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Showing posts with label Devotions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devotions. Show all posts

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Divine 'Yes' . . .


 No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness. Matthew Henry

2 Corinthians 1:20

Ask the average person what the word holiness means and chances are you'll get a blank stare. The truth is that the word means different things to different people. God, though, has only one thing in mind; that is, surrender. Not just any surrender will do, however. We must fall in love with God. I like to think of this as romancing the Divine. Although unlike erotic love, this love does not wax and wane with each phase of the moon.

Trouble is that some “Christians” treat God like a paramour, or as a series of on-again off-again trysts. Same lover, just different moods of intensity. Any commitment is therefore tentative depending on what they can get out of the relationship. We’re not talking about lukewarm Laodicea here—there’s nothing apathetic about the kind of love expressed by these casual lovers. It is either hot or cold. Occasionally they are all fired up, ready to tie the knot –let’s head for Vegas, an Elvis wedding will be just fine! On other occasions they’re just not quite sure—after all there are other options out there. This is not the only party in town. I just might shop around a bit.

And, of course, they do. Loving God is just one among other fun things to; and, after all, He is pretty demanding. Not sure I want to put up with the hassle, is the attitude.

Well, this is where the rub comes in. Holiness is a marriage; and like any good marriage the only condition is love. There are no other rules. And, love means surrender. Total surrender. We are not glances around for an escape hatch. There’s no turning back. We’re in it for the long haul.

Well, I suppose the next question in order is ‘What does that type of surrender look like?’ There is only one answer for that, and that is ‘We always say yes!’

E. Stanley Jones sees this as the logical response to the ‘Divine Yes.’ In other words, in the words of Scripture—

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Now, hold on for a second, this is not a verse to read casually; this is one that we must meditate on.

Think of it this way, God has demonstrated the fullness of His love to us in and through His Son. That ‘Yes’ was total and final. John 3:16 declares that. There is no greater love than this, or greater commitment, either. His final “I do” you might say, and as with any good marriage it has stood the test of time. Through thick and thin He has been there for us.

Now, the beautiful thing about God’s ‘I do’ is that absolutely nothing can or ever will separate us from that love. That’s His promise (Romans 8:39).

It does not matter how bad or unfaithful you are or have been He still loves you. But, as with any love relationship there must be a reciprocal response to make it work. You and I, too, must love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), too.

This love, speaking of the human side, is made plain when we totally commit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, realizing that since He knows what is best for us, He will always keep our best interest at heart because He love us! Fortunately, also, He has the wherewithal—the power to prove it, and the desire to make it happen.

This is made possible because of His great love for us; and when we surrender in love we are sanctifiedthat is, set aside in holiness, His holiness.

Now, may the Holy One of the true Israel bless you each step of the journey,


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Worry . . . a sure ticket to failure.

By faith I understand that change is just not in God’s nature—that, however, I cannot say about everything else around me. Therefore I can sing with confidence that—
My hope is built on nothing less
 Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
 I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
 But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
Why? Because I know that—

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,

And that—

 All other ground is sinking sand…

So, It is by faith that we stand firm, unchanging, yet ever pressing towards the final the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). What a contradiction, some would say. Yet that is not the case; because ultimately Jesus is that Rock that never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)

He is, of course, also the living Word, all else fades with time. The spoken word is but a shadow, elusive, at best a metaphor or perhaps a sign; and, as such, that word can only point to the real Word who never changes, and is always present—
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25).
Imagine, we not only have an ever present living faith, but also a Rock on which to anchor that faith. Somehow, however, we always seem to manage to forget that all the promises of that unchanging faith are “Yes” and “Amen” in Him (Corinthians 1:20). These are His solid, unchanging promises, among which is that we should not worry for instance about finances, and that we should—
Keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have, because God has said that He we will never leave us; nor will He ever forsake us (Hebrew 13:5).
Yet, we worry.
He promises us a new body, and demonstrated that He is fully capable of providing that when He arose from the grave.
Yet, we worry.
We fret and worry that we will be alone, particularly in old age; although Isaiah says He has promised that—
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you (Isaiah 46:4).
Yet, we worry.
Worry is fundamentally a faithless exercise. Not only is it that, it is also a lie. A lie that we tell ourselves. Jesus has assuredly says—
 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)
So, in light of these promises why should we lie to ourselves, and doubt His promises?
The journey is ours, yet we walk not alone. He walks alongside us each step of the way, and whispers at each step, “Do not worry … God will supply your every need, according to His riches in Glory.”


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"... the eleventh Commandment."


“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)


Imagine with me, it’s the night just before you are arrested for a capital crime that you did not commit, your last meal is set on the table before you. Got the picture? You look around, see the traitor that is going to betray you. Now, may I ask you, what would be the last thing on your mind at a time like that? Wash his feet? Come on, give me a break. That man is a piece of scum, a thief (of long standing), and now a snitch. Wash his dirty feet? Not on your life! The rascal deserves at least a good beating, certainly not a foot washing or to share a meal with him.

Yet, this is precisely what Jesus did, knowing all along what lay ahead.

Now, before we get too far in our story, let me pause for a moment to interject that although Jesus modeled what it is to be a servant that was not what motivated him. His motivation was love, pure and simple. To put it another way, because of who He was and is, there was no other alternative. It was his nature. In short, everything Christ did is an example, not that He is a purposeful showoff, demonstrating what a good fellow he is, but rather that because He is the essence of love, He could have done no other.

This nature stretches all the way back into eternity, spanning the course of history, and reaches into that same eternity past our last tomorrow.

This is not a dead nature, either. Acts fade. Love endures. Through thick and thin and all the in-betweens, love is persistently present. Always. It never fails. Even in the darkest hours, it never fails.

Now, what is so beautiful to me about this truth is that love always communicates. It is never silent. It never takes an “I’ll just stand by and see what happens” attitude. No, Love get involved.

This is one of the reasons that Jesus is called the logos, or Word. Not only does He speak, He acts. He communicates, always. Look at Jesus, and what do you see? Well, if you don’t see the Word, then you are looking at the wrong Jesus. Everything He did and does, tells you who He is; and, more importantly, who we are not without Him.

This is not just preacher talk, either. It’s a challenge. A challenge to look at the real Jesus and understand what He is all about, and how that affects you.

It does not matter how good you are, or think you are, when you look at Jesus you will always see room for self-improvement. Love does that to you. His love. Not some mamsy-pamsy sentiment, either; but the very essence of love.

It is for these reasons that Maundy Thursday must always precede Easter, not just in the life of Christ, but in ours also; because without love there would have been no Easter, no resurrection for Him or us, either.

Want a sure ticket to Heaven? Try love. It works every time.

Once again, I am with you on this journey; more importantly, however, Love walks alongside us.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

He is there, and He hears

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

God is not deaf. He hears our every sigh. As a matter of fact, God hears the silent language of a soul in distress. Nothing that affects you is inaudible to Him, for in these cases silence speaks louder than words. He hears. He cares. He understands. And, best of all, He will do something about it. That’s His promise, not mine. I nor anyone else, not even you closes friend can make that promise, and keep it, too.
Paul reminds us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26 NIV).”

So, when you get down and out, reaching up to touch bottom, just keep in mind He not only sees your feeble efforts to dig yourself out of whatever hole you find you are in, but He also on His own prays for you! Wow. Think of it. There is nothing more powerful, that I can think of, than to have God himself pray for you or me.

Now, I don’t want to be critical or disrespectful, but I do find it hard to understand that some Christians find it more appealing to have some saint, dead or alive, pray for them at the expense of allowing God to offer up our pain and sorry in the form of a Holy Ghost inspired prayer.

That should always be our first line of defense. Now, I am fully aware that some feel that some long deceased saint like Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, has a vested in with her son, and as the argument goes, “she has his ear” and He will listen to her. Implying of course that we don’t have that privilege.

I also understand that our Christian priority is (as the Common English Bible translates it) to:
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. (Ephesians 6:18 CEB)

I would have you to notice, however, that such prayers are conveyed in the Spirit—in other words, the Spirit is the mediator (the go-between) between us and God, the Father. Thus, it is plain to me that we have direct accesses to God through His Spirit.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

Now, the beautiful part of this process is that we all have that access. Not just some saint, dead or alive.  Nor do we shy back because we are unworthy. No, just the contrary. We press forward because we have been made worthy. God sees us for what we are going to be, not for what we are. By this I mean it is precisely who we are that makes us the unworthy recipient of His Grace. This is true because, as Paul reminds us “that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us’ and he offers this as proof of ‘God’s amazing love’ for us. (Romans 5:8 Phillips)

Yet, through it all, since we have been washed, made clean and exalted with Him to Heavenly places we can enter His presence with all confidence, knowing the He hears us, because—
He is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them. (Hebrews 7:5 GNT)
Now, what more can you ask for, or expect?

As always, I am with you on this journey,


P.S. Just got off Skype with a pastor friend in Pakistan. Please remember to pray for Pastor Asif Masih Samuel and the work in that spiritually hungry country. Please pray also for another friend of mine, Dr. Neil Chadwick, who will be travelling to visit this ministry in Pakistan at my request. Pray that God will not only protect him, but also give him wisdom and discretion as he evaluates the situation there. Pray also for his family during his absence. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Life has its ups and downs, its turnarounds . . .

Malachi 3:6 declares, “I am the Lord, I change not.” So with the poet we prayerfully say,

Change and decay in all around I see—
O thou who changest not, abide with me!
— Henry F. Lyte

Life has its ups and downs, its turnarounds—that's for sure! Jesus was a great optimist. Even with the whole world crumbling around him, His faith in the future never wavered. Think of it, with the cross casting a shadow of doom and doubt over his disciples he had the courage and foresight to turn to the dying thief and promise him paradise, and to entrust His own mother to John the Beloved for safekeeping. Yes, He knew there would be a tomorrow, and He was confident that His Father and ours would see Him through this terrible ordeal, and that He would rise yet on another day to live forevermore.

Life here on earth can be tough, but we needn't worry—it's passing. It's like a vapor, James says. And, for those in the know, there's a better day coming.

No, that's not morbid thinking, that's reality. Our only permanency now and in our tomorrows is God and the sooner we learn that the better. We may never know what a day will bring but we know who is in charge. It was with this confidence that Moses said to the children of Israel,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 3:16)

Friends, I must tell you that the longer I live the more see change and decay, the rise and fall of great men and women, the total futility of placing faith and hope in the transiency of anything this old world has to offer. So, you are fortunate enough to own the Clippers basketball franchise and cavort with whores then fain mental illness and sell the club for a cool 2 billion dollars, what good will that do in the long run?

I am reminded once again of the words in the first stanza of that great poem by C.T. Studd, the famous cricketer and missionary, which reads,

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Friends, we must focus on that. Let’s not be lured into complacency comforts of life or discouraged with the hardships.

As always, I am with you on the journey,

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Full of cliches or the Holy Spirit, which is it?

Personally, I am convinced that I could become a pretty good writer, if I didn’t let ego get in my way—maybe perhaps, even a pretty good preacher. Who know? The truth of the matter, however, is that I am not alone in this fault. My suspicions are that many of us are in the same boat.

Now, let me explain:

Far too often I am willing to sacrifice the real meat of truth on the altar of my ego by simply choosing a cute phrase to express a profound truth when something more prosaic is required. My prayer is that God will deliver me from cheap trivialities and convenient clichés. Preaching and writing is not hack journalism, reporting on the work of the Kingdom, but rather living it.

James writes, concerning prayer—but I think it also goes for preaching and writing:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much"(James 5: 16)

Not any man's prayer; not the prayer of a profane sinner, for God hears not sinners; nor hypocrites and formal professors: but the righteous man, who is justified by the righteousness of Christ, and has the truth of grace in him, and lives soberly and righteously.

"Effectual, fervent prayer"— not just any prayer but effectual, fervent prayer. That goes for preaching and writing as well.  Any hack can talk about the truth of the Gospel, but it takes a righteous man to convey its message.

May we be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only.’ May we not sell out our ministry to sensationalism or quick fixes—crowd drawing techniques.
Let us instead, like Paul,

Go in God’s strength not our own. Let us proclaim God’s purposes, not with brilliance of speech or intellect. Let it be our secret determination to concentrate entirely on Jesus Christ and the fact of his death upon the cross. Let us, like Paul preach as necessary in nervousness and even when sick and shaky. Let us preached not with the attractiveness of the clever mind, but rather demonstrate the power of the Spirit! For truly, it is plain that God’s purpose is not that any person’s faith should rest upon man’s cleverness but upon the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-8 Adapted & paraphrased)

What more can I say or desire?

I am yours for the journey,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sanctification: What are the standards?

In our enthusiasm to please God, we often reduce the process to a set of self induced standards [I am tempted to say, 'self inflicted' standards, but I shall resist that temptation] so it is imperative that we understand the true nature of what God is calling us to be. [Notice, I used the word 'be' as opposed to 'do'.] Standards are good and proper; however, any standard is only as good as the heart of a man or woman who practices them. Holiness, per se, alone will never convince the skeptic

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (John 7:33-23)
 Yet, Paul does give us a good rule of thumb in dealing with believers. He says,
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Romans 14:21) 

So, I gather two things here; firstly, an unbelieving and skeptical world is not impressed with our standards; whereas, on the other hand believers may be offended by them.

Now, as far as believers are concerned, culture is relevant isn't it?

With that in mind, I make the following observations: The German Assemblies of God as well as Italians take a different view than we do on certain standards we in the USA have. Spurgeon smoked as well as C. S. Lewis (2 of the greatest soul winners of their times, I must add); yet, I find the very thought nasty and repulsive. Shall I place my standards on them, and if I do are they Biblical standards. We can all agree that adultery, killing, stealing, and so-forth are proscribed in Scripture, but we must admit that there are some practices that fall in grey areas. Women who cut their hair was not sanctified when I was a boy (Assemblies of God); lipstick and rouge was a no-no, movie pictures (i.e., Hollywood films) and television were forbidden, and yet, I dare say that none of these practices ever produced true holiness. Holiness is first of all a commitment, and attitude, and is bathed in love: primarily a love of God and people. 

I think the Apostle Peter sums it up best when he admonishes us to:
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Please understand that I in no way condone the filth that comes out of Hollywood or appears on the screens of our televisions; nor do I feel that a Christian woman would even entertain the thought of looking like a go-go stripper, or flip their bunny tails in some restaurant. That is simply something that Christians don't do without ever having to be told not to do it.

On the other hand, a lady can rub her face raw removing any residue of makeup off, and still not produce holiness. God truly looks at the heart. 

The the big question is, if that is true, do these verses in 1 Peter 3:3-4 apply?

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

They certainly do!

Now, if that is true, pray tell me, you might say, in what way is it true?

Wealth is relative, but a Godly attitude is not. The Apostle is not talking about jewelry in this case, he is talking about pride and attitude of the heart. He is talking about not letting your Godliness be equated with how much you are worth, or how good or sexy you may look, he is talking about your attitude.

What he is saying is that your wealth or good looks do not count for a hill of beans in God's economy. Adorning one's heart is everything— no more and no lesswhen it comes to holiness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Holiness in action . . .

According to Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology sanctification is to set someone or something apart for the use intended by its designer. In our case by God in and through Jesus Christ: "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" ( Heb 10:10 ). Christ was qualified to sanctify because he himself had been sanctified through suffering (Heb 2:10-11). 

Jesus was sanctified from the moment of his conception ( Matt 1:18-20 ; Luke 1:35 ). He was rightly called the "Holy One of God" ( Mark 1:24 ), sanctified by the Father ( John 10:36 ). In his character, therefore, Jesus Christ was morally sanctified. Second, he was vocationally sanctified (set aside for a particular ministry). Christ was obedient to His call (John 5:19 John 5:30 John 5:36 ; 6:38 ; 8:28-29 ; 12:49 ). Thus, he sanctified himself by fulfilling his unique calling as the Messiah ( John 17:19 ), being declared the Son of God at his resurrection ( Rom 1:4 ). Jesus Christ, therefore, is the model human being for both moral and vocational (ministry) sanctification (Php 2:5-11 ). He accomplishes his purpose through time, and continually fulfills his sanctifying purpose as the forerunner is for us as  an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (Hebrews 6:20).

Now, the big question is, How do we live a sanctified life that continues in grace instead of a theology of works?

There is much in the New Testament that Paul does not teach completely. It was left up to James to “complete” or explain in greater detail that good deeds is a corollary that always accompanies abiding faith. In kindergarten terms, it is the show and tell of faith.

Our example is always the best proof of our inner convictions. [James 2:18]. This in essence is all that James is saying, When according to some he and Paul disagree theologically.

James knew Paul and was most probably was familiar with Paul’s epistles, so the reasonable conclusion is that James is simply expanding on Paul’s doctrine of grace and faith to counter a prevalent antinomianism [Acts 21: 17-28] among some who had misinterpreted Paul’s doctrine of grace and faith.

Personally, I therefore object to E. C. Barr that,
“Only unto Paul was committed the complete system or revelation of church doctrine. We term this division Paul’s unique gospel, those great church truths which Paul and Paul alone, reveals, proving that unto him was committed the complete revelation of church doctrine, thus it is "the gospel according to Paul."

That to me smacks of the kind of cultism to which Paul was most definitely opposed, when he wrote: 

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? [1 Corinthians 1:10-12]
For as he put it,

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 3: 11]

We can agree, however, with Dr. Barr that Paul’s admonition to Timothy is applicable:
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15).

Where we choose to disagree, however, is that rightly dividing the word of truth is left entirely in the hands Paul’s gospel; as if the gospel belonged exclusively to Paul.  How anyone could claim that the 12 Apostolic foundational stones were somehow placed there with Paul’s permission.

So, we reject to the exclusivism of Barr’s interpretation of what the gospel is in terms of the New Testament narratives. We believe in the plenary inspiration of all scripture, including New Testament theology as recorded by others as well as by Paul..

In the words of scripture,
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

Picking and choosing proof text for a particular doctrinal preference is not the way to go about doing theology. For sure, as Paul says,
"We are not under law, but under grace." [Romans 6:14]

Works are not an insignificant tag along that just happens to follow grace along on the trail faith. It seems to me that minimally faith requires assent which is a function of the will; however, a strict Calvinist, as appears that many of these Pauline cultists are, will not even concede that. Human assent is relegated to the sovereignty of God, as if God did not even give man the freedom to choose.

However, those that insist on a strict Calvinistic approach in understanding Paul’s doctrine of grace will adamantly oppose any and all suggestions that any effort—including ascent—as an act of libertarian free will on our part not only unnecessary, but also impossible, since for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13 NASV)

However, these same men conveniently overlook the prayer of blessing that the writer of Hebrews shares with us:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip[i] you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13: 20-21 NASV)

The same corollary applies to works. Not the works of the Law, as Paul so clearly proscribes; but rather the works of Him that sent Christ, who likewise in turn sends us. [John 20:21] In a word, good works follows faith; or faith is not faith. It may be mental ascent, belief, or perhaps hypocrisy, but it is not faith. So, we are treading on theologically thin ice, so to speak, when we insist that Paul’s theology of grace is in some way superior to James’ theology of works.

It is true that it appears that Paul taught that pure grace is not in any way contingent on works or law. However, pure grace does not expunge good works as a corollary of actualized faith. For sure the law was inadequate as a salvic principle, since no manner of good works will save us eschatologically. Only Omnipotence has made that possible through the substitutionary atonement of The Son of God—a man of good works, for us. So, it seems only reasonable to assume that since we are to be made in His image [Romans 8: 28-29] that we too should be men and women of good works. This to me indicates an obligation not a choice. It is part and parcel of our redemptive covenant.

So, no matter how hard the “free grace” theologians try to wiggle out of any responsibility that translates into works, it seems that scripturally and logically they are lock into a theological conundrum of inescapable proportions. 

Good “born again” Christians are men and women of works.

[i] 1 Thessalonians 3:10
BIB: πρόσωπον καὶ καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα
NAS: your face, and may complete what is lacking
KJV: and might perfect that which is lacking
INT: face and to supply the things lacking
Hebrews 13:21
BIB: καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς ἐν
NAS: equip you in every good thing
KJV: Make you perfect in every
INT: perfect you in

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love flies . . . catch it if you can!


"Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free and nothing can hold it back." — Thomas a Kempis

Dear friends, faithful prayer and financial partners,

As I grow older the more I realize that it's the simple things that mean so much:  

  • The smile of a child especially a grandbaby, or in my case 6 great-grandchildren.
  • The sound of your sweetheart's voice.
  • Good and successful children and their spouses who love God with all their hearts. 
  • A telephone call from a friend.
  • A thank you note.
  • The smell of a fresh rose picked from your very own flower garden.
  • The taste of a good home cooked meal.
  • The memories of a great childhood and wonderful parents.
  • Great brothers and sisters, and yes their spouses, too.
  • A high school football match.
  • A pastor who really digs into the Word and delivers it with passion.
  • Communion and fantastic music. 

And, of course, there is more: There is His great love. As the songwriter John W. Peterson wrote,
There will never be a sweeter story,Story of the Savior's love divine,Love that bro't Him from the realms of Glory,Just to save a sinful soul like mine.

Isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful, wonderful.
O isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful it is to me.

Boundless as the universe around me,
Reaching to the farthest soul away,
Saving, keeping love it was that found me,
That is why my heart can truly say;

Isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful, wonderful.
O isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful it is to me.

Love beyond our human comprehending,
Love of God in Christ how can it be?
This will be my theme and never ending,
Great redeeming love of Calvary.

Isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful, wonderful.
O isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful,
Wonderful it is to me.

Sing it with a thankful heart, and if you can't sing meditate on the words and they will feed a weary soul.

I am yours for the journey,
Jim R/~ 

P.S. You are a vital part of this ministry. So, please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia. I've sent my passport particulars to begin the visa process for Russia. At present, we have received some, but not nearly enough to pay the expenses. He is able. It is, however, His decision to use us and what little we have to fulfill His Great Commission.

* "Isn't the Love of Jesus Something Wonderful?" Words and Music by John W. Peterson © 1961, renewal 1989 by John W. Peterson Music Co. All rights reserved

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sloopy prayers . . .

Watching one of my grandsons—which one will remain a secret—practicing hitting a baseball and missing it each time until he grew frustrated and just started swinging sloppily at any ball that came within his line of vision and some that obviously were not perked my curiosity so I asked why? He said, "oh, I just can't hit the stupid ball so why try?"

We are like that at times when it comes to prayer. The problem is that often we get the order in reverse: we ask for stupid things and then get frustrated when God doesn't oblige us. Things like: "Dear, God, please make Mary Ann really like me 'cause she sure would make a pretty wife." Never mind, of course, that Mary Ann is a snob and might be pretty but she would never make a pretty wife. Her disposition would attend to that.

Believe it or not, once as a young man I was devastated that a pretty little thing dumped me for the star quarterback on the football team. I thought, "Man, he is not all that good looking and he is only about 5.2' and bowlegged at that!" But she wanted him bowlegs and all. Later on, I came to the conclusion that she was the lucky one, not him. She became a highschool drop-out and married a real loser her next time around. She glad didn't answer my prayers on that one. But not at the time. I was convinced that I knew best.

Well, the facts are, we don't usually know what is best for us. [Yes, I meant usually as in more often than not!] Usually, we pray with a hidden agenda. That agenda usually has a lot of God's no-no's on it too. Things like: "No, I don't want you rich because it will help you to forget me." Or things like: "No, Mr. Bright One, you didn't study so I am not going to help you on the test." Funny, but true. Right?

Then there are some who pray, using the advice of one wisecrack who said, "When a sincere complaint comes to mind, don't hesitate to give it." Which unfortunately we usually do.

This list of stupid prayers could go on and on.

Yours for the journey,

P.S. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia. 

Spiritual smugness

Spiritual smugness is a nuisance.

Sometimes, when I am around some “Holier-Than-Thou” Christian I think of the anecdote about the old Quaker’s wife who asked him who was going to make it to Heaven and he responded with:

“Well, me thinkest that shall be thee and me, and sometimes me wonders about thee.”

Aren’t you thankful that your salvation does not depend on someone else’s opinion?

Jesus prayed, “Father, sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth.” [John 17:17] So, very clearly, opinion unless it is based on God’s word is absolutely baseless because a foundation built on opinion with what Paul calls wood, hay, and straw will not stand the test of time or the fiery judgment of God. [1 Cor. 3:12-13]

Consequently, it really does not matter one iota what some super enlighten spiritual umpire says, unless our lives have been established in the truth of God’s word we toil in vain. Let us not forget, therefore, that someone else’s opinion is just that unless it is established in the truth of God’s word.

So, why do we labor so furiously to please and try to live up to another man’s standard?

However, before you answer that consider how The Message translates 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Here’s what it says,
“. . . Don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good.”

And what is the test of whether or not something is good and therefore truthful? Over and over again both Jesus and the Scriptures tell us that God’s word is truth. So, holiness or true spirituality must be verified or attested to by God’s word.

Thus, we can say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that unless God has said it then we are not obligated to practice it. True, some say, but what about those gray areas of Scripture, those that really don’t make it clear whether we should do this or do that?

I will answer that with a quote from St. Augustine, who once said,
“The greatest heresy is the lack of charity.”

So, once again as Paul reminds us let us,
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that we do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16: 13-14)

With that in mind, we do well to recall an old refrain repeated by Negro slaves during the Civil War that says,
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.[i]

Just keep in mind, it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of you as long as whatever you do is in love because in the final analysis God is the judge not they.

I am yours for the journey,

Jim R/~

P.S. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.

[i] Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Busybodies in the church . . .

“No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness.” — Matthew Henry

Yes, you read me right, I meant to say nags. Almost every church has one or two usually more of these busybodies lurking around in the shadows gossiping, nitpicking and faultfinding.

The music is never right; it's either too loud or too contemporary. Pastor's sermon is not up to par, either. It's either too long or just plain boring as far as they are concerned. Heaven forbid if Miss. Busy Body or Mr. Know-it-all should get the sniffles and not receive a call from the pastor or at least one of the staff members. Never mind that he is not clairvoyant or hasn't mastered the fine art of reading minds.

You get the picture.

These folks can get under a good pastor’s skin—that’s for sure. Well, the big question is, “What do we do about it?”

First of all, may I say that not to do something is the absolute opposite of what you should do as a pastor or leader of any sort. Confrontation in these cases is—believe it or not—not a dirty word. Hostility is. Resentment is.  I can think of a host of others also like bitterness, anger, hatred, cynicism, animosity, dislike—need I include more?

Incidentally, confrontation is precisely what the author of Hebrews prescribes when he writes,
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12)

Really? Yes, really.

Notice he prefixes his admonition with “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” Sitting by idly is not making any effort at all. Discussing the problem with every Tom, Dick and Harry, spreading your disgruntlement around may be an effort but certainly not one that will lead to either peace or holiness. Praying about it is a step in the right direction, but in the long run it is just that—a step, one step in the right direction; but most definitely not an end in and of itself. 

I am yours for the journey,
Jim R/~ 

P.S. You are a vital part of this ministry and in all honestly we could not—nor would we want to continue—without you. Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.