Friday, June 30, 2006

Are We Seaworthy?

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the council of elders.” Psalm 107:23-32

There is nothing more tranquil—nor more violent—than the sea. Both are described in Psalm 107:23-32, Luke 8:22-25, and the violence also described in Acts 27:14-44. These violent storms had in them ships and men. In every instance the men were terrified because their ship was in danger of sinking.

On the 19th of July, 1950, in Tsushima Straits, Task Force 77 rode out a typhoon. I was on the USS Brush, a destroyer in that task force. At 3:40 a.m., that morning, I was almost washed overboard. Psalm 107 applied to me. In November 1950 en route from Japan to Midway Island, bucking fifty knot winds and heavy seas, the same destroyer lost her port bilge keel. In the same storm, her motor whale boat was carried away by the sea. Again, Psalm 107 applied.

There is a special definition of the word “integrity” I like. It has to do with the sea—worthiness of a ship. It is called watertight integrity. When the ship is battened down, water cannot get inside. It cannot sink. It is watertight. The ship has integrity. It is sea worthy. This integrity has to do with interior hatches, doors, and compartments as well as exterior. If the ship has interior integrity the ship will not sink even if a breach is made in the exterior.

Between the two storms mentioned above, the Brush hit an underwater mine on September 26th off Tanchon, Korea. The exterior integrity of the ship was severely compromised. There was a big hole in the port side below the water line. Because of the interior integrity of the ship, we did not lose her.

Now I would like to apply this watertight integrity (exterior and interior) to the Christian. Our exterior and interior integrity are, first of all, dependent upon God’s faithfulness, grace and presence.

Exterior integrity is concerned with storms and attacks that come from the outside.

1 Peter 5:8, 9 and Ephesians 6:10-18 described how to handle the attack from the outside. The first passage tells us to be self-controlled and alert. Stay awake and we will not be blind-sided. The second tells what kind of clothing to wear and arms to bear so the attack will not harm us in any way. Although this is well known among Christians, it is amazing how many Christians feel unfairly treated when they have been caught sleeping unarmed.

This brings us to “interior integrity.” What happens to us when a breach is made in an exterior defense? Do we sink? Do we surrender to the enemy? Do we fold up in defense? Or are there many layers of defense as in many water-tight compartments in a ship? Do we have a damage-control system?

The essence of damage control is speed. The faster we get help to the damaged area, 1) the sooner we are again an effective fighting unit, a combatant vessel and 2) the damage does not become extensive. If the enemy gets past our defenses and we respond with sin, repentance toward God is effective damage control.

If we do not exercise fast damage control we must still have defenses against successive, more and greater sins.

Here are a few biblical ways to build up interior integrity. In a ship, exterior integrity is of first importance, and interior integrity, secondary. However, in the Christian life, interior integrity is primary and exterior integrity, secondary. In Ephesians 6:11, we are told to put on the full armor of God (exterior). However, the verse prior to that says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His might power” (interior).

“The good man brings things out of the good stored up in him…” (Matthew 12:35). If we store up good things in our hearts (interior), then good things will overflow (exterior).

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11.

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever” Deuteronomy 5:29.

These last two verses tell us that interior integrity will keep us from sinning against God, and it will also result in keeping His commandments, always.

It is possible to prevail through storms and be under fierce attack with peace and joy. To be under attack does not mean defeat. In fact, the attack is a cause of joy. We do not know many Christians who survive, much less triumph. Consequently, we build up many case histories of defeat. Since this is the norm in our experience, we assume it to be God’s norm. Our models are of demasted and holed ships. We think we cannot teach how to survive the storms and attacks unless we have been previously or presently so battle-damaged ourselves. We then teach people what to expect. That is ridiculous!

We must teach from the Word of God and from biographies of men and women who have been in the storms and under attack but who have not sunk.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

In the Heart, Out the Mouth

In my 78 years of life I have heard many dirty words. There were places where they seemed to be normal like in the Omaha stockyards when I was 16 and 17 and the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man when I was 18. My memory focuses on the unexpected times I heard dirty words. These words came from the mouths of a four-year-old, a woman, boy scouts in the scout clubhouse, midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy and from a cousin of mine when we were pheasant hunting as teenagers. All of these shocks happened when I was still not a Christian. I was idealistic. To me, a woman did not talk that way, a scout was clean, four-year-olds were innocent, a midshipman was the American boy, and a cousin was part of my family where these words were not used.

Early in my 47 years as a Christian I came to realize hearts of boy scouts, midshipmen, four-year-olds, cousins, women, and me and my family all started out filled to overflowing with evil. Jesus gave an explanation why people overflow with evil.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

I will now pull out the salient words so that we can see them clearly.

Tree good- fruit good
Tree bad- fruit bad
Overflow of the heart- mouth speaks
Good man- good things- good stored
Evil man- evil things- evil stored
Judgment day- careless words
Words of acquitted- words condemned

What we see here is that what a tree is, is what a tree does. What a poisonous snake is, is what a poisonous snake does. What a good man is, is what he says. What an evil man is, is what he says. The mouth is the overflow valve of the heart. We do not need to watch our mouths if we store up good in our hearts. If evil is stored up in our hearts then watching our mouths will not stop the evil from coming out.

When Chinese graduate students came here after 50 years of atheism taught in their schools, the word “God” got an incomprehensible look in response. However, if I mentioned a “dirty heart” there were a lot of nodding heads and other affirmative responses. People knew they had dirty hearts, in fact they did not know any other kind.

There are only two reasons for a dirty heart:

1. It has never been cleaned. It has been collecting crud and garbage since the day the person was born. The mouth will spill out the overflow.
2. It is a heart that has been cleaned by the blood of Christ and has not been kept clean by the owner. He or she has not been walking in the light.

“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 1:7)

Consequently, Christians have been known to say things from their hearts that do not sound like Christian things.

We can understand the first reason. The second reason is a contradiction.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12)

Where are you? Do you need to know the Father through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Please write to me.

If you are described under reason two, you also need to be cleansed. Please write to me for a cassette on how to have your joy restored and your mouth made clean and kind.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Black Hole

Black Hole n. (1968): a hypothetical invisible region in space with a small diameter and intense gravitational field that is held to be caused by the collapse of a massive star.

I am glad the definition has in it “hypothetical.” I am not sure I believe in something hypothetical and invisible that eats up massive stars. But I like the concept. I have got my own personal black hole. It is black, of small diameter and eats up things. However, it is visible and real. It is my brief case. It has been eating important stuff for years. It is so real I have recently abandoned it. I am slow to learn. I have been putting things into it for years and have rarely taken anything out of it. That is true only if I can find what I want.

What was designed to be a useful slave to me became my useless master and I became its useless slave.

Now, if I can free myself of my desk and file cabinets and be left with my wife, Bible and toothbrush, I will be really free.

Virtuous Murderer

In some prisons there is a hierarchy of virtues. At the top of the virtue list is “murderer.”

At the bottom is “child molester.”

The child molester is kept in protective custody to keep him from being murdered by the virtuous murderer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Authority cont.

Now it is time for taking orders.

“Thimbles and thunderstorms!” cried Trumpkin in a rage. “Is that how you speak to the King? Send me, Sire, I’ll go.”

“But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,” said Caspian.

“No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s time for taking orders.”

Trumpkin did not believe in the magic horn but he did recognize the King. There were others in the party who believed in the Horn but refused to obey the King. Trumpkin did not like that.

All obedience starts with a recognition of a person in authority. The authority and recognition of it can be accomplished in many ways.

1. By election
2. Military takeover
3. Propaganda

Jesus had his by inheritance. It is given by an even higher authority. Jesus was not elected. He did not have a police force to gain or retain his positions. Nor did he have a public relations team.

He stated his authority in statements like these.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

“So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” John 8:28, 29

“Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:36, 37

He assumed His authority in statements like this one to Martha on His power over death.

“Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;” John 11:25

And this one from the Sermon on the Mount as the final judge of the human race.

“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 7:21-23

He exercised His authority in events like this.

“He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:26, 27

Jesus’ authority was recognized by others.

“That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Luke 7:7

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28, 29

Jesus’ authority continued after His death.

“If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Acts 4:9, 10

Jesus’ stated His final authority.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17, 18

If there is a civil or military authority it must be backed up by force. A poor leader will use this force much more than a good leader.

The greatest leaders need no force because their servants are attached to them with such a love and devotion that coercion is not necessary as a means to obedience.

Now the authority of Jesus past and future is not just a matter of academic interest. Relevance always starts with “things as they are.” And the greatest thing that is, is the authority of Jesus Christ. Relevance starts here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

More on Authority

The most relevant event that has ever happened to us was our repentance, which resulted in our forgiveness and entrance into life. This happened under the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was not a suggestion or good advice. This was an imperative as Paul relates it on Mars Hill.

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30, 31

“All men everywhere” come under the authority of God and He has commanded them to repent. When I repented and believed I was responding to the authority of Jesus Christ.

He is good enough to give a reason for the universal requirement to repent. Because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.

What should we obey? His imperatives are not ideals or goals? They are realistic commands to be carried out. Not to obey them is disobedience. It is sin. As sin it will be forgiven if it is confessed as such. It will not be confessed as such if we think that we are not under His authority to:

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Matthew 6:25

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19

And many other things he said.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Authority

The basic principle in military service is authority from which we take orders and obey commands. Much of military training is accomplished by giving orders that are unimportant and sometimes nonsense. These orders and commands are enforced. This is to establish this principle so well that when an issue of major importance occurs and a command is given, there will be no debate nor question nor delay in obeying it.

There is a great rebellion against those in authority not because of difference of opinion on what is right, but because of the authority itself.

When the ultimate of “no authority” is attained and the result of anarchy everywhere evident, an absolute authority takes over with little or no resistance. Napoleon, Lenin, and Hitler are examples of absolute rulers who took advantage of anarchy. At the same time that people resist authority, they cry out for it and will respond to it, even if it is an evil authority.

One of the saddest statements in the Bible is the last sentence in the book of Judges. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” This was at the close of one of the grimmest accounts in Israel’s history. From that point they demanded an absolute monarch, and got one, King Saul.

These thoughts and examples so abruptly stated are to bring to attention (not to prove) the possibility that man needs to be, and is in fact, under authority.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

“And when Jesus finished these sayings, (the Sermon on the Mount) the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28, 29

“But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, go and he goes; and to another ‘Come’ and he comes; and to my slave, “Do this and he does it.”

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Inflation

When it comes to money, inflation is an increase in the amount of money in relation to the goods to be purchased so that the price of goods rises and the unit of money is worth less. In some nations, today, the inflation rate is so high (100% a year) that in a few years it takes thousands of dollars to buy what one dollar used to buy.

I do not wish to talk about money. Inflation occurs in other things.

It occurs in the definition of words. A word is used so frequently and so broadly that the word becomes meaningless and worthless. An example is the use of the word “like.” It may occur several times in a short-spoken paragraph. It has no definition whatsoever. It becomes a worthless word.

There are words that at one time described things that were old, rare, or beautiful or beyond comparison. An example is the word “classic.” It has become a common word. Today, it can describe a basketball tournament in Alaska, a can of Coca Cola, or a 30 year-old automobile.

Another word is “awesome.” It originated in 1598. It meant “expressive of awe” or “inspiring awe.” Later, it meant “extraordinary” or “better than usual.” Now it is used for the “usual” hoping that the use of the word will make the event “extraordinary.” Inflated words do not increase the value of the thing spoken. They decrease the value of the word.

The word Christian lost its value many years ago. To bring its value back, other words were added like “born again” and “Spirit filled.” They, in turn, have lost their value, because applying the words “born again” does not make a person “born again.” Applying the words “Spirit filled” does not make a person “Spirit filled.” Saying the words more often, further devalue them.

What is the solution? In currency inflation, there are several solutions.

We can:
1. increase the interest rate for borrowing money.
2. print less money
3. trade in real property.

In word inflation, we cannot increase the interest rate. People do not borrow words at interest.

However, we can use words less. Certainly, we can quit using important, valuable words for unimportant things in order to make the things seem more important. We might try using understatements.

We can trade in real property. That is, instead of talking about being “Spirit filled,” we could be Spirit filled.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fornication

Recently, I quoted 1 Corinthians 6:15, 16 to a young man.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:15, 16

The young man was incensed. “She is not a prostitute” he said. No, she was free. That was not the point. He claims he is a Christian. The woman is not a Christian. If both statements are true he was taking a member of the body of Christ and making it one flesh with someone who is not a member of the body of Christ.

This is above and beyond the immorality of fornication.

Notice the word Never!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Narrow Gate and the Narrow Road

Where is this narrow gate? We have written a little about the broad road (more later). The broad road is thousands of miles wide with billions of people and it all going to destruction. Are there any exits from the broad way? Yes, but not like a freeway exit. On a freeway exit you gradually move into the right hand lane, reduce speed and get into a quieter, slower road.

The narrow gate is any place on the Broad road. There will be someone on the narrow road in the middle of the Broad road who will tell you of the entrance to the narrow way. This narrow way goes in the opposite direction. Its entrance, way and destination is life. When you enter the narrow gate it is an “about face” a 180 degree turn. You say, “I will be going against all of this one way traffic, I will be killed.” That is a probability but not a certainty. The certainty is life.

Yes, you will be going against the traffic. You will not be going with the flow. Neither will you be going alone. There will be many others. Each of them will be in a protected, safe, moving haven. There will be joyful singing fellowship with others in this spiritually protected haven.

You will be able and glad to direct many others to the small gate to the narrow way that leads to life.

Here are few of the characteristics of this way.

1. Freedom from death and the fear of death, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil,” Hebrews 2:14

2. Freedom from the works of the flesh, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 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.” Galatians 5:19-21

3. The Fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” Galatians 5:22

4. The whole armor of God, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10

5. God will never leave nor forsake you.

6. His divine power, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” 2
Peter 2:13

“Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:21

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16

“May have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:18-19

7. A new nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9

Truly, this is a safe haven moving with millions of Christians against the tide of billions of people who are moving toward destruction.

We are living evidence; we are sign posts and warners.

Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Jude 1:22

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Falsehood

There are two opposites in this creation. They are not equal and opposite; they are just opposite.

They are God and Satan.
God is the ultimate in truth.
Satan is the ultimate liar.

Jesus said of Satan, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

There is something wonderful about truth besides its truthfulness. It has a good reputation. Every one wants to be identified with it. How do I know? All liars say “I am telling the truth.” No one wants to be called a liar. We have a difficulty here.

Truth tellers say, “I am telling the truth.” Liars say the same thing. The listener has to be able to tell the difference. Most listeners cannot tell the difference. Why?

“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

“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

The wolf in sheep’s clothing does not say, “I am really a wolf. I am here to eat sheep.” The false prophet does not say, “I am a false prophet, do not listen to me.”

We need to be able to recognize truth and to recognize falsehood. The solution to this difficulty is four-fold, the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit

2. Know the truth so well that you can tell that the lie does not look like the
truth.

3. By their fruit you will know them. Liars have an easier time talking the lie
than living the lie.

4. The gift of discernment

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Truth Benefits the Hearer

There is some truth that must be preached, not for the benefit of the truth but for the benefit of the hearer.

Jesus said, “I am the Truth.”

Truth is so, whether or not it is taught and whether or not it is believed.

The truth of the acts of God are both self evident and revealed. There are two great acts of God, the creation and redemption. The God of creation is self evident to the created. The redemption is an act in history that must be proclaimed.

“For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Monday, June 12, 2006

Truth

There are several words that can honestly be next to the word, “truth.” Here are a few:

Self-Evident Truth.
Discovered Truth
Proven Truth
Absolute Truth. (Redundancy)
Experimental Truth
Experiential Truth
Declared Truth
Preached Truth
Established Truth

None of these words either cause or invent truth. Truth was always there. People can believe in the truth. But believing in it does not make it true.

There is a truth called the law of gravity. It has been in existence long before it was discovered and formulated. It did not have to be preached and believing it did not make it so. It did not seem to care if anyone believed in it.

There is a great axiomatic or self-evident truth, which is “God.” Believing in God does not make Him God, but not believing in Him has dire consequences for the non-believer.

“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 53:1

Read the rest of Romans 1 and the Rest of Psalm 53.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Of Fundraising

There is a wonderful example of fundraising in the Bible. It is in the book of Romans. Here is the fundraising sentence in chapter fifteen:

"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while." (Romans 15:23-24)

This fundraising letter caused the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the Wesleyan Revival of the 18th century. The letter does not command fundraising. At the best, it is an example of a good raising support letter. It gives far more than it gets. Paul did not ask for money to go to Jerusalem or to go to Rome. He did ask for assistance on his way to Spain. We do not know that he ever went to Spain, so even that request may not have been met. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive a request for money at the end of a letter like the book of Romans?

There are other examples of raising money:

"Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me." (I Corinthians 16:1-4)

Here Paul is asking for advance giving or saving up by the church for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. None of it was for Paul nor was it carried by him.
Chapters eight and nine of II Corinthians are further teachings about this particular gift. Here is an example of Paul’s integrity about money:

"And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men." (II Corinthians 8:18-21)

There has been, and is, much abuse in fundraising for charities, mission societies, and churches. This abuse includes greed and dishonesty both in raising and distributing the money. Consequently, there is much accusation by the unbelieving populace that all Christian workers are guilty of greed or dishonesty or both.

Let us pattern our view of money after the teachings of Jesus and the actions of Paul.

Jesus said:

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38)

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24)

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

Are you attached to money or to things?

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." (Proverbs 11:24)

This giving is very open and free. It is not manipulative giving. It is not “priming the pump,” giving a little in order to get a lot. It is giving with no thought of the possible return.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Let There Be Light

No parameters, no speed of light nor time nor space.
Nothing to measure in light years or miles and then God
created the Heavens and the Earth.

In and around and above that wet, dark and formless
empty earth The Spirit Hovered.

From beyond the night, beyond the heavens and apart
from the Earth God said, “Let there be light.” And there
was light.

Six measured days later God created man in His own
likeness, but man believed a lie to be more like God and
indeed became less like Him.
Man’s thinking became futile and his foolish heart was
darkened.

Now we are measured in time, square miles and by the
Bureau or Standards. Into that measured land, in a
farmhouse on a quarter section in central Nebraska God
created a man, partly in His likeness.

Twenty measured years went by, and over and around
that man with a dark and formless void, the Spirit
hovered.

Into that void, formless and dark, pierced and then
flooded, a light. For the same God who, in the
beginning said, “let there be light,” has now shined in my heart,

To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in
the face of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Saved: Jew and Gentile

The common denominators in Christianity are Jesus Christ, the Savior and the church of Jesus Christ, the saved.

There is only one Lord Jesus Christ and there is only one body of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church.

The church is not the sum total of the local assemblies and national denominations. There may be a relationship but that is about all there is.

The early church was made up of saved Jews and saved Gentiles. They were saved the same way.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7, 8

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14

Verses seven and eight are talking about Jews and 13 and 14 about the Gentiles.

Peter in Acts 15 says that the Gentiles were saved just like the Jews were saved.

“God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:8, 9

Then he says that the Jews are saved just like the Gentiles are saved.

“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15:11

This is wonderful. I am saved like you are saved and you are saved just like I am saved.

“If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.” 2 Corinthians 10:7

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:3-6

The church is made up of the saved.

The church is defined by saved people; people who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit or as in Colossians 1:27. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

If you do not know that you are saved then you do not know that you are members of the real church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Abu Graib and Abortion

We seem to have mixed up in our minds the Constitution and the Word of God.

Under the law of the land a man is innocent until proven guilty. Since the majority of the population has not been proven guilty of anything we have come to the conclusion they are innocent people. They have not been charged, tried, nor convicted.

You cannot get anymore innocent than that!

There were two evil people mentioned in Matthew 27. Each of them had a direct hand in the crucifixion of Jesus. They were Judas and Pilate. They each said the word “innocent.”

Judas: “I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." Matthew 27:4—That was a true statement.

Pilate: “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.”I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!” Matthew 27:24—That was a false statement.

Here is a statement from the Apostle Paul.

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4

Paul had a stricter view of innocence.

In this world there are guilty people and forgiven guilty people.

The hundreds who died in 9/11 were “innocent” in that they had not been charged nor convicted nor were they combatant soldiers. In the judgment of God they were guilty or forgiven but not “innocent.” An innocent person is a person who has not sinned. Who are they besides the Lord Jesus?

Atrocities

They are infants or children not yet born.

We are greatly offended when we heard of the Mi Lai massacre or the recent one in Iraq or Abu Graib Prison. These are atrocities which will receive the judgment of man and God. But the victims were not innocent in God’s eyes. But babies and pre-born babies are innocent in God’s eyes. They are being killed by the millions by millions of people.

There is no outcry about the innocent victims.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Getting Even

There are two sayings I remember distinctly because of hearing them many times; one from my childhood and the other as an adult.

The first was said in anger. “I’ll get even.”

The second was said not in anger. “I don’t get mad, I get even.”

If there is any relative merit in these two sayings the badge goes to the first. Anger in kids does not last long, so the plan for revenge is short and soon forgotten. With the adult who does not get angry but meditates on revenge that is bad and long lasting.

There are two examples of the latter in fiction. In each case, the “hero” seems to have an unlimited amount of time and an unlimited amount of money to exercise his revenge. The books are The Count of Monte Cristo and Ben Hur. There is another book which says something different.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pro Choice and Pro Life

God is pro-life:

1. Physical Life

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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.” Genesis 1:27, 28

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13, 14

2. Everlasting Life

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

3. Resurrection Life

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

God is Pro-Choice

1. His choice
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

“He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38

“My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.” Ephesians 1:4-7

2. Our Choice

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Joshua gave the people three choices.
1. gods from beyond the River and in Egypt.
2. gods of the Amorites
3. The Lord God. If they chose the Lord God, they had to throw away the little “g” gods.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Romans 1:18-23

“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46

“But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:18-19

The negative choices they made were:

1. They did not glorify God.
2. They did not thank Him.
3. They rejected the Word of God.

The positive choice to make:
1. Repent, then, and turn to God.