Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Law and the Christian

"For we are not under the Law, but under Grace." (Romans 6:14)

Many Christians use this verse to say that we cannot use the Law to correct the behavior of fellow Christians. I differ (I do not beg).

On the contrary, in the same Letter, the Apostle Paul writes, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Furthermore, Jesus agreed with the man who said, "there is one God; and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. "

Jesus Himself said, "'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.'--This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. "

So if our definition of love does not include the message of the Law and the Prophets, then we lack the kind of love that Jesus wants us to have for Him and for one another. That's pretty serious.

The point of Paul's statement is that we no longer need to fear the punishment due us for breaking God's Law. But in no way is he suggesting another set of standards for Christians to live by than God's Holiness, which is revealed by His Law. That's why he comes back to it in the later passage. God wants us to follow His Commandments, not because He'll punish us if we don't (though He will chastise us for disobedience, Hebrews 12:1-11), but because He has been so gracious to save us, that we will do anything for Him (1 John 4:19; John 14:15, 24).

Every New Testament command has its roots in the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets. To call them obselete is to abuse one verse of Scripture in trying to create a whole doctrine.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Law and Gospel

Who can say that they have kept the Ten Commandments perfectly? Jesus of Nazareth and no one else.

And it doesn't matter which ones you do keep--if you break one, you are a criminal, just like in our system of Justice: You don't have to break all the Laws to be a law-breaker--you only have to break one. And God's Standard is higher than man's. David said, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." (Psalm 51:6)

Therefore, as Proverbs 24:9 says, "The thought of foolishness is sin," something Jesus acknowledged when He said that unjustifiable anger deserves the same punishment as murder and that merely looking at someone with a lustful heart is all the same to God as adultery (Matthew 5:21-30).

Which of God's Laws have you broken?

The First Commandment That means that God, not man, should decide for you in all things (Proverbs 29:25). Is this true for your life? Do you really love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?

The Second Commandment Do you serve a god that likes you and you like him? Does he love the people you love and hate the people you hate? Then your god doesn't exist. There is One God, the thrice Holy One of Israel. And He promises fiery indignation to all who invent their own gods.

The Third Commandment This means more than using God's name irreverently or as a curse word. It also means pretending to be His when you are not. It also means bringing reproach upon His name while you wear it because of your sin (e.g., King David, when he sinned against God with Bathsheba and murder her husband, 2 Samuel 11:1-12:14).

The Fourth Commandment The very God who daily gives you breath only asks for one day out of seven--and you are loathe to desist from your pursuits to give it to Him? What is more valuable than God? "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" a Very Wise Man once asked.

The Fifth Commandment Have you always honored your parents the way God would want you to honor them? Why not? (Whoever says that he has is deceiving only himself--you broke this Commandment when you were two.) Don't you want long life in the Land?

The Sixth Commandment Knowing that God desires truth in the inward parts, and that the very thought of foolishness is sin in His eyes, who dares to claim that Jesus was exaggerating the Law when He said that unjustifiable anger deserves the same punishment as murder (thereby making them equal crimes in the sight of God Almighty)? And who can say that every time that he was angry it was justified? Who hasn't had to retract some angry thing they said once they discovered the truth? Moreover, the Bible says that hatred is murder (1 John 3:15), pointing to the fact that Cain murdered Abel, simply because he hated him (Genesis 4:1-15).

The Seventh Commandment God made one woman for Adam. Not two. Not a woman and another man. Not even one other man. Just a woman. And God made woman just for one man. Not two men. Not a man and another woman. Not even merely another woman. Just a man. And Leviticus 18-19 is full of other instructions and concludes that the death penalty shall apply to all who reject God's rules on His gift of sex. Furthermore, Jesus said that merely looking with a lustful eye is the same to God as adultery. Remember, even the very thought of foolishness is sin in God's eyes (Proverbs 24:9).

The Eight Commandment Have you taken or used even one thing that didn't belong to you and to which you had no right as recognized by God? A celery stick. a piece of cheese, a penny, a paper clip? Remember, God is thrice Holy: He sees all sin the same way. Whether you think it is little or not.

The Ninth Commandment Have you ever told a lie? How many lies must you tell to be considered a liar? Ten, then the bell rings, "We've got a new liar over here!!"? No matter the color, if I told you a lie, what would you call me? What does God consider you to be? Furthermore, the Bible says that a lying tongue shows hatred to those it afflicts (Proverbs 26:28). Now you're in BIG trouble.

The Nail in the Coffin Also known as the Tenth Commandment. Covetousness is the universal flagrant sin of all mankind. And it's quite amazing the things we covet. But we all covet something. And God says that covetousness is a sin. The Thrice Holy One of Israel will give you what you need. Don't be greedy for more--but we are.

So, having broken all these Commandments, just how good a person are you really? You need only break one Law to be guilty, and I guarantee that anyone reading this has broken all ten. What are you going to do about this? If God gives you Justice--Thrice Holy Justice--come Judgment Day, where will you spend eternity? Be honest with yourself. You deserve to go to Hell.

That is not God's will for you. That is why He sent Jesus to die for your sins. If you repent of your sins, Jesus will apply His righteousness to your account, and God will dismiss your case because your sins have been paid for. By the Blood of the Son of God, the Messiah to the Jews, and the Light to the Gentiles. This was God's promise to Abraham when He said, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and see if this is not true.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Real Beauty

I have only ever heard one song from Kendall Payne, even though I bought her CD Jordan's Sister a few months ago. So, finally having some time on my hands, I read her lyrics just a couple minutes ago, to her song "Supermodels" and I want to share them with you:

"The summer sun has come to stay
"Bikinis, tans, outrageous legs
"They're all retarded and they all look the same
"And Barbie's body's melting down
"On her face a big fat frown
"Because "Mr. Cellulite" just moved into town
Chorus
Well, me and B, we hate supermodels
It's not that we know anyone personally
It's just that I'm tired of being compared

"The boys they come here
"With expectations for the summer
"And I refuse to take any part of this barbaric ritual
"Because God has given me a mind
"That I will use from time to time
"And I've got more on my head than what's made by Paul Mitchell

(Repeat Chorus)

"Was it worth the tears you cried to fit the size?

"Think it over once or twice
"What lasts longest in this life
"Character or rock hard thighs?
"And in the end do you believe that beauty lies in what you see?
"Because if you do then, baby
"You've been deceived.

(Repeat Chorus twice) End.

Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised."

Peter said, "Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."

(Please note that submission has more than one aspect to it: not only as an authority figure but also as a protector [Ephesians 5:23] and one in whom identity is secured. For unmarried women, the One who provides such things is Jesus Himself. For the married women, it is the husband, as Jesus has given him authority.)

A woman who finds her worth in following God need not worry about receiving accolades from wicked men--she has the praise of her Maker, and that is all that counts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Blind-Sided

This past summer, I made great personal sacrifices to make myself available for the Jews for Jesus summer evangelism campaign in New York. I never knew the opposition I would face there. Not from the Jews, I expected that; in fact, I expected much more hostility than we ultimately faced. What I did not understand, was that Satan would continue to use my sin nature against me right after the campaign was over.

I struggled mightily with lust while on the campaign, being a single young man who wants to put God first and marriage in God's timing. It was an exhausting fight, which I honestly thought was over at the end of my stay. I missed the telltale signs that I was still fighting, because I mistakenly believed that Satan only wanted me to harm one person, and that person was not around anymore. I forgot how Satan works: he tempts us to sin at all times, for the sole purpose of dishonoring God's name in front of those around us.

Over the past six weeks since I've been back, I've learned something new about Satan, that should have been obvious before: The stronger my resistance to the sin, the stronger he comes to tempt me to do it. It does not have to be a flagrant sin, it can be a small sin or a wicked hidden sin, but fiercely insisted upon. Mine? Pornography.

True, I has seen some before, but I had overcome that level of lust through prayer and reading my Bible. Honestly, the same formula of prayer and diligent Bible study would have protected me this time, too (an idle mind is indeed the devil's workshop), but I was relaxing from a gruelling, trying time in New York. I thought I deserved a break.

Well, I have no doubt that I needed rest, but resting in the Spirit, and being idly minded are two very different things. If my idea of relaxation is reviewing the Bible verses that have kept me back from sin so many times, then my guard is always strong enough to defeat the temptations that come my way. But, if not, then I let my guard down, and once Satan starts jumping over the top of it, it is hard to get him back out of the castle of my mind.

It's been six weeks of struggle and lies, as I have sought not to reveal my addiction for pride's sake. I finally told my pastor this morning, and now I feel free to share this with you. Prayer and Bible study are the best resting and relaxation techniques you can ever employ. If I fall asleep while actually reading my Bible, I sleep with the comfort of those words filling my mind and awaking me in the morning. If I fill my mind with pornography, I disturb my spirit greatly. It's the reason that I have not slept well for the past three or four days. It is the advantage that I have given the flesh in its war against the Spirit by not strengthening my spirit with the Word of God. How foolish of me.

Honestly, it doesn't matter much what you read, unless the Holy Spirit specifically takes you to a certain place in Scripture and says to read it. Almost any chapter, especially the ones you have never read before, will show you something about God and His holiness that will strengthen your spirit in its war against the flesh. And you will win that battle. I guarantee it. I know I did.

Think of the Christian life as a boxing tournament. You have to meet and defeat opponents at every level. But as you defeat each one, you face a stronger opponent. (If you lose, you have to keep fighting the same opponent until you win, so that really isn't a very good option, either.) In such a case, it would be foolish for the "boxer" not to eat everyday before he enters the tournament and after his day is over--he would need the nourishment. S0 also it is foolish for a Christian to skip a few "meals" of the Word for any reason.

Now to get back to the very things that led me to victory so faithfully every time.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Just a Thought

I wish that somehow we could do away with verses and chapters in the Bible for a little while. Or at least, at will. Don't get me wrong--they're great for references, but sometimes they get in the way of true study.

Has anyone ever read Hebrews just straight from the top? Once you get about five verses in, you just can't put it down--unless you reach the end of the chapter or something, "Oh, this is my memory verse passage for this week, I think I'll stop here." There's something different about reading vs. reading the Bible. We have no problem reading five pages of a novel, or a junk magazine, or even the news--but more than five verses of the Bible? Now, that's a long passage!

I guess it does address our priorities, but it also points to our "tracking system" if you will. Pages vs. Verses. We usually don't monitor paragraphs (that's if we know what those are anymore). And then, of course, there's the fact that one verse in the Bible covers more ground than all the witicisms of the world combined. I mean, think about Jesus' words, "I am the bread of life." To explain that, scholars have exhausted themselves and their readers with millions of pages, saying many of the same things over and over again, because it is just so awesome!

But I encourage you: take some time to just read the letters in the Bible as they were intended to be read--as letters! You don't just read five sentences of an important lettter from a dear friend! Take some time to read an entire book. You'll be surprised at how easy it is, and how little time it really takes--and how much you'll learn in the process!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

BE YE ANGRY AND SIN NOT—EPHESIANS 4:18

I need this study as much as anyone else. I get very angry when I get angry, and often there is no real boundary between rising up and “snap mode.” So this is not what I have to offer as someone who has conquered this emotion and controls it well, but what I am learning from the Lord as I ask Him to tell me how to handle this problem in my own life.

The first thing that I noted is that all Christian actions are to be governed by three rules:

1) Be ye Holy even as your Father in Heaven is Holy (Matthew 5:48)
2) Owe no man anything but to love one another. (Romans 13:8)
3) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

SECTION ONE: THE HOLINESS OF GOD’S WRATH

No matter what state of mind we claim to be in, there are rules that govern our behavior, and boundaries that we are forbidden by God to cross: Thou shalt not kill…Thou shalt not steal…Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain…etc. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 take the first command even deeper:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Thus we find that the first requirement for our anger to be Holy is that there be a righteous reason behind it. Jesus’ wrath is a perfect example of this. His outbursts (throwing people out of the Temple, John 2:13-18; upbraiding those cities in which He did the most miracles, Matthew 11:20-24; condemning the Pharisees, Matthew 23:13-39) were intended, not for personal insults (see Matthew 12:32), but for those who openly despised the commandments of God.

So how did Jesus deal with those who were nagging Him for all those years if He did not explode on them? He dealt with the root of the problem. As my pastor says, no interaction is ever personal—it is always spiritual (1 John 3:10). He brought to their minds the Law of God and the Words of God and the Ways of God to convict them in their hearts (e.g., Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 10:2-9; Matthew 12:1-13, resp.). Did they repent? No, but they eventually had to stop questioning Him (Matthew 22:41-46).

One more thing Jesus did: He always submitted His will to that of His father. Even in wrath, Jesus was keenly aware of His Father’s will and sought effectively to do it. So when someone is getting on my last nerve, I ought to ask myself, “What is it that God wants to come out of this exchange?” and work diligently to see that that is what comes out of my mouth—even though I will probably not feel like it.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the Word of God is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” So we must be careful as we deal with anger that we line our reactions and attitudes up with God’s Word—and that we use God’s Word effectively to deal with other people’s sinning against us.

SECTION TWO: LOVE TOWARD ALL

Jesus said that God’s whole Law, with all 613 explanations and specifications, boils down to two: Thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind. And Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Make no mistake, our neighbors do need correction from time to time, but, when we dish it out, we ought to do so in love. As Pastor always says, the spirit in which you say things makes a lot of difference. It is easier to get across to people harsh words with a loving heart than it is to convey the same message in spite. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Faithful. That means more than just truthful. It means trustworthy. It means dependable. In other words, you can count on a true friend to correct you when you are out of line, and you can count on a true friend to guide you in the right direction.

Wounds. Proverbs 15:10 says, “Correction is grievous to him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” A friend’s words to bring us back to the right way will not always be what we want to hear, and what we are required by love to say to others who have gone astray will not always be what they want to hear. But if it is the truth, then we must say it.

Friend. A friend loves at all times, the Bible says (Proverbs 17:17a). Let’s look at the type of love that we ought to have toward one another, and let us apply this to our anger (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8):

1. long-suffering—it should take a while before we give an ultimatum. God has extended to us His grace time after time, sin after sin, multitude of iniquity upon multitude of iniquity, before showing us His wrath. A prick of the conscience here, a near-miss there, a gentle word of reproof—and only when all else fails, wrath for the scorner. A scorner proves himself over time, that he will not hear correction. He knows that it is right, but he does not want to repent, and therefore is punished for his iniquities.

2. kind—Whoa! How can anger be kind? Well, what is its intent? What is the reason for it. Kindness and gentleness are not the same. It was a kindness of the Lord to drag Lot out of Sodom, but it was anything but gentle (Genesis19:16). When Paul wrote a scathing letter of rebuke to the Corinthians, he did it not in gentleness, but in anger. He said (read 2 Corinthians 7:8-9). That last clause is so important: That ye might receive damage by us in nothing. Paul’s purpose for writing that angry rebuke was to keep them from harm’s way, not to satisfy his own revenge.

3. not envious—Envy is one of those things that causes us to deal spitefully with others. I know because I have done it: someone else is given what you deserved more than they, and, instead of rejoicing for that person for the grace that they received from God, you get angry with that person. That is not Christlike anger.

4. not boastful—Is the real reason that you are angry that you may show just how righteous you are? “I want everyone to know that I don’t tolerate this sort of thing!” While that may be important in a leadership capacity, that people know what is not acceptable, there are other ways to do it than angrily. Must you be angry to accomplish this? Or is there a better way? And why don’t you tolerate this sort of thing? And is there really a reason that everyone ought to know?

5. not puffed up—Are you angry because you can be? “I’ve got a right to be angry!” Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful unto me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). In other words, just because I have the right to do it, does not mean that it is right to do it at this time. What purpose is there to my anger? How does getting angry solve the problem at hand?

6. not rude—Does this mean no name-calling? I don’t know: Jesus called a lot of names (brood of vipers, open tombs, dirty dishes, etc) when He upbraided the Pharisees. He did the same with His disciples (esp. see Luke 24:25-26). But we must remember that Jesus saved His strongest rebukes for those who rejected the Word of God. He blasted the Pharisees because they pretended to lead the way in righteousness and yet contradicted and, in fact, annulled God’s Word at every turn. He chided His disciples because, even when the Word was plain, they had no faith, even after all these years of His ministry.

It certainly means no cursing: “[With the tongue] bless we God, even the Father, and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10). Jesus said, (read Matthew 5:44-48). It is not natural to do this, and, in fact, it is very hard—anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you; but it is what our Master, the One of whom we say that He is our Lord, commanded us. And so ought we to endeavor to do it.

7. not self-centered—Whom do you intend to benefit by this wrathful display? Yourself or the person with whom you are angry? Remember Paul’s reason for his remarks to the Corinthians? “That ye might receive damage by us in nothing”? That should always be our intent, too. Again, not easy, just commanded.

8. not easily provoked—There are two different Greek words that were translated “provoked” by the men of King James: one is pronounced par-ox-OO-no (that is the one in our text, today) and it means “to have exasperated.” The other is pronounced er-eth-ID-zo and it means “to have stirred up, or stimulated.” Love should always be readily available for all people with whom God brings us in contact, and therefore should always be “provoked” in the sense of the second word. But it should take a long time for our love to run out for people who constantly try us. Jesus spent years dealing with the Pharisees before He finally blasted them in Matthew 23. Sure, He picked at them a little bit from time to time as He preached, but He waited to fully condemn them until they had proven their hardness of heart to all. (Of course, He is God, so He already knew, but He waited for others to be able to testify to it.)

I was thinking the other day, “You know, we humans are ungrateful no matter what God does for us. Women want to have men’s “rights” and women’s bodies, men want to have women’s powers and men’s bodies, the slave wants to be the master, the master wants more slaves, the poor want to be rich but keep his same friends, the rich want the simplicity of the poor but keep his riches. It doesn’t matter what blessings God has given us, we just never are satisfied or grateful—so it is completely understandable that He just gives up and throws some of us in Hell, because we would never appreciate Heaven with all its numerous blessings anyway!

People want this god of love, but the True God has already given us so much and asks so little (for he remembers that we are only dust, Psalm103:8-18—and we would do well to remember the same!) that when we fail to receive His gift, whom have we to blame but ourselves?

9. thinks no evil—Wow. That is haaarrrddd. Who can say that they think no evil when they are angry? Jesus, and only Jesus. Again, our goal should be the same as Paul’s: That ye might receive damage by us in nothing. He said in Romans, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:10). Consider the consequences of this course of action: will it in the end work ill toward your neighbor? Is the purpose to cause him to repent, as was Paul’s, or is it to just embarrass him in front of his peers?

10. does not rejoice in iniquity—This is the most often overlooked characteristic of love. Because real love worketh no ill to his neighbor, that means he also tries to prevent his friends from working ill to their neighbors, because God would be displeased with them. Real love has a righteous impact. It is the effect of justified, loving anger to bring about more righteousness than was there before. God, Who is Love, hates evil. So our anger ought to be a reflection of that. When one of our friends wants to wrong someone, we should discourage them as strongly as necessary that we may dissuade them from that course of action. It is the only loving thing to do.

11. rejoices in the truth—Real love cannot operate outside of the truth. That is why it is always so vitally important to get your facts straight before getting angry. Too many times we fly off the handle with incomplete information and find ourselves eating crow (Proverbs 18:13). Such actions dishonor God. He is all-knowing: why not just take a second to ask Him, “Is this all there is to it?” He promised to give you what wisdom you need if you just ask (James 1:5).

Furthermore, real love does not tell lies: “Oh, he ought to be angrier than that—let me embellish a little bit, and he’ll act right this way.” I can’t tell you how many times I did that as a child. But it is wrong. If the person to whom we report the wrong-doing is not impressed, then we need to stop and think: Have I over-reacted? Or Is this the wrong person to be talking to? Sometimes the only person you can tell your troubles to is Jesus, because no one else cares—unless it adversely affects them. Jesus cares about our smallest problems, even though others may not. Maybe, instead of embellishing the truth, we ought to just give it to Him and let Him work things out. The Bible says, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts” (Proverbs 26:28) and promises sure retribution for false witnesses (19:5).

12. bears all things—Now the phrase “all things” is the translation of a hyperbole. Love will not endure flagrant, unrepentant sin; it will just bear an awful lot, even when it should have stopped a long time ago (2 Peter 3:9). Think of Jesus’ description of God’s love toward us (Matthew 5:44-48). God really does put up with a lot from His own image. How He can stand it, I just don’t know—but I am grateful for His mercy, because He would be very justified to throw me in Hell, and yet bore all of my sins—and not just my sins, but the sins of the whole world!! Jesus’ Love truly did “bear all things.”

13. believes all things—Again, the phrase “all things” being a hyperbole, love is not gullible: it merely gives people the benefit of the doubt until they thoroughly prove themselves absolutely unworthy of it. And then it gives them some more. Point being that our anger should not jump to conclusions. We ought to think better of people for as long as is possible, bearing the truth in mind. That should temper our anger towards people. Hard to do, I know—‘cause I’ve never done it before!

14. hopes all things—Biblically, the word hope means “to look forward with assurance beyond present circumstances.” Faith deals with what is happening right now (i.e., God is going to work this out because He said He would), hope deals with the future (God is going to bring this to pass because He promised it). Both involve trusting in God for what He will do, based on what He has already done and said. With anger, hope is found in knowing that, if we do as He commanded, He will reward us accordingly. With that in mind, we shape—we conform—our anger to His will, to accomplishing His goals.

15. endures all things—I believe that, since we have already spoken of love, bearing all things, that this endurance is not of mere offenses, but of direct opposition. If we are angry for the right reasons, and are acting with the right deeds and the right motivations, we will undoubtedly receive opposition from the adversary. “Oh, you shouldn’t be like that.” Well, run down God’s checklist, and see if that is so. Sometimes anger is necessary and just, and we should not be ashamed of it nor dissuaded from it. In those times, we need to stand.

SECTION THREE: TO THE GLORY OF GOD

Ultimately, we live to glorify God as Christians. If our actions in anyway give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14), we will certainly suffer consequences. The final question we should ask ourselves is this: Am I using my anger as an excuse to sin against my neighbor and thereby disobey God? Are my actions intended to please myself, to satisfy my own sense of justice, or am I doing what Jesus would do?

Many times we can say, “Hmph! Serves him right!” But is that what Jesus did? Did Jesus get angry when people refused to believe on Him? Yes. Did He call down fire from Heaven upon them, as His disciples asked Him to do (Luke 9:54-57)? Or did He destroy the mercenaries sent to arrest Him unjustly, as Peter sought to do (John 18:10-11; Luke 22:49-51)? Did He strike down His betrayer? Did He curse those who hung Him on the tree (Luke 23:34)?

Psalm 103:8-18 says, “Merciful and gracious [is] Jehovah, Slow to anger, and abundant in mercy. Not for ever doth He strive, Nor to the age doth He watch. Not according to our sins hath He done to us, Nor according to our iniquities Hath He conferred benefits upon us. For, as the height of the heavens [is] above the earth, His kindness hath been mighty over those fearing Him. As the distance of east from west He hath put far from us our transgressions. As a father hath mercy on sons, Jehovah hath mercy on those fearing Him. For He hath known our frame, Remembering that we [are] dust. Mortal man! as grass [are] his days, As a flower of the field so he flourisheth; For a wind hath passed over it, and it is not, And its place doth not discern it any more. And the kindness of Jehovah [Is] from age even unto age on those fearing Him, And His righteousness to sons' sons, To those keeping His covenant, And to those remembering His precepts to do them.” (Young’s Literal Translation).

Jesus pointed out that God would rather extend mercy than demand a sacrifice (Matthew 9:13). He called us to seek fervently to reconcile first, then, if all else fails, exclude one from our fellowship (Matthew 18:15-25). To glorify God, we must withhold our wrath and let His come through, heaping coals of fire upon the heads of our enemies that they might repent (Romans 12:17-21), longing for their good, and not their destruction. For as God Himself is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), so should our desire be toward our enemies. God bless you.

Friday, April 07, 2006

WHY IS THIS WORLD SO MEAN TO ME? WHY IS MY LIFE SO BAD?

Have you ever found yourself asking these questions? Y’know, you’re not alone. There are a whole lot of people who hate their very existence. They get mistreated everywhere they go, they want to be nice but their own anger gets in the way and hurts the very people they love, and there just seems to be no hope in sight.

So why is this all happening?

Well, the Bible has an answer. I’m not sure you’re going to like what it has to say at first, but please let me fully explain what it says and then make your decision.

In the beginning, God created all things, including mankind. It was perfect: A beautiful, blooming garden with no evil, no harm, one perfect man, one perfect woman: no love triangles, no child abuse, no murder, no clothes-wait a minute! No clothes?! There was no need for them: there was no sin in the world, thus the sin-hindering barrier of clothing was not yet a necessity.

But then man decided that he was not satisfied with all that God had given him. Satan told the woman that God was withholding knowledge from them that would place her and her husband on the same plain as God because God had told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He was saying that the God who had given her to this perfect man who loved her with perfect love was trying to hold something good back from them.

From our vantage point—hindsight is 20/20—it is easy to say that his argument was illogical, but it was said in such a way that the woman believed him. So she disobeyed God and told her husband that he should, too. Now the man did not believe Satan, but he did not want to disappoint his wife—which is not the same thing as love—so he joined her in the sin.

Once they did that, they sought out clothes (which is why we wear them today), even though there was no one else around, because they suddenly felt this awful sense of shame for being naked. The when God came to see them, they felt guilty for betraying the love of the One who had given them nothing but good. The man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the devil (who looked like a serpent), and God knew what the serpent was up to, so He didn’t bother to ask him why he did what he did.

The question must be asked, why didn’t God stop this from happening?

The answer is that God wanted to test their love for Him. They proved that they were unappreciative of the good things that God had given them, so unappreciative that they would rather disobey Him than to wait until He gave them the knowledge they sought (although, from this vantage point, we realize that God withheld the knowledge of evil from them so that they would not have to endure what we endure today).

Today, we do the same thing, only in a different way. We are just as ungrateful for the good things that God would give us, choosing instead to sin against Him, even though if we would actually look at God’s rules for us now, they are only for our good, just like His rule in the Garden. And if God left us to our own devices, we would continue to destroy ourselves and those around us.

But He didn’t.

God loved us so much that even while He knew that we would make the wrong choice, He made a way to save us from ourselves: He became a man, Jesus of Nazareth, and lived a perfect life among evil people, most of whom hated Him for being so perfect (see? You’re not the only one!) and sought to have Him killed.

But God knew their hearts, just like He had known everything else, and He arranged it so that when they condemned Him to death, He paid for their sins, my sins, and your sins—and everybody else’s sins. God Himself bore all the shame and punishment for the sin that the first man had allowed into this once-perfect world.

So if you want to blame God, He has already paid the price—and He offers you a better world once your time on this earth is done, if you will surrender to His love, the same love that made that perfect garden so many years ago. His love only asks that you make His commandments supreme in your heart, and reject your old life.

But He also wants you to know that you will suffer just like Jesus did for being so good. Your present sufferings may or may not be eliminated. At least you’ll be going to the ultimate perfect place—Heaven, where sin is just not allowed.

The difference between Heaven and the Garden? Everyone will have already made their choice between loving God or hating Him once in Heaven; the Garden is the first place that the choice was presented—where God was rejected and hell was opened up.

Today’s evil world is only a glimpse of what it means to reject God.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Are You TOO GOOD to Go to Heaven?

"How can anyone be too good to go to Heaven? I thought that only bad people could not get in!"

Well, I did, too, but that's not what the Bible teaches! The Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:5 that we are not saved by our good works, but by the mercy of God. And in Ephesians 2:9, he said that God chose to save people by grace so that they could not boast of their own goodness in Heaven.

And the truth of the matter is that none of us is good enough to see Heaven, anyway; but those who live a "pretty good life" don't seem to think so. They don't think that God's grace is for them, but for "the real sinners." Consequenstly, they never ask for the grace that is essential to salvation.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a parable of two men that went to the Temple (the Holy Place in which God's people worshipped Him at that time) and prayed. One, a Pharisee (an educated and very religious man) bragged to God about how good he was, "thanking" Him that he was not like "the sinners." He thought that he was TOO GOOD to need to repent.

The other man, a publican (a traitor to his own people who collected taxes for the conquerors and often charged his own countrymen an extra fee on top of the taxes they owed), knew that hw was no good before God--and repented, crying out desparately for God to have mercy on his soul.

Jesus said that the Publican pleased God!

Y'see, the Pharisee failed to remember that one of the things that God hates the most is pride. Pride is believing that you are better than you are. Many people think that they are good enough to get to Heaven but fail to see that the first sin they ever committed--by itself--disqualifies them forever! James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole Law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of the whole."

In other words, if you have EVER lied, or stolen (no matter how small the value of the item), or desired anything which rightfully belonged to someone else (that's covetousness!), then you have sinned against God and have forfeited your opportunity to earn your way into Heaven. Being "better than" is just not good enough. Your sins are on your record. You need for God to forget about your sins, like He did for the publican.

Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And Jesus Himself said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Jesus is God in the flesh--Emmanuel. His death paid the penalty for our sins, and His resurrection (rising from the dead) guarantees salvation and eternal life for all who repent.

To repent is to stop turn away from your own righteousness and to look to Jesus to be your righteousness. To repent is to begin to hate your evil deeds (pride, lust, hatred, etc.) and to ask God to save you from them. And God promises to forgive and give eternal life to all who do this.

So what about YOU?

Are you evil enough to need God's grace?

Are you evil enough to need to repent?

Are you evil enough to need God's forgiveness?

Are you evil enough for Jesus to save you?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Value of Women

It is continually astounding to me how men who claim to be Christian can have such a low regard for their wives. My own father is like that, and I recently met a man who visited our church who is definitely like that. No wonder women don't want to submit!!

Yes, the Bible expressly teaches that the man is the head of the house and that the wife must be subject unto him (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6). But any man who will be the head of anything, wife or church or job, who calls himself a Christian, must abide under the rules that Christ Himself put into place for leadership. In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus said to His disciples, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [Gr. = slave]; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Those two men have it wrong. They think that because they are the heads, then everything must go their way. Jesus is God, and He did not come to make everyone subservient to Him. He came to woo us to Himself, by showing His great love for us, and then to help us walk into the blessings that He has prepared for us. He did not come to stomp us when we stray, but to bring us back to Himself, just like He did the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 50:1).

Emotions

Someone made me very angry on Sunday. He said that Women are 78% emotional and only 22% logical, while men are 78% logical and 22% emotional, even though women use both sides of their brains.

Now, since I am not a woman, some of you, my readers, may wonder why I am opposed to this statement. Well, it's simple, really: it's a lie!

My pastor had just made the point that our emotions get us into trouble, and this man was trying to say that only women are susceptible to that sort of stumblingblock. Hardly.

It was Adam's emotions that caused him to follow his wife in disobedience to God that fateful day in the Garden of Eden. It is the emotion of anger that causes many men to beat their wives. It is the emotion of happiness that men seek when they get drunk or high. It is all emotional.

Many men think only of crying when they think of emotions, but crying can be used to express all emotions, happiness, anger, and sadness. It is but a vehicle, a sort of body language, but it is itself not an emotion. Yes, women may cry more than men do, but that does not make them more emotional than men.

Emotions are what we feel about a situation. God tells us not to rely on these feelings to make our decisions in life: "Trust in the Lord with all thin heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes [that is to say, humble yourself to say, 'Lord, I know not what to do']: fear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones." (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Most people--men and women--operate on how they feel about a situation, rather than how God would tell them to handle that situation. That is how we get into trouble. We think we know exactly what to do and so act, instead of asking God to help us make the right decision. That was Adam's problem in the garden. And that is our problem today. May we stop making excuses and start asking for wisdom from God--which He promised that He would give us upon request (James 1:5).