Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bullies in the Christian's Life

I read that at one point in John Wesley's life he had an eating problem. He is purported to have said, "Food is not going to bully me!" As a result, he ate nothing but potatoes for the next two years to prove his point. I do not necessarily agree with this solution, but I do believe we need to stop the bullies in our lives. As long as we cower in a corner and give them their way they will continue to push us around all of our lives.

Peter tells us, "...for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." Scripture teaches the saints are to be the overcomers. Paul wrote, he would not allow himself to be brought into bondage even to things that were lawful (legitimate). Good sometimes can be a greater enemy than the bad. As to the things of the world, too much of a good thing can become harmful, even distasteful. 

Many of us are way too "Spiritual" when it come to our physical cravings. I like something J.I. Packer said in his introduction to John Owen's book, Sin and Temptation. "I nowadays think the way to deal with temptation is at once to say "NO!" And with that to ask the Lord for strength to keep saying, "NO!" I have found doing this and meaning it, works far better than quoting many scriptures without meaning it.

In India, I'm told, they tie baby elephants to a straw chain to hold them. When older and grown, they never try to free themselves, having come to believe they do not have the power to do so. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreaming Can Be Devine

“And Joseph dreamed a dream...” If you’re familiar with the story, then you know this young man got into a lot of trouble with his brethren because of the dreams he had. Even for us today, speaking allegorically, there is a price to pay for having Divine dreams; as Joseph's cost him. Nevertheless, we should dare to dream, even to old age (Joel 2:28). Once it is discerned that the dream is of God, nothing should divert our attention from seeing it come to fruition.

On the other hand, let me caution all those who have a dream to make sure the ingredients of that dream have come from God. For this is what real dreams are made of. Be careful your dreams are not of your own making. “Neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.” We need to be dead certain that God is the Author of our dreams. If He is not, they are only fantasies. Any dream that does not have God’s glory for its goal is not from Him.

God is the only Person who can interpret dreams; He is also the only one who can fulfill them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wishing Doesn't Make it So

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

This is a brief but unusual salutation. Bible students are more familiar and used to it being: grace, mercy and peace. Nevertheless asking about or showing a concern for others' health in greetings, whether it be personal or in correspondence, was standard. We pretty much follow this pattern in our own culture. We say such things as, "How are you?" when meeting a friend. And in a letter, "I trust this finds you in good health." 

The health and wealth gurus, along with many of the tell-evangelists use this scripture to promote their healing ministries, attempting to convince sincere and misguided saints they should never be sick, and if so, that God does not want it so. The result is long healing lines of sick folk, while the shyster lines his or her pockets with their silver. As P.T. Barnum is purported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute."  

But John is only saying what, for example, every pastor says to his flock around the holidays, "I wish all of you a Merry Christmas," realizing in reality this will not be true in many of their cases. But that is his longing, his desire, his deepest wish. It is a general statement, not a factual reality. 

If good health and lack of any physical sufferings in a saint's life is an indication of being spiritual and of great faith, then the likes of Job, Paul, and yes, I say it reverently, our own blessed Lord would be left out. 

Wishing never abdicates God's Will for one's life!  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Routine

Customary, regular, habitual, unvarying, unimaginative, rehearsed, repeated, common-place, dull. One thing you cannot associate with any of these words is excitement. This list of bland words is various definitions of the word “routine.” True, there are high points in life, but these experiences are intermittent. For the most part, every day life is routine.

Many do not understand our lives are not lived on the mountain peaks, but in the valleys. There are those who mistakenly look at the mountain peak experiences of the Bible and see them as being close together. But, actually, there is a long valley between each. This valley is called, “The Valley of Routine.” In it you will find the “same-old, same-old.” Jesus walked it thirty years as a common laborer. He knew what it was to live a routine life.

Routine is not rut; it’s life. Get used to it, and make the best of it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cemented With Age

After more than half a century of studying God’s Word and observing people, I have added to my short list of core convictions two more, and set them in cement. I have always strongly believed in both, but not to the almost radical extent I do now. I’m referring to my belief in God’s absolute sovereignty over man and matter, and the total depravity of man in every area of his being.

As to the former, in the above mentioned, the certainty that an omnipotent God is in control of this insane world today, is the only thing that’s allowed me to keep my sanity. A world where the inmates are now running the institution and the sane people are considered the “crazies.” It is wonderful to know at such a time, as Daniel of old said, “There is a God in Heaven.” And when things have run their course according to His plan, He will step in! And when He puts His foot down, I guarantee all will know it.

Concerning my second persuasion, as Isaiah says in the first chapter of his book, man is tainted with sin from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. No part is left untouched; he is depraved in all aspects. Left to himself, free to act and think as he pleases, he will invariably choose his own interests above God’s. Total depravity entails total inability. That is, he has lost all ability to understand or accomplish anything truly Spiritual. Cornelius Van Till put it something like this; it’s not that unregenerate man is not sharp; he can saw as good, if not better, than a Christian. The problem is, his saw is crooked, never allowing him to saw a straight line.

“Two things are needed to humble us. First, let us consider God in His greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority. Then let us consider ourselves in our mean, abject, and sinful condition—especially in our enmity against God, which still remains in our hearts.” (John Owen, Puritan)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Habit/Tradition

I haven't taken time to look up the dictionary's definition of these two words (habit/tradition); I wanted to be a little 'Sandlinesque' in this article, so please forgive me. To me, the word habit brings to mind such descriptive words as personal or individual. Whereas tradition, to my way of thinking, carries a wider meaning, that being public and collective. A habit can be bad or good, and so it is with tradition. 

But even when one or both of these are found in a good context, they can be turned into the opposite. For example, Bible reading or prayer; when one thinks he or she cannot break the traditional or habitual mold they've always been accustomed to, then it becomes a weight in one's life. Strictly observing and adhering to the status-quo, you can be slowed to a stop. To put oneself under a law where no law is, is truly being a legalist! 

There's a way to tell when it is a man-made law or a legitimately scriptural one. David tells us God's commandments are "exceeding broad." He gives us elbow room, remembering we are but dust. On the other hand, man-made laws and rules are confining; there is no wiggle room to be found in them, for one's humanity is never considered. 

Interestingly, after God laid down His Law, the Decalogue, He followed it by the sacrificial offerings, providing for all who break it. There is no such provision when you break man's, or those we have self-imposed upon ourselves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Honor Before Glory

No higher tribute can be paid a man than this. To be told by a person of character, who knows you best, that you’re the most honorable man they ever met; well, that’s the apex of life for any man.

I've observed in the general population of younger men today, this accolade seems to mean little or nothing. I personally bend over backward for this present younger generation, always remembering how it was in my early years of manhood. But one of the things set in stone in my moral makeup, which I refuse to expunge, is the fact that a man should be a man of honor. This statement may be from the old school, but we who graduated from that school, graduated with the medal honor!

The word honor itself comes from the Latin. Some of its meanings are: integrity, trustworthy, ethical, morally principled, respectable, good. David’s mighty men, whom he gathered around him, were honorable men. Some were more than the others, “He was more honorable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first three.” I would liked to have been among the three.

The movie Rob Roy is a historical adventure, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700's. In one scene, his son asks him what honor meant, and his reply is a classic: “Honor is what no man can give you, nor can he take it away. Honor is a gift a man gives to himself.”

I do not know what men call themselves that are without honor; but I, for one, would never refer to them as “a man.”