Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Doing Good

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15 NIV)

There are three similar teachings in Titus 2. These teachings are addressed to older women, younger women, young men and slaves. Here is how they conclude:
…so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2:5 NIV)

…so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:8 NIV)

…so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:10 NIV)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if…
.. …foolish men are silent;
¨ …no one will malign the word of God;
¨ …they will have nothing bad to say;
¨ …and the teaching about Jesus will be attractive?

Check out the conditions in Titus 2.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Spiritually Discerned

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

This truth is one of the clearest means of identifying someone who is not a Christian. We hesitate (largely for politically correct reasons or for not wanting to be put into the “judge not!” category) to make that identification. Even if we never state it we should recognize at least to ourselves that this man is not a Christian.
In his preface to Androcles and the Lion, George Bernard Shaw admitted that he could not make any sense out of the New Testament unless he had a very select means of interpretation. He did not understand the things of the Spirit of God. Why not? He did not have the Spirit of God. He was brilliant but blind.

The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Years Ago

This was a letter to the Editor of the Daily News 19 years ago.

It seems that our nation has deteriorated into a state of iffy-ness on right and wrong. We think that if it is legal, it is right (abortion, 19-year-old drinking age). If it is illegal, it might be wrong on the other hand it might not be wrong (marijuana, 55 mph speed limit). It is right if it is permissive and questionable if it is restrictive. If everyone is doing it, it is okay. Peer pressure also determines right and wrong. Not only is this a relative morality (situation ethics) but it is a constantly changing relative morality and the change is downward.

Periodically there is a hue and cry against immorality based upon bad results as in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the present pressure to increase the dinking age to 21 (assuming that the “drinking” age really means “drunk” age because it is based upon the number of traffic fatalities caused by people “driving under the influence” under the age of 21). Should we also measure the number of fatalities caused by people 21 or over driving under the influence? Would that change legislation?

Many are incensed over child abuse and child pornography, some of it because of the bad results in society. The attempt is to change the laws so that people would know that these things are wrong and consequently stop it.

I am sympathetic and supportive of most of these movements but there is something inadequate about them. Even the outcry against abortion is based upon the numbers (millions) of babies being killed. If there was only one abortion would there be an outcry for a change in the law?

There is far more sexual immorality than there are abortions. Where is the outcry? Lying is wrong if it is under oath (perjury). It is only wrong if legal code says it is wrong. Whether or not the laws ever change in either a permissive or restrictive direction there are certain things that are wrong. Here are a few.

Romans 1: 29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Galatians 5: 19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debaucher; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sins, known and unconfessed

The following may apply to some of you.

Here is a reminder of sins you know about, some of which you acknowledge, but few of which you have repented of and forsaken.

1. Not loving your wife
a) as Christ loved the church, Ephesians 5: 25-33
b) as a sister in the Lord, John 13: 34,35
c) as a neighbor (as you love yourself), Matthew 22:39
d) or even as an enemy, Luke 6: 35,36
e) romantically

2. Not forgiving your wife. You need to be forgiven for not forgiving.
-Matthew 6:14 and Matthew 18:35

3. Trying instead of trusting. Trying is dependant on you, not on God. We
did not enter into the kingdom by trying or by effort. It was by grace through
faith.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.
-Colossians 2:6
We walk the same way we received, by grace through faith, zero try.

4. Pride in every area of your life
a. your knowledge of the scriptures
b. your knowledge of Christian books
c. your “up” personality
d. other people’s opinion of you
e. your profession
f. your intellect
g. your athletic ability
h. your education
i. your looks

5. Faking the fruit of the Spirit

If this does not apply to you, ignore it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a
king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will
take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will
run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of
thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his
harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his
chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and
bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive
groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain
and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your
menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will
take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you
yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out
for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in
that day." (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton

Samuel knew this from the Lord long before Lord Acton said it.

This power is not only descriptive of kings and dictators; it is also true of athletes, actors, musicians, CEO’s, church elders, and anyone else who has a great following. He can ignore the adulation of the mob and remain a servant or he can take advantage of the power vested in him by his following and be corrupted.

The temptation is great, especially if it is not recognized as a temptation. It may be recognized as God-given, as with the “divine right of kings” as with the Stuart kings. It can have other authorities, such as the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in Communism, the “superior race” in Nazi Germany, or the “Son of Heaven” in Japan. In each case absolute power led to absolute corruption.

We see today a small example of the power-corruption sequence in the Congress of the United States.

The Renaissance Popes of the 15th and 16th centuries are examples of the power-corruption sequence. The Roman Catholic Church may know the Pope is an evil man but they are convinced that he is still God’s vicar on earth. It is the same with priests on a local level. They may be evil but they are still “God-ordained” priests.

Senior pastors and CEO’s are supposedly accountable to others but because of “power” they are often, in fact, not accountable.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not
because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not
greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to
you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

What is the solution?

If these men in power were filled with the Holy Spirit we might think that would be a prevention. Or if they were handpicked by God that would do it.
Here are a few God-picked men: Abraham, Moses, Saul, and David. What did they do when they got into power? They were God-picked and filled with the Holy Spirit at one time.

The solution is for men in authority to be:
1. Indwelt with the Holy Spirit
2. Keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
3. Walk in the light as He is in the light: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)
4. Abounding in the fruit of the Spirit: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

We cannot expect the above of secular world leaders in any field. We may be disappointed but we should not be surprised when we see immorality and corruption. We should require and expect this of leaders in evangelical churches.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Try to Obey

The following is my answer to a person having difficulty living the Christian life. I find myself giving this answer frequently in person or in letters.

Listen carefully even if you have to read this several times. The key sentence in your letter is, "I have really tried most everything." The key word in the sentence is tried. That is the reason for your continued defeat. Try is a dirty, un-Christian word. It is a practice taught by the devil. It is a lie of the enemy. A person who tries is trusting himself. That is the wrong person to trust. It is impossible to trust God and try at the same time. In order to trust God we have to quit trying. You did not get into the kingdom by trying. You had to quit trying in order to be saved. What makes you think that you get into the kingdom by grace through faith, that you are now made perfect by effort or trying. You were saved by faith, you walk by faith. Let's both sing that wonderful hymn, Try to Obey. That's what we do, so let's sing it. If we sang Trust and Obey the whole congregation would be lying. "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Galatians 3:3)

"Am I just gonna have to suck it up? What do I do?" Another key sentence. The answer to your first question is, "No!" The answer to the second question is "Nothing." Your questions are wrong questions. Pay attention to the following verses. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) "... for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:16) The command is to be, not to do. Start thinking in terms of what you are. Think in terms of the indicatives in Scripture. We do out of what we are. "God is love." "For God so loved the world." God did out of who and what He is. We also do out of who and what we are. "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) The first three chapters of Ephesians are indicatives on where we are in Christ. The last three are imperatives. Live in the first three. The second three are then easy.

Who does the saving and the sanctifying?
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves," (Colossians 1:9-13)
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Whose will is more free?

Many years ago I was teaching a group of college students at Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church in Washington DC. The subject was personal evangelism. During the talk I was interrupted by a student. He said something like this: "What about the free will of man versus the sovereignty of God?"

Normally I do not answer such questions because of 2 Timothy 2:23-24, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." This time I did. I replied, "That is like adding apples and oranges. They do not compete. You have to be talking about the same thing in order to make sense."

He asked, "What do you mean?"

"If you want to talk about sovereignty then you must talk about the sovereignty of man versus the sovereignty of God. (God made man sovereign in Genesis 1:28--
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number;
fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds
of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.")
The question is, 'Who is more sovereign?'

"If you wish to talk about free will then it should be the free will of man versus the free will of God. (God had given freedom of the will to man in Genesis 2:16-17--
And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in
the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.")
The question is, 'Whose will is more free?'"

Does the woman want the baby?

If the woman wants a baby (and most of them do) then that which is conceived is a baby from the time of conception.

If the woman does not want a baby then that which is conceived is not a baby; it is only part of her body which is hers alone to do with what she wants.

This subjective way of determining truth means that someone is lying or deceived. It may be the same woman at two different times.

If women had no inherent mother instinct, but only a dead reasoning ability, they might be able to get away with this lie to themselves. But God did not make them that way.

In addition to having millions of babies in Heaven we have millions of women living in awful guilt which they are not able to justify.

There is hope!
The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also
for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who
raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have
been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we
now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans
4:23-5:2)
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

The Right to Choose

Pro-choice.
The woman's "right" to choose.
The man's "right" to choose.
The baby's "right" to choose.
There are no rights to choose. The only "right" to choose is to make the right choice, to obey God.

God said, "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13) "Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:12)

If we think we have the right to choose contrary to the explicit command of God, then we are rebellious and must suffer the consequences.

God did not add ten amendments, a Bill of Rights, to the Ten Commandments. He did it right the first time.

Under God we have responsibilities, not "rights." We have freedom but no rights to disobey God.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Jesus Had Many Lambs

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow
Anywhere that Mary went
Her lamb was sure to go
Jesus had many lambs
Their fleece was white as snow
Wherever Jesus went
The sheep considered their options

Jesus said,

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to
gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is
ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he
comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
(Luke 9:24-26)

Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And doesn't know where to find them
Leave them alone and they will come home
Wagging their tails behind them

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders
away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one
that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier
about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little
ones should be lost." (Matthew 18:12-14)

The Father is not like Little Bo Peep and we are not like her sheep. He does not leave us alone.

"... because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The First Amendment

Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." (Acts 5:27-28)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof
; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.


If the Sanhedrin had been under the Constitution they would have been guilty of "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The first thing to notice is that Congress is the only body that can violate the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law." The Supreme Court held that the first eight amendments did not apply to any state legislatures but only to the national government. After the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866, the Supreme Court has held that the first eight amendments apply to all state and subordinate governments. Even with this interpretation it is still true that no single citizen can violate the First Amendment. It only applies to legislative, executive, and judicial bodies. Selectively, courts have applied this to school teachers, but not to university professors.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Are we ready to obey God rather than man?

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at
all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for
yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than
God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and
heard." (Acts 4:18-20)

In the time of the Apostles, all through history up to the present day there have been many nations that have had both established religions and prevented the free exercise of other religions. This includes Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Communist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Jewish nations. The United States is one of very few nations that have true freedom and this is fading.

The point is not, "How can we export this freedom?" or even, "How can we keep it from fading in our country?", but "How do we act when we are prohibited from praying, preaching, and assembling?"

Are we ready and willing to obey God instead of the government and take the consequences?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Murder Rights of Moms?

Exodus 21:22-23 (New International Version)


"If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life”

Here we have an accidental premature birth, an abortion. The woman was not in the fight. The premature birth was not her intention. There are judicial consequences for the man or men who caused the injury. Both the mother and baby could be harmed. If the baby is stillborn, that is the death the text is speaking of. The injury probably is speaking of both the mother and the baby. If there is no injury, the husband/father gets to demand recompense, but the court has to allow it. If there is injury, the penalty is fixed.

The above is not intentional murder. Abortions today are all intentional murder-- premeditated. Sometimes the father of the baby is part of the pre-planning. Sometimes he does not even know. He is not consulted, nor informed, even if he is the husband of the mother. The Supreme Court of the United States affirms the mother’s right not to consult nor to inform her husband/baby’s father.

Early in 2005 in California, a father was convicted of 2nd degree murder for the intentional death of his unborn son.

We have a conundrum. If a mother murders her unborn child it is her right to do so. If a father murders his unborn child he is convicted of murder. If a mother chooses, the father does not have the right to veto, nor does he have an opportunity to be an accessory to the murder. He never even has the chance to say “yes” or “no”.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Two Lies

There are a few expressions in television advertisements that should tell us that we have a distorted, upside-down view of truth. Apparently these expressions are effective in selling products or they would cease to be used.

1. “My doctor says.”

A. In our society MD’s have great knowledge and authority.
B. The one who has the most knowledge and authority is mine. “My doctor”. It works.

2. “You deserve.”

This is the ultimate in works righteousness even when there is no works at all. All you have to be is “you”; that is everyone in front of the television set. What do you “deserve”? Something luxurious that moths will eat and rust will corrupt and thieves will break in and steal.
This lie is the same lie that the Serpent gave to Eve. “You deserve this fruit”.

I will not stand in front of the Great White Throne and say, “I deserve Heaven”.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Praise! (Part 2)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1, 2 NIV)

In this world there are sad songs, love songs and battle songs, but when it comes to singing of salvation the songs are songs of joy and gladness. David knew this when he wrote the lyrics and probably the music for Psalm 51. In it he sings,
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (Psalm 51:12 NIV)
Salvation means joy, and joy means singing. Psalm 126 is speaking of release from physical captivity, but it is also a great picture of spiritual salvation.
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126 NIV)

This is a song overflowing with joy. All of this joy comes from someplace, and that someplace is Heaven. The center of Heaven is God. He is the focus of everything in Heaven. If God were not joyful, Heaven would not be joyful. That is a reasoning statement; however, there are clear expressions of joy in Heaven for the same reasons we have joy on this earth—our repentance and salvation. This is described in Luke 15:7 and 10:
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.... In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NIV)

A great expression of joy in Heaven is Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (NIV)
We see here that God is with us, saves us, loves us and rejoices over us with singing. For God to rejoice over me with singing is almost beyond my comprehension. It is easy for me to sing with joy because of my salvation, but difficult for me to think that God is far happier than I am because of my salvation. My salvation is from God, and so is my joy. He is the source of both. I should not find it difficult if I realize that my joy comes from Him.
When St. Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, he is telling us that the Holy Spirit is the source of joy.
God sings over us with joy, the Holy Spirit gives us joy, and the Lord Jesus Christ looked forward to the joy beyond the cross.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

When we arrived in Moscow, Idaho, in the fall of 1971, we met a group of people who met every Wednesday evening to sing. They had been converted through a lay witness mission the preceding February. They had been singing ever since.
In this world there are two reasons for music. The first is the pleasure of listening to music or playing music or singing. The music causes pleasure. The second is that music is sung, played and listened to because joy was there before the music. In other words, joy caused the music. That is the way it is in Heaven, and that is the way it should be in the church on earth. Because we associate music with good feelings, we sometimes reverse the order. We have music in the church in order to cause pleasure, and then we think it is joy. That is not the same as singing that is caused by joy. Joy comes first from our salvation from the Holy Spirit and continues as we keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit by singing.
There are two major results of revival in the church. One is restitution and the other is joyful singing. Let us not forget the reason for joy and singing. This is what is sung about in Heaven:And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped. (Revelation 5:9-14 NIV)