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A Confident Relationship

February 19, 2018

In order to maintain his earthly relationship with God and to retain confidence before God the Christian must live in obedience to God. Obedience is never a means of securing eternal salvation, but obedience secures present intimacy. Disobedience brings guilt and shame before God. Have you ever seen a young child who knows he has done something wrong? His guilt is written all over his face. He can not look anyone in the eye, he wants to hide, he does not want to talk to anyone because he knows he is guilty. How did Adam and Eve react when they sinned? They were ashamed. They made clothes of fig leaves to hide their bodies and they hid themselves from God when He came into the Garden of Eden.

When guilt is present there is no confidence before God. Guilt leads to fear and uncertainty. Guilt squashes the desire to come before God with prayer or worship. Guilt makes the sinner feel ashamed. The solution to shame is to address the sin. Confess guilt, repent of sin and God will deal with the shame. Jesus was shamed to bring forgiveness. The Christian needs not live in shame. The past, while it may be painful to remember, is forgiven. The Christian who lives in obedience can come before his God with boldness.

David, though righteous was far from perfect. The Bible records several examples of severe sin. David had confidence before God because he repented of his sin. God is always ready to receive those who repent. Proverbs 24:16 says, “A just man falleth seven times (the just man falls repeatedly into sin!), and riseth up again; (Perfection in obedience is not the issue. Persistence in obedience is.) but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” The righteous fall and get back up, but for the wicked there is no getting up again. Though every Christian will sin, those who get back up and move ahead in repentance will have confidence with God.

Disobedience before God always hinders the relationship with God. Psalm 66:18 warns, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
The book of 1 John lays out the evidences of genuine Christianity. John presents a series of convicting statements which conclude that if a person says he is in Christ, but does not love others, does not hate the world, denies Jesus or lives in sin then his profession is a fraud. 1 John 3:19 says that knowing the truth will give great assurance before God. But the heart of those in sin will condemn them for their wickedness. And then 1 John 3 says, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” A righteous heart gives great confidence in the Christian’s relationship with God.


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God Is

February 12, 2018

Psalm 18:2 contains three phrases that pile adjective on top of adjective to describe the absolute protection and security found in God. Jehovah is my rock, my fortress, my deliver. He is my God, my strength, my trust. He is my buckler, my strong salvation and my high tower. All three phrases crescendo from a lesser to a greater to show that God is the strong defense who saves from all enemies.

The wilderness region of Israel is filled with rocks, cliffs and caves. The American military had a lot trouble in Afghanistan because of the many caves in which the Taliban could hide. The wilderness of Israel where David hid for over a decade is similar. He knew all about the protection afforded by rocks and caves. He speaks from long experience when he says Jehovah is my rock, a cleft in the rock a fleeing man can duck into for protection and Jehovah is my fortress, a large cave in the rocks which an army can defend from an enemy. Jehovah is my security.

Jehovah is my God. Since the days of Cain and Abel the world has worshiped many false gods. In David’s day, Baal, Anat, Asherah, Astarte, Dagon, Chemosh and Moloch were just a few of the gods worshiped by the Canaanites. Only one God is able to deliver. Only one God is greater than all the other gods of the world. Only One God is the true God. All others are false gods, they are not gods. The one God is Jehovah. The child of God declares, “This one God is my God.” I will worship no idols. I will trust in no other deities. I will sacrifice to no other gods. Jehovah is my God, my strength. This is another term for rock, an immovable refuge, a steep cliff upon which one can stand secure, safe from the attacks of his enemies. Jehovah is the one I will trust. He alone is trustworthy. He is the one I will flee to for refuge in all times of trouble.

Jehovah is my buckler, a shield against the attacks of the enemy. This particular Hebrew word is first used in Genesis 15:1. Enemies had attacked the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha and Abram’s nephew Lot was taken captive. Abram gathered his servants into a small army to chase after the invading army. Abram’s small band was victorious and rescued Lot. After this astounding victory Abram returned home. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” God said He would be Abrams protector. God alone is the protector of His people. Jehovah is my shield, the strength of my salvation. The horn has long been a symbol of great power. God is the strength, the power of my salvation, and my high tower. He is the refuge I run to in distress. He is the One who guards, secures, protects, delivers and defends His children.

Give thanks to God for all His mighty works!


Your Best Life When?

February 8, 2018

“It doesn’t get any better than this.” The old commercials showed a group of guys hanging around, fishing, hunting, watching the game and having a great time. The ad peaks when someone reaches into the cooler to pull out an ice cold can of beer while the announcer declares, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Modern advertising is not the only place that promises to make possible the immediate enjoyment of the greatest experiences of life. A popular author and preacher has written several best selling books. His books have titles like, Your Best Life Now, Your Best Life Begins Each Morning and Every Day a Friday. He is not alone. America is plagued by a legion of preachers selling the promise that God wants to give everone wealth, happiness and health.

If existence does not get any better than good friends, a great game and a can of beer, then we might as well spend every Sunday pouring out drink offerings to the gods of athletics. If our best life is now, we might as well do whatever it takes to get as much pleasure as possible before life is over. “Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die.” Such thinking is contrary to everything the Bible teaches.

An 18th century preacher, Daniel Wilcox, observed that the wicked man’s abundant possession of the pleasures of life shows just how little God values earthly riches. Wicked men prosper because God cares nothing for earthly prosperity. Instead, God reserves that which is truly valuable for His children. In Luke 16 the rich man ate great foods, relaxed in great ease and was comforted every day by his many possessions while righteous Lazarus starved and suffered. Yet, in the end Lazarus received the riches of God while the rich man received the wrath of God.

Another rich man decided to build bigger barns, store up his treasures and enjoy his life. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” (Luke 12:20) King Solomon lived for the pleasures of life and after years of frustration discovered, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanities.”

Psalm 17 climaxes with the difference between those who seek for their satisfaction in this life and those who look to the next life for full satisfaction. The worldling is filled with riches. He is surfeited with earthly treasures, but he gains them at the cost of something much more precious. He fails to consider the reality of the resurrection and the greatness of God’s glory. God’s punishment on the wicked is to comfort him with great possessions. Woe to those who desire the riches of this world and God gives it to them! “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The righteous man is satisfied with God. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 73:25) Instead of living for the satisfaction of earthly desires, the righteous man desires God and lives for the eternal joys that are only found at His right hand. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15)

The Audacity of Prayer

February 5, 2018

Many who think about praying concern themselves with the right words. It has often been said, “I don’t know what to say.” Knowing what to say is not nearly as important as many seem to think. God hears your request if you stutter and stammer. God hears your request if you use the wrong words or don’t say something embarrassing. In his comments on Psalm 17 Charles Spurgeon mentioned that the infant’s cry is heard by his parents, but not because of his eloquence or grammar, nor even because of his intensity or sincerity. The infant’s cry is heard because of the compassion of the parents.

Mother’s have a marvelous ability to tune in to the crying of their babies. A mother could be in a crowded room filled with talking people, music and laughing and still distinguish her baby’s cry over the noise. She can probably tell the difference between a cry of hunger, pain or tiredness. This motherly superpower is not greater than God’s deep concern for the cry of His children. Do you think God hears your prayers because they are theologically rich, properly punctuated discourses of impressive argument, sophisticated reasoning and expert vocabulary? God hears the pleas of His children because they are the pleas of His children. The pagans believe their gods hear “because of their much speaking.” The Christian knows God hears because of His great compassion.

Therefore, Christians ought always to prayer and never quit. Jesus told of a widow who pestered an unjust judge to give her justice. Though this judge did not fear God or regard man, he finally gave her justice because she kept bothering him. Jesus also told of a man who had unexpected, late night visitors and had nothing to feed them. He went to his friends house in the middle of the night and began to make a commotion to get some bread to feed his guests. His friend would not get out of bed to give him bread because of friendship, but he would because of the obnoxious audacity of the man making request. Prayer is audacious.

Prayer is bold. A serious consideration of prayer shows it to be an amazing act of presumption. Puny creatures go to the Creator and Eternal King to ask Him to concern Himself with their little lives. An ant tromping into your living room to demand you give it a grain of sugar is far less remarkable than the Christian’s daily entrance to the throne of God to ask for his daily bread. Yet, this boldness of prayer is exactly what God commands and what God enjoys. He delights when you pray shamelessly.

Pray with great earnest. Do not come halfhearted and disinterested. Pray with vigor, with passion, with concern and with a heart yearning for an answer. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

“Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage that never fails.” (E.M. Bounds)


Satisfied

February 1, 2018

Have you never seen how when they were finishing the interior of buildings they kept the scaffolding up? The old Pope, when he had Michael Angelo employed in decorating the interior of that magnificent structure, the Sistine Chapel, demanded that the scaffolding should be taken down so that he could see the glowing colours that with matchless skill were being laid on. Patiently and assiduously did that noble artist labour, toiling by day, and almost by night, bringing out his prophets and sibyls and pictures wondrous for their beauty and significance, until the work was done. The day before it was done, if you had gone into that chapel and looked up, what would you have seen? Posts, planks, ropes. lime, mortar, slop, dirt. But when all was finished, the workmen came, and the scaffolding was removed. And then, although the floor was yet covered with rubbish and litter, when you looked up, it was as if heaven itself had been opened, and you looked into the courts of God and angels.

Now, the scaffolding is kept around men long after the fresco is commenced to be painted; and wondrous disclosures will be made when God shall take down this scaffolding body, and reveal what you have been doing. By sorrow and by joy; by joys which are but bright colours, and by sorrows which are but shadows of bright colours; by prayer; by the influences of the sanctuary; by your pleasures; by your business; by reverses; by successes and by failures; by what strengthened your confidence, and by what broke it down; by the things that you rejoiced in, and by the things that you mourned over—by all that God is working in you.

And you are to be perfected, not according to the things that you plan, but according to the divine pattern. Your portrait and mine are being painted, and God by wondrous strokes and influences is working us up to his own ideal. Over and above what you are doing for yourself, God is working to make you like him. And the wondrous declaration is, that when you stand before God, and see what has been done for you, you shall be “satisfied.” Oh, word that has been wandering solitary and without a habitation ever since the world began, and the morning stars sang together for joy! Has there ever been a human creature that could stand on earth while clothed in the flesh, and say, “I am satisfied?” What is the meaning of the word? Sufficiently filled; filled full; filled up in every part. And when God’s work is complete, we shall stand before him, and, with the bright ideal and glorified conception of heavenly aspiration upon us, looking up to God, and back on ourselves,we shall say, “I am satisfied:” for we shall be like him. Amen. Why should we not be satisfied?

—Henry Ward Beecher

Fumbling after Glory

January 29, 2018

“In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Psalm 16:11

Right now the Christian’s joy is mingled with sorrow. In heaven the Christian’s joy will be full, undiluted, concentrated joy in its purest form. The joys of heaven cannot be fully described nor comprehended. Heaven is unending joy in the presence of God.

The joy of heaven is joy beyond description. The good things enjoyed in this life, if they are in heaven, will be infinitely greater, infinitely better, than anything experienced today. The delights of this earth are but dry shadows of the sweet pleasures to come. The joys of heaven are so much beyond our fallen desires and feeble understanding that they do not even sound like pleasures. In heaven we will serve God perfectly, without fear, without failure, without sin, without sorrow, without suffering and without shame. The redeemed will bring the fruits of their labor to the throne of God and worship Him in His very presence. I have a longing in my heart that tells me this is a wonder beyond anything I can imagine. Wwhenever I try to explain it all words seem like empty shells devoid of the necessary force to impress the magnitude of the marvelous weight of glory which is awaiting the child of God. The living are all handicapped in the attempt to understand heaven’s joy. We are like blind men trying to discern the beauty of a rainbow.

Though we cannot yet comprehend the joy that is coming, we know the promises of God are certain. We know God has promised something greater than this life and we long to reach it. God’s blessings in this life are a foretaste of the unimaginable blessings to come. Though God gives rich blessings in this life, His blesssings do not eliminate the sorrows of this life. Many of the great Psalms of praise were written during times of deep distress. God’s blessings do not yet remove the Christian from all pain and suffering. But one day they will! One day the child of God will have rejoicing without sorrow.

In God is eternal rest, peace and joy. In Him is complete fulfillment and satisfaction. These blessings are the Christian’s now and will be the Christian’s forever. The challenge is to see the blessings of God during times of tribulation. The Christian’s confidence in God will be strengthened as he notices the work of God in his daily life. Have you seen His work in your life? God has been at work. He gives rich blessings to men every day. The sun shines and the rain falls because of the unfailing goodness of God. Have you noticed it? Have you noticed His provision, His blessing, His goodness, His care, His power, His promises? Do you know His Word? Do you know His character? Do you know your God and delight in Him? See God’s work and God’s glory so you will never forget that from Him comes all joy, all gladness, all hope, all rejoicing. See God’s physical blessings now so you will never forget that in Him are all eternal pleasures.


Basis of Righteousness

January 22, 2018

Richard Dawkins made a name for himself opposing Christianity. In 2006 he published a book called “The God Delusion.” The title pretty much says it all. In 2016 Dawkins write in an online article that religion is fine to observe as a tradition as long as it is only concerned about things like Christmas Carols, family meals or annual festivals. He said, “But there really is an important difference between including your children in harmless traditions, and forcing on them un-evidenced opinions about the nature of life or the cosmos. Tradition is fine where it amounts to songs or literature, styles of dress or architecture. But tradition is a terrible basis for ethics, or beliefs about the origin of the universe or the evolution of life.” Richard Dawkins says religion is acceptable as long as it is nothing more than the equivalent of going to visit grandma every summer. When religion begins to affect how a person lives, how he interacts with others, how he thinks, what he values and how he understands the world, then that kind religion is a terrible thing which must be stamped out.

Many others have come to the same conclusion. Religion is fine as a private exercise that remains in the heart and in the church. Religion has no place in the public sphere. Yet many of these same people desire a nation in which everyone is kind to one another, none practice violence upon another and all care for the poor. The delusion of these oblivious atheists is that kindness, goodness and compassion will naturally spring out of the heart of man. Russia, China and North Korea can all attest a godless people will never be a good people.

Biblical Christianity is the only support and defense of basic morality and human decency. Not that everyone who treats other well is a Christian. Nor will treating others with compassion make a person a Christian. True Christianity produces charity in the heart and promotes compassion in a nation. The Christian view recognizes that genuine morality can only come out of a moral heart and genuine compassion can only come out of a loving heart. Biblical Christianity recognizes that no one is naturally moral or loving. Only those who have been made righteous within can truly practice righteousness.

The Christian is one who has been transformed by Christ. The transformation of the believer affects every sphere of life, including relationships. Psalm 15 describes the transformed relationships that evidence a transformed heart. The righteous will live a righteous life, will do righteous deeds and will speak honestly with his own heart. The righteous will not spread slander, will not bring harm to his neighbor and will not ridicule others. The righteous despises the wicked and honors the godly. The righteous keeps his vows even when they are costly and he will not go back on his word. The righteous will not get rich off the needs of the poor and he will not pervert justice for any amount of promised wealth.

At the heart of genuine civic virtue is a heart that loves his neighbor. Such selfless love can only come when one’s entire being has been transformed so that he now loves God with all his heart, soul and might.


Omniscient Forgiveness

January 18, 2018

“The Lord knows all our sins. There is not a sin that has ever escaped his eye. Those committed in the secret chamber, in the darkness of the night, those which never struggled into action—sins of the heart and imagination, those which have never been whispered into any human ear, God has known. What doth he not see? And this is a blessed thing for us, because it causes the pardon to cover fully the whole extent of the sin.

A priest once said that if we did not recollect all our sins, and confess them, they would never be forgiven. Well, then, certainly they never will be forgiven, for no man can ever recollect one thousandth part of his transgressions; but blessed be God, the pardon does not rest with our knowledge of the sin, but with God’s knowledge of the sin; and, therefore, that pardon is complete which comes from the all-seeing God.

“I, even I, am he,”—the Omniscient who am everywhere present, who saw thee in the darkness, and heard thy heart in all its evil speeches against the Most High—I, the all-knowing one, “I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” Oh, this unrivalled pardon, how full of consolation it is! Every attribute of God adds to its splendor; every beam of the divine glory heightens its grandeur.”

-C. H. Spurgeon

A Savior for Sinners

January 15, 2018

God’s evaluation of humanity is disastrous. God does not look at the world today and marvel at how enlightened, progressive, loving, accepting and tolerant humanity has become. God looks at the world and says, “They are all gone aside. They are all together become filthy. There is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)

Man looks at himself and imagines that he is good. All his little foibles and mistakes do not mean a person is a sinner deserving eternal judgment. Man is a flawed creature but he is really doing the best he can. Most people aren’t as good as Mother Theresa, but they are much better than Hitler so they must be pretty. Is that the standard? Is goodness the failure to murder millions of people? Is goodness not murdering the irritating guy next door? Is goodness measured on a sliding scale, with only the very worst of humanity being declared bad?

The Divine standard is perfection. Doing a good deed every so often does not make man good. Not doing all the bad things he wants to do does not make a person good. The Bible judges humanity as completely corrupt. No amount of human good can remedy man’s corruption. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

Man must be condemned if man is to saved. Psalm 14:1-6 lays upon humanity a horrible burden of guilt, shame and condemnation, but- and this is a marvelously wonderful conjunction- God has promised One who will forgive our sin and remove our condemnation. God knows the full depravity of sin, but in His mercy He provided a substitute to take the punishment, a covering to hide the shame and a remedy to remove the sin. Men do not have to hide from the face of God. No one has to live in fear of God’s wrath. None need tremble before the judgment of God. Though “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” God has promised, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

For those who have run to Him for mercy and forgiveness, the promise of God is a source of great joy. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) The guilt of sin, the shame of guilt and the condemnation of sin is taken away. God will never punish those who run to Him for pardon. God has punished another and the judgment has been paid. Rejoice! God has given to sinners a Savior.


Eclipsing Scripture

January 11, 2018

While doing some research last fall for an Ask the Pastor question I came across something that surprised me. Before that time I had never done any extensive research into the Bible’s references to eclipses. I was familiar the various prophetic passages about the sun being blotted out and the idea that they are descriptions of eclipses. I knew some had suggested an eclipse caused the sky to darken during Jesus’ crucifixion. (Which is impossible. Solar eclipses only occur during a new moon and Passover always takes place at the full moon). When I began searching for references to eclipses, I found the Bible never mentions them.

What surprised me was not the lack of clear Biblical statements about eclipses. I do not expect the Bible to make specific statements about supernovae, photosynthesis, gravity or many other natural phenomena. What surprised me was the apparently large number of Christians who believe the Bible says that eclipses and other natural celestial phenomena are signs from God that we are living in the last days.

The last few years have seen a lot of conversation about the importance of eclipses to Biblical prophecy. The solar eclipse of 2017 set off another round of pronunciations like this one from Mark Blitz, “From a biblical point of view, a solar eclipse is meant as a sign from God. When there is a total solar eclipse, it is a warning to a specific nation or nations depending on its path. … Could God be giving us a warning that we need to repent or judgment will be coming to the United States? The timing couldn’t be clearer!”

If the Bible makes no clear mention of eclipses, how does a Biblical point of view lead to interpreting an eclipse as a sign from God? Even allowing that the prophetic descriptions of the sun being blotted out are descriptions of an eclipse does not justify viewing eclipses as signs from God. The passages describing th sun being blotted out are clearly describing events of the Tribulation shortly before the Second Coming of Jesus. The Bible does not speak about normal solar eclipses that happen every couple years. The Bible does not teach that eclipses have any prophetic significance for Christian’s today. Why do Christians believe otherwise?

But this article is not about eclipses. This is about the Bible. Why look outside Scripture for information on when Jesus is returning? Why do Christian’s act as if important information about life will be missed if we rely only on the Word? Could it be because of an underlying suspicion that maybe God left some important things out of the Bible? The Christian who does not hold a firm conviction in the full sufficiency of the Bible will not trust the Bible to teach him everything he needs to know about the Christian life.

The Bible contains everything the Christian needs for life, Godliness and complete preparation for all good works. (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Bible contains everything the Christian needs to live for eternity, prepare for the Second Coming and be ready for the rapture. Christian’s do not need cosmology, meteorology and seismology to reveal when Jesus is going to return. Christian’s do not need psychology, philosophy or culture to tell them how to live for Jesus. The Bible is the full source of everything Christian’s really need.

God’s Word is enough for Christian living in these days. His Word is enough for the needs of the nation and the unsaved masses. His Word supplies all essential answers for times of trouble. His Word is enough for emotional stability, mental health and personal growth. His Word is sufficient to bring the lost to salvation. The unsaved world is not going to be drawn to Christ by a focus on extra-Biblical omens and harbingers. The Biblical message of the coming King is sufficient for the salvation of men. The Bible is enough for all men in all times.