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Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in
heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly
slipped. (Psalms 73:1-2)
know God doesn't think like we think (Isaiah 55:8) so we don't always
understand His ways. He is presented to us as a Father, but frankly I
sometimes wonder about His parenting skills. He is presented as a
Savior, but there are times when it seems to me that He could intervene
on behalf of His own and save in a practical way when He doesn't. We are
told He is compassionate, but where is the compassion when one of His
own is suffering? Where is that compassion when families are torn apart
by sin and sickness or when the bread winner loses his job through no
fault of his own? One can understand why Asaph would say, "my feet
had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped."
is watching an upside down world, where the proud and rich are respected
and where they seem to be trouble free. They oppress others and get by
with it. They think they are not accountable to God. Asaph has tried to
be reverent and has tried to live with a good conscience. Yet, he seems
to be suffering at the hand of God while the wicked seem to be
prospering. What gives? At least Asaph is honest about his feelings. You
would get the impression from some super human Christians that they have
never gotten discouraged nor have they ever questioned the ways of the
think all of us who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus at times wonder
why we seem to have problems that the wicked and unsaved do not seem to
have. What is the point of serving God and trusting in the Lord if we
then have it so much worse than the rebellious? Why are we poor when
they are rich? Why are we sick while they are healthy? Why are they the
proud task masters while we are the servants? What is the point in
trying to do right?
think Asaph finally figured it out in verse 17, "I went into the
sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end." We who worship the
Living God are not living for time but for eternity. Our END is secure.
Their end is destruction. When we start comparing ourselves to those
whose hope is in this world only, Satan starts messing with our minds.
In addition, it only seems like the rich, arrogant and rebellious have
no problems. When we get to know them and get behind their public
reputations, we find out their problems are probably worse than ours. In
addition, they have no Lord to believe in and no future to encourage
wonder when Asaph gets his thinking straightened out he says he was
foolish and ignorant. He was thinking like a beast. Asaph has an
"afterward" that those who live for time do not have. Verse 24
says, "You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive
me to glory." The arrogant live for time and by their own strength.
We who are saved have something better. It is called faith! Sometimes we
need to get alone with God in his dwelling place to have that faith
renewed. But while we may get discouraged, we will never be forsaken.
And if this life seems pointless, it surely makes us look forward to our
"afterward" that much more.
I was meditating on this Psalm, one of my friends posted the words of a
hymn on Facebook that expresses my concluding thoughts completely. I had
never heard the words before but they were written by Anne S. Murphy in
1908 and they go like this:
a peace in my heart that the world never gave,
A peace it cannot take away;
Though the trials of life may surround like a cloud,
Iíve a peace that has come here to stay!
for the week of August 5, 2012
that which is Simple too Simple!
Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ
crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.
(1 Corinthians 1:22-23)
the years I have tried to help people understand the Gospel who are
fairly ignorant with regard to the Bible. Sometimes I find it hard to
know where to begin. When I was younger we could ask teenagers if they
knew a verse from the Bible and nearly all of them could quote John
3:16. Most of them knew that the Bible claimed to be God's Word. Today,
many in the younger generation have never heard of John 3:16 unless they
have seen a sign held up at an athletic event. Even then they may not be
aware of what the sign is really saying. Most are not at all convinced
that the Bible is worth reading. Most think it contains fables and
myths. Many are convinced that the people who claim to believe the Bible
are the cause of most of the world's problems. They remember the
crusades, the Inquisition, the Christian support of slavery and
segregation and they want no part of it. So how is a person going to
overcome these prejudices and ignorance today in order to help people
understand the real message of the Bible?
from the power and work of the Holy Spirit, this job would be
impossible. In Genesis 1:1-3, we see the way the Spirit works on a dark
creation. It was hovering and then God said or spoke. We find that the
spirit of God and the Word of God always work together. It did in
creation. It does today. For example, in Ephesians 6:17 Paul writes,
"take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God."
of us who preach the Gospel are concerned with the urgency of the
message. We know that death lurks around the corner and that it is only
while we are alive that we can believe in the Lord. Because of that
urgency we often try to simplify the Gospel so that it can be received
quickly and so that it is believable by those who know little about the
Bible Often the Gospel is preached without opening the Bible because
"Bible Bangers" are offensive in our culture.
verse that is my guide In preaching the Gospel is Romans 10:17, "So
then faith (in Christ) comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of
God." As we preach the Word, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of
God to bring those who actually listen to the Word of God to faith in
Christ. There is no short-cut to that process. I can give out tracts and
I do. But I would rather give out the Bible. I was helped by a tract, so
I know their value for the one who does know something about the Bible.
But I am always afraid that a person will believe what a tract says
rather than what God says. And no one is saved unless they have their
confidence in the Lord and His promises rather than in a man or in
anything that a man says.
have found that most of our Gospel preaching helps people deal with
their arguments with God so that they have the ability to trust in the
Lord. Until people quit arguing with God, they won't believe in Him or
trust Him. To tell someone that if they "decide for Christ" or
"invite the Lord into their heart" or "pray the sinners
prayer" before this process that the Bible calls repentance is
complete, only gives the person a good feeling and a false assurance.
Bible tells people to strive to enter in (Luke 13:24), to seek (Matthew
6:33), to labor to enter into the true rest of God (Hebrews 4:11KJV).
Obviously, coming to faith is a struggle because we all have our minds
made up about certain things that we think we know about God. Where we
are wrong we have to admit that. As a Gospel preacher, I cannot convince
people that they are wrong neither can I short-cut the path to faith.
But what I can do is sit down with the Word of God and show people what
the message of the Bible is in the context of the whole Bible and in the
context of the book we are studying and in the context of the chapter we
are studying. Only God through the power of the Holy Spirit can change
minds and produce saving faith in Christ. But that saving faith is
available to every person who actually decides that they want to know
the truth of the Word of God.
have complete confidence in the Bible's power to make believers out of
unbelievers. I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to make
believers out of them.
for the week of August 12, 2012
We Really Love our Neighbors?
while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready
went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. "Afterward
the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he
answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
since Rob Bell published his book called Love Wins, it has caused
me to think a lot about eternal conscious punishment for those who
reject Christ. If I understand his message properly, love wins and
eternal conscious punishment does not end up being eternal.
Unfortunately, this is not what the Bible teaches.
Bible says quite a lot about God's wrath and God's Judgment of
unbelievers. The reality is that God gets very angry with those who
reject His Son and His sacrifice for our sins.
Bible speaks of everlasting punishment, of a lake of fire, of a place
where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, of a place called outer
darkness, and of a place of torment. I know some are going to say that
these can't all be literal because you can't have darkness and fire
together. However, fire and darkness existed at the same time on Mount
Sinai (Deuteronony 4:11). So while I can't explain the phenomenon
scientifically, I am willing to believe those who observed it. I believe
that the things said about eternal conscious punishment after death are
literal. If they are not, then obviously our minds cannot grasp the real
thing. Certainly the real thing would then be worse than the symbols
that are used to describe it.
people think that a loving God cannot possibly put people in a place of
torment forever simply because they did not "believe" or trust
in the Lord. I personally understand the logic of this argument.
However, my answer to the argument is that God loved the world and He
loved His Son. He chose to let His Son take the punishment that we
deserved because of our sin. I cannot see how He could honestly love His
Son if there were no consequences for not believing in such a great
sacrifice. Even if we don't agree with God, God is still God. His way is
the way it is going to be!
people who are like the five foolish virgins in our passage for today
greatly concern me. They look like Christians, they are moral, they say
they are "followers of Jesus," but they have never prepared
properly for the day when the Lord comes. They are sleeping right along
with those who have prepared. Those who have prepared do not seem to
recognize the need to warn the foolish virgins that they are not ready.
These foolish virgins likely go to churches that talk about the Lord and
the moral values of the Lord, but their church doctrines do not clearly
teach that salvation is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus. Some add
baptism to the formula, some add other sacraments. Nearly all seem to
think that if we act like the world thinks Christians should act, then
we must be Christians. Many of these churches are trying to make the
world more Christian-like without teaching the need for a new birth on
the part of the individual.
we who are saved sleeping today? Are we just assuming that all is right
with those people who have been taught to act like Christians rather
than being taught that they are sinners in need of a Savior? In many
cases, we have been convinced that we don't need to preach the Gospel to
those who come to church. Instead we need to equip those who come to
church to evangelize in the world, and so we are taught that it is not
good to preach the Gospel of God's grace in the church building when the
church is meeting. But is that really showing love for our neighbors?
Where is our discernment today? Can we distinguish between those who
have a form of godliness but who have no real faith in the Lord? Do we
listen to see if people are more concerned with what they are doing for
Christ than with what Christ has done for them?
is our love for the five foolish virgins who may be sitting in the pews
beside us but who are headed for a place of torment where there is
eternal conscious punishment? Just because people act Christian-like
does not make them Christians in the Biblical sense.
for the week of August 19, 2012
God to the Test
the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water, that we
may drink." So Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with
me? Why do you tempt the LORD?" (Exodus 17:2)
said to him, "It is written again, 'YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD
YOUR GOD.' " (Matthew 4:7)
the God does not want us to tempt Him. The word tempt probably means
that we shouldn't put Him to the test. When are we doing that?
Matthew, Satan wants the Lord to put Himself in unnecessary danger to
prove that He would be protected by God. I wonder if Satan actually
believed that God would fulfill his promise made in Psalm 91. The Lord
didn't have to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in
order to prove that God (His Father) was faithful. He knew that He was
without "testing" Him.
the old testament passage referred to by the Lord, the children of
Israel were in a bind. They had been delivered out of Egypt by the
passover lamb, they had miraculously crossed the Red Sea and now they
were in the wilderness without water. What were they going to do? They
certainly didn't think that this God that had brought them this far
would be able to provide water for them. This was not a case of putting
themselves needlessly in harms way in order to test the reality of God's
promises. This was a case of simply not believing that the God Who had
saved them physically was the God who could sustain them in the
have often wondered just when a person is committing this sin. The Lord
didn't need to jump from the pinnacle of the temple so his situation was
different from that of the children of Israel who obviously needed water
for themselves and for their animals. God tells us in Hebrews
11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who
comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those
who diligently seek Him." Instead of expecting God to
"prove" Himself, the Lord wants us to trust Him. Sometimes it
is hard to trust Him, but trust Him we must because that is what pleases
God. It appears that we are putting God to the test when we ask Him to
do something that we don't believe He can or will do.
had a man tell me that whenever we see a promise in the Bible we should
put a TTP beside it. I asked him what that meant and he said it meant
"try to prove." Is this the test that God despises? No,
because this is the test of a believing heart that believes that God is
on the throne and will fulfill His promises. He may not fulfill his
promises when we want them fulfilled or the way we want them fulfilled,
but a person who trusts the Lord has every confidence that the promises
will be fulfilled. A believer does not complain and grumble about the
way God fulfills those promises. After all it is the promises of God
that give us the assurance of salvation. The reason we know rather than
hope that we are saved is because of the promises that God has given us
(See 1 John 5:13). So living with the peace that comes from believing
that God fulfills His promises is what pleases God.
test that God despises is the test of an unbelieving heart. It may be
that only an unsaved person can put God to the test in the way that
these passages describe. Not all of those who were saved from Egypt were
believers in the Lord (See Jude 1:5). However, even those of us who are
saved need to be reminded that God wants to be trusted. He doesn't want
us to be questioning whether He is able and willing to fulfill His
promises to us. He doesn't want us to come to Him with an unbelieving
heart asking Him to prove Himself to us.
trust surgeons we don't really know. They usually have never
"proven themselves" to us. Surely, the Lord is worthy of that
kind of trust. The Lord wants us to trust His promises without
"putting Him to the test." When we do that, that is, when we
trust Him just because of Who He is, God does prove Himself to be
for the week of August 26, 2012