Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:10)
One of my teachers said that the early translation of the scriptures was done as circuit riders were ministering around the countryside. Every time the horse hit a bump it caused a chapter break. That is why sometimes there are chapter breaks in the midst of the writer’s thought. (…joking…)
Actually, with Paul, all chapter breaks are in the midst of his stream of conscious thought.
This passage in Second Corinthians begins with the affirmation that believers are new creations. It introduces the concept that all believers are ministers. Paul continues, pointing out that Christ works alongside us. He prepares us for the hardships of the work. Paul lists the characteristics of the minister of Christ, and then concludes with the glories of the ministry.
Has God come into your life? Has he disrupted your worldly ideas and plans, and inserted His own as replacements? If so, you are a new creature. You have been born again to a lively hope in the resurrection to eternal life.
You have been separated from the world and its ungodly desires. Unhappily, that does not mean you can’t go back. Like a washed pig that immediately wallows in the mire, all believers can return to fleshly, worldly and satanic pleasures.
One of the many benefits of salvation is that our selves are renewed. In actuality, we are new creatures. All that was before is obsolescent. It is passing away and as a new creation in Christ, the fullness of what that means will become manifest in due time.
Paul throughout his letter points out that B.C., before Christ, we were enemies of God. Because He is Sovereign, our lives of worldliness were in rebellion to His sovereignty. We were at war with God.
For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
But God was in Christ reconciling the world (and us) to Him. Jesus is our bridge between man and God and between man and man.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
Christ is our reconcil-er. The initiative is His, not ours. He took on our sins, cancelling our debt to Almighty God. Jesus reconciled us to the Father.
In so doing, Jesus, promotes us from needing to be reconciled to being reconcil-ers. We are sent forth into the world to testify to the truth that all, women, men and children are at war with God, but “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses…” What a glorious message and what a privilege is ours.
Paul says the message of reconciliation is “committed” to us. In Greek it is τιθημι (tith-ay-mee) = “to place, make, ordain, purpose”. Thus God has placed the ministry of reconciliation in believers’ hands. He has made us responsible for being the reconciling force in a fragmenting society. We are responsible to bring people to God and to bring them together in unity.
When a new President takes office, he appoints a new staff, including Ambassadors to all the nations in diplomatic relationship with America. The role of an ambassador is to speak the policies of the nation and the President. He is a functionary of the nation and the administration. He or she may take the heat in a controversy, but the Ambassador never acts on his or her own.
We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ. We are not given the title to hang on a vanity wall as a bragging right. We are Ambassadors to go about our King’s business. We proclaim the message He gives us. We “rightly divide the Word of God”. We do not exceed our charge by our Lord. We do not go into the world to see the sights, but we go under direction to communicate the message delivered to us by our God.
We speak for God, but God must ratify what we say. His message is an earnest plea to cease their resistance to God’s will and to surrender to His authority.
We are Ambassadors for God seeking peace with the worldly.
But contrary to worldly ambassadors we are not alone. Paul says of himself in his concern for the Corinthians,
“working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (2 Corinthians 6:1)
For us that message is a two-edged sword.
We are “Working together” – Christ Jesus shares His work with us. He is in our hearts and at our elbow with guiding words as we minister in His name.
One part of the message is for us. We must not have received the marvelous gifts in vain., i.e. gifts of salvation, of cleansing from sin, of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness and of eternal life in the Presence of our loving Father.
Far too many Christians take salvation for granted and live as if it is a retirement plan. We don’t mess with it until we die. Then we cash in our retirement policy and collect eternal life in blessedness. In the meantime, we live according to the dictates of our own hearts – “God doesn’t mess with me and I try not to sin against Him.” That is receiving the grace of God in vain.
God’s purpose in our salvation is two-fold. The first purpose is to benefit us. The second purpose: we are saved and called to minister to others and to benefit the world.
While Christianity has been around for 2 millennia, and while God is not bound by time, our lives are short. We are bound to time. All we get in this life is “three score and ten and if by manner of strength, four score.” For us and all humans, “time’s a-wasten”! Paul warns us,
“… behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
There was a story that went around when I was at the University of Washington: A visionary student came on campus. He had his life all planed. He was going to become his class leader. Achieve the student body presidency. Clerk for local judge, be elected to Congress, then elected as a senator serve several terms and run for and be elected President of the United States. He was intelligent, good looking, charismatic, had a pleasing voice. Once in the office of the President, he would change the nation and as a result change the world. His life was going exactly as he planned and then he stepped off a curb, and was run over by a beer truck.
Our time is not in our hands. God tells us to redeem the time. We do not know how long we have to tell God’s truths to others. We do not know how long the other person has to hear God’s truths. “Now is the acceptable time!” “Now is the day of salvation!”
Next, Paul instructed the Corinthians, and us, in how to behave as believers, as ambassadors, as ministers of the gospel.
Giving no occasion of stumbling in anything – We must conform our lives to Christ.
And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
We must demonstrate to the world, what a Christian life is. Paul lays out the proper results of the believer’s life.
… for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; (Ephesians 4:12-14)
To reflect Christ to the world, we must emulate Him, so that when others look at us, they see Christ shining through. Our attempts to conform to Jesus give us a personal advantage. We are built up in the faith, so many of the worldly concerns are sloughed off. We know the reality of our faith and become comfortable in its doctrines, so that we are not dissuaded or confused by others’ erroneous ideas of Christianity. We can stand firm in Christ when assailed for our “old fashioned ideas” or “politically incorrect views of life”.
Let me step aside: it is never too late to learn the basics. It is never too late to grow in understanding God. It is never too late to be reminded of what our lives in Christ should be. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught us. So now “is the acceptable time” to show yourself…
“approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The first characteristic Paul calls for, as a minister of Christ, is Patience. It is a Fruit of the Spirit, i.e. it develops naturally from being rooted in Christ.
Paul calls for pureness, i.e. moral uprightness, conforming to the standards of life that God has established. Obeying to the best of our abilities, recognizing when we sin. Then when we do, we confess and receive God’s and other people’s forgiveness.
He calls for long suffering, meaning suffering for your faith without changing in your belief. Paul entreats kindness, treating others with brotherly or sisterly affection, being sensitive to their needs and providing what is within your capability. He challenges us to live in the Holy Spirit, who convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He calls us to love simply, honestly and open-handedly.
From his own life the Apostle knew that the life Christ calls us to is no easy life. It is not for wimps. There will be severe testings. But for each of these God has glorious compensation.
The world will
The Holy Spirit is in this place. He is residing in each of you. His is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you into all truth. He has gifts, manifestations of the Holy Spirit to give to you. He causes the Fruit of the Spirit to develop in your lives. He is your guide along the path of Jesus. He is your Counselor when you are perplexed and don’t know what to do.
There is not a one of us believers who has to be doubtful, or un-directed or without godly work to do. God has made all the provisions for you to minister in His name. He will not leave you hanging out on your own, but will provide everything you need to serve Him and to minister to other people.
God loves people. He is not willing for any to perish, but to come to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ. He has you as His ambassador to the world. He has given you the message of life to the people in the world. Jesus will accompany you every step of the way.
Therefore, be on the lookout for appointments. Sometimes you will get a question that will be an opportunity you can drive a truck through. Sometimes in the midst of a crisis, you will be able to fill a void with words of hope. Sometimes a long-term relationship will mature into an opportunity to say words in season that will become a turning point.
Never forget you are ministers of reconciliation to the worldly people. You are ambassadors to the alienated. You are God’s people placed where you are for such a time as this!
Our Lord and our God. You have touched the heart of each one of us. You have removed the stony heart and transplanted a heart of flesh. Give us in addition a desire to serve You each day. Give us a voice of courage to proclaim the bad news to the unbelieving and the good news to believers that are cast down.
You, Father have adopted as your children and made us to be joint heirs with Christ. Give us confidence that we have the resources of Almighty God available to us, as we need them. Give us the boldness to step out into untraveled lands and claim it as Yours. Give us the heart to make friends with the friendless, to help the helpless and to throw a Jesus life Savior to the drowning.
Father, again we give our lives to you to be Yours for eternity.
To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
God grant “that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;” (Colossians 1:9-12)
Joseph was a spiritually attuned man. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was apparently an adulteress. When he thought in his own generosity, instead of accusing her publicly, he chose to put her away quietly. Not muss, no fuss, no publicity. I’m sure her parents (Joachim and Anne, according to tradition) were relieved, since a public denouncement would have meant stoning.
But, when Joseph had a prophetic dream, everything changed for him. He was obedient. He embraced Mary in marriage. He embraced her pregnancy. He embraced the reality that he was to be the earthly father of a child of the Holy Spirit. It is clear that Joseph was a godly man. He was sensitive to God’s leading. He, unwillingly, but submissively took his late-stage pregnant wife on a 70-mile donkey ride to pay the required taxes. The ride precipitated Mary’s labor.
Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, he urgently sought a room where her baby could be born. Urgency forced Joseph to accept an otherwise unacceptable stable for animals. Cleanliness was a problem, but the body heat of the animals brought warmth to an otherwise chill night. Scripture doesn’t give us word of the birth, but I suspect with importance of the child, birth went according to nature and the mother and child did fine.
Mary and baby were somewhat recovered from the process, when Joseph was confronted with shepherds who rattled excitedly about an Angelic announcement about the baby. His first inclination was to drive those trespassers away. But Mary invited them in, so Joseph relented. Their joy was contagious, so by the time they left, the atmosphere in the stable was ebullient.
Mary and the Baby Jesus could not travel the 70 miles back to Nazareth for several weeks, while they grew stronger. They had to have a better place to stay and they had to eat. Joseph began searching for a home and work. Likely his carpentry skills were needed in the town so he was able to obtain work. His skills became known so his part-time soon became full-time. I suspect he was able to rent a small house for the three of them and rig an outdoor “shop”.
It was a year and a half later, while he was planing a door he was making, when he heard, “Carpenter!” Joseph turned to see several richly attired men on camels. A camel driver was speaking to him.
“The star,” he pointed up. Yes, there was that beautiful, magnificent star overhead. It had been there night and day for all these months. People had gotten used to it and stopped remarking about it.
“May I assist, you?” Joseph responded.
He began in a strange language, but switched to Greek which was the trade language. His accent and Joseph’s rudimentary knowledge of Greek were making communication difficult, but not impossible.
“Yes, we have a baby boy,… You want to see him?” People had long since stopped asking about the Baby, since he was just like all babies, except precocious and quite perceptive to human feelings.
“Please wait, while I speak with my wife.” Joseph placed the plane on the work bench, wiped his hands on a clean rag, brushed sawdust and chips off, before going into the house. “Mary, there are several rich strangers who want to see Jesus.”
The Baby began to dance around and chanted “Let me see!” Let me see!”
“Joseph, my beloved, it appears that we must bring them in,” Mary smiled in answer.
The personages crowded into the small room, and while they nodded and greeted Mary respectfully with long flowery (and somewhat indecipherable) phrases, their eyes kept darting to the Child that was their main interest. With a wave of her hand toward little Jesus, she gave permission for them to concentrate on the Child. They clustered around and volubly, but unintelligibly to Mary and Joseph, conversed. They nodded and fell to their knees and obvious prayer. Joseph couldn’t tell whether they were praying to Jesus or about Him to God.
Jesus stood calmly, excepting their adulation, smiling. As they quieted down, He reached out His tiny hand and touched each one on the cheek. Joseph could tell that each one felt resoundingly blessed. There were a few moments of silence then the Christ Child said laughingly, “Go home.”
It was as if they had awakened from a beatific dream. They reluctantly rose. One went to the door and called to the camel driver. In a few moments he came in with three containers. One of the personages took from the camel driver a cruse that appeared to contain about a log (ca. one pint) of oil. Another man took a pot (ca. 1 pint) of ointment. A third took a coin cask. They turned to Joseph, handing each gift in turn. They saluted Joseph and Mary, and did obeisance to the Christ Child, and then left.
After thanking the men Joseph had set the gifts aside and formally bowed in thanksgiving. With them gone it was time to examine the gifts they had left. He opened the log. “Mary this is frankincense! This much is worthy about 30 years labor!” Next, he reached for the pot. This one has myrrh!” This, too is a fortune!” Setting the pot down he picked up the cask, “This one is heavy.” As he tipped back the lid, his eyes got big. “There must be one hundred shekels of gold here!” He sat down on the floor, in a daze.
“What does it mean, Joseph?” Mary asked.
“It means I’ll never have to work again,” but he thought a minute. “I like working, making things with my hands.” He looked at his wife, “My dearest, I’ll never stop working. But one thing sure. We’ll never go hungry!”
It was several nights later that his peace was disturbed. Unaccountably even with his new-found riches, Joseph felt apprehension. He expected to feel satisfied, even complaisant, but instead it felt like a warning. He did not speak of his confusion to Mary. He fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed that the same angel that had assured Joseph to take Mary for his wife, came again. But this time with a warning. The angel warned that Herod was a severe threat to the Christ Child. Joseph must pack and immediately take his family to safety in Egypt.
When he awoke, shortly before dawn, Joseph began planning. It was 35 miles to the sea coast and to connect with the “Way of the Sea”, the shortest way to Egypt. Then it was nearly 200 miles to the in the Nile delta. By easy stages it would be nearly a month journey, traveling every day but the Sabbath. He had enough money to get to the coast and the city of Ashdod, where he could exchange one of the gold shekels for 15 silver shekels, much easier to use to pay and would raise fewer questions, thus drawing no attention. That would be enough ready money to get them to a home in Egypt. Thus, Joseph again listened to God and saved his family and the Messiah.
At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew we have repetitions of the lesson to listen to and obey God. But first we must turn to Luke. There Zechariah, an old priest had a visit from the Archangel, Gabriel. Zechariah was not open to hear of a miraculous birth to his wife, without a sign. He had been a priest for many decades, so the vision of an angel should have opened his heart to listen, believe and obey. Instead, he questioned and asked for a sign. Much to his embarrassment, the sign he was given was to be mute for nine months, (Luke 1)
In contrast, Mary a teen-age virgin, in simple faith said to Gabriel, “I am God’s serving girl. He may do with me what He desires.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)
Simple surrender to God’s will. Her heart belonged to God, so she was submissive and obedient.
“and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
The young have far fewer learned preconditions to faith.
Whereas, older more educated and experienced in the world have more baggage to overcome in seeking to be in relationship with Christ. They have learned to test everything to see if it is true. Too many bad experiences taint the simple faith of youth.
Joseph was a mature man, perhaps middle age (which in those years meant over 30). Nevertheless, his openness to listen to the angel made him obedient to strange, inconvenient, and uncomfortable commands of God. Joseph did not dither. He did not test the waters or tempt God, asking for “fleeces”. His simple faith led him to obey. As a result, he first saved Mary, and then he saved the Messiah.
“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish: and who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
God’s will be done! If His will is done by you in obedience, you will be blessed, as was Esther and Joseph. But if not by you, and God has to pass on to someone else, then, at least you will lose your blessing and, at worst, you will suffer for your disobedience.
Too many believers today are more afraid of what “people will think” than what God thinks. They are concerned that they may be taken as a fool, so they do not act on God’s promptings. When we turn a deaf ear, we train ourselves not to listen to The Holy Spirit’s promptings.
One of the understandings of habits is that reinforcement increases learning. If we say, “Yes,” to anything, it is easier to say, “Yes,” the next time and harder to say, “No”. If, after a string of yeses, a “No” breaks the string, it weakens the impetus to say, “Yes”, the next time. The reverse is also true. A string of not listening to the Lord, makes it harder to hear Him next time.
Remember, God is Omnipresent. He is here all the time! The Holy Spirit dwells in the spirits of believers. He is speaking to guide us all the time. Listen to His direction and follow it.
Sure, you will make some (many!) mistakes and feel a fool. But pour the salve of Christ’s forgiveness on your wounded ego and smile broadly and declare that you are a fool for Christ.
Keep trying to live under the immediate directions of your Master. In so doing you will soon learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
The Believer who hears, but does not obey, has not really heard God’s voice. God does not speak in, “If you, please?” or “When you have a mind to.” His word is LAW!
I once heard a missionary say, when he was a teen he was at a meeting when a visiting missionary gave an altar call, “If the Lord is calling you to the mission field, step down front. I want to pray for you.” The missionary I was listening to said, “I hid under the piano, hoping the Lord would not see me.” Obviously, since he was a missionary, the piano was an ineffective hiding place from God’s missionary call.
“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, And the light about me shall be night; Even the darkness hideth not from thee, But the night shineth as the day:” (Psalms 139:7-12)
God calls each believer to life-long holy work. God’s retirement is “outta sight!” “it’s Heavenly!”, but not in this world. He is a severe taskmaster,
“But who is there of you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat; and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded? Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:7-10)
We have been saved because God loves us. He has given us release from the burden of sin, robed us in Christ’s righteousness. Our war with God is at an end and we have peace with God. Nevertheless, while we are in this world, God has work for us to do. Jesus said
“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:33-37)
When we apply this Parable to all of us, we must generalize the application. Jesus used the porter as the example. He was to keep watch diligently, since the master likely would return unexpectedly and catch the porter slacking off. The application is that God has assigned us believers (each and every one) work to do, according to each one’s ability. Our job differs from one another, but we are our brother’s keepers.
As long as we have breath, we are to be attentive listeners to God’s directions and to do as God calls us. Our Lord knows our strengths and weaknesses. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus stated the Master gave out Talents “according to his several ability”.
“And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey.” (Matthew 25:15, cf.14-30)
Jesus knows what you are capable of doing. He will give you responsibilities to carry out that will stretch you, test you and give you great satisfaction in their accomplishments.
In fact, we are less confident of our capabilities than Jesus is. We are more apt to give in too quickly.
Life is hard. We live in a fallen world. We are strangers in a strange land. After being born again, we are remade for God’s Kingdom of love, kindness, mercy, generosity; whereas, we live in a material world that is broken and we live in a culture of, “Me first, and the devil take the hindmost!”
Thus, to walk with Jesus takes concentration and effort, because we are fighting upstream against the current of the world, the flesh and the devil. Everything around us tells us we are going the wrong way. It is hard to persevere, impossible on our own. Holding tight to Jesus’ hand we can carry on, if we keep holding on.
So, settle it in your heart and engage your will to listen carefully to Jesus. Learn to filter out all the static of the material and the negative spiritual world. Remember, “My sheep know My voice.” Focus on what your spirit knows. Then do it.
Basic ground rules are Love God & Love others!” Jesus wants you to acknowledge Him in all you do. Then He wants you to care for the needy, minister to the sick, and to proclaim the Good News that Jesus still saves, so all may come to Christ.
As you kneel to pray, give your heart wholly over to Jesus. Set aside all your activities and cares, while you humble yourself before Almighty God to worship our Great God and praise Him without reservation. Then arise from your knees equipped to minister in His name. Build up other believers by always praying for them and giving them what God requires of you. Always leave them with a blessing.
Look for opportunities to lend a helping hand, particularly with the aged and invalid. There are more opportunities around you than you will see in just living your life. In Christ “Lift up your eyes, for the fields are ripe unto harvest,” and you are the laborer the Master has sent into the fields to reap what He has sown. Hear and obey.
This is a recurring feature. I pose a question in this issue. You have the opportunity to send me answers. I will publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.
ANSWER: We have a confusion of terms because in the 10th Century, Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg was a great man of God. When he died in A.D. 973, John XV, Pope of the Catholic Church canonized him as an especially godly man.
That began the Roman Catholic Church policy of recognizing significantly holy men and women, declaring that they were credited with more merit than they needed to achieve heaven, thus, there was a bank of “Merit” that accumulated and that Roman Catholics could tap into it to seek for answers to prayer. Thus, began the practice of appealing to the “saints” for help in life.
In the Bible the term “saint” occurs often, 20 times in Psalms and 8 times elsewhere in the O.T.
In Romans 8 times, Ephesians 9 times and The Revelation 14 times, plus 29 times more in the N.T.
Hebrew language has two primary words for “saint” – 1st, “khaw-seed” = “kind, i.e. religiously, pious (a saint) a godly (man, good, holy (one), merciful, saint. 2nd, “kaw-doshe” = “sacred” (ceremonially or morally), “God” (by eminence), an “angel”, a “saint”, a “sanctuary”, “a holy” (one).
The Greek has only one word – “hagios” = “an awful thing”, sacred (physically) “pure’, blameless” or “religious”, “consecrated”, (most) “holy” (one, thing), “saint”.
Both languages treat the word “saint” as a general term, i.e. anyone can be a saint, whose life comports to godliness.
In the New Testament, the term pertains to all believers. Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice for all the sins for all of mankind. Everyone, regardless of race, sex national origin, or position in society, can come and surrender to Jesus as Lord. He washes their sins away in His blood. Further He justifies them and covers each one with His robe of Righteousness! Their surrender and His action transform each one into a saint., a sanctified one.
No special merit; the most heinous criminal in all the world, if at the moment of death repents and asks Jesus to save him, in the next moment is a saint.
Now, in human terms, that does not seem fair. “How come he or she gets rewarded after living a life of crime?”
God is not interested in what we have done, but where our hearts are. When our hearts turn to embrace Jesus, that is all God requires.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus told of a Master who paid workers the same amount, regardless of how long they labored. This was a picture of life. Everyone who comes to “work” with Jesus is rewarded by becoming a saint.
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
Lord Jesus, You are gracious beyond what I can understand. You, Who are the Son of God, You Who were instrumental in Creation, You Who will be the Judge of all men at the Last Day, have offered salvation to mankind. Fickle, ungrateful, rebellious, people disdain Your offer. Despite the affront, You continue to offer it.
As Sovereign Lord God You could force us to take Your offer of salvation. You could cut off everyone who refuses Your first offer. Either response for the rebuff, would be understandable and is Your prerogative. But Your love is not peevish. It is not vengeful. Your Love is unconditional, in that You continue to offer forgiveness and salvation as long as a person lives.
America is 243 year-old. In our advanced years we have to a large extent decided we do not need You any more. We have declared You, Lord Jesus as a persona non grata. We have made You the untouchable of our society
Your name cannot be mentioned in government, schools or in entertainment (unless it is used in blasphemy).
Despite our blindness, we desperately need You to govern us. We have made an effort to govern our nation without You for the last half century, or so. We have made a perfect mess of this nation. Our peoples that were a melting pot of cohesive nationalities and cultures have fragmented into national, racial, political cliques, vying for supremacy. We have thrown away Your morality of loving all people, preserving life, respecting others and others property. We have traded godly love for fleshly lust. We have rebranded what is true, and real and natural and made our own definitions, arrogantly declaring we are what we are not.
Have mercy on our stupidity. Have mercy on our delusions of grandeur. Forgive our usurpation of Your prerogatives. Forgive our displacing You in the temple of our lives with statues of ourselves. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts with the blood of Christ, strip us of our sin-filthed rags and reclothe us in Your righteousness.
Renew a right spirit, a godly attitude of seeking after You, “as the hart thirsteth after the water brooks”. Give us a spirit to acknowledge You, a heart to praise You and a will to glorify You in all we think, say and do. Help us our God! Help us God Almighty!
Hallelujah! You are worthy of all honor glory and praise!
As I am creating this issue, I am typing, while at the same time I’m hearing the lovely sounds of Classical music. My ears are receiving sound waves all the time, waking or sleeping. Those invisible waves beat against our ear drums on both sides of our heads. Those vibrations are funneled into the ear by the shape of the external ear and the ear canal. As the sound waves impact the ear drum it vibrates according to the variations of the sound waves. The vibrations of the eardrum cause the three bones of the middle ear to vibrate, transferring sound energy to mechanical energy. The energy is transmitted to the cochlea, a snail-shaped, liquid-filled organ. It has hairs and nerve endings that pick up the mechanical sound waves. Pitches or the specific sound frequencies stimulate specific individual hair cells in the inner ear. Thus, certain frequencies cause specific hair cells to respond. The hair cells translate the pitches into nerve impulses. Each ear has two nerve pathways, one to the left side of the brain and one to the right side of the brain.
What all that means is that I can hear beautiful harmonies. I can distinguish strings from wind, from brass and percussion. By concentration I can hear the violin or the cello, the flute or the clarinet, the french horn or the coronet, the timpani or the snare drum and in the midst of the sound pick out the tinkle of a triangle.
But that is only the beginning. I see the letters on the keyboard and they are quite different from those on the screen. The eye distinguishes letters in both fonts.
When I glance up to look out the window, but only for a fraction of a second, I can clearly see the trees, the lawn, the patio, the side of the house with windows and a door. All in living color. All in perfect definition, not blurred by the movement of my eye – Amazing! It is the most natural thing in the world, because we have grown up with such routine actions and impressions.
But how does the eye work? It has a clear lens attached by muscles that change its shape according to what we are looking toward. If it is close work our eye compensates by muscles tightening to make the lens more round. Conversely, to focus on far away objects, the muscles relax to make the lens more flat. The iris expands to allow more light to enter the eye in dim light and contracts to reduce the impact of bright light.
The retina is at the back of the eye. The lens focuses the light that falls onto the retina, which converts light into electrical impulses. The photo-receptors, include rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to black and white, while cones distinguish colors in daylight. The image that falls in the retina is upside down. This complex, inverted image is transformed into an electric code that is transmitted by the optic nerve to the visual center of the brain. There the brain decodes electrical input into a visual image inverted to give us the “right-way-round” sight.
There are too many “systems” for us to examine in this brief exposition – the circulatory system, the cardio-pulmonary system, the nerve “tree”, the complex organ that is the skin, the skeletal system, etc.
Let’s explore one more: the digestive system. There are four main processes in digestion: ingestion, digestion, absorbsion and assimilation. The whole process after a person places food in the mouth, chews it and swallows it is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. We have no volitional control of any part after we swallow.
The mouth reduces the food by slicing and grinding. Saliva is incorporated to lubricate and begin the digestive process. This is ingestion.
Digestion occurs as ground food is swallowed into the stomach. The stomach manipulation and addition of acid further reduces food into its constituent parts, i.e. macro-nutrients (carbs, fats and proteins), and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Absorption by the small intestine takes fluid and nutrients into the bloodstream, primarily simple sugars, salt and alcohol.
The uptake of the nutrients into cells and tissues is assimilation. The last part of assimilation is the reassembly of absorbed nutrients into complex organisms – cells, blood, organs, etc.
Remember all of this is beyond your control. Your autonomic nervous system “knows” how to do everything exactly right so that the bones receive calcium and not sugar; that the blood receives fluids and not bone-building material, that your eyes receive fluid for tears, and your ears wax and not the reverse.
We live in a fantastic machine. It is built to transport us through this material world. It is flexible, strong, reliable, and has the amazing ability to heal itself without our direction or effort. We cover a cut with a bandage to prevent contamination. The coagulation of blood seals the wound and the cells regenerate tissue that is exactly appropriate – skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscles. Break a bone and all we have to do is immobilize it and the bone knits together.
As a transport machine, this amazing Body works effectively. It carries our bodies to the table and carries fuel to our mouths. It moves us efficiently and easily around this planet’s surface. It has the ability to interact with others in both friendly (hugs and kisses) and aggressive ways (football tackles).
Consider locomotion. Walking takes strength and agility. Your legs alternate in carrying your body weight. The interchange requires balance as your transfer the weight of your body from one leg to the other. Your ankles adjust to the ground, whether on cement sidewalks or rough, plowed ground.
Then when speed is required other systems come into play. The heart accelerates to increase the nutrients and oxygen needed by the more active muscles. Your lungs increase the processing of air to accommodate the increased the oxygen-fueled burning up of energy. Think of the flexibility of spine, legs, arms, ankles, toes that come into play as you take a simple walk around the block.
That is all mechanical. What the body truly transports is you. And what is “YOU”?
We have had many of our young men injured in our various wars. Does the loss of an arm or leg, make a person any less of a person? It effects the person, no doubt, but the person is not diminished one iota.
Stephen Hawking contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) when he was 21. He went on to become the world-renowned theoretical physicist, despite the crippled and contorted body and his inability to speak. His amazing machine was tragically and profoundly broken; nevertheless, it did not change who he was, nor prevent the real Stephen inside from becoming great.
Who we are is not determined by our body! The body transports who we are to accomplish what we desire to accomplish.
Most scientists tell us it was an accident. There are numerous other creative theories of the start of our world. A random lightning strike into primordial soup (or “goop”) that sparked life. The drastically shocked atoms became alive to form molecules and the molecules formed simple cells. As the cells got bigger some broke apart and those who did could grow again and feed more efficiently. Some say “lost city smokers” in the depths of the oceans exuded amino acids that combined with iron attracted hydrogen and oxygen compounds that then formed RNA. RNA became more robust and made viruses, which were alive and began reproducing. A few believe life was seeded on earth by meteors from distant stars. But there is no evidence of the non-living material substances transforming into life, let alone reproducing life.
Scientists believe the Earth is ca. 3.5 to 4.5 Billion years old. If life originated as a single cell, that cell reproduced and its second generation reproduced and over time, became more complex forming rudimentary botanical life with photosynthesis. And it formed biological life with sentience. Those respective molds or viruses had mutations, accidental changes in the basic structure that enhanced survivability. On the biological side, after several billions of years, a human was formed containing ca..30 Trillion cells (30,000,000,000,000). Humans have not only sentience, but love, a moral sense, a sense of justice, a conscience that plagues us when we do harm to others.
This Theory of Evolution (not a law, because there is no proof and because it is not reproducible, as the Law of Gravity is proved, every moment we live – ask your skinned knee from falling) has many unanswered questions. For instance, “Irreducible Complexity” (“a single system composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to basic function; wherein removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, pg. 39) means that all the parts must be in place and working together.
Above I described the eye. Having a light-processing portion of the brain would be of no value unless there was a way to get exterior light to the brain. The optic nerve would be useless unless there were a light sensitive brain and a source of light. The cornea would have no survival value unless there was a lens to focus exterior light on the rods and cones and an optic nerve to transport the electrical impulses to the light sensitive brain. The eye consists of irreducible complexity. Without one of the several parts in place, the other parts could not enhance survivability and therefore would not be kept in the gene pool.
Mathematicians have taken the 400 Billion years and the huge numbers of changes necessary to transform a-one celled living creature and calculated that even 100, 000,000,000,000 years would not be enough for random mutations to form the 30,000,000,000,000 cells in the modern human being. One has stated that there is more chance of a tornado hitting a junkyard, whipping around scattered parts and leaving behind a fully assembled and airworthy Boeing 747, than for Evolution to produce us.
Despite the extreme complexity of the body, this amazing machine, scientists have great faith in evolution. Just think how this amazing machine converts a hamburger – a complex of bread bun, made from wheat, and eggs, and sugar, etc., the hamburger, made from muscle tissue and fat (in turn made from grass and grain), a slice of tomato, a piece of lettuce, a slice of pickle, some dressing, perhaps catsup or french dressing, add french fries, and a chocolate milk shake, into its constituent parts of protein, fat, sugar, vitamins, minerals and distributes them to bones, nerves, organs, while separating out the waste products – solids and liquids. The body processes them further, recycling some of the fluid in the blood stream.
If you were walking in the woods and discovered a pocket watch lying on the ground, you would pick up the watch and examine it. Opening the back cover, you would see the finely machined gears and wheels. In examining it more closely, you would discover that it was powered by a main spring which was wound by the stem. In contemplating the watch and its ability to measure time, you would naturally assume that its wheels and springs, hands and crystal just happened to fall together in a workable whole out of the natural minerals in the soil and rocks. Right?
Of course not! You would know from just picking it up that it was manufactured by someone of intelligence and upon opening the back would know it was engineered by an extremely skilled maker.
It is a wonder that intelligent scientists, well educated and studied in anatomy refuse to see that truth that the human body did not come together by chance. The human body (or for that matter any animal body) could not have developed on the basis of faulty mutations. Faulty, because mutations by definition are a change in the nature of something. That which was proceeding along a natural course gets interrupted and becomes something else. But the something else gets outnumbered by the natural and soon disappears.
It is far more logical to observe the handiwork of a master engineer. Think back on the few parts of the body were have investigated here. Our eyes are doubled, so we have depth perception. The lens is focused by minute muscles so we can see clearly both distant and very close objects. God designed eyes in those ways.
God planned you to be based on a common, very functional design. Two legs for a bipedal transportation, balanced by a bubble in the inner ear. He designed your digestion to be omnivorous. You can eat vegetables and meat. He gave you the ability to taste a wide variety of tastes. His love for your enjoyment gave you the pleasure of chocolate, of strawberry ice cream, of coleslaw, and fried chicken, of the mixed flavors of lasagna or borscht.
It is amazing that injuries heal. That is because our living Lord created the capability in our cells to regenerate. The blood coagulates over an open wound to protect from infection. Then the body sends in fibroblasts, a type of cell that helps rebuild skin tissue. These cells break down the clot and start replacing it with proteins, primarily collagen. This is a well-planned process. It does not happen unless an injury occurs.
He gave you emotions. And not just fear, anger, contentment, restlessness. But a spectrum of feelings from exuberance to grief. They, to a great extent, define who you are. God made you a reflection of Himself. He takes great joy in obedience and in ministering to the needs of others. He is deeply saddened by our sin and rejection of His sensible and productive way to live.
Every time you use your manipulative hands and fingers to remove a jar lid or play an instrument, to pick up a pin, give praise to God for creating you the way you are. He could have made you like a turtle, instead he made you more like a gazelle. Recall,
I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14)
Set aside all your education that tries to tell you the lie that you are an accident by multiple mutations. Common observation and common-sense shouts of a loving Creator. Recognize His fingerprints all over your life.
Not only has He Created you physically, but Almighty God has done so much more. He built into this world the reality of His redemption. His perfect world was ruined by man’s sin. As a result, we live in a broken world of natural disasters, of human inhumanity to man, of sick violence and murder against the weak and defenseless.
But our loving God has given us the wisdom to recover from natural disasters. We see disparate groups of people coming together to rescue, restore and rebuild, while succoring the injured and comforting the grieving. That does not come from “survival of the fittest”, but from the love of God exercised through believer and unbeliever, alike.
While never turning a blind eye to sin, God does not hold a grudge. Man destroyed God’s perfect world by his sin, still God has brought redemption to us. He has opened His heart and accepted us as His children.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving devotion for those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:11)
As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, So Jehovah pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust. (Psalm 103: 13-14)
But the lovingkindness of Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, And his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, And to those that remember his precepts to do them.” (Psalms 103:17-18)
He wants all people to live according to the precepts He has given to us, because that is the best way for us to live. Acknowledging Jesus in every hour and every part of our lives is the only reasonable thing to do. God loves us!
This is a recurring feature. I pose a question in one issue. You have the opportunity to send me answers. I publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.
ANSWER: Propitiation comes from the Hebrew ίλασμός (hil-as-mos) = “conciliate, atone for [sins], be propitious, be merciful, make reconciliation for”. While it is used only three time in the New Testament it is a powerful concept.
For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:23-25);
My little children, these things write I unto you that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
God established sacrificial worship in the Old Testament for the purpose of atoning for the sins of His chosen people. The blood of the sacrificial lamb (and other animals) was shed to propitiate the anger of God against sin.
God knew His people would sin. The Children of Israel also knew that they would sin; therefore, there needed to be a way to appease the just wrath of God against their inevitable sinning. God in His mercy set up the sacrificial system. The death of the lamb was both a substitution and an object lesson. The substitution was life of the animal for the life of the sinner. The object lesson was to teach that sin had dire consequences.
Jesus death on the cross was the once and for all propitiating sacrifice for our sinning. As Paul and John teach, Jesus, the God-man died in our place. As we have faith in the Blood of Christ, it becomes the propitiating sacrifice that atones for our sins. We are free, because God, out of love for us, sent His Son to be our substitute and our atoning sacrifice.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
My gracious God, all praise be to You. You are most holy. You are majestic. Praise Your Glory, Your Majesty, Your Love for Your People.
Your magnificent Creation, even in this broken state, is glorious. That testifies to the power of Your creative ability. You exercised Your word and said “Let it be.” And it was. You created it and us perfect. But we, Father, messed up your perfect world. We have corrupted everything we have touched.
Only Your grace has kept this world functioning well and providing well for all people. You have made its beauty mask the ugliness of corruption that has saturated the world and our lives.
I am amazed that You have granted us the beauty of this world. It is wonderful that You have given us the heart to appreciate all the beauty around us. Even our ungodly architects can create beautiful buildings. Nevertheless, the beauty of those committed to Your will and way far out shined the work, the art of unbelievers.
It is beauty from “both sides”. You, Holy Spirit inspire today’s work as You did the People of God in building the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. So it is with created beauty. It is especially beautiful to the believing beholder, because we see Your inspiration in the work.
Your love for us is represented in the world around us. Note the majesty of the mountains; the stark beauty of the desert and then the startling transformation when cacti bloom. A walk in the forest excites praise for the beauty of Your Creation.
The passing parade of people display the beauty You have designed in the variety of the people. Skins of all hues, hair of all colors, but what enlivens one’s beauty is the smile. You have created us to smile, to experience happiness and reflect Your joy. Dwelling in Christ is the seat of joy. You, our Savior enlighten our lives with the beauty of worship and the joy of living in Christ. Come now, Lord Jesus, visit Your servant with the grace of Your love. Fill my life with Your goodness. Make me to be a servant worthy of Your service. Open my heart and allow me to pour out Your grace onto the people around me – believers and unbelievers alike. Give me the beauty of holiness, so that I may attract others to Your beauty.
Oh, My God, my King and Savior, there are so many distressed people around me. They have no eyes to see Your beauty. They have no heart to appreciate Your loveliness. Have mercy on them and break through their resistance to Your truth. Give them the eternal, unshakable hope of Your love. Melt their frozen hearts with the warmth of Your Spirit.
Holy Lord God I praise You. I worship Your beauty. I praise Your loveliness. I magnify Your glory. Praise You, My Father. Praise You, My Savior. Praise You, my Teacher. All glory in all the world belongs to You and only to You. Praise God!
Father to Thee I raise my whole being
– a vessel emptied of self. Accept, Lord,
this my emptiness, and so fill me with
Thyself – Thy Light, Thy Love, Thy
Life – that these Thy Precious Gifts
may radiate through me and over-
flow the chalice of my heart into
the hearts of all with whom I
come into contact this day,
revealing unto them
the beauty of
of Thy Peace
which nothing can destroy.
The Prayer of the Chalice
I started a book, “What the World Needs is More Martyrs”, citing the need to stand up for Christianity and morality, despite the cost of loss of jobs and friends and in the face of judicial penalties. That was several years ago when a wedding photographer was sued for refusing to photograph a homosexual uniting ceremony. While the book has been in process, the climate has gotten more hostile to morality and Christianity. We have seen punitive actions taken against a wedding cake baker and a florist for holding to their moral scruples against homosexual ceremonies.
Our state, Washington, has declared all bathrooms and shower rooms free for all. Now teen boys get to ogle teen girls in the shower and the toilet, whenever their lust desires. I do not understand the refusal to see the dangerous consequences of these kinds of rulings. Behind their Rose-Colored Glasses, promoters are blind to the logical end of their foolish policies. They have a very unrealistic view of human nature. Voyeurism is at least an invasion of privacy and at worst the prelude to sexual assault. All an objective observer has to do is watch a “Gay Pride” parade and see their degrading of humanity to know how bankrupt such rulings are.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
God revealed to the Children of Israel that there was a moral way to live. When they lived accordingly, they prospered. When they violated His moral laws, nations that were more powerful defeated and enslaved them. Christianity, standing on the shoulders of their Jewish forebears in the Roman Empire, was but a minor religion in the polytheistic and immoral culture. The Empire was victorious in all its wars of conquest for hundred’s of years. Christianity began from only a single God/man with 120 faithful followers. They had no other weapons than faith and morality. They took on the Roman Empire.
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6).
In less than 300 years, by the 4th Century, Christianity became the faith of the Roman Empire, (which became “The Holy Roman Empire”). In the ensuing decades they reverted to their immoral past and as a result they lost their edge and Rome was sacked.
However, Christian faith and morality transformed the pagan Franks, Goths, Picts and other European pagan tribes.
A number of times in the past I have quoted Alexander Pope.
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” Alexander Pope
There is a constant struggle against the self when a culture holds the line of morality against immorality. Our soul wants to enjoy vice. We want money without working for it. We want freedom without striving to keep it. We want sex without responsibility.
Therefore, to have a civilization that works over the centuries we have embraced morals that God handed to mankind. They restrict the nature of men and women, but are essential to the formation of the healthy individuals. Faithful monogamy laid the foundation for the reliable structure that forms a child into a healthy, responsible, reliable adult. That stability built character into the “Greatest Generation” that fought and won a two-front war and rebuilt both Europe and Japan after World War II. The stable families and the moral training built strengths into the soldiers that made them strong in the face of the horrors of combat and courageous in the face of degrading imprisonment as POW’s.
The deterioration of both faith in God and the strict morality of their parents became evident in mid 20th Century. Easy divorce promoted the breakdown of marriage (violating the Scriptural stance against divorce). The 60’s introduced a moral devolution, spawning rampant “free love” (violating the Scriptural prohibition against fornication). In 1973, the Supreme Court declared that murder of innocents in the womb to be legal (violating the sixth Commandment). In 2009, the Federal Government declared homosexuals a protected class (violating God’s prohibition of that perversion).
Here we have the warming, and then the heating, of the kettle holding the truths of the God who created us and then gave us a structure to live in a healthy way. We are approaching the point where the water is dangerously hot. We can still turn down the heat, but we must do it soon or we will kill our society.
“If we make these changes, it will make a better, freer world.” Progressives use this logic repeatedly. “Restrictions on people are bad, so remove the restrictions and everyone will be happier.” By the same logic, we should disband the laws against bank robbery. The resultant spreading of the wealth that is stored up in banks would make the beneficiaries of that rescinded law very happy.
Those advocating these changes have an unrealistic view of human nature. They believe that century-old lie, “Down deep there is good in all people. All one has to do is relieve people from all hindrances; that will allow the good to surface.”
In the name of tolerance, the federal government has followed some states to mandate that all bathrooms and shower rooms in schools be freely accessible to all students. They cannot conceive (or do not care) that anyone would use that freedom for evil purposes.
Those currently forcing these changes upon us are living in a world that does not exist. In their world, all Caucasian people are rich racists. They contrast that with the belief that all other races are downtrodden and could not possibly be racist. In their world, all people who have money have stolen it from those who are down trodden. They see America as the greatest force for evil in the world, despite all the benefits America has brought to the rest of the world not only by their dollars generously given, but also by the blood of her sons on the battlefields of the world. Misunderstanding the character of mankind, in their delusion, they believe if the oppressors can be eliminated, love will predominate.
The sad truth is that each man woman and child (I know this is a hard and unpopular truth, but it is reality) is self-centered and will do anything he or she can to survive. To himself or herself, anything one can get away with is alright. Why otherwise do people take advantage of a riot about a perceived wrong to break into and loot stores unrelated to the controversy?
On my way to work, I see the vandalism of graffiti along the freeways. Watch a train. It is rare to see a train car that does not have graffiti all over them. Traffic signs are sometimes so covered with spurious paint that drivers cannot read the warnings. These pose a traffic hazard, but obviously the “artists” do not care.
Despite the destruction of property, defacing buildings, and requiring private companies and the government costly and time-consuming repainting and/or replacement, people gush over the “art’ and bewail the painting over. These foolish people have misplaced values. They are living in a fool’s paradise.
In her book, It’s Dangerous To Believe, New York, Harper, 2016, Mary Eberstadt states “Many progressive-minded Americans have absorbed the belief that they are heirs to Voltaire, Clarence Darrow, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and other apostles of secular enlightenment. They should know that a lot of what’s committed against religious believers in progressivism’s name these days shares no such dignified pedigree. It smacks instead of intimidation, condescension and vengeance.” (Introduction, pgs. xxv-xxvi).
One must understand that believing Christians have strong Biblical warrant to oppose homosexuality and all other perversions of natural heterosexuality. Christian professionals who choose not to contribute to such uniting ceremonies are being faithful to the Lord God. Their faith does not allow them to participate in any way, even to provide cakes or flowers or to take photos.
About six years ago, motivated by the alarming trend to stigmatize believers I began collecting material for What This World Needs Is More Martyrs, a work in progress. I am beginning to think it is too late for such a warning.
The truth is we have Christian martyrs everywhere. We do not hear about them, because most news media choose not to report the great number of incidences.
Not all of these attacks ended unhappily. InterVarsity has actually grown because of the persecution. Julea Ward, at last check, supported by the Alliance Defending Freedom is still battling in court. In San Diego, when the code enforcement story became public the outcry it generated forced San Diego to reverse its ruling and permit the Bible study. Nevertheless, these are bellwethers clanging. We must expect that unbelievers will increasingly attack Christians for espousing their faith in public. Currently, Pastors are subject to personal lawsuit if they refuse to officiate at homosexual uniting ceremony, unless their church as a condition of employment forbids such officiating.
In my lifetime, I have seen society transform from Christ-centered to essentially Godless. I have seen the Federal government mandate first taking prayer out of schools, and later forbidding students to pray, carry Bible or even wear a cross. I have witnessed the barring of any religious symbols on federal and state property. I have seen a CEO of Foxfire fired because out of Christian principles he supported an initiative declaring the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
Christian believers must wake up to the harsh reality of the growing momentum to purge American society of Christian principles and Christianity as a faith.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist; then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew; then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me. — Martin Niemöller
However, in Christ there is “Victory in Surrender”. Jesus surrendered to the hate of the religious establishment of His time, who tortured and killed Him. Jesus Christ triumphed over sin and death to pave the way for believers to triumph over their society in any century.
The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. — Church Father Tertullian, 2nd-century
Willing sacrifice of Martyrs’ lives lead to the conversion of others. In God’s economy, the voice of the dying martyr speaks in the hearts of people near to the execution and those distant in both time and space.
That means for some of God’s people, it is better to surrender one’s life than to seek to preserve it; better for God’s purpose and better for the individual. God instantly translates him into His blessed eternal life. That seems to the worldly wise as foolishness, because they have invested in this material world. Our material lives, so precious to us, are insignificant to God. What is significant in our lives is our relationship with Jesus the LORD God.
As for man, his days are as grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; (Psalm 103:15-16)
Once Jesus establishes a relationship with us as Savior and saved; God, as Father and adopted child, then our eternal destiny is fixed. This life becomes a husk that we can shed anytime it is God’s time. When we hold our lives loosely, we have the greatest freedom. No one can intimidate us. No sacrifice in this life is too great. Loss of job is not a crisis. Loss of income is not a disaster. Ultimately, loss of life can actually be a blessing.
Looking at our lives from God’s perspective, all these setbacks are as small dust in the balance with our eternal security in Christ. He gave us this body to use for time. During time, we are to nurture it and be good stewards of it while we live. Nevertheless, God has given us a disposable model. When his time comes, we will discard both this body and this life, and then enter into an eternal realm of existence. “Oh that will be glory for me!” You see, Our Father God has a celestial body reserved for us. He has a spiritual life awaiting to replace one’s life in this world (the world itself is disposable and will one day be dissolved, leaving only, we suppose) God’s celestial world. It will be wonderful beyond our most exaggerating imaginations. The Bible intimates that believers will be invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We envision the Supper as a table groaning with its load of delicacies and the cups of wine overflowing, making our hearts glad, but not intoxicating our brains.
Therefore, although we see evil, hear evil, we speak no evil. We offer God’s grace freely. We do not take umbrage, because God is the one who is in charge. Jesus suffered greatly through the torture of the crucifixion, but…
…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Because Scripture states that the believers’ future will be a time of suffering and pain, we should not be surprised when they turn up the heat in the kettle. It does not catch us unawares.
But ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16-17)
While we wait for “Pie in the sky bye and bye”, believers are not living in a Fool’s Paradise. We are living in a reality that the world cannot perceive. God our Savior promised that we will have a marvelous share in God’s glorious Kingdom.
…so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
So, my brothers and sisters, with the world collapsing around us, catch hold of God’s promises and continue to praise and glorify Him! Hallelujah! We are victorious in Christ!
ANSWER: He was a Priest of the Most High God who was also the King of Salem. (Genesis 14:18) He was both a king and a priest.
Jesus the Messiah was both a king and a priest. He was a king by descent from the Tribe of Judah. However, since He was not a descendant of the Tribe of Levi, he could not be a priest of the Aaronic line.
The Letter to the Hebrews (7:2) points out that “Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness” and as King of Salem (meaning peace) he is king of peace. He was both a king and a priest.
In Psalm 110, Jehovah is speaking to Adoni. He declared to His Son, …
Thou art a priest for ever, After the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:4)
Therefore, Jesus’ priesthood comes not from Aaron. It precedes the Aaronic priesthood, since He is in the mystical order of Melchizedek.
“without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abideth a priest continually.” (Hebrews 7:3)
So, we have in three places in the Bible reference to Melchizedek. These three appear to converge in pointing to Jesus.
Thus, the king of righteousness and peace and the priest of the most high God is spiritually the ancestor of the Messiah. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Holy Righteous Son of God and the supreme High Priest that offered the perfect sacrifice for our sin. His own blood cleanses from sin, all who appeal to Him.
Now, we may surrender to Jesus on a daily basis, confident that not only does Jesus have the position, but also the authority to cleanse us from unrighteousness and sin. It behooves all believers to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. We are saved to begin the process of opening our lives to the sanctifying process of the Holy Spirit. His job is to convince us of sin, righteousness and of judgment. He shows us we are sinners. He reveals to us the path of righteousness and He makes it clear that all will face the Judgment. It is vital that we secure our lives in Christ, and then seek out and confess all the sins of our lives, daily.
Lord Jesus, Our nation and the world are in an awful mess. We have violated Your word and Your will. We are steeped in idolatry. We are sold under sin. There is nothing redeeming about us. We are lost without You. Save us, Lord Jesus, I pray. We are in desperate need of your redemption.
Almighty, Lord God, we do not need remediation, we do not need a band aid. We need major heart surgery. Our hearts are sold out to sin. We are deplorable. We are despicable. Come, LORD Jesus and rescue us from evil and degradation. There is no help in us. Our sin disqualifies us from receiving any good thing from You. O, LORD God, have mercy on us and deliver us from the wickedness that makes our feet flee from Your path. Rescue us from our wayward hearts that cling to godlessness, immorality and love of self.
In You alone, we have hope. In Jesus, there is a slight possibility of rescue from the disaster that certainly awaits our world, our nation and me as a sinner.
Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us. You have saved me by Your precious blood that cleanses me from sin. Now my God save our nation and the world. The need is desperate beyond calculation. In You alone is there relief from the suffering under sin, which in truth we do not recognize as such. Take pity on our ignorance and our blindness. Gracious Lord, You have taken the first step in saving each individual billions of times. You out of Love for lovelessness have reached out to us in our lostness. You, out of Your grace, have knelt down in the muck of this world and dirtied Your pure hands by grappling with me, and so many others like me, to draw us into Your perfect heart. You have patiently allowed us to besmirch Your glory by our poor praise. You have endured our slander and defamation of Your Character by claiming to be Yours, but living as if we were not.
Your love is the most magnificent in all the world. Your truth is the most pure in all the universe. Your Majesty is the most superb in all creation. I love You because You first loved me. I worship You because You chose me to be Yours.
Glory be to God in the highest. All honor, majesty, power, dominion are Yours most Holy and Loving Father, Wonderful Son, Glorious Holy Spirit.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah! I worship You my God! Amen!
April 27, 2014
You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt. You saw how I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to myself. Now obey me completely. Keep my covenant. If you do, then out of all of the nations you will be my special treasure. The whole earth is mine. But you will be a kingdom of priests to serve me. You will be my holy nation.’ That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
So Moses went back. He sent for the elders of the people. He explained to them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.
All of the people answered together. They said, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. (Exodus 19:4-8)
And Moses came and told the people all the words of Jehovah, and all the ordinances: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which Jehovah hath spoken will we do.
And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient.
And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words. (Exodus 24:3-8)
Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab along with all whom God had gifted with the ability to work skillfully with their hands. The men were eager to get started and engage in the work. They took from Moses all the offerings that the Israelites had brought for the work of constructing the Sanctuary. The people kept on bringing in their freewill offerings, morning after morning.
All the artisans who were at work making everything involved in constructing the Sanctuary came, one after another, to Moses, saying, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing this work that God has commanded us to do!”
So Moses sent out orders through the camp: “Men! Women! No more offerings for the building of the Sanctuary! (Exodus 36:2-6)
Here are separate incidents where Moses brings God’s words to the Children of Israel. They hear and they vow to obey. They have Listened to God, and they swear to Act for God.
In the first incident (Exodus 19:4-8), they had seen God’s power and they swore on the basis of that. “Wow! He made the Pharaoh bow to His demands, and He destroyed the Egyptian army when they came after us. We better agree or we’re toast!”
“OK, God whatever you say, just don’t get angry with US.”
They agreed without knowing what was in store for them.
But this was lip service. They agreed with their lips, but they made no heart commitment. They did not own their vow. They heard God’s words, but did not take them to heart.
In the second instance (Exodus 24:3-8), Moses called all the people together. Then, in their hearing, Moses read all the Law required of them, including:
They have lived under YHWH’s guidance and provision for 3-5 months. This time, they clearly have the knowledge to make an informed commitment. The People of God own the Covenant and swear to obey.
This time, they have a full picture of the Covenant terms. They heard and understood God. Now the ball was in their court. They, as individuals and as a nation, had to act out what God spoke to them.
We all know the story. They blew hot and cold. One generation was zealous for the Law and for God. Two generations later, and several after that, they were indifferent and grew to be apostate. I have never stopped to count the number of times God had to deliver His Chosen people from the disaster they fell into through their apostasy.
What was the recurring pattern, what happened to the Children of Israel time after time? What does this say about God?
In 1 John 4:8 he says, “God is love.” Since God is love, where do we discover what that means?
What is God telling us through the Beloved Apostle John?
We are God’s children and only the man who knows God hears our message; what we say means nothing to the man who is not himself a child of God. This gives us a ready means of distinguishing the true from the false.
To you whom I love I say, let us go on loving one another, for love comes from God. Every man who truly loves is God’s son and has some knowledge of him. But the man who does not love cannot know him at all, for God is love.
To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins. (1 John 4:6-11)
If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!
God spoke to the Children of Israel, giving them his directions how they should live. God speaks to us today, giving us directions how to live.
He has spoken to us in:
We have listened to God speaking to us. We are listening today. We have completed and continue to complete the first half—we listen to God.
How do we complete the second half? How do we act for God?
You have heard it said many times before: we are the hands and feet and voice of our Lord God.
We all can look and point to acts of love we all make to one another. “Behold how they love one another!” is true of us.
What is not evident is how we act out what we have heard from God in the world. Our close Christian group is a secure microcosm under God’s love and entwined with the mutual love we all share. We reinforce one another, not only in our fellowship, but also in our relationships individually with our Loving Father.
The world at large, however, is not mutually reinforcing. There is a distinct absence of Godly love in our culture. Businesses know that the friendly, helpful approach leads to dollars, so they instruct their employees to smile. Nevertheless this is not real love.
Every day we encounter drivers who are ungracious, pushy, erratic, and offensive (it is our fervent prayer that we do not have with them close encounters of the 3rd kind).
We have had to deal with fellow employees, apparently bent on bringing us down. People, who are feeling stress, take it out on others. Bureaucrats who are serving their time for a paycheck couldn’t care less about the public’s problems or needs. The atmosphere in the world is a serious test of our love.
To act for God is to live out love. Bless when we are cursed. When you see those without a smile, give them one of yours. Pray for them before, during and after each encounter. Leave them with a word of blessing, whether they like it or not.
To act for God in living love is to be patient and understanding, even when things are not going your way. Recognize that the person on the other end of the phone or behind the counter has not appeared the moment you encounter them. He or she has been putting up with all kinds of people before you arrived and is aware that she or he will have to after you leave. Make you encounter as pleasant as you can. In gratitude, drop a blessing into their lives.
When you cannot get through the bureaucratic labyrinth and your frustration level grows, begin praying and reacquire the peace that Jesus alone can give. Learn to respond instead of reacting. Our immediate human reaction is usually retaliatory and offensive. However, if we refer our situations and emotions to the Holy Spirit, He generates a Godly response. We thus allow our Guide and Counselor to speak love through us.
We have listened to the Old Testament summery of the Law many times.
Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Perhaps more times we have heard Jesus summary of the Law.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
Having listened to this, our act is to love God. Love is not just a squishy feeling in your stomach, which just might be the flu. Love is an action. You love God by:
This second half of our topic is the proof of the first. You will act for God if you have truly listened to God. We have a solid base from which to do the acts of love to those in the world, to our families and to our Lord. Go into all the world and make disciples, loving them into the Kingdom of God by presenting Christ to them through word and deed.
Our Gracious Father, we recognize we are slow learners. You have taught us this lesson of love in Your Word and from sermons all our believing lives. We confess that even after we have heard your instruction to love, like the Children of Israel, we forget and act out our worldliness.
Thank you for being patient with us and teaching us again and again the truth that love wins. Grant us the wisdom to allow Your love to so pervade our lives that it flows out in acts of blessing and words of encouragement to those who are Yours and to those who are not yet.
Through Jesus Christ our Savior, we pray. Amen
Author: Steve Gammon, Conference Minister
One of the most important things any of us can do for our churches is to pray for them. When Paul wrote to the churches the things dearest on his heart, he often focused on prayer.
In Colossians 1, for example, there are wonderful lessons on how to pray for the church. In verses 4-7 Paul begins with prayers of thanksgiving. Let me encourage you to join me in praying such prayers of thanksgiving for the faith of God’s people, for their love, and hope, for their response to the gospel that still goes out, and for faithful ministry leaders like Epaphras.
Then in verses 9-14 Paul presents a list of petitions for which he unceasingly prays for the church—for the knowledge of His will, for spiritual wisdom and understanding, for lives lived “worthy of the Lord”, for bearing fruit in every good work, for growth in the knowledge of God, for strength and power, for great endurance and patience, for joyful thanksgiving to the Father, that they might know that God has qualified them and has already rescued them from the dominion of darkness, that they might know that God has brought them into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, and that they might truly believe in the redemption and forgiveness of sins that is theirs in Christ Jesus!
Paul not only longed for these things for the church! He fervently prayed for them! I want you to know that I am praying for you! And I urge you all to be praying for the church!
When I was a teen, I read a great deal of Science Fiction. It imbued in me the faith that mankind, given time, could accomplish anything. As I matured into college age, I morphed that concept into the theology that mankind eventually would become perfect and therefore become god.
I was very proud of my reasoning. When I propounded this concept among a group of others, one wise fellow said, “You know, by definition, perfection has always been perfect. It has never been imperfect.” That simple truth collapsed my theology like the house of cards it was.
Since that time, I have been a theist (I believed in God); a Deist (God created the world, but he has pretty much left us on our own to work it out).
Finally, for the last half century I have discovered and lived (as much as my fickle heart can) Christian Theology (God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is actively involved in the world and in peoples’ lives in particular. Jesus is the God/man who died for my sins and those who will believe in Him. All people are sinners, which means the reality of Heaven and Hell is of serious concern. Faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is the sine qua non. Without that faith, it is impossible to please God.)
It is abundantly clear that all people throughout the world who have some conception of God are theologians. Muslims, Jews and Christians are monotheists (believe in one God). The Christians and Jews believe in the same God. Muslims do not.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism are all polytheistic religions, i.e. they have multiple gods.
Primitive religions are animistic. They have the theology that there are powers in everything, e.g. the sun, moon, trees, earth, and wind. They seek to respect everything, lest they offend the spirits who in vindictiveness would curse them.
Likely they would claim they are not; however, “atheist” in Ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos) means “without gods”. To be without gods implies that there are gods to be without. Thus they have a theology that there are no gods. Apparently, an atheist has studied all religions and all history and can find no credible evidence of any god. Thus their theology, their study of God is that he does not exist. Many of them are quite evangelical, requiring everyone else to protect them from any contact with proof of His existence.
Thus, it is my assessment that, as everyone else, atheists have a concept of God that they have studied and rejected. Yes, they, too, are theologians.
There is academic theology and there is practical theology. Academic theology is what people say they believe in, e.g. “I believe that God is a God of love. He is a good God who cares for his people.”
OR, I believe Allah’s will is the governing force of my life, “Insha Allah (Insya Allah) “ ماهر زين – إن شاء الله”, i.e. “if God wills, it will happen.”
I was flying Pakistani Airlines from Lahore, Pakistan to New Delhi, India. As we approached the airport the pilot spoke over the intercom, “We will land in New Delhi, Insha Allah.” Irreverently, it occurred to me that if Allah did not will us to land, we might be flying around forever.
Various teachers and scholars and preachers have defined Christian academic theology over the centuries. Because Christianity had so many streams that express their understanding of the message of God differently, there have been uncounted theologies written. Scholars examine the various tenets of the faith and write a lengthy exposition of each. True Christian theology includes:
Practical theology is demonstrated in the way people live. Anyone who claims to be a Jew, but does not live by the Laws of Moses and the ordinances of Judaism is practically an agnostic. Sabbath breaking, eating pork are two evidences that while they may have Jewish ancestry, they are not in fact Jews,
People who call themselves “Christians”, but do not believe the above tenants are not Christian in reality. Those who practice homosexuality, choose abortions as birth control, who cheat at business or at cards are giving evidence against themselves of their lack of faith.
People who style themselves Muslim, but who do not fast during Ramadan, who go to X-rated movies, who consume alcoholic beverages are unfaithful to their religion.
Because the majority of Americans profess to be Protestant Christians, I will concentrate on this branch of Christendom.
We show our practical theology when we are cheerful in our demeanor. A ready smile indicates that Jesus has transformed one’s heart. A mark of a believer is generosity in meeting a neighbor’s need, whether it be praying for them, offering physical help or offering money in a crisis.
Another mark of a believer is forgiveness. Whether the offender is repentant, asks forgiveness or not, the practicing Christian forgives the offense.
One of the remarks that unbelievers said about Christians, “Behold how they love one another.” The heart that is open to God’s love manifests love.
Theology is the study of God. There is one, true God. He has revealed Himself to mankind. He chose one man (family) to be the bearers of the truth that God exists and that He is intimately involved in the lives of people on a daily basis. He is unapproachable in His glory and holiness, but he has come to minister, to serve mankind on a constant basis.
“Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
Belief in God is the foundation of having Him a part of one’s life. One can study about God in the Bible, in theological textbooks, in the lives of believers. With an open mind, one can not only find God, but also learn a great deal about Him. Because He is infinitely superior, our finite minds cannot comprehend the majesty of God. We can, however, encounter Him.
Study can reveal much about God, but there will always be a barrier to true knowledge. Just as there is a limit to what you can know about a person by reading her biography, or even his autobiography. If however, you move next door to a famous person and begin to converse, invite him or her into your home and be invited into hers or his, a relationship develops and you learn the “inside story”. You get to know the real person.
It works that way with God. The relationship is all-important.
It astounds me when I begin to ponder that the Creator of the universe, the perfectly holy One, the Almighty God, chooses to become involved in an intimate way in the lives of men and women of every character. He gets involved with our messy lives. He accepts out foulness and still loves us.
Once in a relationship with God, all that we study about God begins to make sense. He corrects all our concepts, until we have a heart for God. We find His character far greater than we believed. His revelation of Himself reveals His magnificent aspects.
Consider that the perfectly righteous God desires, and eagerly works to have a relationship with individuals that are venal, are liars and cheats, are arrogant and stupid. He cares deeply for the cast-offs of society: the disabled, the souse, the thief, the prostitute, the degraded humans of the world.
He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is active in the world, taking care of people. It is He who inspires inventors, whether they believe in Him or not, to devise ways to tap ground water to bring water to parched lands. He had leads people to devise improved methods of farming, so that the same land will produce far more than it did 100 years ago.
Working in the hearts of believers the Holy Spirit manifests Love, Joy and Peace, as well as the other Fruit of the Spirit.
Today, millions of Americans are pursuing happiness in the hope of finding lasting Joy. It eludes them because they do not go for the gold. God provided Joy as a free gift of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to strive for it, we have to surrender for it.
Theology teaches us that God was not content to sit outside the physical world and take pot shots at His creation—mankind. He is not a Monday Morning Quarterback: “You should have done this instead of that. You should have done it this way.” He, Almighty God, limited Himself and was born a man-child. He grew up over 30 years before He entered into His teaching ministry. God, Himself, became a man to share our limited life. He lived, got hungry and thirsty. He got dirty and had to bathe. He had friends and enemies. He shared all of life. And. wonder of wonders, He shared our death; real death. Yes, brain dead. God, omnipotent, hung on the cross and actually died there.
In our society we sanitize death. Most people die in clean sheets at a hospital, separated from family and home. However, in Jesus’ day death was a part of life. Old folks died at home in the midst of family. The women of the family tended the corpse. They knew what death was and what a dead body was. They knew, from handling His body, that Jesus was certainly dead. Jesus the God/man died in truth that fateful day.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He yielded up His spirit. (John 19:30)
One of His Last Words was “It is finished!” He was not talking about His life, although that was true. He was not talking about the pain and suffering of the Cross, although that was true. He was talking about the reason He came to be born a man.
Theology teaches us that there was a greater purpose for God to become a man than to experience what it was like to live a moment in eternity, to live with pain and suffering, to live with love for friends, to live in the joys and triumphs of life.
He came with a far greater purpose; He had a cosmic-sized purpose. Jesus came to provide the only way for individual people to be able to live forever in the Presence of Almighty God, in the Presence of Love Unspeakable, in Joy beyond our wildest dreams, and in utter Peace with never a threat of not enough, never a threat of harm, never a threat of rejection. Jesus’ work of the cross was to bring about the reconciliation of individual men, women and children with the Holy, righteous God. Jesus made the way for individuals to enter into God’s Presence, where before their sin barred them.
Theology teaches us that the sacrificial system established by God through Moses was a precursor of Jesus sacrifice on the cross. God taught the Children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings that to atone for sin required an innocent victim’s blood and life. Theology teaches us that Jesus was that perfect, innocent victim who became the complete oblation and sacrifice, who satisfied God’s offended righteousness, allowing us to be forgiven under the blood of Jesus.
Theology teaches us that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. But he humbled Himself to serve our need of forgiveness. God Almighty, out of love for us, provides for all our physical needs.
Theology teaches us that we are in a training ground. All that occurs in our lives can be lessons to teach us. They can be tests to prove what we have learned.
Theology teaches us that we are in a war; that there is a real, alive enemy shooting at us. He sends spies to tempt us to turn our backs on God. He uses propaganda to say that God is not real, or a distant, uncaring God. He sends his army to cause us physical, emotional and mental harm. God does not leave us without defense. We have weapons to use that will defeat his overtures, attacks and insinuations.
Theology, rightly taught, reveals to us the truths of God. The Apostle Paul was a foremost enemy of God. He did not think he was. He thought He was protecting Judaism from heretics. In his zeal he was instrumental in both the arrest and slaying of uncounted numbers of believers. He was zealous for God, but his theology was all wrong.
He was raised to believe the Law of God would save him and all Jews. Paul was taught that Gentiles, and even unobservant Jews, were ultimately lost and without hope of redemption, because they were not slaves to the LAW. His theology was all wrong.
When Jesus came preaching that God was a God of love and forgiveness, Paul was furious. He was convinced that because Jesus was not a punctilious practitioner of the LAW, he was a heretic and worthy of being eradicated. To rid Judaism of Jesus would prevent Jews from being drawn away from the LAW.
The risen Jesus took from Paul wrong theology and gave him a new birth under true, right, and blessed theology. Then the Holy Spirit sent Paul into solitude for years to teach him the truths of God. He transformed Paul’s theology of the LAW into the theology of grace—love and forgiveness.
With correct theology, Paul became the foremost proponent of the truths that God wanted our generation (and all others) to learn.
We learn about sin in the first few chapters of Romans. We learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians. We learn about freedom from the Law in Galatians. In Ephesians, we learn about the weapons of our warfare. Each of Paul’s thirteen letters have theological teachings, without which Christianity would be hollow.
Numerous theologians in the last 150 years have sought to write a theology, but have fallen into the trap of writing an exegesis; that is writing their own prejudices into their expositions of Scripture. Much to their pleasure, they discover that their “Christian Theology” is really “Liberation Theology” or “Feminist Theology” or “God is Dead” Theology or “Environmental Theology”.
Because God is Sovereign and we are His creation, we must come to God with empty hands to learn from the Holy Spirit what truth is.
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16).
The purpose of Theology is to discover the truth about God. In the pages of the Bible are uncounted kernels of truth that when planted in our hearts grow us up in our knowledge of God. As we live out those truths, we find ourselves walking hand in hand with Christ along the narrow path to God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with one accord desire that we learn the truths of God. They desire that we have a firm theological foundation so when the winds of controversy and alternative doctrines assail our spirits, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.
Knowledge without experience is barren. God calls us not to just know Him, but also to live out that knowledge in the real world. This means encountering both believers and unbelievers in the confidence that we have the truth. This is not arrogance, but a humble confidence that Jesus is real and that the Holy Spirit is leading us in the truths of God. In those encounters we build up believers as they build us up. In addition, we inform unbelievers of the truths they need for life.
ANSWER: C.S. Lewis addressed this question in The Great Divorce. Lewis shows what happens when inhabitants of Hell visit heaven. For most, it was too REAL. They got on their bus and went back.
This fiction has a basic truth: they had made their choice and would not change.
There is a deeper reason. God is omniscient; He knows our hearts. God knows that some people will embrace the truth of Jesus and will believe at a very young age. Others in their preteen years, in their young adult lives, as Paul was, despite their rebellion, are open to change. Still others live deplorable lives, but in the last extremity reach out for Jesus.
God confronts others all through their lives with His truth and His life. Tragically, all too often, regardless of how many times God approaches them, they ignore Him or reject outright His offers. They will not believe, because they choose not to believe. God has given them all the chances they need. They would not change if He gave them another.
The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness“. It is belief that is the key. We have all our lives on earth to believe. If one does not believe here and now, he will not in another life.
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
You have filled my heart with Yourself. You are everything. Almighty God, You are worthy of all honor dominion, glory and praise!
You have given us Your truth. Hallelujah!
You revealed Yourself to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.
You delivered the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery with a mighty hand.
You led and provided food and water for the Children of Israel in the barren Sinai desert.
You raised up Judges in the Land of Promise to deliver Your People when they had strayed from You into oppression.
You anointed David, a man after Your own heart, to be King over Your people.
You gave his descendants the promise of eternal Kingship.
You called the Prophets to the hard duty of telling the Chosen People they were going the wrong way.
You sent Your Son into the world, anointed as the Messiah, to communicate Your truth to us.
You in these later days have appointed missionaries to take Your Gospel to the remote peoples of the world.You called and sent Apostles to communicate the Gospel to the world.
You have loved Your People with an everlasting love and called them out of every tribe, tongue and nation. You have built an enormous Family, some are triumphant, having finished their course; and some militant, still serving in Your mission field – the world.
I praise You for Your love; I praise You for your fantastic gift to me of forgiveness of sin, life eternal; and most of all, I praise You for You!
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise God for the joy of knowing You. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen
You asked me, what idealistic ideals did not fit the Church, and what principles I doubted. The main one is that I feel that this life should be to a certain extent fair. By that, I mean people would not be born retarded, never have a chance to compete in our society; people would not be deformed or ill-treated in childhood, so as to leave them incomplete beings ill equipped to deal with life; the bad things in the world would not exist; the poor, the dumb (although many dumb persons are much happier than I), the pawn, the misfits, etc. I could go on forever. But I understand there could be a solution if the individual’s sole duty in this life were to firstly take care of himself, then one’s achievements would be his own making. It seems unfair to me that I can see and walk and hear and reason intelligently while there are those who can do only one, or some but not all of these. I realize that they might be far more satisfied with themselves than I with myself, they have tried much harder in this life that I, but then that evens it out, doesn’t it?”
I do not remember what my response to her plaint was at the time. I received her letter in the flurry of doing all that was necessary to leave for Seminary three weeks hence. It is possible (unhappily, even likely) that I did not respond; therefore, for your benefit and my own. I will try to respond.
First, I see this as a plea for understanding. It seems I laid on her a heavy witness to Jesus, likely emphasizing the goodness of God. She is hoping to justify her exception to the understanding that life is not fair.
I wish to assert Christ, Himself and the true Christian Church does not affirm that life is fair. God, the Father, sent His Son into an unfair situation with an unfair responsibility. He had to leave behind His majesty and full power to complete His degrading mission of dying.
Fair means ever-handedness. What you get, I get, and vice versa. The reality is that none of us gets the same anything. We start out with an assembly of unique family genetics and innate abilities. I would have loved to play for the Seahawks. My enthusiasm may be great, but my abilities do not measure up. “It’s not fair!” Yep. Life’s not.
Mary’s concern for the disadvantaged is legitimate and a worthy concern. In God’s economy, she, you, and I must make up for the inabilities of the disadvantaged. We can do so by willingly sharing our abilities and resources. (This is NOT a government program; this is personal responsibility under God).
She wants a life where the “bad things in the world would not exist”. I am not making light of her desires. The truth is that wishing will not make it so. Actually, tragically, every effort and our best intentions will not make it so. Truly, we must face the reality that this world is broken and cannot be fixed; it can only be replaced.
We face this often. My printer failed. The repair tech told me that the power supply burned out. A new one cost $300.00 + labor. Instead, I bought a new printer for $400.00. It was twice as good as the old one. Like that printer, there is a new world coming (in God’s time) that is much better. It will replace this old, broken one. We are not to sit and wait, but continue to persevere in working to improve the world within our reach and make it better and more “fair”.
When she refers to the “dumb” I believe she is not talking about those who cannot speak, but about those who have limited intelligence. Mary wrote this in the days before such terms became politically incorrect.
I believe she was referring to “ignorance is bliss”. Many of the less intelligent have a reduced perception of events in the world. Impending disasters around every corner do not burden them. They can live in the relative security of caring for themselves in concert with others care for them. Relatively they have more peace in life.
This young woman is a Martha. She comments:
I realize that they might be far more satisfied with themselves in this life than I. But Martha was cumbered about much serving; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
But the Lord answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:40-42)
What is that “one thing”? It is putting your complete trust in Jesus. When we allow Him to set the priorities in our lives, He will utilize us to deal with the problems He chooses. Doing what He prescribes gives us a sense of satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment and a sense of peace. We can then be free of the worries of the unfairness of the world. The other disadvantaged in the world are not our responsibility. We can have peace concerning them. I am not giving an excuse for rationalizing away our true responsibility. I am stating that the Holy Spirit wants us to do something, but not everything. We must find out whom He is assigning to us. Any worry beyond our assignment is disobedience and may be idolatry.
Fred [her husband] and I have always felt that the best way for us to help was to amass a fortune, then give it to select Charities.” Her letter continues, “The problem arises because all do not take care of themselves. And there are those that we should pity; first try to help, but if that fails, the only resource is pity. At least that salves something in the soul. Ted, there is so much suffering; much – all is created by mankind, but where does it begin. For instance, mental hospitals. There simply aren’t enough trained individuals, the funds to make them what they should be. So much to do; and the best place to begin is the Government. But how? Oh, I will do some banner-carrying in the meantime, and talk to whomever I can, but money is one thing desperately lacking. The trained persons would come if the profits were lucrative enough.
Mary’s approach although laudable is unrealistic. I believe instead of “do not take care of themselves” she means “cannot”. She immediately uses the example of mental hospitals, indicating people with mental incapacities.
Again, a term, acceptable in the 1960s, grates on 21st Century sensibilities. “Pity” has become a derogatory term. Its past meaning was to “have compassion on”. Mary understands that out of compassion for the disadvantaged (those who cannot care for themselves) we must first do what we can. She recognizes that what we can do may fail.
In this, Mary is realistic. The problem is bigger than one family can address. It is like trying to take a bite out of an apple as big as a basketball. It is too big. Your nose keeps getting in the way.
If all else fails, is the only resource compassion? James cautions against that as the only option,
and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:16)
When we are out of resources to assist the needy God put in our path, we must turn to Him. He has all the resources to fulfill what He requires us to do. We actually should begin by discussing the situation of the needy in our path with the Lord. “Lord, how much do You mean for me to do?” Talking it over with Jesus, we will learn our limits – an occasional handout or selling all we have to give to this needy person.
God does not intend us to take a bite out of something too big for us. He intends each of us to do what He asks.
Is the best way to help to amass money and donate it to a charity? Actually, the problem that she is addressing is far greater than all the money of the richest. All of Bill Gates’ $75 BILLION+ net worth poured into the problem of the disadvantaged of the world would help many, but it would not put a dent in the overall problem.
Realistically the possibility that Mary and her husband can amass that size of a fortune is nil (they did not).
Where one begins is not with the government. Our Federal Government, each state and many cities in the U.S. have been pouring billions into assistance of the needy. There are not enough beds in mental hospitals or homeless shelters. The numbers that need such care far outstrip the capability of the governments to provide space for them.
This being the case, where does one begin? The start is one on one. The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher. He was a disadvantaged “kid from the project” where many, if not most died at an early age from drugs or gang violence. At 16, Michael came to the object of attention of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. They not only sponsored him, but also took him into their family, becoming his legal guardians. They shepherded him along through school and taught him his life could have a purpose. Responding to their love, he rose to the challenge. He was drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens and was a Superbowl champion in 2013. He is currently playing with the Tennessee Titans. This was a God-directed answer.
Certainly giving to charities is worthy. It is our perspective that needs sanctification. In trauma centers, they triage. They divide the patients into:
First aid begins with stopping the bleeding, next clearing the airway to insure breathing, and then treating what you can until expert medical help arrives. This is the proper procedure in compassion for the needy. First turn to the Lord and determine His will. Next follow His directions. Be willing to provide all He asks of you and apply it to as much of the problem as you can.
In her letter Mary concludes:
However I doubt if we shall become Bible-beaters; that seems such a coarse term [I agree]. Fred believes in relying solely on oneself, and religion is a crutch to him, although he strongly believes. I think deep down Fred knows he can make it on his own steam, and feels that God should help those who can’t; God knows that Fred believes. He doesn’t need to sound it from the rooftops. I think that there are different ways of helping:. There would have to be. People are so diverse. Backgrounds are so different.
I will address the last first. People are very different, but their needs are similar and different. The government “one size fits all” approach helps some, but messes up others. God alone has the wisdom and the ability to form a solution that uniquely suits each person’s need. That is why it is vital that we consult Him before attempting to alleviate the needs we see around us.
Now to address “Bible-Beaters”: I confess I am one Mary disdains. Likely, I quoted a number of Scriptures in my letter to Mary and Fred. Probably that prompted this response. I am a “Bible-Beater”, because that is where God put the answers. Taking the Bible seriously is the only thing that makes sense. “Read, study and do”, is the formula for a successful life.
I was like her husband. I believed in God, but I “knew” I had to do it on my own. I was raised on, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” (That, by the way, is a non-Biblical heresy). I came to the end of my resources, as we all must in this complex and trouble-filled world. I took Christ as a crutch because I limped without Him. I still lean on Jesus today. However, when I lean on Him, I walk straight and strong.
It is a noble sentiment to allow God the freedom to help someone else because you are able to care for yourself; noble, but arrogant. If someone offers you a gift, it is boorish to turn it down. God offered to Fred and you and me His Son as a gift. Turning a cold shoulder to Jesus is at least bad manners, and ultimately disastrous, since without Him there is no eternal happiness. Without Jesus, there is only eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When Fred (if he fishes), catches a record-setting salmon I would be willing to bet he would have no reticence about “sounding it from the rooftops”. When a person falls in love he or she is often exuberant enough to proclaim proudly “she loves me!” or “He loves me!” That is exactly the feeling one gets when one discovers the real love that Jesus has for believers. His love is overwhelming. It is so far greater than the love of another human being… and worth the shouting!
She avers that Fred has a deep faith. I know his faith was as mine was, in himself. Likely, he was only aware that there must be a God. Likely, underneath the surface he had the view of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Lord, keep the Czar … but keep him far away from here!” “God is alright in heaven, but I don’t want Him messing with my life.”
God is not a second-class citizen who you can take or leave. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He is the Creator and so His rules apply to everyone. As God’s creation, man has a duty to submit and obey. Taking an arrogant, “I can do it myself” attitude is an affront to God’s majesty.
It is the depth of idolatry to consider you can live your life perfectly well without His help.
It is the depth of idolatry to consider you can live your life perfectly well without His help. Sending God packing off to help some poor incapacitated person is foolish in the extreme.
Sometimes we have to learn the hard way. Now, God is not a vindictive God. Actually, His loving care is around us, believers and unbelievers alike, all the time. But when we sin we walk out from under His care, we open ourselves up to the resident evil in this world.
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Whether we choose to use Jesus as a crutch or an umbrella, He assures us that our lives are secure for eternity in Christ. He gives us His love. He opens our hearts to receive all His good gifts. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” That is great assurance not only for us who believe and want to serve Him, but also for all those who are in need, who are disadvantaged and who are limited in any way.
You know what? That includes me! It also includes you. Praise God, He is FOR all of us
ANSWER: David’s sins were plenty to lose him God’s favor. He lied to the High Priest at Nob and the result was that King Saul had all the innocent priests there slaughtered. David lied to the Philistines a number of times so he could take refuge among them. He committed adultery and murder. Out of pride David disobeyed God and ordered a census of the people.
Surely, that was more than enough to get him condemned by God. It certainly was; however, David had an ace in the hole. He loved God with all his heart. He sinned, but as soon as he was made aware of His over-passionate ill behavior, King David not only repented, but threw himself open to God’s punishment. Certainly, this is “a man after God’s own heart”.
Everyone sins! No one is exempt. Anyone who loves God completely will be deeply grieved when God points out his sin. Then when that man does not try to hide it or explain it away, but frankly and sincerely repents, God blesses and forgives.
The man after God’s own heart is one that keeps short accounts with God. He listens for direction and for the Holy Spirit’s conviction that he has gone astray. He bears honest grief at having offended God by his sin.
Love based on trust is his predominant character trait. He knows His Father and His Lord intimately.
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.” Father, I know a number of people who live this way, whether they say they believe in God or not. Father, send the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin of disbelief in Jesus. Send them someone (even me) to speak to them about how real and wonderful you are. Some are close to me and I do want them to spend eternity with you in blessedness.
There is nothing too hard for You. I know You allow each to acknowledge on their own that You are Lord God. The Holy Spirit finds a way to bring Your truth to them so they will embrace Our Savior.
Jesus, you are so wonderful. You have demeaned Yourself by setting aside Your glory and becoming a man. You allowed all the puny men to criticize You, to insult You and then to abuse You, condemn You falsely and finally crucify You.
Despite all the evil we perpetrated against You, You out of love and grace You love me, Jesus and I love You. Please cast your net of love around my dear ones and draw them into Your love, Your Presence, Your forgiveness and Your grace. Take away their tendency to sin, as You take mine from me.e not only asked Your Father to forgive us, but You became sin for us and accepted the punishment of God for our sin. Your Father withdrew from You, because You bore our sin. That for You was far greater pain than anything man could do to Your body and soul. Your Father turned His back on You as You carried my sin.
You are my Sovereign Lord Savior. I rejoice in Your salvation. You are magnificent in all you do. Open my heart to receive more of You. Open my eyes to Your ever-present Spirit. Tune my ears to be quick to hear my Master’s voice. Glory be to You! Hallelujah! Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Lord Triumphant! Amen