Unhealthy Christians

I observed church for a long time and one thing I can tell you God does not require healthy pastors and certainly not healthy congregations.

For instance, if we all had healthy congregations as pastors, we could retire and go down to Florida and sip iced tea to the sound of ocean waves.

Jesus said, “the sick need a doctor.” In these days you would think people could relate easily to what Jesus said in these days of plague, war and corrupt politicians. Those who are sick need to visit their primary care physician.

The application of what Jesus was teaching is clear. Spiritually sick people people who are sinners need the mercy and forgiveness of God to heal them in their souls. When Jesus died on the cross the apostle’s taught that “by his wounds we were healed.”

It’s a myth made up by the Babylonian religious salesman of our day when you hear about healthy churches and healthy pastors this refers to the financial solvency of the church and that the people are under the mode of moral therapeutic deism calling them to self improvement with motivational speaking.

We are all sinners saved by grace. Only the Word of Christ can help the people. This must include the eternal responsibility of the preacher to proclaim God’s word.

Stephen Gibney (c) 2022

Complain Right Here

Complaining-ManComplaining is probably one of the most respectable sins among people who claim to know Christ as Savior, next to things such as gossip, an occasional use of profanity or white lies. We usually don’t see it as someone who is complaining-it is usually the person with a bad attitude. After all, it does not seem that bad of a thing or that big of a deal because. everyone complains. We are only human. But this cannot easily be brushed aside as some small sin and Christians need to consider their attitude because it really exposes what they think about God.

Do you realize that this sin was severely punished under the Old Covenant?  It was the most common sin of Israel after they left Egypt (Ex 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Num. 14:2, 29).  Paul says to the Corinthians: “You must stop complaining, as some of them were doing, and were annihilated by the destroyer.” (1 Cor 10:10 ISV).  Annihilated? Yes.  You are terminated.

It makes you wonder how with all the blessings we have in the New Covenant how God views complaining. Since everything described in the New Covenant is “better” (Heb. 8:6).

It should be very clear: there’s nothing wrong with going to God directly in prayer and pouring out complaints before Him. He knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we speak them (Psalm 139). Asaph prayed, “I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:2). We are allowed to come and complain directly to the Lord (Psalm 77:2-3). BUT what we should not do is complain to others, look for self pity or grow a huge attitude about something that we should be directing to God in prayer. That is third-party complaining. It is bad enough when we think about how rough our lives are but when it starts dripping out of our mouths in muffled tones like spiritual sewage there is a problem. Stop walking around talking to yourself about how mistreated and misunderstood you are. God can hear you and He does not like it. All this is about is you wanting to have a one sided conversation with a total disregard for God’s input.

Complaining is having a grievance against God that results in cynical distrust in God’s ways. God asks, “Why do you complain…how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? …How can you say God ignores your rights?” (Isaiah 40:27NIV/NLT). This is when a person mumbles bitterly against God. They are unhappy with Him and the way he does things. They are miserable because of conflicts with people or circumstances. They are resentful for what they see as being unfairly treated by God. But they maintain a veneer of religion and worship. Yet, they accuse God of wrongdoing under their breath. They make sure their complaining is heard but not too loud. They insinuate against the Lord’s character and make sure they make some kind of dig at God without him noticing. They do not scream in protest but as one man puts says they have, “the whispers and looks of discontent.” (Wagner). Complaining hints that God is not in control or it suggests he does not care for his own people. It diminishes God’s glory.

Complaining is a deep rooted heart condition that is seen as a cynical attitude. Complaining is the habit of those who have had difficulty gaining a biblical  mindset and godly perspective on the trials of life-because their expectations are unrealistic and unwise. So they are angry and depressed. Eventually their issues with God manifest in other ways. You usually see complaining where people are unfulfilled and unhappy creating an atmosphere charged with nitpicking, arguing and negativity that eats away at relationships (James 4:1-3). In 1 Corinthians 10 it is the last step before the cliff of total rejection by God of an entire generation of people and Paul intends to warn and threaten the church at Corinth with this truth.

You say, “Wow, that is ugly.”

Indeed it is. Especially for Christians who claim to love and obey God.

The New Testament teaches, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.” (Phil 2:14). Well there it is-everything. There is no amnesty where you can get away with a chronically bad attitude. It can ruin your life and your soul. My suggestion to cure this sickness of the soul is to talk to God in prayer and ask him to forgive you. Ask him to help you to learn contentment by trusting that he is faithful to his promises and will give you the strength to endure hardship. Study the lives of people in the Bible and read the biographies of Christians who suffered and remained faithful to God. Find mature Christian’s who have endured difficulty and talk to them about your challenges. It will encourage you to know that you are among people in a fellowship of sufferings that desire to identify with Christ (Phil. 3:7-10), who want to grow in his grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) and have a better resurrection (Heb 11:35). Ask God to make you a testimony to others so that you can help others with the comfort you have received from God (2 Cor 1: 3-7).

© 2015 Soul Health Care Ministries. Come on now, give credit where credit is due.


1367518065“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10 NIV)

We should be humble in whatever we do for Jesus and not delude ourselves into thinking that we can merit any favor or grace in any way.  

I totally concur with saying what the Word says about our identity in Christ.

We should say what God says about us.

But this passage really addresses those who teach there are higher levels spiritually that some reach and some do not. 

There is salvation by grace and there is growth in grace. Knowing Christ is how both take place. God does not owe us anything now that we are saved and obey him.

“When we realize all that God has done for us in Jesus, we want to serve Him out of gratitude. When our hearts are right, we live and act as if we are happy to have the privilege of being allowed to serve God.” (D. Guzik). 

Some people think because they have done so much more for God than others they think God owes them something such as: health, money and position. 

He does not. When he chooses to bless He has his glory in mind.

God is self sufficient. He does not need anything. The Bible is all about what God has done, is doing and will do. It is not about how wonderful we are.

The facts are, God cannot gain anything by what we do and is never in our debt despite how much we do for him.

God is self sufficient. All things come from him. What can we give back to him except what he has already given us?

He has no need of us, and anything we do does not improve his status in the universe because he is already perfect.  He is already God with or without us.

Sadly, much of what we do falls short anyway.

Do not respond to this with lengthy diatribes on having bad self esteem when Christ says we should call ourselves. “Unprofitable servants.”

His love for us is based totally in grace and he is not indebted to us in any way. This verse simply reminds us where we came from and not to forget that we are in a state of grace and no one will brag about anything when they get to heaven (1 Cor. 1:29).

Serving him is our privilege- for God is happy all by himself and we are a hot mess without him and find the grace we need and the peace we need because or who He is all by Himself. 

Limited Trials versus Unlimited Deity

“With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.” (2 Chr. 32:8).

 It is only a man or woman who knows God as victorious in battle that can speak like the old King of Judah. It is one thing to go around “confessing” victory, pretending that you made spiritual conquests and carry a fake résumé of success and it is entirely another thing with grime and mud on your gun and uniform coming back from the field of battle alive and talking.

 What is all this talk of victory without any fighting? For instance, we can study and report on the Operation New Dawn campaign in Iraq and recall all the facts about it, but nothing replaces the perspective of a soldier who has been in such a war.  How can we say he always causes us to” triumph in Christ” and thanks be unto “God who gives us the victory” if there has been no struggle against the unseen forces of darkness. Let me state as I have previously, struggle is not loss; it is a sign of life. Scrapes and scratches are proof of a scuffle. Wounds, injuries and bruises are only proof of greater fighting. But none of these are a sign of defeat, just challenges that could not stand against us as God’s children.

Hezekiah’s words put courage and life back into his people. The people “rested upon his words.” They relied and trusted in the word of the king. It put confidence and life back into the battle weary people. Your heavenly King has given you a life giving word in the scripture. Oh that we could rest upon the words of the Lord. As we ponder and contemplate his Word he calms us down spiritually, mentally and physically. Then our soul would quiet itself like a weaned child, we would see God is more than enough and being afraid of anything else is a waste of time.

 All of the weapons, the difficulties and the trials we go through are described under one heading: flesh. King Jesus said this:  “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63).  Here is a huge army as far as the eye can see outnumbering Judah and the demonic words of the enemy army’s general screaming at them.  All the odds are against them, but hell is overpowered by the omnipotent Holy Spirit and the Spirit inspired words of the king. Matthew Henry comments, “…a believing confidence in God will raise us above the prevailing fear of man.” What others are afraid of, we will not be afraid of.  The Bible says a few verses later, “And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.” (2 Chr. 32:21).

 Here is the word of the Lord for you today my friend, “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor?” (Isa. 51:12-13).  No matter how great the enemy, no distress has Almighty power. They are embarrassingly limited, confined and restricted. God asks where are they? God metaphorically says that they are so small he cannot see them!  How can he take their threat seriously? The Lord is so great; his majestic power cannot be measured or gauged.

 Yes, your difficulty is very real and that God sees and go through it with you. He does see your pain, that is very clear to him. That is why JESUS is so wonderful. “…He had to enter into every detail of human life…all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Heb 2: 17-18MSG). Jesus was not just an object lesson or an example he went through things vicariously, he suffered for us so he could help us with understanding and compassion.

 Yet we must rest upon the words of the King. “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Cor. 10:13MSG). The trial has an end, it is not forever though it may seem that way.  It will lose its strength and the clock is ticking. It is almost over. It can only go as far as the Lord says and that is it!

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

Clinically Proven

I have to rant and rave every once in a while; it is quite therapeutic for me.

There is no doubt that you have seen infomercials advertising products as “clinically proven.”   Clinically proven may mean any number of things and on the other hand, it can mean absolutely nothing.  You see, when you really want to sell something  just throw in that “clinically proven” statement  which is usually a vague claim that requires no hard evidence and isn’t easy to disprove. Most people do not realize that as long as the product has, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA” disclaimer on the label, it’s not necessary to have evidence to back it up.


My concern is for the “clinically proven” claims made by so called mega-churches, celebrity pastors and ministries.  These guys and gals are some of the best salespeople I have ever seen.  They advertise health, wealth and blessing through religious products. The anointing oil from Gethsemane, water from the Holy Land, a mustard seed in a necklace, at home communion sets, books, CD’s and DVD’s with the promise of blessing-all of this with a very generous love offering. Not convinced? You can watch the what testimonies of people who say they got it and it does everything from fixing their flat tire to paying off their mortgage.

Then there are the commercials. I have found it interesting that preaching has segments now. You even see it in church. Preaching is not enough so we throw a video in the mix.  Then the new breed of televangelists have interview formats, in the name of making Christianity more interesting and conversational.  The interviews even include celebrities who do not claim to be Christians but have tips on being successful. After a few minutes of preaching you have snippets of religious commericals advertising the message you are watching or future conferences and we even have pay-per-view preaching.

The emphasis of much Christianity today is all about results or being practical. Pastors and leaders are not immune from buying into the “clinically proven” church growth strategies from men who went from 40 to 4000 in a year or two. That is all that is pumped into the minds, conferences and groups of any denomination in the name of evangelism.

But who defines this?

You got it-the times and culture of the day redefine faith and religion in a whole new way.  Scripture is reinterpreted in line with the zeitgeist (a word meaning the “spirit of the age”).  The only problem is that such concepts of sin and atonement may become out of sync with the culture and so we have seen even Christianity  redefines God, sin and forgiveness and church in light of the world around them. They will spend time on issues such as practical living, family, marriage and health rather than on “doctrinal” issues in order to really “help people.”  That is their selling point and they say, “it works and you get results with our new religious product.”

It is all boulderdash!

Here is what matters to Christ-doing the will of God from your heart (Eph. 6:6).  It is God’s desire that we, “may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Col. 4:12).  That understanding of will of God is found in the clear teaching of the scriptures by gospel ministers in the meeting of the people called the church (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:26). No sales, no cheesy punch lines, no dramatics, just a determination to do the will of God. It is after we have been persistent in doing God’s will that we will receive the promise of heaven and eternal life (Heb 10:36). All of this worldly flim- flam religion cannot last under the times of molten trials and fiery testing that will come (1 Cor 3:10-15). John makes it clear: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17).

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

He Clothes You With Garments of Grace

“Loose him and let him go.” (John 11:44).

Recently I spoke on John chapter eleven where we see Christ as the Resurrection and the Life, I felt like a tremedous vault of wealth was opened up to me. There were so many discoveries I had made about dealing with trial and it was a refresher course on Christ’s Mastery over death.  Well, I have heard preachers talk about getting rid of the grave-clothes all through the years. I will not claim to have greater insight than them but I think some may have overlooked that  not only was Lazarus wearing grave-clothes, but so was everyone else.  His sisters were wearing them, grief stricken with the loss of their brother. The disciples wearing burial clothes because they were worried Christ was going to be bludgeoned to death in a religious “rock concert” (11:8) and then they hear Jesus announced that Lazarus is dead (11:14). We admire their willingness to die with Christ (11:16)  but they have designer grave-clothes as well. In addition to all this where would we be if the professional mourners and comforters were not crying in their funeral wear (11:31)?

Some readers today have become used to wearing the old grave-clothes like their favorite pair of jeans, dress  or something that you keep in your closet that Stacey and Clinton from What Not To Wear would throw out!  Imagine if we could watch you on a video for a few days wallowing in depression or struggling with fear and guilt or  drooling with self-pity.  This is more than being “frump” man or “frump” woman. You get angry and upset because people criticize those death britches to which you are accustomed but for you, believer in Jesus, these clothes do not fit, they are ugly and they are out of date.  You are wearing clothes that have nothing to do with the life that God has tailor made for you.

When Christ saved you, he washed you with his own blood and it is his will for you to be rid of the filthy garments of the old life and behavior. Could you imagine working outside all day and then come inside take a shower and instead of putting on clean clothes you put on those same clothes that were dirty and sweaty? Yet you and I are so used to the clothes of the grave, the old ways of living; we wear them to church, work, home and bed. Is that not a picture of putting on the clothes of the old life after you have been saved?  The Bible says  to “put off” the old man (Eph 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), just like the grave clothes of Lazarus. Take off the old clothes, they represent a life you no longer live and put on the garments of grace! 

The Bible teaches that all feelings of fear, loneliness, anxiety and guilt all stem from the looming threat of death. We see these traits like fig leaves that covered the bodies of Adam and Eve  (Gen. 3: 7-10). The first fruits of sin were guilty feelings, isolation, fear  and throughout the years the effects of sin have made these filthy garments stained with the sins of old life  even more sophisticated and fashionable. We automatically reach into our closet for the old wardrobe when we believe our life, purpose and well-being is threatened. The deadly fashion designs are spun on the cursed looms of  trauma, exploitation and abuse and always seem to break out in trial. We revert so easily to the old ways!  We should not believe the lies of the old stinking, dirty old grave-clothes.

It does not take long to see that Christ continually confronts these burial clothes in his teachings. He shows faith in God as the antidote for these diseased garments. Only Christ can set people free who have, “lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Heb. 2:15). He calls you to start wearing some grace clothes: the clothing of forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Now Jesus may provide the clothes of life but the church must first help you to be stripped from the old bandages and  dress in the New Man Designer line. Notice that Christ did not take the garments off of Lazarus, his family and friends did. They unwound the bandages and set him free. Christ does not release you from these garments, your brethren in Christ do. They do so so because  are not only concerned about your look but your life. It does not seem approriate to be a living person dressed as a dead body.

I love Spurgeon’s comments from his message on the Unbinding of Lazarus. He says,  “A notable miracle was unquestionably worked, but it required a finishing touch. The man was wholly raised, but not wholly freed! Look, here is a living man in the garments of death! That napkin and other grave-clothes were altogether congruous with death, but they were much out-of-place when Lazarus began to live again! It is a wretched sight to see a living man wearing his shroud. Yet we have seen…hundreds of times, people quickened by Divine Grace with their grave-clothes still on them! Such was their condition that unless you observed carefully, you would think them still dead. And yet within them the lamp of heavenly Life was burning. Some said, “He is dead, look at his garments.” But the more spiritual cried, “He is not dead, but these bands must be loosed.” It is a singular spectacle—a living man hampered with the garments of death!”

You are not dead but you look drained, dying and dead when you allow fear, loneliness, anxiety and guilt to rule your life.  Ah, don’t you think that it is about time you let the pastor and the brethren help you with a new wardrobe? The church has some wonderful tailors who know about throwing out shrouds and new life clothing design.  Do you know someone whose spiritual quality of life  is being affected?  They are wound up too tightly you say? Brethren, loose them and let him go! Dear brethren are ready to peel that cheap death suit of you like an onion. Christ has made garments that belong to you. You are children of the king of kings. You are allowed to wear the garments of praise instead of the death clothes of heaviness. Lay aside the deeds of darkness, put on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:12-14).

One thing I noticed is that they did not strip Lazarus naked for all to see!  A bandaged dead man already put them on tilt, I think seeing Lazarus out there in his birthday suit…well you get my meaning. This would not be appropriate for a living man (Isa. 58:7). Like with old Mordecai you are the one the King of heaven delights to honor with his garments of saving grace! He says, “Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head.” (see Esther 6:8-9). These are God’s garments  which he has worn and never grow old. They all have the divine scent  of salvation of produced out of the ivory palaces for Christ and his own people (Ps. 45:8). One day mortality will be swallowed by immortality and you will be clothed in heavens garments (2 Cor. 5:4).  He now promises to clothes us who have such little faith (Mt. 6:30) with the best robe, shoes and rings (Luke 15: 22). He will clothe your disgrace with a more abundant heavenly honor so that the shame of your nakedness does not appear (1 Cor. 12:23; Rev. 3:18).

Once you take off those filthy clothes… hear the God of the scriptures say, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” (Zech. 3:7NLT).

Walk with Me in the Dark!

“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.  Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”  (James 5:10-11).  God is calling us to endure, to be patient, to believe him when there are no explanations and no resources to save ourselves from our trials.  To trust him in the times of affliction, loneliness and pain.  When our bodies are in weakness, our reputation is attacked and we suffer personal losses-this is when we learn to walk with Him in the dark.  Isaiah asks, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isa. 50: 10). Who will be faithful to God, lean upon God alone for support and walk with him in the dark?

Where are those who will acclimate their “eyes of faith” while in the dark? Remember God’s friend Abraham? He walked with God in the dark.  He had no light at all for many years in his life. He was as good as dead (Heb. 11:12) and his wife was childless (Rom 4:19). In himself  he could produce nothing, only failure at best and futility at worst.  In the midnight of his life,  it was THEN that God spoke, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, ‘So shall thy seed be.’ ”  (Gen 15:5).  These are the stars of God’s promises to him. He could not see them unless he was in the dark.  The more he was in the dark, the more he stared at heaven, the more stars he could see!  It was when a horror of darkness (Gen. 15:12) gripped him he saw God’s faithfulness, pledge and oath and covenant in Christ!  Do not despise the eye-opening chastening of the Lord!  The eyes of your hearts will see and understand the promises of the scriptures like,  “a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (see Eph 1:17-18; 1 Pet 1:19-20).

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and learned what it was to, “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; darkness of the pit.” (Psa. 107: 10). The Bible says, “whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron. Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” (Psa. 105: 18-19).  Ah how so many hear God’s promises and acknowledge they are true but do not want the word of the Lord to test and refine them. But when we bottom out in some crater of betrayal or we feel shackled and unable to move in our circumstances-it is then, like Joseph, our eyes become more accustomed, more sensitive to light as we are in the dark. The longer the period of darkness, the more stars one can see. The promises of God that seemed dim and distant now take on a brighter magnitude and become “exceeding great and precious!” (2 Peter 1:4). Do not worry night will not last forever. Richard Sibbes asks, “Is it not an unreasonable speech for a man at midnight to say, “It will never be day?” So it is an unreasonable thing for a man that is in trouble to say, “O Lord, I shall never get free of this; it will always be thus with me.”

In the dark our desire steadily becomes focused on Christ rather than deliverance.  What was blurred becomes plain as day as we embrace Christ our light and our salvation (Psa. 27:1-2).   This is where we must be like Moses for “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb 11: 27).  Moses for so many years was unseen by men, and known only to God. Is this such a grievous thing to you dear child of God, to be unknown, or even despised by men?   The Bible says, “He made darkness his secret place.” (Psa. 18:11). Do you understand this? The dark can be better, and to him that ears to hear, we learn much in the darkness of obscurity as God hides us in the thick cloud of his presence.  God is in the darkness and he obscures the godly whom he has set apart for himself (Psa. 4:3).  What is the temporary pleasures of the sinful world and its short lived fame to the child of God who would rather, “suffer affliction with the people of God…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches?” (Heb. 11:25-26).   Even if a thick darkness rests upon the entire earth, God’s glorious light will be seen upon us (Isa 60:2). We walk in the light of God’s fellowship always, despite our dark trials (1 John 1:5-7). Scripture testifies, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Ps 84:11).

Job described his trials in terms like, “he hath set darkness in my paths.” (19:8).  Paraphrasing Job 17 he was just resolved to die. That is real pain my friends, where death is preferable to life even in the heart of an elect child of God.  Everything went wrong, “When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.” (30:26).  Darkness! He had lost all hope, his plans were smashed and his heart was broken. His only comfort was a well-built coffin so at least when he dies he could have a family reunion with the children he has lost. The picture of his friendship with God was like the old negatives of photos that when developed in the darkroom the result is the beautiful color pictures. It seemed like all was darkness around him, so many trials, it seemed so negative and yet we see in the end the picture developed into  bright colors of God’s mercy and tenderness the whole time.  Job’s help was only coming from God. He must learn what God had to teach him in the darkroom of the soul. He walked with God in the dark. Now there are times, when for some unexplained reasons we will look for Christ and find he has withdrawn himself and the sense of his presence is not there. You call to him in prayer and he does not seem like he is there (Song 5:6). We begin to seek him in the dark times, not relying on feelings, circumstance, opinion or any resource of the flesh and will we will not rest and until we have found him and restrain him (Song 3:1-5). We must apprehend him who has apprehended us! (Phil. 3:12).

The darkness makes us concentrate on where we are going. Your focus is not on peripheral things, it is paying attention on making progress and maturing spiritually and not tripping in weakness. God has ordained both light and darkness (Gen 1:4). The darkness and light are alike to him (Ps 139:12).  He employs both in his plans. In the dark we must rely on God’s Word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:1-5) and not be blinded by the good times when we are tempted to rely less on God.  Seeking Jesus Christ must be our priority. He is the author and editor of our faith, including the affliction of trial and relief of the trial where patience has her perfect work in our hearts so that we are growing spiritually (James 1:4).  In the dark we read God’s promises by the light of the Holy Spirit’s teaching and to ponder his words, set our attention upon it, let his words supply our life, health and resource! The Bible promises, “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Prov 6:22-23). This sorrow you are experiencing carries a special blessing! The gift of tears comes with the promises of the God of every comfort.  Our hearts become strengthened as we wait upon God alone (Ps 27:14).  He who works in darkness and mystery has a given you his heart in a friendship sweeter than anyone can describe. The half has not yet been told! This is when God will bless you. In the dark times, when it does not matter if you see help or hinderance, friend nor foe, angel nor devil! All that matters is when you can see God and his promises and then walk with Him in the dark.

© 2011 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

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A Hard Man to Do Business With

“Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man…” (Mt. 25:24).

There are three parables set in order in Matthew 25:  Foolish Virgins who knew better but did not prepare, a lazy servant who knew his Lord but did not invest and oblivious goats who knew there were people in need and did not care.  Neglect, laziness and apathy are hated by God and they are sure factors that exclude people from the Kingdom of God.

In Matthew 25:14-30 there is a parable about a master who was going away for a long time who entrusted three of his servants with his goods or his wealth and property.  The word talents refers initially to the measurement of coins given to these servants. But it is also a reference to the gifting or skills of people. It is the clear teaching of scripture that not only do we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (Acts 10:45; 11:17) but it also teaches, “…every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” (1 Cor 7:7).  We are responsible to guard those gifts (2 Tim 1:14) and invest them in other brethren for edification (1 Cor. 14: 12). We are never to neglect those gifts at any time (1 Tim 4:14). 

The Master desired his servants to invest and trade money for profit. That is good business.  Two of the three servants did well in their business transactions and the other was comatose.  Eventually, the Master came back to settle their accounts. Things were going well until the last servant met with him. The Master was not surprised and I can almost  hear the Master shouting. “Nothing?”  “You made nothing and you did nothing!”

Remember his Master was gone away for days, weeks, possibly months and the servant just buried the talents.  If he would have invested and lost the money at least the master would not have called him evil and lazy, maybe a few choice words for being  foolish. But he may still have kept his job. This guy had no sense even to walk down to the bank and invest in a mutual fund so at least he could have made some interest.  This set the master on fire and he was livid, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” (Prov 25:19).

Lazy probably thought that he needed some “Me” time. It was a while before the master came back and he began to think that something is holding his master up or in his twisted mind maybe he was never coming home and he could continue in his career of lollygagging.  That was a big mistake.  The Bible warns that Christ’s coming will catch many people by surprise, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Mt 24:44).  We should be alert and prepared for his coming! I have to say this is not just the second coming or the rapture. Christ said he would come to his church in other ways (Rev. 2:16). Peter speaks of  “the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12).   Thayer says it is “that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men.”  That is why fiery trials come our way (1 Pet 4:12) to reveal and to refine. But they also burn away worthless things. In fact, Christ will sit in judgment and  inspect and test our work by fire (1 Cor 3:10-17) when interpretd correctly gives proper understanding to being saved by fire.

If talk is cheap his words are on sale.  His lame, pitiful excuses do not even make sense. It seems he thinks that his master works magic, “harvesting what he has not planted” to make money rather than plain hard work and elbow grease.  It is like he is saying, “I am not like you, and beside you will make money somehow, it’s not like I lost the money.”  Some of God’s servants are just plain lazy and full of excuses. That is characteristic of slothful people (Prov 22:13). They make everything hard (Prov. 15:19) and are  a liability. What is worse he is a talented but lazy man. You have to wonder if his Lord knew about this servant from the beginning. But as tough as the master is, he gave him an opportunity-a simple responsibility. He must have known the character of this servant before hand, thus he gives him a small amount, the least responsibility and if he proves himself he will get credit and be given more authority and all the benefits.

But he did not.  All he got was canned.

Jesus says, “The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” (Luke 12:45-46).  There are those among the church who are hypocrites and play the role of a Christian but they are not.  Newsflash: laziness is not a fruit of the spirit. One day the Lord will come and see this counterfeit lifestyle and it is not going to be pretty. Being cut to pieces is also not very promising prospect. For those who only see God as a harmless tamed Deity-this is the red-letter section of the Bible that some Bible have that highlight the words of Christ. Jesus is speaking here.  No, this is not the Old Testament as many people whine when they see anything to do with justice or sentencing of evil doers. In this case,  our Master Jesus wants to be in the black, not the red. He wants the investment he has made in us to pay off in a life lived to the glory of God. He will see anything else as being ripped off.

You can hear the servant nervously saying,  “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.   I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”(25:24 NLT). The lazy servant says, “I knew thee..”  This is when things got ugly. The lazy servant professes to know what kind of master he serves.  He is the only servant that says anything in this parable. The others are basically quiet and received a promotion from their employer for a job well done.  But this man knew how to talk.  He knew how to make excuses.  He was a servant who was a master at rationalizations. He did not say that he was not feeling well, he had a family issue or his vehicle was giving him problems. These are all the unforseen circumstances which employers expect.

The real conflict in this passage is not just the laziness. This man makes it personal with his Master. He said, “I knew thee.”   That comment crossed the line and ticked the unnamed Master off  and almost smacks of this lazy servant blaming the Master for his actions.  If I may paraphrase the unnamed Masters reply, “If you knew me you would have done this or that, but you did not, so do not know me as well as you think.” 

The servant was not incorrect in his view. The man he worked for was a harsh businessman. He was not only an austere investor (Luke 19:21) he was “hard” and callous. This does not mean that because the master was so hard he was unrighteous.  He trusted his servants to manage his affairs.  He gave them responsibility which he thought they could handle.  He was not so harsh that he did not pay and reward his servants in fact, we only see him harsh on the laziness of the last employee.

The master does not disparage his servant’s comments and say,  “No you are wrong, I am a kind, loving and laid back individual.  I am really hurt.”  The master expected that servant to invest His Lord’s money!  The Master Christ says, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:16).  It is like he tells the servant, “I work and so should you. You see here is how we are different, you bury, I plant. I work in such a way that everything pays off.  You acted like this money was yours and extension of yourself. But it was not. It was my money. I wanted you to do with it what I would do with it. You could have easily made a return on what I gave you.”

His language was the bottom line and he rewarded those that spoke it fluently.  “He says, Lord, you are a hard man to do business with.” This “hard”  view of  Our Lord and God is one the truths that most ministers bury beneath their pulpits. The Lord is tough. He saves us by Sovereign Grace, but he expects a one hundred percent return on his investment in our lives. Jesus teaches “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”  (Luke 12:47-48). The idea of punishment set forth here presents an attribute of God often set aside or ignored, but it must be seen. God is holy, He is no joke, he means business and plays for keeps.

I think this is a problem for many so called Christians. You can hear the shouts, “God is a merciful God”  and people picketing such teaching in the church parking lot. They are confused about the “god” they serve which is more characterized by the sinful culture in which they live rather than the God of the scriptures. They have created a mental idol that is a  permissive, tolerant God, which is not his true nature. God says of his people in the Old Covenant that, “they know not me…” (Jer. 9:3).  You see that people today, especially in Christianity are just as or more ignorant of God, less conversant in scripture than at any period of history before. “For the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee. (Hosea 4:1,6). 

It sickens me how we will chant and sing, “I am a friend of God, he calls me friend”  and live in such disobedience.  But Jesus Christ tells us, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:14-15).  Well, there you go. As a servant, he DID NOT know what his master was doing. You must be a servant before a friend. There should be a sense of duty before devotion. You may be saved, but growing in friendship with Christ, means becoming more sanctified. Running around and calling yourself a justified sinner or telling everyone, “I know the Lord” gets old if you live in such a way that evidences no growth or deeper love for Christ!

There is a sense of finality in this passage that is inescapable especially after he takes the one talent gives it away to the man who has ten talents and kicks the man out in the dark unemployed and broke and weeping. That is sad.  My suggestion is start using and investing your talents and grow in Kingdom business because from what I see the Master is a hard man to do business with.

Selfish or God-ish?

The Bible says to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

I don’t care what anyone says, when we think of being filled with something,  it gives us the picture of having a liquid like water poured into a glass until it is full. It probably means something else in the Greek.  It always does it seems, but thank God for the English Bible. Somebody apparently  thought we would understand what “filled” would mean.

No, I do not disparage scholarship nor exposition. I love it. When we understand this to be filled to the full  it makes much more sense.  But it does not seem to carry the meaning to accomplish or execute or be fulfilled.  That makes no sense in the context. It is quite clear that God wants all of us. He wants to fill us. Paul describes being filled with the Spirit as the displacement of self and the replacement of Himself  in our lives like water replaces the air in the glass with liquid. 

When we are full of self we cannot be full of God.  It is so easy to be full of self mainly due to the fact that  I am…me-myself and you are your self.  When we are full of self we are selfish as human beings. We are self-centered or egocentric. “Selfishness, in its worst or unqualified sense, is the very essence of human depravity, and it stands in direct opposition to benevolence, which is the essence of the divine character. As God is love, so man, in his natural state, is selfishness.” (Websters 1812 Dictionary).  The suffix, “ish”  in essence means “belonging, pertaining or tending  toward.”  Thus a person who is selfish does what pertains to, or tends toward self.

There is a tincture or hint of selfishness even in the very best, most selfless things we do. We are such needy people because sin contaminates the best things we do. This is why the sinner must be justified by Christ and the work he did on the cross alone or we would be lost simply and easily. It was the most selfless act. It was God-ish. That is also why we need to be filled with the Spirit of God.  I see that benevolence although the linguistic opposite of selfishness just does not cut it for the point of this writing, so I pray you will indulge me on this point. I guess it would awkward to say but we need to be God-ish  but that is the meaning that is carried with being filled with the Spirit of God. It is a life that tends toward, leans and pertains to God’s Spirit at work in us.

It would seem obvious with the following verses of the text above that after a person is filled with the Spirit they are God-centered or theocentric.  That involves, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:19-20). They live for God’s glory not their own whims. Being conscious of the influence of sin should drive us to our knees to ask for the Spirit of God to work in us, but we act so independently of God’s power most of time, we invent our own idolatrous devices, thus we are selfish because we are man-centered. 

Being filled with the Spirit is not an esoteric level of spirituality-it is a life centered around God and his laws.  It is a life that worships God in every aspect of their lives, individual character, family, work and church.  It is a God-ish life. The only way this can happen is by the grace of God that gives us the recognition and awareness of His presence. I believe the Latin term Coram Deo comes into play which is,

“Something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.” Coram Deo, R.C. Sproul 

This is a genuine fear of the Lord. It is what I like to call the comfort and dread of the Lord. When I read about the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God in passages like Psalm 139 it brings me a sense of relief and freedom from anxiety to know he sees all that I do. It also brings a fierce fear and awe of the God who sees and knows all that I do.  To know he is everywhere and with that knowledge is to honor him and is evidence of being  filled with his Spirit.  It is to be God-ish. Oh that we might be filled with his Spirit in every part of our lives.


Help is on the way! What a sigh of relief that gives the Christian who can bodly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Heb 13:6). I think this is good news-don’t you? I know these are difficult times, you look at the mess you are in and all you feel is alone,  bewildered or perplexed constantly thinking, “Where did I go wrong?”  There is guilt for past sins and bad decisions and you feel alone or like you are being punished.  There are some reading this article that are staring at some insurmountable problem that is testing the very heart of their faith in God. Others have to deal with the perfunctory day-to-day issues eating away at their souls. But God who does not sleep or slumber will preserve your soul from evil and you go about your daily life.  Your,  “help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:2).

What is worse is other people you trusted and depended on are not there. “My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.” (Ps 38:11NIV). Some people just become cold and aloof to others who have issues. You were there for them, prayed for them and wept with them but now they are nowhere to be found. People do not know what to say, they do not know what to do for you, so they stay away.

Sometimes people become vicious toward us. “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.” (Ps 35:12). It is pretty sick the way we human beings treat each other especially when people pay others back with evil instead of good. There are people who are just envious and miserable and they love company. They are jaded, thinking everyone has some hidden hypocrisy and when bad things happen they see it as God’s disfavor.  Notice what the scripture says, “they do it to the spoiling of our souls.”  They seem to rob our faith and plunder our victory, maliciously waiting to see your failure. This is not paranoia, but it seems since they can’t attack God they use you for target practice. David has people saying about him,  “There is no help for him in God.” (Ps. 3:2).   They look and say, “Wow they have really blown it this time, even their God will not rescue them out of this mess.”  The deep dark trials that some Christians have endured have made others think God has left them. In the time of trial, weakness our brothers and sisters need help not condemnation and accusation. But help is on the way!!!

Your God has always proved to be “a very present help in time of trouble.” (Ps. 46:1).  A very present help.  The word “very” here means above average, out of the ordinary, exceeding and in the extreme. Trouble is a problem in the extreme. You need an extreme God and an  incredible Savior.  Life is no longer ordinary it has taken a dangerous turn. You profess a faith that sees God in control every day as the one by who things all things consist, who makes everything stable, everything nominal. But the speed of life can be dizzying  and out of control, so this is why you need to see God as the Lord over problems no matter how extreme. You will see that your difficulty is no match for your Savior God Almighty! He is nearer than the trouble. Notice he does not just send you a letter or a check, He will come himself. He will help you, run at the first cry of distress.  William Gurnall in his classic The Christian in Complete Armor writes: 

“How much more will God, who is the Father of such dispositions in his creature, stir up his whole strength to defend his children?  ‘He said, They are my people, so he became their Saviour,’ Isa. 63:8.  As if God had said, Shall I sit still with my hand in my bosom, while my own people are thus misused before my face?  I cannot bear it.  The mother as she sits in her house hears one shriek, and knowing the voice, cries out, ‘O it is my child.’  Away she throws all, and runs to him.  Thus God takes the alarm of his children’s cry: ‘I heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, saith the Lord;’ his cry pierced his ear, and his ear affected his bowels, and his bowels called up his power to the rescue of him.” He is more present than the difficulty, closer than the pain of a broken heart and  nearer to the one who is distressed and wounded. Help is on the way!

When will God help his church? “God will help her right early.” (Ps. 46:5). He will be the early! What a promise! “Make no tarrying Oh my God.” (Ps 40:7).  You may lie down with tears on your face but the sun will open your eyes with joy. He has heard your cry, “Help me LORD! I am needy, broken and hurting!”  Yes, help us Lord early! We need your help!  “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up! (Ps 5:3). This darkness will pass and morning will break with glorious light!  Like Spurgeon says,  “As soon as the first ray of light proclaims the coming day, at the turning of the morning God’s right arm shall be outstretched for his people.” Amen and amen. This is the day that the Lord has made and in a time of salvation he is helping you! Notice a time of trouble is seen as a time of salvation in the scriptures. It is trials savings time! Like the first light of the dawn rushes over the horizon may the Spirit of God help us. Help is on the way!

My wife and I were in a large church in New Jersey looking at a giant mural of Peter and Christ in the famous walking on the water story. In fact, the caption under the picture said, “Come and walk on the water with me.” But both my wife and I saw it differently. We remembered what the scripture said of Peter said, at that moment when he yelled, “Lord save me!”  Oh dear christian although he invites you to walk on the water, it is safe to say, you may not do it perfectly. There are times you will feel the water coming upon you up to your face and all you can do is cry for help! Yes you must have faith that  His help can uphold you, but on the other hand if you falter you shall not drown either.  THIS IS THE LORD WE ARE TALKING ABOUT!  The mighty Savior, the God of the armies of the heavens. This is the One who, “gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment…” (Prov 8:29).  He will help! You will not drown. You have one of his exceeding great and precious promises: Thus says the Lord in Isaiah 43:2: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee…”  Help is on the way!

Don’t be afraid, I know your anxiety beats your heart like a drum in your ears, your brow is furrowed with confusion and your body trembles with fear, but can you even at this moment feel the strength of the nail scarred hand of Christ grab your hand and as you “look and live” you will see the most tender loving eyes of Jesus ask you, “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Don’t feel condemned. He must ask this question. Your doubts will melt away as he shows you how ridiculous your fears were as the Lord Jesus escorts you through the raging sea of trouble. See how big, how wonderful, how powerful Jesus our Master really is! He is not bringing you back to safety for HE is your safety as much on the water as in the boat or on the shore. The sinewy arm of the carpenter of Nazareth is no other than the  Lord who has made bare his arm in the sight of all the nations and he will save. Your help in his righteousness not your own! “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.” (Ps 69: 14). Help is on the way!

He saves you as though you and he were on dry ground. The water, “under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone.” (Ex 24:10). What once almost drowned you becomes a place that you walk on. People will be amazed and some even ashamed because of the invisible power of Christ upholds you.  

It becomes like a precious jewel.  The time of trial is like refining gold in fire (1 Pet 1:7) and becomes a priceless time of learning and sparkles with God’s glory and presence. Heavenly Jerusalem’s streets are, “pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (Rev 21:21).   What should have made you sink now is a firm foundation beneath your feet. 

It should also be noted that it is “paved with love.” (Song 3:10).  You will find that what you thought were bitter steps was actually God was leading you in his love closer to him! Every step you took in the trial was ordered by the Lord and lined with his affection for you.  What people saw as God’s abandonment has now made a major turn around. Do not doubt. Do not be afraid! Help is on the way!

We must note finally that man was in extreme sin, radically depraved. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water.” (Job 15:16). Men and women are described as the wicked who are like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ” (Isa 57:20).   All people are “without strength” (Rom. 5:6) and the sinner is helpless to save himself. The Bible says, “God was in Christ” and he became his people’s very present, extreme help!  There he stepped out in front of Pilate’s ” judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:13).  Before Golgotha there was Gabbatha. There in the ocean of man’s criminal acts and God’s wrath against sinners,  he stepped out on the waters and walked God’s justice like no other could all the way to Calvary. There his steps were paved with an everlasting love and there on the Cross with a superhuman strength he stretched out those same arms that saved Peter and gathered his elect people in salvation to himself.  Through the gospel he calls them from death to life. There he says I will “uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee!” (Isa. 41:10, 13). Only God by his grace can help us. He  is he only One who can rescue us from the danger of dying in our sins.  

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more. But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry, from the waters lifted me, now safe am I…Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves, He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves. He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey, He your Savior wants to be, be saved today. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help Love lifted me!

Help is on the way!