December 12, 2013
There is a trick question people often ask those who preach holiness. Because of our teaching, they direct their question to us personally, asking, “So, are YOU sinless?” They know that if we say we are sinless, then we are liars, but that if we say we are not sinless, then we discredit our claim that Christ has set us free from sin (as numerous Scripture passages teach). With a triumphant tone they ask it.
But it’s an inappropriate question. It’s as if a surgeon-in-training or a pilot-in-training asked his teachers if they ever disobey the instructions, methods, wisdom, etc., that they claim to adhere to. “Why should you tell me to do things this way?” that trainee complains. “I bet you yourself don’t always follow what you teach.” The question is rude, but more than that, it reveals that the trainee does not really believe what he is being taught. Any good teacher would tell that trainee not to come back until he has decided he is going to believe the teacher’s words.
God’s Word gives us clear directives. It says that if we step into Christ with genuine hearts of gratitude and commitment, and abide there in Christ’s love by obeying His commands, then we are walking free of sin. Sin is wickedness, but it is also a force, a controller, and an enticer. Those who abide in Christ, the Word of God, are walking free of that Evil’s control and persuasion. Why wouldn’t we be?! We walk in the Spirit of the all-powerful glorious God who created the universe by His word/Word. And some “Christian” trainees want to deny that this gives us continuous freedom and victory over sin? –Just because they are still experiencing Sin’s control? Well, such people are simply unbelievers. They do not believe Christ’s words or the rest of Scripture.
Like these two verses: “Because His divine power has given us all things for life and godliness, through the full knowledge of the One having called us to His own glory and virtue, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, in order that through these you might become sharers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by lust.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) Yes, this is a cumbersome sentence, but it should be meditated on, and while using various versions. For these two verses sum up what the Gospel offers to those who walk in it.
Or like these two verses: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:17,18) Does that sound like anyone who claims to be a Christian should be wondering about how much or how often they or other Christians might be sinning?
Or like these two: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:14,15) Any “Christian” who says he is not able to be consistently obedient to the Lord’s commands is regressing to the ignorance unbelievers live in. For “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6) Such a person may have begun the training, but somewhere he turned away –turned away to follow his own lusts.
These are the people who divide us and who do not have the Spirit. (Jude 1:19) By denying Christ’s power available and applicable, they deny Christ’s teachings, and thus deny Christ. (v. 4 // Luke 6:46-49) Their denials should not be tolerated as true Christianity. (Rom. 16:17,18)
December 11, 2013
Yesterday my husband went with me to the nursing home. I was especially glad that he did because one of our best friends there was crying and had to inform us that her son had passed away on Sunday. That son had been in a wheelchair since about five years before 2005 which was the year we were taking him and his mom to the church we were going to at the time. I really admired my husband who was so patient in getting him and his wheelchair in and out of the car and also in taking him to the restroom at least twice during every service.
A year later our half-paralyzed friend moved out of the nursing home, but his mom stayed. So I didn’t see him near as much after that, but his mom grew to be a dear friend of mine. Mother and son visited each other weekly (others would take them), and they had a close relationship, depending on each other a lot emotionally.
I think it was so kind of the Lord to compel my husband and me to visit the nursing home yesterday so that we could give encouragement to this grieving mother whose son had just died two days before. I reminded her of how happy and healthy her son was –no more sadness, pain, loneliness, or suffering. I reminded her of all the Bible study he’d been doing the last several years and how he had been teaching her too. I reminded her that her son’s transition from earth to Heaven was under the complete control of the Lord and that He had chosen the timing. I pointed out to her the big blessing it was that she was there at his house (her old house) to be with him at the last, and that even after he was rushed to the hospital, she was able to go in and speak with him in his last moments. Not everyone, I said, has the blessing before a death of having exchanged loving words all day.
All the while, I was sitting next to our friend, hugging her close, sometimes wiping her eyes with a tissue. My husband, who she’s always adored, said some kind words too, and before leaving, I prayed aloud for her and the family and thanked the Lord for her son’s love for God and His Word.
This man had not always loved God and had actually been a terrible alcoholic, sending his family shattering. But, after the stroke and realizing his life was utter chaos, he turned to God. I smile wistfully as I recognize that my husband and I were just one of the stepping stones that God used to lead this man closer to knowing Him. What a joy it was for his mom and I both as we often discussed the Scripture passage he had been teaching his mom from earlier that week.
Well, our dear friend who was so poor, so lonely, so neglected by the world, and had so much hardship living alone handicapped as he was, is now vibrant, handsome, healthy, and living in friendship and joy. Yes, we are sad in one way, and we know his mom will miss him ever so much, but the suffering is over for him. The Lord took him unexpectedly, but He always knows best. As I hugged my friend yesterday, she said, “Well, he did say recently that he didn’t know what he would do if I passed away before him. That he’d be very lonely. Now I don’t have to worry about that.”
Definitely that worry is over for her. And knowing her son is now with the One he came to love and know, though through terrible trial, should, even though she misses him immensely, give her joy, peace, and relief.
December 10, 2013
Compliments and honor to those who deserve it are good and appropriate. Not only do they encourage the hearers to go forward in the righteous and kind works they are doing, but they are also a way to extend thanks. However, flattery, a type of honor that is insincere and given with wrong motives, is evil.
Apparently, flattery, and not true praise, is that which is often given unto God. “O our God, we acknowledge You!” (Ho. 8:2) they say. “We love You, Jesus, and praise Your awesome Name!” But their love and feigned devotion to the Lord is like the early dew that disappears. (6:4) Rebelling against God’s clear directives, they break the Covenant they’ve made with their Redeemer. (8:1) Going forward with decisions void of God’s consent (v. 4), and idolizing whatever they choose (same verse), these unfaithful people bring about their own demise. (same verse)
“Oh, God, help us!” they then cry. For do people not turn to God when they are at their wits’ end? (Ps. 107:27,28) Therefore He may again still the storm (v. 29), for time after time He is merciful. (78:38) But He may not. If they continue to put Him to the test (v. 56), God will abandon them and reject them completely. (v. 59,60)
This warning is for everyone, even those under the New Covenant. (1 Cor. 10:11) Again: Those who keep sinning, regardless of their claim to know God or to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, will have their salvation cancelled. (1 Cor. 3:16,17 // Titus 1:16 // Heb. 10:26-31) Sinful actions are a disowning of Christ (Titus 1:16), and whoever does so will be disowned. (Mt. 10:33 // 2 Tim. 2:12)
“I will follow You, Lord, but first…” (Luke 9:61) Were these people saying this not part of the crowd who were walking along the road with Jesus (v. 57), listening to His teachings, and believing what they heard? They were. They were offering to covenant with Him, to dedicate their lives to Him –well, after they took care of their own interests first. Flattery. Feigned dedication. “I will follow You wherever You go, and do whatever You command,” was the promise. “After I attend to my own affairs.”
Does Jesus tolerate this attitude? He does not. He tells us to follow Him now, to let the spiritually dead attend to those concerns (Luke 9:60), and that we are to go out proclaiming God’s Kingdom right when He orders us to do so. (same verse) With rebuke in His voice, the Lord informs us that those who step up to join His service, but who then look back, are those who reveal that they are not fit to serve Him. (v. 62)
Oh, how many join this worthless group! Wretched will be the day when they will hear their Master say, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Mt. 25:26) “Your worthlessness has condemned you!” (See v. 30)
“But, but, but,” they will stammer. “We ate and drank with You, You taught us, we read Your Word, we went to seminary, we did the soup kitchen thing, we even preached Your Name and cast out demons!” (Mt. 7:22 // Luke 13:26)
What will Christ, the King, say? He tells us plainly what He will say: “Get away from Me, you evildoers!” (Luke 13:27) “There has been no genuine relationship between you and Me, for you are full of sin.” (See same verse and Mt. 7:21 & 10:32,33) “Incapable of purity [Ho. 8:5], you have flattered Me with your mouths, lied to Me with your tongues [see Ps. 78:36], your hearts have been disloyal to Me, and you have been unfaithful to My Covenant.” (See v. 37)
And they will be banished from the Lord’s presence forever. (2 Thes. 1:9) “Where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:30)
December 9, 2013
People talk a lot about love, how wonderful, necessary, and nobel it is, but they usually are referring to that kind of love that speaks gushy words yet puts forth little else. Such love soon proves shallow, even hollow and false.
Those people who I admire are not those who talk about love, but those who show it. And who show it through great sacrifice. Those who sacrifice their entire lives for the cause of Truth, justice, and equality.
One of these admirable men is Nelson Mandela. Though he passed last week from this earth, Madela’s sacrificial life made the world a better place, especially in South Africa. What a legacy he leaves. I spent some time last night reading several articles about him, and could not help but weep. If only there were many more men (and women) in history like him. –A man who cared about others, particularly the oppressed, dispossessed, poor, and persecuted, more than he cared about himself.
Here are two of the several articles I read:
All the photos I saw of Mandela made me start to wonder if he was a Christian. For looking into his face, I doubt that anyone could deny that Mandela’s face is almost angelic-like as he displays either a happy, loving smile, or an expression of calm confidence mixed with humility. I was glad, in further researching his beliefs, to find that Mandela’s contribution to our world was most certainly fueled by an admiration of Christ, and likely even a relationship with Him.
Here is a really good article, and one which also made me weep:
We can all strive to be like Mandela. We can all work to better the lives of those less fortunate. We can all live sacrificial lives for the cause of Truth, justice, and equality. We can all do anything God calls us to do. The call begins with the command to be like Christ.
What if we were given Mandela’s spirit? Would we expect to do great things as he did? Sure we would. Well, God has given us HIS own Spirit. Therefore we have no reason to not be doing powerful things through Him for the furtherance of Good throughout the world.
December 8, 2013
The last couple of days here in North Texas everyone has been quite iced in. Schools and churches are closed, and thousands lost their electricity due to the heavy ice. All our family, though, are snug, though we do hurt for the less fortunate.
This weekend’s iced land certainly isn’t as pretty as that which some winter storms have caused, but below are some photos I took of a past year’s snowfall here at our ranch. In Texas such days are rare and though they can be a bit scary, they can also bring much worship unto God. For has He not done marvelous works in creating seasons with their unique characteristics? –Not to mention all His other marvels that He bestows on us to enjoy and so that we might take notice of His splendor and thank Him!
Truly Ps. 40:5 is applicable: “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have accomplished. In Your amazing purposes for us, there is none arrayed against You. I will declare and speak of them, though they are too numerous to recount.”
Our wonderful God has indeed performed extraordinary things –for us as individuals, but also through nature so that the whole world might recognize Him in it. (Rom. 1:19,20)
Looking out our door toward the snow-laden hammock, hay bales, horse trailer, and wondrous trees.
The fence dividing our yard and our back pasture.
Our horses wondering what to do with grazing not available.
Our house surrounded by the snowy –and snowing– wonderland.
Looking from the front gate toward the house, which can barely be seen.
December 7, 2013
Death is a weird thing: One hour the person is there, alive, breathing, maybe even talking or laughing; then the next hour that person is gone. Their spirit is no longer inhabiting their body. The body is now a corpse. No life. Just empty. Empty of thought, of breath, of life. Horrible. Horrible to think of.
But what makes death okay? What actually makes thinking of death –and death itself– a victory, not a terror? God. Jesus. He who is Eternal Life. What a comfort! What an unfathomable comfort! We may grieve the loss of being separated for a while from a loved one. We may shed tears because of the pain involved in the suffering that leads to the death. But! With the Lord, death is conquered. It is, in view of eternity, nothing. It is a speck of transition. Transition from this groaning, decaying, enslaved earth, to the freedom, the bliss, and the paradise of Heaven.
How can anyone endure dying, or endure seeing their loved one die, if they do not know the Lord? If they do not have that confidence of knowing they or that beloved one is only going through the last hard test –the one which blossoms into glory, honor, youth, endless freedom, and the eternal, unhindered presence of the Lord? I can’t comprehend what goes through the minds of unbelievers during this valley. What incredible gloom and emptiness they must feel.
I was informed of two deaths yesterday morning. One was a translator in Africa (who I don’t know) who was shot during the battle which has erupted in their city. Very sad, as he leaves behind a wife and three children. The other was my parents’ good friend who has had Lou Gehrig’s Disease for three years. He and his wife spent their lives in South American as missionaries, and though he lived a wonderful and long life, it is still sad. However, it is also a relief, for we were all dreading the last stages of the wretched disease, and now, having gone into the hospital just two days before with pneumonia, the Lord took him quickly night before last. His dear wife, with whom he had a beautiful and sweet relationship, was right by his side, as she had so caringly been during his entire sickness. (My parents, thankful now for some extra hours with him, had just been visiting with him and his wife that afternoon at the hospital, and had also visited them at their home a few days before that.)
We know that our friend is with the Lord. We know that he no longer is suffering. We know that he, living now in the realm outside of time, is young, vibrant, and full of joy with His Savior. Unable to talk for over a year, he now, we know, has no hindrance to his voice and is praising God along with countless other saints. In our sorrow, what rejoicing we are enabled to have through this knowledge!
And what about the rest of us? When it is our time to go, will we be ready? –Ready to face the Judge? –The One who has seen everything we’ve done, heard our every word, and traced our every thought? What legacy will we leave behind? Did we improve the world at all? Did we seek out the hurting, bind up their wounds, and care tenderly for those God entrusted to us? Did we spend our lives for others in the proclamation of the Truth and in the furtherance of sacrificial love? If we did not devote our whole lives to these, did we give at least some of our time? Even a year, a month… even an hour?
Or was our focus on ourselves? On what we wanted? On what we thought we deserved? When we come to the foot of the Throne, what will be in our box to present to the Judge? –A few scraps of kindness? Will we even have a box at all? Or will we be left standing bare, standing disgraced before the One whose command to love Him and others went unheeded so, so often? Might the box be actually full of cruelty, corruption, and filth?
Why do people not think of these things? Denial of Truth can help no one. Sticking one’s head in the sand is not going to make Truth go away. There is a Judge. He does pay everyone his wages. Sin’s wage is death, eternal death. (Rom. 6:22,23) If a person is disciplined here on earth, that person should be utterly grateful, for it is meant to train him to turn his heart from sin to God’s ways. As much as our friend loved the Lord, his wife told us often that he never complained about his illness, but kept insisting that it was a blessing, and that this was the case because through the valley the Lord was refining him some more. What a testimony and model for us and our attitudes!
Death is truly a weird thing. But it is certainly a reality. For us all. May each of us be ready when our turn comes.
December 6, 2013
Wisdom comes only to those who seek it, put it into practice, and continue to desire it above all else. To know wisdom is to know God and to understand His ways. No other attainment compares, even remotely, to this. Why, then, do most people not place value on wisdom? Undoubtably it is because they are not wise.
But hasn’t God given everyone a measure of wisdom by which to start? –To begin the search for what is true and good and right and eternally profitable? He has. (Ec. 7:29 // Rom. 1:19,20) But men go off to search out many schemes (Ec. 7:29 // Rom. 1:21-25) so that they turn foolish and depraved. (same verses) Because they change the Truth of God into the Lie (Rom. 1:25) and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (same verse), God gives them over to spiral down into what they lust after, which is ever-increasing shamefulness and evil. (v. 26-32)
Instead of searching for Wisdom, men pursue (chase / strive for) things that are fleeting –money, wealth, prestige, fame, acclaim, popularity, pleasure, sex, ease, security, and definitely power. To be the Controller, the Commander, the King, the one in charge, seems to be the aim of multitudes, and all their other pursuits are actually the means by which to achieve this. Even acclaim and an honorable name will be sacrificed in order to get more power. For their power is their pride.
Wise people, however, don’t care about controlling. They already rest in the Omnipotent Controller who leads them, guides them, cares for them, protects them. And pride is something they flee. Pride, they know, is that which made the devil think he could exalt himself as God (Isa. 14:13,14), but that which instead brought him down to everlasting shame. (v. 11,12) For all the proud, wise men know, are those who have, by their pride, made themselves enemies of God. (Ps. 31.23 // Pr. 16:5 // 1 Peter 5:5)
Wise people don’t care about acclaim either. Worldly people’s opinions matter nothing to them. They know that sinners are fickle and that their praising is brief. They also know that their Savior was hated by the rebellious and that He warned His followers that they would be hated as well. (John 15:18-21) For Truth indeed makes the wicked hostile. (3:20 // 2 Cor. 2:15,16 // 1 John 3:12,13)
Wise people believe God’s Word. They believed it long ago, feared God, heeded warnings, and stepped into Wisdom’s tutelage. (Pr. 8:10) There they have continued, finding that Wisdom is truly the most precious attainment there is (v. 11), and that what it produces surpasses the value of the purest gold, the choicest silver, and the rarest rubies. (v. 11,19)
The man who does not seek Wisdom is seeking Folly, whether he acknowledges this fact or not. Being negligent in seeking Wisdom, he lets himself be led astray by his own foolishness and lack of discipline. (Pr. 5:23) Entangling himself until he is completely captive (v. 22), ruin and death become his only prospect. (v. 23 & 8:36)
Is there no hope for the fool? There is. There is always hope as long as the man is alive, and as long as there is a praying person. But choice is still involved, for God doesn’t force.
Will the foolish man listen? Will he stop and heed Wisdom’s call? (Pr. 9:6) –The call to forsake Folly and walk in the way of understanding? (same verse) He might. If the Lord, in His love, lays the man down in the dust, doing so that the man might take the time to feel his chains, acknowledge the grief he himself has generated, and become aware of the angel of death waiting nearby.
But, the answer still might be, “It’s no use. ‘We have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.’” (Isa. 28:15)