Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slandering Paul

There seems to be three types of preaching and teaching on Grace today: Grace-less, grace-full, or a grace that is a disgrace. I’d like to believe I belong in the second category. As to the first group, it appears that all their sermons are prepared from Mount Sinai. Possibly, they’ve never heard of Mount Calvary.

But it’s the third in the above list that I’m concerned with in this writing. It’s because of these “perverts,” Paul’s words, not mine, that true Grace advocates get a “bad rap.” Jude speaks of these as “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness” (that is, lustful, licentious, or lewd living).

Paul said of his own grace teaching and preaching: “(we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come.” His answer to this slur was “God forbid how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Mr. Law was my tutor; Miss Grace is my teacher; her moral standards are no less than his (Tit.2:11-12).

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Love You

I won my father to Christ and baptized him several years before his death. I also held his funeral. But for most of his life he was a heavy drinker, and as such, did all the things that go along with that life-style. As a boy I remember how he brought untold sorrow to my mother. I do not know the times he said to her, “I love you honey.” After a while, in cases such as this, such words become like “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

I like syrup, but I like some substance under it. You know, like waffles, pancakes or French toast. I do not order syrup on a plate by itself. Like syrup, love is never solitary; some other item is involved with it. And that component is the element that proves its worth.

God says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Bible love always has actions connected with it (1John 4:19). It is not just some passive attitude. When we say “I love you” to God or anyone else, proof must precede, accompany, or follow close after such a statement. You have to earn the right to use such hollowed words. Love will work itself to the bone to prove itself. Ask Jacob!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Going for the Gold

Paul likens the Christian life to running in a race. One of his admonitions for those who would win is to not look back. Or as the old black relief pitcher Satch Paige used to say, “Don’t look back, deh might be a-gainin’ on yuh!”

You can’t win a race looking backward. For this reason the Apostle tells us to forget those things which are behind. Two things will cause us to lose in life’s race: gloating over previous successes, or resurrecting former sins. The first will puff us up, bringing about a fall; and the latter will discourage us, and be the reason for our quitting. No one ever won the gold laying with his or her face in the dirt, nor was the prize presented to anyone who walked off the track in the middle of the race.

Advancement comes from keeping your eye on the goal. And our goal is God! And that, my dear Christian friend, is the joy that is set before us. Go for it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Spot on the Paper

What did these men and women have in common: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Naomi, Sarah, Jeremiah, John Mark, Peter, Paul, John the Baptist? They all had their moments of shame and embarrassment. Experiences they wished had never happened. Events they would change, if they could go back and do them again. Yet, as tragic as some of these were, God worked them out for their good, His glory, and our example.

Never mistake the moment for the man. It is not the one spot on the paper t we are to concern ourselves with, but the vast unsoiled portion that surrounds it. Many of us are too tough on ourselves, and that causes us to transfer this to others when they come up short. The Scriptures are not half as hard on our shortcomings and failings as we are. It’s not the exceptions we are to interest ourselves with, but, rather when they become the rule.

A minute is only a small part of twenty-four hours; don’t stop the clock because you’ve lost one.

(R.D.S)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Heaven Can Wait

Paul tells us he had “…a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” No amount of theological juggling can make this text mean anything other than what it says. Being with Christ was preferred over being on earth by the apostle. Not because of his suffering, or that he was disappointed with life, or that he’d given up on sinful humanity; nor was it because of the fact that the old warrior was worn out. His motive was pure and higher than these. The aged saint had such a love for the Lover of his soul that it dwarfed everything else in life.

In a ministry that spans some fifty-four years now, I’ve only met one person who I believed truly wanted what Paul did. He was my best friend, and the Lord called him home at fifty-two years old. Upon hearing of his death, the first thing my wife said was, “Well, he finally got what he always wanted.” On his tombstone are the words, “With Christ…far better.”

I’m afraid most of us are like the little fellow down South, who, when asked if he wanted to go to Heaven, replied, “No, Sir!” But when the amazed witness added, “You mean, you don’t want to go to Heaven when you die?” the answer was, “Oh, you mean when I die. I thought you were getting a load up to go now!” We laugh, but the tragedy is, most of us fall into this category.

We are never as dedicated as we’d like to think we are.

Honey and Vinegar

There are some things, whether in business, work, school, family, or church, etc., that aren’t worth arguing or fighting over. A bull dog can whip a skunk, but it’s not worth the fight! We need to choose our battles, making sure they are over principles, not personalities or preferences. Nonessentials are not essential to life.

We can neutralize potent and explosive situations with a fair amount of understanding. When an issue is concentrated it is always good to add this additive. It can many times change a potentially bitter situation. When things are not clear in Scripture, let’s learn to neutralize by compromise. As my son Andrew once advised me, “Don’t use vinegar until you have first tried the honey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

*Mind Your Mending

“Mending their nets...he called them.” Peter and Andrew were “casting [their] net,” while their brethren, James and John, were “mending their nets.” The former were using their nets, while the latter were fixing theirs. Mending is as necessary as fishing, but we hear little, if anything, about the maintenance of mending.

Years ago, while learning to throw a cast net, my teacher, a deacon by the name of George Kendrick, told me, “Preacher, inspect your net often, and keep it mended, for if there is but one tiny hole in it, the fish will find it and escape.” We need to constantly check our lives and mend those areas where we are most vulnerable, lest we toil all night and catch nothing.

When we sit down to mend our nets, we are as occupied and busy as those who are casting theirs. The wise man tells us there is “...a time to sew (mend).” Notice Jesus calls the ones who are mending as well as those who are fishing.

It’s not a new net we need but a mending of our old one; God makes due with what we have.

                                                                                    

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Knowing Christ

"[F]or I know whom I have believed…" "That I may know him…" Paul was willing to lose everything "for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." Unlike so many Christians today, the apostle was not content with his initial knowledge of Christ, but, years later, was seeking a more intimate knowledge of Him. No true saint should be satisfied knowing about him, but knowing Him.

The lack of devotion to Jesus Christ in our day is the result of not really knowing Him; for to know Him is to love Him. Intellectual knowledge of Him is necessary, but far from complete. An intellectual head knowledge must sink into an emotional heart if our relationship to him is to be personal. A man's knowledge can be wide without being deep. Certainly, Jonathan Edwards knew theology better than John Bunyan, but he didn’t know God any better.

Jesus admonished, "Search the scriptures…they are they which testify of me." Peter tells us, if we are to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we need to be Bible beavers. The Lover's letter to His beloved should be well worn from reading it over and again, with tear stains on every page.

Make sure the God you know is not the god of this world, but rather, the God of the Word.

                                                                                     

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Accepting Ageing

“I have been young, and [now] am old.” Apparently David did not have the problem many have today, that of accepting his age. The old man had come to realize that with age comes limitations. He could no longer kill his giants as he once did (2 Sam.21:15-17). He needed brave younger men to help him. But this did not stop the old war horse from “pawing in the valley” (Job 39:21), at the sound of the battle.

David knew his age was not an issue with the “Ancient of Days.” This is clear in his statement to God, “Mine age [is] as nothing before thee” (Psl.39:5). He, like “Paul the aged” (Phi. 9-10), knew he would still bring forth fruit in his old age (Psl.92:14). He was confident God would not forsake him when he old and grayheaded (Psl.71:18).

O, aged saints, let us lay hold of His promise left us in Isaiah 46:4."Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."

Friday, July 20, 2012

TOGETHER

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus.”

Oswald Chambers states, “Christianity is in its essence social.” He goes on to say, “The main characteristic of Christianity is the “together” aspect. The Bible teaches most emphatically, no man is an island. If you try to make it alone you will end up with an Elijah complex.

Paul tells us God has “knit together” those who are His, as Jonathan and David’s souls were knit together. And as Israel, “Knit together as one man,” so it is with the Body of Christ. Like Joseph’s coat of many colours, we are God’s fabric woven with multi-shades. We are to blend together for God’s glory.

Jesus said to the people of His day, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! But this was not true of His elect, that small remnant, in comparison, who came “together” to hear the preaching, pray, and break bread.

O, dear saints of God, until that day when we “shall be caught up together…in the clouds, to meet the Lord,” let us come together in our local assemblies to meet Him each Lord’s Day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It'sTime, Lord

“[It is] time for [thee], LORD, to work: [for] they have made void thy law.”

I’m thinking that some of our extreme “sovereignistic” brethren, had they lived back in David’s day, would have taken issue with him over the above statement. “How dare you tell God when He should work,” I can hear them say. This overly sensitive attitude may impress those Christians still splashing around in the baby pool, but not those who have advanced to “waters to swim in.”

God takes into account that we are dust and part of humanity. After all, He did create us humans. Don’t ever forget, He sent His Son in our likeness with its many limitations. That is why He perfectly understands a Godly and sincere man as Jeremiah, when he says to His Maker, “O Lord, thou hast deceived me.” Free-will is no threat to sovereignty; in fact, it is necessitated by sovereignty; God can always check-mate the former when He chooses.

Because of the spiritual condition in David’s time, a state obvious to all that possessed a Spiritual eye, David discerned it was time for God to move in and take the matter in hand. In the context, we see how David had diligently followed right and now appeals for God’s intervention. This is always an appropriate prayer when sin abounds. When we see such a condition in our nation, churches, families, or individual lives, we, too, can say to the Almighty, “It is time for thee, LORD, to work.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grace and Thorns

“There was given to me a thorn in the flesh…For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me…And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee."

God gave Paul a gift; it was a thorn in the flesh. Its purpose was to deflate his ego during those times he was tempted to become over-inflated. During a period of fourteen years he had prayed on three specific occasions that God would remove it. To which the Lord answered, in essence, that if He took away the thorn there would no longer be a need for his daily Grace in his life and ministry.

I’m afraid many of us, if the truth were known, would sacrifice God’s moment by moment sustaining grace for the eliminating of any and all means used by Deity to keep us humble and useable. We need to take warning from King Uzziah in the Old Testament. We’re told, “He was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to [his] destruction.” Or as Paul so aptly puts it, “being lifted up with pride he [fell] into the condemnation of the devil.

We say to our children, “Remember your place.” Those of us used of God need to also constantly remind ourselves of ours. We should follow King David’s example. When entering his house, he sat before the Lord and said, “Who [am] I, O Lord GOD? and what [is] my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? Don’t you think David would have liked the little wall plaque which reads, “Lest I forget”?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Educated Husbands

“…ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge.” I’ve met scores of knowledgeable men, though the years, who didn’t know the slightest thing about their wives. They were completely ignorant to their needs, moods, feelings, fears, hopes, desires, and problems.

No husband’s education is complete if he doesn’t know his wife. He should   make a lifetime study of just knowing her. I don’t know about you, but I have found my wife has been one of the most fascinating and interesting, as well as enjoyable, subjects I have ever studied in the school of life.

Any educator or student realizes you fail if you don’t know your subject. Knowing your wife is a major, not a minor. You can’t get by without a passing grade on this subject. You’re headed for failure if you don’t know this important subject.

A knowledgeable husband knows his wife’s physical needs as well as the spiritual ones. “He that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” There used to be a secular song entitled, “Little Things Mean A Lot.” It doesn’t take a lot to please a good wife, if she knows some thought has gone into what her husband does for her.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Unacceptable Sacrifice

“Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not… (neither hadst pleasure [therein])…but a body hast thou prepared me…I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.”

The issue with God is not yours but you. If He has the latter, He most certainly will get the former. It’s a package deal, you see. But, it’s possible to give Him the first without you being in the bargain. And this is unacceptable with God. Paul alludes to this truth when writing of the Macedonian Christians. They had sacrificed what they had unto the Lord but had first given themselves.

A life is the only acceptable sacrifice God will take. Inanimate things are bloodless. And Cain found out, “you can’t get blood out a turnip.” Also, God has no respect for such things on His altar, unless, of course, they are connected with a life already on it.  For example, God doesn’t want your wallet in the offering plate; He wants you in it. If He gets that, He’ll have what’s in your pockets.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Innocent By-Standers

“Come…and see my zeal for the Lord.” Looks can be deceiving. This man was not what he passed himself off to be. If anyone thinks this man’s zeal was for the Lord, then their thinking is not “according to knowledge.” When we put this man under the microscope of God’s Word, we find him to be ambitious, calculating, ruthless, stern, and passionless. Great leaders are not always great men. True, he was commissioned to exterminate all of Ahab’s bloodline, but, in his misguided zeal, he killed forty-two innocent men who were the descendants of David, and only because they were associated with Ahabguilty by association, you know. And what’s worse, he made it look like it was all for the Lord.

His zeal originated more from Jehu than Jehovah. God was only a means to an end for him. We see this today in many, so-called, soul winners. Another convert simply means another notch on their Bibles. This is the type who leaves the dust on the knees of their trousers for all to see they are men of prayer.

The pitiful thing about Jehu’s is that good people are taken in by them. Jehonadab was a Rechabite, a respected and spiritual people among the Jews. Jehu persuaded him to join his endeavor, because he needed such a person to add respectability and credence to his ambitions and to help him sell his policies and practices to the public. Let’s make sure we are not one of those sincere puppets.

A man’s motive is God’s primary concern.

                                                                  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

*Just Passing Through

“When thou passest through the waters...when thou walkest through the fire...”

God’s people at the Red Sea and the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace are proof-texts of this wonderful promise. The watermark may get high, but not high enough that we’ll drown. And the fires may get seven times hotter than they are known to get, yet it will not consume us. God has provided for us “life-jackets” for the storms, and fire-proof garments for the furnace. They are found in Jesus Christ.

Notice both of these dreaded experiences are something we go through, not stay in. If the devil can get us to believe that it will always be like this, then he has won. For we most certainly will ultimately give up and give in, if we think there is no deliverance. But, thank God, the darkness passes and light shines again! “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”

The Bible says, “And it came to pass”; it does not say, “It came to stay”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rising to the Occasion

“I am made all things to all [men], that I might by all means save some.”

It was said of the evangelist Billy Sunday that he could walk with paupers or with kings. Paul is not speaking of compromising but of socializing. That is, he was willing to adjust to the customs of various cultures (Jewish/Gentiles). He made every necessary accommodation to help men and women on to God.

Consistency is not always a virtue. Throughout scriptures, God’s men and women are seen as inconsistent. Our dear Lord was constantly accused of this by the spiritually immature. This was simply because both He and they adapted their approach to different groups. They were flexible; they didn’t have a set formula. You know, “one size fits all.”

Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to encourage his students to go as far as they could on the right road with every man. Some of us are too ready to turn off at the first exit. Sometimes it is hard to swallow, condescending to men of low estate. But that’s our pride, and I might add, a mouthful to gulp down.

Let each of us emulate the refined mother who invited her illiterate friend from the hills to church. When the latter showed up at her door on Sunday, she was wearing her apron. Upon seeing this, the gracious saint turned to her daughters and said, “Girls, let’s not forget our aprons.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wondering Out Loud

Out of Paul’s thirteen Epistles (fourteen, if you count Hebrews), seven were addressed to a particular church in a specific place. Interestingly, Jesus also wrote an equal amount of assemblies in the book of Revelation. In each case, you will find, for the most part, each body had its own shortcomings and sins. In other words, there were no perfect churches. If there had been, you would think we’d find them closer to the time of their inception, rather than two- thousand years later. Time generally has a way of corroding things that originally were clear.

Though I come miserably short, I try to read my Bible through the eyes of 1st Century believers. I endeavor to see things the way they were then. I wonder, for example, if, say, a Christian coming from Corinth to Philippi would have been received into their assembly upon his or her profession of faith. After all, you do realize one of the great stigmas of the Corinthian church was “tongues.” Would a believer, then, have to make another profession of faith and be re-baptized? And what if they came from Galatia, where a strong works element was taught? What about the church at Rome that had those teaching antinomianism? And, of course, there was the church at Colosse with its mysticism. And how were missionaries treated from these churches?

If it be argued the Epistles are corrective, and these assemblies would have ceased to be churches had they not heeded the correction, is that also true of me, as a Christian? Do I cease to be a Christian if I do not heed all that is written? With all their faults, both Jesus and Paul called them churches.

I personally believe, in the end, we balance out each other. In church history, it seems each group was raised up to emphasize an important element that had been lying dormant; for example, the filling of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, justification by faith, holiness, etc. Each doctrine was resurrected because of its needed emphasis. Can we not thank God for this and them?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Swalling the Bait

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].

In the world in which we live, no one is exempt from temptation, not even God’s dear Son was. If you’re a member of humanity, it’s a common thing to be tempted. During these testing times, it can make or break a person. The devil’s purpose is to accomplish the latter of the two. If he can get one to swallow the bait that their situation is unlike any others, then he has hooked them. He wants us to think our temptation is special, rather than common.

Temptation may be different in sort, but it can be the same in severity. There is a difference between a headache and a toothache, but the level of pain can be the same in both cases. To imagine your case to be the worse of the two is ludicrous. If, when tempted, you feel yours is unlike your fellow believers, then you will justify your yielding and take liberties that you mistakenly believe God will understand and condone.

We are told God makes a way to escape fiery temptations, if we but choose it. If one does not avail himself or herself of a fire escape that has been provided for all, then he or she can expect the awful consequence. Being tempted is not sin; but to yield to it most certainly is.

 Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

You're Not Alone

“Scripture saith of Elias… Lord…I am left alone… But what saith the answer of God unto him… I have reserved to myself seven thousand…”

Many years ago, a young business man and his wife approached me at a camp meeting. I had just finished preaching, and as he walked up, he put forth his hand to shake mine. The first words out of his mouth were, “I thought I was the only one until I heard you. I felt like I was going crazy at times.” As a result, he became one of my dearest friends, as well as a faithful supporter.

Since then, others have echoed his sentiment. One man suggested it would be nice if this small remnant of rag-tags were all in one place. But this, of course, would necessitate removing the lone candle from the dark place in which God placed each of us. Elijah, like you and me, forgot there are others in this war, although we may not always be able to see them in the dense jungle in which we battle.

O dear friend, never let the devil get you to think you’re the only one. Like you, there are others who are in the same fight, with like temptations, and sufferings in their flesh. They have kindred fears, problems, and anxieties. This little band of misfits, like you, are misunderstood and misrepresented by their contemporaries also. But remember, though they be far off and cannot share your grief, there is One who was also put “outside the camp,” who can and will.

“Are you weary, are you heavy hearted? Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

I’m so grateful that early in my Christian life, I was shown that courage is not necessarily the absence of fear—that they can run side by side, and generally do. Courage is simply going on by faith in spite of fear. We are told in the Scriptures “by faith they feared not.” I have been plagued by a fearful spirit since I was a small boy. Learning the above truth, after my conversion, has helped me tremendously. Also, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

How often we fear the intangible—a nameless dread grips and numbs our spirits. We seem to be afraid of anything and everything. We fear people, the past, and the future. We are fearful of the unknown, of undertaking responsibilities, and making decisions. If not careful, we can live a lifetime of fear. The writer of Hebrews describes such people. He says, “...through fear...were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Fear paralyzes. John tells us “fear hath torments.” But, thank God, we no longer have to be held in this vice of fearfulness. He hath said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE, NOR FORSAKE THEE. So that we may boldly say...I WILL NOT FEAR.” During those fearful times, like Elijah’s, “great and strong wind…earthquake…and fire,” listen for that “still small voice,” “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”

Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway.  (John Wayne)

Monday, July 2, 2012

*Your Christian Life

"I am as a wonder unto many.” David’s life was a wonder from his youth down to old age. There should be something (or some things) in every Christian’s life that cannot be explained apart from God. Something that causes wonder, a thing or things that cannot be explained using natural terms.

When the lame man at the gate of the Temple got on his feet, never having to beg from this world again, it is said of the people “they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.” There is no wonder in a man who says God did a supernatural work in him while still retaining the same stagnant life-style he always had.

Everything about our dear Lord caused those around Him to wonder. We read in the Gospels such statements as, “And they …wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this!” And again, “They wondered everyone at all things which Jesus did.” They could not comprehend the God-Man! Neither can they grasp, “Christ in you the hope of glory.”   

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why No Scripture

“Search the scriptures.” The Bible was not written to, or for, a lazy person. Only those who “…search…as for hid treasure,” will discover its true riches. As far as I can tell, only one book in the sixty-six was written for the unbeliever, that being John’s gospel.

I am asked from time to time why I do not give chapter and verse when making most of my scriptural statements. Basically, it’s for two reasons: First, the “Journal” is primarily written for those who mean business with God and are willing to dig for the treasure. And, secondly, to follow the Bible pattern its writers left us. Apart from Paul referring to the “…second Psalm,” you’ll not find any other such reference, only to the book where the Scripture is found. And even this method is not overdone.

The readers of the book of Hebrews didn’t even get the luxury of the book where the writer’s proof-text was found. You’ll find him making such statements as, “…in a certain place…and again…and again…in a certain place…and in this place again…as it is said…he saith in another place…Him that hath said…etc.”

By this we can surmise the importance of being personally familiar with the Scriptures. And, to accomplish this, we must read and reread them. As one old Divine put it, “Wallow in the Word, wallow in the Word!”