Some Thoughts Along the Way
Michael L. Ford, Th.D.
My daughter is a very pretty woman with long blond hair that flows to her hips. Needless to say, she often finds young men who want to make her acquaintance, even in places where she works. But twice she has been disappointed in romance, so the idea of eventually marrying and having a family is not something she dwells upon. In the place where she is currently employed the situation is no different. One of the most persistent of the current would be suitors is a young man by the name of Augustine.
On one occasion, when he once again had approached her about dating him she told Augustine that she had no intention of dating anyone. My daughter correctly considers dating as part of the ritual for considering potential marriage partners, not something you do casually like hanging out with friends. She told him that she was not going to date anyone until she heard God speak to her about someone clearly and distinctly. Augustine said "I can see it now. There is going to be thunder and lightning and God is going to say in a booming voice, 'And here's Augustine!'"
When my daughter told me about this event, we all had a laugh at the obvious good sense of humor this young man showed. But, in my usual tendency toward seeing and emphasizing the factual, I told my daughter to go back and tell him that I said God usually speaks in a still small voice. My daughter teased me then, but said she was going to tell the man what I said.
As I thought about what Augustine had said it occurred to me how often people miss the voice of God and the direction of God because of the fact He does not work according to their preconceived ideas. Ideas formed from watching religious movies like "The Ten Commandments" or listening to the superstitions of those around them. As we begin the New Year it is realistic that we should commit ourselves to listening and looking for the will and way of God in our lives. The greatest guide to accomplishing this is the Word of God not the opinions of men. It behooves us to know the Word and not rely upon men. Rather we should try the words of men by the Scripture before accept what they say. That requires knowledge born in study.
One of my brothers in law, Ralph Williams, called me last night to talk a bit about a matter connected with the Word of God. In the process he shared that he had been called to serve another church as pastor. He is now the pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church outside of Muscadine, Alabama. He had been giving them some assistance for quite awhile as they looked for a pastor. Then they seemed to realize that they had a faithful minister of the Gospel who cared for them already in their midst and asked him to lead them.
Not a few times I have teased Ralph about his movement between Methodist and Baptist churches over the years, but the truth is that I admire and respect him for his servant's heart, a mark of the true pastor. So many people these days are more concerned about packages that come with churches, it is refreshing to still be in the presence of men who are concerned with the needs of the people of God more than how they will be provided for.
I remember when the Lord really got hold of Ralph's life. He was transformed from being a man with periodic bursts of religiosity into a man whose thoughts seemed to be always consumed with the things of God. Ralph had a lot of things to overcome too. He had to face the shortcomings of his formal education; the problems that came with some of his family background, just to mention two. But he has faced those things and persevered.
Ralph and I do not get to be together much, but some of our times when we were working together to make barbecue and Brunswick stew the old fashioned way have made part of the precious memories of life. As we cooked ingredients together in an old black wash pot heated by oak wood and talked about things of both holy and common nature, Ralph mentioned some problems he had encountered. The impressive thing was that he had learned to praise God for both difficulty and triumph, a mark of maturity for any believer.
Right now Ralph is traveling 44 miles each way to get to the church he is serving. He is doing that without complaint as he
works on ways to get closer to the people in his little country church. His motivation is not the reward of man, but service to God and his fellow believer. I think the reward that waits for him in eternal realms will be great.
When I was in the military I was assigned to work as a war games controller on a number of occasions. On one occasion in particular I was pleased to be assigned under the supervision of Colonel Danner, a man who was one of the foremost authorities on Soviet tactics. Every opportunity to learn from his knowledge was a golden moment for me as a professional. Part of the group assigned to the Colonel included a couple of Captains who were graduates of West Point. On one occasion I heard one of the Captains bragging to the other about how he could fit in with anybody he was with and be just like them. He was particularly pleased with how he could "fool" people who were "religious." I told him there was a term for that, he was a man who could be a "heller with the hellers and a holy with the holies." This term seemed to please him. He did not realize it is usually used derogatively.
One thing that has impressed me is how many people when they are running for an office or wanting to get something out of Christians and Jews are very quick to pretend they are like them or identify with the issue they believe in. I remember when I was a boy, and one fellow from my home state ran for President, a man I knew who was politically active remarked, "We did not even know he was a Christian until he was running for President." It seemed funny at the time, but as I have gotten older it has seemed less funny and reminded me more of the passage of Scripture that reminds you of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
People might argue that Paul said he became all things to all people as a justification of such behavior. (1Corinthians 9: 19-23) They do this not understand the distinction between what Paul was doing and people such as I have mentioned are about. Paul is talking about identifying with people in the area of their weakness
so he can do them good by bringing them to the knowledge of Christ. His attitude was one of a servant. The people I have described are trying to fool people so they can use them for their own purposes. That is the attitude of a predator.
Many do not understand that the command not to take the Lord's Name in vain is violated when a person pretends to be a Christian and they are not. People who do such things are promised that they will not be held guiltless who do such things. I do not know what that means exactly in terms of penalty, but I shudder to think what the consequence might be in terms of eternal woes.
Love for Others
People often get confused about the Scriptural teaching concerning love. I think one of the most important parts of coming to some understanding concerning love comprehends what is meant by the statement "God is love." (1John 4:8) The statement teaches that love is not something that God possesses, it is not even the nature of God, but more, love is something that God is. Let us read the entire statement together:
"Beloved let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
This statement makes it plain that all love comes from God and we cannot really either know or express real love until we first know the source of love. Reading on in the passage draws an even clearer picture. People have wrote many songs and written many poems about the subject of love, even focusing on the love of God, and to this day no one has ever been able to do sufficient justice to the subject or even to come up to what the Scripture has to say about the matter.
I do like what C.S. Lewis had to say about the subject of the love for those closest to us: "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first
things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased." He showed a real grasp of one of the great truths of genuine love reflected in the relationship with God.
One thing I am convinced of after knowing the Lord in the free pardon of sin these many years. That is, having learned something of love through the working of the Holy Spirit in me, I shall never fathom the depths of God's love, at least in this world. And, I suspect that in the world to come when knowledge is perfected I will be more awed by His love than intellectually satisfied by some explanation of it. I think then my knees will bow, my hands will raise, and my lips only be able to utter "holy."
Love for your Mate
Looking at the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman, one thing seems very clear to me. That is God wanted man to understand how deeply important it was for him to have someone who was the perfect match to him so he would have a mate to share life with. "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (Genesis 2:20) The consistency of Scripture on the matter is reflected in the Levitical instruction against bestiality and homosexuality.
God made men and women in a perfect match in the beginning and nothing can improve on that. But not being able to improve upon it is not the same thing as cherishing it. It is possible to lose something that cannot be improved upon by not maintaining and working to develop understanding about how it works. When we cherish something we want to know all about it. I hate to use the example of an inanimate object, but in a sense marriage is like a fine work of art that brings us back over and over to explore every little facet of the picture. When we have a picture that draws us back again and again we find ourselves in the act of cherishing it.
Then there are the benefits of love within the match. Someone once said: "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength. Loving someone deeply gives you courage." This is what
a person brings to their mate and receives from their mate when they cherish the blessing gave man and woman in the creation. I remember once after my grandfather had his stroke and was paralyzed in one side of his body. One day grandmother was trying to move him and became imbalanced and fell over on him. There was the two of them in their seventies laughing like a couple of kids in the face of difficulty as their lives quickly moved toward its conclusion. The blessing of loving your mate.
We had a second phone line installed for a short while at our home and it soon became apparent someone was tapped into the line. Complaints to the phone company did no good. They would simply say, the test of the line showed a good circuit. Finally, I found out who was on my line when someone called for them and tells me who they are trying to get. So I went to their house to talk to them about the problem.
A scrawny man comes to the door, with prison style tattoos on his arms. I tell him why I have come, and because he looked familiar I asked him, "Don't I know you?" The man said to me, "I don't think so, I have never been in jail in Carroll County." His response told me where I have met him and the circumstances I knew him under. I had been in jails doing ministry in my county and others, but in Carroll, I had been a peace officer several years ago.
Thinking back on this incident and others like it, some words of our Lord Jesus Christ came to mind:
"O generation of Vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by the words thou shalt be condemned." (Matthew 12: 34-37)
It occurs to me that if God gives men insight to hear what
men say and know the truth even when they are lying, how much more can He ascertain in our words? God, who knows even the intents of the heart and motivations behind actions will not be fooled by role playing. If words spoken before other men can reveal things that were unintended how much more is clear when weighed in the scales of God's justice?
When I preach a Chapel service at the start of a new semester, I feel a deep concern to say something to the students that will encourage them for the labors that lie ahead. I admit to having favorite Scripture topics that I go to as the Spirit leads, though the delivery in one year might not be quite the same as in another.
Beginning the first Chapel of the Spring Semester of the seminary, I felt the impulse to use the favorite text found in 2Timothy 2: 1-5. "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou unto faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life: that he might please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully."
Occasionally when I preach this sermon I feel impressed to tell the student body of the particular circumstances that brought this Scripture from black print on white paper into words that touched the depths of my very soul. Some are no doubt impressed by the account, and it becomes meaningful for them, others well...
At the conclusion of the last sermon on the matter it came to my mind how much the work of the professors in our seminary extension center resemble the work of the pastor, who ministers to all, but is always looking for those faithful men and women he can make a special commitment to and see his ministry multiplied in them. An important goal in ministry is that we see our work in the Lord carried forward in others should the Lord wait yet a while before returning. 7.
"Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish." (Proverbs 12:1)
There is a difference between loving instruction and enduring instruction. Sometimes people endure instruction because they have to go through some period of instruction to gain an objective. For me much of the first twelve years of formal schooling was an endurance of instruction. It was necessary to gain the objective of a diploma that allowed me to get on with my life. There can be a lot of reasons for instruction becoming a matter of endurance. For instance my Latin teacher made the study onerous by her attitude, and English was difficult because of the way material was presented. (Some would say I have not yet quite grasped the English language.)
When I got into college and began to take various courses at technical schools my attitude changed and instruction became more a thing to love instead of endure. You see, suddenly I had a commitment to the things I was trying to learn. I enjoyed learning those things I was pursuing because of how I would put them to use. Many people have told me that their experience of college was a transforming one, so I find I am not alone in what I am speaking of. People find themselves loving the knowledge that they are acquiring because their use of that knowledge is becoming more directed.
A few years ago when we built on to the church half of the construction consisted of educational space. We had not even finished getting the new library going before I hung I sign over the entrance to that area that said, "No teacher has taught until the student has learned." A teacher can inspire people to learn and present material in such a way to make it interesting. But one thing the teacher cannot control is the motivation for learning, that is, the purpose the student intends to apply what they have learned to. This brings me to the final point.
Scripture says that the person who hates reproof is brutish, or animal like. Early in my seminary experience I was exposed to a Latin phrase that translated "apply yourself to the whole text; apply
the whole text to yourself." This brought the first application of knowledge down to its fundamental point, that the knowledge we gain be used to make us better people. When it comes to the Word of God, what we learn should be used to first make us more conformed to the image of Christ so that He is reflected in us. People can love instruction and love the knowledge they gain for the wrong reasons. They can learn things with no desire to apply it to their own lives and thus be better able to glorify God. This is why educated people can still be brutes.
In the time of my life I have learned some things simply by living and giving thought to what I have observed. For instance, one of the things that puzzled me as a teenager and young man was how some older people I knew expressed the fact they were tired with living? They would say they looked forward to going home to be with the Lord. The fact they longed for heaven did not affect me as much as them saying they were tired of living. When you questioned them, they would say things like the world has changed too much. I would hate to be a young person growing up in this day. It would be difficult to understand what in the time I knew was so onerous compared to the struggles of earlier times?
One of the things I have seen change in my own time is the attitude of people toward morality and ethics in elected officials. We have gone from a time when people's private conduct was considered an indicator of how they were in public dealings to a day when many people say that the private lives of people do not matter. A man can be unfaithful in his marriage, the most important relationship a man and woman can have together, and still be considered trustworthy for public service. A man can say he intentionally presents himself as being one kind of person in one part of the country and emphasizes something entirely different about himself in another and that is supposed to be okay. There seems to me to be something wrong in the way people think that is radically different from when I was young.
I know people do not consider God's opinion on the matter today. Most people do not even know that He has expressed one. One of the things about God's opinion is He is always right, so it is always good to consider what God says as a fundamental statement about how things work. And God said, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." (Proverbs 29:2) That means what people do in their private lives and in their public lives must both be considered before they are trusted with authority over other people's lives. Since what God says is always right it seems to me that a people who neglect to heed what God says on the matter will ultimately pay a price for their recklessness. I think this is true whether heedlessness is born of ignorance or wilfull disregard of what God has to say on the matter.
Evolution Time is Running Out
Recently I read that the State of Georgia was going to stop using the word evolution to describe evolution when they taught evolution in the public schools. Did you follow that? Confusing isn't it? Jimmy Carter, who describes himself as a scientist, though being intimately acquainted with his history and background, I do not know how he qualifies, got very upset over that. For once I agreed with him, because if you are going to teach a lie, you need to stick with the words you use for the lie or else people start catching on. Someone once said "If you repeat a lie long enough and loud enough people will begin to believe it." As a trained investigator I learned to look for changes in people's stories as a means to uncover the truth.
A real scientist, who does not believe in evolution, said "Time has become the carpet under which all of which evolution's problems are swept." Apparently a leading revolutionist agrees with him because he said "Time is...the hero of the plot...Given so much time, the impossible becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles." The problem is that the evidence the earth gives out is it is actually a very young place in terms of time. 10.
One of the things that interests me is diamonds. (They interest my wife more.) I remember the old Superman show where Superman repeats the diamond making formula: "If you put a piece of coal under million of tons of pressure for millions of years, you will produce a diamond." So Superman puts even more pressure on the lump of coal and does it in a minute without having to wait for millions of years. I am telling you this because that formula for making diamonds would mean that diamonds would be so old they would contain virtually no Carbon 14. Guess what? Plenty of Carbon 14 is in diamonds. So diamonds, reputed to be a girls best friend are not the evolutionists best friend even if the evolutionist is a woman. Once again we have come around to the point we are faced with an earth no older than the Bible describes it to be and time has run out for the evolutionist.
Spirit of Slumber
The Bible has a lot to say about sleep in both the Old and New Testaments. Sometimes what it has to say about sleep is in a positive sense and other times it is in the negative. Only a few times is it reciting a matter of fact. There is evidently a spirit of sleep or slumber but as far as I can discern it is only mentioned once in each of the Testaments, and the spirit of slumber is not something you want to be given.
This spirit is mentioned in Isaiah 29:10 and Romans 11:8 and it seems to be describing a kind of spiritual catalepsy. Isaiah said:
For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath cloased your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seer hath He covered. 11. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: 12. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as the people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is
taught by the precept of men: 14. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
When I read Paul within the context of the entire chapter of Romans 11, I have to think that this kind of spirit of sleep where the person is in an almost trancelike state and cannot respond is possible as a judgement within the church as well. It seems that the formula for that to happen is to spend enough time drawing near to God with the mouth, but being removed from God with the heart. This might explain what we see going on in the church today in many places.
Often I am asked what fornication is? People have a difficult time either grasping or accepting the actual definition, and it is a lot more simple apparently than what the meaning of what is, is. Fornication is any type of sexual activity outside of marriage. That would seem pretty simple wouldn't it? But apparently it is not.
People have asked me, "Do you mean if I have sex with my fiancee' I am committing fornication?" Yes, I do. "But we are going to get married." There is a lot of difference between going to and being. Intimate relationships are for after, not before. Do you have any idea how many more engagements are made than are consummated in marriage? One of the things I hear men say when they want to justify breaking up is, "Well she had sex with me, how can I know she will noy do it with someone else."
Others have asked me, "How are we to know whether we are compatible or not if we do not have sex, or at least intimacy before marriage?" The answer to that is that you are not compatible, so you do not have to worry about it. You become truly compatible through living years of commitment and dedication to one another within the bonds of marriage. People who have sex to see if they are meant for each other are either living a dirty lie of the devil, or they are indulging in some form of delusion in order to sin. 12.
Some people have told me they would never dream of having sex with someone outside of marriage, but they have to do something to break the sexual tension in their lives. No you don't. If you never start sexual tension, you do not have to break it. Sex is an addictive thing. It is supposed to be because it is part of the bond of marriage. Their has been songs made about sexual self gratifaction. Guess what. Those songs are promoting fornication. Any form of sex outside of marriage is fornication.
Why would the devil want human beings to be fornicators? To start with it disrupts God's plan for how people should live their lives honoring Him. Secondly, It interferes with God teaching men spiritual truths. And third, it is an addiction that sends people to hell.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind..." (1Corinthians 6:9)
Adultery is sexual sin committed within the framework of marriage. It occurs every time a person is sexually unfaithful to the person they are married to. Sexual unfaithfulness does not merely require coitus, though in recent times some people have tried to confuse that. A former President of the United States once admitted to having lusted after other women in his heart. He was admitting to spiritual adultery. Actually, that is where all forms of sin begin when they are conceived in the heart. (James 1:15)
Sexual sin is always a sin against the body of the person who commits it, but adultery is also a sin against the body of the person to whom someone is married. Because marriage is the tool where God teaches us about our relationship with Him, this sin is particularly distasteful. A Christian commits spiritual adultery against the Lord every time the choose sin over the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the bridegroom.
"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
What know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1Corinthians 6: 18-20)
If memory serves me correctly, that word did not exist before the nineteenth century. That does not mean the sin did not exist, but before then we called it by its proper and biblical word sodomy. That name was taken from the town of Sodom, one of the cities that God destroyed because of their sin of sodomy. Now the homosexuals or more properly sodomites want you to believe that the sin of Sodom was a lack of hospitality. To believe that you have to believe that somehow the meaning of the words "to know" in the Sodom account mean something different than they mean when they are used in the rest of the Bible. (Genesis chapter 19)
Like most sins, people who practice it wish that less was said about it in the Bible, because the less said the better, if you want to twist the Scripture to justify your error. Unfortunately for them the Bible does not stop with just the Sodom account. In the Levitical law the issue is addressed as well. "If a man also lie with
mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13) According to the sodomite/ homosexual the issue there was about righteousness. In other words what the Scripture really means is that if you want to be really righteous you should not do it too much. I guess they think God was kidding about the abomination and put them to death things. The only problem is that if this is the meaning of the whole teaching of those passages a person should also not uncover the nakedness of his son's wife too much, or lie with animals as with humans too much, or indulge in adultery too much. All of that is in the proscriptions of Levitical law as well.
There are some people who like to argue that all that stuff was Old Testament and does not count because we are under the New Testament. But then they have to face what is said in the New
Testament. They try to get away with that by saying "Well, most of what the New Testament has to say was conveyed by Paul and everybody knows he was a bigot. Why he even hated women." I would like to credit them with ignorance of the Scripture and Jewish custom as well, but I know they are making the arguments from the standpoint of trying to justify sin, so a term that appears in the Bible "willful ignorance" seems to apply to them. I have heard willful ignorance defined as "dumb on purpose" and that seems about right. As I lay in my bed thinking about writing about this subject a term that has been used politically popped into my head. The term is "useful idiots." I wondered why this occurred to me at first but then I began to think about the question of to whom would people who promote this kind of twisted theology be useful to? Finally out of the clear blue it became apparent to me. The one person people who would want to twist the clear teaching of Scripture would be most useful to is Satan himself.
Many years ago, when I was living in Germany, a friend was critical of another one of my friends. Nancy thought my friend Buck was not living up to what she thought he should now that he had professed Christ as his Savior. Since I also worked with Buck, I saw his performance on a daily, hour by hour basis. I told Nancy, I considered Buck to be a better Christian than myself by far. She asked me why? I said that he does more with what he knows about living the Christian life than I do with what I know. Sometimes we miss the point that we become obligated to apply to our lives all we learn about what it takes to be conformed to the image of Christ, not just some of it.
The performance of many churchmen has been especially grating in recent times, I must admit. But at the same time I have to also hasten to say, that in my entire Christian experience there has always been too many of those with egotism born of position or supposed education; there has always been those who should have known better with a readiness to compromise where they should have stood; there have always been those who should have known
how to behave themselves with a readiness to compromise their own walk in the Lord. The late Leonard Ravenhill once remarked that if God did not judge America for her sins, He would need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. God is not ever wrong, so I am confident that He will also condemn the modern Pharisees who took His Name in vain claiming to be His representatives and living contrary to His precepts.
The Word of God says, "...be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." (James 3:1) In my life I have come to realize that there are two kinds of mastery. One is born of position and/or education, the other is born through the claim of spiritual attainment or knowledge, both of which were commonly misused by the Pharisees both in biblical times and today. A more proper attitude is one of destitution, whatever I have is not my achievement or right. It is given of God to be used for the praise of His glory. "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation (the entire conduct of his life) his works with meekness and wisdom." (James 3:13) To understand this and pursue it, is to seek the humility so lacking among those who would be masters in Christendom today.
By the way, two and a half decades have passed since Nancy and I had that conversation about Buck. He has gone on to raise a family and pursue at least three separate careers in the world. I, on the other hand have pursued the course of Christian education and full time service. Now, at the end of the time, I consider my friend and myself and find he is still a better Christian than I am for the same reason he was so long ago. He still does more with what he knows than I do with what I know.
Recently, I was reading an article where a fellow in Australia was critical of others in his denomination. It seemed that he considered the people he held in contempt to be wrong in their understanding of the Scripture. What made them wrong, it seemed, was the fact that the people he thought so foolish believed the Scripture to mean exactly what it says. I thought about that for awhile and finally realized that what these people needed to do to have acceptable theology in his view was to wait until he made a pronouncement on what every verse of Scripture really meant.
This theology of waiting for the pronouncement of this one finite man seemed to me a slippery slope indeed. Were this man to die and go to face the infinite God, would He need him to weigh in on what He had really meant when He inspired holy men of old? And if he died without expressing the true meaning of every Scripture in the Bible, what would be the situation of those poor souls he left behind? They would have to muddle their way through life acknowledging they could not ever truly know what God had said because they could not take what God said literally.
Down through history we have had lots of men who condemned the people who believed the Bible was literally true, and who set themselves up as the authority of interpretation as well as judge of people so foolish as to believe God's Word to mean what it says. All the best cult deviations are founded in this type of setting up men as the final word, instead of God's Word as the final authority.
Recently I read a statement made by a man that really impressed me: He said, ‘I know of no finding in archaeology that’s properly confirmed which is in opposition to the Scriptures. The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has ever seen.’–Dr Clifford Wilson (formerly director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology), Institute for Creation Research, radio transcript no. 0279–1004. But wait a minute, this statement by another Australian cannot be possibly true according to the man I have been talking about. For Dr. Wilson's statement to be true and reliable you have to have a Bible that is literally true. But then, If
you are to have confidence in God's promises, including what He says about your salvation you have to have a Bible that is literally true.
For a number of years my thoughts have returned time and again to one passage of Scripture: "I bessech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) In all that time I have never learned all there is to know about the passage.
For instance, this plea of Paul comes in sequence and based on things he has revealed to us before he writes these words. In other words Paul tells us the surrender of ourselves as a living sacrifice is based on the things God has done and is able to do. It occurred to me this morning that our submission is not based on actual ownership. It is a plea for service based on God's performance and ability, not our own.
The way this came about was indirect but I think worth sharing. I was considering the growing infirmity of my own pet dog, Misaur. Recently the President of the United States had ended the life of his own pet for similar reasons. As I contemplated the increasing needs of my pet, the suffering she was experiencing, compared to my ability to give her the relief she needed, I thought how closely such a decision treads upon the prerogatives of God.
Then, my thought turned to how the government when it takes criminal action against someone for a crime that actually harms another person interjects itself into the equation. It becomes the State versus the person charged and not the person who was harmed against them. In effect the State is claiming ownership of the victim of the crime, and therefore ownership of the crime. In these cases it seems to me the State treads upon the prerogatives of God. Unlike the State, God never loses his contact with the individual.
As individuals our ownership of things, even ourselves, is limited. The State claims ultimate ownership of property and
people, but in reality any claim that the State can assert is limited to the survival of the State. God has ultimate claim to both property and person, and His claim is eternal. This means His claim transcends all others. The State demands and is limited. God beseeches and is eternal and yet His rights are greater than all others. His reaching out is based on His own mercies, not his omnipotent power. It has more to do with the way He exercises power than the fact He possesses power. For me this is awesome to think about.
Continuing to think about Romans 12:1, we have to consider what is meant by the term reasonable service. We are to present our lives a living sacrifice as a reasonable service after all. What can we find in life as an example of of this biblical concept of living service that is a normal part of that activity? Having asked the question, I propose the answer is found in that duty of the American Fighting Man. The first part of his creed says that because he is what he is, he is prepared to give his life in the defense of his country.
For most soldiers, the ultimate preparation makes everything less than dying, in terms of suffering and sacrifice possible along the way, just in order to get the mission done. Follow me on this. If we say we are prepared to give our lives a living sacrifice, it means that everything along the way, including death for the cause of Christ, is no more than what He has a right to expect of us. Soldiers and Christians who seek to live this way have something in common that we can learn.. That is it is sometimes harder to live for the cause than to die for it. I am not belittling the sacrifice of others. But I am recognizing that living the life is sometimes harder than dying for it.
One of the things that I have been following these last few days is a discussion on how it is some soldiers get medals for acts other soldiers consider just a part of the days work. It happens that some get decorated for what others would scarce give a second thought as possibly being above and beyond the call of duty.
The question was recently asked in such discussions about whether soldiers should be decorated for just doing our job? But when you understand the creed of the fighting man you understand that if he serves he can never do more than just what he is supposed to do. The Christian, if they do all, will likewise never do more than reasonable service. Reward then is more about grace and unmerited favor than it is about exceptional performance. If we do our very best, it is only reasonable service.
Some years ago I wrote about Nimrod, the man in the Bible who is known as a "mighty hunter before the Lord." (Genesis 10:9) It was probably Alexander Hislop, and his monumental work "The Two Babylons," that preserved for modern Bible students knowledge that this terminology probably referred to the fact Nimrod did not only hunt wild boars, but men as well.
We can see the difference in terminology between the reference to Nimrod and the reference to Esau, who was called a "cunning hunter, a man of the field." (Genesis 25:27) The fact that Esau simply had prowess as a hunter and preferred the life of the hunter is plain. Surely, there is something far different between what Nimrod was doing and what Esau was about.
Ernest Hemingway remarked upon the attitude of a person we might presume a Nimrod to be. He said: "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter." Hemingway clearly perceived the difference between the person who hunts men as part of the exercise and necessity of war and those who do so out of the pleasure of having the opportunity.
Some notable men in history have had occasion where they specifically targeted certain men as quarry out of necessity, not pleasure. Among them was Leonardo da Vinci, who from the walls of besieged Florence picked off enemy soldiers, with a rifle of his own design. Then there was Benvenuto Cellini. During the siege of Rome in 1527, he sniped the enemy commander, the Constable de Bourbon. These were the actions of necessity, not the lust to kill that we may adduce to Nimrod. 20.
Even in war, men should have no joy in the death of the wicked, because God has no joy in such deaths. During the Vietnam war there was a woman nicknamed "the Apache." She not only hunted and killed American soldiers, but is reputed to have tortured many of the Vietnamese people as well. From the attitude that this person was reputed to have concerning her "work" we may conclude that she had the spirit of a Nimrod. Even so, her own death by the same sword she lived by, while a necessity, was not a matter of pleasure. The years have continued to pass since that time but the Nimrod spirit of hunting men for pleasure has not passed away. It is as real and present as the fallen nature of man.
The Rule of Jesus
Listening to Pastor Joe Driver preach, something he said caught my attention. I had never heard it before, neither had I caught it in my own word studies of the Scripture. So I made a note of the matter and set it back for something to look into in the quiet of a mornings meditation. Pastor Driver states that the word rule in the Scripture “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of the shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6) relates to the guidance as of a shepherd. Initially, I was not skeptical but inquisitive, because I was thinking of certain Scripture in Isaiah and not Micah 5:2 “But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from overlasting.” You know what, the pastor was absolutely right.
My mind reverted to what the people neighboring Abraham, Lot, and Jacob used to call them. They were known as “shepherd kings.” To me this is like the previous history of the Hebrew people forms a type that is a picture of the benevolent rule of The Lord Jesus Christ as the shepherd of His people. One of the things that never ceases to thrill me is how such facts as this are to be found in the study of God’s revealing of Himself through how He has dealt with man in history.
Contemplation of the actions of the Almighty present a depth of thought that seems to be inexhaustible. I doubt that it is possible to explore all that God has done in the course of His dealing with men, or understand all the ways He has chosen to lay foundations for understanding in one lifetime. To each man who seeks after Him, He chooses to reveal Himself. I find this absolutely wonderful.
The anticipation of a day when the Lord Jesus will rule this world in pure fashion has been expectation of the Jewish people for generations. So many of them do not know that the Name of the Messiah they wait for is called Jesus, but the expectation is still real. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Relief from Stress
My Internet friend Don Gillespie sent me a quotation from Charles Spurgeon:
“The many tasks we face each day can burden and oppress,
But spending time with God each day can bring relief from stress.”
That is something I believe for even though time with the Lord has often brought me to tears, the solace of His Spirit has always been a balm to my soul.
It is easy to be much concerned with things that we have no control over, but Scripture teaches that we are not to be full of care about things in general. If we are not to be stressed out about things in general it seems likely things should not whelm us in particular. The question is how are we to accomplish this wonderful thing?
We seek to find that solution in all sorts of ways, but it seems that we so often neglect the obvious one. Since the Word teaches us not to be overwhelmed, we need to delve into the Word for the answer about how to have peace of mind. It only makes sense that the solution should be found in the same Book that tells us to not be stressed out.
The answer is to be found many times, but one of the clearest was written by an Apostle who was often stressed, the Apostle Peter: He wrote “Casting all your care upon Him for He
careth for you.” (1Peter 5:7) The Lord Jesus Christ, who Peter thought he might advise as a disciple, became the Lord of his life and the Captain of his fate. Peter learned to trust the Lord, and that is the conclusion we are brought to when we spend time with God giving Him the burdens of our days.
Many people fall by the wayside when they first begin to try to seek the Lord in prayer. They stumble in the act of sharing their problems with God because they hold onto them. The Bible tells us to cast cares and when we do that they are removed from us. That is the secret to being relieved of stress, the giving of concerns to God requires letting go by throwing them to Jesus for He is able to take and bear them even as He was able to take and bear our sins.
Submitting in Marriage
It seems to me that usually when people start talking about submission in marriage these days they are usually talking about sexual strife between partners or some way they want the person they married to serve them. While the various ways we need or desire the one we marry to be responsive to us are important, the Scripture says “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5: 21) I think that when we are conscious of God looking on, considering our submission to one another, it not only makes a difference in how willing we are to meet the needs of the person we marry, it also makes a difference on what we think it is important to put emphasis on in our marital relationships.
My wife and I got off to a difficult start when we married because two weeks after we tied the knot (I had only been back in the United States two weeks when we married) I left and did not return for ten months. So out of a courtship of eleven months and fifteen days we had been together about forty-five, and out of the first year of marriage we were together about fifty days. My wife had used the time I was away living with my parents, learning about me, and getting cooking and homemaking lessons. (She was the fifth daughter in a family where the mother worked outside the home.)
One of the things I think we had going for us when we did set up housekeeping was that we moved far enough away from home that we had to depend on each other. We found out that difficulty cements marriage better than when things are going smoothly if a person will allow it to be that way. When one of us got sick, for instance, the ignoble duty of holding that person’s head fell on the one who was well. I have known of some men who would not do such a thing, but few women draw back from exhibiting such care. It is too bad. Caring for a loved one when the goal is unselfishly giving of yourself to help under such circumstances seems to make people closer like nothing else.
Now that the nest is empty, we still find the dependence that comes with the adversity of age serves to cement relationship. For my own self, I count it a privilege and no burden to care for the wonderful woman I have had the privilege of calling wife. These years have passed all to quickly, and I consider the days with her to not be enough. In the intimacy of caring for one another when things are not going well we find the certainty of each others loving care affirmed. Submitting to one another takes some living, and thinking how God will measure the care we show for one another can affect both what we are willing to give and ask of one another.
A friend came by with a manuscript he had been working on. It chronicled the excesses of our day, unjust judges, the theft of freedom, the perversion of truth. His record of the categories of abuse seemed to be rather complete when the major ways mankind has been displaying his fallen nature is considered. The work reminded me of the words of the prophet: “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20) (A careful reading of the whole text is enlightening.) I believe there must be a soon coming accounting for the corruption of this generation.
I told my friend that I did not understand how some could still hold to the belief that the church was going to usher in some golden age before the Lord Jesus Christ returned to the earth. It requires a direct ignoring of the words of the Apostle Paul when he put on the prophet’s mantle and said “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3:13) He agreed and opined that he did not see how this world can get much more evil.
It was then I said that concentrating on the evil about us can first make a person sorrowful (I think that is the Holy Spirit grieving within) and then we can become depressed. He said that thinking about these things did not depress him because he took them as signs we are closer to the return of the Lord for His church. I agreed and said the right impact what we see around us should make is that we become all the more anxious to win souls while we may.
When I came into the house the other night my wife was watching an advertisement on television. You may have seen the one where the man is reading a letter telling about how “great” his satellite television is. We live in a society whose language has been abused by the use of superlatives. As a result everything we are exposed to is “earth shattering,” though the old globe is still holding together, or “sensational,” though the news missed making a headline in The Times. The result of all this is that when a real superlative of speech is called for no one seems to pay attention.
When I read in my Bible the words “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) I find myself reading a verse with a superlative in it that I want to know more about. The Greek word used in the original tongues, pronounced pan-tel-ace’, means full-ended or entire. Used as a noun the word signifies completion. In other words my Lord Jesus Christ, because of what He has done and the character of His eternal priesthood, is able to save you and me entirely. I am
very glad to discover that because I know that if my salvation depended in any part on the frailty of my flesh, I would be in trouble.
The full-ended idea really gets me excited. Because the Scripture also tells me He is able to keep that which was once committed to Him. The Great High Priest and Captain of my soul is going to hang on to me till the end. That sure is good news to me because not only the flesh, but also the human spirit is pretty weak when left on its own. I was once a mighty power lifter and the arm of flesh failed me, even so the spirit can be shown to be equally frail. It is a wonderful thing to know that the Lord Jesus Christ has made my salvation “full-ended” now that really is a cause for a superlative! It’s great!
My brother wrote here something for further thought:
With the abuse of superlatives in our language, is our regard for superlatives dumbed down to the point that many... or should I say most.... people now over look the correct use of the superlative and its meaning in the Bible? Could this be yet another ploy of the devil to reduce the emphasis on the Bible and get us to read right past the superlatives therefore missing the true meaning being conveyed?????
Seven Distinctions Between Law and Grace
1. There is a distinction between when each began and ended.
The principle of law as a system of works existed since Adam who was commanded not to eat of the tree. The Law of Moses began only with Moses and ended with the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. Grace came with the Lord Jesus Christ and ends with the departure of the Holy Spirit.
2. There is a distinction as to whom is addressed.
The Law of Moses was addressed and given to one people, Israel only. Grace is offered to all men, for all are under the same judicial sentence because of sin.
3. There is a distinction in respect to requirements.
Law was limited regarding who was subject and requirements had to be met before blessings could be received. Grace is directed
toward those who have been accepted by God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. The law is “do and be blessed.” Grace is “because you have been blessed do.”
4. There is a distinction in enablement.
The Law of Moses provided no means of obedience. Grace provides the means of living by faith through the giving of the Holy Spirit.
5. There is a distinction in the basis of law and the basis of grace.
The basis of the Law of Moses is a covenant of works.
The basis of grace is a covenant of grace. (unmerited favor)
6. There is a distinction in the purpose of each.
The purpose of Law was to show man his utter lack of merit before God and the impossibility of gaining merit based on his own strength. The purpose of grace is by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ all who are redeemed by faith in Him alone might live godly lives and be brought into glory.
7. There is a distinction in the result of the operation of Law and the operation of grace upon our lives..
The Law of Moses brought death, its letter kills. It is a ministration of death and a ministration of condemnation. Grace gives life, it is a ministration of Spirit, and a ministration of righteousness.
God’s Care in Circumstances
A few months ago a friend sent me a message of encouragement that included the statement “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." I was thinking about this again last night and the thought occurred “What if God did not bring you to it?” You see a great many of the things that happen in life are the result of our own willfulness and hardheadedness. Then there are other things that occur that are simply part of the results in living in a world that has fallen from God’s grace. Not only that we have an adversary called the Devil who will send every problem our way he can if we are faithful to call of Christ in our lives. None of these are things that we can say God has brought us to. But they are there in our lives just the same. I believe that God can bring us through those things just as He can bring us through things that are part of His leading and directing in our lives. 27.
Giving some thought to these different circumstances that are not part of God’s directing of our lives a number of Scripture came back to mind. The gist of the matter was that it seemed to me that for God to take us through those various situations a requirement of surrender and trust of the self is placed on the individual. Someone once said “life is 10% actual circumstances and 90% your attitude towards those circumstances,” but what I am talking about is a commitment of surrender and trust that continues after the circumstance that drove us to make the change took place. In other words, when the results of our own shortcomings, the difficulties of life, and/or the machinations of the Devil drive us to be more in relationship with God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, God can bring us through anything.
The words of the Apostle Paul “And to you who are troubled rest with us…” (2Thessalonians 1:7a) have been important to me since the first time I seriously studied and thought about them. The idea of resting or abiding in Christ has been important to me in facing problems no matter what their source ever since. Part of it is because of the awareness of God’s loving care and the other is because the passage continues toward the certainty that ultimately the Lord is going to make all things right.
I read a little piece that said:
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.
I liked the idea of this a lot except that I thought it should end with something that said some words like every moment learn to abide in the eternal God. Were I a better line writer, I might know how to say that within the tempo of the lines. But I think I said it within the will of God, which to my mind is better.
Getting to Church
When I broke my back the first time, I was laid up 89 days. The number was significant because the 90th day would have caused me to become decertified in my military field and my combat status would have been affected. I spent the first week of this time flat on my back in a hospital and the next 30 days I was on complete bedrest at home. During that time some preacher friends came in and stood for me in the little church I served as pastor. I had no choice about the matter. I was out of church.
The second time I broke my back I was making my living as a peace officer and the time out of church was the better part of a year. Except for trips to doctor and lawyer offices, my usual routine was being homebound with my journeys confined to the trips from the bed to the single chair I could sit in with any comfort. Both of these times in my life had something in common and that was how much I missed being in church.
In more recent times I broke my leg and tore some connecting tissues in my ankle. Compared to many of the injuries I had received in the military this was no big deal, just something to be endured and lived through. Little did I know at the outset how this unfortunate accident would affect my life. I had little idea that this one event would aggravate old injuries sometimes to the point I could not walk, and I had no clue that the thing would seem to drag on and on.
The thing I have missed in all of this is church. I used to feel rather impatient with people who said they could not get to church, but since these things began to happen I have become one of them. One of the things I have learned is not to be so quick to judge in the matter of church attendance. It is easy not to realize what a person is going through.
Something else has happened in my life as well. I have learned to appreciate more the depth of emotion in the words “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1) It has occurred to me that most who have the freedom to go to church when they will do not appreciate it enough. In a day when some are barred from the holy assembly by evil men or other cause church meetings should be cherished. 29.
When I lived in Germany, one of my Captains, who we will call John, was a very handsome man that was in love with himself. To go along with his ego was a selfish temper to match. He had a son that promised to be very much the image of his father with the exception that his temper would have less restraint upon it. This is a scenario that is played out in a lot of families and lives, but that particular relationship has always stuck with me as a good example of how to be a bad role model to a child.
John Wooden, a former UCLA basketball coach, once observed "Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good role models more than they need critics. It is one of a parent's greatest responsibilities and opportunities. Too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making living they forget to make a life." I think he had something there, but the more serious issue is when we neglect to be a proper role model because we allow the flaws of selfishness in our own character to continue unchecked the way Captain John did.
Scripture makes it plain that being a proper role model is not something we should consider as an option but as a command from God. People with a rebellious heart when faced with this fact love to argue that the teaching is primarily Old Testament and should not be considered to be required of people in the church age. They conveniently forget the passage, which speaks about these things being written for our admonition. (1Corinthians 10:11) There is another New Testament passage that uses the word admonition as well. It says something about bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10)
One thing is sure. The consequences in the life of the child when parents do not provide good role modeling is the same in this day and age as it was when either one of the two divisions of the Bible was being constructed by God. For lack of good role modeling, for lack of parents living consecrated lives children are often destroyed. The role of being a parent is the second most important role that a person undertakes. It ranks right after the role of being a marriage partner and just ahead of the role of witness.
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