Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Conflict Within.

These first paragraphs are written by Charles Spurgeon, 1862.

"About five days after I first found Christ, when my joy had been such that I could have danced for very mirth at the thought that Christ was mine, on a sudden I fell into a sad fit of despondency. 

I will tell you why. When I first believed in Christ, I am not sure that I thought the devil was dead, but certainly I had a kind of notion that he was so mortally wounded he could not disturb me. And then I certainly fancied that the corruption of my nature had received its death blow. I felt persuaded that it would never sprout again. I was going to be perfect—I fully calculated upon it—and lo, I found an intruder I had not reckoned upon, an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. 

So I went to that same Primitive Methodist chapel where I first received peace with God, through the simple preaching of the Word. The text happened to be ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’  (Romans 7:24)

‘There,’ I thought ‘that’s a text for me.’ I had got as far as that—in the middle of that very sentiment—when the minister began by saying, ‘Paul was not a believer when he said this.’ Well now I knew I was a believer, and it seemed to me from the context that Paul must have been a believer too. Now I am sure he was."

My husband told me when he first became a Christian he thought he would never sin again - until he grabbed a guy around the throat. He said he realized then that he wasn't perfect and needed God's help. 

Let us not become discouraged by our sinfulness. It keeps us humble and makes us see how much we need God to live a good life. When we fall, pray, pray, pray. The Lord will change us.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Politics and the State of the World.

We are not kings, we are not senators. Let us beware lest, while we torture ourselves in vain about the state of Europe, we neglect either Verona or Oxford.
In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet.

Many Christians worry about their nation being too sinful for God to abide any longer. Many worry about those who fight against Christianity. But I don't remember there being a verse in the Bible telling us to worry about that. 

We should do good where we are planted and leave the rest with God. He is big enough to take on atheists and, in fact, the whole world. We should pray for our leaders and then help everyone we can who is in corner of the world.

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3,4

"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

Saturday, January 25, 2014

God Can Do Anything.

"So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty."  Zechariah 4:6

God said this to encourage Zerubbabel in his building of the 2nd temple in Jerusalem.

Pulpit Commentary
 "Doubtless Zerubbabel was dispirited when he thought how much there was to do, how feeble the means at his disposal (Nehemiah 4:2), and how formidable the opposition; and nothing could better reassure him than the promise of Divine aid."

 "What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!'" Zechariah 4:7

God says he will level mighty mountains for us. Not by our power or might but by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

God has leveled mountains of difficulty for me and He will do it for everyone. 

"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?"  Jeremiah 32:27

In our prayers we need to believe God can do anything but also say with Jesus, when he asked to not have to go to the cross, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Persecution of Christians by Christians.

I recently read about Quakers and how they were treated by fellow Christians. I think this can be a warning against the unity of church & state. Freedom of religion is one of the greatest freedoms we have. 

George Fox (1624-1691), began a four year journey throughout England in the mid 1600s, seeking answers to his spiritual questions. Disappointed with the answers he received from religious leaders, he felt an inner call to become an itinerant preacher. Fox's meetings were radically different from orthodox Christianity: silent meditation, with no music, rituals, or creeds.
Fox's movement ran afoul of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan government, as well as that of Charles II, when the monarchy was restored. Fox's followers, called Friends, refused to pay tithes to the state church, would not take oaths in court, declined to doff their hats to those in power, and refused to serve in combat during war. Further, Fox and his followers fought for the end of slavery and more humane treatment of criminals, both unpopular stands.
Once, when hauled before a judge, Fox chided the jurist to "tremble before the word of the Lord." The judge mocked Fox, calling him a "quaker," and the nickname stuck. Quakers were persecuted across England, and hundreds died in jail.

Quakers History in the New World

Quakers fared no better in the American colonies. Colonists who worshiped in the establishedChristian denominations considered Quakers heretics. Friends were deported, imprisoned, and hanged as witches.
Eventually they found a haven in Rhode Island, which decreed religious tolerance. William Penn (1644-1718), a prominent Quaker, received a large land grant in payment for a debt the crown owed his family. Penn founded Pennsylvania colony and worked Quaker beliefs into its government. Quakerism flourished there.
Over the years, Quakers became more accepted, and were actually admired for their honesty and simple living. That changed during the American Revolution, when Quakers refused to pay military taxes or fight in the war. Some Quakers were exiled because of that position.
In the early 19th century, Quakers rallied against the social abuses of the day: slavery, poverty, horrible prison conditions, and mistreatment of Native Americans. Quakers were instrumental in the Underground Railroad, a secret organization that helped escaped slaves find freedom before the Civil War.

In England as well as in a number of American colonies the Quakers faced violent persecution. Some 15,000 Quakers were jailed in England between 1660 and 1685. In 1660, Edward Burrough catalogued the maltreatment of Quakers in New England: 64 Quakers had been imprisoned; two Quakers lashed 139 times, leaving one "beat like into a jelly"; another branded with the letter H, for heretic, after being whipped with 39 stripes; and three Quakers had been executed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Loving Irritating Christians.

A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. 

I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. 

In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. 

That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. 

Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is true you can no longer dislike someone you are praying for. I guess that is why Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Praying for them changes our hearts.

"But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Matthew 5:44,45

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Endurance and the Discipline of God.

"Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.

Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up." Hebrews 12:1-3

"As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all."
Hebrews 12:7,7

"No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way."

"Run with endurance..." Paul says.

noun: endurance
  1. 1.
    the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.
    "she was close to the limit of her endurance"
    • the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

  2. We are being disciplined here on earth and we need courage and endurance - of which I have none.

But God has courage, patience and endurance, and everything he has is mine for the asking so I continue to pray for these things.

It is not natural for children to share or to have good manners. A parent must teach this to his child or they will grow up selfish and rude. I'm glad I am God's child and he takes the time to discipline me. I just hope I will carry his courage and endurance within my heart until the end.

Paul is right, looking at Jesus and what he went through does help me not to give up.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Sacrifice of Praise.

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." Hebrews 13:15

"But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God." Psalm 50:23

"To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17

The Treasury of David
"Whoever offers praise glorifies me." Praise is the best sacrifice; true, hearty, gracious thanksgiving from a renewed mind. Not the lowing of bullocks bound to the altar, but the songs of redeemed men are the music which the ear of Jehovah delights in. Sacrifice your loving gratitude, and God is honored thereby."

In the times before Jesus died, Jews offered sacrifices of thanksgiving. There are no longer sacrifices of animals or food to the Lord. But Paul says we should offer the sacrifice of praise continually. How can praise be a sacrifice?

Some say that to praise God when life is hard and you are suffering is a sacrifice. Since Paul says to praise continually, then this may feel like a sacrifice. The definition of "sacrifice" is to give up or surrender something. Perhaps giving up our feelings of fear and pain and instead praising God is the sacrifice.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jesus: The Unfallen Human, Our Brother.

S.D. Gordon wasn't a preacher. He only had a high school education, but he wrote more than 25 devotional books that were popular. He lived from 1859 to 1936. I am reading one called, "Quiet Talks About Jesus," and I'm enjoying it very much. Here are a few quotes from the book about Jesus being human and our brother.

"Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand."

"God and man used to talk together freely. But one day man went away from God. And then he went farther away. He left home. He left his native land, Eden, where he lived with God. He emigrated from God, and through going away he lost his mother-tongue."

"Jesus is God becoming man's fellow. He comes down by his side and says, 'Let's pull up together.' Jesus was a man. He was as truly human as though only human. We are apt to go at a thing from the outside. God always reaches within and fastens his hook there. He finds the solution of every problem within itself. When he would lead man back the Eden road to the old trysting place under the tree of life, he sent a man. Jesus takes his place as a man and refuses to be budged from the human level with his brothers."

In his humanity, Jesus was in the image of God, even as we are. Adam was an unfallen man. Jesus was that and more; a tested and now matured unfallen man, and by the law of growth ever growing more. Adam was an innocent, unfallen man up to the temptation. Jesus was a virtuous unfallen man. The test with Him changed innocence to virtue.

"In his experiences, his works, his temptations, his struggles, his victories, Jesus was clearly human. In his ability to read men's thoughts and know their lives without finding out by ordinary means, his knowledge ahead of coming events, his knowledge of and control over nature, he was clearly more than the type of human we know.

Yet until we know more than we seem to now of the proper powers of an unfallen man matured and growing in the use and control of those powers we cannot draw here any line between human and divine. The whole presumption is in favor of believing that in all of this Jesus was simply exercising the proper human powers which with him were not hurt by sin but ever increasing in use.

Jesus insisted on living a simple, true human life, dependent on God and upon others..."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Illusions of Life.

I read this sermon by Fredrick W. Roberson preached in 1850. It is an amazing sermon, dealing with the disappointments of life and our illusions about life. This is kind of long and I have shortened it.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:8-19

God promised Canaan to Abraham, and yet Abraham never inherited Canaan. To the last he was a wanderer there; he had no possession of his own in its territory. If he wanted even a tomb to bury his dead, he could only obtain it by purchase. This difficulty is expressly admitted in the text, "In the land of promise he sojourned as in a strange country." He lived in tents, not permanent habitations. He had no home there.

This is stated in terms more explicit in Acts 7:5, "And He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child."

Now the surprising point is that Abraham, deceived, as you might almost say, did not complain of it as a deception; he was even grateful for the non-fulfillment of the promise. he does not seem to have expected its fulfillment; he did not look for Canaan but for a "city which had foundations." His faith appears to have consisted in disbelieving the letter, almost as much as in believing in the spirit of the promise.

And here lies a principle, which rightly expounded, can help us to interpret this life of ours. God's promises never are fulfilled in the sense in which they seem to have been given. Life is a deception; its anticipations, which are God's promises to the imagination, are never realized. They who know life best and have trusted God most to fill it with blessings are the first to say that life is a series of disappointments. And in the spirit of this text we have to say that it is a wise and merciful arrangement which ordains it thus.

The wise and holy do not expect to find it otherwise - would not wish it otherwise. Their wisdom consists in disbelieving its promises. To develop this idea would be a glorious task; for to justify God's ways to man, to expound the mysteriousness of our present being, to interpret God, - is not this the very essence of being a minister?....

Let it be clearly understood the promise was never fulfilled. Abraham had a few feet of earth - beyond that nothing. He died a stranger and pilgrim in the land. In years ahead, there was a period in the history of Israel the promise may seem to have been fulfilled. It was during the last years of David and the early years of Solomon, but we know that even then the promise was not fulfilled...

And such is life's disappointment. Its promise is, "You shall have a Canaan." This turns out to be a baseless airy dream. Nothing we can call our own. Not the land of rest by any means.

Our senses deceive us; we begin life with delusion. Our senses deceive us with respect to distance, shape and color. That which afar off seems oval and turns out to be circular. That which appears as a speck on the horizon, upon nearer approach becomes a vast body. To the ancients, the stars resembled lamps hung in space; the beautiful berry is poisonous, that which seems to move - the sun - is still and that which seems to stand still - the earth - is moving.

Our natural anticipations deceive us; I say natural, not extravagant expectations. Every human life is a fresh one, bright with hopes that will never be realized. There may be differences of character in these hopes; finer spirits may look on life as the arena of successful deeds, the more selfish as a place of personal enjoyment.

With man the turning point of life may be a profession - with marriage and children. With woman, it is the marriage. This gilds the future with thoughts of triumph and affections. But in every case, life is not what any of them expects, but something else. Where is the land flowing with milk and honey? Life is an unenjoyable Canaan, with nothing real or substantial in it.

Our expectations of Bible revelation deceive us. The Jews expected a conqueror King. The early Christians expected the Second Coming to be soon.

There are two ways of considering this aspect of life. One is the way of sentiment; the other is the way of faith. The sentimental way is trite. "Life is a bubble, a dream, a delusion, a phantasm." The way of faith is to confess with the ancient saints we are strangers and pilgrims here. They said they had no continuing city; but they did not mourn over this, they said it cheerfully and rejoiced that it was so. They felt that all was right; they knew the promise itself had a deeper meaning; they looked for a city with foundations.

What is the meaning of this delusiveness? It serves to lure us on. If the Hebrew slaves had been only told a spiritual promise, would they have left Egypt? No. We are led through life as we are allured on a journey. Could a man see the entire route before him - he could scarcely find energy to begin his task. But the uncertainty of what may be seen beyond the next turn keeps expectation alive.

In fact, life is an education. As a parent teaches a child how to live, so God leads us on through life's unsatisfying and false reward; ever educating. Canaan first, then the hope of a Redeemer, then the hope of heaven.

It says that all died in faith, not having received the promises. All were hoping up to the very last and all died in faith, not in realization. For thus is the human heart. It never will believe that is world is unreal. God has mercifully so arranged it, that the idea of delusion is incredible to a person. You may tell your child that life is a disappointment - but he will never believe it.

Now see the beautiful result which comes from this indestructible power of believing in spite of failure. The early Christians believed Jesus was returning soon. They said, "The time is short." Now suppose instead of this they had seen all the long dreary pages of Church history unrolled...

It is thus God has led on His world. He has conducted it as a father walks with a child on a path that lies for many dreary hours. He allows the child to play, to pluck a flower now and then, to chase a butterfly. The child is not as wearied with the journey.

Life is not deception; it is illusion. God does not deceive. He does not paint a piece of wood to look like marble - that is deception. But he paints a picture in which nature looks beautiful. Like a child believing he can catch a rainbow. The rainbow is beautiful, but the child's belief has been a delusion.

The kingdom of God was forming in the old saints souls; forever disappointing them by the unreal, and teaching them that only that which is spiritual and belongs to mind and character alone can be eternal.

As a soldier learns discipline, honesty and self-denial so we learn these things from God during life. The soldier has nothing material to show for his toil, but he has learned far more important things. "Godliness is profitable for all things; having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come."

Godliness is profitable, but its profit consists in finding that all is loss. God's promises are true, though illusive, far truer than we at first take them to be. We work for a mean, low, sensual happiness, all the while He is leading us on to a spiritual blessedness - unfathomably deep. This is the life of faith. We live by faith, not by sight. We do not preach that all is disappointment, but we preach that nothing here is disappointment if rightly understood.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Patience, Oh How I Need It!

Today, I felt especially impatient. I talked with God about it, picked up a book to read and found this passage written by the reformer, Martin Luther. 

This is what he said, "I, said Luther, must have patience with the Pope; I must have patience with heretics and seducers; I must have patience with the roaring courtiers; I must have patience with my servants; I must have patience with my wife Kate. To conclude, these patiences are so many that my whole life is nothing but patience."

This is exactly how I feel today - my whole world is nothing but striving to be patient! What a chore that can be, and yet how privileged we are to go to God with our impatience. I live in great need of patient endurance but I believe God will lead me there.

"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patienceand giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light."   Colossians 1:9-12

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Rich Fool.

Photo by Hugh Lee

Then Jesus said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. 

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'"
This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."
Luke 12:15-21

Someone once asked C.S. Lewis how much one should give. C.S. Lewis

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."  Luke 12:33

Jesus taught about our earthly possessions more than he taught about heaven and hell combined. One out of every three parables is about the relationship between a person and his belongings. In the book of Luke, one out of every seven verses mentions a person's relationship with money.  (I'm paraphrasing from a sermon by Jeff Miller.)

I think when Jesus said to sell our possessions he meant all the things we have that we don't really need. But, I could be wrong. He did tell some to sell all their goods, give it to the poor and be his disciple. To each person God will reveal what he wants them to give.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Can We Be Perfect?

After preaching to the people about loving everyone, Jesus said"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Matthew 5:48

The word "perfect" denotes those who have attained the full development of innate powers, in contrast to those who are still in the undeveloped state - adults in contrast to children. Thus the thought here is - Ye shall be satisfied with, and shall attain to, no lower state than that of maturity. 

 C.S. Lewis wrote:

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.  

When I think of my life and how God tries to to teach me every day, then it certainly does seem like He wants me to be perfect. I wish I was; my lack of faith upsets me. I need to be patient with myself and look to Jesus knowing he will change me day by day.