Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry


The other morning as I was trying to wake out of a deep sleep, I had to wade through a dream. Granted, dreams can be a combination of something you watched on TV, something you have been or are involved with, something you ate, a part of your body complaining about some discomfort, or the fragments of memories coming together that ultimately never make any real sense. Most dreams flit across the screen of your mind like clouds that will quickly dissipate as the fog of the mind lifts to allow you to connect to the present to face the light of a new day.

      For me, I classify my dreams. For example: I classify some as silly nonsense, identify that a certain part of my body was trying to get attention so that I would address it in some way, or perhaps something of an unseen nature is being disrupted about my rest. However, occasionally God uses a dream to show me something that I am to meditate on as a means to examine my life or discern the environment around me.

      Peter in Acts 2:16-17 was actually quoting a prophesy from Joel 2:28-27 concerning the last days when he said this, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”  First thing we must note is that in spite of living in the dispensation of grace or the church age for over 200 centuries, Peter made it clear that Pentecost marked the “last days.”

      The purpose of the Spirit being poured out is to ensure the integrity of the prophecy that would go forth. There are two definitions of prophecy: foretelling which is seeing future events and forthtelling which is contending for the faith of the saints according to where they are, through anointed preaching, exhortation, warning, and wrestling for the true faith that was first delivered to the saints (Jude 3, 20-25)

      We are told that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and show us what will come. He will teach us what we need to know, give us gifts to carry out our commission, the power to enable us to stand, unfeigned truth to withstand, and vision to see a matter through until the promise or inheritance can be obtained (John 13:16; 1 Corinthians 12:3-14; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 John 2:27).

      One morning, recently, Jeannette and I were talking about entertainment. The world is like a big circus with different activities going on in different arenas. Some happenings are done by people hiding behind clown outfits to make people laugh while they may be crying inside, angry at the world or hiding. You have the sensational trapeze acts, the suspenseful highwire acts, the daring acts that involve wild animals, and  so forth. When you consider what we feed on, entertainment would be boring if there was not drama, tension, suspense, twists, turns, and bad and evil people to bring some kind of contrast or sense of justice. Although, the world clamors for peace, such a presentation would never fly in the case of entertainment. People want to be stirred up in some way. Whether it is emotional drama, rousing aggressive devotion in competition, or a type of sensationism that causes one to swing from branches of fantasy and perversion, unfairness that requires some type of crusade to be mounted, or causes that can be easily taken up in the name of loyalty and honor.

      As we considered what one source makes entertainment attractive, popular, and sensational, we were brought down to the one factor that causes man to scurry around the edges of darkness, run in and out of the shadows of wickedness, and plot evil in the night of great mischief, and that is SIN. Take sin out of the equation, whether it is the sin of competitive pride, greed, power, wealth, the preference for darkness because deeds are evil, the endless detours of suspense because of evil plans, or the yoyo effect of drama upon our emotions due to the wicked games and undermining of others, and you would not have entertainment. In fact, people would find peaceful entertainment a bore and would find more excitement by reading the one book that does not have to stir up imagination, emotions, or cause sensationism because it simply presents the ways, possibilities, and failures of mankind, and that book is the Bible.

      I don’t know about you but I have found the stories of the Bible real, thought provoking, and moving. It is clear that the good guy doesn’t always come out on top in God’s Word, but the bad guy will ultimately lose in the end. The good does not win all of the battles, but in the end, they will be on the winning side of the war. At times everything seems upside down in this world, but God is using the losses, the despair, and the hopelessness to test, prepare, and enable His people to stand, withstand and continue to stand in this age until He comes to turn everything up to the right side.

      How many of us would find life very boring if sin was missing? We want peace, but there is only one true peace and that occurs through reconciliation between God and man. This peace is a matter of the inner being and not the outer environment. The world will never know such peace because it is at war with God. Man in his carnal state can never know peace because he is at war with his conscience and the Spirit of God. Nations can’t know peace because there are always tyrants that want to use the armies and power of such nations to subdue others in order to reign over the whole world. There are the despots and lawless of societies that couldn’t care less about the wellbeing of others because they are ruthless in their pursuits. We can go on and on but there will be no peace on earth until the Prince of Peace rules, and when He rules it will be with a rod of iron to put down all rebellion. Nations who fail to abide by His requirements in the millennium will face drought, and without war there will be no excuse to justify sin, as well as no vain pursuit to seek meaning, happiness, and purpose because of the misery left behind by sin’s bruising and wounding (Zechariah 14:17; Luke 4:18-19; John 14:27; Galatians 5:17; James 4:4; Revelation 2:27).

      This brings me back to my dream. It was simple but it started out with what appeared to be concession stands where people came and could buy things; however, there seemed to be a few inconsistencies with some of the booths. There were a couple of booths promoting religion, but what they were selling caused them to appear worldly and hypocritical. I have to admit, I was a bit confused by the message they were handing out because of what they were selling. I assume the message was the Gospel, but what they were selling was very worldly and unbecoming to the message.

      The next thing I became aware of is that all the land upon which the concession stands stood had been sold to someone else. I expected that all the concession stands had to be taken down, but the new owner assured everyone it was not necessary. The next thing I noticed is that a big painted cardboard was being moved in front of all the concession stands. I realized that nothing had changed about the activities of the booths except the presentation. The fake cardboard made the booths look more attractive, successful, and acceptable to the world. I was once again reminded that in today’s world it is not about what is real, genuine, or true; rather, it is all about optics, the outward presentation of something. Such a false presentation is a type of flattery that takes the eye captive while dulling the senses as to the lack that will produce tasteless, lifeless, disappointing fruit in the end. You can have quantity without quality. You can have religion without righteousness; piousness without true devotion; and acceptable images that hide every type of perversion imaginable.

      I was a bit shaken by the whole mirage that had been erected in my mind. Does this represent my Christianity? Do I have the appearance of godliness while lacking the power to live it? As I was wrestling with whether this was a representation of my Christian life, or perhaps it represented the worldly environment that seems to exist in the visible church of America today, I finally woke up from my dream.

      When a dream has reality attached to it to such a point that you remember it, it might be well to take note of it. After all, the Lord will be speaking to His people in the last days with dreams and visions. Granted, they must be properly interpreted but in some cases the interpretation is clear.

      The Apostle Paul warned us that in the last days there would be those who would have a form of godliness but lack the power to live it and from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:5). The appearance would be nothing more than a painted cardboard, hiding the lack of quality when it came to the real matters of heaven.

      I began to wonder if there was some type of theme behind the fake image that covered up the quality of the booths behind it. As I was thinking about the power in every believer’s life, the Holy Spirit, I was reminded why we have been given such power in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” 

      We have been given power to serve as witnesses in this world. As believers, we have the light of the world in us, but Jesus must be lifted up in our lives. We can’t hide the light under some bushel because of fear or under a bed of laziness because we refuse to be entrusted with shining the light in the darkness of our age. We must let the light of Christ shine in and through us in order to show forth works ordained before the foundation of the world to bring well-deserved glory to the Father (Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 8:16-17).

      To be a witness of the Lord and His great work of redemption points to being an epistle, a martyr, a vessel that carries goods, an instrument that declares what is so, and an ambassador that officially represents the interests of his or her kingdom. As living epistles, the Holy Spirit has written the words of life on our very heart and we are empowered through submission to the Spirit to physically walk them out before others (2 Corinthians 3:2-4).

      As a martyr, we are walking towards our demise in order to bring credibility to our witness. A life of self-denial and the cross shows we are living sacrifices consecrated for the purpose of doing the will of the Father. Like Abel who though dead, left a witness that cried from the earth, we are meant to leave a witness behind us as we move forward by faith to become part of the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1 (Matthew 16:24-26; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 11:4).

      As a clay vessel we carry the very life of Christ that is to be poured into others and as His instrument, we are to declare His words of life and hope. When it comes to being an ambassador, we bring the ministry of reconciliation to those seeking a greater citizenry among those who show forth the loving heart of God (Romans 6:13-16; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; 5:18-20).

      We may be born into the circus of the world, but we do not have to be part of its arenas. We need to take heart and realize we are not here to entertain people by hiding behind silly veneers, trying to defy the dangers of this life by doing daring feats, walking tightropes across some great canyon to cause suspense, or accomplishing the impossible to attract people to redemption. We are here to simply be the hands, the mouthpiece, and the feet of Jesus as we offer to the seeking, hungry soul that which is impossible to imagine, proving to be satisfying to the soul and eternal in scope.

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The Goal of Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples in compliance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

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