Thursday, July 26, 2018
Early this morning reading excerpts from the book of Romans through just then opening eyes. My mind got stuck on the depth of meaning there is to be found in 3:10-12. Not reading any further, I just stopped and started typing. Although by no means exhaustive or an attempted exposition of the text my thoughts were these:
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” — Rom. 3:10–12 ESV
Wow! Such a potent statement, I thought. A real eye-opener.
Not only can none be found righteous, or good. Not only is there no one who understands, there is not a single soul who truly looks to find God. Why? We don’t want to. Why don’t we want to? Because we can’t.
Until we are awakened by the Holy Spirit to our need for God (an act of regeneration) we can see no need for him – our desire is to satisfy self only. We are spiritually dead creatures without an understanding of things spiritual or the capacity to understand them.
Slaves to what appeals to the senses, the cravings of our fleshly nature; we cannot break free from our earthly shackles and reach up to God “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7 NASB). He must first reach down to us. Thus, we find John to say, “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 KJV).
Backing up to verse 10 John explains,
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” —1 John 4:10 ESV
Man’s ability to love and have fellowship with God is God’s gracious gift to man made possible by the atoning sacrifice of his son on the cross. In Jesus’ offering of himself as the substitute for our sin, he absorbed fully the prescribed penalty for sin thereby satisfying God’s justice and “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. . .” (Colossians 2:14 ESV). In so doing God imputed (ascribed in a real and literal sense) our sin to Jesus and his righteousness to us. In other words, He took my death and gave me his life.
I cannot help but sing. I must sing:
“How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!”
Have A Blessed Day Everyone,
The other day I gave my answer to a question asked in our church Community Group Discussion Guide which read: “How does knowing you are adopted by God change your view of yourself and of God? How does this give a new answer to your identity?”
My honest response was:
“Knowing God has chosen and adopted me as his son brings me to my knees in highest praise. Unfortunately, the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame past sin often reminds me of competes for my ability to see myself as the forgiven, regenerate, and redeemed child of God he tells me I am, and walk confidently of my ability to each day be everything he says I am.”
Dear Christian friend, I wonder, might our lives sometimes run along a parallel path? Knowing what God says to be true but haunted by yesteryear’s sin, perhaps yesterdays? Instead of seeing the person God declares you are in Christ today, the image you see in the mirror is definitely not the Imago Dei (image of God) and the story being told by that person staring back at you is very different. One of a shameful, sinfully dark past that any fair and reasonable self-examination will find a despairing case of hopelessness. A story that from your vantage point trumps the new story God wants to write into your life; the story he has in fact already written.
The bible I read in Numbers 23:19 tells me “God is not man, that he should lie,” and in Hebrews 6:18 I found it to say that “it is impossible for God to lie.” That being true, and it is, the questions I then should ask become who I will believe him or me? Whose word is most reliable, his or mine? That’s a no-brainer, right? It should be, yes. But in spite of my best effort to go all-in with God’s divine assessment of who I am in Christ, there are still times I find myself wrestling with that vile man sneering at me in the mirror each morning. His rap sheet is just too long to be considered for a heavenly pardon, I sometimes think. How then can it be? I lack understanding. It’s too deep.
Then this morning while reading Calvin’s Institutes I ran across these waking words of encouragement*:
“We have come into the way of faith,” says Augustine: “let us constantly adhere to it. It leads to the chambers of the king, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For our Lord Jesus Christ did not speak invidiously to his great and most select disciples when he said, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,’ (John 16:12). We must walk, advance, increase, that our hearts may be able to comprehend those things which they cannot now comprehend. But if the last day shall find us making progress, we shall there learn what here we could not,” (August. Hom. in Joann).”
I like that. I’m good with that.
*Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion – Enhanced Version (p. 130). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
I spend a lot of time just thinkin’ about stuff, all kinds of stuff: political stuff, religious stuff, financial stuff, techno stuff, health stuff and world affairs for example. Today I dwelt for a while on Christians involved in peaceful protests, and I asked myself this question: How many of those participating in such demonstrations understand they may change a person’s mind about the action for which they stand that day. But until there is a change of heart, the issue is only moved ahead to another day.
Bear with me, please. There is nothing wrong with standing up for what one believes in a peaceful demonstration. But snipping a weed at the surface will not prevent its return or its spreading through your lawn. Only when it is removed at the root will the problem be remedied long-term. So it is with sin, the unseen root residing in the heart of many who are the objects of those issues we often stand against. If the church would spend as much time equipping her people, training, raising up, and rallying the saints to advance the cause of Christ with the good news of the gospel as they do in other pursuits, there would be fewer issues to demonstrate against.
~ Just Thinkin’
From the Genesis account of mankind’s fall (Genesis 3) to the moment your eyes scan across these words. The reliability of God’s word has been and continues to be the focal point of the enemy’s attacks against the Christian faith. If God’s word can be disproved or discredited at any point, the whole of scripture implodes, the cross symbolizes nothing more than a historical period of barbaric savagery, and we must bow in submission to the dark side of the philosophical argument; Nietzsche is right, “God is dead” and we are but cosmic accidents, grown-up germs having no purpose or objective meaning.
“Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting-begging! – that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license-which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master” (Jude 3-4 – The Message).
No picture can be drawn to more vividly depict the age in which we live, nor could there be voiced a greater sense of urgency to contend for the faith than these: “I’ve dropped everything to write you about this.” Jude’s “compelling sense of obligation to the people of God prompted him to change his focus for their spiritual good,” one commentator writes. The text suggests His original intent was to write a letter of encouragement to the church concerning their common salvation but was overcome by an imminent danger infiltrating their ranks.
Believer’s, the Christian community is under siege. Much in the same way as when Jude penned the above words, a serious effort to undermine and destroy the undergirding truth claims of scripture is in full swing and picking up speed. Humanism, secularism, relativism, pluralism, and a countless host of other such isms are being served the gullible society we have become from every conceivable platform and media outlet including the pulpits of many mainstream churches and their respective denominational hierarchies. We must come down from the bleachers, get off the sidelines and get out on the field with more than a pea shooter.
Attending church on Sundays, returning thanks over meals, and saying bedtime prayers is good and encouraged but insufficient in and of themselves to defend the faith from those who would misrepresent and malign it. As the serpent reasoned with Eve in the garden challenging the truth of what God had said, and Satan with Jesus in the Judean wilderness; the war being waged is one of words, of ideas, of opposing worldviews and systems of belief.
Paul instructed Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ; should we be anything less? In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 he wrote:
“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (The Message).
This is a Code Red call for followers of Christ to take a stand, “. . . all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” – Romans 13:11 NLT.
Second Base: Run, Forest, Run
Good, you’ve tagged first base and you’re now at second. You’re half way home, yes, but don’t get cocky, remember Sceva’s clan. No matter how far you have advanced, no matter how fast you can run or how good at the game you think yourself to be, there is still as much distance ahead as there is behind and don’t think the guy in the outfield can’t throw the ball hard and fast. If in doubt, just ask the Oakland A’s Danny Valencia who felt the stinging results of New York Yankee’s, Aaron Hick’s 105.5 mph throw from beyond the base line getting him tagged out at home plate.
Spiritual warfare is an ongoing, continuous, and relentless war with breaks in the action far and few in between. What you do at second base is simple, tag and go, “run, Forest, run”. Yours may not be an up and over the wall slammer, it may be an Inside the Park homer (IPH). Although these home runs are somewhat rare (about 1 in every 158), it still puts a run on the scoreboard.
A caution concerning IPH’s I would want you to know about when on the spiritual battlefield, however, is this; most come on the heels of an error in the outfield. Why is it important to know that? The devil doesn’t commit many errors.
Understanding that, authors such as Christian apologist, and University of Houston Professor, William Lane Craig, speaks to the subject of spiritual warfare in two of his later books, “Reasonable Faith” and “On Guard”. In both offerings, Craig places usable tools in the believer’s hands to prepare and equip his readers to force the devil into committing those errors and get you around the bases. Using the tools he writes about in his books, he has successfully debated such renown atheists as Sam Harris and was turned down by Richard Dawkins who received four British invitations to engage Craig, conveniently declining each one. Following a 2009 debate with Harris and Dawkins fellow “Horseman of the New Atheism”, Christopher Hitchens (now deceased), the website, Common Sense Atheism commented: “Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.” Check out Dr. Craig’s website at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/.
As followers of Jesus, we are all aware of the Great Commission to take the gospel to the far reaches of the earth making disciple as we go (Matthew 28:19-20). But we are not nearly as tuned into the instruction made equally clear to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3), “always be[ing] prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. . .” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).
A problem we discover a little late is how underequipped and inappropriately prepared we are to counteract the enemy’s advances, much less to engage him. As I see it, the blame lies squarely in the hands of church leaders who fail to integrate apologetics in their discipleship programs training converts on how to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). As I have said repeatedly, we are in a war. I use the game of baseball and Babe Ruth in allegorical fashion to make things a bit more readable, but in no way am I attempting to make light of such a serious matter – too many souls are at risk.
In his classic work, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” (a book I highly recommend having a place on every Christian’s bookshelf), the author, Eugene Peterson, identifies the dilemma our modern church culture is being crippled by writing:
“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
Peterson’s point is clear and timely. Living in an on demand – microwave world, people want a quick fix to every issue. No one stands in line at the ticket booth anymore and why should we? It is easier, faster and much more convenient to purchase an admission voucher online, walk right into the theater, sit down and enjoy the show. Unfortunately, this approach has invaded the church. Come Sunday morning, you get an hour of my time then I better hear the choir singing, Just As I Am. Tragic but true, we just want God to see us in the pews (chairs) once a week, watch us drop our tip in the offering bucket then go home, roast a Ball Park frank and turn on the game.
If that shoe fits on your foot you can forget making it beyond second, honestly, you were out before you ever swung the bat. If you are willing to go the distance, however, as Paul told Timothy, to “do your best (“Study” in the KJV) to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15); to keep such Shakespearean words (so thought today) as perseverance, persistence, tenacity and determination in your spiritual vocabulary then hey there friend, you are half way home and on your way to third – Run, Forest, Run”.
Page Five Coming Soon
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c), enacted in 1940 protects the bird, its nest, and its egg. The Act provides criminal penalties for persons who “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle … [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof.” The Act defines “take” as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.”
Removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species on August 9, 2007, the Bald Eagle being on that list prompted the 1940 congressional edict and is still protected, yet today, it is legal to terminate a pregnancy killing an unborn child? Seriously? Am I missing something here?
Pastor Marty Reid of the Trinity Family Church in Talty, Texas writes, “$250,000 fine for taking an eagle egg. But if you want to kill a human in your womb the government will pay for it!” Where are the guys with the straitjackets when you need them? There are 469 seats in congress so I think we should write our elected officials and see if one might be brave enough to requisition about 500 and make ready the same number of beds at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital while he or she is at it. I must say, our world is going to hell in a hand basket and it seems we have gotten in the express lane.
In an earlier post I cited Hebrews 12:1-2 as it served to remind me to keep pushing forward in spite of setbacks, and that we should do; but in no way will I allow myself to be fooled into thinking a quick trip to CVS or Walgreens for a social ills pill will quickly turn things around for the better. The problems plaguing the world didn’t happen overnight nor will they be gone tomorrow, and we will not find the road to recovery being a fast drive down a smoothly paved expressway. So long as evil exists, progress will be met with delay, the highway to peace will always be under construction and you can bet when things start to go smoothly, someone will pee in the pool.
I don’t want to be labeled a prophet of doom, but I am a biblical Realist, and what I find pressed between the pages of sacred writ are warnings of a world that will continue down an ever-darkening path; a people moving further and further away from God until one day the sky is set ablaze with the glorious light of Jesus’ return; Then and only then will all things be made right. Having said that I must also say this: As Believer’s, we don’t want to super glue ourselves to the bleachers doing nothing but shaking our heads in disbelief waiting for the rapture. We want to be, need to be, must be, out front leading the charge; at work and at play, putting on a Christlikeness exhibition for a wanting world to see there is a better way. “Most important”, 1 Peter 4:8 tells us, “continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” (NLT).
Albert Schweitzer once said, “Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every man has to seek in his own way to realize his true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. For remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too.” I agree – do you?
Early this morning while doing a little net surfing I ran across this nugget of wisdom from the pen of author/speaker, Michael McMillan who said, “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep Re-Reading the last one” – how true. As we absorb the aftershock of recent events and join the expedition for solutions, we must keep the vehicle’s transmission in the Drive position, not Reverse. Yes, there is much to learn from the past. In the aftermath of such tragedy, finding the pieces and putting the puzzle together may well help us better understand the psyche behind such acts of violence and its perpetrators, but the social ills (the root of the problem) that seem to have a stranglehold on our nation will not be solved by dwelling on them. We must come to terms with the fact of living in a broken world alongside 7.4 billion broken people.
Friend, our best efforts will not alter what has been; the past is on lockdown and cannot be changed. Yes, yes, yes, it is a good thing to learn from it, but it isn’t a good thing to box up your life and move in with it. To do so will have you stewing in a pot of dismay serving up more bowls full of uncertainty, fear, and unhealthy grief to others. I am not saying, “just get over it”, NO! My stomach churns still, and my heart feels as though it is being run through a paper shredder even as I sit here writing. Let us mourn our losses in heartfelt sincerity, it is right to do so, but please do not allow the pain to fester or embitter. Personally, I find and take comfort in God’s word every day, and the passage I turned to this morning was Hebrews 12:1-2 which reads:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (NLT).
Pray for peace at home and abroad.