RSS

One of the most helpful things to us…coming to know God, the most fascinating ‘person’ alive


One day it occurred to me that God is the most fascinating ‘person’ alive and that getting to know Him could well be the most helpful thing that ever happened to me. The more I probed His nature the more convinced I became that knowing Him is the solution to most of my problems.

In the early days of the automobile a man’s Model-T Ford stalled in the middle of the road.  He couldn’t get it started no matter how hard he cranked nor how much he tried to advance the spark or adjust things under the hood.  Just then a chauffeured limousine pulled up behind him, and a wiry, energetic man stepped out from the back seat and offered his assistance.  After tinkering for a few moments the stranger said, “Now try it!”  Immediately the engine leaped to life.  The well-dressed individual then identified himself as Henry Ford.  “I designed and built these cars,” he said, “so I know what to do 2 Corinthians 9:15 (60 kb)when something goes wrong.”

God, as our creator knows how to “fix” us when our lives are broken by sin.

God is not discoverable or demonstrable by purely scientific means, unfortunately for the scientific minded.  But that really proves nothing.  It simply means that the wrong instruments are being used for the job.

A Sunday School teacher saw one of her little boys drawing furiously with a set of crayons. “What are you doing, Johnny?” she asked. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” said Johnny. “But Johnny,” said the teacher, “nobody knows what God looks like.” Replied Johnny: “Well, they will by the time I’m through with THIS!”

In looking for a challenge or some direction in life, the most challenging task we can approach is the zeal to come to know God. Think how that process might begin with some questions/answers:

Name: God.
Also known as: The Almighty, Jehovah, the Father, Lord.
Occupation: Sustainer and ruler of the universe.
Address: Everywhere.
Sex: Does not apply.
Place of birth: Does not apply.
Social Security: None.
Mother’s maiden name: None.
Dependents: Everyone.
Honors received: Too numerous to list.

God doesn’t fit a mold, does he? He is, to put it mildly, unique. One of a kind. Indescribable, some would say! God is beyond cataloging, and no computer resume, no investigating committee, not even a CIA computer could give an exhaustive profile of who He is and all that He’s done.

God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God. Yet we cannot give up! We can’t throw up our hands and dismiss Him as a mystery…we need Him!

Imagine a sheer, steep crag with a projecting edge at the top. Now imagine what a person would probably feel if he put his foot on the edge of this precipice and, looking down into the chasm below, saw no solid footing nor anything to hold on to.

This is what I think the soul experiences when it goes beyond its footing in material things, in its quest for that which has no dimension and which exists from all eternity. For here there is nothing it can take hold of, neither place nor time, neither measure nor anything else; our minds cannot approach it.

And thus the soul, slipping at every point from what cannot be grasped, becomes dizzy and perplexed and returns once again to what is connatural to it, content now to know merely this about God, that it is completely different from the nature of the things that the soul knows.

It’s amazing in this world the way people respond to God, as they understand Him…it’s very different: some grovel before totems; others bring offerings of chickens and goats; others kneel five times daily to chant prayers; others go into trances. Some believe in God so intensely they preach in foreign lands; others deny His existence by their silence.

We need to come to see God in people around us. We need to know Him in a personal way.

I’m thinking of a little boy named Timmy. Timmy was very afraid of the lightning and the thunder. His mom and dad went into his room during a thunderstorm and said, “Now, Timmy, don’t be afraid. God is right here in the room with you.”

He said, “Okay, Mommy and Daddy, I won’t be afraid.”

But then as the mommy and daddy went into their room and started to get ready for bed, the lightning clapped, and the thunder rolled, and Timmy screamed bloody murder. Timmy’s daddy and mommy went back into the room and said, “Honey, we thought we told you, you don’t need to be afraid. God is right here in the room with you.”

Timmy said, “Mommy and Daddy, I know God is right here in the room with me, but I need someone with skin on.” [1]

What is God like? Answers don’t come easy, because of the immensity of the subject. God is huge, filling the universe. Also people might know the right words, but they seem to become hollow shells because they can’t comprehend them.

We say that God is holy, righteous, loving, gracious, Father-Son-Spirit, but we don’t know what all this means. How do we know the words are empty? We can tell by the way many Christians behave!

Our behavior exposes our failure to understand the words coming out of our mouths. We can talk about God, but we do not know Him! God is not like us — He’s one of a kind! God is different from men. Anyone trying to know God and learn to relate to Him must begin with this fundamental truth.

God is not optional! Unlike everything else, God is absolutely necessary, like water for fish. We can’t just “take God or leave Him” — He is inescapable, even more so than death and taxes. We must not be too “familiar” with God, or regard Him as optional…we must learn to let God be God.

A. W. Tozer wrote concerning the desperate need for the church to revise its concept of God due to a very distorted conception of Him: It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.[2]

Tozer goes on to say, The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.[3]

A. W. Pink is of the same opinion: The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god out of their carnal minds.[4]

One day it occurred to me that God is the most fascinating person alive and that getting to know Him could well be the most helpful thing that ever happened to me. The more I probed His nature the more convinced I became that knowing Him is the solution to most of my problems. I became convinced that knowing God better was the answer to many of their problems as well. I decided that I want to get to know God intimately, and that I want to help others get to know Him as well, if I possibly can.

God is knowable, and He does want to be known. As a matter of fact, He tells us that our eternal state depends upon knowing Him. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Knowing God and His Son Jesus is the heart of the whole matter of eternal life. The word know in this verse does not refer to a casual acquaintance either. It is the kind of knowledge that comes through living contact and personal relationship. If knowing God is that important, maybe we ought to talk about how we can get to know Him.

A mother was approached by her young son, who asked, “Mommy, did God make Himself?”  Realizing that such questions by children are very important and must be answered, she dropped what she was doing and sat down with her youngster for a little talk.  Pointing to her wedding band, she said, “This is a ‘love ring,’ which your daddy gave me when we were married.  Look at it closely and tell me where it begins and where it ends.”

   The youngster examined it carefully and then said, “There’s no starting place and stopping place to a ring.”  The mother replied, “That’s the way it is with God.  He had no beginning and has no end, yet He encircles our lives with His presence. He is too wonderful, too great, for our minds to understand. Nobody ever made God — He always was!”  Somehow the boy realized that for God to be God, He could not have been created. He had to be without beginning and without end.

Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black.  Martin Luther said, “Who died?”  She said, “God has.”  He said, “God hasn’t died.” And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.”

WHY IS KNOWING GOD SO IMPORTANT?

  1. It shapes our moral and ethical standards.
  2. It directly affects our response to pain and hardship.
  3. It motivates our response toward fortune, fame, power, and pleasure.
  4. It gives us strength when we are tempted.
  5. It keeps us faithful and courageous when we are outnumbered.
  6. It enhances our worship and prompts our praise.
  7. It determines our lifestyle and dictates our philosophy.
  8. It gives meaning and significance to relationships.
  9. It sensitizes our conscience and creates the desire to be obedient.
  10. It stimulates hope to go on, regardless.
  11. It enables us to know what to reject and what to respect while I’m invited to planet Earth.
  12. It is the foundation upon which everything rests!

[1] Thomas Tewell, “The Tenacity of a Bulldog,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 141.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper and Row, Publish­ers, 1961), p. 10.

[3] Ibid., p. 12.

[4] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead, pp. 28-29.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 25, 2019 in Church

 

Resurrection Hope -1 Peter 1:1-7


Image may contain: sky and text1  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 

2  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
5  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter reveals the tremendous depth and scope of God’s plan. God chooses, destines, cleanses, and covers those who believe. All three members of the Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—work together to take us to our final destination. What amazing teamwork and strategy.

With God’s strength, we can try harder to do more at greater risk without fear. We can face trials knowing that the final victory belongs to God.

Despite the growing threat of organized persecution, he reminded the Christians that they were and would remain God’s selected and loved people who, although strangers in this world and often persecuted by it, would eventually find their eternal rest and home with Christ.

This letter continues to encourage Christians facing trials. Two-thirds of believers around the world live under governments more repressive than the Roman Empire of the first century.

Christians everywhere face misunderstanding, ridicule, and even harassment by unbelieving friends, employers, teachers, and family members.

In some countries, converting to Christianity is punishable by death. No one is exempt from catastrophe, pain, illness, and death—trials that, like persecution, make us lean heavily on God.

The first verses of the first chapter show the perspective we should have in trials. We are chosen, but we must live as resident aliens. We know that we belong to the triune God rather than to this world. For today’s readers, as well as for Peter’s original audience, the themes of this letter are hope and assurance in Jesus Christ.

When Peter says “Grace and peace,” he’s saying much more than “Have a nice day!” Grace describes God’s character. It’s a theological statement of immense importance. The heart behind the universe is a gracious heart of love. Although he is the center of all power, God cares for you as a person.

The meaning of peace goes far beyond merely the cessation of hostilities. Peace between you and God settles your biggest problem—sin.

When God saves us, he removes all our rebellion and indifference to him. Peace with God gives you the base for solving your second tier of problems—relationships with everyone else in the world. With your relationship with God made right, you have the energy and insight to work on your human relationships. All this comes at a price you could not pay yourself; it was prepaid by Jesus on the cross.

By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.NRSV We find God’s mercy always at the center of any discussion of salvation. Only God’s mercy would allow him to have compassion for sinful and rebellious people.

Salvation is all completely from God; we can do nothing to earn it. Salvation is given to us because of God’s great mercy alone.

Christ Jesus has given us hope of eternal life. Our hope is not only for the future; it is “living.” Eternal life begins when we trust Christ and join God’s family. Regardless of our pain and trials, we know that this life is not all there is. Eventually we will live with Christ forever.

We have hope based on our conviction that God will keep his promises. We base our hope in a future resurrection on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By rising from the dead, Christ made the necessary power available for our resurrection. Christ’s resurrection makes us certain that we too will be raised from the dead.

We shouldn’t be discouraged by earthly trials, for we have the Resurrection to be our backup.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the crucial and non-negotiable doctrines of the Bible. Here are just a few reasons why this is true:

  • Jesus declared that His resurrection would serve as His final sign, which would demonstrate that His claims and teachings are true (Matthew 12:38-40; Romans 1:4).
  • The resurrection is an inseparable part of the gospel, which must be believed (1 Corinthians 15; Romans 10:9f,).
  • The resurrection is one of the ways the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of the gospel, convincing men that Jesus has been raised from the dead because His grave is empty and we see Him no more (John 16:8-11; note especially verse 10).
  • The resurrection is a powerful warning to those who reject Jesus as Savior because there will be a future judgment with eternal consequences. In short, the unsaved dead will be raised to life, to live forever away from the presence of God (Daniel 12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 20:11-15).
  • In the Book of Acts, it was the apostles’ proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead that the Jewish religious leaders found intolerable and sought to suppress (Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 23:6-8).

But by the time we reach Peter’s epistles, we find Peter defending the very suffering he had avoided.

Indeed, we find him declaring suffering for Christ’s sake not only to be the will of God but the cause for rejoicing:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter 1:6,7).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2019 in 1 Peter

 

Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God (can be discussed without using the Bible)


Through the years rational and philosophical arguments have been developed in support of belief in God. These complicated arguments involve philosophical principles unfamiliar to the average person. They will be briefly stated here so that some familiarity with them may be gained at least. (These can be discussed without using the Bible).

1. The Cosmological Argument. 

This argument approaches the issue of the existence of God from the viewpoint of the existence of the
reasons to believeworld. The very existence of the world argues a beginning and an actuating cause, which cause believers affirm is God. If the universe had an origin, there must have been some causative force behind it, for there is no such thing as an uncaused beginning. “God is the infinite and perfect Spirit in whom all things have their source, support, and end” (A.H. Strong). Herbert Spencer speaks of “the absolute certainty that we are ever in the presence of an infinite and eternal energy from which all things proceed.”

 2. The Teleological Argument.

The object of this argument is to demonstrate an end or purpose of all things that comprise the universe. Simply stated, this argument affirms that order and purpose require an intelligent cause, or that the design of anything in itself suggests a designer. The presence of a beautiful building argues the work of an architect, an engineer and a builder. The presence of the universe, therefore, wonderfully produced and precisely arranged, argues divine intelligence behind it. We have evidence all about us of marvelous design: man, the planetary system, flowers, animals, the chemical elements, principles of physics, and the like.

 3. The Moral Argument.

The fact that man possesses moral concepts of right and wrong, which are not of human origin, also argues the existence of a Supreme Being. The fact that these moral laws, unvarying from generation to generation, so frequently condemn man shows that man is not the author of them. Sophocles speaks of “the unwritten laws of God that know not change; they are not of today or yesterday, but live forever.” Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, was so strongly impressed with the strength of the moral argument that he was willing to rest the case of the existence of God on it.

4. The Ontological Argument.

The ontological argument asserts the existence of God from the fact that man has a concept of Him. Since man does possess a concept of a Supreme Being, from what source is this concept derived? The fact is that man’s concept of a Supreme Being is received through inspiration, and is of divine origin. Man also possesses ideas of the infinite and supernatural-a supernatural Being that possesses the attributes of infinite goodness, perfection, justice, holiness, power, wisdom, and authority. These attributes are the very ones that are distinct qualities of God.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 18, 2019 in God

 

What is our greatest need?


If you’re sick, you may think, “My greatest need is to be healed of this illness.” If you’re unemployed, you may think, “My greatest need is to get a good job to provide for my needs.”

If you’re single, you may think, “My greatest need is for a mate.” If you’re in a difficult marriage, you may think, “My greatest need is for harmony in my marriage.” If you have a child who has become ensnared by drug abuse, you may think that your greatest need is for your child to be free from this addiction.

While all of these are important needs, none of them are your greatest need. The greatest need of every person, whether he recognizes it or not, is to have God forgive his sins before he dies and faces God’s eternal punishment.

        Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark encourages us to notice the crowd in this house, or the four men who cared enough about this man to go to a lot of trouble.

What did Jesus see? NOT a man with physical ailments, BUT someone who needed his sins forgiven!

Don’t miss this point! Our greatest need? Forgiveness of sins.

Health, adequate money, and a happy family are wonderful blessings, but if you die without God’s forgiveness, these blessings will be useless. Your greatest need is to know that God has forgiven your sins and that you are reconciled to the holy Judge of the universe.

The subject of knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins is so important that the enemy of our souls has worked overtime to sow seeds of confusion and error. Our modern pagan society often deals with the problem of guilt by telling us that we don’t need to worry about it.

In other words, since guilt doesn’t make me feel good about myself (which is my aim in life), when my conscience condemns me, tell it to take a hike. Rather than being ashamed about our sins, we now celebrate them under the guise of being “true” to ourselves.

Another ploy of the devil is to get us to invent a god who is not perfectly holy and to view ourselves as basically good people. This god is tolerant and loving. He couldn’t possibly condemn a nice person like me!

Of course, I’m not perfect, but compared to terrorists who blow up innocent women and children and perverts who abuse little children, I’m not so bad. So I can excuse my relatively “minor faults” and dismiss my need for God’s forgiveness.

Satan also sows confusion about God’s forgiveness under the guise of religion. All of the world’s non-Christian religions, some branches of Christianity, and all of the cults that claim to be Christian teach that we must do something—fasting, prayer, penance, self-denial, good works—to help pay for our sins and to earn God’s favor. Often religious people base their hope of forgiveness on the fact that they have faithfully performed certain religious rituals for many years.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul is saying, In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the abundant forgiveness of all our sins.

re·demp·tion   [ri- demp-sh uhn] NOUN

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  1. repurchase, as of something sold.

Before we consider the meaning of Paul’s words here, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these truths for your life. If you try to seek God’s forgiveness in any way other than what Paul here states, you will waste your time and endanger your soul.

If your hope of heaven rests on anything that you must do to earn it, you will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me” on that great day. If, as a Christian, you do not understand and live daily in light of the truths that Paul here sets forth, you will not grow in godliness. You will be defeated by sin and guilt. So these truths are vital for a healthy Christian walk.

In Christ we can have redemption.

So, if you lack redemption or forgiveness of your sins, you will not find it anywhere except in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

REDEMPTION MEANS THAT CHRIST PAID THE PRICE TO FREE US FROM THE PENALTY AND POWER OF SIN.

We use words such as “redeemer” or “redemption” as religious terms. But when the man of the first century heard them he immediately thought in non-religious terms.” It brought to mind the common picture of a slave being purchased and then set free. Redemption meant release from bondage by the payment of a price. Every Gentile in the Roman world would have thought of this when he heard the word, “redemption.”

The word also has roots in the Old Testament, which refers to a “kinsman-redeemer.” For example, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s family property, due to debt, had fallen into other hands. Because she had lost her husband, she could not afford to recover it. Boaz was a near relative who had the right to redeem the property by paying the price, which he did.

In other Old Testament contexts, God is seen as the one who redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 6:6). As you know, the Jews had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. It was a picture of our redemption through the blood of Christ.

Paul uses the word in a spiritual sense to refer to Christ’s paying the price of our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. We were helplessly, hopelessly enslaved to sin and under God’s just condemnation. But with His own blood Christ paid the penalty to release us from bondage. We now belong to Him.

Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.

If someone offered you a gift that was worth thousands of dollars and you reached in your pocket to give him a penny to pay for it, you would insult him. Jesus graciously paid it all. We can do nothing except to receive His gift and then live every day in light of what He so graciously and generously did for us.

WE CAN KNOW AND ENJOY OUR REDEMPTION RIGHT NOW.

Paul does not say, “In Him, someday we hope to be redeemed.” Nor does he say, “We’re working at obtaining redemption, but we don’t know yet if we’ll get it until we see whether our good works tip the scale.” Rather, he says, “In Him, we have redemption.” It is our current possession and experience.

Knowing that should fill us with joy and gratitude and love for Christ. It should remove any fear of judgment and fill us with hope beyond the grave. It should motivate us to be holy. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, God wants you to know and enjoy the fact that He has redeemed you from bondage to sin.

So the issue is, either you trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross as the full payment for your sins, or when you stand before God at the judgment, you must pay for your sins through eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

There will be no second chance (Heb. 9:27). That is why making sure that you have redemption through the blood of Jesus is your greatest need! Paul goes on to elaborate on what such redemption means:

Redemption through Christ’s blood is according to the riches of God’s grace, which He lavished on us.

The word “lavished” may be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God’s forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. If you have trusted Christ as your sin-bearer, and responded to Him through faith that culminates with an immersion in water in order to have sins forgiven, Paul wants you to experience the extravagant, lavish undeserved favor of God in forgiving all of your sins.

We sometimes sing the old hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Either that’s true or it’s not. If the blood of Jesus does not wash away all of our sins completely, then we’re all in a lot of trouble, because we all have a lot of sins to deal with.

If it only atones for minor sins, what good is that? “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.” Thank God that is true! Cling to it and live it each and every day!

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
6  GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—
7  loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”

We read and quote John 3:16 (ESV) all the time: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But we also need to take to heart verse 17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

———————————–

When A. J. Gordon was minister of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”

The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”

Gordon offered to buy them, and the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”

Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”

“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”

The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Sermon

 

Searching for direction…It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative.


A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge.  “Forget it,” the man finally said.  “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?”

Is it possible that Time magazine was right when they described the Bible as a book “more revered than read”?

The Bible needs to be treasured, but more than that it needs to be internalized. It provides the eternal road-map to heaven, which certainly ought to be the direction we’re wanting to travel.

life-directions1There is something wonderful about a beaten-up heavily marked, tattered Bible. Madeleine Delbrel, the French activist who lived a little more than a generation ago, stuffed her Bible with snapshots, clippings, ticket stubs, postcards and other detritus to remind her that she was praying in the world of people and events. She called these scraps “icons of humanity” that prompted one to celebrate the “liturgy of life.”

It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative. It’s not about sitting around until you are absolutely certain God is calling you to a particular task, direction, country, or ministry. Nor is it waiting for the doors to open so you can go there easily. Planning is an act of faith. Jesus never told his disciples to wait for an invitation. He told them to go. [1]

We must realize that you cannot pull people uphill who do not want to go; you can only point up.  We must come to see each day as David Brainerd saw it: “As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”

Dr. Reid Vipond of Canada shares a story of an oil company that needed a suave public-relations man for its office in the Orient. After interviewing several candidates, the officials decided to ask a local missionary to take the position. Company executives met with this man of unusual gifts. Whatever their proposition, his answer was always “No.” “What’s wrong?” asked one interviewer. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary replied, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t.”

Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, gave a great talk to the University Retirees Association. He told them about a friend of his in Southern California who was coaching a basketball team where out of 15 of the young men, 10 had never known a father.  He noted how he and his fellow coaches were spending more time trying to be daddies to their players than coaches.

Then Krzyzewski said, “Things are in too big a mess in the American family for you people to be sitting around playing bridge, or moving to some retirement community in Florida.  We need you.  We need your wisdom, your patience, your free time.  We need you to be adopting kids, stepping up and taking responsibility for kids that, while they may not be your own, they are all of our responsibility.”


[1] Brother Andrew in The CallingChristianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 8.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 11, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Faithful Prayers – James 5:13-18


James closes his letter as he began it, with a call to prayer.

In James 1:5, after an opening challenge about joy in trials (which can easily be shown as a description of prayers of praise), he urges believers specifically to pray for the wisdom they need in becoming mature. James informs us that God will give generously that kind of wisdom without blaming us for our lack. The sole requirement is a faithful trust in God’s supply.

Later, in 4:1-3, James addresses the kind of selfish prayers that God does not answer. His confrontation is unmistakable: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (4:3 niv). Prayer is an essential tool, but it cannot be used to manipulate God.

James uses his closing words to describe effective prayer. He details prayer in several forms (praise, intercession, confession) and connects prayer with several other important spiritual disciplines (healing, confession, anointing, correction, praise, and mutual forgiveness).

If we can say that James’s letter summarizes the work of faith, his conclusion focuses on faith’s finest work—believers effective in prayer.

13  Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.

There are many responses to trouble. Some of us worry; some of us vow revenge against those who have caused the trouble; some of us let anger burn inside us. Some grumble.

But James says the correct response to trouble is to pray (see also Psalm 30; 50:15; 91:15). This is not necessarily a prayer for deliverance from the trouble, but for the patience and strength to endure it.

There are three main reasons for not praying when we realize we are in trouble: ignorance, arrogance, and shame.

If we do not know that God wants us to pray when we are in trouble, we are simply ignorant of Scripture.

If we do not pray when we are in trouble because we are trusting in our own resources to get ourselves out, we are being arrogant.

And sometimes we may want to pray but are ashamed because the trouble we are in is our own fault.

James gives permission and encouragement to those who are ignorant. He urges submission to those who are arrogant. And he reminds those who are ashamed that God is full of compassion and mercy (5:11). To all of us he commends prayer.

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

James says that if we are fortunate enough to be happy, we should thank God by singing songs of praise (see also 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer.

These songs of praise can be the formal Psalms from the Old Testament, or spontaneous personal creations that express some aspect of God’s character or our response to him.

The quicker we are to blame God for misfortune, the slower we are to praise God when good things happen. Some of us take our happiness too lightly. We accept it as if it is our due or simply the product of our efforts. In happiness, it is easy to forget God.

But a real appreciation of happy times will lead us to recognizing their source. If prayer is to be our constant communication with God, then happy times should naturally add rhythm and music to our expressions of thanks and praise to him.

14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

One characteristic of the early church was its concern over and care for the sick. Here James encourages the sick person to call for the elders of the church for counseling and prayer. The elders were spiritually mature men who were responsible for overseeing local churches (see 1 Peter 5:1-4). These men would pray over the sick person, calling upon the Lord for healing. Then they would anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Jesus himself instructed us to pray in his name (John 14:14). As the elders pray for this one who is sick, they are to voice clearly that the power for healing resides in the name of Jesus.

Many of the details in this passage have to be consciously applied in our own age. James wrote to people in rather small communities, bound tightly by language and culture. We live in communities marked by isolation—even from people living next door. The early church practiced house calls.

Contact, prayer, appeals to the presence and power of God, expectations of God’s direct intervention, and healing were part of daily life. The life of faith really was a life-style, not a weekend component of a compartmentalized life that fits God into one’s weekly schedule for a couple of hours on Sunday mornings.

A literal practice by church leaders of James’s guidelines for healing prayer would make churches much more personal and effective.

The sick person here is incapacitated physically. Anointing was often used by the early church in their prayers for healing. In Scripture, oil was both a medicine (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37) and a symbol of the Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings; see 1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Thus the oil may have been a sign of the power of prayer, and it may have symbolized the setting apart of the sick person for God’s special attention.

More important than the oil itself, however, the key function of the elders is their prayer for the sick person, as evidenced in the verses that follow.

5:15 The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.

The prayer must be from the heart, sincere, with trust in and obedience to God behind it, and with no doubting, as in 1:5-8. The believing is the role of the elders who are praying, not the sick person’s (nothing is said about his or her faith). It is possible that the sick person’s faith is exercised in calling the elders. Also, if there is need for confession, the elders will be able to minister to the individual. The process insures dependence of believers on each other.

The Lord will raise him up.

Not the elders or the oil, but the Lord himself does the healing. Does this mean that every prayer for healing guarantees that God will make the sick person well?

It must be emphasized here that the prayer offered is a prayer offered in faith—not only the faith that believes God can heal, but also the faith that expresses absolute confidence in God’s will. A true prayer of faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty in his answer to that prayer.

It is not always God’s will to heal those who are ill (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). A prayer for healing must be qualified with a recognition that God’s will is supreme.

It is shameful to find Christians hesitating to pray because God might not heal the way they wish. It is not our role either to decide how God will answer our prayers or to excuse him if our human desires are not met.

Trusting God only as long as he cooperates with our plans is no trust at all. The prayer offered in faith gives God a free hand to work. Because believers have an eternal viewpoint, we can claim the absolute certainty of this promise—God can and will heal, though not always in this world.

In the afterlife God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4 niv).

To limit God’s answers only to this world would indicate that we are trying to make God submit to our needs and desires in this life rather than submitting to him.

There would no longer be the internal conflicts, and fellowship would be strong and supportive. Those who are sick may be healed (nrsv), and the church would be unified in its prayer efforts.

The recent emphasis on small groups within churches has risen largely from a need to recapture some of these basic features of life in the body of Christ that have been neglected.

When Christians are really working to “carry each other’s burdens,” the world does take note, and we come closer to fulfilling “the law of Christ” (see Galatians 6:2 niv). Loving your neighbor as yourself does include, above all else, praying for him or her.

WHY CONFESS SIN?

Christ has made it possible for us to go directly to God for forgiveness. But confessing our sins to one another still has an important place in the life of the church.

If we have sinned against an individual, we must ask that person to forgive us.

If our sin has affected the church, we must confess it publicly.

If we need loving support as we struggle with a sin, we should confess the sin to those who are able to provide that support.

If after confessing a private sin to God we still don’t feel his forgiveness, we may wish to confess that sin to a fellow believer and hear him or her assure us of God’s pardon.

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

The prayer is effective because the person who is praying is righteous. The person is not sinless, but he or she has confessed known sins to God and is completely committed to him and trying to do his will. Again, we can say that the righteous person gets what he or she wants in prayer because he wants what God wants.

The Christian’s most powerful resource is communication with God through prayer. It is the instrument of healing and forgiveness and is a mighty weapon for spiritual warfare. The results are often greater than we thought were possible.

Some people see prayer as a last resort, to be tried when all else fails. Our priorities are the reverse of God’s. Prayer should come first.

Some see prayer as a way to obligate God to give whatever they claim in faith. God is pleased to use our prayers to accomplish his purposes and he delights in answering our needs, but he is never bound by our prayers.

God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, so it only makes sense to rely on it—especially because God encourages us to do so.

17  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
18  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Prayer is indeed powerful—remember Elijah? The story is found in 1 Kings 17:1-18:46. Elijah had great power in prayer. A drought came as a sign to evil King Ahab of Israel that the idol Baal did not have power over the rain, God did. And when Elijah prayed, it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Then he prayed for rain, and the heavens gave rain (niv).

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 8, 2019 in Prayer

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? James 1:1-5


The Omniscient God knew that His people would have to suffer persecution, and even death for some of them, at the hands of their enemies, in a godless world. He made certain to make known that fact so we’d know that their (our) suffering would not be in vain.

 (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 NIV)  Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. {2} And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. {3} But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

 Acts 17:27 (153 kb)(2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

 (Revelation 2:12-13 NIV)  “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. {13} I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.

Life just doesn’t seem fair. It’s often the very best people we know who go through the worst things we can imagine. All too often it seems that the crooks get away with their meanness and even seem to have a pipeline of blessings coming into their lives.

Our human sense of logic would like to pigeon hole everything to such a degree that when people are having troubles we can know they aren’t doing right or they wouldn’t have such things happen.

  • Of a Christian in business and it goes bankrupt. Many will look at it and say something had to be wrong with the way they were living or such a thing would never have happened.
  • Of parents whose children become tyrants. We have a tendency to declare them unfit parents of their children wouldn’t have made such a horrible error.
  • Of couples in marriage. One leaves. The marriage falls apart. People begin to wonder about the Christianity of the one who was left. Must not have been living right or the other one would never have left. In so doing we ignore the teachings of the Bible.

 (1 Corinthians 7:14-15 NIV)  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. {15} But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

 Remember the disciples when they saw the man born blind.

John 9:1-5: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. {2} His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” {3} “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. {4} As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. {5} While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Silly question. What could he have done before birth to have violated God’s will and cause him to be born blind? Jesus declared, “Neither”. They had missed the whole point.

 But there is no doubt good people suffer, are persecuted, are hated by the world, are mistreated by neighbors and fellow workers and generally have problems. Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?

 BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A WORLD INFLUENCED BY SATAN.

When sin entered the world at Eden its affects passed on all, even those who hadn’t sinned.

(Genesis 3:16 NIV)  To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

 God told Adam (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. {18} It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. {19} By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Much of what happens that is bad is simply because we live in the world we do. Satan is powerful. His reign has been upset and he is like a tyrant over some country who has been voted out of office and is mad at the whole world now. Whatever he can do to cause pain and agony he is ready to do it. This is what Satan does when he controls.

 BECAUSE TROUBLES CAUSE US TO GROW.

If only good came to those who do good, we would become soft and tender footed in our spiritual life. One of the things wrong with the whole health, wealth and prosperity gospel is that it brings people into Christianity for the wrong reasons. They want something, which solves all their problems.

 But trials produce endurance. They bring a spiritual toughness to us.

(James 1:1-5 NIV)  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. {2} Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. {5} If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

 Persecution causes us to turn to God many times.

(Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. {12} Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 (1 Peter 4:14 NIV)  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

 Suffering turns our hearts to the Lord.

(Psalms 119:67 NIV)  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

 (Psalms 119:71 NIV)  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

What needs to happen for us is for us to glory in our tribulation, since such troubles bring perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint us.

 (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. {3} Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

We are more than conquerors in all the tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword.

 (Romans 8:35-37 NIV)  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? {36} As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” {37} No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 CONCLUSION

Whatever the reason we have the troubles or bad things, which happen, the result can be marvelous. Our light, momentary afflictions work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

 (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. {17} For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {18} So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 Our afflictions remind us what we already have in this life and that we certainly don’t want to go to a place where that is all there is.

 I may never understand all the why’s of this life, but God still loves me and  He longs to get me ready for an eternal home with Him. Are you ready to meet the Lord today?

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 4, 2019 in Church, Encouragement

 
 
%d bloggers like this: