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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Winds of Change and the Changeless God

Note:  While I do not believe Baptists are Protestant Tozer's larger point is worth considering.

"The contemporary world is a result of radical changes down the generations amounting to revolution: the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the communications revolution, the philosophical revolution and the social revolution. Are we going to accept the belief that the Bible must be interpreted anew in the light of these developments? Are we going to allow ourselves to accept the doctrine that the prophets and apostles were mistaken about God? Are we going to allow society to tell us that the Bible is outmoded and largely irrelevant and must therefore be reassessed in the light of modern advancements? Has God changed? Are we going to accept it? Is there a change in the purpose of God? Have the changes in human society startled or shocked God? Must we, in order to remain intellectually respectable and have good standing with these who doubt the Word, humbly say, "Well, I do not believe in miracles"? Or have we got enough of our Protestant protest and courage to stand up and say, "I believe in miracles whenever God Almighty wants to perform them. I believe that whenever God wants to do anything that is out of the ordinary and contrary to or at least above the common processes of nature, He is able to do it. I believe the miracles of Jesus Christ were real miracles. I believe the miracles of the Old Testament were real miracles." Are we going to allow ourselves to be brainwashed along with all the rest? Or are we going to dare to stand and protest and be known over the country as being Protestant indeed? We would be people who refuse to adjust but who make the world adjust to us. When you adjust, you are dead. The same is true if a church adjusts to these ideas. If you adjust, you are done. But if you dare to stand, the world will adjust to you. I can promise you that. Not all will adjust to you, but at least some will."

A. W. Tozer

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessed Maladjustment

"The second prominent tragedy is that the gospel churches are confused and intimidated by numbers. They accept the belief that there has been change and that Christians must adjust to the change. The word used is adjustment. We must get adjusted, forgetting that the world has always been blessed by the people who were not adjusted. The poor people who get adjusted cannot do much anyhow. They are not worth having around. In every field of human endeavor progress has been made by those who stood up and said, "I will not adjust to the world." The classical composers, poets and architects were people who would not adjust. Today society insists that if you do not adjust you will get a complex. If you do not get adjusted, you will have to go to a psychiatrist. Jesus was among the most maladjusted people in His generation. He never pretended to adjust to the world. He came to die for the world and to call the world to Himself, and the adjustment had to be on the other side."

A. W. Tozer

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Virtue Of Giving Thanks

Psalms 100:4

With our national holiday we call Thanksgiving approaching this Thursday it is hard to pass up the opportunity to address the virtue of giving thanks.  Genuine thanksgiving is the result of a heart that has been renewed to see things differently.  Anyone can make a list of things they like in their lives and call them blessings and say they are thankful.  It is not that I am against listing the things for which we are thankful but I am saying that thanksgiving, the giving of thanks, is a much deeper concept than the ability to compile a list.

While we all consider the things we are thankful for this year let us carefully consider whether we are thankful people.

It is almost like thanksgiving takes place in a vacuum.  I am thankful degenerates into it makes me happy to have this or that or to have experienced this or that.  To be truly thankful necessitates recognition of a benefactor.  It is not so much about what we are thankful for as it is to whom we are thankful.  If we are not careful we can be thankful to no one for a lot of things, which really defies the essence of thanksgiving.

Our text even addresses this issue when it says:

                “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving”
                “be thankful unto him”

There is the recognition of both the blessing and the benefactor.  Only in this context can true thanksgiving be experienced.  It is not simply a matter of being thankful for things but being thankful to someone.  Giving of thanks without an eye to the provider seems shallow at best and selfish at worst.

So this week let us not only consider for what we have to be thankful but to whom we have to be thankful.  In other words, “be thankful unto him”

 I began, this week, to wonder if we start in the wrong place related to thanksgiving.  Having started in the wrong place it is easy to end up on the wrong place.   We start out thinking about what we have and end up being thankful for what we have.  The focus starts on what we have and ends on what we have.  Consequently we find it difficult to ever get focused on the one who gave us richly all things to enjoy.

 Maybe we should start out thinking about what we deserve.  What do I deserve?  Temporally or spiritually what do I deserve?  The Bible tells me what I deserve.  Let me set the stage by first asking a question.  Have you ever committed on single sin?  

 Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death . . . .
 Romans 5:12 - . . . .so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Revelation 21:8 - . . . . and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Because we have all sinned what we deserve is to die and burn in the lake of fire for all of eternity.  We don't deserve our last breath.  We did not deserve to ever see the light of day.

 When I realize what I deserve and compare that to what I have it is only then when I begin to realize that I should be thankful!   Not disaffected comparing what I have to what others have.  But thankful comparing what I have to what I deserve!  I should bless his name every day that I am not getting what I deserve!  (mercy)   I should bless his name ever day that I am in possession of so much that I don’t deserve!  (grace)

Genuine thanksgiving is not about a day.  Don’t misunderstand I am thankful to God that I live in a country that celebrates a day of Thanksgiving.  But, celebrating a day of thanksgiving does not make us a thankful people.  The sad reality is that the day of Thanksgiving has mutated into a day of indulgence.  Instead of the focus being on God it is on food and football.  Somehow as a nation we have come to believe that we can indulge the flesh make a show of bounty and at the end of the day consider our self a thankful people???  Is it really that noble to make a pretense of being thankful by feeding the flesh, both literally and figuratively and every other day of the year we have a murmur or complaint on our tongue.  I am not against food or football but we should be careful about spending a day pursuing those things and then believing because we called it Thanksgiving Day that we are thankful.

Genuine thanksgiving is about a lifestyle.  It really starts by learning to say “thank you” for kindnesses that people show us.  Not simply being thankful for what they gave us or did for us but being thankful to them!  Not a “thank you” that is required by etiquette but a thank you that comes from a heart that feels undeserving.  So often times we never take our eye off the gift and place it on the giver.  We love the thing but are not truly thankful to the benefactor.  We are thankful for things but we are not thankful to anyone.  Maybe this week we can find two, or three, or four people that we can communicate to in some manner and say to them, “I want to thank you for ________________!

I am talking about cultivating the virtue of giving thanks.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks always.
Psalms 34:1 - I will bless the LORD at all times.

Just learning to be truly thankful not just for things but to God and others remembering how undeserving we are.  Or, to put it another way, remember what we deserve!

We should be thankful to God for all that you judge to be good in your life.

James 1:17 - Every good gift . . . cometh down from the Father of lights . . . .
1Timothy 6:17 - . . . . the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; . . . .

Are there some good things in your life today?  Remember they come from God.  God gave them to you to enjoy.  But they came from him.  Remember what you deserve and then consider what he has given you.  And we have trouble being thankful to him???

 Acts 17:25 - . . . . he (the true God) giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

God has given you everything.  He has given you life.  He has given you breath.  He has given you all things. While you are being thankful for the all things you might want to be thankful to Him!   Be careful about developing a sense of entitlement that God owes.  He owes nothing, we owe everything!

We should be thankful to God for all that you judge to be bad in your life.

Are there some things you have judged to be bad in your life?  Probably.  Things don't always go right.  There are disappointments and trials, and tribulations.  It is important to remember though that we judge them to be bad.  We are not always good judges of such matters.  What we deem to be bad may in fact be good.  We certainly know that he intends to use it for good.

1 Peter 1:6,7 - Wherein ye greatly rejoice though . . . ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: . . . .
James 1:2,3 - . . . . count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations . . . .

Be careful about becoming embittered because of the difficulties, disappointments and discouragements of life!  Our minds must be brought into subjection to Christ so that everything that happens we can be found giving thanks.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks . . . for all things unto God . . . .
Notice giving thanks for (the gift) and unto (the benefactor).

Job is the prime example of giving thanks for everything one judges to be bad in their lives.  The rose on a prosperous godly man.  It set that same day on a destitute godly man.  His fortune and his family (children) lost.

 Job 1:20-22 – The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away.

We always want a Lord who gives but do not tend to be thrilled with a Lord that takes away.  We are thankful when he is giving, but what about when he is taking away?  At the end of the day when Job had lost everything we are told that he worshipped!

Job 2:9,10 – Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?  Great question posed by a great man!

Murmuring is a symptom that suggest the absence of giving thanks.  A couple of important things to note
about murmuring.

The Lord hears our murmuring.  Exodus 16:9 - . . . . Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your
murmurings.  Don't think he does not hear it.  Just because you are talking or typing to someone else does
not mean he does not hear it.

 All murmuring is against the Lord.  Exodus 16:8 - . . . . your murmurings are not against us, but against the
LORD.  We think we are murmuring against the situation, the difficulty, the weather, the health problem, the
other person.  The Bible says we are murmuring against God.  It only makes sense.  Who do you think
allowed the situation, or the difficulty, or the weather, or the health problem, or the other person?  You don't
like what happening or what this or that person is doing?  Before you begin to murmur remember what you
deserve!  There is a reason why the Bible says in Philippians 2:14 - Do all things without murmurings and
disputings: . . . .

Complaining which is closely related to murmuring is a symptom that also suggest the absence of giving
thanks.  A couple of important things to note about complainers.

Complainers are people who walk after their own lusts.  Jude 16 - These are murmurers, complainers,
walking after their own lusts; . . . .

Complaining displeases the LORD.  Numbers 11:1 - And when the people complained, it displeased the
LORD: . . . .

Complaining can become chronic.  Psalms 77:1-3 – Refused to be comforted and I complained and was
overwhelmed.  Those who cultivate the virtue of giving thanks hardly ever refuse to be comforted,
complaining is kept to a minimum and they hardly ever feel overwhelmed.

Lamentations 3:39 - Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?  We might
want to think about this and in doing so we might find ourselves being more thankful to God and others. 
And it is just a few verses earlier where we find these sobering words in Lamentations 3:22 - It is of the
LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  Which brings us back to the
starting point and a vital question if we are to be genuinely thankful not just for things but to God.  What do I
deserve?  When you ask yourself this question be sure to remember that it is of the LORD’S mercies that
we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not!

In conclusion maybe this week we can preface everything that we are thankful for with the words, "I am
thankful to God for ___________"  Thereby shifting some of the focus from the blessing to the benefactor. 
And, maybe we can also communicate to one or two people every day by saying, "Thank you for

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I Met Him

It was forty-one years ago today that I met a man who I am certain passed my way on several occasions for he was know well by so many that my life revolved around at that early age.  For whatever reason I had never really paid him much attention, till that night.  Oh, I had seen him in passing and we had probably greeted one another but I moved on never stopping to consider him.  That night I did.

It probably had something to do with the fact that when I saw him that night he was bleeding and suffering on a tree.  It was a horrible sight. I had known for some time that this event was part of his history I simply did not rightly regard it.  That night I did.  I think in part it was because I realized that he bled and died because of me.  When I saw his suffering in that context my sin appeared more horrible than it ever had.  Even at the "innocent" age of seven if my sin required that sacrifice then of necessity my sin must have been a horrible affront to God.  I felt bad because of what my sin had occasioned.

I now was truly afraid of going to hell.  I now realized for the first time that I can remember that not only was I going to hell but fully deserved to go to hell.  Yes, it was a frightening thought.  But if my sin required such suffering from one who was by his own testimony the sinless Son of God, then truly I deserved everything terrible I had coming to me.  I feared for my life and my eternity.  Hell was more real than it had ever been, because I had seen this man dying on a cross for my sin.

Yet, the marvel of it all is that very night when I met him at that frightful cross-roads called Calvary within a moment I met him again but this time he was standing outside an empty tomb.  He was alive.  He who had died was now alive.  There must be hope!  The tragedy of his death was followed by the triumph of his resurrection. Here was a man who had died because of sin and now was alive.  What must this mean for sin?

Before I left my knees I knew the answer.  Forgiveness and eternal life.  If I would trust his death, burial, and resurrection I would be given a pardon, I would be forgiven.  I did and he did!  I claimed the promise, he kept the promise.  I'm glad I met him that evening!

In the last forty-one years of life he has been constantly by my side, if I chose to walk with him.  If I chose not to I have always found him right where I left him.  I have never been able to leave him for very long.  I think this bears testimony to the fact that I really do belong to him.  I must be with him.  I cannot stand it when we are not walking together.  Never once when walking apart have I found him to be wrong and me to be right.  It has always, without fail, been the other way around.

What a friend he has been!  I have had forty-one years to learn of him and get to know him.  He has never disappointed me though I have often disappointed him.  It is some comfort to me that I cannot disappoint him without disappointing myself.

When I have been lonely his presence was real.
When I have been forsaken he has been true.
When I have been fearful he was my refuge.
When I have been sad he was there to cheer.
When I have been laid low he was there to pick me up.
When I have been confused he was there to straighten me out.
When I have been disobedient he was there to rebuke.
When I have been frustrated he was there to calm my heart.
When I have been tried he has been their to strengthen.
When I have been pressed beyond measure he has been there to offer relief.
When I have been brokenhearted he has been there to pick up the pieces.
When I have had joy he has been their to see that they were multiplied.
When I have been ready to give up he has been there encouraging to press on.

Simply put he has been there!  More than any other person.  More than wife, mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, friend or acquaintance he has been there.

So I thank God that forty-one years ago I met Jesus!  I met him for myself!  I really know him.  We walk together and talk together.  He is always there challenging, encouraging, rebuking and comforting and  I love him for it.  I love him more than I ever have but not near as much as he deserves!

If you do not know Jesus, if your life has not been turned from unrighteousness to righteousness through the repentance of sin and trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ may I suggest that you open your bible and meet him at Calvary and face the horrible consequences of your sin and that you deserve hell a thousand times over.  If you will meet him there and follow his path to see him standing by an empty tomb you too can know him as I have.  If you will claim the promise through repentance and faith he will be sure to keep the promise to you as he has to me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Turned The World Upside Down

The phrase comes from the book of Acts.  It was during Paul's second missionary journey in the ancient city of Thessalonica.  Already, the message of Christ was having a profound impact everywhere it was preached.  It did in a lot of ways cause an upheaval.  By the time this statement was made in Acts 17 the news of Christianity usually preceded it formal messengers, thus we come to verse 6 where Luke records:

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; . . . . 

We read these words and stand in awe and admiration as we consider a ministry so powerful that the testimony of the unbelieving world is that they have turned the world upside down.  When have we really seen such a thing?  Oh, we live in a day of christian fads, flash in the pan Christianity.  It does not matter whether it is  the Moral Majority, Promise Keepers, Left Behind, WWJD, The Passion, Fire Proof, Purpose Driven Life, and memory fails me......but there have been others.

These movements or movies or books were destined to change the world or at least Christianity.  In some cases the world came by to watch for a bit and then moved on to whatever they were doing before.  In at least a few cases a few people made a lot of money.  Yet, the world remains right side up!

The problem is not the world.  The world is what it is.  The Scripture tells us the "whole world lieth in wickedness".  We should not be surprised that the world has no long term interest in Christianities hottest new novelty.  They don't even keep our attention???

Why is it that we don't seem to be able to produce a Christianity of which it could be said, they that have turned the world upside down are come hither also?  I think the answer is that we have not embraced a Christianity that has turned our world upside down.

It is hard to read Acts with an honest heart and not realize that first century Christianity was propelled forward by some people who had their lives turned upside down.  Therefore wherever they went they tended to have that effect.  Theirs was a simple policy of holy living married to a very direct style of preaching men must repent and trust the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to escape hell and have the promise of heaven.  It was not palatable in their day either.  They suffered immeasurably at the hands of nearly everyone because of their total abandon for Christ.  Yet they persevered and managed to turn the world upside down because their own lives had been turned upside down.

Instead we have a Christianity that:

Goes to church when it feels like it
Tithes when it can afford to
Gives to missions when they can find no other way to squelch the guilt
Preaches the gospel......well......hardly ever
Never passes out a tract
Prays only when things are really bad
Struggles to find time to read the Bible
Has redefined holiness as legalism
Defined discipleship as having an extra bible study

In short, too many, myself included have not sufficiently had our lives turned upside down for the cause of Christ!