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Friday, September 29, 2006

thinking about: Matthew 6:9 -or- "what the Milky Way Galaxy helps me understand about the Fatherhood of God."

(Prayer, part 2)

My father was the kind of man who didn’t think twice about leaving me and my mom. Sometimes, my dad would hit me.

So, what do you think of my dad?

Is he cruel? Mean? A deadbeat?

I want you to know that my father did this every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (unless we were on vacation). My dad would leave me and my mom and go to work. When I disobeyed him or my mom I was punished with a spanking.

Now what do you think of my dad?

Many people do this to God, calling Him cruel and mean. They have this idea that God is vindictive, an ogre who just can’t wait to see what kind of pain He can bring to my life while He blesses the socks off of others. To many, God is an abusive or wayward father.

Truth of the matter is the picture one has of God is often incomplete. People confuse their own conceptions of God with the true and living God.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is moving us from the attitude of, “I’m going to give and pray religiously so I can feel good about me,” toward right thinking and action concerning God that begins with this thing called “prayer.” God is not some a grand-fatherly kind of wish-fulfiller who sits around in sweaters, perched on the edge of a cloud with a magic wand raised in anticipation of granting someone’s whim.

God is our Heavenly Father. We are not allowed to impose our concepts of “father” on the Heavenly Father, because each of our dads is so different—and imperfect. One person may see his or her dad one way, while other people see their dads differently. This is why we can’t call God our Father with venom. God, our Father in Heaven is not like my dad or yours, hence the qualification, “heavenly.” Further clarification is necessary:

1) God is the father of unbelievers only in creation. “Spiritually, unbelievers have another father. In His severest condemnation of the Jewish leaders who opposed Him, Jesus said, ‘You are of your father the devil’ (John 8:44). First John 3 clearly characterizes two families: the children of God and the children of the devil. The former do not continue to commit sin; the latter do. The Apostle Paul made a clear distinction between the children of light and the children of darkness (Eph. 5:8). There is simply not just one spiritual family of mankind under one universal fatherhood of God. Second Peter 1:4 says that only those who believe have been made “partakers of the divine nature.” It is only to those who receive Him that Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Thus we can go to God as His beloved children.”[i]


2) God is OUR Father: only those who are believers in Christ, have been born again and have received their adoption as sons (and daughters) are able to call God “Father;”

Consider this: when we pray to God our Father in Heaven, we pray as a child in full dependence on the one who has all the resources in all the heavenlies in Christ Jesus; furthermore, we pray with our arms around others, as God is “our” Father. Suddenly we find difficulty in coming to God with selfish interests.

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself;
I cannot say “father” if I do not live as His child;
I cannot say “in heaven” if I am not laying up my treasures there.

Look how this kind of praying is backward from pagan prayer. Eugene Nida makes this elaborate and sensitive observation:

“For the ancient philosopher and priest of esoteric cults, steeped in the traditions of Classical Greek, the grammatical forms of the Lord’s Prayer seems almost rude. One does not find the optative forms of polite petition so characteristic of elaborate requests made to earthly and heavenly potentates. Rather than employing such august forms, the Christians made their requests to God in what seem to be blunt operatives. This does not mean that Christians lacked respect for their heavenly father, but it does mean that they were consistent with a new understanding of him. In the tens of thousands of papyri fragments which have been rescued from the rubbish heaps of the ancient Greek world, one finds the imperative forms used constantly between members of a family. When the Christian addressed God as ‘Father,’ it was perfectly natural therefore for them to talk to Him as intimately as they would their own father.”[ii]

See if you can grasp this:

  • Light travels at 186,000 miles per second;
  • The unit of measure we apply to the “known universe” is the light year, or how far light travels in one year: 5.88 billion miles;
  • The main disk of our Milky Way galaxy is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 light years in diameter and about 100 light years thick. As a guide to the relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if the galaxy were reduced 80 miles in diameter, the solar system would be a mere 0.08 inch in width.
  • Our sun is approximately 26,000 to 35,000 light years from the galactic center. [iii]
  • I can’t tell you how many billions of stars there are in our galaxy alone, but I hear that if you were to count 1 per second, you could be busy for the next couple thousand years.

At first, I get the idea that the known universe is not only huge, but a very noisy place, with all those stars being born and destroyed; matter flying about everywhere and stuff burning and freezing all over the place. If there is anything to be concieved of as “angry” or "ogre-ish" it would be our galactic neighborhood. And that’s just in our corner of all we know that exists.

Second, consider why why the Bible has so many geneologies. Why does God bother with all those names? The reason is because God wants us to know:

  • That He cares for His children. The most distant point that most of us will ever get into outer space is the distance of our head from the surface of this pale blue dot we call home—the same place Neil Armstrong blotted out with his thumb when he held his hand out at arms length on the return trip from the moon;
  • That He knows people by name;
  • That God is a loving Father that wants us to rely on Him, as He cares about little things.

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[i]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Includes indexes. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1995.
[ii] Nida, Eugene. God’s Word in Man’s Language. New York: Harper & Brothers, c1952.
[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way

Thursday, September 28, 2006

thinking about Matthew 6:5-8.

(Prayer, part 1)

Prayer is the instrument through which He demonstrates Himself, the conversation wherein the Lord God receives humble submission to His sovereignty. In other words, prayer is not about us, the food we eat or the situation in which we stand; rather, prayer is all about God. Prayer is the life that gives God the room to do what He does, to be who He is. So what does God have to do with prayer? Everything: that we may align with who He is, that we would continue in subjection to Him as Lord. Love for God above all else drives one to pray.

Prayer has become a soothing four-minute parley directed “out there” to some entity “beyond ourselves.” Some view prayer as a method through which one enlarges his vision; cultivates health, wealth and prosperity; discovers power in words and thought; consoles, inspires then perhaps lauds a little in the vernacular of praise and thanksgiving. Prayer is thought to be the means to an end, the way to make things happen, a calculated method to get things from a God that likes what we like, hates what we hate and whose sole existence is for our gratification and satisfaction. This is a wrong view of God and idolatry, creating a God that does not exist.

Go a step further and consider prayerlessness: Ben Jennings wrote, “Every prayerless day is a statement by a helpless individual, ‘I do not need God today.’ Failing to pray reflects idolatry—a trust in substitutes for God. We rely on our money instead of God’s provision. We rest on our own flawed thinking rather than on God’s perfect wisdom. We take charge of our lives rather than trusting God. Prayerlessness short-circuits the working of God. Neglecting prayer, therefore, is not a weakness; it is a sinful choice.”[i] Prayerlessness is sin (1 Samuel 12:23).

Despite antiquity, Genesis 28:20-21 contains a very contemporary prayer. First, let me explain, Jacob was caused to leave father’s house after stealing his older brother’s birthright. Jacob is scared to death of Esau and is, in effect, running for his life. Second, the Lord God has appeared to Jacob in a dream in which He told Jacob: 1) I am the Lord; 2) I am the God of your fathers; 3) I will give you the land on which you lie; 4) I will give the land to your uncountable descendants; 5) I am with you and will not leave you.

Jacob apparently heard, but wasn’t listening. Jacob told God: 1) that if God promised His presence and safety; 2) if God would give him bread to eat and clothes to wear so he could return home in peace, then the Lord would be his God. He even gave God a house to live in . . . a stone! 3) Jacob promised to give back to God 1/10 of everything God gave him. Why did Jacob have to ask for what God had already promised in order to make God someone He was already? Jacob clearly did not have a correct understanding about God. When God met Jacob face-to-face some time later (Gen 32:22-30), Jacob had to ask, “Please tell me your name!”

We are familiar with that prayer: “God if you . . . then I will . . .” Prayer is not a formula through which God is coerced or forced, nor is it a manipulation of His power against His will. If this were the case, then this kind of praying is no different from pagans[ii], whose gods dwell in the rocks and trees and are placated with offerings on stones. Does any god deserved to be followed, worshipped, and even loved if he does something for us based on our whim or demand? Does any god deserve to be served who must be punished (“If you don’t do . . ., then I won’t . . .”)?

Matthew 6 records Jesus’ instructions concerning prayer. He begins, “when you (2nd persons plural, “you all”) pray, you (2nd persons plural, “you all”) are not to be like the hypocrites” (6:5). A line has been drawn that separates the conversations of those who mask who they are, those who have an outward appearance that is incompatible with their inward appearance, people whose theology and philosophy disagrees with reality. The hypocrite is out to build his reputation, make a name for himself by drawing attention to himself.

Those who pray loves God above all else (thus keeping the 1st commandment). The hypocrite loves himself. Look at what Jesus says: “they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.” The hypocrite does not love God above all and worships a god of their own making (breaking commands 1-3). They have what they want in full, right then, right there. But prayer is not about the one who prays.

Proverbs 15:8, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Jesus has shown what is displeasing to God about prayer and now directs the crowd to see what God looks for in the one who prays, “but you (2nd person singular).” Think of someone standing in front of a crowd pointing, “You!” The crowd points themselves, “me?” they think? But then he steps down and walks through the crowd (“not you, no, not you, you!”) until he comes face to face with an individual, “you.”

Jesus has already shown us what God sees and how He rewards the hypocrite. Now consider what God sees and how He rewards the one who prays without thinking about himself. This is the second time Jesus mentions what God sees in the one who acts in secret. The difference is that, in contrast with the one who loudly draws attention to himself by use of religiosity, one is going to take the time to carefully examine in the finest detail possible those things he brings to God, including his reasons for bringing them. That secret place is the “workplace”, the storage room where things are prepared for distribution. “You” are encouraged to be unhypocritical in prayer by making certain that in those things “you” talk about God, that He is able to demonstrate His fullness His way on His timetable. The one who prays is making himself ready to be fully content, fully satisfied with God. The reward is God as He glorifies Himself in answering prayer.

A person who prays with misdirection is actually looking for reward. That is the reason many people pray—to get something. The problem is that they are looking for a material answer for the moment. They don’t realize the reward they are forfeiting is the source of the answer while they are merely looking for the answer.

Furthermore, when praying, words have meaning and have no power in themselves. Words expose what is really on the heart. When you open your mouth, you come out, as it were. One who does not think will babble, thinking they will be heard by force of repetition. If one is being automatic and repetitious, he is empty and without any consideration. In other words, prayers are not for the sake of repeating. But again, here is one who is out for his own interests and is not thinking about He with whom we have to do.

So Jesus can say, “So do not be like them [hypocrites].” Why? Because prayer is all about God. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

And “you” need “Him.”

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[i] Cameron, Kirk and Comfort, Ray. School of Biblical Evangelism. Gainesville: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2004.
[ii] Is “neo-pagan” an oxymoron?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Purpose of the Law (part 3)

Galatians 3:19–29 helps us understand that the law was given for purpose, “because of transgressions” (like crossing a boundary, or exceeding the speeding limit for example). The law was appointed through a mediator. Spurgeon helps us understand what mediator-ship means in that a mediator is not for one person alone; rather deals with two persons and is familiar with both their interests. In this case the persons are God and man. Also, a mediator is not for persons who agree with one another. In addition, a mediator comes “when there is a ground of difference which cannot be readily resolved.” Furthermore, there is no use for a mediator unless both parties are looking for reconciliation. Both sides must be ready to leave the matter in the hands of the mediator. We understand that as He mediates, Jesus pleads with both man and God. “He pleads with God for sinners, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And then he turns round, and pleads with sinners for God, and bids them turn to him, and be reconciled to him, since he is their Father and their Friend!” Finally, the mediator must make the two parties one, or He has not succeeded.[i]

This makes sense now when we see that the law is not against the promises of God; rather, the law actually stands as guard over transgressors until faith comes. The law is the one who takes men by the hand and points to Christ, our justifier in faith.

This is why I use the law in evangelism. The law helps men see how God sees their hearts: helpless, kept under guard as transgressors. Since sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), how can one confess his sins if he does not know what those sins are? The law points them out. Since the law points out man’s helplessness to save himself, it shows his need for the Savior all the more. The law reveals God’s wrath and gives grace and mercy a context in which they can be understood. This is why preaching judgment makes no sense. This is way telling people “God loves you” makes no sense. Ask an unsaved person what he understands God’s wonderful plan for his life to be and you will find he does not know. “The law reveals humanity’s utter sinfulness, inability to save themselves, and desperate need of a Savior—it was never intended to be the way of salvation.[ii] Here is a great video, for illustration.

The human race is in big trouble. Not one person is able to keep the whole law. I was talking with a guy a while back (he had called a wrong number and I took the opportunity to witness) who told me he has never taken God’s name in vain, has always kept the Sabbath, always honored his parents, never killed (not even hated anyone, which the Bible equates with murder), never lusted/committed adultery, never stolen, never lied and never coveted. I thought I was talking to the rich young ruler! I asked him if He loved God above all else. He did not answer me and hung up.

It was not until later I was reminded that he had indeed broken the 9th commandment in that the Bible says that there is none that seek after God, so either God was lying or he was, and since God cannot lie . . . it was then I realized that the guy had not only broken the 1st commandment, but had created a god according to his own understanding, thus breaking the 2nd commandment. He had no fear of God before his eyes and he really needed to hear about Christ. Point being: nobody is able to keep the law.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)

A.J. Gordon wrote, “Not simply the righteousness of our Savior, not simply the beauty of His holiness or the graces of his character, are we to put on as a garment. The Lord Himself is our vesture. Every Christian is not only a Christ-bearer but a Christ-wearer. We are so to enter into Him by communion, to be so endued with His presence and embued with His Spirit that men shall see Him when they behold us, as they see our garments when they look upon our bodies.”

Matthew 5:17-48 is a scathing passage for men who boast in their own goodness. Jesus points out that the outward keeping of the law requires also an inward keeping. Oswald Chambers explains how this is done: “The summing up of our Lord’s teaching is that the relationship which He demands is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work . . . The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own. Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”[iii]

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The command, ‘be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas. Not is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.”[iv]

Romans 6:23 shows the paycheck for lawlessness is death. The law keeps one under guard, like a death-row prison.

All this begs the question: “if one has never heard the law, do condemn people by taking it to them to show their need for Christ?”

First, John 3:18 says that the one who does not believe is condemned already.
Second, consider Romans 2:12-16: “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

“Without knowing the written law of God, people in pagan society generally value and attempt to practice its most basic tenets. This is normal for cultures instinctively to value justice, honesty, compassion, and goodness toward others, reflecting the divine law written in the heart. Their practice of some good deeds and their aversion to some evil ones demonstrate an innate knowledge of God’s law—a knowledge that will actually witness against them on the day of judgment.”[v]

John Stott has written: “We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt, and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ.”[vi]

We must “put on Christ.” We must appropriate by faith what God has accomplished for us in Jesus, what we could not by ourselves through the law. God’s justice demands a payment for breaking His perfect law, and this is what Christ did through His death, burial and resurrection. The law shows man that from which he must repent. Repentance is not acknowledging the existence of sin and the fact that Jesus died in time and space; rather, repentance is seeing what the law exposes and forsaking those things and turning to the resurrected Lord by faith that He may have His full reign, to the praise and glory of God.

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[i] Spurgeon, Charles. “A Mediator.”
[ii]MacArthur, John. Galatians: The Wonderous Grace of God. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 57. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000.
[iii] Chamber, Oswald. Sept. 25, “The ‘Go’ of Renunciation.” My Utmost for His Highest.
[iv] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: MacMillan, 1984. P. 174.
[v]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Ro 2:14. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[vi] Stott, John R.W. The Message of Galatians. London: InterVarsity, 1968, p. 102

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Purpose of the Law (part 2)

By Ray Comfort

When there is no visible sign of the law on a freeway, motorists often transgress the speed limit. Apparently each speedster says to himself that the law has forgotten to patrol his part of the freeway. He is transgressing the law by only 15 mph, and besides, he isn’t the only one doing it.

Notice what happens when the law enters the fast lane, with red lights flashing. The speedster’s heart misses a beat. He is no longer secure in the fact that other motorists are also speeding. He knows that he is personally as guilty as the next guy, and he could be the one the law pulls over. The fact that there are other people doing it is irrelevant. Suddenly, his “mere” 15 mph transgression doesn’t seem such a small thing after all; it seems to abound.

Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

When sin abounds, grace “much more” abounds, and according to Scripture, the thing that makes sin abound is the Law.

Look at the freeway of sin. The whole world naturally goes with the flow.

  • Who hasn’t had an “affair” (or desired to) at one time or another?
  • Who in today’s society doesn’t tell the occasional “white” lie?
  • Who doesn’t take something that belongs to someone else, even if it’s just a little “whitecollar” crime?

Sinners know they are doing wrong, but their security is in the fact that so many others are just as guilty, if not more so. It seems God has forgotten all about sin and the Ten Commandments; the sinner says in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see it” (Psalm 10:11).

Now watch the Law enter with red lights flashing. The sinner’s heart skips a beat. He lays his hand upon his mouth. He examines the speedometer of his conscience. Suddenly, it shows him the measure of his guilt in a new light—the light of the Law. His sense of security in the fact that there are multitudes doing the same thing becomes irrelevant, because every man will give an account of himself to God. Sin not only becomes personal, it seems to “abound.” His mere lust becomes adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27,28); his white lie, false witness (Revelation 21:8); his own way becomes rebellion; his hatred, murder (1 John 3:15); his “sticky” fingers make him a thief—“Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.” Without the Law entering, sin is neither personal, nor is it evident: “For without the Law, sin is dead.” (Romans 7:8, Amplified).

According to the Scriptures, “[the real function of] the law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance . . . ]” (Romans 3:20, Amplified).

Charles Spurgeon said that “the Law serves a most necessary purpose.” How true are his words regarding sinners: “They will never accept grace, until they tremble before a just and holy Law.” Those who see the role of the Law will be Sons of Thunder before they are the Sons of Consolation. They know that the shoes of human pride must be removed
before sinners can approach the burning bush of the gospel.

It is important to realize that we can evoke a tearful response from sinners by saying that God loves them. The message is more appealing to both the Christian and the sinner. It certainly is easier to speak of love than of sin.

Many years ago, before I understood the function of God’s Law, I told a prostitute of God’s love and was delighted that she immediately began weeping. Unbeknown to me, her tears were not tears of godly sorrow for sin, but merely an emotional response to the need of a father’s love. In my ignorance, I joyfully led her in a sinner’s prayer. However, I was disappointed sometime later when she fell away, and her tender heart became very callous toward the things of God.

Paradoxically, the Law makes grace abound, in the same way that darkness makes light shine. It was John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace,” who said that a wrong understanding of the harmony between Law and grace would produce “error on the left and the right hand.” I don’t know if any of us could claim to have a better understanding of grace than the one who penned such a hymn.

To help sinners understand that grace is truly amazing, use the Moral Law of God. As John Wesley advised a young evangelist, for effective evangelism, preach 90 percent Law and 10 percent grace.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"What locks are for." The Purpose of the Law (part 1)

A few weeks ago while I got a call from my wife that a friend of my daughters was in serious trouble and I might have to go get him. This friend had gotten into a fight with his roommate and his roommate beat him up badly, even kicked him in the head a couple of times. There were fears of a broken nose, etc.. I said I would swing by and take him to the ER . . . but I was quickly told that someone else was already on the way and our friend did not want to go the hospital. (Yeah, I scratched my head too).

After some time after arriving home, I tried to get some details about what happened. It seems that insults were exchanged (that might or might not have included one’s mother) and then the fists started to fly. I asked if charges were going to be pressed. My daughters friend said, “no.” Looking for a springboard from which to witness, I casually said, “you know, it doesn’t take much to see what a person’s heart is really like. A person who is nice to your face but yells at the waiter is really not a good person at all.”

My daughter’s friend mildly glared at me and said something to the effect that I had no right to assume the roommate was a bad person—he just had a bad moment. I think he implied a “Sheesh” at the end of his statement. Oh, and could he please spend the night at our house because he did not want to go back to the apartment. (Yeah, I scratched my head too).

Not a couple of days later I found out that my daughter’s friend had filed a restraining order against his roommate (I suppose to prevent any more “bad moments”) and the roommate was moving out. The next day I got another call asking if my daughter’s friend could spend the night again because the roommate was not moving out, but was (for the sake of brevity) having more “bad moments.” The latest news: my daughter’s friend is moving out of state soon . . .

Ok. If people are really good at heart, we must have policemen, jails, prisons, criminal courts, handcuffs, etc. for . . . actually, I can’t figure it out.

Maybe we have them for the same reason nobody vacations in a houseboat twenty feet above Niagra Falls. Maybe we have them for the same reason nobody builds a home straddling the San Andreas fault, or swim with piranhas or not light a match to see if our gas tank is empty. The reason we don’t do these things is because there is a point at which one or all the above activities becomes LETHAL. (Or stupid. If you are reading this Johnny Knoxville and crew, please give credit to Chuck Swindoll[i] for the above ideas . . . er, illustrations. You’d swim with the Sharks as man-bait with a hook in your mouth, but not piranhas, huh?). We have policemen, their paraphernalia and prisons because people are NOT good at heart. Common sense actually does kick in somewhere . . .

My father-in-law says that locks are to keep good people out. A bad person will find his way in, no matter what.

I wonder: between Federal or State laws, which are most oft-broken? I imagine the most commonly broken laws are those related to speeding. These tend to nail both Christians and non-Christians. Speeding is an amazing phenomenon, when you think about it. The primary reason we speed is because everybody does it! Get out there on the highways and you will find that unless you have absolutely nothing else to do and nowhere else to go (or if you just got your driver’s license) you will speed! And for some reason, when a policeman pulls one over, a driver will invariably think to himself or herself, “but another car was going faster! Why did you pull me over?” Have you also noticed that those who drive on the highway, see the lights of a police cruiser pulled over, the officer is standing by the car or talking to the driver and everyone on the freeway SLOWS DOWN? Why? What’s the officer going to do?

It’s like this: we get in our car and are going somewhere. We get into the flow of traffic, doing what everyone else does. Maybe turn on the music a little, or get on the cell phone. Ok, just a little faster. The speed limit sign goes by. Maybe change lanes because the guy in front is going a little slow—maybe 60. A mile goes by. Another speed limit sign. Hey! I like that song! Turn it up a little. Tap the steering wheel.

Then a light catches your eye. A blue one. And a red one. And a blue one. And a red one. Check the rear view . . . oh, no. Cops got someone. Slow down. He’s right behind . . . and he’s not moving. Change lanes. Not passing, still back there. Check the speedometer . . . and your stomach drops. Awww man!

The law is clearly posted. The law is even made reflective, so’s one can see it at night. You know what it is—it’s just that you don’t feel the weight of the law until it’s been broken. The law shows that people have a tendency to do what is wrong, not what is right.

I talked to a guy once who told me that laws were man-made and he lived by no man’s law and he would do what he wanted, as he wanted, when he wanted. I wondered if the guy was human. I wondered out loud to him, “Do you run every stop light you see, or stop sign as you do 90 through downtown? Because if you do, I don’t want to be on the street when you are driving home.” He just glared at me and tried to excuse himself as he had an appointment . . .

The law shows this: man bad.
But just how bad, exactly?

Let me borrow your imagination for a moment: you’ve been pulled over for speeding. Smokie is leaning in your window and breathes, “Did you know you were speeding?”

What are you going to say? (hint: it’s either a “yes” or a “no”).

He says, “I clocked you going 85 in a 60 mph zone. Why are you going so fast?”

What are you going to say? (It will either be the truth or a lie—quick, think! Conscience is going into overload here. Which one will get the lighter punishment . . . ? Which one appeals to the mercy and grace of the officer so you can get off? Conscience, conscience, conscience . . .)

Think: what advantage do I have for lying? What about telling the truth?

There is another law at work now. A law much higher than Federal or State. If you lie well enough, you cannot be punished, right? Or can you be punished for lying? Lying makes one a liar and any goodness you thought you had goes out the window. But to tell the truth makes the conscience feel better . . . and might even win the grace and mercy of the administer of the law.

Where does that higher law come from?

(to be continued)

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[i] Swindoll, Chuck. Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life. Multnomah: Portland, 1983.

Unlike His Church

"Redemption is indeed God's chief purpose toward this world. His nature demands it. God loved the world so much that He gave the ultimate gift. Unlike His church, He was not willing that any should perish." (Robertson McQuilkin)

Pray for workers to be sent out to the harvest.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stuff I never thought about . . . and a few things I have.

Heard this awesome speaker today. Did not take notes. Made me think. Here are my reflections in my own words:

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, the whole affair occurred in the deepest of mystery: Creation took on Divinity. From the desert to the city, from the city to a mountain. Did it really happen? Was it figurative? Well, the danger of starvation was real. The danger of being smashed on stones was real. But is there a mountain from which all kingdoms can be seen? Deep mystery does not mean it was not real.

The areas of temptation were not overtly sinful, so why call them “temptations?” Is it a sin to eat? Is it a sin to look to God for protection? Is it a sin to be Lord over all creation?

When Jesus was baptized, the Father proclaimed the Sonship of Jesus as the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. When Satan tempted Jesus, he questioned, “If you are the Son of God . . .” as if to ignore God’s proclamation and thus cause Jesus to declare His Sonship on Satan’s terms.

Jesus was tempted by Satan to sustain Himself. Jesus had been 40 days without food. After all, what good is an emaciated Messiah, or one who dies from starvation? Eat!

Jesus is never seen to do any miracle for himself. Ever. He never makes a glass of water when there was none. He never made a pillow for his head when the disciples were not looking.

How is it that man lives on the word of God and not bread? Isn’t God the one who declares the end of days from the beginning? Isn’t God the one who forms man in the womb? Isn’t God the one who demands a man’s soul from him? A command comes from the mouth of God to create or destroy . . . and Jesus is the sustainer of all creation, the very one who holds all things together. No person will die before God’s time, much less from starvation. Jesus literally depended on God for his very life during those days.

Jesus was taken from the desert to the temple, to be tempted by Satan to throw Himself down from the highest point. Why not tempt Him to jump from a cliff? Because nobody would see it. Satan tempted Jesus to declare his Sonship by floating to the ground in the public eye. The Pharisees and Sadducees would accept His Messiah-ship and he could get on with His rule that way!

And what’s this about worshipping Satan? Even though He created all things and is to inherit all things, here is a chance to escape the long hours of pain to the point of death that is to come by just spending a moment in abject humiliation of bowing the knee . . . for what?

Consider: the Lord of Heaven and all it contains being offered the kingdoms of the only planet in the universe that contains human life. Heaven vs. pale blue dot. Glory vs. dirt. Hmmmmm.

Coveting vs. contenment.
Lust vs. satisfaction.
Worship of the true and living God vs. the worship of a god of one’s own making.

Is Jesus being tempted to break the 1st, 2nd and 10th commands? One can only Gasp!

Think about this:

Israel was born in captivity, in Egypt no less and had to face the terror of death by sword. Jesus was born and had to flee to Egypt or else face the terror of death by sword.

Adam was placed in a world surrounded by food and Satan tempted by questioning God and the well-fed Adam blew it with just one bite from a source that looked good for food.

The 2nd Adam was without food, Satan tempted by questioning God and the emaciated 2nd Adam did not eat . . .

40 days of fasting reminds one of 40 years of wandering.
12 disciples reminds one of 12 tribes.

Could it be that Jesus is the only Jew that got it right? The 2nd Adam? Completed what those generation of Jews could not—passing through the desert (wandering) to the city (conquest) to the mountains (blessing all the nations—which He does anyway)?

Why did He do this? So we could memorize verses to recite when we are tempted?

Heb 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, having been tempted, He is able to rescue those who are being tempted.

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin.

And the Bible says angels came and ministered to Jesus. Fed him? Bore him up in protection, as Satan quoted from the scripture?

He did it so we can be rescued. He did it so we don’t have to be tempted. We are now free to do what we should, not what we want. If we accept by faith His death on our behalf for the payment of our punishment, and He in turn gives us His life, we are delivered from the bondage of sin . . . like lust, coveting, idolatry, etc.

There are two ways to get into the White House after hours:

1) Step over the fence and see how many steps you get before you are lit up like a laser-tipped Christmas tree and are tackled by a football squad of guards.
2) Knock on the door with a member of the W. Bush family at your side. You will get in only by saying, “I’m with George” or “I’m with Lara.” And he or she must agree.

There is no entrance into the kingdom of God unless you are born again, having repented of your sin. You will stand at the bar of judgment and will only be seen into heaven by saying, “I’m with Jesus.” And He says, “He’s with me.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Crocodile Hunter

By Ray Comfort

It's not often that someone from down-under is the lead story on primetime TV. The fact that presidents from other countries die is a big deal, but they don't get to head the news. Some don't even get the tail. But when Stephen Robert Irwin was suddenly killed on September 4th, 2006, he was number one.

Steve Irwin was an Australian naturalist, wildlife expert, a well-known and colorful personality, and was best known for the television program "The Crocodile Hunter."

But his death didn't come as a shock to most who knew of him. How he died, did. Like many others who had watched him get up close and personal with dangerous animals, I thought it was just a matter of time until he would be mortally attacked by a crocodile or bitten by a poisonous snake. But that didn't happen. Instead, he was tragically stabbed through the heart by a stingray that was apparently only trying to defend itself. His distraught manager and close friend said that he "lived beyond the edge but seemed invincible." But none of us are invincible. Time will prove that to be true.

I become frustrated when I hear of the sudden unexpected death of any famous person. I want to grab this blind and unthinking world by the ear and shout "Hey, wake up. Death is a reality. It will come to you. You are not invincible. Please open your heart to the gospel." I want to seize the moment before the shock of another celebrity death wears off.

The Crocodile Hunter was passionate about the preservation of any endangered species--even if they were snakes and crocodiles. Perhaps you are a compassionate person and also have a deep concern about preserving animals. Then may I encourage you to do your part to preserve a forgotten endangered species--the dying human race. Doing this will not only make your life count for something in eternity, but it will also cater to you, if you are one who likes to live on the edge.

There is a forgotten and effective way to do this. It is something that Jesus did. It's also something the Apostle Paul, Peter, Stephen and John did. It's something that was done by Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield and John Wesley. It's arguably scarier than jumping headlong out of a plane or messing with snakes and crocodiles. It's called "open air preaching."

Open air preaching is where you stand up in front of a God-hating world and preach His message of everlasting life. There's no applause. There's no pat on the back from an appreciative world. You probably won't make the lead on primetime news. Not even if you die doing it.

Steve Irwin left a huge and lasting legacy, and now that he's gone his words have become even more meaningful. Death tends to do that. He said, "I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message." This is true. Of all the things a Christian should be passionate about, saving sinners from Hell has to be high on the priority list. So educate yourself on how to reach them, and then educate the world on how and why they need to be saved.

When Steve died he was described by the CEO of Queensland's Royal Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals as a "modern-day Noah." We tend to forget that Noah was more than passionate about preserving endangered species. He did something about which the world rarely hears. Scripture calls him a "preacher of righteousness." He was an open air preacher. He faithfully pleaded with a sinful and violent world to get right with a just and holy God, and warned them that God was going to judge them in righteousness. They laughed at Noah and his ark then, and they laugh at Noah and his ark now. Despite the mountain of evidence, most deny that there was even a world-wide flood.

We are living in the days that Jesus called "the days of Noah," and as in the days of Noah there is violence throughout the earth and the imagination of men's hearts is continually evil. These are dark times, but like Noah, we must be faithful preachers of righteousness, and if demons hiss and sinners snarl--if the endangered species fights against us, we have a strong consolation. Jesus said, "Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

So while you are still in the land of the living, live on the edge of eternity. Don't listen to your fears. Listen to your faith. Be passionate about reaching the lost. Learn how to show this world that they are in mortal danger. Convince them that they are not in a place to argue with God--that a drowning man should keep his mouth closed. And follow the footsteps of those who through faith "stopped the mouths of lions," and never forget that "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Certainty

If:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Then:
H-A-R-D-W-O-R- K
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%


And:
K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%


Check this out:
L-O-V-E-O-F-G-O-D
12+15+22+5+15+6+7+15+4 = 101%


While HARD WORK and KNOWLEDGE are only "close," it's the LOVE OF GOD that will put you over the top!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Since you aren't doing anything . . .

You MUST listen to this sermon by Paul Washer. Carve out an hour and don't let anything distract you, don't let Satan give you a reason not to listen to this.

If you have time to watch a movie, you have time to listen to this . . . twice.

Put it on your i-pod.

Downgrade

If Pluto is no longer a planet, what does that do to Astrology? Just asking.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thinking about: Matthew 6:1

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

This is a summative statement of Jesus, introducing the subject of righteous action through the context of what kingdom living looks like: The citizen of the kingdom of heaven is not ostentatious. Herein Jesus contrasts true against false righteousness. The entire teaching of this text is built on the principle of the 1st commandment, giving God first place in every respect.

The standard for all righteousness is God Himself, who sees what is done both in public and in secret, and is the rewarder of both right and hypocritical action (6:6). The difference is that (as C.S. Lewis pointed out) we are too easily satisfied—we want an advance on rewards.

“Beware” (prosexete): be in a state of constant alert, play close attention to, be concerned. Of all commands of scripture, this is one of few that comes equipped with a warning bell. Red Alert!


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The command is specific to “you all”: manufacture righteous acts in the sight of men and receive no wage (no recompense or reward) from the Father of “you all” in the heavens.

Together with this warning is an attitude of striving—one must make certain the goal toward which he or she works is not man-centered. Show all concern to be genuine before the Father, that He may act in accord with His own display of glory.

“Here Christ expands the thought of 5:20, showing how the Pharisees’ righteousness was deficient by exposing their hypocrisy in the matters of “charitable deeds” (vv. 1–4); “prayer” (vv. 5–15); and “fasting” (vv. 16–18). All of these acts are supposed to be worship rendered to God, never displays of self-righteousness to gain the admiration of others.”[1]

Get this in your mind: you are not the object of worship, so don’t “do” righteousnesses for the purpose of gaining attention.

************
[1]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Mt 6:1. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.

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