It’s God’s Judgment, Not His Absence.

godshirt

Okay, so where do I start with this thinking?  First…..do you seriously think that WE can prevent God from being anywhere???  REALLY??  The last time I checked God is OMNIPRESENT.  If you don’t know what that big word means, it means that God is EVERYWHERE.

Second…..do you seriously think that WE can boss God around and tell Him He’s not allowed anywhere???  REALLY??  Because the last time I checked, God is OMNIPOTENT.  That big word means that He’s all powerful and us puny humans don’t control God, HE controls US!!

I know I harp about God’s sovereignty a lot and apparently NO ONE IS LISTENING!!  To say that God is SOVEREIGN means that He is SUPREME RULER and that He possesses “ultimate power”.  We say that God is ALMIGHTY.  To be “almighty” means that He possesses ALL the might.  We say that God is all powerful which means He possesses ALL the power.  Which means there is nothing left for us……zero, zilch, NADA!!

So, let’s set the record straight here.  At no point in time has God not been ALLOWED in schools.  WE don’t have that kind of power to keep Him out.  He’s there.  But, God has been pulling back his Hand of protection over our country over many years because we’ve turned our backs on Him and because of the sins we’ve allowed to become prevalent in our country.  All this that we see happening in our country and in our schools is NOT because we have kicked Him out of our schools.  All this is happening because we are under HIS JUDGMENT!

If YOU believe that you serve a God who can be prevented from being anywhere, you serve a PUNY god….and a false one at that.  I feel sorry for you that you serve a god who can be controlled by man’s will.  That is a weak god.  No wonder you live life in fear.  The God of the Bible cannot be controlled by man’s will but He does as HE PLEASES.  The God of the Bible has everything under HIS control and none of this stuff that is happening is taking Him by surprise.  He is allowing it to happen as a means of judgment.  Just as He judged Israel for their sins, He is judging our nation for ours.

 

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John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life”  John 3:16 (King James Version)

“For God loved the world in this way:  He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 (Christian Standard Bible)

Okay, let’s do a word study on John 3:16.  If you read the two versions up above, you’ll see there’s a bit of a difference in the wording.  The three words we want to focus on are “so”, “world” and “whosoever” in the KJV.

The first word is “so”.  In the original Greek, the word used was “houto”, which means “in this manner”.  So, the original translation is more like what the Christian Standard Bible has for that verse.  Most folks read the verse as “For God SOOOOOOO loved the world”.  The word “so” is not used to describe to what degree God loved the world (He loved the world sooooooo much), but it explains “HOW” he loved the world.  Imagine showing someone how to do something like icing flowers a cake.  You may say:  “You put the icing in the bag, twist it closed, and then you squeeze it like so” (in this manner).  So, in this verse we’re being told HOW God loved the world (by giving his one and only Son).

The second word is “world”.  When people see the word “world”, they’re assuming this means that EVERY single person will be saved, but that is not the case.  John’s epistle was written to the Jewish believers.  This verse was controversial to the Jewish people because THEY were God’s chosen people and all others were dirty, filthy Gentile heathen and were not qualified to receive God’s promise of salvation.  So, for them to hear that God extended His love to those outside the Jewish faith was a bit of a shock to them.  But this use of the word “world” demonstrated that God intended for His free gift of salvation to be offered to every tribe, nation, and tongue, not just the Jews.

The third word is “whosoever”.  In the original Greek, the word used is “pas”, which means “any, all, each, everyone”.  When you read the verse as a whole in the Greek language is goes like this:  “God loved the world in this manner: that he gave his one and only Son in order that all those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  “All those who believe” are referring to God’s Elect.

The word “whosoever” gives people the impression that just anyone can believe, but that goes against Scripture when it says that only those who are chosen are those who will believe.  Romans 9 talks about “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy”.  Vessels of wrath are those who are “prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22) so we know that these are people who will never believe.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.  But it means they will reject the gospel despite hearing it preached to them.  Matthew 22:14 says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  This statement comes after the Parable of The Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) where the King sends out his servants to gather the wedding guests, but they all refuse to come, using different excuses as to why they can’t/won’t come.  Then he sends his servants to those out in city to bring them in.  When the king came in to inspect the guests, he found one not wearing wedding garments and he told his servants to throw him into the outer darkness.  The “wedding garment” spoken of in this verse is referring to Christ’s blood that covers our sins.  You could also say it is Christ’s Cloak of Righteousness that he imputed to us when he took our sins upon himself.  Revelation 19:7-9 speaks about The Marriage Supper of the Lamb in which the Bride of Christ (the church) will gather and she will be arrayed in “fine linen, clean and white” and the fine linen is the “righteousness of saints”.  So, you can see a parallel between the parable of the Wedding Feast and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The gospel message is to be preached to everyone.  But, not every person is going to answer the call of the gospel just like those in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22.  Then there are those who, just like the guest not wearing a wedding garment, will THINK they are saved and try to get into heaven by his own works or by some other way apart from Christ, but will find that he was not “chosen” of God and will be cast into outer darkness.

We don’t know who the Elect are.  Our duty is to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”, but it is the Holy Spirit who gives the lost sheep the ability to hear and respond to the call of Christ, and all those who believe will have eternal life.

 

 

THE REED & THE WICK

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  Isaiah 42:3

How many of us, as Christians, have been living life on the “mountaintop”, only to have situations and circumstances in life to knock us off into the valley?  At one time we were standing tall and straight and then something comes along and now we’re bent over and can’t seem to find the strength to stand anymore.

How many of us remember a time when it seemed like our faith was like a huge bonfire?  Or maybe we could have likened it to a raging forest fire.  How many of us can look at ourselves now and our faith can only be compared to the tiniest flicker of light on the end of a candle wick, while those around us seems to still be a roaring fire?

Why does this happen?  Maybe trials and adversities come and throws a little water on that fire.  Maybe we look at ourselves and see the sin still prevalent in our lives and we become discouraged and that discouragement will diminish the fire that once burned brightly in our soul.  Or maybe our discouragement comes from comparing ourselves to someone else and we think because we’re not as “strong” in faith as they are, our “weak” faith might as well be no faith at all.  Or our discouragement may come from the disappointment of not being able to stay in God’s Word and in prayer like we should and that puts a damper on the flames of our faith.

While our faith may be like the bruised reed or the faintly smoldering wick, it’s comforting to know that the LORD will not “finish” us off.  We may be bruised, but instead of completely breaking us, He wants to heal us.  We may be a faintly smoldering wick, but instead of throwing water on us to completely snuff out the fire, He wants to fan the flame so that we can burn brighter than before.

There is a quote by Thomas Brooks that says:  “The weakest Christian is as much justified, as much pardoned, as much adopted, and as much united to Christ as the strongest, and hath as much interest and propriety in Christ as the highest and noblest Christian that breathes.”

The weakest Christian is STILL a Christian.  It’s easy to think that because we’re not like we used to be when we first came to salvation that maybe our salvation was not genuine.  Our faith is a gift given to us by God and it is a gift that He will never take back

We must remember that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, not by any works we do, and it’s God’s grace, not our works, that KEEPS us saved.  So, even though we may find ourselves not living up to our expectations of what we should be as Christians; even though we don’t see as much spiritual growth as we think we should; even though we still struggle daily with sin and our faith doesn’t measure up to those around us, our faintly smoldering (weak) faith is still faith and is still just as secure in Christ as those who have a raging flaming (strong) faith.

Thank you, Jesus, for keeping us secure even when we don’t feel like we are.

God Knows

How many times have we found ourselves looking back and realizing, “It’s been 3 months since I’ve picked up my Bible and read it”?

How many times have we also realized, “Wow, I don’t remember the last time I prayed”?

How many times have we come to a point and thought, “I just don’t feel saved”?

How many times have we gotten to that point and thought, “Surely God doesn’t want anything to do with me now.  I haven’t read my Bible in weeks.  I haven’t prayed in a long time.  There’s no sense in doing it.  I don’t understand a lot of the Bible.  I don’t think God hears me when I pray anyway, so it’s pointless!”

Guess what?  God knows our short-comings.  God knows our imperfections.  God knows we aren’t going to get it right ALL THE TIME!  God knows we’re going to fail.  God knew all our failures, our short-comings, and our sins even before He spoke the universe into existence and yet He STILL chose to save us and call us His children.

God’s love for us never diminishes even when our love for Him seems to have grown cold.  He isn’t like an immature child who gets upset when we don’t give Him the same level of love back that He’s given to us.  He is patient.  Granted, there will come a point where He will say, “It’s time you put your focus back on Me” and He will allow circumstances to happen that will get our attention off worldly pursuits and back onto Him.

We should never use our emotions as a gauge for our salvation.  And just because He hasn’t given us understanding about something in His Word doesn’t mean He won’t ever give it to us.  As someone at my church said a couple weeks back, we are an eternal people.  We have from our first breath until forever to learn all we need to know.  If we don’t get it on this earth, we’ll get it in eternity, IF God so chooses to reveal it to us.

God KNEW we weren’t going to be perfect but He still loves us anyway.  And to think otherwise is to believe a lie.  So, why do we want to live believing the lie instead of running back to Him and live in the truth?

 

Philippians 4:13

Watch any sport on TV and you may see an athlete sporting this Scripture reference somewhere on their body.  Tim Tebow would write it across his eye black sometimes during a game.  People quote that Scripture when they’re faced with a monumental task and boast that they can do it but only with Christ’s strength.  But once again, people have taken that verse OUT OF CONTEXT.  Here is the verse in the proper context.  Let’s start with verse 10 and go through 13:

“10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I’m not sure about all translations, but in the ESV, the heading at the beginning of these verses is listed as “God’s Provision”.  In these four verses, Paul is writing the church at Philippi saying how he rejoiced that they were once again concerned for his welfare.  In verses 11-12, he assured them that no matter what he was facing, whether in poverty or in plenty, he learned to be content.  In verse 13, he says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  In the KJV, “him” refers to Christ, but this is assumed anyway since he referred to “the Lord” in verse 10.  In the Strong’s Concordance, the word “do” in Greek is the word “ischuo” (pronounced is-khoo’-o).  The definition of ischuo is “to be strong, to have power, to be able”.  If we word it this way, we can see the true meaning of the verse:  “I can be strong in all things through him who gives me strength.”  So, Paul is saying in this verse, “I can be strong in poverty and in plenty because it is the Lord who gives me strength.”

This verse isn’t telling us we can perform to our optimal best in some activity with the Lord’s help.  It’s telling us that whatever circumstances we’re facing in life, no matter how low in the valley we are, or how high up on the mountaintop we are, no matter if we’re facing extreme poverty, or if we’re living in abundance, we are able to be strong in these things because it is Christ who gives us the strength and that it is His strength that gives us contentment in whatever circumstances we face.

Speaking Life?

These days Christianity has become bogged down with cliché’s.  For example:

“Let go and let God”…..Sorry, but there are times when there are things God requires us to do in certain situations instead of sitting back and waiting for Him to act.  God parted the Red Sea but He commanded Moses to raise his staff up into the air first.  It was God who brought down the city of Jericho, but He commanded the Hebrews to march around the city for 7 days and blow the rams’ horns first.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle”…..Yes, He will!!  If you never got any more than YOU could handle, you wouldn’t need God.  Trials come to make us stop relying on ourselves and depend upon God.

“Everything happens for a reason”……While that statement is true, there are times when speaking those words bring no comfort whatsoever to the person it’s spoken to.  Try using that statement to a young grieving couple whose 5 year-old daughter was struck and killed by a drunk driver as she played in the front yard.  Yes, she was killed because that driver made the decision to drive after he downed 5 beers.

“Speaking life into someone”…..this one bothers me and is the reason for writing this post.

Charismatics are notorious for teaching that our words have power and that we can speak things into existence.  The most famous example of this is false teacher, Marilyn Hickey, who told her viewers that if they need a financial blessing, just speak to their wallet and money would supernaturally appear (yeah, right!!).  While our words can (and do) hurt or build up, nowhere does Scripture teach us that our words have the power to bring anything into existence.  You can go to a person who’s dealing with depression and contemplating suicide and say you want to “speak life” into them, but what if that person ends up committing suicide anyway?  You can’t say you spoke life into them at all.  You brought them words of encouragement, but in no way were your words powerful enough to change their emotional state.  Only God can do that.  “Speaking life” is just a nice sounding cliché that people use that makes them appear “spiritual”.

In fact, ALL Christian cliché’s are incorporated in a person’s speech for the purpose of making them sound “spiritual”.  The person who is not Christian, hasn’t stepped foot into a church ever (or at least in a few years) would probably look at you strangely if you walked up to them and said “I want to speak life into you.”  They’d probably say, “Um, I’m breathing.  I’m walking around so I think I am already living.”

This is in no way a criticism but just something to make us stop and think about our words and what they mean.  To the person who isn’t saved and is unfamiliar with “Christianese”, our cliché’s mean absolutely nothing to them.  If a person is going through a time of trial/adversity and nothing seems to be going right in their life, just speak words of encouragement without all the Christianese mumbo jumbo.  If we feel led to go to someone for the purpose of being an encouragement to them, great!  Do it!!  But, don’t be surprised if they don’t respond to our efforts right away.  We can’t boastfully say we “spoke life” into someone if we don’t see a change in their emotional state right away.  Just as with Moses who was commanded to raise his staff, God may want us to go to them and love them and be an encouragement, but the outcome isn’t dependent so much upon our words, but upon God who has the power to change the person and their circumstances.

The Standard Is Perfection

It’s only human nature to set ourselves up on a pedestal.  I mean, we are always comparing ourselves to someone who isn’t as “good” as we are.

“Sure, I may tell a little lie here and there, but at least I’m not like Hitler who killed millions of Jews.”

“So what if I cheat a little bit on my taxes to get a little extra money each year.  At least I’m not like that Jeffrey Dahmer guy!”

Or Charles Manson, or Timothy McVeigh, or John Wayne Gacy, or Ted Kaczynski, or any other notorious criminal who committed unspeakable acts of violence or murder.

God won’t judge our character against these guys.  His standard for us is Christ.  We could stand there all day long and say, “But I didn’t do this or that” or “But I did this and that,” and point out our “good” deeds compared to theirs, but God is going to put us up against Christ.  God’s standard isn’t “almost perfect”.  His standard is PERFECTION.  And the ONLY one who is perfect is Christ.  We’ve all heard the term “level playing field”.  Well, that’s what we’re going to have.  God won’t put some on higher pedestals than others based on their good works or not-quite-bad deeds.  Any lie told will be judged the same as one who murdered.  The act of adultery isn’t just limited to a physical act.  Jesus defined adultery as any lustful thoughts we may have.  So, just because someone hasn’t carried out the deed, doesn’t mean they’re free from guilt if they’ve only THOUGHT of someone in a lustful manner.  Jesus said that if we say we hate someone, we’ve already committed murder in our heart.

We are vile creatures.  The reason many of us haven’t resorted to acts of violence like those mentioned earlier is through the grace of God.  Every single one of us is capable of carrying out violent acts.  But, it’s only through God’s divine hand that we haven’t done so.  These people are examples of how wicked and depraved humans really are.  But, even though we haven’t done the deeds they have doesn’t mean we’re any less guilty than they are.  The only thing that will keep us in right standing with God is faith in Jesus because it is His righteousness that God sees and not our sin.

We have to quit thinking so highly of ourselves because apart from Christ, God sees us no differently than those whom we consider “monsters” for the deeds they’ve done.  Our “small” sins are no better than their “large” sins.

 

The Gospel, Not Politics.

self-reflection

What I have noticed over that past 2 or 3 decades is that many in Christianity are looking to our government to be our pastor.  Christians want Christian politicians up in office to help make the laws of our country, which is fine!  I’d like true Christian government leaders myself.  But, we cannot legislate morality.  I don’t care how many laws we put on the books, there will be some people who will not obey those laws.  We have laws forbidding murder, but people still kill everyday.  We have laws forbidding robbery and burglary, but everyday someone will take something that doesn’t belong to them because they want it for themselves.  We have laws forbidding driving over the speed limit, but most, not all, will drive over the speed limit even when they see that sign “Speed Limit 55”  or whatever it may be for that particular road.  “So what if that sign says the speed limit is 60 mph.  I want to drive 75 mph.”.  There are laws forbidding drunken or impaired driving, but people still drive intoxicated.  And the reason being is that people are rebellious.  All of us are.  We want to do what WE want to do without anyone getting in our way. 

This past senate election was a doozy!  I was so sick of the ads to the point I was muting my TV every time one came on.  But, what I am most disgusted with is, instead of the pastors of the churches standing firm in preaching the true gospel from their pulpits, they want to put leaders in our government who will make laws telling us all how we are supposed to live.  But as I pointed out in the first paragraph, written laws cannot make ANYONE do what’s right.  The law can only TELL us what is wrong but it can’t MAKE us do it.

I know people are upset with the results, but we have until the next election to find someone who has the character and integrity to get this newly elected official out of office.  But, until then, stop looking to the government to be our national conscience and our pastor.  If you want to see real change in our world, it’s going to have to come from each individual person who calls themselves a Christian.  Some of you are old enough to remember the song by Michael Jackson called, “Man In The Mirror”.  Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
I’m asking him to change his ways.
And no message could’ve been any clearer:
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make that change.

Church, if we want to see a positive change of direction in our country, we have to do the work ourselves!!  Not rely on governmental laws to do it.  It requires treating people, no matter who they are or how they live their lives, with dignity and respect, not contempt, because one thing’s for sure……just because we have been given grace and forgiveness, doesn’t mean we’re without sin.  In Philippians 2:3 it says:

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

Some may say, “But what about those who hate us??”  Well, don’t be surprised that they hate us.  Jesus said that we would be hated because of Him but it also says in Proverbs 25:22 and in Romans 12:20:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

The Bible even says we are to pray for our enemies and do good to those who hate us and despitefully use us.  Yeah, I know that’s hard to do, but Jesus never said being His follower would be easy.  We ARE hated.  But we should be hated for the good we do, not because we are arrogant or because we act holier-than-thou.  Our mission while on this earth is to show Christ to the world and to give the gospel to the world.  People’s hearts won’t change through making laws.  Hearts and lives are changed through the gospel.  The TRUE gospel.  Not that sugary sweet, peppy stuff that’s so prevalent today.  If you want to see positive change in our country, it’s going to have to be carried out by US, not by our government officials.  Stop looking to them because from what I’ve seen in the past few years is that they have their own interests in mind, not ours.

John 6:65

And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  John 6:65.

Imagine going to the White House, or maybe Buckingham Palace, and you want to go inside to see what it looks like and to meet the President or The Queen of England.  Imagine taking it upon yourself to TRY walking through the front gate.  How far do you think you’ll get?  Not very far!  If you’re at the White House, you’d have armed police/security on top of you in no time.  If you’re at Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s Royal Guard stands in front of the entrance to the Royal Palace grounds and would prevent you from going any further.  No matter how much you plead or beg, you’re not getting in to either of those places without the proper permission to do so.  Now, imagine you do have permission.  The White House security nor the Palace Guard will just take your word for it.  I imagine that a representative of the President or Queen would have your name written down on a special form letting security know that you have been granted permission to come inside (with proper ID, of course).

Both Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 talk about the Lamb’s Book of Life and those whose names were NOT written in it BEFORE the foundation of the world.  Those whose names WERE in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world are those who were chosen to be saved.  Ephesians 1:4 says that we (Christians) were chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…”.  I believe the Lamb’s Book of Life is like that special form with our names on it granting us access into the Kingdom.  But how do we get that access?

I believe it is through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God sent His Holy Spirit to draw us to Himself.  The Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes and illuminates our minds giving us comprehension to understand the gospel so that when the gospel is preached, we respond to it.

Many people claim to be Christians.  Many think just because their names are on a church membership roll, that makes them a Christian.  Some think that showing up to church on Christmas and Resurrection Sunday every year is all that’s required.  Others think that just mere intellectual assent to God’s existence is all they need.  That’s like saying we know WHO the President is, but the President has no clue who we are.  We may see him on the TV on a daily basis and someone will mention his name and we say, “Oh yeah, I know who he is.”  But, mention to the President who I am and he’ll say, “Sorry, I don’t know who that is.”  There will be many people who will come before God thinking they’ll be able to waltz right in and have a seat at the table.  But, their names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world.  They’ll say, “But I know who you are because I heard about you in church when I was a child,” or “I know who you are because I heard a preacher on TV talk about you.”  But they will only hear, “Depart from me for I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).  Why?  Because their name was not in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Just as no one can take it upon themselves to walk into the White House or Buckingham Palace unannounced and without the President and Queen granting them entry, no one will be able to come to Jesus and enter into Heaven unless God has granted them the ability to do so.

World Acting Like The World

Something I’ve learned over the years is that many Christians can be pretty haughty.  They are quick to point out the sins of the world as if they haven’t sinned themselves, but if every single one of those Christians were to have their inner thoughts played out on a jumbo screen for everyone to see, they would have to hide in shame.  I know I would.

Christians shouldn’t be shocked at how the world acts.  They are only acting according to their nature.  I’ve seen Christians berate non-Christians for acting ungodly.  Ungodly people are only acting according to their nature.  They don’t have it in their nature to act godly.  That’s like telling a lion to not hunt down and eat an antelope.  It’s in their nature to do so.

Many times when I watch Christian pastors and lay people on TV I cringe at some of the things they say about how we need more laws to curb the “sin” in our country.  We cannot legislate morality.  I don’t care how many laws you make, not everyone will obey them.  How many Christians go the speed limit every…single…time they drive a car?  I know I don’t!!  If speed laws don’t work, how can they expect other laws to work?  How many people still murder despite there being a law on the books that states it’s against the law to kill someone?  How many teenagers still gain access to alcohol and cigarettes even though there’s laws against them being able to purchase them?  Laws can’t make people act right.  Only when there’s been a spiritual change in someone can we expect them to live godly lives.

Telling a lost person to “act” better doesn’t get them saved.  We can act high and mighty and criticize them for their behavior, but we forget that we still sin ourselves.  Christians have forgotten that salvation is of grace, not morality.  It’s a gift given to us freely, not something we earn by doing good deeds.  So, if we ever find ourselves getting up on that high horse that we should just shoot and put out of it’s misery, we need to think about the sins we’re guilty of.  Every lustful thought, every unkind word we speak or unkind thought we think about another person, and every prideful word, deed, or thought we may have, are still sins and the only difference between us and those who are lost is that we have been given grace and forgiveness for those sins.  It doesn’t make us better than anyone else.  It should make us humble knowing that we did nothing to deserve that grace, not prideful and arrogant in how we treat those who aren’t Christian.  God didn’t command us to be their judge and their conscience.  He commanded us to love them.  Sometimes we may have to give some “tough love” and they may not like that, but through that love, we are to point them to Christ.