Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Preacher

He was in his early twenties, a Korean vet, and had spent the last four years after his discharge going from bad to worse. He was now standing in church, with head bowed and eyes closed. It was the invitation. His newly- converted mother had prayed him home from California and talked him into attending a revival meeting at her church. It was the first time he had been in a Gospel church or heard the plan of salvation. All of a sudden, with his heart beating a mile a minute, he felt a hand placed over his, as he tightly held to the back of the pew in front of him. When he looked up, he saw a red-headed man, with a face just as red, from weeping. This man had stepped past the people in the next pew, until he was facing the young man. As he patted the back of the hand of this young sinner who was under conviction, he said, with tears flowing down his cheeks, “Son, don’t you want to be saved?” This was the first time I ever saw or met Howard Sears. The man, who for the last fifty-three years I have affectionately referred to as “My Preacher.”

He was my mentor, my friend, and my spiritual father. He stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, answering Bible questions for me. He was a friend who stuck closer than a brother and forgave me, as a father, for all the foolishness that characterizes a young convert and “preacher boy.” Not only was I saved under his ministry, but I met my lovely wife, and was called to preach under it.

I’ve had the advantage of knowing the “red-head,” before the snows of winter fell upon his head. At all four seasons of his life, I testify before God, unlike the weather, he was unchanging. What you saw is what you got. And what I saw, I always liked.

Descriptive words that come to mind when I think of Howard Sears are: compassionate, loyal, patient, forgiving, kind, and caring. But in my mind, his everlasting legacy will be, “He was a good man and filled with the Holy Ghost.” How rich a man I have been for having known this gentle giant! I will miss him terribly.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Perfect: Only in Christ

"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…” Paul would not have fit in with the mysticism and perfectionism groups of our day. The great Bible teacher, Harry Ironside, had a nervous breakdown trying to attain a state of Spiritual perfection. And the gifted Canadian scholar, J.I. Packer, testifies that he came close to the same experience in his early Christian life. People have gone insane trying to achieve the unachievable. Working toward a goal and reaching it are two entirely different things. Complete perfection is achieved only in Heaven.

There is a mild teaching of this doctrine found in both Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism today. You will find flavors of it in their preaching, writings, and testimonies. It characterizes itself by centering on the individual. There is a constant introspection which never allows them to ever have a sweet relationship with God. And yet the advocates of this teaching would have you to believe that this is what it is all about. They seem to always display a miserable and sad spirit. And who wouldn’t, scraping your insides constantly for any and all defects?

God accepts and blesses us where we are during any particular time in our Christian life. He knows our emotional, moral, physical, and spiritual state. God looks at the whole of a person; He does not look for isolated blemishes. Hebrews eleven proves this out. The people listed there all had their shortcomings and sins of the flesh. Of Abraham, for example, the New Testament says, “He staggered not at the promise of God…” but as you read the Old Testament account of this, you find he staggered like a drunken man. We find from this that it is possible for a saint to have a strong faith, but a weak flesh.

Until we are realistic about ourselves we will never lose our spirit of Phariseeism.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Thing at Hand

I read the little quip many quote, “Jack of all trades; master of none.” But originally, I understand, it was, “Jack of all trades; master of one.” Though I am sure the former is true in some lives. Paul said, “…this one thing I do…” Not that it was the only thing he did, but at that time, all other things were subservient to the one thing. It’s the same principle as when Jesus remarked to Martha that “…one thing is needful.” That was, at that particular moment. I doubt many of us can do two things well at the same time. Usually you will sacrifice one for the other.

It can be dangerous in certain situations to try and attempt two things in unison. Crossing a busy intersection, no one would argue, you can chew gum and walk at the same time. But I would strongly advise keeping your mind on the latter! I asked an old Irish evangelist once if a person could have more than one gift. His reply was in the affirmative. But he added; only one will be functional at a time. For example, you don’t preach and play the piano at the same time. If you do, one gift will suffer, and so will the people listening.

Let us give our complete attention to what’s at hand. Whether it be playing with our children, studying, fellowship, work, etc. Any butcher knows this truth. Some have sacrificed their fingers, because they didn’t pay attention to that which was at hand. May God help us not to lose something precious because we did not give it proper attention.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

*His Eminence

“That in all things he might have the preeminence.” At the heading of each book in my Bible, I have put a brief definition of what I believe that particular book’s overall teaching is. In the book of Colossians I have written “Christ, the Colossus of Colossians.” Some of the meanings of the word “colossus” are, “extra-ordinarily great; gigantic; huge; very powerful.” These are certainly good descriptive terms for our blessed Lord.

I heard an old preacher say once, “Jesus is the only Person you can brag on and never be guilty of over exaggeration.” You can always tell what kind of church you’re in by the place they give Jesus. There is an interesting text in Job that says, “How little a portion is heard of him.” In the Church, He is to be the center of our preaching, teaching, singing, testimonies, fellowship, praying, giving, and all business transactions. He is to tower over everything and everyone else.

I am fearful that too many ministers and people have the stamp of Diotrephes upon their foreheads (lll Jno.9).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

*Our Only Hope

One of our modern-day sayings that really annoys me is, “Well, all we can do now is pray.” This may sound spiritual to the carnal hearer, but any Spirit-filled believer realizes immediately they’re listening to someone who knows little or nothing of God.

Prayer is not the last thing on the agenda, it’s first and foremost. Prayer is always to be our top priority, without exception.

Our problem in times of crises is attempting to find help horizontally, but the scriptures tell us, “Vain is the help of man.” Our only hope is to be found vertically. David knew this: “My help commeth from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” And so you can see the cause of our dilemma is a directional one.

We came into this world in a fetal position, and leave it in a fetal position. You would think we’d take the hint!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Condemned For Continuing

“And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Carnal Christians love to quote the first part of this text to justify their lax life-style. It’s amazing how sinning saints can become so Bible oriented when attempting to vindicate themselves. When the devil quoted scripture to Jesus on the mount he left out an important portion. So it is not difficult to see where these types of people get such an idea.

Paul had to deal with this kind of heresy in his day also. There were those who wanted to be saved by grace, but continue in sin. The apostle’s reply to such was, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

Certainly, as long as we have the old Adamic nature we will not be free form sin, but neither are we free to sin. Like the old time preacher used to say, “A sheep may fall into a mud hole, but it’s not his nature to stay there; on the other hand, the old sow will wallow in it.”

After forgiving the immoral woman Jesus told her that in the future her previous life style was to cease. It’s a serious thing to continue in sin once forgiven. Remember Jesus words to the man at the pool of Bethesda, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”

“No man is condemned for anything he has done: he is condemned for continuing to do wrong. He is condemned for not coming out of the darkness, for not coming to the light.” (George McDonald)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

*Blessed by a Billboard

Years ago, as a young Evangelist, my wife and I were traveling to a revival meeting. As we came upon a giant-like billboard, I said to her, “There is the secret to the Christian life! In large, colorful letters was just one word, “Available.”

It is possible to be so busy “serving Him,” that one is not “available” to Him. As the prophet of old, we too must confess, “Thy servant was busy here and there.” We should never be so taken up with our “Daily Duties,” we would not welcome a “Divine Interruption.”

Philip, was in the midst of a Spiritual atmosphere where the blessings of God were being poured out abundantly. Yet, when the Lord asked him to suspend his activities, he obeyed immediately. And for what purpose: an obscure, behind the scene task, which few would have chosen. But there was one who was glad Philip made himself available.
God considers availability greater than ability!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Shining Countenance

“...your Father...in heaven...maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.” There is no preferential treatment when God’s good sun shines. And there should be none in the Christian’s life. The saint’s shining countenance should fall upon both the just and the unjust. Too often we have a smile for the one but a frown for the other. Our shining countenance is not only for those who bless, but for those who blaspheme. If not, “...what do ye more than others?”

When we are told that Jesus’ “...face did shine as the sun,” Paul tells us it was “...the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And so it is with us. When Moses blessed the people of God he said, “The Lord make his face to shine upon thee.” We are but reflections of God, and that brightness is not just reserved for the lovely, but the unlovely also.

A happy smile goes a long way in melting a hard heart.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Knowing is Believing

I can believe you have a father without ever knowing him. Knowing him would be prerequisite to an intimate, personal relationship. To pride oneself in telling others, that you believe in God, is really not that impressive, “…the devils also believe and tremble.” It could be asked, “What doest thou more than these?”

The Apostle John wrote extensively about belief. But when he qualifies true Biblical belief he writes, “…we have known and believed…” Paul said, “I know whom I have believed.” That is, he had a personal knowledge of the “whom” he believed in. To believe in a God you do not know is fantasy; to believe in a God you do know, is true faith.

George McDonald writes, “To say Thou art God, without knowing what the Thou means- of what use is it?” God is a name only, except we know God. Is it any wonder then that David impressed upon Solomon, “…my son, know thou the God of thy father.”

You will never know the God of the Bible apart from Jesus Christ! (Matt.11:27,b)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Charity Begins at Home

I like little quips such as the above title. I think another good one would be Faith Begins Within. God’s way is to work from the inside out. It seems to me we are concerned more with external faith, than internal faith.

Samson had a show of faith without, but was sadly lacking it within. He could overcome the outward, but couldn’t conqueror the inward. I doubt he realized the most important part of his life was that part that only God saw.

David killed a lion and a bear privately, before slaying the giant publicly. The greatest achievements in a Christian’s life are generally accomplished behind closed doors, with only God looking on. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.”

A faith that subdues fleshly desires on the inside, to me, is better than a faith that can remove mountains on the outside.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Top Priority

“…but though our outward man perish…” There is no question we should care for our bodies, as well as our spirits, for both are God’s. However, our first priority should be the latter, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things.” Therefore, Paul continues, “[E]xercise thyself rather unto godliness.” The Tabernacle of old was temporary, and would perish with time, giving way to a permanent Temple. And so it is with the present tabernacle in which we live.

The culture in which we live today puts all its emphasis on our deteriorating outer man. David likens our lives to a snail that melts away. We grow weak and feeble; we lose vigor and elasticity. But no matter how great the vigor, gradually decay will bring death. This outer cannot long hold up under all of life’s afflictions and burdens. The wear and tear of it takes its toll, till we finally sink into the grave.

But, thank God, the inner man is eternally young, and that youth is renewed day by day. As the body grows feebler, the soul gains in strength. And, just as the body draws nearer to the grave, the soul is more invigorated and rises toward Heaven. What a surprise for the materialist to find there’s more to a Christian than decaying, dying matter. He has an eternal soul and a new glorified body awaiting him in the resurrection of the just.

In the Resurrection, God takes the Treasure from the earthen vessel, and transfers it into a new, heavenly one.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Perfection

My homespun definition of perfection is, “Completeness at stages.” A good example would be a carpenter building a table. There is the time of completion when putting together the rough materials; then come the sanding, staining, and the final shellacking. At each of these stages we would say to the professional, “That’s perfect.” Meaning, at that particular stage.

The Christian life is like this, we are all at various junctures in our lives at any given time. No one moves immediately from the first point to the last, without experiencing those in-between. Some, whom the “Master Builder” has moved to another stage, are in danger of looking back critically on those who are now where they were at one time. It would be wise to listen to the song that falls from the lips of these who are treading the path to the Celestial City; those following the more advanced saints. Part of the lyrics goes something like this: “He’s still working on me.” It is well for all of us to remember this.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Powerless Pretenders

“We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth...And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” Here we have some amateur actors assuming authority over one of Satan’s emissaries. But they lacked one important ingredient: authentic authority. Satan’s evil spirits are only subservient to God’s Holy Spirit.

There are still spiritual pretenders trying to perform like Paul. But the apostle tells us emulations are a work of the flesh, and always unprofitable. Satan sees through religious masks, for he is a master of disguise himself. He is always trying to be someone else. That’s what caused his fall. “I will be like the most high God.”

Only those yielded to God are on Satan’s watch list of potential threats. To all the rest he says, “...but who are ye?” To every Spirit-filled child of God, Jesus has personally relegated authority, for it is the Spiritual person who will not misuse God’s power for his own gratification, but only for good. It is to the latter of these that Jesus promised, “Behold, I give unto you power...over all the power of the enemy.”

When David stripped himself of another’s armor, and armed himself with the authority of God, his enemy fell before him.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Secret of God’s Use of Me

Over the years I’ve been asked on occasions both by young preachers, as well as laymen, if there was any secret of God’s use of me. To deny God’s unusual use of this marred vessel through-out these many long years, for me would be the worst kind of false humility. As I look back over my life and ministry, I stand in awe, as do those who know a little of my past circumstances.

I was brought up in a home where the norm was infidelity, cursing, arguing, lies, drunkenness, and hurt. I was molested at the early age of five, and it continued for the next few years. God and religion were never mentioned, unless in a slang way. My schooling ended at the ninth grade, when I joined the U.S.A.F. as a seventeen year old boy, and went shortly thereafter to Korea.

And so, why is it God would use such a one as me? Contrary to many, I do not believe it was in spite of these handicaps, but because of the very fact of them, so that, “No flesh should glory in His presence.”

Apart from God’s Sovereignty, I believe there are seven things from the human standpoint that went into His use of this “wash pot.” (Psl.60:8, a)

Firsst, I gave everything to Jesus Christ from the first. All, then, now, and forever was to be His.

Second, I sought the anointing of the Spirit, and He graciously poured His Holy Ghost upon this dry, thirsty soul.

Third, The King James Bible was, and is, “The Book.” No kitchen knives, as the new translations, but only God’s sharp two-edged sword.

Fourth, To the best of my ability, God’s Glory was to always be first and foremost.

Fifth, I determined to go-it-alone, if need be, whatever the cost.

Six, I knew there would be a lot of knock-downs, so I decided I’d always get up one more time.

Seven, I made it a reality that if I were to ever sin and give it all up, I’d regret it, every day, and the rest of my life.

“God can hit an awful hard lick with a crooked stick, if the stick belongs to Him.” (Dr. Joe Henry Hankins)

The Devil’s Dollar

It’s purported that an old drunk on skid row offered the Evangelist D.L. Moody a dollar bill, which he readily accepted. When asked why he received such a gift from such a person, his reply was simply, “The devil has used it long enough; it’s time to put it into God’s service.”

David took the world’s means and used them in a way contrary to them. The smooth stones he used to slay Goliath (1Sam.17:17:40), were used by the heathen in their worship (Isa.57:6). And don’t forget the youngster took the giant’s own sword and used it against him to sever his head Check Spellingfrom his body (1Sam.17:50-51)

I remember in the early 50’s how Billy Graham was criticized for using television in getting out the gospel. Now most, if not the entire world has heard it. If you have not yet begun to take the world’s technical knowledge and turnit against them, it is time to start. As Moody said, “The devil has used it long enough.”Moody was right!

In John 9, the blind man was made to see, when Deity from Heaven used the cursed dirt of this world.