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Looking For….

What are you looking for?

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness,12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, which will cause the burning heavens to be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, be diligent to be found in peace, without defect and blameless in his sight.

~2nd Peter 3:10-14

 

I find the deep yearnings within me fail to produce meaningful words fit for describing the earnest expectation and unrestrained desire for the coming of Jesus Christ!

Let loose the joy of God within your heart that rises up from the holy of holies saying “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna in the Highest!  Oh Come Lord Jesus, Come!”

Brethren, put on the sober mind that is diligent to be found in peace with God without defect or blame, such a mind that does not quench the joy of the Lord, but enables it to run in pure love!

 

On Bible Translations

I really feel led to address a few things regarding Bible translations.

Now, I’m by no means a Biblical languages scholar.  I’ve only taken introductory courses to Greek and dabbled with continuing self education on the topic.  However, I have grappled with the various translation issues over time, and I’ve seen sincere Christians really struggle with legitimate questions that arise when looking into Biblical translation.

So I’m writing this from the perspective of a preacher and teacher of God’s Word that was born again while reading a translation that I no longer use as my primary translation, and has, in all matters, trusted the Holy Spirit alone to be my guide into all truth.

I’m not going to address the credibility of any specific translation on this post.  There are many wonderful resources on this topic that have been written by men far more qualified than I am, and I encourage you to take time to patiently study resources that address this topic on  your own.

My hope is that this post will serve to encourage your study and pursuit of God’s Word while posing a few challenging questions that I hope will be genuinely considered, and not dismissed outright.

IDOLATRY

There’s nothing better than just jumping right into a subject, so let’s just jump right into things!

What I’m going to say in my first observation may anger many of my beloved brethren upfront, but, I am writing these things specifically because I love you and am charged as a preacher of God’s word to declare His counsel to those that are running into error.

There are many brothers and sisters who are walking in compromised faith because they are placing their faith and trust in the scripture, counting themselves more righteous and enlightened than others because of the translation they use, rather than firmly committing their trust to Christ Himself.

Hold the stones for a moment please!

I’m not trying to diminish the inspiration, authority, or sufficiency of God’s Word, neither am I advocating that His word can be changed to suit culture, lifestyle, or preference.  Jesus Himself warns us in scripture about the result of looking to the scripture for life (John 5:39), and tells us that it is the scripture that testifies of Him! What I’m driving at here is a very fine point between looking to the scriptures itself for life, and looking to Jesus through the testimony of the scriptures.

Believing that you are more righteous, knowledgable, or spiritual because of the translation that you use is incredibly shaky ground to stand on, not because the scriptures are shaky, but because God did not appoint “translation work” to be the anchor of our soul.

As much as I am against using some contemporary translations that have strayed from sound Biblical interpretive methods, I am against boasting in a translation, and we can simply look at the fruits of this misplaced faith to see how vain it truly is.  Just look at how many congregations that take this stance regarding one translation or another and see how equally cold, equally calcified, equally dead graveyards they are as other congregations that use other various flawed translations.  One may have smoke machines and pastors wearing skin tight jeans with pierced noses, and the other may have heartless singing and pastors wearing suits with no love of Christ in their heart, but they are both equally dead!  They are both equally misplaced in their faith!  One was led astray because they received a counterfeit gospel because of their translation, and the other because they received a counterfeit faith through the traditions of men!

Please don’t blind yourself by thinking that I’m just speaking to the “KJV-only” crowd; almost every major translation has it’s own “only-er” following.  Academics tend towards the ASV or NASB., while I’ve met some charismatics who seem to think the “really spiritual people” use the ESV.  The problem exists with anyone who climbs on the pedestal of their version to look down on other Christians!

The fundamental mistake is that they forget that the LORD protects His word!

Yahweh’s words are flawless words, as silver refined in a clay furnace, purified seven times.  You will keep them, Yahweh.  You will preserve them from this generation forever.” ~Psalm 12:6-7 (WEB)

Shall we join the secessionists and say that God’s promise of protecting His word has ceased along with His promise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

This is a contentious error that needlessly divides the body, nourishes pride, and casts doubt on the faith of weaker brothers and sisters.

This is not much unlike the “Latin-Vulgate only” Catholic Church who sought to stop the translation of God’s word into the language of the day.  They believed they had the only inspired word of God and that the language could not be altered.

Likewise, I’ve heard brothers say that they believe their version of the Bible is perhaps more inspired than the Greek manuscripts that we have.

I believe the gospel has been preserved in many of our finest translations today. And let me encourage my brethren to repent of any engagement they may have had in this error.

TESTING ALL THINGS

Does this, however, necessitate that all translations today are genuine translations?  No, it most certainly does not, and they most certainly all are not!

What this does necessitate is that we “test all things, for not every spirit is from God” (1 John 4:1), and as faithful stewards who must study to show themselves approved of by God, able to rightly divide the word, we must test those translations that we trust.

I am writing this to you as a Christian that was born-again while reading a version of the Bible that I no longer use as my primary Bible; a version that I believe is stripped down by unnecessary simplification of words.  I then, almost immediately after being born again, moved to a word-for-word version for my primary translation for a couple years before moving to the NKJV.  Not only did the Holy Spirit enter my life, testifying that I am a Child of God, but He began producing fruit in my life.  It was the Seed of Christ that produced fruit in my life, not the translation that I used!  I continue to study under numerous translations that I trust (I have about 6 translations that I use).

If the ASV is the only inspired English translation, for example, then an English speaking person will only ever be born again and bear fruits when hearing the ASV.  It is impossible to be born again when hearing a false gospel that is not His Word (Romans 10:17).

MANIFOLD WISDOM

So, how can it be that I believe what I wrote above about the Word of God being infallible, inspired, authoritative, and complete, if I also believe that there are translations that are stripped down of revelation?

Due to the nature of language and translation, especially within the English language, which is extremely dynamic and quite extensive, it is possible to convey one genuine side of God’s word while coming short of the other side.

The wisdom of God is “many-sided” (Ephesians 3:10).  Now, many of you understood what I just said even though Ephesians 3:10 actually uses the word “manifold”.  In fact, many of you understand “many-sided” to be the definition of “manifold”.   However, that is not a complete definition of the word “manifold”.

According to my Greek Bible Dictionary, the word translated “manifold” in Ephesians 3:10 is “ποικίλος (poikilos)” and means “many colored” or “various”.  Being “many colored” adds the perspective of “hue”, “tone”, or “depth”, while “various” clearly adds variation into the mix of this word. “Many sided”, however, is a flatter word.

Understanding this word in context of a flat “many sided” form will not prevent you from understanding this passage.  But, understanding the word “manifold” in terms of being “many colored” and “various” provides a deeper, richer depth to understanding what the scripture is testifying of regarding the glory of God’s wisdom.

So, we may read a translation that gives us a glimpse of one side of God’s wisdom, while another translation will give us a glimpse of another side of the same wisdom, a wisdom that is fully inspired and without fault, but that is just one hue of the many colors of God’s wisdom.

In the same way we can read 1st Timothy 2:1 in different translations will actually add depth to our understanding:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.  ~NKJV (same nouns as ESV)

I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men.  ~WEB (same nouns as NIV)

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.  ~NASB

The word in question here is “δέησις (deēsis)- strong’s #1189a” which implies to entreat on behalf of a need and is translated in all these versions as “entreaties, petitions, prayer/prayers, and supplication”.

The differences between these words are subtle.  The American Oxford English Dictionary defines supplication as “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly“, entreaties as “an earnest or humble request“, and petitions as “a formal written request, or an appeal or request, esp. a solemn or humble one to a deity or a superior.”  In fact, taking these definitions together may help you gain a deeper insight into the function of Paul’s teaching to Timothy. 

APPROACHING TRANSLATIONS

There are, however, examples where a passage may be incorrectly translated, where a word that does not convey the meaning of what was written is used based on “interpretation” or “alteration” rather than translating meaning into the target language.

So, how would I advise a brother or sister to approach the many Bible translations?

Prayerfully.

I firmly believe that unless you are walking in the Spirit as you follow the voice of your Great Shepherd, regardless of translation, you will go astray.

How do I know this?  I know this because some of the first Christians who were listening to the apostles themselves in their native language were going astray!  They went astray, as Paul wrote, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3- WEB)

Approach Bible translations prayerfully and be diligent to follow up with prayerful, patient study of the translations you trust.  Compare new translations to sound translations like the KJV and the gospel of Jesus Christ that resides in you by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

I glory in the Lord every time I read a verse in a translation that I trust and receive deeper revelation as various colors of the original wisdom of God is revealed in greater and greater clarity.

CONCLUSION

Languages from different language families will not always have exact matches for every word in a different language.  English and Greek are from different families.  Even the KJV, a translation that I love and regard very highly, uses words that do not meet the depth of what was given to us in the Bible.

An example is from 1st Corinthians 13:13:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The greek word used here is “ἀγάπη (agapē)”, which is gloriously rich in depth and hue, but is translated into the archaic word “charity” which today means “ the voluntary giving of help, or kindness and tolerance in judging others” (Oxford English Dictionary) and which meant in its archaic form “In a general sense, love, benevolence, and good will” (Webster’s 1828 Online Dictionary).  Through years of diligent study, the archaic English word did begin to take on a more comprehensive understanding that began to conform to “agape”, however, that meaning has since been lost in our language and most people do not understand “charity” to be the equivalent of “agape”.

Let me conclude by encouraging you to be diligent in studying the scriptures prayerfully in order that you may look to Jesus Christ through the testimony of the scriptures, but do not look to the scriptures as an end in and of themselves!

What I am most confident in is the sufficiency of God’s grace to convey His word to those of right-faith in its fulness regardless of our circumstances.

I sincerely pray that this article has encouraged you to patiently study the Word of God with your faith placed squarely on God to guide you into all truth by the promised Holy Spirit.

May His grace, mercy, and peace abound towards you all, amen!

easter scene with crown of thorns, hammer and nails with blood on sand

THE HOLY BLOOD

When we ask for the blood of Jesus to cleanse our sins, do we know what we are asking for? Does asking for His blood break our hearts and humble us? Do we understand that we did this to Jesus? Can you hear your voice among the scoffers, crying “crucify Him”? Can you feel your feet running among the disciples as they abandoned Him? Does your voice ring out, “I DO NOT KNOW HIM!!!” with Peter’s? Do you feel the weight of men’s cloaks in your hands as you hold the cloaks of those who stoned our first brother, like the apostle Paul? Every time you let loose your wrath upon friends and family, do you hear the pounding of nails into His wrist? Every time you looked at a woman with lust, can you hear your voice demand “crucify Him!”?

Let us remember what it is we are asking for when we sing “nothing but the blood of Jesus” and pray for His forgiveness. The blood of Christ

This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” ~Leviticus 10:3

COMING TO THE LAMB OF GOD AS TO THE KING OF KINGS

It does matter how we come to God.  Jesus is God.  He is the Lamb of God.  He is the Son of God.  And He is God, as He “counted it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6).  The Lamb of God is the King of kings (Revelation 19:16).

During prayer I was humbled and terrified at the thought of how we ask God to wash us clean by the blood of the lamb with such little reverence of heart!

We sing, “Take me in to the holy of holies, take me in by the blood of the Lamb, take me in to the holy of holies, take the coal, touch my lips”, but have we thought about what we are asking Jesus to give us when we ask for His blood?

What would you do if someone asked for your blood?  And how much more unbelievable would it be if they asked for your blood as if they had a right to it?  Can you imagine a general standing before his men on the day before a great battle, facing insurmountable odds, asking them to give their all, and doing so as if preoccupied with the football score or whatever else casual events the day may hold?

Yet it may very well be that many of us do the very same thing to God when we ask for His blood!

So I hope that you will agree with me that it is a very good question to ask how we ought to come to the Lamb of God.  That is to say, with what kind of heart, and in what frame of mind, and in what manner of life, shall we come to the King of kings?

1st Peter 2:1-8, 11-12

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”  They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

I couldn’t bear to separate these scriptures any further by trimming them down.  Peter speaks volumes regarding the manner in which we ought to come to the Lamb of God.

We ought to come to Him as one chosen by God and precious.  As “chosen” because Jesus is not simply a nice suggestion from God, but He is the chosen instrument of mercy and grace for our salvation!  He is not just a teacher among teachers, He is the Teacher of God’s children!  He is not just a messiah among messiah’s, He is the Messiah foretold long ago by the prophets of old.

If Jesus is only “chosen by God” in our heads, and not in our hearts and eyes, then we are not really coming to Him as “chosen by God”.  Jesus must be “chosen by God” in our hearts and our eyes too.  He must be seen as chosen by God in our hearts to the point that not a single drop of our hope remains placed in anything else.

Self-righteousness and legalism, for example, results because Jesus remains “chosen by God” only in people’s minds, but not in their hearts and eyes.  They do not behold Him as the unique revelation of God’s love to mankind.  Their hearts to not desperately yearn for Him as One alone chosen by God.  They are content to “know” that He is chosen by God and then go on about their business with egos boosted by little acts of valor that they think make them righteous.

Doubt, also, results because Jesus remains “chosen by God” only in our minds, but not in our eyes.  The scripture says “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”, and so we ought to run this race with our eyes fixed on the One “chosen by God”, but we so often fail, and do not truly repent of taking our eyes off of Him.  Why do we so often fail?  I ask this with the uttermost broken heart of myself as I consider how many times I have failed because I did not set my eyes upon Him to behold Him as the only “chosen by God”.  What a wretched man am I that the glimmer and glint of this world’s vanity caught my eye for even a moment!

Resolve this moment to repent of these deeds, and the numberless others that come because we do not hold Christ as the One “chosen by God”, and ask God for the grace to walk anew, seek the mercy of God that you may not stumble, knock until the door is opened unto you!

When we doubt that Jesus can “uphold us so that we may never stumble” (Jude 24; 2 Peter 1:5-10), it is because we have not come to Jesus as the vessel “chosen by God” for our complete salvation!

But what about coming to the Lamb of God as precious?

The scripture says that “to those who believe” Jesus is precious.  We come to the Lamb of God as ἔντιμος (entimos), or precious, which means with “high regard” and “more distinguished”.  It is with reverence that those who believe in Him regard Him from the throne of their heart as more highly distinguished than all the world.  They come to Him as a man having found a treasure hidden in a field, they sell everything they have to obtain the field.  Beholding the Lamb of God, their gaze is wholly captured; in that moment, like the twinkling of an eye, as a man’s whole life flashes before his eye in the moment of a near death experience, they behold all the world and count it as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ!

We cannot come to Him as simply distinguished among other things venerated in our heart, but as more distinguished than all else in this world.  Coming to Jesus with low regard, that is, without reverence, is the cancer that has consumed the heart of worship in the Church today.  Whenever we come to Jesus in this fashion we can be sure that every other spiritual malady known to Satan will soon follow!

Lust and envy, for example, are the resulting conditions of the heart that occur when we do not come to Jesus as “precious”; they are plagues that ravish the soul when we do not come to Him as holy, revered, and highly distinguished above all else.  We lust after the pleasures of the flesh and the fancies of the eye because Jesus has not taken His rightful place in our hearts as most precious!  Other things in this world still hold our affections, and so we envy and lust after them, and soon Jesus is almost altogether forgotten in our hearts.  He becomes a Sunday ritual in one generation, and in the next, altogether forsaken.

Yes, there is no sin worse than “counting the blood of the covenant as common” (Hebrews 10:29).  Indeed, whoever has counted His blood as “common”, rather than precious, “will be thought worthy of greater condemnation” (see the same verse).

Therefore, if we come to the Lamb of God, let us come to Him as to the King of kings and Lord of lords, for He is our chief cornerstone, chosen by God and precious!  Let us come with reverence and desire, seeing Him as everything to us!

CONCLUSION

It would not be difficult to spend a great deal of time in consideration of “how we should come to the Lamb of God”; we could examine how our hearts respond to Him, how we behold Him, and how we think of Him (in some cases, whether we think of Him much at all).  Indeed, we could consider the state of our whole life before Him, and we would still have failed to scratch the surface of the great “awe” and “joy” that would await us in such a pursuit.  Washed by the BloodBut I believe coming to Him to ask for the cleansing blood of His covenant (1 John 1:5- 2:2) requires that we do this- not as a matter of merit, but as a matter of His Holiness!

Perhaps the reason why the heartbeat of so many Christians beats so low is because their heart is not yet taken with Him?  Perhaps their heart is not yet taken with Him because they have not yet come to the Lamb of God as Holy?

I invite you to take some time to enter into solitude and ask yourself this question: “is the blood of Jesus Holy Blood to me?”

parable-of-the-ten-virgins

The Issue of Homosexuality- Part 3

We’ve already taken a look at this issue in the past (Part 1 & Part 2), but I want to take a look at this issue from a more “street level” perspective, that is to say, what I believe Christians are going to be faced with individually in their lives on a day-to-day basis.

As I pray and consider this issue I have become convinced that this issue is one of the issues that will push Christians in America to a tipping point and force them to decide whether or not they are going to confess Christ, all of Christ, or be ashamed of Him, before men publicly; this issue will force Christians in the US to come out of the closet!

So I want to take a look at how the pressure is mounting at various levels:

PROFESSIONALLY

Christians are facing surprising pressure in the professional realm.

The homosexual community is levying a flood of lawsuits against Christians as they grow increasingly aggressive and intolerant of our deeply held faith.

The following is only a sample of the many examples we could draw from:

T-Shirt Company- in Kentucky, a Christian T-shirt publishing company is being sued after it refused to print T-Shirts for a local gay-rights organization.

Bed & Breakfasts- recently, two Bed and Breakfast establishments in Illinois have been filed against for refusing to host a homosexual union ceremony.

Florist- another lawsuit was filed in 2013 against a Christian florist who refused to decorate a commitment ceremony for a homosexual couple.

Photographer- a Christian photographer has lost another appeal in a lawsuit filed against her for refusing to photograph a homosexual ceremony.

Publishers- Bible publishers like Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are being sued for publishing translations that undermine homosexuality.

Many Christians are in a spiritual state of denial; they are shellshocked by the ferocity with which the homosexual agenda transformed from “we just want to get married” to “it should be illegal to hold your beliefs in public”.  Many said this would never happen, but it is happening in blitzkrieg proportions today.

Fundamentally the homosexual community is trying to force the Christian faith out of the public realm.

Christians who refuse to abandon their faith in God are being hit with very heavy lawsuits.  I heard a report on the radio a few days ago which reported one lawsuit that resulted in a Christian business owner being required to engage in “re-education” programs for his employees and submit monthly reports to the government for two years.

The trial: these reports are the first, not last, of the many reports that we will hear about as Christians must choose between the Dollar and God; will we confess the commandments of our beloved Christ and lose our livelihood, or will we be ashamed of Him on this point before men everywhere for the sake of our livelihood?

Expect and be prepared to face more of these trials in the years to come!

SOCIAL ISOLATION

The homosexual community is not worried about being perceived as aggressive, mean-spirited, or intolerant because they know that they already control the education system, the media, and the entertainment industry.

Christian views are met with hostility in popular media/culture and viewed as intolerant, hateful, and barbaric.  Our social isolation began when the education system started actively laying the foundation of tolerance, and began more poignant as our entertainment began to become more hostile towards God and His divine nature.

But this kind of thing has been told to us long ago:

1 Timothy 6:20

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to your trust, avoiding profane and empty discussions, and oppositions of what is falsely called science

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Satan is using profane and empty discussions, the elementary principles of this world, and what is falsely called science to deceive the world and isolate Christians from society.

By taking people’s hearts and mind captive with these deceptions, he is able to declare Christians an “anathema” in society and isolate us from people to the point that we are effectively cut off from any meaningful engagement.

Some Christians have responded by going radio silent on these issues, thinking they can avoid this dilemma by doing so, and are trying to keep their link to society.  As noble as the intent of this attempt is, we are coming to a boiling point in which society is going to demand that we first publicly renounce these issues before we connect with them.

My generation, especially, is prone to the foolish and empty discussions that Timothy was told not to engage in.  I remember one time while preaching on the bar-street in Fayetteville, AR, a drunk girl and her boyfriend approached me and began trying to misuse the Old Testament’s teaching about not wearing mixed fiber clothing as a reason to throw out the whole Bible and throw off all moral constraints and live free in debauchery.

We are now viewed as the “untouchables” in society if we confess Christ without shame- and, let us not forget, whoever does not confess His word does not confess Christ!

CHURCH PRESSURE

The Church has been experiencing tremendous pressure from the homosexual community to abandon our stance on God’s word for a long time.

Bible translations have received the most heat as new translations like the TNIV and The Message have given people an more palatable alternative.

Men like Matthew Vines have been aggressively trying to promote their lies within the Church for a long time.  They have tried every trick from attacking Biblical translations (as previously mentioned), challenging interpretive methods for understanding Biblical statements, to outright cultural dismissal of these scriptures.

I am thankful that all of this has resulted in a valiant response from Christian preachers at every level who are beginning to finally stand up and oppose these lies.

AT THE FAMILY LEVEL

Luke 12:53

They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Jesus foretold of a time when the world would be thoroughly divided at the family level because of Him; American’s always want to think that they are the exception to what Jesus says- it can be easy for us to enter His Kingdom and be rich, the world will not hate us for His name sake, being meek is not blessed, families will not be divided- but, regardless of American arrogance, the words of Jesus Christ hold true for all the world.  A time is coming, and is approaching us quickly, when your family will be divided by Christ.

This issue is not the only issue that will contribute to this division, however, in America, I believe it will be a major dividing factor.  It is already illegal in California for Christian parents to tell their children in Kindergarten that what they are learning in favor of homosexuality at school is wrong.  As children are indoctrinated specifically on this issue, parents who try to defend the soul of their child against deception will run risk of both civil punishment and family division!

Once again, my exhortation in this article is for Christians to begin preparing their hearts and strengthening their faith for these matters to come.

GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN

The term “government crackdown” has been totally foreign to Christians in the U.S. until now, but we’re seeing the government aggressively pass legislation that backs the homosexual agenda with government authority and cracks down on individuals and/or organizations that hold negative views of homosexuality.  I mentioned previously the radio report wherein the government is forcing Christians to undergo re-education programs and submit monthly reports for 2 years just because they oppose homosexuality.  This definitely doesn’t get reported on CNN or Foxnews, and it is almost unbelievable because it is so reminiscent of Nazi Germany, but yet it is happening right now in America!

We can find examples of evangelists being arrested for lawfully preaching in public, despite their careful measures to remain respectful.

It is, for some reason, already accepted that public school teachers have to abandon their faith when they enter the classroom, and those that do not comply, face severe disciplinary measures.

One of the common rejections I hear about this is that “these are just things that happen on the east and west coast”.  I believe that is an extremely willfully naive position to take.  You make choose to buy a piece of land out in the country somewhere in the middle of the Midwest and stick your head in the sand, but, these issues are very real and will make their way to your doorstep.

The generation that tried to hide from these issues is the generation that abandoned their children to them!

PHYSICAL PERSECUTION

The fruits of all these things as they mature can be nothing else than physical persecution of the Church.

It will come as the government withdraws its civil protection for those who keep and express their faith.  Currently, we still have many legal protections, though they are quickly waning, but, most Christians that have been actively watching these issues unfold agree that the final result of everything we are seeing can be nothing less than persecution of Christians.

When our legal rights are removed, you will see violence against street preachers, churches, and work place Christians erupt.

The government may or may not play and active role in persecuting Christians over this issue; it may be in mild forms like imprisonment, or it may be nonexistent.  But I believe this persecution will come when the government formally or informally removes the last remnants of civil protection backing Christian free speech rights and finally labels all anti-homosexual language as “hate-speech”.

CONCLUSION

I believe the crux of this matter for Christians boils down to a very simple point: have you strengthened your faith in Christ and counted the cost of following Him so that you are prepared to meet the challenges we will face as believers in this country when they arise?

We must remember Jesus’ parable of The Virgins; five trimmed their lamps, brought oil, and prepared themselves for the end times, while five slept and were unprepared.  When the midnight call came, they all arose, but the five foolish virgins that were unprepared asked the wise virgins for help, but found none.  No one can do your preparation for you.  My exhortation to prepare is not in regards to physical preparations of laying aside stores of supplies (which is foolish), but for spiritual preparations of strengthening your resolve, faith, knowledge, and being watchful in prayer.  These end times matters were told to us by Jesus, He said, so that we would not be made to stumble when they happen!

Let’s stand unashamed of the gospel- all of it- and proudly proclaim Jesus Christ regardless of the scoffing and mocking we may receive!

I hope my admonishment is clearly heard and understood; Christians in America prepare yourself.

The Mercy of Election- Part 2

The calling and election of God humbles us and calls us to take glory in the LORD.  I think we are robbed of great joy in the LORD when we get bogged down in heated arguments over men’s teachings; these arguments cease to become about gaining deeper revelation into the mystery of Christ that has been revealed to us and becomes a stumbling block that causes us to fail to truly peer into the mercy and glory of God’s true calling and election.

I am tired of useless wrangling over words and contentions that do not bear fruit unto godliness!  So, my goal in writing this is to escape that quagmire and come together to rejoice in the LORD as one body, giving glory to Him with all thanksgiving for the revelation He’s given about Himself and His ways through Christ!

Let me encourage you to read the first post that takes a close look at the mercy of God’s calling and election from 1st Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 22:1-14.

This post is going to be shorter and more simplistic in nature as we are going to be looking at the servants that God sends out to carry His invitation into the world.

THE PREACHER

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

~Romans 10: 14-17

There is something just so remarkably humbling about the calling of God; His calling is not the result of a grand campaign on our part to analyze local demographics, conduct extensive polling surveys, or develop perfect strategic mission focuses backed by grand fundraising, rather, the true calling of God is as simple as God revealing His will to His servant and sending Him out accordingly!  There is simply nothing more we can add to this.  God’s servant simply goes where He sends him and does what He sends him to do.

I am often asked by friends and family why I do not choose to preach in various other places instead of going back to China.  I believe this passage answers that question quite clearly: “how shall they preach unless they are sent?”  I can no more go somewhere to preach where I have not been sent than a fish could look for food in the Sahara!

The preacher is a servant whom God sends to bear a message; he hears God’s call and takes it to those whom God sends him to.  The preacher may exhort, prophesy, reprove, or teach, but in all these things he brings the word of God by which comes faith!  God sustains His servants and meets their needs so that “they who glory shall glory in the LORD”!

AN ADMONITION

Please allow me to deliver one short admonition to my fellow brothers and servants of Christ:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. ~James 3:1

My admonition is to make sure of your calling if you seek to become a teacher of God’s word.  A lot of people would have you believe that graduating from seminary is the equivalent of being called and sent to preach, but it is not; give earnest examination to diligently seek God and make certain your calling to preach and equally certain that you have been sent to preach.

There is great danger in self-assurance and pride.  It’s terribly dangerous to say to yourself that because you have been sent as a servant of God that you, therefore, you cannot stumble: remember king Saul who was anointed and chosen, but fell through disobedience, and the apostle Peter who stood condemned because of hypocrisy and cowardice (though he was restored).  Therefore the apostle Paul wrote that he was very diligent to examine himself, lest, after he had preached, he himself was disqualified.

Let us who are young remember how many preachers we have seen who bore genuinely good fruit (truly no bad tree can produce good fruit) but fell through the love of money, secret sin, and pride.

CONCLUSION

Before we get into some weightier matters regarding the calling and election of God I wanted to take a moment to draw our attention to the servants that God uses to deliver His Kingdom call into the world; it’s my belief that wherever these servants preach, the call of God has been delivered.

As a servant of God that has been sent to preach His Kingdom message, I wanted to talk to my fellow servants in this post and encourage you to put on a sober mind, not to be slack in examining yourself, nor lacking in circumspect observance of the day, knowing that we have an enemy that prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for those whom he may consume.

Next it is my intention to make some observations from Romans 9:11, 14-33 next, Lord willing, but I am taking this series slowly and prayerfully.  I hope you will join me in taking this series prayerfully as well, and I pray that we can come to unity of mind and rejoice together in the mercy and joy of the LORD!  Amen!

bible-Sunlight

What is Meditation?

Meditation is one of those words that gets all caught up in confusion.  Depending on your worldview, it may mean a variety of different things.  For instance, as the word has entered into its contemporary usage, it has taken on more of an eastern context that can be understood to mean “to become familiar with one’s self/Self”.  This is directly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and comes from the Tibetan word “Gom”, and is used to train the mind to be familiar with various states that are beneficial like concentration, compassion, etc.

Meditation is not unique to Buddhism.  It appears in Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Jewish Kabbalhaism.  Buddhists often call it “dhyāna”.

In fact, Oxford’s Dictionary of American English provides the following definition: “to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”  It gives the following synonyms: “contemplation, thought, thinking, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection, deliberation, rumination, brooding, reverie, brown study, concentration; prayer; formal cogitation.”

So, meditation runs a wide spectrum of meanings that range from deep contemplation of something to training the mind to enter various mental states, to becoming familiar with your core self/Self.

BEING SET APART

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” ~2nd Corinthians 6:17- 7:1

It can be very easy to get bogged down in a quagmire of bad understanding regarding the practice of meditation, but God has called us to come out from among the world and be separate.  He tells us to cleanse both our flesh and spirit from all filthiness and perfect holiness in the fear of God.

This doesn’t mean we ignore meditation altogether, rather, it means that we should purify our understanding of it from the errors of this world.

THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Psalm 119:9-16, and I think it is the perfect place to start for our topic:

9 How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. 12 Blessed are You, O Lord!  Teach me Your statutes. 13 With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” ~Psalms 119:9-16

The Psalmist asks the question “how can we cleanse our way”, just as we should be asking the same question today in light of 2nd Corinthians 7:1, and the Psalmist answers this question by turning to the word.  Literally.  And in so doing the Psalmist describes to us Christian meditation.

Christian meditation is not all “mental”, neither is it “abstract”.  The Psalmist answers with, “By taking heed according to Your word”.  The World English Bible translates this passage as “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word”, and the NASB says “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word.”  I think the apostle Peter summarized the depths of God’s word written to us here in Psalms when he was moved by the Spirit to write, “you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1st Peter 1:22-23).  The Christian (born again through the Word) takes God’s word in with their whole heart; it is the process by which the word is translated into purifying obedience deep into the soul!

Again, the Spirit moved upon Paul to write, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16), echoing what the Psalmist wrote when he said “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you”.

To put it another way, Christian meditation is a process by which we allow the word of Christ to flourish within us, moving through every crevice of our heart and mind, cleansing us of every impurity.  I think it is worth noting that it seems that it may be for a lack of true meditation that so many Christians today suffer from persistent addictions.

The Psalmist concludes this by revealing to us that it is in meditation that the Christian finds joy in the testimonies of God and delights in all His statutes!

The Christian that meditates often on the word of God has no need of synthesizing joy in his or her life because the joys of God’s word is already flourishing in his or her heart!  It is a result of meditation that we do not need to substitute entertainment for joy because we are filled with the substance and reality of God’s word.

In this way, Christian meditation centers on the Word of God and activates the heart to obedience in sincere love.  It activates all the senses, but not in vain, they are activated to the joy of the LORD!

IN THE BEGINNING

Meditation is not new or foreign to God’s people.

I was raised in a background that ignored the idea of “meditation” altogether, as were many of my peers, which is why I am not surprised that a counterfeit form of meditation is sweeping my generation.

63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening”~Genesis 24:63

Meditation was a practice that the forefathers of our faith made a point of practicing.  Isaac actually separated himself for the purpose of meditation.  The note that I would like to add here is that meditation is a lonely practice; lonely in the human sense, that is, but it is very full of fellowship with God in the Spirit.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.”~Joshua 1:8

God spoke to Joshua after Moses’ death and commanded him to meditate on His statutes day and night so that he would be faithful to do all that was commanded.  I cannot emphasize it enough that true meditation always purifies the soul in obedience.  This is one way in which the counterfeit meditation that we are witnessing in our time is differentiated; it does not purify the soul in obedience.  It alters the mind, changes our modes of consciousness, and purports to improve the health of the body, but it does not produce either obedience to, or joy in, the statutes of the LORD.

PLEASING TO GOD

“May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.” ~Psalm 104:34

Meditation is sweet to God, and it brings great joy in the Lord to the heart of those who practice it.  God delights in our fellowship with Him.

John writes “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1).  Meditation is our “sweet” fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word, and He Himself is pleased with right meditation.

Conversely, this implies that there is a kind of meditation with which He is not pleased.  A meditation that does not enter the sanctuary of the heart, I believe, is not pleasing to Him, just as the Psalmist writes,

meditate within your heart on your bed and be still” (Psalm 4:4),

and

let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD” (Psalm 19:14),

and again,

I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search” (Psalm 77:6).

The meditation that is sweet to the LORD is such that takes place in the heart and activates the spirit to make diligent search of the wonders of God!

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Christian meditation is clothed in the glorious songs of the night!  It is filled with wonder and mystery, but grounded firmly in the praise of truth!

Considering this, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say blessed is the man that has delighted himself in the meditations of God’s Word!  Just as the Psalmist wrote,

1Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” ~Psalm 1:1-2

MYSTERY OF THE  NIGHT WATCHES

“My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” ~Psalm 119:148

I am disappointed when I hear Christians speak as if there is no mystery in God!  To speak in such a way is to act as if God were finite and entirely definable, like the creation that He has made (which we still do not fully understand, though it is finite, and, therefore, by definition definable).  God is infinite, He has revealed Himself in comprehendible ways to human senses, but, He transcends those human senses entirely.

I believe Christians are sometimes afraid of the mystery of God because they have witnessed the abuses that truth has suffered when souls get lost in mystery, but I think this fear is ungrounded.

We have been given the manifold counsel of God’s covenant as an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:17-19), which is no longer veiled to us (v19).  If we will stay grounded in the counsel of God’s word, we will not go astray in mystery, as so many have before.

Neither, indeed, does this mystery necessitate that we abandon the senses of our mind and give ourselves over to emotionalism.  For, indeed, our very counsel is God’s word, and it activates our deep contemplation, but it is from this point that we stand in grand awe and wonder at the majesty and mystery of God!

And I believe this is the perspective that the Psalmist writes when He speaks of his meditation that keeps him awake into the night watches.  This kind of meditation is further distinguished from the world’s meditation by its characteristic of consciousness.  It is not “asleep” or “near asleep”, but it is very much awake, activated, and engaged in the wonder and awe of God’s word!

This kind of meditation into the night watches is not possible for someone that has confined their study of God’s word to academics alone.  The Psalmist wrote “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99).  His meditation had taken him to a point beyond that which academics alone is capable of carrying someone.  Those who have confined themselves to intellectual study of God’s word will soon become bored with this kind of meditation and will find their mind wandering to other various more engaging topics.

As well, if the depths of God’s word have not become your delight, then you will find your heart constantly wandering to your real joys.

FREE TO ALL GOOD THINGS

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” ~Philippians 4:8-9

The expectation of the New Testament regarding how we will handle the things that we have learned and received from the apostles is that we will meditate on them!

What was sweet to the LORD in the Old Testament is only that much sweeter to Him now because of the perfect work of Jesus Christ.  Our forefathers in the faith were much more limited in their ability to enter into sweet meditation because they were not filled with the Holy Spirit, justified and sanctified by the blood of Christ, and born again of the incorruptible Seed that was long ago foretold to Abraham.

But now, being children of all these things, and lacking in no blessing from God, we are free to enter into this wonderful fellowship with God in whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Ezekiel prophesied, saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  The statutes of God now dwell in you through the Holy Spirit so that you are freely able to meditate upon all these things.  There is no hindrance to you to prevent you from meditating upon all these good things.

Conversely, when we make ourselves to dwell on the bad things of this world, we apply our own hand to quenching what the Holy Spirit comes to bring to life in us.  The tragedy in our movies, TV shows, video games, and music, is that they bring things that are impure, untrue, unjust, deplorable, bad, vile, and dishonorable into our mind.  They seduce our hearts to delight in these things rather than the joys of God’s word.

CONCLUSION

If I had to choose the spiritual discipline that has been most neglected, I would choose Christian meditation.  And where Christians neglect spiritual discipline, Satan always acts swiftly to introduce a counterfeit spiritual indiscipline.  This seems to be why, as I mentioned, this generation is being swept with a meditation that is totally foreign to the Christian faith, and that does not produce the fruits that Christian meditation produces.

Contrary to the world’s meditation that declares “follow the dictates of your heart”, true Christian meditation follows the Holy Spirit in the counsel of the word, with joy, awe, and wonder for the mystery of God.  Many Christians have unwittingly been consumed by a counterfeit meditation that declares “follow the dictates of your heart”, but we should remember the counsel of God’s word that keeps us grounded in the truth and says “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” (Jeremiah 7:24)

This post is already long enough, so I was not able to look at the integral part that “prayer” plays in meditation, acting as a kind of conduit or catalyst for Christian meditation; indeed, reading early Christian writers and even the scripture itself, the word “pray” or “prayer” is often used in the same fashion as the word “meditate” or “meditation” is used in the passages we looked at above.  It is associated with joy and obedience, with the word, and with the desires of our heart.

But my hope is that this post will serve to bring your attention to a spiritual discipline that is so very central to a joyful Christian life!

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God be upon you all in sincere love, Amen!

Women & Order in the Church

This is a topic that I really believe is so critical for the church to deal with today.  I’ve had the privilege and challenge of preaching on this topic off and on over the last several years, but have had little occasion to write about this topic until now.  Let me encourage you all to post your comments and talk this topic out so we can come together as a body united in common faith.  And let me also encourage you not to allow personal opinion to get heated and create schisms in the body.  I know from first hand experience as I’ve taught through these things that this topic can get pretty heated, but it also does not have to.  So let me encourage us all never to forget our love for one another when working this issue out.

34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.  

~1st Corinthians 14:34-36

Two of the concerns that I’ve encountered the most regarding this scripture are:

1. This is cultural

2. This destroys women’s liberty and makes them nonparticipants

So let me first encourage my sisters out there by saying that God’s teachings never diminish our liberty in Christ, they always establish it.  When a Church understands and walks in God’s order, the liberty, fellowship, and joy is free to be experienced and functions as God intended it.  So my hope is that we won’t dismiss God’s order in the Church based on the fear that it may somehow diminish our liberty in Christ.  It is appropriate to remember that the liberty of Christ is free from sin and runs unhindered in righteousness (Romans 6:20), but the liberty of the devil is bound by sin unto disobedience (Romans 6:12).  As the children of God, therefore, we’re here to establish the liberty of Christ, not the liberty of the devil.

Now we come to the assertion that this is merely cultural.  I believe this is ungrounded because of the text itself.  I have always believed that the passages that are not given to us as commands are written as optional exhortations like 1st Corinthians 7:6.  The Holy Spirit knew the trials we would face and did not place stumbling blocks before our feet.  In both my own personal life and my experience ministering, I have noticed that most often it is our carnal ambitions that make it so hard to understand God’s Word because we are trying to fit our desires into His word (which doesn’t work).

JUST CULTURAL?

I want to address the idea that this teaching is just cultural first.

If something were cultural we would expect that the justification given for such a thing would appeal to cultural context.  For example, in China, wearing a green hat means that you are cheating on your wife with a mistress.  So, if I were to write instructions to a fellow missionary planning to come to China I would appeal to him saying that “it is disgraceful in China to wear a free hat because it suggests adultery”.  I certainly would not write and say “it is sinful and adulterous to wear a green hat”!

Now, let us take a wider look at this teaching and see what Paul says:

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.  36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.  39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order. 

~1st Corinthians 14:33-39

Paul appeals centrally to the law (v 36) and in a wider context to God’s order (v33).  The emphasis here is that these things are founded in a non-culturally influenced source to establish God’s order in the Church according to the commandments of the Lord.

This took time for me to wrestle with within my faith when I first began to be become aware of this teaching, but that is what I believe all matters of obedience boil down to for us: faith is what we are testing in these matters.  Can we trust God for what He tells us to do?  Unfortunately, Satan likes to mask doubt with intellectual enlightenment to make it seem more sophisticated, but, in the end, the fruit is the same: disobedience.

My wife and I have been kicked out onto the streets with nowhere to live for teaching this, and we’ve been looked down on and treated like barbarians for adhering to God’s word on this, but, we cannot let these things move us if we are to trust in God and follow His Son!  It must be only God that moves us, not cultural forces, nor the fires of trial and persecution.

Now, when Paul appeals to the law for this teaching, he looks to something that was not based in culture to establish this teaching (for the Law did not come from culture, it was from God and ran counter to the culture of the day that they would have been familiar with).  But, in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the matter is made very simple for us when he wrote “these teachings are the commandments of the Lord” (v37).

There have been many volumes written on the cultural context’s of Paul’s day, but I do not believe we need to look into the Corinthian culture to answer whether or not these teachings are cultural or commandments for the whole church; Paul answers it for us, “acknowledge that the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord”.

LIBERTY DIMINISHED OR ESTABLISHED?

Once an assembly is set in order they then begin to grow in the liberty that these commandments establish.  Ironically enough, the Church is not free to experience the liberty of Christ that these commandments establish until they have acknowledged them by faith and set themselves in order.  It is then that we begin to experience the liberty of Christ in these things!

To be honest my intent here is not to give you in one post what takes months of teaching and many more months of patient and loving followup care to establish and understand; my objective here is to get your attention and open your eyes to a teaching that we need in the Church, a teaching that many people in the Church, maybe even you yourself, are living in active and willing disobedience to.  I want you to see how urgent this is for the Church to see and address because I do truly believe that it is not anyone’s desire to live in disobedience to God, if they love Him.  So, in writing this, I am appealing to your love for God and to your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ as a child of God.

But there are a few things we can look at regarding the liberty of Christ that is established, not diminished, in these commandments.

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good thingsthat they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

~Titus 2:1-5

Again, Paul begins by appealing to those things which are “proper for sound doctrine”, and instructs women in the behavior and responsibilities they have as part of the body of Christ.  Among the many ways women minister in the Church is that they are called to be “teachers of good things”.

I have always found it ironic that one of the most common concerns about this teaching is that it makes women nonparticipants in the Church when, in reality, it establishes their participation with a very extensive and challenging ministry!  In fact, if you look at the Church today, these things that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to the care of women, to minister them expertly, are areas in which the Church is lacking the most!  We’re all familiar with the statistics that infidelity is skyrocketing in the Church, many newlywed girls often express frustration in knowing how to transition into their new life as a wife (and often have no role models to look to for support), they struggle in raising children, and we’re very aware that many of our children are falling away from the faith.  Indeed, we are in desperate need for women to teach the truth about being “chaste” in the Church today.  I see so many young girls in the Church that carry themselves sensually, and this is a disgrace!  I’ve also heard atheists mock the Church because of this.  Words fail to express the urgency of how desperately we need women to step up within the Church to take up the ministries that God has entrusted to them.

Far from being non-participatory, these commandments are more active than most women in the Church today are.

If I were allowed to speak openly for a moment, I would plead with my sisters not to let yourselves be shamed out of taking the courageous stand in the faith that will be required of you if you are to take up ministry in the Church today!

We could go on and look at how women also are called to pray, prophesy, and evangelize; they can care for the sick, minister with hospitality, and give glory to God in worship!  None of these things are in any way hindered by the commandments of the Lord.  But a bond of vanity has been put on women that covets power to focus themselves on taking the authority of pastoring and teaching the general assembly that has been given to men as heads of the body.  And that is where the unrighteous jealousy and envy has been planted in the body today.

CONCLUSION

I wasn’t even able to broach the vast revelation given to us in the Scriptures about the prophetic vision of Christ and the Church that married men and women have been entrusted with, or the unconditional love that is experienced when marriages embrace the order that God has established.  I wasn’t able to look into the great power to win over a man who is disobedient without even uttering a single word that women have been promised by God when they walk in proper conduct before God.  But I hope that we have been able to glimpse the urgency of this situation in which the Church finds itself in willing disobedience to God and how extensive the ministry women have been given truly is, a ministry which many women simply are not taking up!

I reiterate my encouragement that you may leave your comments below; I welcome the opportunity to talk these things out with you.  I know there are certainly plenty of questions that I might not be able to answer off the top of my head, but, I also know that the joy of walking in obedience to God is worth the challenge of sifting through the confusion and chaos that has been thrust upon the Church today by generations of willing disobedience.

May the grace and peace of Christ truly abound towards you all, amen!

shipwreck-pictures-Shipwreck-in-Stokksund

Faith that is Shipwrecked

Faith is like a vessel that carries us across the raging ocean; a good faith is able to be tested and tried without breaking, and, most importantly, stay the course. A ship that cannot get you to the destination you set out for is no ship you wish to board; likewise, there is a faith that appears to cut across the waves smoothly in the beginning of its journey, looking as though it will run strong and swift, but eventually becomes the ghostly graveyard of a shipwreck!

SHIPWRECKING THE FAITH

Hold faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away make a shipwreck concerning the faith.

~1 Timothy 1:19

Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth. But shun empty chatter, for it will go further in ungodliness, and those words will consume like gangrene, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who have erred concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past, and overthrowing the faith of some.

2 Timothy 2:15-18

The faith that suffers shipwreck and is overturned is the faith that strays from the truth and is consumed by ungodliness.

To cast away our confidence, trust, and true hope in Christ for anything else will always end in tragedy.  Those things, whether it be a more comfortable gospel that promises you a greater liberty (but is still a slave to corruption- 2 Peter 2:19), or the promise of fulfillment in the lusts of the flesh, always make shipwreck of the faith.  They are not the Ark of God’s Covenant that will safely carry us through to the end.

Often times we look at our friends and think they are making great progress in their faith.  We see them sailing on a faith that carries immorality as its cargo and think we, too, can burden our vessels of faith with such cargo.

However, we should heed the warning that Paul gave Timothy, who had seen the end of these men himself, and warned that the faith which is consumed by ungodliness is soon overturned!

NO HOPE FOR A SHIPWRECKED FAITH

There is a difference between someone that has gotten off-course in their faith and someone that is shipwrecked.  While there is great peril in going off course since all faiths that were shipwrecked began by going off course, it is always possible to repent and change course.

However, making shipwreck of the faith is final.  We often think we are a long way off from losing our faith while wandering in the wilderness of ungodliness, but it is impossible to see the “hidden reefs” (Jude 12, NASB or WEB) that often lie just below the surface of the raging sea.  They can come to you as an innocent friend who strikes the blow that causes you to fall away, or a severe trial that overwhelms you.

No one ever made shipwreck of the faith while staying the course.

But how can I say that making shipwreck of the faith is final?

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

~Hebrews 6:4–6

This is the frightful end of the faith that loves the world and has gone wandering off the course that has been set before us by Jesus Christ our Savior.

CONCLUSION

If you are wandering in your faith and carrying the weight of ungodliness as your cargo, then it is now time that you cast your cargo overboard and return to the straight and narrow path.  We know that God tells us the love of the world, the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life are all cargoes that He will not allow to enter His Kingdom.

As Paul told Timothy, give yourself to the Word of God, that you may be strengthened and return to the right course.

If you’re still on course, rejoice in Christ, and be diligent in keeping the watch that you do not stray from the course that is given by Jesus Christ our Lord!

May you abide in Christ, and He in you, Amen!

 

The Mercy of Election- Part 1

It is on my heart to address what God’s word teaches us about our “calling” and “election”.  These are words that we hear used most often in those believer battles that Christians sometimes get into between different sects, but, they are not words that we often hear taught from scripture.

So I feel compelled to take a closer look at these things.

Just to answer the inevitable question, “no, I am not a Calvinist”.  So, some of you might genuinely ask how I can believe in God’s calling and election.  And I believe the true and only acceptable answer to this is because God teaches us these doctrines in His word.  I don’t believe these things through the confusing words of men.

I want to make sure we are more vested in hearing the Word of God on this issue than we are from supporting or opposing men like Calvin or Arminius.

CHRIST THE POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD

Let us start with the very preaching of the gospel itself.

The gospel was not preached with words of human wisdom, or with persuasive words, but in the foolishness of the cross with power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever considered why God chose foolishness?

Simply accepting this question as valid means that we have already accepted that God sovereignly chose the means of salvation by Himself; we have no power to sway or alter His decision.  Salvation occurs exactly, and only, as He allows.

1st Corinthians 1:18-31

God does tell us why He chose to call us in man’s foolishness rather than in man’s wisdom.  I add the phrase “man’s foolishness” to emphasize that it is only foolish to the carnal mind, and I say “man’s wisdom”, because it is only wise to arrogant men.  I hope that we will not forget this contrast in scripture, lest we be tempted to think wisely in man’s ways and become fools towards God!  Indeed, I would much rather become foolish towards men that I might become wise towards God!

Therefore,

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the lowly things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no flesh should glory in His presence!  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, ‘he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

I’ve noticed that verse 26 is very often left out when preaching the calling and election of God.  Perhaps some preachers today in the West find it convenient to leave that verse out, perhaps verse 26 would carry too high a price to preach in today’s wealth-centric world, but verse 26 is very much a part of the calling of God; He did not chose many who were wise in the flesh, or strong, or of high reputation, but chose the weak and lowly things to humble these!

But here arises an inconsistency in the preaching of many who preaching the doctrines of God’s calling and election: they seem to think that God has changed His method and is now calling many who are wise, strong, and high!

The purpose of God’s calling is quite clear: “let him who glories, glory in the LORD”.

To hear the calling of God is likewise to hear the call to humble yourself, just as Christ did, and make yourself of no reputation, becoming a lowly servant and obeying all that you hear and receive of God.

Another important note found in this text and its surrounding context is that the calling of God flows directly out of the preaching of the gospel; in other words, the preaching of the gospel is interwoven with the calling of God.

JESUS & THE WEDDING FEAST

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

~Matthew 22:1-14

I love how full this parable is of many wonderful things to feast on! But, for the time being, let’s look closely at the call of God and the servants who bring the call.

Jesus tells us a few things:

  • God’s invitation is carried by His servants: the servants of God did not bring their own invitation, nor do they deliver God’s invitation to whomever they want, but they carry God’s invitation to those that He has chosen.

Paul wrote, “And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)  Preachers cannot carry this invitation unless they are sent.  Even as much as this may make some men angry, unless you have been sent by God as a preacher of the gospel, you cannot preach!

  • The invitation that God sends out is often mocked and rejected: the servants are arrested, abused, and put to death.  But God persists in sending out His servants to preach the gospel to the far reaches of the world.

Here we see that the call comes to both the good and the bad. And the calling of God is often rejected.  Many who reject it will go about their business, others will ridicule and even kill the very servants that God sent to them.

  • After the calling of God comes the election of God.  God does not elect all who are called, but sent His armies to deliver wrath upon those who were not worthy to come to the wedding feast.

Election (Greek “eklégomai“) means to “choose out of”; the election of God is His choosing out from among those whom He called.  It is very clear in this passage that not all who are called are chosen.

This should be very sobering to us because a lot of Christians today believe that because they have been called and have the calling of God upon them, that they are likewise chosen.  But this parable tells us of a man who was speechless when examined by God!  He was not found suitable for the wedding feast, and, therefore, He was cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I think it is with this knowledge in mind that Peter wrote “brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2nd Peter 1:10); we need to know that God is looking for those who are clothed in white raiments, and we need to ensure that we come to the wedding feast dressed appropriately!

Let us be duly warned and not become puffed up with intellectual arguments, as many have done on this subject, and so forget to humble ourselves before God, thinking that we have become rich and strong when we are really miserable, poor, blind, and naked!

Therefore, don’t become haughty in the very thing intended to humble you!  Make certain that you have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and do not presume to be fit for the wedding feast while still clothed in this world.  Remember Paul’s exhortation:

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.  ~Romans 13:14

Conclusion

The calling of God is His invitation that He sends into the world by His servants.  It can be rejected, and it can be accepted in vain by those who are unprepared.  The calling of God does not equal the election of God, but we are exhorted by the apostle Peter to “make certain” both our “calling and election” of God.  And, perhaps most importantly, the calling and election of God humbles us so that now “he who glories shall glory in the LORD”!  This is the great and wonderful act of mercy that we should glory in the glory of the LORD!

In the next post I want to take a closer look at Romans 10: 14-17.

isaiah-40-31

Faith that Overcomes

There is a faith that withers under the burning heat of trial, and there is a faith that stands in the fiery furnace and overcomes the world. It is sufficient for every trial and is refined like precious gold in fire.

Faith that overcomes is the kind of faith that has counted the cost of following Christ, and answered that to gain the whole world is rubbish when compared to knowing Jesus Christ!

A FAITH THAT CARRIES THE CROSS

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. ~Luke 9:23-26

There is a kind of faith that picks up the cross every day; it shines like a bright light into the darkness.

Although it may be admired by some from afar, the closer people get to someone that has this kind of faith the more uncomfortable they become.

Any faith that is unwilling or unable to pick up the cross daily and follow Jesus is a faith that will not endure unto the end.

Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, perfected that faith upon the cross and proved it when He rose again and ascended into Heaven!

A FAITH THAT REJOICES IN CHRIST

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh

However, I consider those things that were gain to me as a loss for Christ. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

~Php 3:2-3, 7–12 (World English Bible)

The faith that overcomes this world has fixated its eyes on Christ and rejoices continually in Him because it has something to rejoice about.  It can truly say that it has surveyed the One who hung upon the cross and now sees the gain of all that the world has to be nothing but refuse!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

~James 1:2-4

Beloved, don’t be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you, to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you. But because you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed; because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified.

~1 Peter 4:12-14

Jesus blessed those who were persecuted, reviled, and hated for His sake, giving them the Kingdom of God- the faith that overcomes has peered into the Kingdom of God and saw a great treasure that eclipses all the vain things the kingdoms of this world have to offer.

To the faith that overcomes, even fellowship with Christ that comes through suffering is more desirable than all the comforts and joys of this vain world!

This faith will seem very strange to the world, even reckless, as they observe that we rejoice even in suffering because of the fellowship we have with Christ.  Therefore, the faith that overcomes is a faith that rejoices in even the least thing of Christ more than even the greatest thing of this world, indeed, counting even the greatest thing of this world as repulsive because of Christ!

Faith is not blind towards Christ, rather, it has peered deeply into the hidden mysteries of the age that have now been revealed to us all in Christ Jesus alone!

A FAITH THAT HAS SUBSTANCE

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

~Hebrews 11:1

The faith that brings joy to the believer and presses on into Christ is also the faith that has substance.  Contrary to the faith that is empty, this faith would never be satisfied with “having the appearance of godliness but denying the power therein”, rather, it actually obtains the evidence of things that cannot be seen.

When the believer who has this faith hears the Word of God, to him or her, the Word is living and fills his or her heart with the riches and glory of God.  For someone that has this kind of faith, reading the word of God is not a dull task that is dutifully undertaken in the vain hope that they will somehow be better off by performing this task, to this believer, reading the word of God is an experience that transcends what we see here and enters the realm of glory!

Just like reading the word, prayer is undertaken by the believe who has the faith that overcomes the world, not in a dutiful manner, but with expectation of receiving the evidence of the things that still remain unseen!

No one believes they are getting into Harvard, but doesn’t bother making the necessary preparations to go.  Likewise, someone that has received the call of God and is assured of that call also joyfully makes the preparations to go with God!

Therefore, James wrote,

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

~James 2:26

So, the faith that overcomes this world also has substance!  It is not without the evidence of what it confesses, and, therefore, moves in earnest expectation of the things that it hopes for with certainty!

CONCLUSION

Faith can be identified and is distinguishable between various qualities of faith.  Paul wrote about faith that is shipwrecked, about double-minded faith, and about genuine faith.

We can feel what kind of faith we have because certain kinds of faith leave us empty, while other kinds of faith make us complacent; some kinds of faith make us content with the world, while other kinds of faith wither in doubt and fear when trials and temptations come. But the Word of God tells us us that there is only one faith that overcomes (Ephesians 5:4, cf 1 John 5:4).

We should be diligent to strengthen our faith in Christ and make sure we have the faith that overcomes and enters the Kingdom of God.  There is a faith that blindly presses on, ignoring the warnings of those often unlikely people that God sends to turn you from a path that will end in destruction.

My beloved brothers, you are the Church that the Lamb of God was slain to clothe in Salvation.  May you be full of grace, mercy, and peace, having the faith that overcomes this world, amen!

 

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