Wednesday, July 23, 2008

keep thy heart

Prov. 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
It's amazing how many people think that Jesus came to do away with that "old, broken law of the Old Testament", in order to implement a "new and better formula, called the New Testament". When Jesus himself said that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. In Matthew 15:17-20 Jesus said something that went against everything the Jews had learned through tradition over the last several hundred years, this is what he said, "whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught[.] But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
Jesus here is not denying the fact that one of the ceremonial laws was to wash your hands before you ate, but the pharisees had turned it into something spiritual, something that was necessary for their salvation. What the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were missing, was that the ceremonial law was always either a picture and type fulfilled in Christ, or something that was given to the Jews for their own benefit. The law about washing your hands never had anything to do with salvation or holy living, it was given as a sanitary issue that we still follow today. (Just look at the signs in any public restroom, "all employees must wash hands before returning to work.") Unfortunately, the Jews had taken the hand washing rule too seriously (By making it a spiritual law) and had completely ignored Prov. 4:23. Jesus wasn't giving them some new law, he was clarifying the old one that they had twisted up.
I don't know that on the day of judgment we'll give an account for how often we did or didn't wash our hands, but I think we will give an account for how clean we kept our heart. We live in a world much like the one that Jesus was dealing with, if you are caught returning to work without washing your hands you can lose your job. If your boss found out you were living an immoral life style and tried to fire you, he would probably get sued for discrimination. Now don't get me wrong, if you're going to be handling my food (or anything else for that matter) I hope you wash your hands before you leave the restroom; but I am even more concerned that your heart be clean. We provide our children with condoms and by doing so we shout to them the message that we care much more for their physical life than their spiritual one. When the government hands out sterile needles so that drug addicts can continue abusing themselves "safely", we tell them that so long as they live a few years longer, we care nothing if they burn for eternity in hell.
Oh, beloved in the Lord, stop bowing to the to the pressure of our sinful culture, stop "running to the same excess of riot" that they do. Gird up the loins of your prophet's mantle and love our country enough to tell them what they need to hear about eternity, instead of what they want to hear about today. When we stress the physical and neglect the spiritual, we are acting just like the Pharisees and proving that the truth is not in us.

Warriors for Christ

II Tim. 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
In the context of this passage Paul is writing to a young pastor named Timothy, and encouraging him to be a faithful soldier in the army of Christ, not a physical army but a spiritual one where instead of killing your enemies you love and care for them. Paul is encouraging him to learn all he can of the scriptures and then to turn around and teach other men what it is he has learned. Paul says that in order to be a good soldier Timothy cannot become to involved in all the things of the world around him, Paul draws a parallel with something that Timothy could relate to, the Roman soldiers that were garrisoned in every town in the then-known world. Everyone knew that a good soldier had to make his profession his life, you couldn't be involved in every social program and entertainment center and still be the complete soldier you needed to be. Much like our modern athletes that play more than one sport, a problem arises when both start competing for your time and specific concentration. As a Christian, Paul emphasized the importance of keeping first things first and making sure you kept yourself free from the affections of worldly lusts which so easily ensnare us.
There is a glaring absence in today's "Christianity" of this kind of dedication to the things of God. A recent poll conducted by the Times Daily showed that almost half of the respondents didn't even attend a religious service on Easter Sunday. Many of these people probably call themselves Christians, but they cannot even obey the simple admonition to not forsake the assembling together of the believers. We go to church... unless there is a really good book we stayed up late reading, or a ball game we want to watch, or a school program our kids "have" to be involved in, or any other affection of the world that we have tied ourselves to. We read our bibles... unless we have too much work to do, or we're too tired, or we don't feel like it. Have the facts changed? Can a man be a warrior and yet entangle himself in the things of the world? The sad fact is that the facts are the same, which leads us to the conclusion that we aren't really soldiers at all. We have given up fighting in order to please our flesh, which in turn proves that we don't really care about pleasing God who has called us to be a soldier. If we don't care about pleasing God, why do we call ourselves Christians? Those sound like some pretty stark words, but what other conclusion can we come to if the bible says that you keep yourself from the things of the world to please God?
On the flip side of the coin, we cannot take ourselves out of the world and we must needs have have communications with ungodly people and organizations on a regular basis. The key word is "entangleth", it becomes a sin when we allow those things (and they may not even be ungodly in and of themselves) to get in the way of doing all those things that a child of God is called to do. Would you join with me in resolving to cut loose of the secular things that are keeping us from doing those things that are expected of a Christian? Would you decide that you are not going to let anything new tie you down and stifle your ability to serve God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Be a warrior for God, and make sure that whatever your occupation, it is just another tool to show forth the love and mercy of Christ on depraved, helpless sinners like us

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keep the faith

II Tim. 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Paul is writing from a prison cell, probably awaiting execution. He is writing to a young preacher named Timothy and exhorting him to preach the truth without thought of repercussions or personal loss as a result. Paul uses his own experience to encourage him in that endeavor, without boasting he tells Timothy that he has fought many battles, endured many hardships, and through it all he has persevered to the end.
As I read this passage I was encouraged myself to overcome temptations my looking at the big picture. It's easy to fall to temptation when you only think of the immediate results, but when you consider what it could cost you down the road, it makes it much easier to overcome. Paul was not perfect, he said himself that he often did those things that he hated, and that he considered himself the chief of sinners. The difference with Paul was that every time he fell he got right back up, every time he realized he had sinned, he immediately repented and started doing right once again, he never allowed his failures and shortcomings to discourage him to such a point that he stopped working for Christ. I have heard many people say that they used to be an active servant for Christ but over time they just burned out, others have told me that while I'm young I'll be energetic and optimistic but when I get older it will be inevitable that pessimism and weariness will force me to stop working so hard. While I'm sure that with age I will gain experience and my body will endure some wear and tear, that does not mean that I will not be able to work with equal vigor for Christ. The reason I can say that with such confidence is because there are abundant examples in the bible. Paul here looks back on his life and has no regrets about his work ethics, in the old testament Caleb continued to drive the pagans out of the promised land into his eighties.
Another thing I gleaned from this statement was how your priorities change when you're looking death in the face. Paul says nothing about his social accomplishments, he makes no mention of how much fun life had been, nor did he note his education, the only thing he told Timothy that gave him comfort was that he had done his best for God. How many people have you heard of lying on their deathbed and wishing they had spent more time at work, or more time out on the town? You don't, you always hear people say they wish they had spent more time with their families, or more time serving their community, or more time serving God. The reason for that is that all men know in their heart of hearts that they are about to meet their maker, and all the things that are done for self will count for nothing. When we stand before God, the things that will count for something are the things that we did in obedience to scripture.
Let's take this advice from Paul and use our time in the pursuits that will really count for something, both to us when we look back on our lives, as well as to God when we meet him after death. For it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.

All for the glory of God

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. I Cor. 10:31
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Younger Children is "What is the chief end of man?" The answer being "Mans chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." As the custom of catechizing our children has become rarer, we have begun to lose this prime truth that ought to be the governing force in our lives. If I were to ask most professing christians today why they ate and drank, I can say with fair confidence that the majority of them would say it was in order to stay alive or healthy. I doubt as to whether there would be even one that told me their motive for eating and drinking was to bring glory to God. If I were to put this question in different words and ask how much we do each day for the express purpose of bringing God glory, I don't think the answer would be much different. The sad truth is that we do relatively little, if anything, on a regular basis with the prayer that God would use that action to glorify himself. If we begin to grasp what exactly it is that Paul is teaching here it would change the way we live our lives, it would change the way we think, our entire worldview would have to be completely reassessed.
Now to be sure, God is bringing glory to himself every day, in every way. God is conducting the entire world in the way he wants it to go, and therefore glorifying himself whether we acknowledge it or not. If we are not actively seeking to glorify God it does not rob him of glory, but it does rob of us of a blessing. When we are living our lives with the subconscious belief that the chief end of man is to pleasure himself, we are living in disobedience to scripture, we are living a life that makes our self god, by inserting ourselves where God was meant to be, that is the center of our lives. While we don't think of ourselves this way most of the time, it is in fact how most of us live out our lives. We eat to keep us alive, we work to pay our bills, we spend our free time doing what makes us feel good, we sleep so that we feel better. When we ought to be eating so that we may serve God better, pay our bills because that is what God expects, spend our free time doing what God has asked of us, and sleeping so that we are refreshed to do God's work.
For the vast majority of christians and the world alike, we spend our lives thinking, or at least acting like, we are the center of the world. With such sayings as, "You only go around once", and "It's a dog eat dog world", and "You have to look out for number one first", the truth of what is in our hearts begins to spill out. It's true you do look out for number one first, the problem is we have put the prime number on the wrong individual, we are not number one, God is number one.
I would encourage you with each passing day, to take this truth to heart in a way that changes the way you act. I have resolved to live my life in such a way as to make sure that the reason I do what I do is that it is something that glorifies God. That applies both to the "grand tasks" such as what I preach, down to the "menial ones" such as what and when, I eat and drink. Don't waste your life thinking you are the chief end of your life, do something that will transcend this life, make glorifying God your chief end.

Desire the word

I Pet. 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Peter is writing to christians scattered throughout Asia Minor and encouraging them in their faith. There were those among them who were dealing with severe persecution from both the Roman government as well as the Jewish authorities, and they were beginning to question whether or not their faithfulness was worth all the trouble. Paul encourages them in this passage to desire the word of God as their life sustaining force. He tells them to desire it the same way that that a baby desires it's mother's milk.
One of my goats recently had twins, it is amazing to see the fervor and frequency with which they nurse, it is a driving force inside them telling them that if they want to live long, they have to go to their mother's milk. It ought to be the same for us as christians, if we want to grow and thrive as children of God, we have got to read God's word with both fervor and frequency. It is not a chore or obligation to read our bibles on a daily basis, instead it ought to be both instinctive and a pleasure. If the word of God ought to be as important to us as nourishment is to a growing baby, then why are we so negligent about reading our bibles? Why are we so reluctant to put ourselves under the preaching of the word of God? Why do we look for entertainment as opposed to strong doctrinal content in our pulpits?
Peter said one of the best ways to counter trials and persecution is to develop a deep desire to read God's word, the only way to develop a desire for something is to fall in love with it, and the only way to fall in love with something is to spend time with it. We have a hard time keeping our daily bible reading schedule, because we don't discipline ourselves to read it. I have found in my own life that when I make sure I'm reading my bible, I have more of a desire to read my bible, and when I let myself become slack I lose interest and desire.
Notice also Peter calls it a sincere word. The scriptures are not simply a guideline for life, they are not good suggestions for how you ought to live, nor are they trivial historic factoids. The bible is a sincere word, one that needs to be taken seriously, a word of truth that is a command to righteous living. Peter had no qualms about it's authenticity and the trendy attraction that has taken over much of the world questioning the Bible's canonicity, had no place in Peter's way of thinking and speaking to others concerning the importance of the holy writ. Such vain babbling ought not persuade us, instead we are to be steadfast in our belief, trusting in the sincere word that has the power to shine the light of the glorious gospel on our hearts.
I would encourage you to follow Peter's command to both desire and revere the word of God, that it would be a staple for your daily life, and a blessing instead of a burden.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The throne of grace

Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We live in a culture, in which the reality of God has been watered down, to some it is nothing more than an exclamation of surprise, others honestly believe in God but his holiness and purity have been belittled by the televangelists with their catch phrases, like, "Just say 'Jesus, I take you!' and he's yours". The Jews lived in the polar opposite of this culture, under the Old Testament law there was only one group of people that could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Of this group of people there was only one man that could come before the mercy seat, (the mercy seat being the throne of God in the holy of holies, where a single sacrifice was placed once a year to atone for all the sins of the Israelites that year). When this high priest would go into the holy of holies to offer this sacrifice, he would go in with bells tied to the bottom of his robe and a rope tied around his ankle, because the people knew that if he went before the throne of God in the wrong way, God would strike him dead. Therefore, if the bells stopped jingling for a certain period of time, the people outside would know to pull his dead body out of the holy of holies, for they could not go in to retrieve him.
The writer of Hebrews then, is telling the recipients of his letter (who were Jews), that since Jesus had been crucified for all God's children, the veil separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple had been miraculously torn in two pieces. This signifying that anyone could now come to the mercy seat to find grace, and come boldly not fearing the wrath of God on their unrighteousness. The difference is, that before the death of Christ the high priest would go before God, hoping that he had done everything necessary to appease the wrath of God. Now we come before God with the full understanding that we can do nothing good enough to appease God's wrath, but instead fully trusting that Jesus' death and resurrection did fully satisfy him. The high priest went before God the same way that those that trust their good works to save them do, without any assurance that they had done everything necessary to appease God. The writer of Hebrews wants to make sure that we understand this old covenant is no longer in place, but instead we can come boldly before the throne of grace, trusting in nothing but the finished work on Calvary to save us from our sins.
All of this does not negate the fact that we still must honor God's holiness, and fear his justice, boldly does not equal impishly or arrogantly. Instead it implies the same healthy relationship between a father and son, we still honor, respect, and in God's case worship him, but we do it with complete trust that he is looking out for our best interests, and no matter what offenses we have committed against him, he will always be our father. We can disappoint, offend, or displease him, and it ought to break our heart when we do, but that does not bar us from boldly and humbly approaching the mercy seat and asking for forgiveness for the sake of Christ.

Wise fools

Rom. 1:21, 22 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
Paul uses the first few chapters of Romans to prove that all men know of God, through a universal knowledge written in our hearts by God. This is seen to be true, all the world over, any civilization you find will always have a basic knowledge of a god, an alter, and a mediator between basic men and that god. Paul then builds on that principle, and teaches that all men left to their own devices will reject the true God. Which brings us to our text verses, where Paul says that even though man knows God, they refuse to acknowledge his omnipotence and instead try to come up with any other explanation for this law written on their hearts.
We deal with this in so many different ways in our modern world, we see people chalking their existence up to evolution, or the blessings they enjoy as coincidence. Pride has caused our heads to swell, and now wisdom (or education) is the name of the game, and yet the theories the world comes up with to explain away God sound so juvenile (or as Paul says foolish). The one we deal with with the most regularity, is the theory of evolution. The entire theory was thought up on the presupposition that there is no God, and it has spread so quickly because of the dogma that has been so aggressively pushed saying that you can not be scientific and believe in God. In recent years this has extended to the point that scientific establishments have begun firing their scientists based solely on whether or not they believe in creation. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Their logic doesn't seem make much sense to me, no one in their right mind would find a clock on the side of the road and conclude that a garbage truck had driven by and it just so happened that all the right pieces had fallen off, and fallen together, to make the clock. Even if a garbage truck drove by once a day for millions of years the chances of the right pieces, falling in the right place, to form a clock are non-existant. Why then, do we look at something much more sophisticated, with billions of cells, doing everything in perfect sync, and believe it was an accident of nature? Especially since hundreds of scientist have tried to make a living organism out of non-living substances, using all the ideal situations and places, and have failed. But we will believe that it all happened by chance? Who is wise, and who is the fool here?
Now, we have to conclude that micro-evolution happens around us all the time, that is that there are some animals that adapt to their environment as it changes. However this is just further proof for an amazing creator. Never before has a species morphed into a completely new species, and those that claim to believe that they do regardless of proof or evidence, are fools claiming to be wise.

Gain to me, loss for Christ.

Philippians 3:7, 8 But what things were gain to me, Those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Paul in his letter to those in Philippi, tells them in a very forthright way that all the things that exalted himself, all the things that made him look better or that were a gain to him in any way, he accounted as a loss on Christ's account. Furthermore, that all the things that glorified himself that he had given up, were in his estimation dung, and not something to regret giving up but instead things that he was glad to be rid of. Paul says in another place that we should follow him as he follows Christ, and this would be a good place for us to follow his example. We live in a country and generation and culture that has saturated us in the idea that we deserve to have everything we want exactly when we want it, and they will go to the furthest extant to allow us this luxury. From credit cards to fast food to drive through wedding chapels in Las Vegas, our world makes sure every lust of the eye and lust of the flesh and pride of life is satisfied at the first inkling.
The Christians of our day (at least here in the western part of the world) could use some of Paul's advice, when he said that anything that benefited his ego or lusts, was a loss for the case of Christ. We are so sold on the idea that we have to drive a new car and we have to have a wide screen HD TV and we have to be entertained at all times, that I wonder what we are putting to Christ's account. Now I don't think that it's wrong to have any of those things in and of themselves, but what Paul is asking is what would you have been able to do with that money and time if you had used them for God instead of yourself? I could water that down and ask what would happen if we equally split our resources between ourselves and the things of God? The answer would be an enormous impact on the world. Can you imagine the shock waves that would be felt around the world, if half of the time and money we spend only on our non-essentials, were given to missions or some other gospel based ministry? In a country as rich as America, where billions of dollars a year are spent on entertainment alone, the blessings are unspeakable, the responsibility is then likewise enormous, and we are squandering our responsibility as stewards on a daily basis.
As part of the gimme generation, I know the temptations that bombard us from every outlet are hard to resist, but it comes down to seeing the worth of what Christ did for us on Calvary. Jesus said in Matt. 16:26 that the entire world is not worth as much as a single soul, if Jesus then redeemed our soul that is of such value, why are we not devoted to giving him everything we can? Paul saw the pleasures of the world in such a light that he said they were to him as dung, something that he was not only glad to get rid of, but something he would want to put as far away from him as possible. Why then do we act like we are some sort of heroic martyr when we give up the smallest thing for Christ? We give up a sin that our flesh loves and believe we have done something extraordinary, we put more than a tenth in the offering plate and act as if we have done God a favor, we give up an afternoon in front of the TV to minister to those in a nursing home and imagine we have done some noble act.
Would you join me in working harder each day to count those things as undesirable things that we are glad to be rid of? To try with increased vigor to give more of our resources to the things of God, and to see our salvation as something worthy of everything we have to offer? Not that you'll ever repay the debt Jesus paid on the cross, but out of an overwhelming gratitude that changes our outlook on the things of earth. As the hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote, "Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

Trust in the Lord

Prov. 3:5, 6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
As a human, and especially as a man, I am so often tempted to think that I can take care of myself, that I don't need someone else telling me what to do. I have to constantly remind myself that I am nothing outside of Christ, that I cannot do anything without God's strength. Obviously, outside of Christ's atonement and God's effectual calling I would be headed for hell, and rightly so. What's harder is keeping in mind the fact that I can do nothing physically outside of God and his mercy. It is a common misconception among men, that they are self made, or that they made themselves who they are today. When in fact it was God who gave them the strength of body to accomplish whatever feats they had to overcome in their lives. It is God who gives us the clarity of mind to make the daily decisions, that so often have lasting repercussions. That's not to mention the basic necessities he grants me such as the upkeep of my heartbeat and the air flowing through my lungs. How vain it is of me to imagine that there can be any physical success in this life outside of the mercies of God.
David's admonition was to trust in the lord with all thine heart, but instead we are tempted to trust God along with other things. A man who is sitting on a platform and yet has all sorts of safety belts on as well, is not truly trusting that platform to hold him up; people who claim to trust God for everything, and then go out and build up physical supports "just in case", are not trusting God with all their heart. I once heard of a man that said he honestly believed it was only through faith and trust in Jesus Christ that he could be saved, but just to be safe he also got baptized in the catholic church, took the Muslim pilgrimage to mecca, and did everything, every religion, told him was needed for salvation. That man was not trusting Jesus at all, but instead was just trusting in the Lord with some of his heart.
David also says that we need to acknowledge Him in all our ways. All too often we want to trust in God in some areas of our life, and yet unwilling to turn others over to him. We will trust him to give us each day the strength needed, but not believe he can do everything necessary to save us. Or, we will say that he can save us, but not keep us saved. Others trust God with their health, but not their money. David said it was expedient that we acknowledge God's sovereignty in every aspect of our lives.
The last part of these verses (like almost every other command in scripture) have a promise attached to the command. That if we do trust God with all our heart, in every aspect of our lives, he will direct your paths. God never leaves his children out to dry, David says in another psalm, that in all the years of his life he had never seen God's children begging bread. That's because God has promised that for those that do his will, he will lead them in the paths of righteousness for his names sake, and even in the valley of the shadow of death we need not fear evil for God is with us. Will you make the new years resolution with me, to try and trust God more in this next year? To acknowledge his omnipotence in every aspect of your life, and allow him to prove his faithfulness to keep his promise to direct our paths?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

If my people

I Chr. 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear I heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.
As I said in last week's editorial, I feel as if this country is in dire straits. However, I know from scriptures that there is still hope for this country, if the christians will begin acting as christians should. In the future revivals only come when the christians in the country start focusing on their own walk with God. There is a lot of focus on evangelizing the lost world, or reaching out to the youth in our communities, and while these are admirable ministries they will be futile if the ones ministering are not right with God.
You will notice in this passage that God says that it is his people that are in need of repenting from their sins. He does not say that they need to get more people into the synagogues, or even to do more door to door witnessing, he says that they need to humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways. There are too many churches across this country that are so "seeker friendly" they have stopped preaching the biblical doctrines of sin, the depravity of man, the just wrath of God, and holy living of the saved, because they are afraid of scaring people away. The truth is the preachers need to preach the bible in love and allow the saved to conform to it, and the lost to leave. While that may sound harsh, it would purify our churches back to what they are supposed to be, a sanctuary for the saints to be able to retreat to and be free from the filth of the world. Instead we have bought into the idea of bringing the lost world into the church, instead of bringing the gospel to the world and keeping the church for those whose have been converted.
I want to see this country revived as much as anyone, I want God to hear from heaven and heal our land. As one man told me recently, "Our churches are sick, but we've got to give them the right medicine." The funny thing about medicine is most of it isn't very fun to take, but when we get over it and take it, it helps us get better. If pastors want to see this country turned around they will have to stop giving their congregations candy and start giving them medicine. It may taste bitter for us to eat some humble pie, but the end result will be a spiritually healthier country.
One other aspect that is mentioned in this verse is the need for prayer, unfortunately we live in such a busy world that it has become easy for us to make the excuse that we have too much going on to spend more than a few minutes a day in prayer. For those of us that desire to see a return to christianity in this country over the next decade, must begin praying in that direction. Both aligning ourselves to the will of God and praying that others would do the same, is necessary for change come. It is my prayer that you will join me in this effort to reform our country, first by conforming ourselves to the word of God and secondly by fervently praying that God will ignite others hearts to see the need for healing.

Exalting a nation

Prov. 14: 34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
I love the country we live in, I love the freedoms and liberties we enjoy. These liberties and freedoms were set down by men of God who understood that for any country to succeed it must be founded upon the laws laid down in scripture. The principle that all men are created with the right to life, the appeal system to ensure an unbiased trial, the fact that there must be an absolute right that when followed is rewarded with liberty, and absolute wrongs that are punished. All of these are principles found throughout scripture. Unfortunately, this country has come such a long way since that time, that the average American couldn't name five of the ten commandments, and because of that ignorance of the bible the foundational rights are being abused.
The same judges that rule that every person has an equal right to life, will deny that right to the many million babies that have been aborted, they will admit that there are absolute laws that must be followed, then turn right around and say we have no right to teach the bible as the exclusive Word of God. These judges call pornography "freedom of speech", yet deny the right to read the bible in schools, they will not allow you to spank your children in public under the pretense of "abuse", and yet divorce and adultery, the biggest destroyers of families, are winked at. How can we still say "God bless America" and expect it to be true? After tragedies such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, how could people ask "Why would God let this happen?" Proverbs tells us that sin is a reproach to any people, no matter how scientifically advanced they think they are.
America rose to world prominence during a time of great revival and scriptural dependency in this country. Shortly after Darwin's theory of evolution became widely accepted, abortion was legalized. Did you know that up until the 1970's the medical community still considered homosexuality a mental condition, but when tolerance became our society's watchword, it became an "alternative lifestyle". You can look back on our nation's history and clearly see that in the times that righteousness was expected, our nation was exalted, and in the times when the sins of atheism, tolerance, and the destruction of absolute morals prevailed, the people were reproached. Do not be afraid to stand for the truth, when it seems as if all of society is rejecting it, there have been hundreds of men, women, and children that have died because they refused to say that their culture was right and the bible wrong. Is it so much to ask that you would suffer a little rejection or a little scorn for it? I still think that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth, and I still think there is time to turn this country around to the roots from whence it came. But, the only way this can happen is if we as God's people begin rejecting sin and turn back to righteousness.

A debtor

Rom. 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and the unwise.
Paul is opening up his letter to the Romans here, and in this verse he is prefacing the statement that he is ready to preach the gospel wherever he is called upon to do so. The reason he feels so ready to preach is because he sees himself as a debtor. His debt is actually not to the Romans or Greeks, it is not the wise or unwise that he owes anything to. His debt is to God, he is indebted to Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul. However there is no way he can repay that debt to God, it is not possible for him to make it up to God, there is no way he can give God anything God does not already have, especially something as important as the soul. Therefore if Paul wants to begin to repay this debt to God, he must be a servant to God for the rest of his life, and bring this saving gospel to all men.
We too, have been saved by the power of Christ, and have no way to repay this debt. Paul says in Rom. 12:1 "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". That "therefore" is referring to the previous chapter where he explains that we have been saved by the mercies of Christ, and therefore are to live accordingly. Please do not misunderstand me here, we work for Christ because of our salvation, not for our salvation. Paul also says "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He is a debtor to Christ and because of this debt he preaches the gospel to all men.
Secondly, I want you to see his obligation to bring this gospel to all men. Paul says in Rom. 10:14 "How shall they believe on him whom they have not heard, and how shall they here without a preacher?" And again in I Cor. 1:21 "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Doing this will not repay God for what He has done, it will not benefit Him, God is holy and perfect and can not be benefited by the actions of mere men. However, Paul had the privilege of hearing this gospel preached and now knows he is obligated to give every man possible the same opportunity. That is not to say that everyone that hears will be saved, but that those whose spiritual ears God has opened, will believe unto salvation.
Now with these two principles in mind, let us come to the applicable conclusion. If you are saved, it is because you heard or read the gospel of Christ, and if someone went out of their way to give you that gospel, shouldn't you do the same? God has saved you regardless of who you were, or what you could give back to Him. You are now a debtor the same as Paul was, you owe it to everyone you come in contact with to proclaim the gospel and give them the chance to believe on Him of whom they have just heard. It is your reasonable service to present your bodies to God as a living sacrifice and preach His gospel, no matter how foolish it sounds to the lost. Believe me, to them it will sound foolish, Paul says in I Cor. 1:18 "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." Start paying on that debt, start preaching the gospel to every creature

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The mirror of God's word.

Psa. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have any dominion over me.
Have you ever met someone that was just photogenic? Sometimes they are not even strikingly good looking in real life, but you just can't get a bad picture of them. I hate those people, okay I don't hate them, but I sure do envy them. I do not know what the opposite of photogenic is, but I'm it. A good picture of me is as rare as hen's teeth, hard to find and harder to believe. I don't think of myself as a bad looking person, my ego tries to tell me I might even be bordering on good looking, but a quick trip to the photo album quickly relegates my head back to it's normal size. I'm either slouching, or the angle makes my nose look huge, or they catch me blinking. Maybe the problem is with the cameras, yea, someone needs to invent a camera that makes me look good. Oh boy, you got your work cut out for you. You would think that somewhere in a hundred pictures there would be at least one good one of me, you would be wrong. I thought I found one once, but then I realized it was someone else standing in front me that made me look good.
Unfortunately, it's not only the camera that catches me at my worst. I read my Bible on a regular basis, and each time I look in it's pages I see a new angle of me that I don't like. I like to think I'm a pretty good person, my ego tries to tell me I might even be better than most, but a quick reading of God's word quickly shows me other wise. I don't know what it is, but I just can't seem to find a passage of scripture that puts me in a good light. I thought I found one once but then I realized it was Jesus standing in for me that made me look so good. There is one major difference between the two. As far as the cameras go, I'm stuck with this mug for life and it probably won't get any better, but when it comes to the scriptures, with each new flaw I find, I have a chance to make it right. That's what I'm hoping in, though I may look pretty bad right now, I pray that with God's help I can correct the flaws with time. The challenge is humbling myself enough to realize that the problems are just that, and then being dedicated enough to do what I have to do to fix them. All too often I want to think the problem is with the Bible, and if I could just change that, I'd be okay. If only the Bible could be changed to make me look good. This is the solution many people have come up with, and have either reworded or redefined the bible to fit their agenda. The problem is, that while all of heaven and earth will one day melt away with a fervent heat, God's word will stay the same forever (II Pet. 3:10, I Pet. 1:25). So I guess that means that the only option left is for me to change. Oh well, that will give me something to do while I wait for you to invent that camera that makes me look good. Good luck.


Matt. 9:37, 38 Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.

All around us, every day there is a harvest to be gathered, souls headed to hell that need to be saved, christians that need to be taught how to live godly. Those of us who are saved, now have a responsibility while we are on this earth. Too many Christians once they are saved simply kick back and decide to live the rest of their lives in a state of relative ease, this is not what we were put here to do. The bible says we must work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work, this is speaking of the fact that we will only live a few short decades here on earth compared to an eternity in God's presence. Therefore our responsibility is to work for God the entire time we are here on this earth, Paul said "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". This ought to be our motto as well, that we would live our entire life here in the service of Christ, and wait for eternity to take our rest, to get our gain.
We live our life as if this is where we are supposed to get our gain, when in reality this is where we are supposed to work. We are laborers that have been put in the middle of a ripe harvest, and there are far too few of us to waste our time. Just as your employers expect you to use your time at the job for him and then rest at home, so God expects us to use our lives harvesting for Him and then rest when we get home with Him.
Secondly, note that Jesus commands us to pray that God would send laborers. Not only are we to live our lives as laborers, but we are to ask the master to send us some help. I don't know about you, but so often I get caught up in what I'm doing and forget to pray for more laborers, yet it is an express command from Jesus Christ to do so. We would do well to remember this, to add this to our prayer list for each day. If Jesus has commanded us to pray for something, we should do just that. It's a common thing if a business is growing, for the employer to hire more employees, if that would bring him more gain. We, as the servants of Christ are here for one purpose, to bring Him honor and glory. If more laborers would help us better accomplish the task, than that is what we should pray for.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans12:1) Let us live our lives with this as our creed, that we would live our lives as diligent servants of the master for the entirety of our lives, continually praying that He would send laborers to assist us in bringing even more glory to Himself.

The power of the tongue

Prov. 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruits thereof.

How many of us has ever said something in the heat of the moment, only to instantly wish we could have it back? I know I have. How many of us have ever been hurt by words, worse than any sticks or stones ever could? The tongue has an incredible power that no other part of the body possesses. In fact the bible says if we can control our tongue we can control our entire body, because no other member is as hard to get a bridle on. The bible speaks of the tongue in some pretty potent terms, it compares it to a sword, a fire, and this passage even says it has power to kill. However the tongue was created as a blessing, the words of encouragement we can speak to each other, the songs of praise we sing to our redeemer, and the power to persuade, are all much more powerful spoken than written. But, because of our depravity we have taken that blessing and turned it into a curse, we've taken the very thing made to give life and corrupted it into an instrument of death. We as Christians have been given a new heart, and it is our job to take all of those things that sin has corrupted and start using them for their original purpose, to glorify God. It is Satan's goal to corrupt all the good things in life and use them for his purposes, and he has done a pretty good job with the tongues of mankind. The shock jocks spend their entire career trying to think up some new hurtful or crass comment just to get someone's ire. Political candidates are no longer content to simply promote their own agenda, they have to trash talk everyone else's, and we do the same sort of thing every day. If we talk bad about someone else, either to their face or behind their back, we do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can convince others that everyone around you is a lazy good-for-nothing, it makes us look like a pretty good person in comparison. The amazing thing is that the most well respected people are not those that try to make others look bad so they can look better, but the ones who honestly work at being the best person they can be and don't worry about what everyone else thinks. All that to say, we have been blessed with a peculiar gift in the tongue, let's not abuse it. Let's use it for the purpose it was made to be used for, helping others. If you have been blessed with much, you now are responsible for much. The tongue and power of speech is a big blessing, when we're called to give an account for how we used it, will it be a good report or bad? Will it be seen that we used it for the edification of the saints, or the exalting of ourselves? Let's be really careful every time we open our mouths, so that when we do speak, it will only be with words of life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Filled to the brim

John 2:7 Jesus saith unto them, "Fill the water pots with water". And they filled them up tho the brim.
I read this passage of scripture and wondered at the response of the servants, they reacted in way rarely seen by mankind. Jesus Christ gave them a command and they not only obeyed, but went above and beyond the call of duty and fulfilled not only their obligation, but then did a little bit more. I wonder how we would have reacted if we were put in the same situation? The truth is we are put in this situation every day, we have commands from Christ that we are required to live in every day.
The first thing we do when confronted with the command is to question Jesus' command. We consider ourselves logical beings who can discuss the situation with God. Unlike the obedient servants we say, "But Lord, if I tithe, how will the cable bill get payed?" The fact being God asks us to obey without questioning. We are not called to look at what we think the results will be and then act accordingly. We are called to obey, if we do that the end results are in God's hand, we will not be held accountable for what happens if we only obey.
Secondly, more often then not we do only the amount required to scrape by. Christ tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, so we drag ourselves to church on Sunday morning, and just let the rest of the services slide by, resting in the fact that we've fulfilled our "obligation" to God. These servants did not consider it an obligation, but an opportunity to carry out zealously. If we reacted the same way they did we would be in church Sunday morning, night, Wednesday night, and any other opportunity presented to us.
If commanded to tithe, we would give ten percent and then some, when commanded to pray we would not pray for five minutes because we had to, but all day, wherever we were, we would pray without ceasing.
Why don't we start acting with the zeal that these servants did? God asks us to fill our water pots with water, do we fill them to the brim, or fill them halfway? Do we obey out of obligation or out of love? Do we leave the results up to God, or argue with God, thinking ourselves more logical then God. Although we would never word it that way, that is exactly what we're doing when we disobey Christ's commands because we think we've got a better way. Let's forsake ourselves and simply obey what Christ has asked of us. We sing "Trust and Obey", but do we act it out or simply pay God lip service? Let's commit to never give the world a reason to laugh us to scorn, by obeying Christ with all our might and filling our water pots to the brim.

A sure foundation

Ps. 11:3 "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Down through the ages there has been a precedent set for today's Christians. If the Bible is not clear on an issue, a good idea is to look back and see how orthodox Christianity has acted in the generations before us. Nine times out of ten, the pattern will show you the correct view. The church as we know it today (as a called out assembly of believers) is being built by God down through centuries until one day when He calls us home, we will be a perfect, unified assembly, in which each age will contribute it's piece to fit into the holy convocation. (Eph. 4:16)
Why then, this present and very prevalent idea, that we need to pull away from the pattern and precedent laid down for us by our forefathers? It seems as if the modern view of the church, is that it must conform to look like the world, instead of making the world conform to Christ. The foundation is singing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. (Eph. 5:19) Today's church has decided that these type songs are too full of controversial doctrine, so in order to be more relevant, we have replaced them with "Praise and worship" songs. Unfortunately these song have little to know doctrinal content, when the words of a song are such that a Mormon, Muslim, Catholic, and Baptist, could all sing along without confrontation, the song is not fit for church. Take for example this song found in many "Orthodox Christian" church hymnals.
"Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

He is God's son, He is God's son, He is God's son, He is God's son,
He is God's son, He is God's son, He is God's son, He is God's son.

We will praise him, We will praise him, We will praise him, We will praise him,
We will praise him, We will praise him, We will praise him, We will praise him."

This is an actual song with the very original title, "Alleluia". What has happened to the songs that were lifted up to God singing of his holiness and justice, what of the hymns sung among the believers, that held so much undeniable truth Christians were martyred for not recanting them? The foundations are being destroyed, and the righteous are being crippled, because the world is having a larger impact on the church, than the church is on the world.
The foundations laid said that joining a church was a strict process in which your salvation was made sure and your walk with God was watched diligently, and if you fell into a sin of which you refused to repent, the Bible would be followed and you would be taken off of the rolls. Today a church will put you on the rolls if you attend once (that is the actual practice of at least one of the churches in our area) and God forbid that you should ever mention taking someone off the membership roll.
I pray that the righteous will begin taking a stand while they still can, and say "I will stand by the foundations that my fathers died on, I will not stand idly by and let the world destroy the foundations." For thousands of years men have lived and died trying to keep the church of God pure, will you let that pass in a few short generations? Will their efforts have been in vain? Or will you, like Martin Luther take a stand against the errors in the church, and attempt a reformation? It must be done in love, but it must be done.