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Monday, August 11, 2014

Shocking headlines!

U.S. President resigns!

England's Queen abdicates!

Duke's coach K quits!

Each of these headlines would be shocking to most people. The last one would be the most shocking if you happen to live in North Carolina.

Why would these be shocking headlines?

Well the president takes an oath of office and we don't consider it proper for him to break that oath.

For the queen, fulfilling her duties it is a matter of birthright and an obligation to her people. Even though the queen's role in largely symbolic, the world would be shocked and disappointed if she decided to step down prematurely.

And Duke's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is so loved and respected in North Carolina, that if he left it might be seen as an act of treason.

However, there is a far more serious type of commitment that is being broken, it's importance goes far beyond the resignation of a president, the abdication of a monarch, or the quiting of a beloved coach.

Yes, a most significant breach of commitment is happening in our world, and it is happening at an an alarming rate, yet it seldom makes the news!

Matt. 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

A president makes a commitment to lead our country for a set time, and a monarch is expected to rule their people for as long as they are physically capable, and a coach might be expected to be loyal to his team, but only the marriage is a bond made before God and by God!

I would hope we would be slow to break any commitment or promise, but we must put the marriage covenant above all these other things when it comes to the seriousness and permanence of it.

Wouldn't it be good if divorces were so uncommon, that they were as big of a headline as a president resigning?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Better that God be in control!


Isaiah 45:5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.


If God was not in control of those things we call calamities, who or what would be?

Satan?

Chance?

Us?

Them?

I know it is tempting to credit God with all things that seem good to us, and then to place the blame for those things we count as calamitous elsewhere. However, it is far better, biblical, and very comforting to know that the God who created the universe, who is perfectly wise, who is all powerful, and who loves me for Jesus' sake, chooses to send good things or calamity into my life for reasons that make sense to Him, than to think Satan, other people, me, or random chance are responsible!

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What can't God do?


I was reviewing an old Chuck Colson book, Answers to Your Kids Questions, for our ongoing library update, and was shocked to read the following question and answer:

"Why doesn't He simply wipe out evil as soon as it appears on the scene"? (pg. 22)

Answer:

"The only possible answer is that God can't wipe it out without violating His own nature." (pg. 23)

It goes on to further explain:

"God's character is the standard of goodness and justice, and once evil exists he must set it right again. God cannot ignore sin, overlook it, simply destroy the world and start over." (pg. 23)

Now I must agree where scripture agrees, God can't ignore sin; He told Adam and Eve that if they sinned, the punishment was death! (Gen. 2:15-17) This same principle applies to all people who sin against God and His law. (Psalm 5:4-6, John 3:18, Rom. 6:23)

Could God have killed Adam and Eve on the spot for their sin? Colson says no, I say absolutely yes, if that was His plan! God did in fact bring spiritual death, and allowed them to begin the process of physical death. But why did He not wipe out the world at that time? According to Colson it was because His nature would not allow Him to do so. According to the scriptures, it seems clear that it was becasue His eternal plan to glorify His Son, did not include destroying the world at that time!

We know God did in fact start over to a large degree when He killed all but a handful of people and animals during the flood of Gen. 6-8. Why was He able to destroy almost everything at that time? First, it is His creation to do with as He pleases, and for mankind specifically, we were sinners then as now, and deserved death for sin as Adam did. Even Noah is said to have found grace from God first (Gen. 6:8), before he was considered righteous by God and allowed to be spared along with his family.

So did God's nature prevent Him from destroying the earth?

No, in fact we read in Gen. 9:13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (NKJV)

God destroyed the people on earth as a matter of His justice, and He was free to destroy the animals, because they are His to do with as He pleases, and even though He will not destroy the earth again by flood, He will most certainly bring a final judgment for sin upon all who are not covered by the blood of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:5-7, Rev. 19, 21-22).

So why did God not destroy the earth and start over right after sin entered the world? It was not because He was prevented by His nature. In fact His nature demanded sin be judged and He could have done so at that time if that suited His plans. In fact, we best not forget the Egyptian firstborn children, Sodom, and many judgments on Israel for their sins against God. Clearly God destroyed people for sin on the spot many times in the scriptures, and can assume He is still doing so now, without ever violating His character.

Here is my point to all this -

God's plan from the beginning included something more glorious than a world where sin never happened, or even a world where sin happened and God brought swift and final justice. God's plan was to create a world where He knew sin would happen, He also knew many sinners would experience His justice for their sins, and He knew He would redeem many by the blood of, and for the eternal glory of, Jesus Christ!

I had read several of Chuck Colson's books in the past and have always appreciated his passion to reach the lost and transform the culture. I do see a common underlying error in this one portion of this book and I think that once it is set right, it changes everything about how we view God!

There are really only two primary lenses through which to see the actions of God in creating the universes:

One choice, a man centered one - God created man with free will and since man sinned, God has to make the best of a less than perfect situation, as He tries His best to save as many as will have Him! I see this man centered view of creation leaving us with an interesting question: Why didn't God simply destroy the world after Adam and Eve sinned, since that would have prevented billions from experiencing hell, and those who were never born would not even have known they missed heaven or hell? I have already made a biblical case for the fact that He could have done so, but why didn’t He?

The scriptures will verify God's self glorifying motivation for creation and for all else He does!

Consider these passages that speak of God's sovereignty over all things in creation and how He is glorified as He brings about His will:

Exod. 11:4 Then Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. 6 Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. 7 But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.’ 8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will go out.” Then he went out from Pharaoh in great anger.

9 But the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not heed you, so that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

Deut. 7:6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.


8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
9 For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.


10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.


Psalm 106;7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.

8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake,
That He might make His mighty power known.


Isa. 45:2 ‘I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
4 For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.


Now consider the question - is the current state of things, since man sinned, God making the best of a bad situation as He tries to save as many as He can, or is it all exactly as He intended when He created, so that His purpose in creating, the eternal glory of Jesus, would be perfectly fulfilled?

John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Rom. 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

1 Cor. 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Eph. 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Why did God create the world? So that His Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain, would be forever glorified! This was not an afterthought, it was not plan B, it is not God making the best of a bad situation, it is not God being prevented from bringing an end to the earth at anytime if He chose to do so! No, it is God doing exactly as He planned from before time began!

Rev. 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”


13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”


14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

I think we will find much comfort in the actions of God, even if we often can't understand them, if we believe what the scriptures teach, that God created for His glory, He allowed sin for His glory, He redeems all who believe upon Jesus for His glory, and that those who believe will forever enjoy that glory!

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does Satan ever win even the slightest victory over God?

I watched a movie called The Encounter recently, as with most Christian films it was a mixed bag theologically. I liked how the person who portrayed Jesus in the film explained to a young abuse victim why she must forgive her abuser, as her sins required His death just as much as his would. I also appreciated the fact that it tried to stress repentance, although it did not really define it very clearly. There were other positive things that could be said about the film, and of course some places where I felt it missed the mark theologically.

The most troubling part of this film to me was the representation of Jesus as desperate to try to save a man, even pleading with Him to change his mind. When it becomes clear the man is not going to believe, the Devil brags on his victory, while Jesus, who is very sad for the one who got away, reminds the Devil that while He has lost one soul, He has gained three.

Is this really an accurate representation of biblical theology? Do we see Jesus begging people to believe in Him in the Bible? Do we see the Devil winning some and Jesus winning some? If more are ultimately lost than saved (Matt. 7:13-14), will the Devil be able in some sense to say he won a greater victory?

So consider -

Did Jesus ever beg anyone to believe in or follow Him?

Jesus told the twelve to follow Him and they did, Mark 1:16-20, 2:13-14.

Jesus does not beg the disciples who want to depart from Him to stay in John 6:60-71.

Jesus does not beg the Pharisees to follow Him, He promises them judgment, Matt. 23:1-36.

Now it is true that Jesus grieves for the spiritual condition of those who don't believe, Matt. 23:37-38.

And Jesus makes offers of salvation and peace that will apply to all who will receive them, Matt. 11:28-30.

However, with that said, Jesus is never portrayed as chasing after someone, begging them, or even trying very hard to change their minds about Him. In fact we read passages that would make the idea of Jesus begging unbelievers to believe completely ridiculous.

For example:

Matt. 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

John 17:6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Why does Jesus not beg people to believe in and follow Him? Because He knows that none will unless it has been granted by the Father, according to His plans that were in place from before creation, and likewise, all the Father had planned to save from before time began, will actually be saved as they believe in Him.

This also answers the question about whether the Devil will ever be able to be said to have won a victory over God? No, the way things turn out is exactly as God planned! Some will be born again and believe, in keeping with God's plans, while others will be left in rebellion against Him with their leader the Devil. In the end these enemies of God will be punished with their leader, and those who believe will be saved!

Satan, gets zero glory; he is a created thing like us, and he will have not one single victory over God's plans to redeem His people in Jesus -

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
9 For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
 
Isa. 45:5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

1 Cor. 1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Does this sound like a God who ever looses?

I think not!


"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Heresy, but also not helpful!


When I came to the church I pastor six years ago, we had a policy in our church library that put pretty much anything that was donated onto the shelves. The man who oversaw it did a great job carrying out this policy and even he felt the need to keep some things from making it onto the shelves at times. Since the death of that faithful servant, we had pretty much continued that policy, but recently we decided it might be best to have a library where everything was truly useful, relevant and as biblically sound as possible. This process has sought to remove books that are heretical, come from authors who have moved away from a conservative view of the scriptures or that just don't have any spiritual content to make them relevant to a church library.

I know this not an exact science, as some will see certain books as crossing a line that others don't, but in thinking through the process it has become clear that there are many Christian books that while not heretical, are also not helpful.

I have come to see most current Christian books falling into one of two categories, either they seek to help the reader see how wonderful they and their plans are, or they seek to help the reader see how wonderful God and His plans are! I am not suggesting that telling people God loves His children is heresy, it is important we recognize God's love for us in Jesus:

Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

A message we hear repeated in many Christian books is "God loves you just the way you are"! Well biblically, God has demonstrated His love in the world by sending His Son, and He has shown a benevolent loving kindness to everyone by supplying us with food, water, air, etc. Yet, before we are saved we are God's enemies, and if we stay the way we are, unredeemed, we will eventually find ourselves forever separated from God's relational love and even His benevolence!

When God's word tells us of God's love, as with the passage above, it is not so we will spend more time thinking about how wonderful we are, but so that we spend our time thinking about how wonderful He is in saving such rebellious rascals as us!

The truth is, God's word assumes we all love ourselves plenty:

Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Some have said this passage is teaching that we need to love ourselves, before we can love God or others, but that is nonsense! This passage assumes that we love ourselves plenty and that is why we already spend lots of time thinking about us and our needs. What we are commanded to do, and is also best for us, is to stop thinking about us so much and rather focus more on worshipping God and meeting the needs of others!

If someone only read popular Christian authors, rather than the Bible, they might get the impression that the Great Commission is to go into all the world and tell people how wonderful they are!

However, the great commission actually says:

Matt. 8:28 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Thinking too often about us, positively or negatively, is a failure to worship and obey God! However, this self-focus may not go away simply by learning this truth, as old habits often die hard, but the cure is being reminded to stop thinking about us and rather to think about God and how to minister to others!

Telling people of God's love for them in Jesus is certainly not heretical, but if we don't help them see their need to focus on God and obey His will, it is ultimately not helpful!

 
"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."