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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time And Eternity

Genesis 1:5,14 - And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. . . . And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Revelation 10:6 - And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

Revelation 21:23-25 - And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

Have you ever thought about the fact that there is a sense in which we are already living in eternity?

Time came into existence in the context of eternity.  Time did not interrupt eternity. Eternity is the backdrop for all of time.  Eternity is always there, it is an ever present reality.  Everything we do impacts eternity because we are living it.  This is why we have the exhortations of scripture to live for eternity.  This is why Ecclesiastes warns of the danger of under the sun living.

There is a stark contrast to be noted in this connection.

Time against the backdrop of eternity is next to nothing.  It is the presence of the finite in the context of the infinite!  That is all of time.  Now think about our lives consisting of 70 years in the context of 6,000 years. We only live about .011 of the total time allotted so far.  If our lives only consist of .011 of the total sum of time so far, what must our lives look like in the context of eternity?  What must one year look like?  What must one day look like?

Our lives are about as close to nothing as you can get in the context of eternity and, yet, the choices of that infinitesimal life span have major consequences throughout eternity.

The reality is that something as small and insignificant as the lives we live has a major impact on eternity!  The reason is because every day is not just a 24 hour time period it is a slice of eternity.  Therefore every slice carries the weight of eternity!  The whole is reflected in the part.  A slice of the infinite is well….infinite! Could it be that much is made of the proper use of time in the Scripture not only because of its brevity, but because of what it represents?

2 Peter 3:8 - But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Psalms 90:4 - For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

We are living for eternity because we are living in eternity.  The question becomes are we living and making choices in light of eternity or are we simply living from day to day with little awareness that every day is a slice of eternity and carries the full weight of the infinite!  Are we living solely in the context of time without realizing that time itself has a context?

Time is crucial because it represents our opportunity to do something with eternity!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Words Of Wisdom From Abraham Lincoln

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attakcs made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

He Forgave Because He Remembered

Psalms 78:38,39 - But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.  For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Psalms 78 is a record of Israel's unbelief, pride, and rebellion in the face of God's deliverance, provision, and faithfulness.  Their sins were aggravated because their mercies were multiplied.

A sampling of their sins:

"They kept not the covenant of God"
They "forgat his works"
"They spake against God"
"They believed not in God"
"They flattered him with their mouth"
"The lied unto him with their tongues"
"Their heart was not right with him"
"They turned back and tempted God"
"They limited the Holy One of Israel"
"The not . . . they day when he delivered them"
"They kept not his testimonies"

An accounting of their mercies:

"He divided the sea and caused them to pass through"
"In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire"
"He brought streams also out of the rock"
He "rained down manna upon them to eat"
"He guided them in the wilderness like a flock"
"He led them on safely"
"He cast out the heathen before them"
"He made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents"

It is these sobering realities that magnify his forgiveness toward the nation of Israel.  It is not that he did not chastise them for he surely did at times, but he did not destroy him.  In wrath he remembered mercy.

We are told that the LORD was:

"Full of compassion"
"Forgave their iniquity"
"Destroyed them not"
"Many a time turned he his anger away"
He "did not stir up all his wrath"

Why?  What was it that called forth his compassion, promoted his forgiveness, kept him from destroying them, enabled him to turn his anger away many times, and kept him from stirring up all his wrath?

Verse 39 provides the answer.  It is because of what he remembered!

He remembered that they were but flesh.  He remembered that they were but a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.  In a word he remembered their natural infirmity.

It would be good for us to remember about each other what God remembers about us.  That we are but flesh.  If God remembers that in the face of our unfaithfulness to him, surely we can remember that in relation to others transgressions against us.  We have a constant reminder of it in our own being!

If we would remember the right things we would find ourselves more able and ready to be full of compassion, forgive iniquity, refrain from destroying, turn away our anger many times, and not stir up all our wrath.

May God help us to be God-like in this respect!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

The following is from J. R. Miller's Prayer In The Christian Life, (1903)

"It is well for us to learn this lesson--to take everything to God in prayer, to pray as we go from task to task. We may form the habit of putting up little 'sentence prayers' continually.  When you feel an inclination to speak bitterly, or to answer sharply; when you have been stung by another's speech or act; when you are tempted to refuse a request for help, to do some selfish thing, to pass by a human need, to speak an untruth--lift up your heart in the prayer, "Jesus, help me to do Your will."  Or if you meet a sudden temptation and are in danger of being swept away, look up and cry, "Jesus, save me!"  We do not know what we miss--by leaving God out of so much of our life!

We often wonder . . .
why we fail,
why so little comes of our efforts,
why we do not get along better with people,
why we are not happy,
why joy is so lacking in our experience,
why we are so easily fretted and vexed,
why we are so discontented,
why we fall so easily into surliness and bad temper.
       It is because we cease to pray!

Life is not easy for any of us.  We can live nobly, purely, Christly--only by being much with Christ!  We will rob ourselves of Divine blessing, of beauty of character, of power in service--if we fail to make room in all our busy days--for quiet retreats from the noise and strife, where we may sit at Christ's feet--to hear His words, and lie on His bosom that we may absorb His spirit, to prepare us for the toil of the day!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wept Bitterly

Luke 22:62 – And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

The occasion of Peter’s bitter weeping was his third denial of the Lord Jesus Christ the night of his betrayal. Peter’s weeping was made bitter because of two things we are told in verse sixty-one.

“The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” By the time the third denial was slipping off the end of Peter’s tongue Jesus was standing in the courtyard and heard Peter’s cursing, swearing, and denying. I am inclined to think that Peter and Jesus made eye contact. No words needed to be spoken. They both knew. It was a moment of revelation for Peter about Peter.

Verse sixty-one also tells us that “Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Peter had probably thought about those words at least a couple of times already that night; his two previous denials. He no doubt, after each of the previous failures, remembered the words and embraced a new resolve that only evaporated under the blistering threat of what it might mean should he claim to know him.

Peter in his denial betrayed. Judas betrayed him with a kiss, Peter with a curse. Judas betrayed him into the hands of sinners. Peter betrayed him while in the hands of sinners. Of course these two men are as different as night and day. This is revealed in how they addressed their betrayals. Judas went out and hung himself; Peter went out and wept bitterly.

All sin is a betrayal of Christ. In all sin there is a sense in which we are saying “I do not know the man”. We condemn Judas and deservingly. We chastise Peter and consider it appropriate that he would go out and weep bitterly, but do we never feel compelled to weep bitterly over our own sins, our own betrayals. Do we never deny in our own way and realize the Lord is looking? Do we never betray in our own way and never remember the word of the Lord? Do we never weep bitterly over our sin, denials, and betrayal?

This may be too much to ask of a Christianity that has been weaned on feeling good about itself. I don’t think anyone could have consoled Peter that early morning by encouraging him to think about who he was in Christ. Such words would have only intensified his agony. It was exactly because of who he was in Christ that he was so overwhelmed with grief because of what he had done to Christ.

When is the last time we wept bitterly over our sin?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Receiving Sinners??

Luke 15:2 – And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

Jesus is soundly condemned for “receiving” sinner and for “eating” with them. This complaint of the Pharisees and scribes highlights one of their premiere misunderstandings. They did not consider themselves sinners, at least not sinners like other men. They did not realize that while their sins may be different, they were like all men sinners. If they received each other, then they were receiving sinners. If they ate with each other then they were eating with sinners. This was a fundamental truth that they did not acknowledge.

It seems that receiving sinners could be either good or bad. Where there is social interaction the receiving of sinners cannot legitimately be questioned. If sinners are being received to justify their sin, that is a bad thing. If sinners are being received to bring them to repentance, that is a good thing.

The Pharisees and scribes in complaining against Jesus were actually condemning themselves. They received each other in an elite circle of companionship that fed their misunderstanding that they were not sinners like other men.

Jesus was receiving sinners, even to the degree that he was eating with them. The question becomes for what purpose was Jesus receiving sinners?

The rest of the chapter answers the question. It consists of a triad of parables, relating to a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

After the parable of the lost sheep Jesus makes his application by saying in verse seven, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

After the parable of the lost coin Jesus makes his application by saying in verse ten, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

At the conclusion of the parable relating to the lost son we find the father of the parable saying to the bitter son in verse thirty-two, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” When you read the parable it is readily discovered that the lost son repented and that was the occasion of the rejoicing.

Jesus received sinners to call them to repentance and this is a good thing.

Jesus received this sinner and called him to repentance almost 40 years ago, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Imperfect Understanding Of A Perfect Jesus

Jesus is perfect!

Our understanding of him is oftentimes imperfect!

We labour under the presence of our own biases.  Our prejudices concerning different character traits are often imposed upon the Son of God. Therefore some see him as tender with a touch of strength, and others see him as uncompromising with a touch of tenderness.

In Luke 13:34,35 we see Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings. . .”  The pathos of his words are stirring and we are compelled to recognize the tenderness of Jesus toward a city that would not accept him.  Even in verse 35 when he states, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate:” we are likewise compelled to acknowledge the presence of tenderness and yea, even anguish concerning the ultimate judgment of their unbelief.

Before we leave the next chapter (14) we find Jesus pressing a multitude with the demands of discipleship. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  These are uncompromising words.  They leave us edgy and uncomfortable with the demands being pressed upon us.  In verse 28 we are challenged to count the cost.  In verse 31 we are pressed to first to consult whether we have what it takes.

It seems we need be careful about so extolling one aspect of his divine beauty that we diminish other characteristics which are equally divine and glorious.  We must discipline our thinking to appreciate who he is in his totality.

We must rejoice in that fact that he is both uncompromisingly tender and tenderly uncompromising!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Missing Link

Hebrews 11:1-3 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report.  Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Faith is the "missing link". Not a leap in the dark faith, but a faith both reasonable and logical.  Faith is the capacity of the reason to believe things it does not understand.  Faith is not at odds with reason it simply expands the potential of reason.  Faith is not inconsistent with reason; in fact it is a tool of reason.

Simple reason would tell me a several thousand ton aircraft could never climb into the sky and fly thousands of miles.  But then I see one do it, it is documented that it happens thousands of times each day all around the world, I ride on one.  Now my reason has been confronted with revelation.  My reason now tells me there are forces at work here I do not see nor understand but I now believe they exist and are in operation and it now would be unreasonable to say otherwise.  The result, I board an airplane because of what I understand by faith.  My faith has become the substance of what I hope for.  It is through faith I understand that the aircraft will get me from point A to point B.

It reminds me of an occasion when we were hiking in a state park in the Texas hill country. We came across a group of rocks that spelled a word. There was no one else around. My reason led me to faith. I reasoned the order revealed in the group of rocks was an indication someone else had been there; an intelligent being, with power to arrange the rocks and make something meaningful out of them. I simply believed someone else had been present. I did not "know" it; I believed it (and still do).  But my faith seemed reasonable, in fact I don't think anyone would have considered it unreasonable and would likely have agreed with my conclusions.  My faith became the substance of (acknowledged the unknown person) who did the arranging of the rocks.  My faith became the evidence of the person I did not see.  My faith was the missing link that made sense out of what I did see.  Had I not had faith I would have become frustrated in my ability to understand the reality staring me square in the face.

That takes me to the rocks themselves and the universe in which they are found, in which we are all found. Where did it come from? My reason tells me it exists and it had to come from somewhere. Why is the universe such an expression of order, intelligence, and power? My reason tells me the cause must be ordered, intelligent, and powerful. As reasonable as all of this may be I still am without understanding as to why? how?  I may begin to rationalize it must have just happened through a process of random selection. But can I really be comfortable with that?  Is that really reasonable?  No more than I could be comfortable with the rocks in the state park simply rolling into place!  In fact I am quite sure no reasonable person would have argued very long for such an explanation.

Then I am confronted with revelation. A revelation that informs my reason. It tells of a self-existing, ordered God who is infinitely intelligent and whose power knows no limits. I believe the revelation not because it is speculative and fanciful but because it produces the missing link. It explains things I could never know apart from revelation. Now my reason tells me there are forces at work here I do not see nor completely understand but I believe they exist and are in operation and it now would be unreasonable to say otherwise.

Thus the Scripture says, "Through faith we understand".  When we believe we have found the missing link!

1 Peter 1:8 - Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: . . . .

Friday, December 04, 2009

What A Day That Will Be!

The following is from Richard Baxter's, The Saint's Everlasting Rest.

"How wonderful was the Son of God in the form of a servant!  When he is born, a new star must appear, and conduct the strangers to worship him in a manger, heavenly hosts with their songs must celebrate his nativitiy; while a child, he must dispute with doctors; when he enters upon his office, he turns water into wine, feeds thousands with a few loaves and fishes, cleanses the lepers, heals the sick, restores the lame, gives sight to the blind, and raised the dead.  How wonderful, then, is his celestial glory!

If there be such cutting down of boughs, and spreading of garments, and crying Hosanna, for one that comes into Jerusalem riding on an ass; what will there be when he comes with his angels in his glory!

If they that heard him 'Preach the Gospel of the kingdom,' confess, 'Never man spake like this man;' they then, that behold his majesty in his kingdom will say, 'there was never glory like this glory.'

If, when his enemies came to apprehehend him, they fell to the ground; if, when he is dying the earth quakes, the veil of the temple is rent, the sun is eclipsed, the dead bodies of the siaints arise, and the standers-by acknowledge, 'Truly this was the Son of God;' O what a day will it be when the dead must all arise and stand before him!  when he 'will once shake, not the earth only, but the heavens also!'  when the sun shall be taken out of the firmanment, and  be everlastingly darkened with his glory! and when every tongue shall confess him to be the Lord and King!

If, when he rose again, death and the grave lost their power; if angels must 'roll away the stone,' terrify the keepers till they are 'as dead men,' and send the tidings to his disciples; if he ascend to heaven in their sight; of what power, dominion and glory is he now possessed, and which we must for ever possess with him!

When he is gone, can a few poor fishermen and tent-makers cure the lame, blind and sick, open prisons, destroy the disobedient, raise the daed, and astonish their adversaries? what a world will that be, where every one can do greater works than these!

If the preaching of the Gospel be accompanied with such power as to discover the secrets of the heart, humble the proud sinner, and make the most obdurate tremble; if it can make men burn their books, sell their lands, and bring in the price and lay it down at the preacher's feet; if it can convert thousands, and turn the world upside down; if its doctrine, from the prisoner at the bar, can make the judge on the bench tremble; if Christ and his saints have this power and honor in the day of their abasement, and in the time appointed for their suffering and disgrace, what then will they have in their absolute dominion and full advancement in their kingdom of glory!"

What A Thought!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Somebody Hath Touched Me

These are words that were spoken by Jesus in Luke 8:46.  They are striking words.  Many people had touched Jesus and Jesus had touched many people.

The context in which these words are found makes them all the more worthy of our attention.  Jesus had been approached by one Jairus.  Jairus had a lone daughter that "lay a dying".  Jairus had come to the right place.  Jesus is always the right place.

As Jesus made his way toward Jairus' house the bible tells us that the people thronged him.  "Thronged" comes from a Greek word that is translated "choke" four times in the New Testament.  The only other time it is used is in this passage.  The people were literally pressing in all around him.

The Bible then informs us that in the midst of this pressing crowd that a woman who had an issue of blood came behind him and touched the hem of his garment.  The effect upon the woman was that she was immediately healed.

It is the touch of this woman that was the ocassion of Jesus speaking the words, "Somebody hath touched me".  The disciples give voice to our own thoughts had we been there.  "Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?"

Everyone was touching him, but no one else had touched him like the woman with the issue of blood.  Their touch was casual, her touch was with purpose.  Their touch was a product of circumstances, her touch was a product of faith.  Their touch was inconsequential, her touch was life changing!

Jesus knew he had been touched, "for I percieve that virtue is gone out of me."  The word "virtue" is a word that embraces strength and might.  The Greek word is translated "power" 77 of the 120 times it is used in the New Testament.  Power had been transfered to the woman to meet her need.

All of the other people who were touching Jesus drew no power from him.  It is not the casual touch that transfers power.  If we are to know the power of Christ in our lives we must reach out and touch him with purpose and faith.  We dare not be satisified with the casual touch!

And let it be known if we are reaching out to touch with purpose and faith and only mange to reach the hem of his garment we will find it is enough to change our lives and set us apart from the crowd.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jesus Marvelled

Luke 7:9 - When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, . . . .

I consider myself on safe ground when I say if Jesus marvelled then of necessity God marvelled!

Marvelled is a word that involves admiration, to admire.  If God admires something it should probably be of interest to us what it is.  It was admired to the point of marvelling.  Just from my own persepctive I find myself marvelling at that which I do not expect.  The unexpected causes me to marvel.  I think Jesus came across something here that he didn't quite expect and he marvelled at it, admired it.

What was it?

We find the statement in the narrative of the Centurion who had a servant that was dear unto him and was about to die.  The Centurion sent messengers to beseech Jesus to come and heal his servant.  Jesus, as was his custom, went with the men toward the Centurion's home.  Before Jesus could get all the way to the man's house he sent other messengers to inform Jesus that he was not worthy that he should come to his house and that he did not even deem his presence necessary.  He believe all Jesus needed to do was speak the word and his servant would be healed.

The bible says when Jesus heard these things, "he (Jesus) marvelled at him (Centurion), and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."

At what does God marvel, what does he admire.  Faith!  He admires those who believe that he is and the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  In fact we are told in Hebrews 11, "without faith it is impossible to please him".  I suppose from the account before us we can likewise conclude that with faith it is possible for us to become the object of God's marvelling.

And of course the Centurion's faith was rewarded!  "And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."

The Centurion marvelled at the power of Christ.  Christ marvelled at the Centurion's faith.  This is the kind of mutual marvelling I would love to enjoy in my own life.

"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

All Night In Prayer To God

Luke 6:12 - And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

I find comfort in the fact that Jesus prayed.  That in conjucntion with the fact that he continually resorted to the Scripture establishes an achievable pattern for my own life:  Prayer and Scripture both of which I have access to.  I assume the more I pray and saturate my life with a spirit of prayer and the more I fill my mind with Scripture the more spiritual I will be, the more like him I will be.  I will be like him both in cause (prayer & Scripture) and effect (surrendered to the will of the Father).

I am also a bit taken back that Jesus ever felt the need to pray all night.  I don't know for sure how often he did this, I simply know he did on ocassion.  If he, at times, felt the need to pray all night, do I never feel, at times, the need to pray for several hours?

I also notice this statment about Jesus' prayer life is surrounded by the realities of ministry, both the challenges and the opportunities.

In the verses just previous to Jesus praying all night he was facing a group of people who sought an accusation against him.  He healed a man who had a withered hand and as a result became the object of their madness and desire to do something to him.  The challenges of ministry!

In the verses following he chooses the twelve men who would constitute his church, the Apostles. Then a few verses later we are told that a great company of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon had come to hear and be healed by him.  Jesus healed them and taught them.  The opportunities of ministry!

Ministry is like that.  There are always challenges and there are always opportunities.  In the midst of it all Jesus set a powerful example.  He went out into a mountain to pray.  And on this occasison he prayed all night to God.

In the midst of our challenges and opportunities let us not forget to find a place to pray and if necessary, surely sometimes it is, pray prolonged prayers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Everything Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

The essence of thanksgiving is the giving of thanks. This indicates that there is a giver and a receiver. The receiver is to give thanks to the giver. The words “thank you” is taught as a basic element of polite society. In a limited sense we receive things all the time from our fellow man and when we are the receivers we should be thankful. But in a much broader sense everything we have comes from God.

James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

The very fact that we have a national day of thanksgiving on our calendar is evidence of our Christian heritage. Historically we have not given thanks to Allah, or Buddha, or Mary, or to ourselves, but to the God of the Bible. There has been a self-evident willingness to acknowledge the God of the Bible as the giver of all things.

Matthew 5:45 - That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

So ultimately God is always the giver and we are always the receiver. Thus the natural result should be thanksgiving, the giving of thanks to the giver.

There are problems though.

When we receive something consistently we begin to look upon it as an entitlement. Yes, we may be receiving it, but we are only receiving what we deserve. The mentality of deserving quenches the spirit of giving thanks. In fact the mentality of deserving tends to breed the spirit of dissatisfaction. Consistent provision becomes commonplace and is thus taken for granted, is looked upon as next to nothing. Because we have developed a spirit of dissatisfaction we begin to complain about what we do have and yearn for something more or better. If we do not receive more or better we fall prey to a spirit of murmuring and complaining. We become small, greedy, spiritually deficient cry babies.

Waaa, Waaaa, as we toss aside what has been given and point to the other thing we want in its place.

So I want to take a little space and review some of the things for which I have to be thankful.

I was saved through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as a 7 year old boy
I grew up in a Christain home where we were taught the Bible is God's word
God counted me faithful calling me to ministry at the age of 14
The opportunity to pastor the same church for almost 20 years

Parents who have faithfully served God for years
Brothers and a sister who are more kin to me than any other living person
Wife - Strong
Sara - Mother
Caleb - Dependable
Olivia - Domestic/food
Daniel - Affable
Kimberly - Laughter
Lydia - Sweet
John - Food/scrabble
Heather - Committed
Klarisa - Sincere
Five grandchildren with one on the way
Stable extended family

Flock who loves me and has proven their support
Friends from Alaska to South Africa to Japan
Trip to Colorado with the Kellys
Bible study with the Mannings

The American flag
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Gaurd

Comfortable, reliable transportation
Copy machines
Hand guns

Ability to read with comprehension
Large home
New roof

Part time employment that provides health insurance

Trials that provide opportunity for testing
Adversity that grows faith
Problems that point me to God
Discouragement that helps me to appreciate encouragment

Philippians 4:11 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

1 Timothy 6:8 - And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Hebrews 13:5 - Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Friday, November 20, 2009

American Civil Rights

I keep a copy of the Constitution on my desk all the time.  I have it opened to the first page where I find the preamble to the Constitution of the United States:  Do we remember what that says?

"We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America."

I make no claim to being a Constituional scholar, but I can read, and have fairly good comprhension which should be the primary tools for interpreting the Constitution.  It was the people of the United States that ordained and established the Constitution for the United States of America.  They did it to to "form", "establish", "insure", "provide", "promote", and "secure" to ourselves and our prosperity.  Posterity is us, we are their posterity.

Our Constitution is not for the world.  It restricts no other governments nor does it "form", "establish", "insure", "provide", "promote", or "secure" for anyone except citizens of the United States.  While I am not promoting the idea of cruelty to non-citizens we should not be afraid to draw a distinction between citizens and non-citizens.

When those non-citizens position themselves as the enemies of the United States they should be treated as enemies and not citizens.  The fact is they do not have Consitutional Rights.  Not one!  We are not obligate to secure their freedom of speech, we are not obligated to protect their right to keep and bear arms, they have no Consitutional right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.  They have no fifth ammendment to plead. They have no Constituional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

They certainly have no right to a trial by jury along with all the associated protections for the accused.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed it has been determined is going to be accorded all the right of American citizenship.  He is going to be tried for his crimes of 9/11 in Federal Court in New York.  It was not a police officer that picked him up.  It was the military.  The reason it was the military is because he is a sworn enemy of the United States.  He was on a battlefield, he was not at a crime scene.  He is not a citizen of the United States.  He has absolutly no Constitutional protection while in custody of the United States, or least shouldn't.  Fairness and justice is one thing, Constituionally protected civil liberties are another.  He may be entitled to the first but not in the context that Amercian citizens are entitled to these things.

And it is a farce.  Both President Obama and Attorney General Mark Holder have said that he will be convicted.  So much for the presumption of innocence.  What they are trying to prove here is being undermined by their own statements.

It is all a "dog and pony" show that may end up biting and trampling them to death, politically that is, and it should.

Known terrorist should be treated as such.  They should not be treated as American citizens with Constitutionally protected civil rights.

Charles Krauthammer has a good article on this very issue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trouble The Origin Of Praise?

Psalms 50:15 - And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

Could it be that a life void of trouble would also be a life void of glorifying God?  Would we ever know deliverance if we never knew trouble?

God allows trouble in our lives to create a platform from which he can be glorified.  He is glorified in the deliverance he provides.  It matters not whether the deliverance comes in the form of "rescue from" the trouble or "grace to bear" the trouble he is glorified.

In the day of trouble calling upon God should be our first response.  If it is our first response then God will likely be the first responder.  He says if we call he will deliver.  Expect it to be so.  Believe it to be so.  It is not mind over matter.  It is faith in the promise of God.  Don't dictate the means of deliverance simply be prepared to accept the provision of deliverance.  Be prepared to glorify the God of deliverance.

At no time are we more motivated to glorify God than when we are keenly aware of a great deliverance at his hand.  It is our troubles that set the stage for our glorifying him.


Charles Krauthammer is the main reason I watch the last 20 minutes of Special Report on Fox News every evening.  He is smart and has a form of subtle humor that I find very engaging.  He is an intellectual critic of the Obama Administration.  When I first took note of him he seemed a bit quirky, but I soon came to appreciate his thoughtfulness.  I especially like it when someone appears with him on the panel from NPR.  The arguments contrasted side by side reveal the superiority of conservative thought.

Check out this short article on his opposition to the Obama administration.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Sentimental God

We live in a day when people go to the Scripture and treat it as a theological buffet.  We go from book to book picking the things we like about God and passing over the things we don't like.  In the process we fabricate a God that bears little if any resemblance to the God of the Bible.  Yet we worship this God of our choosing as though he is the real God.  Is this not the essence of idolatry?

The following is from J. R. Miller's message, The Silent Christ.

Matthew 15:22,23a - And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.  But he answered her not a word.

"We are apt to forget that the aim of God with us, is . . .

not to flood us with tenderness all the time,
not to keep our path always strewn with flowers,
not to continually give us everything we want,
not to save us from all manner of suffering.

No! God's aim with us, is . . .

to make something of us,
to build up strong and noble character in us,
to mature qualities of grace and beauty in us,
to make us more like Christ!

To do this--He must ofttimes deny us what we ask for, and must seem indifferent to our cries. "Jesus did not answer her a word!"

There are 'sentimental ideas of God' prevalent, which are dishonoring to Him. There are those who imagine that God's love means tenderness that cannot cause pain. They think that He cannot look a moment on suffering, without relieving it; that He must instantly hear and answer every cry for the removal of trouble.

Not such a God--is the God of the Bible! When suffering is the best thing for us--He is not too sympathetic to let us suffer--until the work of suffering is accomplished in us. He is not too kind to be silent to our prayers--when it is better that He should be silent for a time, to allow . . .

faith to grow strong, self-confidence to be swept away, and the evil in us--to be burned out in the furnace of pain!

There is a danger with all of us--our tenderness lacks strength. We cannot tolerate to see people suffer, and so we hasten to give relief--before the ministry of suffering is accomplished. We think of our mission to others, as being only 'to make life easier for them'. We are continually lifting away burdens, which it were better to have left resting longer on our friend's shoulder! We are eager to make life easy for our children--when it were better if it had been left hard.

We must learn that God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way. He is not too tender to see us suffer--if more suffering is needed to work in us the discipline that will make us like Christ!

Here we have the key of many of the 'mysteries of Providence'. Life is not easy for us--and God does not intend it to be easy!

Suppose for a moment, that God immediately gave us everything we ask for--and immediately removed every little pain, trouble, difficulty, and hardness that we seek to have removed; what would be the result on us? How selfish it would make us! We would become weak, unable to endure suffering, to bear trial, to carry burdens, or to struggle. We would be only children always--and would never rise into manly strength. God's over-kindness to us--would pamper in us all the worst elements of our nature, and would make us only poor driveling creatures!

On the other hand, however, God's wise and firm treatment of us, teaches us the great lessons which make us strong with the strength of Christ Himself.

He teaches us to yield our own will to Him.
He develops in us--patience, faith, love, hope and peace.
He trains us to endure hardness--that we may grow heroic, courageous and strong.
It is well for us to make careful note of this--that in all God's delays when we pray--His aim is some good in us.

Perhaps we are willful, asking only for our own way--and must learn to say, "May Your will be done."

Perhaps we are weak, unable to bear pain or to endure adversity or loss--and we must be trained and disciplined into strength.

Perhaps our desires are only for earthly good, not for heavenly blessings--and we must be taught the transitory character of all worldly things, and led to desire things which are eternal.

Perhaps we are impatient--and must be taught to wait for God. We are like children in our eager restlessness--and need to learn self-restraint.

At the least, we may always know that silence is not refusal--that God hears and cares, and that when our faith has learned its lessons--He will answer in blessing!"

Monday, November 09, 2009

Plato's Wish

The following is from J. R. Miller.

Song of Solomon 4:7 - Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

"Plato expressed a desire that the moral law might become a living personage, that men seeing it thus incarnate, might be charmed by its beauty. Plato's wish was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Him. The Beatitudes contain an outline of the ideal life--but the Beatitudes are only a transcript of the life of Christ Himself! What He taught about love--was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said that we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind--He was only saying, "Follow Me!"

If we could gather from the most godly people who ever have lived, the little fragments of lovely character which have blossomed out in each, and bring all these fragments into one personality--we would have the beauty of Jesus Christ! In one person you find gentleness, in another meekness, in another purity of heart, in another humility, in another kindness, in another patience. But in the holiest of men, there are only two or three qualities of ideal beauty--along with much that is stained and blemished, mingled with these qualities. In Christ, however, all that is excellent is found, with no flaw!"

I suppose there is more wrong with us than will ever be right with us in this life.  And all that is right with us we cannot claim as our own but rather acknowledge that it is a reflection of that which is lovely in Christ.

Just studied recently from John 18 the events in the garden and Jesus' betrayal by Judas.  We are shocked at Judas' treachery.  I began to wonder if we should not be more in awe with the eleven men who continued to stand with him rather than with the one who stood against him.  Why is it surprising to us when men do wrong?  Should it not be more surprising when they do right?  Just wondering???

Friday, October 30, 2009

Do It!

John 2:5 - His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

Bro. Hudson preached from this verse last evening.  The above verse is out of the narrative relating the events of Jesus' first miracle at the wedding of Cana.  It was the wedding at Cana that the Lord turned water into wine.

There were several practical lessons presented from the above verse.

It was a great message focusing on doing whatever Jesus says.  How often does he speak to us and we fail to do it.  Mary told the people "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."  There was to be no limits on their obediecne.  If he said it it was to be done.

I caused me to think how we have such a propensity to want to understand before we do it.  Our unspoken motto if we are not careful is "I will do it if I understand it."  The problem is that in God's ecomony of things often times the understanding comes with the doing.

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

A good understanding have all they who are wise? No!
A good understanding have all they who are educated? No!
A good understanding have all they who are intellectually sophisticated?  No!
A good understanding have all they who are logical?  No!
A good understanding have all they that do!  Do what? His commandments.  "Whatsoever he saith unto you do it."  Not because you understand it.  Not because it necessarily makes sense.  Not because it is popular.  Do it because he said so.  Do it by faith.  As you do it your understanding is likely to increase.  That which initially made little, if any sense, begins to make a lot of sense.
There is probably a reason why we are told once in the Old Testament and three times in the New Testament, "The just shall live by faith."
Even in the events at Cana we see the importance of just paying attention to what he says and then doing it.
The people were not told to any great thing.  They were simply told to fill the waterpots.  It did not likely make sense.  They probably wondered why they were doing it.  But they bible says they "filled them to the brim."  Good for them.  When the Lord tells us to do something we should do it to the brim.
They poured water in and the drew wine out.  Now it made sense.  Now they understood.  How sad it would have been for them to have walked away from the waterpots with their superior intellect not understanding what possible good it could do to fill the waterpots with water.  Jesus said it, they did it, and a great miracle was performed and according to verse eleven his glory was manifested.
It may be when the Lord tells us to pour in water that we might end up drawing out wine.
Are we doing what he saith to us?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Desire To Fear Thy Name

Last night Bro. Hudson preached from Nehemiah chapter one.  I was greatly challenged as he spoke about the beginnings of revival.  The whole first chapter of Nehemiah was read and as he was preaching toward the end of the chapter a phrase in the last verse arrested my attention.

Nehemiah 1:11 - O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Before we get to verse eleven we find Nehemiah being informed about the dreaded conditions to be found in Jerusalem.  We read of Nehemiah's response to the report, weeping, mourning, fasting and praying; all before the God of heaven.  This truly is the best place to do our weeping, mourning, fasting, and praying.
Most of the chapter is taken up with the prayer of Nehemiah.  It is a prayer of confession (personal and corporate).  It is a prayer of hope claiming the promises of God.
Then in verse eleven we find these words:  "Be attentive . . . to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear they name: . . . "
I found it interesting that he did not pray be attentive to the prayer of thy servants who fear thy name.  The word "desire" makes all the difference in the world in relation to what is taking place here.
It seems to be a humble admission that they were weak to do what they ought to do.  We know we are to fear thy name.  We desire to fear thy name.  But we struggle to fear thy name.  We desire to be right but find it easier to be wrong.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
While we may have trouble laying hold of something we desire it does not seem likely that we will ever lay hold if we do not first desire.  To desire may imply the imperfection of what we are seeking to do or be but to lack desire is to never move toward what we should do or be.
Can any of us really say that we fear thy name?  To varying degrees we probably all can but as long as there are degrees then there is room for desire.
I, for one, would rather live with the humble admission of desiring to fear thy name hoping that the desire will find greater expression in my reality than to have desire wane and become an unprofitable servant.
Who knows?  If we fan the flames of desire to fear thy name the Lord just may use us to build a wall or two!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Did Not Our Heart Burn Within Us?

Luke 24:32 - And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Last evening Bro. Hudson preached out of Luke 24 and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus when Jesus joins them.  He touched on this verse and I have been thinking about it since then.

If something is burning then one might logically conclude that it is on fire.  You will notice that their heart burned when Jesus opened to them the scriptures.  This may very well be an expected consequence for the prophet Jeremiah recorded for us, Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; . . . .  If his word is like a fire then should we not expect it to ignite a flame in the hearts of those to whom it is opened and cause their, cause our, hearts to burn.

If our hearts are cold it may do us well to consider our relationship with the word of God.  Our spiritual vigor and passion is dependent upon having our hearts warmed by the scripture.  When our hearts burn our lives will shine!

May we know everyday what it is to have our hearts burn because we have kneeled before an open Bible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Life's Highest And Best Lesson

I received the following tonight from Grace Gems.  It is from J. R. Miller's, The Story Of Joseph: Practical Lessons.

We read that Joseph bore himself so congenially, and did his work so well, and was so capable, so true, so trustworthy--that Potiphar ". . . . left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat." Genesis 39:6. Joseph would never have won such a success--if he had given up to discouragement, if he had brooded over his wrongs, if he had sulked and complained, if he had spent his time in vain regrets or in vindictive feelings. We should learn the lesson, and it is worth learning--for it is life's highest and best lesson.

The problem of life, is to keep the heart warm and kindly--amid all injustice and wrong; to keep the spirit brave and cheerful--in the midst of all that is hard in life's circumstances and conditions; to be true, and right, and strong--in all moral purpose and deed, however others may act toward us.

Our inner life should not be affected by our external experiences. Right is right, no matter what others around us may do. We must be true--no matter if all the world is false--even false to us. We must be unselfish and loving--though even our nearest friends prove selfish and cruel to us. We must keep our spirit strong, cheerful and hopeful--though adversities and misfortunes seem to leave us nothing of the fruit of all our labors.

In a word, we are to live victoriously, truly, nobly, sweetly, cheerfully, joyfully--in spite of whatever may be uncongenial in our condition!

This is the lesson of all Christian life. We should not let the outside darkness into our soul. We should seek to be delivered from all morbidness and all unwholesomeness. We should not allow anything to crush us.

Remember, your task in living--is to keep sweet, to keep your heart gentle, brave, strong, loving, full of hope--under the worst that the years can bring you of injustice, hardship, suffering, and trial.

The Saint's Everlasting Rest

The above book title I have been familiar with for several years.  Several of Spurgeon's messages that I have read has made reference to the above book.  It was written by Richard Baxter who was a 17th century Puritan in England.  Several years ago I was in an antique store in central Kansas and was looking through the books and saw a book with the title, Baxter's Saint's Rest.  I wondered if it could be the book and when I looked to the title page discovered that it was.  My particular copy was printed in Philadelphia in 1870.  It is not a book that I have sat down to read, but one that I keep handy and read in ocassionally.  I am on page 383 out of 522 pages.  I have been reading in this volume more regularly for the past couple of weeks.

This morning several passages caught my attention.  I thought I would offer them here for your perusal.

"If your judgment once prefer the delights of the flesh before the delights of the presence of God, it is impossible your heart should be in heaven.  As it is ignorance of the emptiness of things below that makes men so overvalue them; so it is ignorance of the high delights above which is the cause that men so little mind them."

"And O the sinful folly of many of the saints, who drench their spirits in continual sadness, and waste their days in complaints and groans, and so make themselves, both in body and mind, unfit for this sweet and heavenly work!  Instead of joining with the people of God in his praises, they are questioning their worthiness and studying their miseries; and so rob God of his glory and themselves of their consolation."

"Most men are slaves to their appetite, and can scarcely deny anything to their flesh, and are therefore willingly carried by it to their sports, or profits, or vain companions, when they should raise their minds to God and heaven."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Pastor's Secret Heart

From The Banner of Truth Magazine, no. 235, April 1983.  The author is anonymous.

Fellowship with a ministerial friend, under whose ministry we have counted it a privilege to sit, prompted us to ask him for this article. His words will give those who are not pastors a deeper understanding of what the ministry means. Others, in the ministry, may see that God in some respects has led them differently (for church and spiritual conditions are not identical across the world). But many pastors today are having to endure spiritual hardship and much inward conflict and the testimony of this article is a soul-strengthening reminder that God's ways are not our ways.-Ed.

Our experience of the pastoral ministry stretches back to an ordination in the late fifties, and during the ensuing years we have fed and shepherded three congregations. While, in the complexities of individuality, our experiences have been our own exclusively, we believe that others may share with us in some measure; we may express what other pastors feel. This we believe to be the case. We trust that our candour will not be misunderstood.

In the sweep of these years since ordination, that is, from youth to our middle years, we can see two categories of experience, the bad and the good. Perhaps most of us, in our more public thoughts, are accustomed to concentrate upon the good and we give much emphasis to the privilege of our calling (of which none should be in doubt). But it is possible that, by taking stock of the bad, by facing it honestly, we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the good. Certainly, for candid expression of what is bad, hurtful, searing, even desolating, we may take prophets and apostles for our example. We believe that the hold which these men had upon the sovereignty of God was the stronger because of their dark experiences, and by their plain revelations to us of their secret hearts, they afford us an opportunity of comprehending less imperfectly such a truth as Paul writes of, 'the fellowship of his sufferings...' [Phil 3.10]. We will adopt the pattern, therefore, of stating some of our bad experiences before the good, hoping thereby to magnify the name of the Lord who called us in our immaturity, and who has been our refuge, our strong tower.

Jeremiah's speech is alarming: 'O Lord, Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived..;' [Jer 20.7]. The prophet here expresses a cry from the furnace of his afflictions, daring to suggest that the Lord had not forewarned him of all the details of those sufferings which his ministry entailed. Ordained in his youth, the prophet sank under the hostility and venom of his contemporaries, not to mention the burden of apparent ineffectiveness, which seemed to characterize his ministry. It is true that God graciously decreed that Jeremiah should know the broad outline of the work which he was to fulfil from the commencement of his ministry [Jer 1.7-10], but of the daily details which would ensue — woven as they must be around and through his experience with people, and wrought within the tensions of his particular age, of these the Lord had said nothing.

Just so, we recall our ordination in youth. Perhaps our little flock had their expectations and we had great expectations within our heart. We thought that we knew ourself and others. In both respects we have had much to learn. We came to that day of days crying, 'Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart' [Ps 119. 111]. From the first, we set about the holy task of unfolding the meanings of the Scriptures. Moreover, in our three charges we have seen that the Scriptures, preached Christ-centredly, and in the conviction that they are God's authoritative Word, do feed and nourish the believers. Yet such a ministry stirs wrath in the worldly and the unregenerate. As Jehoiakim tore and burned each page of God's word through the prophet, after it was read to him in his room [Jer 36.21-23], so have we also seen the commandments of God demolished insolently in the fire. And this response is more obvious now than when we began our work. For us, at least, these are more difficult days than were those of the late fifties. Partly this derives from our youth being gone, because many will make allowances for a young man where none is made for the pastor with grey at his temples, and with heavy eyes. The most obdurate listener will entertain some hope that the youthful preacher will 'change', whereas no such hope will shield the same preacher in his later years from the barbs of those hard hearers. (We would here thank God for the love and understanding of those many Christian people, who, with courtesy and encouragement, have warmed even to our most immature utterances!)

But these are also more difficult days than former ones because of developments in society itself. Respect for authority generally, and respect for the ministerial office in particular, is much reduced. Individualism and self-assertiveness now rage without control. The very concept of the declarative communication of truth is demeaned: participation in the quest for 'consensus' has much diminished the preaching office. Together with this, we have seen a growing passion for excitement among professing believers. This poor, crude generation appears to know nothing, and to care nothing, for the testimony of the church's experience through the ages. [The] . . .diversions of those mystics of every age who set experience above God's written testimonies, are all as if they had never been. In 1832 Daniel Dana wrote: 'A special cause of doctrinal error and corruption is found in that excitement which frequently attends revivals of religion; and particularly, lengthened religious meetings. In these cases, the imaginations and feelings of men, being powerfully roused, the plain truths of the gospel pall upon their ears, and they demand something more novel, more startling, more overwhelming'. We fear that the present passion derives not so much from any revival of true religion, but rather from a religion which has already departed from allegiance to the Word. We fear that this passion is essentially man-centred, and that it will crash, within the coming decades, in a most dreadful disillusionment wherein the preacher's work may have many more difficulties added to it.

The cult of youth enters upon our present experience with desolating power. We recall from our childhood an awe of those who were old in the faith. 'The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.' [Prov 20.29]. Today, however, our western world has gone far to rob old men of their splendour. Even the middle-aged must often give way to youth as we have witnessed when serving as moderator in vacancy committees. We have sat in despair as believers have stipulated that they shall look only for a man under thirty years of age, or certainly no where beyond his early thirties. Indeed, we must frankly confess to a spirit of outrage at the assumption that men in their forties, with both vigour of mind and body enriched by years of pastoral care, are now dismissed as vessels no longer fit for noble use. It has seemed to us, in our most dolorous frame of mind, that this is a human sacrifice not totally dissimilar from those which desecrated the kingdom of Judah — to feed upon a man's youthful strength and vision, and thereafter to forget him. We recall those many overtures made to us in former years, by churches which sought to procure for themselves a pastor. Now we turn into our manse with the narrowing years at times oppressing our heart. The world seems to have passed us by: 'I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel' [Ps 31.12].

We believe that these three ingredients of the present times, namely, diminished respect for authority, increased passion for excitement, and the cult of youth, have given rise to the existence and employment of wrong criteria among the churches in their search for pastoral care. The danger may be described, in general terms, as looking for 'instant' personality — 'cooked and tinned' and needing but to be opened and served — for glamour, for youth. The whole emphasis is upon immediate things: 'with-it' is an imperious prerequisite. With... what? we ask. We have not departed from our first conviction, that to be much with God, and much with his Word, and much with the flock, is to have one's life joined where it matters most, irrespective of one's age.

We may speak from sore experience, and say that a confrontation with moral problems will prove to be rocks upon which many ministries break. We know what it is to weep with and for the fallen, while seeking to counsel them in the way of life, and with nothing but compassion and love for them in one's heart. But we also know how wrathful a flock can be, if their pastor should dare to enter upon such matters. We know what it is to be seemingly alone, in seeking to safeguard the church's purity before a lax, indulgent and promiscuous world. We believe that moral problems call for the utmost love and wisdom: both graces are taught by the Spirit through the actual experience of bearing one's responsibility in such times. But we would counsel the utmost caution. We would urge upon our brethren a forethought of the cost which the duty before them may incur.

The pilgrim went from his Valley of Humiliation into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our path has gone in much the same way. We believe that, as greed rends the world, so vanity too often rends the church. Congregation upon congregation is dominated by a few powerful personalities who love their prominence, and who brook no interference. We do not depreciate powerful personalities, per se. Nor do we forget that the church has been greatly blessed, in every age, by those whom God gifted with leadership qualities. Such men are needed today in every congregation. It seems to us, however, that the church is blighted by the influence of those who love their power more than they love the Lord. To such people there is an impossibility about the apostolic command, 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.' [Eph 5.21]. In such situations, collision with pastoral authority is inevitable. We have been hated for this very cause. We know what it is to be slandered, to have some affront set before us every week for years on end, to bear the company of those, in the services of worship, who will not shake our hand, nor allow us over their door-step. We know what it is to be quiet when others revile us, misrepresenting and distorting and fabricating all that animosity can invent. Moreover, we know what it is to believe that we have deserved no such treatment — that those who treat us worst of all are just those who have received kindness from our hand.

We cannot deny the weight of this suffering. Our resolve at times grows weary. We break-down and cry in our study where no one sees. We learn a certain slowness in our trusting of others: some prove false, and their evangelical statements are exceedingly hollow. But of others we may suggest that their hold upon the truth is so slight, their sympathy with the Biblical emphasis is so superficial, their openness to the poor values of this crazed world is so wide, that, while they declare themselves to be profited under our ministry today, we dread lest some turn of events shall quickly disrupt their loyalty. The night-watches do tend to close our mind upon these sorry things; sleeplessness is our frequent portion during the darkness, and weariness is our frequent portion through the day. Loneliness is the salient feature of our path. We do not refer to isolationism, for we have always sought the company of our colleagues, and have contributed fully to the wider work of the church. But we and our colleagues are so busy, so engrossed, that when the heart is desolate at the 'Fraternal', none has sufficient quietness of spirit to discern it. We plough our lonely furrow. With none in our congregation could we share these matters. Leadership where the church is weak has this loneliness to it, as has leadership in many walks of life. We must confess, however, that we feel a certain impatience with much triumphalist talk about the 'fellowship' which believers have with one another. For the most part, the structures by which the church's fellowship is expressed are not adequate to meet our need.

On one matter we see a constancy from our ordination to this present hour. We refer to the response which people make to the saving truth of the Gospel. As then, so now, we see that a saving faith is the imparted work of the Holy Spirit. We have known what it is, times beyond number, to press the claims of Christ upon our flocks. Our best efforts, our most judicious exposition of the Word, our most fervent and impassioned appeals and applications, all fail until it pleases the Lord to bestow his blessing upon our labours. We confess that, at times, we feel that the dullness and beast-like passivity in the people, as if they were so many cows placidly gazing at one from the other side of the hedge, derives from too much television-viewing. In fact, we suspect that our people do sometimes 'switch' to another 'channel' as they sit before us. Certainly at the heart of our human need is the inability to stir anyone until Christ's loud voice says, 'Lazarus, come forth' [John 11.43]. We have seen this throughout our work. It has dominated our thinking, until, night and day, we cry to the Lord that he will graciously bless our hearers.

Now that we have written of the bad, we shall turn to the good portions of our work. They are the better, and are apprised as being so, because of our bad experiences. Supremely, we have learned that we did not choose Christ, but that he has chosen us [John 15.16]. A little imagination set in motion upon some of the facts here seated, will soon persuade any reader that we have often wished that we were in any other work but this. The Lord alone has kept us pressing-on at our duty. The conviction which brought us to our ordination, namely, belief of the divine call, is now finer for having come through the furnace. We believe that our present ministry is in direct response to that providence which see us here. We are, therefore, convinced about God's will. Our peace is deepened, however much our will may have been crossed.

Our awareness is sharpened upon the face that God has a purpose for us. Our consciousness of obedience is much increased, so that we tend to fear, most of all, any act of disobedience which we may foolishly perform. We are encouraged to expect that, as God has been pleased to take such personal dealings with us, it will please him at any time to break forth in the normal routine of our life, with his extraordinary and reviving power. We now believe that our communion with the Lord is deeper than it was, so that we feel the assurance of his presence with us, even in the valley of the shadow. And we confess that we entertain some hope of our offering to God obedience, not only in the general matter of our continuing in a work which has brought us so much anguish, as he dictates that we should, but also in every detail, so that our whole life shall be couched by his glorious power.

Again, we have increased in our understanding of the Scriptures as the years have passed over our head. We have had this Book with us in times when our spirit was daunted and devastated. It has been our constant study. By it the Lord has spoken to us. It has moulded and chastened our thoughts. With all our heart we love this glorious document. Moreover, we cannot but testify to the face that our study of its pages is now, almost invariably, rich and wonderful to our own spiritual life. We feel a continual pleasure in the edifying of the Word. We rarely go before our people without a sense of the gravity, and the graciousness, and the wisdom of his Word. Our complaint is not that our message is poor: rather, we feel the paucity of our own words to express truths unutterable.

Again, we have increased in our compassion for our fellow men. Our eyes are sometimes filled with sorrow. Formerly they might have flashed with indignation — and this emotion we still feel. But now our hearts go out in pity to chose who are so small, so petty, so distorted in their vain ways. We see more clearly than we did 'the judgment seat of Christ' [2 Cor 5.10]. We look upon our flock with all that experience of their weaknesses and our own. We are poor muddled creatures. God is infinite in his condescension to make use of us. We go among our people now in a less opinionated way than may have been before. Nor do we go among our people only. It has pleased God to grant us the chaplaincy of a local hospital. Here we spend one afternoon every week, at the least. Gradually we feel that this extension to our ministry — which our own flock fully supports — is bearing fruit. It is our undying sense of privilege to have these opportunities set before us. 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' [Mat 4.4].

Again we have increased in our admiration for the work of the Spirit in the lives of his people. The faith which our office-bearers display, the perceptive understanding of the Word which some of the least in our flock are given, the loveliness of Christ which lights up the faces of young and old believers until neither is old nor young, but conjoined in one excellence in him — these and many other works excite our ardent praise. We admire the catholicity of the faith. We have seen the same admirable work in many people, and in many flocks. We hail all believers, all who are regenerate by the Spirit and who love God's Word, as one holy people. And if, among our friends, we have such as do not share our points of emphasis in subordinate matters, or who are unknowing in matters of great importance, we make it our task to dwell upon the uniting truths, both for their good and our own. We also remember our callowness, our immaturity, remembering also that it pleased God to use us even then; we do heartily admire the Spirit's work.

Again, we have increased in our appreciation of the richness and the diversity of life. Perhaps we are deeper within ourself than we were before. Perhaps we are more cautious than we were; less credulous in our relationships. Perhaps we live in a larger patience with men even because of a certain scepticism, or slowness of judgment. We do not rush with exaggerated applause. These years have brought us so many heartaches, disappointments, and frustrations, that the boyish enthusiasm of the beginning is now quite gone. Yet the pathos of life and its glory are before us. We live now in a much greater awareness of God's thoughts to us-ward, whether or not the world heeds our work. We live in keener anticipation of the Lord's presence than we did. We move steadily into the second half of our expected ministry with some foreboding, some regret that our ambitions have been so signally unfulfilled, some sigh in our heart that these will never be our portion.
Yet there is deeper tranquillity. We confess to a delight in such musical works as those of Franz Joseph Haydn: works which come to us across the centuries from an age of violence and quite awful disruption, with serenity and the soaring aspiration of the human spirit. But such we interpret with the 'tools' of our knowledge of the Word, and chiefly in its disclosure of the glory of the Lord. We realize how brief is life, and how speedily we have come from our ordination to this point in our pilgrimage. The beauties of the world are all about us now; now we have eyes to see them. But increasingly our heart cries, 'Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus' [Rev 22.20]. We now have less expectation from men, or from the world. But there is a greater ingenuousness in our evangelistic yearning, for that very reason. For the Lord's sake we desire their eternal good. Meanwhile our heart is nourished in hope: 'God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away' [Rev 21.4].

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Fixed Heart

Psalm 112:7 - He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.

Fixed – To be firm, stable, established.

We live in the midst of a generation that has little understanding or even appreciation for the idea of having a fixed heart.

Psalms 16:8 - I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Psalms 62:6 - He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.

In a day when compromise and toleration head the list of virtues the “I shall not be moved” crowd is looked on with disdain and contempt.

The whole concept of relative truth leaves us adrift on a sea of uncertainty and without chart and compass. People applaud the courage of pulling up anchor without realizing that in doing so one is set adrift. The spiritual convictions of our Fathers are no longer prized and valued. They are seen as hindrances to becoming you own person. I thought we were all to be committed to becoming Christ-like, not our own person. The Biblical standards of a previous generation are discarded as nothing more than arcane remnants of a stuffy piety. Unfortunately when we pull up anchor and are set adrift we then become subject to the currents, in fact we become helpless against them.

Spiritually speaking when we hoist the anchors of biblical truth we are immediately subject to the currents of worldly philosophy, and carnal desire. We think we are free but we are not. We are subject to the currents. We are being carried about, and very likely to a place we do not want to go.

The Importance Of A Fixed Heart
Fixed in relation to doctrine - Ephesians 4:11-14
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

   It matters what you believe
   What you believe will dictate what you decide
   What you decide will dictate how you will live
   What you live will dictate what you will become

Fixed in relation to Christ

John 6:66-68 - From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Psalms 73:25 - Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

Fixed in relation to personal separation

Romans 12:1,2 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Titus 2:11,12 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Fixed in relation to service
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 - For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

The Assault Against A Fixed Heart
A fixed heart’s greatest enemy is fear.

Abraham had a fixed heart until he feared maybe he wouldn’t get a son after all and so took Hagar.
Elijah had a fixed heart until he feared the threats of Jezebel.
The Israelites had a fixed heart until they heard about the giants in the land and feared.
David had a fixed heart until he lay with another man’s wife and feared the consequences of her pregnancy.
Peter had a fixed heart until he was identified as a follower of Jesus and then feared and cursed.
Demas had a fixed heart until he counted the cost and then feared.

Proverbs 29:25 - The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Evil tidings

It does not even have to be actual evil but presumed evil.  We become very proficient at constructing monsters in our own mind.  When we do so we have to address concerns that are not even founded in reality.  We presume the worst and our hearts melt in the face of a non-existent difficulty.

It can happen with relationship concerns.
It can happen with health concerns.
It can happen with financial concerns.
It can happen with ministry concerns.

We begin to think that something bad may happen and we have the band play Anchors Away and are prepared to be set adrift in the face of a storm that never comes.  Even though the storm never comes, we are still adrift and subject to the currents of this world.  Of course we can drop anchor, and we should, but look how far we are from where we started.  I would plead that we never draw up the anchor to begin with.

It is not that we cannot get back to where we started. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t.  Even if we can it will now require more strength and energy because we have to go against the current.

The Confidence Of A Fixed Heart
Psalm 27:1-3 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.  Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
Psalms 34:4 - I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalms 56:3,4 - What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

Proverbs 1:33 - But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Psalms 57:7 - My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.

Psalms 108:1 - O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.

A truly fixed heart is not the source of frustration but of singing and praise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Jimmy Carter A Racist? Just Asking?

Is it just me or does anyone else just wish Jimmy Carter would be content building houses and otherwise be quiet.  I can admire his work with Habitat for Humanity.  I despise his policy positions.  And I am old enought to remember his time as President, not good.  In fact it was probably his presidency that set the stage for 20 out of the next 28 years a Republican living in the White House.

He is talking again this time accusing Represenative Wilson from South Carolina of being a racist because he called President Obama a liar from the floor of the house chamber.  It could be that Wilson is a racist, I don't know him.  It could be that Carter is and he is trying to cover his tracks by labling others as a racist.  You say that is absurd, is it any more absurd that saying Wilson is because he called Obama a liar?  In fact it may be more logical to argue he is a racist because he is from South Carolina.  But then of course Carter is from Georgia that line of reasoning might backfire.

Listen we can disgree about whether what Wilson did was appropriate or not but to say he is racist for doing so, come on.........  Are there racist in this country?  No doubt.  I am thinking if a person is truly a racist no one has to say so, every one will realize it and that person will find his circle of friends and influence ever shrinking into the tidewaters of his own skin shade, ethenicity, and cultural background.

It is not only those with the least melanin in their skin tone that are racist.  Yes, this country has racist and we find them among all shades of people, red and yellow, black and white.  I believe they are the small minority and easily identified.  Sometimes I wonder if those who are the quickest to point out the racist among us remember they have three fingers pointing back at themselves.

The term has lost all meaning because it has become a tool in the hand of the weak-minded to stigmatize people who don't agree with them or are doing things they don't like.

I don't care for Obama one bit and it does not have a thing to do with the fact that he has more melanin than I do.  It has everything to do with:

He is for Abortion and radically so
He is for redistributing the wealth (remember Joe the plumber)
He is continually apologizing for the United States, stop it please!
He is for bigger government
He has been closely associated with ACORN
He is soft on terrorism and those that want to destroy us
He wants to insure everyone and cut the same time???  If that is not a lie then he is delusional.....

It doesn't matter what shade these things come in, I don't like them.

Oh, yea, and back to where I started.  Please former President Carter Be Quiet!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Abstract Art

I am reading a book on Texas history. Last night I was reading in the time period of WWI and their was several paragraphs concerning Georgia O'Keffe. She was an instructor of art, fashion, and interior decoration at West Texas Normal College in Canyon. The faculty there held her in suspicion because her abstract expressionist paintings did not appear to actually represent anything. Her landlord, a physics professor, once asked her what the subject was of one of her paintings.  She replied that it was Palo Duro Canyon.  "It doesn't look like the canyon to me."  "It's how I feel about the canyon."  "Well, you must have had a stomachache when you painted it."

That is exactly how I feel about expressionist art?  Paint me a picture of something or someone I can appreciate that.  Just my opinon.....

The excerpt is from the book entitled, Passionate Nation: The Epic History Of Texas

Monday, August 31, 2009

Baptismal Regeneration - The Scriptual Object Of Faith

It has been almost six months since my previous installment in this series on baptismal regeneration.  If I had just been dreaming the time away I would feel guilty but since that is not the case I do not feel guilty, well not much any how.  Six months is a long time.  But it has been a full six months and all things considered a good six months.  This is probably always the case when we consider all things and not just the bad things as we are so apt to do.

The previous posts in this series can be found here:

For those that do not care nor have the time to read the previous posts a short review is in order.

In our first two posts I argued for the premise that we cannot save ourselves. This premise was considered from two perspectives. 1. Salvation is by grace. 2. Salvation is not of works. There are not many who would claim to be a Bible believer that would raise objections to these two statements. However, the acceptance of these two statements do not settle the issue as easily as it may appear for their is a divergence of opinion on what constitutes a work. I would arge that baptism constitutes a work those of another persuasion would argue that it does not. They would contend for the necessity of baptism for salvation, I would reply that baptism is a work and therefore salvation is not of grace if baptism is a requirement. Now some would argue that it is not necessarily the act but what God does through baptism that saves. In my estimation this does not overcome the difficulty. If God does something through baptism to save us then we must be baptized for him to do the work of regeneration. If we are not baptized then our sins cannot be washed away. Consequently my salvation becomes dependent upon my being baptized. If I do not submit to the act then God cannot do the work of regeneration.

In our last post we spent most of our space in Romans chapter 4 where the Apostle Paul puts together a series of arguments showing that men are justified, that is saved, by faith. Men must believe to be saved. Some would argue that faith is a work, but the Scripture says differently.

Romans 14:6 - Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace . . . .

Romans 11:6 - And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace . . . .

Conclusion: Men are justfied by faith that it might be by grace, and if by grace then it is no more works. Faith is not a work. Anything else is, including baptism. It may not be a big work, it may not be a perpetual work, but it is a work, it is an act that I must perform to have my sins washed away.

Romans chapter 4 is a powerful and irrufutable statement concerning righteousness being imputed to us by faith. Abraham is given as the example of this spiritually amazing reality.

But in reality there are not even many who would take excpetion to the fact that salvation is by faith. They would take exception to my "take" on it but not the statement. They simply place the statement in another context. Faith in what God does in baptism. At least I believe this is an accurate albeit simple declaration of what those who hold to baptismal regeneration believe.

This brings me to my next, critical point. While we agree that salvation is by faith, the question becomes faith in what? What is the object of our faith. What Christ does for us through baptism or what Christ does for us on the cross? Am I trusting him to do something for me when I am baptised, or am I trusting that he did something for me on Calvary? Is my faith exclusively on what he did or is my faith on what he does in response to me being baptized? I think this matters.

I would be so bold as to say if one is trusting their baptism under any pretext to wash away their sins they will discover that they have not been washed away.

Where then is our faith to be placed? This is not a matter of speculation. The Scripture is clear.  Salvation is provided for us when we place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:16,17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

"it is the power of God unto salvation"  What is the power of God unto salvation?  The gospel of Christ.  What is the gospel of Christ?

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . .

He had declared unto them the gospel and then in the following verses he identifies the gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Therefore when we are told in Romans one that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation we know that it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation.  It is the gospel, the literal gospel, not the "likeness" (ie. baptism) of it that saves.

And it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that is baptized?  No!  Surely if that had been the case he would have plainly stated it.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth!  It is belief not baptism that makes us partakers in the gospel and thus salvation.

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed"  Therein where?  The righteousness of God is revealed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not baptism.  If it were revealed in baptism he would have said so.  We are made just by faith, not by baptism.  Confidence in baptism is a misplaced confidence because it is trusting the "likeness" instead of the reality.  There is a real gospel and no matter how hard one tries it cannot be found in a baptismal pool or font but on a bloody cross and an empty tomb!

Romans 3:25 - Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; . . . .

The Son of God has been set forth to appease the wrath of God through faith in what God does through baptism.  No!  But through faith in his blood!  It is the shed blood that made the atonement for the soul.  This has always been God's plan.

Leviticus 17:11 - For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Because God is the offended party when it comes to sin, it is his law that is violated, it is he who determines what, if anything, can provide a covering for sin.  And he has boldly declared that it is blood that makes the atonement for sin.

Hebrews 9:11,12 - But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;  Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

It is not the blood of bulls and goats that provided the ultimate sacrifice/atonement for sin.  It was his own blood that he took into the holy place in heaven, and by that blood he obtains eternal redemption for us.  He does not obtain eternal redemption through water but through blood, his own blood. 

1 Peter 1:18,19 - Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Clearly we are notredeemed by corrutpible things, not even valuable corruptable things as silver and gold much less water.  We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.  It is his blood that was offered as the redemption price and the price was paid in full.  It was not simply a down payment and the baptismal waters pay the balance.  No, we were redeemed and completly so by the blood and the blood alone.
Colossians 1:20 - And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Peace is made through the blood of Christ not the waters of baptism.  It is simply not good enough to say, it is not the baptism itself but what God does in baptism.  It is not what God does in baptism, it is what he did when he unleashed the full fury of his wrath against Christ who was made sin for us.
The Bible says in Isaiah 53:11 - He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied . . . .   God wrath was satisfied in seeing the travail of Christ's soul.  If we will believe that we will be redeemed, justified, saved.