Wednesday, June 30

GOD Shrugged!!

Yes, for some of you, the title sounds like Ayn Rand's nefarious call to selfishness in her novel, "Atlas Shrugged." What she outlines in the book is nothing new. In fact, it hearkens back to the Garden of Eden . . . when the snake entered the scene, that is! Funny, isn't it, how many times the world vilifies Christianity as outmoded, ignorant, or just plain silly, but then proceeds to put up a philosophy that is ten times more mentality implosive than anything one could ever witness among men of real faith! Let us not be hood-winked. Nor let us be duped into believing that this book offers anything we really need for today even if that winsome Glen Beck pushed it on TV last week. 

Remember, believers, let's NOT draw our teachings off the radio and TV. I know that sounds elementary, but it's sometimes quite disappointing when one comes upon those who should know better, but who nonetheless "swallow" just about anything TV personalities say. Remember, they are often puppets. Rarely do we find true men of integrity speaking. And how does one know the difference? Simple (in a way) . . . we compare everything with Scripture. Be munificent in knowing God's Word, sparing in regards to knowledge of the world. 1 Corinthians 1:26–27 says, "Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." Christians have been lambasted because of their seeming ignorance (perhaps with some justification at times). But let that not dictate our pursuit of truth, the knowledge of which is critical to the setting free of the soul. 

But, truth itself will not set you free, unless you believe it. Thus, Jesus prefaced that well-known verse with these words: "If you abide in my word (i.e., "live there"), you are truly my disciples . . . then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). IF you abide in me, then you will know. An important but often overlooked contingency.

In the end, God will have them in derision (Ps. 2:4). God will laugh at the foolish machinations of man rising up against the Lord God and against his anointed. He will have the last laugh. The wise man writes: "No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD" (Prov. 21:30). Indeed, it will not have been Atlas, but God who shrugged as if to say, "Really? You thought you could overcome me and destroy my people?"  

"Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth" (Ps. 2:10).   

Tuesday, June 29

Looking Past Self to Jesus

I was struck by the sheer applicability of this 19th Century Spurgeon devotion. We, in ministry, may complain about the superabundance of self absorption even among so-called Christians, and for good reason. (We're not exempt from it ourselves!) In "fat" societies like America, it is easy to expect to be served even by God! We assume our right to be right, or to determine what is truth. But the honest believer is ever the submissive one who faithfully defers to the Lord. Submissive, not passive, I say. There's a great difference. Please take the time to read the following. Emphasis in bold print is mine along with comments interspersed.
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  
Did you ever think, "I know God will forgive me, but I cannot forgive myself?" Yes, and this is a tool of Satan. For all sins are pardonable. Let us not think our sin trumps God's forgiveness, no matter that we feel horrible for them.
All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. [Beware of morbid introspection] But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. 
What victorious happiness comes over that believer who first realizes that it is not his own faith that secures Christ, but as Spurgeon so aptly puts it, it is Christ who takes hold of him! He further adds:
We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

Monday, June 28

Lying Ruins the Liar

Proverbs 26:28 says that a "lying tongue hates its victim." That's straightforward and a bit scary. I don't think we typically see it to this degree. Not only does wisdom teach us this but add to this that a lying tongue lasts but a moment, while truthful lips endure forever (Prov. 12:19). Further, lying is quite serious: "He who breathes out lies shall perish" (Prov. 19:9). Yikes!

Perhaps, one of the most telling and dreadful results of lying is that it totally ruins the liar himself! And who better to write about this than one who had to endure the regime of liars, where lying is promoted to an art form! In The Brothers Karamozov, Fyodor Dostoevesky enlightens the reader with the following:
The important thing is to stop lying to yourself. A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself as well as for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal, in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying - lying to others and to yourself. 
All sins come back on him who perpetrates them. Let us all beware lest we fall into the trap with regard to any breach of trust with God. Truth frees those who love and practice it. 

Thursday, June 24

Prayer-A Dimensional Leap

There used to be only 3 dimensions. At least that's what we thought. (The yellow rose at the right is in three dimensions. I include because it is so vivid, but it's also very pretty!)  Now, scientists posit as many as 12 dimensions! I cannot quite understand which each represents. Scientists explain these things. I am making another point.

Angels & Demons in Another Dimension?
May it also be theorized that the spirit-world of angels and demons, which we cannot see but sporadically, dwells in another dimension? Do we accept that there are multiple dimensions, and that angels and heaven exist IN another dimension? If this is so--and it seems to make sense--then can we see the awesome potential wielded through prayer? What do I mean? This sort of "hit" me the other day, that when I pray, those prayers go where I physically cannot. I cannot perform dimensional shifts, but our prayers can! Most of us have grown accustomed to our prayers reaching to the other side of the globe, especially as we cry out for missionary needs. We've gotten used to praying for future blessings and future protection before we get there. We know that we cannot move ahead in time, but our prayers most certainly can! So, too, when we cry out to God, both angels and demons are immediately present. We can neither see nor touch them, true! But our prayers control them as we appeal to our Father in heaven! C. H. Spurgeon preached, "Thy sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; thy whisper can incline his ear unto thee; thy prayer can stay his hand; thy faith can move his arm."

Be Encouraged to Greater Prayer!
When this truth hits us, it enlarges our spirit, encourages our prayers, and excites our anticipation! Oh, that we would be moved by this multi-dimensional, powerful force placed in our hands but which we know almost innocuously as prayer. I say "almost innocuously" because we become dulled to certain truths due to their frequent mention. And who hasn't grown used to hearing that we should pray? But we must not allow this grand work of faith to be waylaid by over-familiarity. Let us ask for a renewed interest in this special power and privilege. Jump dimensions and battle the forces of evil with the overwhelming power of the Lord of Hosts!

Monday, June 21

Pastors Are NOT Called To "Do A Job"

I cite the following from The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson because what he has to say is so very apropos to our situation today. I suppose it always has been. Mankind really doesn't change all that much at heart. If you will read this excerpt (for there IS more) I think your time will be well rewarded whether or not you are a pastor. 

Peterson writes:

Being a pastor who satisfies a congregation is one of the easiest jobs on the face of the earth—if we are satisfied with satisfying congregations. The hours are good, the pay is adequate, the prestige considerable. Why don’t we find it easy? Why aren’t we content with it? 

Because we set out to do something quite different. We set out to risk our lives in a venture of faith. We committed ourselves to a life of holiness. At some point we realized the immensity of God and of the great invisibles that socket into our arms and legs, into bread and wine, into our brains and our tools, into mountains and rivers, giving them meaning, destiny, value, joy, beauty, salvation. We responded to a call to convey these realities in Word and sacrament. We offered ourselves to give leadership that connects and coordinates what the people in this community of faith are doing in their work and play, with what God is doing in mercy and grace. 

In the process, we learned the difference between a profession, a craft, and a job. 

A job is what we do to complete an assignment. Its primary requirement is that we give satisfaction to whoever makes the assignment and pays our wage. We learn what is expected and we do it. There is nothing wrong with doing jobs. To a lesser or greater extent, we all have them; somebody has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage. 

But professions and crafts are different. In these we have an obligation beyond pleasing somebody; we are pursuing or shaping the very nature of reality, convinced that when we carry out our commitments, we benefit people at a far deeper level than if we simply did what they asked of us. 

In crafts we are dealing with visible realities, in professions with invisible. The craft of woodworking, for instance, has an obligation to the wood itself, its grain and texture.  A good woodworker knows his woods and treats them with respect.  Far more is involved than pleasing customers; something like integrity of material is involved. 

With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: For physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations).  And with pastors, it is God (not relieving anxiety, or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment).
We all start out knowing this, or at least having a pretty good intimation of it.  But when we entered our first parish, we were given a job. 

Most of the people we deal with are dominated by a sense of self, not a sense of God. Insofar as we deal with their primary concern-the counseling, instructing, encouraging—they give us good marks in our jobs as pastors. Whether we deal with God or not, they don’t care over much. Flannery O’Connor describes one pastor in such circumstances as one part minister and three parts masseur. 

It is very difficult to do one thing when most of the people around us are asking us to do something quite different, especially when these people are nice, intelligent, treat us with respect, and pay our salaries. We get up each morning and the telephone rings, people meet us, and letters are addressed to us— often at a tempo of bewildering urgency. All these calls and letters are from people asking us to do something for them, quite apart from any belief in God. That is, they come to us not because they are looking for God but because they are looking for a recommendation, or good advice, or an opportunity, and they vaguely suppose we might be qualified to give it to them. 

A number of years ago, I injured my knee. According to my self-diagnosis I knew all it needed was some whirlpool treatments. In my college years we had a whirlpool in the training room, and I had considerable experience with its effectiveness in treating my running injuries as well as making me feel good. In my present community, the only whirlpool was at the physical therapist’s office. I called to make an appointment. He refused; I had to have a doctor’s prescription. 

I called an orthopedic physician, went in for an examination (this was getting more complicated and expensive than I had planned), and found he wouldn’t give me the prescription for the whirlpool. He said it wasn’t the proper treatment for my injury. He recommended surgery. I protested: a whirlpool certainly can’t do any harm, and it might do some good. His refusal was adamantine. He was a professional. His primary commitment was to some invisible abstraction called health, healing. He was not committed to satisfying my requests. His integrity, in fact, forbade him to satisfy my requests if they encroached on his primary commitment.
I have since learned that with a little shopping around, I could have found a doctor who would have given me the prescription I wanted.
I reflect on that incident occasionally. Am I keeping the line clear between what I am committed to and what people are asking of me? Is my primary orientation God’s grace, his mercy, his action in Creation and covenant? And am I committed to it enough that when people ask me to do something that will l not lead them into a more mature participation in these realities, I refuse? I don’t like to think of all my visits made, counseling given, marriages performed, meetings attended, prayers offered—one friend calls it sprinkling holy water on Cabbage Patch dolls—solely because people asked me to do it and it didn’t seem at the time that it would do any harm and, who knows, it might do some good. Besides, I knew there was a pastor down the street who would do anything asked of him. But his theology was so wretched he would probably do active harm in the process. My theology, at least, was orthodox.

Sunday, June 20

Silent Horror; Quiet Hope

I awoke to this. It gave me a pain in the pit of my stomach. I don't know if it's because I saw this first thing in the morning, or because it was so terrifying, or due to the obvious contrast with my easy lifestyle. But this upset me! I get regular updates from Voice of the Martyrs. The following is an excerpt from them--perhaps made more apropos on a Sunday given to worship! . . .

The news of the Nigerian massacre in March 2010 was horrifying. More than 500 of our Christian brothers and sisters — 80 percent of them women and children — in three villages were slaughtered in one night!

Days later, "Dr. Kim," VOMedical director, walked among the rubble of burned-out churches and viewed the sites of mass graves in northern Nigeria. Immediately, Dr. Kim began caring for the wounded and comforting the survivors, reassuring the Nigerian Christians that Christians in the United States and around the world had NOT forgotten them in their time of suffering.

Dr. Kim's firsthand accounts of the massacre's aftermath are sobering:

In more than three years of providing medical service for persecuted Christians for VOM, this is the first time that the word 'carnage' comes to mind. This is beyond anything I have seen in my 33 years of medicine, including doing autopsies and working in emergency rooms. We found out that in one village we visited there were only 20 or 30 survivors in the entire village.
CLICK HERE to read Dr. Kim's full report and WATCH a VIDEO REPORT about these attacks and to learn how you can support VOMedical.

But amid the suffering, Dr. Kim also found hope:

It was amazing when we were allowed to worship with the believers. Even with all the death and destruction around them, they were praising the Lord for his goodness and mercy. The service was held in the village square, complete with charred, burned-out buildings in the background.
VOM began VOMedical to help believers such as these. We wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, rushing to the aid of Christians injured as a result of persecution.

And help they have! Praise the Lord for VOM. And we certainly praise the Lord for the way in which worship of the true God is not curtailed by such evil savagery! So, I close out by bowing before the eternal wisdom of God to allow such evil to exist and even persist in the world. It is not in man to understand the mind of the Lord. 
We sometimes have simply to sit back and wonder, and perhaps put our hand over our mouth . . . and say nothing. Both excessive sorrow and unbridled joy seem beyond us on such occasions. 

NOTE: I just read this after posting. First words I saw!
"Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend" (Prov. 19:4).

Wednesday, June 16

Guided By Integrity

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. Proverbs 11:3

OK. "Integrity" guides and "crookedness" destroys. That's the short of it. On first blush, who wouldn't want the former? Still, it is the majority who follow (sometimes blindly) the latter. What do these terms mean? 

We read in 2:7 and 10:9 that God both shields and secures those who "walk in integrity." The Omnipotent interposes Himself between his children and their attackers, and protects them. To the believing soul, hardly any other word could make them feel God's love more. Further, integrity finds meaning in the life of Job. God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason” (Job 2:3). The bold printed words above describe in part what comprise a man of integrity. Taken together they describe one who operates within what we term a theocentric mindset. In other words, it is no stretch for him to see and to think and to act FROM a God-saturated position. It is his place of preference, and of pursuit. It is NOT a passive position, however! Purposeful, yes!

Point? Whenever anything comes into this person's life, they need not "hem and haw" as to how they should respond. The law of God written in his heart dictates readily where they should go, what they should do. They do not seek out what is most advantageous to their pursuits for they know that one is always most advantaged when they hear and obey God. Period!

On the other hand, the crooked are dictated to by their own selfish heart and respond to stimuli with a "whatever makes me feel better" attitude. It's not about what is right or wrong. No, it's about what I want! And because God owns all things and WILL have the preeminence, they will not long endure who kick against His rule. They hate this. But it is true nonetheless. A Handbook on Proverbs puts it this way: 
Just as the good person will be guided by his integrity, the wicked person will be ruined by his wicked behavior. FRCL [French common language version] translates the second line “The dishonest person will be destroyed by his love of evil.” GECL [German common language version] has “The deceiver will be slain by his falsehood.” This may need to be adjusted to say, for example, “People who deceive others will be destroyed because they are dishonest.” 
I make a plea to all reasonable people. If there is a God in heaven, it behooves us to abide by this verse. Who honestly wants to BE destroyed? Yet, many so live their lives so as to do just that. It's like smokers who persist in driving the nails in their coffin despite the evidence to the contrary. How long will men destroy themselves? Why not look up and live? Rather than putting oneself in the path of destruction, let us all step into the path of God's rich grace. 

Ah-h-h! Integrity is the best guide.

Monday, June 14

Honestly, The Answer is Still REVIVAL!

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity (Hosea 14:1).
Things are looking really bad on all fronts-politically, economically and religiously. But I hardly need to tell you that! What I would do is make another appeal to all of our hearts, . . . all, that is, who know and love Jesus Christ. Times are not just urgent because the world does not see the centrality of Jesus Christ in creation and salvation, but even more so because these doctrines do not find supremacy of place in many Christian's lives. And the fact that we do not really feel such an urgency is reason enough for the church to pray fervently for it! I would repeat with C. H. Spurgeon:
Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival – men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations.
I am gladdened in heart that our church is increasingly taking prayer seriously. And while we meet on Sundays and several times during the week, it still seems as though we must do more, and perhaps do it better. Just last night, one of our missionaries to Japan, Tomoo and Kaiori Koike (along with their daughter, Yuki) remarked excitedly that they so very much appreciated the fact that our church prays. Our church prays! Now that may sound almost too obvious to even bother mentioning. But any more I do not think so. Prayer meetings used to comprise a major spot in the church's life. Generally, that is no longer true. The Koike's said as much from their experience. Now, as happy as I am that we DO pray, there is so much room for improvement, not the least of which within myself. Last night, as we gave ourselves to prayer, I urged that we each make praying a priority in our private lives. Without this, our corporate cries will project an uncertain hollowness. We need a revival of prayer!  

Andrew Bonar believed that the church needs to hear the voice of God directly before they will ever experience the blessings associated with revival:
Revivals begin with God’s own people; the Holy Spirit touches their heart anew, and gives them new fervor and compassion, and zeal, new light and life, and when He has thus come to you, He next goes forth to the valley of dry bones…Oh, what responsibility this lays on the Church of God! If you grieve Him away from yourselves, or hinder His visit, then the poor perishing world suffers sorely!
But, Oh, what miraculously happens when God does come down in power! Would to God that we could see God's presence in our midst in these days of an effete ecumenism and wholesale disregard for God's Word! Great things could happen. God has exercised tremendous power in the past. Just witness the following from the revival in Ireland:
In the Irish Revival of 1859, people became so weak that they could not get back to their homes. Men and women would fall by the wayside and would be found hours later pleading with God to save their souls. They felt that they were slipping into hell and that nothing else in life mattered but to get right with God... To them eternity meant everything. Nothing else was of any consequence. They felt that if God did not have mercy on them and save them, they were doomed for all time to come.
This is what God CAN do. Stories like the above can be multiplied from the history of the church. Take this one example for an inducement to greater faith! Oh, Lord, come down!

Saturday, June 12

A Knowledge You Cannot Overestimate

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6

It is precisely here where men make their greatest error, viz., rightly knowing who God really IS. For that is the essence of this "lack of knowledge" in the prophet Hosea. Religion inevitably rotates about the personal needs of the seeker--what I want. But Christianity is all about the glory of the Savior! We must not miss this in this self-absorbed day. I present you two quotations which accentuate this truth. Read them to your own profit.
The infinite excellency, greatness, and glory of God is the foundation of all religion, for except we believe the perfections of God, we shall never worship him and love him as he ought to be worshipped and loved; except we believe his power and justice and holiness, we shall not fear him and stand in awe of him, and be afraid to violate his commands; except we believe his omnisciency, we shall not act as under his all-seeing eye, and as those who are to be judged by him. --Jonathan Edwards

Whatever, then, God permits or does, he doeth with this one motive, his own glory. And even salvation, costly though it was, and infinitely a benefaction to us, had for its first object, and for its grand result, the exaltation of the Being and of the attributes of the Supreme Ruler. --Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, June 10

The Wisdom in Wisdom . . .

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

The wisdom of wisdom is that it finds its foundation in God's centrality and purposes. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" means (among other things) he is the "bull's eye" of all our desires and our Counselor in all decisions. That it is wise to consult God, yea, rely absolutely on him should be a truism for the Christian. No proof necessary here, for as A. W. Tozer says, "The unbelieving mind would not be convinced by any proof, and the worshiping heart needs none" (The Knowledge of the Holy). But we trust ourselves to God knowing that our loving Father is infinitely knowledgeable and good. Never caught "off guard" he immediately knows all possible permutations of every incident, actual and theoretical. And the end result of every plan of his moves toward the good of man and the glory of his name. He is never reckless who throws himself on the mercy of God, but wise beyond words. Paul could rightly close out his amazingly theological Romans, "to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen" (16:27).

So . . . if this is true, how vital to entrust our plans into HIS hands. Hear from that gem of a puritan, John Newton:

I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, of which I have not since seen reason to be satisfied, that had it taken place in season and circumstance just as I proposed, it would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least it would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge of things by their present appearances, but the Lord sees them in their consequences, if we could do so likewise we should be perfectly of His mind; but as we cannot, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is spoken of as one of his heaviest judgments, when He gives any person or people up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk after their own counsels.

Monday, June 7

The Right & Wrong in Conquering Giants

Even a cursory reading of the Bible surfaces how often the process is of vastly greater concern to God than the procurement. In other words, it's not ARRIVING in the Promised Land, but HOW they arrived that God points out. Our interest in God is more often than not bound up in the getting than it is in the method by which we receive. Yet it is precisely right here where our faith goes on trial. What means more to us, the getting of what we want from God--regardless--or the way in which we go about it? I would suggest to you that in Deuteronomy 9:1–5, we witness one among many examples of precisely this test. If we listen well, we'll be way ahead in the life of faith. 

First, God Reveals the Impossible Odds Which We Are Up Against 
Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ (vv. 1-2)
It's as if God were saying, "See Israel? You're going in to the land I promised to you. OK. But, know this, you're facing humanly impossible odds. The enemy are nations "mightier" than you, with walled cities you're not able to topple. And these guys you're fighting? They're giants! (You ARE going in, like I said. I promised you. And I always fulfill my promise! Do you believe that?) But they are really big and strong. (Are you intimidated yet?)"

Second, God Reveals His Indomitable Weapon of Choice--HIMSELF!
What's God doing? He's setting the table for a feast of faith. When we know the impossibilities, what vain hope it is to trust in ourselves, then we're prepared to watch God go to work. Now, after the table has been set, in verse 3, God is ready to serve up an amazing meal, a dinner prepared by His own great power:
Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.
You're going in, but it is I, the LORD your God, who go before you. How? As a consuming fire! I will destroy them. I will subdue them. Make no mistake about who's bringing about this victory. I'M DOING IT!  

Third, God Warns of a Presumptuous Heart.
Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (vv. 4-5)
This is a very common malady among men and women of faith. We see God work. It is marvelous and we are thankful . . . initially. But then, something begins to happen with the passing of time. We begin to assume a role not properly ours--one of the deserving chosen. We think to ourselves, "I guess we did it, at least to some degree." Or, "There must have been something in us which God found worthy enough to give us this victory!" Thus, we handily divert the glory away from our Conquering Hero, locating it pretentiously upon ourselves! Oh, the insidious nature of the human heart, even the regenerated one! 

Let us learn to be better at crediting God for victories gained than we are even in asking FOR that victory! Thankfulness, in this case, becomes a sort of litmus test of the genuineness of our faith. See God in the process, glorify him in His providence.

Saturday, June 5

Seven Characteristics of False Teachers

The following is copied in it's entirety from "Against Heresies," by Martin Downes in the UK. He is exactly right in saying that the Puritan Thomas Brooks  is very quotable. He wrote on numerous subjects that pique our attention in the current spiritual malaise. At the end of the day, evil is never original. And with the push to subsume all religions into a one-world religion under the guise of peace, false teaching threatens the true church in mammoth proportions. The Bible warns against such (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4), and we do well not to imagine that the spiritual climate is any different today. Be wise to Satan's devices, chiefly deception. (And, oh, don't you love the picture below?). Thank you, Martin.

A couple of years back I spoke on "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Heretics" at the Eccentric Ministers Conference. At the time I wasn't aware that the Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608-80) had beaten me to it.

Brooks is very quotable. Here are his headings and some highlights taken from his pastoral masterpiece Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices published by the Banner of Truth Trust:

"Satan labours might and main, by false teachers, which are his messengers and ambassadors, to deceive, delude, and forever undo the precious souls of men."

He cites Jer. 23:13; Micah 3:5; Matt. 7:15; Philippians 3:2; Prov. 7

"Now the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colours, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself."

1. False teachers are men-pleasers

"They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart."

"They handle holy things rather with wit and dalliance than with fear and reverence."

"False teachers are soul-undoers."

"False teachers are hell's greatest enrichers."

He cites Isaiah 30:10; Jer. 5:30-31; 23:16-17

2. False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names and credits of Christ's most faithful ambassadors

He cites the experience of Moses and Aaron in Num. 16:3; Micaiah's experience in 1 Kings 22:10-26; Paul's experience in 2 Cor. 10:10; and Christ's experience at the hands of of the Scribes and Pharisees Matt. 27:63

3. False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts

"These are Satan's greatest benefactors, and such as divine justice will hang up in hell as the greatest malefactors, if the physician of souls do not prevent it."

He cites Jer. 14:14; 23:16

4. False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men

He cites 1 Tim. 1:5-7; 6:3-5; Matt. 23:2-3; 24:32; Rom. 2:22

5. False teachers cover and colour their dangerous principles and soul impostures with very fair speeches and plausible pretences, and high notions and golden expressions

"Many in these days are bewitched and deceived by the magnificent words, lofty strains, and stately terms of deceivers"

"As strumpets paint their faces, and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls, so false teachers put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies, that they may the better deceive and delude poor ignorant souls."

"They know that sugared poison goes down sweetly; they wrap up their pernicious, soul-killing pills in gold."

He cites Gal. 4:12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rom. 16:17-18; Matt. 7:15; 16:6, 11, 12

6. False teachers strive more to win over men to their own opinions, than to better them in their conversations

"They busy themselves most about men's heads. Their work is not to better men's hearts, and mend their lives."

He cites Matt. 27:17

7. False teachers make merchandise of their followers

"False teachers are the great worshippers of the golden calf."

He cites 2 Peter 2:1-3; Rev. 18:11-13; Jer. 6:13

"Now, by these characters you may know them, and so shun them, and deliver your souls out of their dangerous snares; which that you may, my prayers shall meet yours at the throne of grace."

Thursday, June 3

"Subluxation" - Back Outa Whack

Not really how our visit went!! But cute!
SUB-LUX-A-TION. There, I've said it, . . . or, written it. "Subluxation" a term with which Phyllis (my wife), Dave (my son), and I have become very familiar over the past couple of weeks. On vacation on Kiawah Island, SC, we had to visit the Island Chiropractic clinic four times. And we're so thankful they were there on Johns Island (adjacent to Kiawah). Subluxation (from a pamphlet in the waiting room) refers to  the impingement of nerves in the spinal column by vertebrae that are out of alignment. In other words (and in less sophisticated terminology) "Your back is outa whack!" Well, my wife's back was definitely "out of whack!" It was painful for her, and painful for us to observe!

Whatever you may think about the practice of chiropraxy, Phyllis' back was obviously crooked before we went, and straight afterward. It took several attempts to get it truly aligned, but each visit helped. Now comes the maintenance. 

Alignment of the back is vital; it affects other areas of the body. When the back is out of alignment, one must over-compensate with other muscles which are not used to such movement and they too react negatively. Pain ensues. Scriptures teaches a similar lesson doesn't it? When one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:26). Thus, there is a need for each member (part of the body) to fulfill his God-given role.  

How To Align the Life?
The Bible is replete with such verses, one of which is Colossians 3:16-17:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
See all the words I've highlighted? They issue forth from the first phrase, the word of Christ dwelling richly in the individual. Get this right, and the other will follow. Note, it doesn't say, merely read your Bible. That's true too. But reading alone is not the command. God's word must take up dwelling in the heart. It's the difference between visiting someone and living with them. Too many so-called Christians dwell in the world, and only visit Christ! For God's word to dwell in us, we must soak in it, steep in it like a tea bag, until the contents of the one (the tea bag) alter the makeup of the other (the water). The water is no longer just water, but tea! This is precisely why Jesus knocks at the door of the Laodicean church (Rev. 3:20); he's been disallowed from sitting at the table as a dweller of the heart! It is Jesus' practice to sit at table to eat but not as a dinner guest. He lives there! This is critical. 

Get this right, align the heart to God, through the Spirit nerve center and the life will fall into line. The spiritual muscles which once ached due to misuse, will correct and teaching, singing, and thankfulness will come naturally--automatically. Plant the tree by water and it grows!

Are you suffering from spiritual subluxation? Get realigned via the indwelling word.

Tuesday, June 1

Heaven's Luster Never Diminishes

Jonathan Edwards continues from the same sermon in yesterday's post with this wonderful description of heaven's continuing joys . . .
This happiness of the saints shall never have any interruption. There will never be any alloy to it; there never will come any cloud to obscure their light; there never will be any thing to cool their love. The rivers of pleasure will not fail, the glory and love of God and of Christ will for ever be the same, and the manifestation of it will have no interruption. No sin or corruption shall ever enter there, no temptation to disturb their blessedness: the divine love in the saints shall never cool, there shall be no inconsistency in any of them, the faculties of the saints shall never flag from exercise; and they will never be cloyed, their relish for those delights will for ever be kept up to its height, that glorious society shall not grow weary of their hallelujahs. Their exercises, though they are so active and vigorous, will be performed with perfect ease; the saints shall not be weary of loving, and praising, and fearing, as the sun is never weary of shining.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, pp. 888-905. Selection is found on p. 902. Sermon VIII under “Occasional Sermons.” The sermon title is "The Portion of the Righteous."