Tuesday, February 21, 2017

REVISITING REPENTANCE


I Was Just Thinking About – REPENTANCE.

When was the most recent time you witnessed someone - anyone - repent Biblically? Over time, some words become passé within the culture of the world and the Church. During the past couple of generations, the psychology that allows “I’m okay, you’re okay” has permeated the thinking of most people. The day of a Mourner’s Bench, the place where people would come with grief because of their sin and confess it to God and repent, no longer has any visitors to it.

Within Biblical History, this was the occurrence many times. The prophet Joel wrote to the people of his day words that were so desperately needed then and now. His message was sweeping and clear (Joel 2:12-18), “The Lord declares, Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments…Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness…Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him? Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach…Why should they among the peoples say, Where is their God? Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people.”

Additionally, some of Joel’s written words became a central theme on the Day of Pentecost when people were being called by Peter to come to the Lord (Acts 2:17-21), “And it shall come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth my Spirit on all mankind…And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” As Peter preached, there was the result recorded in Acts 2:37-39, “When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

One of the old-time Revival preachers, Vance Havner, would often say to his audiences, “Until Mr. Wet Eyes returns, we will not have Revival.” The call to Spiritual Renewal in James 4:7-10 states, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”


Prayerfully – consider these things with me. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

OATHS AND VOWS

I Was Just Thinking About – OATHS AND VOWS.

Our family was very proud when a teenage child who had been adopted in Ukraine by our son’s family became a citizen of the United States of America. To facilitate this act required the following Oath to be taken:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; 
that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; 
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; 
that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; 
that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; 
that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and 
that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. 
In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature.”

I thought about Oaths avowed for Church Membership and the seriousness with which they are taken. In my denominational affiliation, the minimum requirement and expectation for Church Membership is:
Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy? 
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel? 
Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ? 
Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?  
Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

The minimum requirement for being numbered among those who are Biblical followers of the Lord Jesus Christ is summarized in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7. To become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ requires adherence to Luke 14:25-35. How seriously do we accept and embrace the words of Jesus: (v. 26) “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. (v.27) And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. (v.33) Any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” Jesus concludes these statements about the cost of discipleship with these words: (v.35) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Are you seriously adhering to the oaths you avowed to the Lord?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Friday, February 17, 2017

LEAKING AND FAKE NEWS

I Was Just Thinking About – LEAKS AND FAKE NEWS.

The whole idea of leaking that which is deemed to be classified or secret is not new. The same is true of leaking that which is thought to be damaging to another person. There are some interesting illustrations of this in Scripture when information without any foundation was passed along as fact when in reality it was fiction.

The assumption that the very nature of man will allow for leaks and false accusations is clear. Exodus 20:16 states tersely: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 23:1 adds: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”

II Kings 6:8-14 gives this account of the secrets plans of the King of Aram being shared with the King of Israel. When his planned attack had been thwarted, the text shares: “Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them: Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said: No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” When the King hears this, his decision is to find Elisha in order to kill him. When he learns that Elisha is in Dothan, the text indicates the King of Aram: “sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.”

What the King was failing to grasp was the Omniscience and Power of God. No man or army will prevent God from being God. That which follows is too often the first instinct and reaction of God’s people today. They see the vastness of a problem and conclude they are not equal or able to do anything about it – and – they are correct! They can’t – but – God can! II Kings 6:15-17 indicates: “Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him: Alas, my master! What shall we do? So he answered: Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Then Elisha prayed and said: O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see. And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
I often think of the worship chorus that echoes this prayer:

Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus;
To reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him.
Open our ears, Lord and help us to listen;
Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus. 

I also think of Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do infinitely (immeasurably) more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory…” We can trust him to do that today!

Prayerfully – consider these things with me. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

VICTIMS

I Was Just Thinking About – VICTIMS.

Just a quick review of secular History reveals there have been several instances of innocent peoples becoming prey to ill-willed individuals who victimized them. In World War II, Germany set out to establish The Master Race. To accomplish their goal would require millions of Jewish people and other undesirables deemed unfit to become subjects of experiments and/or slaughtered during the Holocaust of World War II.

Worldwide, there is a vicious activity that has the label of Human Trafficking. There is also the gnawing issue of Abortion and the millions of innocent babies that have been killed. There are conversations and an inclination toward euthanasia continuing as a topic of discussion.

Today’s news has a story regarding the son of a former Penn State Assistant Football Coach who is serving a prison term of 30 to 60 years for child abuse. The report states that the son has now been charged with the similar crime of: “felony and misdemeanor child sex abuse charges. (He) was arraigned on Monday and charged on 14 total counts, including sexual assault of a child older than 11, sexual assault of a child less than 16, child sex abuse, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and corruption of minors.”

There is no shortage of victims in a decadent culture.

Biblical History focuses on the intolerable use by Rome of the practice of Crucifixion as a judgment and consequence for some crime(s) an individual had committed. One case in particular, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, at least two plausible questions emerge: (1) What crime had he committed? – and – (2) Was He an innocent victim who could do little to defend Himself or escape the pronounced judgment?

Was Jesus Christ the victim of a hostile culture or was He the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose to be the Redeemer and Savior for mankind? The Scriptures reveal:

I Peter 1:18-20, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

John 1:29, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said: Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 10:11, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

John 12:27-28. Jesus is predicting His death and declares: “My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!”
Jesus did not come to be a victim but to be the Redeemer and Savior.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Monday, February 13, 2017

SCHEMES

I Was Just Thinking About – SCHEMES.

A scheme is a systematic plan or course of action or a secret plot designed to achieve a devious end. It should be understood in terms of it being a scam: “a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; a swindle.” In recent times, Ponzi Schemes (basically a Pyramid Scheme) have arisen. It is categorized on a Federal Level as being: “a swindle in which a quick return, made up of money from new investors on an initial investment lures the victim into much bigger risks.”

Aside from the financial schemes and scams, the Biblical Christian is to be wary of of devious plots that would divert one from true worship of God and service for Him. Paul describes such an attempt in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The key warning and instruction pertains to the devil’s schemes.

This is a reiteration of what Paul declared in II Corinthians 2:10-11, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And if I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven it in the presence of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan should not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” One of the schemes of the devil is to bring about contention and division within the Biblical Christian community. A key part of what Paul is writing focuses on forgiveness. The devil’s scheme is to have person A bear a grudge against person B – whatever is necessary to keep a person focused on personal feelings rather than on spiritual commitments.

A question of wonderment was posed in Psalm 10:1-4, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises…In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” The Psalmist was looking for the Lord to prevent the schemer from any success whereas the Lord is wanting His people to have discernment and respond with: “Get behind me Satan – we are not deceived by your schemes or scams.”

One’s whole being – body, soul spirit; mind emotion and will – must be fully surrendered and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. The song of our hearts should be: Christ, only Christ in every deed and action – and - our mantra should be: We are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. Thanks be to God for our victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

MOMENTS

I Was Just Thinking About – MOMENTS.
As I was doing my devotional reading this morning, the thought occurred to me regarding the moments in my life and how they are either used or neglected. One thought was the words of a Hymn written by Daniel W. Whittle (1893):
Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
Then the words of a Chorus that was popular seventy years ago – written by Norman J. Clayton:

Only to be what He wants me to be, 
Every moment of every day. 
Yielded completely to Jesus alone, 
Every step pf this pilgrim way.
Just to be clay in the Potter’s hands, 
Ready to do what His will commands.
Only to be what He wants me to be, 
Every moment of every day.
And then, some Scripture passages came to mind – – –
II Corinthians 10:5, “We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The emphasis, priority and discipline: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Luke 9:23-24 “Jesus said to all of them: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” The emphasis, priority and discipline to remain focused on the cross and one’s identity with it every moment of every day.
Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 19:12-14, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
These are some things that convict me and make me want to be more fully committed to my Lord and Savior. How do you prioritize your moments every day?
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

ELUCIDATION


I Was Just Thinking About – ELUCIDATION.

The whole idea of elucidation is for one to share in a plain manner that will enable others to have a clear understanding of a subject or matter being discussed. The definition is: “Explanation that makes something clear; clarification.” Synonyms include: “illumination, interpretation, explication.” By way of illustration, if the subject is the Book of Galatians, it appears that the simple contrasts being drawn are “having begun in the Spirit are you now being made perfect in the flesh” (Galatians 3:3). Paul is contesting the narrative and emphasis of legalism and the requirement of circumcision. He is also leading to the conclusion of Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the enablement of the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” He then goes on to describe the differences between the desires of the flesh and the control of the Spirit in terms of one’s life choices in Galatians 5:17-25.

That which triggered my thoughts in this regard was a devotional I read this morning on how Christ fulfills His promise to Abraham. The opening paragraph regarding Galatians 3:16 is: New Testament scholar_______ points out that Galatians employs three main forms of rhetoric recognized by ancient writers. One is epideictic, which “seeks to persuade people to reaffirm a particular view in the present.” Another is deliberative, which “seeks to persuade people to take action.” The third is forensic, which “seeks to persuade people about a past event.” Today’s passage is the forensic argument Paul used to persuade the Galatian believers that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham is Christ Himself. The gospel, the good news of redemption in Christ, is in a very real sense the actual person of Christ. Our salvation is the Savior!”

While I appreciate the scholarship referenced and the intention of it, I can sense how an average person might respond in one of two ways: (a) either respond with “Huh?” or (b) just close the devotional because it is too erudite and/or scholastic. In actuality, the reference to the scholar’s concepts adds little or nothing to the applications of the devotional.

In our communication and conversations, one should be guided by at least three Biblical principles: 
(1) Is it true? Exodus 20:16, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” 
(2) Is it kind? Titus 3:2, “Speak evil of no one…avoid quarreling…be gentle…show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  
(3) Is it necessary? James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak.” 

There are several other factors such as not reacting or responding with anger, bitterness, wrath, evil speaking or malice (ill will or the desire to harm another) (Ephesians 4:30). While we basically agree with these premises, we need to exercise personal discipline so that we make every effort to apply these truths at all times in our personal lives.


Prayerfully – consider these things with me.