Don’t Quit

Sometimes I wonder why God still bears with me when I still struggle so much. After so many years of serving Him and seeing His hand at work, there should never be a time that I doubt Him. But then I don’t think I doubt Him as much as I doubt myself. Even in that, I am constantly learning and hopefully growing. I expect this will be the case until He takes me Home.

God said that He would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3), but the Psalmist noted that God will not despise a broken and a humble heart (Psalm 51:17).  We will never be perfect this side of Heaven (although we need to continually strive to be so); yet, when we fall, we must be quick to humble ourselves, admit our failure, get up, and try again. The Bible is full of imperfect people that God used but He knew their hearts were turned toward Him. If we never struggled, we may become full of pride, at which point we would be totally useless.

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If you are struggling today and feel like a failure, ask God’s forgiveness. Realize that the enemy is trying to bring you down in order to render you totally ineffective for the Kingdom. I wish I knew who said that “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” That is definitely true in my life, and I expect it is in yours too.

So today, I just want to encourage you: Don’t quit. Keeping running the race. Do the best you can to faithfully do what God has called you to do. If He wanted it done perfectly, He could do it without you. All you need to do is do your best and let Him take care of the rest. Thank Him that He still has a work for you to do. After all, if He didn’t, you would not be here.

Finding God’s Will

The last few nights, I have not slept well. Last night, I was really tired but I expected it was going to be another long night. I was thinking of different things I could do to help me relax and rest my mind. I was thinking of turning on some music when I thought of Times Square Church. I used to listen to their messages when I couldn’t sleep but I’ve not done so in a while. I went to my website and saw the title of Pastor Carter Conlon’s message, “Finding the Will of God.” I knew then that it was definitely God who directed me, and I highly recommend this message to everyone who is willing to take 45 minutes to hear a message from the Lord.

Recently, I have been evaluating my life: laying hold on what I know is God’s will and praying for wisdom in areas I’m not sure about. Sometimes I think I am so obsessed with knowing God’s will and scared of stepping outside of it that I become paralyzed and end up wasting time that I could spend just following Him. That probably sounds stupid if you’ve not experienced that feeling, but a couple years ago, I realized God’s will is not always as complicated as I think it is. Last night, I was reminded that God’s Word is very clear what His will is for His people. It may not tell us where we are to work or who we are to marry but it tells us how we are to live. If I am not doing that, I am kidding myself to think that God will entrust me with greater things. If I am living the life He has commanded me to and drawing near to Him on a daily basis, I must trust Him to direct me. Until He does, I continue to do what I know He has called me to, at least for the time being.

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I think one of my concerns is that it’s easy for me to get in a rut and do things just because that’s what I’ve been doing. I do not like change and so I tend to fight it. God has brought me a long way in the 23 years I’ve been serving Him but I am still constantly learning and hopefully changing. I desire to take the whole written Word and apply it to my life so that I can hear His voice when He desires to redirect my personal life.

I encourage you to focus on this too. No task is too small. “Little is much if God is in it.” If you’re doing what He has called you to, it is important, and all He requires of you is to do the best job you can. Your calling may be to raise children who are going to impact the Kingdom in a powerful way. It may be to do the behind the scenes work for a ministry that God is using in a mighty way. Maybe you are not the one speaking and writing but you handle the schedule, filing, mail sorting, whatever. This is not small in God’s eyes. It takes the whole Body working together to accomplish God’s work.

The world measures success by how well you’re known, how many degrees you have, etc. God measures success by how faithful you are in the work He gave you to do. That is what He has equipped you for.  Nothing else is important to Him, and He is the only one you have to please.

Take some time this week to study what the will of God is for every Believer. If you have been wondering what God’s will is for your life, this is a great place to start. If you are settled in knowing that you are doing God’s will, it still won’t hurt to make sure you are in His will in every area of life.

What Does John 3:16 Teach?

The following is part of the book I am writing, from a section on the gospel which is a necessary element of a biblical church. th

There are truths in God’s Word that rub our flesh the wrong way; predestination is one of them. I refer the reader to Appendix 5 for a biblical defense of this doctrine. We must embrace the truth of Scripture, even if it goes against what we’ve learned from me. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word is sharp and, as wielded by the Holy Spirit, cuts like a scalpel, bringing healing to our broken souls. False teaching is seen as less threatening, like a butter knife. And it works the same way – tearing the flesh as it pierces, bringing destruction rather than healing. Good counsel presents the truth of Scripture; this is biblical love – even though our beloved traditions may have to be abandoned.

Many who disbelieve predestination run to John 3:16, as if this verse disproves it. Let us briefly examine this verse to see what its message truly is. Here’s the verse, from the King James: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That settles it for many, who do not stop to see if the words may have had a different meaning when written 500 years ago than they do today; including Baptist preachers who ought to know better. But contrary to a popular hermeneutic which declares, “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense”, the plain sense of Scripture often contradicts the true meaning of Scripture and our common sense often makes no heavenly sense. The genre of the text we are reading will indicate how we are to read it – poetry and apocalyptic books cannot be taken literally, and even historical narratives are full of word pictures that must be interpreted rightly to get God’s view of His Scriptures. The Jews of the first century had common sense and they took certain prophecies in the plain sense. This caused them to look for a king like David – a man of war – and miss the true meaning of their own Scripture.

In regards to John 3:16, let’s examine a couple of key words upon which the meaning of this verse hang. In English, the word “so” can be either an adverb or an adjective. We see it in verse 14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (KJV). Here, the word “so” is an adverb, meaning “in like manner” or “in the same way” – describing the nature of something. Many people think the word “so” is an adjective in verse 16 – describing the degree of the thing that follows: God loves the world SO much. The problem with this view is that the Greek word translated as “so” in English (houtos – Strong’s #3779) is rarely used as an adjective. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary defines it only as an adverb. Houtos shows up more than 200 places in the Greek New Testament. In only four occurrences it is definitely an adjective: Galatians 1:6; 3:3; Hebrews 12:21 (houto); and Revelation 16:18. In more than 97% of the uses the word houtos is an adverb. (http://www.brenthobbs.com/index_files/john_3_16.php accessed 25 May 2015) Now looking back John’s gospel, let’s read a little more for context:

John 3:14-16 (KJV) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Is there a compelling argument that John’s use of houtos changes from the common adverb in verse 14 to the extremely rare adjective in verse16? If its use in verse 16 is as an adjective, the Bible tells us God loved the world to a great degree that He sent Christ to die for the same world He said we are not to love (1 John 2:15). Since Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) we must interpret Scripture with Scripture and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), even if the plain sense makes common sense to us. Our common sense is our understanding, not God’s. I don’t have space here to examine “the world” and how it’s used; but since not everybody at all times in every nation, tribe, and tongue has been forgiven, it’s reasonable and in keeping with Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17 that Jesus did not come to save the whole world in the comprehensive sense some assert. As noted in Ephesians 5:25, Jesus gave His life for the church, not everybody in the world. And since “the world” often means a region (Luke 2:1; John 12:19), or the system which lies under Satan’s rule (John 15:19; 17:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12), we have no reason to assume this term means everyone everywhere as regards salvation, as the Lamb of God died for the redeemed, not the damned.

The argument is not whether or not the death of Christ is sufficient to save everyone – His death is more than sufficient for the entire human race. The question is, did Christ die for all men – is the atonement universal? One English Bible translates this phrase, “in tasting death He should stand for us all” – those for whom Christ stands are the redeemed. The word, man, is not in the Greek text, meaning the original phrase would be “should taste death for the whole” – the whole body, the church for whom Christ gave Himself (Ephesians 5:25); Jesus died for every son God brings to glory. God the Father chooses only some to be saved – election is not universal. God the Spirit regenerates only some to bring them to new life, He only seals those who are born again – the Spirit’s work in saving and sealing is not universal. For Christ’s death to be universal, it would mean that some of His blood, some of His trials and suffering under the wrath of God the Father, was for those who are spending eternity under God’s wrath. Any blood or work done by Christ on their account would be wasted! And if the death of Christ was universal, it would put Him at odds with the Father and the Spirit, because their work in salvation is particular, not universal.

Let’s read the passage from John 3 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is more in line with the common use of the Greek and keeps consistency within the passage and with the whole teaching of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.

The Pilgrim’s Journey

The Pilgrim’s Journey  9781601783875

A review by Stuart Brogden

I first heard of Jeremy Walker a few years ago when I happened upon a most wonderful book he co-authored with Rob Ventura – A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ. That book confirmed in my desire to serve the Lord’s people as a pastor and also put the fear of that responsibility in me. This new book by Walker, Passing Through, is subtitled Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness and has vignettes from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress throughout as our author makes compelling case that our Creator sees us as aliens, sojourners – pilgrims. I confess reading this book convicted me on several points and I think any honest Christian will be able to admit the same as we all tend to seek comfort in this world, though it is not our home, living in practical forgetfulness of where our citizenship lies.

This book is divided into 12 chapters, each of which provides Scriptural Framework and Specific Counsels for the topic. I grew a little weary of this format by the end of the book, but thank the Lord for it – it is a wonderful exposition of many truths and useful counsel and encouragements we each have need of. He starts off (page 1) asking “Who are you? What are you?” and tells us on the next page that we “need, therefore, to consider our identity and our activity in the light of Scripture.” If you are in a solid church, you will be reminded of the dangers of worldliness. But if your church is shallow, it may look more like the world than one of God’s outposts in this hostile arena. He concludes chapter 2 –Strangers and Pilgrims, with this: “We like to speak of death as “going home,” and so it is to every child of God, but why do we then live as if we are already home? Such confusion betrays us.” (page 36)

I will highlight chapter 7 – Respect the Authorities, as I see all too often Christians demanding the church do “this” or other Christians do “that” in response to cultural or political events. Also, the proper respect for authorities – each in its own arena of influence – is something we all need to understand better. “The church, by divine design, is a spiritual force, a gospel organism. Her involvement in and impact upon the world socially, politically, and economically may not be insignificant, but it will be substantially incidental. The church does not exist to have a political life or role.” (page 125) The scriptural framework consists of understanding proper subjection to governing authorities (citing Romans 13:1-7), parental authority (Exodus 20:12) as earthly authorities that He established and which answer to Him – not us or the church. And while Walker agrees that role of governments is to do good as God’s ministers, he admits that they often don’t; and their failure to be good does not give us excuse to rebel. When we must disobey earthly authorities (when they command us to sin or forbid from obeying our God), we must be respectful as were Daniel and his colleagues and the disciples written about in Acts 5 were. “There language is polite and eminently respectful. Their recognition of the king’s authority is sincere and humble. Their refusal to obey is absolute. Their faithfulness to God is complete.” (page 131)

 

We are commanded to pray for our government (1 Tim 2) – who among us lives in such a hateful environment for Christians as did Paul when he penned God’s instructions on this topic? We are to live in such a way so that evil men would see the way we live, rather than speak evil of us they would glorify God (1 Pet 2). We will find ourselves disinterested and unable to have this focus if we don’t have our identity and activity lined up with Scripture. As to the proper focus of the church in the face of God-hating government, Walker brings us to Acts 4:24-31. The Jewish leaders are organized and determined to put an end to this Way that has popped up and is turning the world upside down. Peter and John were commanded to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus; But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” They were respectful but uncompromising. What happened next is instructive and directly on topic with this chapter.

Acts 4:23-31 (ESV) When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Notice this: they did not plot a protest or overthrow of the corrupt government of Israel. They praised God, thanked Him for being faithful, recognized He had appointed the evil men to rule over them, and prayed for the name of Jesus to be glorified through the service He had called them to. This is the proper posture for the church in the midst of political turmoil and persecution. “The church’s response to the assaults made on her is not a rallying cry to civic resistance or even civic engagement, but to get on their knees before the living Lord and to seek His face, crying for heavenly power to declare divine truth faithfully and fruitfully even in the face of opposition and persecution.” (page 136)

“The governing power of the saints is a heavenly one. The church takes her identity, her sense of privilege and priority, her direction for behavior, and her enduring hope from her heavenly King and the realities of citizenship in His kingdom. This conditions all our relationships with the authorities here. The men of the world set their minds on earthly things, but the citizens of Zion set their minds on heavenly things.” (page 137) Yet the saints say, Amen!

“Here is the key point: though the citizens of the two kingdoms necessarily mingle as they make their way through this world, God’s people cannot be finally identified with any nation, party, society, or institution in the earth. … It is only when the Christian understands himself to be unequivocally and distinctly a citizen of heaven that he knows how to relate to the kingdoms of the world.” (page 141)

If we want to live in accordance with God’s plan, we must have our identity and activity aligned with His Word. We must ever be growing in grace and knowledge, seeking to be renewed in our minds as we cooperate with His Spirit’s work to sanctify us and conform us to Christ. We must be heavenly minded if we are to be of any earthly good. We must embrace our identity as a pilgrim of God, an alien on planet earth. This is wonderful book to help us figure that out and live accordingly.

Praise: A Sacrifice?

I grew up singing “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord” but I confess that I did not understand what a “sacrifice of praise” was until a few years ago. Praising God is fun … at least for me … so how could it be a sacrifice?

I am reading through the Book of Psalms right now, and it tells us a number of times to offer up a “sacrifice of praise” or a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Reading it translated as “thanksgiving” has caused me to ponder this even more.

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My family and I have entered a season of life recently that, honestly, I have been dreading. In it, I am going to have to die to self and forgo some of my plans this summer. That’s not easy for me but I know that, in this, God is performing His perfect work. Because of this, I do find myself thanking Him. I don’t always feel like it but, as I praise Him and thank Him for what He is doing in each of our lives, I feel more peace and more grace, and I know that, because of Him, I’ll never walk alone.

No matter what you are going through today, don’t stop praising Him. You may not always like the changes that God brings your way or the tasks He calls you to but, if you are willing to lay down your life and surrender to Him 100%, you will find that peace that passes understanding, and you will grow even closer to a God who loves you so much more than you can think or imagine.

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Marriage – what’s the Big Deal?

MarriageMarriage

There’s something more basic than homosexual activism and the resulting ruling by black-robed oligarchy declaring marriage a basic right that must include two (will it soon be three or more?) men or women.  States must offer and recognize marriage licenses for these couples. This is interesting because there are myriad licenses issued by the states that are not honored automatically by other states (concealed handguns, medical, law, plumbing, hair dressing) and there is no out-cry that basic human rights are being violated or that the national government has an obligation to “level the playing field.”

Search the U.S. Constitution and copy down every phrase that touches on marriage. …

 

 

 

I’ve printed them above for handy reference: there aren’t any!

How the national government determined it has a role in marriage (beyond tax policy) is another mystery. Post-modernism runs rampant in the court system, leading me to call the chief justice Humpty Dumpty – who told Alice words had whatever meaning he wanted them have whenever he used them. We are no longer a country ruled by law – we are ruled over by an oligarchy of folks in black robes who think they know better than anyone else what truth is, while denying the very truth found in the charter document of this country. They are to interpret laws and lower court cases, not make law up or imagine what the legislature meant nor be the country’s “Dr. Phil.”

Now we who know and belong to the Creator see the battle lines. The system of this world is at war with the creator of this world. Because they cannot see the One Who created this world, or them, they conclude He is imaginary. The Bible says people like this have become futile in the understanding (Rom 1:21 & Eph 4:18).

The Word of God tells He created marriage – giving Moses the reason and composition for this relationship that was announced to the creature before the Fall (Gen 2:24). Jesus confirmed this as YHWH’s plan in Matt 19, adding “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Notice this – “what God has joined together”; marriage is a covenant (Mal 2:14) that God created and that He calls each couple into when He joins them together. This is made clear even when man doesn’t consider a relationship marriage, as Paul teaches (1Cor 6:16) that that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her. For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

We can observe two things regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling: when two or three men get a marriage license, they are not married. The creator of marriage defined it as between a man and a woman. Man is by nature a liar and when the one known as Obama celebrates this ruling and when the oligarchy declares marriage to be a right for anyone and all combinations of people they are all defying God and heaping up judgment on themselves. Those who claim Christ yet join with the reprobates celebrating this latest abominable ruling are revealing themselves as enemies of Christ, not brothers and sister of Him.

Marriage is the only place given where sex can be enjoying as a gift from God – Hebrews 13:4 (KJV) Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. YHWH declares He will judge adulterers and sexually immoral (the phrase used in other translation where the KJV has whoremongers). Man is a fool in thinking he can contrive myriad relationships that will be fun (for a season), for he soon thinks something is not right for he tries to get society to approve of his sin (Rom 1:18, 32; 1 Pet 4:1 – 5). Judgment for violating the marriage covenant called for death in the Old Covenant (Gen 38:24; Leviticus 20:10-16) and calls for excommunicating a church member (1 Corinthians 5:1, 9 – 11). Paul teaches us “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13) and tells Christians to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Galatians 5:19-21) He also tells us (1 Thess 4:3) that it is God’s will that Christians abstain from sexual immorality.

Another aspect of marriage that makes it unacceptable for man to redefine: YHWH uses it as a metaphor to describe the relationship between the church and Jesus (Eph 5:31, 32). This is why the attempted deconstruction of marriage by our political leaders is so seriously evil. Judgment is coming for those who celebrate such wickedness – Rev 2:14, 20; 14:8; 19:1 & 2. Read those passages and see how those evil persons will end.

God has given us marriage as the only release for our sexual desires: (1Cor 7:2) — But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. There is no provision for a man to have a man or woman to have a woman – those desires are sinful and God will not honor them.

And man, as much as he tries to cover it up and talk louder about how sin is not sin, will not escape God’s judgment.

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:26-32 (ESV) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

May God have mercy! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

Dementia – Fighting for Joy

The Gospel Coalition posted this week some thoughts on dementia that I would highly recommend you read. I understand the heartbreak that many go through as they seek to care for their loved ones. As the disease takes hold, the mind of the loved one disappears into an ether that will never return. Some good friends are struggling with this at present with a family member and the sorrow they feel brings back some painful memories.

Dementia

I recall vividly, when my wife and I lived in England, having to watch my grandmother disappear before our eyes. In a very short timespan, I went from being her grandson, to her son, to her brother, and then one painful day, she no longer recognized me. This was a lady who loved the Lord and who had long sung the songs of Zion. Her face had changed little. The pain continued to course through her frail body but she rarely complained in the last months of her life. Even when my own dear mother came to visit us in England, we took her to visit her mom but there was not even a flicker of recognition for her daughter. What a painful experience and another sobering reality of what this life can bring to those we dearly love.

However, there is an unexplainable joy that comes to our hearts when we realize that for those who know Christ, they are kept secure in His care. Nothing can separate them from the love of Christ – not even dementia. For those who are left behind, appreciate what you have because one day it will be too late.

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We deal with these things because of the curse and sin that has passed from Adam to all of his descendants. Praise the Lord though that one day all of sin and death will be totally swallowed up. There will be no pain, no suffering, no tears, and no diseases of any kind. “What a day that will be when our Jesus we shall see!” This is the encouragement that is provided by the truth of Scripture.  For those who have a family member going through this, still show your love to those who cannot remember you. Many times, in our younger years, they loved us when we did not understand. It is our responsibility and our privilege to care for those who will go before we do to the other side of eternity.

Do not lose heart, dear friends and readers, at what you see before you. Trust the Lord for His wisdom, strength, and guidance as you give loving care even to those who no longer know who you are.