Eyes Haven’t Seen and Ears Haven’t Heard?

eyes haven seenI was on my way to church one Sunday morning when I heard a song that had such a beautiful melody! I had heard the words of the song many times before, for you see, the words of the song were part of a quote from 1 Corinthians 2:9, which says in part: “. . . Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The gist of the message of the song and the gist of what many covey when that passage is quoted is this: God has such wonderful things in store for those who love him, so much so that it is beyond anything seen, heard, or even imagined! Now, I’m sure if you’ve been around church, you have probably heard this quotation and application yourself. Maybe you have even quoted and applied that passage in that same way yourself!

Well, one of the things I’ve learned across the years of studying and interpreting scripture is the fact that the first rule of interpretation and application is context. The second rule is context! The third rule is context! Whenever you read any verse in the Bible, before you can rightfully interpret and make application, you should always look at the context! How do you do that? You can start by reading some of the verses before and after the verse in question. If we were to apply that rule to 1 Corinthians 2:9, we would immediately see that although the songs that use that quote sound good and the quotes and applications sound biblical, to just quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 by itself and make an application based on just that one verse is a gross exegetical error and a theological misstep!

We don’t have to look very far to see what I am taking about! Now, to give you some context, Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church about the mystery of the wisdom of God (verse 7) as it relates to the crucifixion of Jesus. It was a mystery that had been hidden from even before the world began! The mystery was that God was going to use the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross to redeem mankind from sin. Paul said that if the rulers of this world had known, that by killing Jesus, they were actually affecting their own undoing, they never would have crucified Jesus! (Verse 8) Then Paul makes a scriptural application by adapting Isaiah 64:4 to illustrate his point. Paul wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I said Paul adapted Isaiah 64:4 because it actually says: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Isaiah said “what he hath prepared for him that waiteth (waits) for (on) him.” Paul modified the passage for his purposes and said: “The things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Isaiah says, “wait” Paul says, “love.” But I didn’t really bring that up to note the differences, but merely to help us with establishing some context.

The point I really want to make comes to light when we read 1 Corinthians 2:10, which modifies verse 9. In verse 9, the verse we always quote and sing, Paul said, “Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard, nor has it even entered into the hearts of men what great things God has prepared for those that love him.” Now, you need to remember that Paul is not making a statement or an assertion; he is merely quoting and making application of Isaiah 64:4. Paul doesn’t make a statement until verse 10, when he says: “But God!” Do you see that? “But God” makes all the difference! Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of men what great things God has prepared for them that love him. . . But God!  But God what? In verse 10, Paul is modifying the quote in verse 9! In verse 9, Paul was saying that it’s all a mystery that is beyond comprehension or imagination, but then he says in verse 10: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

WOW!!!! Paul is saying the things that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard and the things that have not even entered into the mind, God has revealed them to us by his Spirit! Now the Bible says that we are saved by his Spirit and once we are saved, his Spirit abides in us! Therefore, for any believer to sing the song and quote verse 9 as a proof-text of the unimaginable things God has in store for them that love him is a gross theological error, for it is to ignore the context of the passage and it is to deny the power and ministry of God’s indwelling Spirit! Not only that, it really is to lie on God! You’re saying that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard, but the Bible says that what you’re sayings hasn’t been seen, heard, or thought of, has been revealed by his Spirit! We can see Paul’s point even more so if we keep reading to verse 12, which says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” What things? The same “things” from the Old Testament quote in verse 9 that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard! The same “things” in verse 10 that God has revealed to us by his Spirit!

Oh! I feel a “preach” coming on here! When you quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 as a fact, you are actually calling God a liar! What you are saying hasn’t been seen, heard, or thought of, the very next verse says: But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit and verse 12 says that we have the Spirit so that we might know the “things” that are freely given to us of God! This is a prime example of why understanding the context of a verse, a passage, or even a chapter in the Bible is so important! Doctrines have been formulated, songs have been composed, and people are “testi-lying” when they think they are testifying, all because of a passage taken out of context! In this case, the error is that of drawing a conclusion before reading the author’s actual conclusion! People make the mistake of only reading, quoting and singing verse 9, when they should keep on reading, at least to verse 12!

Now, I know this post is going to mess with some choirs and singers! But we need to make sure the songs we sing are biblically accurate and theologically correct! Many song-writers and composers today are not really biblically literate! Many don’t study the Bible to rightfully divide (interpret and apply) the word of truth!  So don’t just sing a song just because you hear it on the radio and it sounds good! Make sure that it’s biblically sound! So! You can keep on singing, quoting and applying 1 Corinthians 2:9 only and bask in spiritual ignorance if you want to! As for me! I thank God for the next verse that says: “But God!” The “But God” tells me, I once was blind; but now I see!

Mastering Fear and Anxiety

fearThis is the third of the series of sermons I preached some years ago on: Mastering the Emotions.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

John 14:27 KJV

Psychologists tell us we were born with only two fears: The fear of loud noises and the fear of falling! Therefore, if that is the case, all other fears are learned responses from environment or taught by parents and/or other authority figures. Now, there are cases in which fear is good! Fear is needed because it protects us from danger. It is part of our natural “fight or flight response” to our environment. The Bible says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” However, our fear of the Lord should not be a trembling fear of God’s punishment, but rather a reverence and respect for God’s character and nature. In other words, we shouldn’t fear God like a child fears the “boogie-man,” we should fear God in the same manner that a child respects his parents. The Lord desires for us to serve him, not out of fear but out of love! In fact, the Bible says that fear does not even come from God! 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” So these fears; the fear of falling, the fear of loud noises, the fear that alerts and protects us from danger and harm, and the fear of God are “good” fears that are natural or should be acquired.
In my research, I found over 518 phobias or fears that are officially recognized! There are even such fears as the fear of success, the fear of church, and the fear of preachers, on the list! Our world is so engulfed with fear, that most people think that fear and anxiety are the natural and normal responses to life! But, for the child of God, the one who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, being controlled and dominate by fear is not normal! Paul said that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And if we are to be who God created and called us to be, then we must master fear and anxiety.
Yes! For the Child of God, for the one who knows the Lord, fear should have no dominion in their life! Over and over again, in the Biblical text, God encouraged people not to fear! He did and He does so because fear will keep us from doing what we could, should, and want to do! Fear will hinder us from being and doing all that God created and called us to be and do! Fear is the enemy of our dominion! The ancient Chinese writer, Sun Tze wrote in his treatise: “The Art of War”, that a primary military strategy is to know your enemy. Before you engage in battle, you should learn all you can about your opponent! Well, the emotions of fear and anxiety can be enemies of our potential, therefore we need to know all we can about them and how they operate!
There are several acronyms I found using the letters: F-E-A-R, that will help us to know what fear really is! Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real: Fear paints a picture not supported by reality. Fear is an incorrect response because fear is a reaction, not to evidence that is real, but to evidence that only looks real! We can master fear by understanding that many times things are not always as they appear!
Fear is Failure Expected and Received! There are spiritual laws that govern the universe that are just a real and powerful as the Law of Gravity! Two such laws are the Law of Attraction and the Law of Faith. The Law of Attraction says that we tend to attract the circumstances, people and situations into our lives that are in agreement with our dominant and consistent thoughts. The Law of Faith says that whatever we believe with conviction, whether it be good or bad, positive or negative, it will eventually come to pass and be manifested in our lives. That’s why Paul wrote: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The things we constantly think about manifest themselves in our lives! Therefore, we should think good thoughts! That’s why we shouldn’t think about what we don’t want! We should only think about what we do want! The more we think about what we don’t want, the greater the possibility that what we don’t want will show up! In fact, we actually attract it because of the law of attraction! Some Bible scholars think the Law of Attraction may have been a factor in Job’s life because in the midst of his troubles Job said, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid is come unto me!”
In a sense, fear and faith are not really opposites, but in a very real way, they are two sides of the same coin! Fear is a type of faith because, like faith, fear is a conviction and an expectation. The difference is the conviction and expectation is in a negative and unwanted outcome. Fear is the substance of things not hoped for and the evidence of things not seen! Faith is belief directed toward what we want; fear is belief directed toward what we don’t want! We can master fear by simply not thinking about and not focusing our attention on what we don’t want! We can master fear by starving our fears and feeding our faith!
Fear is Forgetting Everything is All Right! The Disciples were fearful in the storm because they forgot Jesus was on board! And even when they remembered he was on board, they forgot who he was! They forgot he was the master of the sea! Yes! We fear because we forget that greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world! We fear because we forget that Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is because he has overcome the world that we can overcome the world! We fear because we forget that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of and He has promised to supply our every need! Yes! My brothers and sisters, we can master fear by simply remembering that no matter how it looks, the Lord says; “Everything is all right!”
Yes! We need to know fear! But not only do we need to know fear, we also need to know how fear operates! We need to know that fear is contagious! Therefore, we need to inoculate ourselves from fear because fear can be passed on and we can be infected with fear from other people! Listen to the instructions the Lord gave Moses to give to the people concerning war in Deuteronomy 20:1-4, 8: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. . . . And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.” According to the NLT, the officers said to the people: “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else!” Contagious fear caused the Children of Israel to spend some 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The report of the ten spies was motivated by fear and it was their fear that infected the multitude, who in turn, rebelled against the expressed command of the Lord to occupy the land! Yes! Fear is like a bad cold! If you hang around fearful people; you will catch it! Therefore, one way we can master fear is by isolating and insulating ourselves from fearful people!
Now, you might have noticed that our subject is “Mastering Fear and Anxiety.” Some people don’t think so, but there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotional response to a known or definite threat, whereas, anxiety is often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. It comes from the mind’s vision of possible danger. In other words, anxiety comes from our minds thinking of something that could happen! Anxiety is being worried about being fired from your job when there is no concrete evidence of it happening! Anxiety occurs because we focus, not on what is wrong, but on what could go wrong! The difference between fear and anxiety is that you have fear when you’re in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction with a knife! Anxiety is when you are in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction and you “think” he may have a knife! Fear is when you run a red light and you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Anxiety is when you haven’t broken any laws and you are uneasy when you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Fear may result from a real threat, but anxiety comes from just the possibility of a threat.
Well, I need to come to a close now! I don’t have to tell you the damage that fear and anxiety can cause. Fear and anxiety can elevate your blood pressure and body temperature. Fear and anxiety can cause fear and panic attacks during which there is severe shortness of breath, causing even further panic, which in turn could lead to strokes and heart attacks! In other words, besides preventing us from doing what we could, should and want to do, uncontrolled fear and anxiety is unhealthy and lethal! But, we can master fear and anxiety! The Bible says that we are to be anxious for nothing! When we’re fearful and anxious, we’re really saying we don’t trust God and that God is a liar! In the text Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of conflict, but rather the calmness in the midst of conflict! Peace in the midst of the storm! He said: “Don’t let you heart be trouble, neither let it be afraid!” If we are anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, make our request known to God, the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! It is the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace that gives us the power to master fear and anxiety!

The Genie in the Bottle or the God of the Bible?

lamp and churchWhen I was a growing up, I remember a popular television show about an astronaut who, upon returning to earth from a space mission, discovered a bottle on the beach which contained a genie. The running plot of the show consist of the various magical antics this genie would perform, attempting to please her master, while all the while, her master was trying to conceal her real identity from the outside world.

Well, it seems as though many so-called Christians today have the God of the Bible confused with the genie in the bottle! You see, when Major Nelson (the astronaut) didn’t want Jeannie to interfere in his life, he would order her to go back into her bottle and then he would put the cap on it so that she couldn’t get out. Too many people want the blessings of God, they want Him to perform various tasks and miracles in their lives, but after God has done those things, they do not want any interference from Him in their lives! They want Him back in the bottle, so as not to place any demands upon their lives!

There is even a theology being espoused today that suggests that God is like the genie in the bottle. This theology has man as its center and not God. This theology suggests that we can in fact order God around and manipulate him with our faith, our prayers and our praises. But the fact of the matter is this: The God of the Bible is NOT like the genie in the bottle! We were created to serve Him: He was not created to serve us! We can’t order Him around, nor can we manipulate Him with our faith, prayers and praises. There is no real correlation between praises going up and blessings coming down! The God of the Bible will not suspend His agenda or His will in favor of ours!

The name of the show was: “I Dream of Jeannie!” And I would like to suggest that those who advocate, adhere to, and believe in the theology I just described, are just dreaming! The God of the Bible is NOT like the genie in a bottle! We have no power or authority over HIM! It is He who has made us; we didn’t make HIM! Therefore, the real question is not what can God do for us; but rather what is His will for our lives? What is His purpose for our sojourn on this third rock from the sun? Our daily prayer should always be: “Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven!

Who are you serving? Who are you praying to? Is it the Genie in the bottle or the God of the Bible?

Armor Bearer is NOT a Biblical Church Office: A Guest Post by H. B. Charles, Jr.

He picked me up from the airport. We headed straight to the church.

I wanted to look over my manuscript once more before I preached. But I took a few minutes to chat with my driver.

I asked my standard questions, including, “Where do you serve in the church?”

“I’m pastor’s chief armor bearer,” he said proudly.

I summoned all the self-control I could muster. But I couldn’t resist. I had to ask. “What does that mean?”

He explained the various ways he serves his pastor. “I am basically pastor’s right-hand man,” he concluded.

I changed the subject.

But there was another question I wanted to ask: “You do know that armor bearer is not a biblical church office, don’t you?”

This time, self-control prevailed. Thankfully.

I read Terry Nance’s book, God’s Armor Bearers, when it was first published some years ago. I found it interesting. Then I forgot it. I never expected it would get so much traction. Yet there is a now a movement of “armor bearers.” And I am not sure it’s a good thing.

Let me clear. It is good for men to have hearts and hands to serve in the church. And it is good when men are willing to serve their pastor. Every man should have another man in his life that he submits to. But I wonder if all this “armor bearer” stuff is taking things too far.

Christians are commanded to honor their pastors. At the same time, however, pastors are commanded to be servant-leaders, not celebrities.

  • Do you really need security with earpieces to protect you from interaction with your congregation?
  • Do you really need someone to carry your Bible, manuscript, and anointed handkerchief to the pulpit for you before you preach?
  • Do you really need the men in your church who have a servant’s heart to be used as your chauffeurs and butlers?

But there is a bigger question: You do know armor bearer is not a biblical church office, don’t you?

There are two biblical offices in the New Testament church: elders and deacons. Elders serve by leading. Deacons lead by serving.

Unfortunately, many pastors and congregations resist the hard work of developing biblical church leadership. Most would not dare consider establishing elders. And pastors and deacons often have a love-hate relationship, as they wrestle for power. (Trustees are not in the Bible. And they should NOT have final authority in the church, just because they handle the money.)

Brothers, if we are going to disciple men for Christian growth, service, and leadership, why not use the terms and offices the Lord has ordained? The church needs godly elders and faithful deacons not ecclesiastical rent-a-cops.

Come on, if you are going to fight what that armor, can’t you carry it?

As pastors, we should model Christlike humility and servanthood. We should labor to nurture biblical church leadership. Our goal should be congregational health, not personal comfort. We need Christian soldiers that will lead the army of God into spiritual warfare.

And may we do so dressed in the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), so we won’t need anyone to bear our armor for us!

H. B. Charles, Jr.

Who Is Our God?

who is godWho is our God? Sounds like a fairly simple question, but in reality, it is not so simple! For the Christian community, the textbook answer is: “Our God is the God of the Bible!” But I want to ask, those of us who are part to the Christian community in America, is the God of the Bible really our God? I mean, think about it for a minute. A recent survey by the American Bible Society revealed that 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis! My question is this: How can we say that our God is the God of the Bible when we really don’t know the God of the Bible? I say we really don’t know that God of the Bible because the only way we can know the God of the Bible is by reading and studying the Bible! Therefore, if we don’t know the Bible, we can’t know the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible reveals Himself and makes Himself knowable and known through the Bible!

So, if we (Americans) as a whole don’t really know the God of the Bible (because we don’t read and study the Bible), then who is our God? From what I am hearing in many so-called Christian camps today, our God is Mammon: The God of Wealth and Prosperity; The Money God! Jesus said: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat 6:24 ESV) This passage and many others are in direct contradiction to those who preach and teach that the primary aim of Christianity is health, wealth and prosperity. The God of the Bible is not the least bit excited by silver or gold. In fact, I read somewhere in the Bible that gold is of such low value in the God of the Bible’s economy that it is used to pave the streets of Heaven! It’s ironic that many people are robbing, killing, and selling their souls to get what the God of the Bible uses as asphalt!

There is also a tradition that says Barabbas’ first name was also “Jesus.” So when Pilate presented the choice to the Jewish crowd in Matthew 27:17, he actually asked which “Jesus” they wanted: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth? Now the irony of the situation was that the name; Barabbas actually meant: “son of the father!” The crowd picked “the (false) son of the father” to go free and chose to allow Jesus of Nazareth (who was and is actually the “real” Son of the Father) to be crucified! Now, I said all of that to say this: There are many in Christian circles today who are calling on the name of Jesus, but my question is: Which Jesus? When people used profanity and say “Jesus @#*n% Christ” that is not the Jesus of the Bible! That is a “Jesus” of their own making; that Jesus is an idol! When we as Christians say we love Jesus, yet we are not willing to submit to his lordship over our lives, the Jesus we love is not the Jesus of the Bible! The Jesus of the Bible plainly declares to love him is to obey him! (see John 14:23-24)

If the God we serve only loves the people we love, doesn’t disagree with anything we do, never rebukes or correct us and doesn’t require a change in attitude or behavior from anybody, that is a god of our own making! If we serve a god like that; we are serving an idol! A god shaped in our image! In fact, the reality of the situation is, a god like that serves us! And if that is the case, then we make ourselves to be god!

The God of the Bible cannot and will not be manipulated by our prayers or by our faith! It is He who has made us and not us who made Him! Therefore the only proper and correct response is humble submission to His will and to His way. For that is the purpose for which we were created: To do God’s will upon the earth. Therefore, when we live life oblivious to the God of the Bible’s will and purpose for our lives, then the answer to the original question is “us!” We are our god!