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NOVEMBER 2004

 

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Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ.

2Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight.

2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

 

The Republicans have just “won” a hard-fought “battle” for control of the governing offices of the United States. Attorneys have to “win” their cases in court regardless of obvious guilt or innocence. Small businesses hope to “win” the battle against the mega-corporations. Much of life today is likened to a battle that must be won. Since battles must have sides, we start naming them and generally one side is liberal and the other conservative. Those of us who don’t like to be labeled are often enemies of both liberals and conservatives because neither side trusts us to help them “win.” This kind of thinking allows predetermined decisions to be made without ever really thinking through the circumstances of specific situations. Battles are normally win-lose situations, but Satan has so organized us that many of our battles are lose-lose situations. What we need is a battle that leaves all of us winning.

When we begin to look at life as a win-lose battle, Christians can begin to think like the world. Of course, we want to win. We forget that for Christ to win, He had to lose. Paul looked at His life in this same way. He died to all that this world had offered Him in order to gain the approval of the Lord who had died for Him (Philippians 3:8). We forget that Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:4, that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (or weapons of the flesh that the world uses). It is possible for us to fight the wrong battle in the wrong way and at the wrong time.

Our battle is a battle between light and darkness, good and evil. The spoils of this war involves the souls of men and women. Our battle requires spiritual discernment and an ability to use prayer and the Word of God. Our battle is not fought in the political arena so much as it is fought in the closet on our knees. Our battle requires an understanding of the sides, but the sides are not liberals and conservatives. Instead the sides are Christ verses Satan, good verses evil. The battle ground is certainly this world, the results will last for eternity, and the battle must be fought now and not tomorrow. Winners are called believers and they are eternally saved. Losers are called unbelievers and they are eternally lost.

Paul had fought the good fight. He had fought with beasts at Ephesus in fighting this fight. He had rights that he didn’t use in fighting this fight.(1 Corinthians 9:15). He was wise in that he tried to fight intelligently so that his audience would understand who and what was involved in this battle. Thus, he became all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22). To the Jews he preached like a Jew from the Old Testament. To the Gentiles he preached using their literature and logic (Acts 17:23). Now at the end of his life, Paul is confident that he has fought the right battle, with the sides having the right labels, with the right weapons and he has fought for the right King. What a joy it must have been to know that he didn’t get side-tracked by battles that he was not asked to fight. Sometimes these battle are in the family and sometimes they are in the church. Sometimes these battles are political. Satan knows how to weaken us so that we give up on the “good fight” and start fighting one another.

My prayer is that the Lord will help me to stay focused on the “good fight.” The one where He is the captain of our salvation, and where we win by losing.

Week of November 7, 2004

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Two women had sons in a war. Both were told that their boys were missing in action and ultimately one of the women was told their her son would be coming home and the other was told that her son was killed. When the war was over, both women were overjoyed to receive their sons back safe and sound and both women said that they had faith that their sons would return. But did they both have faith? It is obvious from Hebrews 11 that faith is depending on promises and if they had faith they had to have a promise on which to depend.

One woman had a promise from the government and one woman did not. The woman with the promise could wait expectantly for her son to return, and that is the Biblical concept of hope. The other woman did not have a promise and therefore she could not have had faith in the government. She may have thought she had faith in God, but to have confidence or faith in Him she needed a promise on which to depend and she never indicated that she did.

In Hebrews 11, faith is described and then illustrated by the old testament Saints who depended on God’s promises and who enjoyed a promised land. In some cases, they trusted God and His promises when the promises were not fulfilled in their life times even though the promises were fulfilled later or will yet be fulfilled. In some cases, depending on the promises brought them victory over difficulties. In some cases, their trials ended in death but their confidence in God‘s promises gave them strength because they knew death was the beginning and not the end.

Many people today tell us that they are believers but they can’t tell us what promises of God give them confidence about their future. I personally am depending on the truth that Christ died for the ungodly and that He died for us (Romans 5: 6-8). I am depending on the fact that He was wounded for my sins (Isaiah 53:5). I am absolutely certain of the promise that by believing what God has said about His Son, I have passed from death unto life (John 5:24). I am confident that the Lord will return for the church and it gives me hope or a confidence in the future, but I only hope (in the sense that the term is used today) that the Lord will return in my lifetime. I am not given a promise that He will. A general notion that God will take care of us may be the kind of faith that satisfies others, but I want something more “substantive” and I need the “evidence” of God’s promises in order to have peace.

Many of us have depended on God’s promises about salvation but we struggle with God’s promises about this life. We often wonder if God really meant what He said in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” While that promise applies to material needs, I think the application goes to every area of our lives. What peace we have when we just depend on God’s promises! I had a friend tell me that when we read our Bibles, we should put TTP (Try To Prove) beside every promise that we read. Biblical faith is more than a good feeling or a general belief in the existence of God. It is absolute confidence in the specific promises of God as found in the Bible. Those promises take us beyond life into eternity and the promises are promises of great blessing (eternal life) for the believer.

Week of November 14, 2004

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Psalm 19:2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

Psalm 19:3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

 

Recently while I was driving in the country in the early part of the night, I saw a dazzling display of Northern Lights. I started calling family and friends on my cell phone to let them know about the display, but most of them were in the city and the city lights kept them from getting a good view of this remarkable display. But I began to think about David when as a shepherd he likely had a lot of time to observe the stars. As a result, he wrote that anyone who studies the stars is going to hear the voice of God. There are three things that I thought about when I was looking at the beauty of the night sky.

First, the sky is beautiful. When we study the stars we get a little understanding of why God said that everything was good after He created it. What God does is always good and that includes His plan of salvation. After He does His best, man tends to mar what God has done. Man has done that with the earth and he has done that with God’s salvation. Instead of worshipping the God who has created such beauty and order, we want to worship things or objects or ourselves. We worship the things created rather than the Creator. Men tend to think that God is like them; and, therefore, man must do something to pay for His sin. Men would require that. However, God in His love has sent His son to make that payment for us, but we are often too proud to accept the free gift of salvation that He has offered. We miss the beauty of what God has done for us.

Second, the number of the stars appear to be too vast to number. Every time we get a better telescope and a clearer night we see more stars. While we can’t understand eternity, the vastness of the universe helps us to understand the idea of something without number or measure. We are creatures of time which can be measured and only have at the most 70-80 years to prepare for eternity which cannot be measured. It is only now that we can prepare for eternity and it is important that we do.

Third and perhaps most important, the stars are always orderly. You can depend on a star to be where it is expected to be when it is expected to be there. Man resists God’s order by “making his own decisions” and by doing what he thinks is right. The first orderly thing any of us did was to recognize our sin and to trust in the work and person of the Lord Jesus to put away our sin. Now, as part of God’s new creation, do we glorify God by being where God wants us when He wants us to be there? The heavens do declare the glory of God and so should those of us who have been saved from the sins of a finite world to live in the glory of an infinite world with the Lord.

Week of November 21, 2004

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

 

The Lord‘s ways are sometimes a mystery to me. Many people will say that the Lord answered their prayer by sparing them in some calamity or other and I always want to ask, “Why didn’t the Lord spare you from the calamity all together?” I know that sometimes we need to learn patience or endurance (James 1:3) and, sometimes the Lord trusts us with a Job-like trial as a testimony of true faithfulness to those who do not believe. But in our passage He says that if we ask any thing in His name (or authority or will), He will do it. That sounds like a fairly straight forward promise. Of course, we need to know His will in order to ask for that which He has the authority to perform. He doesn’t have the authority to keep us from physical death apart from the rapture when He will return to take living believers to heaven. He doesn’t have the authority to save those who want to go to heaven on some road of their own choosing instead of entering by the narrow gate of “repenting and believing the Gospel (Mark 1:15).” He doesn’t have the authority to keep us from all the adversities of life, but He does have the authority to be with us through them (1 Corinthians 10:13).

This week we were privileged to have our family together for Thanksgiving. As they began to leave, we joined hands and prayed for the Lord’s protection and guidance. We thought we were asking in the Lord’s name, and that He would do it according to John 14:14. However, the next call came from our youngest daughter whose car had quit about 10 miles from home. So the next two hours were spent taking a car to her so she could get to work on time, and calling a company to tow her car to a garage. I told my wife that my faith was wearing a bit thin. I know all the cliches including that she was probably spared from something on the road that would have been worse. But I had asked that the Lord would get her safely home and He didn’t. Or did He?

Coming back into town, I saw another car sitting in a lane of traffic with its blinkers on. Then I realized that there was another car behind it that had not stopped in time. I thanked the Lord right there that our problem did not involve an accident. Our car stalled in a well marked exchange on a road with a wide shoulder close enough to home so I could call a towing company that has gotten to know me and my car problems. My daughter did get to her destination and to her job safely, and that is what we had requested when we prayed. Her car has had an intermittent problem that has left us a little nervous about it stalling on the road and maybe now we can identify and fix that problem. So our prayer was answered and we will be thankful for that on this Thanksgiving day weekend. I confess that I wasn’t thankful when I got her call.

Sometimes I forget that a life of faith is an adventure with God. We don’t always know where that adventure is taking us but the Lord knows, and He also knows how to make the trip interesting. I am sure that the problems and difficulties of life are what we will remember about the trip when we reminisce about it in heaven.

 

Week of November 28, 2004