Monthly Archives: October 2013

Radical Solution to the Education Problem

Radical Solution to the Education Problem

Perhaps the solution, just as with the Post Office, is to privatize the entire  system. Can you hear the screams from the left? But, think about it. What would  this involve? First of all, this would open up a huge market for private  enterprise. Well organized private companies would have an opportunity to earn a  profit while providing superior service. By introducing choice and competition,  parents and students would be able to spend their money where they can get the  best results.

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God Has a Plan for World Peace!

This plan is outlined in a book. God is sending His Son to rule the earth and there will be peace on earth. Thus it was announced at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” [Luke 2:14] “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6] “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

God’s Son came to earth as a man. He lived a life without sin. He never hurt a soul. In fact, He healed many who were sick and even raised some that were dead. He comforted the poor and the oppressed. He gave hope to all. He willingly offered His life as a sacrifice for sin, that all mankind might be restored to right relationship with God their Creator.

Yes, it was humankind, in their sin and rebellion that chose to alienate themselves from God and the life that is in Him. And it is sin that causes war. It was sin and hatred that led a group of fanatics to kill thousands of innocent victims on Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, those fanatics are not alone. There are thousands, if not millions of Muslims around the globe who share the same unjustified hatred (they will not be able to stand before God, Allah and justify themselves) and they are organized into terrorist groups which are dedicated to repeating the sinful acts witnessed by the world on 9/11.

A unilateral decision not to fight did not prevent a madman like Hitler from murdering millions of innocents. In fact, those who sought to appease only prolonged and exacerbated the problem. It ended up costing the lives of thousands of brave young Americans who willingly died that people in foreign lands might live free from oppression.

Sin causes violence and war. The world is full of people who choose to steal, murder and rape. Could you imagine what would happen if we all chose to no longer fight such people and did away with all policemen?  As a man attacks you to rape you, do you think that he would stop if you told him that you were peaceful and didn’t want to hurt him?  Thank God, that there are police around to prevent such things and to imprison such people so that they won’t be able to hurt others.

In this age, God offers man the opportunity to reconcile with Him through the sacrifice of His own Son. We all have rebelled against Him; we’ve all sinned. God grants us free will, that we might choose to love Him and our fellow man. Without such freedom, there can be no love. So, in this age humankind is free to sin and there will be wars until the Prince of Peace comes to stop all wars. Until that day, we will need police and armies lest we all fall victim to the Hitlers and Husseins.

Jesus will return to earth one day to establish His government. That is why He taught His disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…” That is why the political powers of His day wanted Him dead. Unfortunately, He will have to destroy those who will violently oppose Him, though He offers the only real hope for everlasting peace. That is why He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” [Matthew 10:34] Peace was His mission, but He, knowing the sin that dwells in humans, knew that peace would not come without a struggle. Peace only comes after war destroys those who do not want peace! People will never stop fighting until the only righteous King comes to rule! “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:11-16]

“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” [Revelation 11:15]

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God is Not a Respecter of Persons

If you fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” But if you do not commit adultery, yet if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law. So speak and do as those who shall be judged by the Law of liberty. For he who has shown no mercy shall have judgment without mercy, and mercy exults over judgment.” (Jas 2:8-13)

Partiality in the way we treat people reveals a fear of man as opposed to a fear of God. The Pharisees were respecters of men. They accused Jesus of eating with sinners while Jesus said that He came to save sinners. He came to save those who recognize their need of a savior, not the self-righteous.

The root of favoritism is selfish motives. God does not show favoritism. “For there is no respect of faces with God.” (Rom 2:11) After a vision, Peter understood that God shows no favorites. (Acts 10:34-35) God judges all by the same standard. He judged the Jews in Old Testament for their disobedience. (2Chron 7:19-22) He will judge those who disobey Him today. God does not change. In the Book of Hebrews we are warned that their chastisement was an example to us. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb 10:26-27)

In speaking of our relations with our fellow man, Jesus said that to love our neighbor sums up half the law. He also said that if we break part of the law, then we are guilty of breaking all of the law. We can’t say that we love God and hate our neighbor. Showing favoritism is judging by outward appearance. There is an account in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:36-50) where Simon the Pharisee judges a prostitute. Jesus recognized that she had sinned. But, He forgave her because of her faith. He told her to go in peace. It is implied that she should quit sinning, being at peace with God.

God doesn’t look on outward appearances. He looks upon the heart. Being impartial does not mean that we condone sin in our brother or sister. The word of God judges, not us. But, a word of correction given in love is more loving than condoning sin. Jesus instructs us to get the log out of our own eye and then to take the log out of our brother’s eye. We should continue to love and reach out to the one who is stumbling.

There will be judgment for sin. The Bible warns that it is appointed once for all. We will all be judged by God. (Jas. 4:12) The law of God judges us all. We all have sinned. We must judge ourselves using God’s law as a standard. If we would judge ourselves honestly, we wouldn’t sin. For he who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1Co 11:29-31) Properly discerning the Lord’s body is to understand the nature of the sacrifice for sin which He made for us.

If we are unwilling to extend mercy and forgive, God will not forgive us. (Mt. 18:32-35) Jesus came to save us from sin. The gospel is the “Law of Liberty.” He didn’t die to give us liberty to sin. All will be judged as in Christ or not. How does mercy triumph over judgment? The justice of God must be satisfied. All are guilty of breaking the law. Does God just wink and say forget it? What would happen if He did? The creation could not be restored. It would continue in sin and rebellion. Strife, violence, war, pain and death would continue. The justice of God must be satisfied. He must be true to His nature. The penalty for sin is death. The price for sin is a life. Blood must be shed. (Lev. 17:11; He. 9:22-10:31) There must be a sacrifice for sin. God showed it to Adam. He spelled it out in the Law. Animal sacrifices were only a shadow of the reality to come. The blood of animals won’t satisfy God. (Ps 51) The sacrifices had to be done in God’s temple, indicating they must be fulfilled in God’s dwelling. Jesus prophesied that His temple would be destroyed and raised in three days.

God foreshadowed the sacrifice at Passover. Egypt is the world under the curse of death. The Messiah is the sacrificial lamb. There must be the life of a man for man. Jesus is God’s merciful answer to His justice. John saw Him as God’s perfect sinless lamb. Jesus is the incarnate dwelling or temple of God. The mercy of God triumphed over the justice of God at the cross.

 

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Christian David, 1690-1722

from J. E. Hutton’s History of the Moravian Church

It is recorded in John Wesley’s ” Journal,”1 that when he paid his memorable visit to Herrnhut he was much impressed by the powerful sermons of a certain godly carpenter, who had preached in his day to the Eskimos in Greenland, and who showed a remarkable knowledge of divinity. It was Christian David, known to his friends as the “Servant of the Lord.” 

He was born on December 31st, 1690, at Senftleben, in Moravia; he was brought up in that old home of the Brethren; and yet, as far as records tell, he never heard in his youthful days of the Brethren who still held the fort in the old home of their fathers. He came of a Roman Catholic family, and was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. He sat at the feet of the parish priest, was devout at Mass, invoked his patron saint, St. Anthony, knelt down in awe before every image and picture of the Virgin, regarded Protestants as children of the devil, and grew up to man’s estate burning with Romish zeal, as he says, ” like a baking oven.” He began life as a shepherd; and his religion was tender and deep. As he tended his sheep in the lonesome fields, and rescued one from the jaws of a wolf, he thought how Christ, the Good Shepherd, had given His life for men; and as he sought his wandering sheep in the woods by night he thought how Christ sought sinners till he found them. And yet somehow he was not quite easy in his mind. For all his zeal and all his piety he was not sure that he himself had escaped the snare of the fowler. He turned first for guidance to some quiet Protestants was told by them, to his horror, that the Pope was Antichrist, that the worship of saints was a delusion, and that only through faith in Christ could his sins be forgiven. He was puzzled. As these Protestants were ready to suffer for their faith, he felt they must be sincere; and when some of them were cast into prison, he crept to the window of their cell and heard them sing in the gloaming. He read Lutheran books against the Papists, and Papist books against the Lutherans. He was now dissatisfied with both. He could see, he said, that the Papists were wrong, but that did not prove that the Lutherans were right; he could not understand what the Lutherans meant when they said that a man was justified by faith alone; and at last he lost his way so far in this famous theological fog that he hated and loathed the very name of Christ. He turned next for instruction to some Jews; and the Jews, of course, confirmed his doubts, threw scorn upon the whole New Testament, and endeavored to convince him that they alone were the true Israel of God. 

He turned next to the Bible, and the fog (1710) lifted a little. He read the Old Testament carefully through, to see if the prophecies there had been fulfilled; and, thereby, he arrived at the firm belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah. He then mastered the New Testament, and came to the equally firm conclusion that the Bible was the Word of God. 

And even yet he was not content. As long as he stayed in Catholic Moravia he would have to keep his new convictions a secret; and, longing to renounce the Church of Rome in public, he left Moravia, passed through Hungary and Silesia, and finally became a member of a Lutheran congregation at Berlin.

But the Lutherans seemed to him very stiff and cold. He was seeking for a pearl of great price, and so far he had failed to find it. He had failed to find it in the Church of Rome, failed to find it in the Scriptures, and failed to find it in the orthodox Protestants of Berlin. He had hoped to find himself in a goodly land, where men were godly and true; and he found that even the orthodox Protestants made mock of his pious endeavors. He left Berlin in disgust, and enlisted in the Prussian Army. He did not find much piety there. He served in the war 1715 against of Sweden, was present at the siege of Stralsund, thought soldiers no better than civilians, accepted his discharge with joy, and wandered around from town to town, like the old philosopher seeking an honest man. At last, however, he made his way to the town of Gorlitz, in Silesia (1717); and there he came into personal contact with two Pietist clergymen, Schafer and Schwedler. For the first time in his weary pilgrimage he met a pastor who was also a man. He fell ill of a dangerous disease; he could not stir hand or foot for twenty weeks; he was visited by Schwedler every day, and thus, through the gateway of human sympathy, he entered the kingdom of peace, and felt assured that all his sins were forgiven. He married a member of Schwedler’s Church, was admitted to the Church himself, and thus found, in Pietist circles, that very spirit of fellowship and help which Zinzendorf himself regarded as the greatest need of the Church. 

But now Christian David must show to others the treasure he had found for himself. For the next five years he made his home at Gorlitz; but, every now and then, at the risk of his life, he would take a trip to Moravia, and there tell his old Protestant friends the story of his newfound joy. He preached in a homely style; he had a great command of Scriptural language; he was addressing men who for many years had conned their Bibles in secret; and thus his preaching was like unto oil on smoldering fire, and stirred to vigorous life once more what had slumbered for a hundred years since the fatal Day of Blood. He tramped the valleys of Moravia; he was known as the Bush Preacher, and was talked of in every market place; the shepherds sang old Brethren’s hymns on the mountains; a new spirit breathed upon the old dead bones; and thus, through the message of this simple man, there began in Moravia a hot revival of Protestant zeal and hope. It was soon to lead to marvelous results. 

For the last three hundred and forty years there had been established in the neighborhood of Fulneck, in Moravia, a colony of Germans.2 They still spoke the German language; they lived in places bearing German names and bore German names themselves; they had used a German version of the Bible and a German edition of the Brethren’s Hymns; and thus, when David’s trumpet sounded, they were able to quit their long-loved homes and settle down in comfort on German soil. At Kunewalde3 dwelt the Schneiders and Nitschmanns; at Zauchtenthal the Stachs and Zeisbergers; at Sehlen the Jaeschkes and Neissers; and at Senftleben, David’s old home, the Grassmanns. For such men there was now no peace in their ancient home. Some were imprisoned; some were loaded with chains; some were yoked to the plough and made to work like horses; and some had to stand in wells of water until nearly frozen to death. And yet the star of hope still shone upon them. As the grand old patriarch, George Jaeschke, saw the angel of death draw near, he gathered his son and grandsons round his bed, and spoke in thrilling, prophetic words of the remnant that should yet be saved.

“It is true,” said he, ” that our liberties are gone, and that our descendants are giving way to a worldly spirit, so that the Papacy is devouring them. It may seem as though the final end of the Brethren’s Church had come. But, my beloved children, you will see a great deliverance. The remnant will be saved. How, I cannot say; but something tells me that an exodus will take place; and that a refuge will be offered in a country and on a spot where you will be able, without fear, to serve the Lord according to His holy Word.” 

The time of deliverance had come. As Christian David heard of the sufferings, which these men had now to endure, his blood boiled with anger. He resolved to go to their rescue. The path lay open. He had made many friends in Saxony. His friend Schafer introduced him to Rothe; Rothe introduced him to Zinzendorf; and Christian David asked the Count for permission to bring some persecuted Protestants from Moravia to find a refuge in Berthelsdorf. The conversation was momentous. The heart of the Count was touched. If these men, said he, were genuine martyrs, he would do his best to help them; and he promised David that if they came he would find them a place of abode. The joyful carpenter returned to Moravia, and told the news to the Neisser family at Sehlen. ” This,” said they, ” is God’s doing; this is a call from the Lord.” 

And so, at ten o’clock one night, there met May 27th at the house of Jacob Neisser, in Sehlen, a 1722 small band of emigrants. At the head of the band was Christian David; and the rest of the little group consisted of Augustin and Jacob Neisser, their wives and children, Martha Neisser, and Michael Jaeschke, a cousin of the family.4 We know but little about these humble folk; and we cannot be sure that they were all descendants of the old Church of the Brethren. Across the mountains they came, by winding and unknown paths. For the sake of their faith they left their goods and chattels behind; long and weary was the march; and at length, worn out and footsore, they arrived, with Christian David at their head, at Zinzendorf’s estate at Berthelsdorf. (June 8th)(1722)

The streams had met the new river was formed; and thus the course of Renewed Brethren’s History had begun.

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What About Other Religions

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone who asked you if Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God and what about followers of other religions? Jesus said He was the only way to God, “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If we accept the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts, then as C.S. Lewis once said, we must decide that Jesus is or was either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord as He claimed. (See John 8:58-59 for a reference where Jesus claimed to be God) The gospels are the most accurate historical documents ever recorded. By standards of manuscript evidence, preservation, and outside corroboration, there is no work of history that can be compared to the Bible. (See McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict or Strobel, The Case For Christ)

It is a fact that Jesus received and accepted worship from His disciples. Peter’s said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter also affirmed in his Pentecost message that Jesus is the only way to God. He said, “There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

In evangelizing, we compete in a culture where pluralism is highly valued. All views are considered to be equally true. The problem with pluralism is that we lose any absolute standards of truth and morality. This thinking has become so pervasive that even many young Christians doubt the truth of Christ’s claim that he is the only way. In our surveys done on the University of Iowa campus, we found that 41% of professing Christians rejected Christ’s exclusive claim. Our culture worships at the altar of tolerance. I once received a solicitation in the mail from Showtime advertising a new show about homosexuals. A theme quotation on their literature proudly boasts, “no limits”. Is this where we’ve come? Knowing the sinful, debased nature of mankind, which is clearly seen by history, that is a scary situation.

Is there absolute truth? Jesus said that He is the truth. As Christians will we stand up for truth? If we are not willing to open our mouth in defense of truth, then we disobey Christ’s great commission. Our secular culture is attempting to force us to shut up. We risk rejection, ridicule and even violence for daring to speak the truth, but there are lives at stake, both in an eternal spiritual as well as in an earthly physical sense.

How should we respond to the person who raises the objection about other religions? First, we must realize that the intellectual argument is, more often than not, a “smoke screen” used to hide true objections, which usually have more to do with sin than truth. But, we have to clear away the smoke to get the person to state their true objections. We begin by making it clear that Jesus is unique. He is God in the flesh forever. (John 1:14) Buddha never made that claim. The avatars of Hinduism were only temporary mythical reincarnations of deity. Jesus is the only person to be permanently resurrected from the dead, He is alive!

All other religions are a man made system of man working his way to God. Christ is God reaching out to man. The cross is a stumbling block to those who would earn eternal life by their own works. It humbles the proud.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus? The patriarchs never heard the name of Jesus and yet The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, teaches us that they were justified by faith, looking forward to the cross. (Romans 4:3) Anyone truly searching for the truth will find the gospel and be led to God. Creation itself points to God. “The unseen qualities of God, His eternal power and divine nature, have been seen, being clearly understood by what has been made so that man is without excuse.” (Ro 1:20) There are numerous accounts of people who never had heard of Jesus, but who found Christ because they were searching. Samuel Morris is only one example. Read his biography.

Has the gospel been preached to the whole world?  According to Colossians 1:6 it has! All one need do is look at creation. Look at the heavens. They declare the glory of God! (Ps. 19:1)

Curiously one can discover remnants of the redemption story in ancient languages, which may be proof that the gospel was understood but rejected.

I believe that people today who have not heard the name of Jesus are judged on the same basis as the patriarchs. Though Job never heard the name of Jesus, he clearly understood that his creator was his redeemer and that his creator would be God in the flesh. (See Job 19:25-27) The Bible teaches that the righteous are justified by faith. What is that faith in? It is that your creator is your redeemer. To be saved, you must believe that you need a redeemer; that you are separated from God by your sin. You must believe that God offers Himself as a sacrifice for your sin. You must repent of sin and turn to God for salvation.

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True Intimacy

I believe that spiritual reality precedes and causes physical reality. The natural things speak of the invisible. God teaches us that nature, physical reality, reveals His nature (Ro. 1:20). God created the natural, physical realm to reflect the spiritual realm. He established marriage in order to reflect the intimacy He intends for the believer and Himself. Someone once said, “Marriage is not finding the person with whom you can live, but finding that person with whom you cannot live without.” That should be our attitude not just about our earthly spouse, but our groom in heaven. Unfortunately, many have had bad experience with marriage. Often, the reason for this is a lack of relationship or intimacy with God.

The Bible teaches that the individual believer is married to Christ. In Romans chapter 7 Paul uses the illustration from marriage to show how we should no longer be in bondage to sin because when we are born again we are married to Christ. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law [bondage to sin] through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”(Ro. 7:4) You can only die to sin through intimacy with Christ.

The Song of Songs written by Solomon is a story of marital intimacy between Christ and His bride. You can contrast the Song of Songs with Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote both. One is the greatest love song ever written the other deals with vain endeavors, running after God versus running after things. One is a book for the heart before and more than the mind, for lovers rather than intellectuals, those who want intimacy versus those who want knowledge.

The Song of Songs records the wooing and wedding of a shepherd girl to King Solomon. There are three players in this drama. Metaphorically, the Shulamite woman is the individual believer. The King is Christ and the daughters of Jerusalem, or virgins, are the other believers, the church/ Israel. It recounts a journey of intimacy that corresponds to the walk of many believers as we grow in relationship. It begins with the initial stirring of holy passion and immature attempts to run with God. This often leads to disillusionment and frustration in a desperate search for God. As we seek after Him, He draws us away and restores us with His transforming love.

The Shulamite woman begins: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine…. Draw me away with you!”  (Song of Songs 1:2, 4) This is the kiss of marital intimacy not just brotherly love. Paul prayed that believers would know Christ intimately: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” (Eph 1:17-18) He is not talking about knowing Christ in the sense of intellectually knowing about Him. He is talking about knowing Him as a bride knows her husband; an intimate relationship.

The Shulamite says, “for your love is more delightful than wine.”; His love is better than the intoxicating wine of carnal pleasures. His love is better than fame, power, money, control, fleshly pleasures, TV, rock stars, houses, boats, games, careers. Solomon had it all: money, power, women, comforts and he said it was all vanity. The love of God is better, but people have forsaken Him and tried to find fulfillment in everything but God. He loves us with abandon and is totally committed to us. Our passion for Him is the fruit of recognizing that dedication and it comes by revelation. You must have your eyes opened; you can, you must ask for it.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  (He 11:6) Saving faith believes that Christ is not only reliable but is desirable. We must have Him whose affectionate love is far better than religious obligation or the wine of earthly experiences and possessions.

The Shulamite says, “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;” She is drawn by the fragrance of His person, His character, not by intellectual knowledge of Him. This speaks symbolically of the graces of His person, the beauty of who He is. “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps 34:8). It recognizes the perfection of all that He does; “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, … The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever, holy and awesome is his name.”  (Psalm 111)

He is our creator, redeemer, deliverer, provider and healer. How could you not fall in love with such a person? She calls Him King. Knowing Him as Lord is a perquisite to intimacy. The truth of who He is comes by revelation, which is a gift you must seek. The Shulamite says, “your name is ointment poured out, therefore the virgins love you!” Christ’s name, that is His person and character, brings healing. He is called the Balm of Gilead. His compassionate sacrificial love heals the whole person, body, soul and spirit. We all need healing/ salvation. We are a broken image.

She asks Him to draw her away, not just to Him, but away from the other things and people. She recognizes her inability to pursue Him on her own. Our motivation to seek Him is caused by His drawing us to Himself. It takes God to love God. He draws her into His chamber, the intimate place. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Ps 84:1).

The intimacy that they have produces a rejoicing that affects the other seekers/ virgins. She is not the only one in His quest. Our affection for God will have an effect on others. How do we develop this intimate relationship? We must ask Him to draw us to Him. His word says, “you have not because you do not ask” and, “seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened” We need to hunger to be with Him; for His manifest presence. We must hunger like David: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  We must practice the spiritual disciplines that will cause that intimacy to grow. Praise and thanksgiving are two disciplines that will draw us close to God. That is one reason why it is so important that we be committed to a worshipping body of believers. Delight is incomplete until it is expressed in words and actions. Unfortunately we express affection as if it were an obligation. Expressing praise and adoration to God is not an obligation but a blessing

Intimacy must precede ministry. There is a Divine order of ministry: We must minister to God before we can minister to others. He brings us to a place of intimacy in order to put His life and power in us that we may be like Him and freely extend that love to others. He doesn’t draw us away so that we can hang up a do not disturb sign. The heart of God is love; He wants more children; He wants intimate relationship with more people. He says freely you’ve received, therefore freely give. You can’t do one before the other. We must be drawn away from things to Him before we can minister to Him and for Him.

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Suffering

Why does God allow suffering? Suffering is common to man. You can’t positively confess your way out of suffering. Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble…”

How do we respond to the question of suffering? I believe that the person who raises that objection may not always be looking for an answer, but they may be seeking compassion. Perhaps our first response should be to ask, “Have you experienced suffering?”, rather than to launch into a theological dissertation. One thing that we must realize is that God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is perfectly capable of defending Himself.

How do we respond to the suffering of others? We must avoid the tendency to judge or blame. Job’s friends accused him of hidden sin. But, Job was a “blameless” man according to Job 1:1-3, 23. Understand that God called him “blameless” because he was justified by faith just like Abraham. (See Job 19:25-27 for his faith statement) You can be sure that Job was not without sin (see Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:23). But his suffering was not the result of a specific sin as his friends assumed. His friends started out good by coming to comfort him and by not saying anything for a week (see Job 2:11, 13). But, then they began to blame Job. Of course there is sin in our lives, but is suffering always the direct result of individual sin? Not always.

Jesus repudiated the automatic link between individual sin and suffering (see John 9:1-3). Jesus also pointed out that not all natural disasters are the judgment of God on individual or collective sin (see Luke 13:1-5). It is appropriate to examine ourselves when we are suffering, but we must be careful about making judgments about why others are suffering. Instead, we should show compassion. We should “Weep with those who weep” (Ro. 12:15), feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked and set the captives free.

Why does God allow suffering? This is the most frequently raised objection to the Christian faith. To the unbeliever, its distribution and degree appear to be random and unfair. This is an acute problem for the Christian faith because we believe God is both good and all powerful. The unbeliever, unconsciously volunteering to be a robot, asks, “If God is good and all powerful, why doesn’t He stop suffering?” Of course the answer is, “He did; He died on the cross to stop suffering.” We must never doubt that God is just. There is not a standard of fairness above or outside God. Who defines what is fair? Fairness can only be defined by God. God would be just to destroy us all. Anything we receive from Him is pure mercy.

God allows suffering because He grants us freedom. Suffering was not part of the original created order (Gen 1-2). There will be no suffering when God recreates a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:4). Suffering only entered the world as a result of sin. What God wants from us is love. Love requires freedom. All have freely chosen to break God’s laws. At what point does divine interference negate free will?

All suffering is a result of sin, either directly or indirectly. We can consider three causes of suffering. There is suffering as a result of our own sin.  Job’s kids suffered as a result of their own sin (see Job 1:4-5, 8:4). If we play with fire, we will get burned. “Whatsoever a man sews, that shall he reap.” Drug addiction leads to many problems: Poverty, broken relationships and sickness for starters. Promiscuity leads to broken relationships and further inability to trust and love freely and appropriately. Sometimes God actively judges sin in this life.

There is suffering as a result of others’ sin. War occurs because of greed and lust for power. Violence is perpetrated upon innocent victims because of someone else’s sin. Joseph suffered as a result of his brother’s jealousy.

There is suffering which occurs as a result of living in a fallen world. Thorns and weeds came into being as a result of sin (Gen. 3:18). Farmers, in an effort to grow food pollute the ground with fertilizers and pesticides that put carcinogens in our water. The Bible says that the entire creation is subject to frustration (Ro. 8:20).

How does God respond to our suffering? God works through suffering, He uses it for good. He uses it to draw us to Himself, to Christ. God uses suffering to mature and perfect us. Job was not perfect. His troubles were a test of faith, which began to waiver (see Job 30:20-23). God was rooting out self righteousness in Job (see Job  40:8). Even Jesus “learned obedience from what HE suffered” (He. 5:8) The Bible says, “Whom a father loves, He disciplines.” (He. 12:10) He does it for our good. He is the potter, we are the clay. Can the clay complain to the potter? He disciplines us to make us more fruitful. He “prunes every fruitful branch so that it will bear more fruit.” (John. 15:2)

Smith Wigglesworth once said, “Great faith is the product of great fights, great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come after great trials.” Our temptation might be to respond to God’s pruning by saying, “God, I’m happy please leave me alone.” That would be to want God to love us less. God uses suffering to bring about His good purposes. (Ro. 8:28) God used Joseph’s sufferings to preserve two nations from famine. He used Job’s sufferings to teach us about suffering and redemption.

God more than compensates for our suffering. Joseph was rewarded by being restored to his family. Job was restored. “God blessed the latter days of Job more than the first.” (Job 42:12)

God is involved in our suffering. He suffers with us. Isaiah 53 is the great prophesy of the suffering servant Jesus. It says, “He is a man acquainted with grief.” He is not immune to suffering. He became one of us and suffered more than any of us to the point that He was separated from the one He loved. He was betrayed by His closest friends, falsely accused, tortured and disgraced.

How should we respond to our own suffering? We need to examine ourselves to determine what God is saying. We may not get an answer as to why. God never told Job why He had undergone such suffering. We need to keep the faith, keep our eyes on Christ. The Cross is God’s answer to suffering. Our sin, a result of freedom, put Christ on the cross. On the cross God was reconciling the world unto Himself. He used His suffering and turned it for good. God more than compensates for our suffering. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (He. 12:2) He suffered, still suffers with us.

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Living for Christ

Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians provides an authoritative guide for what it means to live for Christ. The famous Chinese Christian martyr, Watchman Nee, summarized this epistle with three words: Sit, Walk and Stand.

Our spiritual life begins with faith. We must rest in Christ’s finished work and trust in His promised salvation. Ephesians 2:6 promises the believer that God has seated them with Christ in heaven. The promise describes our ultimate position outside of the temporary construct of time. God is not bound by time. We must rest in His promise and sit at His feet. We must trust in Christ’s completed work. This faith gives us confidence to walk.

Walking is the out working of that position here on earth by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. It involves walking worthy of our calling. We walk as a new person. We must walk in love. We must walk in the truth. We must walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom dictates how we spend our time.  Those who are wise redeem the time because the days are evil. Walking in wisdom requires an understanding God’s will. It requires having vision, direction and a goal.

God has a purpose for each of us. We have a task to accomplish because the days are evil. Therefore don’t let life be dissipated by futility. Knowing our purpose requires revelation. That revelation comes by relationship and communion with God. God created us to make known the mystery of the gospel. But, we will face opposition. Therefore, we must stand against the enemy. We can’t stand unless we first sit and walk. Anyone deficient in either of these will not stand in the war. If you’re not sitting with God, you’ll not stand against the enemy.

The Bible tells us that in this age, the days are evil; we war against a spiritual enemy and his kingdom of demonic spirits. We know that outside the context of time Christ has already won. He has defeated the enemy. We simply defend occupied territory. But, all things are not yet subject to Him. We live in what is called the “here and not yet.”  Scripture refers to this age as “this present evil age” ravaged by Satan who is referred to as “the god of this world.”   By faith we hold on to the ground that God has given us.

In order to stand against this enemy, we must be armed with the whole armor of God. Therefore take to yourselves the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Therefore stand, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching to this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Eph 6:13-18) We must pray and we must be armed with God’s Word.

 

We are given the power of representing the King. That power is derived from being in agreement with Him and each other. (Mt 18:18-20) In praying we are asking as Christ’s representative.  And in that day you shall ask Me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Before now you have asked nothing in My name; ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (Johh 16:23-24) That day was future for Jesus’ disciples. But, a change occurred after Calvary and Christ’s ascension. The power that comes from that authority is the outcome of His sufferings and exaltation. (Phil 2:6-10) The Father has committed all authority to His Son. The Son has put that authority in our hands as we follow Him. That is, we do His will, His way and in His time. That power is given among men. (Acts 4:7, 12) That power is operative in preaching the gospel unto salvation and is mighty against Satanic powers to bring them into subjection. (Luke 10:17)

 

God has committed Himself to us in faith. An example of God’s commitment occurred with Peter and the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. (Acts 3:6) Peter didn’t ask the mind of the Lord; He knew it. He boldly commands and uses his delegated authority in confidence.

 

Because God sees us seated with Christ, His authority can be entrusted to us here. He has entrusted to His servants the greatest power. Jesus’ work on earth is done through His servants as they act in His name. If we can’t speak and act in His name, our work will be in vain. It is not something that can be worked up by our will or effort. God delegates that power as the fruit of relationship with and obedience to Him. Do we have such a relationship?

There are four essential features of a work God can commit to. We must have a revelation of God’s purpose. It must be conceived in God’s heart first. God’s name is not a rubber stamp to our ideas. There is a divine order: “In the beginning, God…” We must have a revelation of God’s will in our particular sphere of work. The work must depend for its continuance on the power of God alone. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” God never asks us to do anything we can do. Self is an obstruction to God. God has to be glorified by the work. There is no room for man’s glory. When these questions are settled, God will entrust Himself to us.

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Remember the Alamo

I attended a meeting of several hundred evangelical Christian pastors last week. There was practically unanimous concern that our nation is on the brink of utter destruction. Rampant corruption, gross immorality, widespread violence and sexual perversion are but symptoms of a sick society that is described prophetically in Second Timothy chapter 3: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:1-4) One of the speakers was a pastor from a cowboy church in Texas. He wept as he compared our country to a disobedient horse ignoring God’s call to “whoa!” He feared that we may have already reached a point where the wrath of God would fall upon this land. I shared similar feelings with him, only I compared it to a capsizing sailboat that had already passed the tipping point.

David Barton of Wall Builders, also a Texan, was a speaker at the meeting. Anyone familiar with David knows that he is a treasure trove of American history and the Bible. He provided us some interesting information from researchers such as George Barna. Most importantly, that Americans are biblically illiterate and that the level of illiteracy increases among younger generations. Not surprisingly, Barton pointed out that even though evangelical Christians vote in great numbers, they don’t vote significantly different than the population in general. So, we have “Christians” voting for homosexual marriage and a President who asks God to bless Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Much of the blame rests with those in the pulpit. Research was reported that less than 3% of pastors preached a message about homosexual marriage or abortion in the year preceding the election. Our pastors, perhaps more interested in building their church than God’s church, would prefer to preach “seeker sensitive” messages about how we can be happy. So the theme of the meeting was to encourage pastors to “stand up” for biblical truth.

The group also heard from Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.  They both gave speeches supporting biblical values. While I’m sure that either would make a better President than the current jihadist-in-chief, I’m skeptical that, given the country’s current level of knowledge, either could get elected or that it just might be too late. It occurred to me that these speakers were preaching to the choir. Most of the pastors were well into their fifties or older. I saw very few younger pastors there. Who is going to reach the younger generation? Even if these older pastors do preach biblical truth, will younger people listen? Again, I’m skeptical. Sometimes I think that the only thing that will get the attention of these young folks is cold, cruel reality. That horse may need a case of divine whoop ass in order to get their attention. Perhaps the best that we can do is to pray for mercy and a miracle.

I was struck by the contingent of Texans at this Iowa meeting. Last week, brave Texans battled Satanists to pass the strictest pro-life law in the land. Perhaps, God’s grace will shine on Texas. It just may end up being the last free place on earth. Thinking of all of these Texans at the meeting, my memory was jogged to recall the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” It was a rallying cry for Texans fighting for their freedom to remember the brave men that died in defense of that freedom.

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The Place of Character and Charisma in Relationships (Gal. 5:16-26)

It is the character and charisma (power) of God in us that enables true covenant. Galatians 5:16 says, “walk in the Spirit and you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” The term “flesh” here refers more specifically to the carnal nature, not the physical body. The same chapter compares the deeds of the carnal nature to the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the context of this whole section of scripture deals with relationship, especially between believers. This section is bracketed by “love fulfilling the law” (5:14) and “bearing each others burdens.” ( 6:2) “Walking in the Spirit” means how we live, our lifestyle. What sustains us?
The carnal nature destroys relationships. The fruit of the Spirit maintains covenant relationships. Our actions should reflect where we live. If we are “born again”, then we live in Christ. Unfortunately, sometimes our actions are more like the folks down the street who don’t know Christ. His Kingdom rule needs to be extended into every area of our life; our relationships, work, finances, feelings, and even our thoughts. The Bible says, “Bring every thought captive to Christ.” (2Cor 10:5) We are God’s workmanship; all we do should reflect that work. The testimony of our moral standards should confirm the testimony of the Word. We are ambassadors for Christ.
The root word for character means “to engrave” or “brand.” Character is the sum of all one’s inner qualities. The key question is: “do we exhibit Godly character or carnal character?” The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of Godly character. The discipline of the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One can’t be a disciple if one doesn’t undergo discipline. You can’t lead or disciple others, if you are not disciplined. The Bible says, “Whom the Father loves He disciplines.” Self discipline or control is submission of the will to the Holy Spirit. What does self control mean? It means having the carnal nature in submission to God By the power of God. It doesn’t mean exercise of the self will absent the power of God.
Charisma is the supernatural power of God. It is the power to minister and the power to persevere and be faithful. One of the ways that it comes is by the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Real charisma produces the fruit of the Spirit. Daniel experienced charismatic power, including prophecy, revelations, words of knowledge and words of wisdom. He had a disciplined prayer life. He submitted his will to the Holy Spirit.
There must be a balance between charisma and character. Chapter 12-14 of 1Corinthians deals with charismatic gifts. But, the real theme of those chapters is unity, cooperation and covenant relationships. The gifts are dealt with in the context of community life. 1Cor 12:7 says they are “for the common good..”
Charisma without character will come off phony and hypocritical. One who seeks charisma but resists the character building discipline of the Holy Spirit will be easily led into deception by supernatural forces opposed to God. Carnal efforts to develop character without the charisma of God are doomed to failure. True character development leads to a greater awareness of our inability to produce fruit without the full power of God. Godly character is only produced by the power of God.
So how do we deal with imbalance? First we need to discern the fake from the real. Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. People try to imitate real charisma, but false manifestations never bear the fruit of the Spirit. Instead, people get hurt. People try to develop character in their own strength. This leads to religious hypocrisy and legalism. People try to disciple in a carnal fashion by manipulating and controlling others. The answer to these problems is proper use, not disuse. The scripture is our authoritative standard.

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