Wheat and Chaff

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:
Matthew 13:30 (NLT)
Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
In the film The Matrix, we are taken to the year 2199. The world has been taken over and is being run by AI: artificial intelligence. Harvested humans live in a computer generated dreamworld of artificial reality, never understanding that they are captives of an evil empire. But there are a few people still connected enough to reality who discover the Matrix. What they see is that there are two worlds now. One is evil, and it depends on control and deception. It is an unreal world. The other is the real world, even though it would not be seen as such by those caught up in the Matrix. There is a great deal of religious symbolism in the film, and it picks up on the biblical theme of the kingdom of God and its opposition to the kingdom of evil. In the movie, Morpheus tries to explain the Matrix and says to Neo: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
In the same way, we live in the real world while so many around us are living in a world of deception. Unable to wake from the dream, they only know what they see. They have never known anything different. Our responsibility is to never forget which is the real world and which is fantasy. We are also responsible for rescuing as many as possible of those who are trapped in the Matrix. We live in parallel kingdoms — the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world — and the reality is that we are in one or the other, there is nothing in between. The wheat and weeds are growing together, and will be together, until the end when the chaff is gathered to be burned, and the wheat is gathered into the Father’s barn (Matthew 13:30).

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

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Slippery Slope

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 19:13-16 (NLT)
A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

C.S. Lewis says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Over the years I have seen this take many different forms. There are those that seem to find demons under every rock. Once I had a missionary come and speak to the church I was pastoring at the time (not New Life), and in his sermon he insisted that Christian Rock music was demonic. Since most of my congregation knew that I was saved at a Christian Rock concert (Phil Keaggy) this presented me with a problem. After church I had to pull him aside and insist that he never say that from my pulpit again. However, I have also encountered those from the other side of this slippery slope. Those that see no problem with astrology, spiritism, psychics, and yes, Pokemon cards. Lewis is correct in his assumption that Satan is pleased with either side of this fence. He is pleased with those who pay too much attention to his activities, as well as those who don’t pay enough attention to him. Furthermore, there is another aspect of this discussion that we must address, and that is how we deal with him. We can take him too lightly, like the Sons of Sceva in Acts 19, and find out that we are dealing with someone who has great power. In which case we will be overwhelmed and endanger ourselves and others. Yet we must never put him on the same level as our Lord. His power does not compare to that of God’s, and when we deal with him in God’s power we have nothing to fear. As Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Eph 6:10-11, NLT). Be strong, but be strong in the Lord!

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

Better Equipped

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Acts 18:25-26 (NLT)

25 He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about Johns baptism. 26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

 When Tina and I were in Bible college we were pretty popular people. However, the reason we were so popular had to do with theology. You see we were one of the few Pentecostals on campus as we attended a non-Pentecostal school. As a result, whenever anyone had questions about the Holy Spirit or charismatic activity (which usually centered around speaking in tongues) they came to us for answers. Well recently I discovered that not much has changed in the nearly 20 years since we attended college, because I still get responses from former classmates on Facebook about Pentecostal theology. Often times they begin their message with “I need some Pentecostal prayer,” or something to that nature. However, very recently I have been contacted by a couple from college that is actually attending an Assemblies of God church in Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, they are having some struggles with our teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and more specifically, speaking in tongues. Both of them are having a hard time because they misunderstand what we mean concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To them it seems that we are saying that if you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit then you don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. However, that is not the case at all. On the contrary, we believe that everyone receives the Holy Spirit at conversion, and we refer to his a regeneration. But we also believe that there is another work of the Holy Spirit which is separate and subsequent to salvation. This second work, called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is for empowerment for ministry. One of the great illustrations of this belief comes from the story of Apollos in Acts 18. In this chapter Apollos is referred to as an enthusiastic and gifted speaker who taught about Jesus accurately. Yet it also tells us that he only knew about the baptism of John, a baptism of water. When Priscilla and Acquila meet him it says that they “explained the way of God more accurately.” The reason that I believe that this had to do with the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that in the next chapter Paul encounters some disciples of John the Baptist who only knew about John’s baptism and had never heard of the Holy Spirit. So Paul lays hands on them and they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the fact that they spoke in tongues. So what I am saying is this, Apollos was a gifted speaker who had great zeal for the Gospel, but after learning about and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit he was better equipped for ministry. That’s the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it better equips us to do God’s work.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark