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vs. A Relationship
you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the
church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in
Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more
exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
word religion or religious is not used much in the text of the Bible. In
some versions, the above verses have "Jew's religion" in place
of Judaism. In James we have true religion being explained. James 1:27
says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is
this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself
unspotted from the world." However, In my mind and in the minds of
many of my friends the idea of being religious has a very negative
Jews crucified the Lord. They didn't care if they were doing right. All
they wanted was to be "in charge". Paul continued the
tradition of being "religious" by persecuting the early
Christians. Many of our early Christian communities in this country were
controlling and cruel. They used "stocks" to publicly
humiliate those who violated their laws. Down through the last 2000
years, some people who have disagreed with established religious
authorities have been beheaded and in some cases burned. Wars have been
fought trying to destroy infidels in the name of religion. Inquisitions
have been used to find, convict and execute those who have been
considered heretics or who held doctrines that the formal church
considered divisive and wrong.
religious activities stopped when he met the Lord on the Damascus Road.
He no longer supported a religious system, but he trusted in the
resurrected Lord. He no longer followed man's rules, he followed a man.
He no longer had a religion, he had a relationship.
have held Bible studies with some who say that when studying the world's
religions, the thing that impresses them about Christianity is it's
compassion. Christians believe in loving their neighbors. They believe
in saving people both practically and spiritually, not in destroying
people. They are burden bearers rather than laying burdens on people
that cannot be born (See Matthew 23:4).
know that there are those who point to the old testament wars where God
showed his hatred of idolatry and where he tried to spare Israel from
being exposed to it and its excesses, and they will say God is cruel.
Some will point to the Biblical teaching on eternal conscious punishment
for those who reject Christ and will say that God is cruel. I do not
think they understand God or His purposes in saying that, but if we
Christians are truly saved and if we are living a life that pleases God,
they shouldn't be able to point to us Christians and say that we are
cruel. The Bible teaches that if our relationship with the Lord is
right, our relationship with one another will be right. Instead of being
controlling we will preach the truth and let the Lord do the controlling
through the power of the Holy Spirit. We will stand for what is right
without resorting to violence. We will keep the church holy, but we will
not be cruel in the way that we do it.
is the roaring lion who goes about devouring and accusing. The true
Christian is compared to a defenseless lamb who not only would not but
could not hurt someone. If we are religious we likely are living like
the roaring lion. If we are enjoying our relationship with the Lord we
will be living like the defenseless lamb. So the question we each need
to ask ourselves is, "Do we have religion or do we have a
relationship with the Lord?"
for the week of May 3, 2009
is the Real "Troubler?"
it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, "Is that
you, O troubler of Israel?" And he answered, "I have not
troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have
forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals.
used to speak about people being "troubled" when the Holy
Spirit was convicting them of their sin. This was a good thing. It led
them to search for peace in the right place and many came to the Lord
Jesus for salvation. Once they were saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus
and sure of it because of the promises of the Word of God, they were no
longer "troubled" but they were filled with joy and peace in
anyone who is "troubled" is considered by many to be disturbed
and in need of counseling or medication rather than needing to have
their sins forgiven. Those of us who preach the Gospel are considered
"troublers" because we read and explain Bible passages about
sin. Many of these sins are acceptable to society in general and to many
Christians as well. Christianity and Christ are considered to be the
problems in our society rather than being the cure for our problems.
When this country was founded, the basic legal system embodied the
virtues of the moral law of the Bible. Our society was ordered by the
concept that that we are to "do unto others what we would have
others do unto us." Submission and respect to God and to
governmental authority was taught in our schools and colleges. Even
those who did not believe in the God of our Bible or in the need for
salvation, knew that abiding by the moral principles of the Bible would
make for a healthy society. Today that has all changed.
is the "troubler" in our society? Is it the one who says that
there is a God in heaven who hates sin and will judge those who turn
away from Him and practice immorality because of their belief system? Is
it the person who preaches the Biblical truth that there is judgment
coming both on this world that has rejected Christ and on the individual
who rejects Him? Is it a mercy to preach that we need to be saved or is
that a message that only disturbs the peace of our violent, greedy,
preached against the idolatry and immorality of Baal worship. A nation
that had once known the Lord intimately and had seen His miracles when
they were saved from the bondage of Egypt had been deceived by their
leaders into believing that the sensual worship of idols was better than
than the moral worship of the Living God. Who really wanted the best for
Israel? Was it Ahab and Jezebel who promoted powerless Idolatry? Or was
it Elijah who "caused" a drought and famine so that the people
would remember that God had promised that this would happen if they
turned away from Him? Was the troubler Jezebel or was it Elijah?
am willing to be a "troubler" if by being that I can help a
few people see their need of the Lord Jesus. I am going to continue
disturbing people by telling them that there is a heaven to gain after
we die and a place of eternal conscious punishment to avoid. I am going
to continue preaching that God is holy and that the definition of sin
has not changed as society has changed. I am going to continue to preach
that the Holy God that they are going to meet wants them to know these
things so that they can be saved. He sends out preachers and He sent His
Son because he is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God
really does love us.
believe that a person can feel well and find out that they are sick by
going to the doctor for diagnostic tests to determine the state of their
health. It may disturb them to find out that they are sick. But finding
out that they are sick in time to do something about it is obviously a
blessing. Please do not consider those of us who are preaching the Truth
of the Bible to be the problem and the troublers. Christ is the answer
to the person who sins are troubling them.
for the week of May 10, 2009
shall we do?
when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was
an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. 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."
you ever been in a predicament where you have said, "I have done
everything that I can, I guess I will just have to trust the Lord!"
I think most of us have said that at some time or another. If we haven't
said it, we have at least thought it. But obviously, we should have
trusted the Lord before we came to the end of our own resources. I think
that the reason we don't trust the Lord until we have "come to an
end of ourselves" is because most of us don't like to depend on
others and because sometimes we aren't sure that the Lord is going to
give us the results that we want.
generally do not trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation until they have
found out that they can't save themselves. Most of us try everything we
can to be saved before we are able to relax in the promise that Christ
died for us (Romans 5:8). We think that if we believe right, if we pray
right, if we confess right we will be saved. We have to find out that
none of that counts because we simply need to do one of the hardest
things any of us have ever done. We need to put our complete confidence
and trust in someone besides ourselves. If we don't come to that place
of true repentance, we will always think that we did something to
deserve salvation. But God wants us to depend wholly on the Lord, not
just partly. He wants all the credit for saving us, not part of it. I
have seen people struggle with this, and often it takes a while before
they can "give up" and "just trust in the Lord". But
when they do, they will always find that the Lord is trustworthy.
we are saved, we have God for us (Romans 8:31), the Holy Spirit in us
(Ephesians 1:13, and angels serving us (Hebrews 1:14). With heaven on
our side, why do we so often ask the question that the servant asked of
Elisha, "What shall WE do?" Elisha had the Lord open the
servant's eyes to see a heavenly army protecting them. We know that
there are a lot of things happening in our lives that we can't see.
Ephesians 6:12 is clear that we are battling unseen forces. We are not
sufficient for this battle but the Lord is.
need to learn to trust Him. Instead of saying, "God helps those who
help themselves" we need to learn that God fights the battles of
those who live in fellowship with Him and who learn that they cannot
trust themselves. We can trust the Lord because God is faithful.
Corinthians 10:13 says, " No temptation (test or trial) has
overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who
will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able, but
with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be
able to bear it."
verse convinces me that when we give the Lord control, there will be a
way of escape. We will not be overcome by the enemy. My prayer is that
the Lord would open our eyes to see and understand the protection that
God has provided for us.
for the week of May 17, 2009
17:32 Remember Lot's wife.
19:26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Day weekend is a time for remembering. Our current custom is to honor
living and dead veterans of the wars that we have fought as well as
honoring all of our loved ones who have died. Memory links us to the
past. However some of our memories are good and some are not.
are told to remember Lot's wife. She is an example of what not to do.
She looked back to the destruction that was taking place in Sodom and
Gomorrah and became a pillar of salt. She had been told not to look back
and when the Lord tells us not to do something, He tells us that for our
good. Her children were back in that city that was being destroyed, and
I am quite sure that when she looked back her heart broke. Whether she
died right there and had the destruction overtake her or whether she was
immobilized with fear when she saw what was happening and had the
destruction overtake her is not clear. But one thing is clear, she
shouldn't have looked back. However, I do sympathize with her. She loved
her children and she didn't want to see them destroyed with the sinners
in Sodom. Her children had not believed Lot or God when Lot said
destruction was coming and they did not leave. I suspect that they had
become comfortable with Sodom and with the sin of that place. They
needed to be saved, but they didn't want to be saved. Their
unwillingness to listen to the warning cost them their lives, and it
cost the life of their mother as well.
world is going to be destroyed. In Noah's day, the world had become
violent and men's hearts were evil. They were motivated by Satan and not
by good. We live in a day like that and judgment is coming. It will not
only overtake the sinner who rebels against God after death, but the
nations on this earth are going to be judged for their sin as well. I
wonder what it will be like for us to know that we had children who did
not believe us and who ended up being destroyed along with a
Christ-rejecting world? Some teach that we won't be concerned with those
things after we die, but I know people in hell have a memory because in
Luke 16 the rich man in hell remembered. I suspect that those of us in
heaven will have a memory as well. Fortunately, we will no longer be
bound by earthly ties and earthly attitudes and earthly sin, so I have
no doubt that we will be willing to justify God's judgments even when it
involves our children. They, more than others, will deserve God's
judgment when it comes, if they reject the Lord. Our children have been
raised in a privileged environment where they have been warned about
coming destruction, and where they have been taught the truth.
of us who are saved may end up with some bad memories, but we have some
good memories as well. One of them is of a Man who came to this earth to
reveal God to us. Though good and though sinless He died on a Cross. We
can look back over 2000 years and thank God for those who have been
saved from eternal destruction because He was willing to suffer. Every
Sunday mornings there are groups of Christians who gather for the sole
purpose of "looking back" and memorializing Him. It is because
of Him that we will be spared the destruction that this unbelieving
world is going to experience. The death of the cross was a terrible
thing but we have good memories of the One who was willing to die there
in our place.
Lot's wife reminds us of the cost of lingering when God says to run. It
reminds us that not all choices that make sense are good choices. When
Lot separated from Abraham he chose the well-watered plains of Jordan.
Those plains should have made him happy and wealthy but they put him
near Sodom. Ultimately he moved there. His choice led to the loss of
much of his family.
memories of the Lord remind us of the cost of our salvation. Those of us
who are saved will only memorialize the Lord by eating from a loaf of
bread and drinking from a cup of wine until He comes, but even in
eternity we will never forget the wonders of God's love as demonstrated
to us in the sacrifice of His Son.
for the week of May 24, 2009
does God care?
one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are
mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?
have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with
glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands.
does God care about sinful rebellious man? Man was made innocent and
placed in a privileged place in the Garden of Eden. He was given
authority over all the works of God's hands according to King David in
Psalm 8. Apparently that authority has not been rescinded even though I
personally do not want to meet lions or bears or cougars or other wild
animals when I am alone and when they are on the war path. I think they
might have authority over me.
was the crowning act of God's creation. He made a creature that could
represent Him as His image. He made a creature that could communicate
with Him since He made man in his likeness. No other part of God's
creation could think and talk to God like man could. And in that
original state, man and God had unhindered fellowship in the Garden.
spoiled all of that. By convincing Eve that she was missing out because
she could not eat from the fruit of one tree even everything else was
available to her, she disobeyed and her husband disobeyed. Because of
the change in man's nature when sin entered the world, man who had been
made for God, started remaking God into his own image. To this day, most
people won't worship God unless He makes sense to them and acts like
they think He ought to act. Man in his pride has turned away from God
and has spoiled the work of God's hands.
has proven to be disobedient in every different governmental program
that God has provided for him. Adam fell in the Garden of Eden. His
descendents became so wicked that God destroyed the society of that day
with a flood. Noah was spared from the destruction that came on a
lawless world, but it wasn't long before the Canaanites and others had
turned to idolatry. After the world was destroyed by the flood, the
society of that day wanted to approach God their own way at the Tower of
Babel in Gen 11. This created confusion that is evidenced by the many
languages spoken in the world to this day. God spared the Israelites in
a miraculous way and brought them into the promised land so that He
might have a people that would be faithful to Him and instead of that
they turned to idolatry. Ultimately, man who was made for God, crucified
the Lord even though He was the one who had created them (Colossians
would God care about a rebellious people like this? Why not just destroy
them all and start over? Why does he have patience with individuals who,
like the prodigal son of Luke 15, want to go their own way and do not
want God to restrict their lives in any way? Some people think that the
unanswerable question is "Where did God come from?" I think it
is "Why does God care?"
He does. He cares for the unsaved and the only reason He hasn't returned
is because He is not willing that any should perish. 2nd Peter 3:9 says,
"The Lord is not slack (slow) concerning His promise (to return),
as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing
that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." I
like that little word ALL.
after He has saved us He cares. 1st Peter 5:6-7 says, "Therefore
humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in
due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
does He care? I don't know. Does He care? YES!
for the week of May 31, 2009