The Glory of Christ

I am yet again arrested in my study by the splendid contemplation of the glory of Christ!  And surely it is by the Spirit of Christ who dwells within me that I can sense Christ’s own zeal to reveal His glory to me! 

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with me where I am”, Jesus prayed, “that they may behold My glory…” (John 17:24)

I must wonder, do I know how strongly Christ desires to reveal His glory to me?  For surely if I knew, if I was really convinced and convicted that Christ longs for me to see His glory, I would be renewed in my faith daily and my love would not grow weary! 

But there is a terrifying thought that plagues my mind; it is more frightening than any other nightmare I have ever had: it is the thought that the human mind and human spirit might become altogether inhospitable to the glory of Christ!  What I mean by that is that the mind might become so inhospitable to the glory of Christ that it simply cannot endure the contemplation of His glory by faith anymore; that the human spirit might become altogether adverse towards the glory of Christ and could no longer abide before the face of Jesus Christ!  Oh God what a frightful thought! 

A second frightful thought to me is this; that some poor soul could hear what I’ve just said and be so unmoved as to say within themselves, “well I never think on the glory of Christ and I’m ok, so what’s the deal?”  That someone could come to the point of realization where they perceive that they do not think much on the glory of Christ and have such darkness in their mind so as to reassure themselves in this condition that they are still ok is a truly terrifying thought to me! 

What’s the big deal?”!  I’m not embellishing my speech right now; I really do have to ask myself how “carnal” and how “dark” have our minds become today that we are not struck by how little Jesus Christ is glorified in the Church. 

What’s the big deal?” is that God has divinely and extraordinarily shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6); to glorify Jesus Christ is the great work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:14)!  And sometimes it seems like we don’t at all seem disturbed that Jesus is not being exalted and glorified among us!

I am not talking about the emotional experiences, exuberant demonstrations, or the magnificent performances that have become the cheap external substitutes for the glory of Christ in our day.  I am talking about the heart-bending, faith-building, strength-giving, hope-rising, love-purifying glory of Christ that captivates the soul with the beauty of His holiness!

John Owen wrote the following:

Let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and virtue will proceed from him to repair all our decays, to renew a right spirit within us, and to cause us to abound in all duties of obedience.

It will fix the soul unto that object which is suited to give it delight, complacency, and satisfaction… when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition.

And nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls hereunto as a constant view of Christ and his glory. 1

1. The Glory of Christ, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, 1850-53, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), I, 460-461

I came across this quote from something John Piper wrote on the glory of Christ, and I cannot raise any more apt response from my heart than  “amen!”

The soul that is fixated on the glory of Christ is not so easily rattled!  Such a bond with Christ will, as Owen wrote, cast away or give no place to our spiritual weaknesses and indispositions.  But such a bond with Christ will also draw in and give sanctuary to those divine attributes of God that give us great spiritual strength and inclination that we find utterly lacking in our flesh!

Why, when such a delight awaits us in Christ, might we feel so burdened by deep contemplation of the glory of Christ? 

It may be that we are driving the Holy Spirit from His sanctuary in our heart.  Consider carefully Ezekiel 8:6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,19 & 20.  If we drive the Spirit from the sanctuary of our heart by sin, we drive away Him who is appointed to glorify Christ from the very place in this fallen world where Christ’s glory is revealed! 

It may also be that we have not exalted God to glory in our own lives, nor have regarded Him as holy.  Consider carefully Leviticus 10:3.

Whatever we find that drives the glory of God from our minds so that His glory cannot abide long in our hearts and in our minds, my heart is stirred today to call on the Lord and ask for the grace of the Spirit to reveal Christ in glory to me!

“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…” (1 Peter 3:15)

Faithfulness v. Fruitfulness

I’ve been considering the question of “faithfulness” versus “fruitfulness” lately: specifically, whether it is more important to remain faithful to God’s Word or reap a fruitful harvest?

Now I’ll admit at the outset that I think this question presents a false dichotomy by forcing the mind to choose one or the other when I think it may well be that it is impossible to have either one without the other, but I believe this question should be thoroughly considered.

This question has become the center of a conversation that I’ve been engaging in with a pentecostal pastor friend of mine as we’ve been discussing it in light of two pastor friends of his that accentuate this concern for “fruitfulness” (defined as either “a harvest of believers”, or, “the increase given by God through the Holy Spirit”) over “faithfulness” (defined as “love for God as expressed in obedience and fidelity to His Word”).

STORY NUMBER 1:

One pastor who’s known as a man exhibiting great fruits of the Spirit in his life, recently came out in affirmation of gay marriage.

Although his decision has invoked the ire of many established Christians, it has also resulted in more opportunities to connect with people who are not typically touched by “the Church”.  For this pastor, affirming homosexuality has given his church the ability to reach a demographic that would otherwise never even affiliate with Christians who hold to what they see as an antiquated view of sexuality and marriage.

STORY NUMBER 2:

Another pastor, was preaching a sermon that included a note that homosexuality is wrong.  Through a series of events, a legal complaint was lodged and the pastor was warned that if he continued to preach hate speech he would be faced with potentially shutting down.

The pastor says he has temporarily decided to stop preaching on the matter and offered the justification that there are no gay members attending his church and it would be foolish to stop the work of God being done in this church.

The pastor went on to say that they baptized 100 people the previous month and he could not allow Satan to put a pad-lock on the door and shut the church down where they would not be able to reach the community.

I believe these realities are only going to get more onerous as time goes on. But what do they say about the topic of “fruitfulness” v. “faithfulness”?  Is fruitfulness apart from faithfulness ever warranted?  Or is faithfulness apart from fruitfulness ever possible?  These questions may often times appear more “behind the scenes” than most, but I believe they have great weight to them and need to be answered.

IS FRUITFULNESS APART FROM FAITHFULNESS EVER WARRANTED?

In both these true stories we see pastors pursuing “fruitfulness” above “faithfulness”, one by affirmation and the other by conformation.  But were these compromises acceptable?  And will they produce the desired results these pastors hoped for- namely, a greater harvest of souls?

A couple passages come to mind that I would like to examine:

REVELATION 2:10 WEB

Don’t be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

I believe the seven churches of Revelation merit close examination by the Church today.  Regardless of your eschatological position on these seven churches, you will find great blessing in reading what Jesus has to say to these churches.

To the persecuted Church in Smyrna Jesus admonished them not to be afraid and forewarned them of the coming trials they would face; in light of these trials, Jesus promised “the crown of life” to the faithful.  The full weight of Jesus’ promised “crown of life” was placed on being faithful.

Jesus’ words to the churches in Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, show that Jesus does weigh our faithfulness to His doctrine; the Ephesians, despite all their hard work (2:3), had left their first love and were required to repent (2:4-5), and the Church in Pergamos needed to repent for embracing the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (2:14-16); likewise the Church in Thyatira was admonished to repent for tolerating the false prophets who taught Christ’s people to commit sexual immorality (2:20-25).  In each case Jesus was concerned with faithfulness as demonstrated through love, doctrine, and prophesying.

Another passage that stirs my mind regarding this subject is as follows:

1st CORINTHIANS 3:11-15

For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; 13 each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. 14 If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire.

We can build on Christ in such a way that will not endure the fire.  Though the craftsman suffers loss of reward because his work did not remain, the craftsman may still expect his salvation.  Through folly the craftsman selected wood, hay, or stubble over gold, silver, or precious stones- for whatever reason, the more easily obtainable former materials were more attractive than the more costly latter materials- and therefore the craftsman suffered the loss of all his work and the reward he so earnestly expected.

Make no mistake that I believe teachers can bring themselves under the wrath of God through their teachings- such as occurred in the Book of Revelation when the doctrine of Balaam was taught- but Christians may err in less serious ways that can still ruin their work without endangering their souls, especially those Christians who build on Christ but who do not hold teaching positions (which are judged more severely: James 3:1).  Excuse my run-on sentence there, but I’m just going to go with it.

My belief is that we must not abandon fidelity to God for perceived fruitfulness, which can only end in tears and great weeping.

FAITHFULNESS MUST BEAR FRUIT

I do not believe that it is possible for faithfulness to be without fruit.  It is possible for the faithfulness of “charity” not to produce the fruit of “evangelism”, and therefore to disappoint the expectations of the one who has such a narrow view of “fruit”, but faithfulness in “charity” will always bear the fruit of “charity”. 

There may, therefore, be a weight of burden on our expectation of “fruitfulness” that is inconsistent with the promise of Scripture, but, I believe it is impossible to divorce “faithfulness” from God’s promise of “fruitfulness”. 

We must heed the following Words of Christ:

JOHN 15:7-8 WEB

If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.  In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples.

Fruitfulness requires faithfulness, and faithfulness is proved by fruitfulness.

A “morally pure church” may ask, “why, then, is there no increase in our body”, to which we should ask “did you abide in Christ’s word to ‘go out and make disciples’?”

A numerically “large church” may ask “why, then, are we so fruitful even though we do not keep His word”, to which we should ask, “what makes you so sure your fruitfulness will survive the fire?”

Fruitfulness is dependent on abiding faithfully in Jesus’ word; a church may not see the fruit of harvest because it does not go out, or, when it goes out and increases, it may not see the fruit of righteousness because it does not abide in the truth; but no church will be barren that faithfully abides in the Word. 

What we see being tested here are two things: firstly, our perception of fruit, and secondly, our faith that God will be faithful to honor faithfulness.  We so easily get confused and discouraged when we do not see the fruit of other parts of the body in our own life, and we wrestle with the faith to believe that God is faithful towards our faithfulness because we have usurped God as “lords of the harvest” and attempted to bear the weight of “fruitfulness” all on our own.

We need to know that it is “God who adds those who are being saved” (Acts 2:47); though one may sow and another waters, “it is God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6)!  Rather than trying to control the outcome of the harvest, we desperately need to cry out to the LORD of the harvest (Matthew 9:38)- let us pray to Him concerning the harvest, knowing that He is faithful over it (1 Corinthians 1:9).

SO BE HIS DISCIPLES

Something that I cannot get over is how many pastors I have met and held long conversations with who are beaten down and discouraged.  They are discouraged by their lack of growth, sometimes in both the harvest and in spiritual fruit, and they feel like they are utterly defeated; but I cannot escape the reality that without exception they are not abiding in Christ’s word to go out, nor are they calling on the Lord of the Harvest for help! 

Brethren, if we find our churches lay in spiritual desolation; arise!  Return to the truths from which you have wandered, and do them.  Bear the fruits of repentance and offer again the sacrifice of praise by the fruit of holy lips. 

And if we see that we have brought in no fruit of the harvest; arise!  Go out into the fields and labor.  Sow, water, and tend to the fields in which you live, and pray to the Lord of the Harvest, who will grant your increase that He may be glorified and that you may be His disciples! 

Persecution in Russia

This report came from Charisma News and was written by Jessilyn Jusitice. It details new legislation in Russia that will sweep Christian faith practices into “anti-terrorism” efforts. The Churches in Russia are calling for prayer and fasting- which, incidentally, will soon be illegal once this legislation goes into effect- and I want to encourage my brethren to share in prayer and fasting with them.

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News Link: http://www.charismanews.com/world/58320-7-000-churches-fasting-praying-over-terrifying-new-persecution-law

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an anti-terrorism law, but for the country’s many churches, the signature sparked a demand for prayer and fasting.

The bill toughens punishment for acts deemed to be terrorism and for the organization of “mass unrest,” according to the Los Angeles Times. It would also introduce prison sentences of up to a year for those who fail to report such crimes.

Furthermore, Great Commission Ministries Chairman Hanny Haukka tells Charisma News the law entails:

Foreign guests are not permitted to speak in churches unless they have a “work permit” from Russian authorities.

If a friend or relative from outside Russia wishes to share his/her faith in your home, the guest will be fined and expelled from Russia.

Any discussion of God with non-believers is considered missionary activity and will be punishable.

Missionary activity will be permitted by special government permission. Example: If one traveling on a train shares his faith without written permission the offender will be taken into police custody for the duration of the journey and will be fined 50,000 rubles ($1000).

Offenders from the age of 14 will be subject to prosecution.

Religious activity is no longer permitted in private homes. Most churches in Russia meet in homes.
Every citizen is obligated to report religious activity (of neighbors) to the authorities. Failure to be an informant is punishable by law.

One may pray, read the Bible at home but not in the presence of a non-believing person. You will be breaking the law and be punished.

If the church has purchased property it cannot be converted into a place of worship.

In church buildings it is not permitted to invite people to turn to God. Worship services are permitted but making a non-believer a follower of Christ is against the law.

In response, thousands of churches across the country have come together to cry out to God.

“The church is appalled at the news of the new law. About 7,000 evangelical/protestant churches are in fasting and prayer at the moment over the news,” Haukka tells Charisma News via email.

Churches aren’t the only residents enraged by the law.

American refugee Edward Snowden tweeted: “#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.”

What’s more, critics are now declaring the Yarovaya laws, aka the “Big Brother,” laws as a sign of the end times:

If these amendments come into force, prison sentences for certain non-violent “extremist” crimes will potentially be twice as long as, for example, murder committed in the heat of passion, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
Despite receiving nearly unanimous support in parliament, the Yarovaya laws have triggered a flood of apocalyptic commentary. Many wonder why Russia’s already excessively harsh criminal laws are being made harsher.

The only official criticism of the legislation, however, has come from the Presidential Human Rights Council, which has highlighted ways in which the proposed amendments directly contradict the Constitution and existing laws. This criticism has been almost entirely ignored.

The Duma has already passed a number of laws that have harshened Russian law in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism. It criminalized “public calls for the violation of territorial integrity” and “rehabilitation of Nazism,” a direct affront to the freedom of speech. In 2013, it passed a law that allowed the state to confiscate property from individuals affiliated with terrorists, including their relatives.

The government has long used the “fight against terrorism and extremism” to justify repressive laws, no matter how obviously senseless they may be. As a result, Russia’s statutory framework can now be effectively used to target not only credible extremist threats, but also political opponents of the state. A large group of prominent Russian lawyers decried this problem in an open letter in 2013, saying that the “parliament’s legislative work has acquired a distinctly prohibitive and repressive character.”

In response, Haukka pleads with believers around the world to join with Russian churches in prayer and fasting.

“Russia is closing down in an awful way. The new law is in total conflict with the purpose and the task given to the church by the Lord. The law will send the church back into Soviet-era Communist persecution,” he says.

From The Evil One

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” ~Matthew 5:37

Jesus said empty and meaningless words are from the evil one.  They lend themselves to his purposes; to hypocrisy, lying, deceit, and an unstable mind. But our society is very comfortable with empty and meaningless words.  In fact, many of our social customs are built on them! 

Once we become accustomed to speaking meaningless words, and we get comfortable with the idea that our word is empty, we pave the way for all kinds of evil; we can “let slip” all kinds of malicious, slanderous, and evil speech against our neighbors and our brethren, and we allow Deceit to plot a course straight through our heart because we believe that we can speak one thing, and do another! 

I believe one day on the day of judgment that all these “little commandments” that we ignored will be revealed in glory as the pure wisdom of God!  Yes, I believe every Word of God will be exalted in its due glory, and we will look at these “little commandments” and lament for what we have lost because we did not give them a proper ear!

Moses was a man “slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10), yet the heavens listened when he spoke because he proclaimed the name of the LORD (Deut. 32:1, 3); so also ought it to be with the Church who are charged by the intent of God that His manifold wisdom might be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10)!

It may be that the reason we the Church often ignore this commandment is because we do not know that the altar of our lips are holy to God.  Perhaps we have not yet consecrated our lips unto the Lord, nor understood the power of our words.  Indeed, what is so grievous about the “Word Faith” movement is that they have so defiled the teaching that our words are holy, that many in the Church cannot receive God’s Word on the subject!  Their judgment is just.

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.” ~Malachi 3:16

Much of God’s message has been lost because the Church no longer understands the beauty of holiness!  We do not get what it means that we have been purchased by the blood; that we are not our own, but His (1 Cor. 6:20).  Therefore, our words are common, and our praise profane (James 3:10).

May I exhort the brethren, then, to consecrate the altar of worship as holy unto God.  Let your words be pure and full, that you may proclaim the name of the Lord, amen!

Therefore, 

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’, lest you fall into judgment.” ~James 5:12

The Preacher

What is a preacher?  What’s the function of a preacher?

I think it’s helpful when discussing different parts of the body to reiterate that the Body is healthiest when every part works together with the whole towards faithfulness to Christ (Ephesians 4:16). Every member is vital to the healthy functioning of the Body as a whole.  But what happens when the multiplicity of Body parts stops working in unison and the Body begins to be deceived and led astray?

God sends His preachers to call the Body back into the way.

“Preachers” come in many different forms- they are not a stagnant office.  Preachers are those God entrusts to deliver His message to His people; there have been many preachers in scripture called to be deliver God’s word; Solomon (Ecc. 1:1, 12); Noah (2 Peter 2:5); Jonah (3:1-2); John the Baptist (Mark 1:4); and Jesus (Mark 4:17). The apostle Paul wrote, “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:11).

Anyone can be called by God to be a preacher because “preaching” is simply “the act of exhorting, prophesying, reproving, or teaching”. That’s why we have Solomon, who was a king, but also a preacher. Noah, who was a patriarch (essentially an elder), but was also a preacher. Jonah was a prophet, but also a preacher. Paul, who was an apostle as well as a teacher, also identified himself as one “appointed as a preacher”.

The preacher is a functional position, not a stagnant office.  The preacher is known for his message, not his presentation or charisma. For the preacher, nothing is more important than what he has to say from God.  He never speaks for himself.  He is God’s messenger, and God’s messenger alone.

I believe the Church needs God-sent preachers today.  But where are these voices calling us back to God through repentance?

In view of the great evil’s in our society today, the lack of such voices crying out should be cause of grave concern and trembling!  It should drive every one of us to our knees daily, begging God to send out His servants to give us another chance to repent!

One Gospel

Charles Spurgeon’s father was a lesser known preacher who once said of his son that “Charles may preach the gospel better than I, but no one can preach a better gospel”.

I believe today’s Church is far too fascinated with the messenger, and altogether far too uninterested in the message!  I would much rather be the worst preacher of the true gospel than the greatest preacher of a false gospel. Give me a true word, or give me no word at all.

The point is this: there is only one gospel which is appointed to nourish the soul and stir the spirit, and the effectiveness of that gospel upon those who hear depends little on the messenger, and greatly upon the ears upon which it falls!

The problem we face today is not that of a shortage of talented preachers, but that of deaf ears!   Or worse, of ears eager to be tickled!

Would we accept a preacher who eloquently expounds God’s promises of life and joy to us?  No doubt.  But will we also accept the preacher who faithfully preaches the true judgments of God to warn us to turn from out wicked ways?  We may be less inclined to accept such a preacher, and more inclined to discredit him, ostracize him, and throw him out of our churches and our lives!

But this much I would say again: there is only one gospel that can simultaneously convict the souls of men to their uttermost and stir their spirits up to righteous living, and that is the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ!

It needs no amendments, and it needs not accoutrements; it alone is the power of God for salvation to all in Christ Jesus, and we must not be ashamed of it!

Introducing New 1st Timothy Discipleship Coursework

I’m thrilled to be introducing our new discipleship coursework on 1st Timothy!  

This guide takes an in-depth, Bible intensive, look at the book of 1st Timothy.  It is designed for personal use to be completed over 16+ weeks of study and prayer under the mentorship of a pastor.

Go to our coursework page to download the free PDF.

 

The Transgender Sin and God’s Image

The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” ~James 1:20

A lot of people in the U.S. are “outraged” over the transgender push to allow men to use women’s bathroom’s and locker-room’s (and vice-versa). But this anger seems to originate from a conservative indignation over ideological and political losses, rather than a deep sorrow over the terrible sin our nation is embracing.

In short, the anger and outrage we see from many in the Church today over this issue (and many others) is the wrath of man that does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

Am I saying that the Church needs to “be silent”, “roll over and accept what’s happening”? Absolutely not! I am saying “the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God”.

I believe there is a better way to handle this situation.

Let me encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to take advantage of the opportunity provided to preach the gospel to exposed sinners if/when you meet a “transgender” person in the wrong bathroom.

That’s correct. My answer is to preach to the lost and pray for them.

I believe our sitting around “brooding” about things is the cowards way of handling the problem. It’s far easier to sit around and trash our transgender neighbors, and grumble about the “advancement of liberal ideologies in American society”, than it is to “shod our feet in the preparation of the gospel” and “always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ Jesus”. But this preaching of the gospel and intercession of prayer over the lost is precisely what the Church is called to; it’s not just what our society needs- as if we are just looking for a solution to our problems so that we can get back to a conservative paradise- but it is God’s calling on the Church for all generations unto the end of the age!

So yes, I do encourage all Christians to take advantage of the opportunity to preach the gospel to exposed sinners if you meet a “transgender” person in the wrong bathroom.

If I see a sinner in rebellion to the gender God gave them in the same bathroom with me, you bet I am going to preach the gospel to them.   And let me warn against the cowardly excuse  not to preach to transgendered sinners by saying “I could get sued for this”–  you will either “love Christ” or you will “love your life”, you cannot shirk Christ in defense  and preservation of your way of life, if you do you will lose your life.

In preparation I am set to memorizing the following passages so that I can give an answer for the hope I have in Jesus Christ to the lost:

1. “God created man in his own image. In God’s image He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them. God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over it…” Genesis 1:27-28a

2. “A woman shall not wear men’s clothing, neither shall a man put on women’s clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination to Yahweh your God” Deuteronomy 22:5

3. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God… For a… man is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7b

4. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the assembly, being Himself the savior of the Body. But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let wives also be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of the water of the word… Ephesians 5:23-26

“Gender”- so called- is not a preference. One may decide whether or not they want to get married, and God blesses both the “single person” and the “married person” with unique and cherished blessings, but, a person’s “gender” is the sovereign decision of God at the moment of conception when a person’s chromosomes align in such a way so that you are either male or female; your “gender” is actually one of the first things about “you” that God ordains!

When God created the human race, He created us to reflect His image; He created “man” in His image and made us “male and female”. Just as Christ is the head of man, so man is the head of woman, even as God is the head of Christ. In this way God made “us” (being male and female) in His image.

The sin of the “transgender” person is the sin of defiling the image of God. While sinners and unbelievers do not take this very seriously, God does, and they need to be warned lest they fall into the wrath of God.

So I want to admonish my brethren against the cowardly position that simply grumbles about the transgender problem amongst ourselves and exhort you to the faithful position that preaches the gospel to sinners and intercedes in prayer for the lost, that the good pleasure of God may be delighted in the lost turning from their sin and being saved.

The Devil’s U.N. Arms Resolution

Some of you might be thinking that I am getting ready to write about Obama’s recent endorsement of the United Nation’s “Small Arms resolution”, but those of you who know me know that I’m not. I’m going to talk about something far more sinister: the Devil’s agenda to disarm the Church of the Sword of the Spirit.

How many times have you heard someone say “theology isn’t going to save anyone, they just need to be loved”? If you’ve believed this lie, then Satan has just taken his first step in disarming you of your most effective and divinely-powerful weapon: the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Technically “theology” means “the study of God”, but to most people they simply equate it with the Bible period.

There’s an idea that people “are just hurt and needing love”, and I don’t disagree that people are hurt, but, this is not an accurate depiction of their condition as a whole. See, there are plenty of people who would not self-identify themselves as “hurt” people; they enjoy reasonably healthy relationships, love their jobs, and have lives full of healthy hobbies, but they are utterly and completely damned to condemnation. That is right: you can be a healthy, happy, reasonable citizen of this world and be condemned by God. Nurturing people’s emotional wounds is not the Church’s job; we were not called to be nurse-maid to the world. Don’t get me wrong, we tenderly care to the suffering- especially those of the Church Body- and we are eager to care for the wounds of those who have been cast aside by society. But the Church has traditionally understood that all this was a bi-product of our greater calling: to preach the gospel to a lost and dying world so that they can be truly and wholly healed by Jesus Christ and saved from their sins and the death thereby produced.

When we hear the idea expressed that we need to “set aside the preaching of God’s word” so that we can focus on “loving on the hurt”, we are hearing Satan’s attempt to persuade the Church to lay down our sword and stop fighting.

Certainly this approach will temporarily draw larger numbers, but, what will the end of this be? What will happen to those people once they are healed? They didn’t want God before they were hurt, and God wasn’t shown to them while they were hurt. What makes us think that they will want God once they are “back to normal” and doing well? God was not what drew them in the first place. And if they stick around, it will not be because of God, but it will be for the relationships that they have formed during their difficult times. While strong relationships in the body are vital, these relationships alone count for nothing if God is not their substance and life-source.

Yet the Church has shown a perplexing propensity to ashamedly throw down our swords the moment anyone cries “offense!”

Church leadership everywhere is scrambling to draw up “more effective plans” to reach the world without any offense; without exposing ourselves as being followers of Christ! But what this has produced is a generation of Christians who do not know the foundations of our faith- they do not know what they believe, or why they believe it- and they are unable to contend for the faith in a world composed of many very hostile world-views!
But as for me? I believe in God’s Word and trust in the Truth that is enlightened thereby. I believe that even when it appears that the Word only ever offends the world, it is accomplishing things that I cannot yet perceive and I will see the fruits of this work one day- whether in this world or the one to come. I will continue to preach the Word and live thereby until the end; I will walk in the light provided for my feet by God’s word, and beckon to my brothers and sisters to join me in walking the narrow path together.

Some argue that we cannot live by the Word because it is too divisive.

Yes, the Word is divisive; Jesus never concealed the fact that He “didn’t come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword”, as He said “for I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34-35). But, Christ also prayed “Sanctify them in Your truth. Your word is truth… that they may all be one” (John 17:17, 21), and again it is written, “be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Many divisions in the Body today occur not because Christ has divided, but because we demand our own ways and are unwilling to relent according to the heavenly wisdom that descends from above (James 3:17). Though these divisions are unnecessary, they nonetheless succeed in dividing the stubborn and divisive brother or sister from the body.

So I must ask, will you throw down the Word because you are ashamed of Christ and do not want to be set apart from this world as holy to God? Or will you take up the sword of the Spirit- the Word of God- and engage a relentless and vicious enemy?

It’s your decision. You decide.

Returning

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

In 2013 the Lord led my wife and I back to the U.S. and gave us the word that He was going to send us to those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”.  Although I am a little guilty of letting my imagination carry me away as to what that meant, the LORD has, indeed, led us to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!  And I simply cannot give God enough praise and thanksgiving for bringing these people into our lives.

My heart started out hard against this call to return to the U.S.- and skeptical that I would find such persons in the U.S. who still had a hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Judge me as you will for thinking such a thought, but I am being honest about the condition of my heart.  My life in the States before we went to China in 2010 was one where I saw the Church in America as only interested in money, pleasure, success, and the interests of “self”- I saw a Church that compromised the truth of Christ to gain success; that vigorously protected sins of covetousness, divorce, and malice so that it could enlarge itself and gratify its own desires.  And there’s no doubt that the Church in America is still dominated by such Christians as this, but now I’ve seen a remnant of Christian believers who are zealous for the things of God and who are willing to sacrifice “self” for Christ!

But my heart never left China.  The people in China have been in my heart and on my prayers daily.  At times it has been very, very difficult to stay in America when my heart is so compelled to serve the people in China, but God gave me the grace that I lacked that I could serve Him with a joyful heart in thanksgiving even in America; I mean that sincerely- God has given me the love necessary to serve in this country with thanksgiving and joy!

In late 2014 I prayed and asked God to open a particular school in China as a sign to us that He wanted us to return if/when He so willed for us to go back to China.  But I nearly forgot about that until this year when some weeks back this prayer came back into my mind and I checked the school’s website to see if they had any listings; they are a good school and have very low turnover, so there are not often any listings posted.  But we saw a listing and subsequently applied for the school position, and, within a few weeks we were signing contracts!

The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

I could have never foreseen the things that came to pass during our time back in the States, or even that we would be returning to China now, but God has done a great work in my heart and given me the joy of the Lord as my strength!

Now is a timely season for a return to China in the lives of our brothers and sisters there.

So we are asking those of you who still support us in prayer to pray for us in the following ways:

  • May the LORD make our way back straight: we need our Visa’s and paperwork approved quickly.
  • May the LORD oversee our travels.
  • May the LORD give us wisdom for the decisions that we will need to make.
  • May the LORD give us ministering wisdom and grace to serve faithfully.
  • May the LORD protect my health and give me living strength.
  • May the LORD protect the purity of my daughter’s heart and mind.
  • May the LORD give my wife wisdom to serve and encourage.
  • May the LORD’s word run swiftly wherever we minister.

And so, if indeed it is our Father’s will, we return to China!

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

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