Monday, December 31, 2012

It's the Heart

Acts 15:9 KJV
And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Peter describes salvation as purifying the heart. The key to genuine conversion is the heart.

The heart is the seat of human defilement
Jesus said from within, out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adultery, murder, etc.[1] Purify the heart and man will become pure in every part.

The proof of genuine conversion is in the heart
A may say he is saved, but the heart will either betray his testimony as shallow and false or confirm the reality of it. If the heart is purified the affections of life will change.

The work that only God can do is that of the heart
No man can ever change another man's heart.
·         He might change a man's mind through reason
·         He might change a man's a behavior through coercion
but it is only God who can change his heart and that is through faith.


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[1] Mark 7:21-23 KJV
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Therefore...Witness

Isaiah 43:12 KJV
I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

God pronounces Israel to be His witnesses on account of three things
God had declared
To them that there is no strange god
God alone had saved
Them and no other God
God had shown
Them that He is the only God

Each of these is equally true of the true Christian.
God has declared Himself to us.
It is why we believe. No man convinced us. It was the work of God to give us faith to believe.
God has saved us
We know it to be Him. Others may question why we are Christians. We know it was God who saved us.
God has shown us
That He is, that His Word is true and that there is no other God beside Him.

These are things that God has done in us and therefore we are qualified as witnesses to the Lord.
            We ought to trust the Lord.
            We ought to believe the Lord.
            We ought to speak about the Lord.
He has declared, He has saved and He has shown us these things.

Therefore we are the witnesses. 

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rivers in High Places

Isaiah 41:18-20 KJV
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

I have witnessed God do these very things for me and for my family. No, I have never seen a river open in the mountains or a lake in the middle of a desert, but I have watched God give
  • Impossible answers to prayer from
  • The most unexpected sources at
  • The very moment it was needed
So many financial needs were met from so many unexpected places when we began the church in Astoria that I came to not fret over money even though we were, for almost three years, unbelievably poor.
  • I almost skidded off a road near Jack Burkhart’s house (before I met Jack Burkhart) because the tires were so bald on my car. I did not tell anyone about our need (we had no telephone so I could not have told anyone) but Mike Riggs wrote me a letter and suggested I might need tires. He said if I could get to the Tri-Cities, he would have some installed.
  • I prayed for two and a half years for a building and, at just the time I was ready to give up, God delivered the building we had in Astoria; complete with more than twenty extra members for our church
  • When the mortgage company that carried our loan on that building went bankrupt, God provided a church I had never heard of to pay off our loan
  • Without my ever asking, or even attending a meeting, God opened the door for me to be on the board of PCBBC
  • Within two weeks of going on staff at the college, God opened the door that I would be executive VP.
  • When I asked the Lord, I was called to pastor Liberty Baptist in Spokane
  • When I asked again, I was able to return to the college, this time in OKC
  • When I asked, God opened the door to pastor BBC in Puyallup.
  • I have seen God open means for both of my children at desperate times in their adult lives
 I am not suggesting that things have been easy; they most certainly have not. But God has proven Himself
  • Alive and
  • Present and
  • Very able
to open any way and provide any means when it is best to do so.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

When Every Trouble is Made Right


Isaiah 40:4 KJV
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

This is the most positive chapter in all of Isaiah, maybe all of the Old Testament. It seems to me like this verse expresses the positive in brief but beautiful pictures.

·         Valleys
·         Mountains
·         Crooked paths and
·         Rough places
all have their own form of beauty to be sure, but they are all types of challenge and trouble. I wonder if we haven’t come to see them as beautiful as an escape mechanism when we see the obstacles they present.

God promises a day when every trouble and every challenge is made right.
·         Valleys exalted
·         Mountains and hills made low
·         Crooked straightened
·         Rough places made plain
I do not see this as a bleak and boring world, but one in which
·         All of the beauty of the valley will be retained but none of the depths of depression
·         All of the grandeur of the mountains will remain but none of the hurdle
·         All of the romance of the winding path with none of the gloom and
·         All of the adventure of the rough place with any of the hardship

The rose will smell as sweet, but will have no thorn.

What a blessing will that day be.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Accountability Among Preachers


Acts 11:2 KJV
And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,

Commentaries point out this passage as demonstrating that the apostles and early church did not view Peter as the chief apostle or Vicar of Christ. However great the ministry of Peter, when his ministry crossed the line, he was called into question to give an account of himself. Later even Paul, the apostle born out of due season, would rebuke him.

Independent Baptists have erred today in that we have no mechanism whereby pastors may be reproved and held accountable when their actions are in error of what they have been taught. Churches all across the country, and around the world through missionaries who have not been held properly accountable, have been led away from Baptist convictions simply because there is no way to prevent their pastors from leading them away. I am not advocating for convention mentality because we have seen that the very same thing happens in the conventions when men are elevated to high rank and then are not held accountable. My point is that too many preachers, who should be the ones to call them into question, are either too timid to speak out, or the ones who will speak out are unbalanced in other areas so as to make their voice less effective.

We need to humble ourselves and see the value of accountability. We need to cultivate a climate within the ranks of Independent Baptist pastors where it is acceptable and even commendable to speak up and hold one another accountable. When we are called on the carpet for either doctrines or practices that are over the line we should humbly give an account. If indeed our position is biblical we should be able to demonstrate it.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Every Nation


Acts 10:35 KJV
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Over the years I have come to see the blessing of this passage: Jews, Gentiles - every nation is accepted of God. But recently my oldest son has taken an interest in tanning hides. For the first time I can remember, I have an interest in Simon the Tanner.

The trade of tanning, though surely needful, even in that day, was considered a dirty job. The Jews’ distaste of dead bodies and blood left them to think of this trade as equally distasteful. Simon probably lived by the seaside because his profession left him outside the community. But it was to this house and not that of Dorcas that Peter went to stay.

So the picture in the chapter is of everybody: the Jews, the Gentiles, and even those who are the lowliest in society - all who fear God and work righteousness are accepted of God.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Valor


Isaiah 37:38 KJV
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
  
I have recently been studying the history of the Kings of England (monarchy of England is more accurate as there have been queens and indeed the current queen has been on the throne all of my life.) An intriguing era in the Monarchy was under Henry IV who murdered the previous king to gain the throne. This was unprecedented in England. (Others had been killed, but it was through combat, not murder.) The ascension to the throne had always been considered an act of God. If it could be gained through murder by one, why could not another gain it the same way?

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had experienced this type of coup. Heathen countries (such as our example in this passage) had experienced it. But King David had established a firmly held conviction not to touch the Lord's anointed when he refused to take Saul's life. Honor was the mantra of the kings of Judah. Honor was the mantra of the people. Kings died in battle or in other acts of God, and there were a number of them that were not good men but the cold blooded murder of the king was unacceptable.

And when the life of the king is held in high esteem, so is the life of men and women in general.

Our country, it seems, holds life of little worth right now. Half witted men (and some who are just boys) have mass murdered children in their school rooms. No wonder.
·         The schools have turned a blind eye to decades of bullying
·         The government has permitted a half century of baby killings through abortion and
·         Our citizens will vote men and women into public office without the slightest concern for their moral character
Evil men are truly waxing worse and worse.

We need the Lord to return. We need Him to sit upon the throne of His kingdom.

But until that day
·         We need an infusion of honor. Life, all life, must become precious in our eyes. Life must become so valuable that government will do the worst thing to a life who willfully takes a life; fully grieving over the event, speedily execute those who have committed the act
·         We need men to step up and play the part of valor
·         We need men to see life as so valuable they would sacrifice their own lives to protect life

The only permanent solution to evil is Christ. Until He comes our solution is the character of valor. 

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Monday, December 24, 2012

"Simon Spirit"

Acts 8:12 KJV
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Philip's ministry in Samaria is marked by the influence of another man, a sorcerer. Philip's converts are people who had at first been believers in the deceptions of Simon. The passage makes it seem that they were easily persuaded to abandon the false doctrines of Simon and embrace the message Philip preached and then follow quickly in believer's baptism. So thorough was this work that even Simon becomes a professed believer and follows in baptism; or so it appears. Simon's true character rushes to the surface once again when the Apostles arrived and began to lay hands on believers so that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Simon wanted influence and power over people, not a ministry and walk with the Lord.

I am afraid there is much of the “Simon spirit” in Christianity today. People enter Christianity for what they believe they can receive from it.
·         They see it as an avenue of prosperity rather than a means of rescue
·         They view the followers of Christ as a source of personal power and control rather than a people in need

God help us to have hearts for God and for souls. God change us that our purpose is to follow the Lord and not leech from desperate people. 


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

When the Threat Becomes Reality

Isaiah 36:1 KJV
Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.

The greatest threat Israel faced was Babylon but the most immediate threat was Assyria. It is the subject of these two threats that has occupied nearly all of the preaching of Isaiah heretofore.
  • He has warned them of its coming
  • He has instructed them of their purpose
  • He has urged them to trust God through them and
  • He has promised them peace to come after them
Here finally comes the first of those threats. They will survive this one and, though they will be captured by Babylon, this threat should serve to strengthen their faith in the Lord. He will do to Assyria exactly as He said He would do. In that they may learn that His plan with Babylon will accomplish exactly what God planned.

And so it is true in our lives. God has given us all we need to know
  • That there will be trials
  • That they have a purpose
  • That we can trust God through them and
  • That His promises are sure afterwards

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

What Changes?

Acts 6:14 KJV
For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

We people are such a confused bunch. On the one hand God warns us not to be given to change, but on the other, we are often threatened by the changes Christ would make in us. We have a propensity to change things we shouldn't but then we will defend to our doom those things the Lord would change.

  • We will fight to save the old man and his sin filled ways but we will turn the doctrines of Christ upside down if it will benefit our cause.
  • We will cling to customs that are religious and unproductive to the spirit. But we will rush to change things that have been proven in the crucible of trial.
  • We will hold fast traditions that were taught us as children of the world then we will remove those ancient landmarks the fathers of our faith laid down for us.

When Christ enters our lives He begins to destroy old ways in order to make us new Creatures.
  • Those changes Christ makes ought to be embraced
  • Those that our flesh desires ought to be avoided with ferocity


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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Matching Set

Isaiah 31:1 KJV
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

The error in this verse is twofold and they are a matching set:
First is that of putting confidence in the strength of the flesh.
  • In this case it was the armies of Egypt
  • In other cases it may be in the counsel of the wicked
  • In many cases it is a confidence in self
In whatever way it is fleshed out the sin is the same; it is a dependence upon the creature.

This sin always leads to
Second, an abandonment of the Lord.
  • Whenever we look to the strength of men we necessarily look away from the strength of God
  • Whenever our confidence is in the creature it is necessarily not in the Creator for
  • To be a friend of the world is to be the enemy of God.

It seems to me that men have more often than not, forgotten this dichotomy. Rulers have thought they could trust in the might of the flesh and still stand in the name of God. It has never worked. Perhaps only in King David was there a man who could lead men in battle and keep a heart after God. But even David failed sometimes.

Better it is to abandon all affection for the world and turn completely to the Lord. 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Primacy in Preaching

Acts 4:2 KJV
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Here is the chief objection of the religious leaders of Israel as well as the main doctrine preached by the Apostles.

They preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Of course the Sadducees would have objected to any message concerning the resurrection because they did not believe in one. But the Pharisees found their objection in Christ Himself. They had thought themselves rid of Him on the day of His crucifixion. They could not have been more wrong. Christ's own resurrection from the dead, being witnessed by so many, had provided impetus to the disciples of the Lord and made His message a thousand times more appealing than it had been.

Orthodox Jews expected a Messiah and hoped for a resurrection of the just. In Christ's resurrection, His Messianic claim was confirmed and their hope of resurrection became validated. A people who expect that death is no end to life cannot be little forced. They know that, should they suffer even to the death, it only serves as the gateway into a far greater life.

What I see here is a key to biblical preaching; it is resurrection through Christ that was the earliest message of the Apostles and it is resurrection through Christ that should take primacy in our preaching today. 


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Offer Refused

Acts 3:13 KJV
The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

Jesus was delivered up by the Jews.
This is akin to the word betrayed. Being one of them, when the Jews gave Jesus into the hands of Pilate they effectively betrayed Him. One whose only purpose was good, found Himself betrayed by those whose good He sought

Jesus was denied of the Jews.
This word has to do with refusing an offer. Jesus offered them:
  • Forgiveness of sin
  • Reconciliation with God and
  • The kingdom of heaven
These they flatly refused.

And this while
Pilate was determined to let Him go.
This word has to do with the rule of or decision of a governor. Jesus was legally free but because His own people had betrayed Him and rejected His offer of salvation Christ went to the Cross.

The offer still stands. The judgment concerning Christ is still true but the question remains:
  • Who will accept and embrace Him or
  • Who will betray and refuse Him? 


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chalkstones

Isaiah 27:9 KJV
By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.

The setting of this chapter is the Babylonian captivity which was still, in Isaiah's time, in prophetical form but nevertheless a reality. The stones of the altar being like chalkstones speaks of how they would be torn down by Nebuchadnezzar.  The Bible says that by that captivity God would purge Jacob's (or Israel's) iniquity.

It is not that through afflictions our sins are paid but that afflictions serve make us conscious of our sins and to make those whose interest is bent toward God to seek Him in affliction. [1]

The Psalmist said "Before I was afflicted I went astray but now have I kept thy Word." [2] Affliction tends to weed out of professing Christendom those who are false and to draw out of worldliness those who have a genuine interest in the things of the Lord.

Who doesn't hate affliction? We would all love to be safe from trouble. But trouble is a fact of life on earth. Let us accept it with gladness for its purifying work and let us lean on Christ for strength as we endure it.


[1] John Gill, " not that afflictions are atonements for sin, or give satisfaction to divine justice for it; but they are the means of bringing the Lord's people to a sense of their sins, and to repentance and humiliation for them, and confession of them, and of leading them to the blood and sacrifice of Christ, by which they are expiated and atoned…"
[2] Psalm 119:67

Monday, December 17, 2012

Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3 KJV
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

To remember that Isaiah lived in a day of impending trouble adds much meaning to this passage. His days saw
  • The devastation of the Northern Kingdom
  • The coronation of the wicked king Ahaz (who sacrificed his own children to idols)
  • The siege of Jerusalem under Assyria
While his people survived all of these (at least during his lifetime) still, living under such threats for decades would have been terrible to say the least. These were a people who potentially had no peace of mind. Every day was a new day to fret over the possibilities. It was in the middle of this sort of threat that Isaiah writes of perfect peace.

I think we are living in a similar time. People who love the American way sense that it is about to fall apart. I don't know when it will happen and I don't know what shape the collapse will take, but it just feels like we're coming unraveled.
  • Some people are stockpiling food and water
  • Some are doing the same with guns and ammunition
  • Some, I think, have given up and sided with the other side
I believe God's Word. If we keep our minds stayed upon Him; we will experience perfect peace even in the midst of this storm.