Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Great Things He Hath Done

It is relatively easy to believe great things of God as in Psalm 33:6, 9:
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth....
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
It seems to be more difficult to believe great things of God when it has to do with us. These things are true:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us... (Eph. 3:20)

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:25)

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Rom. 14:4)

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Tim. 1:12)

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. (Dan. 3:17)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Alternative Forms of Worship

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
You would think this shouldn't be a difficult piece of advice to follow.

The voice of God thundered from Sinai in the second command. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exod. 20:4-6).

Within the month, the people of Israel were busily building an idol, a golden calf. It did not last long.

Rachel, Jacob’s wife, stole her father’s household gods. All of Jacob's sons had idols. "So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, 'Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.' ... So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem" (Gen. 35:2, 4).

King David’s wife, Michal, had an idol. "Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head" (1 Sam. 19:13).

Jereboam built two golden calves, one in Bethel and one in Dan.

In this age of tolerance, we have accepted foreign idols as legitimate "alternative forms of worship". To speak against the idolatry of Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism is considered bigotry, intolerance, and hatred of other people. What does God have to say about this?
Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it – let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. (Isa. 45:20-22)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Servant Leadership

There is a kind of man who has absolute authority in this world. He is the captain of a ship at sea. It makes no difference whether he is captain of a merchant ship or the captain of a navy ship.

There are two types of captains. One rejoices in the authority he has and becomes an autocrat, a dictator. The other uses his authority to become the servant of the crew. The U.S. Navy assigns the primary duty of the captain: it is the morale of the crew.

Christians in leadership positions should be servants of their followers. They should create leaders who are in turn servants of their own followers.

Friday, August 11, 2017

We Know and Rely On This

Some years ago, Bessie brought to my attention 1 John 4:16: "So we know and believe the love God has for us" (RSV).

What struck us was the two verbs know and believe. We know the love of God. We believe the love of God. The New International Version says, “We know and rely on the love of God.” Let me say it this way: We know and trust the love of God. The verse starts out with “So,” which means this conclusion is based on the previous verse. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:15-16). That is how we know, and that is how we believe.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Barb's Wire: Children with Disabilities - A Severe Blessing

Barbara Friedman was CCM's free personal evangelist in Moscow and Pullman and was on our staff from 1973 until her retirement last year. Here is one of her old ministry letters:

About two months ago, I met this mother and her blind and autistic son, his younger sister and baby sister. This family had previously been in America and had returned to their homeland. Now they were back in the States for their son’s sake. The schools in their homeland were not equipped for children with disabilities like his. The family knew that in America their son could get the help he needed. America attempts to make it possible for those who are handicapped to live as if they were not.

The mother asked me if God was punishing her because her son was born blind and with autism. Immediately I thought about that Jewish man who was born blind (John’s Gospel, chapter 9): "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" After Jesus miraculously healed this Jewish man, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the one God promised to come, and he received eternal life. His blindness from birth, rather than being a curse, was a "severe” blessing. It led to his salvation. The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29).

“No, God is not punishing you," I told her. "Rather, he has given you this son as a very special gift. Though all children are gifts from God, a child with a disability is even more so.”

She looked at me with surprise, disbelief, and “with all ears.” I told her that children born with disabilities are not the norm; they are not common. Therefore, this makes these children special gifts. I expressed that God really intended to bless her and the family when he gave them this son with his handicaps. What many would consider a curse was really meant to be a hard blessing.

Surely children born with disabilities will require special care and treatment, as well as much more love, much more patience, and much more wisdom. I explained that when God entrusts to a family one of these special gifts, He certainly wants to give them all the “much mores” they will need in order to do what is best. Then I compared human love, patience, and wisdom, which have limits, to God’s love, patience, and wisdom, which have no limits. This mother was well aware of her limits, her inadequacies, and shortcomings related to her son and his disabilities. “Your son’s needs have caused you to have needs that will require God's help as well as His comfort. When you believe in God and in Jesus, God will give you all the much more love, patience, and wisdom that you need in order to do what is best for your son and family. And to do it with joy! When you believe, this will be the first blessing your son will bring to the family.” She smiled at me.

At our next meeting, this mother asked, “What exactly is sin?” At our third meeting, she asked, “What really happened when Jesus died on the cross?” She was already in Heaven’s harbor waiting to dock. Well, she got docked! May God use her peace and joy and her new life in Christ to draw her family and others to the living God and the love of God.

Recently she mentioned how others felt so sorry or her because of her son’s situation and the suffering it must bring to the family. She said to me, “But we are not suffering because of our son. We have peace and joy.” I told her to use this as an opportunity to explain how she came to believe in the living God because of her son and how her son really has been a gift from God and a blessing from God.

"Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble...For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows" (2 Cor. 1:3-5). If any of you are in difficulty or having trouble of the kind that seems too much, too big, too awful for you, remember that God gives overflowing comfort. There is no suffering that is too much, to big, or too awful that God’s comfort cannot down. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”

Monday, August 07, 2017

Not Wishful Thinking

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)
We know that faith and love remain. Somehow we tend to have our doubts about hope. Perhaps it is because we have placed a 21st-century definition on the word hope. For instance, we may say, “I hope so,” meaning, “I wish it would happen, but it probably won’t.” To us, “hope” is wishy and doubtful. That is why it doesn’t sound like it belongs with faith and love.

In the Bible, hope is not wishful thinking; it is a sure thing.
God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Heb. 6:18-19)

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)
Notice: Hope is firm and secure. Hope is blessed. Hope is future. Hope is centered on the appearing of Jesus Christ.

In other words, hope, as spoken about in the Bible, is a glad anticipation of a future certainty, the return of Jesus Christ.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:20)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Hamlet and the Apostle Paul

Recently I have been thinking about two famous people who expressed their personal feelings about life and death. They were Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Bible’s Saint Paul. The world view and the Christian.
"To Be Or Not To Be": Words Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Phil. 1:21-25)
Notice Hamlet’s fear of life and greater fear of death and the apostle’s difficult choice; “to live is Christ” and to die “is to be with Christ.”

It is very likely you do not identify completely with either of them. Meditate on them and see if you can get closer to apostle Paul’s.

Here are some additional thoughts of the apostle Paul.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Keep Warm and Well Fed

Today I want to bring to your attention several related passages that are clearly directed to individuals or households, not to the whole church.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deut. 15:11)

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13-14)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
We have managed to evade these clear teachings by delegating the responsibility to the state, the deacons’ fund, or charitable organizations. Giving to these organizations is not the same as inviting the poor home to dinner.

Or we might get involved at Thanksgiving or Christmas and feel good about it, apparently not realizing that these people would like to eat daily. Our response is that there are too many poor people. Yes, but that is not an excuse for not taking care of one of the many. When the state takes care of the poor, the money may be there, but the love is not.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Being Trustworthy

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12)

Stealing is a common characteristic of the natural man. It is sin (Exodus 20:15), and in most countries it is also a crime. When we think of it as crime, then we are grateful that we have not been caught. When we think of it as sin, we know that we are always caught.

Most stealing is not in burglary, robbery, or shoplifting. It is in being dishonest in very little and being dishonest in much. This crime is measured as petty larceny or grand larceny. The penalty is related to the crime: petty larceny is a misdemeanor, and grand larceny is a felony. Sin is also measured in size; however, the size does not affect the penalty. The wages of sin is still death.

The very small sin leads to the great sin. We are naïve to think the dishonesty we see in the scandals that break around us started out with big sin. If what Jesus said was true, the guilty ones had not been trustworthy in little. They had been dishonest in the little things first.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Definition of the Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal. 1:6-9)
This is a good measuring stick against which we can evaluate what claims to be true. It is the Gospel that saved us. This Gospel is succinctly expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.