That Great and Terrible Day

Isaiah chapter 2 is full of warning and rebuke, foretelling of that great and terrible day when Christ returns to judge the nations. National Israel is warned that their long record of rebellion against YHWH and friendship with the world will bring judgment. God has turned His back on them.

Isaiah 2:6 (HCSB) “For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of ⌊divination⌋ from the East and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They are in league with foreigners.”

Here the prophet speaks of YHWH, how has abandoned the house of Jacob. They were in league with foreigners. Verses 7 & 8 describe these foreigners: rich, self-satisfied, idolaters. Verse 9 brings the first of three declarations that man will be brought low on that Day. Isaiah 2:9 (HCSB) “So humanity is brought low, and man is humbled. Do not forgive them!” There will be no forgiveness when the Lord makes His second advent (Heb 9:28).

Those who have not been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:10 (HCSB) “Go into the rocks and hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:11-12 (HCSB) “Human pride will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. For a day belonging to the LORD of Hosts is ⌊coming⌋ against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—it will be humbled” The second time we read of humanity being brought low. For when the Lord of glory returns, ALL will kneel before Him, some in worship and adoration; others in terror beyond human description.

Verses 14-16 describe the symbols and signs of the worldly riches that will crumble on that Day. And then the third time of man’s undoing. Isaiah 2:17-18 (HCSB) “So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness of men will be humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. The idols will vanish completely.”

Those who have been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:19 (HCSB) “People will go into caves in the rocks and holes in the ground, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:21 (HCSB) “They will go into the caves of the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” This verse and verse 10, above, ought to bring to your mind the scene in Revelation 6, when the sixth seal is opened:

Revelation 6:12-17 (HCSB) “Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?””

Carnal man will not willingly surrender to Christ on that Day, for the day of salvation has passed. He will return when the last spiritual stone has been mined from the earth and placed in the celestial city of New Jerusalem.

What is the bottom line? Isaiah 2:22 (HCSB) “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”

There is only One in whom we can find safety on that great and terrible day. Christ Jesus is a strong tower of refuge, and advocate for all who are in Him. If you hear His voice, do not harden your heart, for the day of salvation will not last forever. He is coming back. To judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new.

One Man’s Walk with God

This is one of the most intriguing books I’ve read. Jeremy Strang has delivered a book written in a most engaging fashion: a first person devotional that reveals the heart of humble man looking to walk obediently. It is full of phrases that ring with God’s truth, as the man in the book talks to his Creator, asking for help in various areas of life. This book has three sections with twelve chapters that each delve into the depths of God’s redemptive work for His own, plus a bonus (Bits of Gold) at the end.

Chapter 1 is How shall I come to you?, which begins with: “Oh Lord my God, for how shall I come to You? You are O holy, righteous, just and good; apart from You I am not. And yet for your namesake, the love of the world, and for my life and eternal spirit, You have reckoned and accounted to me through Christ alone, His righteousness – giving unto me new life and joy unspeakable.” This sets the tone for the entire book: a man raised up to new life in Christ should never lose the awe of being reconciled to Holy God. The reason for God saving sinners is not primarily for the redemption of His chosen ones; it is that He would be glorified by His creation. What a privilege and joy to be a trophy of His saving grace! “Oh what amazing and unfathomable grace You have powerfully worked and effectually given me. This new heart is feeling and pliable, regenerated and justified, nothing short of miraculous, and this without any works of my own. Oh Your grace! How great is Your love that I should be called Your child?” Do you get a sense of how the author approaches this work – Scripture drenched words that reveal a heart that beats with gratitude for the Lamb Who gave His life for wretched sinners.

The second chapter describes our greatest need, recognizing man’s desperate condition. “Prior to having You as my treasured joy and everlasting prince of peace, I was ignorant and dead, grasping firm the lies of Satan and steeped in my own narcissistic and deceptive heart. I believed, as all fallen men are born to think, that my nature was not that bad and that in some way, in some strength, or by some religious duties, I could be found favorable to attain some form of grand abyss when I die – what damnable foolishness was this prison of thought.” So marvelous is the work of God in redemption, yet so easily allowed to become accustomed to our new state. To guard against this deplorable condition, we read, “Lord, I pray that I will never forget how You have powerfully redeemed my soul and have patiently worked in me these last years. Oh that I would show patience towards those who have yet to experience and understand such freeing grace and freedom found in absolutely knowing that salvation is a work completely of You. Hallelujah, for You have shown me the foothills of such wonderful glory – oh, for what could I ever bring to You as a gift that you would exchange in pardon for my depraved nature, or what can I add to the unsearchable riches of Christ? Absolutely, ten thousand times over, nothing! Lord, I also ask of You, never let me become lax or lazy, or sleepy and dull regarding the faith You have given me.” This last sentence needs to be our daily prayer, recognizing our need of His mercy.

Each chapter is like this, examining an aspect of the life of the saint, using Scripture as the only foundation for what is right, seeing the child of God gloriously new in Christ, yet fragile and weak in this age.

Section 3 is entitled, When in Fear – Look to Jesus. This is the answer to all the Christian’s dilemmas, for there is not one single trial we encounter where the answer lies elsewhere. “When I think of Your truth given to me, I cannot help but wonder why I allow fear to creep in and arise in my heart. When I really start to investigate my situation, the answer seems always to come back the same – my vision is gazing somewhere else. And how often I find that the majority of the time the fear is not due to some close line of death nor due to severe persecution chasing me down, but rather it is my eyes have wandered onto secondary things.”

When Jesus was crucified, all of His disciples were afraid and discouraged. When the women went to the tomb to perform their religious rituals, they found it empty and an angel of God told them He was not there. He told them to remember His words, for He had told them what would take place. His words – remember them, think on the One Who spoke them. He is trustworthy and His promises are sure. When your world is crumbling, look to Jesus. When everything is going your way, look to Jesus. Poverty and riches, illness and health; all and each can distract us from the One Who has to prepare a place for us.

“Praise You God that You are faithful and powerful to redirect my paths, grant me repentance yet again, and daily give me new mercies; You get sweeter and sweeter as You rekindle my desires to walk earnestly, humbly, and powerfully with a contrite heart, oh how wonderful Your salvation and how amazing Your grace! Yet, Lord, if I say that I love Your grace and long for Jesus, then shall I not also be changed in my thinking, in my response, in my private life and my inner and outer strivings? – Oh, my yes!”

Chapter 10 warns about Satan’s deceptive ways; chapter 11 reminds us our hope is in Christ when we walk in darkness, which begins, “Father, You have been so very good and patient towards me, so much more than anyone could ever know or imagine. You know my struggles, my battles, and my weaknesses, and yet You have such patience and such tender care. Oh, how great is Your love and faithfulness! You hear me Lord, for truly You are a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

He goes on, “I must seek You and know You more so that I would always, especially in times of trials and fears, make You my sure trust. My lack, oh Lord, is always and only because of me and not You; for You do not change but I am the one prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love. And when I feel a lack of sorts, a coldness or dryness of heart, or even a sort of deadness in my desires and emotions to set my face towards You – but You oh God! You again revive me demonstrating Your perfect love, divine grace and unfailing mercies. You answer my cry when I pray: “Help me and give me a desire, a clean desire, a desire to know You, to read Your word, to be godly and sanctified, to continue and to stand with You.” You are so very wonderful!”

The tender mercies of God towards His own sheep are new and never ending! As Strang reminds us, He is so very wonderful! How thankful I am that God stirred up this brother to write this book, full of truth about us and God, calling us to be faithful even as we recognize that faith as a gift from Him! And written in a style that ought to stir your soul as you consider how faithful Jesus is even when you and I are faithless.

“Lord, I never want to be tired of Your word; I never want to be too quick to pass by and move on; let me dwell here forever and ever as You know and see fit for me. There are just so many truths, so much help, so much victory and so much depth in Your word above. So when all ‘hell’ seems to be breaking out around me, help me Lord to remember, this is not the final hell that awaits the wicked, those who refuse to bow the knee, refuse to acknowledge You now and turn to You.”

Chapter 12 reminds us, “Lord please, I ask of You a thousand times over, and thus praise Your holy name, may I be marked by grace, bruised by love and matured in devotion, prayer and obedience. Lord grant this poor man that I might press in and on, and when Jesus comes, He will find in me a resolve in prayer and a faith persevering for Your glory. I am reminded today, and I cannot help but to agree, with what one preacher recently past often used to say: “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world and make him holy, then put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” Oh Lord, what an amazing miracle it is that Jesus Christ would shed His own blood for me.”

Saints – do you still see it as a miracle that Jesus reconciled you to God? Do you see a daily need to Him, by His Spirit, to continue to work in your soul while you travel about as a pilgrim seeking his homeland?

“Oh Lord, how true it is that I need You far above all else. You call me to obedience and to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, and although the duty, this being the responsibility to read, heed and obey Your word is mine, I know that all the power to do so is Yours. I know Lord, that should I become boastful in myself and sin, there is absolutely no way I could ever repent and truly obey apart from Jesus. So, I ask that you increase my singleness of eye, my knowledge and my desire to be attentive to my duties, and at the same time, increase Your conviction, Your strength and Your faith in me.” We are to be faithful stewards of what He’s given us, but even our faith is His – it’s alien to our nature to believe in the supernatural Creator and Lord of all.

Our brother finishes up with this: “Oh, that the secondaries and insignificant areas of my life would be put in their correct places, with all self-control and wisdom, so that You would be seen correctly as most magnificent above all else. Lord, to You be the glory, the power and the praise. Lord, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? In me and all who read, may the answer be an astounding – YES!”

“’Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

This is an easy to read and easy to understand book. It is not an easy book to accept and see the truth of our own lazy, sinful, ways. But the One Who called us is faithful – He will do it!

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 (HCSB) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brothers, pray for us also. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Is the Decalogue the rule of life for Christians?

The beloved Puritan, Thomas Watson, described the Decalogue as a golden chain hung around the necks of the saints, a rule of life for God’s children. And he called all who disagreed with him, antinomians.

One can search the Scriptures to see if YHWH describes these tablets in such terms, but that search will be in vain. He describes the Decalogue as the Tablets of Testimony of the Mosaic Covenant; as the ministry of death. His Word tells us the law was given to INCREASE sin.

Laws given to natural, carnal, unregenerate man are normally written against certain behaviors – do not murder, do not steal, etc. The Decalogue is MAINLY such law: do not make idols, do not worship idols, do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not covet what ain’t yours.  8 of the 10 words on the Decalogue are against something. The two positive words command people to rest in their homes and to obey their parents. Which of these commands require faith in God to perform? None of them. They are fit for the unregenerate community (yes, there were some believers therein, but only a few) to which they were given.

What instructions are given to the saints? We read that we are to worship God in spirit and truth; love one another as Christ has loved us; bear one another’s burdens; be humble; weep and rejoice with one another; etc. Against these things, Paul said, there is no law. Such commands CANNOT be kept by those without the Holy Spirit. New Covenant, new priesthood, new law.

The Spirit’s law of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8). The Law of Moses could not bring about obedience because it was limited by the flesh. The Spirit of God brings obedience, willing and equipping us to do what is pleasing to Him.

Contrary to Andy Stanley’s view, we do not throw away or “unhinge” the Hebrew Scriptures. All of what was written is for our benefit (Romans 15, 1 Cor 10). Contrary to Thomas Watson’s view, the apostles declared it was contrary to the faith to require the saints to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15).

I do not understand why so many people claim we must go back to the Mosaic Law to know what morality is, to live by it as rule for life. Paul had perfect opportunity to make it clear, if living by Mosaic Law was our charge:

Titus 2 gives qualifications for elders, encouragement for godly living to young men, exhortation to slaves to be faithful, and finishes with this:

Titus 2:11-15 (HCSB) For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works. Say these things, and encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Not a smidgen of Moses. It’s all grace. All the work of the Spirit in our lives. No written code of death that was given to an unregenerate community.

The right path is to fix our eyes on Christ, trust Him, seek wisdom to walk as Children of the light, and take care not to fall into the ditch on either side of the road.

Danger Signs

Danger Signs

A book review by Stuart Brogden

One area in the life of the saints that gets too little attention in most fellowships is that of dating or courting; keeping the focus on finding a suitable mate, not merely entertaining ourselves. In his book Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship, Lou Priolo examines signs of unhealthy dating relationships. All in all, this book is well written and sure to provoke the reader to think about some needful things that have been overlooked or swept aside.

Danger Signs is not divided into chapters, but is made up of about 20 sections describing cautions and indicators that may reveal a sinful heart; including a contentious spirit, increased physical intimacy, anger, impatience, and selfishness. Of pride, the author observes there “are many manifestations of pride that break the communication circuit and thereby hinder the resolution of conflict. They include: defensiveness, blame-shifting, and justifying one’s behavior.” (page 39) This is an important function Priolo serves, putting “flesh” on these danger signs so the reader cannot blithely read “pride” and assume he is free from it.

One of the least expected (for me) danger signs is Fear of Terminating the Relationship. The author’s observations have application for current events, as he rightly contrasts biblical love with the Roman-Greco “love” that permeates the culture. “Love is giving others what they need, not necessarily what they want. It is doing what is right rather than what you feel like doing. It is doing what is best for the other person, in light of eternity, according to the Bible and doing it whether or not the person being loved understands what you are doing. (Of course, many people today wouldn’t understand or even recognize biblical love if it {were} staring them in the face!)” (page 24)

Intolerance is contrasted with the biblical warrant to “””put up with” certain things – namely, those things (like foibles, quirks, and idiosyncrasies) in the lives of others that the Scriptures do not identify as being sinful. To be forbearing is “to have patience in regard to the errors or weaknesses of anyone.” … The tendency to uncharitably judge the actions and motives of others is a sure sign of intolerance. Another element of 1 Corinthian 13 love is that it “believes all things.’ This means that it looks for and places the best interpretation on what others do, say, and might be thinking unless there is real reason to believe otherwise. … God has not given us the ability to know what is on the heart of another person apart from what he choose to disclose to us.” (pages 51-52)  Within a marriage, being biblically tolerant of one another is critical for long term success as husband and wife. Thinking the best of one another unless CLEARLY shown otherwise – is the way of humility, in recognition that we are creatures, not Creator.

I wanted to provide a fairly detailed look into a couple of these danger signs to give you an idea of how the author writes. Priolo is engaging and tends to be biblical. I also want to mention that is seems to me that Priolo has the reader put more focus on identifying his partner’s faults than examining himself as the first priority. This is a sure plan to derail a relationship without regard to whether it ought to be a relationship. I do not think this was the author’s intent; it is my impression.

The opening section of the book, titled Persistent Doubts About the Relationship, includes a lengthy discussion of what Jay Adams calls “the holding principle.” Priolo refers to Romans 14, where we find, the last part of verse 5: “Each one must be convinced in his own mind.” And he appears to make a universal statement: “The Bible teaches that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you should not move forward until you are confident that what you are about to do is not sin.” (page 5) I agree that we ought to be diligent and proactive to avoid sin. I do not see Romans 14:5b as a universal doctrine – as if we must ponder and seek out biblical guidance on every decision. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the Spirit will illuminate our understanding more and more; and we will know what honorable and what is not more and more. There will nothing we “feel” approval on that the Bible calls sin; but there are many things – like the topic of days and food in Romans 14 – that we need to carefully consider. Because it’s not sin to consider all days the same and it is not sin to eat pork. Yet some still want to observe days and some still want to try to eat according to the Mosaic Code. If they are in Christ, we should be very careful and not cause them to stumble because of our freedom. THIS is the context of the sentence Pirolo quoted. The larger point is good – work at being honorable in the sight of God in all your do! Especially in making plans to join with another person in marriage.

The book ends with very short section entitled, Now What? (pages 113-114) After 100 pages of danger signs, we get a page and half of encouraging, hopeful counsel to take a sober look at both sides of the relationship and consider whether or not you each have faith in Christ to make it work. I would have loved for this to be the longest section in the book.

Danger Signs is a needful book because so many professing Christians are asleep as they walk through life. It is engaging and, as long as you don’t forget the main focus is yourself – not the other person – you can benefit greatly from reading and applying it.

Careless Ease

Steve Gallagher, founder of Pure Life Ministries, speaks candidly and Biblically about the dangers found in the church today. Western Christianity has enjoyed prosperity and no real tribulation for decades.

This prosperity has produced many ailments. Instead of being a place of refuge for the believer, many places that claim the name of Christ have become nothing more than a den of iniquity and a house of entertainment. Steve comments that the church has given itself every pleasure and we no longer take a stand for what is right.

Like Dust in the Wind

6d84a2f11faaeece5ed0256704c7a4cf(Octavius Winslow, “This God is Our God”)

“For this God is our God forever and ever–He will be our guide even to the end.” Psalm 48:14

“The world passes away.”

Everything here in this present world is changing.

Life is like a painted dream,
Like the rapid summer stream,
Like the fleeting meteor’s ray,
Like the shortest winter’s day,
Like the fitful breeze that sighs,
Like the waning flame that dies,
Darting, dazzling on the eye,
Fading in eternity.”

A rope of sand,
a spider’s web,
a silken thread,
a passing shadow,
an ebbing wave,
are the most fitting and expressive emblems of all things belonging to this present time’s state.

The homes that sheltered us in childhood we leave.

The land which gave us birth we leave.

The loved ones who encircled our hearths pass away.

The friends of early years depart.

And the world that was so sunny, and life that was so sweet, is all beclouded and embittered; the whole scenery of existence changed into wintry gloom.

Such are the saddening, depressing effects of life’s vicissitudes.

But in the midst of all, “This God is our God FOREVER AND EVER!”

All beings change, but God.

All things change, but Heaven.

The revolutions of time revolve, the events of earth go onward–but He upon whom all things hang, and by whom all events are shaped and controlled, moves not.

“I, the Lord, do not change.”

Our affairs may alter.

Our circumstances may change.

Our relations and friends may depart one by one.

Our souls in a single day pass through many fluctuations of spiritual feeling.

But He who chose us to be His own, and who has kept us to the present moment, is our covenant God and Father forever and ever, and will never throw us off and cast us away.

“For this God is our God forever and ever–
He will be our guide even to the end!” Psalm 48:14

Charles Spurgeon on the So-Called Free Will of Man

sheep-found-1005-115From his sermon, “The Holy Spirit in the Covenant,” preached on a Lord’s Day morning, 1856

What a vain pretense it is to profess to honor God by a doctrine that makes salvation depend on the will of man! If it were true, you might say to God, “We thank thee, O Lord, for what thou hast done; thou hast given us a great many things, and we offer thee thy meed* of praise, which is justly due to thy name; but we think we deserve more, for the deciding point was in our free will.” Beloved, do not any of you swerve from the free grace of God, for the babblings about man’s free agency are neither more nor less than lies, right contrary to the truth of Christ, and the teachings of the Spirit.

How certain, then, is the salvation of every elect soul! It does not depend on the will of man; he is “made willing” in the day of God’s power. He shall be called at the set time, and his heart shall be effectually changed, that he may become a trophy of the Redeemer’s power. That he was unwilling before, is no hindrance; for God giveth him the will, so that he is then of a willing mind. Thus, every heir of heaven must be saved, because the Spirit is put within him, and thereby his disposition and affections are molded according to the will of God.

*Meed = reward, fitting return, recompense

 

More of Spurgeon on God’s Sovereignty

Brethren, if God does not rule everywhere, then something rules where he does not, and so he is not omnipresently supreme. If God does not have his will, someone else does, and so far that someone is a rival to God. I never deny the free agency of man, or diminish his responsibility, but I dare never invest the free will of man with omnipotence, for this were to make man into a sort of God, an idolatry to be loathed. Moreover, admit chance anywhere, and you have admitted chance everywhere, for all events are related and act on one another. One cog of the wheel of providence disarranged or left to Satan, or man’s absolute freedom apart from God, would spoil the whole machinery. I dare not believe even sin itself to be exempted from the control of providence, or from the overruling dominion of the Judge of all the earth. Without providence we were unhappy beings, without the universality of the divine power providence would be imperfect, and in some points we might be left unprotected and exposed to those evils which are, by this theory, supposed to be beyond divine control. Happy are we that it is true, “the Lord doeth as he wills in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

Spurgeon, Charles, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 16, (Albany, OR: Ages Software) 1998.

Covid-19 Virus and It’s Implications For the Christian

This is quite the world we’re living in right now. Talking with my family on occasion regarding the various ‘Apocalypse’ style scenarios one could live through and how best to navigate them, one never really thinks he’ll actually find himself in that sort of trial.

But here we are. The Covid-19, or more commonly called ‘Coronavirus’ is sweeping the earth and many have been affected and many more will be before this is all over.

That’s fine, and I’m not really concerned about the virus, because we as a family are already very clean and do more than most people to keep it that way. I am more concerned with society as a whole and how the Christian will be regarded after everything calms down.

I hear about how companies, governments, sports teams and just about every institution out there is closing down and cancelling events and that means a whole lot of money and business down the drain.

I see myriads of people in the stores fighting over toilet paper and food, and can only imagine it getting worse.

Here’s the scenario I see: Lock-down of our towns and cities. Businesses close, schools close, no one is allowed to go to work but some, only some will be able to telecommute. Most will not have enough money to pay their bills, and after their credit cards have been maxed out, most will either walk away from their homes, declare bankruptcy or worse.

We as a family own a janitorial business, and just today, our biggest contract was cancelled on us. What is going to happen when more and more businesses we cater to, close their doors? We won’t have work either. My wife teaches piano and has been scrabbling to set up online lessons for those who are too afraid to leave their homes anymore. Yes, it’s getting that bad. This, if it works, will be our only source of income. It won’t be much, but if we are not allowed to leave our homes, what good will it do?

We saw images in China where food was being hoisted up on ropes to people who were trapped in their homes. Can this sort of thing happen in Canada? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Yet, with all the trials and tests we, as a people, and we as Christians are facing now, we have to remember that God is sovereign. He is supreme and He is in control of this virus and the implications surrounding it. Its invention/discovery didn’t catch God by surprise. He’s not losing sleep, wringing His hands in worry. He is in control of this! God is not a worried and tense bystander downing Rolaids and milk trying to calm His ulcers. He is the majestic God of all, King of heaven and earth and is moving His chess pieces across the board where He wants them to go. Not one thought, word or action from the whole of mankind is beyond His control (Proverbs 16). Not one death escapes His notice. Not one germ is allowed to proceed unless He gives it permission.

How does this apply to us as Christians? We read in various places in Scripture where God promises us protection through trials, yet we also see where He allowed His children to suffer horribly. Psalm 23 and 91 come to mind where we can derive great comfort knowing that God will take good care of us. We read in Proverbs where He controls everything from the big to the small. From turning the king in the direction He wants him to go, to the rolling of the die. Everything that happens in this world of ours is under His constant control. EVERYTHING! Not most things. Not the big stuff. But everything.

We can count on God to guide us through the valley of death. We can trust that He will open His arms to us when we run for cover and need His sanctuary. We can rely on the fact that no matter how big the giants of life are, God is the biggest giant of all!

Yes, we may suffer. We are told in Acts that the road to heaven is paved with many tribulations. The narrow way is losing its elbow room, and we as His children are feeling the pressure.

As we see inevitable changes to society and how things are run, where do we put our trust? If we are forced to live in a cashless society and most business is run online, then what? Then we trust in God and adapt.

As the store shelves empty, as our so called freedoms wain, and as society inches closer to a one world government run by an all-seeing computer generated dictator, we will continue to give and sacrifice as God calls us to. We will continue to love and serve, pray and forgive and live out this life of Christ to the best of our ability.

If this virus leads to us being persecuted and martyred for God’s glory then so be it. It won’t be nice to live through, but it will bring us to our Lord’s protective side early.

 

Dusty Bibles Lead To Dark Souls

bible-dust-read-me-6-29-15(“Pleasant Readings for the Home” Author unknown)

A traveler one day called at a cottage to ask for a drink of water. Entering, he found the parents cursing and quarreling, with the children trembling and crouched in a corner. Wherever he looked, he saw only marks of degradation and misery. Greeting the family, he asked them, “Dear friends, why do you make your house like Hell?

“Ah, Sir,” said the man, “you don’t know the life and trials of a poor man! Do what I can–everything goes wrong!”

The stranger drank the water, and then said softly (as he noticed a Bible in a dark and dusty corner), “Dear friends, I know what would help you, if you could find it. There is a treasure concealed in your house–search for it.”

And so he left them.

At first the cottagers thought it a jest, but, after a while they began to reflect. The whole family tried to find the “treasure”–but in vain. Increasing poverty brought only more quarrels, discontent, and strife.

One day, as the woman was thinking upon the stranger’s words–her eye fell on the old Bible. It had been a gift from her mother, but since her death long ago–it had been unheeded and unused.

A strange foreboding seized her mind. Could the stranger have meant the Bible? She took it from the shelf, opened it, and found the verse inscribed on the title-page, in her mother’s handwriting, “The law of your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” It cut her to the heart. “Ah!” thought she, “this is the treasure which we have been seeking!” How her tears fell fast upon the pages!

From that time she read the Bible every day, and taught the children to pray–but without her husband’s knowledge. One day he came home, as usual, quarrelsome and in a rage. Instead of meeting his angry words with angry replies–she spoke to him kindly and with gentleness. “Husband,” said she, “we have sinned grievously. We have ourselves to blame for all this misery, and we must now lead a different life.”

He looked amazed. “What are you talking about?” was his exclamation.

She brought the old Bible, and, sobbing, cried, “Here is the treasure. See, I have found it!”

The husband’s heart was moved. She read to him of the Lord Jesus, and of His love. She continued to read the Scriptures daily, as she sat with the children around her, thoughtful and attentive.

So time went on.

It was a year later that the stranger returned that way. Seeing the cottage, he remembered the circumstances of his visit, and thought he would call and see this family again. He did so, but he would scarcely have known the place–it was so clean, so neat, so well ordered. He opened the door, and at first thought he was mistaken, for the family came to meet him so kindly, with the peace of God beaming upon their faces.

“How are you, my friends?” said he.

Then they recognized the stranger–and for some time they could not speak. “Thanks, thanks, dear Sir–we have found the treasure which you spoke of! Now the blessing of God dwells in our house–and His peace in our hearts!”

So they said–and their entire condition, and the happy faces of their children, declared the same more plainly!

I Have Been Invited to Be a Contributor!

Not much to say here. I am a sinner, saved by the grace of God. I was saved by Him, for Him and from Him.

I am not my own. I am a slave, bought for His work and glory.

I am not ashamed of the Gospel, but embrace it along with anything that may come because of it–good or bad.

I look forward to contributing to this amazing blog that God used to originally bring me to salvation. I have great admiration for Mark and his team and what DefCon, now Truth In Grace stands for. I may raise some eyebrows and cause a ruckus here and there, but as iron sharpens iron, hopefully we as brothers and sisters in Christ can humbly help each other to become more Christ-like along the way.

Paul

Shaken in Prayer

To begin with, I recognize that this post may not be well received due to the subject matter. I speak of prayer. Some would argue that prayer is a good thing and that they practice prayer in their homes and in their churches. Others ignore prayer because it is something that they seem to be afraid of being present in their lives.

One source defined prayer as – “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”

As true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that prayer to an object of worship or to any man-made deity is of no avail. Even as Christians, it is important that we come before God in prayer in the right manner or He will not hear us.

On the side of self-deprecation, I know I am NOT where I need to be (or should be) when it comes to the discipline of prayer. Prayer takes discipline and it is hard work. Part of this is because it opens us up the face of the Almighty.

Facing God in His own throne room is humbling and allows no tolerance for the pride of depraved creatures. If we think that we can approach God on our own terms and ask based on the whims of our desires instead of what the Holy Spirit utters from the depths of our innermost being, then we are duping ourselves.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth, His prayers were addressed to the Father. Coming to the end of His earthly ministry, His sole prayer was, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

During my weakness in body and having to adjust to the reality of vertigo, the matter of prayer has become more important to me. Maybe, one reason is simply because there are times that I am not able to do much but sit in my chair. The Lord being gracious to me has brought different individuals and situations to my mind and I have used my downtime to pray for them.

Sadly, having served in ministry for over 25 years, I find a horrifying reality is ever-present in our western churches. The reality is so horrendous that it is hard to believe that it would be uttered in more than very hushed tones in the deepest closets of our homes and churches. Yawning open like the whale’s mouth ready to engulf Jonah, it reveals nothing more than this:

The church as a whole does NOT want to pray!

“Whoa!” You, as the reader, would probably implore me to stop for a moment and reassess the situation. But ponder the difference in the church-at-large that we find in western circles and prayerfully, soberly, with weeping read these next three verses from Acts 4:31-33.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Please, take a moment and go back and re-read ALL THE BOLD parts that I have highlighted.

Dear brothers and sisters, the person that spends time with God in prayer is an oddity. I am, by no means, referring to a perfunctory and ever so brief blessing over our meals. I am referring to that odd person who has chosen to punctuate their days with effectual and fervent prayer.

In my fifty plus years, ten decades, half a century – I have NEVER been to a prayer meeting where the gathered group was SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

I say this to my shame because I was part of the group. There were times I would pray aloud, while at others, I would meditate and commune with God silently in my soul.

But, again I say that I have NEVER been SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

Is it impossible for us to comprehend such a matter in the 21st century? Are we so far removed from the power of the Holy Spirit that we have quenched Him into silence?

Is there any wonder that we do not see revival?

Is there any cause for concern that the last known true revivals have not taken place in the USA or the UK for 80-100 years? Revivals such as the Welsh Revival in 1905, the Revival of the Isle of Lewis around 1950, and the East Anglian Revival in my British home counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

ALL of these revivals did not come because a notice was put on a billboard, advertising revivals taking place at 7pm each night. They did not come because an entertainment group was brought into the church and whipped everyone into an emotional frenzy.

REVIVAL ONLY COMES WITH FERVENT PRAYER!

James 5:16 is a shame to my own faith, or lack thereof, in my own testimony.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Yet, our prayers far too often are merely a litany of petitions as we beg God for this and beg Him for that. We are like a child going up to Santa Claus at the local shopping mall with our little list and trying to use Him like a genie let loose from a bottle and desirous to give us our three wishes.

Today, we have not seen revival because we lack prayer. We struggle to maintain high levels of missions work because we lack prayer. The world demands our loyalty and our allegiance to their wicked degradations, and the church has long been bowing because they have no great power to give their testimony.

No prayer and we run like a scared dog being pursued by an army of soldier ants. My friends, we read the words of the wise King Solomon and wonder how ashamed he would be to see the redeemed of God turning this next verse on its head.

Pro 28:1 – The righteous flee when no one pursues, but the wicked are bold as a lion.

No, no, a thousand times NO!!! The verse does not read that way. The Holy Scriptures say this:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

However, the brutal, painful truth is this. If we have no prayer in our lives – if we have not taken to ourselves the WHOLE ARMOR of God – then we will flee when the world is not even taking time to pursue us. The wicked are bold as lions because they think that they can laugh at the God of heaven and His anointed.

His anointed is you and I, if your salvation is found by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. That means that He has called you and I to be holy ones. He has called us and preserved us by His Holy Spirit given as a down-payment against the inheritance that is to come in eternity.

Further, when we are His children, we are to pray, even when we do not know how to. Romans 8:26-28 says that He takes even the groanings of our heart before the Father AND intercedes on our behalf. When the Spirit is helping us in our weakness, there is no wrong prayer that we can offer to our heavenly Father.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Have we noticed that Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse? It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28.

Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good.

Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

— To be continued —

A Miserable Failure

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

Sadly, for some believers, the change has been so gradual that they missed the warning signs. Now that their balance is off or their lives have become disorientated, they have become like the person born with sight in just one eye or with hearing in just one ear. Such individuals do not know what they are missing because they have never known the privilege of seeing with two eyes or hearing with two ears.

Many believers now live thinking that their view of God, eternity, or sound Biblical doctrine is crystal clear. Life continues each day as though that focus is on that which is heavenly, but they have become partially mute and blind to the wonders of the One whose name we claim as our own before the world.

Sometimes, true believers do not know why they are worshipping, but they make the effort. While the prophet Jeremiah reminded his listeners that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, we still refer to our heart as the seat of our emotions and particularly where we say we have our love for God. It is our heart that gets us in trouble and what we actually need is to follow the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah 29:13. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew record His words as He addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes. These were individuals who seemed to have all the answers, but something was missing.

Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the three reasons that I gave, and in the balance of this post, it is my intention to focus just on the first point. Lord willing, in the near future, I will address the other two in greater length.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

In my previous post, I gave a few quotes and I continue with three of those now.

A.W. Pink – Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King David – Psalm 93:1, The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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Almost thirty-five years ago, I was touring London, England with a group of USAF servicemen. I had my film camera at the ready and we were making the rounds of the locations all tourists stop. One of the stops included Buckingham Palace. Walking ahead of the group, I noticed that the Royal Standard was being lowered, but gave it no more thought. Approaching a side gate, I stood alone and watched as a few very expensive cars pulled out of an archway and headed directly toward the gate that was in front of me.

To my amazement, the gate swung open and I watched dumbfounded as the entire Royal family passed no more than three feet from where I stood on the curbside. A couple of them waved as they passed. I was too shocked to remember that my camera was around my neck until they swept quickly out of view.

Yes, I can say that in that moment, I had not just seen the Royal family, but I had also seen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She had no idea who I was, but I had seen her and she had seen me. It was a thrilling moment as we looked at each other ever so briefly through the tinted windows of her luxury vehicle.

A couple of years later, I have a Scottish uncle who had a career working on submarines in conjunction with the Royal Navy. For his work, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a special medal and be knighted. The ceremony took place with great pomp and fanfare. Each recipient of an award had to be dressed in very formal attire and each person invited was expected to behave in a very dignified manner. I was privileged to see some of the pictures of the event in which my uncle had the privilege of being recognized for his work by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the person receives their award, Her Majesty takes a few moments to interact with the recipient on a personal basis and by name. Many have commented that this personal touch often means more than the award itself.

The difference between my encounter with the Queen and that of my uncle was worlds apart.

I stood OUTSIDE the gates of the palace. The queen never knew who I was. And, I was dressed in jeans and wearing a dark brown leather jacket. There was nothing significant that took place that day. I had done nothing to warrant a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

On my uncle’s part, he went INSIDE the palace. He was part of a garden party after. He personally met and spoke with the Queen and she spoke with him. My uncle was dressed in formal attire and his wife was dressed like a proper lady complete with fancy hat. It was a significant event because his work had warranted the personal meeting. He was there because his presence was requested by the government and the Palace.

Everything about the meeting is choreographed except for the personal interaction with the Queen who maintains the prerogative to say or ask whatever she wishes to each individual recipient. However, the invitation, the travel to and into the Palace, the meeting with the General Lord Chamberlain as he gives final directions, and even the walk through the halls of the Palace – there is nothing flippant or untoward as each person prepares (and is prepared) to come face to face with the monarch of the United Kingdom.

What an amazing honor it would be to receive an invitation!

********

Yet, as a true believer, we have been granted a much higher honor.

No longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own self-importance and failed attempts in attaining righteousness, the holy God of all creation has brought us into the Palace and counts us as His children. We are no longer children of the evil one. Taking away the stench of our wickedness, He has clothed us with the impeccable, white garments of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ invites us to dine with Him as He supplies all of our needs, and at times, He even gives us some of the desires of our heart.

Like the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, our Heavenly Father also outfits us with all the trappings that reflect our parentage. Weapons and armor are freely provided in order to protect us against the attacks of the evil one. This includes the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.

My uncle received an invitation one time, but our King has written the most beautiful love letter to us. Through this love letter, the Bible, He converses with us at any time we come before His presence. Even when we take the time to memorize portions of this letter, His Word promises that He is there.

A trip to Buckingham Palace is normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor and experience. Yet, dear readers, our King has NOT left us comfortless. The Holy Spirit remains with us forever as a down-payment on our inheritance. Further, we need no appointments or invitations to visit the throne room of heaven. It is ours to go to anytime, any day, and for any reason.

When we arrive, we get to walk right by the angels who can never know the joy of salvation. Approaching the throne itself, we have the right and the privilege of walking up and addressing the King as “Abba” or “Father.”

And, He takes the time and deigns to hear our petitions!

How was all of this possible? Because He gave His only begotten Son.

To whom is this available? That whosoever believes in Him may come and drink freely.

Investiture is defined as the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

What is the investiture to those who believe? We shall not perish. We now have eternal life. The justice and wrath we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. Because of His blood that He shed, we have been granted all of these wonders.

This and more should cause us to rejoice that our names have been written for time and eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Why?

Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now ask yourself this –

1. Does our worship retain this kind of sight of the Almighty God?
2. What has caused our vision to fail?
3. Is our collective worship a reflection of this kind of God?
4. Is our worship dulled because of man-made traditions that take the focus off of Christ and put it on self-centered man?
5. Does every aspect of our worship point to this kind of God?
6. Pastors and teachers, do those who hear us have this view of God when they leave? Or, do they only remember the illustrations, pithy little stories, and the lightheartedness designed to make the world feel better about themselves?
7. When we come before the Communion Table, what is our attitude and focus?

It does not take much for our sight to become dull and our lives to become disorientated. When this occurs, our delight is no longer in God, but in what we think we must have in order for life to work for us. Even what we consider collective worship can leave us disorientated if we are not vigilant and striving to constantly be reminded of Who we serve.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

Deserving to Die – Terrorists or Victims?

I have been thinking recently on the justification of war and the mandates given to true believers in Jesus Christ. I am reposting a blog I wrote from almost 10 years ago for your consideration.

war

Truth in Grace

On 9/11/2001, terrorists flew the passengers on their flights into eternity. During the approximately one hour between the fall of the twin towers that claimed almost 3,000 lives, around the world another 7,800 lives went out to meet their Maker. Over the next 24 hours while America and the West struggled to understand the loss of almost 3,000 lives, approximately 256,200 more individuals crossed the line from life unto death. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, an officer in the US Army walked into a military service center, jumped on a table, yelled “Allah is great!” (in Arabic), pulled out semi-automatic pistols and pumped out more than 100 rounds and sent 13 more Americans into eternity. Each week since that event approximately 1.3 million have taken their last breath. This is…

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Spurgeon’s Top Eight Lost Quotes on Christians & War

Charles Spurgeon: On War and Christians

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We are up to the hilt advocates for peace, and we earnestly war against war. I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed…

The Lord’s battles, what are they? Not the garment rolled in blood, not the noise, and smoke, and din of human slaughter. These may be the devil’s battles, if you please, but not the Lord’s. They may be days of God’s vengeance but in their strife  the servant of Jesus may not mingle.

Long have I held that war is an enormous crime; long have I regarded all battles as but murder on a large scale.

The Christian soldier hath no gun and no sword, for he fighteth not with men. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that he fights, and with other principalities and powers than…

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Death of A Missionary

EDITED – If you are interested in helping this family, a GoFundMe account has been set up. Click HERE.

When we departed for Liberia, West Africa in 2012, we had an understanding of the risks. Our family was moving to an area that was 3-hour drive from any other missionaries. We would be living in an old mission house that sat on a hill that was considered to the “Devil’s Hill” due to wicked practices that took place before the first missionaries arrived. Nobody else would live on the hill and many of the villagers would avoid it, especially at night.

To make matters worse, we lived in the heart of what had been rebel-held territory during a very brutal 14-year civil war. The war claimed the lives of approximately 10% of the population of Liberia. The ramifications of that war, which ended around 2004, are still being felt today. Violence and vulgarity were constant reminders of what surrounded us, and ex-rebel soldiers surrounded us on every trip into town.

Our plan involved spending 4-5 years in the jungle training pastors and starting churches. However, that was cut short when one of my 6 year old daughters and I became deathly ill. There were nights that we thought she would not make it until morning and times like that really make you consider your priorities. A few days later, I spent my first night in a mission clinic being tended to in highly unsanitary conditions. As my fever and delirium grew, I would learn later that another pastor had entered the clinic the same day with the same symptoms. Three days later his wife and family buried him.

Less than three months later, I was diagnosed a second time with a completely different strain of both typhoid and malaria. Much of the time is but a dark cloud over my mind, but I remember the times of pain. The chief physician at the Firestone Plantation hospital informed me that my immune system was shot and I needed to get out of the country. If I did not, my next time would probably be my last.

Heartbroken, we began to make the arrangements to return to the USA. I was leaving behind what I loved, but I still could not help but wonder why I had lived when others had died.

The following year, a severe epidemic of Ebola broke out in the area of villages where we lived and thousands died. During that epidemic, I lost some pastor friends and their wives to the disease.

Since then, I continue to keep my finger on the pulse of the missions world, and the news that I read yesterday brought some painful memories to my mind.

The day started with an email from one of the brothers I trained in Liberia. We had been praying for God’s will to be done in regards to the health of Pastor Harrison Margai. He was the pastor of a brand new church that had been planted in an unreached village. The email informed me that this man had closed his eyes in death and left a wife and children.

Later that day, I read the news of what took place with another missionary in Cameroon, West Africa.

Charles Wesco, a Baptist missionary from Indiana, had surrendered his life to serve the Lord. In particular, he and his wife believed they had been called to minister in the country of Cameroon. After raising funds, they departed just over 2 weeks ago and began the process of settling into their new home with their eight young children.

Yesterday, another missionary was taking this man into town for some supplies. A situation erupted between a separatist faction and Cameroonian soldiers. In the crossfire, a “stray” bullet crashed through a car window and entered the head of Charles Wesco.

In a matter of minutes, this man who loved the Lord went out into eternity. Immediately, the news erupted along with the comments. I read several that were hateful, but some extended sympathy. I finally had to stop as the comments began to infuriate me.

The bottom line is not that this man gave his life needlessly. The bottom line is that God is and always will be sovereign. For reasons that may never be understood, this brother in Christ never planted a church, nor saw a Bible Training institute started in Cameroon. This family is devastated as they face a new life. Soon, they will return back to the US and will try to pick up the pieces. Questions will be asked, and many will never be answered.

Today, many hearts are breaking and while I have connections with others who knew this family, I did not ever have the privilege of meeting them myself. However, I know that one day I will, but before that day comes, this brother has already gone to his reward. He was welcomed with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We could ask, why, why, why, but it would do no good. There is nothing wrong with seeking the face of God and asking Him for understanding. Where we tend to go wrong though is when we want to question His sovereign purposes. We cannot find fault with the Almighty, but we can learn to trust in His grace and mercy.

In a village close to where we lived in England, there is a cemetery. In the cemetery, a tombstone tells the brief story of a young pastor who lost his infant son and his wife. In the tragedy, this man had inscribed the following words on the tombstone.

“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
But all is well, that’s done by Thee.”

Through what is a tragedy to human eyes, we pray for strength and extreme comfort to be provided to this dear sister, their eight young children, and extended family, friends, and church members.

For those who know the Lord, the Bible is clear that when we become absent from this body, we are forever present with the Lord. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them to not only find comfort in these thoughts, but to comfort others as well.

May His will be done and may all find peace through this time of turmoil. Our prayers also go out for the people of Cameroon that they will one day learn of the Prince of Peace, who alone brings salvation.

You can’t always trust “Christian Authors.”

Below is an excerpt from the opening of the article “10 Signs The Christian Authors You’re Following Are (Subtly) Teaching Unbiblical Ideas” by Natasha Crain.

I highly recommend you visit her blog and read the whole article.

My friend, Alisa Childers, recently wrote a review of the bestselling book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. It started a firestorm of online discussion about what makes someone a “Christian” author, what responsibility a self-identified Christian author has in promoting ideas consistent with biblical faith, and what harm there can be for Christians reading books that contain nonbiblical ideas.

I personally haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to comment on it specifically. But I will say I was extremely disappointed and saddened to see the kinds of comments supporters of the book wrote:

“It wasn’t meant to be a devotional.”

“She’s not teaching theology.”

“Our job is not to seek people out and hate them.”

“Stop competing! Just imagine what the non-Christians think about the McJudgies! We need to focus inward because the project within ourself is the most important work we will accomplish. Don’t use your blog to bring someone down.”

Unfortunately, such comments are representative of the lack of discernment common in the church today. If Alisa fairly characterized the claims of Hollis’s book, Hollis is promoting ideas that conflict with a biblical worldview. And when there is a concern that millions of women are consuming content from a Christian author that can lead them to embrace unbiblical ideas, we should be raising a warning flag and calling out for discernment in the body of Christ.

It’s not about being a “McJudgey.”

It’s about discerning biblical truth from non-truth…something the Bible consistently tells us to do.

Continue reading here.

The Best and Worst of Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

The words of Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities, were written in 1859. This well-known start to a fiction book was 160 years ahead of its time, and should be republished as a work of non-fiction.

Each generation can only imagine what life was like to previous generations or centuries of human life and culture. The statement “in the good ol’ days” is trite at best and disingenuous at worst.

I highly doubt that many would really desire to go back to the days of sharecropping, or child labor, or segregation, or lack of human rights. So, what is it that is actually meant when people speak of those days of yesteryear?

Too often, the “good ol’ days” are helped along with whimsical movies like Bing Crosby in “White Christmas”, Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” or Michael J Fox in “Back to the Future” or a host of other movies portraying a false reality of what life was like. Life was not easy and EVERY generation has faced difficult times.

For example, my British grandparents easily remembered what life was like during World War II and the years of food rationing. Years of being forced to plant your own garden, or raise rabbits for meat, or riding a bike to work because there was no gas/petrol for average civilians. I never heard either of them wish they could return to those days.

My parents were born in two different countries and raised on two different continents. Their lives were not easy and I rarely ever heard stories from their growing up years. They met during the days of the Vietnam War, married, and started a family. Segregation was still a reality, war demonstrations were an every week occurrence, governments were in a shambles, and troops were dying by the hundreds. I never heard either of them wish they could return to those days.

During my early years, I remember eating the same meal over and over because we did not have much. Going to a restaurant was a once-a-year treat on your birthday and gifts around the Christmas tree were normally slim pickings until the box arrived from a grandmother who always added a book, British chocolates, a hand-knitted sweater, and a few other items. Both parents had to work doing something in order to feed and clothe us, but they never complained.

Today, I have five children. Three are adults, while two are still at home. I also have a grandson. I do not want them to have to go through what my wife and I faced in our growing up years, or even in the early years of our marriage, but that does not mean that I fear what the future holds.

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The news media hourly projects the stark naked truth of Dicken’s words. 2018 is the best of times, but it is also the worst of times. 2018 is the age of wisdom, but it is also the age of great foolishness. 2018 is the epoch of belief, but it is sadly also the epoch of incredulity.

How have we arrived at this juncture in human history? It is certain that we cannot go back to the “good ol’ days” and even if we could we would have a harsh lesson to learn. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. We must take the opportunity to face the times we are in with an equal measure of faith and understanding.

The Bible reminds us “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).” My faith gives me courage to face each new day. I cannot fear what I do not know will happen for there is no certainty of a new day. Tomorrow, my family could be planning my funeral and I will have given my day over to fears that did not come to fruition. My faith reminds me that there is only One Person who knows the future and how all things will transpire. This is where understanding comes into the picture.

My understanding of human history is predicated on the truth that all that mankind has accomplished is built on the back of all who have gone before. I recognize that there have been some very dismal times in human history where murder, mayhem, war, and disease were a daily part of one’s existence. I am thankful I do not live in one of those eras. I also understand that we can learn from our mistakes and we can teach our children to rise up and strive to do better than we did. We cannot make them do this, but the way history will play out for them can be changed for it has not yet arrived. The 21st century is not certain as to how politics, society, or culture will be represented in the history books of the future.

What we see today is a reflection of what Dickens saw as he continued, “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

My prayer is that we will not give up hope, for we know the God who holds the future. That hope gives me encouragement and does not leave me in the winter of despair. With that hope, I know that I yet have everything before me as compared to those who have nothing before them.

“Only one life. It will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

The Wonder of the Mirror

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Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes, appearances can be very deceiving. That was true the day the knock came on the mirror and the horror that came with realizing that somebody would have to answer.

The preceding days held nothing ominous. If there had been an inkling of an idea that something was amiss, then I would have done everything in my power to prevent things from happening. But then again, in hindsight, I am not sure that I would. Changing the inevitable does not always bring a modicum of joy or happiness. Getting our way would actually be a miserable existence.

The actual morning dawned. As usual, it was beautiful. The sun rose around the world, but by nightfall things would be very different. The problem was that I knew about the mirror but I was too young and naïve to think that it could ever affect me.

Preparing for work, I began to feel some odd twinges, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Opening the door, I said goodbye to the family but was stopped when the phone rang. It was not unexpected and I was in no hurry, so I answered. In my mind, I think I knew before I responded, but the mirror glared back at me. I dropped my gaze first as I listened to the voice on the other end.

“Hello, I need you to meet me at the hospital. There is nothing to worry about, but I would be quick just in case.”

To this day, I cannot remember whether I responded in a courteous fashion or not. The caller informed me though that they would be there waiting for me. What I can recall is exceeding the speed limit on several major roads. A trip that should have taken about 15 minutes, I made in less than 10 with change to spare.

Only one ambulance was in the bay as I ran through the doors marked EMERGENCY. All decorum was absent as I blindly stumbled to the nurse’s station. As I approached the desk, one of my senses did not fail me. My hearing has always been excellent and today was no exception.

I introduced myself to the nurses and I noticed them looking oddly at each other when I gave my name. One of them stood to her feet and asked me to come and wait for the doctor to finish. As soon as he was free, he would come and let me know what was happening. Sitting down in the waiting room, nothing seemed out of the ordinary except for the mirrored glass that covered almost one entire wall.

After what seemed like an eternity, I grew impatient. Standing to my feet, I opened the door of the waiting room and went back to the nurses’ station.

“Hi, I am sure the doctor is busy, but I would really like some information. May I just go back to the examination room?”

“Sir, we just got word from the doctor and he said he should be up to speak with you in just a matter of minutes. Please wait for him in the room.”

Walking slowly back to the room, I opened the door and stepped in. Closing it back behind me, something back to nag at me as I stared at my dim reflection in the mirrored glass.

When time stands still, it is impossible to give an accurate description of a timeline. In my case, the next few minutes took another eternity while I pondered my location. As soon as my mind went through a myriad of possible computations, I came to a stark conclusion.

First, there was nobody in the room with me. There were always people in the Emergency Room. Not but a couple of weeks before, I had brought one of my children to the same hospital because they had fallen out of bed and split their head open requiring stitches.

Second, this waiting room had a door on it and while I had seen several people walk by who were not staff members, nobody had entered my waiting room.

Third, just as my brain realized that I was clearly in the wrong room, the doctor entered with another individual by his side. It was an older woman and she did not have a lab coat on. In fact, the only thing that I could focus on was the lapels of her jacket. Both lapels held a small, almost inconspicuous piece of jewelry that had been fashioned in the shape of a cross.

The doctor sat down at my left hand and the woman with the emblem on her lapels sat immediately to my right. Neither of them sat back in leisure, but were on the edge of their seats looking at me.

The room began to spin and I realized that my heart was not prepared for what the doctor began to say.

“Sir, I am sorry, but there was nothing we could do! We tried everything, but your brother is gone!”

That beautiful morning turned black. I knew that a knock from the other side of eternity had taken my brother from what C.S. Lewis called the Shadowlands of earth into the brightness of heaven where there is no night, no tears, and no death.

Each taking a hand, they walked me back to the exam room. My heart still aches as I remember looking down on the still face of my 22 year old brother, John. The pictures will always be in my mind of that day along with the torture of the funeral preparations. He was my best friend. No friends, no co-workers, and no family had yet joined me, and I felt more alone than I have done at just about any other point in my life.

Unbeknownst to us, he had developed a virus in his heart. Less than a year after getting out of the military with a clean bill of health, his heart had simply exploded. We later learned the EMTs were already in the building just about six or seven steps away. Ironically, they had taken over helping a lady who was having an angina attack.

The only first aid certified individual in her office had been my brother. Giving the care over to the EMT staff, he had turned and walked over to his desk, sat down, and fallen over dead.

Somehow, I managed to go back to my home. It was my responsibility to bear the brunt of the emotions as I called my parents who lived overseas. I called my brothers and sisters and informed them in different parts of the country, but nothing would change the fact that eternity had come calling for my brother, and he had answered.

I would have to say that I would not want him to have to come back to this world of misery and woe. The land where he lives is a land beyond compare and he did not have to grow old while dealing with sickness and pain. As I look from this side of the mirror, I realize that there are shadows on the other side. At my age, they are growing closer now than they were 23 years ago when my brother was called.

Sadly, we can only see glimpses every now and then of the joys that lie beyond this mortal pale. One day, we too will hear a clear, distinct knock. However, when the knock comes for us, it will actually open and the door will be a welcome intrusion. For those we leave behind, they will mourn, but one day, they will be able to join us on the other side. We will see clearly and realize that our journey was designed to take us from the shadows into the most incredible clarity that we cannot currently imagine.

The thought of seeing what is on the other side is not as scary as it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. There are times the unknown reflects back to us in ways we cannot comprehend. We know there is something there, but all we see is our own reflection. For now I must go, but I am trying to prepare harder for the knock on the mirror. Whether I like it or not, it is coming. I will be ready.

1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…”(ESV)