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Matthew 13
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
There are two main points that I would like to emphasize in these passages.
1)  The field is the world
As Christians, we are instructed by our Lord to become fishers of men or to be soul-winners.
Everyday as we go to work, school, the grocery store, or wherever life takes us, we are in the harvest field. I’ve seen churches with signs in the parking lot as you are driving away to  the local restaurant that say, ” YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE HARVEST FIELD.”    You can’t find a statement that is more factual than that!
Matthew 9 Jesus said,
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
2)  The harvest is the end of the age
In the above passage Jesus is talking about the separating of the true believers and unbelievers at the end of the age. There will be a great harvest in the last days. This started me to thinking about the elderly. They are truly in the last days of their lives here on earth. What better harvest field than to reach those who are the closest to being harvested by the angels? Like the weeds in this parable thrown into eternal fire, or to live in the presence of God forever.
I’ve had the pleasure to lead a few elderly people to the Lord over the years, when I did it brought great joy to my spirit to know that they are now are ” shining like the sun in the kingdom of their father.”
     The following is one of my experiences:
In November of 2010, I was at work, my day was almost over and I started to feel an aching pain in my lower stomach. I had battled with diverticulitis in the past and thought that this was just another bout with the disease, where food can get caught in pockets in the intestines causing infection and pain. I went home and after a few hours the pain was becoming worse. I went to the ER and they found that my lower colon had burst and that I would eventually need surgery to remove 18 inches of my lower colon. The Doctor told me, I was lucky that I came in, because the infection was really bad and I could have died. After a week in the hospital I went home and was told to heal up and that I should have the surgery in a few months so that the inflammation would heal up before pursuing operating on me. As it turned out I didn’t have to wait that long.
     On December 22nd I was sick again, this time it was my gall bladder, it need to be removed.  After talking with the surgeon with my family present at the time, I decided to go ahead and have the surgery on Christmas eve. They were going to remove 18″ of my lower colon, my gall bladder and have my belly button hernia all repaired in the same surgery. Needless to say, I wasn’t having a good time and the holidays weren’t so Merry.
     I did however find a reason to rejoice. When I was admitted on the 22nd, there was an elderly man in the bed next to mine, he was on some kind of machine that seemed like it was helping him breathe. As I was resting in my bed I heard the doctor say to him, ” Mr. Antoinette,  It doesn’t look very good for you and you may want to make sure you take care of things fast.”  At first I couldn’t believe I heard the doctor say that loud enough that I could hear it, but I was startled by the unusual Italian name that I had only heard once before in my life. One of my best friends from middle school turned out to be his son. Immediately the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to approach him about his eternity. So I used the reason that I knew his son’s from my past, as an opportunity to approach him. He told me that Pete and Tony ( the older brother) are his sons . I told him that I heard what the doctor said to him and that if he wasn’t sure about where he’d go after this life, that he could know for sure. He started telling me that he was a choir boy and things like that, but I told him that was all good, but there is only one way that we can make it to heaven and that is through the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. I asked him, because I knew that his time was short, if he would like to accept Jesus Christ and be forgiven of his sins. Praise God he said YES!!  He prayed with me and accepted Christ into his heart!!   A few hours later, with his sons by his side, they moved him to another room, so that he would be alone as he passed from this world. On his way out he had the nurses stop at my bed, I grabbed his arm and I told him” the Lord is with you Mr. Antonetti.” He died a about a half hour later.
     The next day his son came to the hospital and thanked me and gave me his fathers cross that he was wearing. I know Mr. Antonetti’s  with the Lord right now, and that God divinely had me in the right place to help harvest him into eternity. We are God’s mouthpiece and he can use us in any situation we are in. We just need to remember that we are ALWAYS IN THE HARVEST.-George Jones
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Acts:1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me[a] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Jesus was in the business of spreading good news, the gospel.  The Gospels of Luke and Acts have the same author, Dr. Luke, one of the twelve apostles.  The Book of Acts is a continuation of the gospel message in Luke’s gospel, not a separate group of stories.  What Jesus began in His earthly ministry He continues through the work of His church in Acts.  Luke tells the story of the first three years of the gospel and Acts tells the next 30 years of the gospel being taken to the ends of the earth.

The gospel message has 2 parts, water baptism (repentance), and Spirit baptism (empowerment).  A gospel of repentance only without the power is a partial and incomplete gospel.  Paul predicted a time when the church would have a form of Godliness, but would deny the power of God.  In recent years, I have seen the rise of a gospel that de-emphasizes repentance and focuses on God’s power.  Jesus told of this kind of thing happening in the last days in Matthew 7.  We need both repentance and power in our lifestyle and our message.  Without both, our message is incomplete.

The apostles had a burning question for their risen Lord, “…will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus replied, “…it is not for you to know…”   When did this command of Jesus get cancelled?  Nearly every false cult has started with a “fresh revelation” of the end time events.  Many revival movements have been distracted and derailed from their calling by a fascination with last days signs.  While it is healthy to be familiar with end time bible prophecies, it is not our focus.

Our focus should be receiving God’s power to be His witnesses and taking His gospel to the ends of the earth.  We have a calling, a mission that is clearly laid out in scripture.  We don’t need a new prophetic word to go and be witnesses, His written word has given us our directive.

The first part of the gospel is to get right with God.  The second part of the gospel is to be His witness and spread the good news everywhere.  We have a God-given mission.  Let’s be about our Father’s business. -Jeff Burke

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Jesus compared our experience with His Spirit to an artesian well that just bubbles up from underground. Living on the west coast of Florida, we are surrounded by rivers that originate from freshwater springs.

These springs are continuously flowing and are very clean and pure because of the source, the aquifer. Some of this water found its way there over a hundred years ago. We can only live in true holiness when God is our source. Are you walking in the Spirit?

The temperature of this water is also consistent, regardless of the weather and outside environment. It’s not hot one day or cold the next. It stays in the low 70’s at all times. The proper response to every circumstance is faith, not emotion or feelings. Our circumstances will change like the weather, but our faith should not. In every situation we can say, “it is well with my soul.”

There is a natural attraction to these springs to enjoy swimming, tubing, kayaking, fishing, and diving. When we are in the flow of God’s Spirit people will seek us out for prayer, comfort, peace, healing, and God’s love. Get in the river and be His answer in the lives of others who are lost without God. People are hungry and thirsty for this life we live in God’s presence. Tell someone today how great it is to live this Christian life and invite them to jump into the river.

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There was a movement called gnosticism in the early church.  They taught an extreme view that everything physical is evil and everything spiritual is good.  The book of 1 John was written to counter their false teaching that taught that Jesus did not have a physical body.  They also believed that they did not have to confess their sins since Jesus had already paid for them.  This doctrine is being promoted today internationally by a popular television minister.  It saddens me to see God’s people deceived so easily.  This is what Jesus describes as lawlessness in Matthew 7.  The antichrist is known by the title, “The Man of Lawlessness.”  I’ve been asking the Lord, “Could this be the great falling away?”

Believers are freed from the ceremonial and governmental Old Testament Laws, but we have a responsibility to obey God’s moral laws.  That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “…forgive us…”

How can good, well-meaning believers, even leaders and ministers of the Gospel be so easily deceived by the enemy?  Listed below are the steps that lead to false teaching and an unbalanced church.

Step #1.   A De-emphasis of God’s Word.  Experience begins to take priority over the teaching of God’s word.  In the beginning it sounds like this, “We had such a good service, the preacher didn’t even get to preach.”    The subtle message communicated to the people is that the study of God’s word is not that important.  For many believers today, the only scripture they get is spoon-fed to them through the pulpit.  We all need to dig God’s word out for ourselves on a daily basis.  Christians who know their bibles are not easily deceived.  The teaching of the entire counsel of God’s word brings spiritual balance to churches and individuals.

Step#2.  Extremism.  Because experience has become the priority, each experience must be greater than the last or the people will lose their fascination with what is happening.  Truths are pushed to unbiblical extremes.  If this means this, then this means that, and so on.  The Pharisees were extremists:  legalists in some matters, lawless in others.  They strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel.  Every demonic false doctrine that deceives and sends people to hell began as a biblical truth taken to an extreme.  People who do not drink the proverbial Kool-Aid the false teacher is giving out are considered lukewarm believers or modern-day Pharisees.  If you attend a church that has primarily taught exclusively on one topic for many months or more than a year, you are in an unbalanced spiritual environment.  We need the entire counsel of God’s word to be spiritually healthy and discerning.

Step#3.  A Spirit of Deception.  In this phase, the new “revelation” replaces the simple understanding of God’s word.  Scriptures that conflict with the new “revelation” are explained away.  Church members who don’t “get it” are looked at with suspicion.  The peer pressure to conform pushes those with honest questions out of the church.  People who don’t adopt the new “revelation” are pronounced to be under a curse from God.  The inner circle of the spiritual leaders becomes smaller and smaller and they become paranoid of anyone who questions their direction.  Those who stay and conform get on a euphoric emotional high to think that God would choose them to deliver this special message from Heaven.  Wise counsel from the outside is shrugged off and rejected.   This group has become what sociologists call a closed social group.  They live in their own reality, distrust other believers, and despise any who question the “revelation.”

Return to a simple walk with God.  Jesus is the standard.  In the Great Commission in Matthew 28, the apostles were commanded by our risen Lord Jesus to go to the whole world and teach everything Jesus taught them during His earthly ministry.  Part of Jesus’ commands is the Lord’s model prayer…. “Forgive us as we forgive …….”    –Jeff Burke

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Do Christians today need to confess their sins?

I heard a television minister this week say that born again believers do not need to confess their sins in prayer to God.  If you are exposed to a ministry that teaches this, you are being taught false doctrine on the most basic level.  I also understand where the misunderstanding originates from, because for many years I struggled with the issue of law and grace.  There are 2 false ideas being taught today:  legalism and lawlessness.

This new idea is that since Christians are no longer under the law, there can be no sin to confess without the law.  This concept is based on a basic misunderstanding of the 3 uses of law throughout scripture:

1) The National Law of Israel.  (Judicial laws for the functioning of a theocracy)

2) The Ceremonial Law (Connected with the Old Covenant system of priesthood and animal sacrifices)

3) God’s Moral Law (The knowledge of sin:  stealing, killing, lying, sexual sin, pride, etc.)

Legalism deals with going back under the ceremonial laws and adding ceremonial law (sacrifices, cleansings, feasts, etc.)  and national law (eye for an eye) to the gospel.  Paul makes his case against legalism in the entire book of Galatians.

Right now, I want to deal with the false teaching of believers not confessing their sin.  This is nothing new.  The early Gnostics taught the same thing (there were 2 basic types of Gnosticism).   Jesus dealt with this false teaching and the writers of the Epistles did also.  They called this error Lawlessness.  Here are some scriptures (NKJV except where noted)  that denounce lawlessness:

Matthew 7:23, And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 13:41, The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness…

Matthew 24:12, And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Matthew 6: 12, And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (NLT)

1 John 1: 8, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

As believers, the bible instructs us to examine ourselves and confess our sins to God and to each other.  The Corinthian church is an example of what happens to a church that stops doing this.  The wrath of God rested on those believers because of unconfessed sins.  Paul’s solution was for them to judge their own sin and confess it so that God would not have to deal with their unconfessed sin in judgment.

Jesus gave us a model prayer to guide our daily prayer life.  Confessing sin is a part of the model Jesus gave us… so we’d better be doing it.  Unconfessed sin in the life of believer will result in hardness of heart and a love that grows cold. The letters to the seven churches in Revelation dealt with this very problem.  Where is this big push for lawlessness inside the church coming from?  2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”  This is nothing less than the spirit of the antichrist creeping into the church and confusing a generation of believers who do not know their bibles.  Stay in the word, examine yourselves daily and confess any revealed sin in your life daily.  Keep short accounts with God and man.  Jesus called this “watching and praying.”  Grace and Peace –  Jeff Burke

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My recent history is that about five years ago I was much too busy, an owner of two companies and a pastor, all while I was turning fifty.  I hit a wall and had a mid-life crisis all at once.  I was burnt out and nearly broke.  I stepped down as pastor, sold one company and closed another.  For over three years our ministry involvement has been minimal and at times it seemed as if the Lord forgot me.

Almost as if a window has opened in heaven,  for the last few weeks, I’ve been getting divine appointments that look like this:  helping launch a friend into full-time ministry, someone giving me Spanish bibles a few days before someone shares a need for them, an impression by the Holy Spirit to give bibles (that I don’t have yet) to a pastor in Pakistan,  speaking a word in season to a friend struggling with major decisions, walking into a homeless ministry office to drop off a book and getting involved with fundraising.  And most of the open doors involve being a resource for the funding of other ministries.  This morning, the Lord gave me a special message to share with our bible study group that has broader applications to the pentecostal and charismatic churches.  I’ll share more about that in a later blog.

Serving God and others is the ultimate meaning of life, whether it’s on a public stage or unseen in the background.  I wake up every day to a new adventure, a new opportunity to serve.  – Jeff Burke

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Through the years, one of our contributions to the lives of others has been sharing our experience as parents of two disabled children with those who find themselves in the same struggle.  As we learned to overcome difficulties through the fight of faith, the lessons learned have been helpful to others also.  On this blog we will be sharing videos on raising disabled children, video bible studies, and inspirational articles.   We will also be sharing ministry opportunities that you can be involved in.  Our prayer is that the message of God’s word will be communicated clearly with all who desire a deeper relationship with God.  This media ministry is not a substitute for the local church.  We attend a local church and support the pastor there.  Jesus said that wherever two or three would gather, that He would show up, and there in that small gathering is the church.  We gather together through the miracle of the world wide web to encourage one another and strengthen the local churches.   – Jeff Burke

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