faith in some arch bishop appointed by men. Not faith in the person at the front who went to bible college to learn more heresies than he/she knows what to do with. Not faith in denominations or systems. No! Our faith belongs to Jesus Christ and to Him alone. It is not the property of the denomination, or the pastor who thinks "pastor" and "teacher" are the same gifts and calling and who thinks God's gifts of the Spirit ARE given with repentance.

We have no need for men to teach us, we have an anointing from the Holy One, (1john2:27) which means; if we truly are Spirit filled and have not grieved Him by eating at the trough; HE will guide us into all truth and not the guy/woman in the black robes at the front.

If you have grieved Him then you had better repent fast because time is running out. Remember the ten virgins? They were all Virgins. Hello? Has that penny dropped yet?

As Don Francisco once sang. "Love is not a feeling it's an act of your will." Do it, don't act it. Both God and the world know the difference.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is not our world

I am "sojourning....looking for a city whose builder and maker is God."

The Body of Christ lives under a new covenant. The old covenant is based on law, the new covenant is based on faith.

The New covenant has nothing to do with this world or things that can be obtained by our own strength for we are seated in Heavenly places with Christ Jesus. We live in the spirit and are crucified to this world.

OLD Covenant
Has a worldly kingdom (Jerusalem)Wars with flesh & blood, Righteousness by works, living in the flesh,Had an Earthly Temple

New Covenant
Has a spiritual kingdom (New Jerusalem)Wars in the spirit, Righteousness by faith, living in the spirit, We are God’s Temple

Let us not mix the two together. The dispensation we are living in today is to live in the spirit. We are to love one another. We are to turn the other cheek. We are to LOVE OUR ENEMIES and pray for them. We are to bless them that curse us. We are to prefer one another.

There is no such thing as an earthly “Christian” nation. The two does not go together, it is mixing flesh and spirit. There is only one nation that God raised up to call his own, the nation of Israel. He raised Israel up for a sign, type and shadow for his ultimate purpose, a perfect spiritual body, the Body of Christ, true Sons of God.

Jesus said we are not a part of this world. “World” is kosmos in Greek, meaning: 1) an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.

I know here in America we have been thought that we were a Christian nation, it is so ingrained in the Christians that it is hard to believe other wise. We have let America’s Constitution describe to us our “rights” and it has become the authority on the subject rather than God's word. How many has even checked to see what God said our "God given rights" are in this earthly kingdom? Christians have wanted “their” rights, change laws and get involved in a world that isn’t our own. This world is not our home, why would I go into someone else's house and try to control it? But while visiting there, I would respect their home and do as they wanted as long as it didn’t conflict with God’s word.

Jhn 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.Jhn 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.Jhn 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.Jhn 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Christian may have founded America, and tried to enact so called “Christian laws” into it. But there we go again, putting “Christians and Law” together again, mixing Old Covenant and New Covenant, flesh and spirit. Remember we are “in the world” but not part of it. A Christian’s job is sharing Jesus with a lost and dying world, not getting bogged down in politics and dragging “Jesus” into the slim, filth and corruption that is in this world.

Now, take an honest look at what a Christian is and what we are called to do. Do we kill the enemy as our "flesh" and the “government” says to do? Is that loving our enemies? Or do we do like Jesus said? Jhn 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.

God rises up nations for his own purpose, sometime to “refine” his body through fire. Remember God rose up Babylon in the Old Testament to try Israel. God has vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.Psalms 75:7 But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and lifteth up another.

Romans Chapter 9
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth. 18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? 21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction: 23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory, 24 even us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

Remember King David? God said David was a man after his own heart. Yet, because he was a man of war and had shed blood in battle, he would not be allowed to build God’s house.
Act 13:22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the [son] of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

1Ch 28:3 But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou [hast been] a man of war, and hast shed blood.1Ch 22:8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

And that was under the Old Covenant and building an “earthly” temple. Today, we are God’s temple, How much more do we need to keep our hands clean. God is perfecting a church without spot or wrinkle, a glorious church, true Sons of God! Let us only do the thing fitting the vessels of honor and not the things reserved only for the vessels of dishonor.

Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

1Jo 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.1Jo 2:16 For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.1Jo 2:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

2Cr 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?2Cr 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?2Cr 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.2Cr 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you,

Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Image of the Beast part 1

Steve Lumbley from did an exceptional job teaching on the end times and the “Mark of the Beast” in our Bible study this past Friday night. It confirmed much of what the Lord has shown us about these things as well.

To better understand what is happening now, I encourage all to listen to this 60 min. audio of the study. He said today that he would be continuing on this topic next Friday night and as long as the Lord directed him.

If so led of the Lord, Click here for Instructions on joining in our on-line Friday night Bible Study.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Today millions of Christians, particularly in the western world, are certain they will someday escape the earth in a so-called "rapture." This event supposedly will take place just prior to the coming of the Beast or Antichrist and the ensuing Great Tribulation.

Let us clarify first of all, that while "rapture" is a non-biblical term, there certainly will be a "catching up" of the saints to meet the Lord in the air on that last day. This is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."

Obviously though, the idea of being caught up to meet the Lord as he is coming to reign triumphantly on earth, is a far different concept than being snatched out of a world before the difficult days of battle and testing arrive. The intent of Jesus’ appearing is clear, since he is bringing all his saints with him to earth (1 Thess. 4:14).

We might ask, where did the idea of a rapture originate, seeing that the term is not in the Bible? Did the earliest Christians believe in such a rapture? Also, what is entailed in the idea? Let us look into this doctrine briefly.


When we take a look at church history we learn that the pre-tribulation rapture teaching began in Scotland in 1830. The idea was apparently unknown in the church before this date, and it was unknown to the early Christians, as we will later illustrate. It is likely that the teaching began in Port Glasgow with a prophecy from a young woman by the name of Margaret Macdonald. The prophecy was distorted and then circulated through Edward Irving’s movement. The idea was soon picked up, publicized and greatly developed by John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren. Later the whole scheme of the rapture was incorporated into the notes of the popular Schofield Bible. From there the teaching was spread worldwide. Today it has probably become one of the most accepted and fervently held eschatological beliefs of western evangelical Christians.

This whole emphasis, however, seems contrary to the Hebraic and biblical idea of the righteous remaining on the earth (Psa.115:16). We see this clearly in many scriptures like Psalm 37:9, 11, where we read that those who hope in the Lord and those who are meek will inherit the land. The Lord himself even repeats this promise in Matthew 5:5. In Psalm 37:29 it is affirmed with these words: "the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." In Proverbs 2:21-22 the author states: "For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it."

In Proverbs 10:30 it is stated bluntly: "The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land." These scriptures are underscored in the parables of Jesus. They tell us it is the wicked that will be removed from the earth. This conclusion is also supported by a careful study of the book of Revelation.


Many fanciful schemes of interpretation have developed around the idea of the rapture as an escape from earth. Obviously, this whole concept has provided abundant material for today’s writers. One of these schemes deals with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This supper with Jesus and his raptured church supposedly takes place during the time of the Great Tribulation, when the Jews who are left behind are experiencing a terrible holocaust under the Antichrist.

This scenario not only seems non-biblical and non-Hebraic, but also even appears anti-biblical and even anti-Semitic. How could the Messiah of Israel rejoice at a festival supper at the exact time the people of Israel, his own chosen people, are burning in the flames, and even while his beloved Jerusalem is being threatened? The Bible says of Israel, "In all their distress he too was distressed" (Isa. 63:9).

Along with this idea also comes the scenario concerning Petra. This is a concept that has become extremely popular in the last few years as it has been widely publicized by certain modern preachers and writers. The scenario goes like this: After Christians "fly away" in the rapture and the Antichrist makes his debut, the Jews will escape to Petra where they will be sheltered. This whole idea seems flawed on many counts. It even seems a bit preposterous.

Petra like the rapture also does not appear in the Bible. There are no promises concerning Petra made by Israel’s prophets. The city is possibly connected to Sela in Edom, but even that could be questionable since Petra existed in much later Nabataean times.

Petra, the famous rose city, is in the ancient territory of Edom. We should note that this land is under an eternal curse from God because of its long-standing hatred of the Jews. Edom, of course, was the nation founded by Esau, the brother of Israel. The nation was located in the southern area of present day Jordan, and was initially blessed by God. However, because they kept alive an ancient hatred of Israel, God finally cut them off. So, saying that the Jews would escape and hide in Edom is a lot like saying they would escape and hide at Auschwitz.

The prophets, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos and Obadiah, all elaborate on the Edom theme. Isaiah’s prophecies are quite severe. He says, "For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause. Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again" (Isa. 34:8-10). Isaiah even mentions that the Messiah at his coming will appear from Edom, after having worked terrible vengeance upon those who hate his people (Isa. 63:1-6). The little book of Obadiah is also particularly severe in its prophecies against Edom.

One question concerning the Petra scenario begs to be answered. Why would God publish his plan of hiding Israel so that millions of violently anti-Semitic Moslems in the Middle East could know exactly where the Israelis would be located? This would appear to be setting up his people for certain genocide. Although it may be extremely painful for us, we need to examine and judge these current teachings in light of the Bible. In the future we need to relate end-time studies to Israel, which stands at the very heart of all Bible prophecy.


It is a strange fact that the book of Revelation is highly prized by those who teach the pre-tribulation rapture. They often point out that the church is not mentioned after Revelation 3:22, and only appears again in 22:16. They assume by this that the church will have been taken out in the rapture by the beginning of chapter four. Obviously this is an argument from silence.

When we closely examine Revelation we see a far different picture emerging. Rather than seeing a separation of the church and Israel we immediately see a great unity between the two. The menorah, a very ancient symbol of Israel is used to include the churches (Rev. 1:12-13). We have an immediate emphasis upon the coming kingdom of God and the idea of the saints reigning with him on earth (1:6). We soon learn that these saints are both Jewish and Gentile.

Next we have urgent messages sent from heaven by the risen Christ to his churches. All these messages are uniform. They all urge the churches to get ready to endure difficult times and to begin overcoming for Christ (2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26-27; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21). The churches are sternly warned of a dreadful, world-wide hour of trial that is approaching (3:10).

We then are given a brief preview of the Great Tribulation and realize that God’s saints must be prepared to overcome and reign with Christ upon this earth (5:10). We also see in this brief preview that there will be Christian martyrs, many of them (6:9). Still, we learn that God’s saints will be spiritually sealed for this tribulation period (7:3). This sealing will no doubt protect their minds and hearts, lest they fall away, but still many will be chosen as martyrs for the Lord. We see in this chapter numerous saints coming out of the midst of the Great Tribulation (7:14). The Greek verb used indicates a continuous action; that they are still coming out of this tribulation and not just merely escaping from it.

There are many more interesting things in Revelation. In chapter seven and again in chapter fourteen we see an overcoming remnant arise. From these two chapters we realize that this remnant is made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles (7:4, 9; 14:3-4). This seems to be the new man spoken of in Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:6 (cf. Rom. 8:19).

In light of these passages in Ephesians and Revelation, we should view with great suspicion any doctrine that tends to separate Jewish and Gentile believers in the last day. After all, the Lord Jesus is not likely to undo the graft that he has made, placing Gentile Christians into the olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11: 17-18). There is much more for us to consider in Revelation. Chapter twelve seems to be the heart of the book, and in it we see this mystery hidden in the man-child, or the overcoming remnant. Unfortunately, we do not have space to deal with this here.


When we look at the remainder of the Bible we realize that there are deep problems with the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. For instance, it is very plain in scripture that Christ’s coming and the gathering together of his people (2 Thess. 2:1) will not happen until after the Antichrist is revealed. Paul warns the church with these words in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." This tells us that the church must still be around as late as chapter thirteen of Revelation when the Antichrist is made known.

Paul, talking to Gentile Christians, speaks in this wise in Ephesians 6:13-14: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then." Again, the scripture speaks specifically of "the day of evil," and not "a day of evil" or "some day of evil." Several commentators feel this is surely a reference to the final evil day. Paul thus places Gentile Christians right in the middle of the last day satanic conflict and encourages them to be ready for battle. He does the same thing in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. As he speaks of last day abuses and abusers he warns the Gentile Christians: "Have nothing to do with them" (v. 5). Thus he once more places the church right in the middle of the tribulation.

We remember that Noah did not leave the world. He was preserved through much tribulation. Noah’s ark was sealed without and within (Gen. 6:14). He and his family survived while the world was completely destroyed around them. The Hebrew children did the same. While Egypt was judged and destroyed, they were kept safe in the land of Goshen. While the firstborn of Egypt died, Israel’s sons lived because they were sealed with the blood of the lamb. We must remember that these events are all biblical types for the last days (Matt. 24:37).

Early Christians uniformly were seeking to be prepared that they might meet the Lord in victory, without spot, blemish or compromise, on that day (1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Jo. 3:3; 1 Jo. 2:28; 1 Pet. 1:7). It is obvious that this victory would come through suffering (1 Pet. 1:7).

In short, early Christians were looking to endure to the end (Mt. 24:13), through much tribulation (Acts 14:22) and to meet the Lord in victory. We might wonder if modern Christians are looking to escape from what appears to them to be a certain defeat. We see everywhere in scripture that Christ will not be defeated. This earth is the Lords and so are we (Psa. 24:1). He will not abandon his earth or his saints to the Antichrist. He will protect them, cover them and seal them until the wrath is passed over. Then he will remake his earth in righteousness and his saints will reign on the earth with him.

There is one last consideration. Had the early church really taught a pre-tribulation rapture we would certainly expect the earliest Christian writers to be aware of it and to speak of it. Such is not the case. In fact, several of the earliest church fathers actually comment upon the awful time of tribulation coming upon the church at the end of the age.* Hermas (c. AD 150) says: "Happy are you who endure the great tribulation that is coming. And happy are they who will not deny their own life." Hippolytus (c. AD 200) speaks of the tyrant who will "…reign and persecute the church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains." Irenaeus (c. AD 180) says: "For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which they are crowned with incorruption – when they overcome."

In closing, let us remember that genuine love rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:6). People are rejoicing in a lot of things today, and some Christians seem all too eager to rejoice in false prophecy. Real and lasting joy comes from the simplicity of God’s pure word and from that inner knowledge that we are walking in his truth. The early Christians had such a joy. It was contagious and permanent. May we find the truth they had, and hold to it firmly.
-Jim Gerrish


"Then, as the LORD our God commanded us, we set out... through all that vast and dreadful desert that you have seen..." (Deut. 1:19).

All believers in the Lord share a common experience. The Apostle Paul relates how all of our forefathers were under the cloud, and how they all passed through the sea (1 Cor. 10-1-3). Our forefathers had another experience in common. They all spent some time in the wilderness. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah were there. Even Jesus was there. Their examples were meant to guide us as we also pass through the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:11). By "wilderness," we are referring to the times of God’s tests and trials in our lives.


Why did God make wilderness places anyway? Certainly, without them it would be difficult for us to appreciate trees and green pastures. God also knew that the wilderness is an ideal place to test his people and to help them learn faith and endurance.

The geography in Israel is a constant demonstration of how close we always are to the wilderness. The nation of Israel literally sits on brink of the wilderness. Jerusalem is situated atop a long mountain ridge that reaches to around 2700 ft. in elevation. During the winter months, the moisture-laded clouds from the nearby Mediterranean drop their rains and snows on the western slope. There is no moisture left, however, for the eastern slope. The result is the stark and barren Wilderness of Judea, with very few trees, very little grass, and often scorching temperatures.

There is much wilderness both in and around Israel. There is hardly a way to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land without passing through the wilderness. We know from Deuteronomy 1:2, that it should have taken only eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, which was on the border of the Promised Land. Yet, it took the children of Israel forty years to make the journey. They got stuck in the wilderness because of unbelief and because God had a few things to teach them.

In Hebrew, the word for wilderness is midbar. It is surely interesting that the root of midbar has the meaning of "speak" or "word." God speaks to us in the wilderness. God also humbles and proves us in the wilderness (Deut.8:2). The wilderness period can last days, or years, depending on how quickly we learn its lessons.


Since the wilderness is a common experience of our faith, we need to learn about it and especially we need to learn the rules of spiritual survival in this wilderness. We might ask the question, when are we most likely to experience the wilderness? Strangely, these experiences often come on the heels of great spiritual breakthroughs. The children of Israel were just miraculously delivered through the sea as they escaped from Pharaoh and Egypt. They had also just received the Torah (law) and had experienced the very presence of the Living God in smoke and fire. Very soon after their mountain-top experience they had to wander in the wilderness. Many centuries later, after Jesus was baptized and after he heard the voice of God speaking to him from heaven (Matt. 3:16-17), he was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil forty days and forty nights.

The temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11) gives us some real guidelines for surviving our own wilderness experience. Satan first tempted him in the area of provision. Jesus responded: "It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" (v.4). In the wilderness there is no natural bread nor any way of producing it. We have to learn the hard way that God is the source of everything. We have to learn that his word is faithful and we can stake our lives upon it. The Israelites received miraculous bread from heaven throughout their wilderness experience. Jesus, after his testing, was visited by angels who came and ministered to his needs (Matt. 4:11). God may keep us in the wilderness until we understand that we should no longer concern ourselves with bread and provisions. We will learn not to worry, but to live like the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields (Matt. 6:25-34).

There was a second area of temptation that Jesus endured. It was the area of tempting or testing God. Jesus responded once more to the devil with the word of God that says, "It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’" (Matt. 4:7). The Israelites were guilty on many occasions of tempting God. They complained about their heavenly food and were fearful to enter the promised land. They tested God to the point that they were finally sentenced to wander forty years in the wilderness.

When times of testing come in our lives we must remember the dire warnings recorded in Hebrews 3:8 - 4:11, and remember also that for every difficult test, God has already made an acceptable way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). He will not allow us to be tested more than what we can bear. He is a faithful and loving God and we can depend upon him (1 Pet. 4:19). We can also remember that God chastens us because we are his sons and daughters (Heb.12:6). There is a loving purpose in his tests. Therefore we are urged to count it pure joy and blessing when we come into such tests (Jas. 1:2, 12).

The last area of Jesus’ temptation concerned the worship of God and him only. Jesus replied again to Satan from the word of the Lord: "...Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’" (Matt. 4:10). While in the wilderness, the children of Israel had some real trouble in the area of worship. Even while Moses was in the mountain receiving the law of the Lord, the people were busy making a golden calf to worship (Deut. 9:7-21). Often, God has to keep us in the wilderness until all our golden calves become detestable to us. I am speaking of all those calves we adore in everyday life - automobiles, jobs, houses, success, fame, fortune, etc. It is often because of such things that we often must face the wilderness.


What can the desert do for us? It can make us rugged, tough, and strong in faith. It can cause us to develop perseverance and to acquire maturity (Jas. 1:3-4). Joshua and Caleb were survivors of the forty-year wilderness journey. Joshua had the strength and maturity to lead Israel into the land and to gain victory over a numerous and well-armed populace. Caleb, at age 85, was able to take the mountain of Hebron and drive out the giants who had lived there for centuries.

There were many other examples in Israel’s history of wilderness men and women. David was such a man. He spent many years in caves and hide-outs in the wilderness. Much of the Book of Psalms was written as a result of his sufferings. Elijah was another such person, and so was John the Baptist. The latter was referred to as "...a voice of one calling in the desert..." (Matt. 3:3). Then there was Jesus, coming directly out of the wilderness to begin his ministry in the Galilee. When we look back over Israel’s history it seems that so many of her blessings came from the wilderness.

Not only does the wilderness breed character; it also breeds humility. When Moses lived in Egypt he was a man mighty in word and deed (Acts 7:22). However, when God finished with him many years in the wilderness, Moses was unable to talk and had to have Aaron go along as his spokesman. God humbled him and he became the meekest man on earth (Num. 12:3). Therefore, God was able to do mighty things through him. God desires to break down our self-life in exactly this way.

The wilderness can be a lonely place. Many of us try to escape the wilderness and God’s plan of testing for our lives. We try to minister only in our natural strength as Moses once did (Ex. 2:11-15). Such ministry is useless. I think I would rather spend forty years in the wilderness and minister only one day in the Lord’s strength, than to spend one day in the wilderness and minister forty years in my own strength.

The wilderness with all its testing is precious (1 Pet 1:7). When we think back over all those trials, it often brings tears to our eyes. It softens our hearts. It is such a vital part of the salvation experience, and it deeply affects the way we relate to and minister to others.
The wilderness experience with all its tests and trials is summed up so well in the words of the song written back in the 70s by Andre Crouch:

Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon his word.
- Jim Gerrish

Friday, August 03, 2007

Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, think ye that they were offenders above all the men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

And he spake this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit thereon, and found none. And he said unto the vinedresser, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground?
And he answering saith unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit thenceforth, well; but if not, thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:1-9)