Thursday, August 27, 2009

Helping the Poor

The Bible is replete with admonitions that God's people are to help those who are in financial misfortune, the "poor." Both Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity command such. The passages are so plentiful I'm not even going to bother referencing it; it is known by all. And yet, how faithfully and extensively do Christians and churches practice this valuable and needy element of their religion?

Let's take, for example, the current health care debate in this country. There are people who genuinely are in need here, though not as many as the figures bandied about by those who wish for government control of this industry. How many of our churches are providing--even if temporarily--the medical care coverage needed by those who find themselves in financial straits? I'm sure some are, but I don't hear much about it. Frankly, most churches don't have the money. Oh, they do, but not after "expenses." After we build our million dollar church buildings, pay our preacher, youth minister, involvement minister, secretary and add in a few other costs, most of which are not mentioned in the New Testament, there just isn't much left for benevolence--or world evangelism, which is even more important. We could meet in rented halls, have the men of the congregation do the preaching and teaching, get parents involved in working with young people, have our membership committed enough to do the work which their Savior assigned them to do--and how much money would we save? I guess church buildings are my biggest peeve. I've always wondered where those 5,000 new Christians met in the early days of the church. And how in the world did the apostles "turn the world upside down" without church buildings? I'm not saying church buildings are sinful. But it does smack of priorities. Our comfort and convenience are more important to us than truly doing the work God has given us to do. Like helping the poor. They are still out there, they always will be, and one of the supreme manifestations of New Testament Christianity is to support them in their need. But we won't. So the government will. We let Barack Obama get the credit, instead of Jesus Christ. Quite a commentary on our religion today.

I fear there is more of the world in the church than visa versa.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Be Strong and of Good Courage"

Joshua took over as the leader of Israel after Moses' death. He was a good man and led his people into battle to conquer the land God had promised them. But before he did that, Jehovah gave Joshua some instructions, recorded in chapter 1 of Joshua. I find it interesting that the Lord told his new captain four times: "be strong and of good courage" (vs. 6, 7, 9, and 18).

But it's also noteworthy, I think, to consider in what Joshua was to have this strength and courage. Verse 7: "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do all the law, which Moses my servant commanded..." One would think that the Lord, given the military endeavors Joshua faced, would encourage him to strength and courage in the battles to come. But, no--the strength and courage needed was to be obedient to the will of God. And verse 8 concludes, "for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." Prosperity and success--military victory in this case--follow obedience to divine dictates.

We live in a degenerative world today, folks. Our enemies are spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 6:12). If we are going to be obedient in the midst of this wicked and untoward generation, like Joshua we will need to "be strong and of good courage." The Lord expects--demands--that, and spiritual prosperity will not follow unless we do. Joshua did it, and we can, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Bringing Into Captivity Every Thought..."

"Joy" should certainly be a part of a Christian's life; it is the second of the "fruits of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) and a frequent theme of Bible writers (e.g., Psalm 30:5; John 15:11). But Christian joy is not some better felt than told experience or some outpouring of gushy emotion. It is based upon the fact that we have been forgiven of our sins, the greatest blessing man could possible have. We ought to pour out our hearts in joyful thanksgiving for the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

And while that joy is an underlying happenstance in a Christian's life, the forgiveness that produces it brings responsibilities. As noted in an earlier post, Psalm 130:4 reads, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Not "that thou mayest have joy," but that, first of all, God is to be feared and obeyed. And the Christian life is not easy and anyone who truly tries to live it will indeed discover just how difficult it is.

In Luke 13:24, Jesus said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Two thoughts here. The Greek word for "strive" is agonizomai, from which our English words "agony" and "agonize" come from. And notice the word "strait"--not "straight," but a narrow, difficult passage, full of treacherous obstacles. The fight against sin is agonizing and the way to glory is strenuous and demanding. Rewarding, yes. But difficult? Absolutely.

If you think Christianity is easy, check out the following verses:

"Blessed are the pure in heart in heart; for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). How many of us can truly claim that every motive from within is holy before God? No one can rightfully make that claim. And "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). If our hearts are pure, we we'll see God. An impure heart causes God to close his ears. What can we imperfect humans do?

Here's one you can work on for the rest of your life: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good resport, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8; the New King James version reads "meditate on these things."). As the title of this post reads, from II Corinthians 10:5, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Every, single solitary thought--not just action--is to be pure, holy, righteous before God. Try that for a day and see how successful you are. And be honest with yourself because your salvation depends upon it.

And it doesn't get any easier: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). In this powerful, awesome, frightening verse, Jesus brings us face-to-face with the perfect ethical standard, with what we ought to be, exposing every fallacy and iniquity within us by the harsh light of the absolute truth and holiness of the Christian moral code. We are created in God's image and nothing short of being exactly like Him is acceptable.

How many of us do that? It isn't hard to understand why the apostle Paul, when comparing his own life to the perfect law of God, could moan, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 8:24). Anyone who truly tries to overcome sin in their life will understand the agony of trying to enter in by the strait gate.

Do you understand now why there is joy in forgiveness? It's the only hope we've got.

Psalm 13:5 reads, "But I have trusted in thy mercy." From Psalm 130:4, we learned that the mercy of God is no justification for presumption on man's part. God demands our obedience, our effort, our purity of heart and mind, that we think (meditate) only upon godly, righteous things, that we lasso our every thought and subject it to the will of Him Who formed us from the beginning. That we be perfect as He is perfect. Impossible? Theoretically, no, because we are free moral people who could make the right choice, every time. But we don't.

And that is why, at the end of each day, when all is said and done--and thought--when we have agonized through another day's battle against the sin that so easily besets us, we should "not lift up so much as [our] eyes unto heaven," but smite our breasts and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).

"The king shall joy in thy strength, O God; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice" (Psalm 21:1).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Psalm 130:4--A Reaction to Forgiveness

(Check the end of the article for a YouTube video of this post.)

Psalm 130:4 reads, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be presumed upon."

If that doesn't quite sound right, it's because it isn't. That's just the way most people want to interpret it. I've had people tell me, "I know that what I'm doing is a sin, but God will forgive me." Indeed, God will forgive any sin that is repented of (Luke 13:3), but "repentance" means, as much as in us is, cessation of sin. To say that "God will forgive, so I can continue in my sin" is...presuming on the forgiveness and grace of God. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). Christians died to sin; that means, to the best of their ability, they stop doing it as a way of life. The continual, habitual, rebellious committing of sin is NOT repentance, and it is a presumption upon the grace of God. And "if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26).

Psalm 130:4 actually says, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Forgiveness should produce an appreciation for God, a respect, reverence, and obedience--not a presumption upon His grace and goodness. And that "fearing" of God will result in uncompromising obedience. Indeed, "Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Isn't Evolution a Marvelous Thing?

I posted this on my other blog as well ("Mark's Blog"), so if you read it there, you don't need to read it here.

Some facts about the DNA in your body.

1. You have 46 segments of DNA in most of the 100,000,000,000,000 (that's 100 trillion) cells in your body. You got 23 segments from your mother, and 23 from your father. DNA contains the unique information that determines what you look like, much of your personality, and how every cell in your body is to function as long as you live.

2. If the DNA in just one of your cells were uncoiled, connected, and stretched out, it would be about 7 feet long. It would be so thin that it could not be seen even under an electron microscope. If all this coded infromation from just one cell in your body were written in books, it would fill a library of about 4,000 books of 500 pages with 300 words per page. If all the DNA in your body were placed end-to-end, it would stretch from here to the moon more than 500,000 times. In book form, the information would completely fill the Grand Canyon more than 75 times. If one set of DNA (one cell's worth) from every person who ever lived were placed in a pile, it would weigh less than an aspirin. And evolution did all of that by chance. Isn't evolution a wonderful thing?

Just in case you can't tell, I'm being extremely sarcastic about what "evolution" can do. I cannot explain the utter comtempt I have for the "intelligence" of people who believe that absurd theory. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," the Bible says. We ought to be in awe of a Creator who has the unlimited knowledge and ability to create DNA. And that's just one simple part of the human body, which is just one simple structure in this universe.

Is there no end to the foolishness men will invent to avoid obeying the God of heaven and earth?

(The above information on DNA came from Walt Brown, In the Beginning, who got much of his information from Carl Pagan, er, Sagan.)