Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Various Views

Years ago, as a young pastor, I was close to losing my spiritual sanity. The cause of my mental anguish was in attempting to cross all my “t’s” and dot the “i’s”. My library at that time consisted of close to two-thousand books and pamphlets. I found in my reading that good and godly men, both in the past and present, had multiple interpretations on a variety of texts. I thought to myself, if such men had such a wide array of beliefs, then how could someone like me be sure I had the truth?

It was while walking to-and-fro in the room that stored my books, and meditating on this baffling question that the Lord gave me peace; a peace that has lasted me these many long years. The answer to my agonizing and perplexing problem was actually a simple one. When mulling it over in my mind, I came to see that each of these men, who were evangelical and fundamental in their beliefs were all in agreement on the main points. That is, the historic cardinal doctrines of the Church.

The disagreement came on the sub-points. For example, each believed in Inspiration, the New Birth, the Second Coming, the Blood Atonement, and Bodily Resurrection. The difficulty came when breaking the main points down into sub-heads. It is then that the “communion of the saints” turns sadly into the “controversy of the saints.” When confronted with such disagreements with a brother I believe the Lord would have us heed David’s words, “Deal gently with him for my sake.” If you don’t, you will find you have traded a humble heart for a hard one. As John Newton says concerning those with whom we disagree, “In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth now.”

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crazy? I Think Not!

One definition of the word “institutionalize” is: “to place or confine in an institution.” And one of the meanings of “institution is, “a place characterized by drabness, uniformity, and impersonality.” We say of certain people that they have been institutionalized. I believe this could also be said of a vast amount of Christians in our day.

But it seems to me that more and more of God’s people are breaking out of their little cubicles and observing everything from “outside the box.” They refuse to have a monastic mindset. It is no longer a “me, my, and I” they hold to. They have found there is more to it than my family, my church, my school, my ministry, etc. “Jack” has jumped out of his box and is finding out how the rest live.

Beware of any institution that tries to institutionalize you. You can always spot them. They will tell you only those who look out through their institution’s bars are sane. And all those who are free and at liberty on the outside are crazy. It’s this sort who said of Jesus that He was “beside himself,” and of one of his devoted followers that he was “mad.” As for me, I’d rather be on the outside looking in, if you don’t mind. Let them say and think what they will.

Inside-out, If You Please!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Breaking Out of Our Religious Mold

I think there are basically three steps in making a religious mold. First, you create a habit, which in time becomes a tradition, invariably ending in superstition. Granted, the former two are accepted and even useful, in a scriptural context; the third one, never. The two goods can add up to bad if the third is added to the equation.   

Forming a good and godly habit that becomes more or less traditional can be an excellent thing. But when, for example, your posture, as well as your petitions, in prayer end in superstition, that mold needs be broken. The same can be true of our Bible reading,  as well as scores of other rituals we adhere to. 

Whenever a child of God cannot break out of a formal, ritualistic pattern, no matter how acceptable, without feeling some kind of taboo is upon them, they have become a superstitious saint. And I say to all such, as Paul, "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious." 

If this is you, it is time to break the mold. Don't you agree?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose"

The title of our article is a famous quotation by author, Gertrude Stein, generally taken to mean, "Things are what they are." It is what is called, "the law of identity." By changing the name doesn't change the person or thing. It only confuses matters. And it can be dangerous. Try changing the hot and cold faucet handles on your shower to find out.  

We have gutted and drained powerful words until they are now anemic. Convicting words such as drunkard is now termed an alcoholic; a bastard to one born out of wedlock; drug addict to substance abuser; whore to street walker. These along with a legion of other weak substitute phrases are geared to soften sin and make it respectable for both the perpetrator and their loved ones. It saves embarrassment before others. And this is important in this superficial, shallow age in which we live.

But to the man after God's heart no such high sounding substitute was used. When this man of high position sinned, he cared not what others thought. He didn't water-down sin; sin was still exceedingly sinful! "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," was his heartfelt cry to God. The Blood of Christ cleanses sin, not excuses. Whitewash only takes care of the external. Plus, whatever one is attempting to cover will begin to show through again, at some point.    

My oldest son, Andrew, a preacher, speaking of sin and the modern day psychologists' approach to it, said, "It takes a lot of money to get right with God today." Thank God, the Great Physician is free!Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye...without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money...and your labour for that which satisfieth not?"

Friday, August 22, 2014

Listening to the Bushes

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it was the beginning of a new life for Moses. One of the definitions for curious is, “taking an undue interest in other’s affairs; prying.” But another meaning is “arousing attention or interest through being unusual or hard to explain.” It was the latter of the two that turned everything around for Moses.

He never forgot the day that “he turned aside to see.” For when God saw his curiosity for the supernatural, He spoke to him. We need a holy curiosity today. We need to be awestruck by the supernatural within the natural. Yes, a common desert brush, like a lot of others in the wilderness, but this one had God in it.

Many are seeking the supernatural today, apart from the natural bush. Could this be the reason we have no time for common people? We pass by them, not interested why this “bush” of a man or woman has supernatural fire burning in the midst of them. Maybe if we turned aside to see, God would speak to us out of the midst of these plain, ordinary human bushes, in this desert land through which we walk.

May each of us be on the look-out for bushes that God is in. Some will be illiterate, others stooped with age, while a few may be inexperienced youth, still others, poor, with little esteem. But if we will stop and show an interest in these common bramble bushes, they can be the means of transforming our lives!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

David on Prayer

"I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."

God hearing and answering David's prayer is by no means the main reason he loved the Lord, but most certainly is at the top of the list among the many other reasons. Someone might say, "But the text doesn't say God answered his prayer, only that He heard it." By checking the context (v.8), we see He did answer him. But had we no mention of an answer, common sense tells us He did. Otherwise,how would he have known God heard him? The prophets prayed all day for Baal to hear and answer them, but there was no answer. Elijah prayed a short prayer and God heard, and proved that He did by answering him.

John tells us, "We love Him because  He first loved us."  And how did He love us? "God so loved...He gave!" And why do we love Him? Because He gave. The principle is the same in David's case and throughout the Bible. When the Lover of our souls gives to His beloved simply because she asks, her love deepens. There is a glowing and growing love in the soul of a child when he or she realizes their father both heard and answered their request.

Jesus said, concerning prayer, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Is it not proper then to ask a granting of our prayers that God may be glorified? And, as David, is it not also fitting to ask God to give us our petitions that we may love Him even more? What David said in our text would not sound too spiritual to the "spiritual elite" of our day, but God knew David's heart. And He knows yours and mine dear friend.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

God is Great!

The Bible declares, in no uncertain terms, God is great. Therefore, it goes without saying, He does great things. He is not only great within Himself, but He accomplishes great things for His people. Even the heathen recognize this. In Psalm 126, we hear their testimony concerning God’s children: “The Lord hath done great things for them.” This is followed by the Lord’s people saying, “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”

As you read the history of the early Christians in the Book of Acts, you are impressed with how these primitive believers were daily telling of God doing great things in their lives—conversions, healings, miracles, needs met, enemies put down, personal victories, the list is unending. They were literally awestruck at God’s greatness.

Something terrible is happening today in the assemblies of God’s elect. No longer do we hear testimonies of our great God doing great things for His people. What is presented is an anemic, powerless, God, Who is bedridden. Elijah made fun of the god of the heathen because of his inability to help them; today, the heathen are laughing at our God, they believe He cannot do great things for us.

My question is that of the prophet of old: “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bitter Sweet

"Thy heart is not right in the sight of God…For I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness.” 

The context of our scripture is is built around the person of the Holy Spirit. One similitude the Bible gives to the Holy Spirit is that of a dove. I am told that of all God’s fowl creation, it is the only one without a gall bladder, that is, the place where bitterness is stored. Harboring bitterness is not only hurtful to one's self, Hebrews tells us, "...lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." Not only does this deep rooted sin affect you but those around you.

It is virtually impossible to be filled with the Holy Ghost and be full of bitterness at the same time. Amy Carmichael writes, "For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted."  As James tells us in his little Epistle, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”  You’ll remember it was when Moses put a tree into the bitter waters of Marah that they became sweet. Only the Cross can cure this cancerous curse. 

The acid test for bitterness, I find, is if when a particular person's name is mentioned, there is a sick feeling in the heart. If so, it is pretty safe to say one's heart is filled with vinegar, so to speak. As a preacher friend told me once, "You're servant to the one you're bitter toward." They dominate most all your waking hours...thought, talk, etc. 

Ezekiel mentions an "old hatred," let us each judge our hearts and make sure no old grudges are festering there. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Child-Like Spirit

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

One can be childlike without being childish. In dramatic school they taught us to have the head of an adult and the heart of a child. Jesus told these grown men they were to be childlike. And our Lord never asked anyone to be something He was not Himself. We hear much today about being Christlike. The list of characteristics seems to be endless, which has brought about discouragement in many trying to achieve and keep up with this, may I say, grocery-list of things. Simply put, Christ-likeness is child-likeness. And He kept His child-like spirit to the grave.

1. Any and all spiritually gifted and greatly used men and women of God have been marked by a child-like spirit. For example, Solomon. Not only did God grant his request for wisdom but threw in the kitchen sink, so to speak. Why? Listen to him, "And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in." It seems God doesn't deny the likes of him, their desire.

2. Jesus referred to those following Him as "My little children." John picks up on this term, using it no less than nine times in his first epistle, when speaking of God's elect. Paul also uses the the same phrase. We are told in our text God's Kingdom is made up of such. 

3. I have observed that little children are humble, trusting, forgiving, simple, and loving. But the characteristic that is sweetest, I think, is their spirit of wonder. Everyday there seems to something new and fresh about life. And so it should be with us "little children." The evangelist, Gypsy Smith, was asked when he was eighty the secret of his radiant Christian life. He answered, "I guess it is because I have never lost the wonder of it all." Have you, my friend? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

They Can't See the Forest For the Tree

"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it."

I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but I read there are over twenty-three thousand different kinds of trees in the world. Among them, fruit trees numbering into the thousands; the apple tree alone is said to have some seventy-five hundred varieties. The Bible records the names of no fewer than twenty-seven of this vast number of fruit trees in the world. The possibility of a great number of trees being in the garden is far from being speculative. 

1. Interestingly, our first parents centered all their attention on the one tree that was forbidden rather than all those they had free access to. You could say, "They couldn't see the forest for the 'tree.'" God has an affinity for trees, He chose to die on one (1 Peter 2:24).

2. Legion, I've found, is the number who major on the few things God has restricted while losing sight of all the wonderful things freely given them. Things for their good and not for their hurt, as those in the off-limits area would do. Bypassing our fleshly desire for that one thing we want shows our love to Him. And in partaking of the many good things He has provided us, shows His love to us!

3. Years ago, when my daughter, Charity, was five, I taught her a lesson on tithing. I divided one-hundred pennies into two groups of ninety and ten, then said "Chip, that is God's tithe, it belongs to Him, the rest is yours." Grabbing up the ten pennies, she replied, "O, Daddy, you mean the Lord will let me have all of this?" When I told her it was just the opposite, that the ninety was all hers, and the ten was God's, she said, "That's all He wants?" She was amazed! 

And after all these many long years, so am I my friend. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Choices Within

Someone has said, "You can get so sweet you're sticky." I say, "You can get so spiritual you're sickening." One area in which this nauseating spirit is seen is with Christian choices. There are saints who believe God is to make all the choices in their life. But if you check them out, they mean the big ones. They decide on the everyday, what they call, little ones. Also, they do the selecting on what is big and what is little. But in scripture, you'll find God leaves most of the choices in life up to us; the only qualifying condition being that it is within the Will of God.

1. When Moses was giving instruction to some young ladies concerning one of the most important of all life's choices, marriage, he said "This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry." And Paul admonishes the widows in the Corinthian church, "She is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." God gives us a lot of elbowroom in life, does He not?

2. The old divines used to illustrate our liberty in life this way: On board a ship, one can pretty well do as they choose, except enter the restricted areas, which are plainly posted for all to see. God made us with different temperaments; our tastes, likes and dislikes are not all the same. We each have our own favorite colors, foods, clothing, entertainment, etc. The Lord leaves the choice to us on all these matters, unless strictly forbidden in His Word. My wife asks me often when shopping "Which shall I choose?" My usual answer is "Which do you want?" 

3. Does not God say, in principal, to each of His surrendered Spirit-filled children, as Jonathan's armour bearer said to him, "Do all that is in thine heart." What better person to make his or her own choices than a man or woman that is habitually in the Bible, continually in prayer, and desiring nothing but to please God! I have a saying in the front of my Bible I picked up from one of the authors I read after: "When Christ has His way with you, you can have your way with Him." 

Enjoy life; far too many are only enduring it.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Twelve Gates/One Way

We are told the celestial city to which God's children are traveling is foursquare, having three gates on each side. No matter which of the twelve gates one enters, all end up in the presence of the King and before His Throne. While it is not true all roads lead to that heavenly city and most by-pass it, still, these twelve entrances are legitimate. 

Notice two of these gates some would have closed if they had their way. 

1. That way by which little children come to Christ. They argue that you must be certain of the place, day, and hour, and little ones don't remember this, they say. Dr. Bob Jones said, "You don't have to know the day and hour, just make sure there was one." Paul could tell you the exact time and place of this great event in his life, but not so with godly Timothy. We're told he was taught the way of salvation from childhood by his granny and mother. People such as this have a difficult time with exactness as to their salvation; nevertheless, their lives prove there was a time and a place. Many who can give you the particulars of their conversion have not lived for God a day since. My dear friend, Evangelist John Rice, who was saved as a child, said, "I was there when I was born, but I don't remember anything about it. But I know it happened, for I have life." I say, children are as soundly converted as any reprobate who was ever saved!

2. The quiet conversion. I know of some, even preachers, who would board-up this gate. They believe you must have credentials of  an earthshaking experience, like that of the Philippian jailer, to prove you are one of God's elect. But Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, had no such dramatic testimony. It will do us well to remember we are not to seek others' experiences recorded in the Bible, but the Bibles teachings! The "still small voice" wins out over the sensational earthquake every time. I have found, and sadly experienced in my own life, those saved under spectacular preaching are in danger of thinking their daily Christian life will be that way. Whereas common conversions do not seem to have the problems that arrive with the mundane things of life. They make for good pluggers-along, as I like to refer to them.

Whatever gate we entered by let us not forget the other gates are just as bona fide. And never, never, forget, "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Wilderness Wonder

I don't think any would argue John the Baptist was a unique character. But is it not so with all whom God uses; are they not all unusual in some respect? Is there not a strong spirit of individualism among each of them? The only mark of being "same alikes" (my daughter Charity's term when a child), was and is in their Christ-likeness. 

Consider these five things about individualism.

1. The world and religion attempts to pressure each of us into a mold of uniformity to their standards. It has been this way from the caveman to contemporary man. As Emerson said, "Conformity is the virtue most in demand in society." Every effort is made to intimidate individuality; repression of expression, as one has so quaintly put it.  

2. If you cherish your God given distinctiveness, then as Oswald Chambers says, "Allow God to be as original with others as He is with you." Think, if everyone was like you, then you'd lose your own identifying traits. You'd be just a carbon-copy Christian.

3. When Paul admonishes, "Follow me," he refers to principle. Speaking of Titus, he says, "walked we not in the same spiritwalked we not in the same stepsElisha had the same spirit as Elijah, but physically and temperamentally, they were worlds apart.

4. Christianity is unquestionably a religion of individualism. For example, we do not all pray alike. Some kneel, others sit, still others lie prostrate. Then there are those who stand, while many walk to and fro. We do not all kneel on a prayer rug praying toward Mecca five times a day.

5. Last and most importantly, meditate on Christ and His disciples. As strong a personality and as influential as our Lord was, He made sure each of His followers remained his or her own man or woman. They didn't become someone else, but for the first time in their lives, became who they really were, both in their own eyes as well as in their Maker's. 

George H. Morrison said, "There are hands which can wield no sword, but which can carry a cup of water beautifully. There is something thou canst do in thine own way. Do that, and do it with all thine heart, and perchance thou shalt do more than thou hast dreamed." 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wherin Lies Addiction?

“…they have addicted themselves.” Some of the descriptive words the dictionary associates with addiction are these: abuse, habit, attachment, abandoned, wedded, devoted, obsessed, fixation. Addiction can be either in a bad or good sense. In the text sighted, it is the latter. This present generation has come to think of the word as relating primarily to drugs and drink. But it can cover a wide variety of things. It can include everything from food to sports, and all in between. But in this article, I want to speak about the negative aspect of addiction.

The popular teaching of today is that addiction has to do with the genes. As everything else in this sin-sick age, the fault is always traced back to someone or something else; it couldn’t be a personal responsibility! But if you’ll notice in our scripture quotation above, addiction has to do with the individual themselves. On either side of the word “addicted” are the personal pronouns, “they” and “themselves.” Addiction then lies at the door of the addict himself or herself. One need not go to your family home, or to friends, in order to find who’s at fault.

The Bible teaching is that “Self” is at the root of all evil addiction. And until this entity is dealt with, one will always be “hooked.” Jesus said we are to “deny self.” That is, any rights or claims upon our lives. As long as you are the center of your existence and everything revolves around you, there can be no deliverance. When the focus is upon Jesus, He "immediately "lifts up the sinking soul. Ask Simon Peter.

Old-fashioned “Repentance” will do more for a person in a day, than all the rehabs can in a year!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The League of the Super-Saints

I believe all of us have belonged to this elite group at one time or another. And no doubt, many still hold active membership and are in good standing. They’re considered “the cream of the crop” by the upper echelon of this group. They are not hard to spot. Their long noses used to look down on those they believe to be beneath them give them away every time. This condescending spirit characterizes them, along with their Jimmy Durante schnozola. In other words, they’re known for being nosey, also.

Job’s three “friends” are a good example of those belonging to the club of the superior saints. The banner flying in the celestial breeze over their camp reads, “Holier than Thou.” These walking encyclopedias have the answer for all of life’s ills. That is, until it comes nigh them. Then, strangely enough, the answer man is filled with all kinds of questions. They are never ready for life’s “boomerang” effect.

Job found the only way to silence these “worldly wise” philosophers was to cease attempting to do what they were trying to do to him. That being, trying to straighten him out (Job 31:40,b: 32:1,a). Praying sincerely for them was the only answer for both them and Job (Job 42:8,10). And it is the only one for us too, my friends!

It’s a wonderful day in the life of a “know-it-all,” when they discover they know nothing at all (1 Cor. 8:2).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our Blessed Companion in the Grave

I came across a truth some years ago in my devotional time with the Lord that has been a real comfort and blessing to me. Especially now as I get older and closer to my temporary resting place. Some may call it heresy, but I'm comfortable with it. Paul was accused of heresy for "believing all things that are written." I always concern myself first with, "What saith the scripture?," before worrying about, "What meaneth this?"

Although at death the conscious soul of a saint will leave the body and go immediately to be with the Lord, still it leaves a kind of sadness within thinking of your closest companion for a lifetime lying alone in a grave somewhere. And remaining so until that eventful day when the shout from heaven comes to arise. 

But during this indefinite interval, the Lord has shown me, I believe, that Richard Sandlin's body will not go into that dark grave alone. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the original earth while it lie dormant in its watery grave, so He will linger over my grave of dirt. He did promise to dwell with us forever, did He not? 

We are told we're sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. That includes the body, which will be redeemed at Christ's Second Coming. Therefore, He lies patiently with His 
purchased possession, in the grave, awaiting that Glorious Resurrection Day when He will quicken it, a body like unto Christ's! As to those whose bodies were burned or strewed across the earth,
remember, the blessed Spirit of the living God is omnipresent.

As sure as He went with The Son of God to His grave, He will go with a son of God to his. The Holy Scripture bears this all out. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." O, blessed companion of my coffin!

My wife's niece said at her father's funeral, "I know Dad's soul is with the Lord, but I loved that old body!" So does the Holy Spirit, Nancy.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

You Never Know

“Who can tell if God will…?” Nathan had just told David that the baby Bathsheba had born to him would die. As soon as the prophet departed the child became very sick. For seven days David fasted and prayed that God would spare the infant. During this time he neither bathed nor changed his clothes. On the seventh day the baby died, but the servants feared to tell David. Their reasoning was, if he took the sickness so hard, what would the baby’s death do to him.

But to their surprise, when David learned of the death of his baby, he arose from the earth, washed and anointed himself, changed his apparel, and went to the House of God and worshiped. Then he went to his own house and ate. His servants inquired of him the reason for his strange behavior. They wanted to know why, when the child was sick, he carried on so; but the death he seeming took in stride. David’s reply was, “Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again?” Or as we would say today, “You never know.”

David believed, as long as there is life there is hope; and as long as there is hope, there is room to pray. But once dead and out of the reach of prayer, he knew he could not undo the situation. So David returned to life’s daily duties, with its disappointments and its delights. It is a wise individual who can walk away from circumstances that no longer has a soul in them. We all have a choice, we can spend life in a grave yard with things that can’t be brought back; or we can get back among the living and do some great things for God, as David did.

The washing and changing of your garments in David’s day represented a new beginning. Maybe someone reading this needs to run the bath water, and lay out a fresh change of clothes!