Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Are we missing Jesus?

Luke 2:43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. (NKJ)

In reading the Christmas story accounts in the Gospels, it is tempting to overlook this account that takes place when Jesus was 12 years old. Much emphasis is made of the fact that Christ confounded the teachers in the temple with His wisdom. But I think there is much to be said for the fact that Jesus was missing and yet life went on for Mary and Joseph. There are many (myself included) who would fall into the category of overprotective parents at times. Let's not forget that Mary and Joseph had Divine confirmation that the Son of God was living with them. And yet even with that knowledge, they somehow allowed Him to get "lost in the shuffle" of their busy lives.

Thank God they felt a sense of urgency, and sought him anxiously (the KJV says "sorrowing"). Friends, it is easy to take for granted the presence of Jesus in our lives. In this time of year especially, as we make preparations and plans for festivities and even religious activites, let us not forget to fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As ironic as it seems, at a time when we are celebrating the birth of Christ, it seems more difficult to resist the temptation to get caught up in all of the frenzy of the season which is supposedly dedicated to Him. Admittedly I find my own thoughts preoccupied with more trivial matters at this time of year (do I really need a new electronic gadget every December?).

Just a reminder that we shouldn't leave Jesus behind as we pursue all of the activities of this holiday season.

~Until next time....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sin's Devastating Effects

I Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (KJV)

I recently preached a series of sermons at our church from the book of First John. What became very obvious as we went through the book, is the serious nature of sin and the toll it takes on the community of faith as well as the individual. Today, I want to briefly talk about the devastating effects of sin on the human body. Now let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not believe all sickness or disease is related to some sin in a person's life. We live in a fallen world and our outward man is perishing even though our inner man is being renewed day-by-day.

One of the first examples that come to mind are the believers at Corinth. In chapter 5 we read of a man who is involved in a form of gross sexual immorality. Because he (and the congregation) saw no need for repentance or discipline, Paul instructed the church to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Paul seems to indicate that sexual sins are particularly destructive to the human body:

1 Cor 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.(KJV)

To this same church, he also warned that coming to the communion table in an unholy manner and a reckless way could result in premature death as well as sickness. Yet another extreme but biblical example is that of Ananias and Saphira. Their sin brought immediate physical death. John stated that he wrote his epistle so that the believers would not sin (I John 2:1). Not only does sin have eternal consequences when not repented of, but it can have devastating effects on the human body.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Phil 1:33 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (KJV)

I want to say a special thank you to all who read this blog regularly and contribute. I also want to thank God for His great salvation. I hope that all who read today will be blessed as they reflect upon the goodness of God. Thank God for the people in your life who make a difference.

In closing, please allow me to share a story about the late bible commentator Matthew Henry:

"Matthew Henry, the famous Bible scholar, was once accosted by thieves and robbed. In his diary, he wrote: "Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because they took my purse and not my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed." "

God bless you today

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mechanics of Bible Study (II)

In our last blog entry, we looked at some of the how-to's of bible study, using I John for illustrative purposes. We're looking primarily at chapter one in our example. So if we were going to begin studying the book of I John and beginning with chapter one, this is the way I would approach study. First, I would do as I spoke of in my last entry- read, read, and read it again. Next, I would try to determine the recipients and occasion of the letter. It is not 100% obvious from reading strictly chapter one (that's why I recommend especially with the smaller epistles to read them all the way through several times before beginning more thorough study) exactly what's going on in the Johannine community but there are a few clues.

First we see that John begins with an interesting phrase in his greeting:

I Jn 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (KJV)

Again, without reading the entire epistle it would be unwise to read very much into this, but if you had read the entire epistle you would realize there is some controversy regarding Jesus Christ coming in a physical body. So now the fact that John emphasizes that he has heard (with his own ears), seen (with his own eyes) and "handled" (leaned on his breast) Him takes on even more meaning.

We also see that this verse looks very similar to the introductory verse in the Gospel of John. We will later discover many similar themes between I John and the Gospel of John. In this same thought, we also see some repetetive words in this chapter, one in particular being "Light." A cursory reading or search of the Gospel of John reveals that the imagery of light is a popular theme in the Johannine writings. Walking in the Light is tantamount to living as Jesus did.

In this short chapter, we see this phrase three times "If we say....." so there are certain things we can gather from this. First of all, there are possibly some catch phrases or slogans that have floated around the Johannine community (much like the Corinthians were famous for "everything is permissable "). Perhaps false teachers or deceived persons are making false boasts or claims. One thing is certain, John is trying to alert the reader that verbal profession is not the basis for determining one's standing before God and his "walking in the Light." His deeds are what truly reveals one's spiritual condition and standing before God. In other words, John is concerned that people are actually "walking the walk" and not just "talking the talk."

We also see the word "fellowship" (Greek word Koinonia) repeated numerous times in this chapter. John (through the Holy Spirit) is concerned that his readers have true fellowship or communion with God and with one another. This is only possible when we have a proper understanding of Jesus Christ and the nature of saving faith. John will later offer one of the most transparent and blunt methods of discerning the children of God and the children of the devil in chapter 3, but he definitely whets our appetite for more in this introductory chapter.

Yet another powerful theme in this chapter is that of the nature of sin. We can immediately discern that some have a faulty understanding of the destructive nature of sin in one's relationship with God. It is impossible to determine precisely the meaning of these "if we say..." clauses but there are some pretty strong indicators. Either these professing this thought that they had reached a level of sinless perfection, or this is a foreshadowing of what would later become called "Gnostic" teaching (i.e. that "matter is evil."). Such a person would believe that the regenerated spirit was so pure that no deeds done in the body were considered sinful....obviously a doctrine of demons.

These are all weighty themes, and John will develop them further in his epistle. These are just some basic guidelines of how to approach a biblical text for study. I recommend that you read other books on the topic because there are so many different approaches out there and none of them are exhaustive. I think it's important as with anything else, to make your study fun. Mixing things up, using pneumonic devices, scripture memorization, and word studies can really breath life into the task.

Enjoy yourself...until next time!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Mechanics of Bible Study (Part One)

Again, I apologize that I seem to have such a difficult time updating my blog. I would promise to do better, but I seem to be really bad at good intentions too. Oh well, enough about me, let's continue talking about bible study. I wanted to first give you the spiritual dynamics (certainly not all of them, but a few) of bible study. Some things are rather straightforward, while others may not be so obvious to everyone. Having said that, let's look at some of the nuts & bolts of bible study today. Because I'm currently preaching a series at our church on I John, I thought I would use that epistle as an example. Let me share a few ways that I would approach my study of this book, and the first chapter in particular.

First, I would say to do what almost every "expert" (I'm not including myself in the expert class, just in case you were wondering) does when approaching a passage of Scripture. Read it, read it some more, read it again, read...well you get the picture. I know some of my friends reading this are probably of the KJV-only persuasion, but even if you do hold to this position, I encourage you to read a passage of scripture in numerous different translations, just to get a feel for the text. Sometimes the archaic language of the KJV makes it difficult to grasp the meaning of a particular word or phrase. I don't wish to engage in any type of bible translation debates, so please no hateful e-mails or comments (experience tells me I have to include such disclaimers...sorry).

Epistles in particular should be read all the way through in one sitting. This is the way we treat secular literature (especially letters or e-mails sent to us). We don't go "lucky dipping" in the middle of the letter to try to get the sense or tenor of the letter or e-mail. We read the greeting(s), introductory remarks, body of the letter, and the conclusion (or benediction). Reading an entire epistle helps us to discern the tone of the letter. Is it warm and familial? (John frequently uses the term "my little children" as an address in this epistle) Or is it more serious and corrective (as in Galatians where Paul gets right to the issue of false teaching/gospels)? Many commentaries are available which give the "occasion" of the letter, but I would suggest before you ever consult a commentary (as a matter of fact, I recommend that this is the LAST thing you do-and I will discuss this more indepth later) that you read and pray over the text yourself. In doing so, you will probably have a good sense of the occasion of the letter. Pay special attention to the recipients of the letter, personal pronouns and other descriptive titles.

Now in the example of I John, this letter begins with a strong similarity to the Gospel of John. Most conservative theologians agree that the Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, and Revelation have the same author (there are those who disagree, but I will not deal with that here for sake of time). Operating under that premise, it would be wise to be familiar with the other writings by this author. You will find that there are many similar themes between I John and the Gospel by the same name. For illustrative purposes, I'm really only going to deal with the first chapter of I John, but the "purpose statement" of this letter can be found in the last chapter. John says that he writes these things "that you may know you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13b). So it becomes evident by reading the entire letter through in one sitting, and paying attention to the "purpose statements" of this epistle (phrases like "these things I have written to you because..." or "I am writing to you so that.." or "I'm writing you because") that the Johannine community needs clarification or at least John through the Holy Spirit was concerned that they needed further information regarding the nature of salvation and assurance.

We will look at some more mechanics in the next entry-until next time.....


Monday, October 30, 2006

The Greatest Teacher

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.(KJV)

Today, we continue our series on the importance of studying the Bible. It is no great wonder that unbelievers do not enjoy reading the Bible and have trouble making sense of it all. The Christian however, need not feel despair in this area. It matters very little about your level of formal education. Education is wonderful, and by all means, every Christian should take advantage of every opportunity to further their education. But nothing compares to the spiritual lessons, one can be taught by the Holy Spirit. We read this in I Corinthians:

1 Cor 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.(NKJ)

We often speak and hear about "the anointing" when it comes to the Holy Spirit. One of the purposes of God's anointing, is so that we can understand the truths of God's Word. John, writing to a community of believers struggling with various issues, addresses this purpose of the anointing. It becomes obvious that there was a sect of teachers (John calls them "antichrists") who sought to seduce true followers of Christ. John made it clear to them, that they (the believers in the Johannine community) didn't need some special revelation from a second-hand mediator. They had the best teacher already living within them.

I Jn 2:26-These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.(NKJ)

This is not to say that there is no value in Christian education, seminaries, or other venues of education. The Scripture plainly teaches us that God has gifted specific men and women in the area of teaching.

Eph 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,(NKJ)

This is important to remember, because there is always the temptation to say "I have the Holy Spirit, therefore I can glean nothing from other men." Perhaps there are many we have run across in our Christian experience who share this sentiment. In order to show the fallacy of this line of thinking, I'd like to use the Apostle Paul as an example. Paul had intense training as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5-6) and had been taught at the feet of the renowned Gamaliel (Acts 22:3)....and this was before he even came to Christ (of which past he referred to as "dung" or rubbish). He had a dramatic conversion on the Damascus road, he had numerous visions of Jesus Christ, and had even been caught up to the third heaven to hear things "unlawful for a man to utter." If anyone could have felt the temptation to be a know-it-all, certainly this man had good excuse- but notice his attitude:

1 Cor 8:1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.(NKJ)

We can come to the Scriptures with a sense of hope and encouragement because we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, teaching us the great truths of God's Word. We have the benefit of those within Christ's church whom He has gifted in the area of teaching and expounding God's Word. And if you are reading this blog today, you already know that there are tremendous resources in print and electronic media that will assist you in your studies (we'll get to those later). Let us always be open to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us and show us wonderful things out of the Word of God. Regardless of how many times you have read a particular passage of Scripture, God can always give you that "light-bulb" moment that makes all the difference! I encourage you to pray these words as you open up the pages of your bible.

Ps 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.(KJV)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Different Kind of Book

II Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB)

Studying the bible is different than studying a textbook, or a piece of secular literature. The bible makes the boast of being the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that all scripture is inspired (literally breathed) by God. Jesus told His followers that the words He spoke were "spirit and life." The book of Hebrews tells us that scripture is "quick and powerful" and penentrates the human heart and the bones and marrow. Merely having an analytical mind is not enough to truly comprehend and properly study the bible. Paul commended the Thessalonians because they received his message not as the word of men, but as it is in truth- the Word of God.

Paul told the Corinthians that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. The reason that the bible doesn't make any sense to a non-believer is because they are on a different frequency (if I can use that analogy). It's like being tuned to FM and trying listen to a broadcast on an AM station (for those of us who don't yet have sattelite radio). When Jesus rose from the dead, we read in Luke 24 that He opened the understanding of the disciples so they could comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

It takes a renewed mind, and a regenerated spirit to truly be able to comprehend this Book. Next, we will explore the fact Christians have the best teacher in the world available to them at all times.

Until next time....

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Goal of Application

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.(KJV)

I would like to take the next few blog entries, and deal with the issue of personal bible study. I realize there are probably hundreds of “how-to” books on the market regarding this all-important topic, but I thought I would share a few principles for those who read my blog. I don’t consider myself any kind of expert, but I have a tremendous passion for study of the Word of God. I believe that every Christian should learn to enjoy studying his/her bible. Of course there is an obedience factor involved in reading the Word, but hopefully I can stir within you a sincere desire to study for personal enrichment, and not simply a means of fulfilling an obligation. (Although we certainly are obliged to study to show ourselves approved unto God)

For my first entry, I would like to start with the end-goal as opposed to the mechanics of bible study. People study the bible for various reasons- even agnostics sometimes study the bible in an attempt to disprove its miraculous claims. Hopefully, the Christian’s motivation for studying the Word of God is application. Jesus said that a wise man builds his house upon a rock. In this example, the man whose house is founded upon a rock is the man whose goal is application of the Word of God. He is not simply a hearer of sermons and bible studies- he seeks to obey what he’s heard. Probably one of the more practical books of the New Testament (James) tells us that we are to be not only hearers of the Word, but doers. This is the dividing line between a living faith and a dead faith.

If I search the scriptures diligently, but have no desire to know God intimately, or to allow His truth to sanctify me and mature me, I have missed the whole point. Mere knowledge will “puff up” but knowledge coupled with a desire to obey will help us to “grow up.” The Pharisees obviously had a religious knowledge, but they totally missed the object of all Scripture- the Deity and Divine work of Jesus Christ. If we gain tremendous insights and have more understanding than all of our instructors and yet fail to know, love, and obey God more in the process, then all of our efforts have been in vain. So as we look at some of the mechanics in subsequent posts, let’s keep this in the forefront of our minds. As with most “religious” activities- there is always a temptation to approach them with a sense of duty and lifelessness. We can become so accustomed to doing Christian things that we do them without engaging our hearts. Several times we read in scripture that people “honored God with their lips, but their heart was far from Him.”

My prayer is that if you are already engaged in regular bible study, this will reinforce some disciplines you are already employing. If you are not doing this, I hope that you will be stirred into action and will share with me the joy of mining the great riches of God’s precious treasure- His Word!

Until next time….

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Would He Choose Me?

Deuteronomy 7: 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people

The nation of Israel is the apple of God's eye (Deut 32:10/Zechariah 2:8) and has always been. Some churches have embraced replacement theology, which without going into tons of detail basically says, "the church has replaced Israel as God's chosen people." I think a good reading of Romans 9-11 (and chapter 11 in particular) will dispel that myth and prove that God is not finished with the nation of Israel. And at some point in the not-too-distant future, the fullness of the Gentiles will have come in, and the focus will again turn to Jerusalem as the major center of salvific activity.

But God wanted to make sure that Israel understood her election status as God's chosen people. He wanted them to realize it had nothing to do with their prominence among the nations, their military might, or their influence on global affairs. God chose them because of His great love, and because of the covenant He initiated with the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Just a brief survey of the book of Genesis will reveal that even the patriarchs were not without blemish. The New Testament especially places emphasis on the fact that Abraham was justified by "faith" and by no other means. The same is true of the New Testament Church. We have been saved by grace, through faith.

After God explained to them the basis of their election (in Deut.7:7-8), He then went on to describe the commandments that they were obligated to obey. Much like Romans 12:1 begins "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God..", and then follows with a list of practical commands of the Christian faith. Today dear friend, you can rejoice that God has chosen to have mercy on you, not because of anything you have done, but because of the grace of God. This grace is not a license to sin- as a matter of fact, it is a means of overcoming it (read Titus 2:11-12 and Jude 1:4). But it is a tremendous reminder that in all things we should rejoice in the Lord and thank Him for His grace!

Until next time...

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Not Many Mighty...

1 Cor 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (KJV)

We are so easily impressed with worldly success. We love to hear about the high-profile conversions to Christianity. We are bombarded from the tele-pulpits (for those who still watch Christian television that is....) with a message proclaiming that God wants you to have "your best life now." Much like Job's day and Jesus' day, the idea that monetary wealth and worldly influence=spiritual blessing still permeates the religious world like a cancer. Even though history tells us that it has always been the downtrodden and rejected of society that most readily embrace the gospel, we still want to believe otherwise.

We have carefully sought to soften or even explain away Jesus' words which tell us that it is hard (not impossible...but difficult) for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We scratch our heads as we hear of miracles taking place in third-world countries...meanwhile most of our neighbors in the Western world couldn't care less about Jesus Christ than they do right now. James tells us that God has chosen the poor "rich in faith." The church in Smyrna was in abject poverty and yet Christ told them they were rich. The church in Laodicea was rich and "had need of nothing" by their own estimation- but Christ revealed to them that they were wretched, poor, miserable, blind, and naked.

No, this is not some kind of campaign or propaganda encouraging Christians to sell everything they own and give it to the poor. Nor is it a post championing the virtues of laziness, poor stewardship, or a lack of planning for the future. Paul was correcting a problem that the church in Corinth seemed to struggle with- spiritual pride! Anything that we have in this life (whether it be wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, or redemption) is all because of the LORD! God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. God says that His strength is made perfect in weakness- we have this treasure in earthen vessels (jars of clay).

God didn't choose the Israelites because they were great in number (Deut. 7:7). And the same is true of the church- it is by grace we have been saved through faith and not of ourselves- it is the gift of God-not of works, lest any man should boast! (Eph 2:8-9). Let's be thankful today that God has chosen foolish things to confound the wise. He is bringing to nothing the things that are so that no flesh can glory in His presence. We can say with Jonah that "salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:9b)!

Friday, October 13, 2006

His ways are past finding out!

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

In our church, we've been studying the book of Romans on Wednesday nights- verse-by-verse. For the past three weeks, we've been studying chapters 9-11 which deal largely with God's eternal plans for the nations and Israel in particular. There are some fairly difficult concepts outlined in those few chapters- the hardening of Pharaoah, the election of Israel as a nation, God's fantastic plan to include the Gentiles and have mercy upon all.

Paul certainly anticipated that some of these weighty themes would illicit questions (especially all that stuff about "Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated"....and so on). Here is a man who had studied at the feet of Gamaliel- a master of New Testament and Old Testament theology- one who had been to paradise and heard things not lawful for man to utter- and one who had numerous personal revelations from Jesus Christ Himself. And yet, he concludes this section of the letter to the Romans by saying that God's ways are "past finding out."

This is not a cop-out- nor is it an appeal for a lack of conviction about difficult theological concepts. It is simply an acknowledgment that there are some things we simply will not be able to resolve this side of Heaven. We spend far too much time arguing with one another and trying to convince each other of our particular interpretations which we have firmly cemented in our own minds. Instead of throwing our hands up in frustration, why don't we do as Paul and throw our hands up in the air to praise God. I don't have to understand how everything works in order to praise Him.

There are many two-sided truths in the Bible. For example, God must first choose us, but we also must respond in faith. The bible says "whosoever will, let him come" on the one hand, and on the other it says "no man can come to me unless the Father draws him." I personally cannot embrace the Calvinistic interpretation of election and predestination- I believe the scriptures reveal that God is no respector of persons. However, I will be the first to admit I don't understand Paul's conversion either. He was not looking to "get saved" on the road to Damascus. His intent was to cause harm and injury to the cause of Christ. And yet, Jesus interrupted his plans and revealed to him that he was a chosen vessel for God's glory.

So while we sit and home and ponder the great truths like election, predestination, the Trinity, and other difficult concepts- let us stand in awe and wonder at the Majesty of God Almighty and be thankful that He has chosen to have mercy upon us all.

Praise God on this Friday!

Until next time....

Monday, October 09, 2006

2 Corinthians 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: (KJV)

Do you ever get the feeling that Christians, and especially leaders, get some kind of special satisfaction by speaking religious jargon? I often wonder what unbelievers think after listening to us speak or perhaps after reading some of our literature. Do they come away with a clear representation of the gospel message? Or do they simply walk away clueless because we have thoroughly confused the issue with complicated terminology and "Christianspeak"?

Now I do find it somewhat ironic that the Scripure I quoted above is from Paul- easily one of the most misunderstood writers of the New Testament. But this comment is not so much about difficulties in understanding doctrine, but rather in communicating the gospel. Paul was a master at communicating in the language of his listeners. He often used sports motifs (wrestling, boxing, running, etc.) to communicate spiritual truths. At Mars Hill, he was able to communicate to them in a way those people could clearly understand. To the Jews, he communicated and preached Christ to them from the perspective of the law of Moses. To the Gentiles, he was able to communicate Christ to them in such a way that they understood as well.

Today, I encourage and challenge you to ask God to help us communicate the love and grace of Jesus Christ in a way that is plain and easily understood. The older I get, the less interested I am in being perceived as a dynamic orator or writer- I'm much more interested that people actually understand the concepts I'm trying to teach. Are you using great plainness of speech today?

Until next time.....

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yet, I will rejoice....

Hab 3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Hab 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The book of Habbakkuk is rarely referenced with the exception of the oft-quoted "for the vision is yet for an appointed time." What many people (and apparently many preachers) don't know, is that Habbakkuk's vision was not about building a bigger church, or about an upcoming revival. God was using the Chaldeans (Hab 1:6) as a tool of bringing Israel to repentance. They were a violent people whose mission was to bring them into captivity. When the LORD said "that he may run that readeth it" he meant to "flee", not to "run with the idea."

Naturally, one could understand the frustration of the prophet as God was using a pagan nation to judge the covenant people. Nevertheless, Habakkuk was determined not to allow this to destroy his relationship with God. So many of us worship God with all kinds of contingencies. As long as things are going well, we have plenty of money in reserve, we have good health, and healthy relationships, and satisfying accomplishments and validation- we are willing to worship and praise God. But we can learn a great lesson from the prophet today:

He said even if everything falls apart (i.e. fig trees don't blossom, no fruit, flocks cut off), yet he would rejoice in his God. The scriptures state that there will be a trial of our faith. Only in adversity is the quality of our faith truly tested. Paul's thorn in the flesh reveals to each one of us, that the conditions of life will never be exactly perfect here on earth. You can have all the money in the world and yet have failing health. You can be the picture of health and yet still have a need that exercise or medicine won't cure. God allows us to have these adversities at times in order that we might depend on Him and realize that His grace is truly sufficient for us. So today, can we agree together that we will rejoice in our God regardless of outward conditions?

I feel confident in saying that there are those reading this entry today who are facing struggles. But let's not allow the struggles to destroy our confidence in the integrity and the love of God. He has promised that He would never leave nor forsake us in the midst of life's storms. Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!

Rejoice with me today!

Until next time....

Friday, September 22, 2006

IN All These Things We Are More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us

I apologize that it has been so long since my last entry. Today I want to look at one of the favorite passages of Scripture from the NT. Romans chapter 8 is a great source of comfort, encouragement, and security to those that love God. Unfortunately we often miss the central message of Scripture because we love (yes I said "we" not "ye" :) ) to isolate the passages of Scripture which were meant to be taken in context of the overall message. In our bible study, we often forget that epistles (letters) are meant to be read from start to finish. Why do we treat Scripture this way, when we do not treat secular literature in this manner? When we open our mail (yes, I'm talking about the legitimate mail, not the mountains of junk mail, credit card applications, and flyers that threaten to implode our mailboxes each day) to read a letter, we don't take a sentence or phrase from the middle of the letter and try to interpret the whole of the letter from that one part do we? And yet we do that with Scripture all the time!!! Shame on us.

Now most of you that know me (or are familiar with my writings) know that I am not the king of subtlety. In the title of today's blog, yep- you guessed it- my emphasis is on the little word "in." We are taught by many popular "teachers" that true faith should be exercised to avoid all possible obstacles. Many teach that a "conquering" faith is one that always rebukes and avoids every storm of life. Any trials that their fellow Christians endure are often looked upon with disdain and scorning. Secretly, they may think to themselves "if only that person had more faith, they could have avoided all of this." But Paul did not think that way. When Jesus appeared to Ananias in the book of Acts, He told him of how Paul would suffer great things for the name of Christ (Acts 9:16).

No, Paul did not teach that a conquering faith avoids all forms of suffering and persecution. On the contrary, he taught that "in all these things" we are more than conquerors. "What things?", you might ask- well, let's take a look:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Paul affirmed that we are more than conquerors IN all these things. When you look at that list, you may tend to think of one who suffers such as a victim. God does not tell us that those who suffer are defeated. He tells us that even in (what seems like) the face of defeat, we are victorious! So today, if you are feeling low- feeling like you are on the losing end of things- remember that if you are in Christ- you are more than a conqueror- EVEN in the midst of what the world, and even some in the church may think is a defeat for you.

Be encouraged today dear friends!

Until next time....

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm still around and hope to be back soon!

I'm sorry to post something of such little substance, but I felt an explanation is in order. I've just begun a new position at my work and I have had very little free time to do anything. I hope to post something meaningful within a few days, but until then- don't give up on me!

I would appreciate it, if you would lift me up to the Lord in prayer.

Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Much love,

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Don't Blame Everything on the Devil!

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God

This past Sunday I preached about putting on the whole armour of God. I believe there is a large segment of Christianity that falls into two extremes- seeing a devil under every rock, or ignoring spiritual warfare altogether. It would be perilous for us to ignore the fact that there are tremendously significant things going on in unseen realms. We certainly should not be ignorant of Satan's devices. When Christ was accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub (blasphemy of course!) He countered by saying that Satan's kingdom is not divided (i.e. satan does not cast out satan). Thus, we have a clear teaching at least by inference, that Satan indeed does have a Kingdom, and it is (at least in some sense) organized. Paul expands upon this theme in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, speaking of principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. I'm not sure Paul was trying to construct a detailed flowchart of satanic activity, but at the very least we can see that there is something to this whole spiritual warfare thing.

But as I was preparing to preach the message about the armour of God, it occurred to me that we blame quite a few things on the enemy that really have to do with our flesh. That list of sins (dirty deeds, vices, thoughts, attitudes, and all-around deviant behaviors) listed above sure looks and sounds like the workings of the devil. No doubt he is somehow involved in the tempting/yielding processes, and later in the condemnation and accusation of the saints when he is successful. The answer to this problem is found in the same chapter. Whenever we see that list of sins in action- whether it be in our own lives or the lives of others- we can know that the flesh is working overtime. I like the way the KJV says "the works of the flesh are manifest" . In other words, they are obvious!!! It's not a devil problem- it's a flesh problem!! Thankfully, the remedy to fleshly behavior is found in the same chapter:

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Want To Know The Will Of God?

I Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (KJV)

I Thess 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (NASB)

I'm sure most of you knew where I was heading with the "want to know God's will?" introduction. I'm amazed that everywhere I go, this is a sincere question that believers struggle with. For the most part (and I realize it varies among many) the issues revolve around the particulars of life- who should I marry?- should I take that job?-what type of ministry is God calling me to?-should I sell my home?- and the list goes on. Admittedly there are times when I don't know what to do or where to go, and I strive in prayer and ask the Lord for direction.

But more and more I am learning that God wants obedience from me in the generic sense of His will, before He will speak to me in specific terminology. Why would He be obligated to tell me anything hidden, when I haven't taken the time to obey the revealed? There are several very explicit passages in the Scriptures which tell us in no uncertain terms...the will of God. We've been looking a lot at Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians so I thought this would be a great example. God is concerned for every believer to walk in sexual purity.

Sexual immorality is not a new problem. There is in fact, "no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But it is a big problem- and one we cannot ignore. We are warned over and over throughout the pages of Scripture that the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:5-6, Colossians 3:5-6, Hebrews 13:4, Revelation 21:8) . Although we cannot claim that immorality is only a 21st century concern, we also cannot deny that the temptations and traps of sexual immorality are pervading the atmosphere in these last days. I could post statistic after statistic showing the epidemic that internet pornography has become, but I doubt that would shock any of you reading this. Almost all literature, television, and advertisements use sexuality (almost always forbidden or immoral) as a means to promote their products. I recently read a movie review in which all of the critics gave a movie a bad review because of its "PG" rating. It was a love story, and they were greatly disappointed that there wasn't more sexual interaction between the two main characters (who weren't married by the way).

Today you may be reading this and in the grip of sexual temptation, or perhaps are already in the pit of immorality. There is a remedy dear friends. It is not mere will-power, or determination- but it is the grace of God! No, I don't mean a "greasy" grace that allows one to wallow in sin, but rather a grace that empowers us to deny ungodliness (or as the NIV translates Titus 2:12 to "say NO") and worldy lusts and live godly in this present world. Come now to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy- and to find grace to help in your time of need! (Heb 4:16) Later on, we will look at Paul's prayer for sanctification of the whole being of the believer (I Thess 5:23-24). He closes with these words:

"5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. "

Thankfully God has provided every tool we need for godly living (II Peter 1:3). So today, if you are in a desperate struggle to know the will of God for something specific- do a quick self-examination and make sure you are walking in the will of God in those ways He has clearly revealed. Especially in this all-important manner of sexual purity. I know I said we were going to cover this in a later blog (Lord willing), but I'd like to close in agreement with Paul's prayer:

I Thess 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (KJV)

Until next time....

Friday, August 25, 2006

Nothing shall offend them...

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

I'd like to deviate today from my series of blogs on First Thessalonians and comment about this verse. I'm not sure if this is a symptom of the age we live in, or if it's an age-old problem (probably both)- but people love to get offended. The word translated as "offended" in the New Testament is most often the Greek word "Skandalizo" (from which our English word scandalize comes from). When we think of the word "offence", we typically think of one's feelings being hurt. Surely this is one sense of the meaning of the word. But a word study will reveal that it carries a much deeper meaning and implication. Let me post the definition from Strong's concordance:

1. to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall,
metaph. to offend
a. to entice to sin
b. to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey
1. to cause to fall away
2. to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders

me from acknowledging his authority
3. to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another
c. since one who stumbles or whose foot gets entangled feels annoyed
1. to cause one displeasure at a thing
2. to make indignant
3. to be displeased, indignant

Now without unpacking all of those definitions, we still can see that the term has some serious implications. This post today is not about the problem of offence, but rather the remedy. The cure for offence is loving the Word of God. This is a liberating truth! The more we study, meditate, and apply the Word of God- the less apt we will be to be offended, or to cause offense.

Praise God for the Word!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Word is Working in You!

I Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe

In the previous post, I spoke about the fact that Paul said God was a witness (as were the Thessalonians) to the holy conduct of him and his fellow-workers. This is truly an amazing and a humbling statement. One that should cause each one of us to examine our own testimony and conduct/conversation before God and man. This is purely my opinion here, but I believe there is a cause and effect relationship here between this and the previous verses. The Thessalonians received the Word as it was (and is) in Truth- the Word of God. I believe that the things we have mentioned earlier (the fact that the gospel came not in "word" only, but in power, in the Holy Spirit and much assurance- the fact that it produced a radical transformation in their lives, turning from idols to serve God- and the fact that the men who brought this gospel behaved and conducted themselves in a godly manner- all helped the Thessalonians to receive the message as the very Words of God- which they are!

Something I really like about this passage is that it shows the Word not only produces initial repentance and conversion, but it continues to work in those who believe! The Scriptures teach that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We never get to a place in life where we don't need the Word. And why would we want to live without it anyway? This passage teaches us that God's Word is active and alive and working in us. The book of Hebrews says that Scripture is "quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword." The Word of God has everything we need to live an abundant Christian life. It is not merely a collection of writings by religious men, but it is God Himself communicating with His Creation. Many people in this world are seemingly on a quest to "find God." They are searching for something deep and meaningful, and a way to connect with a "higher power". How awesome it is that God has revealed Himself to us in ways we can understand. Truly we cannot comprehend the vastness and the greatness of God with our human senses and faculties. But, by looking at the pages of Scripture, we can know exactly the attributes of God that He wants to communicate to us. If you want to know what God is like- look at Jesus. After all, He made this claim Himself:

John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

So remember, when you live in the Word and continue in it- it is working in you!

Until next time...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Can I Get A Witness?

I Thessalonians 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: (KJV)

If you've been following my recent blogs, you know that we've been looking at the first epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians. I have been spending considerable time reading, studying, and meditating on this particular letter. I encourage each of you to do this very same thing. The epistle is relatively short and very easy to read in one sitting. As you begin to read over and over again, certain themes will become evident. One of my main observations about this book, is that it deals largely with character- both of the recipients of the letter, and of those who carried the gospel to them.

In my last entry, I talked about the dramatic conversion and lifestyle change (i.e. that important little word "repentance" that seems to be absent from many pulpits today) of the believers there. They turned from idols to serve the Living and True God. In today's verse we see that Paul makes an appeal to them based on the conduct of him and his fellow-laborers. It's one thing to call for a human testimony, but quite another to call for Divine validation of his ministry and lifestyle.

This is not a condemnatory post at all today, but I would like for you (and me) to consider Paul's appeal. Could we honestly call God to the "witness stand" as a character witness on our behalf? Paul confidently asserted that he behaved himself in a manner of holiness and righteousness. He even says that they were "unblameable"-no one could level any charge against them. We often lament at the lack of conversions in our own ministry and personal witnessing efforts. Granted, we are merely seed-throwers and water-boys in the grand scheme of things- the results are clearly up to God (I Cor 3:6). But I wonder how much more convincing our appeals would be if we lived the kinds of lives that Paul and his partners lived. One thing is sure, God will one Day make manifest the hidden motivations of the heart.

In previous verses in this chapter (2:5) Paul makes it clear that his preaching was not motivated by greed or covetousness. I could spend all day on that point, but I'm going to leave off for now.

Until next time....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

We need not to speak any thing!

I Thessalonians 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of preaching. In fact, the scripture plainly states that God has chosen "the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor 1:21). But there is something to be said about lifestyle evangelism as a complement to good, sound, biblical preaching. In fact, Jesus said that we should let our "light so shine before men, that they may see" our good works and glorify the Heavenly Father (Matt 5:16). All too often, people aren't willing to hear about what we're preaching, because what we're doing speaks so much louder in their ears.

Paul commends the Christians in Thessalonica because their testimony was solid. He says that the word of the Lord "sounded out" from them throughout the region. Was it because all of them were fiery preachers pounding on pulpits? (Perhaps....we really couldn't speak particularly of their preaching efforts from this passage) In this instance, it was the radical change in lifestyle that caused God's Word to spread rapidly throughout the land. People were amazed and took notice because the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." We can talk all day long, but it's hard to argue with a transformed life. That's why I personally believe that one of the most effective ways to witness to unbelievers is to share how God has transformed my life. But that method only has force if there is some visible, tangible change in my life.

Paul told the Corinthians that those in Christ are a new creation and "old things have passed away." People are much more willing to follow and imitate that which they have seen. If you really want to see revival in your area, make sure that those around you can see the difference that Christ has made in your life. When people can see the difference in you, then they will be much more apt to hear what you have to say. Or perhaps, like the Thessalonians....there won't be a need to speak any thing!

Until next time....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Not in "word" only....

I Thessalonians 1:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake

In my personal devotions, I'm doing a study of the first epistle to the Thessalonians. Perhaps I will post some observations as I survey the book in the coming days...we'll see. This book has a strong emphasis on the character of those who carry the gospel and those who name the name of Christ. In other words, there is a strong emphasis on practical holiness and obedience. Much discussion revolving around the Pauline epistles deals with grace and justification by faith, but this epistle deals largely with the issue of sanctification. With that in mind, let me post a few introductory thoughts today about this epistle.

Paul tells this group of believers that they can know of their election by God because of their response to the message preached to them. The message they heard and saw was not in word only. I fear that in our modern age of expository preaching and teaching, we don't see the need for a visible manifestation of God's power. Cessationism (the theory that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased to operate in the church after the closing of the canon) has firmly entrenched itself in the hearts and pulpits of the post-modern church. Paul warned Timothy in the last days, that men would have a form of godliness, but denying its power (II Tim 3:5).

We read in Mark 16:20 that the apostles went everywhere preaching the Word after the resurrection, and the Lord confirmed the Word with "signs following." In this same sense, Paul is communicating this idea to the Thessalonians. There is a danger in following signs and neglecting the Word. But there is also a danger in denying the power of God and insisting on "words" only. Paul told the Corinthians (who obviously loved knowledge, wisdom, and fair speeches) that his preaching was not with "enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power (I Cor 2:4)."

Paul was confident that his message had been received with deep conviction (the KJV translates as "much assurance") and that their manner of lifestyle was clearly evident. What we really need today, is powerful preaching of the Word of God, accompanied by a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, producing deep conviction, and backed-up by a lifestyle consistant with what we are preaching. Later on in the letter, Paul calls God as a witness to the lifestyle of holiness and obedience that he lived....there is no doubt in my mind that he had the goods. He sure set the bar high didn't he?

Until next time....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Yielding...but to who?

Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness

Yield (Definition):

1. a. To give forth by or as if by a natural process, especially by cultivation: a field that yields
many bushels of corn.
b. To furnish as return for effort or investment; be productive of: an investment that yields

high percentages.

2. a. To give over possession of, as in deference or defeat; surrender.
b. To give up (an advantage, for example) to another; concede

Every day we make decisions to yield. We can yield to our selfish (fleshly/carnal) appetites which lead to destruction, or we can yield to God. There are many who view salvation by grace (rightly so) but view sanctification as by works of the flesh (human effort). Romans 6 is a powerful teaching on the believer's victory against and over sin. I encourage you to read the whole chapter, memorize it, and hide it deep into your heart and spiritual mind. Just as salvation is by grace through faith, the work of sanctification is also by grace through faith. It is not produced by mere human effort or will-power, but by yielding to a Higher power (in this case- the power of the Holy Spirit of God). It is difficult for us to yield because we like to be in control, but we must yield to the Lord if we are ever to experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives in a practical level.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Do you study the Bible?

II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (KJV)

This blog is very much a work-in-progress, even though I've been trying my hand at it for the better part of a year now. I'm not making any promises (some may say I have commitment issues, I simply say I'm too busy....) but I would like to make more of an effort to keep this blog a bit more updated. In doing so, I'm going to attempt to cut down on the length (hopefully not the substance) of my posts. I suppose this sounds trite and cliche' but, in all honesty, I really hope that in some small way I can encourage, edify, and exhort (I love alliteration-can you tell?) you to a deeper walk with God as you read over my shoulder and read me thinking out loud.

With that in mind, I ask you (and myself) the question today- do you study the bible? No, I'm not talking about devotional reading, which is definitely important. I'm talking about a systematic study of the bible. I'm a pastor, so as a member of the "clergy" this is expected of me by my peers and congregation. But I believe it is also God's desire for every believer in Christ. Granted, not everyone is going to be fluent in Koine Greek, but there are ample enough (and free I might add) resources available to every Christian to help them in their study of the Word. The Bible is not some random collection of 66 books. It is a Divinely inspired (God-breathed) Word, orchestrated by the most Wise and awesome Creator of the universe. God is not a God of confusion or disorder (I Cor 14:33) and I think we owe it to Him (and ourselves) to approach His Word with at least as much attention to detail as we would give our secular pursuits, hobbies, and interests.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Avoiding Controversies?

This post is going to be a little funny (I hope), a little serious, and perhaps even controversial. My friend and fellow-blogger Barbara over at Tidbits and Treasures recently posted on a topic entitled Influence or Edification that really got me to thinking. Some of the most popular blogs in the blogosphere are those that engage in controversial debate on a regular basis. There are certain topics within Christendom which have a polarizing effect. We tend to be very passionate about truths which we hold to be self-evident (as well we should I suppose).

The Apostle Paul warned/exhorted his ministerial proteges Timothy and Titus to avoid controversies. Let's look at a few of the passages that shape this thought: I'll add my personal comments in italics

I Timothy 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions (personal note here:Many translations substitute the word "questions" with the words controversies or disputes), rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

I Timothy 6:4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words,(Again, some translations use the phrases "controversies, disputes, and arguments) whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions (disputes, controversies), and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

There is a temptation which we all (and especially ministers) face and that is to go off on the proverbial "rabbit trail". Most heated debates and arguments, while sometimes can prove intellectually stimulating and envigorating, do nothing to further the cause of Christ. If you have spent any amount of time reading Christian blogs or internet forums, you will quickly notice that we are a divided group of people. Quite frankly, there are some very controversial topics that relate to Christian issues.

My point today is not that we should all hold hands and practice "groupthink" as it pertains to our faith. There is no doubt in my mind that the Apostle Paul was very opinionated and passionate about what he believed. His instructions to Timothy and Titus were not to abandon their theological convictions nor to tolerate false doctrine (in fact, Paul gives Timothy a charge to rebuke those preaching false doctrine I Timothy 1:3), but rather not to waste their time, efforts, and energies on debates with those who merely like to argue to hear themselves speak (and trust me, there are a boatload of them out there with a penchant for this very thing!).

The funny thing about most debates is that people already have their minds made up anyway. Have I convinced you to avoid controversies and foolish questions? :)

Until next time....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

He who justifies the ungodly

Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (KJV)

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, (NASB)

This is one of those concepts that is difficult for the human heart to grasp. That's why we have so many people who are unregenerated, lost, and undone without a relationship with the Living and True God today. We (especially in the West) have an entitlement mentality. We are always pleading for the powers-that-be to "give us what we deserve." We are a people that demand our rights. I can say without reservation, that I'm glad God doesn't (and hasn't to this point) given me what I truly deserve.

The recent case with Andrea Yates and the murder of her children has caused quite a stir in the news and within Christian circles. Regardless of your opinions about this particular case, I think you would admit that it's difficult at times to see the guilty "go free." Human nature demands that justice be served. Again, I readily admit that I have the same tendencies. When I watch a drama, play, or a movie- I expect (and rejoice when it happens) the bad guy to get what he deserves.

Grace operates on another level however. A person who places their faith in Christ is justified on the basis of what Christ has done- not on the basis of what they deserve! As much as Satan surely loves it when people are in bondage to drugs, alcohol, and other perversions- I'm inclined to believe that he loves it just as much (if not more) when people believe that they are accepted by God on the basis of their good works. It is said in scripture that Saul had slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (I Sam 18:7/21:11/29:5). Perhaps this is a poor analogy, but in the final equation- the so-called "gospel" of good works may end up slaying more in the end than all vices combined.

I'm beginning to understand more and more the heart cry of Paul the Apostle found in Philippians:

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (KJV)

So as you finish reading this blog today, why not pause for a moment and thank the Good Lord that He hasn't given us what we truly deserve!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can't find the perfect church?

It seems that some are always in pursuit of the perfect church. Perhaps that's where you are at today as you read this blog entry. You've driven to every assembly within a 30 mile radius of your home, and yet you still are left wanting. It seems the perfect blend of preaching, congregational friendliness, music, and programs is nowhere to be found. So.... saint of God, what are you to do?

Well...as strange as it may seem- take heart! A quick panoramic view of the New Testament reveals that even in Paul's day the church was filled with imperfect people. Let's briefly survey the situation:

The Galatians were dealing with rampant legalism
The Corinthians were dealing with idolatry, immorality, and a general lack of love
The Thessalonians seemed preoccupied with eschatology at the expense of daily labor
The Romans seemed to be struggling with cultural problems (Jew/Gentile relations)
The Colossians were battling heresy regarding the supremacy of Christ
The Philippians were trying to mediate a conflict between two well-known women (Philippians 4:2)

I'll stop there (I could go on...really I could :) ).

What is your point Henry? (I know that's what some of you are thinking, so I just verbalized that for you- wasn't that nice of me?) Well- my point is not that God endorsed these sinful behaviors. In fact, it's exactly the opposite- the Holy Spirit moved upon Paul (and the other writers of the New Testament) to correct and rebuke those who were in error and warn them of the dangers of sinful disobedience. The point I'm trying to make is that even the first century church with all of its zeal and power (remember many of those in the early church had been eyewitnesses of the Lord's resurrection and were eyewitnesses to the Day of Pentecost)- there were problems! If you're looking for a perfect church, then I'm afraid you're on a never-ending quest dear friend (sorry to break the news to you!).

Now some will read this post and think "Henry's telling me it's ok to go to a church that preaches false doctrine because after all...nobody's perfect." (WRONG AGAIN- don't you love how I anticipate your questions and answer them? I think that's called diatribe....but I digress). As a matter of fact I believe exactly the opposite- I think you should run (not walk) from a church preaching/teaching false doctrine or one that is tolerant/celebratory of immoral behavior from it's membership. Some folks will forever use the argument that the church is full of hypocrites- well certainly they are among us- but how many hypocrites do you work with every day? How many of them do you eat in restaurants with? Shop in grocery stores with? Jesus picked 12 disciples and one of them was a devil. Surely you won't hold it against the church if a few hypocrites sneak in and worship on Sunday mornings?

Someone forwarded an e-mail to me today and I thought I would share some of it with you today:

Don't let your worries get the
Best of you, remember, Moses started
Out as a basket case.
Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited
Until you try to sit in their pews.
Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.
It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
People are funny; they want the
Front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of
the church.
Quit griping about your
Church; if it was perfect, you couldn't belong.
If the church wants a
Better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
Some minds are like concrete
Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
I don't know why some people
Change churches; what difference does
It make which one you stay home From?
A lot of church members who
Are singing "Standing on the Promises" are just sitting on
the premises.
Don't put a question mark where God put a period.
Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.
Forbidden fruits create many jams.
God loves everyone, but probably prefers
"fruits of the spirit" over "religious nuts!"
>>>>> *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm still around...

Well, many of you have been keeping up with my "saga"- some may be concerned- some could probably care less (I dare say this would be the majority group :) )- some may be wondering if I'm giving up blogging altogether.....well you can set your collective minds at ease!

I've been without internet access at home for quite some time now, but just a few days ago, our DSL modem finally arrived. After about 5 days of troubleshooting and trial and error, the modem finally works properly. I didn't realize how much I depend on the internet and e-mail until I was without it for a few days. I think I've made more phone calls in the past three weeks than I have made in years.

I think I must have a loose screw somewhere or I'm a very poor planner. Here is my itinerary for the past few months.

June 12-16th- Camp meeting in Cherokee/Whittier, NC
June 18-22nd- Vacation Bible School at our Church
June 26-30th- Sold my home and bought new one (moved more boxes via U-Haul than any human being should do in one week)
July 3rd-7th- Trying to get settled in the house but made the brilliant decision (with my wife's help of course**wink wink**) to paint the WHOLE House (most rooms to two coats of paint- thank you very much) before we totally moved in.
July 10th-14th- Moving furniture in, having refrigerator delivered, telephone/DSL hooked up, looked for lawn mower and living room furniture.
July 16-19th- Began revival services at our church

Oh and in addition to this, I'm trying to pastor at our local church, raise my family, and be the best husband a wife could ever have (boy I sure hope Pam isn't reading this- she will either fall in the floor laughing or charge me with blatant falsehood ), and working at my secular job.

Which brings me to today! I'm going to rest tonight and get in bed at a decent hour (at least that's the plan!). But ya know what?- I wouldn't trade anything for these past few weeks. Although they have been jam-packed with way too much activity, I just need to step back and praise God for what He's done.

#1- I met some wonderful friends and heard some timely messages at Camp meeting
#2- VBS provided us a wonderful opportunity to outreach to the community and teach children about the love of Jesus Christ
#3-Although moving was a real pain- I love our new home and we're only about 8 minutes from our church now (as opposed to 30 before)
#4-The repairs and work on the new house look beautiful- I can't wait till our new furniture arrives
#5- this Revival was one of the best I have ever been a part of. My dear friend Pastor Steve Morrison preached for me and God used him in a mighty way to minister to me and my church family.

Thanks for letting me rant and praise all in the same blog- this is actually quite therapeutic. I'm not sure it will have the same effect on those of you reading it as it did for me writing it....but then again- this is my blog! :)

I don't often say this in the blogosphere- but I love all of you and thanks for reading over my shoulder.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Consequences of Unthankfulness?

Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (KJV)

Romans chapter one contains some of the darkest imagery of the New Testament. It starts out with Paul talking about his eagerness to preach the gospel to those at Rome. But then it shifts gears rather quickly and begans to speak of the depravity of human behavior when left on its own course. Let me share just a little more from this passage if I may:

Romans 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 1:23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 1:30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 1:31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 1:32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Are you getting depressed yet? Perhaps seeing some similarities to our own society? Time and space will not allow me to dive into this passage and give talking points on each verse. That's not the intent of my blog entry today- I just want you to pay close attention to the first few words that I posted at the top of today's entry "they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful".

Now perhaps I'm reading too much into the text and bringing my own biases into the equation. But doesn't it seem ironic that the progression of evil that is described in verses 21-32 starts out with unthankfulness and a lack of praise to God? We tend to categorize sins as big ones or little ones. These seemlingly "little" sins (if I can make that distinction-I'm speaking in foolish terms here so please indulge me) appear to lead to great big sinful problems. An unthankful heart might seem like a rather mild spiritual malady, but if left unchecked, perhaps we see a glimpse of what it can "evolve" into.

Just some thoughts to muse on today- feel free to add your own opinion :)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Been Moving...

I Corinthians 7: 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. (NKJV)

I have been absent from the blogosphere for quite a few days now due to my recent move. My family recently sold our house and we moved closer to our church family. I have had very limited internet access and still don't have phone service (not so sure that's a bad thing-but I digress...). I thought it might be good today to post a few random thoughts inspired by my recent move.

As I look around my new place and see all the scattered boxes, empty rooms, and unfamiliar neighbors, I realize the temporal nature of this life. For a few days (between closings on the home) we were actually "homeless"-although I feel very reluctant to use that term because of those who truly are homeless and are forced to sleep in shelters and streets- may God watch over each one of them. During those days I thought about the fact that this life is merely a temporary existance. Although we lay claim to many things and proudly boast that "we own" this or that, the truth is that we own nothing. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.

Job said it best:

Job 1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

We are only here for a very short time and it really matters what we do with what we've been given. I need to purpose in my heart not to get too attached to this present set of circumstances- soon and very soon we are going to see the King!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A way that "seems" right.....

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (KJV)

There are some verses of scripture which seem to always strike a sense of fear and awe in my spirit. This is one such verse. The older I get, the less confidence I have in human effort and ability. I have come to realize that without God's discernment and His wisdom operating in my life, I am capable of making shipwreck of my faith. Those with a church background are probably very familiar with the expression (found in scripture) "we walk by faith and not by sight." Most Christians are willing to accept this in generic terms. We know there is an unseen God, and Invisible, Omniscient, Omnipotent, and all powerful Saviour named Jesus Christ. Even though we have never seen Him, we love Him (I Peter 1:8).

But there is an ever-present danger that we must always remain vigilant about. And that is walking by "feelings." We often judge the merit of an action or belief system based on the perceived sincerity of an individual. But I have learned that I can indeed be sincere....but be sincerely wrong!!!! Sincerity and zeal are often commendable attributes (when channeled in a godly direction) but they can be deadly when misguided or misdirected. Jesus illustrated this when He taught His followers that people would kill Christians and actually think they were doing a service to God (John 16:2).

Yet another passage of Scripture which never fails to produce a sense of godly fear in me is found in Matthew chapter 7. I will post it here for illustrative purposes:

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (KJV)

If I'm reading this correctly, it would appear that these individuals mentioned above are genuinely surprised that entrance is not permitted into Heaven for them. This tells me that it is indeed possible to think that everything is going right- doing service for God (even participating in the miraculous!!!)-and yet be terribly misguided to our own destruction. Today's entry is rather heavy, I must admit, but the issues that we deal with are indeed life and death issues. The bible is very clear that one day we will face a just and a holy God to give an account of what we have done here on the earth. I want to make sure that my foundation is solid, and built upon a Rock.

You and I may be on a "way" that seems to be the right way. But the question we must ask ourselves is- is this the Biblical Way to heaven? Liberal theology teaches us that we should never question or investigate our standing with God. Scripture teaches us exactly the opposite (II Cor 13:5/ II Peter 1:10). This post is not intended to cast doubt on the assurance of salvation- but rather to make sure that assurance is based on the truths of scripture and not some arbitrary standard that we have constructed in our own minds. Remember that there is a way that seems right....but the end of that way is destruction.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back from Camp Meeting

You may or may not have noticed my absence from the blogosphere last week, but I just returned from a week long trip to the Great Smokey Mountains of NC where we had our yearly state camp meeting. For those of you not aware with the whole "Camp Meeting" genre, it's basically a huge gathering of believers and ministers to worship God and hear relevant preaching and teaching. I had hopes of turning the week into a mini-vacation but there was little time for rest & relaxation. But nevertheless, I come away from the whole experience with a positive outlook and a spiritual renewal.

One of the best things about camp meeting is getting to see friends and fellow ministers that I rarely get to see any other time of the year.

So this is my short contribution today...nothing of substance...just filling in the blanks as to my absence. (if anyone really cares-I don't want to sound too self-important -LOL)

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Hard Cases....

Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting

Jesus and three of His disciples had just come down from the mount of transfiguration. An experience of tremendous glory and revelation has just taken place. However they descend from the mountain to find a tumultuous scene. We find the other nine apostles (and possibly others) are struggling with something they've never run up against before. Previously Jesus had called them and commissioned them, and given them authority to cast out demons and heal every disease! (Matthew 10:1)

And yet we find a great crowd assembled here- a vexed boy (the KJV calls him a lunatic) -and a desperate father. The dad remarks that he has brought his boy to Jesus' disciples but...they could not cure him. Can you imagine their frustration? Up until now, demons were fleeing, bodies were being healed, lives were instantaneously being changed and delivered. But now they are up against something they've never seen...and it's happening in front of a crowd (Matthew 17:14). Of course Jesus immediately deals with the situation and brings deliverance to the tormented boy (right after He gives some rather sharp admonition to His disciples!).

Later they come to Him privately (as they often did) and asked Jesus (in essence) "what's the deal? Why couldn't we cast out the demon this time?" First Jesus remarks about their unbelief. He basically tells them they don't even meet the bare minimum requirements as far as faith goes (mustard- seed- size). But lest they be filled with despair, He goes on to tell them that they were not up against the run-of-the-mill opposition. He goes on to say "this kind" of demon can only be expelled by extraordinary means (prayer and fasting).

I dare say that all of us run into extraordinary problems from time to time. There are trials...and then there are TRIALS!!! There are times when a "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer life is not going to move the mountain. It's going to require some extra effort on our part. I want to encourage and challenge you today by asking- what are the hard cases in your life? Is it financial? Health-related? Perhaps your sons and daughters are under the influence of the devil just like this poor man? Got any lost loved ones you are desperate to reach before it's too late? Or pastors how about your churches? Tired of seeing the enemy put your church up against a barrier it can't seem to break through? Churches often hit a "plateau" spiritually and it seems like it's impossible to get past. We often look at the physical symptoms and fail to realize there are deep-rooted spiritual problems at the core. Is not Satan a master strategist, schemer, and deceiver? Does he not have ranks of principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places? (Ephesians chapter 6) Does he not have a kingdom (that even Christ commented) is not divided? (Matthew 12:26)

I believe these are the last days and if my assumption is correct, then we are facing demonic powers that we haven't faced before. If that is indeed the case, then I ask you (and myself) are we willing to pay the extra price in order to see our loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers come to Christ and be set free from the powers of darkness? Fasting is never fun (if it were, you and I wouldn't be human beings)- prayer requires a sacrifice of time and energy and a submission. But beloved, if we are not willing to do these things- we shouldn't complain or ask questions when we are unable as the body of Christ to deal with the "hard cases."

Have a great weekend!
~Henry †

Monday, June 05, 2006

Potent Prayers

(I saw this on Woodrow Kroll's site and decided to share it with you today)

Potent Prayers
By Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Taken From: Streams in the DesertBroadcasts
"Make thy petition deep" (Isa. 7:11, margin).

Make thy petition deep, O heart of mine,
Thy God can do much more
Than thou canst ask;
Launch out on the Divine,
Draw from His love-filled store.
Trust Him with everything;
Begin today,
And find the joy that comes
When Jesus has His way!

We must keep on praying and waiting upon the Lord, until the sound of a mighty rain is heard. There is no reason why we should not ask for large things; and without doubt we shall get large things if we ask in faith, and have the courage to wait with patient perseverance upon Him, meantime doing those things which lie within our power to do.

We cannot create the wind or set it in motion, but we can set our sails to catch it when it comes; we cannot make the electricity, but we can stretch the wire along upon which it is to run and do its work; we cannot, in a word, control the Spirit, but we can so place ourselves before the Lord, and so do the things He has bidden us do, that we will come under the influence and power of His mighty breath. --Selected

"Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Where is the God of Elijah. He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him."

The greatest saints who ever lived, whether under the Old or New Dispensation, are on a level which is quite within our reach. The same forces of the spiritual world which were at their command, and the exertion of which made them such spiritual heroes, are open to us also. If we had the same faith, the same hope, the same love which they exhibited, we would achieve marvels as great as those which they achieved. A word of prayer in our mouths would be as potent to call down the gracious dews and melting fires of God's Spirit, as it was in Elijah's mouth to call down literal rain and fire, if we could only speak the word with that full assurance of faith wherewith he said it. --Dr. Goulburn, Dean of Norwich