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OCTOBER 2005

 

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Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect (shalom) peace (shalom), whose mind is stayed on thee (whose confidence is in Thee): because he trusteth in thee.

 

Peace is not generally a condition of our world. We fight with the neighbors because they don’t respect our rights. We fight with our loved ones because they irritate us. We fight with people we don’t know and who have different cultures and skin colors because we don’t trust them (and they don’t trust us). We fight (or at least argue) with politicians because we don’t agree with them.

There is only one person who was a true peacemaker and He was nailed to a cross. Probably we are at war with each other because we are at war with God. The God Who Is is not the God that we want Him to be. Instead of us serving Him, we want Him to serve us. The natural man wants His mercy to be without judgment, His love to be without jealousy, His Word to be elastic and His way of salvation to be optional. We want His heaven to be real but not His Hell. We want to do what He says only when we agree with what He says. We want Him to like our music. We want Him to delight in worship that does not bore us and that we find exhilarating. We want Him to respect our mode and manner of baptism. We want Him to feel honored when we put our money into buildings and not into people. We don’t want to get too occupied with Bible “doctrine” because that has divided Christians over the years.

As a result of wanting things our way, the world seems to be out of control. Murder is rampant and violence is everywhere. Wars are fought to obtain peace but there is no real peace. Instead of our resources being used to sustain life, many of them are devoted to taking life. We say that our wars will provide future generations with peace, but history has not been kind to that theory.

I am convinced that we will never have peace in this world until the Lord Himself changes things during His actual coming Kingdom when He will reign on earth. So should we go through life afraid and fighting with everyone and everything? No! Real peace is internal and comes when we are at peace with God. I believe that peace with God leads to having peace with ourselves. In order for this to happen, we will have to accept the fact that we are sinners. We will have to confess our sin and know that we have been cleansed from our sin by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7-9). Our consciences will no longer condemn us (1 John 3:21-22). When we are at peace with God and ourselves, no one can take that peace from us. This should lead to peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

We have all seen people that seem satisfied and content and at peace even when things around them seem to be falling to pieces. That kind of person makes an impression on us. We can be like them if we truly have confidence in the Lord. We don’t have to understand where the road is going or why the wind is contrary. We don’t have to understand why we feel rejected We don’t have to know how things are going to turn out down here on this earth because that is not where our real home is. The Lord has told us that if we trust Him, we will have peace peace. The world cannot give us peace, it will only give us trials but the Lord has overcome the world (John 16:33). The Lord wants to quiet our troubled hearts (John 14:1). He wants us to not only believe Him but to believe in Him.

Week of October 2, 2005

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world (age), and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (age), according to the will of God and our Father:

 

Demas, Thomas and Peter are three men in the Bible with whom I identify. They all seemed to have the same problems that I have, and so I am encouraged to believe that if the Lord could use them, maybe He can use me.

Peter had a desire to do right but at times he was weak. He denied the Lord after He said He would die for Him (Matthew 26: 34-35). He wouldn’t eat with Gentiles even after the Lord had shown Him that they were not unclean in this dispensation (Galatians 2:12, Acts 10:28). We often criticize his failures but fail to consider the fact that He really did love the Lord.

Thomas often wondered what was happening. But Thomas was loyal. He was willing to die with the Lord (John 11:16). We call him doubting Thomas because he didn’t believe the Lord had been raised from the dead and wanted to see proof (John 20:25). We don’t seem to criticize the other eleven for not believing Mary Magdalene when she told them that the Lord had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:10-11).

We criticize Demas for loving this present world. This passage does not say that he loved the evil world even though we sometimes misquote the passage that way. Sometimes the world in the Bible has to do with an age or a period of time. Sometimes world means the people in a society ordered by Satan but opposed to God. Demas loved the present age, not the present society. The reason I identify with Demas is that if I had been with Paul when he was testifying to Nero (who seems to be the Roman emperor when Paul wrote this last epistle), I might have thought that I should be the prudent man who foresees evil and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). I suspect Demas thought he could serve the Lord better as a living saint than as a dead martyr and he got out of there. Paul was willing to die to testify to the Roman court. Demas was not ready for that. Paul was critical of his leaving him but I suspect I would have done the same thing.

If we were really honest, most of us who criticize Demas for loving this present age, likely have a problem loving this present society. James, the Lord’s brother, says that if we are a friend of the world or of this society we are the enemy of God (James 4:4). John tells us that if any man loves the world or this society, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). These are sobering thoughts since most of us are trying to enjoy life in the clean part of the society in which we live. I suspect that John and James are both talking about hiding our faith so that we won’t be condemned by unbelievers. This might involve using the name God in public prayer but not the name of Jesus. This might involve avoiding being immersed (which is what the word baptism means) since our unsaved friends or families might find a true identification with the Lord as a result of being saved offensive. This might involve finding entertainment and sports more important than a good Bible conference and fellowship with Christians. It obviously involves putting a higher priority on the approval of an unsaved society than on loyalty to the Lord who died for us.

Yes, Demas, Thomas and Peter were all flawed men. The Lord has written the book on their lives. I wonder what He is writing about ours.

Week of October 9, 2005

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel (to announce good news) to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Luke 4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

 

One hesitates to pick up a newspaper in the morning or to turn on the TV for fear that another calamity will have happened during the night. We have had terrorists destroy the world trade center and since then we have had constant bad news about people dying in Iraq. We have had a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, hurricanes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida. We have had fires in Los Angeles and floods in the northeast part of the U.S. We have had an earthquake in Pakistan and the surrounding area. We have the BTK killer in Missouri. We may have a flu pandemic. In addition, we keep hearing about the suffering of friends who have dreaded health problems. Is there any good news?

Yes there is, but it doesn’t sell papers and it isn’t believed by many when it is announced. The good news is not allowed in our public schools even though it might give the children a reason for living and make them realize that there is a good life without drugs and alcohol. It isn’t allowed in our public forums even though it is protected by the U.S. constitution. The good news made the U.S. one of the most productive and powerful nations on the earth, but now it is considered dangerous in the society that has benefited the most from it. The good news has been replaced in our homes by the TV, the computer, and by music that is so invasive that it keeps us from thinking or meditating or even talking.

Some people say that the good news makes no sense. To me life makes no sense without it. Sin came into this world through the crafty deceitfulness of a lie in the Garden of Eden. The big lie today is that there is no good news. Some tell us that the Bible is a myth. We are told that Christ was a good man but not God. Of course that means that He was a lunatic because He seemed to think that He was God. So in my mind, either He was God and He was good or He was mentally challenged and not good. Today, people want to believe that there is nothing to believe (except science which keeps changing its mind about what the truth is). We are having our hope in the Bible and in Christ taken away and we are being given nothing better to replace it. That is depressing.

Since bad news doesn’t always happen to other people, we need some good news to get us through the day. I am going to continue to believe in the good news that Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried and was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) until someone can prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I believe is not true. I am not going to let some created being who thinks he is smarter than the creator take my joy away from me.

Ultimately, we believe what we want to believe. Some of us believe the Republicans and some of us believe the Democrats and some of us believe neither. Some of us believe in post high school education and some of us don‘t. But we have all decided what and whom we are going to believe. I want to believe that the Bible is true and that heaven is real and that Christ died for my sins. I want to believe that death is not an end but a beautiful beginning for one trusting in the good news of the Bible. And that good news is going to get me through when I am faced with bad news.

 

Week of October 16, 2005

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

 

A true vision of the Lord will always greatly affect us. It brought Paul to down to the ground in Acts 9:4. John, the beloved disciple, fell at His feet as dead in Revelation 1:17. It made Isaiah see how unclean He was, and it helps us understand how valuable Isaiah was.

In the beginning of this book, Isaiah preaches about the problems of others and how they are going to bring misery and sorrow upon themselves because of the way they have turned against God. In chapters 3 and 5, there are eight woes called down upon others. He condemns the rich, the drunken, the proud, the wise and all that is evil. But in Chapter 6, after He sees the Lord, He sees his own sin and uncleanness. His sin becomes personal. But that does not mean that he had no value.

Today, I am asked how to help people with low self-esteem. I usually tell them that the answer to low self-esteem is to understand the value that God has placed on each of us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth (or demonstrates) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God doesn‘t love us because we are good, He just loves us. His love and acceptance is not based on our performance as it often is with our families and friends. It was while we were YET sinners that Christ died for us. God has placed a great value on those that by nature should have no value. He has placed a great value on each of us.

In order to have proper self-esteem, we need to lose our pride and we need to see ourselves as God sees us. Getting into the presence of God will get this all in perspective. We know that God is holy. As sinners, we have no right to His heaven and His blessings. That is humbling. But as unclean sinners, God has provided for our cleansing and forgiveness through the death of His son so that we can have a place in His Heaven and can partake of His blessings. If God places such a high value on us, we certainly do not need to feel inferior and worthless. However, the fact that we are unholy should certainly humble us.

When Isaiah saw the Lord, he was humbled and he confessed his sin and the sin of his people. That led to his cleansing (verse 7) and to his commission (verses 8- 9). A proper Biblical vision of Christ will humble us when we see how unclean we are by contrast. But it will bless us when we realize that we too have a God who has placed great value on us. He wants to cleanse us so He can use us and so we can live with Him eternally.

I personally believe that those of us who have truly trusted Christ have had a “woe is me” experience before we experienced the joy of being saved and cleansed by faith in the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). But we sometimes need that “woe is me experience” repeated in our life to humble us and make us realize that God does not owe us anything but we owe Him everything. We are just cleansed sinners who have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus.

Week of October 23, 2005

Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.

 

Sound doctrine is really healthy teaching. Some translations say that sound doctrine is true or right instruction. Paul admonishes both Timothy and Titus to teach sound doctrine in 1 Timothy 1:10, 2 Timothy 4:3, Titus 1:9, and Titus 2:1.

Those of us who teach the Bible are held to a high standard and we need to be concerned that what we teach is sound (James 3:1, 2 Peter 2:1). If it is sound, it is true, it is right and it is healthy. But how can we be sure that what we are teaching is sound? Immorality that violates the command to love your neighbor is not healthy doctrine according to 1 Timothy 1:10. Teachers that tell people what they want to hear rather than telling them what they need to hear are not teaching sound doctrine according to 2 Timothy 4:3. People whose motive is to make money through their teaching are probably not teaching sound doctrine according to Titus 1:9-11.

Sound doctrine involves a proper understanding of what we believe (we must be sound in faith, Titus 2:2). According to Titus chapter 2, teaching sound doctrine means teaching proper behavior for the old, and for the young. This chapter says that if we are teaching sound doctrine, we will be teaching people how to love, we will be teaching people how to act right, we will be teaching people how to talk right and we will be teaching people to respect authority.

Today, some people tell us that doctrine divides and so they don’t teach doctrine in their congregations. However, fellowship with one another is limited when we do not agree on proper doctrine. In Acts 2:42, the first church at Jerusalem continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine. Doctrine is mentioned before fellowship and seems to be the basis of their fellowship. I believe that agreement on doctrine is necessary to have Biblical fellowship or partnership in the things of God. Some take the position that our fellowship with each other is based on life (that is the new birth) rather than on light (that is an understanding of Biblical doctrine). However, those who believe this would have to agree that life comes through the preaching of a doctrine (Romans 10:17). The Gospel is a doctrine having to do with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Personal trust in the truth or doctrine that Christ did all this to put away our sins is the only means of being prepared to meet God. Doctrine should unite us and not divide us but doctrine has to be rightly divided or properly interpreted (2 Timothy 2:15). The only way it will be properly interpreted is if our minds have been prepared to be submissive to what God says.

Almost every doctrine of Scripture is either interpreted differently by different groups of people or is applied differently by assuming some doctrines are essential and some are not. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit Who guides us into ALL truth (John 16:13) would lead us to differing conclusions on doctrine, nor do I think He would guide us to compromise on what some would say is nonessential doctrine. I personally pray that God will help me teach the whole counsel of God in a healthy or sound way. If the evangelist brings people to Christ, then the teacher should keep the babes in Christ healthy and not stunt their growth by what he teaches or refuses to teach. We have a great responsibility. It takes courage and prayer to do this job properly in a day of total religious confusion.

 

Week of October 30, 2005