Category Archives: Biblical truth

Who saw it coming?

I was just commenting a few weeks ago to a friend how that back when I was a kid we’d hear sermons at church about prophecies of the end times from the book of Revelation. We’d wonder what it would be like? Since then we’ve had books like the The Late Great Planet Earth  and later the Left Behind series. People put forth all sorts of ideas. We read about the beasts, the antichrist. Some older literature says that the beast will be the Popes or the Catholic religion. Some thought it would be communism or some future political power arising from a unified Europe. Others suggested a literal rebuilding of the old city of Babel in Iraq, others have suggested a revived Islamic empire. No one imagined that it might be America…

We read about a great apostasy. We imagined some external enemy – communists, maybe secular humanists, New Agers, or more recently, Muslims, coming after Christians, coercing people to join them. But we never imagined  what is happening now. We never imagined the destruction would come from within the church itself. We didn’t forsee the transformation into entertainment centers, run by secular business principles. Nor did we imagine the mysticism, occultism, and feel-good fairy tales that would replace sound Bible teaching. We didn’t imagine that worship would be replaced with sensual musical performances. Or that doing good deeds would replace the need for a Savior.

Who knew?

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under apostasy, Biblical truth, signs of the times

Christians, buck up!

Bamboo- the more you cut it, the more it grows.

As I have traveled and talked with a lot of people in the first of my worlds during the last couple of months, many have expressed concern over the way things are going in this country, not just politically and economically but more specifically they find a growing intolerance of the Christian faith. Many feel fearful thinking about what may lie ahead. But today I was challenged that we need to buck up, because we serve a mighty God who is perfectly capable of providing for His own.

Today in Sunday school there was a guy from China speaking. He was apparently raised as an atheist as most Chinese are now days. He said he enjoyed reading western literature (for college?). He noticed there were a lot of quotes from the Bible and references to Jesus in the  literature he was reading. He became curious about the Bible and wanted to get a copy to read. But they had been destroyed during the cultural revolution of 1967-77 and he couldn’t even find a copy in the library. Eventually he did get ahold of an old beat up Bible from a friend, one which had survived the cultural revolution. He read it and began to wonder if maybe there really was a God. He then came in contact with some Christians in one of the Three-Selves church (the gov’t official church) and he became a Christian. A few years later he went to seminary, a Three Selves (3S) church seminary in Nanjing and also studied abroad. Later he became a professor at a seminary and taught for nearly a decade.

There are two kinds of churches in China, the official government sponsored 3S Church (about 15 million people) and the house churches (about 60-70 million). The 3S stands for Self-governing, Self-supporting, Self-propagating. It sounds good but the problem is that it is controlled by communism.

He said that on the surface the 3S church may look to Amerian tourists to be “free” and very similar to American churches with choirs, etc. But the difference is that the 3S churches are government controlled. The government decides who can attend seminary and who can be ordained and even who can be baptized. He said that in the 1990’s came what is called the “reconstruction of theology” movement in the 3S seminaries. It basically changed two things 1) justification by faith and 2) authority of Scripture.

According to this movement, all religions must be compatible with socialist society, and must not be exclusive. So instead of preaching that mankind is sinners and needs to be justified by faith they must preach that the important thing is to be nice to other people. In essence they created a new doctrine: man is justified by love.

The other thing is that they would teach that the Bible is just human words. They are not allowed to preach from Revelation or about the judgment, and not too much about sin.

Anything sounding familiar? It struck me as he talked that perhaps that is where this country is also going – to a centrally controlled or government controlled church, dictating what can and cannot be preached, moving towards a theology of justification by “love” with ridicule, harassment and possibly even persecution for those who do not conform or who believe the Bible is God’s authoratative Word.

He said that he realized that teaching went against the clear teaching of the Bible and eventually he decided that he had to stay true to Scripture and leave the 3S church, and his job. He began meeting in his house with 4 other believers. Eventually they were cramming 60-70 people into their small living room! They divided and became two and those two also eventually divided until now there are 13. He said they focus on Bible training, worship and prayer. They don’t have buildings and they don’t have complex structure.

He also told me later that because of his Hebrew and Greek background he is helping with the new Chinese Standard Bible translation that is being done in simplified Mandarin. The New Testament is now available and the Old Testament is in process.

He didn’t say much about persecution other than to say that it seems less now than it had been in the recent past. When questioned, he said that yes they are monitored, their phones and emails are monitored. He said small groups may stay under the wire as long as they stay small but once a group gets to 100 people or more it gets a lot of attention from the authorities.

One of his companions told me that he doesn’t like to speak about his own persecution, he doesn’t like to think of it as a big deal. But she said he had spent time in prison because he started writing articles against the reconstruction of theology movement. He was also a leader of a group of home churches. When he leaves home he has to always be prepared to possibly not be able to come back. She said he did not call his family on this trip because their phone will be monitored. (I think he will be speaking at a conference next week in Chicago). But his attitude is that he will not be fearful because the God of the universe takes care of him. He will not fear the authorities because he is on the right side and they are the ones in danger.

It is a real encouragement to me to hear Chinese believers like him telling of their ministry and their desire to continue to follow the Lord despite the harassment, and even threat of persecution and imprisonment. I find it humbling and at the same time immensely encouraging and challenging. They have survived communist persecution and thrived. So come on, folks, let’s buck up! Our brothers witness that God is taking care of His children in China. And that same God can certainly take care of His children in this country too, no matter what happens!

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Biblical truth, cross-cultural, discernment, God's sovereignty, scripture twisting, signs of the times, sola scritura, suffering

The Jesus of our imagination

I just watched a youtube video of a pastor of a megachurch scolding some members of his congregation for wanting more in-depth Bible teaching. He excoriated them for being “fat” with spiritual knowledge and seemed to assume that that knowledge wouldn’t be used. He said we just need to know “Jesus” and didn’t need to worry about stuff like propitiation or justification but instead we should invite people to  church [presumably his] so they can know “Jesus”. It made me wonder what “Jesus” they will know? Seems to me that justification, propitiation, sanctification, and all those other big words are vital parts of understanding who the Jesus of the Bible is.

A lot of people do seem to be following a Jesus of their imagination. I remember talking with a guy who was cutting my hair who said that as long as you loved everybody and believed in “Jesus” you were okay. He thought people should just live how they wanted to and not be accountable for anything as long as they “loved”. (Unfortunately I have observed that actions which one person thinks of as “love” are not always perceived as “love” by others – but that’s another topic!) A young woman recently justified shacking up with a boyfriend by saying that “Jesus” understands how much she “needs” a man and wouldn’t condemn her for doing that.

Seems to me though, that one of the problems with everybody just imagining a “Jesus” they like, sooner or later somebody’s “Jesus” will conflict with somebody else’s “Jesus”. One “Jesus” is okay with indiscriminately mowing down the enemy combatant and civilian alike saying that “Jesus” will sort them out. Another man’s “Jesus” is okay with aggressive fund raising for a non-existent orphanage. Another person’s “Jesus” becomes the rallying point for political documents, actions, and causes while still others have a “Jesus” who is the rallying point for political documents, actions, and causes which are the polar opposite.

Can the “Jesus” we imagine really save us from the wrath of God? Can a “Jesus” of our imagination transform us? Can we trust a “Jesus” of our imagination? When circumstances change or we become old or sick and our minds and imaginations are numbed with pain, fatigue, weakness, what will become of the “Jesus” of our imagination?

Let us not “imagine” Jesus, let us know Him!

Philippians 3:8-11  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, apostasy, Biblical truth, signs of the times, sola scritura

Lessons from Job

Recapping the story, Satan saw Job, the righteous man. In fact it was God who brought it up “Have you considered my servant Job? There’s nobody like him on earth. He’s blamess, upright, fears Me and turns away from evil.”

Satan said, “Of course he does, because You have blessed him and made him rich and prosperous. Try taking that away and see how faithful he is!”

God gives him permission to do so but with limitations, ie he can’t harm Job himself. So in the course of a day Job loses all his livestock (his wealth) and all his children. Of course he is in shock and sorrow but he still acknowledges God as sovereign and the source of all, and worships Him.

God again pointsjob-boils out to Satan that Job remains faithful and righteous despite undeserved misfortune. Satan asks to touch him physically, sure that he will curse God. God again grants permission, with limits – he cannot take Job’s life. So Job gets covered with boils.

Lesson 1: God puts limits on what Satan can do to us.

Lesson 2: Suffering is not just about us. There is a cosmic aspect to it.

I once had a large twin boil in a place where those who need to sit a lot can least afford it. I can testify to the exquisite pain. But to have them from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head????!!! Job is in such a state that his wife advises him to curse God and die. Yet Job says we should accept all that God gives us, not only blessing but also adversity.

Lesson 3: All that happens, good and bad, is allowed by God.

Job’s  three friends come to comfort him but they are so appalled at his condition that they weep and tear their robes and throw dust in the air. They sit there in silence for a week. Then in chapter 3 Job begins to speak. He is in despair, in pain, despairing of life itself. His friends begin to answer him one by one. At first they gently remind him of God’s justice and how He punished evil. Job answers that he is innocent.

They come back a bit stronger and say that God knows all and is just and He blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. Job agrees that God is just but still declares his innocence and wants to defend his case before God.

The friends get more annoyed at his protestations of innocence and come back accusing him of wrong doing and saying he needs to repent. Job again protests that he is innocent and goes over how good his life was before and how he lived upright before God and men and how humiliating it is now. He again longs to be able to present his case before God.

So Job’s three friends were no help. Their answer was that God punishes evil. Therefore Job must have done evil and should repent of it.

Lesson 4: Man thinks suffering is punishment from God. (but that’s not the whole picture – see below.)

There was also a fourth guy present, Elihu, who seemed not so well known by Job and his friends. So he waits patiently until the others have had their say. Elihu gives a long rebuke to Job and his friends. He says that it is wrong to blame God for being unjust. God is compassionate. In fact He uses pain and suffering to warn men, to keep them back from the pit. He chastens men with pain, He reminds men what is right.

Lesson 5: God is just. He is also compassionate. He uses suffering  to warn us and to remind us of what is right so that we will not go to eternal destruction.

And the God speaks. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … Are you able to command the lightening? … Are you able to lead the constellations in space?”

Who can answer back to God? Who can instruct Him? Can we tell HIm a better way to run things? His ways are unsearchable. His knowledge beyond our ability to grasp.

Lesson 6: God is totally and absolutely beyond what man can comprehend. “Sovereign” does not begin to cover it!

Lesson 7: We are to trust in WHO God is, and not trust in blessings or experiences – nor are we to trust in our own perspective of things.

Job repents.

Lesson 8: Even when you think you are innocent, you don’t have the whole picture. Remember that before accusing God of wrong-doing!

God restores Job’s fortunes – doubled them in fact.

Lesson 9: God is good. God is just.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, suffering

Scripture more important than prayer

2008-06-12-lake-w-rainbowA few months ago I was listening to a sermon where the pastor was saying that prayer was THE most important thing in the Christian life. I was in the pew thinking, that no, actually, Scripture is probably more important because without it we don’t even know how to pray, nor do we know to Whom we are praying. Ironically, the pastor backed up all his points with, you guessed it, SCRIPTURE!

Reading through Nehemiah the other day, I noticed that after the walls were rebuilt, they had a revival. And what led to this revival? In chapter 8 Ezra read the Scriptures. From early morning until midday he read. And the people listened attentively. They wept as the Scriptures were interpreted and explained. In chapter 9 all that reading of Scripture was followed by a long prayer of confession of sin and a recital of their history of rebellion and God’s greatness and His history of compassion and forgiveness. This time of prayer was then followed by chapter 10 were the people made commitments to change in areas they were sinning. They took action to reinstitute proper worship, observation of the sabbath, bringing in tithes, separating from foreign marriages, providing for the on going temple worship.

Anybody can pray without Scripture, the pagans, animists, and adherents of other religions do it all the time. But without Scripture our prayers are very me-centered. “God, give me and mine health, wealth, safety.” But from Scripture we learn all about WHO we are praying to. A God who is almighty and all-powerful. A God who is holy and doesn’t tolerate sin. Yet a God who is compassionate and loving and full of mercy to those who hope in Him. We learn of a sovereign God who works all things (ALL things, good and bad) for His purposes. We learn of HIs purposes, that we become a holy people, that His salvation be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, that people everywhere repent and believe the gospel. We learn that prayer offered in faith is very effective. We learn about perseverance in prayer. We learn that obedience is better than sacrifice,  we learn that our sins hide God’s face from us. We learn about how to pray, how to praise.

But stopping at Scripture and prayer is not enough. We also need to take action. In my case, it may be different from those in Nehemiah’s day, depending on what conviction of sin the Holy Spirit brought to my heart through the Scripture. Revival is not complete without action being taken to correct the wrong that I am doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean add new programs, new activities, but rather to STOP doing what is wrong and DO do what is right.

So let us dig out our Bibles and let revival begin!

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, prayer, sola scritura

Why is it getting so hard to go to church?

Lately I have been finding it harder and harder to go to church.

When was a kid, we went to Sunday School and then church and went back again for the evening service. We went every Sunday rain or shine (or snow) and to midweek service too. I loved Sunday School and children’s church. In college I joined a collegiate ministry and was involved in Bible studies, prayer meetings, and went to every conference, retreat and training program they ever had. As a young adult I spent two years as a missionary nurse in South America, came back for more training and went to Asia to help with Bible translation. In my early years in Asia, though at first I struggled with language, church was an oasis in the midst of a predominantly non-Christian society. You’d think I would really like church.

But too often nowdays I come out of church feeling upset and wishing I hadn’t gone.

So what happpened?

I think the thing that is most disturbing is what I can only call Bible Abuse.

I am not a world class exegete but even I can see that far too many sermons are somebody’s ideas with some Scripture tacked on it with the whole lot passed off as God’s truth. Some sermons allude, allude, allude but never ever get around to plainly stating what Scripture says. Some take Scripture and come up with jaw-dropping “applications”. Some tell so many stories that any point is lost in the constant shift in story lines. Some preach psychology. Some preach self-esteem. Some preach prosperity. Some preach that we need to do more and work harder and by leaps and bounds give us lists of 6 steps to this, 3 steps to that, 7 principles of the other.

People nowdays seem to be forever imposing stuff on the Biblical characters too. I went to a workshop about how adults learn. I was astonished to be told that Jesus used these methods. Imagine that! Those very methods – that we didn’t rediscover until the 21st century! And they showed a film to prove it! And did you know Jesus was a CEO? Did you know that He was rich and wants you to be rich? And remember Jabez and his magic prayer? But somehow when you read the Bible yourself, it’s not like that at all.

So what is going on? The Bible is treated as if it were a some magic “dust” that you can sprinkle on your talk to give it authority. If you can associate your ideas with the Bible, and tell us that Paul used that method, or better yet that Jesus used that method, then that will make it binding on us. You can be very selective too. Look at all the verses on God’s love – and ignore the ones that talk about His hatred of sin and His justice and holiness. Not only that, you can twist a verse around and tie it in knots and make it say whatever you want it to. With a bit of practice you can even go from “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” (Psalm 136:1a) to “We must praise God [preferably with modern worship bands] so that He will then be obligated to bless us and give us what we want.”

Is this not Bible Abuse?

2 Comments

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth, scripture twisting, sola scritura

When God says "no"

April 25

We had a devotional this morning about asking God for wisdom and believing, not being doubtful. Some of us were sitting around at coffee break talking about how God works. We were talking about how sometimes it seems God has said “no” to something we prayed for. And yet we find out later that He had a better plan. He knows more than we do and so sometimes though it seems to be “no”, it is really a big “yes” in a way we couldn’t have imagined.

For example, last month my househelper’s sister was involved in a motorcycle accident and had a bad bang to the head. She was knocked out momentarily and had a huge lump on her head. Two weeks later she had an excruciating headache, was fainting, dizzy, and vomiting. They were in a panic because of the recent head injury took her to a doctor in the nearby town and he told them she probably needed surgery. Her husband started running around trying to hock the family farm to get money for surgery. So they were asking people to pray that they would be able to find somebody willing to loan the money.

Then we had them bring her to the city to see a neurologist. He examined her and told them while he could be wrong, he didn’t think she was bleeding in her head (he didn’t do x-ray) but that her blood pressure was really high and he thought that was the cause of her symptoms. So he put her on blood pressure medicine.

The husband wasn’t able to find anybody to hock the farm – and it seems now, 3 weeks later, that the blood pressure was indeed the problem.

So here was a case where the prayer was to be able to find someone to rent the farm and the answer seemed to be “no”. Yet, after all, God knew there was no need to rent it out.

A colleague of mine has stomach cancer that had already spread to the liver and lymph nodes when diagnosed a year ago. He’s not doing too well right now and he had wanted a good friend of theirs from here (a pastor) to come and see him. So they were able to arrange an emergency interview at the US embassy in the capital city for him this morning to get a visa. But we just heard that the visa was denied. It is such a disappointment. Yet in the context of our devotional and discussion this morning, we have to believe that God has a better plan.

This later addition (4-28): my friend died Sunday night before the pastor had a chance to reapply at the embassy. So the unneeded trip was avoided.

Can we too trust Him even when the answer seems to be “no”?

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, insights, suffering

The Padded Cross

 You mind if I look over the crosses? I’d kind of like a new one. I’m not fussy, you understand, but a disciple has to be relevant these days. I was wondering, are there any that are vinyl padded? I’m thinking of attracting others, see, and if I could show them a comfortable cross I’m sure I could win a lot more. We have to keep up with the times. Right? And I need something durable so I can treasure it always. Oh, and do you have one that’s sort of flat so it will fit under my coat? We shouldn’t be too obvious.

Funny, there doesn’t seem to be much choice here. Just course, rough wood, that’s liable to hurt. Don’t you have something more distinctive, Lord? I can tell you right now, none of my friends are going to be impressed by this shoddy workmanship! They’ll think I’m a nut or something! And my family will just be mortified!

What’s that? It’s either one of these or forget the whole thing?

But Lord, I want to be your disciple! I mean, just being with you…that’s all that counts. Life has to have a balance too, but You don’t understand, nobody lives that way today. Who’s going to be attracted by this self-denial bit? I mean, I want to do what’s right but let’s not overdo it. If I appear too radical they’ll have me off to the funny farm or something.

I mean, being a disciple is challenging and exciting and I want to do it, but I do have some rights, don’t I? Now let’s see — no blood — O.K.? I just can’t stand the thought of that, Lord. Lord? LORD? Jesus?

Now, where do you suppose He went?

 

 

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24


Well, here I am, Lord. You said, “Take up your cross,” and I’m here to do it. It’s not easy, you know, this self-denial thing. I mean to go through with it though, yes sir. I’ll bet you wish more people were willing to be disciples like me. I’ve counted the cost and surrendered my life, and …well…

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, insights, suffering

In the beginning

Sunday, while driving gingerly home in a wild and windy snowstorm, I was pondering the pastor’s Christmas sermon. Matthew showed Jesus’ geneology from Abraham, Luke took it back to Adam, but John took it back to the beginning:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

Jesus was from the very beginning, He was face to face with God. He was God.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood a it

He created all things and He is the source of life.

9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Though not everyone recognizes Him or believes that He is who John says He is, yet whoever does is given the authority to become children of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

THIS is what we celebrate: God incarnate come into the world to bring us salvation. Thanks be to God!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth, insights, sermons - inspirational

Thoughts on God’s sovereignty

God’s Sovereignty

I have been pondering the sovereignty of God lately. I was listening to a sermon where the peacher was saying how we so often think God has a “perfect will” for our lives in big things like who we marry, where we go to school, what job we take, what house we buy etc. and we agonize over these decisions and later always wonder if somehow we missed it. Yet we tend to think that the little things of life are less of a big deal. Yet, time and time again, it is those little things that determine the course of history. Like, the cry of a baby long ago from the rushes at the side of the Nile River. That baby’s cry led to the finding of Moses, and from there the world was changed. Last month a bridge fell. Amazingly few people were killed in what could have been SO much worse. Many people who were on the bridge or who might ordinarily have been on the bridge at that time commented on the little things that happened that day – a colleague running late picking them up. Working a little late to get a computer virus off a machine. Getting sick and having to call in sick for work that evening. Heavy traffic causing them to get stuck up waiting a second time at a red light. An impulsive decison to take a different route. A bus load of children stopping a very few feet from the edge of the break, not crashing into the burning truck next to it nor going off the edge on the other side.

I have been reading through the book of Isaiah recently. If there is one message there, it is of the sovereignty of God. God Himself is directly quoted in much of the book. His message is loud and clear – He hates sin and will punish it. He is holy. Yet He also determined that a way of salvation would be available for the whole world. He is loving, compassionate, and merciful. He is the Creator and has the power and authority to do as He wants to. His plans from long ago cannot be thwarted and will happen. He will even raise up people to accomplish His will who do not know Him. He will punish, yet restore. “that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,” (Is 45:6) “And all flesh will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Is 49:26b)

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good. But all things works together for good. And Who else could coordinate all the little things in all the people’s lives in all of history?

A friend recently shared some hard truths about her marriage. Their adult children confronted them, told them bluntly that their relationship to each other, which is admittedly full of conflict, has been hard on them as children, is hard on other people and does not honor God. Have they considered just getting a divorce. The husband/father responded, “But I promised I would never divorce her.” To which their son-in-law in tears responded, “But is that what you should promise? Or should it be that you promised to love her and cherish her no matter what, even to the point of sacrificing yourself?” Ouch. She sadly commented to me that she and her husband have not even talked to each other about that meeting with their kids.

It is true, my friend’s relationship with her husband is stormy, many public outbursts that are embarassing indeed for others around them. From a human perspective, especially from a 21st century Western perspective, why keep it up? The kids are grown and on their own, why keep up the charade? But yet, from God’s perspective, all things work together for good. It doesn’t mean all things are good. They are not. And it certainly doesn’t mean everything is easy – it most assuredly is not. Yet, is it possible that in this stormy relationship, God is fulfilling His good purposes? Is it possible that the friction over money is God’s way of trying to point out to the one his irresponsibility in caring for those God put in his care? Is He trying to point out to the other that her trust should be in Him and not in earthly security? Is it possible God is trying to show the one his laziness and self-centeredness and the other her manipulative ways and self-centeredness? Is it possible He is trying to teach the one to look honestly at himself and his own sins and see himself as God sees him, rather than always justifying himself and blaming others for everything? Is He trying to teach the other to forgive and to not hold grudges in the same way that He has forgiven her and is not holding grudges? And is He possibly also teaching lessons to their children, and to us their friends and colleagues?

Does God put each of us in the crucible best suited to separating the dross from the gold?

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, suffering

Hermaneutics

I think that’s Old English for “How to Interpret the Bible”! Anyway, check out Twin City Fellowship http://twincityfellowship.com/hermeneutics.php for a free 10-session downloadable course on how to interpret the Bible. You will be amazed!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth

All men are like grass

I just returned from a 2-week study tour in Israel. It was a very busy time, we travelled from Dan to Beersheba and my head is stuffed to overflowing with information! We were given a 4 inch thick notebook as well which was crammed with maps, illustrations and more information. I have not had much time yet to reflect on it all but one impression that definitely stood out was this: the place is not important, what is important is the message.

In Israel, one era is built right on top of another. You can have today’s town standing over ruins of the Ottman Turks which in turn are standing over the ruins of an earlier Muslim era which in turn are standing over Byzantine ruins, which in turn stand over Roman ruins, which may be standing over Hasmonean or Hellenistic ruins, which may be standing over ruins from the Israelite monarchy era which may in turn be standing over the ruins from David’s time which may be standing over ruins from the time of the patriarchs, and sometimes those ruins are on top of even earlier ruins.

Today all of those kingdoms have crumbled into dust.

You think of Jesus being able to see the great Roman sites of Herodium from the Mount of Olives, or Sepphoris which is walking distance from Nazareth or Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. He could see those monuments to Roman greatness and power. Yet He didn’t seem to be bothered by them or even much concerned with them, His teaching was beyond them, a universal message to all people of all ages. We saw the remains of the magnificant Roman cities of Caesarea and Beth-shan (Scythopolis), the campsites of the Roman legions which besieged Masada. Ancient Egyptian and Canaanite military outposts.

Sobering indeed to reflect on the probable fate of today’s kingdoms!

What has survived all those great kingdoms is the Word of God. In Qumran near the Dead Sea we saw caves where precious texts were hidden in jars. A very large number of them have survived nearly 2000 years and today witness to the preservation of God’s Word.

“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord
stands forever.”

1 Peter 1:24-25a

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, insights

Do you have the gift of pew-warming?

….Christians speak of “pew-warmers” in jest, yet the truth is that this is the most common “ministry” in many churches. Pew-warming did not seem to be the practice in the New Testament churches and it certainly is not the intended teaching of the Epistles. The primary function of ministry gifts is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry or, as translated in the NIV: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Watchman Nee says that it would be very difficult to find many like Paul who had five talents, and local churches may wait a lifetime to have such a “five talent” visit them even once. Yet every redeemed person has one talent unless he has buried it. That means that if only six believers gather together and each brings his one talent, the church will have more than they would have had if they had waited for the man with the five talents.[v] This illustrates the tremendous riches that are available to the church when every member plays their part…

Read the entire article at: http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch99.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth

Prayer

There’s a lot of talk about prayer these days. A lot of folk seem to be confusing prayer with meditation, even mystical meditation. See for example : http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/2007/02/jim-wallis-revolutionary-prayer.html where the author says:

But, at least for me, prayer is more often becoming a time of listening than talking. There is so much noise in our world and our lives (much of our own making); prayer becomes a quiet space enabling us to stop talking long enough to see what God might be trying to say to us. The disciplines of prayer, silence, and contemplation practices by the monastics and mystics are precisely that – stopping the noise, slowing down, and becoming still, so that God can break through all our activity and noise in order to speak to us. Prayer serves to put all the parts of our lives in God’s presence, reminding us of how holy our humanity really is. [?!!?]

Others say that prayer should be specific, concrete, detailed, out loud, and with confidence. (As if God needs to be told how to carry out His business, never mind that His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways not our ways.) Others say it is most effective when done by groups of people gathered in the same place at the same time in synergy. (As if God is a politician and pays more attention to bigger numbers of lobbyists.)

But what does the Bible say? In order to start to answer that question I did a search of the New Testament on words prays, prayer, pray, praying. (This could be expanded by also looking at words like ask, request, etc). You can do it yourself using a good concordance, or a computer Bible. I kind of organized the results according to the following topics:

When and where did people pray?
What did people pray for?
How are we to pray?
Are there postures?
Procedures?
Attitudes?
What are the results of prayer?

My preliminary results (I won’t include my list or analysis because you really ought to try this yourself!) are as follows:

When and where did people pray? There are no specific commands as to time of day, location, what direction to face, or what constitutes a quorum. People prayed in prison, in the temple, in their houses, by themselves, in groups, on the rooftops, in an inner room, in the wilderness, on mountains, on the beach, and apparently just anywhere. They were told to pray when they are sick or suffering, to sing when cheerful. Pray all the time, at midnight, night and day.

What did people pray for? Surprisingly, not as many specific concrete things as you might think. Sinners prayed for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus prayed that the cup [of His imminent suffering] might pass – yet surely He knew it wouldn’t? He more than once told His followers to pray that they would not fall into temptation, that they would have strength to escape all the [bad] things that are about to take place. People prayed for those imprisoned for their faith. They prayed for the salvation of others. Speakers in tongues should pray that they can interpret. Paul prayed glorious prayers for people’s spiritual growth: that they do no wrong, be made complete, be given wisdom and understanding, knowledge of God’s will, strength, that their love might abound, that they would be sincere and blameless and thankful, that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, that the name of the Lord would be glorified in them and they in Him. For himself Paul often asked that a door would be opened up for the word to spread, that he would be bold in speaking it. He asked prayer for protection from evil men, and that he would be released from prison, and that he could visit again for the purpose of ministering to them. We are also told to pray for rulers and authorities so that we can lead a tranquil and quiet life. We are told to pray for each other, for spiritual leaders, evangelists, and for those who mistreat us. (Anybody else out there starting to feel like your prayer life has been missing the mark???)

How are we to pray? Jesus of course gave us a model: praise, request for daily food, forgivenss for sins, help in forgiving others, that we not be tempted but rather be delivered from evil. We should devote ourselves to prayer, pray in the Spirit (after all, He intercedes for us), but also pray with our minds. We are to be on the alert (not zoned out), persevering (not losing heart, nor a once for all time prayer). Prayer is also described as supplication, petitions, requests, thanksgivings, entreaties. (Doesn’t sound much like quiet meditation, does it?) Jesus is said to have offered up prayer with loud crying and tears, the Holy Spirit also groans, so prayer doesn’t have to be silent. We are to pray in faith, to pray without ceasing. We are to pray earnestly, one guy, Epaphras, was said to labor in prayer. We are to pray without wrath and dissention – and not treating your wife right can mean that your prayers won’t be answered! We must also forgive others when we pray – or we won’t be forgiven.

Are there postures? Doesn’t seem to be. Some people stood, some knelt, some threw themselves on the ground. No mention of prayer rugs. Some lifted holy hands. No particular posture required, nor are any forbidden.

Procedures? Do not use meaningless repetition. (If it bores us, how much more must it bore God?) Other procedures are mentioned such as wearing headcoverings for women and NOT wearing head coverings for men was discussed in 1 Cor (though it’s not clear if this was for public worship or for everywhere, for leaders of public worship or everybody, whether hair is enough, etc.) Anointing the sick with oil in James. Praying for others sometimes involved putting hands on them. Other than that, nada, zip.

Attitudes? First and formost believe. Have faith. Not doubting. Yet also with humility, “not my will but Yours”. Do not lose heart. Prayer with thanksgiving is mentioned often. Rejoice. Be of sober spirit and sound judgement, alert. Be anxious for nothing. Avoid long prayers for appearance sake. In fact, in one place we are advised to go into our inner rooms and pray to our heavenly Father in secret.

What are the results of prayer? Results in peace that passes all comprehension. Sinners are justified. People regained sight, were restored from their sicknesses, released from prison, delivered from peril, food is sanctified, it rained, it stopped raining, helps other people, prayers ascend as a memorial to God, and are incense on the altar in heaven whose fragrance goes up before God. God hears the prayer of the righteous.

So, I am encouraged to pray more. I don’t need to do washings and change clothes and face east at certain times of the day. I don’t need to wait until I find a group or a prayer partner. I don’t need to wait until I am in a church or on a mountain. Even if I am somewhere where I can’t stand or can’t kneel, I can still pray. Even if I don’t know the details of what someone is going through at the moment, I can pray that “they would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith; and that they, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Wow! Wouldn’t you like people to pray that for you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Biblical truth, insights, prayer

I’m so proud of my humility

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

How do you know if someone has a problem with pride? Is there an easy fool-proof test? Yes, this is probably the easiest spiritual vise to test in another believer. Simply tell the brother that he has a problem with pride and watch the reaction! The more vehemently he denies that he has a problem in this area, the bigger his problem with pride. Only the truly humble brother will agree with you that yes, he has a problem in this area. Just think about that for a moment.

But the other side of this coin is that those who are often best at noticing the sliver of pride in their brother’s eye has the bigger beam in their own eye. So, if the above test tempted you to go out and try it out on someone else then that is a sure sign that you have a problem in this area also.

read rest of article at http://www.erwm.com/AntonBosch70.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth

Are you grateful?

Here’s article challenging us to consider how much God does answer prayer. We all have those things we have prayed for time and again, maybe even for years and it seems that God doesn’t answer or maybe is saying “no”. We tend to remember the things not answered. But we tend to forget all the times He does say “yes”.

……What I am saying is that we characteristically forget that every critical, crying Not-yet is floating on a vast, billowing sea of Yes and Yes and Yes. If you are a Christian, reading this, God has said Yes to you far more often than He has said No; and you have every reason to believe that every No conceals a because I have a better idea. Behind our every prayer, our great Mediator, our Savior, our great High Priest the Lord Jesus Christ, pleads for us before the throne (Hebrews 7:25), adding His intercession to that of the blessed Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

I am saying that we all, on occasion, make the most spoiled-rotten brat look like a Model Child, through our bursting, thunderous ingratitude. At the very least, I am saying that for myself.

Indeed, what I’m trying to say has already been said better than I could ever phrase it:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5)

Weighing God’s Yes and No
by Dan Phillips
January 26, 2007
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/01/weighing-gods-yes-and-no.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, insights, suffering

Difficult times

This quote from Charles Spurgeon is for those Christians going through difficult times in their lives.

Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.”
Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action. You cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.”
Precipitancy cries, “Do someting; stir yourself. To stand still and wait is sheer idleness.”
Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it, and expect a miracle.”

But faith listens neither to Presumption nor to Despair nor to Cowardice nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth, God's sovereignty, suffering

Conversations with Satan

The author of this article makes a good point— don’t even engage the father of lies in a conversation. Exerpts:

“It is important to recognize that he will use truth. He knows that we won’t fall for a blatant lie and so he will speak truth to us, but the truth will be laced with lies and will be twisted to mean something different. Just like a mousetrap contains real cheese or peanut butter, every snare of the Devil will begin with truth. And just like the mouse signs his own death warrant the moment it acknowledges that the trap contains real cheese, so we play with fire the moment we step aside to even listen to what Satan has to say, let alone enter into a discussion with him.

“John 8:44 says the devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Note that “there is no truth in him.” No means nothing, nil, zero, zip, nada, niks. He is so much in error that even truth becomes a lie in his mind and mouth. Even when it seems he is speaking the truth, it is not the truth because it is used in such a way to turn right into wrong and wrong into right……

“…We are dealing with a foe who is “more cunning than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). The moment he gets your agreement on one point, he has you on his side. Once he has your agreement he will begin the whole process of twisting that truth to change black to white and “thou shall not” to “thou shall.”

“…Every example of every interface between the Lord’s people and the Devil and his demons shows a resisting and standing against Satan. There is not a single example or instruction to agree with him. There can only be one who wants us to agree with the Devil and that is the deceiver himself.”

Read entire article at http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/02/conversations-with-satan.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical truth