Monday, January 31, 2011
The two places the term appears in the Bible are John 3:3-8 and 1 Peter 1:23, but the concept of the new birth appears in many New Testament passages, such as Ephesians 2:1-5. In John's Gospel, Jesus describes the new birth as being the work of the Spirit. He contrasts our physical birth, that of water, with the spiritual birth. Nicodemus had been born physically, but he needed to be born a second time, spiritually.
There is one thing both births have in common: the person being born has nothing to do with his birth. Some believe that a man chooses to place his faith in Christ, and by doing so, he is born-again. That is true, but why does he choose to believe in Christ? Does man hunger for a relationship with Almighty God? The answer is a resounding NO!
The Scripture says that the new birth is the work of God alone (Jn. 1:12-13). It says that none seek to know Him of their own volition (Rom. 3:11). It is the Spirit Who convicts the lost of their need for the Savior (Jn. 16:7-11). It is the Father Who draws man unto His Son, Jesus (Jn. 6:44). And it is God Who gives a man the faith necessary to believe (Eph. 2:8-9). We are born-again because we believe; we believe because we have been given the faith necessary; we are a child of God because it is His will and not ours (Jn. 1:13). To God be the glory; great things HE has done!
As for when the new birth occurs, it totally depends upon the move of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual (Jn. 3:8). The born-again Christian is a child of God now, in this life (1 Jn. 3:2; 5:13). That is why we can call God our Father (Rom. 8:15). That is why we need not fear death; we have ETERNAL LIFE (Jn. 3:15-16; Rom. 6:23; 1 Jn. 2:25; 511). Those who are born-again will face only physical death; everyone else will face the second death (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). So:
IF YOU ARE ONLY BORN ONCE (PHYSICALLY), YOU WILL DIE TWICE;
IF YOU ARE BORN TWICE (SPIRITUALLY), YOU WILL ONLY DIE ONCE.
Now you know why my birthday means so much to me. I pray all reading this will experience the same before they die! AMEN!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
As the plane left the runway, he got on the public address system and again repeated his warning. But by this time, the passengers were snuggled in their warm blankets watching a wonderful in-flight movie. They had their dinner trays, their complimentary cocktails, and they were not interested in listening to a "nut" trying to frighten them. He told them he had smuggled a parachute on board for every crew member and passenger, that they should line up to receive theirs; they needed to trust him and leave before it was too late. The pilot repeated his message to ignore the over-stressed flight attendant, and so they did.
When they continued to ignore his warnings, he took ice cold water and poured it on them to get their attention, but again, they ignored him, even cursing him and threatening him. When he refused to be silenced, a group of them grabbed him and threw him to his death. At last, they could enjoy their flight in peace. After all, the pilot had repeatedly told them to ignore him, and to relax; he told them he had everything under control, and there was no need to worry. He even complimented them for their solution to "the problem."
Just then, one of the passengers looked out the window and realized they were about to fly into a mountain side. He jumped up, shouted a warning, put on his parachute, and jumped to safety. A couple other passengers believed him and jumped just moments before the plane exploded against the snow-capped mountain. They had been saved because they finally believed the warnings. The pilot, although delighted that he had fooled two hundred into trusting him, was still furious that he had lost three of those he intended to kill.
My pastor said that God's grace had provided a prophetic warning about Sin Airlines. Grace had provided Someone willing to lose His life trying to rescue all who would believe Him. Grace had provided the means to escape certain death. And grace had moved three passengers to at least consider the evidence that the warning was authentic. When they believed, and trusted in the only way they could escape, they were saved.
Grace is getting something we do not deserve. We do not deserve a warning (the Word of God). We do not deserve the means to escape (the Son of God). We do not deserve the precious time it takes to believe the warning, put on the "chute," and walk through the exit. God's grace rescues us when His Spirit opens our eyes to see and we "take the leap of faith." He doesn't push us out; He says, "Follow Me!"
Saturday, January 29, 2011
From the very beginning of time, God has warned mankind to obey Him, or suffer the consequences. He told Adam that if he ate from the forbidden tree, he would die. Adam ate, and the rest is history. Mankind has inherited the nature of our father, and as a result, we not only have the natural desire to disobey God, we all face death every single day. The Bible refers to life as being nothing more than a vapor that soon passes away. Sin is evidence of a lack of reverence toward the Lord.
And just as the principle of rebellion results in the certain death of an individual, it also applies to nations. From its very roots, America has been a nation that has honored God. The first Europeans who settled here were seeking a place where they could freely worship and serve the Almighty. The first amendment of the Constitution was written to protect the right of every citizen to freely assemble and to worship as he or she chooses. It guarantees protection from opposing religious views, and from the government itself.
But, "the times they are a changing." Slowly but surely, our government has begun infringing upon our religious freedoms. Preachers must avoid "hate speech" in their pulpits, or be arrested. The definition of "hate speech" is not very well defined, and so the interpretation of what is "hate speech" and what is not, is very subjective. Preaching what the Bible says about homosexuality, abortion, or other religions, is said by some to constitute "hate speech." Speaking for a particular political candidate is forbidden, as well. Eventually, the Christian faith will cease to be "salt" to prevent corruption, and "light" to shine on the deeds once done in darkness.
When Christianity no longer holds influence on our government, our culture, or our citizens, America is doomed. Immorality, corruption, and eventually anarchy will reign, just as it has in every great nation which failed to honor God throughout history. When a nation ceases to have reverence for the Creator, it inevitably becomes a god to itself. Its citizens "pray" to it for housing and food, instead of to the One Who promised to provide those things to all who would honor Him. The greatest threat to America is its increasing rejection of God, His Book, and His people! We can print "In God we trust" on every coin, bill, document, and building in our nation, but unless we actually trust Him, there is little hope of our surviving as a nation.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Neither is the threat of global warming. Science has kept "records" of the average global temperature for about two hundred years, or so they claim, and it is only in the last three decades that temperatures have been above "normal," whatever that is. Some scientists have suggested that there is a cycle spanning about one thousand years, from the warmest year to the coolest. According to their view, the Earth is merely in the upward period of the cycle. And, since the melting of the polar icecaps which threatens to ruin the world's coastal regions would take centuries to occur, I suspect those living near the seas will have time to relocate.
Some have imagined a "chicken little" scenario in which an asteroid collides with Earth, creating another ice age. It could happen, but after all, the last time it occurred was "sixty-five million years ago, when the dinosaurs became extinct," right? Although I do not believe our solar system, or for that matter the Universe has been around as long as "scientists" say, I like our odds if there has not been "an event" for that period of time.
The threat of the world ending in A.D. 2012 because some ancient civilization's calendar ended then, is even more ridiculous. The Mayans reached their peak as a civilization about a thousand years ago, and for them, the world ended when they were conquered by the conquistadors. The last recognized Maya stronghold fell, that of the Itza capital of Tayasal on Lake Petén Itzá, in A.D. 1697. You would have thought they would have seen that coming. It is much more likely that they simply thought carrying it out past a thousand or so years was a waste of time. And for those who rely on the so called "prophet" Nostradamus, how is that working for you? Not only are the interpretations of his "predictions" forced, his batting average would get him sent back to the minor leagues. God's Word says that no man knows when Jesus will return, and even after He gets back, there are still at least a thousand years until "the end" (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:36; Acts 1:7; 1 Thes. 5:1; Rev. 20:1-21:1).
No, the greatest threat to America is not radical Islam, global warming, rogue asteroids, or time running out; the greatest threat to America is from within America herself. Stay tuned.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
It should be clear by now that Islamic nations are not particularly fond of the United States. It is not so much the bombings and the airplanes used as missiles that prove this, but it is the celebrations of Muslim populations around the world when they see the bodies of U.S. Marines dragged through the streets. It sort of reminds me of the world's response to the death of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-11.
I believe there are two main reasons why there is such a hatred for our country. First, at least up until now, we have been the greatest ally of Israel. Esau's descendants have hated Jacob's descendants for nearly four thousand years, and in spite of all the treaties, land for peace deals, and summits, their hatred will never allow genuine brotherhood to exist between the two branches of Abraham's family. Even after a millennium of forced peace between the two, the Muslims, and nearly everyone else, will still try to destroy the Jews (Rev. 20:7-9).
The second reason the Muslim world hates America is because we promote democracy, and in a democracy, people are free to be members of other religions besides Islam. America is not alone in being the target of Islamic terrorists. Nearly every country on our planet has been targeted by suicide bombers. Lest Americans become paranoid about being hated, every night, the news reports bombings somewhere around the world. Russia, our philosophical if not literal enemy, has had more bombings than we have had. And countries that are nearly one hundred percent Muslim have not escaped the lunacy, as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Malaysia has repeatedly suffered random bombings.
Even within our own country, there are "sleeper cells" of radical Muslims which are continually planning their dastardly acts. A military chaplain shot forty-three American service men and women, killing twelve at Fort Hood in Texas. We have had the "shoe bomber," the "underwear bomber," and the nineteen "students," all of whom we taught to fly airplanes. And those are the stories that make the news. For every one that goes public, there are probably dozens that are kept secret because "someone" has some of the "sleeper cells" under investigation; we wouldn't want to blow their surveillance. And we don't want to create a war on Muslims in our country. After all, the majority of the nearly two billion Muslims in the world are peace-abiding citizens, even though their holy book says to destroy non-Muslims.
In spite of all that, America's greatest threat does not come from Islamic hatred for our country. Believe it or not, there are several greater threats to our safety and freedom. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will try to present some more of the forces which pose a considerably more serious threat to our way of life.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
It is not surprising that unbelievers would reject us as hypocrites, and therefore, not worth their time. They are under the assumption that a genuine Christian does not sin. My first response is to ask them if they had ever met a genuine Christian. If their assumption is correct, I certainly haven't. But, where did they get that idea in the first place? They got it from churches that teach it! Many churches and cults teach that holy living is what makes a person a Christian. In other words, a person is saved IF he lives a holy life. And, IF I ever meet a person that does that one hundred percent of the time, I will gladly acknowledge that he is a Christian. But since there are none, I will have to take a believer's testimony of his salvation as genuine.
The Bible teaches that as born-again believers, we have been adopted as children of Almighty God (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:5). It also teaches that God's children still sin (Rom. 7:15-25; 1 Cor. 11:27-32; Heb. 12:3-8; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). In this life, a Christian is to continue to be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). We are to no longer be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by having our minds renewed (Rom 12:2). We are to allow the Holy Spirit, Who is the mind of Christ, to guide us in our daily walk (Jn. 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-16; Gal. 5:16, 25).
The problem with Christians is, we do not live as though we believe the promises of God. We are focused upon what our senses tell us, instead of what God's Word says about us (1 Cor. 2:12). We are the Sons of God (1 Jn. 3:2)! We cannot be separated from Him (Rom. 8:35-39). He will not leave us (Heb. 13:5). We have been given the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 8:37). He will provide for our every need (Matt. 7:7-11; Phil. 4:11-12). I can do whatever He calls on me to do, because He provides me with the ability (Phil. 4:13).
Yes, those who call us hypocrites are right. When we worry, when we are fearful, when we are silent in the face of evil, when we fail to tell others about Christ, when we fail to live a victorious Christian life, we are hypocrites! We are not hypocrites when we trust God. We are not hypocrites when we have courage,. We are not hypocrites when we act as "salt" and as "light." Those are things Christians do! There used to be a saying that was popular "back in the day," that said, "God said it. I believe it, and that settles it." I believe Him.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The sale of books on self-awareness has made some folks very rich, and their writings on the subject have elevated them to "pedestal status." What Psychology student has not been exposed to the endless list of "great thinkers" on the subject of man's view of himself? From Descartes, who had to convince himself that he existed; to Freud who saw man as flawed due to his failure to recognize all of his problems were from sexual repression; to Pavlov who believed man was totally the product of environmental conditioning; to Maslow's belief that a person has "arrived" when he reaches a state of self-actualization; etc.; we are told that there is nothing wrong with us that cannot be fixed by exchanging our guilt for self-acceptance. A line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To thine own self be true," seems to say there is nothing wrong with you; you are the standard for what is true. Harris' I'm Okay, You're Okay seems to sum it all up.
The Bible has something quite different to say about the views of those who believe they understand themselves: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22)! From the beginning, when Adam and Eve desired to be as wise as God, man has failed to understand and accept who he is. On one hand, we are egocentric, believing we are the center of our universe, while on the other, we covet more wisdom, more respect, more power, more, more, more. If we could only be omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal; if we could only be like God. Isn't it a shame that when God created Adam, he was like God (Gen. 1:26-27)? And, for the born-again believer in Christ, I have good news and bad news; we will be again, but not in our lifetime (Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 2:9; 1 Jn. 3:2)!
Until then, we must recognize the we are sinners, not were, but are (1 Jn. 1:8-10). We need to continually look in the mirror of God's Word, and see ourselves as God sees us (Jam. 1:22-25). And even then, we will only see a partial reflection of who we are (1 Cor. 13:12). We are incapable of comprehending the difference between who we are now, and who we will be when we are with Him (Isa. 64:4). But, even though we cannot be like Jesus now, we can still "join God's army" (Rev. 19:19), and "be all that we can be."
Monday, January 24, 2011
Noting that the Athenians were "superstitious" and so desirous to "cover all their bases," even worshipping "an extra god" just in case they missed one in their pantheon of deities, Paul told them he would reveal the identity of their "unknown god" (v. 22-23). He said that God, the God Who created the world, is the Lord over heaven and the earth and did not dwell in temples, but was the One Who gives life and breath to all things (v. 24-25). He told them that God, while fully in control of all nations, made only one race: the human race (v. 26). He said that God did not have to remain unknown to them; they simply needed to seek Him, because "He be not far from everyone of us" (v. 27).
Paul then explains that God is not made out of gold, silver, stone, or any other material thing, but that He is like His offspring (v. 28-29). They needed to repent (turn from idol-worship and to God), because they are going to be judged by Jesus, Whom God raised from the dead as proof (v. 30-31). I find it very strange that Paul didn't specifically say that there is only one God, and all of their gods were nothing more than idols made by human hands, but it is definitely implied (v. 29). It is also strange that they objected more to his preaching the resurrection, than they did his calling all their gods idols.
Today, man has many idols. We even have a program on television called "American Idol." We make idols out of sports stars, movie stars, politicians, scientists, great preachers, etc., but the most worshiped idol of all is ourselves. We want our "fifteen minutes of fame." We want to be appreciated, We want to be liked and included. It is all about us. We are not the Unknown God, but we want all the things that rightly belong to Him: praise, admiration, power, authority. We want to be the center of our universe.
If you do not know God, it isn't His fault. He gave His Son for you. He had his followers write down all that He wanted us to know about Him in the Bible. The Spirit has tugged at your heart over and over again. Christians have preached, testified, and demonstrated Christ-likeness so that you would glorify Him (Matt. 5:16). There has never been a time in history when mankind has had more access to God's revelation of Himself than in this day of computers, television, and radio. And yet to most of the world, He is still the Unknown God. What an awful shame!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
After reading what Jim Higham, the author of the article had to say, I have to admit that I shared my friend's concern. I have family members and friends who are Masons. I know pastors who are Masons! How can that be? How is it possible for a person to believe the Bible is the revealed Word of God, and then accept the teachings of an organization that are diametrically opposed to its teaching? I believe there are two answers for this. First, the article shows that Freemasonry deliberately deceives the public and the majority of its initiates (members of the Blue Lodge, the first three degrees of Freemasonry). It is not until a member becomes a fourth degree Mason that the true teachings gradually are revealed. By the time the member has reached the thirty-third degree, he is clearly a disciple of Lucifer.
The second reason Christians can be Masons is that they obviously do not recognize the rituals as Satanic. They are either totally unfamiliar with the Bible, or they shrug off the teachings as simply "secret jargon." They believe it is merely metaphoric and not to be taken at face value. However, you would think an alarm would go off when they use the name of God (I Am that I Am) for the Royal Arch Degree; they use the name "Jaobulon" (a composite of Jehovah, Baal, and Osiris) to speak of the Trinity and no Blue Lodge member can pronounce this name - they must use the letters J.B.O.; they call Lucifer the God of good and light, and call Adonay (a biblical name for the God of Israel) the God of evil and darkness; they speak of washing their robes "in their own blood," instead of having their garments washed in the blood of Christ (Rev. 7:14); and their "communion" involves eating the "bodies of Christ, Moses, Confucius, Plato, Socrates. You would think that even a newborn babe in Christ would recognize that Freemasonry is calling evil good, and good evil! And yet, people including pastors who have claimed to be Christians for years, are proud members of the Masons. God help them!
For those reading my blog for the first time, let me say that I rarely write derogatory comments about other groups or religions. Those of you who have read my daily witness for Christ know that is true. I wrote this posting as a warning to "rescue" those who have been deceived, and to those who are considering becoming a Mason. The Masons have been around for centuries, and so has their serpentine god. BEWARE!
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Jesus told His disciples that they were to preach both repentance and remission as they shared the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the world (Lk. 24:47; Acts 1:8). Salvation comes to us when we believe that Jesus died for (remitted) our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised by the Father. A genuine faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf, automatically does two things: it results in repentance (a turning from our old way of life to follow the Lord), and it fills us with a desire to share the Good News with as many people as possible ((Rom. 10:9-10). Because Jesus has remitted our sin, our gratitude, our love, causes us to want to serve Him. Because of our love for our family, our friends, and our neighbors, we want to share Him.
The second kind of forgiveness takes place when we, as Christians, recognize we have sinned, and we confess our sins to our faithful God. He not only forgives us, He "refills us" (1 Jn. 1:8-10). We are once again righteous. Yesterday, I discussed the difference between the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit. I said that a born-again Christian is either walking in the Spirit (filled), or he is walking in sin. There is no gray area; we are either righteous or we are unrighteous. As a result, there is no such thing as a "small sin." All sin makes us unrighteous. James said it this way, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jam. 2:10). When we receive the new birth, we receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). The moment we sin, we are no longer righteous, but we are unrighteous.
Does that mean we lose our relationship with God? No, we are still His children, but as our Father, He tends to make us wish we hadn't sinned. In reference to partaking of the Lord's Supper with unconfessed sin in our life, Paul warns that God will discipline us (1 Cor. 11:23-34). One of the ways a believer knows he is a child of God, is that his Father "spanks" His children (Heb. 12:5-8).
To sum up, the lost need to believe in Christ in order to be forgiven of their sins and be saved (Jn. 6:29; Acts 10:43). A Christian needs to be forgiven of his sins in order to restore fellowship between him and God (1 Jn. 1:9). When the lost are saved, they are "made clean" (Jn. 13:10; Col. 2:13). When the child of God repents, the "part of him that has touched the world" is cleansed (Jn. 13:8-10). Thank God I have experienced both kind of forgiveness!
Friday, January 21, 2011
The Filling of the Holy Spirit is entirely different. A Christian may be totally under the control of the Spirit one minute, and then be totally void of His influence the next. The perfect example is Peter. In Matthew 16:16-17, Peter correctly identifies Christ as "the Son of the living God." Jesus told Peter God had revealed that knowledge to him. Moments later, Peter was rebuked for listening to Satan (Matt. 16:23). Apparently Peter had a habit of "leaking," as we see by comparing Acts 2:4 with 4:8.
Christians are commanded to be filled by the Spirit; the Greek tense used indicates that one is to "keep on being filled." This command is also found in Ephesians 5:18. Another way of saying it is found in Paul's letter to the Galatians, where he tells them to "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16, 25). Evidence that a person is filled with the Spirit is found in the verses in between. "But the fruit (evidence) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (v. 22-23).
Evidence that a Christian is not filled by the Spirit is also found listed in the verses in between: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such" (v. 19-21). In other words, sin. When a Christian sins (not if, but when), he grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). In order for the person to once again be filled with righteousness, he must confess his sin (1 Jn. 1:9). A believer is either walking in sin, or he is walking in righteousness (in the Spirit) - there is no "gray area."
So, the bottom line is that a believer is baptized into Christ once, but the number of "fillings" he experiences is limited only by the length of his life. I guarantee that the longer the Christian lives, the more times he "will leak." For those who believe they "have no spiritual holes in their bucket," they are deceiving themselves and they are calling God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). If you have been baptized into Christ, keep on being filled!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Humility produces gratitude. Gratitude produces love. Love produces obedience. Obedience produces service. Micah said it much better when he wrote, "He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Mic. 6:8). Micah is saying that we need to know what God wants of us: We are to be just in our relationships with others. We are to be merciful to those who treat us unjustly. We are to remain humble before God. The Apostle Paul gave us the reason we should remain humble when he wrote, "For it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
Here is a sample of what God's Word has to say about the importance of being humble:
-LORD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, Thou wilt cause thine ear to hear (Ps. 10:17).
-Surely He scorneth the scorners: but He giveth grace unto the lowly (Prov. 3:34).
-Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud (Prov. 16:19).
-Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him (Prov. 26:12).
-Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips (Prov. 27:2).
-A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit (Prov. 29:23).
-Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).
-And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matt. 23:12).
-Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3).
-Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8).
A humble Christian does not need to worry about his thoughts, words, or actions; his mind will be in harmony with His mind (Phil. 2:5-8)!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Bible often tells us of things that took place historically. In Luke, we can read about the visit of Jesus to the home of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus (Lk. 10:38-42). The two sisters are shown to have different priorities; one wanted to listen to the Lord teach, and the other wanted to show hospitality to their guests. Jesus tells Martha that she worried too much about serving, and that her sister had chosen to do that which was of greater importance.
I have heard preachers suggest that Martha was worldly, while Mary was spiritual, and if one were to take this passage alone, I can see where they might have interpreted it that way. However, when we study the Bible, it is always necessary to read individual passages in light of the teaching of the entire Bible. Over and over, God tells believers that He does not want man's priority to be "religious," but that serving others is to be our priority (compare Mic. 6:6-8 with Jam. 1:22-27 as an example). Other passages tell us of God's priority for our lives (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:43-48; 7:12; 22:40; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Thes. 3:11-13; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Jn. 3:23).
I believe Martha's problem was her failure to understand Mary's need to hear Jesus. Martha's faith was already stronger than Mary's, as can be seen from their response to the "late arrival" of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus (Jn. 11:1-44). Notice that Mary's response to Jesus was "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother (would not have) died" (Jn. 11:32). Martha, on the other hand, believed that even though her brother had died, Jesus was able to bring him back to life (Jn. 11:21-22).
Studying God's Word is extremely important, and whenever possible, it should be viewed as our top priority. However, there are degrees of spiritual maturity, and therefore, there are different "schedules of feeding." A baby eats at least eight times a day, while an adult need only eat two or three times. Babies require the "milk of the Word," while mature Christians should be eating the "meat" (1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-13; 1 Pet. 2:2). Based upon this, mature Christians should be the ones serving during church services, while the "babes" should be "getting fed" by the pastor. Mature Christians understand Philippians 2:14. Keep your priorities straight when it comes to being "spiritual."
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It is easy to be discouraged by how little we understand about God, His Word, and His will. But discouragement is the work of Satan, and is evidence of spiritual immaturity. It is God's "job" to educate His children. First of all, He has provided us with His Word, the believer's "owner's manual." Secondly, He has begun the process of making us like His Son (Jn. 16:13; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thes. 2:13; Heb. 13:21). Ultimately, He will change us into the image of His Son (1 Jn. 3:2). So relax and let God do what He does best (Gen. 1:31).
The importance of God's Word to Israel is found in Psalm 119. It is the longest Psalm, having 176 verses, and it is divided into twenty-two sections of eight verses each. It is an acrostic, with each eight-verse section beginning with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. For example, in verses one through eight, (the first section - aleph), all the verses begin with aleph. Other Psalms use the alphabet acrostic as well (Psalm 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145).
Psalm 119 is not only the largest Psalm, but its subject is the Word of God. Here is an example from each section. It tells us how to be blessed by God (v. 2). It tells us what displeases God (v. 11). It serves to counsel us (v. 24). It provides us with knowledge of God's glory (v. 27). It guides us on life's journey (v. 35). It frees us from bondage (v. 45). It comforts us (v. 50). It brings us to repentance (v. 59). It makes sense of our afflictions (v. 71). It declares that God is our Creator (v. 73). It gives us hope (v. 81). It tells us of God's faithfulness (v. 90). It gives us understanding (v. 100). It protects us from false teaching (v. 110). It makes us feel safe (v. 117). It shows us our need for His mercy (v. 124). It gives us compassion for the lost (v. 136). It provides us with truth (v. 142). It makes us aware of our need for salvation (v. 146). It tells us about our Advocate (v. 154). It gives us peace (v. 163). And it provides us with something worth saying (v. 172).
Men have a tendency to travel without asking for directions, and usually fail to read the instructions before trying to assemble a child's toy. I am not sure if it is the result of pride, or of stupidity. Perhaps both are true. The same could be said for Christians who attempt to live a Christ-like life without reading, meditating upon, and applying the Word of God to their lives. Once a person accepts the Bible as God's revelation to His children, you would think he would treasure it, and make it the center of his life. You would think so, wouldn't you? If so, how often do you consult the "owner's manual?"
Monday, January 17, 2011
I honestly believe that His plan was the only way He could fully share Himself with us. In order for man to know God as He is, we have to "see Him in action." It is my understanding that man is not the only beneficiary of the demonstration of God's character; His angels in heaven, though they are constantly in His presence, do not understand the greatness of Almighty God. They are watching His interaction with man and discovering just how wonderful He is (1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:12).
Because God wants His creation to know Him in His fullness, He has inspired men to record His words and the history of His interaction with creation. It is the Holy Scriptures that present the Gospel, the record of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is the Scriptures which present the need for salvation, and God's method of achieving it (Rom. 10:8-17). It is the Scriptures which teach man that salvation is a gift from God, and not something that he can achieve by the works of a religion (Eph. 2:8-9).
The Word of God, like that of a man, demonstrates who He is. We have all heard the saying, "A man is only as good as his word." In other words, if you cannot trust a man's word on something, then you can not trust him, and will have no respect for him. The same is true of God. That is why in Psalm 138:2, it says: "I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy loving kindness and for Thy truth; for Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name." Salvation comes from being exposed to God's Word, and believing it (Rom. 10:8-17).
How could a loving God create mankind, and then have nothing to do with him? How could a loving God see man's need of a Savior and fail to provide him with One? How could a loving God fail to inform man that he is loved and that He wants to have fellowship with him? The answer to these questions is, He couldn't. And the good news is, He didn't! Our God, Who is love, has done all that is necessary for us to be saved; our only part in it is to believe what He has revealed to us. We are loved!
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Most conservative Bible scholars recognize seven divisions of His revelation to us. Each begins with His instructions, followed by man's failure to obey, and concludes with His judgment. The divisions are:
1. INNOCENCE - Do not eat of one tree - They ate - THE FALL (Gen. 1:1 - 3:7).
2. CONSCIENCE - Do the right thing - They were wicked - THE FLOOD (Gen. 3:7 - 9:6).
3. GOVERNMENT - Fill and rule Earth - They would not disperse - THE SCATTERING (Gen. 9:6 -11:9).
4. THE LAND - Trust in Me - They trusted in Egypt - THE BONDAGE (Gen. 12:1 - Ex. 19:2).
5. THE LAW - Obey - All have sinned - TIMES OF THE GENTILES (Ex. 19:2 - Rev. 19:11).
6. [THE CHURCH - Love others (unity) - Loved themselves (division) - THE CROSS (Acts 2:2 - Rev. 4:1)].
7. THE KINGDOM - Submit - Rebellion - THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT (Rev. 20:1-15).
NOTE: The Church Age is a parenthetical period within the Age of the Law. Following the Rapture of the Church, the remaining seven years of God's judgment on Israel, known as Daniel's Seventieth Week, The Time of Jacob's Trouble, and the Tribulation, will take place.
With each of the periods of man's stewardship of God's revelation (dispensations), the Lord increased man's knowledge of Himself, and He also increased man's accountability. By the end of His "autobiography," God will have done everything He could to bring about righteousness in man. Only the filling of the Holy Spirit worked, but unfortunately Christians "leak" (Rom. 7). His final attempt will have been His return to personally govern with a "rod of iron" (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). From the perfect conditions of the Garden of Eden where man made his first decision, to the very presence of Christ ruling in His Kingdom, man's likeness has been like Satan rather than like God. And yet none of it surprised God, nor did it alter His love for us. In the end, He will once again make man as he was intended to be: like Himself (1 Jn. 3:2).
God's Word is definitely THE Book of Love, because only through its message can man comprehend that God is love. His first act with man was to give him someone to love, and although the destiny of those who place their trust in Him will never end, every iota of our timeless eternity will be bathed in God's unfathomable love. He is definitely worthy of our praise!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
"In the beginning, God (Elohim)." What a strange way to begin what might best be called an autobiography. God has revealed to us everything He wishes us to know about Himself in the Bible. "Elohim" is translated "God" in Genesis 1:1 and in hundreds of other places. To make things more confusing, the word is obviously not His name because it is a plural. Jews and Christians know very well that there is only one God. The verse Israel holds dearest is Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The YHVH (always written in all caps as LORD) our Elohim (God) is one YHVH (LORD)." Christians recognize God as being "three persons in one," or as the Trinity (Matt. 28:19; Jn. 20:28; Acts 5:1-4; etc.).
God identifies Himself by the name, "YHVH," translated "I AM" in Exodus 3:14 and "LORD" elsewhere. It is the actual name God has chosen to use, but to us, "LORD" is viewed as His title. Unless we are addressing Him directly, we almost always use the adjective "the" with the word. An example is found in Psalm 110:1, "The LORD said unto my Lord, 'Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.'" To add to the confusion, biblical Hebrew had no vowels, so the Jews did not know how to pronounce God's name. They were, and are still, afraid to mispronounce His name.
Today, it is rare that we use the words "I am" without "completing the sentence." With one exception, neither did Jesus (John 8:58). He often referred to Himself as "I am" but in the form of a metaphor: the Door, the Light, etc. And speaking of Jesus, His name comes from the Hebrew name, "YHSH," which is often translated "Joshua." In the Greek, it is "Iesous."
I will not take the time to explain how God has become known as "Jehovah," or how Christ has become known as "Jesus." That information is readily available. For the purpose of simplifying it all, I either refer to the first Person of the Trinity as "God," or as "the Father"; the second Person of the Trinity as "Jesus," "the Christ," or "Lord"; and the third Person as "the Holy Ghost," "the Spirit," or the "Holy Spirit." In spite of all of these "variables," on January 31, 1971, I became a child of God by placing my total faith and trust in Jesus. Life has not been the same since. "A Rose by any other name...."
Friday, January 14, 2011
Certainly, there is much evidence within its pages that demonstrate its own accuracy which believers point to as verifying its authorship, there is also external historical proof. Let's suppose that a man, living over twenty-five hundred years ago, wrote you a letter that said a specific group of people were going to take up residence in your back yard; when it occurred, would you believe he was given special knowledge of the future? Well unfortunately, the Palestinians do not, because when the United Nations gave the Jews the home of their ancestors in 1948, instead of accepting it as being God's will, they have continually tried to exterminate them.
Daniel, writing in about 600 B.C., prophesied that there would be four empires which would follow one another in controlling the known world. He named them in order, even using the actual names of the first three, and identified the fourth by context. He was writing during the first empire's existence, and told the King of Babylon that his kingdom (Dan. 2:37-38) would fall to the Medes and Persians (Dan. 2:39 w/ 5:31; 6:8, 15; 8:20). Then, Medo-Persia would fall to the Greeks (Dan. 8:21-26), followed by an unnamed empire which would use a false peace to conquer (Dan. 8:23-25 - Pax Romano - the peace of Rome). By comparing Daniel 2:40, 8:23-25, and 9:24-27, it should be clear that the fourth empire is Rome. It is possible for a man to see the eminent danger from a nation which is threatening (Medo-Persia), but it is not possible to name the nation who would destroy that nation (Greece). The span of over six hundred years makes it highly unlikely that the man could prophesy the destruction of the capital city of another nation by the fourth empire (Rome destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70).
There are many who deny the authenticity of Daniel, claiming it was written much latter, even after all the events it purports to foretell, but even if they were partly correct, it still had to have been written prior to the translating of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek Septuagint in around 200 B.C. And of course, that predates the destruction of Jerusalem.
The Bible speaks of future things which would occur that were impossible for the writers to comprehend. For two bodies to lie for three and a half days in the streets, and be seen by the entire world, requires a satellite and televisions (Rev. 11:9). Yes, Science and History serve to demonstrate the miraculous reality of the Word of God. I know it is true; it turned this atheist in to a fanatic with one reading!
Thursday, January 13, 2011
An explosion, such as is described by the Big Bang Theory, would normally send the heaviest matter further than the lighter matter, except everyone knows space is a vacuum, right? However, using our solar system as an example (note the word "system"), our Sun is made of nearly one hundred percent gas (91.2 % Hydrogen, 8.7 % Helium, and about 1 % Oxygen and Carbon), and four of the planets, called "gas giants," are further from the Sun than the four inner "rocks." I am not sure what that means, but it seems odd to me.
In A.D. 1772, at the age of twenty-five, Johann E. Bode published his mathematical equation in Anleitung zur Kenntniss des gestirnten Himmels. He recognized that the planets were positioned at specific mathematical distances from the Sun. Bode's Theory, now known as Bode's Law, has to be one of the strangest discoveries in recorded history. Bode assigned each known planet a basic number: Mercury - 0; Venus - 3; Earth - 6; Mars - 12; a missing planet - 24; Jupiter - 48; Saturn - 96; and an unknown planet - 192. He then, for who knows what reason, added 4.0 to each number, making Mercury - 4.0, Venus - 7.0, etc. Again, who knows why, he divided each number by 10.0. That gave him the following: Mercury - .4; Venus - .7; Earth - 1.0; Mars - 1.6; missing - 2.8; Jupiter - 5.2; Saturn - 10.0; unknown - 19.6. Each of these numbers represents the distance of the planet from the Sun in Astronomical Units (A.U. = 93,000,000 miles, the Earth's average distance from the Sun). Today, we know that the formula is accurate within .4 of the actual distances, with three of his estimates being exact. His formula was the basis for the discovery of the "unknown" planet (Uranus) by Sir William Herschel in 1781. And as a result of his "theory," in 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the identity of the "missing planet" to be the Asteroid Belt.
Does Bode's Law prove the existence of God as the Designer of the Universe? No. But the fact that science has recognized it as a law, places it in the same realm with Kepler's three laws, Boyle's Law, and Newton's Law of Gravity. Those who are threatened by the idea that there is a design to the Universe, because to accept it would require them to believe in a Designer, have rejected Bode's Law as a genuine scientific law. Isn't it strange that when data is discovered that supports Creation, it is rejected as "bad science?" Perhaps that is good in a way, because the Bible does not accept a "science" that denies the Word of God, calling it "profane and vain babblings" and a false science (1 Tim. 6:20).
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Ps. 102:25-26; Isa. 51:6).
The stars are too numerous to be numbered (Jer. 33:22).
The stars produce sound (Job 38:7).
The stars have their own path (Jud. 5:20).
The constellations Pleiades and Orion differ in nature (Job 38:31).
The Sun travels in an orbit (Ps. 19:4-6).
The Earth has a water cycle (Ps. 135:7; Eccl. 1:7).
The Earth is round (Prov. 8:27; Isa. 40:22).
The Earth is suspended in space (Job 26:7).
The Earth rotates on its own axis (Job. 38:13-14).
The Earth's atmosphere has weight (Job 28:25).
Winds follow a path (Eccl. 1:6).
Lightning follows a path (Job 38:25).
The seas follow a path (Ps. 8:8).
Life comes only from life; the Law of Biogenesis (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24).
Man's life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11).
The material in man's body is the same as is found in dirt (Ps. 103:14).
The advantage of circumcision on eighth day (Lev. 12:3).
Using a quarantine to prevent the spread of disease (Lev. 13:45-46).
The ideal ratio for a seaworthy barge is 30x5x3 (Gen. 6:15).
Other scientific evidence for the Bible's teaching of Creation is found in a mathematical design for the location of the planets in our solar system. If there is a design, there must be a Designer. I have written about Bode's Law before (Jan. 17, 2010), but I believe his discovery is important enough to repeat. So again, Lord willing, tomorrow I will finish presenting the scientific evidence for the authenticity of the Bible, and begin presenting the historical evidence that it must be revealed truth from God.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The word, "love" appears in all but twelve of the Bible's sixty-six books. It appears in four of the five books of The Pentateuch, the only exception being Numbers. Of the twenty-one books known as The Prophets, seven do not mention "love" (2 Kings, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai). And of The Writings, three do not (1 Chronicles, Ezra, Job). In the New Testament, only the Book of Acts does not mention "love." Fifty-four books in the Bible speak of "love."
God's love for mankind is the very heart of the Bible. Its most quoted of all verses declares the theme of the Book (Jn. 3:16). It begins by telling of the love of God that motivated man's creation (Gen. 1:26-28). The Bible's last chapter calls for all to come to the One who loves us: Jesus (Rev. 22:16-17). In between, there are sixty-four books that reveal the kind of love He has for His creation. It is a love that is unmerited, undeserved, and that is rejected by far more than those who accept it. It is the very essence of who God is (1 Jn. 4:16).
To the unbeliever, the Bible is just another book. They see it as no different than any other book, and although it is the oldest recorded history of man's beginnings, it is widely rejected as being authentic. Science seems to have made every effort to discredit it. Historians group it in with other early writings and call it myth. Governments have determined to destroy it, and yet, it has sold more copies than the next one hundred best selling books combined. It has sold over six billion copies, and has been printed in over two thousand languages. More than a third of the world's nearly seven billion people claim to believe its teachings about Christ. More people have given their lives for believing it, than for any other reason.
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will attempt to "prove" the historicity and scientific accuracy of the Bible. Of course, I am fully aware that whatever requires faith to be believed cannot be proven. And I am also aware that anyone who would take the time to read what I have to say, probably owns their own copy of the Bible. Nevertheless, if what I write strengthens one or two who might be dealing with doubts, or if someone needs to share what I write with a skeptic, I praise the Lord. Please pray that the Holy Spirit moves such people to "stumble upon" my little "lighthouse of concern for travelers in danger on life's treacherous seas."
Monday, January 10, 2011
We are going to face disappointments, failures, trials, and tribulations in life, and our job as Christians is to glorify God by our response to them. The Apostle Paul was a man who experienced the suffering of being flogged, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, etc. (2 Cor. 11:23-30), and yet he had learned to be content in every circumstance, good and bad (Phil. 4:11-12). God is glorified when we praise Him for the abilities He gives us to deal with solvable problems. He also gets glory when we trust Him instead of worrying.
Jesus taught His disciples about the futility of worry. In Matthew 6:25-34, He tells them His Father knows exactly what they need, and that He will provide it. Worrying about one's physical limitations will not change them (v. 27). Worry about food, drink, and clothing is nothing more than a demonstration of ones lack of faith in God (v. 28-32). When Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, He told them not to provide for even those necessities, but to trust God to provide through the hospitality of those to whom they were sent (Lk. 9:1-6).
Abraham and his offspring continually worried about famine, and it eventually cost them four hundred years of bondage in Egypt (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6). Israel frequently placed their trust in their own ability or in alliances instead of in God, and they were defeated as a result (Josh. 7:2-5; Isa. 7:3-9; Hos. 7:11; Ezek. 23:5-21). Elijah, after killing four hundred fifty prophets of Baal, feared the wrath of one queen, and lost his position as the prophet of God (1 Kgs. 18:17-19:19). He worried in his circumstances, instead of trusting in Almighty God.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is awakened by His terrified disciples because the boat they were in was in danger of sinking (Mk. 4:35-41). He responded, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" They had looked at their situation, and because their circumstances were beyond their control, they panicked. They worried instead of trusted in God. Worry is sin, for all that is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). They were with the One who could solve both their immediate threat of physical death, and the far more severe threat of spiritual death. Today is no different, because He is with us now (Heb. 13:5). As Alfred E. Newman used to say in Mad Magazine, "What, me worry?" Don't worry, be happy! Trust the Lord!
Sunday, January 9, 2011
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides everyone with the opportunity to be born again spiritually, and as His adopted child, to become a partaker in the fellowship between God and His children (Jn. 3:3-8; Rom. 8:15; 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). By placing our faith in the Father who offered His Son as a sacrifice for our sin, we are no longer enemies of God, but are His friends (Jn. 6:29; 15:15; Jam. 4:4). Sin broke man's fellowship with Almighty God, and His sacrifice restored it.
Sin is such an abomination to God, that He refuses to hear the prayers of those living in sin (Job 27:8-9; 35:13; Ps. 18:41; 66:18; Prov. 21:13; 28:9; Isa. 1:15; 59:2; Jer. 11:11; 14:12; Lam. 3:8, 44; Ezek. 8:18; 20:3; Mic. 3:4; Jn. 9:31; Jam. 1:6-7; 1 Pet. 3:7). However, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9).
While it is not always sin that breaks fellowship with our brethren, it usually is; if not ours, theirs. When a brother sins against us, WE are instructed to make every effort to reconcile with him (Matt. 18:15-17). I have often thought that this passage meant to reject him altogether, but I now believe it has something quite different to say. How are we to treat the lost? Are we to be rude to them? No! We are to pray for them, and to continually make every effort to convince them to love the Lord and their neighbor. If we are at fault, Jesus taught that WE are to go reconcile with our brother even before we worship Him (Matt. 5:23-24). If they sin, I am to go to them; if I sin, I am to go to them. It is MY job to restore fellowship if at all possible (Rom. 12:18).
Sin breaks fellowship, and because of that, it is an abomination to God. It is equally damaging to our witness for Christ. Jesus prayed that Christians would be united in fellowship "so that the world would believe (God) sent (Him)" (Jn. 17:11, 21-23). Our unity shows that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, a fact that demonstrates God loves mankind (Jn. 17:23; Eph. 4:3)! God wants us to love one another (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:43-48; 7:12; 22:40; 1 Thes. 3:11-13; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Jn. 3:23)! Fellowship is important!
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Recently, a fellow church member commented that what occurs there is not really Christian fellowship, because we don't have a Bible study, and the focus of our conversation is not about spiritual things. However, I would suggest that should an unbeliever attend, he or she would feel welcomed, but uncomfortable. Our language, our jokes, and the subjects of our discussions would immediately tell them we are not like them. There is something different about genuine Christians, and to the world, it sticks out like a sore thumb. We are different.
I looked up the word, "fellowship" in the Bible and it appears seventeen times. Only two of them occur in the Old Testament, where they both are warning against false or pretended friendship (Lev. 6:2; Ps. 94:20). There are three similar verses in the New Testament (1 Cor. 10:20; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:11). But the majority of verses, twelve, have to do with a mutual bond between the brethren based upon that which we have in common: Jesus Christ. The Greek word, koinonia, has to do with activities that occur due to the group being like-minded. In Acts 2:42, fellowship is listed as one of the natural results of the Holy Spirit uniting people, along with learning the teachings of the Apostles, breaking of bread, and prayer. Notice it is listed separately from the others; they are not the same thing as fellowship.
The Apostle John declares that he was a witness for Jesus Christ so that others might believe and share fellowship with the brethren, who in turn, would have fellowship with the Father and His Son (1 Jn. 1:3). There is something, an unexplainable need, that makes a man want to share his discoveries with others. In 2 Kings 7:3-10, four lepers found out the Syrians had abandoned their camp, and they shared their good fortune with the besieged city. In Mark 1:40-45, a leper cleansed by Jesus could not keep his healing quiet, but he just had to tell others.
To me, Christian fellowship has to do with an unexplainable connection we have with others who are of like mind. Since becoming a believer in Christ, I have met thousands of Christians at yard sales, stores, restaurants, etc., with whom I had an immediate bond. There is a joy that wells up inside me at finding a new brother or sister in Christ. It is the same joy that I have when I see "members" of our Joy Club; even before a word is spoken, I feel love for them in my heart. That is why I believe it is the epitome of Christian fellowship. So, "Y'all come, ya hear!"
Friday, January 7, 2011
Of course, the natural response to that statement is, "All that may somehow be good for Christians, but what about the Jewish men, women, and children who were killed? How did it all work out for good to them?" I believer the answer is found in the statement, "And so all Israel shall be saved...." (Rom. 11:26). The previous verse explains that Israel's blindness to the truth of Jesus, was God's way of revealing His gift of salvation to all men (Rom. 10:9-13). Jesus had to be rejected by Israel in order that the entire human race could learn of His love through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son (Jn. 1:11-12; 3:16; 14:6). In order for man and angels to comprehend the awesomeness of God's love, Jesus died (Jn. 17:23; 1 Cor. 4:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:12)!
Throughout the Old Testament, God tells man that He does things, and prevents those who are evil from doing things, so that all of mankind would understand that He is the LORD. The Bible is a declaration of God's sovereignty and love for His creation. His revelation of Himself is found in the Law (Ex. 6:7; 7:5; 14:18; 16:6; 29:46; etc.), the Prophets (1 Sam. 17:49; Isa. 49:26; Joel 2:27; Zech. 2:9; and in Ezekiel over fifty times), and the Writings (Ps. 46:10). All that God does, and all that He allows to happen, serve to reveal Him as our Creator, and Redeemer. God wants man to know Him for what He is: Love (1 Jn. 4:8, 16)!
Apart from the Bible, man cannot know God. Our minds are incapable of comprehending Him (Job. 5:9; Ps. 145:3; Prov. 25:3; Rom. 11:33; Eph. 3:8). That is why man has made other men gods (Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, etc.), and worship created things such as the Sun, Earth, "Mother Nature," and man made idols. It is the Bible that reveals God's love, His will, and the answers to every question that begins with "why." All things, natural laws, and the events of history can be understood because the Word of God tells us God is our Creator, and He works all things out for good, so that we may know Him, and most of all, trust Him. He has proven beyond a doubt that He is trustworthy. Amen.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
During the two millenniums since its birth, the Church has spread throughout the world. Following His resurrection and just prior to His Ascension, Jesus instructed His disciples to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the Earth (Acts 1:8). It was the persecution of the early Church that hastened the dissemination of the Good News (Acts 8:1). Persecution achieves two positive results. It causes the people with the message to spread out, and it insures those claiming to be believers are genuine.
The First Amendment of America's Constitution protects the rights of its citizens to believe and worship as they choose. It states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble...." However, there is a growing opposition to Christianity in our country. There are those who would prohibit the preaching of Jesus as the only way to eternal life (Jn. 14:6), saying that by denying the validity of other faiths, we are practicing "hate speech." These new laws will not only prevent the freedom of Pastors to preach the Gospel, Christians may soon be required to alter or destroy Bibles because they contain negative language toward those of other religions. Apparently it is okay for the Qur'an (Koran) to instruct Muslims to kill all infidels (non-believers in Islam - See Verse 9:123 - "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you."), but the Bible, which teaches Christians to love their enemies, is crossing the line.
Jesus said, "I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). As American Christians, our culture has given us a false sense of belonging. We have been free for so long, and we have taken our freedom for granted. It has been "easy" to profess Christ, but if the things continue to deteriorate, being a Christian will be very costly. I am not looking forward to increased persecution, but it will certainly "weed out" those who are Christian in name only. And that is a good thing. How else will they realize they need to be born again? I think I would rather suffer a little persecution now, than for them to suffer eternal damnation with the rest of those who reject Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
As Christians, we hope that we will become a lot less selfish, and much more Christ-like. We look forward to the possibly that this may be the year Christ returns for His Church. We know from past experiences, and from the Word of God, that we do not belong here; "this world is not my home, I'm just passing through." We long to see our Lord, and more than that, to be like Him. Yes, Christians also hope.
But what about those who do not have this hope? They do not "expect" Christ. They do not believe there is a God who has everything under control; that jobs, wars, health, and even death are determined by Him. They deny Him, and therefore, will never truly be at peace with their circumstances, regardless whether or not "things improve" this year. Though all their children are famous doctors; though they have retired in an exotic place living in a palatial mansion; though they win the lottery; they still must fear losing everything, and they especially fear death. To them, their hopes are for temporary pleasures and peace, but in the back of their minds, death is always looming, waiting, certain. And, whether they believe in the afterlife or not, whatever is good in this life will end.
I doubt that a non-Christian would take the time to read this, but just in case one does, I want to offer you the same hope we have as believers in Christ. The Bible teaches that Christ died to pay for your sins, that He was buried, and that God raised Him from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-11) to be Lord of all who will call upon Him (Rom. 10:9-10). By accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you not only will have a great new year, you will have an awesome eternity! As a new person, everything that is past is gone, and everything will become new to you (2 Cor. 5:17). In reality, your hope is not merely for this coming year, but your hope is eternal (Titus 1:2)! So don't just start off this new year with a hope that things will be better; begin anew by placing all your hope in Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:1). You won't regret it!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The first is that the words, "Please God" be followed by the words, "if it be Your will" (Lk. 22:42; Jn. 5:30; 6:38). Even though we may desperately want God to do something for us, a genuine child of God wants God's will to be accomplished, because we know that He always does what is best for us. The last thing I want is for God to do whatever I ask, when what I ask is not the best solution. There is a country-western song that says, "I thank God for unanswered prayers."
The second is that God hears the requests of His Son (Jn. 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24). Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for God's children (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). God also listens to the Holy Spirit, because we often don't know what to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). This is basically the same thing as the first; Jesus and the Holy Spirit are only going to pray according to the Father's will (1 Jn. 5:7-8).
Prayer to God tells Him what we want Him to do. But what does God want us to do? What can we do to please God?
First and foremost, God wants people to be saved, that is, become His child by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Jn. 6:29; 2 Pet. 3:9).
He wants His children to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:15-15).
He wants us to pray for the salvation of the lost, and for the needs of our brethren (Lk. 6:28; Col. 1:9; 1 Thes 5:25; 1 Jn. 5:16).
He want us to be witnesses for Christ to those needing to hear the Gospel (Acts 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 1 Thes. 2:10).
God wants everyone to be remade according to His original plan (Gen. 1:26-27).
He wants us to be conformed to the likeness, that is, transformed into the image of His dear Son (Jn. 3:3-7; Rom. 8:29; 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Jn. 3:2).
I am absolutely certain that if we pray in agreement to these things, we will be praying according to the will of God.
So, before you say, "Please God," make sure you please God!
Monday, January 3, 2011
I don't exactly know what I saw the next couple of hours, but at the end of the third sermon, the preacher pointed at the camera and said, "You there in your living room, if you believe, get down on you knees and accept Jesus Christ as you Savior." I started to kneel, but as I slid forward on the couch, I caught sight of my wife in the kitchen. I froze. She would laugh me out of the neighborhood if she saw me, since I had given her such grief over taking our daughters to church. At that very instant, she turned, walked through the living room, and went out side. It was very cold out, and yet, at that exact moment, she chose to go outside in the winter, and without a coat. Neither of us knows why she went out, but the moment the door closed, I hit the floor. My life was changed forever, for in that instant, I put my complete trust in Jesus. I immediately felt different. I knew that my sin was forgiven, that the Bible was true, and that God would use me to tell others. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did.
Since that time nearly forty years ago, I have enjoyed His presence and His Word. I went to Bible College, and then to Seminary, trying to quench my thirst for knowledge of Him. Today, I have barely scratched the surface, but I love His Word more than ever. Because of it, I know that God did not use evolution to produce life as we know it. He made everything after its own kind. I know that I am a sinner, saved only because He had mercy on me. He graciously provided His Son, His Spirit, His Word, and faith so that I can be certain of my relationship with Him. And I know that someday, very soon, Jesus will return and put an end to the evil that permeates the world. We win! Praise the Lord.
In my studies, I have learned that of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, Psalm 117 is the shortest, and its two verses call for all nations to praise the Lord (Israel does not have exclusive rights to Him). They tell of His mercy toward His creation. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter, and it contains twenty-two sections of eight verses, each proclaiming the wonder of God's Word. But right in the middle, between the shortest and the longest chapters, is the center chapter of the Bible, Psalm 118. Verse eight is the middle verse of the 31,101 verses in the Word. It says, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." There it is; the Gospel in a nut shell. Trust the Lord. Trust Him to forgive. Trust Him to save. Trust Him to protect. Trust Him to provide. Trust Him to return. TRUST THE LORD!
The most difficult funerals to preach are funerals for those who rejected God's offer of forgiveness by rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Comfort for the family is hardly possible. If they are Christians, they know that they will never see their lost loved one again. There is little need to preach about the lost soul and the awful eternity that will be experienced. Most people know that without Christ, there is no hope. Funerals of that sort are best focused upon the good news, the Gospel. The preacher needs to preach that Jesus came to save sinners by paying for their sin, and that He offers salvation to whomsoever will accept Him. He came to offer everyone the opportunity to become God's child (Jn. 1:12). One need only believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the grave, and confess openly that Jesus is his Lord (Rom. 10:8-9). I know it sounds too easy, but salvation is a gift; it does not require works or ritual. Believe and receive!
I closed every funeral with a prayer for those attending the funeral. And with this being the beginning of another year, it is my prayer for you and for me. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20-21). It is HIS job to work in you that which is well pleasing in His sight (Phil. 2:13). That way, it is He that gets the glory, and not the instrument He uses. We just need to be usable. Let us offer this year to the Lord as servants eagerly awaiting His instructions on how and when to serve. Happy New Year!
Sunday, January 2, 2011
The Gospel of John starts with the same three words: "In the beginning...." The subject in Genesis 1:1 and in John 1:1 is the same. In John, the "Word" is a title for Jesus, Who is in fact God. This is obvious from reading the entire first verse of John. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In verse fourteen, John tells us that "...the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."
So did Jesus begin at the moment of His conception, at His birth, or some other time? The answer is that He did not begin! He is God, and God is eternal. Over and over again, Jesus speaks of being with the Father before the foundation of the world, which by the way, Jesus created (Jn. 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; and Heb. 1:1-2). He told His opponents that He lived before Abraham (Jn. 8:58). In John 17:5, Jesus prays to the Father and says, "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." The Son of God had no beginning, but He chose to become a man in order to die for us. And because He made that choice, you and I can have a new beginning. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when we believe in Christ, we become a new creature (creation). We begin a new life, a new life that will have its final change when we see Jesus (1 Jn. 3:2).
We are now beginning the New Year. Millions will make New Year's resolutions. Why do people do that? I believe it is because they feel that the previous year(s) were a disappointment. It is as though they are saying, I messed up last year, but I am going to begin doing things the right way. It would be nice if that was all it took to change, but in my experience, it wasn't until I turned my life over to the Lord that it truly changed. And, as He reveals areas where I am still falling short (and there are many, many), I turn each over to Him so that He can change the desires of my heart to be like His. God is not finished with me yet. I am a work in progress. But no matter how disappointed I am in myself, He is neither disappointed nor surprised. He just "rolls up His sleeves" and stays on task: He is making me like Jesus. I admit He has His work cut out for Him, but I am absolutely certain that He is up to the task. Praise God! So this year, why not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and let His resolve to change His children, begin in you? You will not be sorry, I promise.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
As each year ends, the "closet Nostradamuses" spring forth with their version of what the next year holds in store. Astrologers and psychics are in high demand, and although their previous year's predictions were close to zero percent accurate, people still want to hear what they forecast. The bottom line is, no one knows what the future holds in store for the world, for our nation, or even for us as individuals. Disease, disaster, and death, though inevitable, are unpredictable. It is amazing how many "surprises" past years provided us; we either look back at them with great pride, or with great sadness. Notice that I said "great" with both. It is only the "big things" that are remembered, and every individuals list of "big things" varies. Putting things into perspective, all the events, good and bad, are viewed subjectively. The death of a famous person is often seen as tragic, but it pales when compared to one losing a spouse or a child.
As I sit here writing my first blog post for the year 2011, I look back at the previous year with mixed emotions. We had two great-grandchildren born last year. I rejoice that we did not have to see a doctor for any serious ailment during 2010, and although a year older, the entropy of our old vessels was not particularly noticeable. We celebrate the fact that none of our family, and very few friends passed away during the year. I rejoice that I completed one full year of daily blog posts, and even though my readership is remarkably low, I still feel the Lord is using me to be a blessing to the few the Holy Spirit brings to read them. We were able to refinance our home, to pay our tithe to our church, and stay current on every bill. We have much for which to be thankful. From our perspective, 2010 was a pretty good year, all things considered.
On this, the first day of the New Year, we can also rejoice that we are another year closer to seeing our Lord and Savior. The Bible is filled with prophecies concerning the comings of the Lord; His First Advent was foretold and literally fulfilled about two thousand years ago. Because we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and that God makes no mistakes, we also believe Christ's coming for His Church and Second Advent will be fulfilled literally, as well. This year may be the year He returns. This year may be the year that our lost loved ones come to know Him. This year may be the year that He takes us home to be with Him forever. I do not pretend to know what 2011 holds in store for the world, or for us; but, I am absolutely certain that God is in control, and that for us as Christians, it will be good (Rom. 8:28-29)! Happy New Year!