Monday, May 30, 2016

You're in the Army Now

“Chosen...to be a soldier.”
(2Tim.2:4)

We hear much today about using diplomacy to avoid war. But diplomatic efforts, when dealing with the world, the flesh, and the devil, are futile. It’s a war from beginning to end, “…and there is no discharge in that war.” A random reading of the writings of the old war-horse, Paul, confirms this. “Fight the good fight of faith...so fight I,” he tells a younger generation. Down to old age the warrior’s last words, before the axe fell, were“I have fought a good fight”

But this battle is a spiritual one. “…we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal). ” Our fight is with “…spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And so the elder exhorts the younger, “…war a good warfare.” He goes on to say, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” Christian soldiers can’t fight when all wound-up in this world’s ball of yarn. This is not being “A good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

From all the above texts, one can deduct, Biblical Christianity has no place in its ranks for cowards. As Goliath came out daily to challenge God’s people, so our giants confront us day to day. The victors in this life are those who dare to face the devil’s dares, by boldly telling him as David did, “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.” Then, by faith, hurling at him one small, smooth, scriptural stone. As a line in Martin Luther’s song says:     

“We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.”
(Martin Luther)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Shalom

The Hebrew word, Shalom, means “peace.” It was a common greeting among the Jewish community in biblical times, as well as in our own day. The peace that He bequeathed to us, His people, is a different brand from the worlds. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” His kind of peace is distinct; it’s peculiar to the world. It passes all understanding! It is absolutely foreign and unknown to Adam’s race.


The Master’s peace has composure in tragedy; it dissolves all fear and rules the heart at death. The world’s pseudo-peace doesn’t come close in its attempt to emulate the peace that only comes from knowing Christ. Its false peace cannot even silence a condemning conscience, much less stand in the day of disaster, calamity, and catastrophe that’s coming upon the world, which will be so panic-stricken that they will choose suffocation by being buried alive (Rev.6:14-17).


The world’s peace is found in doctors, drink and drugs, while the Christian’s peace is found in Jesus alone. The peace our Lord gives can never be given us by the world, for it is not theirs to give; it’s His peace. They can’t give it, nor can they take it away, although a saint can voluntarily give it up. Notice He promises to give, “My peace.” The peace He had in the storm; the peace He possessed when betrayed; the peace He enjoyed when forsaken; the peace He owned when suffering. His gift to us!

What a legacy! He committed His Spirit to the Father; His clothes to the soldiers; His body to Joseph; His mother to the care of John; but to us, His poor frail followers, He bequeathed His very own peace!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Take it Up With the Potter

I was brought up in the thirties and forties in a traditional home. But without traditional values. It was non-Christian. There was love there, but the worlds kind, if you know what I mean. Sin was the accepted norm and as a result left a little boy very insecure, leaving him with no idea who he was and with little, or no, self-esteem.

I started going to movies at the age of seven by myself. It was here I found my escape from reality; I could pretend to be someone I wasn’t, even if it was for a brief time. But soon I found I could take this character outside the theater. I could live another's life. Thus my most enjoyable time of all was play-acting with other kids.

This continued into my teens, then on into the military. Upon my discharge, I went to Los Angeles and entered, what else, dramatic school. Then, in my early twenties, Christ saved me. Finally it was over. NOT BY A LONG SHOT; the battle had just begun. Now it was no longer actors, but preachers I would emulate. O, the agony of not being yourself!

After many years of God chiseling away at the granite house I hid all my insecurities in, the real me came forth; a vessel meet for the Master's use, a chipped, broken piece of pottery, but, nevertheless, one in which the Potter chose to live. With all my faults, failings, and idiosyncrasies, CHRIST LIVETH IN ME! He is so easy to live with. And as a result, I can finally live with myself.

If you have a problem with yourself, or another marred vessel like you, I recommend you take it up with the Potter.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Helpers Along the Way

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”

Is Jesus teaching in the story of these ten cleansed lepers that only one in ten will show gratitude to the one who has been a great help to them, along life's long journey? It seems, from my observation, having lived awhile in this old world, this is probably a fact.

Throughout my life and ministry, I’ve attempted to express my gratitude personally, by phone or letter, to those who helped me up and kept me going when things were rough.

Recently, my earliest mentor, who was also instrumental in my salvation, and who was ninety-four, went to be with the Lord. I was his first preacher-boy and the oldest (82) living. I called him at the rest home he was in a few days before his departure, and we had a good conversation. I let him know how thankful I was for taking all the time with me in the early stage of my Christian life. We had our differences, but that fades when one thinks of the person who was there when you needed them! YOU DON’T WANT TO EVER FORGET THAT!

A dear pastor friend, now in heaven, used to say of a preacher he had helped tremendously when a novice, who wanted nothing to do with him in later years, “He has a short memory.” I am afraid this could be said of far too many saints today. We need to follow Paul’s blessed example in Romans chapter sixteen. He names no less than thirty individuals or groups of people who had been a help to him.

“When gratitude goes a person is shipwrecked.”
(Bob Jones Sr.)
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Those Lovable Prophets

The prophets prophesy falsely...and my people love to have it so”

Among God’s prophets there were both forth-tellers and foretellers. Nevertheless, all had one characteristic that distinguished  them; they gave out God’s true message, whether it had to do with the present or future. They were fewer in number than the false prophets, by, let’s say, some four-hundred to one. Whether you liked him or not, he was a man hard to forget, “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.” The other kind are easy to forget.

Usually, God’s prophets didn’t have much good to say about the conditions of their day. Or as to that matter, God’s people themselves. They have come to be referred to among many, in today’s Christianity, as “Doomsday Preachers.” The false prophets, generally, seem to have been those with a positive message. Their words were pleasant and enticing, in spite of the fact they were all lies. But the people loved their cheerie message, as well as the deceiving prophet. They hated God’s negative messenger. “And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

Jesus Christ was, among His many titles, a prophet of God. So much so that the people of his day were constantly equating Him with one of the prophets of old, Elias, Jeremias, etc. We are told Jesus was hated because of His words. After reading Matthew chapter twenty-three, one can understand why.

There’s still a few rugged prophets of God running around; some call them, “Revivalists.” If you happen to know one, bow your head and thank God for him. For you are literally seeing, “The Last of the Breed.”

God’s prophet’s Sword is not single-edged, but double edged.
One side cuts, the other heals.
(rds)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Looking in All the Wrong Places

And the man of God said, Where fell it?”

I heard an amusing story years ago. It seems, a fella had lost something small, but valuable. As he was feverishly seeking the item under the streetlight, a passer-by stopped and inquired what he was doing. After being told, he offered his help, asking the specific area in which the man thought he had lost the article. To which he replied, “Across the street.”
The inquirer then asked why he wasn’t searching there? The bewildered man said, “There is more light over here.”

We laugh but how many of us have lost something we hold dear and are looking in all the wrong places? I realize this is a simplistic statement, but generally you’ll  find what you lost where you lost it. Thus the man of God, in our text, says “Where fell it?” Many, I have found, like to look in the more convenient places; but if we’re to find our lost valuable, a lot of us are going to have to get down into the weeds and search!

“He that seeketh findeth.” But not if you’re looking in all the wrong places.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Staying Sharp Till the End

If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength.”

Andrew A. Bonar writes, .“Very few ministers (as well as Christians in general) keep up to the end the edge that was on their spirit at the first.”

How many there are, like the man in the book of Kings, have lost their ax-head some time ago. No longer do the chips fly and trees fall in their lives and ministries; now there is only a going through the motions. And that wears one down quickly.

Again the blessed old sage pens a warning to us all who name the name of Christ, “See that your last days are your best days-not like David, of some of whose descendants it was said in praise, “they walked in the first ways of their father David.”

Paul the aged,” when shut-in and shut-up in prison wrote, “Onisimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” The old warhorse was a good example of what David wrote in Psalms, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.”

The evangelist Gypsy Smith was asked when he turned eighty if he was going to retire, to which he answered, “Shucks no, I’m going to re-fire!”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Harboring Hatred

In the Old Testament, we find a vicious enemy who was trying to destroy God’s people. We are told it was “for the old hatred.” It’s recorded that these same people had “a despiteful heart,” which is always characteristic of this sort of person.

What is the cause of such a perpetual hatred? Simple, they allowed an “old hurt” to fester until it became “an old hatred.” Old grudges must be vented sooner or later. Like a volcanic mountain that has lain dormant for years, once it erupts and spews its hot lava, it can be destructive even to itself.

I’ve seen people whose grudges became their graves.
(rds)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Worst Case Scenario

 We despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”

A definition for the idiom used in our title is: the most unpleasant or serious thing that could happen in a situation. Paul was far from being a pessimist, but he was a realist. The Apostle always, as they say, “hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.” His was not a foolish faith.

One area where this principle is applicable is prophecy. The fact that our Lord is coming back to earth a second time is settled in concrete, but the particulars surrounding it have been debated by good and godly men for more than two-thousand years, and will continue till He comes.

There’s several views of the events associated with Christ’s historic return. Some are easily digested, while others are hard to swallow. So much so that many simply refuse to consider them; for if found to be true, they would have to go against their long held prophetic beliefs. Plus experience the unpleasantries connected with that particular position.

I once stood by the hospital bed of a young, newly married, eighteen-year-old girl. She had been in a horrific car accident, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Everyone, understandably, was praying for her healing, that she would walk again. I then did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I said, “Tina, if you walk again, we can easily work that into your schedule. But life in a wheelchair? You’ll need to prepare for that.” She did! And now, after these many, many, years is still serving God; in her wheelchair. Alongside her precious husband, John.  

The moral of this story? We need to prepare for the worst thing that could happen to us, prophetically speaking; if it doesn’t come to pass, we can work that in.   

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Grace and Pain

They gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains.”

Contrary to what many Christians believe, peace is not the absence of fear; joy, the absence of sorrow; victory, the absence of battle; nor grace, the absence of its opposite. If one did not have the latter running along side of the former, how would you know you really possessed the better of the two?

This is true with grace and pain. Grace doesn’t take away the pain. Grace is not the absence from pain, but an addition to it. GRACE IS AN ADDITIVE. It’s the crutch or wheelchair that enable us to, “keep-on-keeping-on!” It doesn’t take away the limp or paralysis. God didn’t take away Paul's painful thorn, He gave him something to keep him going.

I have always found it difficult to be patient when in pain, but I’m learning. It seems pain brings out the best and worst in people. Some, like in our text above, blaspheme His name, others bless His name. I want to be among the latter. When God permits pain in our lives, each of us has one of two choices: to KISS the Son; or curse the Creator.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes...neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Do You Know What You Believe?

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils...Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy, warned him of “doctrines of devils.” Under the guise of spiritual leadership, authoritarian spirits would both “forbid” and “command.” The former having to do with marriage; the latter being related to meats. But the Bible teaches “Marriage is honourable in all,” and that meats are to be “received with thanksgiving.” Yet some had departed from the faith and had given heed to these “seducing spirits.”

Paul is addressing professing Believers in this instance. The safeguard, he tells them, from not going away from the truth is in both believing and knowing it. Not just in believing the truth, but knowing it. The fact that they were Believers tells us they believed the truth. The problem lay in the fact that they did not know the truth. Belief of the truth is not good enough; you must know it. Many of God’s children believe the Bible is true, yet their lives are in shambles.

“The devil loves Christians who pride themselves in saying they believe the Bible is Word of God, but who know nothing of its contents.”
(rds)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dogs, Hogs, and Apostates

But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:22
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Matt. 7:6

The best definition of an apostate I’ve heard was given by Dr. Bob Jones. Years ago, I heard him say, “An apostate is one who has heard the truth, embraced the truth, then rejected the truth.” It’s not that they got it and lost it; they never got it in the first place.

The book of Hebrews is all about this, people who had: “received the knowledge of the truth;” “tasted the good Word of God”; been “enlightened” and “illuminated”; but had “gone back;” and now, “consider the blood unholy;” they “despise the Spirit of grace;” and, “sold their birthright.”

Notice in Peter’s account of apostates the male is likened to a dog going back to his vomit and the female as a sow, who, onced washed, returned to wallowing in the filthy mire again. The key word is, “turned.” It’s willfully, consciously, decisively, and adamantly, going back to what you were.

In our second text, Jesus tells us not to give holy things to these “dogs” and “hogs.” Nor should we lay precious things (pearls) before them. Why? Because, says our Lord, they’ll only trample these holy, precious things, under their feet and turn against you again.

Harsh words? Yes, but I didn’t say them!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Make Do With What's At Hand

“And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.”

Have you ever driven a nail in the wall, using the heel of your shoe? If so, you understand the saying, “Making do with what you have.” God does this. Notice He took the closest thing at hand to give Moses an object lesson. God doesn’t go looking when it is at hand! The moral is not hard to grasp: USE WHAT YOU HAVE AT HAND!

This is seen throughout the holy scriptures: pitchers of close-by neighbors used to perform a miracle; the jawbone of an ass to overcome an enemy; a woven basket to enable a quick getaway; broken pieces of a ship as life rafts; a small stone to bring down a giant; a crib to lie your baby in.

But we need to learn to make do not only with what we have, but also with where we’re at, and who we are. If not, one may spend his or her life waiting and watching for something that has already been provided, something right under our nose, so to speak. But pride or ignorance, or both, keep us from submitting and accepting it or them.

Sometimes the closeup on our bifocals is needed rather than the distance lens.
(rds)   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Motherless Child

“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” (Isa.66:13). Not as a precious, protective father does, but as a tender, affectionate, and compassionate mother. Someone has said, “A mother’s love for her infant child could possibly be the strongest of all natural loves.”

I remember going through a great trial in my early ministry. At the time, it seemed as though I would never preach again. I was so burdened that I got in my car and just drove around. After awhile, I found myself sitting in front of the house where my mother lived. When I went into the apartment where she lived alone, I sat next to her on the couch. It was then that I broke down and cried like a baby. Not knowing any of the circumstances, she simply put her arm around me, and as I laid my head on her bosom, she whispered gently, as she had done so many times when I was a boy, “Everything’s going to be alright, Son.” And so it was. I left there feeling I could conquer the world.

That blessed day was years ago. My ninety-four year old, sainted mother is now with Him whom she loved and adored. But this has not left me motherless, for I have One who still comforts me as a mother does her child. He puts His Divine arms around me, lays my head next to His heart, and I hear Him say in a still, small voice, “It’s alright, Son; everything is going to be alright.” And it always is.

The Fatherhood of God guarantees me that I’ll never be motherless.
(rds)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Two Questions on Prayer

After almost a lifetime of preaching, reading, and hearing sermons on God answering “big” prayers, I believe it boils down to just two simple questions. I mean simple to ask, most certainly not to answer. If the answer to both is in the positive, then there will be a tremendous cost to be paid on the petitioner’s part. A price more than most want to pay! This is why one needs to sit down first and count the cost.

My first inquiry is this, “Do you honestly, from your heart, hunger, thirst, and long to see God do great and mighty things on your behalf, for His glory and Kingdom?” Large prayers answered, akin to those of Bible saints? Those recorded answers to prayer that cause our hearts to leap and burn within us, as we read them? As one remembers they were written for us, for our learning and example.

The second query is not as easily answered. It is cause for much deep thought; it should not be responded to with an impulsive spirit. There is to be much soul searching before a “Yeah” falls form one’s lips. My question is, “HOW LONG ARE YOU WILLING TO WAIT?” It may be years of long, agonizing waiting. And during such times all you can do is cling to such promises as, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

God’s Word tells us, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” There were no blushing faces among the likes of such saints as Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joshua and Caleb, along with a host of others who waited long periods of time before seeing the evidence of their faith fulfilled. Nor will you, my beloved, who have risked everything on God. He always comes through for those who are willing be last in line, waiting patiently!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Four Favorites-4

Overcomers/Overcome

Did you know that God’s overcomers can be overcome? But, did you also know that God’s overcomers will overcome at the last? In the book of Genesis, speaking of Gad, it says, “A troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”

In Revelation, we’re told of two overcoming witnesses who are overcome by their adversary. We see here God’s promise to Gad in the first book of the Bible stood true throughout to the last book. These two also overcame at the last. And the promise still stands firm.

To any who may be overcome by the enemy, or have loved ones who are, let me give a word of encouragement. Samson was an overcomer who was overcome by his foe. He was a slave to sin for a season, but was triumphant at the last, showing up in God’s “Hall of Faith."

Losing a battle or two doesn’t mean you have lost the war!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Four Favorites-3

Victory in Jesus

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ

“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord

Notice the correlation between our two texts. As to eternal life: it is a gift and only obtained through Jesus Christ. Referring to victory, in the saint’s life: again we find it is a gift and only can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is “in Christ” we find our righteousness, peace, joy, patience, etc. One does not pray for something God has already given them. They appropriate (take as their own) it, then thank God. Come and dine, the meal has been already prepared.

You do not pray, agonize, fast, and beg for victory. You already have it. But only faith can make it a reality to us. This is why the old-time saints said, “When you fall, SHOUT the victory.” As with eternal life, so it is with victory. My doubting doesn’t mean I don’t have it, only that I’m not enjoying it. Like Joshua and Israel of old, God had already given them the land. What was needed was to enter in by faith and take (appropriate) what was theirs by right of Divine inheritance.

“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

Monday, May 2, 2016

Four Favorites-2

Always Triumphant

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.”

Triumphant! not sometimes, but all the time. No matter the circumstances: poverty, persecution, distress, want, heartache, burdens, and whatever else you want to throw into this defeatist mix, we always come out triumphant. It may look like things have gotten the best of His elect, but “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

No matter how hot the battle rages, how insurmountable the odds against us, how doomed the future may appear, we are always destined to come out the winner. It is the story of every saint's life, who is in His will. Though it be the last half of the ninth inning with two outs, and us behind one-hundred to nothing, we always emerge triumphant!

This truth is not something to be felt, it is a fact to be taken by faith. It’s true whether one believes it or not, but only enjoyed when believed. I have a little saying God gave me years ago that illustrates this, “Act as though it were and you’ll experience it as it is,” (John 4:46-53). Remember, all our successes in life are to be traced back to Christ!   

“Be strong and of a good courage,
Though foes thy soul assail.
No weapon formed against thee
Hath power to prevail;
For thou shalt share the triumph
Of Christ thy conquering King,
Who purposes a blessing
Through all thy buffeting.”
(A.B. Christiansen)  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Four Favorites-1

The Conquering Conquerors  

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

In dealing with God’s people over the years, I’ve found most, if not all, have a particular scripture or scriptures they favor. They apply these to their lives whenever difficult situations arise. For some years now, I’ve had four individual texts that the Holy Spirit uses to lift my drooping head and allow me to stand head and shoulders above the fracas of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Romans eight-thirty-seven is one of them.

There have been some great conquerors in history: Attila the Hun; Alexander the Great; and Genghis Khan, to name a few. But they were only conquerors; we are, “More than conquerors.” Whether things present or things to come, we’re promised to come through them as mighty conquerors. No condition! Only a simple act of faith in claiming it. That is, appropriating what God has already provided.

And just how and why is it that we common, feeble, peasant folk can, as it were, ride in from any and all skirmishes, great or small, as super-conquerors? It’s by the virtue of our Leader, Jesus Christ, and His Cross, time and eternity’s greatest conqueror. He conquered death, hell, and the grave! And no creature in heaven or hell can separate us from His unfathomable love and unfailing promise. AMEN and AMEN!

This is bedrock security!