Book of Shadows

The Bible is our guide, spiritual and practical, to everything we will ever face. It not only tells us about God and who He is. I grew up singing songs like ‘every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line.’ It meant that when God worked something out for someone in the pages of the Bible. I too have a chance for his help if I trust and love Him as they did.He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The Word, the Word in the days of the apostles does not work in this day.

  64-0112  William Marrion Branham

    I was taught to value someone else’s words over the Bible. I had thought that without his version of the story or filter to read it through that I couldn’t read God’s Word or receive his mercy. He would repeat and repeat that we needed him to be able to read between the lines and see what God was saying to this specific day and age, that God’s word didn’t mean anything to us without his translation. The issue being when we replace God’s words with man’s words, it is then a slippery slope to replacing God with man. If we’ve already compromised on the words that gave us the power in those situations, then the person behind the words is just as interchangeable.

Only one being has the power to change our situation. He’s not buried in Jeffersonville or the middle east; he’s risen. Taking anyone but Christ on that level of reference substitutes the only man to have ever conquered the grave. We can not have anything else before god: no gods, no idols, no men.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. – Paul – II Timothy 3:16

Living in Faith’s Shadow

I said, “If they don’t know abc, how am I going to teach them algebra? If they don’t know kindergarten, don’t know how to behave themselves, don’t know how to look, and act, and dress, and be decent, how you going to teach them prophetic things?”  61-1224 – Sirs, We Would See Jesus

William Marrion Branham

Have you ever been afraid to go to the bathroom during a class? You convince yourself that the teacher will be bothered by your request. Someone will think you have to go all the time. You’ll be a disturbance. On and on. But now you’re not getting anything from the lesson because you’re completely distracted. If you had simply asked, and gone, it would be over you would be focused and learning again, but now the imagined peer pressure and fear is keeping you from peace and learning. It seems funny, but how many of us have used the same exact thing to talk ourselves of asking for understanding with church and our spiritual walk.

There are those that teach in a way to encourage us to ask questions. When a teacher is so well versed not only in the subject but also in all the ways they at one time didn’t understand the material, it makes for an amazing source for us to come to and learn from. There are also those teachers that write it out on the board exactly as it was explained to them and make eye contact with us and tell us now if you can’t understand something as simple as this the first time, you’re in the wrong class. No one would dare raise their hand and ask for clarification at that point.

Whether it was about the workings of automobiles or the scripture I loved having people to go to and open up to and learn from. So when I took on the youth ministry and faced a classroom of almost 20 teenagers full of questions, I knew I needed to know my stuff better than ever. So that if I ever didn’t have the answer I would know where to point them so we could learn it together. I dug through my Bible, my study books, my translations, every discourse I could find. I wanted to know more about God’s word, and I wanted to teach them everything I could.

Almost immediately I ran into walls, things I wasn’t supposed to question, or things that was just how it was supposed to be. The amount of times that despite my questions they would angrily point back to the chalk board and say I should already understand. I had questions but was told to place it on the shelf and pray about it, or even that the elect would know since it was spoken to them. Here I was as a youth pastor quickly becoming afraid to ask about things I didn’t know lest someone think me unsaved. I began feeling not only insecure in my own salvation, but I was worried about my ability to teach those in my class.

Shadow Puppets

Faith is our substance, the hope of His plans for us. Yet without proper direction it can be a self made stumbling block rather than leading us to Christ. My son doesn’t fear the things that I’ve explained to him; he fears the unknown, imagined bad guys of stories and fables. He fears the big bad wolf hiding in his room because daddy cannot show proof of it leaving, since it never existed. Yet the loudest power tool in my hands as I show him how it’s intended to be used instills awe and some adventure, as he knows I would never allow something to harm him. I hold the power to either build a sense of wonder into my son or a sense of fear. So when I tell you I have seen this very thing inside the churches I was raised in, those of us that preached there used it well. We would use fear to get obedience from the faithful. See when someone has faith in what you say, hope in what you preach, there better be a substance there, otherwise you’re just selling snake oil.

“…fail on one thing, and see what happens, the Spirit will leave you right there. That’s what’s happened to our churches, failed.” 64-1212 – The Harvest Time – William Marrion Branham

I lived my life worried that God would be around every corner ready to strike on my short comings instantly. It didn’t matter how many times I looked under the proverbial bed and saw that the Bible held no monsters for me. When I sat in the pew and listened to the sermons, I was taught to fear myself. My sins would limit what God could do in my situation, hinder the prayers of not just myself but those around me, and cost the church the revival we sought. I was walking on eggshells rather than experiencing the freedom Christ provides. When Proverbs 15:29 or John 9:31 came across the pulpit or in the pastor’s study it was not to show us how close and near our God was to those that love Him. It was to make sure we knew that a single misstep might separate us from our redeemer.

When I was worried more about the approval of my pastor, rather than that of my Heavenly Father, I jumped through any hoop put in front of me. The Bride is in the pew reverently thirty minutes early? No problem. Tithes is required, but the blessings really come with giving beyond 10%. Anything for God and His church.We can all look back and cringe at the things done in the name of the church. I remember reading about the Children of Israel and thinking how on earth could they fall for that, all while wandering my own wilderness claiming to hear from God directly. Consider this. The fruits of the spirit are not tithe paying, attendance, dress codes, recruitment, etc. In fact the closer, we get to God it says the fewer laws needed at all. The gift Christ gave was to all freely: no terms and conditions, no middle men, no mark up.

Jumping at Shadows

Texas, I believe there is one place in Texas, where they haven’t had a rain for three years. And just think of that. Now, all this is bound to speak of something. It’s just can’t be, just say, “Well, it’s just a coincidence. It just merely happened that way or just to be.” I don’t believe that. I believe that everything has to move according to God’s will for it to move. And now these things are for a purpose.

53-1018 – Elijah – William Marrion Branham

I’ve spoken before about the level of spiritualism I was raised to believe in. From a stalled car being The Devil trying to steal my victory to the traffic delay being God keeping me from some accident. Most would laugh at these things, like clamoring about seeing Christ on their toast. For us in the Message however, we saw a constant tugging at our souls in these ‘coincidences.’ When you’re taught that the demons and angels are constantly at war around you, that stray thoughts or doubts can make the difference in our salvation, you don’t laugh; it becomes a very serious matter. Growing a goatee almost cost me my class, as facial hair was a spirit of a sex symbol working through me. The pastor’s choice of topics showed what God had found the church backsliding in that week. It quickly becomes a mental state to see everything as the direct action of an angry God of justice or a benevolent God of blessings.

I remember the self-deprecating checklists I would go through when my car wouldn’t start. Had I paid my tithes? Had I missed a service at church when I could have made it? Had I doubted something? Instead of wondering about the very real mechanical issues going on, I had been conditioned to look at myself trying to weed out anything the church didn’t approve of. Even my own father, when he was called for a meeting with our pastor, would ask me and double check that there was nothing in my life that he needed to know before meeting with our spiritual leader. This ignorance of the real world issues while focusing on the self-created issues will be a pattern to notice as we continue this lesson.

I often wonder how I could have ever believed it all. So I want to use the next few lessons to show how when improperly balanced, we can distort scriptures and quotes to create a literal fear of God instead of a reverence for his love. Scriptures I now know to be uplifting and reassuring were once filled with judgement and condemnation. Learning to find that balance really did make the Bible into a new book, and walking away from the overactive spiritualism has changed everything in my walk with Christ.

After Prayer

Rule number one of salvation: we blew it already. He gave us one rule, and we broke the paradise we were given. As Christians, we know every single time that we pray, we are asking for answers that are not owed to us. I’ve spent hours of my life praying, because I wanted to show Him my sincerity and my faith, to fill the uncomfortable silence, to earn His answer. Yet many times, we have to face the fact that we either don’t get an answer or one we didn’t like. Major events like job changes, moving, and so many others are submitted to prayer request boards and receive promises of “I’ll pray for you” in the Christian community, yet in planning my words here, lessons, or answering your questions, I have to go back to reread the words He already gave us. Knowing the stories, the ins and outs of the Bible, as fully as I did in my path from the Message to here, having doctrines and verses memorized and reading His Word cover to cover dozens of times, I forget how much He has already taught us. We become so stuck on this idea of needing something new and fresh for every single issue we face that we forget the Words that have remained powerful throughout the millennia. I forget the comfort of learning God’s word because it is translated and transcribed by men, missing that He has to have intended the wording to adjust over and over to fit our needs, to reach all of us as our languages changed, similar to the names of Jehovah or the Trinity used to explain the many titles for God.  Often, in the Bible, God’s men only had to pray to get answers in real time, but it didn’t always work out so simply for them.  Mary and Martha didn’t get the answer to their prayers until they had already buried their brother. How many times do we give up after an hour of no change in our situation? I know I do.

As out of place as it sounds, one of the verses that gives me the most comfort, that tells me to handle the now, is found at the end. While the Bible is full of the open-to-close examples of God working in lives,sometimes I want to know that He’s still beside me, despite the absence of a dew covered fleece or a burning bush., I just need to know there’s something after, a reason to keep going, that he takes care of all things, in the end. Revelations 21:4

Removed the High Places

Returning to God has always come at a cost. In the scripture we find King Hezekiah coming to power in chapter 18, needing to enact some things declaring whose side he was on. Becoming king at the age of 25 he’d been involved in the government for years seeing the direction of Israel without being in control of it. He began removing the high places and even destroyed the bronze serpent made by Moses himself. The Bible tells us he clung to the Lord doing that which was right.

This Bible story took on new life to me as I came into a much better control of my life around the same age. Sure I had been married and working and living on my own for years now but spiritually I had allowed others to take the lead for me. For the first time I was taking ownership and had choices to make. Do I continue to follow in the footsteps of my father? Do I forsake what I was raised in? Remembering dealing with so many questions put me in a foul mood. So I went to my garage for some busy work. Cleaning out areas that hadn’t been touched in a while and finding things that brought back waves of anger and bitterness. I thought all of these old high places were removed and here I was holding things that used to have such value to me. I had to blink back the tears from the hurt and anger rushing in on me.

For Hezekiah it was removing those places of worship for other gods his father had built. Removing the altars and cutting down the groves didn’t change the landscape of these desirable places. Meaning that on occasion I’m sure he found himself walking along the familiar paths only to be confronted by his past once more. Standing there most likely remembering times with family now understood for what it really was; Idolatry.

For me it was a simple piece of cloth found tucked away for safekeeping. We’d been told that our Prophet himself had prayed over it so many years ago, giving it healing attributes if our faith could hold to it. I remembered being sick and this simple piece of cloth and all it stood for bringing me comfort. I remembered the day I realized the scam behind it and how I had been taught to place my faith in a simple piece of cloth rather than in Christ. Here I was holding the same cloth. A very different man.

So for all of you dealing with the memories and stored nightmares still lurking. The buildings you hate passing, the streets you avoid, the songs that give you anxiety. I understand. Like Hezekiah we again stand in those high places and can do nothing else but praise the One True God for setting us free from the bondage of inanimate objects. Even if it’s something made by a  prophet, the high places must be destroyed.

Not Just a Miracle Worker

John 11:21

How many prayers have we started by asking God why he didn’t save us from misery? If you had helped me, this wouldn’t have happened. So many times, we learn of Lazarus as a story of resurrection, of Jesus’ miracles. But, knowing of his friend’s illness and death, Jesus delayed his journey for two days. He told his disciples he was going to wake Lazarus up, and they thought that he must be sleeping. Jesus however intended to raise him from the dead so that he could show them more than healing. His disciples needed to see Him overcome death itself.  Those with Lazarus kept watching the horizon looking for Jesus to appear. Each morning, they were hoping this would be the one that Jesus would come and heal his friend as he had healed so many before The only plan they saw was a miracle and assumed that any friend of Jesus’ would be protected from death. They believed that Jesus would show up, and if Jesus showed up, their brother would be made well.

    As Christians, we want sometimes for our relationship with our Father to grant us privileges or to see Him do things for us because we know Him.  I was raised thinking I had something special with God. I had to learn the hard way that while God has always been there for me he is not at my beck and call. I can remember all too well the times that I sat, as Jonah did, waiting for judgement to come to his enemies. Christ is not a weapon for me to aim at someone. He is the one exposing me to all those inconvenient pieces of myself that get in the way of showing love to my neighbors. As we want to shake the dust off and draw our weapon on others, He is trying to show us how he loved us, before we deserved it. He never comes when and how we want. He is just always what we need.

When our Love runs out

Isaiah 43:2

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

God has never once promised an easy life to us, asking only that we bear our burdens and stand firm in our faith. He never said it would be without pain, only that we would not be alone, ever. On the hardest of weeks, I am reminded that I can not fight with those around me or give out the weight I am carrying to make my own load lighter. I have to love those that work against me, which is His hardest test of all. I want to bring Peter’s sword and defend myself and my Lord, but He first loved us as we are to first love those around us. Today, I just wanted to share the love that He gives me, to find my strength in Him, and to always love others, even when I’m not sure how. I am only human, yet God has always loved me.

The Christ of Inconvenience

As Christians we have always seemed to miss the point God is making because of our own personal expectations of His love and plan for our lives. In Jesus’ time, we  know how many of the traditionalist Jews struggled to see the son of God right there in front of them because he didn’t fit their traditionally taught image of the Messiah. He was disruptive to every religious group he found, because he wanted them to see and receive the grace he was offering. The best known piece of this was the Pharisees, who followed every obscure tradition they could get their hands on in an attempt to lead the Jews to salvation, riding the wave of power that it provided. In many situations, we see Jesus and those following him clash with them, pushing back against the traditions and judgements they made that got in the way of God’s love.

The Pharisees tried time and again to trap Jesus with their rules and into the old traditions that they enforced. One of the most blatant examples of this was when they threw the adulterous woman in front of a crowd in one of his sermons and told him, as though he didn’t know, that the law of Moses required that she be stoned. They were most likely trying to get him to violate Jewish law by saying she shouldn’t be stoned or Roman law by saying it should be done without a lawful trial.  Their conviction to prove that the real Christ would bring down fire and judgement on those who fell short of the many laws was a misplaced one. Jesus simply put them off with writing in the dirt, trying to show love outweighed the stones in their hands. All He said was, let he that is without sin cast the first stone, knowing that this would trap them; He admitted to the Jewish law calling for punishment but prevented them from action knowing their hearts. Every one of the Pharisees began to slip away without further disruption leaving the woman for him to condemn, but Jesus was not looking to condemn her. Often times, we are taught this lesson as a way to forgive each other and to look past our sins to the bigger picture and to God’s plan. However, Jesus, himself, didn’t fit in so well with the church leadership, because he believed in love first. To the Pharisees, they believed that they knew His plan, that they were truly helping the people to come closer to God through purity and obedience. How a man claiming to be God incarnate could not bring the judgement and authority they believed in didn’t make sense to them. .The religious authorities then as now had stopped listening to God’s plan of love and faith in the Lord, preferring to judge the people and impose man-made standards. The Son of God didn’t fit in with religious authorities; we should need to concern ourselves with our own spiritual walk rather than the expectations of others.

Shake the Dust off

(Matthew 10:14-15)

We find comfort in the standards that we hold ourselves and our fellow Christians to: how we dress and how we act when we come to see the Lord in His house. But many times, I’ve seen this applied to newcomers, to those who aren’t even sure of their basic faith let alone a dress code. They could not possibly know the restraint that we’ve taught ourselves, so rather than welcoming their eagerness, we judge based on rules they never knew. Jesus of Nazareth was a Middle Eastern nomad travelling with a pack of less than upstanding men who rarely bathed or changed clothes, claiming to speak the Word of God. He would have been filthy to us, obnoxiously vocal, and more than likely we would have avoided sitting next to Him in a pew from smell alone. Remember that organized religion at this time was the Temple at Jerusalem, to us it would have seemed as structured as a rehearsed play: everyone had their places and knew their roles. I’ve been in many services where a man like that, or a whole family, would be escorted out by the deacons for disrupting service and worship, at times for saying amen too much, my own father doing so by request of the pastor. Seeing these “disruptions” bothered me, even before I knew why. Surely God was in the service and that needed respect, but how was it right to evict someone from the house of God? I wondered then as I wonder now if we as a church ever lost a chance to bring someone to Christ, because we were too busy throwing him out unawares.

Jesus was disruptive, first and foremost, to every religious group he found, because they led by human intention having structured the inspiration of God right out. He seized every opportunity he found to teach them, to save them, and to bring them back to that personal relationship with Him. He, as a newcomer and a foreigner to every church he walked into, taught the people with the Word of God. To the priests and leadership, this was a man who was pretending to understand God’s Word in a way only church leadership was ordained to do. When he got inside, he changed lives and worked miracles, to accredit himself as the Son of God and to then give them a true representation of God’s love directly man to man. Before he left, he would make sure to disturb the misplaced opinions of the church leadership and teach them what was expected of them from His teachings. Jesus came to be the man beside us in the pew, to remind us that a personal relationship with God was always the goal, with God’s love. Yet the Son of God would be turned away now because he was disruptive of our status quo. How many times have we missed a lesson in His love because we were too afraid of who may be on the other side to answer the door when someone knocks?