Sunday, January 06, 2008

DOCTRINE: The Most Important Doctrine in the Bible!

Recently I listened to Stan Buckley (First Baptist Church of Jackson, FL) as he related an anecdote concerning a question put to him when he was a young minister; a mentor ask him, "What is the most important doctrine in the Bible?"

He immediately saw an opportunity to impress his elder-peer with a quick response; he said "Salvation." His friend said, "No, that is not it!" Several others followed and each time he was told,
"No, that is not it!"

Finally, in frustration, he pleaded, "Well, what then?" To which his companion said, "The doctrine of sin is the most important doctrine in the Bible!"

As entertaining as this anecdote is, I would strongly disagree. I believe "the doctrine of the fear of God" is the most important doctrine in the bible (see Proverbs 1:7 and Romans 3:18).

This doctrine involves both the doctrine of salvation and the doctrine of sin; it is that which leads to a knowledge of our absolute depravity and God's absolute holiness, as-well-as, our need for forgiveness and salvation ... rebirth cannot occur without it
(in my opinion).

DOCTRINE: The Knowledge of God


If God, with reference to His omniscience, foreknows the potential of every thought, word, feeling, and deed, does He need to specifically know the ending (i.e., outcome) of each in order to retain fully His divine sovereignty over the affairs of man? Since He is surprised by nothing, the answer would seem to be no!

I would suggest the knowledge of a "potential" thing (for an infinite and omniscient being) is axiomatically the same thing as knowledge of the outcome itself.

God's providential and permissive wills (actually one coin, two sides), as we understand them orthodoxly, are unmolested with this view. It seems to me (on the surface)
this view is not a variation of Open Theism, a doctrine I strongly reject.

He knew Adam's potential to sin in the Garden; He permitted him the free will to do so. God also knew the potential of the Tower of Babel; He providentially intervened to moderate the future of mankind.

I sense in my spirit, insisting on His exhaustive foreknowledge of every outcome diminishes or qualifies His infinite nature and His divine attributes, not to mention the damage done to His power to create, without flaw, a natural order perfect with respect to Himself and not man.


Monday, December 24, 2007

LIVING THINGS: The essentials of growth!

Just because a thing is assigned a particular name doesn't mean it will absolutely function according to that name. For example, calling a thing a "house" plant doesn't mean it will thrive, or even survive, in every house; especially flowering houseplants.

All plants, at least all flowering plants, require certain essential things in order to thrive and survive: sunlight, carbon-dioxide, moisture, nutrition.

All over the world, there are places where houseplants will not thrive or survive, their environment is hostile to them, especially the outdoors. If there is a lack of life-supporting essentials, this too will stifle and thwart the well-being of a plant. We now know the absence of an unseen intangible (tenderness perhaps, some might say love; I'd say support and encouragement) will also affect a plant's quality of life.

Simple calling a person (or yourself) a Christian won't in and of itself insure thriving or even surviving under all conditions;
a houseplant left outside will die; a houseplant deprived of nourishment and care will also die, even though inside the house.

On the one hand, we tend to project an unattainable standard upon those called "Christian," sort of recreating them in our own image, insisting they meet our expectations just because they are called Christian.

On the other hand, we tend to knowingly place ourselves in
environments hostile to our well-being. This ought not be!

Like houseplants, Christians need a particular kind of light and moisture, a special diet, supporting encouragement and fellowship (prayer and koinonia), as well as a manageable environment. Struggle (sometimes stunting or even death) comes from the absence of these growth essentials. We
all need to mindful of our own needs and the needs of others if we expect growth in ourselves or them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CALLING: The Challenge of the Call to Service!

Consider the following in the light of God's call to Mary and Joseph ...
It is one thing to believe God has done the miraculous through others in the past ...

... it is quite another to be called to personal involvement in miracles yet to be!
The real question for us is how will we respond to God's call on us?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

EMERGENT ANARCHY: Shooting oneself in the foot!

Philosophical anarchy can be described as ...
A system of thinking in the field of knowledge which leads to a belief in the eradication of "all direct or coercive government as a political ideal" and that "proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society" without formal government.
Communism is and was is a philosophical anarchist movement, perverted and corrupt as it is and was.

anarchy can be described in a similar fashion ...
A system of thinking in the field of ecclesiology (or theology) which leads to a belief in the eradication of "all direct or coercive government as a theological ideal" (i.e., I think perhaps a pure theocracy) and that "proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of believers and churches as the principal mode of organized Christian society" without governmental hierarchy.
The emerging church movement is an ecclesiastical anarchist movement; as idealistic and energetic as it is, it is at its roots an ecclesiastical anarchy ... nothing more and nothing less.

Emergents are not alone today (2007) ... the Anglican Global Communion is currently having its own run-in with this destructive force. Ironically, just as amongst the Emergents, the Anglicans
anarchists deny their classic anarchy.

Anarchists apparently do not understand or deny the power of collective wisdom and experience; instead they prefer to repeat past errors in order to experientially acquire an independent philosophy of life or worldview.

For those of us who continue honor history and tradition (those who desire but often fail to avoid the errors of the past), we see Emergents as dismissing the collective wisdom of our historical and theological ancestors, something human experience and Scripture warn against.

G. K. Chesteron: "
tradition is only democracy extended through time." [Orthodoxy, chapter 4] He says we should give more credence to the hero than the historian for the latter was not there. He said he is more inclined to believe the democratic ideas of the masses over those of the literary classes since their collective wisdom is that of the ages and not the moment.

One should not trust the idealism of the youth over that of the seasoned and elder member of a tribe; even though that elder was at one time an idealistic youth with idealistic beliefs.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

DISCERNMENT - Being able to recognized a fake!

In Acts chapter 3, verses 12-15, we see the Apostles John and Peter being rushed by people who had heard about the healing of a man lame from birth.

One learned from Peter's response to the people (he stopped them seeking a human as the source of the healing power) is the recognition they were doing something wrong - . They were looking for the men who had done this ; they wanted to glorify them (perhaps even worship them).

Peter, on the other hand, knew the Children of God "should" know this to be impossible; Peter only God possessed the power and had to heal the lame. How did he know this? Because he knew the .

It is true that banks train their tellers to recognize forgeries by making them spend extensive time with the original. The better one knows the original, the easier it is to the fakes.

Scripture is the best way to get to know the Original [Romans 10:17]; once we do, the rest is easier.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

FREEMASONRY: C. A. Blanchard's "CHURCH AND LODGE" 1895 Address

I am the proud owner of several years (1957-1960) of The SWORD of the LORD newspaper; a weekly national, Christian rag published by fundie John R. Rice for years ... and, surprisingly, still published to this day.

The following is a classic in conservative preaching (specifically in the area of confronting the cults while defending the faith), which was published in the September 5, 1958, issue. The typos are the SWORD's; the links are mine.

The message was appropriate for the age 100 years ago, when first delivered; appropriate for the age in which it was reprinted by the SWORD, 50 years later; and is appropriate for this present apostate age, yet 5 decades later!

Blanchard's argument is logical and reasonable; he points at the weaknesses of the Freemason apologetic ... he knows them well since he was a 33rd degree mason himself prior to receiving Christ.

Church and Lodge

By the late Dr. Charles A. Blanchard
(Address delivered at Northfield, Mass., August 7th, 1895, by Pres. C. A. Blanchard, Wheaton College, Wheaton, 111., before some 1,590 Christian workers, gathered from all parts of the United States to Mr. Moody's "Conference for Christian Workers," as reported in the November number of Northfield Echoes.)
The Bible Contains a Complete Rule for the Whole Life of Man

It tells a man how he should conduct himself with reference to God, to the Lord Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to the Word which God has given, and to the Church which He has established.

It directs him how he should treat his wife and care for his children; how much he should pay his hired man and when he should; pay him. It teaches the hired man how he should conduct himself with reference to his employer. It tells men how to loan money and how to collect debts, as well as how to worship.

It teaches a man what kind of a citizen he should be: how he ought to vote, if he is in a self-governing country. If he is a magistrate, it directs him how he ought to exercise authority and says that God will call him to account for the manner in which he executes his office.

We are apt to narrow down the teachings of the Bible and the business of the Church and to suppose that they have to do chiefly with the work of the Lord's Day, and that they have little or nothing to do with our pleasures, our business, or our political and our industrial relations; but the testimony of the Word of God is that this Book is given by inspiration of God and that it is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in right doing, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work," not simply to some good works.

Men act as if God had never told them how to live, and the result is that our churches are being flooded out with vice and crime. The reason we have trouble of all kinds in the world is simply because men have either wholly neglected this Word or because they have chosen certain portions of it and have pushed whole continents of revealed truth out of sight.

Turn on the Light

The Church, the minister, the Christian is a watchman on the walls, and it is his business to see the threatening enemy when his spear-points come over the top of the wall, that the gates may be shut, the walls manned, the men armed, and women and children protected. It is the business of the watchman to look out, not for pleasant, but FOR INJURIOUS THINGS, and to point them out. If you go into a dark room filled with vermin, you cannot see anything, but if you light a match, you see some of those creatures; if you light a lamp, you see more; and, if you turn on an electric light, it reveals the good and the evil in sharp contrast. "That which doth make manifest is light," and the Christian is the light of the world. The Church establishes the moral standard for men who never go near it, and for communities who reject it!

Stop the Wrecking Business

In these days the work of rescuing the individual sinner very popular, but it is not popular to point out and put down the evil that destroys him, because there are material interests involved. Men are trying to save a few wrecks here and there, while thousands go down and the wreckers keep plying their trade. It is better to reform or hang the wreckers than to save one wreck!

Men tell me plainly that the whiskey trade will never be abolished. I was discussing the whiskey question in a Missouri stagecoach and the driver said, "You can never down the whiskey business when there is eight cents profit in a ten cent drink." He wasn't a Christian, and I didn't wonder, but when a man who believes that God led the Israelites across the Red Sea and across e Jordan; that God caused the ills of Jericho to fall—I do not like to hear such a man say that any iniquity in this world is here stay, because if God is here to stay, He will have a clean world for His people to live in; He has promised that even the heathen should be given to Jesus Christ for His possession, and He doesn't call to a few, but to the world when He says: "Look to me and be ye saved." The Bible is positive and negative; it requires and forbids; it points out evils and prescribes the remedies.

Some say that the way to destroy evil is to proclaim the good. God does not do this. It is necessary both to root out the evil and to establish the good. God commands us not to profane His name, not to steal or kill or commit adultery, then gives positive commands to honor our fathers and mothers, to remember the Sabbath, and to love God and man. No farmer is fool enough to try to kill weeds by planting good corn. He relies upon the plow and the hoe.

IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH TO POINT OUT THE EVIL, NOT ONLY OF SOME SIN, BUT OF ALL SIN. Yet in every age there are evils which men instinctively avoid mentioning. The wrong is so widespread, so deep-rooted, so powerful that the minister naturally passes it by to deal with some comparative trifle. When slavery was the law of the land, the Church did not even name it. Yet it included theft, adultery, murder, and all other crimes. As John Wesley said it was the sum of all villainies!

In our day no one objects to good pious people saving drunkards. Liquor men like to have it done. They have no use for a drunkard. The besotted, bleareyed, ragged victim of the trade is a discredit. But they don't want their trade meddled with. They want the privilege of making drunkards. Give them this and they are glad to have you take the "finished product" off their hands.

A Mighty Factor for Evil

At the present time, in a Christian church, in a Christian newspaper, or on a public platform, almost never will you FIND A SECRET SOCIETY MENTIONED. Many do not like to say so, yet the secret society system is one of the strongest factors for good or evil in our country. There are five hundred thousand Masons in this country, and as many Odd Fellows. The majority of these men are not in Christian churches. THEY TELL YOU PLAINLY THAT THEY DON'T CARE FOR THE CHURCH. The secret society system of the United States, which puts up such temples as there are in Boston and Philadelphia and New York, which puts up its lodges in every town and seeks to attach to itself every young mechanic and merchant and lawyer, and tells him that if he Joins a secret society, he will be able to serve his country better, or will be helped in his industrial pursuits, or receive a life insurance—such an organization is a tremendous power for good or evil; and the Church of Christ should find out which it is, and then should see that every young man may be warned, if it is evil, and urged to join it, if it is good. There are lodges for almost every purpose under Heaven, They are drawing in young men by the hundreds of thousands; yet the pulpits, the religious press, and the platform is, in general, as silent as the grave. Now we are told to examine—I Thessalonians 5:21, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good," and to inform men, "Ye are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14).

Ignoring the Example of Christ

I submit to you a few doctrines which determine absolutely the character of these secret lodges.

They all require members to disregard the example of Christ, and His example is just as binding as His Word. Assume that the Good Templars are an excellent organization for promoting temperance, or that the Freemasons promote faith in God, hope in immortality, and charity to all mankind. What right then has a Christian man to hide that work from his wife and children?

Christ told His disciples to proclaim on the housetops what He had told them in private (Matt. 10:26, 27). Now a man is initiated into a lodge. When he comes home his wife says: "Where have you been tonight?" "I have been initiated." "I didn't know you were going to join. Tell me about it." "I am not permitted to tell you." "Was there anything wicked?" "No." "Anything ridiculous?" "Nothing at all, my dear; it was very solemn." "Well, then why can't you tell me about it, if there is nothing wicked in it, and nothing ridiculous?" He is compelled to say, "I have obligated myself not to."

The question as to whether it is good or bad may be a matter of taste. Jesus Christ knew how to promote the temperance cause, faith in God, the hope of immortality, and charity toward all men. The Saviour who turned His head on the cross to say to John, "Take care of my mother," and said to the mother, "John will look after you," is not unmindful of the needs of the wife, after her husband has been taken from her, and she is left to provide for herself. Jesus knew how to promote friendship and love and liberty; and you and I, if we are Christians, are bound to do Christ's work in Christ's way. Christ said, when asked as to His teachings, that He spoke openly to the world in the synagogue and in the temple, and THAT IN SECRET HE SAID NOTHING. No man can be a secret society man and follow the example of Jesus Christ!

Trampling Upon Christ's Commands

But not only does a lodge man necessarily disregard the example of Christ, but he is compelled to violate His express command. He said to the disciples, "I am the light of the world," and, "Ye are the light of the world"; you are to show mankind the difference between right and wrong. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Suppose that every secret lodge is doing good, put in the Jesuits, the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the Golden Ring, the Whiskey Ring, and assume they are all doing good.

Are men in secret societies letting the good which they do shine out? They go into the second or third stories, curtain the doors and let no one come in unless he will obligate himself not to tell those outside what they do inside. Christ says, "Let your light shine," and I go off and join a Masons' or Odd Fellows' lodge. I meet my neighbor the next day and tell him that it is a good organization. He asks me what it is for. "To promote faith in God, the hope of immortality, and charity to all mankind; we are trying to build up the temperance cause."

"What do you do?"

"Go and pay our secretary twenty-five dollars to be initiated, and you can find out." Unless he will do that, he can KNOW NOTHING of the good we are doing.

Having Fellowship with Unbelievers

Again, in these organizations you have good men and evil men together. I had a very pious and worthy elder in a church in which I was preaching who was an Odd Fellow. I said to him one day, "How many Christians are there in your lodge?" He said, "I and Brother Woods." "How many members?" "About a hundred." "Don't you feel rather unequally yoked? Can you and Brother Woods pull against so many men? When they had that ball last winter, did you want it?" "No." "Why did they have it?" "Because we were outvoted." You may join any lodge you please and you will find anywhere from SEVENTY-FIVE TO EIGHTY PER CENT ARE NOT PROFESSING CHRISTIANS.

In many towns I know of not one prayer-meeting man connected with the Masonic lodge. Here is a Christian man, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and desiring to be a man separated unto God and His service, yet he joins with men who are unbelievers and some of whom are profane, and they are all brethren together. When a man enters a lodge, he takes his chances; he yokes himself with unbelieving men.

A Christian ought not to do that. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" (II Cor. 6:14). The Church is God's light to shine out in the world, that men may see the ditch before they fall into it; that they may see the trap before the foot is fast.

Teaching Immorality

Once more, the morality taught in these organizations is un-Christian and wicked. Take, for example, the Masonic oath which binds the Mason not to wrong or defraud a Mason, knowing him to be such: or the other clause which binds the Mason not to have "illicit carnal intercourse with the wife, mother, sister or daughter of a Master Mason, knowing them to be such."

I was once lecturing in a university, and met a number of the ladies, among them the lady principal. She said, "I know nothing about this subject. I have been thankful many times that my brother was a Mason. I have been self-supporting from my girlhood, and when I left home my brother gave me a Masonic token and told me to wear it when I was alone. Three times I have been approached by men, apparently with evil intent, and three times they have turned away at that sign." The unthinking may say: "Isn't that splendid?"

That is as splendid as the Devil. The Devil is satisfied with a morality of that kind. God says, "Thou shalt not steal." Jesus Christ says, "If you look lustfully, you are an adulterer; you must not only abstain from outward crime, but you must have a clean heart, a clean eye." Masonry? says, "Don't steal from a Mason; don't commit adultery with the relative of a Mason."

A church deacon once said to me, "Is that so very bad?" "How old is that boy who put out your horse?" I asked. 'Twelve years." I said, "If you were to say to that lad, when he was starting for the city, 'You must not take any watches from the store on the right hand side of the street,' what would he understand about the watches on the left side?" "Why," he said, "I suppose he would understand that I wouldn't be very much offended if he took some of the watches from the left side."

An organization that binds a man to partial morality speaks against Jesus Christ and imperils the moral standards of the community.

Charity Miscalled

The charities of these orders are utterly un-Christian. THEY HAVE NOT THE FIRST INKLING OF JESUS CHRIST IN THEM. Their plan is to keep out anyone who is likely to need anything. Anyone who wants to join must be a good and true man, sound in mind, and with sufficient means for the support of his family and for the support of the order.

They shut out the maimed and the halt, the women and the children, and pick out the able-bodied men, and propose to give charity to those who have paid and the friends of those who have paid, and nobody else; this is called charity. It is not charity; it is absolute selfishness.

Denying God's Plan of Salvation

Once more, these organizations put the plan of salvation aside and in its place put more moral teachings enforced by material symbols. This whole system is a plan to DO AWAY WITH THE ATONEMENT OF JESUS CHRIST and to lead the poor sinner to trust man in the awful day of judgment, with no hope except what his miserable, paltry righteousness has been able to get for himself.

We have members of lodges by the million learning to believe that they can be SAVED WITHOUT THE BLOOD, by practicing temperance, or friendship, and then they teach such morality, as is involved in those obligations of the Master Mason. Good works are indeed necessary, but are not suffcient. [sic]

Excluding Christ

These lodges not only exclude Jesus Christ by inference; they exclude Him by form. In Masonic rituals, they choose readings which do not contain the name of Christ at all. They have two passages which contain the name of Jesus Christ, one of them II Thessalonians 3:6. Here the name Lord Jesus Christ occurs twice, but if you will take the Masonic book, you will find that whole name deliberately striken [sic] out, that name which is above every name, and which is the only hope of the Church. When you ask the reason, they say that a great many conscientious members do not believe in Jesus Christ, and it would offend them. So that a man who goes into a Masonic lodge not only leaves his wife and children at the door, but he leaves his Saviour there, too.

Cowering Before This Foe

Why does not the Church take this matter up and warn young men who, by the thousands, are being ensnared every year?

What does God care for our religion if it does not lead us to protest against these evils? If we will not open our mouths to do away with evil and bring in the good, ought not the Church die? God calls the Christian Church to a life of faith, and a great many of us are looking around and wondering what will happen, and how God will manage to have things turn out right. But the bolts in His right hand are plenty in number.

When He sees fit to wipe out iniquity, He will do it, and if we do not do our in fighting against evil, the judgment, when, it comes, will take some of our blood with it. God makes us faithful.

The End

Related links - Southern Baptists; Sword of the Lord; Christianity Today;

Friday, September 15, 2006

DISCERNMENT: It's all about using common sense!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL: [Acts: 17:11; other topics - discipleship, Trust]
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
When I was a teen ... way back before the flood ... me and my friend Methuselah would go to the movies together. During the intermission ... for those of you under fifty, an intermission was a break between movies ... the theaters showed newsreels, cartoons, and commercials for their concession stand.

Some of the cartoons and commercials had lyrics to songs scrolling across the bottom of the screen, a pong ball bounced from note to note acting as a surrogate conductor, leading all of us in singing the silly little ditties.

What amazed me was how many of us actually sang; like little robots we joined in on the first bounce, not realizing we had a choice.

Many in the Church today are like those of us who responded without realizing we had minds of our own ... we were naive and trusting.

I'm not suggesting Christians should not trust their leader's teachings, but they are naive and should be discerning.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

JEHOVAH TSIDKENU - The Lord Our Righteousness

Baruch Ha Shem Adonai!
(Blessed be the Name of the Lord!)

This is the twelfth and final entry in The CRIB's presentation of the Twelve Jewels of God ... a look at the wonderful, powerful, inspirational names of God.

The name before us is Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord Our Righteousness"; there are only two occurrences of this glorious name, the first in Jeremiah 23:6b [23:5-6]...

And this is His name by which He will be called,
'The LORD our righteousness.'

It is a fact we've no righteousness of our own; the Scriptures tell us ..
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment ...
Isaiah 64:6a
So man has a deep need for righteousness but his own won't suffice ... he has none. So the need for a surrogate source of righteousness is paramount. The LORD is our righteousness!

The simple consideration of this fact is daunting and falls on our mien like a water-soaked blanket; a sense of hopelessness comes over us. But, are we indeed without hope? Again the scripture tells us ...
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:11
If candles had feelings and you were a candle, you might want to light your wick but couldn't without help. If no one offered to help and you knew no one would, you would have the sense of hopelessness I'm referring to ...

Israel had sinned horribly in the sight of God and knew she would be punished. Thus says the LORD to this people,
Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.
Jeremiah 14:10
She had sold herself into harlotry with other gods ... all but a remnant. She was cut off from God and a foreboding sense of hopelessness had come over her people. When I think of their plight I imagine a slave ship's cargo on its way to market; I imagine they had this sense of hopelessness ... dehumanized, without assurance for their future. Such was the state of Israel.

The people knew judgment was coming; they knew it for certain ... they just didn't know when, from what direction, or how. Israel's sins had saturated everything with darkness, decay, and death ... nothing was exempt.

The nation's people were offered an alternative by God's spokesman Jeremiah [repentance and turning from their wicked ways, Jeremiah 18:5-11] but they said ...
... "It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart."
Jeremiah 18:12
I could take my wife to Hawaii again, if I had five dollars for everyone I've heard say "It's too late for me; I've been too evil to be forgiven."

Though it is true that ...
The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9
We need not fear, for God is with us [Isaiah 8:10]! And He will not depart from us [Matthew 28:20b]!

Listen to Paul when it comes to hope ...
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4-6
If there's only one God and one hope, then rejecting God is to reject our only hope. One our favorite old hymns has this as its first line ... "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." [The Solid Rock; Edward Mote, 1797-1874]

Our hope is anchored to Christ the Rock ...
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil ...
Hebrews 6:19
God's word challenges us to live righteously by right doing, but warns Jew and Gentile alike that "there are none righteous, no not one" [Romans 3:10]. For, Paul says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23].

I am convinced the fear of God was absent from the heart's of the people in Jeremiah's day, and in Paul's day as well; for between the references mentioned above, Paul inserts verse 18 ... "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."

So the heart of the people is sick beyond degree, they live with a sense hopelessness, and they do not fear God; what they need is a heart transplant ... right? Yes! Are they too far gone to reach God's forgiveness? No! Is His arm short like yours and unable to find and deliver?

And the prophet Ezekiel [36:26-27] says ...
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Can we learn to be righteous? Not in our lifetimes, at any rate! But we don't need to wait; receive His righteous as your own, now; receive the new heart God has waiting for you, now. Live now by His righteousness in order to be healed, to be made new, and so live forever, ages without end! [1 Peter 2:24]

The so-called Wild West of early America was full of optical illusions and mirages appeared constantly on the heated and distant horizon. A story is told that one of General Custer's young officers was sure he saw a party of Indians a mile away. As the soldiers charged, the Indians looked plainer each moment they rode. But, arriving on the scene, there were no Indians at all - only buffalo carcasses.

Other travelers have seen ships skimming across the plains in full sail, railroad tracks on elevated pilings, and colorfully plumed birds sitting quietly for all to see. These illusions occur when light rays pass through the atmosphere and are bent or distorted.

But no optical illusions in nature exceed the illusions which are created by our own hearts. By diagnosis, man's spiritual heart is "beyond cure." Unaided by God, the response of each of us toward knowing his or her own heart is inner despair: "Who can know it?" [Jeremiah 17:9]. No one can fathom the darkness or evil of one's own heart; this is especially true at the point of the question about whom we trust - here again, man's heart will fool him.

But there is hope. It rests in this: God knows your heart [Jeremiah 17:10]. He culls, scans, explores, and, implores each human heart; and He tests and examines human emotions to find those are seeking Him.

This is our hope; this is Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord [is] Our Righteousness." When we get to know God, we get to know our own heart; you do not know your own heart by examining it yourself; you know your heart by getting to know God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Baruch Ha Shem Adonai!
(Blessed be the Name of the Lord!)

This is the eleventh in The CRIB's presentation of the Twelve Jewels of God ... a look at the wonderful, powerful, inspirational names of God.

The name before us is Jehovah Shammah, "The Lord is There"; it relates to a millennial promise of God ... to a future, earthly Jerusalem ... one in which the King of kings rules for a thousand years.

Again the name appears only once in the Old Testament:
The name of the city from that day shall be, "The Lord is There."
Ezekiel 48:35
But the theology developed from the name permeates the entire testament. After all, the names of God are indicative of His nature and attributes; these latter being everywhere present in the first 39 books of Scripture.

I would have preferred to have retained the original Hebrew: יהוה שמה, Yahweh (Jehovah) Shammah.

Some say the name alludes to the shechinah glory, or the visible manifestation of the Divine Presence. The shechinah was present in the first temple, but not in the second.

Ezekiel tells us the Divine Presence will be in the city of which he speaks and will be there so fully and so powerfully the city requires a name change. We belive it is so the very name, Jehovah Shammah, will remind all mankind of the preeminent, transcendent, and glorious God who habitates this city.

Regarding our text [Ezekiel 48:35], Jerome said:
The name of the city shall be no longer Jerusalem (“the vision of peace”), but Adonai-shama (“the Lord is there”) [rather, Jehovah-shammah, “Jehovah is there”], because Yahweh will never again withdraw from it, as He once withdrew, but will hold it as His everlasting possession.
Two points are implied by the prophet -
1. That, when the Jews are restored, they will rebuild the temple, and divide the land as God has directed.
2. That God has another temple, another holy city, another Promised Land, in view; the promised land of Immanuel [God with us], the city of the New Jerusalem, the final temple [1 Peter 2:5], and the Christian Church -- which is the house of the living God [1 Timothy 3:15], in which the presence of Christ will be found forever [Revelation 22:3-5].
Can we not believe that Ezekiel, by the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, not only points to the return of the Israelites from their captivity and what was to befall them prior to the Second Advent; but also to the spread of the Gospel in the earth and certainly the miraculous final conversion of the tribes of Israel by the preaching of that Gospel.

The shechinah glory, once present in the tabernacle and the temple, had departed Israel, it would not return in the same form according to the prophet.
Yet Ezekiel, in his visions, sees a temple reconstructed to present again the divine glory, a vision fulfilled in Emmanuel (“God with us”), who tabernacled among men. [John 1:14; compare Revelation 21:2-3, Barnes, loc. cit.]

If the believer is ever to understand Jehovah Shammah, he must understand:
1. the reality of being built up into a new temple made with living stones
2. the very real reality that Christ truly and literally indwells every believer.
What is so difficult here. The LORD is there, He is present in this new temple city, His presence manifested in it, literally.

Those who don't take to this truth lose out on the hope that comes with it.

Are we to say the valley is too deep to travel, the mountain is too high to climb, and then lament the LORD's absence when we need Him most? Yet He has promised, to abide there in us and in our midst even to the end of the age

How are we to deal with these mountains, these valleys? Absent God we cannot! When the LORD gives you a mountain high or a valley deep, you best have a strong hand to hold on to!

When the Israelites were being held in captivity [Jeremiah 29:1], they discovered their imprisonment would last seven decades - 70 years. The prophet Ezekiel told them the shechinah had departed from the temple in Jerusalem [Ezekiel 10 and 11] and they grieved deeply for the future of Israel.

I've always wondered what they expected when they behaved the way they did, did they expect El Elyon to not keep His word, to break His promises?

Well the last verse of Ezekiel gave them hope and subsequently gives us hope:
... the name of the city from that day shall be, 'The LORD is there."
This final verse of the book provides the destiny and the destination of Israel's history.

In biblical thought a new name means a new characteristic or character to correspond to it. The presence of the Lord God of Israel will be the chief glory of Jerusalem ... millennially and eternally. In fact, we are told that there will be no sun in the eternal Jerusalem for the Son of God will provide it light.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
Psalm 46:5
"For I," declares the LORD, "will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst."
Zechariah 2:5
The Targum has,
"the name of the city which is separated from the day, the Lord will cause his Shechaniah to dwell there.'' [Gill, loc. cit.]
And a city of such great stature will surely have a banner:
Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner. (Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner)
Exodus 17:15
At that time they will call Jerusalem "The Throne of the LORD," and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart.
Jeremiah 3:17
In The Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says,
Where two or three are gathered in My name there I shall be also.
In The Gospel of John, Jesus is explaining His (the True Vine) and our (disciples) relationship to His Father (the vinedresser),
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4
As Jesus prepares to depart for heaven He delivers what we call the Great Commission and closes with this,
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Jehovah Shammah has a message for the multitudes:
If you seek Me, you'll find Me in your midst, for I dwell in My Temple, in My Kingdom, and My Son is the Temple and the Kingdom, where He is I shall be also ... behold -
The Word took on flesh and dwells in your midst; you are living stones being built up into the Temple of God.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

JEHOVAH SHALOM - The Lord of Peace!

Baruch Ha Shem Adonai!
(Blessed be the Name of the Lord!)

This is the tenth in The CRIB's presentation of the Twelve Jewels of God ... a look at the wonderful, powerful, inspirational names of God.

The name before us is Jehovah Shalom, "The Lord of Peace" or "The Lord is Peace." The name occurs only once in the Old Testament, in Judges 6:24 ...
Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
As far as I can tell there are no variations on the name in the Elder Testament; and there are no attributable citations in the New.

Shalom is a derivative of shâlêm (which means "be complete" or "... safe" or "... finished") Shalom is translated as "peace" or the "absence from strife." Jehovah-Shalom is the name given Gideon's altar; thus the name he called God.

As said in an earlier post, Jehovah might be translated "The Existing One" (or "... Lord"). Most Hebrew scholars believe the meaning of Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew word Havah or Hawyah meaning "to be" or "to exist." It also suggests "to become" or specifically "to become known" — this suggests our God is one who reveals Himself continuously.

Gideon is a man of Israel and according to Judges 6:6 "Israel was brought very low because of Midian." The men of Israel had to "beat out" their wheat in the dark of night, often inside a "wine press in order to save it from [their enemies]" (verse 11). People were starving to death and men had to do what they had to do in order to feed their families and themselves.

When the angel of the Lord revealed himself to be Jehovah, Gideon expressed his dismay at lecturing Yahweh, "Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face" (verse 22). But the LORD comforted him and said, "Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die" (verse 23). It was then that the frightened Hebrew built his altar to Jehovah-Shalom. (verse 24).

Gideon's interacting with the Living God of Israel wasn't over: he would be required to take the war to the enemy; to whittle his army down to a few hundred men, against a much larger battle-hardened army; and then attacking them in the night with nothing more than trumpets, clay vases, and a torch for each vase. All of this was done with a little worship (7:15) and a healthy supply of faith.

There have been times in my ministry when I've felt like hiding in someone's winepress, day and night! There are times when the counsel of friends and peers is empty and shallow; there are times when the dank midnight of my circumstance is terribly stressful ... solitude is the only companion I seek. That is until I find that I can do nothing to change things apart from Him; then I turn to Him and pour out my plight and it is then that He comes into the shadow of my despair, bringing light and peace.

Peace doesn't just come on bright, breezy spring mornings or on cool whispering evenings ... peace can come to us when we're hiding from the world in our own personal pity party. Remember dear friends, Jehovah-Shalom waits to hear you cry out to Him, for the LORD is Peace and at the right time He is also the LORD of Hosts Jehovah Sabaoth.

Remember the words of Christ Jesus ...
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-31
Now that my friends is the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

SEDUCTIVE FAITH – Its Lack Curbs God’s Use of Me!

In Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John were about to enter the temple; they were passing by a lame man begging alms from passersby. This is one of the most memorable Sunday School lessons of all time; it's on the same plain as David and Goliath! I don’t remember where or when I was taught the lesson, but I remember it clearly.

But Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, [fill in the blank]!”
Acts 3:6 ASV
The lesson always seemed to be about either healing the disabled or materialism. These, I believe, miss the practical application of the passage. Let me explain.

Context is important in any study of Scripture; the context of this passage is very simple:
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46, 47
Clearly Luke's segue into chapter three is out of church unity and church witness (or perhaps testimony), both a function of faith (or trust) in God. In Acts 3:1-10 we have a demonstration of God’s love and healing power manifested through the Apostle Peter’s great faith in God’s love and healing power! A miracle is in view here, and miracles were used by God to demonstrate His attributes, encourage the saints, and grow the Kingdom.
I’m reminded of the story of the fully loaded barge which sank in the East River near New York City's Riker’s Island. Nothing the salvagers tried would raise the valuable cargo; it was frozen in the mud of the river's bottom.

A young engineer said he could raise it, but no one listened to him. Having tried and failed in every effort, the site superintendent let him have a try. The young man had workers chain another barge over the sunken vessel, and for hours he had them cinch up the chains. Then he sat back and waited for the tide to come in!

The man had absolute faith in the power of the tide; he had seen it work before and he knew it would not fail him now. The tide is like the Lord Jesus Christ only it is finite and He is infinite. He chains Himself to our sunken lives, chinches up tight, waits for us to turn, then lifts us out of sins suction-like grip. All many need someone to come by and notice them. Read more here >>>

Are there any practical biblical principles we can mine from this text? Yes, a multitude, but one particular thread caught my attention.

First, we should not miss the call of those in need! This is a simple one, not needing much explanation.

"Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, 'Look at us!'" (Verse 4); like the Apostles, we should focus on sinners and say, “Look at me!” In other words we should be capable of attracting their attention, not for a fleeting moment but by an appeal that causes them to take notice of us and remember us.

Second, we should not offer what the world expects or wants from us! Jesus said of Himself "not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27).

Here we have a man who had been...
... lame from his mother's womb ... being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. (Verse 2)
This man had expectations and his expectations were related to his inabilities and the world he saw around him.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms ... and he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. (Verses 3, 5)
The lame beggar was seeking money to support himself; the world he saw was rooted in evil...
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21
Third, we should not offer what we don't have! Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee" (verse 6a ASV). Even if Peter and John had money to give they still should have done as they did. They gave what they had, "In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!" (Verse 6b)

What was it that Peter had that the lame man needed, great faith - seductive faith. Peter believed absolutely in the love of God for this man and the power of God to heal him.

And so I say if we don't have great faith we should not pretend to have the love and power of God to share with those who need us to have great faith; and we should not pretend to want to lead people to Jesus if we don't have seductive faith for seductive faith comes from great faith.

Fourth, we should not offer in our own strength! Peter did not say, "I tell you, walk!" He said, "
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Verse 6b).

This is where the rubber meets the road, as J. Vernon McGee used to say. If we don't the faith of our fathers we should not be in denial and claim that it's the lost's fault they are not being saved. If we had great faith we would be doing the things our first century fathers did; if we have great faith we would have seductive faith and be "having favor with all the people."

Most people, just because they are older, have not lost that childlike sense of inherently knowing when someone is jerking our chain. Without seductive faith, we will be suspect in our motives ... and in all too many cases we deserve their suspicion.

Too much of the work done today is said to be in the name of Jesus but is actually mere entertainment and out of the ego of an entertainer. And I'm not speaking just of those like Benny Hinn and his ilk; I'm also speaking of much of what we see in the popular American pulpit.

This is a time of great apostasy. Notice I did not capitalize the nomenclature, for I do not believe we are in The Great Apostasy yet. What we see today is primarily resident in the industrialized world not in the non-industrialized world.

The man needed healing, not only of the body but of the soul. This is one reason I know we are alive in a time of apostasy; true healing comes from the True Healer by way of His faithful, through their great faith ... if they have it.

How many of us can touch someone and heal those in need of healing? How many have ever actually healed someone? Is God no longer The Healer? No! A thousand times no!

How many of us can say we freed a friend or neighbor from the bondage of pornography or drugs "in the name of Jesus the Nazerene"? How many have turned a couple away from the doors of divorce "in the name of Jesus the Nazarene"? Not many, I fear.

It must be the lack of genuine, repenting faith which inhibits His healing power. Remember what He said of Nazareth and Chorazin? Christ denounced those cities where "most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the Day of Judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment, than for you.

Matthew 11:20-24
We shouldn’t walk our streets on the way to God’s house of prayer and worship and not see the stricken along the way. Pay attention to those around you, look for the needs of your neighbors.

Those who see us pass by should not expect to receive what they believe they need but rather what we know they need … and silver and gold have we none but what we have ... faith, hope, and love ... give we unto thee! Notice these are intangibles … they must be demonstrated, like the young engineer … because they cannot be given!

And we certainly have a lot more to offer … the Truth, the Life, and the Way (John 14:6). We can also offer "the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

I have heard and reheard the excuse no one wants to listen to what we have to offer, until my stomach churns. How can that be?

If Christ is not in them, they have not Christ … how much more do you need to know their need is as great as the lame man’s?

If we don’t answer as Peter and John ... giving our friends and neighbors what they need rather than what they want (which is for us to leave them alone) ... are we not inhibiting the salvation work of the Holy Spirit?I know it’s difficult and frightening, but we must tell them without being offensive!

Are you telling me you believe an engineer can raise a sunken ship and make it float again but that Jesus cannot raise a lame man and make Him walk again? Are you telling me you believe Jesus forgave your sins and will deliver you safely to glory but that Jesus cannot forgive your neighbor’s sin and deliver him?

A counselor at church camp told of his experience with a nine-year-old who cried when they turned out the cabin lights each night. "Was he afraid of the dark?" his mentor asked. "No," he said. "He just didn't want to be attacked by the 'killer rabbits.'"

His older sister had told him there were "killer rabbits" that came out at night and attack the campers. The little boy couldn't get past the fear his sister had caused by her lie. Your friends and neighbors are lying when they say they don't need what you have to offer ... the problem is your seductive faith, or lack of it.

Jesus was constantly reassuring the disciples with the words, "Fear not." Their fears betrayed their lack of faith. When one traces these words and their usage throughout the Bible, it seems that one of man's constant needs is to be reassured of the presence and comfort of God almighty. Christians can draw on this presence to find comfort and destroy their fears.

The repeating of the myth they don’t want what we have to offer is doing damage to other Christians, feeding their fears of ‘killer friends” and “killer neighbors.”We must be a sweet smelling fragrance, seductive and lingering! Not cheap perfume.

In front of a great French Cathedral stands a statue of Jesus Christ, and on either side the twelve apostles; below each is written their greatest virtue, in contrast to their greatest vices.

In Peter's case, his outstanding quality was his courage, but below it you see a figure of Peter fleeing from a leopard, which represented cowardice. Beneath that you see the same figure sitting on a leopard and riding forth in his victory.

The sculptor wished to teach us that by contact with the Lord Jesus Christ that very thing which is a man's weakness can be transformed into his strength; that very thing from which he flees becomes a great chariot on which he rides forward to conquer.

Earlier we looked at the world’s offerings out of Paul’s words to the Galatians, let’s go there and see what the Body of Christ is supposed to offer out of a seductive faith...
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25

We need saving faith to to receive God's grace, we need sanctifying faith to make it through this life, we need great (or repenting) faith to be used by God, and we need seductive faith to compel the the lost to come in.