Monday, July 31, 2006

Love Your Enemies

Do we love our enemy after he harms us, before he harms us, or when he is harming us? Those are our only three choices. All of them are correct answers. That which is common is that we love our enemy.

“It ain’t natural!” True, but it is spiritual.
“I cannot do it!” True again, but God can.
“I haven’t gotten to loving my neighbor yet.”
“I haven’t gotten to loving my brother, how do you expect me to love my enemies?”

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

This is the paragraph where the Golden Rule appears. We like the Golden Rule. Notice the context in which it appears.

This teaching is for Christians. It is completely impossible for people who do not know the Father.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Right and Wrong--How to Know the Difference

I would like to start by looking at two sentences in the Bible that are not very well known. They were written about 1,500 years apart.

If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. (Leviticus 5:17)

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

Not knowing about a sin does not keep a person from being guilty, and having a clean conscience does not make the person innocent.

There is a reason for this. My knowledge and my conscience does not necessarily reflect the absolute value system of God. To bring my conscience and absolute “right and wrong” together, there are a few basic truths to follow:

1. I must be a Christian.
At the time of my conversion my conscience is made clean and senistive to God's moral law.

2. I must know the Scriptures well.
The scriptures give absolute (Exodus 20) and relative (Romans 14, I Corinthians 8) standards. There is no excuse not to know the requirements.

3. I must choose to obey them.
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Knowing the teaching does not train. Knowing and doing is what trains to distinguish good from evil.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

4. I must walk 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)

Continuous cleansing keeps the conscience clean and working right.

When the apostle wishes to communicate something more certain he says it this way:
I speak the truth in Christ— I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1)

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

He points to his own conscience, to every man's conscience and to God. His own conscience is confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

These are strong unequivocal statements. God is the source of truth, of right and wrong. Relativism does not enter the picture.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. (1 Thessalonians 2:10)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Grace

“Big words” normally mean lots of letters and a surplus of syllables. I will use “big” in its frequency of use and its influence on society. I will use wide in its breadth of definition, that is not precise English. There are many wonderful words in the languages of the world. Some of these words have precise definitions like the word “kind.” Because of this preciseness, the word is not a “wide” word. There are other words that are “big,” “wide” and are NOT wonderful. “Sin” is one of those words. However, there is a word whose definition is “big,” “wide,” and it I is still wonderful. The word is GRACE.

Before we start to tell you about this word, let us look at the definitions of the word “definition.”

The dictionary defines “definition” as:

Definition #1: A statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol.

Definition #2: The meaning of a word from the context of a paragraph or a story or a lecture.

There are many such examples from the books of L.M. Montgomery.

Definition #3: An agreed upon meaning of a word within a certain group of people.

They know what they are talking about, but others who have in their understanding a dictionary definition or a contextual definition of the same word, but who are not in on the agreement, do not know what they are talking about. They will think that they know.

“But an August afternoon, with blue hazes scarfing the harvest slopes, little winds whispering elfishly in the poplars and a dancing splendor of red poppies outflowing against the dark coppice of young firs in a corner of the cherry orchard, was fitter for dreams than dead languages.”

Anne of Avonlea

Both “scarfing” and “outflaming” are two invented participles made up of two legitimate words “scarf” and “flaming.” The definitions are clear from the basic words and the context. Harvest is a legitimate word if it is a verb or a noun. Here it is an adjective. However, the definition is clear. “Dancing” is a legitimate word, but it modifies “splendor” which should not make sense, but it does.

Two people invited to dinner could agree, before they arrived at the dinner, that the main dish would be called “garbage.” At the table they would say things like this to each other, but in the hearing of the hostess, “Please pass the garbage,” or “Boy, this garbage tastes good.” The hostess, because she knows the standard meaning of “garbage” might be offended. She was not in on the agreement.

This happens in religion frequently. The Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah Witnesses and Muslims all speak of Jesus, but have different definitions of who He is from each other and from the Bible. However, if we do not know that each group has an “agreed upon” definition, we might think that they are talking about the same person we are talking about.

Now let’s look at that wonderful word “grace” primarily from the context of the Bible. Second: Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

Definition #1: Grace??? 1(a) unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification.

Definition #2 vt 1: to confer dignity or honor on; 2: adorn, embellish.

This is derived from the contextual definition.

First, let’s talk about the contextual definition. This is difficult because there is a lot of context. I will quote enough from each occurrence of the word to give some, if limited, meaning. I will group the quotations in an order based upon common sayings. If I leave a quotation out it will be because there has been enough repetition in that group.

The Source of Grace

• Luke 2:40
• John 1:14
• John 1:16-17
• Acts 15:40
• Acts 20:24, 32
• Romans 1:7
• Ephesians 2:5, 8

For Whom is this Grace?

• Titus 3:7
• Ephesians 3:2, 7, 8
• II Corinthians 12:9
• II Corinthians 1:2

Modifiers of Grace

• Acts 4:33
• Acts 6:8
• Romans 5:15, 17, 20

Rejection of Grace

• Jonah 2:8
• Galatians 5:4
• Hebrews 12:15

Relationship to Mercy, Faith, and Love

• Acts 18:27
• I Timothy 1:14

What Does Grace Do?

• Acts 15:11
• Romans 3:24
• Romans 5:21

Agreed upon definitions are O.K. for small societies using “in” words. They are not legitimate for words of world-wide import. We should then stick to the dictionary definition, contextual definition or common usage if the common usage is language wide.

We will not consider “grace” as in “saying grace” before a meal. It is, though, in common usage. Nor will we consider “grace” as a name or “grace” as in “gracious living.” These are spin-off definitions. There are others as in speaking to a duke or a king in a kingdom, “Your Grace.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Forgiveness and Consequences

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’
Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” (II Samuel 12:13-14 NIV)

The complete story is in II Samuel chapters 11 and 12.

David’s sins were awful. He violated the clear commands of God “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery.”

David, in order to hide his adultery, had Uriah called home from the front in order to attribute Bathsheba’s pregnancy to him. David was concocting a lie that did not work. David sent him to his home and sent him a gift. Uriah did not go home. The next day David gave a dinner for Uriah and made Uriah drunk. He did not go home. So David had him killed and then took his wife.

David did not confess. He was still hiding his sins (or thought he was.) He was then confronted by Nathan the prophet. Before David confessed, Nathan prophesied awful consequences. After he confessed another consequence was prophesied. David did repent of his sins. David was forgiven. The consequences did happen. The baby son died. One of his other sons raped one of his daughters. Another son killed the son who raped the daughter. That son was then exiled. He was returned from exile, conspired against his father, the king, and openly committed adultery with his fathers concubines. That son was then killed. How do we know that David was forgiven? “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’--and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5 NIV)

“Have mercy on my, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. . . . Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. . . . Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. . . . You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O god, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:1-4, 7-12, 14, 16-17 NIV)

David did not minimize his sins. He realized his sins were against God only. David counted on the greatness of God’s mercy, love and compassion. He knew he would not be forgiven by ritual repentance.

David had the joy of forgiven sins but still had to face the results of his sins.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Confessing & Preaching Jesus Christ

The two greatest positive uses of the tongue are recorded in the tenth chapter of Romans. The first is confessing Jesus Christ and calling upon him. It is our part in our salvation.

“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth an din your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:8-10

Our salvation has to do with our heart and mouth. The latter expresses the former.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The second positive use of the tongue is preaching Jesus Christ.

“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 10:15

“How beautiful are the feet…” If it were written today, would it say, “How beautiful are the wheels…” or “the wings”? I think not. Feet belong to a live messenger. The person that carries good news has beautiful feet even though they may be dirty and dusty. It is the good news being carried that makes the messenger’s feet beautiful.

Prior to regular postal service, messages were sent by courier or special messenger. They were hand carried. This is the way the New Testament letters were delivered. The messenger would be on the road for months. In addition to the letter he carried, he himself would be a letter. We see this in the following passages:

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2, 3

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” Philippians 2:19-24

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:16, 17

The two great uses of the tongue are confessing Jesus Christ and preaching Jesus Christ.

St. Paul

Then I preached Christ, and when she heard the story, --
Oh! Is such triumph possible to men?
Hardly, my King, had I beheld Thy glory,
Hardly had known Thine excellence till then.

Then with a rush the intolerable craving
Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call,
Oh! To save these; to perish for their saving
Die for their life; be offered for them all.

F.W.H. Meyer

Monday, July 24, 2006

And God said...

“And God said…”

Six wonderful days in the history of the world started out with “And God said…” In this case saying was creating. We see this also 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.

This is too wonderful! It is poetry sublime. Does God have a mouth as we have mouths? Does He have breath as we have breath? When He spoke there was nothing with ears to hear. Yet light came into being when He spoke. Billions upon billions of stars were formed by the “breath of his mouth.”

When the Lord Jesus “rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided and all was calm” (Luke 8:24). The wind and the waves did not have ears, yet they heard and obeyed.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…” (Matthew 28:18, 19)

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:23)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Inside the North Room

The following is an excerpt from The Hammer.


I “wrote” this last night; I’m putting it on paper now. I wasn’t sleeping; at least, I don’t think I was. I had been asleep and wasn’t awake enough to open my eyes or to wonder what time it was. I’m sure it wasn’t a dream because there were no pictures, still or moving. Dreams, however real at the time, give themselves away as dreams because of the erratic aberrations from reality that does not stand up in the daylight. There were none of those. I was thinking in words of a place. The thinking did not seem to have a starting place as if I had been awake for a while and then decided to think.

The place is a room, the North Room, in a farmhouse in Nebraska. It has always been a place of awe for me, and I do not think I am easily awed. There are places that have been constructed to cause awe or worship or the sense of the numinous. St. Paul’s Cathedral causes awe in me for God in an indirect way. I am first awed at the brilliance of Christopher Wren and secondarily for the God who made Christopher Wren. It is the same with the Daibutsu in Kamakura. Writing doesn’t reach me, at least in terms of awe, whether it is of Shardik or Aslan or the Rings of Power or the appearance of Pan in the Wind in Willows. The North Room does.

The North Room, I think, is a living room, although living does not take place there. The living is in the kitchen and dining rooms. In my memory it was always closed off like a holy place. It was cool in the summer (probably cold in the winter). I do not recall in these fifty years the lights being on in the North Room, kerosene lamps or electric lights. It was always pleasantly dark; dark in a nice, cool, comfortable way. For me it would be sacrilege to turn on the lights.

Over eighty years ago when my aunt and mother were born in the house there was no North Room. As the farm prospered and the family got bigger, the house was made into a proper house with other rooms, including the North Room and a verandah on the east overlooking a lovely, large front yard with a front gate opening on to a section road. All of these seem holy, none of them were used.

In my childhood we played together there, my brothers, my cousins and I. It was a wonderful place to play. It never occurred to us to be rowdy or wild in the North Room.

The furniture I do not recall, other than the bookcase; and of the books, B.M. Bower’s The Flying U Ranch and Chip of the Flying U, which has to prove the place really was not holy in a God-directed way.

Man makes churches, shrines and temples to cause people to worship because of the place. All of these will end like Ozymandias: “Nothing beside remains.” Other places like the North Room, which seem to be sacred although not consecrated, will end in decay even faster.

“This is what the Lord says: Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1, 2)

It has been close to seven years since I wrote these sentences. It has been four years since the house has been lived in. Raccoons have attacked it. It is all decaying fast. The living things, the trees and bushes, are taking over. One of these years the house, the North Room and all of the trees will be deliberately removed, and that portion of the Southeast quarter of Section 33 of Platte County, Neb., will be cornfields.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

HEART 'e-VALUE-ations'

By Bessie Wilson

“The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:14, 15

God knows our hearts! This can be either a comforting or a terrifying thought. Jesus first analyzed the Pharisees’ attitude (“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men”) before He told them that God knew their hearts. Then he clarified it even more by saying that this attitude before men was a very poor standard because what men put a high value on was detestable in God’s sight.

What is highly valued among men? Perhaps by itemizing some of the things men value we will see that we have, in some cases, allowed the world to press us into its mold. However, we can, by His grace, stop this and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1, 2

Financial success is highly esteemed among men. Is anything wrong with financial success? The Pharisees “loved money,” and Paul pointed out in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” It is not money but the love of it which is detestable in God’s sight. Where would the work of God in evangelism be but for the faithful giving of God’s people? Some have the gift of managing money for the glory of God. CCM donors have kept this ministry going. It is when money manages men that it is detestable in God’s sight.

Judging by the average TV commercial, we would also have to list sex as highly valued among men. Whether it is a car, gum or clothing that is advertised, more often than not the word “sexy” is used or implied. Call-in shows devote much time to the subject of sex, and the private lives of people are discussed freely.

Men and women now are casual about illicit sex, treating sex as a right rather than a privilege. God has placed boundaries around sex so that we are not hurt by it. In the sanctity of marriage there should be safety.

Hosea 8:7 aptly describes our condition as we face the plague of AIDS. “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Also in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Fame is highly valued in society. Fame can be from politics, the arts, or theatrical success. We know how fleeting fame is in politics, for people are lauded one day and condemned the next. Fame in the theater and arts is dependent on the “trend-setters,” no matter how crude and revolting their practices. The many-times-married men and women are applauded as authorities on just about any subject. This is where the rot sets in and the decay pervades society. But remember, it is detestable in God’s sight.

God knows all hearts. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).

This led to the flood. What is His evaluation of our world today? Of your heart? Of mine?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Of Leadership

God, in his goodness and grace, called me to be an evangelist, pastor and teacher. These different responsibilities have been mine for over forty years both in and outside of churches. During these years I have been aware of unpleasantness in some churches. Here are a few general examples:

• the pastor has been an autocrat;
• the pastor has been called to a “pastor-eating church;”
• the church is “owned” by one or two families who “hire” and “fire”
pastors—who “chew them up and spit them out;”
• the church finds it easy to “choose up sides” within the church.

People tolerate, condone and allow all sorts of irregularities in a church until they are in excess. Then the Christians get angry and endeavor to correct the situation with bitterness, anger and clamor.1 The correction is not done in a Christian way. Correction must be done gently, spiritually and with all planks removed.

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)

Notice the text says “you who are spiritual,” not “you who are right.” If you are ”not spiritual,” you are not qualified to do the restoring. If you are not gentle, you are not qualified nor are you effective in restoring your brother.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:5)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"This Administration"

Department (n): a major administrative division as in “Police Department.”

The Police Department has no authority.

“By order of the Police Department” makes no sense. The department is made up of all the police officers, clerks, and janitors.

It should be “By Order of the Chief of Police” or “Police Commissioner” or “City Council.”

We have a bigger problem with the word “this administration.” “This administration” is something that is made up of a lot of people in the executive branch of the Federal Government. This, in turn is made of a lot of departments, as in the State Department and Department of Defense, which are made up of lots of people. An ambassador to a foreign country does not speak for himself or for all of the people in the State Department. He speaks for the Secretary of State who speaks for the President of the United States who speaks for the United States. As far as the world is concerned, the President of the United States is the United States. When you hear anyone say “this administration”, he is trying to distance himself from the United States. He should be saying the “President of the United States” or the “United States.” The amorphous glob of people that make up administrations are not elected and have no authority.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Body Counts

When we lost our objective in the Viet Nam War, if we ever had one, we resorted to tabulating how many Viet Cong or North Vietnamese were killed daily. Sometimes that might win a war, but normally it does not have an effect.

In this current war, we are again reduced to counting bodies. This time we are counting our own fatalities. I think it is about 2500 over the three years we have been in Iraq or about 1000 a year in a very dangerous country in dangerous occupations. During this same period of time, in innocent occupations in the United States we have lost 60,000 people to murders and another 51,000 to drunk driving.

In addition to this, there have been over 30,000 suicides a year; that is 90,000 in three years.

According to the Center of Disease Control, the average abortions per year are over 850,000 a year; that is 2,550,000 deaths in three years.

Any single murder anywhere in the world should be prosecuted. However, if not, there will still be judgment at the great day.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:14-16

Violent deaths in this country outnumber all of the deaths, including civilians, on both sides in this war, the Korean War and the Viet Nam War.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Gift of Speech

The phrase, “And God said…” is found nine times in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. Six wonderful days in the history of the world began with, “And God said…” In this case, saying was creating. We see this also 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.”

When God spoke there was nothing with ears to hear. Yet light came into being when He spoke. Billions upon billions of stars were formed by the “breath of his mouth.”

Since human beings are created in God’s image, we have the gift of speech because God speaks. God’s Word, the Bible, has much to say about speech of all kinds and the use and misuse of the tongue.

The two greatest positive uses of the tongue are recorded in the tenth chapter of Romans. The first is confessing Jesus Christ and calling upon Him. It is our part in our salvation. “…If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess that you are saved” Romans 10:9, 10. The mouth expresses what we believe in our hearts.

The second positive use of the tongue is preaching Jesus Christ. “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?” Romans 10:14

The two great uses of the tongue are confessing Jesus Christ and preaching Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Theologies of the Broad Way

These are the lies that are made to look like goodness.

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4:1-3

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

There will be guides along this broad road that will not look evil. They will be evil. They might even look saintly. They are liars. Their father is the father of all lies. The nature of the truth teller is to tell the truth and maintain that he is telling the truth. The nature of a liar is to not tell the truth and do it very well and maintain that he is telling the truth.

People on this broad road are first deceived, then rebellious and then pass on the deception to others.

How can six billion people be wrong; very easily. They are followers. They are blind followers of blind leaders.

“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

“He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Luke 6:39

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Broad Road

The beginning of this happened in a dream over a year ago. I hesitated to write it because it may have seemed to emphasize the breadth and depth of evil. However, I know that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.

In my dream I saw a broad way. I do not know that it was a one-way street; it just seemed like it. The traffic was heavy and all of it going in the same direction. There seemed to be many other streets, none of them cross streets, all of them broad, crowded and going in the same direction. They were not all parallel; some of them merged to make wider highways of crowded vehicles and pedestrians. As my eyes scanned the landscape to the horizon I saw more and more broad ways. Some of them were high speed highways; some were very low speed; like parking lots of crawling life. Some of these ways seemed only for pedestrians, some for bicycles, or motor scooters, motorcycles; some, for all of them together. It had a sense of moving people all headed for destruction.

The people were unaware of where they were going, only that they were going. Some of them seemed frustrated, others were angry or sad. There were others; happy-go-lucky, frolicking, skylarking on the way. Others were focused and fast, as if they knew where they were going and wanted to get there.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Opposites

Right and Wrong
Down and Up
Left and Right
Back and Forth
Truth and Falsehood
Tall and Short
North and South
East and West

Some of these are absolute. Some are apparent absolutes. Some things may seem opposite but are only different. Some are relative, not absolute. I do not wish to debate any of these, but the first one; Right and Wrong. In mathematics there are right answers and wrong answers. In the Navy there is the wrong way and the Navy way. In Christian doctrine there is right doctrine and wrong doctrine.

In morality, there is right morality, immorality, and amorality. There is no wrong morality. That would be saying that there is an immoral morality. Morality is absolute. However, there is something more right than being right, morally. The Lord Jesus on earth and pre-earth, in eternity, was absolutely moral. How could he be more right than absolutely right? The answer is in Philippians 2:5-8.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

What is it? Humility! This humility was more right than His sinlessness. He became sin for us.

The text starts out, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

When you are right, or think you are, are you willing to give up your insistence on being right to be humble?

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Little Background Information

My father had a massive heart attack when he was 43. I was 15 and was with him. He had another in 1956. I was on an aircraft carrier in the East China Sea. Bessie and I had been married four years. She was in Yokohama with the boys. Doug was almost three, Evan was 1 1/2, and we were expecting Heather. I flew home to Nebraska. I think his next heart attack was in ’63. All six of us boys made it home to see him. He died in his sleep from a stroke at the age of 67 in 1967. We, this family, arrived in Nebraska 1 ½ days before he died. The last thing he said to Mom before he went to sleep that night was, “Doesn’t Jim have great kids?” He quit smoking after his first heart attack. He received Christ in June of 1950.

In those days there was no such thing as open heart surgery or other advances in medicine. He still lived 24 years after his first heart attack. I am eleven years older now than he was when he died. I am otherwise in good health and the surgeon is one of the best in the United States. However, with all of those things in my favor it is in vain to trust in man.

We, Bessie and I, have been blessed in many ways.

First, in being drawn to the Father, Bessie in 1935 and I in 1947. Second, in being drawn to each other. Third, in our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Fourth, in our children (and greater descendants) in the Lord.

Fifth, in our anticipation of being in God’s presence in the not too distant future.

If you think that you have not been blessed by God and would like to be, maybe I can help.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Gift and the Giver

Without much argument from anyone we can say that love is given first priority in the Bible. It is the first and comprehensive fruit of the Spirit. It is the first commandment. It is the second commandment, and all other teachings fit into those two commandments.

The source of all love is God. God’s expression of love to the world was by giving. This is a fast preamble to get to the subject of giving.

Giving is taught and preached more than it is done. Perhaps this is because the teaching is prompted by the desire to receive rather than the desire to give. Many churches, radio and television programs are teaching giving this way, “You should give to me and my ministry.” The emphasis is, “You are to give so that I can receive.” It is a major cover for covetousness.

Another reason giving is taught more than done is because the giving teaching is not preceded by loving teaching or a loving-giving example. If godliness was taught and practiced, the teaching of giving would be minimal—it would not be necessary. People would give themselves, then their money, rather than giving their money instead of themselves. The money would be given to right places, in right amounts, instead of to people who tell you where to give your money.

There are two examples of giving one’s self first. They are both found in 2 Corinthians 8. The first is where the people were intolerably poor and the second is where the person was wealthy beyond all measure.

We should give ourselves first to the Lord, then to others. If we have done that in love for God and for others, then we no longer belong to ourselves, nor do our possessions.

Giving should not be based on how much we have but on how much we love. With this as a prerequisite, we can now look at the places and the people to whom we should give.

God is our example in giving food and clothing to widows, orphans and aliens. We see this in Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”

We should supply the needs of God’s people (believers) and everyone else. This is seen in Ephesians 4:28: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” 1 Timothy 6:17, 18; the rich are commanded “to be generous and willing to share.”

We should give to those who teach the Word to us. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 9:14: “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” The same principle is taught in Galatians 6:6: “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.”

We should give to those who teach the Gospel to others. The Philippians are a good example, for Paul says they were the only church who supported him when he set out from Macedonia and while he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15, 16).

Giving should not be legalistic (tithing). Nor should it be anti-legalistic (anti-tithing). Jesus spoke to the former and the latter when He said in Luke 11:42, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”

Tithing should not be left “undone.” Tithing, or tenthing, should be done lovingly, ungrudgingly, and not legalistically. The best way is to consider the tenth as a minimum, not even considered as your own, take it off the top of your gross income and give it lovingly to one or more of the places mentioned above.

It may be considered “better stewardship” to give to a corporation which has a non-profit, IRS-approved tax-deductible status. However, if you are giving in order to get, the blessing of the Lord may not be in your giving. There is another difficulty with that means of controlled giving: the widows, orphans and aliens may not be approved by the IRS. The Bible teacher or missionary may not be approved either. You may be able to give to widows an orphans through groups like Compassion or World Vision, but some of this giving spoken of in the Bible is carried out by taking them into your home. To give impersonally might mean giving without love. Western Christians have automated giving to make it efficient, painless and unloving. Sometimes there is a question of whether giving should be anonymous. However, if giving is a source of pride or seeking merit or praise, then Matthew 6:1-4 should be applied: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from you Father in heaven.

“So whey you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Most people give where the needs are expressed and where they are asked to give a certain amount. If you limit your giving to the call for money, then those missions who believe that they have no Biblical basis to raise money for their own ministry would never receive money form you.

There is a lot of teaching in this country that applies the “storehouse” of Malachi 3:10 to the local church that you attend; the “whole tithe” must go to the local church. If this were true, then the other places for the tithe that the Bible teaches would be contradictory.

Give lovingly, give personally, give prayerfully.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Passion for Souls?

Stephen David has been a good friend of mine for years by e-mail. He has had “How to Be Free From Bitterness” translated into Telegu, Hindi, and Indian English. Please pray for him. His ministry is in Hyderabad. The following, by Stephen David, expresses my thoughts well.

Do We Have a Passion For Souls?

What does it mean to have passion for souls? I started to think about this seriously. Though many times I expressed to have passion for souls, when in fact, I didn’t. I came to know that genuine passion for souls means—Having a burning heart to see the people being saved from hell and enter into God’s eternal kingdom. And scripturally, no person can be saved without believing in Christ through the hearing of the gospel.

“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

As I started to contemplate this fact, I have come to know that if I truly have a passion for the souls, I would passionately share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people I meet, whether known or unknown. However, much of my time was spent with Christians and there were numerous times I deliberately ignored to preach the gospel with the unsaved. I have learned that it is pleasant to sharing the gospel with unbelievers is far more different and also difficult. Believe me; it is even easy to train others for evangelism than personally do the witnessing. Point to observe, our Lord Jesus did not send others without going first.

“Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21

If there is any a person who claims to have passion for souls yet not have a passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, wherever he is and whatever he does, I strongly believe, that is not a genuine passion. He is deceived and a sign of contradiction. I am not talking about the occasional sharing of the gospel when we find it convenient. Examining the whole life of Paul clearly demonstrates that he preached the gospel wherever he went because of his passion for souls. Despite the situations wherein he was beaten, insulted, imprisoned and persecute to death, no one could stop him from preaching the gospel. We can’t see him shut his mouth when his heart beat for souls. Paul acknowledged, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—THE TASK OF TESTIFYING TO THE GOSPEL OF GOD’S GRACE” (Acts 20:24).

Oh, how many ministers think they have passion for souls just by preaching to the church, but never grab the opportunities to preach the gospel with the unbelieving souls outside! There are times we do not even witness to the neighbors who live around us. Let us not misunderstand the preaching of the gospel with the preaching to the church. There is a vast difference between them. To share the fact, preaching to the church is far easier than personally sharing the gospel of Jesus with the unbelievers. Here comes the true challenge of our passion for souls!

I have learned that we cannot withhold a person from preaching the gospel of Jesus who is having a passion for souls. Whether he is traveling, walking, shopping, working, playing, sitting or wherever he goes or whatever he does, his heart beats to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows that without preaching the gospel, people do not have the opportunity to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I remember, years back, when I was in a church service, all of us were praying that God would save the souls and add them to the church. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit started to speak to my heart—“Can you expect a tree to grow by just watering?” I knew the intended meaning behind that question. I shared with the whole church what the Holy Spirit spoke. The meaning was, “How do we expect a tree would grow without first sowing a seed?” Will just watering do that? No! That’s an unreasonable expectation! Yet, how many of us pray that God would save the souls, sometimes even fast, yet not take risks to preach the gospel when we come across the people.

I remember the wonderful prayer request of Paul to the church of Ephesus, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make know the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19, 20). Oh, I wish I would at least have a drop of his passion in my heart for the lost!

Lord, have mercy!

Sincerely,

Stephen David