Monday, May 31

"The Glorious Reward of Happiness in Heaven" by Jonathan Edwards

A popular idea of heaven is one where we all are equally rewarded. Our culture has subscribed to a sort of socialistic mentality that (they hope?!) will roll over into heaven. But this is not what the Bible teaches. And if we do not go by what Scripture teaches, we are bound to follow a man. Please don't use that hackneyed excuse regarding interpretation. Most of the problems people have with the Bible have less to do with interpretive issues than with rebellious ones. They simply don't want what the Bible teaches. Period!

But, on a much more positive note, the question arises as to the relative happiness of those in heaven, both of the highly and the less rewarded. How will they "get along" without envy or condescension? But, it's HEAVEN, you say. Of course it'll be great. That's right. But for more, we turn to Jonathan Edwards who in this excerpt from a sermon from Romans 2:10 goes further. Paul wrote:  " . . . but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek."

Jonathan Edwards writes:
And the apostle Paul tells us that, as one star differs from another star in glory, so also it shall be in the resurrection of the dead. 1Co. 15:41. Christ tells us that he who gives a cup of cold water unto a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward. But this could not be true, if a person should have no greater reward for doing many good works than if he did but few. It will be no damp [discouragement] to the happiness of those who have lower degrees of happiness and glory, that there are others advanced in glory above them: for all shall be perfectly happy, every one shall be perfectly satisfied. Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven but perfect love shall reign through the whole society. Those who are not so high in glory as others, will not envy those that are higher, but they will have so great, and strong, and pure love to them, that they will rejoice in their superior happiness; their love to them will be such that they will rejoice that they are happier than themselves; so that instead of having a damp to their own happiness, it will add to it. They will see it to be fit that they that have been most eminent in works of righteousness should be most highly exalted in glory; and they will rejoice in having that done, that is fittest to be done. There will be a perfect harmony in that society; those that are most happy will also be most holy, and all will be both perfectly holy and perfectly happy. But yet there will be different degrees of both holiness and happiness according to the measure of each one’s capacity, and therefore those that are lowest in glory will have the greatest love to those that are highest in happiness, because they will see most of the image of God in them; and having the greatest love to them, they will rejoice to see them the most happy and the highest in glory.  And so, on the other hand, those that are highest in glory, as they will be the most lovely, so they will be fullest of love: as they will excel in happiness, they will proportionally excel in divine benevolence and love to others, and will have more love to God and to the saints than those that are lower in holiness and happiness. And besides, those that will excel in glory will also excel in humility. Here in this world, those that are above others are the objects of envy, because that others conceive of them as being lifted up with it; but in heaven it will not be so, but those saints in heaven who excel in happiness will also in holiness, and consequently in humility. The saints in heaven are more humble than the saints on earth, and still the higher we go among them the greater humility there is; the highest orders of saints, who know most of God, see most of the distinction between God and them, and consequently are comparatively least in their own eyes, and so are most humble. The exaltation of some in heaven above the rest will be so far from diminishing the perfect happiness and joy of the rest who are inferior, that they will be the happier for it; such will be the union in their society that they will be partakers of each other’s happiness. Then will be fulfilled in its perfection that which is declared in 1Co. 12:22.  “If one of the members be honoured all the members rejoice with it.” [emphases mine]

Sunday, May 30

Christians Worship God AND Judge Nations!

A seemingly contrary principle bursts from these verses, God's people worshiping and--connected--God's people judging! 
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and . . .
two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 149:4–9) 
Foundation of Grace
First, our Lord, Jehovah takes pleasure in his own people, and adorns the humble (again, his people whom he has made humble) with salvation (here meaning not only conversion, but deliverance from evil throughout their lives). The LORD acts first, which is always why his people are called upon (vv. 1-3) to sing new songs to him and to praise his name! Further, they are urged to "exult in glory," and to "sing for joy" even when retiring to sleep! (Contra Ps. 6:6 and mourning on his bed). "Let the high praises of God be in their throats" summarizes the immediacy of such worship. In other words, it's right there, right in their mouth, ready to burst out, because they are so filled with joy in their God! 

Christians to Judge Nations!
Second - so far, so good. But then . . . ??!! The second half of verse 6 joins to worship the judgment of nations! NOTE: I separated verse 6 with an ellipsis (. . .) but it continues without a break. In essence, I put in a break to show that there is NO BREAK in thought! Why bring this out? Because of the great and persistent confusion over judging. "We're not supposed to judge" PERIOD! . . . they say. But is this correct? Sort of. We're NOT to judge other people's motives (Matthew 7:1ff). But clearly that is not the only word on judging. For into the hands of his own people, God has committed judging. Again, just take notice of his choice of wording: two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! Sharp swords executing the vengeance (of God!) according to the judgment that has been written. It is the nature of the lost to imagine that they should not be judged, and the nature of Christians which affirms we should! The world grates against God; the Christian bows happily before Him. And none does this but by the grace of God. This the Christian knows and loves.

Note Several Features:
1) Such judgment, whatever else it may entail, does not go contrary to, but emanates from our worship of God! They are intimately connected here! We must see this.
2) "Who are you to judge?" is often the question posed to Christians. And here is an answer. We are God's people, ecstatic at and humbled by our own God deliverance. And we are now (by the same God) given the responsibility of judging the nations, and angels (1 Cor. 6:3). I don't have to understand HOW we'll do this or even know exactly WHEN. The point is that IT IS COMING, and we'll be given this job.
3) This leads to the last point which is that verse 9 closes out this thought with these words, . . . "This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!" Not only WILL we do this, but it will be our HONOR to do so!

Question . . .
Could it be that this subject, like so many others in Scripture, is overlooked due to our small-souled unwillingness to receive ALL that the LORD has to say? Does this not force us to confess that more often than we'd like to admit, we act as if we could've written the Bible better than God because we would've left out certain unpleasant doctrines?! Is this not audacious on our part? Should we not, as this Psalm teaches, be the "humble" whom God teaches? If we were more humble and less arrogant, we would hear more, believe rightly and, thus, live wholly for Christ. Thus, the true worship of God leads to a right judgment of man (including ourselves). Both hinge on and derive their weight from God alone.

Let this be our Sunday meditation. Amen. 

Thursday, May 27

The Power of the Cross

The following comes from Octavius Winslow, with special thanks to Matthew Blair and can be found HERE along with many other quotations from this man of God.
 . . . 
What a marvelous power does this cross of Jesus possess! It changes the Christian’s entire judgment of the world. Looking at the world through the cross, his opinion is totally revolutionized. He sees it as it really is—a sinful, empty, vain thing. He learns its iniquity, in that it crucified the Lord of life and glory. His expectations from the world, his love to the world, are changed. He has found another object of love—the Savior whom the world cast out and slew. And his love to the world is destroyed by that power which alone could destroy it—the crucifying power of the cross.
It is the cross which eclipses, in the view of the true believer, the glory and attraction of every other object. What is the weapon by which faith combats with and overcomes the world? What but the cross of Jesus! Just as the natural eye, gazing for a while upon the sun, is blinded for the moment, by its overpowering effulgence, to all other objects—so to the believer, concentrating his mind upon the glory of the crucified Savior, studying closely the wonders of grace and love and truth meeting in the cross—the world with all its attraction fades into the full darkness of an eclipse. Are not Christ and His cross infinitely better than the world and its love? “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Shaken, But Not Stirred . . . in Spirit

[26] But now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” . . . [28] Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, [29] for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:26, 28-29)
On vacation in the beautiful south (Kiawah Island, SC), Phyllis was just reflecting on the above, a favorite passage, both of her's and mine. My heart prompts me to "reflect" out loud, as it were, penning some thoughts. 

There's a shaking going on in our nation and world. Everything that used to be sacrosanct has succumbed to attack--personal freedoms, religious freedom, as well as the imposition upon us all of a "global" agenda. It's nauseating. And at times, it can be a bit nerve-wracking, disconcerting. As freedoms are systematically being stripped from the nation and our representatives seem either powerless, or complicit and unwilling to do anything about it, we wonder about the future of this country, and perhaps worry. 

But should we?

Our Responsibility
Do what you can. Vote right--yes. But is that our only recourse? Goodness! Is that even our best recourse? Absolutely not! If our God had not permitted such behavior, it simply could not have existed. But it does. And HE is! 
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7
Given that every quarter of our culture boasts such a rank, cavalier attitude toward sin--abortion, living together, pornography at epidemic levels, as well as post-Katrina-in-your-face debauchery in New Orleans--we deserve judgment! Perhaps, we NEED it if for no reason than it will shake us to the core. Then truth will once again (perhaps) mean something. It should . . . especially to the Church, "the pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).  

You Think It's Bad Now?!
One day God will "shake not only the earth, but also the heavens." Such will be cataclysmic beyond imagination! The "heavens" are outside the bounds of any human being or devil. That is the area of God's domain, and no man can tell him how to order it.
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9–11)
The Very Good News! 
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. This is comforting to the lover of God! He has it all under control. We turn our eyes upward in thanksgiving--in the face of calamity--because the kingdom of God CANNOT BE SHAKEN! Nothing catches God by surprise. He never snaps his fingers saying, "Boy, I sure didn't see THAT coming!" Oh, no! All arranged, controlled. 

We are not urged to breath a sigh of relief, to sort of wipe our brow at this "good news." No, we ARE urged, yea, commanded to worship correctly. Offer God acceptable worship, which is done in reference and awe. Lacking this, the church and culture collapse all around her. Hear A. W. Tozer from "The Knowledge of the Holy":
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.
Varied descriptions of God abound, as people define Him according to their own pleasure. But God will not be so defined! He is, in fact, "a consuming fire!" Indeed, whatever else we may infer, know this . . . God is not to be trifled with! Too lightly do many people hold the weighty majesty of the God of all the earth, when they should humbly bow before Him.

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. Psalm 50:21
The kingdom of God, though he allows it to suffer attacks today will not hold off his judgment forever. This knowledge (if understood) would afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

Wednesday, May 26

Complaining Is Unreasonable

In college (BJU), we had signs on the dorm rooms which read, "Griping Not Tolerated." Oh, that it could so easily be controlled! Really, it just doesn't hold up in the courts of God to complain, especially about what He has ordered. God lovingly took care of his children as they wandered in the desert of faithlessness by providing for their immediate food needs through miraculous "bread" from heaven. Deuteronomy 8 explains the theological purpose of the manna. It was to teach them to depend on, yea, to listen to God. 
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:2-3).
Manna (literally, "what is it?") was intended NOT just for life-sustaining food, but more importantly as a means to improve Israel's faith. Faith always trumps need. Yet, it is so often through faith that we find our needs met! Give a man what he wants and you take care of him for a moment. Teach him to cry out to God in faith and you give him what he needs for a lifetime! Honestly, man does not need food, at least not like he needs God . . . and this, more than he knows! God is abundantly good to all mankind whenever he forces us to confess this truth.

On at least one occasion, the Israelites griped about having to eat the miraculous supply of manna:
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”  (Numbers 11:4-6) 
How unreasonable is this! What a tremendous burden was Egypt on all of them. Unbearable! Yet, when the eye goes blind to divine Providence, it reinterprets miraculous blessings into intolerable conditions! So irreversibly evil is such an attitude that this may explain (on one hand) why God killed so many of them! (On the other hand, God needs no explanations, for all his ways are just and right. -Deut. 32:4).This is an egregious attack against the love and wisdom of God himself.

So, next time you're tempted to complain, think twice! Paul (in the Spirit) rightly warns:
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Shine as lights in this world, which you most certainly will if you're not known for being a grumbler. 

Tuesday, May 25


I thought to split this article but will rather include the full transcript. What Moore pens in the following succinctly summarizes what has so burdened my heart with regard to the brand of "Christianity" being proffered today. As blog posts go, this may be a tad long. But please take the time and read through it. I think you'll find as did I that he puts his finger on some of the major issues facing evangelicalism.

By T.M. Moore
Any Other Gospel Is Not the Gospel at All
“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)
I keep saying to myself that there has to be an explanation why so many millions of people claim to be born-again followers of Jesus Christ, attending nearly 250,000 churches—around 3,000 of those mega-churches—with a vibrant and growing Christian subculture of music, television, books and literature, education, Internet presence, and even their own Yellow Pages.
As I said, there has to be an explanation why, given all this, the morals and culture of America continue to decline away from the teaching of Scripture, the young are abandoning their Christian upbringing in growing numbers, and the public square continues devoid of any far-ranging, seriously taken Christian voice. There simply has to be an explanation for this.
And I think I have it. It harks back to a Chesterton comment back around the turn of the 20th century. It’s not that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been tried and is simply found wanting. It’s that the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Gospel of the Kingdom—has not been tried.

Jesus came preaching a particular message to the people of His generation. The gospel writers refer to it as “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” The Good News that Jesus announced had as its focus an objective reality that the New Testament refers to as the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; 9:35). What is that?
The Kingdom of God is the divine rule that Jesus came to bring into the affairs of men. It is an administration of righteousness, peace, and joy which we may enter by the Holy Spirit, through the new birth which comes by grace through faith (Romans 14:17; John 3:1-16). The Kingdom of God centers on Jesus, who is its King, and His call to follow Him in a life of self-denying service to the glory of God (Mark 10:42-45).
To enter this Kingdom is to be born again to a life set apart for God, characterized by obedience to the Law of God (1 John 2:1-6). God gives His Kingdom to those who truly love Him, who renounce the desires, doodads, and deeds of the world and the flesh, and who invest their strength in becoming rich in faith (James 2:5).
The Kingdom of God is not just a reality to be acknowledged and confessed; it is a realm of power, real spiritual power, in which, increasingly, all things are made new and every aspect of a person’s life is reconciled to God, unto the praise of the glory of His grace (1 Corinthians 4:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
They who enter this Kingdom may be identified by their fervor in seeking to realize more of its presence and power (Matthew 6:33), their prayers for its coming on earth as in heaven (Matthew 6:10), their dutiful obedience to the holy and righteous and good Law of God (Ezekiel 36:26,27; Romans 7:12), and their faithfulness in living as witnesses to their risen and reigning Lord (Acts 1:8).
Where the Kingdom of God takes root in a person’s heart, transforming grace begins to exert real spiritual power to make all things new, and to turn a person’s world upright before the Lord.
It is altogether understandable, therefore, why the sum of Jesus’ preaching and teaching is often reported as consisting in the words, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, therefore, and believe the Good News.”
Jesus announced that a new era had begun in human affairs, in which a new King was on the throne of heaven and earth, unfolding a new economy, according to a new agenda, demanding that all who would follow Him embrace a new priority, and offering a new hope to men—the hope of the glory of God.
The Good News in this astonishing announcement is that, by entering into the Kingdom of God, men can know liberation from sin—its power, effects, and condemnation. Thus free from the shackles of sin they experience the grace and truth of God with transforming effects in every area of life. They begin to bear new kinds of fruit through the work of the Spirit of God within them, fruit consistent with righteousness, peace, and joy. They experience power that makes all things new, enabling them to reconcile every area of their lives back to God for His pleasure and glory. And, by virtue of the ongoing, increasing realization of this Kingdom reality, they know assurance of everlasting life with God in a new heavens and a new earth.
Truly, the announcement concerning the Kingdom of God is Good News—Gospel! The Gospel of the Kingdom is the true Gospel. Anything other or less than this is another gospel, which, as Paul makes plain, is no gospel at all.
Paul warned of another gospel

Liberal Christianity, most readers will agree, is not Christianity at all, or, at best, a corrupt version. As J. Gresham Machen argued so eloquently in the last century, liberal Christianity has many appealing features, and much to commend it. In many ways it is a quite fascinating and alluring religion. It even uses all the language of Christianity and holds Jesus in high esteem. But for all that, liberal Christianity just isn’t Christianity. Indeed, Machen argued, it’s not even close.
What about the gospel that is heard in so many churches today? The gospel that says, “Jesus died to forgive your sins and to bring you to heaven when you die”? Is that the Gospel? Rather, is that the whole Gospel? The Gospel of the Kingdom? While that statement is certainly true, it doesn’t sound as rich, full, comprehensive, and all-engaging as what we outlined earlier as the Gospel of the Kingdom. And it is not widely apparent that those who have embraced this message are evidencing the kind of whole-life transformation Jesus demonstrated and promised, or that those first turn-the-world-upside-down Christians experienced.
But is it not true that the Gospel says that Jesus died for our sins so that we could go to heaven? Yes it does. But that is not the same as saying that Jesus’ death to grant forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe is the whole Gospel. And if that’s not the whole Gospel, then can we say that it’s the Gospel at all? The proclamation that Jesus died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life is not, in fact, what C. S. Lewis referred to as mere Christianity—Christianity at its most basic. Rather, I would say that this message that promises forgiveness and eternal life to all who merely profess belief in Jesus—this gospel which is roundly proclaimed in the vast majority of churches throughout the land—should be referred to as near Christianity.
It’s rather like saying that the Good News is that Jesus provided an example for us to follow. Is that true? Of course. But is it the Gospel? Hardly. Or it’s like saying the Good News means you have a reason to do good works on behalf of others. Is that true? Certainly. But is it the Gospel? Not at all.
The Good News that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed is a message so comprehensive, so altogether new and radical, that it requires deep-seated, heart-felt repentance, complete surrender to the risen Christ, and whole-hearted belief leading to obedience in every area of life. It is the message of the Kingdom of God. Anything other than the Gospel of the Kingdom is not the Gospel at all, but a form of near Christianity that holds out promises germane to the Kingdom, prescribes means related to the Kingdom, but holds back on making the full vision and demands of the Kingdom clear to those who would enjoy the conditions of blessedness.
Near Christianity, therefore, leaves little in the way of Kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it. It leaves what it promises, and what people who embrace it desire: a sense of forgiveness, and the peace of mind that accompanies that, and a tentative hope of going to heaven when we die. As for power to transform sinful lives into beacons of holiness, goodness, beauty, and truth—well, that’s something to affirm, but not necessarily something to seek.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel . . .” (Galatians 1:6). Did you catch that verb—deserting? It wasn’t that the Galatians denied that Jesus was Savior. Not at all. Or even that He was Lord. They simply chose to minimize the power of His saving grace by adding to the Gospel in certain ways and detracting from it in others. So, their professions of faith notwithstanding, Paul said that they were deserting the true Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom.
In our day he might say to the churches in America, “I am astonished that you who profess to believe in Jesus evidence so little of the reality of the Gospel of the Kingdom. What did you believe when you believed in Jesus? From what did you turn, and to what, when you repented? What do you hope for, if not to know God in His glory and be transformed to live out that glory in every detail of your life?” He might well conclude that our generation has settled for a form of near Christianity, not the Gospel of the Kingdom which he and all the apostles, following Jesus, proclaimed with such boldness, and at the risk of their lives.
Anything other than the Gospel of the Kingdom may be like Christianity, or near Christianity, but it is not the Good News of Jesus and Paul. Near Christianity is not the Christianity of Scripture and, therefore, is no Good News at all.

Have you received the Gospel of the Kingdom? To what evidence in your life might you point to convince someone that that is true?

Monday, May 24

Who Cares for Your Soul?

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. Psalm 142:3–4

Sigh . . .
Some days our souls sigh. For whatever reason, they just groan. Better experienced than defined, sighing is a sort of weariness which is often inexplicable, but most understood by others who have felt similarly. Here, David calls it "spirit-fainting."

Ah-h-h . . .
Yes, rest. No matter how low, we are not alone. In our loving Father, we have One who "knows" our way. The world lays a trap to ensnare, seeks to trip us, even designs false ways to lure us in so that they may accuse us. This system of evil grates on the soul of the true believer. They are not, yea, cannot be at home wherever God is ignored or worse, hated. So, tied into God are Christians that a contrary word toward God is felt in our own heart. 

He moans further, there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. Here we witness a triad of angst--unnoticed, unprotected, and uncared for--forced out, as it were, into the cold of the neglected. The capstone of his complaints seems to be the final word, "no one cares for my soul." Well phrased, many seem to miss this in a day when the physical has systemically pushed the inner life aside. Yet, if folks really saw the larger picture, they'd realize that it is the internal realities that rule one's life. 

Happy Thought!
The Psalmist mirrors our hearts doesn't he? Perhaps at times we may cry, "No one cares for MY soul" either. But God knows. Left in the cold of a devilish system, we are not left alone. For God, our Father, knows our way. We cannot hide from Him . . . thankfully! So . . . forget hunting for others to take notice of you. Refuse to seek a refuge in anything or anyone else. And know that in a world that over-accentuates the physical, God looks right past that into the inner depths of our soul . . . and loves us. Never alone.

Sunday, May 23

Be Reasonable, See It MY Way!

I love Calvin and Hobbes. The above interaction is one reason why. (Click on it to enlarge). It is so obviously true. Unthinking people (or fools, which is to say the same thing) assume that the way they view the world IS THE WAY IT IS! It doesn't seem to dawn on them that others may not agree with them, and for good reason. Proverbs 18:17 says, The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. My Dad has some very old records (very thick) which sport tunes from WW1 (not "2"). One of those songs I remember hearing as a child was "Everybody's Out of Step But Jim," which features a mother watching a parade and the whole troop is marching in step but her son, Jim! But it's not HER son that is out of step! Oh, No! it's everyone else!! The listener, of course, readily catches the humor in such a biased point of view, which gives the song it's charm.

Who Corrects Whom? 
The true Christian will not be so duped. While they may fall for less reasoned assertions on occasion, they come to faith precisely through the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), who cuts through the mind-numbing sin which rules the world in order to convince the sinner of his need for Christ's righteousness. So, Paul could write with some assurance of obedience when he warned the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). We who believe have been saved out of lies and will readily latch onto whatever exposes evil and accentuates the good. Where on the scale of truth and lies do you fall? If Jim is out of step, he needs to know it. The ends do not justify the means, but they sometimes betray them. God, however, justifies the believer, and that by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. Those are MEANS with which we can live!

Thursday, May 20

We MUST Pursue Holy Spirit Help!

Thanks to "Against Heresies," I am copying right from his blog the following post. It is so good, so necessary today that I want those who read my post to see it. If in the process you make "Against Heresies" a preferred site, well, then that is even better. Best, of course, is believing and adhering to these truths. May God so move in our hearts that we have a revival of Spirit unction once again! 


Seeking the Spirit's help as we study his words 


The opening paragraphs of Dale Ralph Davis' The Word Became Fresh: How to preach from Old Testament narrative texts are enough to stop every preacher dead in his tracks.

Ralph Davis mentions that as he was reading Richard Pratt's He Gave Us Stories, Pratt cited these words from John Owen:
For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability.
And if that were not enough to send you to your work with your complacency shaken, Ralph Davis adds:
We are guilty of arrogance, not merely neglect, when we fail to beg for the Spirit's help in the study of Scripture. We may even have such arrogance even when we seem to be seeking the Spirit's aid--I think of those times when in a light-headed tokenism we utter our slap-happy prayer that the Lord would 'guide and direct us as we study this passage.'
One shudders to think how flippant we are. But how many more times we neglect any overt seeking of the Spirit's help! The pressure is on. The passage must be studied for the sermon or lesson. We pull out our exegetical notes; we grab several of the better commentaries off the shelf; make sure that one Bible dictionary of choice is close at hand.
Deep into our study time the thought occurs to us that we have not looked--nor did we think of looking--to the God who breathed out this Scripture to give us an understanding of the Scripture.
He will likely give that understanding through the tools we use, but when we use tools while neglecting him the tools have become idols.
We may have a high view of the Bible; we may be distraught because large sectors of the church seem to ignore its authority. Yet in our own Scripture work we easily ignore its chief Interpreter.
Professionalism rather than piety drives us. We needn't be surprised at our sterility and poverty if we refuse to be beggars for the Spirit's help.
These words are well worth reading again, and reflecting upon at length, and acting on daily. Who knows, this may be the most important thing that you read today.

The Word Became Fresh is published by Christian Focus. You can find out more about it here

Tuesday, May 18

Fire-Tested Christianity

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word." "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." (Psalm 119:67, 71)

A fact, which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger...we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. The complex and deadly crush of life has produced stronger, deeper and more interesting personalities than those generated by standardized Western well being.  -ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN, Harvard 1978 

"I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:75).  

Monday, May 17

"Forgotten" Christians . . .

When all those who knew him forsook Christ, even upon news of his death, it was a distant disciple and “some women” who attended him. We read of one, Joseph, “a good and righteous man,” a man “who had not consented to their decision and action,” and who was “looking for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50ff).  It was this man who boldly stepped up when there was no plan, asked Pilate the governor for the body of Jesus, and laid him in his own tomb. (J. C. Ryle, Luke)

Joseph was an unknown. This is the only place his name arises. There’s nothing in Acts or the Epistles where his name comes up. At no point in our Lord’s former ministry does he ever come forward. His reason for not joining the disciples openly we cannot explain. But here, in the eleventh hour, he is not afraid to show himself openly as one of the Lord’s friends. At the very time when all the apostles had fled out of fear, Joseph is not afraid to step up and show Christ love and respect. And while others confessed him when he was living and doing miracles, it was Joseph’s peculiar privilege to confess him in his death!

Learn that while most may run against Christ, not everyone does. And not every time will we read about them! So, don’t place your hope or trust in statistics. Our figures may be off. Remember, even the great prophet Elijah thought he was the last loyal hold-out. But God told him that he had reserved for himself 7,000 prophets who’d not bowed the knee to Baal! Don’t go by the news channel, or listen merely to hearsay. Trust in God, even IF those statistics may be true!

Know too, that Christ always has friends about whom we may never know. They may not be as well-known as others, but when the going gets tough, they are there showing true love and affection. These are the ones David refers to in Psalm 83:3 as “hidden ones.” It is instructive that Luke refers generally to “the women who came with him from Galilee.” He does not name them, but they were there, and known to God!

We learn that while we may swoon in unbelief, others may be raised up who will show us the way. Faith is not affirmed by consensus. It usually emanates from the minority. Unknowns to us, but known very well to God. Thank God for Josephs and for “the women.” Our faith must rest in God alone, and not in the numbers of those who claim to follow him. 

Saturday, May 15

A Lamp In the Dark

This morning, it was our privilege as a group of men to hold a mini-conference from 7:00 - 12:00 noon. The subject was centered around being a/o becoming godlier men in the face of attacks against our faith. Paul closed his first letter with “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) In light of an impending economic collapse, increasing natural phenomena (earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding in unusual places, etc.), along with increased religious persecution around the world and even being threatened in the US, we need to stand firm in Christ (Eph. 6:10ff). 

We watched "A Lamp in the Dark" a nearly 3 hour DVD on the battle for the authority of Jesus Christ and His Word over the forces of darkness down through the centuries, most notably, certain Caesars, Constantine and the Roman Catholic church along with the Jesuits (15th C). 

Our minds and hearts were convicted by those who willingly laid down their lives so that no established church (esp. the Roman church) would dictate to them what only God has the right to declare. Men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Myles Coverdale stood toe to toe with Roman audacity, affirming the inspiration of the Scriptures by their great labors to translate the Bible into the common vernacular. If only people would consider the truth of what truly did occur down through the centuries in the "supposed" name of Christ, they would be mortified. At one point, with careful calculations, it was estimated that the Roman church in their pogrom (Inquisition) against non-compliant Christians, killed upwards of 50 million men, women and children! 

The central watershed issue was and is the battle over authority and inspiration. Who is the Lord of the Church? Is it Jesus Christ alone, or the Pope? Is the Bible our sole authority for faith and practice? The Popes view themselves as Christ replacements (Vicars), and in some cases they say of themselves that they supersede even Christ himself! I've no doubt that the vast majority of Roman Catholics do not know and would not agree with their history. Nevertheless, the hierarchy has a lot to answer for before Him who is the Judge of all the earth. 

The bottom line for us protestants is that we must stand against error on any front. Paul urged, "Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Tim. 1:13-14). 

Friday, May 14

Dining With Jesus-Our Purpose

One reason our Creator gave us taste buds was so that we might see the close analogy between eating delicious foods and loving God. Jesus knocked at the door of the Laodicean church so that he might enter and dine with them (Rev. 3:20). Contrary to common usage, Jesus is not knocking at the door of the sinner's heart in this text (though he may very well do so)! When Martha was overly concerned about Mary helping her get dinner on the table, Jesus lovingly reminded her, "Only one thing is really necessary, and Mary has desired that" (Luke 10:42). And David urged, "O, taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). Is this your experience? Do I help that in you?
Some people have a knack for making me hungry to know God. I know a few people who when I'm done talking with them make me want to know and love Him more. I treasure those people. They don't try to be religious. They don't attempt to be spiritual. They simply are themselves and in the process radiate the presence of God. Many of them have trekked through dark valleys yet they still carry a hopeful, persistent, passion and love about them.
To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul:
We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.
-A. W. Tozer (The Pursuit of God,)

Thursday, May 13

The Gross Error of Shrinking God!

God cannot be shrunk, but that does not stop man from trying! And sometimes those most guilty attend church! This is a travesty. The Lord says,
"To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?" 
"To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One." (Isaiah 40:18, 25).
You Thought I Was Like YOU?!
To counter the "buddy-buddy" reduction of the Almighty, read this. Psalm 50:16-21, The Message,
“What are you up to, quoting my laws, talking like we are good friends?  
     You never answer the door when I call; you treat my words like garbage. 
 If you find a thief, you make him your buddy; adulterers are your friends of choice.  
     Your mouth drools filth; lying is a serious art form with you.  
 You stab your own brother in the back, rip off your little sister.  
     I kept a quiet patience while you did these things; you thought I went along with your game.  
I’m calling you on the carpet, now, laying your wickedness out in plain sight.  
     “Time’s up for playing fast and loose with me. I’m ready to pass sentence, and there’s no help in sight! ” 
In a very insightful article by Robert Withnow, he hammers home the weak kind of God prevalent in Small Groups and which we must all watch carefully. 
But small groups are not simply drawing people back to the God of their fathers and mothers. They are dramatically changing the way God is understood. God is now less of an external authority and more of an internal presence. The sacred becomes more personal, but, in the process, also becomes more manageable, more serviceable in meeting individual needs, and more a feature of the group process itself. . . . The deity of small groups is a God of love, comfort, order and security. Gone is the God of judgment, wrath, justice, mystery and punishment. [emphasis mine] ("How Small Groups Are Transforming Our Lives." Christianity Today, 2/7/94) NOTE: For larger quotation, see this blog, April 5.
Does this make sense? Oh, the weight of this argument. Get this wrong, all goes wrong. 

Tuesday, May 11

A Mother's Day Postscript - Part 2

The following is part 2 of a brief summary of this past Sunday's sermon. It is, in part, an attempt on my part to recapture this beautiful summary of a virtuous woman from those who would hi-jack it's meaning, turning it into a legalistic litmus test for the "superwoman." By God's rich grace, a woman can be super, but super in what? That's really the question. We turn in this second part to the ending of both Proverbs 31 as well as the ending of the entire book of Proverbs. It is fitting to end this way, for it points to our dependency on God's wisdom in order to live life well, which is to say, to God's superior glory.

Let us see that the woman God puts forth is one whom we all admire for her spiritual focus.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.  
1)  Her Beauty Is Unfading. (v 30). I’m going to tell you young men something that you’ll likely not take seriously. Looks go only so far. The bee is certainly attracted to the flower, but watch out or you’ll find some to be more like a Venus-flytrap! Charm is deceitful in that it promises something it can’t deliver. A flirtatious woman will likely get many guys to surround her, but underneath you will often find rotten character. Note further that King Lemuel's (see v.1) mother warns, physical beauty is vain. It is short-lived & without deeper character. Look for a woman with character, godly character. It’s better not to get married at all than to settle for beauty or physical attraction only! But the woman who is to be praised, what’s she like?

2)  Her Secret for Success Is That She Fears God (v. 30). Godly women do not succeed in their own strength. They rely on God. Proverbs ends the way it began, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7). Because of the Fall, because of sinful tendencies, virtue does not come naturally. A woman may be tempted to abandon her role as a helper suitable to her husband, and choose rather to try to dominate him (Gen. 3:16b). The forgiven woman has the Spirit to enable her to live victoriously. A common complaint you hear from women is, “I might be an excellent wife if he were a better husband.” Yet, the wise woman’s service to her husband is not based on his worthiness, but Christ’s! The virtuous woman does not put her ultimate trust in any man including her husband (Jer. 17:5). She loves her husband, but loves God first, and foremost. Results? . . .

3)  Her Family Readily Praise Her (vv. 28-29). What a blessing when a mother's children so see her worth that they praise her instead of, say, taking her for granted! She does not constrain them to do so. They willingly, readily, happily lift her up. They lift her up because she is not so busy puffing up herself! Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another praise you and not your own lips." It is one of the marks of a true woman of God that they are not self-absorbed, even in their heart. They really do think of others. They appreciate the praise they receive, but they really do not live for it. Big difference!

4)  Her Very Works Will Praise Her If None Else Do (v. 31). The last verse puts it this way. Let her own works praise her in the gates (out where the wise people meet and judge life issues). It may be that family or husband will not say much in favor of the good woman. They seem to have grown dull to them. In such a case, God will reward them in due time. If one's love is God, and they live in the fear of the Lord, then HIS approval is what they esteem most. Truly! This is critical. She marches to the beat of the heavenly Drummer. As such she is never out of step with God. 

This is the essence of wisdom and of the whole of the book of Proverbs. Oh, that we would see the wisdom in such a life. So much heartache would be avoided if we honestly pursued this kind of love of God.  

Monday, May 10

A Mother's Day Postscript - Part 1

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12)
Don't Be Intimidated!
Many a woman has been intimidated by Proverbs 31, and with good reason. When the chapter is delivered as if it were a law demanding absolute adherence, it becomes either overwhelming on the one hand or a means of self-exaltation on the other. C'mon! Who really can be such a "superwoman?" 

Remember that these were words spoken by King Lemuel's mother! She knew, right? Of course, they are the inspired word of God, and for that reason alone they breathe life! Chiefly, we must see them as proverbs, wisdom writings meant to guide, not cajole. And they apply to more than women. Just as the words of Solomon to his "son" apply to a large degree to daughters, so these to men and children, where appropriate.

Proverbs 31 Counters 3 Wrong Views of Women
This sort of heroic poem also sets the story straight regarding three overreactions to the role of women. 1) It offsets the prevailing anti-female sentiment that still pervades all non-Christian cultures. I heard Ravi Zacharias, from a Hindu background, insist that only Christianity treats women with proper respect. All other religions abuse them in one way or another! That’s one. 2) Secondly, these verses counter the abuse of women by those who’d treat them only as erotic, sexual objects. In fact, King Lemuel’s mother debunks physical beauty as praiseworthy (v. 30, “beauty is vain”). Also, 3) this poem offsets a third misunderstanding of the role of women often found in Greek literature that prizes women when they are silent, or “homebodies.” Contrary to these misconceptions, the Hebrew picture here is of an ideal woman, who is marked by diligence, a “take charge” mentality, one who engages in profit-making who is also a wise teacher and a philanthropist

A Thumbnail Sketch of A Godly Woman (vv. 10-12)
1)  She is an excellent wife. This word “excellent” (“virtuous”) is the same word in verse three, “strength.” So, King Lemuel’s mother urges him, “Don’t give your excellence or virtue away to women.” But in verse 10, find an excellent woman, a woman of strength. The same word is used of valiant warriors. Obviously, the “weaker sex” is not weaker in every sense! Such a woman is rare and is a gift from the Lord (18:22; 19:14). His Mom is exhorting him not to settle for anything less, but to look for and wait for such a gift from God. Young ladies, it is your call in life to be like this. You CAN be. And if you’ve failed so far, confess your sin and commit yourself to God’s wonderfully freeing standards.

2)  She is invaluable. “More precious than jewels.” This is not referring to cost, but to her being a treasure. Listen, one of the most important decisions you can make is the one whom you will marry. Oh, please don’t take this lightly. It can bring you endless heartache or unending joy. Seriously!

3)  She is trustworthy. “Her husband trusts her.” She does not lead him to doubt her intentions are anything but good and right. She is not selfish, or self-absorbed. How many use manipulation to get their way? This is so displeasing to the Lord. Where is the integrity in our relationships? Where are those who live as if they were right in front of God! Oh, please be this kind of godly woman. Praise God for those who are. So live that your husband has confidence in you.

4)  She is resourceful. “He will have no lack of gain.”  In other words, she so orders the household that her husband and her household will be provided for. Her husband on the negative side, never has to be concerned with her spending money recklessly. She knows how to stretch a dollar. (See vv. 13-27 for the body of her activities). But there’s something far more important bound up in this word. . .  

5)  She is good. “She does him good and not harm all the days of her life.” Hebrew means she provides “moral satisfaction, an aesthetically attractive,” comfortable home, that is a place of peace and love. Further, the virtuous woman devotes herself to assisting her husband in every way she can, particularly in the domestic realm. Such a husband is richly blessed. Many a man has been greatly improved by marriage to the right woman. She consistently does him good ‘all the days of her life’ (v. 12b). She doesn’t let difficult circumstances or her ‘time of the month’ prevent her from doing good. She treats her husband better than he deserves because she does it ultimately for the Lord. An O.T. scholar puts it this way, “Her commitment to her husband’s well-being is true, not false; constant, not temperamental; reliable, not fickle; and discerning” (Waltke, 2:522). God ordained that we men are completed by our wives, and that wives seek to help their husbands succeed in their callings. They form a team; they do not battle for first place!

Tomorrow-Part 2