Archive for June, 2012

Is It Time To Hide?

It It Time To Hide?
During Operation Desert Storm, I was in the Navy and stationed on board the ammunition ship USS Mount Hood. We were inside the Persian Gulf and had around 2500 tons of ammunition on board at any time. For us, there was one danger which was at the forefront of our thinking – mines. One particular evening, many of us gathered for prayer, as was our habit. While we were in prayer, in my mind I could see what looked like an angel on the bow of the ship moving a sword back and forth ahead of us in the water. I’m not saying I had a vision, but decided it was a comforting thought and moved on.
The next morning at 7:45 I went on watch in the Combat Information Center. Around 8:00, we received a message with the coordinates of where a mine had been found and destroyed, so I plotted it on the navigational chart. I even plotted it three times to make extra sure it was accurate. When I was finished, I stared at the chart and felt a sudden chill. The position of the mine was at the exact spot where our ship’s position was plotted from midnight just eight hours before! A quiet prayer of thanks was lifted to God for His protection, and I have never forgotten His care over me that night.

In scripture, David had similar feelings of praise and gratitude to God for preserving his life. Those thoughts were part of what the Holy Spirit used when inspiring David to write things like these:

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7 NASB)

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, (Psalm 17:8 ESV)

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock. (Psalm 27:5 NASB)

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I wait for Your word. (Psalm 119:114 NASB)

Of course, much is to be made of the will of God when it comes to our protection and preservation. But with the examples before us in the Bible of God’s promises of protection and safety, it should also be said that while there are times we are hurt, those times are the exception, not the rule. Of course we are not to presume upon divine protection by doing things purposely harmful and assuming that God has us covered. Such was the temptation in Matthew 4 when the devil tempted Jesus by telling him to cast himself down from the temple, because Psalm 91 says God would not allow him to “dash his foot against a stone.”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul makes spiritual application to divine protection. In the letter to the church at Colossae, he wrote, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3 NASB)
Sometimes, the Lord’s plan is for us to openly resist. At other times, we are commanded to refuse to engage in a battle, especially since our battle is not against flesh and blood. But at other strategic times, God chooses to simply hide us from the enemy so that we are spared physical and/or spiritual harm. I think these were things that Fanny Crosby may have been meditating on in 1929 when she wrote the following poem that would become another one of her beloved hymns.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide me
In Thy holy place;
Resting there beneath Thy glory,
O let me see Thy face.

Hide me, when the storm is raging
O’er life’s troubled sea;
Like a dove on ocean’s billows,
O let me fly to Thee.

Hide me, when my heart is breaking
With its weight of woe;
When in tears I seek the comfort
Thou canst alone bestow.

Hide me, hide me,
O blessed Savior, hide me;
O Savior, keep me
Safely, Oh Lord, with Thee!

We do well to remember in the turbulent days ahead, that those who “dwell in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

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Are You Going To Eat That?

Are You Going To Eat That?
Today’s post starts with the inspired narrative telling about dire situation that ensued when Samaria was under siege by Syria and was totally cut off. No longer could they go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and offer sacrifices to God. They were isolated and starving physically and spiritually.

“Now it came about after this, that Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and went up and besieged Samaria. There was a great famine in Samaria; and behold, they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” He said, “If the LORD does not help you, from where shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the wine press?” And the king said to her, “What is the matter with you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes-now he was passing by on the wall-and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body. Then he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today.” (2 Kings 6:24-31 NASB)

This is such a heartbreaking scene, but it is typical of what happens when people are completely cut off and begin to despair of life. Desperation breeds panic, and people find themselves doing things that they would have once been unthinkable.
The Israelites had been reduced to eating dove dung and donkey heads. Can you imagine what it would be like to come home to Dove Dung Soup or Donkey Head Surprise? What type of hopelessness brings people down to that level? And during their fight to survive they keep seeing the prophet, Elisha, who had told them how to keep out of this danger by turning to God and forsaking their idols. Instead of heeding the Word of God, the wanted to kill the messenger.

In many ways, we are the same way personally. When we cut ourselves off from God, we inevitably, eventually will find ourselves doing things we never would have done before, accepting as normal things that were once an abomination, and wanting to close our ears to any who would show us the way back to God. Take a look at the things you watch and listen to. Look at the activities you see or even participate in that once would have been shocking. How desensitized have we become? How seared over are our hearts against being sensitive to what pleases God? It is like in our day, we have replaced the idols which brought judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel with full length mirrors. With great seriousness and piety we look into the mirror and say, “My kingdom come, my will be done” as we submit to our ideas instead do to the Word of God.

Our national conscience has also been deadened. We have a society that openly promotes that which God condemns. It stands in defiance to the commands of God, and declares that he has no place in government, as if somehow that means God will be able to leave our nation’s sin unjudged because we have declared ourselves “secular”. We are consuming toxic, filthy, garbage (i.e. dove dung soup and donkey head surprise) and calling it normal, and freedom. But in the end it will kill us as a nation! And just like in the narrative above, the children are the ones who suffer and are consumed.

We have to wake up and see our situation the way God sees it! We have to take another look and what we watch and listen to and laugh at, and measure it by the Word of God and decide one thing – if I am taking this in, is it pure food, or is this dove dung and donkey heads served on a silver platter. Because filth and garbage served in a fanciest restaurant by waiters in tuxedos, is still toxic and it will slowly kill you.

Our God loves us so much that, even while we are wallowing in the gift wrapped filth of the world, He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die for us. (Romans 5:8) His desire is to give us the bread of life and living water. To fill us with things that bring life instead of corruption so we will never hunger and thirst again. God said it this way through the prophet Isaiah:
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:1, 2 NASB)

All of this sustenance is to be found “in Christ”. How do we get into Christ? By hearing and understanding the Gospel, repenting of our sin, confessing faith in Him, being baptized into Christ.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26, 27 NASB)

There it is. It’s simply beautiful and beautifully simple. Obey the Gospel and be added to the body of Christ. Then you can forsake the filth of the world (repentance) and follow after Christ.
Don’t delay.
The world will try to convince you that right is wrong and wrong is right.

Come to Jesus, on His terms, today!
(Acts 2:38)

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What Happens In The Garden

What Happens In The Garden

My mom has always loved gardening. For as long as I can remember, she has had lush flower beds and a vegetable garden. While the eleven of us were growing up, mom and dad had a huge garden, along with goats and chickens. Most of what we ate came from our own pasture or gardens. In retrospect, it was an idyllic time, and a wonderful way to grow up.

In the span of salvation history, gardens are important places for God as well. When God created Adam and Eve, he placed them in a garden (Gen 2:8). It was a lush place, with everything that could be desired. It was also a place of intimate fellowship with the Creator, and he would physically manifest (preincarnate Jesus?) and walk with them in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8).

But the garden became defiled by sin, as Adam and Eve willfully said “no” to the command of God and they, their descendants, and the earth over which they were given dominion fell. From then on, sin reigned and through sin, came death. As a result, they were expelled from the garden that had been their only home.

Thousands of years later, another scene was taking place in a garden. This time it was the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus, who would be called the “second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15) The difference was that this Adam, who was a perfect man in an imperfect garden, was saying “yes” to God and would, through His obedience, bring eternal life to all who would receive it.

Someday, there will be another garden. One that is perfect, wherein righteousness dwells. With a river flowing out of the throne of God, and with the tree of life. We shall once again have perfect communion with our Lord, and spend eternity in his presence. John describes it this way:
“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5 NASB)

My friends, that will be a garden worth seeing. And unlike the gardens of my youth, there will be no weeds to pull. Just the full enjoyment of paradise spent in His presence.

And THAT will be the most wonderful garden of all!

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Hearing The Testimony You Are Seeing?

Hearing The Testimony You Are Seeing

I arrived a little early to work today, and parked the van along the tree line at the back of the parking lot. After only a moment, an American Goldfinch landed on top of a thistle that had some blossoms which had turned to fluff. This tiny bird immediately began picking off tiny slivers of fluff to carry back to her nest. These birds know how to build a nest that is so well put together that it holds water. All this after flying back up to Wisconsin for the summer after spending the winter in Mexico.

As I sat there watching this marvel of nature, it baffled me that someone could see a little bird, which is more complex than any machine or computer we can make, and believe this was the result of a huge explosion, followed by change, spontaneous generation, and random mutations.

Paul, in Romans chapter 1 wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:20, 21 NASB)

To observe such complexity and design, and at the same time deny the existence of the designer is illogical at best. But satan still uses such tactics to deceive millions. Why? Well, other than the pleasure he takes in human destruction, it is an attempt to deflect credit that would otherwise go to God. In the throne room vision of Revelation 4, it is recorded that this praise goes out continually to God.
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 NASB)
Yes, creation itself, from the tiniest particle, to the expanse of the universe, is an expression of worship to God!
“You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. (Nehemiah 9:6 NASB)

It is also an attempt to give credit for creation to someone or something other than God. And by publishing the lie that the universe created itself, he rocks the faith of some and causes them to stumble, or even to never search for God at all. But we, as Christians know this is a deception from the evil one.
By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear. (Hebrews 11:3 ASV)

So, thank you mr and mrs goldfinch, for your fine devotional lesson this morning! You spoke to one of God’s children through your building of a nest. And you also were yet another reminder that, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (Psalm 14:1a NASB)

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Picking A Different TULIP

Picking A Different TULIP

On many occasions I encounter staunch Calvinists, who hold to a system of doctrine that uses the acrostic of T.U.LI.P. These letters stand for:
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace, and
Perseverance of the Saints.

As with many doctrinal systems, there is an element of truth in each of these doctrines if one defines their own terms. Well, I have decided to pick a different TULIP, using my own titles to make the acrostic work. Plus, finding away to make anything memorable out of chrysanthemum was just too hard.

Total Natural Inability – Apart from an encounter with the Word of God, and the Spirit which makes that Word living and active, the natural man is incapable of, and unwilling to, find salvation and regeneration. Only when the Word of God is heard and understood can there be faith (Romans 10:17) and without faith it is impossible to please God. Left to his own devices, a natural man is totally unable to find salvation.

Unconditional Corporate Election – God has predestined that all who are “in Christ” will be justified, sanctified and glorified. This election is one of the group, or corporate, vice individual in nature. The gift of salvation is free to “whosoever will” appropriate it. At that moment, one is in Christ and has access to everything else that is in Christ, such as redemption and justification.

Limited Efficacy of Atonement – The atonement, purchased for the elect at the cost of the blood of Christ and through His finished work on the cross, is only beneficial (or efficacious) for those who are saved. It’s value is sufficient for all mankind, but only efficacious who believe and obey the Gospel.

Irresistible Love and Grace – Once a sinner whose heart is prepared (i.e. good soil) hears the Word of God preached and truly comprehends the love that God has shown him in his lost state through the sacrifice of His Son, he or she will repent and run to Jesus Christ for salvation. Those who reject this invitation either do not comprehend, or have hearts which have been hardened to the point of inability to receive the seed of the Word.

Perseverance of the Saints – Those who are saved and are faithful to the end, or at least by the end, have persevered and receive the crown of life. The saints should continually be encouraged to persevere, so as not to grow weary and quit the race. In the vast majority of cases, salvation is not lost; it is left. The secret to final victory is this – don’t quit!

I know there will be points of agreement and disagreement, and there is probably some verbiage that could be tweaked to make what I am trying to say more easily understood. But the purpose is to provoke to discussion and to individual searching of the scriptures like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.

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Look Who Is Taking Communion!

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:29)

As we gather together each week, most of us are aware that Jesus Christ is there in our midst, according to Matthew 18:20. We are gathered there in His name, and there is no doubt that the words of Jesus recorded for us in Matthew 18 are truth. He hears the prayers that are lifted up, listens to the songs of worship, and even draws those to himself that hear and understand the Word (Romans 10:17). But there is one portion of our worship that He actually participates in with us. Jesus, in Matthew 26:29 says that he drinks the fruit of the vine with those who are in His kingdom.

 

 

Stop a minute and meditate on that. While we drink the cup, Jesus is drinking it, too. As we are giving thanks, he is receiving it and saying “you are welcome”. It is as though He speaks to us through the bread and the fruit of the vine saying things like “remember” or “I did this out of love for you” and drawing us ever closer to himself.

 

 

At the Lord’s table Jesus is death is lifted up before all who will see, and He invites us to deeper intimacy and purer devotion! And while singing, praying, scripture reading, preaching, and giving are all important and should not be overlooked, the center and most impacting moment every first day of the week should be the time spent around the table, participating with Jesus as we partake of the new wine and the unleavened bread. He is present spiritually and invisibly, but also in reality.

 

 

Questions for reflection

 

How will the realization that Christ is there participating with us affect the way I personally observe the Lord’s Supper each week?

 

If I could physically see Jesus during our next worship service, would it alter my attitude, actions, and fervor with which I worship?

 

Knowing that Jesus said he really is there, even though invisible, should those be changes I make NOW?

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Fear Or Faith?

Mark 4:35-41

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

What is the worst storm you’ve ever been through?

How did the disciples react to this storm? And what did many of them do for a living? (They were fisherman: 1:16-19.) So how strong can we surmise this storm was? (These seaworthy fishermen were accustomed to storms on the Sea of Galilee and this one must have been fierce for them to fear for their lives.) The pillow in the stern was a large bag of sand that was used for ballast to keep the boat steady as the men were working. It was typically covered by a wooden platform that would have provided Jesus with protection from the elements.

Is it possible to be in fear and faith at the same time? No!

Hebrews 2:14-15

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Fear of death is the ultimate root of all fear. Whatever we are genuinely afraid of at its core, is a fear of something dying; a career, our reputation, our marriage, our relationships. All of it is rooted in the fear of death. That is the kind of fear that causes anxiety and torment. Fear and bondage go hand in hand and Jesus died to set us free from fear. Fear may to your door, but don’t invite it in for supper. Especially don’t invite it to spend the night. Fear will come in and take over. Before long, every decision will be based on fear instead of on your faith in God. “I would obey God, but….” Is an indication that you are making fear based decisions. That is why you cannot walk in fear and in faith. We also cannot walk in love and faith.

I John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

“Torment” here is the type of fear that involves terror. Satan is the original terrorist. He would like nothing more than for you to be tormented by fear your entire life instead of walking in love.

Fear will make you do or say things you would not normally say if you had been thinking clearly

It would have been okay to say, “Jesus, save us” or even to wake him and say “Lord, help!” but when we start questioning the character of God, we know we are walking in fear instead of faith. When the disciples said, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” they were solidly in the camp of fear. So, you may ask, are you saying that we should be so fearless that we can play on the freeway and not be afraid? NO! We have to cultivate faith along with wisdom. Please don’t confuse faith versus fear with wisdom versus foolishness. That’s another matter for another lesson.

But what about the consequences? After all, isn’t a little fear a good thing? NO

When God repeats himself we need to take notice. In the Word, God says “fear not” “be not afraid” or words to that effect 365 times. I don’t think that is a coincidence. We have a “do not fear” for every day of the year. I think we should pay attention to something like that, don’t you?

It is a violation of the commandments of Jesus

(Matthew 6:30-34)
30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Fear can ultimately keep us from Heaven
Revelation 21:8 (King James Version)

8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The word for fearful in the Greek here means to be full of dread. But isn’t a little fear a good thing? Do you see anything on the list in this verse that you would say that about? Really?

Jesus Christ has defeated fear for us! How can we walk in it any longer? In Matthew’s account of this story, we get a glimpse into the mind of someone who was, in all likelihood on his first boat ride. When describing the storm that came up in Matthew 8:24, he uses the Greek word seismos. It is where we get the word seismic, or seismology. The other two times Matthew uses “seismos” it is translated “earthquake”. This was an earth shaking event that “rocked his world’. The other two times Matthew uses seismos is at the crucifixion (Matt. 27:54) and the resurrection (Matt 28:2). It was at the empty tomb where Jesus defeated death, at the cross where He defeated sin, and in our story today, where He defeated fear.
What about the fear of the Lord? Isn’t that a good thing? Of course it is. Proverbs 9:10, as well and many other passages talk about the necessity of the fear of the Lord. But we can see the difference in that type of fear in verse 41. This isn’t terror, this is an awesome realization of who God is and who we are. And we obey our awesome God out of love, reverence an awe that he would first love us and save us from the kingdom of darkness and translate us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
Conclusion
1. The presence of the storm is not the absence of God!
2. You can walk through the valley of the shadow of death, because God is with you.
3. Fear the Lord, and you need fear nothing else.
a. 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

4. Dad’s story from the typhoon. A wonderful thing my father did was to write down his life story years before he died and give copies to each of his children and grandchildren. In the conclusion of those memoirs, he related some things that had made of great impact on his life. One of them was the following:

a. “The second experience has returned to me many times when I have been faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem. I think of the night in the typhoon off of Okinawa. I had fallen asleep in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. The winds exceeded 200 miles per hour, the waves were 80 feet high and the ship was rolling up to 43 degrees, and I was so seasick I had little desire to live! But I awoke to the most beautiful morning I have ever seen, or so it seemed to me. The ocean was calm and blue and sparkling in the early morning sunlight. I was told the storm had passed during the night, and we were sailing back to Buckner Bay. I resolved that from henceforth, though the night be dark, I would always anticipate the beautiful morning to follow. I also decided I could no longer place implicit trust in my knowledge of science, but realized that knowledge of science leads to the Creator of the Universe, and to His will revealed to us in His Word.

5. What are you trusting in? Are you walking in fear and without hope? Are you tormented or terrorized by fear? Jesus has come to give you liberty. If you want to be set free and walk through this valley with Him by your side, come today and be joined together with him in baptism.

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