Preacher in a Basket

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Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.” (Acts 9:25). 

Paul was turned persecutor into persecuted. He who was once a terrorist was now a preacher.  Now he was on the other side and very quickly Paul got a taste what it was to be on the run from hostile anti-Christ crowds. At first they must have thought this was just another way to capture the Christians but then after a while they must have realized he was not pretending, especially when the people he was preaching to were getting baptized and converting to the way of the wonderful Nazarene. He was preaching the gospel so powerfully he was confounding the Jews and proving that Jesus was the Messiah. So the Jews at that time decided that he would have to be killed. A governor who was appointed by Aretas an opportunistic ruthless king of that area (so powerful he defeated Herod Antipas’ armies) assigned a garrison, to arrest and kill Paul (2 Cor 11:32-33).

But the followers of Christ in that city decided to lower him out of a window in a basket so he could escape. Much like Moses who escaped by a basket (Ex. 2:3-5) so Paul would escape with his life. It was not easy, it would have to be a big enough basket to lower a man who could have weighed from 150 to 180 pounds without dropping, injuring or killing him. But his life was like that, always in the balance. It would seem he was a preacher in a basket teetering on the brink of life and death every day.

Paul’s resume looked more like an intelligence report from the NSA in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. People thought Paul was insane. He had to bear the weight of responsibility in taking care of churches which most likely gave him many sleepless nights. He lacked clothing, many times he did not have enough food to eat. He was in danger wherever he went.  He was in and out of prison and he was publicly beaten within an inch of his life by lashes and with wooden rods. Who know how many times he almost died. One time he was stoned and they thought he was dead and they dragged his body out of the city (Acts 14:19). He was shipwrecked and floated at sea for a day. He was robbed and almost drowned. He was persecuted by Jews and Gentiles and those who claimed to be Christians and were not. Eventually, according to tradition he would be decapitated for his faith in Rome. Yet he says, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24).

What is my point? Here we have Paul writer of fourteen books of the New Testament who lived life on a razors edge. He was seen as a basket case (2 Cor. 5:13) because he saw his ministry as a fearful responsibility and knew the terror of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:11). Who are we to think we are any better than him? Paul’s problems were not random, he caused them! Paul had an energetic passion for Christ fueled by the Holy Spirit and this got him in trouble with the law and religious people more than once. Although he lived in purity, showed understanding, patience and kindness (2 Cor. 6:6-7) he was treated like garbage by the people of his day and he even saw himself as the scum of the earth (1 Cor, 4:13). He was treated like a nobody and some thought he was an impostor. This was the great Paul the Apostle.

Let me ask you a question? Are you gospel scum? Yes, I am serious. Are you greater than your Lord who was defamed and harassed? (Mt 10:23-25). While no one sees being irrational or mentally deranged due to delusion as glorifying to God-does the world system and backslidden church people see you as a basket case for the gospel? Is your desire to minister the gospel so motivating you are treated like garbage and even the enemy of the state? Has Pentecost “cost” you anything except sitting tired, yawning in a church or making a roast for pot luck suppers or having to teach VBS once a year?  You drink booze, dance, watch godless movies and then wonder at your ineffective witness-that is if you care. You commit adultery, divorce and remarry and then parade against the GLBT crowd. Ah we know how to crank out certain issues to get our jack in the box “amens” from the pew forgetting such were some of us! Self-righteous snakes and religious reptiles beware-only those forgiven much love much.

Maybe you are just a “nice” Christian? You are just so agreeable with everything and everyone. You hope people will accept your precious little faith and develop a taste for your lukewarm religion.  You don’t want to offend anyone and although you say you do not compromise the truth (which today means a firmly held opinion not fact) your words and actions reveal that you are a part time salesman and convert to the new discipleship that makes you a pleasant agreeable marketer attempting to populate your CEO’s church (what we used to call a pastor) with more clientele.

The gospel was a threat to all society especially the idols of established religion and false patriotism. The evil world system run so long by the prince of the power of the air Satan, greatest fears were realized with what Paul was preaching: CHRIST THE PROPHET, PRIEST AND KING was and is real and he was and is taking back what belongs to him. While it is noble to get people food, shelter and clothing-is it right that we infect them with a diseased form of Christianity?

The gospel Paul preached is diametrically opposed to the present evil age and the worldly religion of moralism, psychology and the philosophy of lawlessness. Real gospel preaching opposes all sin and anything that attempts to eclipse God’s glory and his way of salvation through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Preaching law offends the lawless. Preaching grace offends the moralist. Gospel preaching is not palatable to the world and what I mean by the world is not the lost and dying in this context but the world system intermixed among so called Christianity and a social, behavioral moral code gospel that is powerless to save.  Can you hear the satanic laughter at the futile efforts of today’s form of Christianity and evil runs amuck in our land, yes our world? Look, boy and girls- cowards never can serve God and are left outside heaven.

Before I close, you say that Paul was a special man? Not everyone is like him. True. Yet I wonder if he was so special why don’t you preach and emulate his teachings in context then? The book of Romans and the book of Acts should be side by side. One is elaborate Christ centered doctrine. One shows you the practical side of faith and what happens when you preach pure doctrine. Christianity is not a cultural experiment-it has already been tried and proven. Abandon, yes, repent with torn hearts of your religious tourism, marketing and souvenirs and just preach Christ (that is if you know him)!

If not, as always, in the foreknowledge and predetermination of God there is no lapse or mistake. Christ our master architect and builder will stand up! He does not give sleep to his eyes as he builds the church and will God will have a people for himself! He has heard the prisoners of sin groan and seen those on spiritual death row heading to hell and if these lukewarm people do not respond to the clear call of the truth-they will end up being castaways! He will raise up a people yet to be created that they may praise the LORD! These will be a people willing in the day of his power, full of the vitality and dew of heavenly youth.

May the Lord fill his basket with many who have the unleavened bread of sincerity in their hearts and feed the world with the bread of life-JESUS!

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due

 

Tales From the Furnace Part 1

furnace“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy…for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

 

We are saved by God’s sovereign grace alone, through faith alone by Christ alone for God’s glory alone. But we will go through a process of sanctification and be comformed to his image. What I am attempting to say is not email, voice mail or snail mail it is heart mail. I only know that in order to change and change I must, that the furnace can not be side stepped. Only when you grow sick and tired of your self and you will, then you of your own free will enter the furnace. You will cry for purging of your sin nature rather than pardon for your sins. The children of Israel were told, “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. (Deut 4:20).

 

Those are ominous words at first reading. Peter tells those persecuted Christians thousands of years ago that trials are fiery. This verse can say easily, “Don’t be amazed by the burning!”  I am amazed that this could happen to me. My present suffering is agony on fire and a trial by fire. It burns. It injures. It hurts so badly. My tears are like the crackling of the flames. When I am dumb with silence I just feel the steady heat, I have a steady glow as all the moisture in me is turned into a drought (Psalm 32:4). I am dehydrated. I thirst! My soul is a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and I thirst for God (Psalm 63:1-3)! Of course it burns, scorching fire is involved. If by chance you hear or read these words and you are experiencing pain, you are not unspiritual, it does not mean you are carnal because you are in pain.

 

There is dignity in this time even when you feel all your self-respect has been stripped away. People will accuse you or worse counsel you during this time. This is a matter of intimacy. Man’s opinion or man pleasing is the heart of all lethal religion. Of the Pharisees who refused the fire of Christ’s words it says, “All their works they do for to be seen of men!” (Mt. 23:5). Do you and I feel absolved from this sort of criminal act? The Message version says, “Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next.” Man’s opinion of you must become fuel for the furnace or you will never benefit from this trial. You will be useless for the Master’s work. When you come to the realization of how many things you have done to be seen of men instead of God, it will break your heart!

 

You and I feel disfigured on the way to be transfigured. What you were, what you know does not matter at all in these flames. Self esteem and confidence-what are they in this furnace that incinerates all things?

 

A healthy view of self is not against scripture and impish false humility is loathsome to God but self hatred has its place as well. But everything is an issue to the flames including your identity and titles. Your history and good works are but dung if you would win Christ! (Phil 3:8). Nothing can douse the inferno. Man centered theology cannot help you. Don’t speak to me of psychology. Leave me and my Beloved alone. You cannot know. Only he can. What you and I know about God is tested and if it is worthless it is reduced to ashes as the fire licks at our mind and soul and removes it to where we have more questions than answers! 

 

If you are suffering, you are suffering like Christ did. To be like Jesus is the prayer of any child of God who has a sane understanding of what it is to be a Christian. I am stunned as I read that people “did not accept deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection!” (Heb 11:35). What kind of mindset is that compared to what we hear preached in the pop theology of the emergent, church growth cults of today?

 

But could you look at him in the face, touch his nail scarred hands, the wound that was from a lance thrust in his side and look down art his nail pierced feet never having endured suffering and trial? Is Jesus in his suffering so disfigured in your eyes that you do not see the beauty he has? Paul prayed for “the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings!” (Phil 3:10). The Murdock translation says, “That I might know Jesus, and the efficacy of his resurrection; and might participate in his sufferings, and be assimilated to his death.” The effectiveness of his resurrection life can only be appreciated when you are personally involved with a suffering for Christ and are absorbed into his death! Is this suffering Jesus someone you avoid? It is a fellowship and companionship. Those who associate with him do suffer. But we suffer with him that we might reign with him. (2 Tim 3:12).

 

As hard as it is to accept, a radiance and splendor of his presence is going to be seen in you like never before. You are being integrated into all that Jesus is, in this furnace. The spirit of glory and of God will rest on you.

 

This trial is familiar yet unique. It is a test. Why now? Either things were going so well, or things are bad enough! Now a test comes! It is not a pop quiz, it is like a pop SAT. Trials are not strange. It is not an accident. This is not THE trial with no obstacles afterward. There are many ordeals in this life (James 1:2-3). God says “Don’t be confused. It is on purpose. You must be tested and proven.”  God is not after you he is after something in you. Like a dangerous glaucoma of pride, or the cancer of bitterness, any soul damning desires that lurk like a cancer that pretends to be benign when it actually can turn terminal in an instant.

 

But no matter despite what Peter our brother in Christ wrote to us, my first reaction to life’s complications is that they are strange and I am confused. I have been here before but it is a different scene.

The Bible in Chains

Bible in ChainsThe word of God is not bound.” (2 Tim. 2:9).  But sadly, there have been times in history that the Bible was chained to an altar written in a language only scholars could understand. Thank God for great men like Wycliffe, Luther and Tyndale we can read the Bible in the language of the people. Now many years later, with so many interpretations something has gone wrong and many are still thirsty for the fountains of the scripture to be opened by men who call on the Lord with a pure heart whose sole motive is to glorify God (2 Tim. 2:22).

This day of doctrinal chaos is heartbreaking. What is worse is when men who profess to believe the “cardinal doctrines” of scripture suppress the truth in unrighteousness by holding back and committing spiritual fraud by not proclaiming what the Bible really says (Rom. 1:18)!  There lies the Bible in chains! God hates the false doctrine of preachers who preach from their own spirit, desires and thoughts! He loathes when men hold the party line, being political and he ridicules the pastors who reinterpret his Word in order to pander to people.

Many preachers on the television, radio, and Internet are so misleading by making the word either ambiguous or uncertain or they preach only what they deem to be practical and positive. The focus on the agenda issues and negelct the weightier matters of the Word of God. In some cases, domestic abuse, perversion, adultery, malfeasance is the poison fruit of these ministries because they have chosen another god with another message because they have discarded the scripture and its proper interpretation (Hosea 7:4). It is high definition heresy. The issue is clear: to abandon God’s Word is to abandon God. To not preach the scripture is abandoning his covenant (Deut 29:25) and despising his Word by breaking his commandments (Num 15:31; 2 Sam 12:9).

All the religious experts want you to buy what they are selling: knowledge of God without embracing the teaching of scripture. God has called men who preach to be charitable not marketable. We must in love freely give what the Lord says not wholesale the fashionable ideas of our day. These diabolical hunters of the souls of men are becoming worse “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13) and they are regarded as the experts on church growth and about God. Yet the Bible seems chained up, relegated to a small corner and back room for those who “want to go deeper.” The Bible is peripheral, the scripture is marginalized any way you look at it-it cannot be central when the agenda of flesh is in the center.

A bone chilling verdict has been pronounced many times against those people who profess to serve the one true God in any time period who become backslidden and even apostatize from the faith. This judgment begins “the house of God first” (1 Peter 4:17) and the pastors and churches that refuse to obey will be robbed of the most precious gift God has ever given his people: the Word of God. Imagine that! God will no longer speak to his people. Evangelicals may have the Bible, our wonderful confessions and creeds, but could it be possible, could it be they do not have the testimony of Christ because a shroud blinds their eyes, a cold mist covers their heart because of their unbelief (John 5:39; 2 Cor. 4:3-4)? 

If Christianity chained the scriptures to an altar for one thousand years and the Jews of Christ day rejected the Messiah even with the scriptures and the voice of the prophets read in their synagogues every day (Acts 13:27) can we no longer be suspect? Have we provoked the Lord to jealousy are we greater than him (1 Cor. 10:22)? This unbelief is the notion of being relevant without being prophetic. It charges God with lying by saying that his Word is not enough. I insist that God can, will and may have begun already a deep sleep upon their hearts, blindness to his truth and muffled their voice (Isaiah 29). The unintelligible spittle that I have seen lately in the media from the pulpit is not the word of God but it the useless wisdom of man. The prophecy of the scriptures lies dormant  because we have made it irrelevant fine print.

The United States has entered into another era which comes in history from time to time where it is said, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.” (Amos 8:11-13).  Even today we have to reach back many years to the commentary of the reformers and a few men of like precious faith.

There is a lot of “sharing” of religious thoughts and ideas going on today in many different ways, shapes and forms but it is not the word of God.  Why shoul we complain then when we see that God sends this famine. He is the source of it. People have serious problems with such a statement. In the church today we defend God as if he was flawed somehow and that when tragedy happens we use some other excuse saying that this is not God and even attributing it to the devil, global warming and the like. But God is Sovereign and he issues a guilty sentence on apostasy and he does it by removing the gift of his Word and his servants who preach it and the signs that accompany it in God ordained, God anointed preaching (Ps. 74:9; Mk. 16:20).

Arthur Pink commenting on the witness protection program of Elijah the prophet says about God. “The most valuable gift He grants any people is the sending of His own qualified servants among them, and that the greatest possible calamity which can befall any land is God’s withdrawal of those whom He appoints to minister unto the soul, then no uncertainty should remain. The removal of the ministers of His truth is a sure sign of God’s displeasure, a token that He is dealing in judgment with a people who have provoked Him to anger.” 

In the Gospel of Luke there is a lesson in the account of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is sent to eternal hell and is tormented.  His family saw him die. They had his funeral. The sent the flowers. They mourned and dispersed his inheritance. The buried him. He was dead. But they are unaware of where he is after he is dead. He is in a burning hell. This man sees Abraham and suddenly he is gripped with the condition of his family. He knows they are not ready to die and they will end up in where is he is. Even in his own pain a sense of unselfish desire grips him. He must tell his family about this place!

He begins a heart rending dialogue with Abraham and asks for the chance to be sent from hell back to the world of the living and to his family. This man would have been the greatest evangelist that ever lived. A man, who dies, buried and sent to hell and then resurrected to tell others to repent so they won’t go to hell. But Abraham does not say it is impossible, (Christ holds this title of Great Evangelist) but Abraham it is quite unnecessary. Notice what Jesus reports in Luke 16:29-31:

“Abraham saith unto him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

And he said, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”

And he said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” 

Jesus Christ the resurrected Prince of Life teaches us that if people do not believe the scriptures, they will not believe the miraculous and, “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” (John 12:37). If they cannot believe the Bible they will not believe in the testimony of one who has come back and has witnessed what is on the other side of eternity.

Oh that we had people that would turn to Christ just because the Bible says to do it and because men of God challenge them by the preached Word! The Bible says that John the Baptizer “did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man (Christ) were true.” (John 10:41). I pray that once again we would base the worth of a man’s preaching ministry on his love for God in the accuracy of his testimony about Jesus Christ.

When a man steps behind the pulpit and really preaches the Word as intended he must leave the consequences to God Almighty. When the barrel of the Bible gun is pointed at the world in its politics, sexual orientation, abortion and evolutionistic beliefs there is no problem. But when the bullets fly in the church-that is a different story and you will see plenty of elbows and heels. Many times when a preacher begins to compare the scripture with the way the church is being run I am sure that they will be seen as a threat. Many man pleasers end up in leadership in this structure with their sycophantic brown noses and spread the odious gospel of flesh without harm. But anyone who desires to preach the Word will be berated as unspiritual, unteachable, and unaccountable and bullied verbally or shunned stealthily. The Bible does never, ever agrees with sinful man, it does not compromise with rulers and it does not change for the law breaker. It brings comprehensive and total change.

 

God is calling men today to speak his unfettered, uncontrolled and undomesticated Word. To preach the Bible with fire of the Holy Ghost burning in their belly, with lips touched by the finger of God, with heads anointed with the oil God’s presence who do not trust in their own words but in the scriptures testimony about itself that it is God speaking to the people.

 

How long will the Bible be in chains? How long will it be shackled to the altars of denominational, religious and political rhetoric? When will we allow the same book that released an entire continent from religious slavery as in the Protestant Reformation to liberate the United States from it sins? How long will we cower from the message of the scripture because we are afraid of the power it carries and the sword that it wields to overthrow everything we hold dear and replace it with God’s glory and life? It shakes all that can be shaken until only it the living Word of God remains which cannot be toppled.

 

How long will we shun the same word that brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the paralyzed and life to the dead? How long will we limit the Holy One and resist the Holy Ghost because of uncircumcised hearts and ears! The word of the Lord is near us, it need not be brought down from heaven or lifted up from the depths and that word is come to test us and everything we are to see if we will speak it for God and his glory. Oh dear brother, preacher, pastor unchain the Book of books, let his words fill your tongue and God will give you his authority, power and Word as he speaks in his Divine Right, “Let My people go!”