The Big Five-Oh!

September 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Because I am joyfully married, and because of the exalted view of marriage given to us by God in the Bible – and because I have been blessed with such a wonderful, beautiful, and intelligent wifeI love marriage. And because I love marriage, I love wedding anniversaries. This weekend my wife’s parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary! What an accomplishment, and what a glorious testimony to the grace of God in a day and age where marriage is so rapidly becoming devalued, desecrated, and even demonized.

It is truly humbling for me to consider all that my father-in-law and mother-in-law have been through in their marriage – from health issues, to financial pressures, to weather catastrophes, to relocations, to family crises – not to mention the challenges and stress of rearing four successful children (with my wife being just one example of the awesome parenting job they have done – and are still doing!)

Words like “congratulations” and “thank you” just don’t seem big enough or profound enough to express the gratitude and esteem I feel for a couple who, knowing that I was bringing far more detriment than benefit into their family when I married their daughter, still accepted me, loved me, and made me welcome. I will never be able to repay the debt I owe them for that, or for their continued love toward me and my family over the years. I could not have asked for better in-laws or for better grandparents for my children. They have set an example of faithfulness, grace, mercy, longsuffering, perseverance, kindness, generosity, and wisdom that I can only scratch the surface of describing. I thank God for them, and ask Him to bless the rest of their lives with joy, fulfillment, and peace.

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Sin and Paranoia

August 29, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The ultimate temporal consequence of sin is death. The ultimate ETERNAL consequence of sin is the “second death:” conscious torment in the lake of fire. Christians have escaped that consequence through the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even Christians must prepare to face the mortality which awaits us at the end of our journey through this earthly life.

While we long to see our Lord face to face, we cherish our earthly life, and want to avoid careless or senseless danger, but, make no mistake about it, we do place ourselves in great earthly danger when we take for granted the grace that God has bestowed upon us, and foolishly sin against Him.

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

I John 5:16

Christians should not scuttle through life in a state of abject fear, but we do need to be aware of the danger that unconfessed sin brings into our life. The difference between believers and unbelievers is not a careless disregard for our mortal safety, but a faithful assurance that the righteousness imputed to us by Christ allows us to confidently face circumstantial danger, and fiercely battle and overcome sin itself. Whereas, those who do not know Christ ought to tremble at every lightning strike, unsafe driver, outbreak of sickness, and “breaking news” alert.

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1

Living and Giving, Heeding and Proceeding

August 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

Mark 12:38-40

Just warned His disciples of the scribes, not because the scribes would try to physically harm them, but because of the temptation of behaving the way that the scribes behaved. They were proud of their way of living, but there is also a danger of pride in giving:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Mark 12:41-44

God is less interested in our portion than He is in our PROportion when it comes to our giving.

Mark 13 contains the Olivet Discourse, which deals with end-times events. Jesus gave four signs or “birth-pangs” that would mean that the “time of Jacob’s trouble” – the Tribulation – was at hand:

1. The success of false Christs

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:5-6

2. Nations in conflict
and
3. Natural disasters

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

Mark 13:7-8

4. Religious persecution

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Mark 13:9-11

This promise of Christ, that He will provide the words to speak for those persecuted for His sake, is not an excuse for those of us today to be unprepared when we know we are going to have opportunities to speak for Him.

Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Mark 13:12-13

This makes it sound as if some will be saved during the Tribulation, but we need to be watching, and we need to be prepared, not for the signs themselves, but for Jesus Himself, and we must take heed not to be deceived.

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

Mark 13:5

But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Mark 13:23

Be careful NOT to listen to men more closely than you listen to Jesus.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

Mark 13:33

Be careful of earthly “wisdom.” Remember God’s Word and do it. Always be alert and praying. The word “straightway” is used 19 times in the Book of Mark. It means to go forward, to keep moving, to keep looking for the next opportunity to serve Jesus. Movement in the Kingdom of God is His prescription for combating spiritual depression and despair.

Spiritually Disabled

August 16, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Traditionally it has come to be known as the doctrine of “total depravity.” Stated simply, it is the idea that, because of the sinful condition into which all human beings are born, our moral default mode is that we are depraved, and lack the ability to love, trust, and worship God of our own volition. However, some theologians, fearing that the words “total” and “depravity” will be interpreted to mean that every human being, unless He is supernaturally changed by God, always does the absolute worst thing he can do in every conceivable situation, would prefer to use different terminology. Because it can often be demonstrated that even the worst sinners could sin more frequently, and in worse ways, than they are presently sinning or have sinned in the past, the term “radical depravity” is offered as a substitute for “total depravity.”

However, this might also require some explaining. We tend to think of the word “radical” as an adjective which refers to something “extreme.” A kid who backflips off his speeding skateboard into the back of moving truck has done something “radical.”

radical skateboard

A political group that wants the government pay for birth control may be called “liberal,” but a group that wants the government to pay for genital mutilation surgery is “radically” liberal. This is not the sense that theologians want to convey when speaking of “radical depravity.” What they are getting at is the sense of the Latin word for “root:” radix. A person who is “radically” depraved is a person who is depraved down to the “root:” the most basic foundational level of his ontology. There is within him, preventing him from making God-honoring moral choices, a core of depravity which skews or perverts his thinking, his emotions, and his very will, toward evil rather than good.

One of the most marvelous things about God’s redeeming grace is that when He enables a person to trust Jesus Christ unto salvation, the Holy Spirit regenerates that person – completely changing his ontology, and giving him a new ability that he did not before possess: the ability to truly love and serve God.

The label “disabled,” when applied to someone who has a physical or mental infirmity, has become controversial and has the potential to offend, so I’m not trying to disparage anyone’s physical condition, but the fact is, apart from the miraculous work of God, our “natural” minds and natures are truly disabled by the consequences of sin.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 8:7

We get frustrated at people who disobey the law of God, including (far more frequently than we like to admit) ourselves. But we have to remember, people operating in their “carnality” – in their “flesh” – do not obey God because they CAN NOT obey God. They are totally disabled. Some physical and mental disabilities can be treated and even cured. However, our spiritual disability can ONLY be overcome by the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2

Listening with One Ear

July 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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There was a time when God’s people were in captivity for a period of 70 years as chastening for their disobedience and idolatry. During that time, they formally fasted and wept in the fifth and seventh months of each year. These practices were done in obedience to God’s law, but they were done halfheartedly, and God was not deceived.

Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zechariah 7:5-6

How often are we guilty of observing some type of religious routine without really doing it for the Lord? Have you ever read your Bible or done your devotions with only half of your mind engaged? Doing the assignment or reading the regularly scheduled passage without really listening for the voice of God to speak to you personally? How often do we sit through church sermons with one ear attuned to the preaching of God’s Word and the other ear tuned to other matters, drifting in and out of attentiveness as though we were attending a history lecture or a math lesson while waiting for the school bell to ring?

There is a real danger that, in our selfishness and laziness, we will miss out on what God wants us to know. His Work and His Spirit were not given for our amusement and they are not optional if we are to live victorious Christian lives. God has given us a great gift in being able to listen to His voice through the reading, preaching, and teaching of His Word. The consequences of listening casually without really hearing can be dire.

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Zechariah 7:11-14

A man with only one ear engaged when God is speaking may not necessarily hear half as MUCH as the man with two ears, but the problem is that he only hears half as WELL.

The Servant King and Servant Judge

July 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Mark, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Jesus Christ was the greatest servant of all time, but He is also the greatest King. A worldly king receives honor by making his people suffer, but the Servant King suffers FOR His own people. Jesus allowed a public demonstration in His honor knowing it would bring about His suffering and death.

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

March 11:1-6

At first glance, this looks like a God-condoned car-jacking! Can you imagine just walking up to a stranger’s car (or this case, his donkey), and driving it (leading it) away – and when the owner says, “Hey, what are you doing?” you tell him, “Jesus told me to do it!” Actually, this wasn’t a theft because the owners actually gave their consent based on the Disciples’ explanation.

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed [them] in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Mark 11:7-9

“Hosanna” meant “save now.” The crowd meant it politically and militarily, but Jesus was fulfilling it prophetically and soteriologically. The culmination of His eternal plan of redemption was going into action NOW.

Jesus was also a Judge, and now He acted as the Servant Judge.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

Mark 11:15

He cleansed the Temple, which had become a den of thieves and a place for the religious leaders to hide and conceal what they were really doing. Jesus served in judgment by cleansing the place where “undesirable” people were supposed to worship – poor people and Gentiles – because these people were being exploited and kept from drawing nearer to God by the religious leaders. Is the local church that you belong to in line for this sort of judgment? Is it a house of merchandise or a house of prayer? Has it become a place to exploit people, or is it a place for people to meet and worship God?

Moving toward the Immovable

July 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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We use the word “move” not only to describe a physical action involving going from one area to another, but also to describe something that stirs an emotional reaction in us. “That song was beautiful. It really moved me.” Or, “I was moved to tears at the sight of my newborn daughter.” In the Bible, however, the word “moved” is sometimes combined with a negative prefix to describe something which can not be shaken loose, or something that is unassailable or someone that is unchangeable in his convictions or determination. The Kingdom of God is an especially pertinent example.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Hebrews 12:28

No kingdom will ever supplant or replace the Kingdom of God. He shall reign and rule forever. Those of us who – in Christ alone – are subjects and heirs of this Kingdom have access to the grace of God, and, therefore, the power to likewise be unmovable in our service to God.

However, we must remember that a King Who rules a Kingdom which can not be moved is a mighty and awe-inspiringly powerful King, so our service to Him must never be cavalier or casual. He is worthy to be loved, yes, but He is also infinitely worthy to be reverenced and feared.

For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:29

Moses moved toward the bush which burned with fire but was NOT consumed. We have the amazing opportunity to move toward the fire which WILL consume all those who would pass it by in indifference or unfaithfulness. Even as we are moved with terror at His blazing majesty, we are invited to move nearer and nearer. This is a King in Whom safety is found not by fleeing away, but by drawing closer and closer in the grace of His Holy Prince, Jesus.

A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fail into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:11-16

A Mother’s Day Prayer

May 12, 2017 at 9:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Lord, thank you for mothers. Help us to honor their sacrifice and willingness to serve You in the calling You’ve given them (Leviticus 19:3). Please grant them special measures of grace as they fulfill a role that is so often discounted, discredited, and disparaged in our culture (I Timothy 5:14). Help them to see that the intelligence and determination you’ve blessed them with would be more than sufficient for heading up a corporation or organizing a movement or building an enterprise (Proverbs 31:13-31), but then help them also to recognize that You have called them to a mission field of even greater importance (Proverbs 1:8): a husband, home, and children for the mothers who are married; and children and a church family for those moms who are single. Help them to see the great value and importance that You have assigned to them personally as women and mothers, and to see the eternal significance of the tasks with which You’ve entrusted them (I Timothy 2:15). May they have the joy of seeing their children becoming disciples of Jesus (Proverbs 6:20), and the deep satisfaction of knowing that their children walk in light and truth and never in darkness and deceit (III John v.4). Lord, may those of us who are men seek to serve and love and encourage and support the mothers in our lives – our wives, our own mothers and grandmothers, and the single mothers in our church family. We see Your glory in them, and we praise You for Your love. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Don’t Teach Finesse

May 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Previously I discussed the dangers of teaching the Bible to children the way we would teach fables, and of the danger of teaching them that the Bible is merely a sounding board for our feelings. Now we will see that we must also beware of the temptation to teach obedience to God as though it was part of a reward system, or a quid pro quo bargaining chip.

This is an especially dangerous teaching method because of the way even adults, through the so-called “health and wealth gospel” or the “Word of Faith” movement, have been seduced into this way of thinking: “I’ll obey You, God, but I need You to give me something in return” (good health and money being the two favorites). We see this train of thought subtly insinuated in promises to get blessings for giving, for ministry, even for faithfulness.

The problem is not really in teaching that God blesses, and even honors, faithfulness. The problem is in slapping our definition of “blessing” onto God’s greater and higher definition of blessing. Children who are taught that God is just aching to give them what their flesh craves are susceptible to developing a mentality of “gaming the system” – of trying to bribe or outsmart God.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

I Timothy 6:6-10

A love of money or any material thing (which amounts to the sin of greed) will bring sorrow instead of joy into the hearts of your children. Let’s teach our children that knowing and serving God is a blessing unto itself, and that even poverty and suffering may be counted as true blessings under His promises.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

Luke 6:20-21

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