‘A Threefold Cord is not easily broken (Eccl: 4:12)’
Before getting into what I felt impressed to speak about, I am compel to tell you a few things. I come from a Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, AOG background. Seeing that all man made denominations have errors and biases has allowed me to rely on Scriptures alone for truth; as Calvin said in his Institutes of Christian Religion: ‘If we seriously consider that the Word of the Lord is the only guide to our understanding of Him, it will prevent all presumption. We shall realize that the moment we go beyond the limits of Scripture, we shall be off course, in the dark and stumbling.’ I have been fortunate to learn never to put any person or their works above the Word and Spirit of God.
It was not always that way with me. Now some of these things my kids don’t know, partly because my mother died before they were born and was not here to share all those things that grandmothers do. I had a praying and sacrificing mother – to you this is simply a sentence. To me it was watching her most of her life of having less, so that others could have more. She gave, and even opened her house to missionaries and ministers and some in need – all of which I learned first from her and others – before doing myself.
But these things were not the transitions that changed my life – they are only impressions and events I recall. There were three leading transitions to my life. By the grace of God and the prayers of saints my eyes were opened. Understand, when I say saints I mean believers in Christ, for the word comes from the Hebrew – Kodesh – meaning saint, sanctify, holy ones, holy – as in ‘be holy for God is holy.’
Ok so, as the Lord appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and opened their eyes – His Spirit opened my eyes to Truth – I saw my true condition – my need for the Savior – moreover, He allowed me to understand the Scriptures – not just to see words on a page, but to go deeper; to have access to wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
And I was about 22 and I was without excuse and the Lord’s Spirit came to me… and said to my spirit and soul, to my heart and mind… ‘you must now choose.’ Choose what I asked. Choose between God and your girlfriend. You see I had dated her… (Omitted length of time) but she was an atheist. After making that choice, within a few weeks – I was baptized.
A week later, I attended a camp meeting with a thousand other Christians and some were seriously praying for me and with the laying on of hands. One of them said ‘if you would at a game you would shout for your team, shout to the Lord’ – I called out to the Lord with a shout – basically saying, ‘I must have everything’ – immediately I started speaking in tongues.
The next Sunday at church… praying in the Spirit – I fell on the ground, shaking uncontrollably for minutes – and with waves of power and joy filling me to such a point that I could never deny to myself what happened. Some receive the Spirit peaceably and some say such a spiritual event is only emotions stimulated by nerves – I have personally been a part in at least 3 healings and 2 demons manifesting – I know the difference in the nervous system and the spiritual system.
So, the first transition was my eyes were opened to truth and I had to make a choice and sacrifice, for which I was given more than I could ever understand. For you see as Isaiah says in the chapter 11, from the Lord God comes ‘the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of understand, and the spirit of counsel and might, and knowledge and the fear of the Lord.’ My eyes were opened and I received the Holy Spirit which did in fact teach me things as I begin to ask and seek according to the will of God.
The second transition occurred as I searched for truth. I read the Scriptures and I got a concordance. I would search topically, as well as for certain scriptures. As i progressed deeper in the word, I was impress one day to ask, ‘Lord what is the bottom line, what is the whole of man, what is the conclusion of all this, what is our duty’ – a word that meant something to men in the past – such as duty to God, duty to country, duty to mankind, to school, family and friends, etc.
Well, the Spirit of wisdom said go to Strong’s and look it up – seriously that simple. Remember this was before google. Ok, Strong’s… duty – 8 verses, conclusion – 1 verse, which was with the other 8; it is: ECCL 12:13. When AOL launched its Windows and web interface around 1993, I picked ECCL1213 as my user name.
It was not difficult, for that time there were 3 verses that would change my outlook as a Christian. Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Here the conclusion of the matter: ‘Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of mankind.’ The next and last verse of Ecclesiastes was equally important, ‘for God will bring every work into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.’
Another time, I was reading about Judaism. One book taught that the TEN COMMANDMENTS given to Moses by God, are listed one way by the Jews, another way by the Catholics, and also another way by the Protestants – but you will have to look that up for yourselves. It also taught me to look at the importance of both word and deed – our confession and believes, as well as our actions. The Rabbi said that ‘Christianity is a creed that asks for a commitment of faith, but Judaism demands more.’ Well Christianity does as well. Paul said, building upon Isaiah’s words, ‘If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’
And Christ Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father…” But all the prophets and disciples also knew and taught – as Jeremiah spoke the word of the Lord, ‘I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways…” And so James says, ‘What good is …faith that does not have works? Can that faith save him… I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one… Even the demons believe.”
Yes, Paul said, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, not by your works…’ But Christ did first say, ‘You must repent of bad works,’ and Paul said, ‘we must walk worthy of our calling,’ and also John and Paul and the prophets did say, ‘The unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor liars shall inherit the kingdom of God.’ The unrighteous are those who do not repent of willful sins. As in Hebrews 10:26 “For to those who continue to willfully sin, after having receive the knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for their sins, but a dreadful expectation of judgment…’
And, about that time I looked at another book on Judaism, of which I can only remember one thing – I read, ‘the heart of the Torah’ is Deuteronomy 10:12-13. I knew the conclusion of the matter; I also had to know the heart of the Word of God. Deuteronomy 10:12-13: ‘Hear Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (mind), and to keep the commandments of the Lord.. for your own good… For the Lord you God is God of gods and Lord of lords…mighty and awesome, who show no partially and takes no bribes…’
And Moses continues, ‘He executes justice for the widow and orphans and loves the stranger… you all love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt.’ And does not the Lord Jesus say the same command, ‘You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and serve Him and love your neighbor?’ And from these verses I searched and cross referenced the scriptures for years.
Likewise Matthew 10 greatly affected my, with the Lord saying, ‘he that endures to the end shall be saved… and the disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his Lord… Fear not them who kill the body, but rather fear God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…’ Many people these days take various liberties when speaking about God or our Lord Jesus Christ and they truly don’t understand what fear will come over mankind when all stand and confess that He is the Lord of all.
One more verse in my top five: Exodus 34:6-7 the longest name of God in the Bible… after the Lord God gave Moses the 2 tablets of stone – the 10 commandments, Moses says ‘the descended in the cloud… and proclaimed the name of the Lord:
“The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” After receives this, ‘Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.’ Notice the name of the Lord, notice the 3 differences in sin, trespasses and gross iniquity; as Moses states difference in the penalties for willful sin versus someone trespassing – harming or sinning against God or another without knowledge or the desire to do great harm. Notice how Moses acted and bowed before Almighty God. And from these main verses, from the Name, Heart and Conclusion you can search and learn all other doctrines and truths of the Holy Scriptures.
Thus the second transition in my life was to know the difference in midrash or commentary and opinions of man, versus that of the Holy Scriptures and Truth. This also led to the search of Truth in history, science and all things. To look beyond the surface of things – how did various religions and denominations and nations and governments come about – Knowledge and Truth are great defenders of the Faith.
The third transition has been the most difficult. It started primarily after hearing Paul say, ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ;’ and hearing Christ say, ‘it is enough for the servant to be like His master… if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.’ This is a must narrow and difficult path and few can find and travel it, but broad and wide is the path to destruction.
Now I needed more examples than Paul’s few letters, I read his disciple Clement and other early Church fathers. I purchased a series called ‘Heroes of the faith,’ this series caused me to forsake chasing great gains of money and treasures on earth, but thought me how true followers of Christ serve and worship our Lord. And it is from some of these and from a few prophets and apostles I wish to offer some things that I was taught – as the Spirit of the Lord gave some wisdom to search for meaning and purpose and the better ways.
From John Bunyan – author of the Pilgrims Progress – the second most read book in the world until a couple of generations ago. Bunyan was imprisoned and separated often from his family for preaching the gospel. He taught me how to write and more so how narrow the road to heaven is.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany – jailed for preaching against the Nazi Regime; he was killed weeks before Germany surrender. In his book The Cost of Discipleship he said, ‘We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ… Jesus calls those who follow Him to share His passion… as disciples in the fellowship of His suffering.’ Now Germany is 75% non-religious – in 2 generations they lost most of their practicing Christians and France and England’s populations have < 10% practicing Christians.
There are several reasons, but primarily that the priest and ministers have reduced the gospel to ‘cheap grace’ or taking a ‘wafer’ in Communion for salvation… and the masses see their cheap doctrines, hypocrisies and scandals. And in America a ‘prosperity gospel’ or ‘free of tribulation’ doctrine, while ministers treat churches like businesses is leading to same result. In the last 20 years the non-religious in America has gone from 5% to a third of our nation and growing.
Bonhoeffer, Christ, the prophets, the Scriptures and the apostles have all taught me that a life without discipline – that is discipleship without discipline to follow Christ is no Christianity at all.
Wycliffe, Tyndale, Hus and many others who were persecuted or murdered in order for others to receive the Bible in common languages where examples to me of true devotion and perseverance in the midst of tribulation and death.
Luther, Zwingli and Calvin taught me that the best and most educated of Christian Theologians can disagree; and that even fervent lovers of the word of God can be wrong is some of their doctrines while at the same time being great teachers of other Christian doctrines.
David Livingstone, John Lake, Amy Carmichael, Lottie moon, and others taught me true sacrifice in saving lost souls.
And Job taught me many doctrines and truths. He said, ‘shall we accept only good from God, and not adversity?’ ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’ ‘Even after my skin is destroyed… in my flesh I shall see God.’ Like other faithful examples, of whom the world was not worthy of, Job ‘fell to the ground and worshiped’ God.
Likewise, Moses ‘bowed to the ground and worshiped’ God. And Joshua ‘fell on his face to the earth, and worship’ the Lord, even saying, ‘What does my Lord say unto his servant?’ And David ‘gave thanks to the Lord’ often. He prayed often and praised God ‘seven times a day’ he said. He taught the assembly corporate praise and worship. And with all the elders and leaders and men of valor, as recorded in Chronicles, David and those faithful ones and the assembly ‘blessed the Lord God’ and ‘bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord.’
And Solomon ‘stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly and spread out his hands toward heaven… and prayed… then he ‘kneeled on his knees with hands spread up to heaven.’ And David and all the prophets and apostles acted and taught in the same manner.
Thus, with Solomon, ‘all the children of Israel …bowed their faces on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying ‘He is good, and His mercy endures forever.’
Ezra and Nehemiah and the priests before and with the people ‘blessed the Lord… with lifted hands.’ ‘They bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord… saying, ‘Blessed be Your glorious name… You made the heavens and the earth and all therein.’
Elijah ‘at the time of the evening offering… prayed that his people may know the Lord.’ And Daniel, ‘knelt down on his knees 3 times a day and prayed and gave thanks to God,’ and sought the Lord with ‘prayer and fasting and confession;’ and with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego showed that ‘even if it means death, we will not serve or worship other gods.’ And by their witness, even a pagan king learned and confessed that the God of Daniel is ‘God of gods and Lord of kings.’
Likewise, the missionary David Livingstone suffered much, leaving his family to go depth into Africa to save souls and won a king or village chief and years later the village, and at his death they buried his heart at a memorial in Zambia, they sent his body back to England saying, ‘you can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa!’
Luke told how the ‘heavenly host’ and ‘shepherds’ praised our Lord saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’ And Matthew told how the disciples upon hearing the Lord God say of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘This is My beloved son…’ ‘fell on their faces.’ And our Lord Jesus Himself ‘fell on His face and prayed’ to our Father in Heaven.
Stephen and Paul saw Christ in the heavens. And Paul later said, ‘what is the conclusion then… I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding, and I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding.’ To our Lord Jesus and to our Father in Heaven, Barnabas and Silas and all the disciples fasted and prayed and worshiped and praised.
And John taught us how the angels in heaven worship God. How the 4 living creatures cry day and night, ‘holy, holy, holy… is the Lord God Almighty.’ And the elders ‘fall down… and worship Him who lives forever and say, ‘ You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.’
How can I do less? Why should we do less and not worship our Lord God as He deserves and desires of us? Nevertheless, from these and the Spirit of the Lord I learned to worship Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb. From all these and more, I learned to look to the better witnesses, to the most faithful, for the better examples. If David was a man after God’s heart… shouldn’t I learn about his life.
A Liddell Story
One more example for you guys. (Message I was giving was to Christian school track team)
Eric Liddell – called ‘the Flying Scotsman’ taught true Christian disciple and conviction and sacrifice.
The Olympics can be traced back to 776 BC… Until about 400 AD they were held almost every four years. Then after the fall of both the Greek and Roman Empires they ceased for the most part until the late 1896 when they were again held in Greece, except during the World Wars. In 1912, women were allowed to complete. 1924, was the 8th Olympic games of modern history and had 44 countries compete.
In 1923, Eric Liddell set the British and world’s record for the 100 yards at 9.7 seconds. He also won the 220 at the same event. In 1924, Eric represented Scotland at the Olympics in Paris. After the Scotland team had been chosen they received their schedules… Liddell was schedule to run his best event – the 100 yards – in the first heats on Sunday, July 6th.
Without hesitation, Eric said, ‘I’m not running… God’s 4th commandment to Moses said to remember the Sabbath Day and to keep it holy. …If I start ignoring one of God’s commands, I may as well ignore all of them.’
Though his coach understood Liddell never ran on Sundays, most of his country did not understand – and certain British newspapers called him a ‘traitor to Scotland sporting.’
Eric did run the 200 and won a bronze medal, the first Olympic medal to a Scotsman. And he won the 400 at a world record pace of 47.6 seconds – five meters ahead of the 2nd place finisher. He won gold for Scotland. After the Olympics Eric spoke at YMCA’s and high schools about being disciplined as an athlete and a Christian.
In 1925, Eric answered the call to become a missionary to China. Hudson Taylor and other Brits had opened the way in the late 1800s. Eric setup the Annual College Sports track events in China in 1926. In 1928, he ran in the Far East Games and tied the Olympic record that year for the 200 at 21.8 seconds.
In 1929, Eric’s health began failing him and he was going to return home. But in 1930 civil wars broke out in China and few missionaries went to China.
Not long after Eric did leave China to visit his family, he had also married and had children. In 1939, Eric was back in China when Germany invaded Poland and WWII began. Eric stayed and in 1941 finished his Manual of Christian Discipleship.
Every day he would thank God and also pray and ask what the Lord wanted of him for that day. During the war he taught at a local mission school and served as a guidance counselor.
Towards the end of the war in 1945, Eric was malnourished and very sick. February 21st he wrote his wife and on the 24th he died at 43 years old.
The movie Chariots of Fire was about him and some of the other 1924 British Olympic runners.
I have occasionally said, I wish I had two lives to live, one for me and one for God. But Eric and other great examples and heroes of faith know that we only have one life to live and that we all will stand before God and Christ Jesus and give an account for our choices.
Have you taught about that day… have you considered what your duty and obligations are to your family, your school and your Lord God?
Thinking and acting on such things separate the name only Christian for the true follower of Christ. I am not saying that you should not run on Sunday or that you should go to China, but I am saying you should at least consult in earnest pray with our Father in Heaven about your choices and try and listen to what His word and Spirit has to say to you.
Thank you for your time and may the Lord bless you and keep you.