November 28, 2016
Jesus has warned us, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mt. 7:19) Jesus is talking about people and He includes those who proclaim the Word of God. (v. 15-23) It is about fruit. It is about what we produce, every day, and throughout our lives. And what we produce is about what we think, say, and do. It is what we display –in the sight of others, and especially in the sight of God. Let us not be deceived by false teachers, for God is indeed evaluating our fruit.
Is it about calling Jesus “Lord”? Jesus says that it is not (Mt. 7:21), and He warns us that many who think they will share in the Kingdom of Heaven will be turned away. (v. 21-23) Because they refused to walk righteously, the Lord will reject them. (v. 23 // John 5:29 & 15:1-10 // Heb. 10:26-31 // 1 John 2:3-6,29 // Rev. 21:7,8) Because their hearts were far from Him, even as they worshipped Him and honored Him with their words, their hypocrisy will be counted against them. (Mark 7:6-8) Because they kept sinning, even as they ate and drank with Jesus and listened to His teaching, and even as they desired Eternal Life, they will be rejected for their lack of effort to genuinely unite with Him. (Luke 13:23-27) Yes, Jesus has warned us that giving in to sin will send a person to Hell (Mt. 5:27-30), that every careless word will be judged concerning our acquittal or condemnation (12:36,37), that lack of attention toward others in need will reap for us eternal punishment (25:31-46), and that laziness and timidity in serving Christ will secure for us banishment to The Darkness. (v. 1-30)
We have been repeatedly and thoroughly warned and can read the warnings for ourselves in the Word of God. Therefore, when we stand before the Great Judge “to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13) for all the fruit we have ever produced, both good and bad (2 Cor. 5:10; see also Ec. 12:14 and Jer. 17:10 and Gal. 6:7,8), we will have no excuse. (Rom. 2:1-16 // Heb. 2:1-3 // Rev. 20:11-15)
November 26, 2016
Sometimes when we get really busy, our time with the Lord gets cut short, and if this continues very long, we who love Him feel sad. We miss Him and we worry that His patience with us may be running out. We may think that it’s not just the lack of quiet time with Him that is causing us to hear less from Him, but that He maybe is just not happy with us anymore. True, the busyness comes from things we must do –jobs, projects, circumstances, or people that have come into our lives that take up a lot of that time we were daily spending with Him and in His service. Yes, these other things we are doing are as unto Him also, and yes, they are things we feel He actually wants us to do, but yet, somehow, He doesn’t seem as close to us in spirit. It makes us sad.
What should we do? We should talk to our God about it. We should tell Him we love Him, miss Him, appreciate Him, know that all good things come from Him, and that we are trusting Him in everything. We should keep praising the Lord for who He is, that He has the power to bring about good, that He takes care of us and our loved ones, and that He has sovereign control over everything. Even in the busyness, we can do this –as we drive, clean house, or even in quick intervals while giving our attention to other people. And of course we should be continuing to pray, including for others and their needs, even if we haven’t had time to see them as much.
In Isa. 49:14 Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Sometimes we might feel the same. But what does the Lord say in response? He says He will never forget His children. (v. 15) “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.” (v. 16)
“But my cause is disregarded by You, Lord,” we may say, as did Israel. (See Isa. 40:27) “My concerns escape the notice of the LORD.” (See same verse) But the Lord answers comfortingly again, assuring us that “He gives strength to the weary” (v. 29) and that those who hope in Him will be renewed (v. 31) and not disappointed. (49:23c)
What wonderful promises! What blessed comfort! Truly the Lord is so good, so compassionate, and so faithful. He is always there for us. Just a whisper away. Even when we may think He is not, He is.
November 24, 2016
Our family had a lovely Thanksgiving today –we had a wonderful meal, played a board game, and hiked a long trail through the wooded hills amid perfect sun-shiny weather. There is much for us to be thankful for to the Lord. Much. Definitely. And I could list tons of them.
But one thing, tonight, that all of a sudden struck me that I should be, and am, thankful for is our home. I was standing in the kitchen and my eyes were “opened” to really see this home of ours. It’s cozy. It’s ours. The Lord has provided it for us. We’ve been here almost three years, and yes, I sometimes miss the ranch, but I love this place now, and it is way more than most people have. Even those who live in mansions may not have all that we have –peace of mind, decent health, all our family loving Jesus, and so much more.
I looked at the big refrigerator. Many in the world don’t have one. I looked at the plants, the floor, the sink. I thought of the fact that we have electricity and light that comes on with the flick of a switch and have plumbing and running water –things we didn’t always have while growing up, and which many in the world have never had. I looked at the toaster –it’s a luxury, though I think most Westerners forget that. And ovens? Luxuries also, and we have two at this house!
Well, I could go on, but those are some of the things I noticed in the space of a few seconds. I do thank the Lord daily for all sorts of things, but often I forget the more “mundane” things, things that to go without could be quite frustrating.
The Lord is good. His faithfulness and mercy never ceases. His kindness and His power can be seen everywhere. The blessings He gives us are too numerous to count. Should we not be exceedingly grateful? Should we not thank Him throughout each day? We should. Including for the gift of a home.
November 18, 2016
The protesting going on here in the U.S.A. concerning the outcome of our presidential election, I find to be both absurd and immature. Regardless of who each of us voted for, our voting system is an established, agreed-upon process, and one which has measures in place that secure fairness and honesty. Protests done before election day are reasonable, but to get out and protest now –well, what is it supposed to accomplish? Is it not action that says, “I didn’t get my way, and I demand that I do”? Is such behavior honorable?
Let’s also ask, does such behavior bring peace and stability to the country, or does it promote anger, unrest, fear, division, and other negatives? What then about those giving platform to the protesters? Are they not, in essence, saying, “It’s okay to be a sore loser, to vent one’s anger, to threaten anarchy, and to throw a temper tantrum as long as it’s ‘peaceful’.”–? Furthermore, why the airing of sobbing female millennials who claim they are terrified now for their well-being? How does this help our nation? It doesn’t. Any reasonable person knows it only adds fuel to the fire, stirring up more anxiety and anger while enticing the impressionable to also resort to the behavior of these touted as heroes or victims.
Typically I ignore political controversies. But ever since seeing, several days ago, on a national T.V. network, a particular sign of one of the protesters, I have felt significantly disturbed about the apparent worldview of those protesting our election result. The sign, to me, symbolized all that the liberal left stands for, and if I have to boil it down to two words, I’d say they stand for, promote, and cheer on –this: Deliberate ignorance.
There is a lot I could say about this deliberate ignorance that I believe many liberals possess –such as their “politically-correct” refusal to see such things as these: The foolishness of forcing the working class to provide for the slothful, that it is actually wisdom and justice that demand that immigrants may only enter this country legally, that race and sexual-orientation should give no one any extra privileges above anyone else, that tax-payers paying the tuitions of college students is neither just nor wise, that socialism is not better, that a record of peaceful citizenry gives that American the right to carry a gun, that being soft on terrorists only emboldens evil people, and that abortion is a violation of human rights at the most fundamental level and is, in fact, the murder of another human being. Yet liberals will chant, “It’s my body. It’s my choice.”
That was the sign that really disturbed me this week. –A young woman defiantly holding up her poster, “It’s my body. It’s my choice.” But is this true? Is a baby, just because his or her residence is still within a womb, not a separate human being? Everyone, except for those who are willfully, stubbornly, and purposefully naive, knows the answer to that. The unborn are not extensions of their mothers’ bodies, but are separate, individual humans growing within another body. Even science has confirmed this for years as undeniable fact. Yet this month’s political protesters allow, even encourage, deliberate ignorance to proudly march with them. Truly, this is when we know the core worldview of these protesters is far from reasonable.
While thinking about writing this post, I googled the words of the sign that so irritated me. Right away I came to this very excellent article: http://liveactionnews.org/where-the-my-body-my-choice-argument-fails/ It reminds us that the DNA of a baby is uniquely his or hers, and different from the parents’ DNA. It also says that scientists have pinpointed the exact moment that a new human is created and it happens with a flash of light when the sperm unites with the egg.
At the end of the article there is also a link to a music video sung by Matthew West in support of the unborn baby’s right to life. It’s beautiful. Here is that direct link: http://liveactionnews.org/music-video-untold-shows-a-mothers-courageous-choice-for-life/
I am saddened and annoyed and somewhat alarmed that we evidently have so many people in America, especially the majority of millennials, it seems, (or those who act like them), who cannot graciously and maturely accept opposition, defeat, or the obvious fact that they aren’t going to get their own way this time. They can’t seem to get over their self-centered disappointment so as to decide, along with the other half of the nation, to be hopeful and positive. Apparently they are ungrateful that the Supreme Court Justices who will now be chosen will undoubtably help steer the nation away from its rise in immorality, injustice, and foolishness. Why? Because their mantra, even though they would deny it, is, “I choose to be deliberately ignorant –ignorant of God’s laws, ignorant of what is wise, and ignorant of what is just.”
Yes, the “It’s my body. It’s my choice.” sign sums up the protesters worldview quite well.
November 8, 2016
“If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.” (Ezek. 33:5) This statement is made by the Sovereign LORD.
“We don’t save ourselves,” many church people insist. “Salvation is all God’s doing.”
Let’s tell them to read the verse again.
“But that’s Old Testament,” they reply.
Let’s read Acts 2:40 to them then: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those are the words of Peter who had just been filled with the Holy Spirit. (v. 4,17,33)
We do save ourselves. We do it by choosing to grab ahold of Christ Jesus, His pardon, and His Way, doing so through faith (trust and obedience) and by renouncing the false and sinful way. The ability to make this choice has already been granted to all people through the ransom Jesus paid with His blood. (1 Tim. 2:6 // 1 John 2:2) Christ’s death on the cross was the universal invitation of reconciliation God made to everyone (John 12:32 // 2 Cor. 5:18,19) and this Good News contains in itself God’s power for salvation for those who choose to believe. (John 3:14,15 // Rom. 1:16) Yes, Jesus is the Salvation. And yes, God provided the Way by which to be saved. But now, being that that is already a done deal, the choice is ours. Each person must step into the Salvation and thereafter walk the Way of salvation. The deliverance is offered and the power is available, but we must save ourselves by making the right choice.
What happens if someone procrastinates concerning the choice to step in under Christ’s blood through faith and repentance? Then that person has already made a choice –the choice to neglect the right option and so remain on the dark way. Such a person will be shut out from God’s presence forever. (2 Thes. 1:8,9)
What happens if someone chooses Christ but then, after a while, lags back from following Him? Then that person has made the choice, through neglect (which is actually a form of rebellion –Heb. 2:1-3 & 10:35-39), to forfeit their Secure Position. (Same verses // 2 Pe. 3:17) Such a person is cut off from unity with Christ, thus cut off from His love, falls back under God’s wrath, and like a rejected branch, is thrown to the fire. (John 15:6,9,10) This is why Jesus keeps emphasizing in this passage (v. 1-10) the importance of remaining in Him.
“No, this is wrong teaching,” many say. “For once we accept Christ, God sees us as righteous forever afterwards due to Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. In other words, our salvation is not determined by what we do but by what Jesus has already done for us.”
Are they correct? Not according to God’s Word, they aren’t.
The Sovereign LORD says in Ezek. 33:12, “The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys.” And again, “The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.” (Same verse) And once again, “If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it.” (v. 18) It is about what a person does –his or her actions– for God sums up this warning with, “I will judge each of you according to his own ways.” (v. 20) As He stated it to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jer. 17:10) Ps. 62:12, Pr. 24:12, and Ec. 12:14 warn of the same.
“This is all Old Testament,” the careless respond. “And we exist in the New Testament era.”
Let’s show them Rom. 2:6 where Paul quotes the Old Testament by saying, “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.'” Verse 7 states that it is those who persist in doing good who will receive eternal life, while those verses surrounding (v. 5-11) reveal that stubbornness in accepting the Truth incurs the opposite. Indeed, those who are disobedient to God by following the sinful nature instead of the Spirit will not inherit Christ’s Kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-11 // Gal. 5:19-21 // Eph. 5:5,6 // Col. 3:5-7) but will “suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)
“The word ‘die’ in Ezek. 33 is speaking about physical death, not spiritual or eternal death,” the skeptics say. “It is only rewards, not eternal life, that will be withheld from those Christians who sin.”
But they are wrong. Let’s remind them of Rom. 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is a contrast there of death and eternal life, and combined with the previous verse (v. 22), it is revealed that the person who keeps sinning receives eternal death as opposed to receiving eternal life. This, as well as that it is our own choice, is shown again in Rom. 8:13,14: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit YOU put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” There we see the contrast made of belonging to God as opposed to not, based on how we live and what we do. This is shown throughout the passage (v. 1-14), and is particularly clear in verse 9.
If we read 1 John we see numerous warnings about our actions –that, regardless of our claim, our actions prove who we belong to –God or Satan. 1 John 3:10 states this plainly while verse 24 reveals that being unified with Christ is contingent upon our obedience to His commands. Verses 3 & 4 of chapter 2 also say that obedience to Christ’s commands is the test of belonging to the Truth, and verse 6 says we must conduct ourselves as Jesus did. That is about behavior and lifestyle, not about imputed righteousness. Verse 29 of the same chapter says that “everyone who does what is right has been born of Him.” Verse 7 of chapter 3 says that “he who does what is right is righteous” and verse 8 says that “he who does what is sinful is of the devil.” This is all about doing (actions) and it corresponds to Jesus’ warning in John 5:29 where He says, “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
If we look at the warnings in Rev. ch. 2 & 3 which Jesus gave to the seven churches, we see that He spoke repeatedly about their deeds. In fact, it’s almost entirely about what they did or didn’t do. Overcoming is about action, remaining true to Christ’s name is about action, hard work and perseverance is about action, holding to or rejecting certain doctrines is about action, enduring hardship is about action, repenting (rejecting sin) is about action, being lukewarm is about action, and all these are mentioned in these two chapters. Jesus warns in Rev. 3:2, “I have not found your deeds complete”, in 2:10 that faithfulness even unto death is what reaps the crown of Life, and in 2:23, “I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Is this not clear New Testament confirmation –and from the lips of King Jesus– of what the Sovereign LORD previously said through Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John, and others?
Salvation does happen by our action of choosing it. God has already chosen to save everyone. But some won’t believe. Some won’t repent. Some won’t remain faithful. Can we cast our vote in the United States presidential election by simply believing we have the right and opportunity to do so? Of course not. We must take action. We must get to the voting booth and cast our ballot. Since all has been prepared for us, this actually comes about, for each one of us, by one thing: Our choice. Our choice to take action concerning it.
So let’s go back to what the Sovereign LORD says in Ezek. 33:5: “If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.” –Saved himself from eternal separation from God.
November 2, 2016
Jesus teaches in John 3:3-8 that unless a person is born from above, meaning “born of the Spirit” (v. 8 ), he or she cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the Promised Gift whom we receive from God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:5,14) and through our obedience to His teaching (John 8:31 // Acts 5:32 // 1 John 3:24); and this washing (Titus 3:5), this rebirth (2 Cor. 5:17), this union with the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17 // Gal. 2:20), is the born-from-above experience. It is a must for acquiring eternal life. (Rom. 8:9,14,16)
What is the reality of the person who is born of the Spirit? The reality is that we are led and controlled by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9,14), are increasingly growing in our understanding of how to conduct ourselves righteously so that we please God (v. 4,5,29), and are walking in the freedom from sin that produces the holiness that results in eternal life. (John 5:29 & 8:31-36 // Rom. 6:6,7,18,22 // 1 John 3:5-10)
Last Thursday while street-witnessing, I had as my back sign, “Jesus delivers those who apply His words”, and a man, quite perturbed about it, ran up from behind me. “No, no,” he said. “Jesus delivers everyone in the world.” I was walking with another man, a man from Chicago, but originally from Nigeria, and we were in a deep conversation about sin and God’s requirements. Even so, we turned around and, immediately trying to find common ground, I said, “Yes, Jesus has died for everyone’s sins –everyone in the whole world, just as 1 John 2:2 says.”
“Well then, why your sign?” the agitated man asked.
I explained that Jesus died to pay everyone’s sin penalty, but that many people reject this Truth, and that there are also those who say they accept it, but because they do not actually apply Jesus’ words of Truth and Freedom, they remain undelivered.
The man from Nigeria agreed with my explanation and tried to also reason with the upset man, who did calm down and acknowledged the sensibility of what we were saying. Being that yet another man came up and joined in the conversation, I let the latter two talk while I and the Nigerian man moved several feet away so that I could pray for him, which he had requested of me earlier.
“I’m just lost,” the Nigerian man said.
“Lost spiritually?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I know the Word of God but I’ve been running.” He looked almost panicked. He was a church-goer, he said, but he wanted to hang on to his pet sins. “What you told me about the guy you knew in high school,” he continued. “The one who was raised a Christian, who turned from Christ, who wouldn’t repent, and who was killed in a car wreck three nights ago… Well, I too, have been procrastinating, and I don’t want to anymore!”
I prayed with the man and we parted ways, though I told him I would continue to pray for his deliverance from all types of sin. At least he was convicted of the fact that his grip of sin equated to being spiritually lost. Many church-goers won’t admit this.
Speaking of being spiritually lost, earlier that day there had been a woman who had told me the same thing: “I’m lost.” She was sitting on a bench and I’d given her a tract and she asked if it was okay to speak to the dead. I told her that God considers that to be repulsive and I quoted Dt. 18:10-12 for her. I told her that dead people have no access to living people, but that an evil spirit could take advantage of someone’s effort to speak to the dead by impersonating the dead person and use it as a doorway to harass the person still living.
“Is there a loved one you’re missing?” I asked gently.
“My husband,” she answered.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. Then after a few moments, I asked, “How did he die?”
“He was murdered,” she replied. “Three months ago.”
My eyes got misty, even more so when she said she was lost. Lost with sadness, is what it seemed she was saying. Lost with not knowing what to do and who to turn to. I looked into her eyes and she did look lost, but she also had a faint glimmer of hope, a faint flicker of faith. I tried to encourage her and then prayed with her. I’m still praying for her…
I say all this to emphasize how critical it is that preachers and teachers, evangelists and everyone, make the Gospel more clear –that true faith means adhering to Jesus’ teaching (Luke 6:46-49), that this means applying / implementing it (same verses), which means obeying it (John 15:1-10), and that this is how we abide in Christ and live by His Spirit. (Same verses // Gal. 5:16) It needs to be clarified that, by the Spirit, believers can, and must, refuse to take back again the old self with its sinful nature, understanding that it has been crucified and circumcised off, along with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:24 // Col. 2:11 & 3:9,10) It must be taught that believers themselves can, and must, in order to be saved, make the choice to die daily to self (Luke 9:23-25), and to put to death, with the Spirit’s power, all acts from the sinful nature that try to arise. (Rom. 8:13 // Col. 3:1-8 // Ja. 1:21,22) It must be understood and proclaimed that this Way of living is the only Way that brings true deliverance and eternal salvation.
“The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.” (Gal. 3:22) But Jesus came to set us free from sin! (Rom. 7:24,25) This is the Gospel, the Good News! “He redeemed us… so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal. 3:14) –The Holy Spirit who trains us in Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26) and who gives us His divine power to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Pe. 1:3,4)
Being birthed by the Spirit to live a new and holy lifestyle so that eternal life is reaped, is what the Gospel invites, proclaims, and instructs about.