Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Will See God's Promises Kept

Psalms 37:34 KJV
Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

There is, I think, at least two reasonable applications to this promise; the first a temporal, earthly one and the second an eternal other worldly one.

I have been a Christian now for thirty seven years. My wife and I have lived the entirety of our married life in pursuit of God and obedience to His Word. I cannot say that we have always measured up to even the standards we set for ourselves, but I can say that we have kept at it. There have been no lapses, no slipping back for a while into the lives we lived before being saved. I can say that I now easily see the difference between the lives of those who have been faithful in keeping His way and those who have either rejected His way or else only dabbled in His way.[1] What is obvious is that those who keep God's way over the long haul always do better
  • Emotionally
  • Spiritually and
  • Relationally
long term. I know this to be true because I have personally witnessed it.

There is a second application I think can be made for this promise; that being that the Christian, whose life is eternal, will one day be a witness to the judgment of those who have rejected Jesus Christ:
·         The saints in heaven will be aware of the Tribulation of this earth
·         The believers who enter the Millennial Kingdom will be witnesses to the destruction of the unbelieving survivors of the Tribulation
·         The righteous will watch when, at the Great White Throne Judgment, the lost will be cast eternally into the Lake of Fire
I do not see that any type of pleasure is implied in seeing these things, but only that we will know it to have been done. God keeps His promises. All of them.

[1] Far too many supposed Christians play at faith. They profess to be believers, but they do no live like believers, they attend church, but they embrace no spiritual standards, they call themselves Christians but they are fully yoked with the sights, sounds entertainments and priorities of this world, they will practice faith for a bit, but then they will return to life like it was before their profession.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make Me!

Luke 9:14 KJV
For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.

It is the nature of man to resist force. Because of our sin nature, because of our self will, we push against anything that attempts to make us do one thing or another, even if that thing we would be made to do is supremely good for us. The very words "make me" can be used as a statement of defiance; "Make me!"

Here our Lord tells his disciples to make the crowd to sit down in groups of fifty. Such a statement is not an act of coercion or force, but a means of organizing and putting into order His ministry among them. It is true that sometimes one person uses force to make a crowd do something it would not choose to do and when that happens someone must rise up and stop them. But it is not always true that to be made to do a thing is negative and wrong.

The difference is not only in motive and purpose, but in the spirit in which the people are made to do the thing. Who could possibly suppose that Jesus intended His disciples to whip the people into these companies? It is ludicrous to assert that the twelve used any means of force or that they pressed these people against their will.
  • They made them sit in companies through the promise of a good to be bestowed upon them
  • They made them sit in companies by communicating the Lord's word clearly to them and
  • They made them sit in companies by presenting good reason for them to do so

To make a person be Christian or behave in a Christian manner in any other way is to be unchristian.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rescue My Darling

Psalms 35:17 KJV
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

With tenderness David asks God to rescue both his soul and his "darling". The word means "only one" and refers to his life. The one thing that matters most of all to any of us is life.
  • We treasure and cherish it
  • We will spare no expense to save it
  • Multiple billions are spent each year to find better ways to preserve it
And yet none of us seem to take care of it until it is nearly too late.

If that is true of the temporal life of this flesh it is doubly true of the eternal life of the soul. Every one wants to live forever:
  • Scores of religious teachers have made their fortunes teaching and preaching their ideas about how to have it.
  • Millions have fought and died for their convictions surrounding it
but very few are willing to simply trust God to give it.

In our corrupted state we are a self destructive being. The very thing we desire the most; the thing we long to have the most and that we love the most, is the thing we are likely to deprive ourselves of the most.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Horse and the Mule

Psalms 32:9 KJV
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.

The horse and the mule are shown here to have three characteristics undesirable in a man:
They have no understanding
That is they do not reason as men are able to do. It should be that reason is the only force necessary to conquer a man. Government was created because man, with his sin nature, acts more often that the majority would like, as a brute and not with reason.

They must be controlled through a bit
The government serves as the bit and bridle reining in the sin nature to bring it into submission. It must not be so in the realm of the spirit. No amount of external coercion can tame the spiritual side of man. That must be quickened by the Holy Spirit and brought into submission through willful obedience to the Word of God.

They resist coming near a man
And so the carnal man, like fallen Adam, flees from the sound of God's voice.

Of course all of these characteristics in the horse can and have been trained out of them.
  • They can be taught to perform
  • They can be taught to perform without a bridle and bit and
  • They can be friendly enough to come quickly to stand by a man

The appeal of the passage then is to draw nigh to the Lord; allow the reason and understanding of God to reign in our soul and be wise in spiritual instruction rather than worldly rebellion. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Three "Whys" of the Pharisees

Luke 6:2 KJV
And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

·         Why do ye eat and drink with Publicans and sinners?
·         Why do  your disciples eat and drink when ours fast?
·         Why do ye that which is not lawful on the sabbath days?

There is no such thing as a stupid question but there is such a thing as a question asked for poor reasons. The Pharisees had no desire to learn but only to accuse and to condemn. Their desire was to catch Jesus in His words and find reason to stop Him and His ministry. Jesus answered their objections with lessons that still benefit believers today. But the Pharisees were unmoved and unchanged.

There is no reason for Christians to seclude themselves into modern convents meant to protect us from such accusations. We may not see in our lifetimes the benefits of answering the questions, objections and accusations of those opposed to our faith, but the benefits exist nonetheless.
  • Be bold
  • Be gracious
  • Be faithful

and leave the results in the hands of God.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Letting Go of the Old

Luke 5:39 KJV
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

This parable, given only by Luke, completes Jesus' answer to the question of the Scribes and Pharisees as to why John's disciples fasted but not Jesus'.  The answer is as simple as this; people who are accustomed to one thing find it difficult to embrace a new thing. 

The person who has grown used to a religious system that practices their faith in ancient and many would say, beautiful ceremonies and rituals has a difficult time adjusting to a newer, simpler and must less ritualistic experience.

The person who has been convinced for years that righteousness before God is the product of good works finds it difficult to accept the idea that true righteous is the result of faith and "that not of yourselves it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."[1]

Early Christians, being Jews, struggled letting go of Jewish ritual to come to faith in Christ alone. Following Christ is an abandonment of religion for righteousness. There is an element of good works that God has ordained we walk in, but it is not for salvation or for our standing before God; it is as a tool of ministry for others.

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Devil in the Synagogue

Luke 4:33-34 KJV
And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.

A synagogue is not a church but it did serve as a transitional assembly that enabled early believers to comprehend and adopt the concept of local churches of like minded believers.

It was a custom of the Lord to be in those assemblies and to teach. In this particular assembly a man with a devil was in attendance. I can hardly believe that the devil did not know Jesus would be there because it was Jesus' custom to be there. It could not be that this demon possessed man was in any way forced to be there. I, in fact, suggest it is his custom to be at this place at this time. Satan seems to plant his own in assemblies of worship. Even Jesus had Judas Iscariot among the twelve. They often bide their time acting out the part of true faith and worship until they see what they believe is the moment they can create the greatest distraction and damage to the work of God.
  • Sometimes it comes as a subtle betrayal
  • Sometimes as an organized movement
  • Sometimes in a public display of outrage
However it manifests itself those with spiritual discernment will:
  • Not be surprised
  • Not be shaken
  • Not give in
No devil accomplishes anything other than what God allows and God knows. Even the trial they may bring to the work is a tool God uses to increase the faith of His people and strengthen their convictions for truth. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Soul

Psalms 25:1 KJV
A Psalm of David. Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.

He said he lifted up his soul:
·         Not his eyes
·         Not his heart
·         Not even his prayers
In his case David lifted up his soul unto God.

His soul
The seat of his mind, will and emotions.

His soul
That piece of him that relates horizontally with others.

His soul
That which is redeemed at the moment if new birth:
·         The body still awaits salvation
·         The spirit is quickened at salvation and
·         The soul is purchased from the market of sin at salvation

David lifted up his soul.

I am reminded of Paul who said:
2 Timothy 1:12
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

May we commit without reservation our souls to God.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Worthy Fruit

Luke 3:8 KJV
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

The word worthy means "drawing or attracting praise".

There is a kind of life that happens after repentance that attracts praise to the name of the one who brought us to said repentance. The Christian life is one that is intended to honor the name of Christ rather than detract and bring reproach on His name. Being forgiven of sin, therefore, is not a license to continue in sin as that would dishonor the cause of repentance and the name of Christ, who led us to the repentance. Outward acts of Christian allegiance such as baptism or the partaking of the Lord's Supper, while one is involved in
  • Open,
  • Obvious and
  • Willful
sin is just wrong.

Notice that the exhortations John gave as "fruits worthy of repentance" were specific to individuals and not strictly biblical commands. Of course a case can be made for each of his exhortations:
  • Give an extra coat to someone without
  • Give extra food to those who are hungry
  • Do not require a higher price than is just
  • Treat men civilly
  • Do not falsely accuse
  • Be content with your income
that they were biblical. But in most cases there is no hard and fast passage making the command.

It is this simple; if it doesn't naturally bring honor to Christ and the Christian testimony, it isn't "fruits worthy of repentance". 

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Heart's Desire

Psalms 21:2-4 KJV
Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah.
For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.

What a testimony is this of King David. He can testify that all his Geary's desire had been given him and that God had answered every request in prayer.  But I have to think:
  • What about  Saul's attempts on his life?
  • What about years of fleeing from his own king?
  • What about his separation from his good friend Jonathan (who died before David had the throne)?
  • What about his estrangement from his wife Michal?
 David didn't live some sort of charmed life where everything fell into place without trial, work or moments of fear and pain. The very next Psalm begins, "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?" Neither did David's life become charmed after he ascended to the throne. He would battle the world the flesh and the devil to his dying day.

Still he could testify, "Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips." It was more than a matter of attitude because David was certainly a blessed and anointed man. But it was a choice. For this moment he elected to focus on the blessings rather than the battles.

There have been more than a few times when the battles of life and ministry seemed like they would do me in. But then there was that one moment in November of 1999 when in prayer I said to God, "You have given me everything I have ever asked for. I would like to pastor a church in the Tacoma area."

I have never gotten over that I thought that.
  • I haven't gotten everything every time
  • There are prayer requests that were answered "No" and
  • There were other requests that haven't been answered to this day

But I can still say, right now, "God, you have given me my heart's desire and answered all my prayers."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lessons from Luke

Luke 1:3 KJV
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

One of the four eternally inspired Gospels is given to us, not by an eyewitness of the Lord, nor even by a man to whom we know the Lord showed himself alive. This Gospel is
  • Inspired of God
  • Recorded in the Bible and
  • Written by a man
whose relationship with Christ is exactly the same as any of ours. He came to know the truth of Christ through the testimony of others.

We find in Luke credence to the doctrine that faith is passed from one man to another. While every Christian has the same witness of the Holy Spirit with our own spirit that we are the children of God, none of us have seen the Lord in the flesh. That was reserved for a select number who paid for the blessing with their lives. We, like Luke, can say we have perfect understanding of all the Jesus did and taught because it has been passed down to us through the pages of Scripture.

We come behind the first believers in nothing except that they were counted worthy not only to bear His name but to suffer for it. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chastened and Chiseled

Psalms 17:13-14 KJV
Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

Here is an interesting passage to be sure. King David acknowledges that his enemies are both the sword and the hand of God. They exist, our enemies, for two reasons:
As a tool for chastening
It would be ludicrous of us to believe we are always right with God and never in need of the rod of correction. Chastening, though never a pleasant experience, is the work of a loving heavenly Father. It demonstrates his concern for us. God uses circumstances and persons acting as enemies as His rod of correction.

As a tool for chiseling
Like the chisel in the hand of the sculptor, The Lord works to fashion us into the image of our Saviour. This action is not a function of chastening or discipline but can none the less be unpleasant. Job's troubles were not an act of discipline but they were refining in his character and his understanding of God.

David saw that his enemies served as instruments of God in both functions. He readily admitted they were there under the will of God.

Yet David still prayed for deliverance from them. Though they were of God they need not remain there forever. Yea, because they were in God's hand he had that much more reason to believe he might be delivered from them throug prayer. He was no fatalist. He did not view himself as a helpless victim of cruel circumstances. He saw every situation as an opportunity for spiritual growth and he saw the mercy of God as providing hope that any situation might be reversed.

What a healthy view of trouble:

  • Learn from it
  • Grow in it but
  • Don't surrender to it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Conduct Befitting

Psalms 15:1 KJV
A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

I tend to think Gill reads far too much of the New Testament Church into many parts of the Old Testament. Passages which clearly reference Israel are ascribed by Gill to the New Testament Church and damage the integrity of the prophetical message of those passages. But here Gill gets it right when he says the tabernacle is not a reference to the body of Jesus Christ or of heaven, "…but the church of God on earth, called a "tabernacle", in allusion to the tabernacle of Moses, where God granted his presence, sacrifices were offered up with acceptance, and the holy vessels were put; and which was mean without, but rich and glorious within…"

I fear it is too easy for us to read into this Psalm physical requirements (works) for salvation. Heaven comes to us by faith alone. Christians live by faith and walk by faith but we also are expected to behave in the house of God. We are saved by grace through faith but we are saved unto good works which God hath ordained that we should walk therein. This Psalm is a description of the sort of conduct befitting a member of a local New Testament Baptist Church. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How To Handle Depression

Psalms 13:5-6 KJV
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Here is a depressed man.  David feels forgotten of God and wonders if he will feel that way forever. He is filled with sorrow every day and believes he might die in this depression.
  • His enemies seem to have won
  • His testimony seems to be destroyed
 But wait!

What is it a man should do in such a case? Exactly what David did:
  • Trust the Lord
  • Expect God to help in His time
  • Sing praise songs to God
  • Acknowledge God's blessings
 We all go through times like this. Some of those times are worse than others. But we all get through those times. We will get through them better if we trust the Lord and follow David's counsel.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who Owns Our Words?

Psalms 12:4 KJV
Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

Only the proud and ungodly believe their lips, their words belong to them.

Godly people understand that every word spoken belongs to:
  • Those who hear them
  • Those who will hear of them and ultimately
  • To God
 We are our brother's keeper. Our lives are interconnected with every other. Those who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago still influence our lives through our:
  • Culture
  • Habits and
  • History

  • Those who hid in times of trouble influence us through their lack of influencing their world
  • Those who took up arms either for or against a position influence our world positions today
  • Those who spoke as well as those who refused to speak still speak.

To view our words as anything less than the property of humanity and accountable before God is irresponsible and ungodly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Destructive Lot

Psalms 9:6-7 KJV
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.

The enemies of Christ are a destructive lot. Even those things they do manage to build are intended for destructive purposes:
  • Governments meant to defeat others,
  • Inventions meant to tear down and explode,
  • Causeways intended to bring their troops to the battle,
  • Technologies that track the locations of potential enemy

Even the race to the moon was a race to beat someone else there. The most brazen enemy uses what he has created as a tool against God:
  • His scientific study
  • His evolutionary theory
  • His academic enhancements
are all intended to demolish faith in a living Creator and God.

But he is and will always be unsuccessful. Despite the best efforts of the enemy the Lord shall endure. In the end He will triumph above all his enemies. It is the enemy of God who will be finally and eternally destroyed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Judgment vs Anger

Psalms 7:11 KJV
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

The difference between judgment and anger...

It is frequently thought that judgment is an expression of anger; that the one who exacts judgment or executes chastisement is an angry person. Thus the assumption is that
  • The parent who disciplines the child must be angry
  • The offended party who seeks restitution must be bitter, indeed
  • That God must hold wrath against even His own as there is such a thing as judgment beginning at the house of God
Not so.

God is angry at the wicked. The book of Romans says that the wrath of God will one day be poured out upon those who hold the truth of God in unrighteousness. There will be a day when God, in flaming fire, takes vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is no doubt a difference between God's judgment and God's wrath.

To be judged of God is to be
  • Corrected
  • Molded
  • Shaped

into the image of Christ. To face His anger is a story entirely different. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

These Are Not Our Enemies.

Psalms 6:10 KJV
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal and we wrestle not with flesh and blood. Therefore we must learn that the enemies which we face are neither carnal not flesh and blood. To be sure, those enemies manifest themselves in people, sometimes that person may be our own person, but a good soldier identifies his enemy so he expends both energy and ammunition in the right direction.

Who knows who first identified those enemies as:
  • The world
  • The flesh and
  • The devil
This brief summary speaks volumes once some experience and meditation is placed upon it.

Realizing I am making more complicated what has been so eloquently summarized, I endeavor to expand upon this simple summary. Our enemies are:
which separates a believer from the love he should have for God.
which divide the people of God from unity in His church
Politics (both civil and spiritual)
which focus our attention on movements and philosophies rather than on God

It's never the person. Some people cause is great pain. Sometimes the pain they cause never really goes away. But God lives them and Christ died to redeem them. Sometimes we must separate from a person who walks not according to the teaching of God's Word. We must be careful to not yoke up with a person who is not a follower of Jesus Christ. But never are we to aim our weapons at them.

They are not our enemies. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Not Knowing What to Say

Mark 9:5-6 KJV
And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

It is the common observance that Peter was always the one speaking when he shouldn't have been. He made remarks a number of times when he would have been better off keeping silent:
  • When he rebuked Jesus about predicting His death
  • When he claimed that, though all would forsake Him, Peter would not
Here he speaks not knowing what to speak.

I have to agree that in general if you do not know what to say the best plan would be to say nothing.

But I also would point out that
  • It was Peter who said in Mathew 16, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" and
  • It was Peter who stood on the day of Pentecost and preached so that 3000 people were saved and baptized and added to the church
An old axiom says "The only one who never makes mistakes is the one who does nothing."

It is better to speak out for God and misspeak than to keep quiet about God and get nothing done. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

One of My Favorites

Psalms 2:8 KJV
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

This is easily one of my favorite verses and one of the most important I my personal life as a believer. I believe I first heard Jack Hyles reference this verse or perhaps one similar to it back in 1985-1986. Joe Lutz, the pastor of the Town Center Baptist Church in Portland, had rented the auditorium of one of the liberal religious colleges of the area to accommodate the size of the audience. During his message Hyles made reference to a passage like this and said that one day Fundamental Baptists would own the facilities of this place or places like it.

It was during the summer of 1987 when, as I sat in my office in the abandoned gas station building we were using as our meeting place, I came to this verse. As I read it I began to pray that a God would do what this verse promises for me. As I remember it, and I will admit my memory isn't always completely accurate, it was while I prayed over this verse that day that Pastor a Mark Hunsberger from the GARBC church across the bridge from our gas station came to see me. I had met him informally the previous spring as the two of us had our children at the park. Pastor Hunsberger had told me then that he would be leaving Astoria soon. He came to my office that day to tell me that his church had asked him to see if I would consider becoming the pastor of the church he was leaving. The GARBC had said they would not send another missionary pastor there and if they could not get a pastor they would be forced to close. 

I officially became the pastor of Bayview Baptist Church the first Sunday of October in 1987. I do not consider any of those people heathen but I do believe God answered my prayer that day.