Saturday, May 30, 2015

Riding For the Brand

As most of my readers know, I'm a movie buff, especially classic westerns. But any western will do if it has good acting and story-line. Along with this, in second place, are cowboy novels such as Zane Grey's, but especially high on the list, Louis L'Amour. His Sackett series are my favorites. Every man and boy ought to read, "To the Far Blue Hills." I have a theory why Westerns have become almost extinct; they promote manliness and patriotism. Something this world is diametrically opposed to.

I say all this because of something I saw while taking my daily mile walk this morning. There is a small closed-up airport next to our mobile home park where I walk. At times, large trucks park there overnight. This morning there was an exceptionally large one, all shiny and clean. As I passed, I noticed a large decal next to the cab door. It was a picture of the Cross with a cowboy kneeling at its foot, his hat in hand, his head bowed in reverence; and the caption, in large letters read, "I RIDE FOR THE BRAND."    

For those not familiar with cowboy terms, it simply means, "To be loyal to the ranch, and especially the rancher for whom you work. Money can't buy you off, threats can't scare you off, and no amount of hardships can run you off! Those cowboys were not perfect by far, but most would die before they'd betray, "The Brand." This then is the duty and privilege of each member of the body of Christ. Whether realized or not, when you said yes to Jesus Christ, you began, "Riding For the Brand."  

I thought as I read those heart-rending words on the trucks side, the only thing I really care about after I'm gone is for those who knew me to say, "He rode for the brand all his long Christian life."


Friday, May 29, 2015

The People's Choice

Note to our readers: Barack Obama took office as the nation's 44th president on Jan. 20, 2009. I wrote and posted the following article on Jan. 19, 2009. "Then Samuel said unto Saul...I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night."

Someone has said about prayer, “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.” It is possible to get what you want, but lose what you have (Psl.106:15). Nowhere is this truth seen clearer than in Israel’s desire for a King. The story is found in 1 Samuel chapter eight, and on. Samuel was old and passing off the scene; a new generation was emerging with new leaders and ideas. God was no longer the nation’s life. He had become only a small part of it. The old prophet felt they had not only rejected God, but himself also. His heart was broken.

Saul was the people’s choice; he was, in a sense, the first of his kind. He was tall, dark, and handsome. When a nation’s religion is built on externals, their political decisions will soon follow suite. Their new leader was like cotton candy, mostly air with no real substance. He had a show of humility, but this proved to be arrogance in disguise. God’s man warned the people the kind of leader they were getting. He was going to tax them, take their property, and line his pockets, as well as those of his friends, with revenues that he would take from the masses. He’d also take their young men and women and draft them into his services (both military and personal). The key word that characterizes this pseudo-leader is “take.”

The people were in for a real surprise. Their supposed deliverer would soon blame them for his inherent weaknesses and lack of manliness! This emotional instability follows him throughout his disastrous reign. Since he was predominately a secularist, and not Spiritual, it is no surprise that his moral decisions were influenced by the former philosophy. It is an impossibility to be Spiritual without being a scripturally moral person. Spiritual people love what God loves, and condemn what God does. But the nations around them, who they wanted to emulate, were not concerned with what God liked or disliked, and so neither would they be.

It is a sad day when a nation chooses such a leader; there are dire consequences that go with such a choice. But, of course, God’s man had told them this. I guess they figured the old man didn’t know what he was talking about. He had warned, in essence, they’d have to “pay the piper.”

“And they sought to lay hold on him…for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them.” 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

God's Treasure Chest

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old." 

God's treasure chest, like the young bride's hope chest, contains both the new and the old. Jesus said we are to use both. To some, anything new is to be rejected because, they say, it's untried; not thinking through the fact their old ways were all new at one time. The others argue, from their standpoint, anything and everything old is out-dated and moldy, worn out and useless. It is difficult to bring these two extremes together.

Both the stubborn traditionalist and contemporary, because of their apparent insecurities and inbred pride, refuse to rub shoulders in glorifying God. The result of this is that the old loses its sweet mellowness, and the new, its secure foundation. The ancient and modern should compliment each other, not be at conflict. These two opposites will do well to consider that in Heaven we sing a “new song,” but, also, along with that, the “song of Moses.”

It is good to see old truths dressed in new clothes. God evidently enjoys it. That’s, undoubtedly, the purpose of the New Testament. It adorns and beautifies the Old.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

You Pray For Me and I'll Pray For You

There is a gospel song, I believe, that has the words of this article's title in it. To me, this is just one of the many mysteries of prayer. God hearing everyone at once, as if each were the only individual praying, is beyond my finite comprehension. But when we come to these baffling things concerning prayer, it is good to remember, as Moses said, "The secret things belong to the Lord." One of the great hindrances to answered prayer today in this scientific age, I believe, is taking our prayers into the laboratory instead of the closet. Dissecting your prayers will only leave you with a mess and none the wiser. As the old camp meeting preacher said about salvation, "It's better felt than telt." And so it is with prayer, it is better experienced than explained.

Paul told the Colossians in the first chapter of his letter that he prayed always for them, and in the last chapter he requested they pray for him. And this to many who had not seen his face, or he theirs. Likewise, in his epistle to the newly converted Thessalonian believers, right off the bat, he states that he makes mention of them in his prayers. And again, before closing his correspondence he writes, "Brethren, pray for us." Some might think that this is the greater asking the lesser for their help in prayer. But Paul had no such superior attitude. As far as he was concerned, he was "just one of the boys." In fact, "less than the least of them." I learned a long time ago to ask prayer support from any and all of God's people. Somebody might just get through I chose to leave out! 

James tells those scattered saints of his day, "pray one for another." I like to call it, "The Golden Rule of Prayer." That is, you pray for me like you'd have me pray for you. You know the principle, like Ezekiel said, "I sat where they sat." 

Monday, May 25, 2015

They Just Can't Get It

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned."

The latter part of I Corinthians chapter two is all about the “Natural Man”. Paul teaches us that no matter how learned, scholarly, brilliant, practical, intelligent, religious, or well-meaning the unregenerate, they cannot understand the things of God. True, he or she may have knowledge by reading the “letter,” but they will never, ever, get the “spirit” of what God is saying.

You could study me in minute detail, interview family and friends, read all my correspondence through the years, yet never know the real me. The apostle tells us the only way one man can completely know another is by having that man’s spirit. And so it is with God. Without His Spirit indwelling you, neither can your eye see, your ear hear, nor can it enter into your heart, the things God has prepared for us, His Elect.

It’s embarrassing how totally ignorant of Spiritual things this pseudo-intellectual world is. Once I ordered a desk plaque with the words “HE CARETH” engraved on it. When I went to pick it up, the manger was furious. After a few choice curse words about the engraver, he apologized to me. “Mr. Careth, I’m so sorry, we’ll have this re-done for you. They forgot to put a period between your initials.” And they laugh at us!

Revelation Twenty Two Twenty

“Surely I come quickly…Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Here we have the last living apostle, writing in the last book of the Bible. In the last chapter and next to the last verse he records for us the last promise and last prayer in the Holy Writ. The promise comes from the lips of our Lord, and the prayer proceeds from the mouth of John the Beloved.

The Second Advent of our Lord is at the very heart of the Christian faith. Apart from His return, His redemptive work remains forever incomplete. His coming again is the only hope for the future of the world. Of all the coming events prophesied, His return will be the most remarkable. Is it any wonder all creation is groaning for this culminating event?

The expectation of the early Church was not death, nor even the hope of Heaven, but rather in His parting words, “I will come again” and, “I will see you again.” This is what filled their hearts and minds! They believed he would come again, literally, personally, physically, and visibly.

Two millenniums ago, on the Isle of Patmos, this is what Jesus promised and old John prayed for. When was the last time you o
r I prayed for His coming? It goes without saying, if one is not longing and looking for His coming, it’s certain he or she is not praying for it. And if one is not praying for it, be assured, either their theology is wrong, their heart, or both!

The Second Coming of Christ is the medicine our condition needs. 
(C.S. Lewis)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Parental Pain

"...a sword shall pierce through thy own soul..."How agonizing for a parent to stand by and watch as a grown child suffers for his or her sins. In Mary's case, her child was suffering because of others' sins (He had none of His own.) But, in the case of many of our children, it comes as a result of theirs. Nevertheless, this giant, razor-sharp sword pierces through our souls as well. It passes, as it were, through our very soul, slicing the heart until it bleeds so much we feel our very life is being drained from us.

The Bible gives us examples of parents who experienced such piercing pain. What mother or father cannot relate to the prodigal's parent as he patiently, but painfully, waits, watches, and wonders if his wayward child will ever return? And what of the deep agony of David's soul when he cried, "Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

I realize the picture is not the same as Mary's; but the principle is. Though the comparison of our children to Mary's Child is unthinkable, yet there is some comfort in the story. Just as Mary's faith was grounded in the Word of God, which sustained her, so it can be with us. She was promised that, although her child was set for a fall (for others), yet there would be a rising again. Is there not a promise lying somewhere dormant within the pages of God's Holy Writ just waiting for us to draw from it's strength? Perhaps, one such as: "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.....And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Parental pain for prodigals is forgotten when they are sitting around the table again.

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

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."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Secure Insecurities

Honesty about our inner feelings, idiosyncrasies, and short-comings, I find, is one of the best ways of dealing with our inbred insecurities. These are not sins, but faults. And James tells us to, “Confess your fault one to another.” Christian or non-Christian, you will find mature people are generally “generous to a fault.” That is, toward those who do not try to “whitewash” their failings. But I find most folks have a difficult time being tolerant and forgiving with hypocrisy.

Openness and sincerity about one’s flaws are characteristic of a person of great strength, a person strong enough to face their imperfections. Any individual on the receiving end of such confessions, who would abuse and misuse such trust, would be considered “wicked,” in the true Biblical sense of the word. Paul was not afraid for people to see his blemishes. He wanted them to always be conscious of his humanity, “lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me [to be], or [that] he heareth of me.”

Once a person sees and admits to their own frail humanity, it is not difficult to be longsuffering with others in the same ship. It is the pseudo superman or woman who is intolerant with the poor and needy in spirit. This type denigrate the others’ humanness. But as C.S. Lewis says, “God knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive.” It is well to remember that when others do not accept or understand our fragile conditions, Christ does. That is one reason He came. He walked in our shoes; He grew tired, was thirsty, and felt pain.

Jeremiah said, “I sat where they sat.” That’s a good place to sit!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Street People

Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many mansions.” He went on to say, “…if it were not so, I would have told you.” Not “rooms,” nor “dwelling places,” but “mansions.” If not, He would have told us. The “Word” never had a problem with expressing Himself with words.

You’re not going to impress “Street People” by offering to put them up in a room somewhere, or by allotting them some small space to dwell in; that would be appalling. But to present to them a “mansion,” well, you must admit, that’s appealing.

I cannot believe the one who created this world, along with the sun, moon, and all the stars and galaxies, has only the proposition of a room to entice the down-and-outer with! A worldly philanthropist does better than that. If you’re thinking I’m “making much ado about nothing,” you don’t know very much about the poor of this world, or the Creator.

Personally, I like my translation (K.J.V. 1611). I believe it has more to offer than the others do. Of course, that’s just my own opinion. On the other hand, I think “Street People” might also agree with me.