Pastor's Blog

by on Jun.13, 2016, under Uncategorized

      How we speak says a great deal about us.  People can gauge the quality of our Christianity by our speech.  We all know the Third Commandment:  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).  What we do not seem to know—or care about very much—is the remainder of the verse:  “for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”  “No problem,” you say, “I don’t curse or swear.”  Are you sure about that?  I often hear Christians violating this commandment without any apparent guilt.  Perhaps it’s a matter of ignorance.  Let me explain.

      First of all, although it should be obvious, Christians must not use the name of the Lord in vain.  Many of us do, however—and I especially hear it from young people.  Perhaps the most pervasive response to shocking news is the phrase, “O my God.”  Except in earnest prayer, we need to eliminate this phrase from our speech completely!

      Then again, many of us use minced oaths or profanity and don’t seem to understand the significance of what we’re saying.  In some cases these apparently innocuous slang expletives actually are euphemisms for God’s name.  For example, when you use the words “gosh,” or “golly,” you are using a slang substitute for the name of God.  “Jeepers” is the same kind of substitute for Jesus.  Other such words are an abuse of the attributes of God.  How many unsavory nouns have we attached to the adjective “holy”?  Cows and mackerels are not holy; only God is holy.  Even worse is attaching the attribute of holiness to scatological—in other words, bathroom—language.  I also remember my grandmother, whose constant expletive was “O mercy!”  Or you sometimes hear, “God Almighty!”  Then there are other words that concern spiritual matters.  For example, the very sobering reality of the destiny of the unconverted.  The world has trivialized the horrible words “hell” and damn” by using them as casual profanity; yet many Christians don’t hesitate to use the euphemisms “heck” and “darn.”

      Even more sobering are the euphemized oaths many Christians use:  “by God,” “by golly,” and “bejesus,” which means “by Jesus.”  These are oaths sworn by God’s name, and He does not take this lightly.  We also sin grievously when we swear by false gods, such as when we say “by Jove” (the chief Roman deity, Jupiter).  Remember what James writes, repeating something the Lord Jesus himself said:  “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment” (James 5:12).  Yes and no are enough.  We don’t need oaths.  So what should we do?

  1. Educate yourself and your family as to what these slang words mean.  Never use words the meanings of which you do not know.  Then,
  2. Exercise the discipline of self-control.  Learn to think before you speak, and stop using these words.  You do not need these kinds of oaths and euphemisms.  Insist on the same discipline from your children, and don’t listen to them when they say, “Aw, Mom . . .”, or, “Come on, Dad! There’s nothing wrong with those words!”  If you can, avoid environments where this language is pervasive.  God’s word says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4;29).  Also, “there must be no filthiness and silly talk or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5:4). 

      As children, many of us learned the little song that includes these words:  “O be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.”  Beginning today, my friend, may every word you say meet with the Lord’s approval!

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What’s Next?

by on May.16, 2016, under Uncategorized

       Bible-believing evangelicals all across America have been stunned in the last few months at the pace of social change being engineered by our courts and our administration in Washington D. C.  Between political correctness and legacy-building, we have been broadsided by decisions on homosexual marriage and now transgender issues.  Many of us are wondering where it all goes from here.  Many of us are asking, “What’s next?”

      Writing in World magazine, editor Marvin Olasky answers these questions this way.  “Polygamy is clearly on the agenda. . . . Also, cultural leftists . . . will push for lowering the age of sexual consent to puberty, or lower. . . .  The cultural left will also ask, ‘What’s wrong with incest?’”  “The first stage,” writes Olasky, “will be the repeal of laws forbidding sex between close relatives; . . . The second stage will be legalization of incestuous marriage.”  Comments like these force us Christians to ask one more question:  “How long will God put up with all of this?”

      When God revealed himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He began by disclosing himself as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7).  We rejoice in this revelation of God’s overwhelming goodness.  But verse 7 ends this way:  “yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”  Now that’s sobering!  Indeed, the answer to the question, “How long will God put up with this?” is, “Not forever!”

      When the Lord ratified His covenant with Abraham—a covenant that included the promise of a land—He told His servant that he himself would not inherit the land because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen 15:16).  Clearly, there is a limit to His patience.  Sodom and Gomorrah eventually reached that limit.  Oblivious to the stench of their decadence in the nostrils of God, they were destroyed in an instant by a massive conflagration from heaven.  God finally said, “That’s enough . . . no more!”

      Here’s the sacred commentary on Sodom’s destruction, as addressed to apostate Jerusalem by the prophet Ezekiel:  “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.  Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.  Therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Ezek 16:49-50).  Here was a prosperous city that arrogantly defied God while abusing its most vulnerable citizens, indulging themselves in the most extreme abominations, which we know from Genesis 19 was unbridled and violent sexual perversion.

      Years ago, the renowned revival preacher, Leonard Ravenhill, preached a sermon he entitled, “Sodom Had No Bible.”  Good point.  Think about it.  We in America abound in churches and are awash in Bibles.  And yet, perversity is accepted at a pace that seems to increase with each passing day.  If God is truly God, then the iniquity of America must be very close to complete.  At some point, God’s wrath must fall.

      So what should we do?  Pray.  And I see no more appropriate prayer in the Bible than that of the prophet Habakkuk after being told by God that the cruel Babylonian army was about to descend on Judah.  Here’s what He prayed:  “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.  O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy” (Hab 3:2).  Remember God’s revelation of himself on Sinai.  When God unleashes His wrath, God’s people can still plead for His compassion, grace, and forgiveness.  America is in trouble.  I fear that our churches are complicit.  So brethren, we need to pray!

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Something to Think About

by on Apr.18, 2016, under Uncategorized

     Well, the New York primary is finally over.  It’s been a contentious contest in both parties.  For many of us, this is the most chaotic primary season in memory.  Certain dynamics that distinguish this year’s presidential contest have become commonplace among the pundits.  Perhaps the most frequently repeated line is that the electorate—on both sides of the aisle—is angry.  There are many reasons for this anger, but it essentially boils down to a matter of trust.  For decades, politicians have been making promises, and for decades, routinely breaking them.  How much more are the citizens of the United States willing to take?

      Another phrase frequently heard is this:  “We’re getting the kind of leaders we deserve.”  And there’s surely a good deal of truth in that.  After all, Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34).  The reality is that we Americans cannot live off of our Christian heritage indefinitely.  Eventually our sin catches up with us.

      One dynamic that’s been noted with curiosity by the American media is the surprising allocation of the votes cast by evangelicals.  We’ve not been voting according to biblical standards of righteousness.  The personal morality of the candidates doesn’t seem to matter; and the divisive social issues like abortion and homosexuality have been regarded as matters that are no longer controversial, but have been settled by the courts.  The Christian vote isn’t monolithic and can’t be taken for granted by any candidate.  Moreover, the candidates can ignore these issues and not be held accountable for doing so.  Why have we evangelicals largely lost our influence?  What’s going on?  Perhaps it’s time for some soul-searching.

      The anger—and therefore the votes—of the conservative religious community have been focused on economic issues.  Real wages haven’t increased in a decade and a half.  Families—including Christian families—are struggling financially.  Jobs have been lost and hours cut, forcing many of us to resort to desperate solutions such as holding multiple jobs, all to the destruction of the fabric of quality family life.

      Our young, social media-obsessed adults, many of whom are unemployed and saddled with huge unpaid educational loans, have so absorbed the morality of the popular entertainment media, that they don’t even question the appropriateness of cohabitation, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, and homosexual marriage.  And to them, one religion is as valid as another.  That’s just the world in which they live.  To repeat their tired aphorism:  “It is what it is.”  For them, what the Bible says really isn’t relevant.

      Our cities are experiencing increased waves of violent crime.  Their streets are littered with the bodies of homicidal victims.  Drug use is pandemic—even among the respectable upper and middle classes.  Human life is cheap.  Well, what would we expect from a culture that has slaughtered nearly 60 million unborn lives in the last 40 years?

      All of this boils down to a massive failure on the part of our churches.  So many of our allegedly evangelical congregations have become nothing more than entertainment venues with cheapened worship and dumbed-down preaching.  We have failed this generation, and especially our young people, who have no higher values than their earthly prosperity and comfort.  The message of the Gospel is discounted as anachronistic, biased, and discriminatory.  That’s because we have lost the power of the Holy Spirit so overwhelming in the life of the newborn church in the Book of Acts.

      Isn’t it time for some serious soul-searching on our part?  Isn’t it time to be concerned less about elections and more about the judgment of God, the revival of the church, and the restoration of righteousness in our nation?  Think about that during this election year!

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Good Soil

by on Mar.12, 2016, under Uncategorized

Most of us know our Lord’s Parable of the Sower and the Soils. It’s recorded in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. Matthew tells us that the Lord Jesus was speaking from a boat to a large crowd on the shore who had assembled from a number of different cities. Our Lord’s intention seems to have been to stress to the crowd that not everyone would hear what He said in the same way. Some seed falls by the path and is trampled. These are those who hear the Word, but the devil hardens their hearts so they will not believe. Other seed falls on rocky soil where it springs up but quickly withers away. Some hear God’s Word, receive it enthusiastically at first, but then in the face of temptation, because they’re not grounded in the truth, fall away. Then there was the seed that fell on weed-infested ground, but once the weeds grew, they choked out the good seed, pointing to those whose initial positive response to God’s Word is negated by the encroaching effects of worry, wealth, and pleasure. Ultimately, they produce no fruit. Finally, some seed falls on good soil, which represents those in whose lives the Word grows, bearing lasting fruit.
Let me focus on that good soil for a few moments. Luke records the Lord Jesus as saying it this way (chapter 8, verse 15): “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” We all know that it’s not enough just to drop seed in the ground and hope it produces fruit. The successful gardener must prepare the soil, water the seed, fertilize the the plants, and weed them if he is to obtain the desired result. It’s the same with the seed of God’s Word. It’s not enough for Christians merely to go to Sunday School, or church, or a small group Bible study and assume that their spiritual life will flourish. No, the soil of the believer’s heart must be carefully prepared and nurtured if it’s to produce fruit. How? Actually, our Lord tells us in this verse.
First, God’s Word must be heard “in an honest and good heart.” The hearer must listen honestly. One commentator translates it this way: “with an unprejudiced heart, willing to be taught.” We must hear the Word with no prior biases, but with humility that is willing to hear, think, understand, and make the required changes. It’s a mind that’s willing to search the Scriptures to grasp its meaning, and a heart that seeks to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, being willing to repent when necessary.
Second, God’s Word must be “held fast.” Holding fast means clinging firmly to the truth, not willing to let it go. This assumes a prior commitment on the believer’s part to receive God’s Word, believe it, and live it, regardless of the implications for his life. In other words, when it steps on his toes doctrinally, spiritually, or morally, he won’t dismiss it and disregard it. God’s Word is his anchor, his unchanging source for belief and practice. Let the Scriptures speak, and the “chips fall where they may.” The believer says, “It’s my life that has to change; God’s Word never will!”

Finally, God’s Word must be heard in order to bear fruit “with perseverance.” The word “perseverance” means “patience.” This is the seed that is cultivated so that it produces fruit in spite of bad weather, the infestation of vermin, or other unfavorable circumstances. Every believer will face disillusionment, disappointment, and discouragement in his life, but the trials and tragedies of life won’t destroy his faith and turn him from the Word. Scripture continues to be his anchor even in the worst of times.

No wonder, then that the Lord Jesus went on to say, “So take care how you listen” (v. 18). The way you listen will determine whether or not God’s Word will take root in your life and produce fruit.

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When God Stepped In

by on Dec.15, 2015, under Uncategorized

      An impartial observer of the world today has to be at least a little alarmed. Our contemporary civilization is facing chaos, hopelessness, and general disintegration on virtually every level of society. As our out-of-control, global civilization careens toward final impact, most people are naively oblivious. Our obsession with the media tells the story. The news media are fixated on politics and the economy. Politics, however, provides no hope, and relatively few people are paying attention anyway. The entertainment media (TV, film, sports) provide a sedative to dull the pain and relieve the anxiety, much like morphine gives relief to a terminally ill patient. Even more mind-numbing is the preoccupation of billions of people worldwide with the social media—a total escape from reality.

      In all of this, God has been left out. Our pseudo-sophisticated world has no place for the spiritual; and it is reaping the fruit of its blindness. But it is ripe for divine intervention. In the events surrounding the birth of the Lord Jesus, God stepped into His world, and spoke to mankind through His Son, and in speaking has revealed His redemptive plan. Christmas is all about God’s intervention in the affairs of men.

      Here’s how the writer of Hebrews explains it: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:1-2).

      Long ago, God sometimes spoke through dreams and visions, sometimes through supernatural appearances called theophanies; then He spoke through His Law and then through His prophets and the growing body of written Scripture. But the crowning act of divine revelation was in God’s gift of His Son. It is in His Son that we see the totality of the divine character revealed in human flesh. John tells us: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (Jn 1:18). That’s why the angel declared to the shepherds that first Christmas night: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). True, He would be Israel’s long-promised Messiah; the Magi understood that when they asked Herod, “”Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Mt 2:2). But in exactly what way would He be the Savior of the world? Thirty years later, John the Baptist would point to Him and declare: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

      That’s it! He would take away sins. He would provide redemption by the shedding of His blood, in the way an innocent lamb was killed to atone for sins in the Old Testament economy. When God stepped in through the birth of His Son, He intervened in a world that was marked by high taxes, high unemployment, and low morality. There was social frustration and discontent. Subversive groups were intent on overthrowing the iron-fisted authority of the Roman Empire. It was a world looking for “peace”; the word meant “well-being,” health, prosperity, and security, the very things our nation—and the world for that matter—is seeking. Men and women had come to the end of their resources; many had lost hope. And then . . . God stepped in. Jesus was born. Do you know Him today? Is He your Savior? If not, call upon Him and He will give you the gift of eternal life!

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A Very Pretty Song

by on Nov.14, 2015, under Uncategorized

      We live in an entertainment-driven world today. And the culture of entertainment has reached not so subtly into our churches. The worship services in many congregations now resemble the atmosphere of the theater or the night club more than the sanctuary. I fear that in all too many cases, preaching—which has traditionally been the centerpiece of evangelical worship—has been relegated to a secondary role. Church-goers are attending, not primarily for the ministry of the Word, but rather to enjoy the show put on in a virtually rock-concert venue. Their attitudes, therefore, are not one of wanting God to speak with the intention of ordering their lives according to the Scriptures, but to hear a religious “pep talk” that will confirm them in their present lifestyle or offer them some practical advice for self-improvement. Where are sin, grace, and salvation through Christ?

      We would think that having suffered defeat and exile because of their apostasy, the ancient Israelites wouldn’t have shared this attitude. But they did. Living in Assyrian captivity, the exiles had access to God’s prophet, the priest Ezekiel. The Lord warned him of their insincerity in Ezekiel 33:30-33: “But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, but they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst.”

      Apparently the prophet Ezekiel was a favorite topic of conversation among God’s people, who were then living under God’s judgment. In spite of their circumstances, however, their interest was really just curiosity. “What will the preacher say today? What’s God’s message?” But it was all superficial. The Lord himself gives two reasons why. First, they will not let God get in the way of their “lustful desires”; they cherish their freedom to live in immorality. Second, they will not pay attention to anything that interferes with their economic goals or material success. These two reasons are also at the root of the anemic preaching in evangelical churches today. Many pastors will not preach sermons that step on the toes of those who have made unbiblical lifestyle choices—both moral and material. Were they to do so, their own ministries would be in jeopardy.

      Thus, the congregation listens, nods dutifully, commends the preacher for a “good sermon” on the way out the door, and then returns to their homes, schools, and jobs with no intention of changing anything. Meanwhile, the Lord’s word to people like this is that their response to the truth doesn’t change its truthfulness! When the truth is preached, and they insist on ignoring it, therefore, it will still come to pass, and then they will know that what the preacher was saying is true. Then they will regret rejecting it in order to maintain their sinful lifestyle.

      The Lord Jesus Christ made a very important statement about this in Luke 8:18: “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” If you refuse God’s truth in the interest of your own carnality, you may reach a point when that truth is refused to you. The Lord will permanently close your mind to His Word. So get rid of the concert mentality and go to church to hear God’s Word, seriously consider it, and then change your life as you obey it!

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Too Bad to be Saved

by on Aug.16, 2015, under Uncategorized

      If you actively share your faith in Christ with unbelievers, at some point you will probably encounter the objection that goes something like this:  “I’ve just done too many bad things for God to save me.”  Or, “God would never accept anyone who has rejected Him so many times in the past.”  Some of those who say such things may be looking for another convenient excuse to go on not believing.  Many, however, may genuinely think they have been so bad as to be beyond God’s reach.  If you have never received Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, you may even have said something like this.  So is it possible to be too bad to be saved?

      In Judges 10, there is an interesting contrast—some might say even contradiction.  Because Israel has resorted to unrestrained idol worship, the Lord says:  “. . . you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you” (v. 13).  But then three verses later we read that the Lord “could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (v. 16), and thus raised up a judge to deliver them.  How can we explain these apparently opposing statements from God?  The Lord seems to say that Israel has degenerated into such severe apostasy that they were beyond saving; but then He is so moved by their misery that He indeed saves them.  What does this tell us about God . . . and about sinners?

      The answer to this question is provided in the intervening verses.  Israel is evidently so alarmed by God’s promised rejection that they confess their sin.  In no uncertain terms they say, “We have sinned” (v. 15).  They had said it before in verse 10, but there the confession was not sincere.  How do we know?  Because it was not accompanied by any change in their behavior.  However, once God had implied that they had crossed the line, and that forgiveness and blessing were out of the question, Israel not only confessed their sins again, but this time, verse 16 tells us, they “put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.”  In other words, their second confession was accompanied by repentance, which means that they actually changed their attitudes and behavior.  Repentance, therefore, is the key.

      So are sinners ever beyond the reach of God’s mercy?  Remember that mercy is that attribute of God whereby He does not judge us as we deserve, but rather extends to us His compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.  When the Lord revealed His glory to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He declared himself to be “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex 34:6).  There’s no question, however that we are all born condemned sinners:  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  In fact, “there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10).  So we need to tell those to whom we witness that it is not a matter of their having done so many bad things that God can’t save them.  What we have done is not the issue—it’s what we are, and Scripture says that we are all equally guilty and equally condemned.

      However, Jesus Christ came to save sinners.  Paul writes:  “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6, 8).  God takes sinners from being His enemies and in Christ reconciles them to himself.  We are saved, not on the basis of any good works, but “according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).  That’s what we call “the new birth.”  The good news, therefore, is that no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.  He is still the compassionate God who loves unworthy sinners.  What they must do, however is to repent—turn from their sins—and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Have you received Him as your Savior and Lord?  If not, won’t you do so today?  You’re not too bad to be saved!

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Life and Death

by on Aug.16, 2015, under Uncategorized

     I recently read a statistic that said the only 5% of Americans have no health problems—only 5% can be called perfectly healthy.  Well I’m not surprised because disease, pain, and decay are all part of the human condition.  As soon as we are born, the process of dying begins.  Human existence is in fact a living death, and death can be very ugly.  The final stages of a terminal illness are often horrible to observe.  But for Christians, the ugliness of death is not the end of the story, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

      Paul found himself compelled to defend his apostleship in the face of some in Corinth who were questioning his authority.  He was continuing to suffer for the sake of Christ, but he insisted that he was at peace with the hardship he was experiencing.  He describes it in terms of life and death:  “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  In these verses, Paul frames the contrast between life and death in three ways.

      1.   We have determination amid deterioration.  While our bodies deteriorate, our spirits are renewed each day.  Face it:  life’s stresses take their toll.  Earlier, Paul described himself this way:  “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (vv. 9-10).  We age, we slow down, we get sick, and eventually we die.  The pressures and conflicts of life wear us down.  Above all, faithful service for Christ takes its toll.  Yet, says Paul, we do not lose heart.  We need not be discouraged because this life isn’t all there is.  That’s why we can have determination in the face of deterioration.  In addition, however . . .

      2.  We have hope amid hurt.  Our light affliction—in other words, our relatively insignificant suffering—now is producing a glory that far outweighs the pain.  Life inflicts its share of hurt upon each of us . . . unhappiness, disappointment, and grief.  However, the pain we endure now simply can’t compare with the utter joy we shall experience in the life to come if we have lived obediently in Christ.

      3.  We have anticipation amid affliction.  Most of us only look at what we can see, and our experience of life in this world is profoundly discouraging.  Many of us see today’s problems, and then assume that things will only get worse in the future.  We worry because we’re fixated on what might happen.  Jesus told us, however:  “do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt 6:34).  Worry neglects to account for the future.  We focus on temporal things to the exclusion of eternal things because we have never seen those eternal things!  But the eyes of faith see the things which are not seen.  Paul knew what he was saying, because at one point, he had been caught up into heaven and given a brief glimpse.  He heard, he says, “inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Cor 12:4).  I once heard of the death of a believing man who just before passing into eternity, sat up in bed, pointed, and said, “Just look at that!”  He then fell back and died.  Inexpressible sights!

      So today, when you’re tempted to discouragement or depression over your circumstances, remember what’s coming.  Yes, we’re all dying, and death can be ugly; but the life that’s coming is incomparable to anything you’ve ever known.  So don’t lose heart!

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When God is Near

by on Aug.16, 2015, under Uncategorized

It’s graduation season again.  As they receive their diplomas, graduates and their parents are focusing very much on their futures.  What happens now?  College?  Graduate School?  A career?  Or something unexpected—unplanned?  Most graduates have goals, and behind their goals lie their dreams and desires.  On the other end of the spectrum are those who are seniors and may be retired.  They have lived their entire lives in pursuit of their dreams and their goals, but often by the time it’s all over, they’ve found their desires unfulfilled.

      Perhaps Asaph was like that.  In Psalm 73, he wrestles with the apparent unfairness of life; it’s the classic text on why the wicked prosper.  After thinking through that problem in God’s providence, he comes to a conclusion in verses 25-28.  Here’s what he concludes.

      1.   He has no one but God and desires nothing but God (v. 25).  “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”  It’s very hard for a young graduate to say this honestly.  His life is largely ahead of him and there are many things on earth he desires.  Often we desire nothing but God only once everything else we desired has been unachieved or lost.  Unusually mature and supremely wise is the young person who can say that his one passion in life is God—that nothing else is of primary interest to him.  For those Christians who have lived most of their lives, hard experience has taught them that nothing can compare to knowing God and walking with Him in intimate fellowship.  And here’s why.

      2.  When his faith fails, God’s strength never does (v. 26).  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Asaph’s second conclusion is that nothing, and no one, can support him in those difficult circumstances when his heart (or mind) fails to come up with the answers and when his physical strength is insufficient to deliver him from his difficulties.  Our best plans, our closest friends, and our sheer determination and hard work will often fail to take us where we want to be.  The Lord, however, will always take us where He wants us to be!  So we’re confronted with an important choice because . . .

      3.  A life lived out of fellowship with God ends in disaster (v. 27).  “For, behold, those who are far from you will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.”  We are reminded of the words of our Lord when He asked, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul” (Mk 8:36)?  After life has run its course, and regardless of whether or not we have achieved or acquired what we sought, we will face an eternal destiny.  A life of unfaithfulness to God will end in destruction.  The wicked will perish.  A life of obedience and walking with God will end in blessing and eternal glory.  A commencement should always be conducted with a view to the conclusion.  So how should that Christian graduate—or senior—think and live?  Here’s the reality . . .

      4.  The good life—the life well-lived—is the life of nearness to God (v. 28).  “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”  In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether decades after graduation or even in retirement, there is one unchanging constant:  it is good to draw near to God.  It is our best life now to live in close fellowship with the Lord.  And throughout our spiritual journey, but especially at the end, we will be able to tell from personal experience all of God’s works in our behalf.  We will rejoice to look back and give testimony to others of God’s faithfulness to us.

      And thus, regardless of what end of life you find yourself on today—commencement or conclusion, make God your supreme preoccupation, and make nearness to Him your highest goal and consuming passion.

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Freedom and Authority

by on Aug.16, 2015, under Uncategorized

      I want to speak to you today about a very important hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States that’s coming up on Tuesday, April 28th.  The issue is same-sex marriage.  Here in the United States, until only a few years ago, virtually everyone understood marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman.  For some people, it was merely a civil covenant governing issues like children, property, finances, legal standing, and inheritances.  For many of the rest of us, however, marriage was indeed a binding civil contract, but it was also a moral and spiritual bond based on the nature of human beings as male and female under the authority of God.  As such, the marital union was above all a matter of biblical revelation.  In other words, marriage is what God says it is.  That’s because He established marriage in the first place.  It was God who first fashioned Adam from a lump of clay and breathed into him the breath of life (Gen 2:7).  He then fashioned Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, and brought her to Adam (Gen 2:21-22).  In reality, God himself performed the first wedding.  The divinely-inspired commentary found in Genesis 2:24 says, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  A man and a woman—bound together in an unbreakable union as one flesh for as long as both shall live.

      We all know that because of the agitation stirred up by a tiny minority of homosexual advocates, with the cooperation of the media, academia, and left wing political factions, we are now faced with the specter of same-sex marriage being declared constitutional.  But we also all know that the United States Constitution says nothing about the subject; and that leads to the real problem we have in America today.  For a long time, we’ve been hearing about the “culture wars,” but the warfare is not really over our cultural differences as much as it is over the justification for those differences.

      For many people, the same-sex marriage debate is an issue of freedom.  We have seen this in recent weeks in the conflicts over wedding photographers, florists, and those who bake wedding cakes.  They claim that they should be free not to participate, while the pro-gay marriage lobby insists that they should be forced to provide their services.  It’s a matter of conviction on both sides.  So how can this legally be resolved with all parties remaining true to those convictions?  The answer, of course, is that it can’t be resolved, as the Supreme Court has found previously in religious freedom cases, and will find again in this one.

      The problem in America today is not one of religious freedom; it is one of religious authority.  To be honest, America’s great experiment in religious freedom—the separation of church and state—has been extremely risky.  Every other great civilization in human history—from ancient Egypt and Sumeria to the British Empire has had a state religion.  That religion was the standard and final arbiter of ethical and moral practice in that culture.  In America, we have had no official religious authority, but in practice, the Judeo-Christian world view dominated and served as our standard.  Until recently, since a large portion of our culture no longer holds Judeo-Christian convictions.  Thus, the Court is not going to deal with the real issue at stake here.  I am convinced, however, that someday, this conflict will necessarily have to be resolved.

      So what do we do now?  Above all, I urge you to pray for our Court and for those who will represent the biblical position in this hearing.  They have a huge challenge.  So I would also urge you to encourage your friends and the people in your church to pray fervently between now and April 28th as well.  Remember, it’s not an issue of freedom, but of authority, and God and His Word are our authority.

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