“...that I may gain Christ and be found in him...”—Philippians 3:8-9, NIV1984

Friday, August 31, 2012

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend

4 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.”  5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.”  6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?”  7 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”  8 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”—2 Chronicles 18:4-8, ESV
Later in this chapter, Micaiah prophesies unfavorably regarding Ahab and the proposed war, but rather than humbling himself, Ahab does not listen. Instead, Ahab’s servant strikes Micaiah. Ahab’s pride ultimately led to his death in battle by means an archer “randomly” shooting an arrow in the air which struck Ahab between the plates of his armor.

There are those Christians who only want truthful counsel from others as long as it is what they want to hear. They find themselves lacking support and encouragement from others regarding their plans. They feel like everyone is against them. If this describes us, we must quickly humble ourselves and consider the counsel of our friends, especially if these friends seriously follow Christ. There may be a good reason why everyone is against us, because God may really be against us.

Why should we do evil and expect a good result? Why should we rebel against God and expect blessing? God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see 1 Peter 5:5). If we are the ones giving unfavorable, but truthful counsel, we must seek to understand our friends and the perspective they have. We must also stand firm in the truth and trust in the Lord, knowing that the most loving thing to do is to tell the biblical truth:
Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
—Proverbs 27:5-6, NASB

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God, Heal Our Land

13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,  14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.  16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.—2 Chronicles 7:13-16, ESV
Sheba demin
Solomon And The Queen Of Sheba by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In context, this was God’s response to Solomon in a vision he had at night after he had prayed and consecrated the temple that he had built for God’s dwelling place among Israel. Some could argue that verse 14 was a promise only to the nation of Israel at that time and place, but I believe this is a promise that holds true for believers in Christ today. Since God said that He chose that house, that his name may be there forever (v. 16), He could not have referred to the actual physical temple since that was destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed again for the last time by the Romans in 70 A.D. God must have referred to the “house” meaning the household of believers in Jesus Christ. This is implied, because God also promised David that he would have a descendant who would build his house and rule over Israel forever (see 2 Sam. 7:12-13). This was finally fulfilled in Jesus who is the cornerstone of the temple composed of His believers (see Ephesians 2:20-22).

Therefore, rather than being ignorant or complaining that our nation is in ruin, we must do what verse 14 says. If your church does not have an opportunity for you to get together with other believers and pray, then you create one! After you have prayed, then take action, at the very least, by voting in November. You have to register at least 29 days prior to the election November 6, 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Causes a Nation to Prosper?

What causes a nation to prosper? Does having the best economic plan, social programs, and entertainment cause this? Does having the best transportation, most “environmentally-friendly” power plants, and the best education system cause national prosperity? You may have guessed that my answer is no.

I believe that a nation prospers based on the conditional blessings of God. When a nation’s people and rulers fear God and demonstrate this by keeping His laws, then it will prosper. When King David of Israel prayed for his son Solomon and commissioned him to build the temple for God he said:
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.—1 Chronicles 29:11-12, ESV.
David recognized that his kingdom was really God’s and that it would rise or fall based on God’s blessing or curse. He recognized that everything he and his people offered to the Lord to build His temple really came from God to begin with. He prayed that God would “[g]rant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision (v. 19, ESV).” David understood that God’s blessing came as a result of keeping His commandments and honoring Him.

This is why, when considering who to vote for, I choose people who value life and biblical moral values as a priority. A free person’s (not a criminal’s) right to live trump’s anyone else’s rights. Aside from what the Bible says, which should be enough for Christians anyway, this is a self-evident truth of nature.

We may think we’re voting for the person with the best solutions to problems with the economy, education, and energy, but what does the person believe about protecting the fatherless and the defenseless, especially the unborn? What does he believe about marriage? Does he believe rights come from the government, or does God give them equally to humans at birth, based on their intrinsic value as humans who reflect the image of God and are not simply animals. What does he believe about debt and about taking personal responsibility for one’s family.

These are the only sure, important issues to base your vote on. All of the other issues are too complicated for any human to be sure he has the exact, best solution. Of course, these solutions must be based on a biblical world-view, but beyond that, there are so many uncontrollable factors to consider. Typically, the candidates who value biblical moral values will have the best solutions to other issues anyway, since their beliefs about the value of human life will influence every other area of policy.
Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education: To which is Subjoined a Brief History of the United States (Google eBook)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Commissions

Isaac Newton's Temple of Solomon‘Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”’—1 Chronicles 28:20, ESV

This passage reminds me of another commission in Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In both cases, the mission was to build the temple of the Lord, but in the latter case, it was not a temple of stone made by hands, but a temple comprised of those who believe in Jesus, that is, the Church. This temple is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22, NASB).”

In both cases, God promised to be with the builders. Even in the crowd or in the remotest part of the earth, when things get difficult, messy, and discouraging, God is there with us to strengthen us, comfort us, and empower us. What an awesome promise!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Old Testament and New Testament - Same God

9 Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.  10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’—1 Chronicles 22:9-10, ESV
A common belief among today’s young people is that the God of the Old Testament is a different God than that of the New Testament. The point to his anger and judgment on Israel and other nations. While discussing that point would be good, that deserves it’s own post which I won’t get to right now. One thing I will say is that I know that the God of the O.T. is the same as the God of the N.T. because of verses like this which foreshadow the coming Christ and also have immediate near-future fulfillment. But besides the hundreds of verses like this that exist in the O.T. Jesus, himself, when teaching, often recited verses from the O.T., including ones like this from David who quoted to his son Solomon what God had told him through the prophet Gad. Jesus also confirms the flood during the days of Noah, and marriage from the book of Genesis, and many other ideas from the O.T.

As Christians, we have more than enough reasons to be confident that the Bible ultimately conveys one consistent message from the Creator of the universe over a span of thousands of years. And since it is true, its message is urgent, and since its message is urgent, we as believers, must live like we really believe this so that we do all that we can to communicate the message of the gospel. If we say we believe it, and yet our lives look no different than heathens’ lives do, then we don’t really believe it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Fear and Food

12 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite.  13 He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines were gathered there for battle. There was a plot of ground full of barley, and the men fled from the Philistines.  14 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great victory.—1 Chronicles 11:12-14, ESV.
There’s a life lesson here. Never stand between a man and his food! While I say that as a joke, Eleazar probably cared about his own hunger and that of his fellow soldiers. Yet, I think that the most important lesson here is, that while everyone else was fearful of his enemy and ran, Eleazar trusted the Lord, being confident that God wanted him to win this battle. And that is just it. As believers, we have every reason to be confident that God wants us to be victorious over every spiritual battle within and without.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where Do Your Thoughts Come From?

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.—Colossians 3:1-4, ESV
One thing that every person who is truly saved will do is to rearrange his entire way of thinking. The reality of a new birth in Christ happens when you humble yourself, believe the truth about your depraved state, and believe that Jesus died to justify your sins and rose again from death to give you forgiveness, new life, and reconciliation to God.

Yet for so many, even if they were saved at a young age, their thinking has been primarily shaped by the secular world. This is devastating to their personal relationship with God and to any potential of affecting the world for the sake of the gospel.

Men and women of faith, let us affect our world in a way that glorifies Jesus. Let us renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and set them on the things above (v.2). A great way to do this is to turn off secular media and turn on reading the Bible. How vastly different our thoughts, and consequently, our lives and our effect on the world will be when we have a thorough understanding of God’s written revelation. Do you treasure the Word of God like the people in this video?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Assurance and Confidence through Christ

Letters of John Quincy Adams, to his son, on the Bible and its teachings.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—  21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.—Colossians 2:20-23, ESV
People love to make their own philosophical and moral code and apply it to others, especially based on rules that they like and tend to keep. In essence, though, this code says, “Hey, look at me. I am an upright and good person since I hold to all of these rules. If anyone has any chance of going to heaven, then I am definitely going.” (Even if they say everyone can choose his own rules, in hypocrisy, they still apply the rule of, “Don’t force your beliefs on me,” to others.)

Paul’s point in this passage is that man’s rules only lead to more enslavement to the lusts of the body. They don’t change a person’s heart which is the root of the problem. However, as he explained earlier in this passage, when a person receives salvation by God’s grace through one putting his faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the person is changed from the inside out. He receives a circumcision (in a spiritual sense) of his old self, his sinful habits, and his futile mindset. In their place, he receives a spiritual resurrection (and a bodily one on the Last Day). He receives the mind and spirit of Christ, and by God’s grace, lives this new life through faith.

Therefore, let us strive to be assured in who Christ is and what He has already done, and let us also be confident in our assurance by growing, daily, in our knowledge of God and obedience to His Word, by his grace.

One of the best ways to do this is to develop a habit of reading the Bible and, in faith by God’s grace, applying the principles that we understand. John Quincy Adams would agree. Just as a son learns and grows in the deeper lessons of life as he obeys his father, it’s the same with us. As the son continues to obey, his understanding of his father and love for him also increases. It is the same with us and God.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stewardship of the Gospel

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”—Colossians 1:24-29 ESV

Paul joyfully accepted whatever hardship, suffering, and trials came his way, because he knew the urgency and the gravity of the message that he was to proclaim. He understood that it was his life’s purpose to make known to the known world the mystery of salvation through the work of Christ which God had been working toward and foreshadowing for millennia.

Now that the message is clear, the significance of it without measure, and the opposing forces only conquerable through the power of Christ at work within the Church, how could Paul, and how can we neglect the stewardship of the Good News that God has entrusted to us? This is a time like no other, where the mystery of Christ in us, transforming us and reconciling us to God, has been clearly revealed. We don’t all have the same way of proclaiming the Good News, but we do all have the responsibility to toil and struggle with power from God, no matter what worldly thing we may lose in the process, to contribute to, take part in, and support the work of proclaiming the gospel and building the Church. If every believer lived life with this mindset, it would not take long to reach the entire world.