Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How To Eat Fish

I love fish, just about any kind. That is why, as a young Believer, when I was told by a preacher who was also an avid fisherman how to read my Bible, I understood his homespun metaphor. He said, when reading the scripture and coming to a text I don't understand, it's like eating fish. When you come to a bone, you don't stop, but simply lay the bone aside and keep eating. Through the years, I've found this to be advantageous, in both eating fish and reading my Bible. Their is much more meat, in both cases, than bones.

This can also be applied to secular and religious reading. We can forfeit a lot of knowledge by neglecting writers who do not cross all their "T's," and dot all their "I's," as we would like. Most certainly, it is important to read such books discretionally, but read them we must. That is, unless we choose to spend all our lives presenting a stubborn narrow-minded individual to others. Such people are not difficult to recognize; they wear a bright colored dunce's cap that all can see. They are ignorantly proud of their self-imposed intellectual limitations.         

Many of my readers were, or are, associated with some elitist group that discourages the reading of any literature other than what is produced or approved by them. I like a line in the dedicatory of the 1611 King James Bible which describes this type as  "...self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil." 

I find great solace in the fact that possibly the greatest Spiritual mind that ever graced this earth, Paul the Apostle, read after the poets of his day, and was familiar with the teachings of science. I would think from this "the books" Paul asked Timothy to bring to him while in prison included both secular and spiritual.   

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Bark With No Bite

I’m a preacher and have been for over half a century. Jesus told the people of His day that He was a preacher (Lk4:18). Paul in writing to the young preacher, Timothy, mentions being a preacher before stating he was an apostle or teacher (1Tim.2:7). Paul’s admonition to the preachers of his day, as well as our own, was to “Preach the Word.” This generation suffers from a famine of good, old fashioned, Bible preaching. I’m not speaking of a particular style, but of substance.

I had the privilege of being in on the after-glow of the revival of the forties. I have personally known or sat under the ministries of some of the great revivalists, to list just a few: Joe Henry Hankins, Bob Jones Sr., John R. Rice, B.R. Lakin, and the Jewish evangelist, Hyman Appleman. One characteristic each of these men had was that they preached on hell, judgment, sin, and worldliness. And they never gave syrupy apologies to a congregation before doing so. Today’s preachers, before preaching on sin, ask “Who’s out there”; whereas, the above mentioned men asked, after the fact, “Who’d I hit?” As one has said, “The pulpit can be a coward’s fort.”

I describe most of today’s preaching as, “toothless, having no bite to it.” After all, who is afraid of a barking dog that has no teeth? God’s people are leaving their churches on Sundays with no teeth-marks on them. These panty-waist preachers would never fit in with those rugged prophets of old. Well, let me remind any toothless preacher who may be reading this article, you’re going to have to face men such as Micaiah, John the Baptist and Stephen, in Heaven. And you’ll not be able to hide behind skirt tails then. “There was a man sent from God”; He didn’t send sissies to deliver His message!

The test of any church is how hard of preaching they can take. One good sermon like Jesus brought in Matthew twenty-three would empty out most churches. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”; in other words, if you’re not willing to hurt them, you can’t help them. A preacher is no friend to those he will not declare the whole council of God to. Teaching doesn't get people right with God; preaching does. Preaching gets you right, teaching keeps you right! Many back-sliders love Bible teaching (2 Tim.4:12,3).

We need some red-hot preaching, if we’re going to see any change in our churches or our beloved country. Billy Sunday said, “Don’t pluck the chicken till the water boils.” Believe me, it works. I've preached three nights on sin without any invitation to let conviction build. And on the fourth evening, altars we’re filled and overflowing. People we’re so faint that they were helped forward by friends holding them up. That was forty-five years ago, and people from that meeting are still serving the Lord as missionaries, pastors, and church workers.

Preaching is “foolishness”; and most preachers are not willing to play the fool for God!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Consistency of Inconsistency

The above is the title of a sermon I have. When I first preached it, I was asked how long it took me to prepare it; my answer was, “Twenty-five years.” Christians spend a lifetime trying to be consistent, not realizing God and His Word are consistently inconsistent. To list just a few of these inconsistencies: Don’t kill; Kill; Go not to the Gentiles; Go to the Gentiles; Marry not an harlot; Marry a harlot; No man hath seen God; Moses saw God; [Hezekiah] will die; Thou shalt not die; Build the Temple, don’t build it; “Answer not a fool”; “Answer a fool”; Don’t eat the shew-bread; Eat shew-bread; No human sacrifices; God sacrificed His Son.

An old preacher once said, “Consistency is the virtue of fools." To illustrate this, only a fool who deposits large sums of cash at the local bank travels the same route daily. The more a Believer becomes Christ-like, the more inconsistencies will be seen in his or her life. There are basically three reasons for these irregularities: First, to see if you’re willing to bear His reproach. It was for this (inconsistency), that the world criticized Him. Secondly, to confuse and confound the carnal and ungodly. The Bible is written to the Spiritually minded. And thirdly, to see if we will obey God without understanding or knowing why. Even when it goes against our, so-called, convictions.

Life is paradoxical, full of inconsistencies. Therefore, we need to “roll with the punches,” so to speak. Great peace comes to those who cease to consistently “put all their ducks in a row.” For one thing, being “all things to all men,” does away with a consistent life. Don’t let the world and fleshly brethren intimidate you into their consistency mold. If you do, you’ll miss God’s plan and will for your life. We are not to be the same all the time, situations change, thereby changing the way in which we meet them. At one time, Jesus “looked on them with compassion”; but at another occasion “He looked on them with anger.” He refused to be cast into the world’s mold of consistency! And so should we.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Big Little Prayers

The following story is told by Elisabeth Elliot in her book entitled, "Keep a Quite Heart."

Brenda was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing.

Although she was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took hold of the rope, and started up the face of that rock. Well, she got to a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda's eye and knocked out her contact lens. Well, here she is on a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn't there. 

Here she was, far from home, her sight now blurry. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord to help her to find it.  When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no contact lens to be found. She sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for the rest of them to make it up the face of the cliff. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of that Bible verse that says, "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth." She thought, "Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me."

Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, "Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?" Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it. Brenda told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, "Lord, I don't know why You want me to carry this thing. I can't eat it, and it's awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I'll carry it for You." 

At the risk of being accused of being fatalistic, I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, "God, I don't know why you me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it's awfully heavy.  But, if you want me to carry it, I will." 

Ant with carrying contact

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Things My Mother Taught Me

She was ninety-four when she went to her Heavenly Zion. She was from a long line of Kentucky stock, a real thoroughbred, who had Cherokee blood in her veins. My father ran off and left us when I was just a boy, and my sister, having married at seventeen, during the 2nd World War, pretty much left Mom and me on our own. We lived in one flop house after another, sometimes sharing the bath with three or four other families. It got rough at times, but as a young tow-headed boy, I always felt secure with this woman who was character incarnate. I knew I could depend on her to be there and take care of me. I was her number one concern!

It says of King Lemuel, “His mother taught him.” And so did mine teach me, some important lessons about life. Three stand out above all others. The first indelible truth was ingrained in me when I once asked her why she scrubbed other people’s floors and cleaned their toilets for a living. Her reply, as always, was a simple one, but it had a profound effect upon me. Said she, “Son, someone has to do it.” In other words, she was one who, if asking herself the rhetorical question, “Why me?” came back with the answer, “Why not me.”

And then there was the time, in my unconverted days, when I was trying to run-away from myself. I was leaving Ohio for California, attempting to escape the town in which I lived, thinking that would change things. Again she had words of wisdom for me. “Honey, you’ll find things pretty much the same wherever you go.” She was right, as always. I learned a change in geography, doesn't bring a change in character.

And just before leaving for that land where one never grows old, but stays eternally young, she gave me her final bit of advice. I had asked her if she had any last words for me; and staring up at me with those hazel green eyes, from her bed she said, “Keep on doing what you’ve been doing all these years.” Well, I have been, and will, until I go to meet this woman to whom I owe, not only my first birth, but my second birth. The birth that guarantees we’ll live together forever. Not in a flop house, but a Mansion, for all eternity. PRAISE THE LORD!

Fix me one of your Kentucky meals Mom; I’ll be coming home in the near future!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Laughing With God

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, sayingLet us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion."

We have all heard the little quip about getting the last laugh. Well this will literally come true in God's case, He will get the final laugh. But it will not be so funny for those He laughs at. All the godless potentates and peoples of this earth will hear this deafening "Ha! Ha! Ha!" coming from the eternal throne of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Because they were against Him and His Christ, He is against them. They wanted to break all His and His Son's restraints in this world, but will now find they will be everlastingly confined in the next. 

This younger generation of professing Christians, who have been bottle-fed on a syrupy pseudo love of God, will not take kindly to this article. There is no place for "sentimental saints"; when the Scriptures go contrary to emotions, the latter must be abandoned. Sentimental susceptibility is a weakness when it is at odds with the Word! It would be advantageous to any who believe in an anything-goes God to ponder what He said to the wise man in reference those who reject Him. "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." 

Far too many of God's people, I find, are swallowing what the slick politicians and news media feed them, instead of "What saith the Lord." As a result of being influenced by the world instead of the Word, they are in constant turmoil and fear. Don't let this world's noise frighten you; "But be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long." If you want a good laugh, just imagine a numerous amount of toy soldiers, one-inch high, gathering themselves together, with their play weapons, against their creator. What a hilarious sight Armageddon will be to Almighty God! 

I find nothing cheers my heart like having a good laugh with a friend. God is my friend!    

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Sheep's Psalm

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

Years ago, in my devotional time, the Holy Spirit called to my attention the ten times the sheep refers to his shepherd in this brief but beloved Psalm. I've come to see this is not so much the  "Shepherd's Psalm," as it is the "Sheep's Psalm." Like the bride in Song of Solomon, his life was wrapped-up in "HIM."  

Notice, not once does the shepherd speak. The sheep does all the talking, and it is not about himself but his precious shepherd. It is the sheep's testimony of what his shepherd is to him, and what He has done for him. Had the sheep lived in our day, I think his favorite secular song would have been the old love ballad, "I Only Have Eyes For You."

"And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only."